The Monster of July

Damian's life changes when one of his professors turns out to be an acquaintance he had erased from his memory. Demons from the past will come haunting him again as their relationship evolves, dragging them both in a rollercoaster of drama, angst, and yes, sometimes a bit of joy.

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5. Realisation (part 1)

           It was around that time that I started to feel as if there was some kind of "ghost" following me around. I wouldn't say I identified Daniel as being the ghost, but he was definitely related. There was always a certain strangeness in the air whenever I met him. It was weird to have someone feel so familiar and yet so unfamiliar at the same time. A bit like I was searching for a word, knowing exactly which one I wanted, but not being able to say it. I knew Daniel, yet I couldn't tell what role he had played in my past. And I was torn between wanting to ask him about it, and the fear of the memories it might bring back to the surface. More and more, I became aware that there was something that prevented me from remembering some events or people. As if at some point I had built an armor that would keep outside everything that could hurt me.

            And now, Daniel was here. If he had been anyone else, I would have just done my best to avoid him like the plague. I don't know how this had happened, but it turns out he wasn't "anyone else" anymore. At some point between my grandmother's funerals and the morning I woke up on his couch, I started growing more and more attached to him. Gradually, I found myself looking forward to every one of his classes. I would barely pay attention to anything, yet I couldn't take my eyes off him. I'd build castles in the air from a look, a kind smile, a nod in my direction... But after all, I was the grandson of his former mentor, some pathetic kid who couldn't handle himself at parties. Chances were, his kindness toward me was more due to a sense of obligation to my grandmother than anything else. Maybe he even considered me a bit daft and thought I needed special attention.

           

            One early afternoon, I went out to have lunch with Clara and her friends. I guess they were also slowly becoming my friends, now. They pestered me for a while after the night of the party for sneaking out of the club without letting them know. It was strange to see how much they cared, since we barely knew each other, but I had to admit it was also nice. Obviously, when they started pressing me for details, I didn't tell them the truth. I just said I had gone back to my apartment, omitting all that had happened between that and my departure from the club. Seeing I had nothing interesting to say, or wouldn't say anything interesting, the discussion quickly switched to our plans for the long week-end that was approaching.    

            "I'm going back home," said Eric, which turned out to be Manbun's actual name.

            "Oh, lucky you!" cheered Clara. Then, turning toward me, "Do you plan on going home too?"

            "Not before the holidays," I replied, staring at my chicken chow mein.

            "So sad, your parents will miss you."

            "Well, my mom works a lot anyway..."

            "What does she do?" asked Nicole, another one of Clara's friend. She was a tiny girl with a huge head of curly black hair that looked bigger than the rest of her.

            "She's an accountant." Why was I suddenly being investigated like that? Was that supposed to be payback for ditching everybody at the party?

            "What about your dad?" asked another guy, who went by the name of Jose.

            "He died a few years ago..." Although I couldn't blame him for asking, I always dreaded having to drop that into the conversation. It tended to ruin the mood, if there had been one.

            "Oh, I'm sorry," said Jose.

            "What happened?" inquired Nicole.

            "Hum... Lung cancer, with metastases to the brain. There was nothing really they could do when it was detected.

            "That sucks," empathised Manbun, a.k.a. Eric. "Was he a smoker?"

            "No, not that I know."

            "Wow, what bad luck, eh?"

            I feel it would have been bad luck anyway, but I just nodded. I was trying to have the subject die down on its own. Even though it had been six years now, I still didn't feel comfortable talking about my father's death and its circumstances. All was silent around the table for a moment as we thoughtfully picked at our food. I glanced at Clara from the corner of my eye. She had been uncharacteristically quiet the whole time. I think she noticed me looking at her with some kind of sixth sense, because a second later she exclaimed, "We should go get ice cream after!"

            "What? But it's cold outside."

            "So what?"

            It kept going like that for a while. Eventually, I got lost in my thoughts looking around the restaurant, a small place of six or seven tables. It was usually crowded during lunchtime, but it was just past that right now so there were only two other persons sitting near the front window. I recognised one of the women as being a chemistry professor, though I wasn't taking her class. The other might have been a professor as well, but I'd never seen her around. I wasn't really trying to overhear, but fragments of their conversation drifted over to me, about the new semester, the new students, grading...

            "So, did you start it?" Nicole was looking at me intently from across the table. I wondered how long I had been daydreaming, since I had no idea what she was talking about.

            "Sorry, what?" My confusion made Nicole and the others laugh a little.

            "The assignment for the neuro class. Did you start it?" explained Jose.

            "Yes."

            "Wow, you're good! We only have two weeks left and I haven't even picked my topic yet," said Manbun. Although he sounded unconcerned, he always struck me as the kind of student who worked hard at school, but tried to appear nonchalant about it.

            "Are you trying to impress someone?" That came from Clara, obviously.

            "I'm just being organised, that's it."

            The teasing went on for a few more seconds and we moved on to a different subject.

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