“You were my one prayer, my only prayer that kept me from going over the edge and turning it all off…”
Nina Banning has been feeling lost and unfocused. The girl who used to have adventure around every corner, now see things as uninteresting and bleak. So she decided to move to London from Ipswich, her little hometown that has been a huge part of her life but now it only reminded her of the pain and misery it caused. She thought her life would never be as crazy and unpredictable as it once was until she met him.
Nate Carson has never experienced guilt like this before. He wanted to forget everything about that night but even he shuddered from the thoughts that still haunted him every time he closed his eyes – sometimes even when he had them opened. He’s sexy, brooding and scary but when his path crosses with Nina, nothing remains the same ever again.
She’s intrigued. She’s mystified. She’s curious and she doesn’t have a clue. But she wants to find out the truth and is willing to do whatever it takes to unfold the mystery that is inked in those (one and a half pages).
Can a few fallen pages change their lives forever?
Light and Dark
I was angry. But along with that, I was feeling emotions which rather surprised me. Pure rage and hatred coursed through my veins, hatred towards a guy I barely knew. He came to apologise for the wrong action and I wasn’t going to just forgive because ‘he can be like’ as his friend has said to me earlier. If a man can’t even recognise what he did wrong then his apology isn’t an apology at all, its pretense and I hated people who pretended. I know he’s a completed stranger, someone I don’t know anything about but that didn’t help in letting go of his words or the way he behaved. No one has ever dared to do such a thing and I have never given anyone such a right to humiliate me and it wasn’t that he did that in front of so many people. I didn’t care about the spectators. I cared about my self-esteem and my ego and he managed bruise it with his vile act. I didn’t know him but this was something I couldn’t forget – not anytime soon.
I found a quiet corner which was strange and saw that the curtains were flying because of the open balcony. I stepped outside and the hot summer wind swept across my face, making me feel invited as I leaned over the railing. I know I couldn’t just leave even though Maddie said she would but I know her better than that so I was rather relieved to found this spot so I could be alone and clear my head of the rage. The view from where I stood was nothing less than spectacular. I could see the orange lights lighting up the streets of London and the clouds, even though they were scattered, casted a perfect shadow over the buildings. I was glad this was my home for the next three years because I wouldn’t imagine myself anywhere else but here – here as in London, not at this rowdy party.
I was enjoying the tranquility of the peacefulness when I heard footsteps approaching. I didn’t turn but only prayed that it wasn’t him because I don’t know how I would deal with him now after telling him to stay away from me. A guy came to stand next to me, mirroring my actions. I wasn’t in the mood to converse with anyone so I kept my eyes in the front and it was quiet, until the guy next to me spoke.
“Hi.” I turned to the side only to see it was the same guy who more or less pulled Nate off of me had something quite vague to say in Nate’s defense.
“Hi.” I said and continued to capture the view in front of me.
“I’m Jacob, Jacob Merlyn. We met earlier.” He said rather politely.
“I know.” I said in a monotonous tone.
“I know you’re not a big fan of Nate right now but he’s not always like this.”
“You mean he’s not always a conniving asshole who doesn’t know who to talk, let alone behave?” I meant for it to come out sarcastically, rather it came out a little too angrily.
Jacob stayed quiet, his blue eyes soft and kind. How he is even friends with someone like Nate is beyond me.
“Why are you even defending him? You saw what he did back there. It was immoral and unethical.”
“I won’t disagree with you which I why I came here looking for you. I wanted to apologise on his behalf.” He gave me a small, tired smile like it was his job to clear the mess after Nate had caused it.
“You’re not the one to apologise, Jacob. It’s him and he did come to apologise though – only for the wrong thing.” I said, amused at his fantastic sense of humor.
“He did what?” Jacob’s tone was laced in surprise as he ran a hand through his black hair.
“Oh yeah. But I basically told him to fuck off.” I shrugged.
“Nice work.” He said in an appreciative tone and extended his fist. I cocked my eyebrow but connected my fist with his. “But you shouldn’t have done that because he’s not going to let go of it just like he couldn’t let go of your words at the diner. That was one badass comeback.”
“You say it like no one has shut him up before.”
“That’s because no one has shut up him up before.” He said and turned to face me, leaning now on his elbow propped up on the railing.
“Well, I feel special then.” I said nonchalantly and Jacob let out a throaty laugh and then suddenly he stopped. He wasn’t looking at me anymore but his eyes were fixed on someone behind me. I was smiling in his presence too despite being insouciance but when I turned to look what caused him to stop, my own smile was wiped off – for there stood a man none other than Nate and anger was quick to travel down my veins.
However, Jacob only stopped laughing because he wanted to glare at Nate and not because he was scared by the look he was giving him right now. Nate had eyes eyebrows knit together and I could see his flared nostrils from afar. What got his knickers in a twist, I wondered as Jacob turned to face me again with a smile on his lips.
“I will have to leave and… deal with a few things.” He said with a smile on his lips and I nodded once. “Oh, I never caught your name.”
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Nina.” He took a hold of my hand and surprised me by placing a light kiss on my knuckles. I didn’t miss the look he threw Nate who was still standing there, his face turning red. I didn’t understand what was going on but whatever it was, I was glad it got him all fuming.
“I’d say the same for you but not for your friend over there.” I said, tilting my head towards him with a disgusted look on my face.
I didn’t wait for Jacob to reach Nate before facing the night sky. It had only been five minutes when I decided to go find Maddie and turned around to find them gone. Jacob seemed like a nice guy and I would’ve enjoyed his company more if it weren’t for him being the jerk’s friend. I went back downstairs to find my blonde headed friend because it had some quite a while. I cranked my neck up to look for her and then I spotted her, but she wasn’t alone. As soon she saw me, she came running to me with Ansel trying to catch up with her.
“Jesus, I’ve been looking all over for you. Where were you?” She looked at me, worried and I couldn’t tell her what had happened, not right now so I decided to go with a lie.
“I, uh, got lost trying to find the bathroom.” I said with a shrug so she wouldn’t notice anything wrong with my mood or tone because it only took her seconds to go into her investigative mode. She should’ve taken journalism with me. I sighed because she bought my lie but her eyes soon fell on the red liquor stain on my one shirt that she loved and her eyes bulged out of their sockets.
“Oh, my God. This stain is never coming off. Shit, you’re so clumsy, Nina.” She shrieked and Ansel and I laughed at her reaction. Anyone else would think it was her shirt that I had ruined by the sad, almost traumatized look on her face.
“Sheesh, like I didn’t realise that.” I said, rolling my eyes at her. “And you left me to find him. Nice. Hi Ansel.” I waved at him and he waved back with his charming smile.
“Right, sorry about that.” She said sheepishly and I was glad my plan of sidetracking her worked. “I actually lost you in the crowd and then I ran into Ansel when I couldn’t find you.”
“Did you even try to find me?”
“Oh, shut up.” She said as her cheeks went rosy and she playfully punched my arm.
“Listen, I’m gonna head back because I have this huge stain on my shirt and my head is starting to hurt.” I lied again but it was a partial lie. My head wasn’t really hurting but I wanted my peacefulness and a steaming mug of coffee.
“You should stay. It’s fun.” Ansel said but I could see that he wanted to spend time with Maddie and she wanted the same and I didn’t want to intrude, not this time because I felt drained.
“Fun for the two of you.” I said, wiggling my eyebrows at them and Maddie glared at me while Ansel let out an awkward fake cough.
“Come on, Nina. Can’t we stay? Because I just found Ansel and this party is not so bad.”
“I never asked you to come. Besides, I don’t want to walk around in a shirt that is basically sticking to my skin. It’s annoying me. So you two kids have fun. Don’t do anything reckless or you’ll be walking on three legs Ansel.” I said, throwing Ansel a warning look with a smirk on my face. I said goodbye to them and began to walk to the door when I heard Maddie call me.
“Nina, wait.” She shouted amid the roaring laughter and I turned to see her making her way towards me. “How will you go back, silly? Here, take my car.”
It didn’t occur to me that Maddie and I had come here together and she was my only ride. I was so consumed with just getting away from here that I didn’t realise I was going back without a car, which wouldn’t exactly have been possible. She had her keys in her hand and dropped them into mine. I thanked her with a hug but before I could turn around and leave, she held my hand.
“Are you okay? You seem… distracted.” Maddie inquired, her forehead creasing with confusion and worry.
“I told you already. My head hurts and I really need to be in a quiet place. You know how my headaches are.” I said, massaging my temples so I wouldn’t give away the act.
“I just thought something had you worried.”
“Nonsense. You enjoy. I’ll be at the apartment.” I said with a wink and left before she could say anything else.
I had to pass through sweaty, drunk bodies to get to the other side of the room and out of the door. Every time someone would bump into me, I’d jerk away, thinking it was him. But I didn’t see him or the green haired girl after he saw me talking to Jacob. They must’ve left and that was the best thing they could’ve done. I went straight towards the car jammed the key into the keyhole. It clicked open and I was about to climb in when my actions had to come to a sudden halt because a certain brown mop of brown hair was in my way yet again. He was the last person I wanted to see but I had experienced enough of rage for one night and decided to handle this situation with calm instead of thinking of ways of trying to rip his big head off.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, with the same smirk carved onto his lips. He was standing close, too close for my liking that I slammed the door shut and stood next to it. So much for handling the situation calmly.
His sleeves were perched up and the tattoos visible on his rather bulging biceps were now visible than ever. I liked how there weren’t too many of them or else they would’ve made his hand look a little disturbing because too many in one place sounded suffocating. There were a couple of letters and then I could very distinctly make out a tattoo of a heart and I wanted to laugh out loud at the irony of it, at the irony of a heartless person having a heart inked permanently on his skin.
“Away from you.” I said, opening the car door again but he stopped me from doing so by putting his hand on it.
“But you aren’t you forgetting something?”
“What, kicking you in the nuts? I can do that right now.” I said, smiling up at him.
“Feisty. I like that.” He said and began to inch his face closer to mine. I stepped away and his eyes drank me down but not by checking me out but by keeping his eyes bored into mine and I was about to fall into that hypnotic trance-like state again when I rolled my eyes and pulled open the car door anyway. There was a satisfied smile on his face and I wanted to ruin that very much. “You forgot this in the bathroom.”
He handed me a familiar looking mobile device and I instantly recognised it as mine. Shoot! I don’t even remember taking it out of my pocket and that made me question how drunk I was on my hatred for this man who just handed me back my cellphone. But that didn’t change anything between us. I still hated him and loathed his presence.
“Thanks.” I said and revved the engine. I was about to drive away but I had a little something to say before that. “Oh, and tell Jacob I loved his company.” I winked at Nate and saw his smirk disappear instantaneously as I drove off, his death glare burning a hole in the side mirror.
It was Friday and classes were on full swing right after the first day. It had been three days since that dreadful party happened and since I last saw Nate, for which I was more than grateful. The way I left him that night gave me my smugness back because in a way I had the last word to say, leaving him speechless. There was something about him that didn’t set right with me and my instinct told me to stay away from him and this time, I willingly decided to listen to it because there was no better option than to stay away from the man with tattoos and that annoyingly brooding look who lacked basic manners and well, was basically a jerk.
I was heading towards my next and the last class of the week – literature. Maddie and Ansel were already there because after our major class, I had to run to the bathroom and decided then and there never to have burritos for breakfast. When I entered the class, I saw the two sitting in the middle row and I was tempted to roll my eyes when Maddie saw me coming because she knew I didn’t appreciate her choice of seating. She had been living in the dorms but decided to spend the weekend with me and I happily agreed. They were engaged in what seemed like an interesting conversation because none of them looked up when I sat down. Shaking my head, I took out my notebook and pen and the copy of the novel we were going to study today for which I was already prepared. I wasn’t a nerd or even remotely close to one but this subject has always been an exception.
“Nina, I didn’t know you two were such mischiefs.” Ansel said, laughing at whatever Maddie had told him.
“Oh, sorry. Hi. Didn’t see you two there.” I said in a mocking tone and Maddie rolled her eyes.
“Sorry, Madeline here was telling me about the two of you and your adventures at elementary school.” Ansel was red from all the laughing and I raised my eyebrows at Maddie who simply shrugged.
I was surprised she told him about those times when we were basically labelled pranksters in elementary school. Maddie and I loved playing pranks on students and scaring the living daylights out of them which did got us, well mostly me, in trouble because Maddie was my accomplice but many at times her genius slash evil brain came up with ideas and since I was the one to put them in action, trouble followed me instead of her. Our headmistress made my teacher sign the detention slip because I glued one boy in our class to his chair who used to tease Maddie and make her cry. But that wasn’t why I got in trouble, it was because when he tried to get off and a few more students decided to help, his pants got torn and a piece of them was still glued to the chair. The entire class had erupted in a roar of laughter and our teacher, Miss Elsa Patrick, knew it was me better than anyone else.
I got busy reminiscing over the childhood days, days that only saw one parent and the other occasionally. I would come home and tell all these tales to my mother who would first scold me and then laugh with me because she knew me, she knew her daughter and what was she was up to while growing up. Dad would visit home and it would be like an on and off thing for him. Seeing him, even if it was occasionally, made me happy but it never made me tell him about my day as excitedly as I would tell mom.
I cleared my throat as I came back to the present and engaged myself in a conversation with Ansel and Maddie but soon Mr. Edwards entered the class and began with his lecture. He didn’t waste time and started off with discussing the main themes and the significance they held in the novel. The novel was sorrowful and tragic and the way it was written was truly brilliant. Roy, in this particular novel, was known for her unusual way of reporting the events. She didn’t use the chronological pattern to tell the readers the story, instead she used a different method where the beginning was the end, the end the middle and the middle being the beginning. The way may sound confusing but it was effortless and these beautiful lines might answer why she chose to write the way she did.
‘It didn’t matter that the story had begun, because it was discovered long ago that the secret of Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t.’
I read this book back in A-levels and even though I found it disturbing, the tragic part of it is what kept me hooked. Sometimes it made me wonder of the stories each of us hide within ourselves and the reasons for keeping them away from the world. That’s because this world is a dangerous, greedy place and after knowing your stories and secret, it’ll haunt you and take advantage of your vulnerability. Everyone has a story to tell and even after figuring out the reasons, I have always wanted to know them so they know that there is someone out there to listen to you and your story without a hint of judgement; this judgmental world and minds not know how to function that way but I can, I want to because I want to be their listener. Maybe that is why Maddie has known to confide in me ever since we’ve known each other, even when we first met. I saw her sitting on a snowy December night on her front steps of the year they had moved in. We were five and I saw a sad little girl with sunny blonde hair, her lips jutted out. I stopped riding my tricycle and climbed the steps to a blue eyed girl who had a single tear stain on her cheek and asked her what was wrong. What she told me then was such a big deal and now we laugh at it but that was the moment we became friends because I listened to her finding out about her birthmark on her left butt cheek. She thought I’d make fun of her but I only just made her feel better.
A tap on my shoulder made me snap my eyes back in the front. “We’re ready to leave, Nina.”
“Yes, of course.” I muttered distractedly and Maddie and Ansel both gave me a warried look.
“Yes, absolutely.” I said with the best ‘I’m okay’ smile I could muster because I was okay, just a little distracted. I don’t know what led me to think of the gazillion thoughts that were running a marathon in my head but I figured I simply needed a nice cup of coffee to get my head straight. And a blueberry muffin. Lots and lots of them.
My hunger attack caused us to stop at Starbucks and I dwelled over those blueberry muffins and my hazelnut coffee as if they were my cure, and they really were. It turned out that we all were starving but saved up extra space for a good dinner since we lived the first of university and because it was the start of the weekend. And Maddie made good on her promise because it was Friday night and we were in a kickass club in London, dancing our night away. The DJ played some cool mixes and the three of us couldn’t stop shaking to their addicting tunes. Now this was one place I could listen to loud music all day because I wouldn’t get drunk enough where the music would be a torture to my ears. We were dancing our sexy classic moves when the DJ suddenly played ‘Lean On’ and with one look at each other, Maddie and I couldn’t help but break into fits of laughter while imitating the dance moves from the music videos.
“You two are embarrassing me.” Ansel shouted over the loud volume, laughing and hiding his face at the same time, while pretending not to know us.
“Oh, we know you wanna join us.” Mads and I said in unison that made him laugh all the more.
After a while of even crazier dancing, the three of us decided to take a break and went over to the bar as each of us perched up on the high stools. The club was situated on a rather decent block, nowhere too shady or dark. Respected people came in here but I could spot too many people of our age because it was Friday night and everyone was out of their dorms and rented apartments which reminded me of mine and how I needed to look for a job to pay Mrs. Baker the rent.
“So what do you girls want?” Ansel asked, who was sitting close to Maddie, their elbows touching and I suppressed a smile.
“I know we need. Tequila. Three tequila shots, please.” Maddie announced as she banged the counter and the bartender gave her a funny look.
“Oh, none for me. I’ll just have a Coke.” I said and made eye contact with the bartender, giving him an innocent glare so he would serve nothing but Coke.
“You don’t drink?” Ansel asked.
“I do but I don’t feel like having a drink tonight.”
“Come on, Nina. Just one shot and I won’t ask for more. I promise and I make good on my promises.” She added the latter with a wink but I had my lips in a thin line as we were served our drinks. I took a sip of good old coca cola and it was refreshing since my throat felt dried because of all the laughing and shouting and dancing.
Maddie actually had a grumpy look on her face which soon faded away as soon as Ansel whispered something into her ear and I saw her turn scarlet red. I looked away then, sensing the moment was too private for me to be a part of. I averted my gaze and went back on drinking my coke and watching people dance on the dancefloor where the dancing seemed to have taken a dirty turn. I snorted in disgust that made Maddie and Ansel look at me but I told them to continue with whatever they were doing. A few minutes later, a female bartender walked over to me with a glass of champagne balanced in the middle of the tray on the palm of her hand. She places it in front of me and I gave her a quizzical look.
“I didn’t order this.”
“It’s from him.” She said, looking over at the man who was now approaching me, wearing a dress pant and a button down red shirt. Damn it, what is with this colour? The bartender left and I turned to look at my best friend and Ansel, only to discover that they had disappeared from their spot. Great, I muttered to myself.
“I don’t remember seeing woman walk in a club wearing jeans and a plaited shirt. You must not come here often.” He spoke in his thick British accent that reminded of Nate but I pushed his thought away as soon it came. His beachy blonde hair was styled to the side and his grey eyes twinkled with an emotion that sent alarm bells ringing in my head.
“I don’t. Thanks for the champagne but I don’t drink either.” I said and got off my stool only to me stopped in my tracks.
“Whoa, where’re you going? We just started talking.” His way of speaking sounded posh like he was some rich kid who came down to show his money and power off but I wasn’t going to buy his crap.
“And I said I’m done talking.” I said to him with a stern look and began to walk away when he grabbed my arm and spun me around.
“No one ever talks to me like that, you little bitch. You’re going to do as I say.” He snapped at me, bringing me closer to his face. Right when I was about to fight back, a fist connected with the rich ass’s jaw and he fell onto the ground but because he was holding me, the second he toppled down, I lost my footing and almost fell on my head when I felt a strong arm around my waist and lips on my ear.
“Did he hurt you?” A raspy voice whispered in my ear and suddenly there were goosebumps all over my body. I closed my eyes at the sound of his voice but opened them all too soon to answer his question with a shake of my head. But that didn’t stop him from going over to that guy and send another flying punch to the side of face. Security and bouncers were at the scene in no time and before they could pull Nate off that man, I heard him say, ‘You don’t get to touch her.’
Nate was ushered out of the club with me following suite and the guy who tried to make a move on me was also thrown out but from a different exit door. I don’t know why I had followed Nate but I couldn’t wrap my head around what happened and how he appeared out of nowhere, saving me from a guy not less noble than himself and I knew I couldn’t just let him leave like that after coming to my rescue. We were now standing outside and the wind was coming at us in every direction. There were only two cars parked since this was the back door and the alley was dimly lit. I looked up to see the clouds forming together, trapping us underneath and I waited for thunder to roll over. But when I looked at Nate, the weather was forgotten. His back was facing me and his hands were balled into fists and later, his fingers were in his hair, furiously pushing them back.
“Nate?” I called out to him and in a flash, he stood in my face, inches away from me – and I didn’t step back.
“Are you okay?” His chest was heaving up and down.
“Are you?” I asked, eyeing him warily.
“Answer my question.” He demanded angrily that made me angry.
“I’m fine.” I snapped at him but he didn’t flinch, instead kept his eyes on me. I sighed then, realizing my tone came our meaner than I expected it to me.
“Thank you, though, for what you did back there.” His face softened for the tiniest bit of second at my words but then it became expressionless.
“I didn’t do it for you.” He said and kept his eyes on me and it started to get uncomfortable.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
The minute I asked that question, something changed in him and he was standing a million steps away from me. The same brooding, angry look took over his face and when I thought I was seeing a different Nate, I was proven wrong. As if right on cue, thunder boomed over our heads and it would only take a few minutes for rain to fall down on us. I averted my gaze back at Nate who still had his eyes on me. The way he was drinking me in was intense and intimidating, half of his face covered in darkness from standing against the wall and the other side was illuminated by the one streetlight in the corner. He was about to say something with the way he parted his lips but soon stopped as the backdoor opened and out came a girl, dressed in a short black shirt and halter black stop with black boots covering her feet. She was skinny, almost beautiful with her lips dripping with a dark shade of red lipstick. The stranger looked at Nate and then at me and back and forth one more time because an angry pout set on her perfectly shaped red lips.
“I’ve been waiting for you and you’ve been wasting your time with her?” The way she eyed me made me lose all respect for her, for she was exactly like the crowd he fit in.
“I’m not wasting my time. She’s nobody.” Nate said as he walked past me, without sparing me another glance and his words made the brunette smile wider than necessary. He pushed the locks of her fierce bob cut out of her face and kissed her right then and there in a way that made me gag and hurl and get away from the mere sight of them. But soon the rain began to fall in heavy droplets and Medusa here let out a squeal as the rain threatened to ruin her makeup and clothes. Nate took her hand and made a run to the car that was parked at the end of the street but before stepping in, he eyes locked with mine and he winked at me then drove away.
“Was that Nate?” a voice behind me said and I jumped.
“Jesus, Maddie. You scared me.” I said, putting a hand on my heart. Ansel was right there next to her.
“Was that him you were talking to?” She asked again, not caring if the rain ruined her favourite black dress. She had a scowl on her face.
“What was he doing with Emma?” Maddie asked, her tone a confused one.
“Emma? Who’s she?”
“The girl he went in the car with.”
“And you know her how?”
“She’s my roommate.”
Maddie fidgeted a little and pushed her wet locks out of her face.
“What is it that you’re not telling me?” I asked, glaring at her for an answer.
“You won’t like it.”
“I wanna know.” I pressed, not giving her another option but to tell me what she was hiding.
“He came by the dorms for two days. He uh, came by our dorm room, this Nate.” I sucked in a sharp breath at the thought of her being anywhere near someone like him. He had danger written all over him. “Apparently, he and Emma have… a lot in common in their physical activities.”
I listened to her but didn’t utter a word as we stood there in the rain. Ansel had a protective yet angry look on his face as he draped his arm over Maddie’s shoulder. They both waited, waited for me to say something but that’s what I was thinking of in my head. He already has a girlfriend which was hard to digest and now he was seeing another girl. Somehow, that didn’t surprise me because from the way he acts and the way he speaks, he doesn’t strike me as the sincere one. I bet he doesn’t even know the meaning of the word. He was near Maddie for two days and she didn’t bother telling me and I couldn’t risk my best friend being near a man who had no respect for women and seemed bad news from the day I saw him.
“Okay.” I said out of nowhere and the two them gave me blank stares.
“Okay what?” Asked Maddie.
“You’re staying at the apartment now. I don’t want you anywhere near him. I don’t particularly like the feeling I get inside about him.”
I was worried for my best friend but what I didn’t realise was that it wasn’t Maddie I was worried about being near him, it was myself.