After that night, Kai and I slept in each other's arms every day. I never thought anything of it for a time. I saw Kai as a brother, maybe more so like a protector. But I soon noticed that even with his bouts of kindness within closed doors, that I did not receive the same affection during our time together at school.
Before my first day, Kai sat me down and cut my hair. I was honestly against it. I had long hair ever since I could remember, but he said that a pretty face shouldn't be left hidden. So, I sat in his bathroom as strands of black began to fall to the ground. The second I looked up, I felt unrecognizable.
I could see my ears, almost forgetting what they looked like. They were pale, small, but real! I barely saw my face, since it was hidden by my long hair, that I almost forgot how scrawny I really was. But what was the most striking were my maroon eyes. They almost radiated amongst my new short haircut, as Kai swept my bangs from my face and spiked up parts of my hair.
"So?" Kai wondered.
It was hard to answer him. My mouth went numb from the shock of my features. I didn't look half bad when I cleaned up. However, I did look sickly...almost like a vampire.
I need to say something, I forced myself. I have to repay his kindness.
"Um...I like it!" I said, smiling.
Kai nodded in approval and then took his right earring out of his earlobe. It was a small black stud, which shimmered like a diamond. I already knew what his next question would be.
"So, for round two, I was going to ask if you'd be interested in having this. These earrings came from my mom. I've worn them every day to remember that near or far, she's always with me in my heart. I wanted to give you one so you too can find peace as you start your new life."
I was almost in awe after he said those words. Why would he want to give me something so precious? Me...the unkempt dog?
"I'd...yea, I'd love to have it."
So, that day, as I got out of the Surburban with Kai, in my new fitting school uniform, I felt like a person. I brushed my right ear, feeling the stud, and that made my heart happy. However, as soon as the whispers started, seeing me walk next to the class president, the Senator's son, Kai stopped me before the school entrance.
"Now you know where Ahiko will pick us up. Think you can handle navigating school on your own?"
"Yea...but, why can't we go to class together?"
Kai smirked, shaking his head. "Max, it's time for you to spread your own wings. I don't want to claim your successes just because you rode on my coattail. Does that make sense?"
It honestly didn't, but I shook my head as if it did.
"Great," Kai smiled, "If you need anything, or if those douchebag jocks come after you again, you know where to find me."
"Ok." I called, as if the words got caught in my throat because he was gone in a hurry.
I felt my head droop the second he left. Sure...Kai was popular...had his own friends. He had done enough for me, just by saving me. It was selfish of me to want anything more from him...wasn't it?
I touched my earring again. No matter if we weren't together, he's still with me.
I smiled, reassuring my nerves as I continued onto class. Overall, Kai was right, school was different this time around. People did notice me, as if they forgot I was the mangled mutt that crossed their paths weeks before.
"Hey, what's your name? Are you new here?" a boy asked.
"Um, no...well sorta. My names Max."
"Well, Max, do you like sports? We're looking for someone else to join our fencing club."
"Stop it, Kade, Max is too cute for fencing." A girl chimed in, "How about band? You look like a woodwind!"
The conversations with my classmates began to blur as I looked over at Kai. He was sitting at his desk with three boys around him from another class. He looked like he was having a good time: laughing and smiling.
"Remember." The haint whispered in my mind.
Kai wasn't smiling...no. The smiles were forced. Three boys...the boys were...Trevor. Trevor was the boy whose clothes clung to his middle and lay on the back of Kai's chair. Ian...Ian was the boy who had his hand on the front of Kai's desk. And...that boy, the darker one with black hair.
It was only until Kai's classmates came over to speak to him, that the black-haired boy snapped the other two to attention. He waved to Kai, sticking his hands in his pockets, and lead Trevor and Ian out of the classroom. Everyone got out of their way, which made me curious. I wanted to know who they were...and what made everyone pale as they drew near.
I strained my neck too much, connecting with his soulless orange eyes. His devilish smirk that pierced his lips sent a chill down my spine. And most notably, the tattoo that slithered behind his ear. The mark of the Manors.
His name...what was his...
I woke up, startled as my alarm went off. I sighed, grasping onto reality as I placed my head in my hands. I was sweating...that dream reminded me of the cruel day that decided my future. More so, I was flustered with the fact that I did not realize Kai and those boys were acquainted before the incident. Sure, it was two years later, and much had happened between my sophomore and senior year of high school, but that face...was unmistakable.
Kai was right, I didn't understand...not even back then.
I had no clue that on that day, I saw members of the Manor Gang: the same people that would bring my demise.