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The light for the crosswalk changed from an orange “DON’T WALK,” to a little white “WALK,” and a big picture of a human figure flashed. Hally balanced her books and prepared to take a step into the street. The wind whipped her hair up and around her face, getting into her mouth. She could taste the bitter hairspray on her tongue, and she tried to shake her long locks out of her way as she stepped off of the curb.
A strong arm locked onto her shoulder, dragging her back. The sudden motion of the pull made her hair fan out, and she was shocked to see a car streaking by not two feet in front of her. Hally’s precariously stacked school books tumbled onto the concrete around her, and she yelped when a particularly large one landed squarely on her toe. The crosswalk light had already changed; and, although the road was now completely empty, she was afraid of stepping foot on the street again. She glared palely at the retreating SUV, and then suddenly turned around as she remembered the hand that had stopped her from being hit.
A tall boy, who looked her age, leaned against a nearby light post. Hally’s first impression was a little quiver of fear at the boy who seemed to openly display a dark personality. His eyes were cold, and menacing, and she felt almost as if they could pierce through her soul. But her fright melted away when she beheld the fire of the anger that burned in them now.
Despite his seemingly casual pose, Hally noticed how rigidly he was arranged. His long fingers were clamped into place on his deceptively thin arm. She knew, by the bruise that was now forming, that he was much, much stronger than the impression he gave off. It was unnatural. Perhaps it was for this reason, that her first words to him were not words of gratitude.
“Why did you do that?” she asked, in a blunt, if not rude, tone. As her words hit him, her composure remained calm, but the curious spark in her eyes danced with a new flat, indignant glint in his. He raised an eyebrow at her. Who was she to ask a kind of question like that? He stepped towards her once, not saying anything, and his expression was unreadable. Hally stepped back too, his movements struck her too much like the steps of a predator. He froze again, standing once more with a tight posture. His eyes, she noticed, were a dark red, speckled with a flinty gray.
“Please, answer me,” she said. This time, Hally’s voice betrayed a nearly undetectable hint of fear, but for the most part, she sounded intimidated. The boy’s arrangement softened as his face, in contrast, became a brooding mask.
“How quickly I inspire fear in you!” he lamented, his voice like the hum of a violin. Hally blinked once. She didn’t know how to respond. “Why did I save you?” he asked Hally. But she became more confused. How was she supposed to know? His expression became tortured and he sighed again. “How could I not?” he answered for her.
He stepped forward again, but Hally was beginning to feel worried. She was afraid of being late, late to her home, late to her mother, late for dinner, late to school the next day, and perhaps, said the small voice in her head, late for the rest of her life. However, with these fresh fears, came a peculiar sense of interest. Who was this boy, who she’d never seen before, though she’d lived in this town her whole life? Who was this person, who walked like a predator, but had also saved her from death? Who was the teen before her, who could take her breath away with his presence, and still make her fear for her life? The boy paused for a moment, looking confused and worried; and then he took a small but aggressive step towards Hally.
She stepped back again, but she had forgotten the books that spread around her. Her heel caught on the big one that had landed on her toe, and her arms flailed helplessly as she lost her balance. She gasped as her stomach dropped, and the world seemed to tilt with her fall. The beautiful autumn trees sinking as the blue sky pushed them down out of her sight. The boy was gone; and she spared a moment to wonder again who he was and where he would have left to.
Her arms flew behind her, trying to stop the fall, and she shut her eyes. But her fingers, instead of pavement, reached jean material and cotton. They were embraced by a soft, warm, and solid mass. Hally was afraid to open her eyes as she felt the world being tilted upright again. But the warmth did not leave her, and she leaned against it, incapable of standing on her own two feet for fear of wobbling back to the pavement. Her head was still tilted back, and she peeked out of an eye to see her rescuer. His dark red eyes were serene. Hally smiled despite herself.
“I thought you’d left,” she said honestly. His eyes stayed serene, but his expression turned dangerous. She closed her eyes again, afraid once more, and now embarrassed by her words. She felt the boy turn her carefully, and her feet were swept put neatly from beneath her. He had her in a cradle hold, his whole body warm and sturdy. Hally didn’t dare open her eyes. She felt the same sense of longing curiosity as before, but it was still twisting with the horrible fear that came with the knowledge that she was now under the direct control of the dark boy.
“What’s your name?” he whispered. She didn’t realize how close he had gotten to her face, as his breath tickled her ear. She suppressed a flimsy shudder.
“Hally,” she whispered back. This meeting was so curious, so horrible and wonderful at once, that she felt weak. She didn’t know whether to scream or ask him everything on her mind; but it didn’t matter, as her voice had stopped working. Hally felt a warm forehead press to hers. His eyelashes brushed her pale cheeks.
“Hally?” he murmured, his voice pronounced the smile that was hidden behind his serene mask. But Hally kept her eyes shut. “That’s a lovely name,” he told her in the softest of voices. “My name is Ivano,” he told her, his warm breath on her face. She was gradually becoming intoxicated by his calm presence. She started to form a feeble response in her head, and moved her lips without sound. But they were stilled by a gentle pressure, his lips on hers. And she didn’t fight as she let the fear slide out of her for now. Because despite the bruise on her arm, despite the fact that she didn’t think he was human, and despite being late for her dinner, Hally thought that maybe she had snatched up a mysterious piece of forever when Ivano kissed her. And even a piece of forever gave her enough time to be late.