“We’re here, Eve.”
Evelyn lifted her gaze to the voice of her manager, barely realized the car had stopped moving. Behind the wheel, Nelson Han unbuckled his seatbelt and got out of the car. Blinking away the boredom out of her mind, she followed him not long after. Grabbing her tablet and fur coat in one swoop, she got out from the comfort and stepped right into the coldness. A strong familiar atmosphere of the ongoing autumn wrapped her like a blanket. She shivered both in cold and amazement.
They pulled in at a residential area by the outskirt, miles away from the bustles of the city. They could see open fields and natural grown trees they rarely saw. Much quieter and less dense than any residential area in the down town. Autumn felt good there. It gave her feelings that it actually happened, unlike back then in the big city how she actually thought the season only happened above the skyscrapers. Now she stood in the middle of it. Smell of dampness filled her nostrils. Chilly air tickled her skin—she had a natural urge to wear her coat but let the cloth hanging on her arm instead. Some trees in her sight had been withering. The branches stretched toward the sky with pile of dead leaves around their roots, keeping them planted on the earth. Most of them painted the area with warm palette of gold and rust color on their leaves. The palette reminded to her younger days, when she sat in a comfy dining room, enthusiastically waiting for her grandma done baking the mouthwatering pumpkin pie. A sweet scent would fill the room, wafted from a red brick oven. Such good memories. Now she had a strange urge to try jumping in leaf piles.
Aside from the autumn sight, she was now standing in front of a two-stories house. Slightly smaller than the rest of the two-stories houses in the block, but looked both modest and elegant at the same time with rectangular architecture. That kind of house that makes you glance at it twice or thrice. Minimalist, painted in ivory, adorned with large windows and fancy lamps. A tall concrete fence with iron accents that screamed at everyone to stay away. Modern and … very welcoming.
“Nice,” Evelyn commented.
“I don’t know you can be sarcastic,” Nelson replied from the rear, unloading the luggage out of the trunk.
She chuckled at him as she approached the older man to grab one of the luggage. “I’m talking about the house, Mr. Han. Fence excluded.”
“Oh. Didn’t I tell you I have such a nice taste?”
“You did. This is nice. Really.”
Nelson closed the trunk in one swing. He walked to the single gate, freeing a key from his chest pocket. Evelyn followed him like a good adopted daughter she was. “I’m thinking to install an intercom system here,” he said while unlocking the gate.
“The fence is scary enough for me.”
“For intruders, this ain’t scary at all. Better safe than sorry.”
Evelyn smiled bitterly at that.
Nelson opened the gate, exposing a pebble pathway from the single gate to the porch’s stairs. The rest of the yard covered in a green carpet. How Evelyn wanted to walk on it while barefoot and roll around. She could probably lay there and let the cold atmosphere lull her to sleep. The tall concrete fence would protect her from anything.
“He will start working tomorrow,” Nelson said while freeing another key for the front door.
Evelyn snapped back from her imagination, taking her gaze off the marble floor of the porch. “Who?”
She stared hard at her manager’s back. “Mr. Han, I thought we’ve talked about this.”
“And we’ve agreed to hire a bodyguard for you.” Nelson opened the door and walked inside. It was more spacious than she thought, still persistent with ivory paint and looked even more elegant than the exterior. All new, clean, and bright furniture; but none of that matter for now. Evelyn rushed to his side.
“I never agreed on that.”
“I don’t need your approval,” he let the suitcases rested on the floor by his feet. “The agency doesn’t need it either.”
“Bodyguard is way too much,” Evelyn yet again protested, quoting yet the same protest.
“Nothing is too much for a young lady who decided to live in a quiet residential area by herself while having a pervert terrorizes her with life-threatening letters. Don’t argue, Eve. I know how to deal with a young lady’s safety. And I can’t risk to lose my only source of income.”
Evelyn opened her mouth to argue, but nothing came out. She snorted instead, staring at the pale linoleum floor. Hoping she could find better words to strengthen her point.
“Eve,” the manager put his hands on her shoulders. She lifted her head to a genuine worried look. “The letters issue is not trivial. The agency has dealt with such issue several times before, but this one is different. You’re a rising star. Everybody loves you, in a good and bad way. Ensuring your safety is our top priority, right now.”
“But, Mr. Han, bodyguard is just ….” Evelyn deeply sighed. “Is he going to follow me around?”
Nelson rolled his eyes. “That’s how they work, I heard. Of course, he is.”
Evelyn couldn’t hold back from releasing another sigh.
“I’ve signed the contract. He’s one of the best. He can be trusted. I’ve met him once. Didn’t I tell you I have good eyes. These eyes could evaluate man’s worth too, you know?
“Anyway, while we’re still at it, let me drop the bomb. He will occupy that room.” Nelson pointed at the first room from the front door with his thumb.
Evelyn widened her eyes. “Excuse me?”
The manager patted her shoulders once before turning around to the dining room, almost seemed trying to run away. “Don’t worry. The second floor is spacious enough for you. You’ll have your own living space upstairs. Lounge, two bedrooms, bathroom with Jacuzzi—”
“I don’t care with Jacuzzi, Mr. Han,” Evelyn ran to his side. “Why is he living with me as well?”
“Like I said, that’s how bodyguard works. And your safety is absolute. I’ve talked about this matter with the agency and they agreed. He will only make that room and the bathroom inside as his own. No Jacuzzi. The rest of the rooms, they are all yours—well, it’s your house, after all. He needs a place to stay. You definitely don’t want him running around from his place to yours back and forth like an iron because I don’t want him to. He won’t come out from his room unless it’s needed or you let him to. For further rule, you can rearrange it later with him.”
Evelyn could feel migraine started settling in. “I don’t like this.”
“Look, I know you’re angry. And it seems like you still don’t get the situation we’re dealing with. You are in danger, Eve. Those letters are real. The threats are. The culprit means it. I’m standing right here, discussing with the higher-ups, looking for information about the best bodyguard in the city; I’m not doing all of those things for the agency or representing them. I’m doing this as a father with wife and a daughter. I’m worried. I’ve considered you as my own daughter. I don’t want anything horrible happens to you, okay?”
Evelyn stood in the middle of the living space, feeling lost. She just couldn’t get her head around living alone with an unfamiliar grown man under the same roof. Let’s say the man was indeed trustworthy and heck professional in his job, but it still couldn’t change the fact that living together thing feels weird and irrational to her sense. What her manager had just said, though, it warmed her. It reminded her again and again that she wasn’t all alone. She was quite taken aback from the unexpected concern since she had gotten unfamiliar to such feeling since her grandmother passed away.
“He’s trustworthy,” Nelson added in softer tone while Evelyn was yearning for her grandma’s embrace. “Believe me, Eve. He’s a pro. One of the best in his field, have I told you that?”
“Do you want me to stay here until he can convince you other way?”
“No, no, no, Mr. Han. The reason I moved here is because I want you to have more time with your family.”
“Then trust him.”
She clenched her jaw.
Nelson chuckled. “You’re worrying too much for someone risking herself to live alone while having some pervert weirdo chasing her rear around. Ah, right,” Evelyn lifted her head to her manager’s worn out sigh, “bring him to your meeting tomorrow.”
“The one with your online friends?”
Evelyn let out the loudest sigh. True she’d always argued with her manager a lot, but she hadn’t been in so much argues in one day like now before. “I apologize, Mr. Han. I have to refuse.”
Nelson shot her a questioning look. “They already knew you’re a model, right? Why not?”
“I want to have a normal girls’ night out.”
Her manager laughed but immediately tone it down. Did he just roll his eyes again? “He won’t stick to you like a boyfriend or something. He’ll only follow you in a proper distance. Your friends won’t noti—”
Nelson closed his lips in a perfect horizontal line. A moment later, he sighed. “Fine by me. I still have the right to order him around anyway.”
“I will be fine.”
“I will be fine.”
“God, you’re just as persistent as my daughter.”
Nelson walked away to the stairs, leaving Evelyn alone with her own thoughts. True that having a bodyguard watching her every move had no different with having stalker maniacally observes her. But she had to consider the chance the stalker could also endanger her friends. Maybe bringing the bodyguard with her was a safe conclusion after all.
Evelyn nearly clicked her tongue and pouted anyway. Her tablet buzzed at the right time and she hurriedly tapped the screen awake for a new group chat from ….
Currently walking home from school!
I can’t concentrate today, thinking of our meeting tomorrow, lol!!
Can’t wait to see you two!!!
So excited, send help!!!!
Evelyn snorted through her nose. Yuri enthusiasm never failed seeping through along with her words on the chat since the very first time they met online. Evelyn adored her so much. Positive, bright, and somehow, warm. A typical optimistic high school girl.
Must be nice having nothing big to worry about …. Unlike her who had to live with a stranger under the same roof while keep receiving nasty letters addressed to her every week.
Evelyn smiled sheepishly at the thought. She deeply missed her younger days. Sitting in a dining room full of sweet scents and faint warmth from the stove; her grandma smiled lovingly from the chair across her; Evelyn narrating her day at school with mouth full of pie; hearing her grandma laughed to her story. The only intense thing ran inside her mind was just the Thanksgiving Day, another precious day she would spend with her grandma and more good food. Things were so much easier back then.
She shot a short glance at the room where a unfamiliar grown man would reside tomorrow. She decided to trust him, and her manager—of course. He had been through a lot of troubles just to make sure her safety. The same exact thing her grandmother would do if she was still alive. She chose to respect his concern over her insecurity toward unfamiliar thing.
Evelyn chatted Yuri back before making her way to the upstairs, checking the Jacuzzi Mr. Han so proud about.
Oh, no! Next time make sure to listen in class!
I’m excited too, by the way!
See you tomorrow, Yuri!
Everything exploded into beautiful bright colors.
Yuri shoved her phone back to its rightful place—a tiny pocket inside her worn out school bag, had to bit her lower lips for not smiling too wide. Her pleated skirt swayed up and down from the bouncing movement. She was more like dancing than walking.
“You look excited.” A boy to her contrast mumbled without even moving his gaze from a device on his hands. The sound of game mechanism came out from the device.
“I am excited!”
“Hm,” the boy replied, still not lifting his gaze.
Knowing she always had the largest part of his attention, Yuri dragged a few more while keep dancing around him. “It’s tomorrow, you know? It’s tomorrow!”
“Correct!” Yuri exclaimed, stopping her bouncing movement and properly facing her friend. “We’re finally going to meet each other after two years! Tell me, how cool is that?”
Yuri bit her lips again, eyes shut tight. She made a winning gesture with both hands. “I knew it! The fact that we’re still friends after two years without even knowing each other in real life is just … cool! Online friendship is cool!” The thing exploded again. She started another bouncing movement.
The boy hummed an agreement.
“Actually, I’m still shocked that Miss Evie actually agreed to my idea to meet up. She even decided to move here. What a nice person.”
“I don’t think the meeting is the only reason.”
Yuri blinked from realization, but still wouldn’t tone it down. It’s still exploding. Bright and light. “Well, yeah. She said she has to move for work-related stuff. I don’t know. I don’t understand. Adult’s life is just confusing. I don’t want to grow up. But isn’t it good that she’s actually considering my idea? I was just joking at first and she was the one who got fired up. More fired up than me! And Miss Nathalie didn’t seem to like the idea, but she went with it anyway. Two voices against one!”
The boy nodded.
She finally stopped bouncing and stared at the sky, smiled at the incoming night time. “I always think that our friendship is bonded by fate. Please tell me you’re agree with me.”
“Enlighten me first.”
Yuri hummed, tapping her chin with index finger. “Hm … I feel like we’re chosen.”
“Chosen for what?”
Her lips pursed. “I don’t know …. Maybe we’re like … Oh.” Yuri broke her gaze from the depressed sky and shot it at the boy. “Have you watched Charlie’s Angels movies?”
At that, the boy lifted his eyes from the gaming device, but he put his palm on his face afterward. “Oh, no.”
“Oh. My. God. That sounds perfect.”
“No, no! Listen! We used to be in this group chatroom before, with another fifty members inside. But day by day, the members were deleted for being inactive and some left the group. Three of us got along well and decided to make a private group chatroom and moved there.”
“I don’t think—”
“There are three of us, naturally selected among fifty people. We’re chosen by fate!”
“What about the Charlie’s whatever thing?”
“Miss Evie said she’s a popular model. Miss Nathalie is an honorable student. And I’m a … uhh … I am ….”
The boy dragged his breath. “You’re a high school student full of excitement.”
“That’s it! Yes! Beauty, intelligence, and excitement! Combine them and you have the awesomeness! Just like Charlie’s Angels!”
” … Sure.”
“I know, right? Miss Evie as popular model! Miss Nathalie as honorable student! And me as high school student full of excitement! We will beat up criminals with sexy clothes and badass moves!”
“Hm, yeah. Cool,” the boy turned to his gaming device.
“Say, Jensen. Why don’t you come with me tomorrow? You can have the Charlie’s role.”
Yuri dropped her shoulders. “That’s true, though. Charlie never hangs out with the girls. But I might get intimidated tomorrow. They’re way older than me. And they’re amazing. I mean being a model and a smart college student, they’re super amazing. Totally angelic. I’ll feel more comfortable if I bring you with me.”
“You will be fine.”
“Jensen, you are not fun.”
Jensen sighed. Yuri caught a glimpse that he had paused his game. Since when? “I don’t want to ruin the moment. I don’t even know them—well, I do, thanks to you. But they don’t know me. If I go with you, they will feel uncomfortable, though I’m sure they won’t show it. The meeting is important for your friendship. Make it memorable with just the three of you.”
Yuri let out an amazed ‘ooh’. “You are awesome, Jensen. As always,” she wiped her fake tears, “I knew it. Charlie’s role should be passed to you.”
“No,” he continued his game.
“Anyway, what do you think about the outfit for tomorrow? Should I make myself looks older? Miss Evie is a model; she must be tall. I guess I’ll go with the heels.”
Yuri puffed her cheeks. “You are not fun.”
“I don’t know anything about outfit.”
“That’s why you’re not fun.”
Jensen sighed, turning off his gaming device and shoved it to his trouser pocket. Oh? Yuri looked around and they already arrived at the usual intersection. “I’m going this way,” Jensen pointed at the right path. “Be safe tomorrow.”
Yuri made a salute greet at him. “Yes, Charlie!”
“Stop it. Bye.”
Jensen ignored her and walked away. As soon as his figure escaped from her view, Yuri started humming, composing a song right away. Before it reached the end notes, she started bouncing again. She bit her lower lips at first, but then let the excitement broke the song and split her face into two.
Everything exploded into beautiful bright colors again and again and again.
[to be continued]
Such a weak ending. I’m not quite happy with this. The ending is just … meh. Well, when do I ever happy with my works anyway? -,-
Again, all supportive critics and suggestions are welcome! Especially about the grammar!
Beautiful photo by Marko Blažević.