You Don't Know My Name(8)By: Kristen Orlando
“Yes. Epic disasters,” I rebuff but can’t help but match his grin. It’s annoyingly contagious.
“How about this?” Luke negotiates. “We go, sit in the corner, and watch the disasters unfold together.”
Luke and I have done that before. Sat shoulder to shoulder at parties, laughing as we make up the dialogue between fighting couples and drunk lacrosse girls. My stomach, even my face hurts from three-hour giggle sessions with him.
“Pleaaassseeeee,” Malika begs, her eyes closed and hands collapsed together in painful prayer.
“Okay, okay,” I say, throwing my hands into the air in defeat. The three of them cheer in unison and exchange a round of high fives.
“I better eat if I want to make it to lab on time,” Luke says, standing up from his seat and resting his hand on my shoulder. “See you in a bit.”
Luke’s fingertips graze against my shoulder blades as he turns on the heel of his freshly polished JROTC boot and walks toward the lunch line.
The rush that takes over my body every time I’m near Luke drains from my blood and as he disappears from my sight, my sharp senses return. Every muscle in my body tightens as I turn to my left and lock eyes with a man whose stare is so penetrating, I can feel it from hundreds of feet away. He’s tall and strong, his eyes intense and dark, dressed in a janitor’s navy-blue uniform. But I’ve never seen him before. He holds my stare for a moment, then looks away. He fumbles with the garbage bag in his hands, struggling to open it up. I watch as he tears at the black plastic, gets frustrated, and throws it to the ground. As he looks back up at me, a hundred pins prick my spine. My eyes follow him as he spins around and plows his way toward the dining hall door, knocking into a student with so much force, her face winces in pain. I wait for him to stop or look back or apologize. But he doesn’t. He puts his head down and keeps going.
“Reagan, what’s wrong?” Mal says and gently touches the top of my hand, making my body flinch. I finally take my eyes off the door and look down at her. I hadn’t even realized I’d stood up.
“Nothing,” I say and shake my head. “I just … I forgot my lab homework in my locker. Harper, I’ll see you in AP bio.”
Before they can say another word, I grab my messenger bag off the ground and walk quickly toward the exit sign that hangs beneath two sets of double doors. I have to stop myself from running. I don’t want to freak everybody out.
I push open the door and get sucked into a sea of underclassmen heading to their next class. Where did he go? My neck cranes as I search both ends of the hallway, catching the top of his dark hair as he takes a sharp left down one of the main halls.
My training kicks in and I break out into a slow jog. I bump shoulders with a younger girl. “Sorry,” I yell out without stopping. I don’t want to lose him. I rub my hand on the outside pocket of my messenger bag and feel the outline of my “calculator.” The Black Angels weaponry team designed and built it just for me. A push of a button activates a secret compartment and out slides a serrated knife. I almost forgot it today. I walked out to my car without it, debated just leaving it at home, but turned around and went back inside. My parents’ constant badgering to always be armed no longer seems like one of their annoying ticks. It’s for moments just like this; when every bone in my body feels like it’s splintering and my mind is screaming.
I push past underclassmen and eventually they start to get out of my way. I reach the hallway where he turned. His dark, long hair and large frame give him away in this crowd of freshmen and sophomores. Our eyes lock and his face twists into a scowl. Before I can take another step, he pulls open the door to the gymnasium and slips inside. I jog down the hallway, my heart pounding, adrenaline buzzing through my body. I slip my hand into the pocket of my bag just enough to feel the top of my calculator with my fingertips. I reach the door, pull on the metal handle, and step inside, the door slamming shut behind me with a loud, metallic clang.
The gym is dark and empty. I take a few cautious steps toward the basketball court, my boots echoing against the vaulted ceiling. After a few steps, I stop and listen. My lungs tighten in my chest as I hold my breath. I hear the slight rustle of clothing followed by slow and quiet taps. He’s on his tiptoes somewhere in the black. Most would never be able to pick up on that, but after years of intense training, I recognize the sound of someone trying desperately not to be heard. I slowly let out my breath and take three steps back, pushing my body up against the cinder-block walls. Don’t let him attack you from behind, I hear my mother’s voice in my head. I reach inside the pocket of my bag and push the button at the top of my calculator. Out slides the handle of my knife. I listen again to the quiet tap, tap, tap on the hardwood floors. A door at half-court swings open with a shrieking creak and light pours from the equipment room. A dark image walks into the light and just as quickly dips back into the shadows. The outline of a silhouette has been swallowed by the black, but I can hear heavy footsteps walk closer and closer to my side of the gym. I grab the handle of my knife, pulling it out of its hidden compartment and up to the edge of my bag.