Paradise Fought: AbelBy: L.B. Dunbar
“Can you check the records again? It has to be paid.”
The girl in front of me leaned against the counter. Her sweet voice spoke with a twinge of Southern accent. Her arms crossed over the worn wood, hands clutching her elbows as she tried to keep her voice cheerful. It almost sounded like she was flirting with the clerk, who happened to be an older woman, with glasses on some kind of chain and short gray hair. She didn’t appear to be taken by the voice of this girl.
I was growing impatient. I needed to get to class, but I had to pay the semester bill. For some reason, my dad hadn’t taken care of it, or so the notice stated. Gold card to the rescue: his money advisors would sort it out later. While the clock ticked, my eyes wandered to the girl in front of me. A floral dress flounced over her body but suggested curves. The material draped short over her ass, as she stood on tiptoe in cowboy boots, while she lounged over the counter. Her legs were long and tan. I felt a rise in my jeans and blushed, as if someone had caught me checking her out. I looked left then right to note it was all in my head.
I was rather indistinguishable. Not many people took notice of me, least of all my family. It started with them, and it trickled over to me being slightly introverted. I was content by myself. I tried to stay out of trouble and not draw attention to myself. I was comfortable in my little glass bowl. Alone.
“Next?” The woman behind the counter broke into my thoughts.
“But I’m not done,” the girl squeaked. “There has to be a mistake. Can you check again?”
“Look, sweetie,” the patronizing woman spoke, “I’ve checked three times for you. There’s no deposit for this semester. You aren’t enrolled in any classes. I’m sorry, honey.” Despite the endearments, she didn’t seem apologetic. The girl had one hand in her blonde hair as her elbow rested on the counter. Her body leaned forward as if she was trying to block me out from her view. I was convinced she was embarrassed.
“Ms. Montgomery, I’m sorry,” she said one more time, then addressed me with a wave of her hand. “Next.”
Ms. Montgomery. Elma Montgomery? I knew her. She had sat in front of me in freshman English. I’d stared at the back of her head and dreamed of running my hands through those blonde locks, while I imagined her squirming under me. Elma was a walking wet dream for me, and nightly images of her relieved a ton of pent up frustration in my lower region. On the other hand, she had no idea who I was. Assigned to one another in Biology 101 as lab partners, she requested a change. She was sorry later to be paired with the campus heartthrob. According to talk I’d heard; he throbbed her, and then turned out to be too stupid to pass the class. I was the top student in biology that semester.
I should have recognized that hair, but it seemed a little brighter, almost sun bleached. Tan legs should have given away the hint of a holiday vacation.
When I stepped forward, she straightened. Defeated, she collected her bag and turned in my direction. That’s when it hit me. The most piercing blues eyes held me frozen. The eyes that haunted my dreams since December were the same eyes as the girl of my wet dreams. Maybe it had been the red rim of tears. Maybe it had been the hard stare of vulnerability. Maybe it was the setting in Hawaii, but Elma Montgomery had been the girl from the beach. I had second guessed those eyes, but as they looked at me now, my doubts were erased.
She stared back at me only briefly, a look of pain across her face. I held my breath in momentary belief that she would remember me from the Hawaiian beach. Then the moment passed without a trace of recognition.
“Sorry,” she muttered, as she slung her bag higher over her shoulder, although it was already there. Her hand held the large bag in place for a second, and she took a step left to walk around me.
“Wait,” I said, stepping into her space. Her body shuddered to a halt as she looked up at me. Her arm still crossed her body like a shield, as she held the bag on her shoulder.
“I can help,” I blurted.
“What?” Her eyebrows pinched, and she actually looked kind of cute in her confusion. I reached for her upper arm without thinking and pulled her aside.
“What do you need?” I inquired, knowing full well it wasn’t my business, but also knowing I was willing to help her with anything.
“I…I can’t pay for the semester,” she said, then looked up in surprise as if shocked she’d told me the truth. “That’s really none of your business, though, or your concern.” The edge to her voice lingered with a hint of tears. She was clearly at the end of holding it together. She wiped a hand through her blonde locks, forcing the hair roughly back from her face.
“I can help,” I said again. Then I held up my father’s gold card. Her eyes opened wide. Her throat swallowed. My vision focused on the curve of her neck. My mouth watered a bit, longing to taste her skin. I wanted to punch myself as my body responded to her. I was making a fool of myself, and she probably saw evidence of my desire for her. Her attention, however, remained on the card in my hand.
She looked briefly over her shoulder at the older woman, who remained behind the counter, but had returned her focus to the computer screen before her.