That evening, wearing her school's maroon t-shirt and black sweatpants, December walked around the campus and tried to find her way to the places she had spotted once. It felt like a maze to her; a magical land that only wants to make itself available sometimes. In the clearing where wild flowers peeked through the ground and untrimmed shrubs surrounded the land, she was sure this was the place she and Raven had walked through, where a small pond with lotus flowers floated on it…but now – it was as if the place had vanished.
Then again, did she even have the route mapped in her mind?
"You hopeless fool." She muttered to herself with a sigh. Unsure of everything she thought she knew, December started to doubt herself.
As she walked on the pebbled path, her mind brought her back to last night, when she had a fallout with her brother and the somewhat weird but calm dinner they had. Despite telling him she was going out today, December left a brief note on the fridge just in case he forgot about it.
He probably didn't but she certainly didn't want to take any risk of him calling on her or go on a search for her – at her campus.
A shiver ran through her when she thought of that.
December's first plan was to avoid her brother for as long as she could so that morning, she took a cab to the café she and Raven had frequented to a while ago to get some breakfast. Later, she wandered downtown mindlessly and despite knowing the shop wouldn't be open at eight-thirty in the morning, she passed by Emphasis anyway, where a notice stuck on one of the big window glass caught her attention. Intrigued, she took a picture and continued strolling.
After an hour practically taking her morning walk downtown where she'd stopped at a nearby park, then a boutique and an ice cream shop, December thought she really needed to wrack her brain for something better to do and cussed herself for not even thinking of going to the dorm first.
At least, she could have continued sleeping more there or even start on her mission to find more hidden gems at campus. If she was lucky, she might meet some of the girls who chose to stay for the break as well.
She had reached her campus at ten-thirty and showed her ID to the guard on duty to scan.
"Back so soon?" A tall and lean guard spoke with a hint of surprise. He took the ID and keyed in some information.
She smiled at him and quickly glanced at his name tag but her eyes widened in surprise when she noticed it. She couldn't be certain but December guessed he was one of the guards on patrol when December hung out with her friends that Saturday night.
"Can't help it since I kinda miss this place." She grinned at him then continued. "It's so nice and peaceful here."
The young guard looked momentarily taken aback before he smiled at her. "It's nice to know there's students like you who noticed and appreciate it. It'll be great to see more students be appreciative of their surroundings. Well, you have a nice day, miss."
December only smiled and she thanked him when he gave her ID back and let her pass. "Thanks. You too, Carl."
She walked towards her dormitory, quietly basking in the mid-morning glow of the peaceful and serene environment of her school.
This is my safe haven, she breathe in the clear air.
The dorm had seemed so quiet and uninhabited that December thought everyone went back home but a distant noise of someone playing music on the stereo made her feel relieved that at least she wasn't entirely alone.
Her room was dark and quiet, and there's a faint musty scent of a closed space without air permeating in the room. She opened the curtains and window for the rays of sunlight to streak in and breathe in the newly fresh air.
After turning on the air conditioner to mild temperature, she laid back on the bed and sighed quietly. "This is great."
She had actually given some thought whether she'd want to come back to the dorm or stay at home for a few more days. Since her parents went to Norway and her brother came back, December didn't think she'd want to stay there any longer but if she wanted him out from meddling into her life, she needed to lay out some strategy here.
Besides, there's also that damn tour thing.
She could leave the house but that means coming up with more excuses or reasons to ward him off, which she was honestly running out of ideas. And she didn't know how long exactly his break would last. One needed to be extremely careful when dealing with the evil brother, she thought grimly.
With so many thoughts racing in her mind, and the things she planned to do for herself, December eventually fell asleep.
December reached a clearing where a small pond with several floating lotus were. She stopped in her tracks and raised an eyebrow to no one. Did I just stumbled upon what I think it is?
Sure enough, when she glanced around, she spotted several flowers which name and species she didn't know bloomed under the fertile ground. A slow smile stretched across her lips and she bent down to gently brush a finger on one of its petals.
Although it was scarce with nothing but a small pond and flowers surrounding the clearing's perimeter, there were still some quiet beauty to it that she just couldn't help but feel pulled towards. She grinned to herself, thinking since she'd found the pond she came across once, there had to be something more to the wondrous place on the campus.
It was five in the evening but the weather had been pleasant that day.
Perhaps it won't rain at all today.
But considering the unpredictable rainy weather they had for a few days now, she couldn't be sure. Figuring she had a lot of time on her hands, she thought to wonder the grounds later. She sat down on a grassy bank beside the pond and leaned against a tree trunk.
Sitting under the big shady tree – albeit not as tall as the oak tree by the lake – made her feel somewhat safe and guarded. Ever since coming to the academy, she had always felt out of place. No, she thought to herself, even back in Bristol she had trouble making friends. There was only one person whom she had become friends with, but it had been a fake friendship – one she had found out the hard way.
But coming here, she smiled to herself again, was probably one of the best decisions her family had ever made. The first year had been awkward for her. She thought it would be just like in Bristol but that wasn't the case as Brooke and Raven started to befriend her – although it was through one of the humiliating moments of her life.
Sliding down against the thick trunk, she wiped the sweat off her brow and forehead with the back of her hand, resting it against her eyes as she sought to control her breathing. She was enjoying the calm breeze and listening to birds chirping at a distance when another sound caught her attention. December furrowed her eyebrows as she wondered what it was.
A hum echoed through the now not so scarce compound. There were at least a couple of marble benches by a few metres of the pebble path with some colourful flowers in the shrubs; blue, peach, yellow and red. It was very much like some reserved botanical park.
Puzzled yet curious, she stood up, brushed her sweatpants and set off in pursuit of the mysterious murmuring. If this was the night, she would have hightailed at the first sound of the unfamiliar noise but she didn't think much since it wasn't. Besides, December wanted to know who else knew about the wonders of the place.
She could vouch almost none of her high school peers ever actually gave a damn, unless they wanted some ultimate privacy to make out. She would know, of course – she had accidentally mistook the sound of bushes rustling with three people playing twister in the woods once.
Almost afraid to intrude and discover on whatever she would have stumbled into, December was caught off guard by the bewitching sight that behold her.
There in front of her spread a beautiful garden, with a fine but winding pattern painted in gold and small flowers like cherry blossoms with its tree in silver on the archway. The pillars were entwined with vines and the smell of the garden was faint but intoxicating. As if in a trance, she walked along the pebbled path, where trimmed shrubs lay neatly side by side.
And then she noticed a figure hunched on a bench under a tree, seemingly occupied with something. Upon closer look, she realized with astonishment that the figure was Pierre.
She crept behind him, silently surprised that he wasn't startled or even aware of her presence; the gravel under her shoes weren't on a smooth surface. She wondered quietly what it was that had his attention. Even more, she had thought he was one of her friends who went back home.
Friends. It caught her off guard at how easily the thought flowed in her mind, and how she had proposed that idea since not long ago they were butting heads.
It was a pleasant thought to think that they're friends now.
He's sketching, December mused with a stunned curiosity. And it's pretty good too.
Who would have thought Pierre Lachlan could draw? Certainly not her.
She took notice of the way his hand move; left-handed, he held the pencil between his thumb and index finger, the movement brisk but feathery from the images that appeared on the paper. From the light pressure of the black lead to the shade of grey as he sketched with precision and no hesitation, December found herself being entranced with this sudden magic that he weaved.
Intrigued, she let out a breathless, "Wow."
Which successfully broke the invisible spell they were both in.
Pierre, caught off guard, cursed before quickly shoving his notepad aside and held a fist to his heart. Looking over his shoulder with a glare, he blinked before raising one curious eyebrow at a sheepish December. His scowl remained, however.
"Me." She grinned sheepishly.
Those syllables brought a quick memory of when they both had said them, though the roles were reversed.
Finding it funny, she let out a chuckle which then turned into a giggle.
Pierre's gaze softened at that although his lips were set firm, pressed tightly the moment he felt himself trying to smile. He wasn't sure how to feel now that he was found by December, especially at a place so hidden and so unlike him here.
"Fancy seeing you here." said December. She was looking at him in a way that implied it was indeed unlike him to be here.
Suddenly feeling bashful, he coughed as a slight hue crept to his cheeks. Luckily for him, the wind had picked up, making the tree leaves and flowers rustled. It was a chilly wind and he could just chalk it up to that.
If she asked him about the colour of his cheeks, that is.
Pierre gave a slight shake of his head to dismiss the thoughts and looked at her blankly. "What, you've never seen anyone here before?"
December feigned surprise as she shrugged. "Oh no, of course not. I've seen many, of course."
His eyebrows drew together, as if he was trying to figure out if she was making a joke or being sarcastic. December, finding that funny, burst out into chuckles and shook her head.
"Geez, aren't you a serious guy." Then, she said, "You're the first, actually. Do you come here a lot?" At this, December's eyebrow raised. She wanted to know this because out of everyone, it was Pierre that she met. When she thought of it, somehow they happened to see each other a lot for the most part, not including their classes time.
She didn't think it was a bad thing, she was just curious – because never had she pegged him – broody, frowny Pierre to…fit among the garden of flowers. And then there's that sketching thing. She really didn't know anything about him at all, and she was determined to change that too.
He shook his head. "I was walking around when I found this place. Interesting how a place like this could exist in the academy."
Her eyes widened as a grin crept up on her face. She exclaimed, "My thoughts exactly!"
Pierre was taken aback by her sudden and excited outburst. He thought she looked like a girl whose dreams had come true, and he let out a smile, even though it was a small smile.
"Aren't you a happy one." He said mindlessly as he smirked at her.
Normally a smirk from him would irritate her but this time, she didn't think of it. December grinned at him and walked around the circle of the garden where flowers bloomed under the sunlight. She brushed lightly some petals of flowers, trying to etch the picture of the beautiful thing at its prime in her mind.
From his view where he sat on a bench under the big tree, Pierre observed December as she seemed entranced with what she was occupied with.
He did not expect to meet her, out of all people – here, in a garden of all places. He'd thought she'd gone back just like the rest of them after that since they last met. She didn't seemed like someone who'd stay back in the empty campus for a week, but then again what did he know about her?
A little curious, he wondered if he should bring it up. A moment of debating it made him feel ridiculous, this hardly seemed like a topic he shouldn't be saying, so why was he feeling hesitant? He wasn't one to hesitate. And besides, weren't they friends already?
"So how come you're staying back?" He started casually, as he leant against the tree trunk.
She paused before looking at him. "Well, I like it here." When he raised his eyebrow at her, she grinned. "What? It's true."
He glanced around and nodded imperceptibly. "Okay. I could see why."
"Thank you." December smiled a toothed grin. Then, she turned around and crossed her arms before saying, "So, what about you?"
What about me? Pierre thought.
There was a subtle change in his expression; his jaw were slightly taut and his eyes turned cold for one obscure moment. All of which December thought she noticed but couldn't be entirely sure.
Her eyebrows quirked.
With both hands in his pockets, Pierre shrugged. "I like it here."
December stared at him for a few seconds before she burst into laughter, the sound so carefree and filled with amusement that Pierre found himself grinning.
"Really?" December's said with a skeptical tone, even though her mouth still quirked.
She chuckled. "Well, isn't that a nice coincidence."ns 220.127.116.11da2