🕊WINGLESS AND BEAUTIFUL🕊
I didn’t know how I made it through the rest of the week.
I saw Hunter and Tania in school almost every day. Tania was
no longer inanimate and haughty. Instead, she looked
cheerful and eager. In other words, she looked more
beautiful and inspired. If I had to guess, the reason she
joined the exchange program was because she knew Hunter
was in Leighton High and it was a chance for them to be
I, on the other hand, was now less enthusiastic to help
Denise with her activities. The less of Tania I see, the faster I
would recover from the fact that Hunter has moved on
without me. When he went away to get his eyesight back, it
was not because he wanted to be with me like a normal
boyfriend. It was more because he wanted his old life back…
along with it, his old girlfriend.
Friday night, Denise and Chaise hung out in Alibri,
making sure that everything was set for the Saturday
bonfire and the following week’s activities.
“One of my committee members is trying to get the
local band to play on next Friday’s concert. I could use your
help with that, Alice.”
“Really? Why not Chaise?”
“Yeah, because I’m the music genius here.” Chaise
chuckled. “I will help supervise the venue. I will check up on
you once in a while.”
“If we get the band, I want you to see which songs
they’d be playing.”
“Seriously? Is that a bit too much… dictating?” I asked.
“I want perfection,” Denise replied. “Okay, maybe not
every song. I just want you to sit with them for a few songs,make sure they’re not producing… noise. Or lullabies. I’m
sure you know what I mean.”
I let out a deep breath. “Okay. I hope I can fit this with
my after-work schedule.”
“I already told my aunt to get a temp. At least for these
busy times. She agreed.”
“But Chaise, I was there because I needed the money
too. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid,” I protested.
“I know. And I made arrangements for that too,” he said.
“You can work overtime on weekends to make up for your
absence. My aunt agreed.”
Denise turned to me, smiling proudly. “See? You have no
excuse. You’re the only one here who knew anything about
“Okay. Since you two planned everything out for me.”
Chaise reached forward and squeezed my right cheek.
“Come on! Stop pretending that you do not find that
exciting. I know you. I’ve seen you around musical
instruments. In fact, I think you should play and sing during
She turned to Chaise. “Chaise, if I didn’t know you better, I
would say you’re freaking brilliant!”
Chaise rolled his eyes at Denise’s quasi-compliment.
“No way!” I breathed, violently shaking my head.
“You should show the kids in our school that you’re not
just a pretty face and a brilliant mind! You have kick-ass
I shook my head. “Nope. Thanks. It’s bad enough you’re
making me babysit the band.”
“Come on, Alice. Think about it!”
I looked at the ceiling thoughtfully for about two
seconds and then I turned to her and firmly said, “No.”
“You’re letting this chance slip away,” Denise said.
“Chance for what?”
“Chance for everybody to see what I see,” Chaise
replied. He was looking at me with a wistful expression in
“Here goes Romeo again!” Denise muttered under her
“Although on the other hand, you’re right,” Chaise told
me. “Maybe you shouldn’t show these people what
incredible talents are hidden beneath that beautiful face. I
already have too much competition as it is.”
“Oh, please!” I rolled my eyes. “Your joke is not even
“Ha-ha. I wish I was kidding,” he smirked.
“Why would he be kidding, Alice?” Denise asked me.
all those vying for your hand…” She gave a meaningful
glance at Chaise. Then she turned back to me. “Somebody
got to your heart first.”
Chaise sighed. “Stupid bastard just won’t leave, huh.”
“Come on, guys, let’s talk about something else,” I said,
changing the topic. “I will take care of the band, make sure
they perform up to your standards, D.”
Denise smiled at me brightly. “Great!”
The three of us planned to grab a pizza after I closed up
but when we stepped out of Alibri, Denise’s mom was
waiting for her.
“Oh, I’ll be up early tomorrow. You, kids, have fun
without me. Ta-ta!” she said happily. I was pretty sure it was
Was she trying to push Chaise and me together this
I looked at Chaise when Denise went off. He was looking
nervous and uncertain.
“Do you still wanna grab that pizza?” he asked
I shrugged. “I’m hungry,” I admitted.
He led me to his car and before we drove to the pizza
place, I started saying, “This is not…”
“I know,” he said, cutting me off midsentence. “Not a
date. Just two friends grabbing something to eat after Hitler
ate up all our brain cells.”
I smiled at him. “Just making that clear.”
He heaved a sigh and even though I knew he was not
quite happy with that, he smiled at me before starting the
the idea was. The first thing I saw was the familiar blue-
eyed devil, who haunted my dreams for more than a year,
and was still haunting my waking hours now. As soon as I
saw Tania sitting next to him, I turned away, touching my
scarred cheek to remind myself that I had been through
worse in my life and I got through all of it just fine.
‘Hunter-and-Tania-kissing-under-a-tree’ was not even a
fifth of the hell my stepfather put me through when I was
younger. I’m older now. Stronger. Wiser.
“What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger,” I
“What doesn’t kill you makes you want to kill it in
return,” Chaise suggested, overhearing me. I raised a brow
at him. “Sorry, I’m more of a ‘do-unto-others-what-they- do-
unto-you’ kind of guy.”
I laughed. “No wonder God made you cute. You will not
handle criticisms and insults well.”
“Cute is a huge understatement, don’t you think?” He
“Cute is actually a very generous compliment,” I said,
teasing him in return.
“I will grow on you. One day, you’ll see.” He smiled,
reaching across the table to pinch my nose.
“Maybe. So let’s order before I starve to death and not
live to see that day, shall we?”
“Come on, man! Where’s your sense of humor these
days?” We heard somebody say a few tables away from us.
We turned to see Hunter leaving the group’s table. Tania
stood up from her seat and went running after him.
“Tania, when will you stop?” another guy asked her.
Tania shook her head and I thought I saw sadness cross
her face. “Never say never, remember?” She smiled at the
guy bitterly and then ran after Hunter.
I didn’t know what was going on between Hunter and
Tania. Whether they were still together or they were
fighting. But whatever it was, I only knew that at this
moment, it was her running after him, trying to calm him
down, easing his pain and making him feel better… not me.
I looked up at Chaise slowly. He was looking at the door
after Tania. Then he turned to me. “I don’t understand how
any girl can keep up with that moron.”
I sighed. “Maybe he wasn’t always like that. Maybe he
was just having a rough day.”
Chaise actually laughed. “I think he was having a bad
“Well, Denise already told us what he went through. It’s
not easy,” I said. “Trust me. I’ve been there. There are some
wounds you don’t recover from.”
Chaise reached for my hand across the table.
“Whenever you feel like hell, or if your past comes back
haunting you… don’t forget, I’m here for you, Alice. You’re
not alone anymore.”
I squeezed his hand before pulling mine away. “Thank
The next day, we were at the beach after breakfast. I
was wearing a yellow off-shoulder cropped top, purple
swimming shorts and a pair of old beach slippers. The
cropped top showed my bare shoulders and a bit of my
tummy. The shorts ended a few inches above my knee. It
was shorter than most shorts or skirts I’d usually wear, but it was decent and it highlighted my long legs, which I never
paid attention to before.
I had tucked Hunter’s necklace inside my top. I
contemplated on leaving it. After all, it didn’t feel right to
wear it anymore. When Hunter gave it to me, he said he was
in love with me. It was because of my hopes that he would
come back that made me wear it all the time. But now…
that hope was almost gone.
“Wow!” Denise beamed when she looked at me. “You
“Shut up. These were the only beach wear that Meredith
had that were… decent.” Last night, when I checked her
drawers to borrow some beach outfit, I discovered that she
only owned two-piece swimsuits. Well, she had every right
to wear them. Meredith was pretty and I was sure she had a
hot body. I felt bad because instead of spending some time
charming guys on the beach, she had to work extra hours to
fend for both of us.
I kept myself busy running errands for Denise, making
sure everything was done the way she wanted. Being
pressured by her was actually heaven compared to the
prospect of running into Hunter, or worse, Hunter with Tania.
Noontime, the sun was high up and the temperature
was at its highest. The monster kids of Leighton High were
still oblivious of my existence as they were too busy
befriending their Jacksonville counterparts. I hadn’t run into
Hunter yet and the chances of him showing up were getting
slimmer by the hour.
I checked on the place where the AV systems were
going to be setup at the beach side. I was walking back to
one of the cottages where Denise was when a group of kids
scurried off from behind me, literally running me over,
causing me to almost trip.
Good thing, I was able to hold on to the rail beside me
and broke my fall. I resisted the urge to shout a curse at
them. I looked down, and saw that my slippers did not survive the incident. I reached down to see if I could still fix
it enough to at least wear it until I reached the cottage.
Hopefully, Denise would have a spare.
As I tried to fix my slipper, I stood on one foot,
alternating my feet as the cement was too hot for my soles.
“You should get a new pair,” I heard somebody say
behind me. I turned around and found Hunter looking at my
“You think?” I asked sarcastically. I took a deep breath. A
minute ago, I was positive, the day was getting better. Now,
it seemed menace after menace was happening to me in
“Come, let’s go to the gift shop. I’m sure they would
have plenty there,” he said.
“No. I’m sure Denise would have a spare.”
“The gift shop is over there,” he said pointing at the
small shop in the corner. It’s about a hundred steps away, a
short, easy walk—if you have footwear. Long and painful—if
you are barefoot.
“Not necessary,” I said, switching foot again. “The
cottage is not that far.”
“The gift shop is nearer,” he insisted.
I looked up at him sternly. “I’m fine! Can you just… go…
attend to your girlfriend? See if she needs help with
anything!” I shouldn’t have said that, but at that moment, I
couldn’t help it.
He raised a brow at me and then, with a wicked smile,
he said, “Okay. As you wish.”
I thought he would go, but without warning, he bent
down and scooped me up into his arms.
I shrieked. “What the hell do you think you’re doing,
He started carrying me towards the gift shop. “You need
to get a new pair of slippers, otherwise, you will burn the
soles of your feet. I’m taking you to the shop, whether you
like it or not.”
“Put me down!” I protested and started struggling in his
“Sssshhhh!” He tightened his grip on me. “Hush, Allison!
I don’t want to drop you.”
“Just put me down!”
“I will. When we reach the shop—where the floor is
Hopeless, I crossed my arms over my bare tummy and
allowed him to carry me. The blood beneath my skin began
to heat up and I’m sure that it wasn’t from the sun. I felt
particularly self-conscious because of what I was wearing. I
looked away from him, afraid that he might see the violent
blush on my face.
I thought the gift shop was near but it felt like we were
taking forever to get there. If I didn’t know any better, I
would think that Hunter was walking especially slow to
prolong this awkward moment.
“Can’t you walk faster?” I asked him.
“Why? Are you scared that people would see you with
me?” he asked, raising a challenging brow at me.
“No. But you might be embarrassed to be seen with
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Now, why would I be
embarrassed to be seen with you?”
“You’re joking, right?”
He raised a brow at me. “Do you think I am?”
“Yeah, I do!”
“Then you do not know me at all,” he said. And I
thought the annoyance in his voice was laced with a bit of
We were a few feet away from the gift shop, much to my
relief. But instead of going inside, Hunter took a turn and
“Wait! What are you doing?”
“The next gift shop is bigger and has better choices.”
“What? No!” I wailed. “Hunter Vaughn, put me down!”
He shook his head. “Nope. I want to prove to you that
I’m not embarrassed to be seen with you at all.”
We passed by a group of kids who stayed out of our way
as soon as they saw us coming. Some of them were from
our school and some were from Jacksonville. They were all
looking at us with shock and curiosity.
I stared back at Hunter and he looked like he wanted to
laugh or smile like he was enjoying spiting me.
I felt his arms around me tighten, pulling me closer to
“Why are you doing this?” I asked in a low, sober voice.
“Because you told me to,” he replied curtly.
He raised a brow at me for a moment but didn’t answer.
When have I ever asked him to help me? For the life of
me, I couldn’t remember.
I noticed the white gold chain necklace on his neck,
which he’d been wearing since he came back. It was only
now that I saw the two rings, which served as the pendant.
The bigger ring had a thicker band that had a pattern on it
that looked like a handle and a diamond in the end of the
design. I couldn’t make out the rest of its design. The
smaller one looked feminine. It had a diamond on the center
and intricate carvings and smaller diamonds on both sides
of the bigger stone. The design of the carvings looked
familiar and I resisted the urge to reach out for it and
inspect it further. I couldn’t make out the designs fully, but I
knew that it was a matching his and hers pair.
It took me a moment to realize that we were already
inside the gift shop. Hunter still hadn’t put me down. He was
watching me as I stared at the rings on his necklace.
“Umm… you can put me down now,” I said, peeling my
eyes away from him.
He walked over to the couch and gently settled me
“What’s your size?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll manage. You can go now.” Although I
did wonder how I was gonna manage that. I only had about
ten bucks in my back pocket. And this gift shop looked
posher than the thrift shop I originally intended to go to.
But Hunter refused to give up. “What’s your size?”
I sighed. “Seven.”
He went over to the counter to speak to the saleslady
and after a minute, he came back with a pair of yellow flip-
He bent down, holding a sandal in his hands and
reached out for my foot with his other hand.
“W-wait!” I protested. “I can do that myself.”
I tried to yank my foot away, but he was already holding
“Stop complaining, Allison,” he scolded me.
He gently placed the slipper on my foot. It fit perfectly.
He took my other foot and slipped on the other slipper.
The wedge flip-flop was made of soft rubber, with an
ambigram logo of two T’s on the center of the straps. It was
comfortable and my feet looked very nice on them.
Hunter was looking down at them too. Then his glance
crept from my feet, to my legs and up to my body until he
locked eyes with mine. When he realized that I was
watching him, he turned away, looking embarrassed that I
caught him checking me out. I thought of a similar time
when he caught me checking him out.
Now, we’re even!
He went to the counter and handed the saleslady a
“Hey, wait!” I walked over to him. “You cannot pay for
“I just did,” he said when the saleslady handed back his
“I’ll pay you back,” I said. “I left my wallet in the locker
room. I have some cash here…”
I reached for my back pocket for some money.
“Leave it, Allison. Consider it a gift.”
“Why would you give me a gift?” I asked, raising a brow
at him. He didn’t acknowledge me before and half the time,
he looked angry at me. And now, he was buying me a
present. “How much was this anyway?”
I took the receipt from the saleslady so I could look at
the price. I gasped. It was more than a hundred bucks. “For
a beach sandal?” I asked the saleslady in disbelief.
“Umm… it’s Tory Burch, Ma’am,” the saleslady politely
Hunter snatched the receipt from me. He crumpled it in
his hand and tossed it on the waste bin behind the counter
with perfect precision.
“It looks good on you,” he complimented. “You don’t
have to pay me back.”
“Yes, I do,” I said firmly. “I’m not gonna be a charity
case. I’ve had more than my fair share of people pitying me
and giving me free stuff because they felt bad for me.”
He raised a brow at me. “And you think I’m doing this
because I feel bad for you?”
“Why else would you bother?”
“Because you’re m…” he started saying but then he
stopped short. “Never mind.” He sighed heavily. “If you
wanna pay me, it’s up to you. But I will only accept payment
“What do you want?”
He shrugged. “I will let you know when I thought of
I nodded. “But please don’t take too long. I don’t like
“Anyway, thank you,” I said. “I need to get back to
He nodded again, not saying anything.
“Bye,” I said and turned to leave and look for Denise. I
could only hope that she didn’t notice my new designer
I left, without a backward glance, trying my best to walk
a straight line and breathe evenly.
Hunter Vaughn could well be the death of me!