Sheila stared at the ground, striding by herself in the hallway. Nobody seemed to care that she was unfamiliar. Nobody seemed to even notice her.
She had to take a glance down to make sure she was still there; that she hadn't turned invisible. Nope - still there. She liked it that way.
She had once been told that she had the kind of face that you would forget when looking directly at it. Good. She didn't want to be remembered. Attention had brought her only trouble in the past, so she did her best to dissolve into her surroundings.
With music in her ears, she had a smile plastered across her face. This university would be a fresh, new, normal, start.
She was finally at peace.
And then she noticed him.
A tall, lanky figure sitting by himself on the library stairs with his back resting against the railing. His shoulders were slouched; he was staring ahead with a brooding expression across his face and his hands were tucked in the pocket of his jeans. There was nothing remarkable about him - he seemed like another lost face in a sea of people - but that's what caught Sheila's attention. He was just like her. Dissolved in the background.
Yet there was something about him that unnerved her. Perhaps it was the way he was staring lifelessly ahead, as if he was not even present in the moment or aware of his surroundings. Something about his gloomy demeanor, an unspoken voice, screamed to her that he was suffering in silence. And that was when she knew, intuitively, that there was a main difference between them. She liked being alone, but he was lonely.
"Hey, there... Are you okay?"
It was the first time Sheila approached someone ever since she stepped foot in this college. The boy looked at her, snapping out of his trance and blinking in surprise. He seemed puzzled, as though it was the first time someone had asked him such a question.
His lack of response made her nervous. Was she too bold in her approach? Should she have approached him in a better way?
She held out her hand to him. "I'm Sheila, by the way."
His gray eyes glared at her hand; she could feel her palm heating up under his scrutinizing stare. With each passing second, she felt her nerves getting the better of her. Was she being too intrusive? Should she just leave him alone?
She retracted her hand away from him and rubbed her arm awkwardly.
He looked into her eyes. "I'm Mason."
"What the fuck is this?"
Mason circled around Sheila, like a shark circling around his prey, eyeing her body with a vicious look. They were in her bedroom, her place of comfort, yet only Mason had the power to make her feel so uncomfortable in such a space.
"Do you realize you look like a circus freak with your clown makeup?"
He tugged at her dress from behind, roughly, pulling her closer to his hard chest. Sheila stumbled backward, her body stiffening at his abrasive touch.
"And this skimpy dress," he yanked at the black fabric. "Why the fuck are you wearing this?"
Sheila sighed in exasperation. His rage seemed pointless to her, although she would never say so.
"I want to look cute for Miranda's party," she said, calmly.
Without warning, Mason flipped her around to face him, his hands gripping onto her naked arms. His touch was colder than his aura, the coldness spreading throughout Sheila's body, making her shiver. His face was smoldering underneath his stony expression. When he was like this, it was hard to talk sense into him.
"Who are you trying to impress at that party, huh?" He glowered at her with accusing eyes. "I should be the only one you want to please."
Sheila's nostrils flared in annoyance. How many times were they going to have the same conversation?
"Look, I'm not arguing with you over this," she said. Holding his wrist, she pried him off her.
"You've already made me stop wearing make-up when I go outside. I gave up wearing fake nails and lashes for you. This is just for a special event. I want to look cute, that's all. It's not that deep."
His face contorted with disgust, as if she had morphed into manure before him.
"You look like a cheap hooker. Take that shit off your face and change into something else."
"No!" Sheila shook her head stubbornly. "I don't care if you don't like this. I like this... and I'm going to wear this."
Mason's jaws were sharply defined, clenched with irritation. Roughly, he pushed Sheila until her back hit the dressing table behind her - the forceful impact knocking makeup products onto the floor. Mason didn't seem to notice nor care about the mess he made. He cupped her chin, aggressively, tilting it up and forcing her to look into his gray eyes. His eyes had a deadness, a stillness, seeming darker than usual.
"You want other guys to notice you, don't you? You dirty, filthy tramp. You wanna slap on makeup and parade around in tight dresses for them, don't you?"
Sheila gritted her teeth. It was hard to not lose her temper. She needed to remain calm and level-headed, before this situation escalated any further.
"You're being paranoid for no reason," she said, trying to steady her breathing. "And I need to finish getting ready, before the Uber gets here... so please leave me alone."
"Paranoid!? Me?" His eyes were alight with rage, "How stupid do you think I am?"
Sheila bit her lip, knowing that it was best not to answer that question. She didn't want to poke the bear further. He stared at her with such intensity, like he could read her mind. She knew that was ridiculous, but she couldn't shake the feeling away.
She was trying to read him too - read his body language. Then something clicked in her brain. She couldn't explain it. In that moment, she knew what he was going to do before he even did it. Perhaps it was because she knew him too well, she could predict his moves.
She tried to run away, but Mason had pounced on her like a tiger. He grabbed onto her, ruthlessly, his strong arms wrapped around her little waist. Sheila squealed and squirmed, trying to escape from his grip again, but he held onto her much tighter, his hands forcefully attacking her black dress. She thrashed around, flailing her legs and screaming.
"Stop it! Stop it, Mason! Let me down! Don't!"
There was a tearing sound. And another one. And again.
And then he let her go.
Sheila dropped to the floor, on her knees, with the torn fabric of her dress scattered below her. The black strapless dress was a gift from her friend, Miranda. She wanted to please Miranda by wearing it at her birthday party, but alas, the dress was torn apart mercilessly with her boyfriend's bare hands.
"You might as well go there naked!" Mason said, boiling with fury, "Might as well let the whole fucking world see you! It makes no difference."
Tears were rolling down her cheeks with her head hung low.
"You want guys to come and fuck you? Let them fuck you like the dirty whore you are and then they'll ditch you. You're nothing but a cum dumpster to them."
She looked at the broken pieces of her dress. And then at his feet. Everything was blurry through her teary vision.
"No guy will put up with your shit, you hear me? No sane guy will let their girl parade around looking like a goddamn slut. Do you think I like losing my mind over this? No, I act this way for your own good... I do this because I love you. Do you understand? You're lucky you even have me."
Sheila didn't look at him. She didn't say anything.
Mason spat at the floor and stormed out, slamming the door behind him.
For a good two years, Mason had felt empty. He felt isolated. He accepted he had no future, that there was no hope for the numbness to ever fade. Often, he felt invisible like a wandering ghost. He watched everyone engage with each other, but there was an invisible barrier that prevented him from joining them. He was like a submarine drifting undetected, picking up on other people's emotions like sonar. However, if anyone asked him about his own feelings, he wouldn't be able to tell them.
Due to this, the world around him felt superficial, like he was simply going through the motions and he couldn't connect to his environment. He found it difficult to focus. Often, he would switch himself off - sometimes for hours, just staring at his own shadow. It was the same feeling he experienced before he went to sleep, when he zoned out, and during these moments, he found it hard to understand how the world kept moving when it should've stopped. When he simply wished that it would stop.
He had planned to put an end to everything. An end to this meaningless life.
That was, until, she walked into his life.
At first, he didn't think much of her. She was just another girl to him. She wasn't strikingly pretty, rather she had a simple beauty that was easily overlooked by most people - including him. However, the more than he began seeing this girl and getting to know her heart, it was her inner beauty that shone through. That's when she became more and more beautiful for him every day - until she was the only thing that he noticed in a room.
He had confided in her, which was so uncharacteristic of his nature. Being a reserved person, he was determined to take most of his secrets to the grave with him. But, seeing as Sheila was the only person that had expressed genuine interest and concern for him, he shared bits and pieces of his personal life with her. There were years of abuse, years of mistreatment and horror that he had endured and witnessed - and the things he had confided in her were merely the tip of the iceberg. Still, Sheila was there to support him - to lend a listening ear, to give him guidance, to reassure him that he didn't have to suffer alone.
For the first time in his life, someone cared about him. Whenever he was with her, he was at home. Her smile made him feel warm, giving him hope for a better future. He was beginning to feel emotions again, to feel connected with someone, to enjoy talking to another person. Hours would go by talking to this girl and it felt like minutes. Every time he kissed her, the world had stopped, leaving just the two of them to wander the earth together. Holding her in his arms felt so right, as if she was made for him, like the missing jigsaw piece that completed him.
She made him feel happy... Something that he hadn't felt for more than half of his life. And he was addicted. Addicted to the way she made him feel. Addicted to her.
Falling in love with her was the easiest part.
It was letting her go that he was going to have problems with.
Butterfly: Thank you.