Halfling Chapter Two: Stalker

My life was hell.  I had searched through my backpack, my car, and my apartment for hours, and one thing was clear.  I could not find the notebook with all my lecture notes and my fox story anywhere.

I knew I had taken it with me to school, and the last place I’d seen it was at the library.  I had driven home only to discover that my backpack had been hanging open since God knew when.  My notebook had most likely dropped out, but I’d gone to so many places that it could have been anywhere.

If it wasn’t in my car or my apartment, it had to be somewhere at school.  And campus was so huge that my notebook was simply a lost cause.  There was no way I would find it ever again.  Goodbye to my notes and to my story.

I sank back onto my bed with a groan.

Liana sat next to me and patted my shoulder.  She’d been helping me search for the past few hours.  “There, there.  It’s not so bad,” she said.  “So you’ve lost a whole quarter’s worth of notes and a good story.  It could be worse.”

I simply glared at her, daring her to say more.

“I’m sure you can re-create your story,” she continued, unaware of my death glare.  “As for your notes…well, everything your professors said must be in your textbooks anyway.”

Her eyes widened, alerting me that she had thought of something.  “Have you asked Stacy and Nia if they’ve seen it?”

Stacy and Nia were our other two apartment mates who shared the room across the hall.

“Of course I have,” I said.  “A long time ago.  No luck.”  I sighed, giving up on the idea that I would ever find my notebook tonight.

It was a sad loss, since the lecture notes would have saved a lot of time, but Liana was right.  Everything I needed to study for finals was in my textbooks.

But I still was determined to continue the search on campus.  It was too late to go back since it was already dark, so I’d just have to leave it off until tomorrow.

“So let’s get your mind off this notebook business,” Liana said.  The gleam in her wide, brown eyes was frightening.  “Tell me about this guy who distracted you from realizing that your backpack was open until you came home.”

She knew me too well.  At the mention of Darryl, a blissful smile settled on my face as I thought of our conversation during lunch.  Darryl was so friendly, smart, and amazing—truly what I thought to be the ideal boyfriend.  I’d had a huge crush on him when we’d been partnered up during that one, albeit far too short, quarter.

“He was my lab partner freshman year,” I said.  “But after that quarter, we kinda lost touch, and then I met him again today.”  I breathed a satisfied sigh.  “I think he might be my soul mate.”

Liana raised one eyebrow.  There were very few girls who could do that.  “Soul mate?  How can you know that after such a short time?”

I grinned, sitting up on my bed and told her about the dream I’d had last night.  “Darryl’s the guy from my library dream.  He picked a book off the shelf for me, exactly the way that guy from my dream did.”

Although I was slightly superstitious, Liana had always been wary about believing in dreams and signs.  She shook her head at me, her curly, light brown locks dancing along with her movement.  “I’m happy that you’ve finally met a guy you like after 21 years, but be careful not to let that dream tamper with your real feelings.  Are you sure you don’t just like him because you think he’s the guy in your dream?”

“I don’t understand that question,” I said.  “He is the guy in my dream, therefore he’s my soul mate, so of course I’d automatically fall for him.  It’s not like I have control over my feelings…it’s all the work of Fate.”

Liana sighed as she stood up and walked to the mirror.  It seemed like she was doubtful that I really liked Darryl, but I couldn’t understand why.  After all, she had been the one always telling me she couldn’t believe I had gone 21 years without ever having a boyfriend.

It was easy for Liana to say that.  She was gorgeous.  Whenever she went to a party, there was always a line of guys waiting to flirt with her, although she never showed interest in them since she already had Jared, her long-distance boyfriend of three years.  She was hapa—one of those half Asian, half white girls who got the best features from both sides.  Like that actress from Smallville who played Lana.  Kristin Kreuk.

She looked at me from the mirror and smiled.  “Let me see him next time so I can make sure he’s good enough for you.  You deserve nothing but the best.”

Even though her mouth spread in a wide, even smile, showing off those pearly whites, her eyes looked a bit drained.  Dead even.  I thought maybe she was just tired, or maybe she’d gotten into an argument with Jared.  Whatever it was, I knew she wouldn’t talk about it now.  She was a pretty private person, and even though we were best friends, she still kept many secrets from me.  So instead of asking her what was wrong, I jumped up from the bed to give her a hug.

“You deserve nothing but the best too.”

Her smile broke into a real grin.  “I know.  All right, I have a paper to write, and I know you have studying to do, so let’s try to be productive tonight.”

Since I’d arranged my classes to fit into three days a week, I didn’t usually have to go to school at all on Mondays or Fridays.  For this reason, I’d purchased a cheaper parking permit that allowed me to park only three days a week on campus.  I didn’t usually complain, since I had four-day weekends, but today, I found it rather inconvenient.

Since today was a Friday and I had to search campus for my notebook, I needed to get myself to campus.  It was too long of a walk, and since I also refused to waste money on an overpriced one-day parking permit, I was left with only one last option of transportation:  the bus.

It was fifteen minutes late, and by the time it came, a line, so long we might as well have been at Disneyland, had formed behind me.  It was a good thing I liked to be early to everything.

The bus was already crowded when I got on, so there were no seats left.  To my despair, I ended up getting smushed at the back.  It took all of my strength to maintain my already uncoordinated balance as the very bumpy bus ride began its drive to school.  Back and forth, everyone swayed like trees in a storm to the motion of the bus as it stopped and accelerated.  But being me, I was the only one who stumbled every time the bus made a stop.  I even bumped into the guy in front of me, and he gave me a very annoyed frown.

It felt like I had just driven ten hours to Nor Cal by the time the bus arrived safely at the main shuttle stop on campus.  I wanted to kiss the ground.

All that for a notebook.

I decided to retrace my steps by visiting the last place I had remembered seeing my notebook.  The library.  Maybe some kind soul had given it to the reception desk.

But after visiting every five reception desks without a sign of my notebook, I knew that it was a lost cause.  Just to make sure though, I decided to check the seventh floor.

The elevator door opened, and I was about to step in when I saw the creepy guy with the bleached hair from yesterday.  He was the only one in the elevator, and I silently muttered a curse, realizing he had already spotted me.  It would be too obvious if I decided to wait for the next elevator, so I stepped in beside him.

“Seventh floor,” He stated it, rather than asked, as if he knew my daily habits.

I nodded, and he pushed the button.

The elevator went up, and I prayed he wouldn’t try to start a conversation with me.  My prayers went unanswered.

“It seems fate has allowed us to meet again,” he said.

I tried not to roll my eyes.  That was that lamest excuse for a pick-up line, if it even was one.  But the next thing out of his mouth caused me to gasp in outrage.

“That’s lucky for you, even though I definitely don’t find it to be a good thing.”

“Excuse me?” I exclaimed indignantly.  “You’re the one who keeps initiating conversation with me.”

He ignored me, fishing something out from his briefcase.  He took out a familiar-looking notebook.  “I believe this is yours.”

I snatched it from his hands.  “How did you get this?”

“Fell out of your backpack yesterday, but you were so busy chasing after that pretty boy that you didn’t even notice.”

I glared at him, trying to find some witty comeback, but at that moment the elevator door opened, letting in a group of girls.  They took one look at the guy beside me and fluttered their eyelashes, giggling to themselves.  I supposed to most girls, probably guys as well, the man would be considered hot.  But it didn’t matter how hot he was when he had such atrocious manners.

He continued to whisper in a voice only audible to me.  “You know, if it hadn’t been for me, your notebook would be lost for good.  Someone else would have found it and trashed it.”

I continued to ignore him, frantically hitting the button for the seventh floor.  Why was this elevator so slow?

“Aren’t you going to thank me for finding your notebook?”

Finally, the elevator stopped, and the doors opened.  I practically ran out.

But the man wasn’t about to let me go.  He followed me.  “Not even one little thanks, eh, short stuff?  Children these days have no manners.”

I whirled around to face him, preparing for a verbal fight.  Short people hated nothing more than being called short.  But then I remembered that this was the library, and people were studying all around us, so I bit my tongue.  If I just thanked him, maybe he’d go away.

I managed to squeeze out a quick thanks, as bitter as the words tasted, and again, tried to walk away.

But the next thing he said stopped me cold.  “By the way, Miss Caren Chang, I read your amusing tale about the white fox.”

This time I could not hold back my reaction.  I practically threw myself at him in a rage.  “How dare you?  How could you read someone’s private notebook?”

He just smiled as if I had simply commented on the weather.  His smugness made me want to whack him with my purse and tear out that ridiculous bleached hair of his.  “You’re the one who left it in my hands.  Besides, don’t you want to hear what I thought of it?  I did write my thesis on Asian legends in graduate school.”

“No, I do not want to hear your opinion!” I yelled.  I heard a few exclamations of “shut up” being thrown at us from all around, but nothing could stop my rampage.  “I don’t care if you’ve written a book that’s been on the New York Times Bestsellers for the past decade!  I don’t even care if you’re a freaking brain surgeon with seven degrees!  You should not have even peeked into my notebook.”

In a calm voice, he said, “You’re going to get my opinion whether you like it or not.  Because I’m convicted to tell you never to even try publishing that nonsense.  You’re a horrible writer.”

That did it.  I had never slapped a guy in my life and never thought that I would have to, but that’s what happened then and there.

Several minutes later, one of the librarians had kicked us out of the library.  I’d never felt so embarrassed or angry in my life.  Even as I tried to walk away, the despicable man kept stalking me.

If he didn’t stop in two minutes, I would use my pepper spray on him, broad daylight and hundreds of onlookers be damned.

He was either just oblivious to my anger or incredibly stupid.  I would bet my house, my dog, and my clothes on the latter.  “For the good of the literary world, please promise me you will never try to publish your work.”

I ignored him.

“Publishers don’t deserve the punishment of even receiving a cover letter from you.”

Where was that pepper spray?

He saw me rummaging through my purse and started to place his hand on mine.

“Don’t touch me!” I snapped.

“All right.”  He lifted his hands in surrender.  “But I won’t leave you alone until you promise to stop writing your stories.”

“I’ll never promise that,” I yelled.  “And if you think even for a second that your opinion will discourage me from writing, you’re wrong.  Now I’m even more determined to become a world-renowned author.”

I stomped away, quite aware that the pest of a man was still following me.  As I neared the shuttle stop, a horrifying thought occurred to me.  The man would probably follow me home if this went any further.  The last thing I needed was a stalker to know where I lived.

A plan formulated in my head.  I ran as fast as I could even though I knew he was right behind me.  Thankfully, a bus was waiting at the stop, and the bus driver was on board.  There were just enough people on the bus to help with my plan.  I climbed up the steps and put on an expression of pure panic.

“Please help me!” I cried to the bus driver.  “There’s a man stalking me.”  I pointed to the crazed bleached hair guy who was now staring at me in horror.  Served him right.

The bus driver took one look at the guy’s outrageous hair and nodded to me.  Thank goodness society always judged people’s character based on appearance.  “Don’t you worry miss, I’ll take care of this.  Go ahead and take a seat.”

I moved to take a window seat and watched to see my plan unfold.

The bus driver glared at my stalker.  “Get off this bus, sir, or I will be forced to call for assistance.”  Already, the driver was toying with his walkie talkie.

My stalker didn’t need to be told twice.  “I assure you, all of this was just a misunderstanding,” he said.  “I apologize for any inconveniences.”  Then he stepped off the bus.

The other passengers all started to clap, and echoes of “good riddance” sounded all around.  I breathed a sigh of relief, staring out the window as he walked past.  For extra measure, I stuck my tongue out at him.

He glared at me.  I hoped I would never bump into the jerk again, but I didn’t think I would be that lucky.  He had the face of one who would not give up.  But neither was I a helpless damsel in distress.  Nobody read my stories without my permission and got away with it.

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