"Are you sure you want to do this?" Karina ask me for the tenth time in the last two minutes.
"Never been so sure about anything in my life."
"Look, sweety, I think you're making the wrong decision. This shit you keep doing? It'll get to you."
"I need something to keep me occupied and I need the money."
She shakes her head.
"No. You need to take a fucking break and just stay in bed or something. This is the first time you have freedom to be yourself in twenty years and you want to use your free time on the weekends bartending? What did Blake say about this?"
"You know I'm not on talking terms with my brother. It's not like he would care anyway. To him, I'm better off dead."
"Are you kidding me? Blake loves you."
"The love between me and my pillow is stronger than the love between me and my brother. You know that."
"He's going to flip once he finds out that his precious baby sister will be working as a bartender."
"Why are you saying that like bartending is a bad thing?"
"This is a risky job for someone like you."
"Someone like me?"
"You've been sheltered all your life. You don't know much about the world out there, Alisha."
"And I'll never do unless I get exposed to it."
"You'll be dealing with alcohol, drunk males and females. That might be a handful."
"I can handle that. Just give me the benefit of doubt." I turn to look at her when she stays quiet. "I know you're worried about me but I got this. I won't do any dumb shit."
"You're not supposed to drink alcohol. Not even a drop. You don't want to go back to that crap rehab, do you?"
"That place sucked. I would stab myself before I went back there."
"Good. No drinks, no drugs, no drunken hands on you."
"Okay Dad." I mumble under my breath.
I sigh as I stare at my reflection in the mirror. I look like crap. My eyes have those annoying bags beneath them and my hair looks like a bird's nest.
That's my usual look, in case you're wondering. I've been walking around looking like that for the last one year. I haven't been myself, but I'm working on rectifying that.
"Can I use your make-up?"
Karina raises an eyebrow when our eyes meet in the mirror.
"You don't have to ask. You haven't used make-up in a year though. I...um.."
"Rina, I'm trying to fix my life again. Walking around looking like a scarecrow won't exactly do the trick. Plus, I'll be working as a bartender. I can't go there looking like a mess."
"I understand. While you're working on getting your long lost identity back, please don't turn into a raging bitch like me. I know that you detest make-up, Alisha. You hate it. Don't feel pressured to use it. Please don't change too much. I need you to be yourself. That's what you've been wishing for. Okay?"
She gets off my bed and walks out of the room. She walks back in a minute later with her make-up kit. I have used makeup hundreds of times in the past but I never had to touch it. My father had people working around the clock to please me and make me look perfect. That's all gone now, and I'm not sure if I should appreciate it or whine about it. Rina doesn't mind helping me though. She applies layers upon layers of stuff on my face and she only stops when I threaten to wash my face.
I make a face at the mirror. At least the eye bags are gone but I think I looked better ten layers of makeup ago.
"That's a lot." I comment when I meet Karina's smile in the mirror.
"You're welcome, asshole."
"You cuss a lot. That's gross."
"I've never met anyone who cusses as much as you do. You have this good girl face that can fool anyone but we both knows that a savage is lying deep down, just waiting to be unleashed. Anyway, I'll drop you off at the club before I drive to Blake's."
"He's not picking you today?"
"He's always busy. You deserve better than him, you know?"
"How can you give me relationship advise when you've never been in one yourself?"
"I'm single, not blind. My brother is a piece of shit and you know that just. I don't know why you keep defending him."
"I love him."
"He's a murderer, Karina."
She instantly tenses.
"Wear that dress. I'll be in the living room."
Karina, my only friend in this cruel world, is mostly a pain in the ass. She's only a year older than me but she walks and talks like she has lived on earth for centuries. She always has instructions and advice waiting to be dished out.
I rarely use her advise though. It's mostly far fetched and unrealistic, and the few times that I actually listened to her, I ended up getting into trouble.
I glance at my reflection one more time once I wear the dress.
The push up bra that she forced me into makes me look like I actually have boobs. That's a good thing. My boobs are almost non existent so I feel real uncomfortable but strangely exhilarated right now.
The fake lashes and fake eyebrows make my face look very flattering but that's not who I am. Beneath all these layers of make-up lies a plain face that no one gives a shit about. I keep reminding myself that if my father wasn't a wealthy man then I would have been mocked everywhere I went. His money saved my face.
I pull the dress down but it won't budge. This is too short. I've worn very short dresses in the past, way shorter than this one, but that wasn't my choice. The designers that my father hired for me made my wardrobe decisions and I didn't have a say in that. But that's exactly what I'm trying to change. I want to make independent choices, to clothe my body with whatever I want. I've never had that freedom all my life.
Anyway, Karina insisted that this is the dress code that's I'm supposed to get used to when going to the club I'll be working for. I think being a bartender slash waitress will fuck me up in more ways than I care to count.
My phone rings as I put my hair up in a ponytail. The caller is one of the mysterious millionaires who worked with my father. I only have his phone number because he offered to pay part of the money needed at the rehab. Blake blatantly refused to pay that, and I had run out of my savings, so I couldn't be more grateful when Mr Marshal stepped in to help.
"Yes?" I speak into the phone as I sit on my bed to wear the sandals.
"Don't call me that."
"Right. I was wondering if you'd like to go out with me tonight? I would really love to have a chat with you."
"It's just a drink or two, a conversation here and there, then we'll be on our way home. I'll take care of you. I promise."
"I can't. I am going to this dinner thing with my brother." I lie between my teeth.
"Blake? So he eventually came around?"
"Okay. Good. Maybe you'll make it up to me tomorrow night?"
"Mr Marshal, with all due respect, I don't owe you anything. You helped me and I appreciate that. Leave me alone."
I toss my phone on the bed and I quickly wear the sandals Rina picked out for me. That man is insane. He's roughly fifty years old and he is just so crazy.
I push the phone call out of my mind.
Karina grins when I walk into the living room.
"You look great. Men might be all over you tonight. Remember the right answer is no. Okay?"
I roll my eyes.
"We already talked about this."
"How will you get home tonight?"
"I'll take the bus."
"Have you ever been on a bus before?"
"No, but I'll be fine."
"Are you sure the bus operates so late at night?"
"Cool. Let's go."
She takes my hand and we walk out of the apartment together.
Let me tell you a little bit about Karina. We've been friends since I was born. Her Mom was our housekeeper and they lived with us. Rina was only a year older than me and we lived under the same roof so naturally, we grew as close as any two girls can be. When her Mom passed away when she was only nine years, old, my mom couldn't let her go to a foster home so we kept living with her.
When my own Mom died, my dad asked her to leave. She was only seventeen then. I cried, begged my dad, but he wouldn't budge.
Later, I found out that my brother, Blake, rented an apartment for her. It's the same apartment we're staying in today. He still takes care of her and he's still crazy about her. Maybe that's why he doesn't question her about taking me in after I left the rehab. He doesn't want to see my face and I honestly feel the same way about him.
"Holy crap!" Rina gasps the moment we step out of the door. I follow her line of sight, and I blink.
Holy crap indeed.
The apartments are designed such that there are only two of them on the same side. Ever since I moved here a month ago, I noted that the apartment next to karina's was vacant. When I asked her, she said that rent was insanely high so many students couldn't afford to live here. The place doesn't have many tenants yet it's right off campus.
"Looks like we got us a neighbour." Karina muses as she stares at the guy.
The boy in question here is busy watching two movers as they carry stuff into the apartment. He is wearing a super tight black T-shirt and his toned arms are crossed over his chest. I absently note the tattoo on his lower bicep and another right below his left elbow. His hair is ruffled, like he just ran his hands through it, and his his teeth are absently chewing on his bottom lip.
He slowly shifts his gaze when he feels the intensity of our eyes, on him and I quickly avert my gaze when our eyes meet.
"He's coming here. Stay cool." Rina whispers.
I take a deep breath then I release it slowly. When I look up again, he's almost upon us, and he has a gorgeous smile on his face.
"Ladies." He says courteously.
I watch Karina as she shakes his hand.
"I'm Karina. This is my friend and roommate Alisha."
He trains his eyes on me.
"Pretty names for pretty girls. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm your neighbour as you might have already figured out."
"Good thing we got a hot neighbour. Your name?" Karina grins at him.
She's doing it again. She flirts with literally everyone. It's usually refreshing to watch.
"Alton? Where the hell are you! These dishes won't arrange themselves!"
A pretty girl yells from the door way. When she sees us, she rolls her eyes before she turns on her heel and storms back inside.
"I'm sorry. That's my cousin Tanisha. She's helping me unpack, and she'll kick my ass if I don't go now. She has a temper. I'll see you guys around."
I watch him as he turns to leave. He's hot.
"He's hot." Rina laughs as we into the elevator. "He's going to bring us a lot of problems."
I nod in agreement.
"Yeah. A lot."