The Takers

by D.D. Escalante


?Let?s see.? Daniel said, and opened up my pack. ?Music, textbook?ah.?
He pointed to the prize and jumping, I snatched the book. Our fingers brushed and I dropped it, recoiling at the touch.

?Afraid I was going to read it??

I flinched and narrowed. ?It?s private, please.?

He shook his head and handed it back. ?I wouldn?t do that.?

He wouldn?t, either. He doesn?t need a journal to expose my pages. He scares me silly. Why? What am I afraid of?

?You?re afraid of touch.? He says.

?Didn?t your mom ever teach you not to trust strangers?? I arm myself with sarcasm.

?I?m not.?

?I barely know you.?

He leans over the piano. ?What are you afraid of.? His voice is like a song, ?What are you afraid of??

You, I want to say.

He lifts my chin to a kiss and I cringe.

?Don?t. Don?t. I?ve never been–?

?Kissed.? He finishes my confession.

Realization crawls across his face as he backs and walks. ?I won?t.? He says. ?I won?t.?

He turns to go and looks at me. ?I care about you because I see a bit of you in myself.?

Then, I want to ask, what were you afraid of?

But even as I clench my heart I know the answer.
Yesterday I was kissed. My stand-partner said ? Let?s go grab lunch.?

I was too absorbed by Vivaldi to walk. I declined, weak from hunger and an endless headache.

?Can I get you anything?? he offered, but before I agree he?d gone.

Minutes later, he returned, bag in hand. He sat down and we ate together, and complained about our pieces and the chorale master. When we we?re done I rifled through my penny-purse.

?What do I owe?? A normal question anyone should ask.

?A hug.?

I blanched, he laughed. ?No, silly! Teasing! Life lesson number one: never ask a guy what you owe. It could get demanding.?

?Oh.? I nodded. Lesson learned. Later on that day I wrote him a ?thank you note? and slipped it in his locker.

I was practicing violin when he bolted in.

?Don?t move!? he said, breathless. Startled, I froze. Before I knew it, he rushed up and kissed me, left-field of my mouth.

?What?!? I wailed. ?Why??

?For the note.? he said, and ran off.

?It was just a thank-you!? My voice echoes against the studio, desperate and alone.

I?m practicing in the auditorium when he steals behind. He bags my head and sacks it and ties me to the bench.

?You smell like an apple.? His nose rakes through my hair, his thumbs fumble between my legs. He grasps me tightly, tightly, tightly, as though chance would let me go. Then he takes and takes and takes some more.

When he?s done he mutters. ?Sorry if I crushed you.?

He dresses me back, politely and unties one arm, one leg and leaves me on the floor.

Backstage, his footsteps disappear and I am left to rot.