Megan stole a glance at the boy who sat by the window of the school cafeteria. He didn’t touch the food on his table, just stared blankly at the plate like he was looking at a pile of rotten meat. Lunch time was almost over and he didn’t seem to notice. He had a can of cold soda and a bottle of water in front of him. He reached for the water and drank almost half of the bottle in a single gulp. He settled the bottle back on the table and wiped a strand of blond hair that fell on his face. Megan wondered what could have made him look so sad.
“You’re looking at him again.“ Joanne whispered. She tore a small piece of bacon and put it in her mouth, chewing silently while eyeing the boy from the corner of her eyes. Megan cleared her throat, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.
“Why does he always wear gloves?“ She whispered back to Joanne.
The girl chewed another piece of beef bacon, shrugging. “Rich boy, probably afraid of germs. I’ve seen someone like him on the TV. You know, just now- when I took my drink from the fridge-“ she leaned closer, lowering her voice. “He hadn’t put the gloves on and our hands accidentally brushed. He gave me this face.“ Joanne bulged her eyes, making a scared face with her mouth half opened. “Like I’m some sort of ghost or something.“
“And then he wiped his hands on his jeans, then washed them under the running water before he put those creepy gloves on.“ She finished with an edge on the last part, looking sideways at the boy before she finished off her food.
Megan rose a curved eyebrow at her friend. “Really?“ She whispered back. “Why do you think he moved to this school, then- in a small town like this? He could just stay in New York or somewhere more … hygienic.“
Joanne shrugged again. “Look, Megan. I know Josh is cute, but he’s not someone you can talk to. Have you ever seen him smile? No, right? And even if he’s rich, I wouldn’t want to have a boyfriend that will wash his hands each time he touches me.“ She said sarcastically.
Megan smiled at her. “That’s not exactly what I have in mind. I just thought that- he looks kind of lonely.“
Joanne rolled her eyes, letting out a low scoff. “And who’s fault is that? Come on, I don’t want to be late for class.“ Joanne wiped her mouth with the tissue and rose from her seat.
With one last glance at Josh, Megan followed her friend back to the classroom. They had a biology class and history, Megan’s favorite subjects. She had studied the night before and she could easily answer the question whenever Prof. Scott pointed a long skinny finger at her. Joanne gave her a wink when Megan mouthed the answer for the next question to her.
When Megan turned back, she caught Josh’s big brown eyes staring at Joanne, his lips quivering slightly. Joanne was right, Josh looked rather scary that way. Suddenly, he looked at her and she jerked on her seat. The bell rang loudly and the class went instantly busy, everyone was rushing out, eager to leave the class.
Saved by the bell, she thought. How cliché.
“Are you going to ride with me?“ Joanne asked halfway to the car park at the front lawn of the school. She had a yellow beetle parked at the far corner of the parking lot.
“No. I need to pass by the grocery shop, so I guess I’ll just walk and take a bus halfway back.“ She said, waving a hand at her friend. She flung her bag on her shoulder and walked out the school yard. There was a grocery shop about a couple of blocks away, near to the bus stop and she decided to go there to get the things her mother had asked her to.
She was crossing the road when she saw the black Mercedes stopped a few feet away from her. Josh jumped off the back seat and picked up a small kitten at the side of the road. A smile spread on his face as he took the kitten on his hands, smoothing its heavy fur with his fingers.
Megan stopped into a halt. He didn’t wear his gloves. Why would he play with the kitten without wearing gloves if he was afraid of getting dirty? It didn’t make sense. He must have had another reason for wearing the gloves. It made her curious.
Josh held the kitten with both hands and he turned to look at her. “Are you going to stand there and wait for a car to hit you?“ He said with a coy smile. Megan gasped, looking at where she stood- in the middle of the road. She was lucky that the road was quiet. With a nervous laugh, she resumed walking and stopped before him.
“Nice Kitty“ She said awkwardly, trying to make a conversation. He seemed to be a nice boy, apart from the haunting look in his eyes.
“Yes, she’s cute. I’m going to bring her home. Is there anywhere I can get cat food around here?“
“Umm, there’s a grocery shop nearby. I’m going there, actually.“
He looked at her with his big brown eyes. “I don’t really know where to go. Shall we go together? My driver is new here too.“
She replied with a nod and they got inside the car. Once they were inside, he wore the gloves and seemingly avoided any contact with her, like he was afraid he might accidentally touch her.
“You’re Megan, right?“ He asked, the kitten curled comfortably on his lap.
“Yes, that’s me.“
He gave her an unreadable look. Then, with a deep voice, almost in a hiss, he said, “Tell your friend not to drive tomorrow.“
Her eyes went wide. “Joanne? Wait. Why would you say that?“
Before she could hear an answer, the car had stopped in front of the grocery shop and Josh put the kitten with the driver before he went down. She followed behind him. He went straight to find the cat food and took one big packet from the shelf.
“Josh. Will you be more specific? Why did you ask me to tell Joanne not to drive?“ She asked, pulling him to a stop when he rushed back to his car.
Without looking at her, he replied in a whisper. “She might be saved if she’s not driving tomorrow.“ With that, he was off. Leaving Megan alone with her troubled thoughts.
Megan couldn’t stop thinking of what he meant, she kept pondering his words. Back at home, she called Joanne and told her what happened. She told the girl exactly as Josh had told her, and suggested to her she take the bus or the taxi instead. Joanne’s only reaction was a big- fat- laugh, mocking her for even trying to talk to a freak. She didn’t believe her one bit.
That night, Megan couldn’t sleep. The look in Josh’ eyes and the weight in his voice were haunting her.
* * *
The next day, class was cancelled because of shocking news. Joanne had a car accident on the way to the school and she died. While everybody was preparing to go to Joanne’s house, Megan sat frozen, staring blankly at nothing. Her best friend was gone.
And then she was running.
She waved a hand and called for a taxi with tears on her face. She chewed on her bottom lip to keep herself from crying as she knitted her fingers on her lap. When she arrived at the big house, she banged at the heavy door with both hands.
A middle aged man opened the door and welcomed her in. When she saw Josh at the front hall, she practically ran and nearly tripped him onto the floor. There she couldn’t hold back the tears and she wept in front of him. She felt his hands lifted halfway before he pulled back, his muscles tensed and he went rigid.
Megan wiped the tears with the back of her hand and stared at him. He wasn’t wearing the gloves and he was afraid to touch her. There were marks on his wrists. Long white marks from a few cuts.
“Joanne had an accident. She’s gone!“ She exclaimed. “What does this mean? Does this have anything to do with what you told me yesterday? Is this your fault?!“
The man who had been standing at the door frame came to her. “whatever happened, young lady-“ He began. “I can assure you that it wasn’t young Master’s fault.“
Josh lifted a hand to silence him. “It’s alright, Simon. Let me talk to her.“
“But –“ the man tried to argue, but then he backed away, bowing his head before he left Josh and Megan alone in the room.
Josh hid his hands behind his back. “If I tell you this, I will have to leave the town by tomorrow.“
“Because whatever you’re going to hear, will give you a nightmare for as long as you remember me.“ He paused, looking sternly at her. “Do you still want me to continue?“
She took a step forward, closing the gap between them. He flinched, but remained unmoved. “I’ve just lost my friend and I don’t have time to hear lies. So just say it! What do you know? What are you?“
He took a deep breath before he talked. “I can see people’s past, present, and their future simply by touching them. I was born with this ability. Some people call it a gift, some of them fear me. For me, it is a curse. I get to see the death of those around me while they were unaware of it, while they were laughing in front of me, while they were playing, while they read, even when they’re asleep.“
Hesitantly, he showed her his hands. “I tried to tell my parents, tried to warn them of the danger that could cause them their lives, but they ignored me. I had to see their bodies in the coffins. You can never imagine things that I’ve seen, you will never know how I’ve been suffering for all the visions that I have. I saw smiles on people’s faces and I couldn’t eat for I knew they were going to die.“
“I’ve tried many times to end it. I wanted to die, but I couldn’t. I’ve tried everything. I cut myself, I took poison, I stood in the middle of the road, but I’m still here, in front of you now, because my time hasn’t come.“
Megan gaped at the boy in front of her, voice caught in her throat.
He reached out for her. “If I touch you now, Megan. I will see how you’re going to die. Would you like to know when? Some people like to ask me so that they know what to do to spend their time, with who to spend it with, or when to write an inheritance.“
Trembling, she shook her head. “No. I’d rather spend my time planning my future than to think of how I’m going to die. My life is not something to play with.“
A sad smile formed in Josh’s lips as he withdrew his hands.
“Very well. Now you better leave, Megan. I have to pack my things.“
“Do you have to leave?“
He fell silent. The kitten ran from the hall and snuggled at his feet. Gently, he lifted it and scratched its back. The kitten licked his finger. Josh looked back at her with longing. “I’ve been moving from place to place, I can barely remember the names of my friends, not that I have one.“
“Then you should stay longer. See if you can have someone to remember.“
His eyebrows knitted together. “Aren’t you afraid of me? Don’t you want me to leave so you can be free from the fear I have given you?“
“Fear would make us stronger if we knew how to defeat it.“
He smiled a small smile. “Then perhaps I’ll try to stay longer.“
The kitten jumped from his grasp and Megan’s hand shot to catch her. That’s when their hands brushed. Josh made a loud gasp and pulled back his hand, but it was too late, he had seen everything.
“Megan-“ He said cautiously. “I’ll take you home.“
“You don’t have to. I can take a taxi.“
He took her hand in his, holding it tight. “I’ll take you home.“ He said in a tight voice. Megan stared at their clasped hands, goosebumps ran down her arms.
Josh took her to sit with him at the passenger seat, still holding her hand. He looked worry about something Megan feared to think about. Megan could feel the scars on his palm and at his wrist where he had cut himself. It must have been really hard for him.
At the turn, the car stopped. There were lines of vehicles on the road. There was just another accident. A taxi got hit by a truck. The taxi which was supposed to bring Megan to her death. The color drained from her face.
She blinked, looking at Josh in disbelief, her mouth hanging open.
He looked back at her. “Don’t worry, Megan. You’re safe with me.“ He whispered. She could only manage a nod, as the car started moving again. Megan saw the police pull the dead body out from the dented car as they passed. Blood spilled on the road. Megan gulped soundlessly. If Josh didn’t take her home, if she took the taxi instead, it could be her blood out there. It could be the end of her.
Josh saw Megan’s pale face and spoke. “Your ipod is not gone. You dropped it under your bed and your mom took it when she cleaned your room. It’s now with her“ he said cheerfully, trying to ease the tension.
“You can see that too?“ She looked at him in surprise. The rosy color slowly crept back onto her cheeks. He grinned. This was the time when he was glad he had the hands of the prophet.