Ryan felt a pair of soft, warm hands tap his cheek in concern before he got his heavy eyes to open. He was still in the transition from reverie to reality, groping for the affection he felt in those familiar hands. He needed it; this time he would make his mother believe...unless he was dead already.
The palms might have felt familiar, but the face wasn’t.
A pair of blue eyes were inches from his face showing obvious anxiety.
This time, Ryan felt more prepared and defiant. He’d show her how he did not take kindly to be murdered in sleep. Still in a haze, he lodged the hardest kick he could manage into Miss. Miller before screaming. Screw wherever it hit.
“Wha- hey!” she gasped in surprise as Ryan feet caught her off balance and sent her flying to the floor. She hit something which made a sick sound of wood and bones. Subsequently, the room was thick with silence except for her letting out tiny gasps of pain while Ryan, who was more awake now, was at the far end of his bed left to collect his confused thoughts.
After five more minutes, Miss. Miller had stopped breathing heavily and had settled on the floor leaning on a small book shelf. Although still terrified but more curious than afraid, Ryan mustered the courage to peep at her from the edge of his cot. What he saw evaporated his uncertainties; the person on the floor could not look any more human. There was a teardrop rolling off her cheek. When she turned her gaze at him, Ryan quickly ducked behind the covers. He couldn't understand what he was afraid of.
When he heard another tiny sniffle from her, it suddenly hit him that he was the cause of her pain. Forgetting his fears, he was squatting next to her in seconds. He had never made anyone cry before and it wasn't a pleasant feeling.
"I- I'm sorry, I was half asleep, I..." he trailed off at a loss of what to say. Words always failed Ryan in extremely inconvenient times.
She shot him a death glare. Funny.It didn't burn his eyes out."Don't give me that crap" she said coldly sweeping her dark hair from her face. Her voice was just as he remembered in his nightmare."It is quite obvious that you hate me for no apparent reason. You don't have to be friends with the new kid, I can live with that." With a nonchalant facade, she got up to leave like she hadn't been injured at all.Ryan had never felt so small before. All he wanted at that point was to fix things in any way possible.
Failed by his vocal chords, he grabbed her hands by instinct. She drew it back immediately but stopped and turned around. The anger had cleared from her face and was now replaced by remorse. But the moment their eyes locked, an odd connection seem to familiarize them. It wasn't the scary kind that had Ryan scared brainless; just something something...not natural. It was broken abruptly when she spoke politely, making Ryan start. “I’m really sorry about what I said. I shouldn’t have. You all have been nice enough to invite me and I should..." she trailed off apologetically."But...why do you...hate me?” she said in barely a whisper ;the last sentence had a hint of the pain she felt at the unreasonable rejection.
Caught off guard at the turn of events,of course his ability to articulate meaningful sentences dwindled. He only took his eyes off her for a second, to take out a paper that was carefully filed into his open binder lying on his bed.
“I dreamed about you.” he whispered causing her to raise an eyebrow. “You didn’t give out a good vibe” and he pointed at the picture of her he had sketched in School.
The instant Miss. Miller’s eyes fell on the mini portrait she was visibly taken aback. She threw a fleeting look at Ryan who looked bewildered by her sudden change. Before he could make more sense of it she was back to normal just staring intently at her picture. “Um, wh –why do I look so...sadistic?"
Ryan shrugged "It was a bad dream."
"Way to make a first impression huh?" she laughed nervously, trying to lighten things up.
But Ryan was too tense to lighted up. He was still worried about the kick he had lounged into her. That had to have broken a few bones "Where did I...hurt you?" he asked, concern overpowering everything else.
Still gazing at the picture she shrugged."Left shoulder...no big -" before she even finished, Ryan was at her side with his hands gently prodding her left shoulder.
"Anything broken?" he asked, pulling up her sleeve to inspect any outward damage, completely forgetting it wasn't quite right to do that to a girl he'd just met.
"Nah, its all fine" she seemed amused with the strange boy. At look at his face revealed his worry. The concern made her feel warm inside.
"I am so sorry." He dropped his hands awkwardly and looked into her eyes again, searching for something.
“You caught me off guard” she murmured almost talking to herself as she pulled her left sleeve down “its not that easy to injure me” she seemed insignificantly amused as she looked at her portrait again."By the way, you're an exceptional artist"
Ryan's cheeks colored. This was the first person, apart from family, whom he had willingly shown his work to. "Frankie" bit her lip to avoid giggling at his embarrassment.
"Forgive me?" he changed the subject.
"Dinner's ready!" Mrs. Ross called from downstairs.
Miss. Miller was grinning. Definitely glowing. It struck Ryan suddenly how beautiful she was; in an odd forbidding way.
She skipped to the door to go downstairs at his mom's call “Oh you’re forgiven. It’s human to kick in sleep.” she laughed.
As she reached the doorframe, Ryan realized something,
“You didn’t tell me you name?”
She turned, still in good spirits.
"I’m Joanna. Joanna Miller.”
Then she left taking that peculiar ambiance along.