A/N: This is a fanfiction of 'Arbutus' by Lynda Loyde with several references to the prequel 'Acacia'. If you haven't read the stories, I suggest you to check it out because it's simply brilliant and because, you'd better understand what's going on here if you have. This was written shortly after Chapter 10 was published. I intended to publish it immediately but soon after I left for a vacation and did not make time for editing after that. I apologise because it diverges from the storyline after Chapter 10 but hey, it's a fanfiction ^^;
The fragile piece of pink paper flew in the air like a swirling cotton candy. For a moment, he thought he caught the name on the paper – a name that wasn't supposed to be there. A pair of grey blue eyes stared accusingly at him.
Then they were all gone leaving only the faint recollection of a lady's voice booming from the ceiling, reading out the number of a departing train. Just a flash of a fleeting moment kissing him a venomous goodbye.
Who am I kidding?
"You, professor, are abusing her!"
Abuser… little did the kid know that he was in fact a murderer. He could see the headlines, "Abusive professor kills student for not finishing her assignment" or "Loony professor convinces student to kill herself with an asthma attack".
Was that why he didn't fight to retain his position in the university when he was sacked? Was he merely scared for his own sake? So he could disappear out into the wild wide world, never to be found again?
Does he even deserve this chance to run away? Suppose if he argued – just long enough for the police to catch on to anything.
He turned and saw a brunette wrapped in a knitted blue sweater with a beanie and scarf to match. He stared at the hat, glassy eyed.
A sense of awkwardness pulled the girl out of her confidence. Usually he would at least try to appear a little less menacing but what does it matter now?
The girl cleared her throat. She probably needs some cough drops.
"Professor? Your ticket."
How did she pull the little pink slip out of her hand, he could never know.
"Professor – never mind, I'll just put in in your bag."
"It's Eaton. Just Eaton. I've been fired."
The words sounds harsher to his ears than he intended. As the last letter bounces off the tip of his tongue, the inevitable consequences suddenly hit him. He had brought shame to his father and his mother just when the wound that slashed their tie was beginning to heal. He forgot that he was not just Tobias Eaton, he was the only son of Marcus Eaton, the renowned and well-loved former mayor of Whiting. The news wouldn't just kill his father, they would destroy him and taint his much earned reputation.
His father doesn't deserve that. Unlike his retarded son, his father never gave up and when he does make a mistake, he picks himself up, patchs up the walls he had torn apart and moves on.
Move on… she told him to move on. The least that he could do if he truly loves her was to move on. He told her – he told himself that he had moved on but he obviously did not. He could not even stand in the same humongous hall with her.
The frail fingers gently grips his arm sending a static shock all over him. He immediately pulls his arm back. The handle of his suitcase that was firmly in his grip falls to the floor.
"I'm sorry. I don't meant anything, professor – Eaton – I just thought that you genuinely regret what you did. You just seem so sad and lonely."
Lonely, he mentally scoffs.
"If you don't want me here, I'll go." The girl turns to leave, the brown hair swirls with her quick turn.
She turns back, confused.
Why did I say that? God, now I have to think of a reason why I didn't want her to go.
But of course, he knows why. He had seen the sensible girl sitting beside her in his lecture hall.
"Is Ms. Prior…."
"She's mending," the answer comes easy like she wasn't half dead when he found her beneath the weeping willow. He remembers pulling her eyelids to see the light, that usually defined her beauty with a fierce radiance, disappearing from her eyes. Her limp body gathered close to his chest neither embracing his touch nor rejecting it. He thought they would stay stagnant forever. He shudders at the thought.
She gives him a kind smile. He doesn't deserve her sympathy.
"Good day, Miss…."
"Gladwing. Myra Gladwing."
She offers him her hand. He takes it, his reluctant shake lost in her surprisingly firm grip for hands so small.
"And good day to you, Eaton. I wish you better luck in your future."
"I don't think I deserve it," he says with a wry smile.
"Everyone deserves a second chance. And everyone will get it. Those wise enough to see their opportunity would grab at it and never let it go."
He got his second chance but he tore it in the face of his supporter and let the shreds of torn limbs fly in the wind for all to see.
"You're right. I had mine but I wasn't wise enough to see it." There is nothing left for me
Myra shakes her head. "Good fortunes aren't just given. They can be earned through hard work. Your reputation may be… well, less than favourable but you can replace the slate that holds your name. And who knows," she shrugs. "You may get back your place here."
Somehow the negative energy he had in his heart had decimated with the quaint little lecture.
"I'll keep that in mind."
Myra's dimple winks with her smile. "Don't just keep it there. Prove it in your actions, professor."
This time, he does not stop her when she leaves without another glance.
How pathetic he is, taking sympathy from his ex-student but how good does it sound to be thought for, even if it came from someone he barely knew. Someone he should be teaching instead of being taught from.
He stoops down to pull up his case, his burden seemingly lighter with the purpose burning in his heart. He had the chance to prove himself to her and he failed, yet again. The chances that she would actually turn back to him after all that happened is incredibly low. Love is a one way street. Once a mistake was made, you cannot go back and unmake it. Your only choice is to either accept the consequences and move on or haunt the roadside like a highway robber.
He was foolish once to break down by the road, hoping for a tow truck to pick him up and fix his damaged heart. He won't do that again. This time he will move on for real.
And when you see me next , Tris, if you cannot love me – I hope you would be proud of me.
"Serves him right."
It was the first words that Tris realises she could comprehend. Her eyelids flutter open and shut – the light is too bright.
"She's waking up."
"Finally. Beatrice, are you alright? The window, silly, pull the blinds down. Beatrice, can you hear me?"
The light slowly dims, curing her blindness. She stares into the eyes, waiting for it to change to the right colour. My eyes are still adjusting.
"Beatrice, I need to know if you're in there. Please, say something."
A hand laces its fingers with hers. The force is all wrong, too passionate but lacking strength and yet too real to be coming from her imagination. That is when she realises that the face is not right either. The brown eyes would never be turning blue.
"Hmm?" Her throat feels dry and her vocal cords refuse to vibrate to her commands. How long had she been asleep?
"Beatrice?" Myra's face suddenly pushes past Fernando's who shoves back.
"Didn't you just hear her?"
Tris finally manages to open her eyes completely and saw that both of her friends are perched up on either sides of her bed. She groans. Why couldn't they leave her bed alone?
"Are you in pain?"
Tris shakes her head. "What time is it?"
"That's the first thing you're asking us? You could at least show us some gratitude. You had been crying in your sleep. You freaked us so much that we stayed the night up watching you," Fernando whines, pulling his cap off his head and slapping it onto his face.
Myra glances at her watch. "It's eleven."
"Eleven?" Her brain snaps into focus. She is late for class - again. "Why didn't you wake me up?"
"Relax. The jerk got himself fired. Today's class is cancelled. They need to make some adjustments for the temporary teachers before they find a new guy." Fernando gives her a triumphant smile. "You get your revenge, Beatrice."
"Tobias lost his job?" Tris asks.
"Who?" Myra and Fernando exchange looks.
"Professor Eaton." Tris pulls the sheet away, effectively pushing Fernando out of her way as she quickly pick up a not-so-dirty grey blouse hanging on a peg. She is definitely awake now.
"Of course, who else would lose his job so early in the semester?"
Tris recalls her second day in the Eaton household when she was cornered into the small corner as Marcus towered over her, demanding and powerful. She knew that he wasn't all that bad but which side of him would come out when he heard that his son had lost his job in such an embarrassing manner.
I have to find him. He needs me now more than ever.
She pulls a drawer open and snatchs from the top of the pile. It was an ankle length tweed skirt a shade darker than the colour of her blouse.
"Beatrice, what are you doing?" Myra asks her as she slams the connecting bathroom shut.
Two minutes later, the door opens and Tris runs out, her wet hair dripping water down to her skirt.
"Beatrice, what's going on?" Myra insists.
Tris shakes her head, water from her short bob spraying onto the nearest furniture, wetting her half-finished assignment. She anxiously picks the paper up for a quick examination, careful to first wipe her damp hands on her blouse. Thankfully, she was using a ball-point pen so her work wouldn't be spoiled.
Love. Love was the topic of her assignment. She had spent the past few days brainstorming for an idea while she was recovering from her asthma attack. Despite the odds tossed by the overwhelming stress, she had recovered quickly. Just a day in the UCMC and she was out with instructions for bed rest. But nothing, nothing came to her when she squeezed the pen in her palms, hoping that the idea would flow with the ink.
Now, she is hit with an inspiration but instead of penning her assignment to her paper, she will act it out and then send in her report – even if he is not there to read it anymore.
Love is a one way street with no other comparable term. To hate is to act out of ignorance and pride without humanitarian consideration. To like is simply to show your preference when given a choice. To show affection is to paint your feelings on a mural for people's ponder.
But to love – love is an unconditional sacrifice that not even pain nor torture could diminish for love is above all the trials and tribulations. Love goes from the lover to the beloved and expects nothing from the other side.
And even if we both have moved on through different experiences and contrasting decisions, love is irreversible – like the one way street.
"Seriously, why is everyone ignoring me, today?" Myra called out in exasperation.
"Because they have the same thing in mind, don't they?"
Tris froze. Was her obsession obvious?
"You're going after him, aren't you?"
Tris avoids Fernando's gaze. She feels like a guilty man in court.
"What? But why?" Myra asked.
"Why indeed? Are you not aware that he had been absolutely brutal towards you?" Fernando's cap is back, slapping his face.
"Did you send in a report against him?" Tris asks, keeping her voice low so nobody could catch the quiver in it.
"You're joking, aren't you. Of course I did. In fact, most of the class signed it."
"I didn't." Tris feels herself lashing out defensively, her arms cross on her chest.
"That's because you were out cold because of the jerk."
Is she the cause of his downfall? Had the pain that she gave him was not sufficient? Would she destroy him before she could catch herself and stop?
No, I won't stand and watch him fall.
"I need to find him."
I need to find him. I need to, I need to… the words went on and on in her head as she rummages for her stockings.
"Well, fortunately for you, Myra saw him leaving his house close to an hour ago."
Tris looks up and meet his smirk. Myra shakes her head.
"Half an hour actually."
"Whatever. The thing is that he's gone and I'd say good riddance."
Tris pulls her stockings on with a snap. She will not give up just yet. "Where is he going?"
"The train station but his ticket says that his train wouldn't arrive until half past one. If I have to guess, he's probably facing the dean now."
Tris nods her thanks. She pulls her shoelaces tight.
"Nice, Myra. Now she's going to run to the dean's office."
Tris points her finger on the locker beside her bed and traces a line on the chart. With a quick glance at the clock on the wall, she runs off, leaving the two dumbfounded.
"We have to go after her," Myra said and with a nod from Fernando, they both dashes out after their friend.
Outside, the wind was blowing the clouds from the east, suggesting a mild shower. A quick glance around caught the sight of a blonde bob behind the doors of the campus bus just as they were sliding shut.
"Crap, that was what she was checking on her locker. It was the bus schedule." Myra anxiously runs her fingers through her hair. "We'll never catch up now."
"We'll run." Without waiting for her reply, Fernando begins sprinting after the bus.
Tobias takes a last glance at the building that had been his home for only less than a month but had brought back memories deep within the inner chambers of his heart. He still hadn't considered what he will say to his father. Perhaps he should not head for home yet. Zeke would take him in for the meantime. Besides, he is the absolute core of this whole mess. If Zeke won't have him voluntarily, he will set up a camp on his front lawn.
"Waiting for someone?"
The aged taxi creaks under the weight of the heavy suitcase that the taxi driver practically threw into the trunk. He places both of his hands on the trunk top, throwing a questioning look towards Tobias's direction.
"No, I'm going alone."
The man shrugs as he slams the trunk shut.
"So, you're coming or should I start the meter early? I gotta pick my girl up from her shift later so I'd rather if we get going."
Tobias gives the driver a nod as he makes his way down the steps towards the McMicken Circle at a brisk pace. He could not even bring himself to wait for the taxi up on Campus Way, directly in front of the college building. He doesn'r want to be seen by his colleagues or one of his students as they walk past the windows or simply take a stroll around the building.
The closer he gets to the ground, the more it hit him that this will probably be the last time he could ever see her. As kind as fate may be, it will hardly throw them both into the same path again. He had missed his chance and now he has to keep walking. That's how it works on the one way street.
But this time, things would be different, he had sworn that it would be so.
Nevertheless, he takes one final glance on the steps – just in case she would be standing there with her glorious presence.
"You know what? I'm gonna start this thing, whether you get in now or some time next week," the driver said.
Helen Beatrice Prior, I vow to you that this shall mark a new change of my life and I wish you could know that I am doing this for you and only for you.
He blinks the tears back from his eyes as he whispers his final farewell. He turns and pulls the door open, slightly squeezing his tall frame into the small seat. The driver is true to his words, the meter is already running but it hadn't exceed the minimum fare. At least the guy is honest.
"Someone happened?" The driver asks, his fingers rubbing his eccentric asymmetrical Mexican moustache that Tobias find to be oddly matched with his obvious Asian ethnicity.
Tobias rubs his eyes with the base of his palms. "Nah, got something in my eyes. The wind is blowing pretty strong."
The driver looks out of his open window. "Yeah. We'll probably get our first autumn shower in a few minutes. Anyway, where are you going?"
"Yeah, I was told that on the phone. I mean where from the train station."
Tobias frowns at the driver who was glancing behind him to see if the street is clear. This guy obviously has no trust in side mirrors. He wonders if the license on the dashboard is authentic. How could one drive safely if one cannot trust one's own car?
"Where's home?" The taxi lurches forward and gently rolls downhills.
Tobias shuts his eyes and lets the vision of the maid of the Eaton household play in his mind on fast forward as the driver goes on a monologue of his cousin's son's something who is living in Rosemont.
God, the presence of her memory is so strong, he could have sworn that he isn't dreaming.
"Dude, is that girl calling for you?"
Tobias blinks. Was that real?
He turns around and caught the faint figure of a small – no, petite - blonde with her face turned towards the taxi. He cannot make out her emotions from such a distance but he can see that her shoulders sags and she clings to the railing, halfway down the steps.
"Stop the car!" Tobias shouted, both hands poising on the door handle.
"You've got to be kidding me, we're by the junction here," the driver retorts, eyes glued to the road, trying to find an opening in the traffic.
"Okay then turn around."
"If you haven't noticed, this is a one way street."
"So what? This is the only single car on the street."
"I am a law abiding citizen of the United States of America and a patriot would never break the laws of his beloved nation even if you place him under torture. Besides, this is technically a taxi."
Seriously, what is wrong with taxi drivers these days?
The taxi turns left into Clifton Avenue. Tobias gives another look at the stairs. Her whole body convulses as she bends over the railing.
"Alright, drive back into the one way street the right way."
"For God's sake, YES!" Tobias shouted into the driver's ear.
I'm coming, Tris. I'm coming.
Tris trots out of the building, choosing to ignore the last few steps. She now realises that taking a few extra seconds to find a pair of jeans would definitely make up for the time she lost in the limitations she faces with her skirt. Thankfully, she met the dean herself along the way. At least she doesn't have to run up three flights of stairs since Mrs Erica Peterson told her that Tobias had just left. Her constricted throat is now wheezing with burning pain. Instinctively, she reaches up for her neck.
I left my scarf. Does this mean... bad luck?
She shoves the idea from her mind the minute it appears and glances around.
Straight in front of her, a man is pulling the door of the taxi, its window rolled down, shut. The dark brown head leans out slightly as a hand reached for the handle. She knows that head anywhere.
She nearly makes a dash for the stairs ahead when a bicycle swerves in front of her, missing her by inches. She shrieks and steps back, almost losing her balance. The guy screams in a foreign language, waving his fists without even turning back. She knows enough of Spanish to know that the man is swearing obscenities.
She turns back to the stairs just as the taxi pulls away.
Without a care for the incoming car, she rushs for the steps ahead.
"Tobias, Tobias!" Tris screamed as her lungs closed tighter, her mind completely oblivious to the eyes set upon her.
"Tobias!" Tobias, Tobias, Tobias, she screams again and again even when she has no voice left as cough mingles with her words. Can't he hear her? The windows are down but he never turns even once.
I need to get to him. I need to show him that someone still cares. I need to let him relearn that he has the strength to go on. I need to show him that he is not alone.
"Tobias, wait!" She leaps onto the middle landing, struggling to fill her lungs with as much air as it could take.
Even if he rejected me time and time again, because I love him.
The taxi slows down as it approaches the junction and finally, the dark brown ball disappeared, revealing his face. She clutches at the railings, pushing it close to her stomach, feeling a little light headed. She waves but he had turned back, blowing her hopes.
The taxi turns into Cliffton Avenue.
You have made your choice, I see.
She had already considered the thought of him leaving without a goodbye as she had done in Chicago but she didn't expect that he would leave her like this.
A violent cough rattles her body and she clasps the railing to keep herself from falling over.
Against her will, she felt herself overcome by Fernando's embrace as another cough overcame her.
"How can you do this to yourself? Do you want to end up back in the hospital or dead in the grave? He is not worth even a quarter of a millionth of a second of your time and especially not your good health," Fernando yells at her, equally unconscious of the attention he gathers.
"Where's your inhaler?" Fernando demands, patting her side pockets. Tris shakes her head, catching the first drop of rain on her nose.
Fernando looks up and mutters under his breath. "We need to get you back home. I'll carry you back."
Tris tries to defend herself but another cough escapes her. Fernando grabs her by the waist and carries her up the steps.
The taxi slows as soon as it reaches the fork into Campus Way. Tobias keeps his hands on the door handle, ready to pull as soon as the driver stops the car. A guy is huddling with the girl in his arms as they run away from the rain. In the corner of his mind, Tobias hears his mind calling out to him that he is too late.
I'm sorry, Tris. I've come back for you. Please, please be there. Please.
His heart drops at the sight of the empty staircase.
"Wait here," Tobias called out. He pushes the door open and jumps out before the taxi comes to a full stop, ignoring the driver's questions.
Tris, I'm here.
He climbs up the stairs, skipping two of the increasingly darker cement steps each time. Somewhere far off, the thunder rumbled menacingly.
Wait for me, Tris.
A few strides later, he is back at the top. Most of the students had already cleared the road, seeking shelter from the rain. The more daring few sprints past, ignoring the falling droplets. The only blonde he could see was the girl whom he sighted earlier with the guy, turning away down the side of the building.
He missed her. He had failed her. He let her down again.
No, I am NOT an abuser. I had moved on.
He had to explain it all to her and then, once and for all, he will leave her alone.
But before that he had to find her. He cannot leave Cincinnati breaking another heart.
The problem is... where do broken hearts go?
A/N: Thanks so much for reading! I have a confession to make here. This scene came to me while I was having a conversation with my sister, Lynda on our NaNoWriMo experiences and while I begged her to add this into Arbutus as a 'canon' thing, I figured she isn't going to ruin her story just to satisfy my crazy desires. That would have been the end of it but being the loving sister I am, from time to time, I write her a story with either herself or her story characters which she relates to for the sole purpose of teasing her. While I did really work on this story, I admit that the initial intention was a bit mischievous to say the least. All in all, I really enjoyed whipping this up and I really hope I don't disappoint you since this is officially my first fanfiction. I would of course, really appreciate critiques and thanks again for reading :)
And if you haven't, go and check out Arbutus.