Adversaries of the Light
Chapter 8: You Can Bank On It.
Kerry left the bank with a dead expression on her face as she tried to school her features into an appearance of nonchalance. In her fingers she angrily fisted the small receipt, and then hastily stuffed it into her bag so she wouldn't have to touch it anymore. It didn't matter, for the account balance was still seared onto her retinas, making it impossible for her to see anything but the bottom line. The cute guy who held the door open for her with a smile? Not there. The older lady she almost bumped into? More than invisible. No, all Kerry saw was a set of three numbers, the order almost reversed from what she expected to have in her account.
She had $308 to last her until her student loan came in, and the rent was due in less than a week. She still hadn't purchased all of her class textbooks, and the harddrive on her computer had inexplicably died on her the other day. The only way it could be worse is if she had been further along in the term and lost a few ongoing class assignments with it.
Not having a computer she could put up with; losing the three essays she was consecutively working on, she couldn't.
She trudged home, seeing her life as an abysmal failure. She would have to call her father and ask him to transfer funds into her account, and the silence of his disapproval would be heavy over the phone. On second thought, she realized, turning abruptly on her heel, she didn't want to go back to her apartment. Instead, she took the proactive approach and walked to the student accounts building on campus, hoping she could arrange something.
"Hi," Kerry said with an active smile as she stepped up to the desk. "I'm worried my student loan won't come in on time, and I was wondering if there was any way you could check the-"
"I'm sorry," the woman said in polite tones, her smile slightly tired from having to repeat the same answer to every neurotic student who worried too much about a process they couldn't control. "We can't access that information. The best I can do is extend the due date of your tuition. Name and student number?"
Kerry gave her the information dully, knowing that an extended date of money owed wouldn't help her rent situation.
"Oh!" The lady exclaimed in surprise. "Your tuition is already paid in full."
"What?" Kerry asked, jarred out of her melancholy funk. "My loan came in?" This was the best news she had all day.
"No," the woman said after a click of keys on her ergomatic keyboard. "I have no record of that. It was paid by an online transaction using a credit card."
"Strange," Kerry mused, distracted for the first time in an hour from the fact she'd have to call home for money. She knew her father couldn't have paid it, as she felt guilty enough for bumming a few hundred that he couldn't really afford to give her, let alone the cost of autumn tuition. "I hate to bring this up, but are you sure this isn't a mistake?"
"They were logged right into your account. Maybe a parent or a…"
"Does the card have a name?" Kerry asked, a curious suspicion beginning to dawn on her. She only knew one person who could, perhaps, afford to spend thousands of dollars on her education without a second thought. It worried her, though, what he could possibly want in return.
"I can't access that information."
"Well, how about a time of transaction?"
The woman paused to look at her skeptically. "A little before ten o'clock last night."
Kerry seethed. Who did he think he was? She thanked the lady for being so helpful, and then stalked home, her fury mounting with each step. Once she was in her apartment, she slammed the door behind her, locking the door with a decisive click. It took her seconds to reach for the phone, but instead of dialing her father like she had been dreading, she entered a number she had stored in her memory but never really used.
"Who do you think you are," she blurted out on the answering machine. "I can't just be BOUGHT for a few thousand dollars. You're such an egotistical ass." Kerry paused. "But thank you."
She hung up, grasping the phone tightly in her fist. Moments later, it rang in her hand. With a confused glance at the sun shining through her window, she answered.
"Kerry! I've been trying to reach you all morning!"
"Hi mom," Kerry said, unenthused. She and her mother didn't exactly have a close relationship, even if they were on talking terms now.
"I wanted to tell you that I paid your tuition last night, so you don't have to worry about it. Use your loan to buy yourself some nice clothing or a new compu…"
"That was YOU," Kerry interrupted, eyes widening as the urge to curse herself for jumping to conclusions spread through her. It was buried under the embarrassment. Deeply under.
"Of course it was me, who else?"
"No one," Kerry responded sullenly. "I just didn't even consider you."
"Why not? I'm your mother!"
"Yeah. Right mom." Realizing how ungrateful she sounded, Kerry continued. "Thanks for the money. My computer died the other day, so I really appreciate it, but I've got to go right now. I'll see you at Thanksgiving."
This time she hung up feeling wretched. It was difficult enough to speak to her mother during her irregular phone calls, but while horrified by her own impulsive actions it was impossible. The guilt lasted mere moments as she began to obsess about whether she should call Michel back and apologize. Maybe she could find someone who could hack his voice mail before sundown for $308.
Finally, she reached the hopeful conclusion that maybe since she hadn't left her name, he wouldn't know it was her. Kind of like the situation where she didn't even consider her mother to be her mysterious benefactor. It was depressing, but it was all she had. Otherwise, she thought she might have to move out of country so she wouldn't have to face him.
When he didn't call her back that night, she was convinced she was in the clear.
A week later, her loan finally came in and Kerry found herself with more money than she really knew what to do with. She bought a new hard-drive first, and then put the excess in a savings account for some later emergency. She always had been good with budgeting. On that particular evening, she was walking out of the movie theatre with her friends, surprised at the relative lack of diversity between movie lighting and the evening light on a busy street. If anything, she could see better outside.
That was probably how she spotted him before he saw her. She didn't know how he knew her exact location, but as her eyes focused on his face, Kerry stopped dead. Her friends noticed, jeering her into going to introduce herself to the hottie. To their surprise, she stepped forward, crossing the street to reach him where he stood in the doorway of a closed boutique across the street. His eyes locked with hers the moment she moved towards him, and it was only through good fortune that she wasn't hit by a car.
"What are you doing here?" she asked in low tones as he drew her deeper into the shadows.
"Curiosity, ironically enough," he answered, pulling his phone from his pocket. "I tried to ignore it, but I found that I need to know the reason for the interesting message you left me."
"Oh god," Kerry exclaimed, taking a step away from him with all the blood from her heart rushing to her face. "I'd forgotten about that."
He waited for her to continue with a self-sure smirk on his lips. She obliged him in a hurry frenzy of words, trying to expel her own awkwardness.
"Someone paid off my tuition, and I didn't know anyone who had that kind of money. Finally I thought of you, even as impossible as it sounds, and then I started to think."
"Always dangerous," he smiled.
"Anyway, I jumped to conclusions, and I'm sorry. I thought you'd just ignore it, not travel through four states to visit me."
He looked slightly taken back. "How do you know where I am?"
"Please," she said. "My mother is a private investigator. She has access to programs I couldn't even explain to you."
"I see you've reconciled with her," he said, "but obviously not enough to put her motivation to drop thousands of dollars on you over mine."
Kerry flashed hot again. "I'm sorry! I don't even want to know how you knew that, but it's not my fault that I don't trust her yet."
"You trust me?" He rocked back on his heel.
"No!" Kerry said hotly. "I mean, maybe. I mean not really. I don't know what I mean. I guess if I completely trusted you, I wouldn't have left an angry voice message."
Michel grinned, amused by her flustered answer. "About that. I'll buy you an ice cream if we can talk about exactly how much it would take to buy you."
A/N: I wish I had some hot vampire who would exchange the price of tuition for sexual favours and/or blood.