Mr. Fields had forgotten his aftershave. Quinn wrinkled her nose in amusement, smelling the leftovers of something strong.
And by the strength of the scent, he'd had a lot. The poor man was hungover and probably hadn't changed his shirt since yesterday. She couldn't blame him. He had the worst class in the high school. He probably needed a drink just to get into the car for work.
"So…today we're gonna recap theorems. Can anyone…anyone…tell me the fundamental theorem of Algebra?" His voice was exhausted, irritated. The lights probably made his head scream and every muttered word from his class drove him closer to self-destruct. When no one spoke up for several seconds, Quinn raised her hand and Mr. Fields let out a sigh of relief.
"Thank you, Quinn."
"Yes, thank you Squint." A second voice thundered from the back of the class and she popped her mouth closed. Billy Darley. The class bully.
"That's enough." Fields sighed. "Go ahead, Quinn." She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She hated how much his taunts affected her. Because that's all Billy Darley was to her, a dark, sadistic voice. Not a face, not a person.
"Looks like the blind girl's gone mute." Billy snorted from the back of the classroom and suddenly the room was full of stifled laughs. Fields tried to silence them, but there was no use in his efforts. She'd heard them. She never missed a sound in that classroom.
"Billy, just go." Fields said, exasperated at last. It was only twenty minutes into the first period of the day, and he'd given up with Billy. All of his teachers had. He was a regular in detention, if he showed up that is. From what she'd heard, he'd all but stopped going to school. A sophomore, and he was already quitting.
"I thought you'd never ask." Billy growled, the scraping of a chair alerting Quinn to his movements. Footsteps on the tiled floor spoke to his size and as he passed, the warmth from the sunlight vanished from her face. His scent was light that morning, unlike previous days. The thick smell of his collogue was absent, leaving just a dark tone of smoke in his midst. She didn't care much for collogue and perfume; they were always too strong for her sensitive nose.
The swish of leather sent a gust of him back in her face and Quinn wrinkled her nose in silent protest. She didn't like smokers either; they carried their habit with them everywhere and left it in places for her to find. Like elevators or buses.
"Have a good day, Mr. Darley." Fields said sarcastically, probably eyeing the boy as he passed. "Give my regards to Betsy." Quinn hid a grin. Betsy Regan, the detention teacher. Mr. Fields had a sense of humor, but it was lost on most of his students. She, however, found him amusing. Billy didn't.
"Go fuck yourself, Fields." He growled, slamming the door behind him as he left. Sadly, that wasn't the first time Billy had directed the phrase at the teacher, and Quinn pitied him. Because it definitely wouldn't be the last.
Mr. Fields probably wished he'd stowed a bottle in his desk.
After a few moments, the room died down back to a bored silence and he sighed.
"Quinn." His voice seemed weary, but even then she heard a hopeful smile. "How about that theorem?"
Unlike her classmates, she would never be able to drive. It was something she didn't miss, because she'd never experienced it. But the independence aspect was very appealing. Her classmates could pick up and take off when they liked, bumbling from the parking lot of the school in horribly maintained machines. She had to take the bus, everyday. It wasn't a terrible thing, but it irritated her that she had to share a route with middleschoolers.
Talk about bad smells.
That afternoon, when the bell rang and she stepped outside into the sun, Quinn felt the surge of independence direct her away. She could walk. Her home was only ten blocks, two turns, and one intersection. It would take a half hour, and she could breathe fresh air all the way. Turning her thin cane down the sidewalk, she ignored the grumbling of bus engines and started towards home, smiling to herself.
It was a beautiful day in South Boston. The grass was pollinating, which sent a starchy, sharp smell into the air. One of her favorite scents of spring. Quinn couldn't help the smile on her face as she navigated the sidewalk on her own. Hardly anyone walked to the school so she had no company. It was just the tick of her cane on the cement and the distant buzz of traffic to fill her ears.
Halfway home, her path turned down a back alley. It wasn't a great neighborhood to walk alone in, but she was mostly left alone. Ever since birth, she'd been left out, isolated from the people who surrounded her. They didn't bother her, and she didn't bother them. So she feared nothing when she felt her way over the pitted pavement. She was halfway down the alley when a coppery smell stopped her cold.
Her shoes scuffled to a stop and she turned her head, sniffing gently to her left. An exhale. Someone was there, in the alley.
"Hello?" Her voice was shaky and feather-light, her mind praying it was an overgrown cat playing tricks on her ears. When she heard another, larger movement, she swallowed and gripped her cane, preparing to run.
Then a scent floated to her nose, dark yet faded.
"Billy?" She hesitated calling his name, but her mind thought it aloud before she could stop. Another scuffle and a deep exhale.
"How the fuck did ya know that?" His voice was like a warm blanket, wrapping her in relief. Quinn touched her throat, the pulse racing through her veins nearly choking her.
"You scared me." She whispered, panting lightly from fear. He grunted a little and Quinn loosened her grip on her cane.
"Ya didn't answer my question, Squint." He grumbled. Relaxing her stance, Quinn turned her hips to face the direction of his voice. It was considered rude to not face someone when addressing them. Then again, polite wasn't exactly Billy's game.
"I recognized your…" She hesitated. You smell like a chimney. "…your scent."
"My scent?" He snorted and another shuffle told her he was still a few feet away. When he fell silent, she took a small sniff and shivered.
"Do you need me to get someone?" Quinn asked gently, her free hand restlessly twitching at her side. Billy shifted on the asphalt.
"The fuck does that mean?" He growled. The tone sent goosebumps over her skin and she rubbed her exposed forearms.
"You're bleeding, aren't you?" No response, no movement. In the silence, Quinn knew he was staring, probably in disbelief. She blushed slightly, turning her head away towards the direction of home. She could just leave; offer him the same treatment he'd shown her. But the smell made her dizzy and her sympathy was growing by the second.
"How did ya know that?" He finally murmured. She shrugged.
"My nose works pretty well." It was an attempt at humor, but it was lost on the thick silence between them.
"I'm fine." Billy growled. The impulse to accept his proud defiance and leave was so strong. She wanted to flip him the bird and continue on her way, but a little voice in her back of her head chided her for such thoughts. Her parents had raised her to help those in need; and she knew what it was like to not want to ask for help.
"You're lying." Quinn whispered, brushing her short, brown hair behind an ear. "You're badly hurt."
"I'm fuckin' fine." He repeated with a warning snarl. Suddenly, his arrogance sounded like nothing but a smoke screen, and she saw right through it.
"You're not breathing very deeply, probably a broken rib or two, and there's enough blood for me to smell, so I'm pretty sure you're not fine." The outburst quickly made her unwilling to wait in the alley. So she huffed a final breath and turned her cane towards home. "But have it your way." She muttered, quickly starting down the alley. Each step calmed her racing heart and in a few steps, the frown on her face relaxed into indifference. Her duty had been done; she'd offered a hand to the biggest jerk in Stokely. In her mind, she was a saint.
A scuffle caught her attention and she slammed to a halt.
"Are you following me?" She asked quietly, staring straight ahead. No response. "I know you're there, Billy. You smell." The jab worked and his voice grumbled from behind her.
"Fuck you." He was much closer than she'd anticipated. Whirling, she reached out with a hand and ended up smacking something hard. "JESUS!" He roared, his voice moving away.
"Sorry!" She stretched out her hand and groped the air. "Oh gosh, I'm sorry." A series of wheezes and groans told her she'd probably smacked his chest. Quinn moved cautiously towards the sounds, trying to keep her movements slow and soft. "Billy?"
"Fuck." He ground out, his voice originating from below her. In her mind, she pictured him, hunched over and holding his ribs.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to—"
"Just shut up, okay?" Billy snapped, air wheezing from his lungs. "Christ." Reaching out carefully, her hand touched something cold. Leather. His wheezing softened and Quinn trailed her fingers over the jacket towards his shoulder. It took a long time. His torso was huge, much larger than she'd expected, and his back was hard underneath the smooth jacket. Her image of Billy shifted in her mind, painting a more elaborate picture.
"What are ya doin'?" He grunted. Her hand vanished.
"I was placing you so I don't hit you again." Billy huffed a breath from his nose, but said nothing, straightening to block the sun from her eyes. Quinn itched to touch his face, to read the stare he was definitely giving her. "You need to see a doctor." She said softly.
"I'll be fine." His retort was weaker than the last and Quinn smirked a little. Even big Billy Darley felt pain.
"If you say so." She said it gently, not as a challenge, and turned her cane down the alley once again. This time she only made it four steps before she heard him following.
"Ya live this way?" He grunted, scuffling obviously to her side. Hiding a smile, she nodded.
"Just a few blocks north." His silence made the walk strange, but she read between the lines. Another gift from her acute senses was her ability to feel emotions. She could feel people without having to see their faces. Billy needed her help, but he didn't want to ask for it. "You live on the west side, right?" Quinn forced him back into the conversation.
"Yeah." This made her chew a cheek in thought. He was on the east side of Stokely when he had very little reason to be. Not only that, but he had been beaten. What had he gotten himself into?
"Wanna call for a ride?" She asked meekly.
"Ya got a cell?" He responded quickly, giving away the fact that he, indeed, needed to call someone. Quinn shook her head.
"No, but you can use my house phone." He didn't say anything for a while and she took the silence as proud acceptance. When they emerged from the end of the alley, Billy moved closer to her, shadowing her left shoulder.
"Ya cut through that alley everyday?" He grunted suddenly. Quinn frowned a little and turned her head in his direction.
"No." A few paces of quiet filled the time before he responded.
"What if it hadn't been me?" She chewed on a lip, honestly wondering the same question. While she didn't like Billy, she wasn't afraid of him causing her bodily harm. In that sense, she was lucky it had been him.
"I can defend myself." Quinn settled on that response with a small nod, pushing her shoulders back in a show of self-worth. Billy snorted.
"With your stick?" She frowned in his direction.
"I'm blind Billy, not helpless." Taking a small breath to calm herself, she tried to support her retort. "I was born here too." She muttered, unsatisfied with her own argument.
"Really?" His voice sounded genuinely surprised, innocently so and she smiled.
"Yeah, I just went to a special school for a while." The word 'special' caught in her throat and she blushed a little. She'd gone to a school on the other side of Boston to learn to read brail and receive one on one instruction. It was expensive, however, and her parents were eventually forced to send her to public high school. Billy didn't comment on her past any further and she didn't mind the silence as they made their way down the block. They were almost to her house when she starting wondering what they looked like. Short and skinny Quinn and tall, mean Billy Darley. The picture made her grin.
"What?" He muttered. She shook her head.
"Nothing. Anyone watching us?"
"No." He grunted back. Quinn nodded and her cane revealed a lip in the sidewalk. They were four houses down.
"How bad is your face?" She asked quietly, turning her head a little in his direction. Billy didn't answer for a few moments, the sound of his stride the only clue he was still there.
"How do ya do that?" He grumbled after a while. Quinn smiled and turned her face towards the ground.
"The way you're talking. I can just tell." A swishing sound sent a wave of his scent in her direction and she found herself growing used to it.
"Fuckin' creepy." Billy muttered. When she stepped up a driveway without warning, he caught up in a couple of long strides, his leather jacket twisting around his torso. Quinn guided them up the short drive, up the porch, and unlocked the front door without even a moment of hesitation. The door opened quietly and she stepped inside, taking a deep breath of the familiar smell. Home.
"Nobody will be home until later, my parent's are working." She stated, setting her backpack on the bottom step. Billy remained in the doorway, his shadow casted long across her face. "The phone's in the kitchen." Quinn added, starting down the small hall to the back of the house. The door thudded closed and his boots eventually clomped after her, but she was working to look unfazed by his presence. Once he was in the room, the phone came off the hook and she vanished into the back bathroom, leaving him with a bit of privacy.
She didn't know much about Billy Darley, but she knew he was involved with illegal things, and bad people. The rumors at school were just the foundation of her suspicions. There were definitely things that went untold. And she didn't want tangled up in any of it.
His voice was deep and gravelly, even through a wall, and she memorized his bass. He was speaking to someone important. His tone was lowered, dull, and he wasn't annunciating as harshly as usual. All of this she gathered without comprehending a word of his conversation. What she did comprehend was Billy's respect to whomever he'd just called. When he was done, she reappeared with a washcloth and some Neosporin in hand.
"You get a ride?" She asked casually, sitting in a kitchen chair.
"Yeah." Then she held out the cloth and he moved closer. "What?"
"For your face." Quinn said matter-of-factly. "You should clean up any cuts."
"There aren't any cuts on my face." He grumbled. Reading between the lines, she continued to hold it out in front of her.
"What about your ribs?" Billy didn't move to take the washcloth so Quinn sighed and dropped it on the table. "Fine." After spending a little time with him, she was starting to realize he was all pride.
"Why do ya care?" He grunted. Quinn shrugged and stood, circling him and heading towards the living room.
"Because you reek of iron." She sunk into the couch and grabbed a book off the coffee table, opening it to her bookmark. As she started to drag her fingers across the page, Billy stepped onto the carpet. In the quiet, she pretended to be reading when really she was listening. He slowly circled the room, looking at the photos maybe, and then he passed her to sit on the couch. When he moved by, she caught a whiff of soap. He'd used the washcloth.
Fingers frozen on the page, she turned her head towards him.
"Does it hurt?" He sniffed and his scent drifted to her in a light wave.
"Not really." She closed her book slowly and set it down.
"What happened?" She didn't want to pry, but she was curious. He had always been the meanest, toughest one in class. How could someone be worse than him?
"Don't worry about it." He growled. It was what she'd expected and she didn't mind. In fact, her fear of him had faded considerably.
"I just—" She shrugged off the end of the sentence and picked up her book once again.
"Just what?" Billy grunted. Quinn, hands folded on her book, directed her face towards his voice.
"I just can't imagine." Obviously, her answer wasn't what he expected so he didn't respond for a long time, an awkward silence surrounding them.
"Ya can't imagine what?"
"I've never felt an injury like that." Billy snorted.
"Ya, cuz no one's gonna hit a blind chick." Quinn shook her head.
"Well no. But I've never…" She held up her hands and touched her own face. "…felt that." Then she dropped her hands and shrugged. "I don't even know what you look like." Billy chuckled and instantly groaned, adjusting his position on the couch.
"Isn't that what blind means?" Shaking her head, she opened her book again.
"Nevermind." He sighed and his scent washed over her. It was dark, but something about it left a sweet taste in her nose.
"You sayin' you can see shit?" Quinn ignored him, trying to focus on the page beneath her fingers. "Hey, I know ya aren't deaf." She gave an exasperated sigh and motioned to her page.
"I look at things the same way I read. Touch." He seemed to mull this over with a few moments of silence.
"You wanna touch my face, that it?" Quinn clamped her eyes closed and pressed the pads of her fingers onto the page in determination.
"No." He laughed lightly through his nose.
"Yeah ya do. Ya wanna know what I look like." She shook her head, ignoring him with all the focus she could muster. Quinn wasn't stupid; she'd heard what girls said about Billy Darley. Most of the comments were useless, but some had made her wonder. She knew he had blond hair, but she didn't know what blond looked like. She also knew he had blue eyes, again, not useful. But someone had said ripped abs once, and Quinn blushed as she recalled the girl's tone. She'd never felt "ripped" abs, but when she'd heard the breathy whine that had accompanied the description, she wanted to.
"I know enough." She said evenly, turning a page she hadn't read.
"Really? What have you heard?" He shifted closer, a smirk evident in his voice.
"Blond hair, blue eyes, that sort of thing." Quinn said quickly with a shrug. "It doesn't make much of a difference to me."
"That's it?" No. She'd heard about him in other ways as well. Unfortunately, those things had nothing to do with sight. When she didn't answer him, he shifted and Quinn froze. His smell was suddenly very close and her body tingled, unable to move. "Take a look then." His mouth couldn't have been more than a few inches from her own and she bolted backwards on the sofa. Billy purred a small laugh and Quinn blushed six shades of red before she finally gave in and set down the book.
"Hold still." With both hands, she reached out and fished for his face, fingers shaking slightly as they hung in the air. Suddenly a hand clamped around her left wrist and she gasped. But he said nothing, leading her with a small pull.
The first things she felt were his cheeks. They were rough with short stubble and she dragged her fingers over it gently, feeling how the hair was fine and smooth, hardly a man's beard. Then she moved up, climbing over his high cheekbones and into his sideburns. They were shaggy and unkempt and she felt his hair was pulled tight to his head.
"You have long hair." Quinn said softly, grinning to herself. "A ponytail."
"So what?" He growled. His jaw moved near her right wrist and she flinched, remembering whom she was looking at.
"Just an observation." She added, running her hands upward to his forehead and feeling the smooth, young skin that ran down to his eyebrows. With her thumbs, she traced the length of his nose and parted them to slope back down to his cheeks. "And a strong face." As she flattened her fingers to touch his eyes, his hands grabbed her wrists.
"No." She nodded, understanding that she'd reached a painful area. It made her cringe inside, knowing someone had hit him in the eye. When he released her, she moved down his cheeks once more, sweeping her fingers together to find his…
Quinn dropped her hands.
"So now I know." Hands sweating, she reached for her book, only to have her right hand snatched away. Billy didn't say a word, but guided her palm back to his face.
Her thumb landed on his chin and he guided her higher, the sensitive tip of her finger running over his warm, soft lips. The rest of her fingers fanned out over the space and she felt heat swelling on the top left of his mouth.
"Your lip is swollen." Quinn whispered. "Does it hurt?" Billy exhaled from his nose, the air moving over her fingers like a caress.
"No." Her body shivered when his voice vibrated over her fingers, but she didn't stop her study, curiosity urging her forward. Her thumb lowered to his bottom lip and she swept along its width, the prickle of hair teasing from below.
She could see him. In her mind, a shape had formed. It was a good face, very symmetrical, and she knew she wouldn't be able to shake the image from her mind. Distracted by her thoughts, it took Quinn a moment to realize Billy had parted his lips. Warm breath hit the side of her palm and she found her heart racing, breath starting to rush from her lungs. Her head filled with the other things she'd heard about Billy Darley and Quinn's cheeks burned in recollection.
"He's an animal in the sack." "Best kisser, ever." "He could seduce a nun."
"You're blushin'." He purred, his lips moving under her hand. Retracting the palm, she shook away the thoughts in her head. Groping the couch behind her, she fished for the book she knew was nearby. It was her shield, something to distract her hands. "You touch a guy before?" Quinn frowned and scooted away, grateful for the defensive feelings bubbling inside her. Honestly, she'd only ever felt a couple of men, and they'd all been instructors or other blind people. They were nothing like Billy Darley.
"Yes, a few." She said, pushing her hair behind her ear. Her hand landed on the spine of her book and she felt relief spread through her veins.
Then his hand was on her cheek. Quinn froze and blinked, her heart screaming in her chest.
"Ya blush for all of 'em?" His hand pulled her back, brought her closer, and her mind became a pile of slush.
"I wasn't blushing." She whispered, out of breath in a matter of syllables.
"Yeah, ya were. What were ya thinkin' about?" He purred. Her senses were on full alert. She could feel his fingers on her cheek, his second hand teasing the edge of her knee. His breath grazed her cheek and Quinn swallowed, heart pounding inside of her chest.
"I was just feeling." She murmured. Billy swept a thumb over her cheekbone.
"Do ya wanna taste?" Her throat closed and no words were allowed to follow. Thankfully, he didn't wait for an answer. His lips grazed her own and Quinn let out a small sigh. Then, with a hand pressed to her back, he kissed her. Her first kiss, and it was with Billy Darley. If someone had told her she'd be kissing Billy before dinner, she would have called them crazy. That's what it was: crazy.
Crazy good. His mouth was surprisingly soft, and tasted sweet yet also a little salty, like untouched skin. Every nerve in her body was aflame. Burning even.
She needed to breathe.
When they parted, she was panting, completely stunned. His mouth moved to her ear and she shivered in anticipation.
"See you 'round, Squint." He moved quickly, rising from the couch and striding from the room. She didn't chase him, or even offer a 'goodbye'. Quinn was frozen on that couch, reeling from the feelings stirring inside her. Only after she heard the front door close and a car speed away did her mind finally catch up.
I'd love to hear from you! Everyone reads things differently and it only leads to greatness. Ideas/inspiration/improvements can come from anything.
Does my idea of Billy differ from yours?
What would you like to read next from me? I'm open to ideas, always. :)