The man walking toward them with a wrapped box in one hand and his other hand jammed into his pocket was unmistakably Lutger. He looked at Anita and waved the box around, then at Edmund off to the side and frowned.
“Who the hell is this.”
“Me? This is her girlfriend.”
Anita’s mouth dropped open. What was this guy talking about?
She looked at Edmund, who had his arm around her shoulders and was grinning shamelessly.
“What, you’re crazy.”
Seeing Luther’s face harden, Anita quickly grabbed the hem of Edmund’s shirt and whispered.
“What do you think you’re doing? You didn’t tell me you were going to help me like this.”
“I told you this works for stalkers.”
“He’s not a stalker!”
“What? You should have told me.”
“What are you two whispering about? What do you mean you’re in a relationship….”
Realizing his mistake, Edmund tried to make amends. Gently retrieving his left arm from around Anita’s shoulders, he blurted again.
“Sorry, sorry. I’ve been a little disoriented lately. I have a consultation every Sunday with a renowned psychiatrist, you know, Dr. Ray, and he told me not to believe most of the things that come out of my mouth.”
Anita wiped her forehead. He was really muddying his image.
“Senior, please stop.”
“So you’re saying you’re mentally ill?”
Rutger’s stern voice interrupted, and Anita felt like crying. How the hell was she supposed to fix this situation? It had been so much more peaceful when she’d gotten the man’s confession earlier.
“Senior, thank you for all your help, is there anything you’d like to eat?”
“Me? Wellington ice cream at the intersection across the street.”
“Well, I’ll buy it by the flavor and send it to the student council office, so could you please leave today?”
“Sure. But if he does anything weird, come find me. If you leave it alone, it’ll get worse.”
Anita poured out like a rapid-fire cannonball and hurried Edmund out of Rutger’s sight. She swallowed dryly at the stinging stare on her back and turned around.
Sure enough, Rutger was there, arms crossed, squinting at her, his gaze seeming to say, ‘Now, Anita, what are you going to do?’
Anita, on the other hand, felt a surge of defiance at his attitude. I didn’t like that he was acting like I was something when we had no relationship. It was annoying that he would push her away and only be friendly when he wanted to be.
“Stop calling me.”
When she turned her head the other way and stared at the floor, Rutger sighed. She clearly didn’t want to continue the conversation.
“Okay, just take this, you like this.”
Anita looked at the box he’d given her with a grimace. It was wrapped in pretty pink and tied with a yellow ribbon. As she untied the ribbon and opened the box, a fresh scent wafted through the air.
Anita of a year ago would have been thrilled that he had given her something. She would have lost sleep over it, excited that it was in pretty wrapping paper and tied with a bow, just for that.
“I don’t like this. Take it back.”
Anita has never liked lemon pie in her life. Despite her aversion to sour foods, she gobbled it down, pretending it was delicious. Just to have a little something in common with Rutger.
“I hate it now.”
Lemon pie was actually Rutger’s favorite food, though he would never know it.
Back in her room, Anita slumped down at her desk, depressed. She let out a long sigh, and the pages of the open book on her desk rattled.
I can’t avoid Rutger forever. Sooner or later, either Anita’s patience will run out and she’ll drop out of school, or Rutger will do something. He’s a man who needs to have what he wants to get his way.
Anita reminds herself why she chose biology: she originally wanted to major in creative writing and become a writer.
But at that point in her life, she’d had a lot of trouble with the mysterious Rutger, and for her, biology was like dogma.
It was a great comfort to her to realize that even Rutger was a human being, made up of blood, bones, flesh, and muscles and that he, too, was an organism, breathing and living like her.
I don’t love Rutger, it’s the dopamine.
Anita told herself. As always.
Of course, if only life were that simple. Knowing the principles, knowing the why and how of my behavior doesn’t mean I can control it. No matter how many times Anita tried to convince herself that it was all just chemistry, her lips would dry up and her head would spin in Rutger’s presence.
The next day, Anita stops by the Wellington ice cream shop to wrap a gift for Edmund. Edmund was going to help her anyway, even if his interruption resulted in a reprimand from Luther.
Vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, coconut. Anita stopped dead in her tracks as she watched the employee bagging up all the different flavors. The tangy scent of lemon brought back memories of last night.
Anita shook her head. She shook her head to clear the lemon scent from her nostrils.
While she was performing such a meaningless action, the employee finished packing.
“Please send this to the Aberdeen University Student Union, and the recipient will know it’s for Edmund…”
Now that I think about it, I don’t remember hearing his last name. Still, there can’t be two Edmunds in the student government. Anita paid and left the store. Clear skies and a light breeze greeted her. Aberdeen, in the southwestern part of the Empire, was a sunny and peaceful place year-round.