The week before her birthday. Natalia spent time hanging out with Taylor and Matthew. The two boys had become fast friends. They even had a programming class together.
The three of them would hang out in the Computer Science and Engineering building, otherwise known as CSE. Natalia had found a nice spot in the corridor which had two benches and a glass pane that separated people from the trees. It had an indoor balcony-like feeling. She liked it there. Whenever she needed to eat lunch or take a break, that was the spot she would head to.
There had been one other thing that Natalia had done...Taylor had told her about York having a search engine where all she had to do was enter the name or York email of the person and she could find them. It was called Atlas York.
“Everyone knows about Atlas. How do you think people get their professor's or TA's email? How do you not know that, Lia?” Taylor had asked, amused.
“I don't know...I don't feel the need to stalk people.” Natalia had retorted.
“So now you have the sudden urge to?” Taylor had laughed at her.
“Shut up...” Natalia had muttered.
Natalia had found herself bored one day. All she had wanted to do was confirm if she had in fact seen Dallas or if it was someone else.
Natalia had typed in his name. She didn't know what she was hoping for. Yet when the results came...Natalia couldn't help but feel hurt. A Dallas Owen went to York University...and he was probably the one who was avoiding Natalia.
The week went by and Natalia had not seen any sign of Dallas. Instead she kept to Steacie library most of the time, and only left if she had a class or tutorial to go too.
Since Matthew's birthday was five days before hers, Natalia and Matthew went to have dinner together.
“Where do you want to go, birthday boy?” Natalia asked him. “How about we go for pizza?” Matthew asked her. “Yea, sure. Whatever you want.” She agreed.
They both headed off in to the direction for the Student Center.
Once they had gotten their pizza slices and drinks. Natalia and Matthew headed for the upper level. There it was relatively less noisy.
“How goes the apartment search?” Matthew asked. “Not well...I can't find anything that suits me.” She told him.
“So, Natalia...Mom told me you've been putting long hours at the library.” Matthew said to her.
“Yea...I just don't want my tests and quizzes to be horrible...plus I have labs from seven to ten.” Natalia tried to explain. She didn't like leaving the library...to be honest. She was just hoping she would see...Nope, not hoping, She reprimanded herself. If he didn't want to see her, then she wouldn't bother trying to find him, she told herself.
“Well, just make sure you take care of yourself. You can always come and crash in my room, but just make sure you tell my mom when your staying late.” Matthew told her.
“I know...I always do.” Natalia reassured him.
It was finally Natalia's birthday. Eighteen at last...not like it's any different than seventeen...or sixteen...or fifteen for that matter, She thought to herself as she got dressed.
Natalia pulled on a long sleeved black babydoll dress, and black capris. She was going to be spending her time in the library and she liked being comfortable. As she bade her aunt and uncle farewell, Natalia slipped on her black ballet flats and a light jacket.
“Happy Birthday, Natalia!” Taylor gave her a hug, as she reached her seat. “Thanks.” Natalia smiled. “So how does it feel to be eighteen?” Taylor asked with a grin.
“The same as it felt when I was seventeen...just that I get to vote now.” She told him. Taylor chuckled. “Too bad there isn't any election for you to test that out.” He told her. “Too bad...” Natalia said, she laughed along with him.
It wasn't long before she ran in to Matthew. She and Taylor had been walking along the hallway in the CSE building when Matthew rushed her.
“Happy Birthday, Lia!” He said, swinging her around. Natalia laughed the entire time.
“Come on, let's go out to eat.” Matthew said, dragging her along with him. “Taylor, your coming too.” Natalia said, and she grasped Taylor by the arm as she was led away.
Matthew came out of Second Cup with a whole bunch of things. He led Natalia and Taylor outside to sit behind Stedman Lecture Halls.
“Unfortunately, Natalia...I couldn't get eighteen candles together. So we'll just have to make do with one.” He said, lighting a candle on one of the slices of chocolate cake.
“So make a wish and blow out the candle.” Taylor chimed in.
There was only one thing Natalia could think of. Only one thing she wanted at the moment. She took a deep breath and blew out the candle.
“Here's to your eighteenth birthday. Cheers.” Matthew handed them a drink. It was frozen hot chocolate. Memories flooded her.
Natalia felt a lump grow in her throat as she tried to smile. “Thank you.” She told her cousin and friend, as the lump in her throat grew bigger.
Natalia slept on the couches along the wall in Steacie. Taylor had left soon after their little party to go to class, while Matthew had to go to attend a tutorial.
Natalia had spent most of the day in Steacie after her own classes were done. Natalia had been tired and had put together two couches, and slept. Her jacket had covered her.
The ringing of her cell phone awoke her. Natalia looked at the ceiling windows. Night had fallen.
She had studied for several hours before taking a nap.
Natalia returned her attention to the ringing phone.
“Hello?” She answered. “Lia, honey. Won't you be coming home?” It was her aunt.
Natalia looked at the time on her phone. It was almost eleven, the library would be closing and she needed to put in a few more hours of studying.
“Sorry Aunt Lucy, I have to study. I have a math test on Friday. I'm going to be going to Scott library to study.” She told her aunt.
Natalia disliked Scott library. It was a large, cold, building. It just felt foreboding. Unfortunately it was the only library with a twenty four hour study space.
“Honey, don't you think you've been working hard enough?” Her aunt asked. “You should take a break, Lia. I don't want you burning out.”
“Don't worry Aunt Lucy, I will take a break on the weekend. I promise.” She told her aunt. “I'll probably be home in the morning. If I get tired, I'll go to Matthew's room.” She told her aunt, reassuring her that she would be fine.
“But Lia, I'm worried about your safety.” Her aunt continued. Natalia sighed. She loved her family for being so protective of her, just that sometimes she liked to be left to her own devices.
“Don't worry, I have both York security and GO SAFE security numbers on my phone with their extensions.” She told her aunt, trying to give her a peace of mind.
“Alright, alright. I'll see you in the morning. I hope.” Her aunt bade her farewell.
Natalia closed her phone and gathered her things. It was time to head for Scott.
As soon as Natalia exited the library and turned. She couldn't believe who was standing in front of her.
Wearing black pants and a short-sleeved blue collared shirt, holding a bouquets of roses, Dallas stood, apparently waiting for her.
“What are you doing here so late on your birthday?” He asked her.
“Making myself miserable, apparently...shouldn't you be pretending you haven't seen me?” She asked, waspishly, not knowing why Dallas had bothered to come now.
“I could...but I can't stay away any longer...I don't want to...I never wanted to.” He told her.
“Really? You were doing just fine making me think that I was insane...” She sniped. Natalia was tired.
“Lia...I'm sorry that I listened to you and left...I only stayed away because I thought that was what you wanted. I wish I had left the restaurant when Mollie came...I'm sorry-” But before Dallas could say anymore, Natalia ran in to his arms and kissed him.
When they parted, Natalia looked at him.
“No...Dallas...I'm sorry...it's...I can't...I don't want you to go ever...I shouldn't have-” Dallas stopped her stuttering and kissed her.
“I missed you.” He told her. “I'm miserable without you.” Natalia admitted.
“I love you...only you.” Dallas told her. “I know...I love you too.” She said to him.
They looked over one another. It had been a long time since she had seen him.
“I brought these for you.” He told her, handing her the roses. “Their lovely.” Natalia smiled, but something clicked in the back of her mind. “You sent roses to grad! It was you!” She excalimed. “Yes it was.” Dallas admitted, he was grinning. Natalia gave him a kiss. “Thank you.” She told him. They were quiet.
“Have you been here all day?” Dallas asked, suddenly.
“Yea...” Natalia admitted guiltily.
“Out of curiosity...even though I think I know the answer. Where were you heading?” Dallas asked.
“Scott...to the all night study area...” Natalia winced at how pathetic it sounded.
“You weren't joking.” Dallas said to her. He had an arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him.
“About what?” Natalia asked.
“About making yourself miserable.” He told her. He let her go, and took hold of her hand.
Natalia sighed, only she knew how much she had missed him being there.
“Come, it's not too late to celebrate your birthday.” Dallas told her, as he lead her outside.
They walked together, hand in hand, to his car.
Dinner had been a quiet affair. Dallas could see Natalia had been driving herself towards exhaustion. Yet there was something else about her. She was awestruck that he had come back.
He could see her watch him carefully, it was as though she thought that any moment she would wake up and it would all have been a dream. He had been lucky to catch her at Steacie, having called Derek to confirm she would be there even after his own classes were done.
He kept her hand in his, not only to give her a peace of mind that he wasn't going to disappear on her, but for himself as well. He had missed her every single day that they had been apart.
After dinner, Dallas drove Natalia to his home. He saw the surprised look on her face. He told her the entire story about how his parents bought it for him.
“It looks amazing.” He heard her say, quietly.
When she saw his apartment, she smiled. “It's so welcoming and nice.” She told him.
Dallas laughed. He took her things and put them inside a closet. She didn't need to worry about school tonight.
He had always thought of his apartment as lonely. Yet, coming with her did make it seem more homely.
Dallas gave her the tour of the place, before leading her to his room.
It was dark and quiet there. She needed to rest.
“You need sleep, Lia.” He said, leading her in to the room. “I'm supposed to be in the library...studying.” She told him.
“I know you haven't slept...” He said quietly. Derek had already told him about it. Natalia smiled weakly. “I have nightmares.” She tried to explain.
“Lia...it's okay. I'm not going to leave you this time.” Dallas told her. He lifted her in his arms and carried her on to the bed, placing her on to it, gently.
“How can you be so sure?” She asked, quietly.
“Because I love you. I promise I'm not going anywhere. Not with out you.”
This time there was no doubt in his heart. He could see that she believed him. He could feel her letting her guard down. She had stopped fighting with herself.
“I love you, Dallas.” She told him.
He leaned over her and sealed his promise with a kiss. Laying down beside her, Dallas held Natalia close to him. It didn't take very long for her to fall asleep. She must have been really exhausted, Dallas thought.
She nuzzled against him and moved closer to him in her sleep. He covered them with a blanket.
He felt peace for the first time in a few months, and as he watched her, Dallas soon fell asleep.
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