#Chapter 50: Unwelcome Help
“Alright, alright, that’s enough,” Enzo said, the red in his eyes fading back to a soft brown. “Get back to training.”
The team grumbled and set me back down on the ground, then started running again. I was still amazed at my landslide victory in the race, and stood there for a moment as they ran ahead.
Enzo walked up to me now that we were alone and gazed down at me with a half-smile on his face.
“You’re quite the runner,” he said.
“I guess so,” I replied. “I don’t know
what came over me.”
For a few moments, neither of us spoke. We were standing close enough that I could smell his sweat mixed with his cologne. Involuntarily, we were both leaning closer to each other. Close
enough to kiss…
Enzo stepped back and shook his head. He drew in a sharp breath before speaking.
“What you saw last night-”
“Whatever it is, it’s none of my business,” I interrupted. “We’re just friends. You’re allowed to do whatever you want.”
Enzo opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say anything, the team started getting annoyed and calling for us to catch up. Turning on my heel, I ran to join the group so Enzo couldn’t see my tears.
He lingered at the back of the group for the rest of the run.
When we finished our run, we came back out at the same spot we went into the woods, having gone in a big loop. Tiffany was sitting on the bench and flipping through some paperwork when we returned.
“Have a good run?” she asked, standing as I jogged up to her.
“It wasn’t bad, actually,” I said, praying that the blush on my face would just seem like it came from all of the exertion and not from the feeling of Enzo’s red wolf eyes on me.
“Good,” Tiffany replied with a smile, sticking her paperwork in her bag and. hoisting the bag onto her shoulder. ” I’ve gotta head back to the office. You did good work today. Go get some rest.”
I nodded and watched Tiffany walk away. Then, taking one last glance over my shoulder at Enzo and the rest of the team, I started to head in the direction of home. My shower and my bed were calling to me after that run.
“Nina!” Justin called from behind me.
I pursed my lips and turned around, not wanting to be rude but also not wanting to give my ex any more false hope than he already seemed to have. “What’s up?” I said.
“Can I walk with you for a minute? I just wanna talk.”
Sighing, I nodded and started walking again. Justin followed along like a lost puppy.
“I just wanted to apologize again for everything I’ve put you through this semester,” he said as we walked. “I know I’ve been shitty to you, and I’ll totally respect it if you just wanna be friends. But I also want you to know that I’m gonna work real hard to change and be better from now on.
I thought back to the way Justin looked in the coffee shop that day. He had been dressed eerily similar to Enzo; in fact, he was even dressed a lot like Enzo now in his athletic clothes, and seemed to have grown his hair out a bit to look like Enzo’s.
“Are you trying to be like Enzo?” I blurted out, stopping and looking at Justin.
He stared back at me with wide eyes and stammered out a response. “N-No … W-What makes you think that?”
I raised an eyebrow and folded my arms across my chest for a moment as I eyed Justin up and down, but then sighed and relaxed when I saw how he looked like a deer in headlights.
“Listen,” I said softly, “I liked you just fine before, and I think you should just be yourself.”
A slight smile started to play on Justin’s lips. “Does that mean…” he started to say.
“No,” I replied, vehemently shaking my head. “Justin, the fact of the matter is that you cheated on me. I don’t resent you, but… I don’t see any way in which I can keep my dignity as a woman and get back together with you.”
Justin looked sad, but nodded nonetheless. “I understand,” he said. ” I promise though that I’ll keep working on myself. Can we at least be friends?”
“Sure,” I replied. “If you really do plan to work on yourself, we can be friends.”
I just hoped that he wasn’t only working on himself because he thought we still had a chance.
As I walked away from Justin, I took one last glance over my shoulder to see Enzo watching me from the athletic field.
The next day, I was walking to my nextclass of the day when my phone started
buzzing. I looked at it to see that it was
Phil, from the diner, calling me.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Nina,” Phil said, sounding chipper. “I
hope you’ve been doing better.”
“I have, actually,” I replied. Was he going to ask me to come back to work? I really needed the money, but I didn’t want to beg.
“Listen,” he said, “we’re really missing your help over here. I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions before… If you’re not too mad at me, and if I gave you a raise to make up for it, would you be interested in coming back to work?”
“Yes!” I blurted out, then covered my mouth and cringed at my overly enthusiastic response. “I mean… Yeah, that would be good. When do you want me to come back?”
“Can you come in tonight?” Phil asked.
I had promised Lori I would hang out with her, but I knew she would
understand. I really needed the money; I’d been living on the free meal plan food and instant noodles for the past two weeks.
“I’ll see you tonight,” I said.
Later, I explained the situation to Lori. and she understood completely. I had just enough time after my last class to shower and get changed into my uniform before I had to go to work, and I was honestly excited to be back; not to mention the pay raise.
I was walking to work, however, when I ran into none other than Enzo on the quad.
He looked me up and down and smiled.
“Back to work?” he said.
“Yeah,” I replied, blushing when I saw his eyes flicker down to my chest, which I had always thought looked quite good in my retro diner uniform.” Um, Phil called earlier and I guess he had a sudden change of heart. He even gave me a raise.”
Enzo smirked. “Good,” he replied. ” You deserve it. I’m glad he took my advice.”
I was about to say something else, but my words caught in my throat as I realized what Enzo had just said.
“Wait,” I said, taking a step backwards. “Did you… Did you talk to Phil?”
Enzo looked a little embarrassed, but nodded. “Yeah,” he admitted. “After you told me everything that happened with Lisa, I thought it would help the situation.”
I didn’t know what to say. I was happy
to have my job back, but a part of me
was also hurt that Enzo felt the need to take care of me.
Enzo must have seen me struggling. I’m sorry,” he said. “I know I should’ve asked you first. I just thought… I don’t know. I thought it would be a nice surprise. Something to make up for how shitty I’ve been.”
I shifted my bag on my shoulder and nodded pensively as I looked at the ground. “I do appreciate it,” I replied. ” Thank you. Just… In the future, let me handle my own affairs, please. I can take care of myself.”
Enzo seemed visibly hurt by my words, but before I could take back what I said, he nodded and started to walk away. “It won’t happen again,” he said, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Good luck at work tonight.”
I bit my lip as I watched him walk away.. I couldn’t let him leave like this.
“Enzo!” I called after him.
He stopped and turned around, and when his sad gaze met mine, my heart skipped a beat.
“Really,” I said softly. “Thank you.”
A soft smile tugged at the corners of Enzo’s lips. Without a word, he nodded
and walked away.
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