Editor’s Note: This is the first chapter of The Lost Prentice, an online serial novel exclusively on the Baltimore Post-Examiner. If you haven’t already please read the Preface before starting this latest installment. Every week we will be posting a new chapter. Enjoy.
The alarm continued to blare for a straight minute until Miles gathered up the energy to roll over and turn it off. He hated that dream, and he had been having it for as long as he could remember. It had terrified him as a child and had been the reason for his insomnia and therapy until his was fifteen. And then the dream had shaped him to be the man he was today. He studied reality and facts. If it wasn’t tangible, it didn’t exist. And for a few years, the facts made the dreams stop.
Until last night.
Miles rolled out of bed and padded naked across the empty apartment. He turned on his Ipod, allowing the metallic song to scream against the walls, and stepped into the shower. The hot water ran over him and down the drain, taking the remnants of the dream with it.
Freshly washed, he wrapped a towel around his middle and surveyed himself in the mirror. Miles Hunter had just turned twenty one and now that he was legal, it seemed his body had taken a change. What used to be gangly was now defined with muscles. His porcelain skin had gone from a sickly pale to a healthy glow. His ginger hair was now so bright, in the dark, it could light up a room. Eyes had gone from Hazel to Emerald. In a matter of a couple of months, Miles had gone from a guy girls ignored to a guy who now suddenly had girls throwing themselves at his feet. It was interesting but disconcerting. Attention was not something he was used to.
He dressed in jeans that were now suddenly too tight on his thighs and rear, and a Stanford t-shirt that was now too tight on his arms and chest. Miles had never lifted a weight in his life, but apparently he now had muscles.
Miles swiped his cell phone and wallet from the bowl sitting on his dresser—only one of the five pieces of major furniture he had in his entire apartment. Then he grabbed his keys which were laying on the arm of the couch and headed out to his little black car. Him and his friends were meeting at the school to enjoy some breakfast together. It had been forever since he had gone out just for the hell of it. And he missed tossing the shit around with the only friends that he had.
It only took him ten minutes to drive to the University which came in handy. Miles parked the car—making sure his parking permit was visible—and then made his way through the campus.
He loved Stanford more than anything. The university was right smack in the middle of San Jose and San Francisco, putting them between all the action of the two major cities. But it was the campus that was what Miles fell in love with. He loved the cream concrete of the campus. He loved the distinctive architecture, also in the colors of cream and terracotta. He loved the palm trees which were everywhere he looked. And he most certainly loved the bronze statues of the woman which were both pieces of art and parts of fountains. He would find himself just staring at the statues, wondering just how long it took the artist to manage to create such a masterpiece.
Stanford was definitely his home. Life made sense to him there and it was explained to him in lab reports and scientific methods. He needed science and answers. He hated feeling lost and feeling like he was in the unknown. Like the way the dream made him feel.
Miles shook it off and remembered how his parents gave him the opportunity to do what he loved. Both of his parents had raised him to be scientific and to look at the world as such. No nonsense. Common sense. But they also taught him to be practical. Sometimes things couldn’t be explained with numbers or theories. And he couldn’t be bent out of shape because of it. His parents tried very hard to make sure he wasn’t the humorless geniuses everybody rolled their eyes to—despite his genius’ intelligence.
Thus Miles was morphed into the easy going, sarcastic fool who was obsessed with numbers which allowed him to thrive in Chemistry and Physics—his current majors.
Smiling at one of his favorite fountains as he walked passed it, his pocket began to vibrate. Miles dug out his cell phone and glanced at the caller. His smile grew wider.
“Mother, I was just thinking about you,” Miles said answering the cell.
She laughed. “How charming. Unless it was about how much you despise me.”
“Never. Just admiring how well a job you did with raising me.”
“I must admit, your father and I have done a wonderful job.”
“At the moment, I would agree with you.”
“So when are you going to bring home a girl?”
Miles laughed loudly. “Mom I’m not sure I have time for a girl.”
“Because I’m focusing on school. I’m not really in the mood to start a relationship.”
“A girlfriend would be good for you.”
“Sure it will.”
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting company. Especially in that lonely empty apartment of yours.”
“We’ll see what happens.”
“That means no,” she said bitterly. “You sound just like your father.”
“Makes sense seeing how I learned it from him. Well, I’m hanging with some of my friends now,” Miles said, walking into the eatery. He spotted them instantly. Mostly because they shouted for him from their table. “I love you lots. And I promise I’ll visit soon.”
“Love you dear. Bye.”
Miles snapped the cell shut and walked into the arms of his three best, and only friends.
First was Charlie—a dark skinned Latino who must have been half giant. He kept his black hair shaved. Deep brown eyes were constantly observing, and a large mouth which was constantly kept shut. He was easily the quiet one of the group but when he did dish it out, it hurt. He didn’t have to use his bulging muscles and massive stature.
John was the loud one and the meanest one. He was your typical all American boy. A solid build, blond spiked hair, and crystal blue eyes. There was always humor in his eyes, and always a charming smile plastered on his face.
Stacey moved from England to America at the age of four but she had sustained her English accent all sixteen years she had lived in California. She was thin and tall with short cropped brown hair which was always bobbing around from her constant fidgeting and wide gestures. She was just as loud as John but had a quicker wit than him.
“Miles, it’s been too long. It isn’t fair that Stacey gets to spend all her free time with you,” John said, as Stacey leaned into his chest. He draped his arm over her shoulder. “I’ve got to admit it, you’ve gotten even uglier than before. My God, you’re starting to look like your father. Are those his jeans you’re wearing?”
Miles laughed and sampled some eggs from Charlie’s plate. “You’re just sorry you don’t look like me. I can hear it behind your teasing.”
John snorted. “Please. Everybody knew I was the best looking of us all. Ever since we played in the sandboxes in preschool, the girls knew I was the bomb.”
Miles laughed louder this time. “Still as delusional as ever my dear friend.”
“No really. Charlie and I were just discussing this before you arrived. I could have been a model.”
Charlie rolled his eyes but there was a glint of a smile on his face.
“Too bad you take the pictures instead,” said Miles. “How is photography by the way? Are you liking it?”
“Very much. It’s better than Bio and Physics. Still going for the double major?”
“Sure am. Keeps me busy,” Miles said shrugging. “What about you Charlie?”
“I’m interning at the Stanford Police Department which is good, I got to see your mom over there. I’ll be able to see you and Stacey a few times. Homicide will be my main focus hopefully.”
“Good luck,” Miles said patting him hard on the back. “Glad you’ll be around for awhile, I miss you a lot of the time.”
“Do you miss me?” asked John, fluttering his eyes.
“Not even in the slightest.”
John threw a piece of potato at him and Miles caught it in his mouth. John cheered loudly as Miles stood up to bow at the three of them.
“Alright boys,” Stacey said,” there was a bigger reason why I wanted to get us all together again. Bigger than shooting hash browns in each others mouths. It’s big.”
“Alright England. Spill it.”
Stacey beamed and shot a look of love and devotion at John. “We’re getting married.”
“Who?” asked Charlie sitting up.
“John and I of course.”
“This John?” asked Miles surprised, pointing a finger at him.
“Yes!” shouted Stacey laughing. “Of course this John! He proposed last week!”
“I had no idea!” Charlie exclaimed. He stood up to hug Stacey over the table. She got lost in his arms, Charlie’s muscles were that massive. “Congratulations!”
All humor had been tossed into the trash along with their empty plates. Miles was still shocked from the news. “Are you sure you two are ready for this?”
“Well,” John said, looking serious for once in his life. “We’re old enough to vote. To drink—well at least I am. To pull out loans and pay bills and drive cars. I think we’re old enough to get married. And besides, I love Stacey more than I can comprehend. I want to grow old with her. So yeah, I think we’re ready.”
“Wow. Then best wishes to you!” he said trying to round out the flatness to his tone. A smile spread on his face and he prayed to God that it appeared genuine.
After a couple of hours of hanging and laughing, John and Stacey left to go spend the day in her apartment. Charlie and Miles were quiet, staring at the wooden table top.
“You think they’re making a mistake,” Charlie said finally.
“No,” Miles disagreed, feeling ripples of annoyance move through him. And worst of all, jealousy. “I think they’re rushing into something that should be given more thought.”
“They’ve been together since high school-”
“Exactly. He’s twenty two. She’s twenty. They haven’t been with anybody else. Even when he went off to college he stayed with her. They’ve never been with anybody else.”
“Then why start now?”
Miles threw himself back into his chair and scoffed. He was fuming.
“You want to know what I think?”
“I think that you’re finally realizing that it could happen.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re finally realizing that love could happen. You observed it right in front of your own eyes but you never believed in it. They’re finalizing their relationship when you can’t even start one.”
Miles bared his teeth. “I’ve been having my lack of love life brought to my attention a lot recently.”
“Only because we can recognize the patterns now. We can the see the change. Girls are wanting to be with you, and you still won’t have them.”
He sighed, releasing some of his anger. “I want what my parents have. They love each other so much. They’re like, in tune with each others souls. I want that. I don’t want a girl that’s only a good match. I want…” he trailed off, finally hearing just how corny he sounded.
Charlie smiled. “You want your soul mate. It’s okay to feel that way. What makes you think Stacey and John aren’t soul mates?”
Miles was quiet for a couple of seconds. “They are.”
“Well, then there’s no need to worry. Stacey is your sister practically. We all know how close the two of you are. You protected her from John like you were her big brother and they still managed to come together. Be happy for them instead of being angry.”
But he was still angry and still very jealous.
Charlie stood. “I gotta get back to work.”
Miles stood up as well and hugged his friend. They walked out together to the parking lot and said their goodbyes once more. Even then, Miles was still frustrated. So to work off his anger, he decided to purchase his first set of exercise clothes and walked back over to the university gym.
He aggressively stormed through the gym and claimed a treadmill. He set the speed and ran as fast as his legs could move, all the while squaring numbers starting at one.
I, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 81, 100, 121…484…676…900…
He got stuck at a thirty, which had taken him half an hour. But he was still frustrated. So he punched the speed faster and started doing cubes instead.
1, 8, 27, 64, 125, 216, 343, 512, 729…3375…10,648…
This time he got stuck at twenty two. But he felt relatively calmer, and his body was lax and limber. Exercise was amazing! Miles stopped the treadmill and headed for the showers as he patted himself with a towel. He took his time and just allowed the hot water to cool him down and freshen him up.
Feeling much better about the whole marrying situation, he stepped out of the gym to the cool air of California Bay morning.
And that’s when he saw her.
She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. In nothing but sandals and a plain white summer dress, her beauty surpassed anything he had ever encountered. And although her body was nearly as perfect and succulent of those of his wildest fantasies, he found himself drawn to her face. Her features were as sharp as they were delicate. Her skin was positively golden in the sunlight. Her short shaggy hair was brown but the tips were glowing yellow thanks to the marvelous bright day.
Her eyes were the most beautiful of her all. They were large and full of wonder. They were glittering like the most expensive Citrine in the world. Her eyes were the richest gold he had ever seen. Miles could already admit to himself he could be lost in those eyes of hers for hours and never grow bored. Not when her eyelashes were long enough to cause a windstorm every time she blinked.
She bent down to a bush and smelled a yellow flower that seemed to magically bloom just for her. She smiled warmly as her cheeks flushed with delight, then stood straight and continued on her way. Just the thought of never seeing her again frightened Miles to no extent.
So he did what any other man would do.
He chased after her.
“Hey!” he called out. She was all the way across from campus. How he spotted her in the busy quad, he’ll never know. “Wait up!”
The girl kept right on walking, not even glancing back.
“Wait!” shouted Miles. “You in the white dress! Stop!”
Finally she spun around, her brows furrowed with confusion. “Yes? Did I drop something?” she asked, glancing at her white woven purse. Her voice was that of an angel.
“No. I just need to know your name,” Miles said, standing straighter. His heart was pounding so loudly he could barely hear. He had never approached a girl like this before. But it seemed right.
She smiled charmingly, sending little bursts of lust to his stomach. “Why?” she asked, looking up at him. He was much taller than her, almost by a foot.
“Who wouldn’t want to know your name?”
She watched him closely but the smile was still on her face. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
“No. But I’d love you to get to know me.”
“You look familiar.”
“Can’t say the same about you.” But she did. “A name? Please? You’re killing me.”
She laughed at him. “My name is Gwendolyn. Gwen in most instances.”
“Gwendolyn? Is that a name you inherited?”
She smiled like Miles had missed an amusing joke. “‘G’ names run in the family. Do you hunt?” she asked suddenly, her eyes darkening and narrowing.
“Hunt?” Miles asked lost on how she had found herself on that topic. “No, I don’t hunt. I don’t even know how to use a gun.”
Her eyes fell to the ground in embarrassment. “Oh. My mistake. You just feel like a hunter.”
Miles laughed this time. “Well this might explain it.” He reached out for her hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you Gwen. I’m Miles Hunter.”
She smiled again and it touched her eyes. Miles found himself longing to draw her close and hold her small frame against him.
“And you’re Gwen…”
“Gwen Keridwen. What a pleasure to meet you. You go here?”
“Not yet. I will in the fall next year. Just visiting the campus.”
“What’s your major?”
“Oh, then I would have no idea who your professors are.”
Gwen laughed, throwing her head back causing Miles to lose his control. He wanted to feel her against him desperately. Any second he was going to grab her hips and yank her towards him. To be safe, he tucked his hands in his pockets.
“Let me guess. You’re a science major. Two in fact.”
“Good guess. Bio and Physics.”
“It seems to be a remarkable fit. You see the world in codes and theories…and…” she said trailing off, looking at him like she had lost her mind. “Well I should be going then,” Gwen said suddenly.
“Wait!” Miles shouted. “Where are you going?”
“Uh, I gotta get home,” she said, walking quickly through the campus. Miles easily kept up. “I’m going to be late.”
“Well hold on please.”
Miles reached out and grabbed Gwen softly by the hand. Like they had been holding hands for years. Gwen slowly stopped walking and turned around to meet him. She showed nothing through her eyes or face.
“Can I get your number? Facebook?” asked Miles.
“It’s against the rules.”
“Being interested in you.”
Miles flashed a dazzling smile. “Your rules?”
Gwen’s smile was slow and sly. “Something like that.”
“Maybe you can make an exception. Just a number. A cell number perhaps?”
“All I have is a house number.”
“I’ll take it.”
Gwen took out a pen from her purse a raised the hand that was still being held by Miles. She let go, flipped his hand over so she could write the number on the palm. “Try not to run as hard next time. You might sweat it off.”
Miles grinned as she walked away. “How did you know I was a runner?”
Gwen glanced back, yet another sly smile on her face. “You just feel like a runner. Lucky guess. That’s all.”
to be continued…