Home > Falling into the Black

Falling into the Black
Author: Lauren Runow

Chapter One





I can’t take my eyes off the photo staring back at me. Instead of closing my computer for the day, I decided to take one quick glance at Facebook before heading out for the night. Now I’m regretting that choice—big time.

So many memories, so many lies, so many nights spent crying myself to sleep, yet here I am, years later, brought back to my nightmare with one click of a mouse.

Actually, it was one careless friend request.

I left that world behind me, never to look back. Changing everything about me, including my name, and moving to San Francisco.

I guess I didn’t try to hide hard enough.

There’s always that one person who’s known you for so long that they know everything about you, including the fact you went by your stepfather’s last name instead of your real father’s, who passed away right after you were born. My mother changed it when she remarried so we’d have the same last name.

This friend also knew I hated my real name when I was younger. Back then I wanted to shorten it to Angie, but my mom wouldn’t let me. The older I got, the more I grew to appreciate the uniqueness of my name, and I thanked her then for not allowing me to change it.

How ironic I end up changing it anyway, just for other reasons now, and I’ll admit, I miss Evangeline.

So yeah, leave it to this childhood friend to find me.

When I saw Kaitlyn’s name pop up under the friend request tab, an instant smile touched my lips, and I clicked accept before I thought about what I was really doing. She sent me a message after that, asking if it really was me. I said yes, wrote a little more but then never responded to her again. She’s from my past, and not someone I want in my present.

Now I’m kicking myself for that one mindless second from two weeks ago. I thought since we didn’t have any friends in common it would be okay. I didn’t take this into consideration.

Ten sets of eyes are looking back at me from her #TBT picture, sending my stomach into a tailspin.

It’s the two sets not looking back that are pushing me over the edge.

No, those are looking only at each other for what would be the last time.

Against my better judgment, I click on the image I’m tagged in, torturing myself that much more. I know I should just remove my name from the photo, go back to my little corner of the world, away from everyone else, but I can’t.

Instead, I click on the comments, noticing he’s identified in the photo as well, and he’s left a comment. Before I read it, I close my eyes tightly, fighting the tears threatening to spill over then close the window completely.

I can’t go there.

I haven’t told my boss, Kamii Schafer, or anyone for that matter, but I’ve worked for this law firm long enough, and I’ve decided to take my first step toward obtaining my law degree.

Kamii’s this amazing attorney and has been encouraging me to go back to school for a while now. So, I finally decided to enroll in a night class, Intro to Law, just to see how I do before I jump in with both feet.

My class will be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from six to nine at night. With a quick glance at my watch, I grab my bag and head off to a new beginning, trying to forget my past.

Standing outside the big wooden doors of an old church converted into a lecture hall, I realize this is it. I wrap my fingers tightly around the strap of my bag, take a deep breath, and then open the door…hopefully, one to a new life for me.

I walk inside and am struck by how much the space still looks like a church. Rows of wooden pews line the space with an altar at the top, now hosting a desk and freestanding whiteboard. Large, stained-glass windows with images of doves and children accent the room with the setting sun, glistening through the vibrant colors.

My class is in a large room off the main auditorium that must have been the original dining hall. When I walk in, I notice only a third of the seats are occupied by students, who sit scattered throughout the room. Instead of interacting, everyone is looking down, giving their attention to whatever device they have in front of them like they’re hoping no one will approach them.

I’m a talkative, outgoing person, so the sight is an instant turnoff. I try to ignore it as I walk down the aisle and sit in the front row, exactly where everyone seems to be avoiding the most.

With my head held high, not buried in an electronic device, my attention is brought to the front when I catch the eye of a man walking in, which I assume is my new professor.

I’m not sure why I expected an old man with his shirt half tucked in and a crooked bowtie, but that is certainly not what I got. There’s nothing about this man that screams professor.

The exact opposite, actually.

The way his broad shoulders stand out over his fit figure accentuate his build but not in a muscular kind of way. Instantly, my mind wonders what his arms would feel like wrapped around me.

I quickly glance down at my class schedule to see the name C. Spence listed as the professor. Thoughts on what the C stands for rush through my brain. He looks more like someone who rowed for the crew team rather than someone who played football, so I don’t picture him being Charlie, Chris or anything more traditional like that. The way his thin, dark frame glasses sit perfectly on his face give him this indie, cool-guy look, so he could be a Conner or Christian.

There’s something unique about the way he walks into the room with his dark eyes taking in every face as he strolls up to the desk. He doesn’t carry a briefcase or side satchel. Instead, he props his black backpack up with a huge Vans patch stitched to the top of it.

I bite my lower lip. He’s definitely an unexpected surprise, and if we were in any other situation, I’d be making it a point to go home with him tonight.

He places two hands on the desk and looks out into the audience. Starting at the far back, he studies every single person in the room like he’s trying to read them, chapter by chapter, deciding what this class’ book is all about. It’s not until the very end that his eyes reach mine, and I swear I see a slight pull to his lips before he turns around to write something on the board.

I check out his lean arm as he moves swiftly across the white wall spelling out How well can you read people? before turning around and clearing his throat to get everyone’s attention.

He doesn’t say hello or introduce himself. He simply states, “Let’s play a game, shall we?”

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