16 - Power

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THE PAST

Hernan opened the back door for her. Norah smoothed her dress and sat down. She couldn't believe she was actually going through with this. Having a date with a guy who was feared by the whole school. Even by someone like Hernan. 

Quietly he closed the door, walked around the vehicle and sat down behind the wheel. 

A cold hand with perfectly trimmed cuticles landed on her knee, calling up her attention. Reluctantly, she cocked her head to the side. 

"Hello Norah," Clive said softly. "You look beautiful."

"Thanks," she muttered. Clive himself was wearing a marine blue shirt above a dark jeans. His scent was a strange mixture of hair gel and a sweet perfume, making her feel sick. 

The car started to move. Norah's eyes shot to the rearview mirror, meeting Hernan's glance. It wasn't a reassuring, encouraging glance. He rather looked tormented, like the awkward silence in the car was leaning heavily on his shoulders. Quickly, he looked away. 

Luckily it wasn't a long ride, and Norah felt relieved when she got out of the car. She wouldn't allow him any closer tonight. 

Clive seemed to think otherwise, in an inviting gesture he held out his arm. Not wanting to make a scene, she grabbed his arm. He led her inside. Norah felt the urge to look over her shoulder to glance at Hernan one more time, but not doing it felt safer. 

Romantic music greeted them as they entered the dim restaurant. There were no other guests. Was dinner so expensive in this place that others couldn't afford it? Or had Clive made sure that nobody would bother them? The nervous way the kitchen staff moved, convinced her of the latter option. 

Clive moved back her chair before he sat down across from her. Since their greeting he hadn't said a single word to her, and neither had she. If the evening would go on like this, it would be nerve racking but nothing she couldn't handle. 

"I'm happy you wanted to have dinner with me, Norah," Clive spoke, giving her the nasty feeling he had heard her thoughts. 

"You didn't give me much of a choice."

She bit the inside of her cheek. Shit. She really needed to think before she spoke; she should listen to Hernan's advice. Not looking at him, asking him no questions – she was sure smart answers didn't belong to that category. 

"What do you mean, Norah? Didn't Hernan ask you nicely?"

She swallowed, suddenly her throat felt dry. However drinks hadn't been offered to them yet. For some reason she didn't want to cause trouble for Hernan. 

"He did," she said quickly. "But I just felt... overwhelmed."

"Why did you? I invited you at school, didn't I?"

As subtle as she could, Norah wiped her clammy hands to her dress. His intense glance made her sweat. His eyes were imperviously dark, convincing her he was able to do things that were far more gruesome than she could ever imagine. "I thought you were just pulling a stunt on me," she muttered. 

He tilted his head. "Now why would I do that?"

Norah clenched her fists. His smooth voice almost made her puke. "Why are you like this?" she burst out. 

Surprised, he raised his eyebrows. "Am I like what?"

"Oh come on! If I want to see people act, I'd go to the theater! The whole school is afraid of you. The whole neighborhood is afraid of you. Where is that obsession coming from? That obsession to scare everyone you meet?" She looked him straight into his eyes. "What are you trying to hide?"

His lips curled into an amused smirk. "I got nothing to hide. I just have... a natural authority. People like to be told what to do. If not, you wouldn't have been here, right?"

As if to stress his words, he gestured a waitress to come closer. Immediately two glasses were put at the table, which were filled with wine. Norah stared at the glasses. She wasn't anywhere close to her 21st birthday, but the owner of this place seemed to hold more fear for Clive and his family than for receiving a huge fine for selling alcohol to underage people.

Norah didn't know what to answer – she wasn't even sure she wanted to answer. She already regretted a lot of things she had said; she had been anything but discrete. Her glance wandered outside. Hernan was standing close to the entrance, leaning against the car, hands deep into his pockets. As if he could feel her glance, he suddenly looked up. Confusion paralyzed her for a few seconds when their eyes met. Quickly she returned her attention to Clive, who was frowning slightly. 

"I think we should drink to our encounter," she said. 

She just couldn't ignore him, or stare at the table. Somehow she needed some form of control over the conversation. 

The look on his face was amused, and he lifted his glass. Norah did the same, clinking glasses. The sound echoed through the silent room. 

"You do this with all new students?" she asked. "Taking them to expensive restaurants?"

"Only the ones who are able to offer me an interesting conversation. It doesn't happen a lot: people who dare to stand up against my boys. And certainly not a pretty girl like you."

Norah's shoulders tensed. "Why are you protecting bullies? It's disgusting."

"For many, the power they hold over others in school is the only thing have, Norah. Not everyone is born in a golden bed."

"So? You think it's noble what you do?" she shot back. Shit – what a sick bastard. Her eyes wandered off to Hernan again. If the power he had on school – only at school, that is – was the only thing he had in life... what did it say about his personal life? His family? Why did he take orders from this creep? His whole demeanor had told her he was disgusted by it, so how could Clive control him this much? 

"I have noticed you can't keep your eyes of mister Alvarez." Clive's voice dragged her out of her thoughts. "Would you like him to join us?"

"No, it's fine," she muttered. She couldn't see how that wouldn't make things even more awkward. 

"I insist. I take the wishes of my girl serious."

My girl?? Norah was too overwhelmed to say something about it. 

"Call him in. I will give him the opportunity to eat a tenderloin for the first time in his life." A humiliating smirk crossed Clive's lips. 

Norah already felt a pang of pity in her stomach. It was clear Clive only wanted to humiliate Hernan. Hoping he would be kinder if she did what he asked, she got up and headed for the entrance. 

Hernan looked up as she opened the door. She dropped her eyes. 

She wanted to leave this place, she wanted to go back home. 

Still, she said softly: "He wants you to join us for dinner."

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