In January I participated in a short story contest which was organised by my university’s newspaper. Students and staff alike could enter the contest with stories written in Dutch or English, and the ten best stories ended up in a little book, published by publisher Passage. Almost two months ago now I got an email telling me my story was chosen as one of the best ten stories. As you can imagine I was over the moon!
The book presentation was last Tuesday, along with the announcement of who the two actual winners of the competition were. Unfortunately, I didn’t win, but I wasn’t too disappointed because my story has been published, and I’m really excited about that!
The topic for the contest was Oneindig (in Dutch) or For Infinity, and I thought I’d share with you what I made of that. I’m excited to hear what you think!
The first time I saw her was just over a year ago. She walked into the lecture hall ten minutes late and after just one look at her I was immediately and irrevocably lost. Her long, ginger hair and piercing green eyes had a strange effect on me – it was as if I was enchanted by them.
“And you are?” professor Lumley said, clearly disgruntled because this unknown girl interrupted his first class of the semester.
“Infinity Mayer,” she answered in a deep, husky voice that didn’t quite match her sweet appearance.
“Infinity, really?” He chuckled. “Well, Infinity, go find yourself a seat and don’t be late again.” His amused little smile told me he thought her name was ridiculous, which annoyed me.
I thought it was beautiful.
The following week Infinity was late again, and I felt a small flame of anger burning in my stomach when Lumley said: “Although your name might suggest otherwise, you are still bound to the same rules of time and space as the rest of us. A special name does not give you the right to a special treatment, Infinity. Now, sit down, please.”
Unperturbed by the snide remark meant to embarrass her, Infinity flashed the professor her gorgeous smile and sat down a few rows in front of me. I felt my heart beating faster in my chest. I had been thinking about her all week. Too afraid to start up a conversation with her after class the previous week, I’d unconsciously followed her – at a distance – to her next class instead. It wasn’t until I was about to walk into a classroom full of strangers that I realised what I’d been doing and abruptly turned around, my face the colour of an overripe tomato.
There was no need for embarrassment, though. She had never even noticed me. It gave me quite a kick, to be honest.
With that in mind and full of adrenaline, I hurriedly threw my stuff in my backpack, ready to follow Infinity’s radiant ginger mane to her next class, just like the week before. I wasn’t being a stalker, I just needed to find the courage to go and talk to her. I’m just very shy, you see. This was only a temporary solution, until I was familiar with her ways; the way she walks and moves. Maybe it’s weird, but I need that sense of familiarity before approaching someone who intimidates me, who fascinates me. It gives me comfort.
So I followed her. Her movements were mesmerising – the way her hips swayed when she walked, her tight jeans around her perfectly shaped legs. I could look at that all day. It was art, is what it was, and I impulsively decided that those legs, those hips, should be immortalised. I grabbed my smartphone and put it on filming mode, trying to get Infinity in the shot while in the meantime making sure I didn’t draw attention to what I was doing.
I know I must come off as extremely creepy right now, but, honestly, I meant no harm. I just thought such a beautiful thing shouldn’t go to waste.
I don’t know, it just felt right.
Later that day, when I was walking towards my bike, ready to head home, I spotted Infinity again a bit further down the university square. She had thrown her hair up in a messy bun, I guess to keep it out of her face while making notes. It still looked beautiful, of course, but it did lose a bit of the fiery magic it had when she wore it down.
I kept my eyes on her as she unlocked her bicycle. It was bright red, which suited her. She rode away just before me, and I noticed she went the same way I had to go. I kept my distance, but when she kept going my way I made my second impulsive decision of the day: I followed her home.
I know, the creepy factor is quite high again. I prefer to call it ‘intense’, though. It sounds less negative. I was just curious to see where she lives, that’s all.
She stopped in front of a house only a few blocks away from mine. I slowed down, cautious to make sure she didn’t see me. Stopping under a large tree on the side of the road, I waited until she had entered the house. It looked like a standard student house, with an overgrown front garden and lots of bikes in the pathway to the door.
A few seconds later I saw her moving behind a window on the first floor. That must be her room. She seemed to be sorting through her mail and I kept watching her. When she moved away from the window I felt a curious pang of loss, eager for her to show herself again. Then she did, and a feeling of intense rapture surged through me.
The anticipation of waiting for her to return to the window became almost addictive as I stood there and she moved around in her room.
I stayed until after dark.
My fascination with Infinity only intensified in the days that followed. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and I kept watching the video I had made of her walking down the corridor. It was a little embarrassing, but as long as nobody knew about it I figured it wouldn’t hurt anyone. Everybody has a crush sometimes, right? This wasn’t any different.
Although perhaps riding by her house every day to see if she was home was a bit weird. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t noticed me, though, so what’s the harm?
When Infinity walked in late for the lecture for the third time in a row I started to get a little anxious. Professor Lumley looked very agitated this time and he addressed her with a sharp voice: “Sit down. If you’re late again, there will be consequences.”
His lack of sarcastic comments startled me. He was truly angry this time, instead of just a bit annoyed. Infinity seemed unfazed by his frigid stare, which followed her until she took a seat. He held her gaze for a few uncomfortable seconds before continuing his lecture, and she threw a smile his way, which made me feel jealous. I wished she’d smile at me.
Lumley didn’t smile back, but I saw a twinkle in his eyes. His stare had frightened me, but I didn’t know why. I just knew it didn’t feel right.
For my own peace of mind I followed Infinity to her next class again, just like the previous two weeks. I felt the urge to keep her in my sight, for some reason, as if I wanted to make sure she was okay.
I walked a few feet behind her, like I was used to by now, but I noticed there was something different about the way she walked. Her hips didn’t sway like they did in my little video. I frowned. Was something wrong?
She turned a corner in the corridor, and I followed closely but was taken by surprise when I walked right into her.
“Why are you following me?” she asked with her husky voice.
I had no idea what to say. What good explanation did I have? “I-”.
I didn’t know how to finish the sentence I had sort of started, but Infinity interrupted me angrily anyway. I almost felt glad.
“I’ve seen you around, you know. You’ve been following me for a week now and I want to know why!” She looked at me with an angry frown on her face.
I almost corrected her – I’d actually been following her for two weeks now – but decided that was probably not the best move to make. Instead, I just stared at her, my eyes wide, unable to speak.
She rolled her eyes. “You know what, I don’t even care why you’re following me. Just stop it! If I see you near my house again, I’ll call the police, got it?”
I nodded, frightened by the threat. I never meant to scare her, honestly.
She briskly turned around and marched to her classroom. Her hips didn’t sway.
I stopped following her after that. But it didn’t feel right. Something about the way Lumley had stared at her scared me. And that twinkle meant something more, I was sure of it. I spent the next week quietly in my room, afraid to leave the house lest I’d start to follow her again against my better judgment.
I didn’t stop thinking about her, though. She was always on my mind, day and sleepless night. We’d only had one brief conversation, which had been fairly one-sided, but somehow I felt connected to her, like I was meant to protect her.
On Friday night I couldn’t take it anymore. There was this feeling eating away inside my stomach and I just had to see her. I had to see if she was okay. I grabbed my stuff and walked over to her house in the crisp night air.
I felt restless, and jumped at every tiny sound. When I got to her house I sat down on a pile of bricks in the shadows of a tree and just watched.
I’d been standing there for five minutes when a car drove into the street. It only caught my attention when it stopped before Infinity’s house. My eyes went wide with fear when I saw who was in the car. It was professor Lumley. My heart started beating even faster when I saw who was sitting next to him: Infinity.
I started to panic – why was she there with him? He was insane! I’d seen it in his eyes! He was going to hurt her, I was absolutely sure of it. I had to stop it, but how?
I felt the adrenaline soaring through my veins and picked up one of the bricks at the edge of the pile. It was heavy, but I got a good grip on it, and then I threw it.
There was a loud bang, and then a shriek. I heard the claxon of the car and saw the airbag inflating itself.
Then I saw her get out of the car. She frantically looked around her to see if anyone was there, but she didn’t see me.
I looked at the driver’s side of the car and saw Lumley was unconscious, his head leaning on the airbag.
Good. Now he couldn’t hurt her anymore.
I know this might seem quite drastic, and perhaps even unnecessary. But I don’t regret hurting him.
I had to do it.