Home > Watch Me Follow(4)

Watch Me Follow(4)
Author: Harloe Rae

“What are your plans?” She questions before popping the last bite of bagel into her mouth. My forced exhale says it all. “That bad, huh?”

I rest my chin on my open palm while trying to keep the stress bottled up.

“Just a lot of work. I really need to start selling more clothes if there’s any chance of opening an actual business. My professors are allowing me to keep working in the studios through the summer but I’ll need to find a new space by fall. I have a few solid months to create a bunch of inventory but then what?” My frustration whooshes out in another heavy breath. “There’s no way I’ll ask my parents. They’ll wear me down until I agree to come back home. One day at a time for now.”

Lucy’s forehead scrunches as her soulful stare sears into me. “Len, should I stay? For real. I can go to Europe next year. Let me help you get started.”

“No way, friend. This trip is the jumpstart to your career. I’ll survive, like always. Plus, you’ll be a phone call away.” I hope my words don’t expose the nerves crawling up my throat.

“And if you need me, I won’t hesitate to come home. You know that, Lenny. Don’t be afraid to tell me.”

“I won’t. Promise.” It comes out as a whisper and I straighten up and attempt to infuse my system with confidence. “I’ve been selling almost everything posted on my site. I’m not sure but it seems like the same person keeps buying from me. They’re local too so shipping doesn’t cost a fortune. Everything will be fine.”

My sweet friend smiles at me.

“All right, if you say so. I’m still expecting a few crop tops to drive all the French men crazy.”

I laugh while nodding.

“The more skin showing, the better. I’ll have you decked out in all the latest trends before you leave.”

“You’re the greatest, Lenny.” Lucy reaches for my hand and gives it a quick squeeze.

If only I could get a man to feel the same way.


The darkness isn’t so lonely with streaks of your sunlight.

SHE LOOKS SO beautiful, just like each time my eyes devour her.

Lennon’s long hair whips around as she begins vehemently shaking her head. I image her turquoise eyes are more green than blue right now, the bold color thrashing like a tumultuous sea at whatever crazy idea Lucy is suggesting.

As I watch her in the café, sitting with her snarky friend, my body practically vibrates with the need to get closer. I never do though. A safe distance separates us and I always remain hidden from her sight. Even though Lennon is everything to me, she isn’t aware of my constant presence. I’m not sure she ever will be.

I take a sip of coffee and contemplate the reality I’ve created—my purpose set in stone after that unexpected day four years ago. A shudder rolls through me, even after all this time, as I imagine how differently that incident in our high school hallway could have ended. If I hadn’t been passing by at that exact moment. If Lennon hadn’t cried out for help. If Jason dragged her out of earshot. The horrible possibilities are endless. All those reasons, those potential threats, are why I’m always here for her. Just in case she needs me.

Well, if I’m being honest, I need Lennon just as much. Probably more. She makes me feel . . . better. My entire life before her, I was isolated and alone. When Lennon showed up, she altered the secluded path I’d been traveling down. Because of her, happiness flows inside of me and constantly warms my chest. There used to be overwhelming darkness but her sunshine has given me patches of blinding light. Sometimes a ghost of a smile teases my lips as I bask in her glow. On a few rare occasions, I’ve actually experienced flutters in my gut and it’s fucking weird when that fluffy stuff floats through me.

My phone vibrates, effectively yanking me from the blissful moment. I scoff while reading the message.

Dx8MM: Get your ass online.

My fingers fly over the touchscreen, easily shutting his ass down with a quick reply.

AATS: Not home. I’ll be around later.

Dx8MM: You’re getting lazy only working at night. Help me something quick.

AATS: Screw off. I make more money in a few hours than you make in a week. Even if I could help, I’m busy right now.

Dx8MM: Watching out for your girl?

AATS: Always.

Dx8MM: She know yet?

AATS: Didn’t I tell you to screw off?

D doesn’t respond to that, which doesn’t surprise me. He’s aware of my situation with Lennon, even though he only knows the bare minimum. D is the closest thing I have to a friend, and that’s using the term very loosely. Not like I’ll ever meet the guy or know his real name. We became virtual partners by accident after I blocked him during a hack. He tried busting through my bulletproof firewall for big name corporations rich enough to pad my pockets. I caught D in the act and shut his ass down, which still makes him salty. He’s smart as fuck and a total code wizard but no one is better than me.

Falling into the hacking world was a natural transition since computers have always been easy for me. What started as a hobby, and great way to fuck with bullies, has turned into a cash-cow. I make money by cracking into a company’s interface network system and prove I can provide impenetrable security. There is always a way, no matter what they’re currently using to keep me out. It’s my job to create impossible firewalls that even I can't tear down. These huge businesses hire me to protect them from . . . well, me.

I glance down at my phone and scroll through a few emails. My fingers tap on one from a new contact and my eyes narrow at his bullshit ramblings. They all like to bark demands and expect immediate results but I’m the one pulling strings behind the scenes. It’s mind-boggling how naive some of these people are when it comes to current security programming. Wealthy assholes hire some two-bit crook to install a flimsy anti-virus software and believe that’s all it takes to be safe from hackers. If I'm feeling generous, I send an email letting them know how easy it would be for me to steal their money. If not, I royally fuck their shit up. I’ll plant some backward binary code that breaks apart some vital pieces of their entire structure and causes complete chaos. I leave a blatant trail so they contact me for support. It helps with the boredom when Lennon is sleeping or in class.

Dick move? Absolutely.

But they deserve it for shoving their heads in the sand.

This is my version of sticking up for the little guys who can’t defend themselves. I might not be the one behind a fancy desk, wearing an expensive suit and barking orders, but the power resides in my fingertips. With a few clicks of the keys, their whole world could be ruined and I’d be standing victorious in the rubble. Luckily, these people are eager to work with me so I don’t have to truly destroy them. Sometimes it’s fun to think about though.

Even to my warped mind, this all sounds twisted as hell.

Living in virtual reality almost one hundred percent of the time hasn’t helped with my unusual social habits, especially stalking Lennon. I’ve been building an empire while watching her every move. Everywhere she goes, I’m able to follow while my bank account busts at the seams. It's easy and convenient considering my true interest is keeping her within my sight where I know she’s safe.

As I look back into Brewed Awakenings, every man seems to glance Lennon’s way. She never seems to notice, completely oblivious to her appeal, but that suits me just fine. If she was interested in constant attention, I’d have a lot more work to do. I’ve only had to face off with a few jocks that thought Lennon’s refusal was optional but that could easily change. Usually guys are easily dissuaded after a few online threats. I might be the size of a tank and prepared to fight but social anxiety still plagues me.

She starts laughing and my ears burn with the desire to hear the melody bubbling from her. Jealousy squeezes my throat. I should be the one sitting with her, making her crack up, or maybe even blush. Instead I’m watching from the sidelines and she’s completely unaware of my existence.

Why can’t I go in there and say hello?

That would be expected from a guy interested in a girl.

Why can’t I be normal for her?

Lennon needs someone worthy of her pure light. Why would she settle for me? I toss my empty cup away and blow out a long exhale, trying to push away the dark clouds closing in. Nothing will take her sunshine away from me, even my own demeaning thoughts.

She stands from the table to leave and I track her graceful movements. Lennon is everything perfect, even her stride is careful but confident. Never a step out of place, which doesn’t surprise me considering her gaze tends to be downcast more often than not. The long flowing dress she’s wearing, one of her creations, swishes along the floor and it reminds me how tiny she is.

My hands clench in effort not to reach out and do . . . what? Touch her? Hold the door open? Silently stand frozen in front of her like a loser?

The latter is precisely what would happen, despite the desperate desire thrashing through me. My fingertips tingle as I imagine her soft, silky cheek against my calloused skin. Suddenly my heart begins pounding an erratic rhythm as my pants grow tight—something that only happens when Lennon is involved. Everything within me aches for her—mind, body, and soul—so these reactions no longer surprise me. All I am always craves all of her.

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