“We are running late!” A voice shouted. “Remember! Only five minutes!”
The same voice entered the car, tapping the black bars on the screen to the third level - and a strong flow of cool air was rushed out through the small planes, heralded by the scent of lavender.
He didn’t notice Clover nor her shadow.
Resting his hand on the steering, he laid down his back and tuned the channel, to one with a good reception. Latest news, list of 90's songs made into the top 10, advertisements, none made him stopped his fingers.
Until a soothing instrumental melody rang in his ears.
GZ Golden Music, FM 102.7.
One of the few Clover enjoyed listening to when she was a kid.
When her happy family was still perfect in shape.
Similar feels, similar background music.
But nothing else remained.
Nostalgia struck her down, inducing the secretion her eyes tried hard to hide. Tip of her nose was turning red, pearl-black eyes accumulated with tears. Memories came flooding at the back of her mind, reminiscing the good times once she had.
Running to her dad innocently, she screamed on top of her lungs,“Dad! Look! It’s a rose!”
“Wow! Beautiful!” he cupped her
in a move, placed her at the back of his neck, allowing the breezing air to embrace her smooth and fair skin. “Where did you get it, honey pie?”
Giggles filled up the lovely atmosphere surrounded by the greens, “Magicccc!!” she said, “I casted a spell and this flower appeared within my graspppp.”
“Really?” Obviously, it was a lie. But he put on an act to keep up with his one and only daughter. “Then make me a house!”
“Don’t wanna,” she tipped her tongue.
He plucked her. “Don’t wanna?!” teasing, he trapped her inside his cuddle, “I’m gonna eat you. ROARRRR!!”
“Wahahahha!” sensing the playful ‘danger’, Clover bared her baby teeth and planted them deep into his exposed arm, “Ouch!Clover! That’s not fairrr!”
Clover sneaked away and dashed for escape, “Waaaaaa!! Hahahaha!Help!!”
All it took was the drips of her tears, falling onto the mat, for the vision to be transited back to the present, to the current dreadful situation. She thought growing up was fun, amazing.
However, it was just a thought, that was never meant to come true.
Sucking in a deep, long breath, she blinked a couple of times, tapping on her face to wipe away the stains. No time for this, Clover.
The man was still in the car. Song left playing on its own and the seat door was hanging halfway open, with his right-tattooed leg dangling in the air. Cramps were generating on her back. She stretched her leg a little, straightening up slightly, not wanting to be reflected by the rear mirror fixed in her direction. Her eagle's eyes to scan the outside, and instant relieve hit her the moment she realized the men in black were nowhere to be found. For now.
“Oh goddd. Kyle. Can you be any slower?” Her attention shifted to the smoking man in the car. He blew off his last smoke, fingered away the tobacco ashes stuck at the end of the cigarette before smashing it hard on the rocky ground.
Kyle? she thought. Where did I hear the name again?
The man poked his head at the mirror, buried his fingers in the blonde curly bush and patted the standing ones to lay down. When they weren't obeying to his gestures, he drew in two of his fingers close to his mouth, sticking the bits of his saliva. Saliva is always the best choice during emergencies.
With a loud thud, he jumped off the car, dashing towards the drowning idol in the middle of the sea of fans.
Squeezing himself, sucking in his bulgy stomach, stopping his breaths, he slid into the gap he thought he could fit. Not everyone was making way for him. In fact, nobody was bothering who this shapeless body belonged to. Kyle was the only thing they could see.
“Sorry, lovelyz. Kyle gotta go!” he reached out his hand, using his sixth sense to feel the right man he was told to manage.
He did try to be flat, but it wasn't wide enough for him to wholly disappear into. Folding his palms in fists, he held back his surging energy to free Kyle and dump him in the car without bothering the crowd. They were his fans. No pushes, no bumps. Never in a thousand years he would want headlines like 'Kyle's manager is a rude bastard' or 'Kyle's manager is an asshole'.
A single mistake could get him fired.
“Noo...So fast?” One of the girls said, holding onto Kyle’s shirt, refusing to let go.
“Don’t go, Kyleeeee..!”
“Aww....Stay a little longer..”
“I’m sure we gonna meet again very soon,” Kyle winked, blowing his kisses in the air. “Wait for me.”
Once more, the screamings pierced through the tinted windows, sending the momentum across the car she was hiding. Still in there, she didn't inch a tiny bit to withdraw herself away. Too afraid to be captured again. Getting on her knees in a mess, she shoved the pieces of her hair hanging down her temple and held onto the holder. Studying the sight in front.
The two figures were coming her way, closer to her hideout. Being in the mixture of blank and curious state, not realizing what was about to occur. It was only until they stopped their last step next to the car, she was snapped, awakening in a huge, burning soup.
“Can’t be..” Sweaty hands covering her mouth, mumbling as she crouched back in the boot. Staying low, she scanned the car. It did look like a property belonged to somebody from a higher status. But for it to be owned by a celebrity, this thought never seemed to hit across her mind. "...Oh..god...Can you do something right for once, Clover Hon?"
Immediately, she stuck the stained coat under her arms and scrambled to flee. Neither wanting to be arrested by the police nor caught by the men in black. History mustn't repeat. However, the moment she reached out to push open the door, Kyle was already standing outside, waving goodbye to his fans. Clover threw herself to the other side and darn! The men were still there!- Where and when did they reappear?
Tension was thickening. Her gaze widened in sight, watching the target door creaking open.
And before she could even realize, she ended up back in the boot.
“Ughh..So tired...” Kyle said, stepping in. Sliding away his sunglasses, slipping down the mask down his chin, he rested his head on the headrest of his solo seat, elongating himself.
“You could have just gotten in without greeting them.”
“Well... they’ve waited for me. It’s just too impolite to not greet them,” he lifted up the box lying beside. “What’s this?”
I’m so dead. Grappling to stay motionless in spite of the moving car, nausea was getting on her and the ache on her hands was deepening. Consciousness draining. She was burning out. The discourse going on in front between the two could no longer make any sense to her.
“Kyle, can you get my backpack in the boot?”
Boot?! Clover yanked fully awake.
“Sure,” he extended his hand to the back. “Where, Brandon?”
She couldn’t afford to black out right now. Clover hugged her knees tightly to her chest, avoiding to get in touch with the celebrity. The coat left unattended in the middle, she quickly grabbed it over before attracting any of their attention. Anything bloody was very easy to obtain unnecessarily heed. Holding onto the slightest hope that she would not get busted, that she would make it out of this car like a real talented secret agent, she forced herself to stay wide awake throughout this whole journey despite how long it was going to take.
But her hope came crashing down the next moment. “It’s at the left end.”
Left end? Where? Clover looked around nervously. She was on the left and also at the end. There wasn't any backpack near her! Kyle stretched his hand further to the back and rummaged through the air blankly. She kept pushing her butt backward though she already reached the limit. He must have felt her breath on his palm because- it was when he turned around suddenly, 180 degrees.
He saw her. “B..randon...” Eyes filled with fright and impossibility. “Who’s she?”
“Hmm?” he hummed, steering to the left. “Who’s.. who?”
Ignoring his question, ”Who are you? How...how did you get up here?” Kyle tried to maintain his coolness but his voice betrayed him totally.
He ran his hands along both sides of the doors, checking if the locks have been switched or damaged. “Just... how the heck did you get in here??”
“Are you some kind of stalker? Or .... my hardcore fan?”
“What you talk--” Brandon wasn't sure what Kyle was talking about, until.. her voice came upon.
Clover got down on her knees and begged for mercy.“... Please... Please don’t call the police.. please.. I’ll leave. Please...Don’t let them capture me again...” she pleaded, salty liquids smudging her face.
That freaked Brandon out. “WHAT?!”
Opps. The brake was too sudden, jerking the entire car, responding to its inertia.
And that dropped Kyle, losing his momentum. “Uwahhhhhhh!!”
Puff! - Wholly onto Clover, pushing away her coat- revealing the unrevealed hands. His legs were stuck in between hers and laid his hand behind her head, securing it from any great impact. None of them moved for the first few seconds, just like how it is in those TV dramas where the lead male character tumbled down on the female lead accidentally. -Which only added more oil to the flaming fire in Brandon.
“Get off her KYLE!” Brandon screamed from the front. Too many cars honking at the back, he had to continue driving. “I’m gonna call the police,” he said furiously, hands searching the compartment beside the gear, reaching out to his phone.
“No! NO! Please. Please ...Kyle,” Clover pleaded, pulling herself out of his wrap. “I swear didn’t know who you are before this,” she cried, tugging his shirt.” This is definitely not a prank, Kyle... J-j-just drop me off somewhere and..I... I will disappear out of your sight! Promise!”
He stared at her bloody hands for a while before asking his next question. “What happened?”
The coldness in his voice was gone. Surprising enough. This time, there was actually slight warmth at the edge of his tone. And it was growing.
She heard him. But she was hesitant.
“DON’T BOTHER. KYLE!” His manager shouted, failing to believe, he actually let an unknown yet suspicious girl into the car, together with Kyle.
“Come on. Tell me. Or else I really would have to hand you over to the police,” he said, tapping off the dust on the mat to sit in front of her, meeting her eye level.
She shook her head, and it was all she did. No answers. Only trembles on her lips.
Kyle let out a heavy sigh. Digging into his pocket, he took out a sharp needle-like tool, shaped like a hair clip where girls used to clip their hairs to hold them in place. He turned and twisted few times before moving to her cuffs.
“I’ve seen people doing this in TV. And I’m sure it’s not that difficult,” he smirked, “well... it shouldn’t be..”
“What the hell are you trying to do Kyle?” Brandon frowned, “You are gonna be so dead if the paparazzi see you doing this.”
“We are in a car, Brandon,” he snapped, “with tinted windows.”
“...S....la...slave," she whispered.
“Sorry?” Kyle placed his ear nearer to catch the words she was trying to say.
Calming down her shaky breaths, she began, “I...I was captured here as a sex slave.” Gluing her eyes on the back pocket of the car seat, her voice was turning thick. “Now that I’ve escaped...they are searching everywhere to look for me. To bring me to their paradise world. To ....serve them according to their ‘daily needs’.”
“I needed to run away, Kyle. That was why I sneaked in here without thinking. I didn’t know whose car is this. All I know is that, I don’t want to be a sex slave.”
Silence grew in the car’s atmosphere. The taboo words successfully made the object fell from Kyle’s hand involuntarily. He quickly flapped his palm twice in the air to catch, stopping it from kissing the ground. Without demanding any further explanations, he continued to deal with the cuffs. Even the hot-tempered Brandon who had been noisy zipped his mouth. Clover took a glance at the rear mirror, just to see his reaction. Thick black eyebrows were furrowed, showing several wrinkles on his temple. Of course, as a manager of a rising superstar, he couldn’t let his guard down by simply believing any stories with no valid proof.
After all, if it was nothing related to them, then they shouldn’t be asking for any unwanted troubles.
“I’m sorry.” Clover heard her cuffs unlocking after a few clicks, and Kyle was removing it away from her, without putting any pressure on the wounds. “I’m...,” he repeated, “...Sorry..”
“Don’t be,” she said pathetically, staring at cuts on her free hands. “What are you sorry for?”
“If you really feel sorry for me...” she interrupted, “Please. Please, Kyle. I don’t want to go to the police. I want to be free.”
Her eyes were filled with unspeakable hope, and thousands of silent pain. Five fingers toying with the baby strips at the side of her torn black pants. But when Kyle said nothing to assure her safety, the efforts she put to hold back her tears came crumbling, pushing through the wall she built.
Gulping the hunk down her esophagus, “Please, Kyle. I’m not lying.”
" I never said you are lying.”
“Nor telling the truth,” Brandon continued.
“Brandon, please,” Kyle rolled his eyes.
He shrugged and paid full scrutiny to the road in front. All the cars along the same way seemed normal, steering in their own corresponding directions- Until they caught his attention.
Brandon made complicated turns, took narrow alleys purposely, just to make sure his instincts were right. Down the hill, up the crooked route, multiple turns at the roundabout. Brandon peaked at his side mirrors from the corner of his eyes to see if they were still behind. And yes- trailing closely indeed. He stepped onto the oil pedal with much force, increasing the distance between his car and their cars. But it didn’t take too long for them to catch up with his speed.
" So you are really telling the truth," he muttered.
“Brandon?” Kyle asked, clasping the handhold to stabilize himself from hitting every corner of the car. “What’s wrong?”
“Kyle...” he pressed it again, dashing forward. “I think we are being tracked.”
“T-..tracked?” Clover blurted, turning her head to the back.
“Yeah. Thanks to you I supposed.” Brandon tried to sound annoyed, but his energy to do so was all shifted to his driving skills.
She fixed her sight at those cars and when their faces came into view, her legs wavered unconsciously, crashing down her whole body. “How...is this even possible?”