Chapter 1: The Island
“I’m going to miss you so much!”
Your mother’s blubbered words were followed by a high-pitched wail as she pulled you in for yet another spine-snapping hug. You struggled to breathe but allowed your mother to squeeze the oxygen from your lungs for as long as she wished. After all, who knew how long it would be until you saw one another again?
Your father, embarrassed but not surprised by your mother’s emotional scene, spoke up, his usual soft voice barely heard above your mother’s gasping sobs. “Come now, Darling. (Y/N) will be perfectly alright, won’t you sweet-pea?”
You managed a thumbs up in response, unable to verbally confirm as your face was currently in the process of being devoured by your mother’s cleavage. Your mother sniffles, a loud and mucus laced sound, making you cringe as you wonder just how much snot is nestling deep into your hair.
“Darling, please. She’s going to miss her flight at this rate.” Your father attempted to pry you free, but there was no escaping her suffocating, love-filled grip of death. She reminded you of an anaconda in that way. The more you struggle, the stronger her hold becomes. The only way out of such a predicament was if she willingly chose to grant you your freedom, but that seemed liked wishful thinking at this point.
After a few more minutes of gentle coaxing, your mother slowly, reluctantly, slackened her hold, opting to cradle your cheeks instead. “Promise you’ll call the minute you land.”
“I promise,” you say, gently removing her hands and accepting the fully packed suitcase your father holds out, while slinging a backpack onto your shoulder.
A monotonously stale voice sounded over the P.A system, informing you that it was time to board. Your mother appeared ready to snatch you up again, tears falling down her long and narrow face, but luckily your father kept a firm grip on her elbow, preventing her from making any sudden movements.
“I’ll see you in a few weeks.” You smile and wave goodbye, walking backwards towards the boarding gate where a long line of impatient flyers had already gathered. “I love you guys!”
“Love you too, sweet-pea!” Your father grinned, though it was rather strained. No doubt from struggling with restraining your mother, who squirmed about in his arms like a millipede that recently caught a face full of bug spray.
The gate personnel accepts your ticket with a typical ‘I-hate-my-job-but-I’ll-make-it-look-as-though-I’m-making-an-effort’ type of smile. Making your way down the ramp towards the plane, you can faintly hear your mother yelling that she put a few extra pairs of underwear in your suitcase, just in case.
Your backpack rested atop your head, acting as an umbrella as you stumbled awkwardly up the driveway to your temporary home. You hadn’t anticipated torrential rain, having heard that Primrose Island was, and you quote, ‘the sunniest island you’ll ever step foot upon’, so you neglected to pack accordingly. You only prayed that your iPod was tucked away somewhere safe from the water now soaking through your bags.
You raised a fist to knock, only to have the door swing open before you got a chance. Baby blue eyes blinked rapidly in mild surprise, before widening in recognition. “(Y/N)? Oh my God, I hardly recognise you. Look how big you’ve gotten.”
“It’s been a while,” you agree with a small smile.
A while was an understatement really. It’s been eight years since you last saw each other, and the once chubby cheeked girl you used to play with was now a beautiful young woman working as a researcher for one of the largest and most prominent corporations in the world- Abstergo Industries, if memory serves you right. That’s probably how she was able to afford such an expensive looking house, which she shared with her boyfriend of three years, Desmond.
Pretty pink lips curled into a smile. “Let’s get you out of the rain.”
The door shut behind you once you were fully inside. “Thanks for letting me stay here, Lucy.”
“Hey, how could I ever say no to my favourite cousin?”
Lucy disappears down the hallway, leaving you shivering by the door and taking in your surroundings. The place certainly is very…white. White walls, white floorboards, white furniture, all with a few splashes of red, black, and grey tossed here and there. Seems they’ve chosen to go with the typical ‘modern’ interior. Hopefully your room will be different. You don’t think you’ll be able to last the next few weeks without going insane if you’re forced to be surrounded by so much white.
A blur of colour emerging from the kitchen – you suspect it’s the kitchen anyway – detracts your attention from an odd, near supernatural, looking golden sphere placed atop the hall table. The blur of colour narrows its eyes at you, like you were some sort of foreign entity that shouldn’t be there, before swallowing a mouth full of food.
Its eyes sweep over your dripping form, lingering on the puddles beginning to form on the hardwood floor around your feet. “It’s raining,” it says simply, slipping another Dorito into its mouth and crunching noisily.
You regard it with mock-incredulity. “Oh, is that what that water falling from the sky called? And here I was thinking you were nothing but a pretty face, Desmond.”
Desmond smiles, flipping an imaginary lock of long hair over his shoulder. “You think I’m pretty, (Y/N)?”
You fold your arms across your chest with a scoff. “Pretty ugly.”
“Ouch.” The smile on his face slides into a smirk and he holds out the crisp bag. “Dorito?”
You shake your head no and he shrugs before tilting his head back and pouring the contents of the bag into his mouth – well, mostly in his mouth. Near half of the cheese smothered triangles ended up on the floor or slipped down his hoody, which he’ll evidently wind up shaking onto the floor to join the others. You watch him for a moment in silent disgust; it’s like watching a pig eat its gruel, sounds like it as well. If he eats like that all the time then it’s no wonder that he’s gained a few pounds. He’s gotten especially pudgy around the middle.
Lucy finally comes back with a towel in her hands. “Here we are. Let’s get you dried and then we can-,” she stopped talking immediately as her eyes fell on the miniature mound of crisp crumbs around her boyfriends mismatched socked feet. She places her hands on her hips, “Desmond. How many times do I have to tell you not to make a mess? Do you even listen when I speak?”
“What mess?” Desmond asked, crumpling the now empty bag and hiding it behind his back.
Lucy exhaled heavily through her nose, as though trying to keep her anger under control. “Desmond...let’s not play this game again.”
“Game? Who's playing games?” He brushed the crumbs out of sight with his foot as inconspicuously as he could manage, keeping his gaze locked with the silently fuming blonde. He rubbed the cheese from his fingers on the back of his sweatpants, leaving an unsightly orange streak on his bum. “Now I, for one, don’t see any sign of the supposed ‘mess’ you’re talking about.” He looked to you expectantly, “Do you see a mess around here, (Y/N)?”
“Uh...,” you stole a glance at a few crumbs that remained - which were hard to miss seeing as how the tiny orange flakes were the only bright colour to be found in the cramped hallway – before staring back at Desmond. He blinked his eyes in rapid succession, silently pleading for you to not rat him out. It was tempting to spill the beans right there and then, but you needed to think of the future. Desmond could wind up being a necessary ally, or a serious pain in the ass, depending on how you handled this situation. Looking over to Lucy, you plastered on your best shit-eating grin, “I don’t see any mess either. Unless, of course, you’re referring to the water on the floor?”
Desmond grinned, giving you a subtle nod of thanks. With a look on her face that blatantly said ‘oh great, another one’, Lucy sighed and handed you the towel. “You shouldn’t encourage him, (Y/N).”
You simply shrugged in response, vigorously drying your hair and then your face. After you were about as dry as you were going to get with just a little towel, you followed Lucy down the hall and up the stairs with Desmond slowly lugging your bags after you, cursing quietly when slipping on one of the steps.
“This’ll be your room,” Lucy said, opening one of the doors and stepping inside. “I hope it’s alright.”
It would appear that your worst fear had been confirmed. This room was just as blindingly white as the rest of the house; the only colour being the dark grey covers of the bed, and the black desk and dressing table. You resist the urge to shield your eyes and turn to Lucy with a polite smile. “It’s pretty cool, Lucy. Thanks.”
She smiles just as Desmond practically collapses in the doorway, dropping your bags to the floor. “Man, what have you got in these things? You are aware that you’re only visiting, right? Not moving in permanently?”
“You may be ok with living in nothing but sweatpants, but I’m not. I’ve got an image to uphold,” you stated matter-of-factly.
He rolled his eyes and slipped out of the room, his heavy footsteps fading as he makes his way downstairs. Lucy gives your shoulder a gentle squeeze, “I’ll leave you to unpack. Once you’re finished come downstairs and we’ll talk.”
“Will do,” you say, moving across the room and placing your bags beside the bed. The door closed behind you with a gentle click, leaving you alone. You flop backwards onto the mattress with a heavy sigh, and even heavier eyelids. You arched your head, (colour) eyes glued to the rain that continues to pour outside. So much for a sunny vacation. Hopefully it’ll clear up by tomorrow; you’re eager to explore the island you used to visit all the time as a child. What has changed since then? What hasn’t changed since then?
A yawn escapes you and before you know it you’re curled up on your side and drifting off into a dreamless sleep.
>>>>Fast Forward (Next morning)>>>>
Rays of sunlight woke you up in tandem with pots and pans banging together. And what is that heavenly scent emanating from the kitchen? Smells like bacon, no pancakes – it’s both! You reluctantly shook of the shackles of sleep and frowned at the bags still packed and untouched from yesterday. You must have been exhausted to have just conked out the moment your head hit something even remotely comfortable.
Oh well, you’ll just unpack later. Right now there’s a plate of pancakes and bacon with your name on it!
Your nose guided your way towards the kitchen. When you entered, you were greeted by the unpleasant sight of a drowsy, half-dressed Desmond seated at the table, lazily nibbling on a syrup drenched pancake. He acknowledged your presence with a grunt.
Seating yourself across from him – and sucking back up the drool that threatened to slip out from the corner of your mouth - you helped yourself to the food laid out on the table. Man, everything looked so delicious, where did you start?
Lucy glides into the kitchen holding a thermos full of coffee in one hand, and a set of car keys in the other. “My boss is going to kill me if I’m late again,” she blows a loose strand of hair from her face and gives Desmond a peck on the cheek. “Good morning, (Y/N),” she greets warmly, gliding over and planting a kiss on your forehead before you had time to object – mainly due to having your mouth stuffed with food.
“I was hoping we’d get a chance to catch up last night, but you were already asleep when I checked in on you.”
“Sorry about that,” you swallowed, almost choking in the process. “I just passed out soon as I hit the mattress.”
Lucy smiled in understanding, “Travelling is always exhausting. Hopefully we’ll get some time to talk later on tonight, okay?”
“I’d like that.”
She nodded and slipped from the kitchen. “You two behave yourselves!” Was the last thing you heard before hearing the front door open and close.
Desmond blinked at you slowly, an amused smirking growing. “You got lipstick on your forehead.”
“Well you have some on your cheek,” you said with a small laugh, watching as he rubbed vigorously at the bright pink lip marks on his skin.
The remainder of breakfast was eaten in silence, albeit an occasional burp on Desmond’s end, and once finished you unpacked your bags, changed into some clean clothes, and were finally ready to start enjoying your vacation.
Finalising your makeup, you slipped your phone - which already had seven missed calls from your parents – into your pocket and bound down the stairs.
You shield your eyes from the harshness of the sun raging wildly overhead. It’s certainly different from yesterday. The ocean must be near by as you can smell its salt from the porch. The island is a lot more beautiful when it’s not raining.
You’ve only made it past the front gate when:
But it’s too late to react. Another body collides with yours, knocking you both to the concrete. The wind gushes from your lungs, your face contorting in pain. What the hell was that?!
“Oh man, I’m really sorry!” An accented voice rushes out. It was young and vibrant. When you open your eyes you’re met with the prettiest shade of light blue you had ever seen. “Are you alright? Can you hear me?”
You blinked and realized you were face-to-face with the one that had knocked you down. Heat flushed across your cheeks – and it wasn’t due to the sun. The boy hovering above you seemed to be the same age as you. A thin upper lip and larger lower one, combined with a sharp, down-turned nose and slightly chubby cheeks...he certainly was a cutie. Those stunning blue eyes – which you assumed were rare to find on such foreign features – gazed down at you with worry and mild curiosity.
The boys brows rose before a delighted laugh escapes his lips, and you inwardly curse upon realizing you had given voice to those words. Luckily he doesn’t bring attention to your slip up, and instead gets to his feet and helps you to yours. He was a lot taller from up here.
“I’m sorry about running you over. I, uh...,” you followed his sheepish gaze to a beaten up old skateboard sitting in the middle of the road, “I’m still practicing.” He points to himself with his thumb, a glowing smile on his face. “My name’s Kadar Al Sayf.”
“I’m (Y/N),” you say, relieved you didn’t stutter or waver. Bad enough you already called him cute, you didn’t need him thinking you were COMPLETELY incapable of normal social interaction.
He nodded enthusiastically, his boyish grin growing that much more. “That’s a nice name. I’ve never seen you around before. Did you just move here?” His voice held the curiosity of a child, a trait which could be quite endearing.
You gestured to the house the two of you stood in front of, “I’m just visiting, actually.”
“Oh,” Kadar scratched the back of his head, eyes glued to his shifting feet. Why does he seem so disappointed? Glancing back up, he grinned broadly, allowing you full view of a tiny gap between his two front teeth which only seemed to highlight his cuteness. “Listen, if you want a tour of the island I’d be happy to-”
Kadar was rudely interrupted by another heavily accented voice from across the street, which, when you followed Kadar’s worried line of sight, belonged to a dark haired boy whose face bore a nasty smirk.
“Who’s the bella ragazza, and why is she with you?” You didn’t know what a bella regazza was, but what you DID know was that you automatically didn’t like this guy as he approached, his pale eyes roaming up and down your body like a car waiting to be bought. Your nose crinkled in disgust as he grasped your hand and brushed his lips over your knuckles. “Cesare Borgia. And you are?”
“Disgusted,” came your curt reply as you wiped the back of your hand on your pants. Kadar glanced away with a secret smile, while Cesare’s smirk slipped momentarily into a sneer before disappearing completely.
“I’d be careful if I were you, bella.” Pale eyes hovered accusingly in Kadar’s direction. “Hanging with this stronzo will earn you a bad reputation.”
Kadar pulled a face – like you, he had no idea what a stronzo was, but he could only imagine it wasn’t anything pleasant – but chose to remain silent.
“Thanks, but,” you grasped Kadar’s elbow, making him glance down at the sudden contact, and forced out a tight-lipped smile, “I think I’ll take my chances.”
Cesare’s lips twitched and he shrugged, “Suit yourself, morosa. I look forward to our next encounter,” he said with a lazy wave of his hand as he drifted back the way he came.
“What a douchebag,” you say with a little laugh when it’s only you and Kadar. “Is he always like that?”
Kadar beamed a tiny smile, raising his shoulders slightly, “No, actually he’s not. To be honest, that’s the nicest I’ve ever seen him.”
“Seriously?” You made a mental note never to get on his bad side in the future.
“Yep. I think he likes you,” he teases, eyes searching your face. You crinkled your brow, unsure of how to feel about that. “I don’t blame him.”
You look to him in surprise and notice he’s just as surprised as you, a light redness tickling his nose and cheeks. Well, at least you’re not the only socially awkward person on the island. Showing him the same courtesy he showed you earlier, you clasped your hands behind your back, choosing to ignore his slip up. “You were saying something earlier about a tour of the island?”
His enthusiasm is contagious as he grabs your hands, nodding his head vigorously. “Yes, of course! I was on my way to meet a couple of my friends. I can show you some places I know on our way!”
Not giving you a chance to speak, he takes off down the street, picking up the abandoned skateboard as he passes, and drags you along with him.
What a way to start a vacation.
Chapter 2: The Locals (Part 1)
I'm sorry this is such a short chapter, but I just wanted to introduce two new characters by themselves ^^
“Check out that one!”
Kadar had been kind enough to show you around the Island, excitedly pointing out all of his favourite places. The two of you currently stood outside a small bakery, perusing the colourful assortments of cakes and breads. The two of you had your faces pressed up against the window, the heavenly scent hanging in the air being enough to create oceans of drool on the pavement beneath your feet.
“I remember this place,” you said with a small smile, thinking back to when you had first visited the island. You were a few dollars short of being able to actually buy anything, so you wound up ‘accidentally’ taking a single donut. It tasted delicious, but unfortunately the guilt became too much that said donut ended up as a regurgitated puddle of yuck on the road. Needless to say, you’ve never looked at a donut the same way again.
An imprint of Kadar’s face stood out on the polished glass as he peeled his face off the window, eyes glimmering excitedly as he looked at you. “Wait here!”
He slipped inside the bakery, not giving you a chance to question his intentions. Your (colour) eyes trailed after his bouncing form, brow raising as he pointed in your direction whilst speaking to the clerk.
“Shove that thing in my face once more and I swear, I will smash it!”
That statement was said with such vehemence that your head automatically snapped in the direction of where it came from. Two people, male and female, walked side-by-side on the sidewalk, heading in your direction. The females’ freckled nose crinkled in agitation as a phone was waved continuously in her face.
“But look at it, Evie!” The male grinned, eyes shining with awe as he tapped the screen of his phone. “When have you ever seen a cat do something like that?!”
‘Evie’ sighed and closed her eyes at his stupidity. “I am so sick and tired of seeing those stupid cat videos! I swear, sometimes I wish you would spend your time looking at porn like normal guys, rather than this rubbish.”
The male looked rather offended as he cradled his phone against his chest. “Stupid?! How could you even think of using that word when describing this cat?! It can play the piano! That’s more than you can do.” He smirks, flicking her forehead.
Evie looked momentarily stunned at the unexpected attack before swiftly glowering and slapping his hand down. “Keep those vile hands of yours to yourself, Jacob.”
“Why? Do they bother you?” Jacob waves a hand in her face, threatening to touch her.
The muscles in her jaw tightened, her eyes narrowing. “Everything you do bothers me. Now remove your hand else I’ll remove it for you.”
“Ooh, touchy. Not PMS’ing again are we, dear sister?” He taunts, clicking his tongue disapprovingly. “What would old Greenie think of he were here to hear such violent threats spewing from your lips?”
A light giggle falls from your lips as you listen to their exchange. There are certainly some interesting people on this Island. As they pass, Jacob catches your eye, an interested smirk growing on his lips as he notices you unabashedly staring. Biting your bottom lip, your eyes trailed after him, twinkling not only embarrassment, but in amusement as he gives you an interested over the shoulder glance, when he should have been keeping his attention focused on the path ahead.
“Look out!” You call to him hurriedly, but at a moment too late. You flinch, feeling the pain as he collides with an iron lamp post that seems to have miraculously materialised from thin air.
The unexpectedness of the collision caused him to fall backwards onto the sidewalk like a middle-aged drunk after a night of pub crawling. There is an awkward pause, the scene taking a moment to register, before Evie bursts into a cascade of unfeminine guffaws. “Smooth Jacob,” she snorts, bending forward and resting her hands atop her knees. “Real smooth.”
“Sh—shut your face, Evie!” Jacob stutters out, mentally cursing himself for making a fool of himself.
There was nothing you found funny as you rushed to his side, just as he was pulling himself to his feet. “Are you alright?”
He tugs the bottom of his jacket, smoothing out any wrinkles, and smiles. “ Of course. I did it on purpose, you know.”
Huh? On purpose? “What would make you do something like that?”
His head tilted adorably to one side, shoulders raising in nonchalance. “I wanted you to notice me.”
If it weren’t for the rolling of Evie’s eyes, you would have sworn he had been joking. “I...you, what?” A nervous chuckle fumbles awkwardly from your lips, not accustomed to having anyone say something as bold as that. Jacob’s smile widened, taking great pleasure at the sight of a lovely shade of pink blooming across your cheeks. Wetting your lips with your tongue, you had to ask Evie, “Is he serious?”
The beautiful brunette crossed her arms with a sigh, “Unfortunately, yes. He was dropped on the head as a child, you see, and sadly it has caused his mouth to run faster then that microscopic speck in his head he calls a brain.”
A strained, somewhat embarrassed, laugh forced its way past Jacob’s lips while slinging an arm across his twins shoulders, “There she goes again, making those funny jokes of hers. You really crack me up, sister dearest.”
“I do try, sweet brother,” Evie responded with smile that could melt butter.
Shifting your weight from one foot to the other, (colour) eyes flicked uneasily between the twins, “I’m (Y/N), by the way.” You told them, breaking the uncomfortable stare down the two currently involved themselves with.
“I’m Evie Frye-“ She gestured to herself, then to her twin. “-and this is my brother, Jacob. You’re new to the Island, right?”
“Right,” You offer them both the tiniest of smiles, “I only arrived yesterday.”
“That explains it then,” Jacob said, the beginnings of a flirtatious smile making an appearance.
With the slightest of head tilts, you ask, “Explains, what?”
“Why I don’t remember seeing you around. With looks like yours, you’d be impossible to forget.”
There were no words. Blushing even more, only stutters seemed to find it easy in escaping your lips. Luckily though, the chiming of a delicate bell broke the awkwardness of the situation, an excited Kadar hopping to your rescue. His childish smile expanded into a grin while bright blue eyes switched between the Frye twins. “Hiya~”
Evie offered a polite smile in greeting, unlike Jacob who appeared more interested in the pale pink box held tightly between Kadar’s hands. “What’s in the box, mate?”
Kadar pulled the box away with lightening speed once the tips of Jacob’s fingers made the briefest of contact. In a way, Kadar sort of reminded you of Gollum from those Lord of the Rings films; all you were expecting to hear now was a hissed ‘my precious’ to complement the possessive glint in those baby blue eyes.
Visibly shaking himself free of an aura of confusion, Jacob turned his attention back to you, smiling. “Can I borrow your phone for a sec?”
“Uh...,” Your focus dropped to his outstretched hand, fingers wriggling, urging you to hand over your phone. Evie and Kadar both watched, completely silent, the intensity of their stare only adding to the pressure you were already under. “Sure, I guess,” you said, unaware that it had already been handed over, Jacob currently scrolling through, fingers tapping rapidly on the screen.
“There you are, love.” That grin on his face only seemed to transform into an even sexier one as he handed the phone back. Wait, did you just admit to him having a sexy smile? That collision with Kadar earlier must have seriously knocked your brain about. “My number’s in there now, so send me a text sometime.”
Was that jealousy flashing across Kadar’s innocent features? Shaking your head, you silently rebuked yourself. Why would he be jealous over someone he only met? “Um, thanks, Jacob.”
He simply nods and grins, stuffing both hands back into the pockets of his coat. Why was he wearing a coat in weather like this? Is he not warm? “Well we best be off.” His voice snapped you out of your random thoughts and you blinked, staring up at him. “See you around, Miss (Y/N).”
And with that, both twins continued down the sidewalk, resuming their earlier bickering. Kadar stared after them, or more specifically, Jacob, then allowed his gaze to drop to the phone still sitting in your hand. Refocusing your attention back on the adorable Levantine by your side, a smile grazed your lips, making his own smile grow. “I have something for you.”
“For me?” With the slightest of head tilts, your (colour) eyes widened a fraction in surprise as the pink box was handed over. “You didn’t need to buy me anything,” You said quietly, feeling rather embarrassed by the intensity of Kadar’s stare as he urged you to open the box. Well, here goes nothing. Flipping the lid back, a quiet ‘oh’ left your lips, a light blush tickling your cheeks at seeing the contents of the box. “I...wow, thanks, Kadar. This is awesome.”
Such a positive response had him bouncing happily on the balls of his feet, his dark blush accompanied by a widening grin and sparkling eyes. “I’m glad you like it, (Y/N). When I spotted it in there it just, I dunno, it reminded me of you for some reason.”
You smiled brightly, admiring what he had bought you. A delicious looking cupcake sat neatly in the box, with bright pink icing and little flowers made from blue frosting. If Kadar wasn’t standing there right now, you wouldn’t have had the same level of restraint and the cupcake would now be gone.
“I’m meeting a few friends down on the beach. You’re still coming, right?” The hopeful look on his face was simply to much, making it impossible to decline his offer.
“Of course.” You smiled, Kadar having already taken your hand in his. “Let’s get going.”
Chapter 3: Meeting the Locals (Part 2)
Is there anything quite as blissful as an amble by the seashore? It’s like walking through an airy womb of sky and sound. The sea is a cerulean-blue and the beach appears as though it had been dipped in gold. You look around and admire the feng shui perfection of the beach. The palm trees are lined in serried rows, their leaves swaying gracefully in the gentle breeze that always seemed to accompany the ocean wherever it travelled. They have an Eden-green beauty that cannot be rivalled were you to travel to the far end of the universe.
An array of yachts, each one more exquisite than the last, rock soothingly from side-to-side to the gentle rhythmic rolling of the waves.
A mist of food scents drift towards you, drool pooling your mouth, threatening to spill from the corners of your lips. The growling of your stomach reminded you of a terrifying noise you heard when camping in the woods once. You can detect flame-grilled tuna, exotic peppers and zingy onions. Laughter accompanies the rumbling sound of waves crashing onto the shore, children squealing, music blaring, all from the locals enjoying everything the beach had to offer.
The satisfied purring from Kadar as he nibbles contentedly on an ice-cream brings a smile to your face. You risk a glance in his direction. He doesn’t appear to notice you staring at him, or, more specifically, at the melting rainbow drizzling down his chin, the waffle cone, and over his fingers. Seemed like the sun was devouring it faster than he was, not that he seemed to mind in the slightest.
Being far too distracted by Kadar’s interesting eating habits, you failed to hear the hurried warning cry from the distance. It’s only when Kadar squeaked and stammered uselessly, pointing directly ahead, did you detract your gaze from him, and in the direction to where he was pointing.
Pain was the first thing to register. W-what was that!? Then the sand, scorching and irritating as it hurried to trickle into any openings of your clothing it could find. The world was spinning, and if this was a cartoon, no doubt there’d be tiny birds fluttering in circles around your head. Hands instinctively raise and cup your throbbing nose which had taken the brunt of the attack, but luckily nothing was broken. Rushing footsteps rumbled the ground as they neared, Kadar’s three faces hovering millimetres above your own until - with a shake of your head - they merge back into one, allowing you to see the concern etched onto his foreign features.
“Ugh...why is everyone knocking me down today..?”
You do your best to ignore the painful pulsating of your nose as Kadar helps you to your feet, his waffle cone now abandoned in the sand. You mutter a word of gratitude and delicately dab at your nostrils with the tip of your finger to check for blood; fortunately there wasn’t any.
“I told you we shouldn’t have let Arno play.” Some girl mutters, her fist roughly connecting with the shoulder of the unsuspecting male beside her - which merely earned her a glare in response.
Arno, huh? It was easy to locate your assailant due to the irrefutable guilt currently contorting his features.
“Well what were you doing throwing it so hard in the first place?”
“Hard?! Dude, that was a gentle lob, if anything!”
“Oh, please! If it was so ‘gentle’, then why did it almost kill the new girl?!”
The two began talking over each other.
“I’m sorry about them.”
Tearing your mildly irritated focus away from the two still bickering, you’re met by a pair of coal coloured orbs, which happened to belong to the guy whom had received a punch mere moments ago.
“They don’t know how to behave in public. I’m Malik.” He introduced with a tiny, yet amiable, smile.
You extend a hand to shake, though it feels like you can only move in slow motion. The sound of crashing waves and trilling of seagulls fade away, leaving silence to stand alone in their place. You’re vaguely aware of what a silly, romantic cliché you’re experiencing when the contact of his palm on yours clears your mind and time clicks back to its normal pace.
You must have imagined it.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance.” His strong fingers curl around your hand in firm, but warm, handshake.
“He’s my brother,” Kadar chirped, a glimmer of admiration in his eyes.
Ah. That would explain why he looked so familiar.
“Nice to meet you, Malik. I’m (Y/N).”
.....is what you think about saying.
What comes out instead is a string of muddled awkwardness and embarrassment - which has the unfortunate effect of highlighting your inability to cope in a normal social setting. “Oh, uh, s-sure. Er, you t-too, I mean.” Kadar looks at you oddly, then to his brother. “I, uh, call me (Y/N).”
Malik’s lips press into a thin line. Is he trying to repress a laugh? “’(Y/N)’ it is,” he flashes a smile, leaving your hand shockingly cold as he took his own hand back and concealed it within the front pocket of his jeans. “It’s a lovely name, if I may say so.”
“Th-thanks.” You consider returning the compliment, but there’s an extremely high possibility that something inappropriate may slip out instead. Probably best to keep your mouth shut.
Scratching a non-existent itch on your neck, you fumble to come up with another topic of conversation when Kadar beats you to it. Thankfully.
“Where’s everyone else, Malik? I thought we were all meeting here at ten?”
Malik raised his shoulders in a lazy fashion while angling his head in the direction of the two still bickering. “Connor had to cancel last minute. He’s still adjusting to the new living arrangements. Aveline called and said she’d swing by later on. And as for Altaïr...speak of the asshole.”
Both you and Kadar looked towards the cause of Malik’s irritation.
Your (colour) eyes swept over the swaggering figure quickly approaching, immediately being drawn to the shimmering gold which were his eyes. Never in your life had you seen eyes so beautiful and unique. As he drew closer, his features became clearer.
Altaïr appeared to be around the same age as you, maybe a few years older, and is somewhat overdressed for this venue.
You immediately notice that, from a purely aesthetic perspective, he is one of those people who look naturally, effortlessly, ridiculously attractive. Objectively speaking, of course.
“What are you staring at?”
The smile slipped from your face. Oh...he’s an asshole. Suddenly this Altaïr fellow wasn’t as appealing as he was before he opened his mouth.
You were quick to avert your gaze, distracting yourself with the ring on your index finger. It was a family heirloom – well, that’s what your mother liked to refer to it as. She had just bought it during one of her shopping splurges, realised it didn’t fit her finger, and gave it to you instead. Still, you couldn’t imagine being without it. Simple, yet beautiful.
“This is (Y/N).” You glanced up at the mention of your name, finding Kadar bouncing and gesticulating beside you. “She’s visiting.”
Golden orbs flickered to your shifting form before dropping to the cigarette in his hand. Wisps of smoke rose into the air as soon as the disgusting little stick was lit, causing a crinkle in your nose as the putrid scent assaulted your nostrils. Did he have to blow the smoke directly in your face?!
Neither Malik or Kadar seemed bothered by the smell, but you were finding it increasingly difficult to breathe; so much so that you abruptly find yourself leaning closer to Malik, hoping the faint musk of his cologne would be enough to mask the smoke trying to kill you.
Much to your annoyance, there appeared to be a glimmer of amusement in golden eyes as Altaïr noticed your rising discomfort. “If the smell is bothering you so much, perhaps you should move.” He gave a tiny shooing motion to emphasize his statement.
If it wasn’t for the sound of your name being called you would’ve decked him right in the schnoz.
Your eyes drift past the Levantine jerk in front of you, locking onto the distinctive figure of Lucy in the distance, waving one arm in the air, as if encouraging you to make haste. But that wasn’t what captured your attention. No. What captured your attention was the fact that Lucy was accompanied by Desmond and two police officers.
“Why is that lady calling you, (Y/N)?” Kadar asked with the slightest of head tilts.
Your bottom lip gets ensnared by the top row of your teeth the same time your brow knits together. “That’s Lucy.” The words come out as a mumble. “My aunt.”
Malik, seemingly sensing your growing trepidation, places a hand on your shoulder. “Don’t be so quick to expect the worse, (Y/N).”
The smile on his face was enough to calm your nerves, or at least provide you with a false sense of security. “Y-yeah, you’re right. I’m worrying myself over nothing.” That didn’t even sound convincing to your own ears.
Warmth envelops you as two, surprisingly strong, arms encircle your torso. “It sucks that you have to leave.” Kadar’s breath tickles your ear and - despite knowing that bad news may possibly be given in a few minutes – a faint blush tickles your cheeks. “I was hoping we’d get to hang out today.”
You offered a smile. “So was I. But hey, I’ve got two weeks of vacation here, so we can spend every other day together.”
That seemed like a more than acceptable response for he was grinning ear-to-ear.
After tossing around a few goodbyes, you knew you could no longer delay the inevitable. It was time to go.
A sense of dread washes over you with each heavy step. Nausea bubbled in the lowest pit of your stomach; and with good reason too. The first thing you notice when stopping before the group of four was the redness of Lucy’s eyes. She had been crying, that much was obvious. Desmond gave a solemn shake of his head before his eyes fell to the sand.
“What’s going on?” You asked slowly, feeling the once steady pace of your heart gradually increase to a arhythmical pounding.
The balding officer took the liberty of stepping forward and addressing you. “Miss (L/N), I’m afraid we have some bad news.”
Fear gripped your heart. “What sort of bad news?”
What he said next made your world fall apart.
“We regret to inform you that your parents died in an automobile accident late last night."
Chapter 4: Fresh start
Eighteen days. That’s how much time had passed since learning of your parents’ untimely demise – at least, that’s what Lucy says. She keeps track, but you don’t. Well...can’t would be the more appropriate term. The days have blended together. Day or night, you don’t bother to tell the difference.
The first few days you were simply numb. There were no tears shed at the funeral. People attending would lower their voices to a whisper and comment that you were in denial. But the truth was that you simply didn’t know how to act. You had never grieved before. The only loss you’ve ever encountered was when a fictional character died, but this was not the same. Not even a little.
People don't help much when you're grieving. They try. Generally they fail. They don't know what to say. That's the problem; they think they have to say something. Mostly they'd do better just being there. But, for most people, they don't know how to handle a person in grief. They get nervous. Not even Lucy or Desmond knew how to behave around you. Occasionally they’d check in on you – you refused to leave your room unless absolutely necessary – but hardly any words were exchanged. They’d just stand there in the doorway, shifting their weight from one foot to the other. You weren’t blind. You could see their desperate looks when they encounter you. "Should I talk about it?" they were saying to themselves. It was easy to see their nervousness as they try to decide what to say. Whatever they decided didn’t matter. It wouldn’t erase what has happened.
It’s difficult to determine the kind of effect grief will have on the remainder of life. You had never felt so lonely, abandoned, forsaken, and deserted. But above all, you felt incredibly lazy. You didn’t realise how debilitating grief is. Every moment is similar to trudging through waist-deep snow. Every action is an effort. Life was running in slow motion. You felt tired, worn out, exhausted. Is this connected to grief? By nature, you weren’t a lazy person. But the last few weeks, all you had done was lay in bed, listening to the voice mails your parents had left.
But you can’t be that way anymore.
After the funeral, Lucy and Desmond officially adopted you; which means Primrose Island was now your home. You were genuinely grateful to the both of them that they so willingly accepted you into their home. They didn’t need to do it. They were both still young, and no doubt the idea of raising someone else’s teenager was less than ideal. But they took the responsibility upon themselves, and you were going to make an effort.
Today will be different. A fresh start. It’s the only way to make it through.
“Don’t you look lovely,” Lucy cooed the second you entered the kitchen, her eyes absorbing your appearance. “That uniform looks great on you.”
You find it hard to believe that any school uniform could look even remotely ‘great’. You subconsciously smoothed a palm over the front of your skirt. “Thanks, Lucy.”
There’s a plate of food in your usual spot just waiting to be eaten, but the idea of eating makes you want to puke. Lucy takes notice and removes the plate, choosing not to comment on your lack of eating lately.
Desmond turns away from the kitchen counter and holds out a brown paper bag with the word ‘LUNCH’ scrawled across the front.
You accept the bag with the tiniest of smiles only to then realise that the bag was unnaturally light. Peering inside you quirk a brow, finding a twenty dollar bill sitting at the bottom. “Money?”
Desmond’s shoulders raise faintly. “So you can buy your lunch at the cafeteria. Trust me, whatever I cook will kill you.”
You shove your ‘lunch’ into the front of your backpack before slinging it over your shoulder. “Alright, well...I’m gonna head off. Don’t wanna be late on my first day.”
“I’m on my way out too, (Y/N).” Lucy says quickly. “I can drive you there.”
“Actually, Lucy, I’d prefer to walk. The fresh air will do me good.”
Her disappointment is evident, but again she doesn’t say anything. Instead she places a kiss upon your forehead and gives your shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Now, I’m aware that school can be...cliquey. But don’t think that that limits you to only one group of friends. You’re pretty, smart, and athletic, so it’s not fair to restrict yourself to a single label. Be nice to everyone, and try and have a good day, okay?”
A forced nod is offered in place of words and you spin on your heel, leaving the Stillman residence behind.
Fortunately, Primrose High is only a quick ten minute walk from the house. Frankly, you doubt that any two addresses in downtown Primrose were more than a ten minute drive apart, except if you were looking to visit the picturesque mansions on the outskirts and tropical beaches.
Dozens of small, independent businesses dot the tree-lined streets. Drivers are more likely to honk in recognition or greeting rather than frustration. From what you’ve recognised, this place hasn’t changed a bit. Crime is relatively low. Only four or five homicides per year, and those usually involve crimes of passion. Random street crime is virtually non-existent. That may have to do with the 8:00 curfew the mayor put in place. From what you’ve been told, anyone under the age of twenty isn’t allowed outside after curfew unless accompanied by an adult.
Wow. Just wow. Your eyes widen upon reaching the high-school. It was enormous. No doubt you’d be getting lost quite a few times today.
At least two dozen students are hanging out at the school’s entrance, and other’s are lounging negligently in the grass; either soaking up the sun or seeking shelter in the shade. Your head swivels to take it all in.
A lot of them seem to know each other, giving hugs or high fives, but most keep to themselves. Some warily size up their classmates, yourself included.
You stand rooted to the spot, completely frozen, as students slowly work their way inside the main entrance. Unfolding your class schedule, you confirm, for the fifth time this morning, that Art takes place in room 3.7. You inhale slowly and convince your feet to move.
Time to meet your classmates.
A wide hallway lined with freshly polished lockers greets you. There isn’t a single face you recognise as you drift pass small clusters of squealing girls, guys horsing around with their buddies, and introverts whose noses are deeply buried within novels and textbooks alike.
Your tongue shoots out to moisten your lips as your eyes scan across the doors. Ah, there it is. Room 3.7. That wasn’t so difficult.
Octagonal tables were scattered throughout the room, each one already occupied by whispering teenagers. The walls reminded you of your own house; blindingly white. Quite boring for an art room. The soles of your shoes squeaked at an embarrassing loud level on the linoleum floor when you took a few steps towards a table which only held three other students. They each raise their heads in time to see you taking a seat across from them.
“Hey, I know you! You’re (Y/N), right?”
Your brows knit together. “Uh, yeah, that’s right.” It’s only upon closer inspection did you realise that this was the same girl from the beach a few weeks ago.
She offers a hand to shake after sweeping aside the choppy black bangs shielding her eyes. “We weren’t properly introduced before. The name’s Rebecca. Nice to meet you.”
“I’m (Y/N)...which you already knew,” you muttered lamely, taking your hand back.
Rebecca cracked a toothy grin, resting one elbow atop the table and jabbing a thumb in the direction of a dark skinned girl. “Lemme introduce you to my peeps. This cocoa skinned goddess is Aveline--,” she then pointed to a Native American boy on her other side, “—and this delicious piece of Native eye candy is Connor.”
Connor rolled his chocolate tinted orbs whilst Aveline flashed a polite smile in your direction.
“It’s nice to finally put a face to a name,” Aveline says. “Kadar hasn’t stopped talking about you for the past two weeks.”
That information manages to bring a smile to your face. “All good things, I hope.”
Rebecca snorted. “Are you kidding? According to him, you’re the best thing that’s happened since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I think the little squirt has a crush on you.”
You didn’t know what caused you to blush more; the idea that Kadar would speak so highly of you, or the playful waggle of Rebecca’s brows.
Fortunately, Connor took the unwanted attention off of you – well, tried to. “You’re going to make her feel uncomfortable if you keep doing that weird thing with your eyebrows.”
She seemed unfazed by Connor’s input, her eyes refusing to leave yours. “The poor kid has been moping about the place for the past few weeks, thinking you had gone back home without saying goodbye. So, what gives?” She sounded genuinely curious.
The smile on your face shrunk until vanishing completely. You weren’t ready to speak the words aloud. Not yet. That would only be confirming what you still didn’t want to believe was actually true.
It’s as though the universe itself had sensed your hesitancy and took pity on you, for before another word could escape the safety of your mouth, the teacher was bounding into the room. A mountain of books were slammed down on the desk, causing all eyes to snap to the front.
“Salute, everyone!” He greeted with one of the brightest smiles you had ever laid eyes upon. You had to resist the urge to shield your eyes. “As most of you know, my name is Leonardo,” he continued, only sparing a second to breathe before he takes off talking again. “You may call me Mr Leo, or basically anything you feel comfortable with, as long as it isn’t inappropriate.”
A girl wearing a pair of thick-rimmed glasses raised her hand before asking, “Would ‘Dreamy’ be considered inappropriate?”
Snickers resounded through the congested room and she blushed, hastily lowering her hand. A delighted laugh escapes Leonardo as he removes the somewhat tattered scarf from around his neck.
“Sognante (Dreamy).” His head shook faintly the same time as his grin widened– which you would’ve deemed impossible a few seconds ago. “Che regazza dolce (Such a sweet girl). Perhaps keep that name to yourself, sì? I would hate for you to get into trouble by one of the other teachers.”
A lovely shade of pink bloomed across the girls’ cheeks and she twirled a strand of mousy brown hair around her finger. Everyone could notice the imaginary hearts fluttering in circles around her head, eliciting another snicker from the class.
Leonardo clapped his hands and beamed. “Ora (Now), I’ve noticed there are two shiny new faces this year.” His eyes immediately fell upon you.
You gulp, a shaky smile tugging at your lips.
A finger is pointed at, not only you, but Connor as well. “Stand up, you two. Non essere timido (Don’t be shy). Su, su, su (Up, up, up).”
The silence that had befallen the class was rather unnerving. The only upside to this situation was the fact that you were not alone in the spotlight. Connor raised himself from his chair the same time as you, casting a quick glance in your direction. Damn. The guy was massive. How the hell did he even fit inside the classroom?
Leonardo took a seat on the edge of his desk, casually swinging his legs and tilting his head. “So, why not share something about yourselves with the class?”
You shot a desperate glance at Connor, which he seemed to understand. He was willing to go first.
Clasping his hands together, his fingers knotted and he scanned over the class. “My name is Connor Kenway and I moved here from New York a few months ago in order to live with my father after...,” he trailed off and dropped his focus to the floor. There was a glimmer of sadness in his eyes which was agonisingly familiar.
It was the same glimmer your own eyes held. And you knew, without him having to say it, that he too had lost someone extremely important to him.
Composing himself, he tried again. “After my mother passed away.”
“Che schifo (How awful),” Leonardo uttered, a hand resting over his heart. “My sincerest condolences, Connor.”
Connor simply nodded in response and took a seat.
Now it was your turn. If Connor could openly discuss the passing of his mother, then there’s no reason why you couldn’t. “My name is (Y/N).” You inwardly cringe at the squeakiness of your voice. “Um, my story is actually pretty similar to Connor’s. I originally came to the Island for a vacation, but I now live with my aunt and her boyfriend because my parents...they...they died.”
An awkward silence settled over the room. You stiffly sunk into your chair and swallowed the lump in your throat. This was not the greatest way to begin the new school year. Not only had you and Connor managed to make everyone feel uncomfortable, but Leonardo looked as though he had a burning desire to rip out his own tongue.
Aveline tapped the end of her pencil against the tabletop. “Um...what do you have planned for us today, Mr Leo?”
Leonardo jumped to attention. “Ah, sì! I have something special planned for today.” He was smiling again. “Seeing as how you are my very first class of the new school year, you all get the very special privilege of decorating the classroom.” Excitement had his eyes sparkling. “These walls are so bland and vapid. They’re screaming to be painted. To be given life and graced with beauty!”
There’s a dreamy sigh from the back of the room. You did have to admit, there was something...enticing about this teacher. Every word he spoke oozed passion. It actually made you enthusiastic about this class.
“Sir, what are you doing?” Aveline questioned.
Leonardo had knocked the stack of books off his desk with a dramatic sweep of his arm, an almost maniacal grin contorting his features. “This is a place of creative incubation. In order to breathe life into these walls, we are required to have enough space that will allow us to do so!” He threw open the awning window with a laugh, then proceeded to grip the edge of his desk and drag it towards the open window.
You shared a look of bewilderment with your fellow classmates. What the hell was he—“Holy shit!” You involuntarily gasped along with the rest of the class when Leonardo’s desk went flying out the window, shattering against the dark brick walkway outside a second later.
He just dropped a table from a two storey window!
Leonardo grinned. Clearly he didn’t find anything unusual with what just happened.
Rebecca’s laughter sliced through the awkward silence. “Mr L! You’re a total badass!”
“Grazie, Rebecca.” He readjusted the paint splattered beret atop his head. “Vieni ora (Come now), let us clear out the rest of these tables so we can get to painting.”
Despite the suffocating air of reluctance, one-by-one the tables were heaved out the window, sending splinters of wood catapulting through the air. You were just glad that no one was down there at the time. The last thing you needed was to be expelled for squashing an innocent student with school property.
“Molto meglio (Much better).” Leonardo’s voice resounded through the now empty room. “We can get to work now.”
“Everyone scooch together.” Leonardo held out his phone, using his free hand to direct everyone’s movements.
It was the end of first period, and somehow the classroom had been decorated to perfection. The walls were now covered in an ever-changing mural: self-portraits, boldly coloured animals, declarations of love, quotes, personal interpretations of various idioms, and random anime characters adorned the walls. Everyone had highly individualistic and easily recognisable ‘styles’, to which Leonardo couldn’t stop praising.
“Stupido pezzo di merda (Stupid piece of shit).” Leonardo huffed in annoyance, tapping his phone against his open palm. “How do you even use one of thes—Ah! Infine (Finally)! Smile!” The camera flashed – causing momentary blindness – and a thumbs up was offered by Leonardo.
“Great work today, class! This place looks magnifico thanks to all your hard work. Now scurry off to your to your next class, and I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning!”
You had barely even taken a full step out of the classroom when an arm was being draped across your shoulders, a familiar British accent tickling your ear a second later.
“Well, well...fancy running into you here.”
You found yourself smiling. “Jacob.”
A smirk tugged at one corner of his mouth. “Miss (Y/N).” The slight husk underlying his tone had a shiver running down your spine. How was it possible that you enjoyed the way your name sounded on his lips? “How lovely it is that you’ve chosen to grace us with your presence. May I be granted the honour of accompanying you to your next class?”
“Well,” you honestly doubted that he would let you walk alone regardless of the answer, “seeing as how I don’t know my way around yet and I’m not particularly fond of the idea of being late, I’d be happy to have you accompany me.”
That seemed to satisfy him judging by the lopsided grin playing on his lips. “In that case, perhaps you best get to telling me what class you have now, eh?”
“Same as me.” He chirped a bit too enthusiastically. “Looks like I showed up at the perfect time.”
“Looks like,” you agreed with a smile, keeping a firm grip on the strap of your bag as the two of you were swallowed up by the coloured blurs which were the other students as they rushed to their next class.
Chapter 5: Drama Transcends the World of Theatre
There wasn’t a single person on the planet that could say they hadn’t heard the name before. Along with Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp, he, too, was what you could call an A-list celebrity. He was the be all and end all. According to a vast majority of people, there wasn’t a single other celebrity that could hold a candle to his level of eminence.
However...his career somehow took a wrong turn.
Nowadays he’s somewhere in the pantheon of minor Hollywood royalty. Though respected for his years of experience and endless font of golden-age stories, his penchant for practical jokes and an eclectic lifestyle has made him persona non grata on movie sets – though according to the tabloids, that doesn’t deter him from trespassing on every set he can, much to the dismay of directors and other actors.
Last you heard, Maxwell had gotten a role on Poldark, so it was rather surprising to discover that he was to be your new Drama teacher.
“That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm'd: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by the west,
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.”
The plastic seat you currently occupied squeaked with the slightest of movements, but fortunately did not attract the attention of the other students; they were far too absorbed in Roth’s performance on stage. The man could definitely act, there was never any doubt. But theatre never really was your ‘thing’, and had you taken the responsibility of selecting your own courses rather than allowing Lucy choose, then you would certainly not be here. Food Tech would have been so much simpler, but no, Lucy insisted that your ‘academic brilliance’ not go to waste on - what she referred to as - inferior subjects.
Jacob yawns audibly from his place beside you; it was comforting to know that you weren’t the only one bored out of their mind. On your left sits Evie, who appeared to be the only one offended by her siblings disrespectful antics judging by the slight frown tugging at her lips. Her hand reaches behind you and entangles within the unkempt mass of chestnut hair on her brother’s head, giving a swift and violent tug. Jacob’s bored expression contorts into one of pain, a yelp getting caught in his throat.
You’re unable to control the amused rolling of your eyes and you slump even lower in your seat, letting two pairs of hands fight a silent battle above your head. The row of chairs squeak and groan under their fervent actions, drawing the attention of the other students. Maxwell Roth fails to acknowledge that he has now lost the interest of the audience, and continues playing the role of Oberon as though it was written solely for him. He was a rather intimidating individual, you think; passionate and probably powerful. His presence looms over the entire auditorium, and every word recited is spoken in a booming voice. He smiles in a way that could be threatening or cheerful.
“Yet mark'd I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love's wound,
And maidens call it love-in-idleness.
Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew'd thee once:
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
Fetch me this herb; and be thou here again
Ere the leviathan can swim a league.”
He finishes with a dramatic flourish and bows, awaiting recognition for his impressive performance. Evie turns sharply away from her brother with her mouth puckering unhappily, and she brings her hands together repeatedly in a forceful applause. Everyone else follows her lead and claps half-heartedly, but that seems to be enough for Roth, for a delighted and practiced grin lights up his face.
“Thank you, thank you!” He raises both hands to silence the room. “Mesdames et Messieurs, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Drama Class! Before we begin today’s lesson, I feel it is my duty as, not only an aficionado of the arts, but as an educator, that the theatre is a tragic place, full of endings and partings and heartbreak. You dedicate yourself passionately to something, to a project, to people, to a family; you think of nothing else for weeks and months, then suddenly it's over. It's perpetual destruction, perpetual divorce, perpetual adieu.”
Wow. So far you weren’t sure whether or not this guy was trying to convince everyone how enlightening drama could be, or how devastatingly humiliating and terrifying it truly was hidden underneath all the glitz and glamour.
“...Of course we all come to the theatre with baggage. The baggage of our daily lives, the baggage of our problems, the baggage of our tragedies, the baggage of being tired. It doesn't matter what age you are. But if our hearts get opened and released -- well that is what theatre can do, and does sometimes, and everyone is thankful when that happens...”
“I’ll be thankful when this class is over,” Jacob grumbles, easing back into a slouch.
“Jacob.” Evie warns in a quiet voice, her eyes narrowing but remaining glued to the stage.
You didn’t need to look in order to know that he had rolled his eyes. To be honest you couldn’t help but agree with his boredom. So far, you’ve sat for the past forty-five minutes listening to the teacher ramble on and on about his feelings on theatre, and recite numerous monologues from various plays. Oh well. At least sitting and doing nothing was better than the alternative.
“Now, can we have (Y/N) Stillman up on stage, please?”
“Huh?” Came your highly undignified response, blinking rapidly when finding Roth’s predatory gaze boring into your soul. “Me? Oh, um.” You glance around the auditorium, desperate for an excuse to avoid going up there, but Roth has a look in his eye like he won’t be gainsaid, and the other students are looking towards you expectantly, waiting for you to get a move on.
“Guess I have no choice,” You mutter, raising yourself from the seat and eyeing the stage as though it were a scorpions nest. The back of your neck burns painfully hot as you shuffle down the centre aisle of the auditorium, trying to avoid eye contact with the twenty-odd students shifting in the uncomfortable plastic seats. Climbing the steps to the stage makes you feel even more exposed, as does the frankly appraising way that Roth looks you over.
“Very nice,” Roth murmurs, seemingly to himself. He lowers a hand onto your shoulder, the slight pressure he applies making you feel rather uncomfortable. “How do you fare when it comes to improvisation, my dear?”
My dear? Was he allowed to address the students using terms of endearment? “Not well, if I’m honest.” Your attention falls to the hand still resting on your shoulder. Surely you couldn’t be the only one creeped out by this guy?
“Ah, no matter. Rely on your partner and everything will be fine.”
The clearing of a throat drags your attention to the opposite end of the stage. There, standing tall and proud, is the drop dead gorgeous foreigner: Ezio Auditore. Eyes the colour of warm honey, unblemished skin kissed by the sun, dark hair framing a chiselled face...
You raise a hand to wipe away a bit of drool threatening to spill from the corner of your mouth. Why was every student in this school attractive?! It was utterly unfair and a total blow to your already pathetically low self-esteem.
“We do not have much time left in this class, so let’s start out with something simple: you and Ezio are encountering each other for the first time.”
Seems improvisation won’t be needed after all seeing as how this really is the first time speaking to him. This situation couldn’t have worked out better had you planned it.
Roth shoots a directorial wink in your direction—the strange smile on his face sending an unpleasant shiver down the length of your spine—before retreating to an empty seat in the front row. Now it was only you and Ezio. Alone on stage. Vulnerable to impending criticism. Shit.
They say overthinking can ruin a person. Well...that was either the truest statement ever made, or - more probable in your case – the universe simply detested your very being and chose to humiliate you at any given opportunity, for as you were trudging miserably across the stage, the end of your shoelace was seized by the sole of your shoe. It was too late to prevent, so you courageously braced yourself for the inevitable.
However, two strong hands wrapped around your forearms, keeping you from kissing the stage.
“Careful.” An accented voice practically purrs.
Even his voice was hypnotic.
Straightening up with a rather strained smile, a garbled version of ‘thank you’ comes spewing from your lips. Fortunately such awkwardness earned a charming smile from the Italian student.
“Allow me to tie your shoes, signorina.” He dropped to one knee and pinched the laces of your Chuck Taylors. “I would hate if you were to fall for someone else.”
Damn. That’s one pickup line you’ve never heard before. It was so corny you couldn’t help but snort a laugh. “Do lines like that actually work?” You smiled when he stood.
“Depends...do you want to have lunch with me today?”
It was difficult to decipher whether or not the request was genuine or a line expected in this improvisational scenario. Despite this, a sweltering heat slowly creeps all the way up your neck to the very tips of your ears.
“Lunch? Oh, um...,”
The heat of his gaze was breath taking, and you were certain that the slow trail of his eyes from the tips of your toes to lips, lingering on some intimate areas, was very deliberately provocative on his part.
“You’re not going to make me eat alone, are you?” His plush bottom lip juts out into what can only be described as an adorable pout commonly found on a toddler rather than a teenage male.
There’s a derisive snort from the second row. The fear of suddenly freezing up like a deer in the headlights keeps you from seeking out the source of such rudeness, but you had a niggling feeling that such a noise came from Cesare Borgia. He had been bitter ever since the Frye twins insisted that you take a seat in between them for the duration of the lesson, forcing him to sink into a chair beside his sister, Lucrezia.
Ezio tapped his finger against his lips, pursed against your silence, never letting up that hawk-like gaze from those honeyed eyes until you felt like squirming under the inspection.
“I...don’t see why not,” you say slowly. It was only lunch in a school cafeteria. Simple. Nothing at all to be nervous about. Ugh...if you only believed the sickeningly optimistic crap your mind formulated, life would be infinitely easier.
“Grande (Great)!” He enthuses, the once charming smile transforming into the grin of a madman. “I’ll be waiting for you in the cafeteria.”
There is only time enough for you to nod silently in response, the startling screaming of the bell signalling the end of class. Roth raises himself from his chair and clasps his hands together. “Remember to read Romeo and Juliet when you get home. Tomorrow we’ll be discussing the themes found within the story which will help us identify Shakespeare’s social and political commentary.”
Most students were already shuffling from the auditorium before Roth had finished speaking. Finally off stage, you pick up your bag from under the seat.
“You made a huge mistake, bella.”
You know who it is without even turning around. Cesare Borgia. There was no getting rid of this guy.
“By taking a class which you were also enrolled in? I agree.”
You turn just in time to see his scowl disappear. “By accepting Ezio’s request to have lunch with him. You do realise he’s only interested in worming his way into your skirt, si?”
If you had been drinking water, no doubt you would’ve spat it out. Surely he was only saying this in order to get a reaction out of you? “I don’t believe that,” you mumble, one hand smoothing subconsciously over the front of your skirt.
“He’s a man-whore.” He insisted.
What exactly was he hoping to achieve by telling you this? It was only an invitation to lunch in the school cafeteria. And besides, why would someone as attractive as Ezio be interested in you? Friends have commented in the past that you were ‘pretty’ or ‘attractive’, but when looking in the mirror, that’s not what you saw at all. You took proper care of yourself; nice clean clothes, shiny hair, and the occasional touch of makeup for special occasions or when you felt like putting in extra effort that day. But you never considered yourself as being the type of person that would ever catch the eye of someone with the title of ‘man-whore’.
You can’t control the wandering of your eyes, which just happen to seek out said man-whore. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but there he was surrounded by a horde of salivating teenage girls. Huh. For being someone you only met, seeing him cast flirtatious smirks around the crowd shouldn’t be hurting this much.
You give a shake of your head. “I...need to get to gym.”
His face brightens – it was oddly disturbing seeing him smile. “Gym? Che coincidenza (What a coincidence). Seems we have quite a few classes together. Come.” He extends a hand. “I’ll take you there.”
You hesitate and stare at the wiggling of his fingers encouraging you to take hold. Saying ‘no’ has always been the biggest issue for you. Unable to deny him, you decide to take his outstretched hand; however a separate, more delicate, hand is engulfing yours and tearing it away from Cesare.
“Careful what you touch around here, darling. It’s difficult to determine what exactly you can catch by simply putting a hand somewhere it does not belong.”
You look to the source of such a surprisingly pleasant and plummy voice, despite it being laden with disdain. Red hair and beauty. What was her name again? Élise?
Stunning blue eyes flickered to Cesare’s face and pretty pink lips curled into a smile. “This specimen in particular is practically swarming with all sorts of disgusting bacteria that can be detrimental to your health. Look, there are already pustules eating away at that handsome face.”
Élise was clearly getting under Cesare’s skin for he was visibly shaking, his expression contorted into one of pure fury. “How dare yo—”
“Oh, look at that!” She spoke over him. “I’ve already used up all the time I spend on pretending to care. That’s a shame.” She clicked her tongue and shook her head in mock lamentation before redirecting her attention to you. “Come along, (Y/N). Mustn’t be late to gym.”
A squeak escaped you when you were dragged from the auditorium. “Is this the part where I thank you for the rescue?” You ask, stumbling a bit to keep up. For wearing a pair of stiletto heels, this girl was quite speedy.
Her lips twitched at one corner. “You can if it makes you feel better, but us girls really need to stick together and prevent one another from making horrible mistakes.” She cast you a sidelong glance. “Like the one where you were going to make by getting involved with a branleur (wanker) like Cesare.”
You bit the inside of your cheek. “Yeah...I have trouble saying ‘no’ to people.” You admit in a quiet voice.
She shushed you harshly, casting frantic glances around the hallway. “Don’t let anyone hear you say that, kitten. Especially not the guys, else they’re going to think you’re an easy ride.”
Somehow, you couldn’t help but smile at those words. It was a comfort to know that at least one person was looking out for you, despite only being here for a few hours. “Thank you.”
The pair of you stopped outside the set of double doors leading to the gym and she smiled. “You’re welcome.”
Chapter 6: Anything but Gym
I love reading the comment section on this book. You guys are so funny~
You make my day ♡
I want to thank ScreechingLife as well for helping me with this. The Primrose Corgi’s would not exist without her~
The gym features traditional wooden bleachers positioned by the wall parallel to the entrance; by invisible agreement, most students sit five or ten feet away from one other, providing multiple buffer zones. The floor has been polished to perfection. A netted bag of softballs lay in the centre of the floor. On the adjacent wall, dangling directly below the high-walled windows, was a banner with the sloppily spray painted words ‘Primrose Corgi’s 4 the Win!’
You quickly pick a spot on the edge of the second row and give Élise a nudge in the ribs. “What in the hell are the ‘Primrose Corgi’s’?”
Her eyes roll as though she’s embarrassed to even admit it. “The Primrose Corgi’s are this school’s mascot.”
“Mascot?” You quirk a brow. “Most school’s usually select a dangerous predator to represent themselves rather than a domesticated animal.”
She leans back and crosses one long leg over the other. “This school was founded by the Disraeli family in the eighteen hundreds, and the first Viscountess Beaconsfield had a pet corgi which she adored.” Her eyes met yours. “Need I go on?”
A silent shake of the head is the response you give. The teacher still hasn’t arrived, so you take the time to crane your neck and inspect the other students. There a quite a few faces which are familiar: Jacob, Evie, Cesare, Lucrezia, and...Kadar!
Kadar angles his head in your direction. At first you were taken aback by the ability of telepathy which he seemingly possessed, but then you noticed that everyone else was staring also. Embarrassingly you had physically shouted his name without realising. A heat crept onto your cheeks, but all embarrassment was quickly sucked away when Kadar turned away.
What the hell?
“You must have done something scandalous if you were able to make this school’s very own Ralph Wiggum upset with you.” Élise mused, head cocked in Kadar’s direction.
Yes, but what?
The blowing of a whistle detracts your focus from Kadar. You’ll have to get some answers later, but for right now you have to focus on the teacher in the middle of the room; a vigorous bear of a man in his late thirties. A whistle hangs around his neck and his white polo shirt was tucked into a pair of blindingly red shorts which leave little to the imagination. A name tag was pinned to his front pocket which read: Bartolomeo d’Alviano.
“I am disappointed.” His lips pressed into a thin line. “I came in here expecting all of you to be in uniform, and instead you sit here, letting the time tick by.” He began to pace, shaking his head. “Molto deludente (Very disappointing).” He looked back up. “Why are you still sitting there? Si muova (Get a move on)!”
The bleachers groan under the combined weight of everyone’s sudden movements. The boys shuffle into their separate changing room with enthusiasm, whilst the girls saunter towards their changing room as though they had all the time in the world.
“So,” Élise started, pulling her sweater over her head, “anyone caught your eye yet?”
“Caught my eye?” You know exactly what she’s talking about, but you’re more concerned with the fact that you had neglected to pack accordingly. No gym clothes. Now what were you going to do?
She changed into a shirt with the words ‘Primrose High’ on the front, and a chibi corgi sandwiched between the words. “Don’t play stupid with me, kitten. We all have our favourites. Surely someone has captured your attention, hm? Some dreamboat that has gotten those loins of yours to quiver?”
There was a disgusted noise from within one of the stalls. “Why do you have to be so foul when talking about guys?” Evie’s head pops over the top of the stall and a shirt is dropped into your lap. “Here, (Y/N), you may borrow one of my shirts.”
You blink. “Thanks.” You’re quick to switch into the shirt she had given you.
Élise’s eyes twinkle in amusement. “Who’s being foul? I only used the word loins. Or, uh, does the word quiver make you squirm?” A smirk tugs at one corner of her mouth and she replaces her stilettos with a pair of snow white sneakers. “See, now I could have been really foul and ask something like ‘which guy here makes you want to drop your panties and bend over?’ But I was enough of a lady to refrain from doing that.”
Evie’s nose crinkles as she emerges from the stall, but before she can comment, Élise is back to talking. “And I wouldn’t be acting so innocent if I were you, Miss Frye. We’ve all seen the way you lust after Henry.”
The other girls giggle at the sudden reddening of Evie’s freckled cheeks. Except for you. You blink up at her innocently. “Who’s Henry?”
Élise giggles and strums her fingers atop the bench. “Henry Green. He’s—”
“Nobody!” Evie interjects, slamming her locker shut with more force than necessary.
An awkward silence befalls the group, everyone’s eyes drifting after Evie’s retreat from the changing room. Élise arches a delicate brow. “What’s her problem?”
“I’m surprised you find it necessary to even ask that.” Lucrezia speaks up for the first time today. “Everyone is very well aware that she’s a complete loner and a freak. Along with that idiota (idiot) brother of hers.”
The corners of your mouth tug down into a slight frown. Not only was this girl insulting the two people who have treated you with nothing but kindness since arriving on the island, but everyone else seemed perfectly fine with that.
“You shouldn’t speak that way about them.”
By nature, you were not a confrontational person, so your voice lacked the conviction you wished it held. However, it appeared you have captured Lucrezia’s attention. No backing down now.
Lucrezia turned just as you were rising from the bench. Her painted lips twisted to form a cruel sneer, her eyes burning with an unprovoked hatred. “I would watch you say to me, puttana.”
You frown. You hadn’t a clue as to what you did to deserve this unwarranted abhorrence, but she was seriously upset about something. “Or maybe...you should watch what you say to me.” The words come out slow, but at least they’re steady – which is more than can be said about your heart.
Élise rises from her seat but makes no further movement.
Lucrezia takes a threatening step forward, and you resist the urge to retreat. “Have you slept with him? Did you enjoy it?”
Who? What? Huh?!
You fumble to conceive a proper response to such a crude accusation, but currently your mind was spinning. “I haven’t slept with anyone!” And you weren’t only talking about since being on the island. You’ve never even been in a relationship before. It always seemed like so much effort; The emotional drama, the pressure to impress a potential partner, the expected act of intimacy, and worst of all...having to shave your legs. You shudder. So much bother.
Lucrezia slams her fist against the door of her locker, startling you and everyone else hovering in the background. “You expect me to believe that?! Why else would Cesare be sniffing around you so much?! It certainly aren’t your looks that are keeping him coming back!”
So far, you’ve come to the frightening conclusion that this girl was Fifty Shade of Crazy. And not only that, but she knew precisely where to hit so it hurt the most. Something shrivels inside you as she snarls and storms out of the changing room.
There is an uncomfortable silence left lingering; even Élise has ceased the loud and obnoxious chewing of the spearmint flavoured gum in her mouth. Well that was...something. So the reason behind her incomprehensible contempt was all because her brother – who you didn’t even want to be around in the first place – was speaking to you earlier? Yikes.
Well, at least you can take some comfort in knowing it was nothing personal. Sort of.
The sound of a whistle and Bartolomeo’s booming voice broke everyone out of their trance, and without another word being exchanged, you all shuffled from the changing room and merged with the other students in single file.
“How nice of you to join us, ladies.” His eyes narrow sharply. “Due to the amount of time you all have sprecato (wasted) in there, we will no longer be playing dodgeball. Instead, the remainder of today’s lesson shall be spent running laps.” He gave a powerful blow on the whistle in his hand, the piercing sound forcing a few students to block their ears. “Alla pista (To the track)!”
Groans and grumbles echoed off the halls, as well as the squeaking of shoes as everyone trudges miserably to the set of double doors leading to the track outside. You are the last to leave, however, for you’re far more interested in watching Bartolomeo. The immaculately polished whistle is rolled around in his palm, a strange smile on his face – the type of smile one usually finds on a starry-eyed girl drooling over their favourite fictional character.
“This is my favourite part of teaching, Bianca, darling.” He whispered - or perhaps crooned may be the more appropriate term. “A few laps around the track and they’ll never be tardiva (tardy) again.”
He chuckles to himself and gives a tiny toot on the whistle before he turns and meets your eye. You blink. He blinks. You blink again and swiftly avert your gaze, scurrying outside before he could say anything. That was a sight you could have done without. Were all the teachers at this school peculiar?
You shake your head and join Evie’s side down at the track. She offers a tight-lipped smile in greeting. “You took your time.”
“Yeah, I, um...” Your eyes drift again to the gym, “got distracted by something weird.”
She hums to acknowledge you, but you doubt she was really listening. Undoubtedly she was still upset about what happened in the changing room. Not that you could blame her. You weren’t particularly fond of people snickering in your face either.
“Listen, Evie...I’m sorry about what happened. I shouldn’t have mentioned this Henry person.”
Her stretching exercises come to an abrupt halt and she frowns. “Why are you apologising?”
You falter, mouth opening and closing uselessly for a few seconds. “Oh, I...well, I thought by how you reacted in the changing room that I had offended you somehow...I didn’t?”
Her eyes roll skywards, but not in a way which conveys annoyance. “You’re not the problem here, (Y/N). Élise is. She knows Henry is a touchy subject for me and yet she constantly brings him up in order to get a reaction out of me.” Her shoulders slump. “Though perhaps this is partly my fault for reacting so boorishly. I should know better than to let personal feelings control the course of my actions.”
Hesitantly, you reach out and rest a hand on her shoulder. “You don’t need to feel bad about getting upset. Everyone gets angry and do things they don’t normally do.”
“Yes, but I shouldn’t. What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.”
“I’m sure even Aristotle got pissed off on occasion.”
“You knew I was quoting Aristotle?”
You were rather offended at the level of surprise her voice contained. Did you come across as an idiot more often than none? “My Dad is...was...a professor of languages and literature at Columbia University.”
Her eyes widen a fraction. “Really? That’s impressive.” She jabbed a thumb over her shoulder, drawing your attention to the school. “Our father is the English teacher here.”
“I know. I have his class fifth period.” Now you were even more nervous about taking the class. “Hopefully I don’t get on his bad side.”
She laughed a bit. “As long as you do the provided work and don’t talk, then you should be fine.”
The pair of you shared a smile before redirecting all focus to the approaching Bartolomeo.
Today was one of those days where you wished you had never rolled out of bed.
What you’ve just been through...torture would have been a more preferable way to spend the past 40 minutes.
A low, guttural noise of disgust squeezes its way past your withered lips as you lollop back to the changing room, peeling the sweat soaked shirt off your back. Gross. How could it possibly be legal for teachers to humiliate their students in such a brutal manner?! Oh sure, it’s no big deal to those that are athletically gifted, but what about the uncoordinated? Year after year, coordinately-challenged students totter into gym class with the disheartening knowledge that an hour of degradation and chafing lay ahead of them.
You plonk down on the wooden bench when reaching the changing room, murmuring words of gratitude. Finally. It was finally over. Your burning muscles and snarling stomach were grateful. Now you can go and stuff your face in the cafeteria with the comforting knowledge that you have more than earned a good meal.
However...there was still the unresolved issue with Kadar. All throughout the lesson, you attempted to speak with him and gain some understanding as to why he didn’t want to speak with you, but every attempt went ignored. It was mind boggling. You haven’t even done anything to him – at least, not that you were aware of. And no else was willing to offer an explanation.
You drown yourself in deodorant before changing back into the proper uniform. Lucrezia gives your shoulder a deliberate shove once you stand, and the pair of you exchange a glare. The day wasn’t even halfway through and already you made an enemy. Guess it wouldn’t truly be high school without some prissy bitch going out of their way to make everyone else’s lives miserable. But no matter. One girl wasn’t going to ruin your day.
Slinging your bag over your shoulder, you give one final check in the mirror, nod, and leave the gymnasium behind.
Boys locker room – Aftermath
“How in the hell did you ever get on the track team?” Jacob gave fellow student, Yusuf Tazim, a friendly shove in the back.
Yusuf flashed a lopsided smile and grabbed at his sweaty headband, ripping it off. “You, arkadaşim (my friend), are simply jealous because I am – as the kids today say – amazeballs!”
He snorted. “Nobody uses the word ‘amazeballs’. Not now, not ever.”
“But I heard you say it just last week.”
Jacob pursed his lips and raked his fingers through his hair, messing it up even more. “Yeah, but then Evie punched me and threatened to twist my nipples if I ever said it again.” He flushed when Yusuf burst out laughing, which inevitably resulted in the other boys snickering at his misery. Well, except for Kadar.
He hadn’t said a single word ever since discovering that (Y/N) was to be in the same class as him. He hadn’t seen you in almost three weeks, and then all of a sudden you pop up out of the blue as though nothing was wrong and smile at him. An infuriatingly beautiful smile which he’ll never be able to stop thinking about. He hung his head. There was nothing he wanted more than to spend time with you, but...he was certain that you wished to have nothing to do with him. Why else would you have broken your promise?
“What do you think, Kadar?”
He snaps out of his troublesome thoughts and blinks, looking up at Yusuf. “Think about what?”
The other boy grins and tosses a used towel at Jacob’s head. “Wouldn’t you agree that our British friend here runs as though he’s trying to hold a pencil between his cheeks?”
Jacob interjects before Kadar has a chance to speak. “Laugh all you want, mate, but I don’t need to run. That is why man invented cars.”
Yusuf rolls his eyes but his smile only gets bigger. “You can’t drive either. But moving on,” His eyes drifted back to the young Levantine, “what’s wrong, my tiny foreign friend?”
Kadar finished tying his shoe and stood, tucking his shirt tails into the waistband of his trousers. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Girl trouble, huh?”
He froze, unable to prevent the blush creeping onto his cheeks. “No!” His cheeks puffed out in embarrassment when he yelled. “I’m not—I mean, I don’t...there’s no girl in my life.”
“And there never will be.” Cesare smirked and crossed his arms, leaning his weight against the lockers.
The corners of Kadar’s lips tug down into a slight frown. “I have a better chance at getting a girlfriend than you do.”
“You? Non fare l'idiota (Don’t be an idiot). You’re short, brutto (ugly), and have unnatural obsession with Disney.” His eyes flashed cruelly. “Girls find those things a turn-off.”
It was clear to everyone in the room that Cesare’s words were negatively affecting Kadar, if the quivering of his lower lip and glossy eyes were anything to judge by.
“You know what else turns girls off, Cesare?” Jacob spoke up, slinging an arm across Kadar’s shoulders. “That weird fucking Cersei and Jaime Lannister thing you and your sister have got going on.”
The Italian’s face contorted into a look of pure rage, his hands balling into fists by his sides. “How dare you disrespect the Borgia name?!”
Yusuf begins laughing, a silly grin on his face as he points to Cesare. “Don’t you love how it always looks like he’s about to cry whenever he gets angry? It’s Güzel (beautiful).”
Crimson was crawling its way up Cesare’s neck, his entire body visibly shaking as laughter occupied the changing room. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” He tries yelling over their deafening guffaws. “No one makes fun of the Borgia’s! No one!”
But no one listened. No one cared.
Infuriated, and humiliated, he swiped up his bag and stormed out of the room.
Chapter 7: All I Wanted was Lunch
The lunchroom is already crowded by the time you arrive, and the low-hanging drop ceiling makes the room feel even more crowded. The noise of laughter and clattering trays echoes off the panelled walls, which are painted in Primrose’s colours, red and white.
Joining the ridiculously long queue for food, you decide it would be in your best interest to learn the layout of the cafeteria.
Kadar can easily be spotted jostling his way towards the table nearest to the food line, squeezing himself in between Malik and Altaïr-the-assbutt. You make the briefest of eye contact before his bright blue eyes are flittering away. Pain takes a nasty jab at your heart and your attention travels forlornly to a table near the left wall, where you find numerous familiar faces.
Unsurprisingly, Rebecca is the centre of attention as she chatters and gesticulates animatedly, with Aveline giggling behind her palm. Yusuf shoves a forkful of food into his mouth, then throws his head back and laughs in a volume loud enough to be heard even from where you were currently standing. Arno – whom you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting officially yet – dips a tater tot into a tiny cup of ketchup and waves it enticingly in front of Élise’s mouth as though she were an infant. She frowns and turns away from him, now trying to earn the attention of Connor, whose nose was delved deep into a Harry Potter novel. Arno shrugs and instead plops the tot into his own mouth, which purses adorably.
At a table near the back corner sits the Frye twins. They have an entire table to themselves, but they don’t appear to mind their isolation. Your focus lingers on them for a few seconds. Instead of cafeteria food, they both planned ahead and brought bagged lunches. Their lips move at a frantic pace, indicating that they must be arguing over something, but then Evie’s shoulders slump and she slides her brother’s sandwich towards herself and proceeds to cut the crusts off. Jacob is beaming, his feet tapping happily against the tiled floor. The sandwich is returned – with the crusts no longer in sight – and Evie steals the carton of milk from his side of the table, but replaces it with an unopened box of juice. Evie’s attention returns to the notebook on her right and picks up her pen, tapping it against the pages. You’re ready to turn away, but an unrecognizable boy saunters towards their table and plops down in the empty spot beside Jacob. He wastes no time in telling a joke – and a good one judging by the way milk bursts from Jacob’s nostrils. Even Evie managed a titter.
This boy...the more you examine the structure of his face, the more familiar he becomes. But how? You don’t recall ever having meeting with him. Your lips purse. You’d think you would remember meeting someone as cute as him – or at least, he would be cute if he didn’t have that cringe worthy pornstache going on. He must sense your blatant stare for his eyes manage to locate yours despite the chaotic atmosphere. Recognition flashes across those chocolate orbs of his, which only worked to confuse you even more.
Your attention is drawn to the pudgy man behind the serving line. He raises a spatula and the colour drains from your face. Ugh, what was that? Some brownish...soggy...oblong...thing. An abomination. The man serving fails to notice the look of horror currently contorting your features and continues grinning, his rotund cheeks a lovely crimson. He is way too happy for this job.
“Uhm...have you got anything else?”
Judging by the amused glimmer within in his eyes, he was anticipating that very answer. The brownish, gelatinous chunk of unholiness was set aside. “No one ever chooses the protein loaf,” he says with a smile as big as himself. “Well, how does macaroni and cheese sound? Or I’ve got mouth-watering Sloppy Joes – or as I like to call them ‘Sloppy Bonnet’s’.” He chuckled to himself as though it was the funniest thing ever said. “Word play. Brilliant.”
You smile softly and hold out the cheap plastic tray. “Well when you put it that way, how can I possibly say no?”
His grin doubles in size and he drops a Sloppy ‘Bonnet’ onto the tray in your hands, then piled on a ladle full of tater tots. “Here you are, sweetheart. You go and enjoy that now.” He cooed, the same way your grandpa used to when he would sneak you sugar cookies throughout the day.
“Thank you, Mr Bonnet.”
“Ah, please, call me Stede. Makes me feel more like one of the kids!”
You couldn’t help but laugh along with him. “Alright, well thank you, Stede.” He waved you away cheerfully before turning to serve the next student. Your (colour) orbs sweep the room and catch sight of a familiar drop-dead gorgeous Italian across the room, near the windows. You’re just about to wave to him, but you stop, brows knitting together in concern as your gaze trails after him. He looks fairly upset. Could it have something to do with the girl speaking with the principal? Was she his girlfriend? Whoa. A twinge of jealousy just struck. Freaky.
Visibly shaking yourself free from the clutches of the green-eyed monster, you stalk a little bit closer so you could hear exactly what the principal, Mr Starrick, was saying. He did not look happy.
Though from what you’ve been told, Mr Starrick is hardly ever happy.
According to Aveline, Crawford Starrick became Principal at the end of last year, and he’s overflowing with plans to turn Primrose High around: raising standardized test scores; ensuring college placements for every student; reducing behavioural problems; making Primrose High the most prestigious school on the entire island. The highest praise one can receive from Mr Starrick is being referred to as a ‘model citizen’. He’s highly invested in citizenship – there are rumours circulating that he wishes to run for governor in a few years.
When you see him now, he’s standing over the girl Ezio was glaring at, somehow managing to look taller than her, even though he was a few inches shorter. “Do you take me for a fool, Miss Auditore?” The toe of his perfectly polished shoe taps against the tiled floor, dark eyes flinty and unreadable. “Did you think your constant absence from classes would go unnoticed by me? Or is it that you simply do not care about your future?” Each consonant is sharply enunciated, every word spoken clearly enough that it can be heard throughout the entire cafeteria. “This attitude of yours is deplorable and will not be tolerated in my school. I’m going to make a call to your parents, but as of right now, I want you to report to room 6.66. Mr Birch will supervise until your parents come to collect you.”
Those are words that could send a chill through any Primrose student. Room 6.66 is the detention room, and Mr Birch is somehow always on duty. He’s the fiercest and most intimidating of the science teachers. When you were younger, you can easily recall the unfortunate incident involving Mr Birch. To keep a long and emotional story short, let’s just say that you’ll never see that man as anything else but the one who killed your favourite plush bunny, Winky.
As the girl slinks away and the buzz of cafeteria noise starts to rise around you again, Mr Starrick fixes you with an intense and unnerving stare. And if you weren’t already feeling the faintest of shivers down your spine, as he passes, he says, “I’m watching you, Stillman.”
Mr Starrick moves away and everyone can breathe again. As the mood returns to normal, Ezio presses in and grips your wrist. “I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to have lunch with you today.” His honeyed orbs flicker to the entrance to the cafeteria where the girl was lounging, an expression of sheer boredom on her face. “I have to try talk some sense into my sister.”
“Your sister?” Now you felt like an idiot. “That girl’s your sister?”
Why did you not notice the similarities before? You look over and the first thing that springs to mind is: rebel. But in a rather enticing way. She pulled it off, which not many people did. You adored the crimson streaks running through her jet black hair, and despite the bangs concealing over half her face, it was still easy to see that she was a pretty girl. She took notice of your stare and flipped the bird.
“Può essere un po’ (She can be such a little)—” He cuts his sentence short and releases a deep sigh, the irritation in his eyes being replaced by penitence. “I’m really sorry. I’ll make it up to you. Promesso (I promise).”
You balance your tray of food in one hand so you can offer a dismissive wave with the other. “Don’t apologise. I understand that you need to put family first. We’ll have plenty of times to hang out.”
His entire body visibly relaxes and he smiles. “I knew I liked you for a reason.” The delicate squeeze on your elbow does not go unnoticed, and a flirtatious wink is given before he leaves to join his sister by the entrance.
You deflate. Now where were you going to sit? You weren’t confident enough to simply approach a table and request to join the ones already seated, but there were no empty tables left. Oh, wait a second. You recall seeing a picnic table in front of the school. Yeah. That might actually be nice. Give you a chance to soak up some sun...enjoy the breeze...share lunch with the bugs...
Oh man, it was beginning to feel like junior high all over again.
Turning around, your tray collides with an impressively broad chest, and a few tots go tumbling onto the floor. “Crap! I’m sorry!”
“My fault entirely, lass.” A voice says, amused. There’s an accent there. It’s...it’s diluted but you’re fairly confident that it has a Welsh taint.
After reorganizing the food items on your tray, you finally look to see who you had bumped into, and oh hot damn was it a sight worthy of admiration. Blond hair kept back in a tight bun with a few golden strands framing a rugged face. Breathtaking eyes the colour of the Caribbean Sea. If an angel and a pirate bore a child, this man-among-boys would be the result.
In fear of drooling over this heavenly divine creature that had been so generously bestowed upon you, you’re forced to awkwardly avert your gaze, choosing to instead stare at the tot next to your foot. “Uhm, I-I need to...I mean, I should probably—”
An arm slithering around your waist distracts you. What the hell was he playing at?! Your startled gaze flies back to him, questioningly. “What are you doing?” You mentally curse the slight quiver of your voice.
“Smile and play along, lass.” He glances over at a nearby table, where a cluster of his friends are eating lunch. One of them looks up, catches sight of the pair of you, and quickly looks away. “Come over to my table.”
You bite your lip, unsure of what was happening as you stare at the table. There are two empty spots directly next to each other: one for you; one for him. But why exactly did he want you to join them so much? You didn’t even know his name.
“Oh, I really shouldn’t—”
But your words go ignored, and without even realising, you were being pushed down in the empty spot with your captor sliding in beside you. And that’s not even the weirdest part. No, the weirdest part of this entire situation was that no one else at this table batted a single eyelash. Was this a regular occurrence? Did this epitome of sexiness normally go around kidnapping unsuspecting students with no explanation whatsoever?
Because that was fine, you guess.
You look up from your tray...and can’t help but admire the view. Great. Even more infuriatingly stunning people. They’re all so pretty you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or dig a hole and bury yourself.
“Buckle your seatbelts, gents.” The guy with dark windswept hair and overly-cocky aura says in a hushed voice, letting his fork droop back into his half-eaten mac ‘n’ cheese. “There’s one hell of a storm coming.”
Storm? What was he talking about?
Following his gaze to the entrance of the cafeteria, a sudden overwhelming urge to drive a fork through your eye overcame you. Fan-fucking-tastic. Lucrezia Borgia. As if you hadn’t already had enough of her for one day.
“This is where you come into it, lass.” The blond hunk whispers, giving your ribs a poke. “All you need to do is play along.”
“Play along?” You quirk a brow. “Um, I’m afraid I don’t really understand what I’m supposed to do...”
But none of them answered. Instead, fake smiles were plastered on each of their faces as they angled their heads in Lucrezia’s direction.
Lucrezia spots you and her eyes narrow the same time yours do. “Edward,” her voice is lower than usual, the muscles in her jaw tightening, “what is this puttana doing in my spot?”
Edward rests an arm atop the table and leans forward. His face is dangerously close to your own; there’s a faint smell of the ocean radiating from his sun-kissed skin. Those full, totally kissable lips quirk upwards at the corner. “What do you mean? Everyone knows this spot belongs to my girlfriend.” Those cerulean tinted orbs of his rake intimately over every inch of your body before connecting with your own bulging eyes. “Isn’t that right, love?” A tater tot is raised and pressed against your lips.
You’re far too stunned to react, but your lips part automatically, and the tot is inserted. The pad of his finger lightly taps against your lips. He offers a toothy grin, amusement dancing beneath his lashes.
This had to be a dream! Reality was never this kind.
The unmistakable sound of grinding teeth causes you to shift your focus to Lucrezia . Holy crap. The once hot blood slithering through your veins turns to ice. Never in your life had you ever seen a more enraged expression; that’s including all the anime which you’ve seen. You know, without a doubt, if there weren’t a room full of witnesses, you’d be lying in a pool of your own blood by now.
Without warning, her hand shoots out like a viper, the sound of skin meeting skin echoing across the cafeteria, immediately silencing the pleasant chattering among students. Edward’s face is overcome by shock, the distinctive imprint of a hand defiling his stubbled cheek.
“Pezzo di merda!” The loudness of her voice startles you, but her outburst does not stop there. Oh no. In fact, she goes off on – what you imagine to be – an impressively obscene tangent. And the more she rants, the more her pitch increases until she’s screaming profanities at an inaudible frequency. “Pensi di potermi fottere e poi buttarmi da parte come se fossi un preservativo?! Stronzo! Forse dovrei tagliarti le palle e dar loro da mangiare ai miei cani! Come ti sembra?!”
Her psychotic, dilated eyes fixate on you; they’re consumed by a murderous intent. Her fingers twitch. You know her next strike is to be directed at you, but Cesare interferes before anything else can be done.
Guess he wasn’t as bad as everyone makes out.
“Enough, Lucrezia.” He demands, one arm encircling her waist, preventing her from making any sudden movements. “Ti stai imbarazzando (You’re embarrassing yourself).”
She huffs and roughly drives her fists into his chest, but he remained unaffected. “Of course you would come to the rescue of your puttana! How many times have you slept with her?! Do you and Edward take turns?!”
Fire burned in his eyes and his fingers bit sharply into her upper arm. His lips inched closer to her ear, but you couldn’t hear what it was he was whispering to her. Whatever it was though, it calmed her down immensely. Both siblings cast you a sidelong glance before shuffling away without another word.
Edward chuckled and a smirk played on his lips. “That went quite well, don’t you think?”
That was considered ‘quite well’?!
The girl sitting adjacent to you cracks open a soda and places it on your tray. “You look like you could use a pick me up.” Her crimson painted lips curl into a smile.
She could say that again.
A weak smile made an appearance on your face and you picked up the soda, taking a sip. “Thanks...”
“Mary,” She introduced, then pointed to the boy beside her. “And this is my twin brother, James.”
James gave a bob of his head and swept aside the darks bangs dangling in front of one eye. “Pleasure.” He conjured up a charming smile; one that had your heart fluttering.
All you could do was swallow and force out a high-pitched greeting of your own, which resulted in the broadening of his smile; clearly he was aware of the type of effect he had on the female sex and was used to receiving all sorts of reactions.
At least no one noticed the lascivious glint in your eye, and if they did, they chose not to draw attention to it – to which you were excessively grateful. Instead they smiled, or smirked, and introduced themselves. The one with the cocky aura and windswept hair was Ben Hornigold – it took a lot of self-restraint to keep from snorting at the name -, the redhead beside him was Anne Bonny, and was currently engaged in a sickening nuzzling match with Jack Rackham. Finally, there were the two that hadn’t spoken a single word since your arrival: Charles Vane and Adéwalé.
“So, (Y/N), will you be coming to The Sleeping Fox tonight?”
“The what?” You blink, meeting Mary’s eye.
The Irish beauty interjects. “The Sleeping Fox. It’s this karaoke bar we all go to on the first day of school. It’s been a tradition for years.”
Karaoke bar...? Ugh, that sounded like the most humiliating venue on the planet.
Distaste must have been evident on your face because James let out a short laugh. “It’s not as awful as it sounds, believe me. Everyone goes but it’s rare that anyone actually gets up to sing. We all just go to hang out and have a good time .”
Well, you suppose that doesn’t sound too bad.
“I guess if everyone else is going then I’ll tag along.” You smile softly.
Ben suddenly looks interested in the conversation. “You live at the Stillman place, aye? I’ll be by later to pick you up.”
You blink rapidly. “You...what?” Did you hear that correctly?
Edward snorts disparagingly from his place beside you. “What’s the matter, Ben? Did the island run out of women for you to lure into that big backseat of yours? You have to prey on the new meat?”
Ben feigns offence. “You have the cheek to question my gentlemanly intent? You bastard. I just don’t wish to see the lovely young lady left walking alone on a darkening sidewalk.”
Edward’s eyes roll skywards but he’s smirking. “I’m sure she wishes to get to the bar without getting groped by you, mate. I’ll take her.”
He ignores the jibe this time and instead looks to you. “You’ll regret taking him up on his offer, lass. I can take you in my car. It’s much bigger than Kenway’s by far.” He sends a suggestive wink your way.
“I do believe that it’s not the size which matters, it’s what you do with it.”
The other’s are shaking their heads at their banter, whereas you’re left silently laughing despite yourself. The shrieking of the bell interrupts what you were going to say next, and everyone is raising themselves from their seats and shuffling out of the cafeteria.
“What class have you next?” James slings a backpack that has seen better days over one shoulder and walks with you down the hallway.
If memory serves you correctly, your next class would be, “History.”
Surprise flickers across his handsome features. “But that’s a Senior class. You do realise that the teacher will be grading you at a Senior level?”
You nod and squeeze the strap of your bag, feeling your confidence diminish slightly.
“I’m sorry,” he cupped your elbow gently, “I didn’t mean to freak you out.”
“No, that’s okay.” You offer a tiny smile. “I appreciate the concern, but I think I’ll do okay.”
He mirrored your smile. “I think you will too.”
Chapter 8: Authors Note: Love Interests
All potential love interests have finally been introduced! Now the drama can begin~!
1. Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad
2. Malik Al-Sayf
3. Kadar Al-Sayf
4. Edward Kenway
5. James Kidd
6. Ezio Auditore
7. Jacob Frye
8. Connor Kenway
9. Arno Dorian
10. Shay "Pornstache" Cormac
I will not be adding any more male love interests.
I am going to include Evie Frye as a love interest because I love her~♡
Chapter 9: Humiliation's my Middle Name
Also, I apologise if the 'school' setting is getting dull. Trust me, I do have quite a bit of drama for this story~
Time dragged on, and with each excruciatingly drawn-out second, it was becoming increasingly harder to focus on what the teacher was saying. Rebecca – whom you were surprised to find was also enrolled in the class – was seated in front of you, and rather than focus on the history of the island, you were more invested with staring at the back of her head, fascinated by the Cheeto that had somehow gotten ensnared within the inescapable knots. You can’t help but wonder how exactly it got there and how she had not yet realised that it was there.
Perhaps it was high time you let her know.
Removing the pen from between your lips, you lean forward and give the back of Rebecca’s neck a poke. Somehow she wasn’t aware that you were attempting to get her attention in a discreet manner and simply scratched the spot which you poked. With pursed lips, you lean forward and try again.
She turns in her seat to face you and yanked the neon green earbuds from her ears. “What’s up?” Unlike what you were planning on doing, she didn’t bother with whispering.
You flash an apologetic smile her way. “Sorry, Becs, but you’ve got a Cheeto caught in the back of your hair. Thought you might want to know.”
“A Cheeto, huh?” She clawed at the back of her head, the cheese coated snack now trapped between her fingers. “I was wondering why Yusuf was pissing himself during lunch. Thanks, (Y/N).” She flashed a crooked grin before plopping the Cheeto into her mouth, crunching on it loudly enough to disturb the lesson.
An attention-seeking cough draws your attention to the teacher standing tall beside your desk. “Oh, I’m sorry. Have I interrupted the conversation you were having? God, that was awfully rude, wasn’t it?” Sarcasm dripped from his words, a pair of russet eyes narrowing behind thin-rimmed glasses. “Do you want me to wait until gossip-hour is over? Or can I get to teaching things that are actually important?”
You sink further into your chair, muttering an apology, whilst Rebecca smirks and inserts one earbud into her ear. “Lighten up, Shaun.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose, repeating an oft-stated maxim. “For the last time, Rebecca, my name to you children is Mr Hastings. Now, getting back to more important things...” He continued writing on the whiteboard. “Who can tell me what historic moment took place on our very own Primrose Island two hundred and twenty years ago?”
The class remained silent; everyone was preoccupied with their own devices.
“Anyone?” Shaun turned to face the class, tapping the whiteboard marker against his open palm. “Anyone at all? No? Am I speaking English or an ancient dialect no one remembers?” When nobody answers, he throws his head back as a sign of exasperation and plops down on the edge of his desk. “And here I was idiotic enough to believe teaching was going to be a rewarding experience,” he grumbles bitterly, pushing his glasses to the top of his head so he could rub his eyes. “Ms Bonny? Do you care to weigh in?”
Anne jumped a bit and looked up from the screen of her phone. “Um, I dunno. The Reformation?”
A few snickers resounded through the room. Shaun could be seen biting the inside of his cheek, head shaking as though he were embarrassed by such an answer. “Not even close, Ms Bonny. Perhaps instead of sexting – or whatever you bloody call it nowadays -, you could use that phone to, oh, I don’t know, broaden your intellectual capacity. Maybe even give yourself a chance to succeed in my class.”
Anne’s nose crinkled but her eyes immediately fell back to the glowing screen of her phone.
“Mr Kenway? I present you with the opportunity to overcome your embedded jock stereotype. Any ideas?”
Edward eases back into a comfortable slouch, a lopsided grin on his face. “I appreciate the concern for wellbeing, mate, but being a jock is what’s going to make me famous one day.”
“Noah Alston was optimistic about becoming famous too.”
“Exactly,” Shaun sighed and clicked his tongue, “what about the new girl?” You meet his eye as he continues. “Surely you can enlighten us on one the island’s most significantly historic events?”
Crap. There was still a staggering amount of information you had yet to learn of the island, and after seeing how much enjoyment this teacher procured from the humiliation of each student, you weren’t too eager about sharing their fate.
But he continued to stare with that penetrating, hawk-like gaze. Might as well get it over with. Your tongue shoots out to moisten your lips. “Uh, I...I’m sorry. I-I don’t know...”
His lips pursed. “Seeing as how you’re new here, I will be lenient this time around, but you will need to try hard in this class if you wish to get a passing grade.” Phew. Dodged a bullet.
Shaun stood and began pacing at the front of the class. “It was actually The Skirmish of Orelt Creek that took place in 1798. However, despite the skirmish having taken place on the island, the Primrose Militia did not actually partake in any of the fighting; the reason for this being that two unknown factions invaded during the middle of the night and engaged in a sanguinary battle of their own volition. All those who fought in this battle were found dead the very next morning; fortunately without any civilian casualties. To this day, it is still unclear as to why these two factions chose this specific location, but—”
There was a disparaging snort from the back corner, causing all eyes to drift towards the source: Altaïr.
Shaun folds his arms, raising an inquisitive brow. “Did you wish to contribute to the lesson, Mr Ibn-La’Ahad?”
Altaïr refused to detract his attention from his notebook, his pen continuing to scratch away reverently on the lined pages. “Juno,” he says simply, as though the word actually meant something.
“Where did you hear that name?” Shaun was suddenly rigid.
A languid raise of the young Levantine’s shoulders was given in response. “I didn’t hear it anywhere. I read it.” He finally looked up, noticing he held the attention of every person in the room. “The people that fought that night...they were searching for something. Or someone. I’ve been up there, exploring. Someone had carved the name ‘Juno’ into the base of a tree along with something else called ‘The Apple’.”
Shaun cleared his throat. “Well seeing as how there isn’t actually any record of this ‘Juno’ or ‘Apple’ throughout history, then there’s really no need to fixate on them. Let’s move on.”
You couldn’t help but notice how peculiar Shaun was now acting – especially when he shot an enigmatic look Rebecca’s way, earning himself a tenuous nod in response.
This island just got even more fascinating.
Altaïr’s upper lip curled back as a sign of disdain and he let his head come down to rest on his desk, closing his eyes and ignoring Malik attempting to earn his attention. You continued to watch him, though for reasons you couldn’t comprehend. There was just something about him that made you want to learn more about him. Though his hostility made you question whether or not he’d ever allow you a chance to get close enough.
Malik must’ve sensed someone staring because he looked away from Altaïr and caught your eye. A smile lit up his face and he waved. Despite the heat clawing its way onto your cheeks, you shyly waved back, biting back the urge to grin like an idiot.
“Flirting isn’t going to help you succeed in my class, Ms Stillman.”
Your focus snapped to the front and humiliation slithered through your veins when noticing everyone was staring, a few of the Seniors openly snickering at your expense. Bastards. Sinking lower into your chair, you stare at the clock and will the time to move faster.
Entering the English room, it astounds you to find that everyone is already seated with a copy of Wuthering Heights on their desks.
“Ms Stillman, I presume?”
The teacher’s voice prevents you from taking another step. You meet his annoyed gaze – those eyes are the same shade of blue as Evie’s. However that seems to be where the similarities between father and daughter end. The longer you stare at him, the more he seems to resemble his son; dark unkempt hair, strong jaw dusted by a dark stubble, powerful physique...
Oh, ew. Had you seriously been checking out the father of the Frye twins?! Ugh, that was wrong. So wrong. And now you felt inexplicably dirty.
What? You steal a glance at the other students, noticing a couple of familiar faces; Connor, Aveline, and Henry offer sympathetic smiles; Ezio is still acting flirtatious despite the circumstances; and Arno is preoccupied with crafting his very own paper airplane, oblivious to the world around him. The teacher remains silent, though there is a distinctive air of impatience wafting from his person. You look to the clock – as suspected, there’s three minutes to spare.
“Your punctuality is deplorable and will need to be corrected immediately. I expect this behaviour to be rectified without delay.”
The corners of your mouth tug down into a slight frown. “But I’m not late.”
“Excuse me?” The muscles in his jaw tighten.
The grip of your bag falters faintly but you stand your ground. You have done nothing wrong, so to be accused otherwise is preposterous. “Class doesn’t start until 1:45. I got here at 1:42, so therefore, I’m not late.”
Mr Frye narrows his eyes.
Goosebumps sweep across your skin but in no way are you even the slightest bit cold. Quite the opposite, to be honest. Sweat poises delicately on your hairline. “At least, I didn’t think I was late. B-but if I am-” you mentally curse yourself for stuttering, “-then it’s not really my fault. I take a Seniors class, which is at the other end of the school. I came straight here. No diversions.”
One skittish looking kid in the back gasps as though he were watching a soap opera. Heat is practically radiating from your skin like that of a furnace. Mr Frye raises himself from his chair, momentarily causing your heart to stop beating. Oh, man. It probably would have been better to keep your mouth shut.
He has no consideration for personal space – the smell of his breath was...well, actually it was pretty nice and fresh, but still, that didn’t mean you wanted him breathing directly in your face. “Get into a group. Now.”
“O-okay.” Damn. Another stutter. A few people chuckle. Jerks.
Mr Frye goes back to writing on the whiteboard as though nothing had happened. The groups consist of only two people, so you guess you just have to jump right into one. Connor reveals himself as your saviour by ushering you towards his and Arno’s table. You don’t hesitate in squeezing yourself beside the gentle giant.
“How was your last class, (Y/N)?”
He offers the tiniest of smiles when you look to him. “It was okay, I guess. I learned quite a bit about the island, but Mr Hastings, he’s...” You aren’t exactly sure how to describe the man.
“Similar to that of Severus Snape?” He guessed. “Bit of a tyrant, history-wise.”
“That’s actually a fairly accurate description, Connor.” You can’t help but grin at the idea. “I’m guessing you’re a big Harry Potter fan?”
His lovely puppy dog eyes fall quickly to the book sticking out of his bag. “I wouldn’t say ‘big’ fan, but I do enjoy the books.”
“And the movies,” Arno chimes, finishing the paper-plane he had been working on.
“And the movies,” Connor repeats, looking down at the desk.
“Not to mention the online comi-”
“Quiet.” He snapped, the harshness of his tone startling you a bit; though his demeanour immediately reverted to the mild-mannered gentleman you had grown accustomed when he glanced your way. “Alright, so I guess I’m somewhat of a big fan.”
“Don’t you have your very own wand too?” Arno was beginning to push his luck, but he didn’t appear to care – despite noticing the faint twitching of Connor’s right eye. “And go around acting out scenes from the movies?” He smirked and held his pen up as though it were a wand. “Expelliarmus! Haha, take that you dark lord! I’m Connor Potter; the dark arts better worry!”
Connor’s cheeks were flushed, irritation etched onto his features. Arno could no longer contain himself and erupted into a fit of hysterics, disrupting the rest of the class. Aveline – who had been reading aloud from Wuthering Heights – sunk back down in her seat with a despondent glance at the teacher.
“Mr Dorian,” The teacher tapped his fingers atop the surface of his desk, “why do you insist on disturbing every single one of my classes?”
Arno dried his eyes and offered a lopsided smile – and you can’t help but admire those adorable dimples. “Because I’m good at it, sir?”
“An unfortunate trait to be proud of, Mr Dorian.” He clicked his tongue. “It has made you good at receiving detention as well. I expect you there after school is over.”
Arno’s face twisted into one of pure horror. “Aw, man, not again. Mr Birch totally has it out for me! Please, Mr Frye, you’ve got to give me another chance!”
But the teacher was having none of his excuses. “You should have considered that before you so rudely interrupted my lesson with your outbursts.” His eyes flickered to yours after Arno dropped his head on the desk. “I do not appreciate you distracting my students, Ms Stillman.”
“Seeing as how you enjoy the attention, you can continue reading from where Ms Grandpré stopped.”
Suppressing the desire to stomp your feet and make a show of how unfair his treatment of you was, you slowly, reluctantly, stood. All eyes fixate on you. Connor gave a subtle nudge of the book, urging it closer to your hand; however, you had no idea what page you were on, let alone which sentence you needed to carry on. “Um...” Your tongue shoots out to moisten your lips as your eyes dart frantically around the room, hoping that someone would see the desperation on your face and take pity on you by mouthing the page number.
But no one did. You were on your own.
Seeing as how there was absolutely no way of discovering which page everyone else was on, you flipped to a random chapter and hope your impressive ability to give life to the written word takes away from your incompetence.
‘Did she take due warning, then?’ asked Heathcliff, attempting a sneer. ‘Did she die like a saint? Come, give me a true history of the event. How did—?’
He endeavoured to pronounce the name, but could not manage it; and compressing his mouth he held a silent combat with his inward agony, defying, meanwhile, my sympathy with an unflinching, ferocious stare. ‘How did she die?’ he resumed, at last—fain, notwithstanding his hardihood, to have a support behind him; for, after the struggle, he trembled, in spite of himself, to his very finger-ends.
‘Poor wretch!’ I thought; ‘you have a heart and nerves the same as your brother men! Why should you be anxious to conceal them? Your pride cannot blind God! You tempt him to wring them, till he forces a cry of humiliation.’
‘Quietly as a lamb!’ I answered, aloud. ‘She drew a sigh, and stretched herself, like a child reviving, and sinking again to sleep; and five minutes after I felt one little pulse at her heart, and nothing more!’
‘And—did she ever mention me?’ he asked, hesitating, as if he dreaded the answer to his question would introduce details that he could not bear to hear.
‘Her senses never returned: she recognised nobody from the time you left her,’ I said. ‘She lies with a sweet smile on her face; and her latest ideas wandered back to pleasant early days. Her life closed in a gentle dream—may she wake as kindly in the other world!’
‘May she wake in torment!’ he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. ‘Why, she’s a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there—not in heaven—not perished—where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!’
You finished reading, a faint tremble in your hands as you set the book down, and looked to the teacher. If you weren’t mistaken, you could’ve sworn he actually looked...impressed.
He tapped a finger against his pursing lips. “That excerpt wasn’t even close to where we are; however, you read in a loud, clear voice. All pronunciation was perfect. And you went so far as to emote.” He smiled. Actually smiled! “Good job, Ms Stillman. I may have you read more often.”
Despite the smile on your face, you were dying inside. You don’t ever want to read aloud again.
Sinking back into your seat, Connor mouths ‘well done’ and rewards you with a smile that could melt even the frostiest of hearts. It made embarrassing yourself all worth while.
>>Fast Forward to end of class>>
“I want an essay written about the romanticism found in Wuthering Heights which will be handed in by the end of the week.” An assignment sheet was set down on the desk you and Connor shared. “The assignment will be done in pairs; preferably one boy and one girl. That should hopefully not result in the same pair-ups as always, and maybe even get you all to step outside your comfort zones.” He stopped when reaching the front of the class and took a seat on the edge of his desk. “There’s a minute left before you need to go, so take this time to quickly grab a partner and then you can head out to your final class.”
Connor opened his mouth – you were certain he was going to ask for your partnership – but Arno swiftly, and boisterously, interjected before the young Native could even get a syllable out. “I call dibs on (Y/N)!”
Connor sneered slightly and folded up the assignment sheet, slipping into his bag. “ (Y/N)’s not an object you can call ‘dibs’ on, Arno. She’s a person - and no doubt already has a preference on who she’d like for a partner.”
Again, Arno interjected, but this time he was preventing you from speaking. “I know she’s not an object.” He looked to you. “I never meant to insinuate that you were an object. I just...we haven’t had the opportunity to really speak yet, and I’ve already heard so many good things about you-”
People were saying good things about you? Wow, that was quite an achievement; the school day hadn’t even ended yet!
“-so I wanted to take this opportunity to get to know you a little better. And besides,” He invaded your personal space by leaning closer, “when it comes to romance, we French are the maîtres (masters).”
The suggestive waggle of his brows had your heart racing. Connor could be seen pulling a face from the corner of your eye, but you chose not to say anything. Everyone was now piling out of the classroom, all having chosen their partners, leaving the three of you in an uncomfortable staring contest.
“I don’t really...know who...”
You didn’t want to have to choose between them. It wasn’t fair. Fortunately for you though, Connor took the burden from your shoulders.
“You should partner up with Arno,” he said softly, “I’m certain there will be plenty of opportunities for the two of us to work together.”
What a gentleman.
The three of you stood simultaneously. “Thanks, Connor. I appreciate you making the decision for me.” The pair of you shared a smile when leaving the room, proceeding to drift down the hall. “Hey, Connor?” You glanced at him. “Mind if I ask you a question?”
“Ask me anything.”
A smile tugged at the corners of your mouth. “What’s your House?”
“That’s a bit personal, don’t you think?” He joked.
You held both hands up in mock surrender. “Uh-oh, I’ve crossed some boundaries.”
He released a tiny laugh – well, okay, it couldn’t exactly be described as an actual laugh; he was one of those rare individuals that, when laughing, no sound comes out. They only mimic the action of laughing, and maybe an audible puff of breath will accompany said action.
Arno managed to weasel himself into the non-existent aperture between yours and Connor’s bodies, clearly craving to be included in the conversation. “Hey, (Y/N), what do you think my House would be?”
Connor scoffed, eyes rolling skywards. “And what do you even know about the series? I bet you can’t even name three characters – and no, you can’t use ‘Harry Potter’.”
“I bet I can name four characters, thank you very much.” He enumerates on his fingers. “There’s Dumbledore, Snape, Lucious-”
“Lucious is from Empire,” Connor corrects with a smug smile.
“What? No way.” He looks genuinely surprised. “You’re making that up.”
“No I’m not. You’re thinking of Lucius.”
“Lucius? Lu-ci-us.” He repeats the name over and over again, committing it to memory. “Huh. Who would’ve thought?”
You shake your head, slowly, amusement brewing beneath your lashes. “Hufflepuff.” You meet Connor’s eye. “Am I right? Is that your House?”
A slow smile curled his lips. “That is correct, (Y/N).” He stares at you for the longest time. “And what about you? Do I get to know your House?”
“Someday, maybe.” You send a smirk his way. “But as of right now, a girl’s gotta have her secrets.”
Chapter 10: An Assembly
I have also decided to include Evie and Élise as potential love interests~!
Has there ever been anything more torturous, insufferable, and soul-crushingly mundane than the enigmatic subject of mathematics? It had to be the most excruciating subject to have ever been forced upon unwitting students throughout history.
And this wasn’t only due to the fact that your mathematical skills were considered abysmal. Oh no. With every school you had been enrolled in, there was not a single student ever encountered who had openly admitted to having math as their favourite subject. And how could they? Addition, subtraction, multiplication – they’re all fine. But then some idiot decided to include letters. Letters! Honestly, who in their right mind would do something like that?! As if you were ever going to need to know what Y and X were equivalent to.
Upon entering the classroom, the first thing you notice is Kadar sitting in the second row by the wall – and there was an empty spot directly behind him! Finally. Here was your chance to get some answers. You wasted no time in claiming the empty seat.
He refuses to turn around.
You shift uneasily and try again. “Kadar.”
Still no response.
You know he can hear you because you’re using what adults like to refer to as an ‘outside’ voice; he’s deliberately ignoring you. Big mistake. Being ignored had to be the worst thing anyone could do to you. And it’s not as though you did anything to deserve this unwarranted neglect – at least not to your knowledge. Well you aren’t about to allow him get away with such childish behaviour. There is no hesitation as you pick an eraser from your bag and hurl it directly at the back of his head.
He flinches at the contact, one hand flying to the back of his head. “Hey!” He turns sharply in his seat to face you; it’s possible that the expression he wore meant to convey anger, but the puffed out cheeks were just far too adorable to be taken seriously.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did your head get in the way of my eraser?” There was a slight condescension to your tone, making you sound bitchier than intended. Oh well. People needed to know straight from the get go that the one thing you detested more than anything was secrets – and being ignored. The truth may suck sometimes, but at least everyone is on the same page.
Kadar picked up the offending weapon with narrowed eyes and mumbled, “I can’t believe you threw an eraser at my head. I could’ve lost an eye or something...”
One of your brows raise in a way that blatantly says, ‘are you frigging serious?’ “Yeah, those erasers are a real hazard.” At least now you held his undivided attention. “Why have you been ignoring me today?”
“I haven’t been ignoring you.”
He goes to turn back around but you practically dive across your desk to prevent him from doing so; he squeaks when feeling your fingers bite into his shoulder. “Kadar, you’ve done nothing but avoid eye contact and run whenever I’ve tried talking to you.” Your expression softens. “Please, if I’ve done something to upset you, then you need to tell me. So I can fix it.”
Baby blue eyes drop to the floor. “I thought you had left.” You strain to hear him. “You made a promise to me a few weeks ago – you remember? We were going to spend every day together until you needed to return home. But you didn’t. And I...I thought you had left.” He finally lifts his gaze to meet yours. “Why did you break your promise?”
Guilt ate away at your soul; it was unearned guilt, but guilt nonetheless. “I...I didn’t mean...” Oh, man, this was harder than imagined. You clear your throat and try again. “I made a promise to you and I broke it. For that I am very, very sorry, Kadar. Honest. But...” Now came the hardest part, “I had a good reason. I didn’t not hang out with you because I didn’t like you. I didn’t hang out with anyone because...my parents, they...they, um...they died..”
Admitting the truth aloud wound up knocking the breath from your lungs. You were foolish enough to believe that admitting such a fact in Art earlier would make saying it again a little bit easier – but it didn’t. Instead, you were overcome with guilt; guilt that began to suffocate you after realising that you had allowed yourself be happy. Since the moment you stepped foot outside the Art room, you hadn’t given a single thought to the fact that your parents were no longer alive. That you would never see them again, or hear their voices; it was a revelation which had tears slipping effortlessly down your cheeks.
Every trace of betrayal melted from Kadar’s face and was replaced by commiseration. “(Y/N), I...I had no idea...” He appeared close to tears, voice barely above a whisper. “All this time you were suffering and I was too busy worrying about myself.” Before you could comment, he was enveloping you in a hug tight enough to constrict your breathing. “I’m such a jerk,” he whispered, the shoulder of your shirt growing damp.
“You’re not a jerk, Kadar.” Being held by him...it was comforting. “You didn’t know.”
He shook his head when pulling away and argued, “Yeah, but I should’ve! I didn’t even come to the house and check on you. All I did was mope around the place wondering why you’d leave without telling me when that wasn’t true at all.” A pause. “Can you forgive me?”
You dry your face in the sleeve of the fairly expensive blazer you wore, leaving an unsightly smudge of mucus behind. Ugh, gross. This is why your mother told you to always carry a packet of tissues. It was always something you laughed over – that handbag of hers was like a personal chemist. Whatever you needed could be found in that bag: tissues, wipes, pens, Band-Aid’s, hair ties, lip balm – and you could’ve sworn you spotted a Swiss army knife in one of the hidden pockets. Now you would give absolutely anything to watch as she clawed her way through her bag as though she were in a life or death situation.
“That depends...are we going to be friends again...?”
“We’ll always be friends, (Y/N).”
“Then I’ll always forgive you.”
A smile was exchanged and he took possession of your hand - his palm was sweaty but there was no indication of anything but glee on his face; no one had ever looked at you in the way he was in that very moment. It was rather flattering, really, to learn that a person with whom you associate can receive such contentment from a simple exchange.
The moment was disturbed however when someone tapped on your shoulder – that someone being Mr Pornstache from the cafeteria. “Hope I’m not interrupting some sort of romantic interlude.” A cheeky smile danced on his lips as he sunk into the seat next to yours, those chestnut coloured eyes glimmering with recognition – and a pinch of humour.
He knew you.
And you knew him.
But how? Any why can you not remember?
“I heard you had a run in with Mr Birch earlier,” Kadar spoke up, “You’re lucky you didn’t get detention.”
“I make my own luck, lad.”
You involuntarily gasped, drawing the attention of both boys.
Shay Patrick Cormac.
Looking at him now, with this level of propinquity between the pair of you, it was near embarrassing to admit that you didn’t recognise him earlier. It was so clear to you now, yet still difficult to process – it had been years since last you saw him after all. He was different, it’s true, but still so familiar.
The two of you had been best friends ever since kindergarten; it was rather humorous how the friendship began. It was the first day and you had done nothing but cry since the moment your mother dropped you off – that’s when Shay came along. Somehow all of the corny jokes he told managed to elicit nothing but maniacal giggles from you. The pair of you made so much noise that the teacher placed you both in timeout, but still that punishment did little to damper your fun.
From that moment on you were inseparable. Every day was spent alternating between each other’s houses – his parents were similar to that of surrogates to you, as were your parents to him. In second grade when you broke your arm, Shay stayed with you in the nurse's office until your dad came to take you to the hospital. In fifth grade when Shay was upset because he didn't get the role of the Big Bad Wolf in the class production of Little Red Riding Hood, you treated him to ice cream in order to make him feel better – which it did.
And the night before Shay was forced to move away, the both of you went to your elementary-school playground and swung on the swings for hours. Neither of you spoke a single word that night – you were too busy with trying to keep your emotions under control. You were losing your best friend after all.
A friendship such as that was a rarity; you were certain it was going to last forever – what a foolish notion that was.
Kadar’s voice tore you aggressively from your reverie. “What?”
He stood above you with the slightest of head tilts. “You spaced out there for a minute. You okay?”
A brief glance around the room revealed that everyone else had left. What? Surely you hadn’t been daydreaming for the entire lesson?
Kadar must’ve taken notice of your confusion. “We get to miss this period for an assembly.” He helped you from your seat. “Mr Davenport has already collected the rest of the class. Let’s go.”
You allow yourself be dragged from the empty classroom. Lounging negligently against the wall is Shay – had he been waiting on you? His face brightens and he jogs to catch up with your hurried strides.
“Six years later and you’re still getting lost in your daydreams,” is the first thing he says, smiling, “some things never change.”
“And some things do.”
Judging by the way his brows shot to the top of his forehead, the slight degree of petulance that had crept into your voice did not go unnoticed. “Guess I deserved that.” He bites the inside of his cheek.
A pair of baby blue eyes flicker curiously between you and Shay. “You guys know each other?”
Your grip on his hand tightens just a tad. “Not anymore.”
“Oh, come on, (Y/N).” Shay’s fingers bite into your upper arm, making you and Kadar stop. “You say that as though I’m some sort of stranger.”
“You are a stranger.” You didn’t mean to shout. “We used to be best friends, but now...hell, Shay, I didn’t even recognise you at first.”
“Well I really don’t think I should be getting punished for that. I didn’t force my parents to move, (Y/N).”
“No, but you sure as hell didn’t try contacting me either. For six years. That’s not what friends do.”
The tension in the air was near suffocating. He could offer as many excuses as he liked, but you will never accept them as a good enough reason for his neglect. It’s not as though you hadn’t made an effort over the years; when your calls were no longer being returned, you resorted to sending emails. But those went unanswered as well.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said, his tongue dragging slowly across his bottom lip, “I was a dick. Can you forgive me?”
There wasn’t even any reason to answer – he knew as well as you did that the answer would be ‘yes’. That’s the way it’s always been: someone wants something, (Y/N) will be the one they ask to provide it. It’s the one characteristic you despise most about yourself. You wish you could be more assertive. Not afraid to tell people ‘no’. But that’s simply wishful thinking. The second someone looks upon you with disappointment, you go out of your way to try and make amends.
“We all make mistakes, I guess,” you mumble, “but it’s going to take more than an apology for me to forgive you entirely.”
The way his face brightens almost has you smiling as well – almost.
“No worries, girly. I have just the deed in mind that’ll have me back in your good graces.”
You hummed. “We’ll see.”
“What’s going on here?” A discordant, fear-inducing voice sounds from behind the three of you. You recognise the voice immediately: Mr Birch. Of course. How long has he been standing there? How much trouble were you all in? Slowly, hesitantly, you turn to face him.
The man was even more intimidating than your mind dared to remember. Years of teaching had taken a drastic toll on him, which only served to make his outward appearance all the more frightening; though the natural process of aging had taken away some of his previous height, he still appeared to tower above you; those beady, accusatory eyes were almost consumed by surrounding dark circles; the vein in his spherical forehead seemed to pulsate – almost as though it were angered – when his focus turned to you.
“Unless the three of you are wanting detention-,” his beady little rat eyes scan your little group, “-I suggest you cease this infernal gossip immediately and get to the auditorium.”
“We were on our way there,” Shay tells him, already in the process of dragging you and Kadar down the hall. Birch dismissed the three of you with a noncommittal ‘mhm’, glaring until the wall obscured you all from his view. Shay rolled his eyes and muttered ‘tool’, to which you couldn’t help but silently agree.
Most of Primrose High’s three hundred students have already packed into the auditorium by the time you three arrive, however you manage to locate seats next to one another somewhere in the back row. Onstage there were multiple metal fold-out chairs, each one occupied by a teacher; you recognise half of them, but the other half remain unfamiliar.
Standing tall and tyrannous behind the podium was Crawford Starrick – he was not an individual to be trifled with, you think. His lips linger near the ear of the equally intimidating woman standing beside him; the scowl on her face indicated that she wished to bludgeon someone to death if the assembly didn’t start soon. “That will be all, Miss Thorne.” He had turned his head away too soon and wound up muttering those words into the microphone, yet in doing so, he managed to quieten down most of the auditorium.
“Quiet down, everyone. “ He commands, adjusting his tie with one hand. “I am Principal Starrick, and I am excited and honoured to welcome each and every one of you to the beginning of a new school year at our esteemed Primrose High. This school year will be a year of setting and reaching attainable goals, working harder and smarter and taking our school and student achievement to the next level of greatness. At Primrose High we are dedicated to a student-centred program that promotes academic excellence through an enriched, rigorous inter-disciplinary curriculum. As a staff, we are here to support all of you, by any means necessary, to ensure you reach your fullest academic potential. We look forward to working with you, the parents, and the members of the community to provide a high-quality education that you all deserve. This year, you can look forward to encountering a highly intensive and challenging academic program that will push you to work beyond your limits. However, I am confident that all of you have the capacity and ability to meet our expectations and the demands of your new classes and teachers. Our goal is to ensure that all students become critical thinkers, active problem-solvers, inquisitive readers, diligent researchers and prolific writers. We do all of this to prepare you for the demands of the real-world so you may become productive citizens, become our future leaders, and contribute and/or give back something positive to the community.” Though there hasn’t been a single smile offered during the speech, it was easy to feel the passion flowing from his words. “I look forward to working with all of you and pushing you to all academic heights. On behalf of the staff of Primrose High, I want to again welcome all of you and thank you for being a part of our school community where success is not an option…..but an expectation.”
There’s a polite smattering of applause, followed by a low and drawn out ‘boring’ from some unseen student, though it sounds an awful like...
“I expect you in my office after assembly, Mr Frye.”
Even from where you were sitting, it was clear to see the disappointed shaking of Ethan’s head, his limpid blue eyes somehow pinpointing the exact location of his son amongst the ocean of students.
Crawford clears his throat and motions to a shadowed area offstage, “I’d like to discuss the vast majority of after-school clubs and organizations that Miss Thorne and I have contrived for this year, but before I do, I’d like to welcome Lucrezia Borgia up on stage, who will be announcing upcoming events within the next few weeks.”
Your heart sinks at the sight of your newfound nemesis prancing onto the stage wearing a rather snug cheerleader uniform. What’s even worse is the amount of enthusiasm she receives from the majority of male students as she plasters on a sickeningly sweet smile.
“Oh, yay,” Shay drawls sarcastically from his place beside you, bringing one foot up to rest on the back of another students chair, “Miss self-appointed queen skank is preparing to hold court.”
“Thank you for the introduction, Mr Starrick.” Kiss-ass. “I’m happy to announce that we’ve got a lot of amazing events to look forward to in the coming weeks. The first - and dare I say -most important being our annual ‘Dance of Sweethearts’. As per usual, it will be held this Saturday night in the gymnasium at 5:00 PM.”
Hushed murmurs of excitement arose from the female students, most already tossing about ideas of what outfits were going to be worn and who they wished to take as a date. You, on the other hand, were resisting the urge to roll your eyes. A dance is not an event the uncoordinated population look forward to.
Lucrezia tapped the microphone to redirect the attention back to herself. “Si, si, it’s very exciting. Now, the second biggest event of the year is the sports festival, which is in two weeks time. Primrose High will be competing against our rival school, Aberdeen Academy.” A few people booed, with one student going so far as to shout ‘Fuck Aberdeen!’ “Unfortunately, they managed to destroy us last year in practically every event, but this year will be different. We will do our school proud and annihilate them. And hopefully, with enough practice, our very own Primrose Corgi’s will succeed when they take the field against the Aberdeen Spartans!” She claps as the auditorium erupts into whoops and whistles. “And this year we’ve got Edward Kenway as our Quarterback. Stand up for us, Eddie.”
A few rows down Edward was spotted standing up on his chair – and man, did he love attention. The school blazer slipped from his already impressively defined torso so he could show of his bulging biceps without restriction. It was a sight worthy of admiration, there was no doubt about that.
“Isn’t he delizioso (delicious)?” Lucrezia’s words dripped with lust – it made you want to barf. “Grazie, Edward, for that tantalising display. I’ve actually taken the liberty of choreographing something special for the upcoming game as well.”
She distances herself from the podium and takes up position centre stage. Nine more cheerleaders join her onstage, waving pompoms in attempt to liven up the audience. Holy crap. Élise?! As though possessing some incredible sixth sense, she catches your eye - despite your being immersed in total darkness - and winks. Strangely, the action has your heart fluttering. And even more strangely, you’re finding it difficult to ignore how good she looks in that uniform.
Fortunately – and you never thought you’d say it – Lucrezia’s voice brings you back to reality. “Pronti, ragazze? Ci siamo (Ready, girls? Here we go)!”
She claps and kicks one tan leg into the air as the other cheerleaders half-heartedly wave their pompoms above their heads. Lucrezia begins to chant.
We've got Razzmatazz!
Pep, Punch, and Pizzazz!
Hey, you - You've been had!
Primrose Corgi’s got Razzmatazz!
Razzmatazz! Go Corgi’s! Woo!
They’re joined by what appears to be the school mascot: a corgi who looked as though it hadn’t gotten jumped in an alleyway by a couple of twelve year olds. The suit had patches of fur missing along with one plastic eye desperately clinging to the oversized head by a single thread. It turns its back to the crowd and apathetically begins wiggling its rump whilst the cheerleaders begin kicking, flipping, and jazz-handing their way through Lucrezia’s repetitive chant in cheesy unison.
“And here I thought High School Musical was embarrassing enough to watch,” you whisper to Shay. “Lemme know when it’s over.”
Shay smirks and nudges your arm so you’d reopen your eyes. “Oh, no. If I have to suffer, then so do you. Besides, I have a dare for you.”
Suddenly you were ten years old again and hiding in the tree-house Shay’s father had built, drawing up new ways on how to terrorise your friends and family. If felt nice...having him back in your life. He was one of those incredibly fortunate individuals who were born charismatic and confident. They did not shy away from the centre of attention. Their tongues don’t twist in knots during social gatherings. They made everything appear so easy.
You envied those people.
Shay leant over and whispered his plan into your ear just as the performance came to a merciful close. It’s clear to everyone that Lucrezia is awaiting applause, but the auditorium is awkwardly silent. Perfect. This is the exact atmosphere you need in order for Shay’s dare to have an effect – you only hoped everyone else would understand what you were trying to do, and not think you insane.
Kadar shoots you a quizzical look when you stand and cup both hands around your mouth, but before he can whisper a single sound, you’re screaming, “WHOO! YEAH! THAT CORGI IS ONE HOT MOTHERTRUCKER! YOU GO PRIMROSE CORGI’S! WHOO!”
Kadar looks mortified and hides his face in his hands. Shay, on the other hand, is trying his absolute hardest not to piss himself, the sleeve of his shirt doing very little to muffle his amused snorts.
There’s a decent amount of laughter from the other students – much to your satisfaction. Even the cheerleaders are offering smiles, although, perhaps a bit uncertainly. Lucrezia is the only one glaring. The corgi mascot shoots a furry thumbs up in your direction as you sit back down.
“Nicely done,” Shay smiles and punches you lightly on the arm.
“Glad I can impress you,” You mirror his smile.
Funnily enough, being with Shay provided you with a confidence you weren’t naturally given. There was a level of comfort his presence provided which put you at ease. It was as though your body absorbed the confidence his body exuded, making it possible for you to do anything.
Principal Starrick takes up place at the podium; he seems less than impressed by your show of ‘enthusiasm’, but at least he doesn’t vocally reprimand you for it in front of everyone. “Thank you for that performance, Miss Borgia.”
“But I haven’t finished announcing the rest of the events-”
Lucrezia attempts to argue, but Starrick is speaking over her into the microphone. “Now, we only have a few more minutes before the final bell, so I do not have time to go over the after-school clubs with you all. Instead, you will come down to the stage and line up before the teacher responsible for sponsoring the club you wish to join. Thank you.”
Everyone stands simultaneously and begins shuffling towards the stage, eagerly signing up for their club of choice. It felt like an eternity, but at last you reach the stage with multiple options before you. This was going to be a difficult choice. Once you sign up to a certain club, you’ll be stuck with it for the remainder of the year.
You look to each sponsor before smiling and stepping towards:
Beach Appreciation Club – Edward Thatch
"Beach Appreciation Club?” You quirk a brow at the name.
“Aye. You like the beach, girl?” The sponsor holds a pen in front of your face, a smile peeking through his thick black beard. “Swimming, surfing, volleyball, sunbathing...”
You take the pen from his fingers, already signing your name. “It would be a shame not to take advantage of what the island has to offer.”
He chuckles, a deep and gravelly sound. “Right you are, lass.” He extends a hand for you to shake. “Name’s Edward Thatch. Glad to have you on board with us.”
You thank him with a smile and turn away, bumping into another student. “You got some secret plan to take me down, lass?” Edward’s deliciously smooth voice welcomes your ears. A glimmer of amusement sparks beneath his lashes when you push yourself away from him.
“Don’t stress yourself out, lass.” He signs his name down for the club. “You’ve signed up for this class too? Can I expect to see you in a bikini?”
The smile dropped from his face as Mary’s hand comes into contact with the back of his head. “Leave the poor girl be, Edward, or you’ll have me and Anne to deal with.”
“Is that supposed to frighten me, Kidd?”
“No,” a pair of crimson lips twist into a smirk, “but this is.”
Edward’s eyes – as well as your own – drop to the pair of scissors now held dangerously close to every mans most treasured body part. “Alright...I feel a bit of fear coming on...”
She retracted the scissors and sent a wink your way. “Don’t worry, (Y/N). We’ll keep Edward and his...’little buddy’ under control for you.”
You can’t help but giggle at the face Edward was pulling behind Mary’s back. “Thanks, Mary. You’ll have to teach me how to do that someday.”
She nodded and clapped a hand on your back. “Stick with me and you’ll learn all you need to know.”
Cooking Club – Stephane Chapheau
You trot after Shay to sign up for the Cooking Club.
Lucy works late most nights and Desmond can create nothing but inedible mush, so it only wise you learn how to cook for yourself.
Ezio is finishing up the signing of his name by the time you and Shay arrive. “Ezio? You’re joining this club?”
He turns and – once realising it was you – plasters on a charming smile. “Si, and it appears that I have made the right choice seeing as how I am to be graced by your presence.”
Such a charmer.
“Gimme a break,” Shay mumbles with a roll of his eyes.
“I said I need a pen,” Shay says in a loud voice, holding up a pen and looking away.
The corners of Ezio’s mouth tug down into a slight frown but he doesn’t comment. Instead he refocuses on you. “I still feel bad about skipping out on you during lunch today.”
You gave a slight shake of your head. “Don’t worry about it. I understand that family needs to come first sometimes. And hey, at least now we’ll get to hang out all the time and cook.”
Something sparks in those honeyed eyes of his. “You know what a guy likes to hear, (Y/N).”
You shiver at the faint purr underlying his words. Did the room suddenly get warmer? “I, um...I actually don’t have a clue as to what guys like to hear. Probably why I’m still single..” You try to make it a joke and laugh about it, but your laugh is similar to that of a deflating balloon.
“Really?” He seems genuinely surprised. “Funny. I would’ve expected a girl like you to be already taken.”
A girl like you? What was that supposed to mean?
Shay ‘accidentally’ bumped into Ezio, earning himself a glare and muttered expletive. Not that Shay seemed fazed. “Sorry, mate, didn’t see you there.” His fingers bit into your shoulders. “Catch you later.”
A squeak escaped you when Shay began leading you away. “See you tonight, Ezio,” you rushed out, waving over your shoulder.
Ezio raised his hand and offered a meek, “ciao.”
Dance Club – Paola
Being born uncoordinated has prevented you from following the desires of your heart. When everyone else around you was competing in sports, skiing on the lake in winter, or dancing at parties, you were left on the sidelines.
But not anymore.
And the only reason you made this snap decision was when you recognised who the sponsor of the class actually was: Paola.
She was an Italian modern dancer, whose impact on dancing style is still being followed in United States. She received the highest civilian award in US: the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction. Paola was the first dancer to perform at the White House to be considered one of the most prestigious in the world. During an interview, she stated that she spent almost the entirety of her life dancing. The situations for her at times were fearful, never easy, never pleasant, but she stated it to be inevitable.
You weren’t about to waste this opportunity.
“Élise,” you greet with a smile, making the beautiful redhead turn to you, “fancy bumping into you here.”
“Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?” She smirked, placing a hand on her hip. “You don’t strike me as a dancer.”
You offer a lazy shrug of your shoulders. “Normally I’m not, but when I saw you signing up for the club, I just couldn’t resist doing the same thing.” Whoa...where did that come from?!
Her brows raise faintly, though you could swear you see a glimmer of intrigue in her eyes. “Is that so? I guess I know who I’ll be partnering up with for the rest of the year.”
The way she smiles...it confused you greatly. Never in your life had you ever felt this sort of...connection with another girl.
She places the pen in your hand, the tips of her fingers making the barest of contact with your skin. “I’m going to the Sleeping Fox tonight. You should look for me there.” And with that she walked away, leaving you alone to figure out what the hell was happening with you.
Music Club – Maxwell Roth
“(Y/N)!” Kadar squeezed your hand to the point of turning your fingers blue. “You have to sign up for this club with me!”
Well it seems you don’t have a choice in the matter as Kadar drags you towards the sign up sheet for the Music Club. Not that you minded. All the other clubs didn’t appeal to you anyway.
“I don’t really know how to play an instrument.” You try and explain to him, but he’s already signed your name and his own. “Although I can play ‘Hot Cross Buns’ on the recorder.”
He drops the pen and offers a boyish grin. “Oh, don’t worry, we can teach you how to play on whatever instrument you want.”
As if on cue, Jacob and James seem to materialize from thin air. “(Y/N)? I didn’t know you wanted to be apart of our band.” Jacob flashes a crooked grin and slapped James’ shoulder. “This is awesome. I’ve always wanted a female band member.”
His enthusiasm drags a smile to your face, but you can’t help but question, “You three have your own band?”
“According to Frye here, we do.” James smiles, signing his name.
“We do,” Jacob insists, pulling a crumpled flyer from his bag and handing it over, “and we’re going to be famous one day.”
You glance at the flyer in your hands. “The Rooks?” You meet a pair of hazel orbs. “Like the chess piece?”
His nose crinkles. “Chess? I think you’re confusing me with Evie. No, we’re named after the bird.”
“Ah, of course. How silly of me.” You hand the flyer back and bite your lip. “Perhaps I shouldn’t join this club after all. You three already have your own band, and I don’t want to screw up your plans or anything.”
James blows his bangs from his face before resting a hand on your shoulder. “You shouldn’t give up on something you’d like to do simply because of other people. We’re more than happy to have you join us.”
Kadar and Jacob both nod vigorously to the point where you believed they may get whiplash. “He’s right. We’ll find an instrument for you, or hey, you can try out for vocals. Just imagine-” Jacob inherits this faraway twinkle in his eye, as though his mind has been transported to the future and he can see everything perfectly. “-the four of us in the spotlight. The crowds will cheer our names. We’ll have matching uniforms. And our own merchandise: CD’s, t-shirts, bumper stickers!”
“Not if I have anything to say about it.”
Jacob’s happiness melted away to reveal contempt. “How did I know you wouldn’t approve of my decision?” He turned to face his scowling father.
“Because this is a mere fantasy and nothing more.” He takes the pen from his sons hand. “No son of mine is going to be a rock star.”
Jacob snatches the pen back. “Not if you keep holding me back, I won’t. But this is something I’m going to do and you can’t stop me!”
The muscles in Ethan’s jaw tighten. “Do you even realise how ridiculous you’re being? You are not being realistic. Truth is, the market for fame is saturated. For God’s sake, Jacob, you have a better chance of being hit by a satellite than by fame.”
“Why aren’t you on Evie’s back about her choice of club?” The raising of their voices were beginning to attract attention. “I’m pretty sure there’s no career path for ghost hunters.”
“Because unlike you, Evie is a straight A student. She’s actually going places. But you?” He paused, rubbing his mouth with his palm. “It’s like you’re willingly throwing your life away. And for what? Is this your way of punishing me for something?”
Jacob laughs, a bitter and indignant sound. “Yeah. Yeah, Dad, you’re right. Everything I do in life is just to punish you. God forbid I should actually do something that might actually bring me the tiniest bit of happiness.”
“And being broke is going to bring you happiness? Living in some squalor with no means of support? Please, enlighten me as to where this so-called happiness comes into play?”
Jacob was getting upset – you could tell. You wanted to reach out and console him, but you weren’t sure Jacob would allow you seeing as how you barely knew one another.
Fortunately, Evie intervened, placing a hand on her brother’s forearm. “Dad, this really isn’t the time or place for this, okay? Besides, it’s only an after-school club. Cut him some slack.”
Ethan bit the inside of his cheek and exhaled heavily through his nose, holding back the anger he wished to unleash. “Fine. But this conversation isn’t over.” He brushed past his children, demanding they follow.
Evie shot an apologetic smile your way before gently guiding Jacob from the auditorium.
Paranormal Investigation Club – Charles Dickens
Oh, hell yes!
You didn’t need to think twice about signing up for a club such as this one. Growing up, you’ve always had an interest in anything and everything paranormal. It worried your parents somewhat when you would immerse yourself in books depicting supernatural folklore and online discussions of actual monster sightings, but how could you not? Just the idea of there being real life ghosts in the world sends shivers down your spine – the good kind!
“I can’t believe they took my suggestion.” Evie was brimming with an uncontrollable excitement. “Henry, do you know what this means? We might find evidence of an actual supernatural being.”
A soft smile played on Henry’s lips. “It is a possibility, I suppose.”
If you weren’t mistaken, the tone he used was the same one people usually adopt when they wish to humour the person they were speaking to. Clearly he wasn’t as diehard a believer as Evie or yourself. Not that it mattered. No doubt Evie was thrilled just to have Henry in the club with her.
In a perplexing turn of events, seeing the tender way in which she touched his arm had your eyes narrowing. There was an irritation coursing through your bloodstream which you couldn’t understand.
“(Y/N)?” Her voice draws your attention to her smiling face. “You signed up for the club as well?”
“How could I not? I’m somewhat of a paranormal aficionado.” You cringed at how dorky that sounded, yet somehow it earned a laugh from the beautiful brunette, causing goosebumps to sweep across your skin.
“It’s nice to have another true believer by my side in this. Jacob thinks I’m crazy, but he’s not willing to open his mind to the possibility of there being unexplainable creatures out there.”
“I know what you mean. I had to ease up on all the occult talk growing up else my parents were going to call in a psychiatrist and have me committed.”
The pair of you shared a laugh, and to your delight, she let a hand rest on your forearm. However the moment was ruined by Jacob yelling at his father next to the sign up station for the Music Club. Everyone was staring at them, eager to learn more of what the fight was about.
Evie’s brow furrowed in concern and she hastily excused herself. “I’ll see you later tonight, (Y/N).” And then she was gone, jumping to her siblings defence.
Photography Club – Leonardo Da Vinci
A photography club? You were hoping to stumble across a strong enough reason to put your old Polaroid to good use.
After your parents...when they died, you packed your camera away, no longer wanting anything to do with it. There were too many memories linked to it - ones you made with your family. It didn't seem...right to continue capturing happiness on film when you knew your parents would no longer be around to revel in the happiness you find.
But you did agree to make a fresh start. To create a life for yourself on the island. The only way to do that is to leave the past right where it belongs. And besides, your dad gifted you with that camera on your seventh birthday. It wouldn't be fair to his memory were you to leave it at the back of the closet gathering dust.
"It warms my heart to have you joining our little club, (Y/N)." Leonardo comments with his usual exuberance after you sign your name.
You can't help but smile at him - he has one of those smiles that instantly makes everyone feel better. "Thank you, Mr Leo. Photography has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl. Capturing a specific moment on film and knowing that it will last for an eternity. It just...there's something I find special about that."
He nods in a way that tells you he knows exactly what you mean. "Si, I couldn't agree more. I'm eager to see where that passion carries you during your time with us. Unfortunately only Malik and Arno have signed up - you just missed them - but on the plus side, it gives me an opportunity to work more in depth with each of you. Hopefully we can capture something truly spectacular!"
"I hope so too," you smile, offering a wave as you leave the auditorium behind.
Survivalist Club – Kesegowaase
“Altaïr?” You never would have taken him as an outdoor type of person. If anything you imagine him never stepping foot outside unless absolutely necessary. “You’re signing up for this club?”
A pair of golden orbs linger in your direction for barely a second before fleeting away. “It’s compulsory to sign up for something.” He drops the pen and shrugs his backpack further onto his shoulder. “Doesn’t mean I have to attend though.”
“But if it’s compulsory to sign up then isn’t compulsory to attend?”
A derisive scoff is the response given. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I have far more important things to do rather than waste my time on stupid activities that have no impact on my actual grade, okay?”
You offer a meek ‘okay’ and quickly sidestep to avoid touching him when he passes. He was so bitter and hateful. It made you wonder what could have happened in his life to make him that way.
“Did he upset you?”
You tear your eyes away from the muddied toes of your Chuck Taylors to find Connor standing before you.
“I could speak with him, if you like? He shouldn’t speak that way to women.”
Only a day and he’s already jumping to your defence. And you were starting to believe the rare breed of gentleman had gone extinct over the years. “Connor,” you enjoy the way his name sounds leaving your lips, “I...that’s sweet of you to want to help, but I’m okay. Really.”
He nods, a little unsure of whether you were being truthful or not, but doesn’t speak any more of it. Instead he picks up the pen and offers the tiniest of smiles. “Are you looking to join this club too? I could put your name down for you?”
You smile and join his side, watching as he elegantly signs his name. “Yeah, I am. Lucy is away at work all day and I don’t want to be stuck at home listening to Desmond burp the alphabet...again.”
One brow quirks as a sign of amusement and he quickly writes your name on the sign up sheet. “That would be a most unfortunate way to spend your afternoons. But now I have saved you from your fate.”
You giggle and squeeze the strap of your bag. “My hero. I’ll have to come to you with all my problems from now on.”
He offers a tiny bob of his head. “I am here to assist you whenever you need, (Y/N).”
Chapter 11: So Much for a Night Out
You knock twice on the doorframe of the spare room. “Desmond?” You step in without being invited. “A few people from school are going to the Sleeping Fox tonight and I was wondering if I’d be allowed to go?”
He doesn’t stop what he’s doing; he straightens up an old gin bottle with the use of two fingers, ensuring that it was perfectly in line with the dozens of other antique liquor bottles positioned atop wooden shelves. “Why are you asking me?”
Was that not obvious? “Honestly? Because I know Lucy will say no.”
The sudden contortion of his features told you he knew exactly what you were talking about. “Good point.” He stepped off the stool and wiped his hands on his shirt. “Well, as long as you’re back before curfew, then I don’t see why not.”
“Awesome.” You’re already backing out of the room in case he plans on changing his mind. “Thanks.”
Desmond hums in acknowledgement and goes back to tending to his collection. Within a matter of seconds, you’re back in your room, the outfit you had chosen earlier waiting patiently on the bed. It sucked that the island had a curfew, but at least you’ll get to spend a few hours with your friends.
Friends...heh. It was funny. Back home it took more than a week before anyone could really be entitled ‘friend’, yet here...it felt as though you had known each and every one of them for years. Perhaps you were meant to move here all along – destiny is crazy like that. Though you had hoped the cause for moving had been under better circumstances.
Drifting towards the attached bathroom, you automatically reach for the makeup box on the edge of the sink. Today had been a long day, and your face was paying the unfortunate price . New routines tend to screw with your body in many undesirable ways, but fortunately there were minor tweaks you could make so it didn’t look as though you were ready to drop.
It wasn’t a special evening, so natural tones deemed the more appropriate choice.
It always feels a bit like doing art restoration. Just minor concealer to hide the flaws, highlights to emphasize the features that work: minor shifts in emphasis, but nothing too gaudy. The kinds of changes that you wish you could make in your own life.
You look at yourself one last time in the mirror. You smile. Seeing yourself so put together helps reassure you. You adjust your hair, then head on out. Hopefully tonight will be as fun as promised.
The location of the staircase was almost lost to you; it was taking some time to grow accustomed to the layout of this house. Your body was still performing as though you were in your old house. There, you didn’t need to think about which direction to turn or how many steps there were to reach the bottom floor. You just knew. Your body knew. It naturally anticipated every step, avoided every creaky floorboard, swerved around furniture with the level of grace one expects of a dancer.
But now, you descend the staircase with caution. Every step is slow and calculated. The railing is gripped in preparation for a misstep. You don’t trust yourself to walk. You turn, knowing where everything is, but at the same time questioning whether you know where everything is.
Reaching the bottom of the staircase, it would have been a left to get to the kitchen. Now it’s a right.
In a few days, you’ll inevitably forget the change. You’ll have gotten used to the steps. You’ll trust yourself enough to release the railing and operate as though you had never known any other home. It’s rather upsetting to think about.
You nearly step on Rooni’s tail. He’s sprawled across the hallway, as usual.
Rooni raised his head and blinked those big brown eyes. You knew what that meant. Crouching, you reach behind his ear and reward him with a good scratch.
“You like that, huh?” He was an easy dog to please. “You’re such a good boy.”
You’re rewarded for the massage with a slobbery kiss; a thick layer of saliva coated your cheek, with Rooni appearing rather pleased with himself as he slurps his tongue back into his mouth.
“Ugh, gross...thanks. Thanks, Rooni, that’s...lovely.”
Rooni barks, his tail swishing across the floorboards like a hairy metronome.
“You want your dinner?”
Another bark. One day, you’re positive words will leave his mouth. He waits - impatiently, you may add - until you step over his colossal body to trudge into the kitchen after you. He takes his usual seat by his empty dinner bowl, watching as the bag of dog food is dragged across the kitchen floor.
“There we go,” you whisper, some of the biscuits skidding across the floorboards after accidentally overfilling the bowl, “eat up, big boy.”
He doesn’t need to be told twice; you have barely enough time to back away to a safe distance before Rooni is devouring his food, nearly choking when gulping the biscuits down too fast.
“What are you doing all dressed up?”
Lucy appears in the archway with anxiously narrowed eyes, her car keys getting tossed atop the counter. Crap. The one night she actually arrives home early.
“Oh, this?” You play dumb. “This is what I always wear when I’m knocking around the house.”
She doesn’t buy it.
Her hands fall to her hips the same time as her lips press into a thin line – the tell-tale signs of an inevitable lecture. You brace yourself. There was no way you were leaving the house now.
“(Y/N), where were you planning on going?”
Your eyes drop to the floor. “Some people were going to the Sleeping Fox tonight and I was going to join them.”
“On a school night? To that dump? Oh no, I don’t think so.”
“There’s nothing you can say that will get me to change my mind, (Y/N). Now go upstairs and change.”
There was no point in arguing. Lucy had this weird overprotective attitude when it came to you. It was nice to know that she cared about your safety, of course, but there was always an unexplained anxiousness in her eyes - almost as though she were worried someone were going to attack you in the streets. But this was one of the safest islands in the world.
Lucy stepped aside in order for you to pass, but in doing so, she bumped into Desmond who had just rounded the corner. “Whoa, what’s going on in here?”
“(Y/N) was getting ready to go to that shitty karaoke bar by herself tonight.”
Desmond’s gaze flickers to you. “Yeah, so? I already told her she could go.”
Her brows furrow at this newfound knowledge. “You told her she could go? And you didn’t think of asking me first?”
“I didn’t think I needed your permission to make decisions around here.”
An involuntary gasp escapes the safety of your mouth the same time as Lucy’s eyes narrow dangerously. Even Desmond looks close to biting off his own tongue, but somehow he continues to stand his ground.
“Don’t say that as though I boss you around.”
“Well then don’t constantly undermine me.”
“I never undermine you.”
“Uh, yeah, you do.” He points at you. “I give her permission to do something, and then you turn around a few minutes later and completely disregard what I said. Your name isn’t the only one on the adoption forms, you know.”
Their voices grow progressively louder the longer the argument persists. This was not supposed to happen at all! They’ve had little tiffs before but this time they were near rabid. You flinch, feeling the impact as Lucy’s hand connects with Desmond’s cheek. This had gotten way out of hand.
“Guys, that’s enough!” You step in between them, gaze flickering uneasily from one to the other. “This entire argument is friggin’ crazy! If I knew a night out was going to cause all this crap, then I never would’ve asked in the first place! I’m going to go change.”
Once confident that no more slaps were to be thrown about, you vacated the kitchen, seeking sanctuary in your bedroom.
Whilst you’re changing (3rd POV)
The slamming of a door upstairs provided Lucy and Desmond with the answer they sought: (Y/N) was hidden away in their room with no way of knowing what was about to take place.
Baby blue eyes trailed towards Desmond. “I can’t believe that worked.”
The frown melts from his face to reveal a broadening smile. “Didn’t I tell you to trust me? I do have my fair share of good plans.”
Lucy was stepping into his arms with a laugh, cupping his cheeks and placing a quick kiss upon his lips. “Yes, you do. And thank you, Desmond.” Her palms smooth over his chest. “I know you think I’m crazy for preventing (Y/N) from going out, but-”
“Lucy, no.” He interrupts, the tips of his fingers trailing the length of her arms. “I get it. I do. I wanna protect her just as much as you do.”
Her lips curled into a soft smile. “I just hope we’re doing the right thing.”
Desmond’s mouth opens to respond but the delicate chiming of the doorbell interjects. “You expecting company?” He removes himself from Lucy’s arms at the shake of her head and goes to answer the door. He quirks a brow at the sight of one Edward Kenway lounging negligently against the doorframe, both hands stuffed into the pockets of a dark leather jacket.
“I’m sorry,” Desmond says slowly, eyeing Edward up and down. “We didn’t order a Johnny Bravo impersonator.”
Edward removes his Ray Bans and straightens up. “Actually I’m here to pick up (Y/N).” He attempts to peer around Desmond’s body, but Desmond blocks his view. “She coming down?”
“Your name is Kenway, isn’t it?”
He nods. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason.” He glances towards the stairs. “Unfortunately (Y/N)’s not going anywhere tonight. Especially not to a bar.”
The corners of Edward’s mouth tug down into a slight frown. “She told me earlier she was going to join us all. What changed?”
“Lucy and I just don’t think it’s a good idea for her to go out tonight without supervision.” He offers a tight-lipped smile. “I’ll tell her you stopped by.”
Edward was left standing on the porch, dumbfounded, as the door was slammed in his face. He attempts to steal a peek inside using the windows, but the blinds are drawn, keeping the interior of the house hidden from the outside world. “What a dick.” He clicks his tongue and hurries back to the ’72 Dodge Challenger idling on the curb.
“Is (Y/N) not coming with us?”
Connor shifts restlessly in the passenger seat as Edward climbs behind the wheel, the door slamming shut with a hollow clang.
“’Fraid not, lad.” He glares out the window. “That Desmond fellow is keeping her prisoner.”
“Aye. Prisoner. We need to bust her out of there.”
Connor’s hand shoots out and catches his brothers wrist. “We can’t do that.”
Edward stares at his own fingers still closed around the handle of the door. “Sure we can. We just need to find the right bedroom, sneak her out, and make sure she’s home before curfew.”
“And what if they decide to check in on her during the night? They are going to notice she isn’t there.”
“If being the operative word, lad. Everything will be fine.” He made a move to leave the car but Connor’s voice had him stopping once more.
“Everything will be fine for us. Not for her. If her guardians do find her missing, no doubt they will come to the Sleeping Fox and drag her back home. That would be humiliating, and she’d be punished for disobeying.”
Edward bites the inside of his cheek. Connor was right – as usual. He really hated that. “Do you realise that since you’ve come to live with me and the old codger, you’ve slowly been morphing me into a better human being? I really hate that.”
Connor couldn’t help but smile to himself as his brother started up the engine and pulled away from the curb. “You give me too much credit, Edward. I only offer an opinion. It is you who decides what to do with it.”
Edward’s eyes roll skywards. “Jesus, man, sometimes you talk as though you’re not even from here.”
“But I’m not.” He says innocently. “I’m from New York.”
He wasn’t sure whether Connor was being serious or not – he was still growing accustomed to his sense of humour. “Riiiight. Whatever you say, lad.”
Connor simply blinked and went back to watching the road ahead.
An hour later (Your POV)
Desmond leans over the back of the couch with a beer bottle clutched between his fingers. “How are you liking Cujo so far? Pretty great, huh?”
Surely he had to be kidding? How could he ask such a question?
He smiles and gives your shoulder a pat before stalking to the kitchen, leaving you alone with him. That’s right. The reason for such...displeasure was due to the fact that on the couch beside you sat the living incarnation of Cujo.
Your eyes dart to the right. He’s watching you, those big brown eyes glimmering with murderous intent. His tongue unfurls and wets his snout – unfortunately, the action has his jowls getting ensnared behind a pair of protruding fangs.
On-screen, the main character, Donna, is in the process of acting as Cujo’s personal chew toy. Rooni looks to the screen then back to you. His stomach growls.
“Don’t go getting any ideas, you hairy shit.” You grumble, scooting as far away as possible. Rooni simply wags his tail in response; you’ll never feel comfortable around him again.
The front door closes – was someone going out? The distinct click of Lucy’s heeled boots grows louder as she appears from down the hall. “You’ve got visitors.”
Visitors? But who-?
“Yo, (Y/N),” Rebecca greets, sweeping into the room with a cardboard box cradled in her arms, “Didn’t think you’d be getting rid of us that easy, did ya?”
Élise, Evie, and one other girl whose name eludes you, crowd into the living room. Rooni whines and exhales heavily from his nose – his way of sulking, you’ve come to realise – before swiftly vacating the area. He’s more like you than you care to admit; large gatherings tend to become a tad overwhelming.
The box is set on the floor beside the television unit with Rebecca digging through its contents. Élise removes her shoes and wastes little time in making herself at home. The unfamiliar redhead claims the vacant armchair and lets her hair down, only to tie it up again not five seconds later. Evie is the only one courteous enough to approach with an apologetic smile.
“Sorry for barging in like this unannounced. I wanted to call ahead but Rebecca insisted we keep it a surprise.”
The level of worry on her expression was far too sincere – and adorable. Was she always this much of a sweetheart? “Don’t sweat it, Evie. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to see you guys, but I thought you all were going to the karaoke bar tonight.”
Élise interjects, “We were. But then Edward arrived and told us you were forced to stay put, so we decided to bring the party to you.”
They came all the way here just to spend time with you? That was actually really flattering. Truth be told, you didn’t even find yourself to be that interesting, so knowing these girls would rather spend their evening with you really touched your heart – and that’s hard to do!
“Not to mention the bar has become total dullsville lately.” Rebecca comments from her place on the floor. “La Volpe has really let the place turn to shit.”
“I hear he’s planning on selling it,” Élise pulls her legs up on the couch. “Though I don’t see how anyone could be stupid enough to buy a bar that reeks of cat piss.”
Your nose crinkles, which earns a laugh from Rebecca. “You think that’s bad? I found a nest of decaying rats behind the couch last week.”
Differently pitched exclamations of disgust occupy the living room. “And you all still hang out there?” Now you were actually grateful Lucy kept you from going.
“Unfortunately traditions are difficult to break.” A wistful smile plays on Evie’s lips as she takes a seat on the couch beside you, one long leg crossing over the other.
“That and most of us can hardly afford to go anywhere else,” says Rebecca, “Some of the places around here have insane prices. If it weren't for the mini-mart, I'd never eat.”
There was a hum of agreement from Evie. “I've been thinking about getting a job. I'm going to need to start saving if I wish to attend PUL.”
“PUL?” You quirk a brow and she smiles.
“Primrose University of Law. It's listed as one of the top ten most prestigious universities in the world.”
“Wow, so you already know what it is you want to do? I haven't given a single thought to my future...”
Honestly, a similar conversation took place thirteen months ago, and your answer then is the same one as now: who the hell knows? It was an unfortunate truth that you were one of those complicated individuals that had a closet overflowing with unfinished projects. Everything you start always seems like a great idea at first, but then a few days later and all interest is completely gone; If you can't even stick to completing a one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, then how could choosing a life-long career possibly be expected of you?
The tanned redhead shoots a look of reproach your way. “Don't you think you should start? Sitting on your ass may seem like fun now, but it's going to be pathetic in a few years when you're unemployed and mooching off your friends.”
You’re rendered momentarily speechless. Who the hell even was this chick?! She certainly has a lot of nerve coming into your home and tossing about unbidden advice.
“Tone down the bitchiness, Caterina.” Élise is always coming to your rescue. “You, of all people, shouldn't be judging someone else’s life choices.”
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
“You know exactly what it means.” She looks to you. “Miss Sforza here has this airheaded fantasy which involves her marrying straight out of high school and living a life of luxury.”
Caterina's lips pucker unhappily. “It is not a fantasy. Why only yesterday I caught Signore Riario giving me the eye.”
Evie just about chokes on the air. “You can't be serious?! Girolamo Riario? He's in his forties, easily.”
“And that simply adds to the allure.”
“What allure could a man pushing fifty possibly have?”
“Isn't it obvious?” She pulls her legs onto the armchair and begins to enumerate on her fingers. “He'll be highly knowledgeable and experienced in, well...pretty much everything; I don't need to worry about him making embarrassing and immature comments whilst in public; he'll be financially stable; and I bet he'll be able to find the most intimate of places on my body like no boy our age could.”
Rebecca interjects, “And you've always wanted to be a mother, so in a few years down the track, you'll be able to change his diapers for him.”
A scowl contorted Caterina's features when Rebecca's comment earned a titter from each of you. “Laugh all you want, but you'll see; everyone else will be struggling through college and work, and I'll be relaxing in Maui with my husband beside me and our three kids frolicking in the ocean. Life will be perfect.”
You give an unnoticeable shake of your head. There's a simplicity to having every single aspect of life planned out – right down to the most microscopic of details. But you know, firsthand, that there are scenarios which can be neither changed nor predicted. It's just the way life goes - it's not necessarily a bad thing, however. Hell, meeting everyone here proved to be an unexpected pleasure. And quite frankly, you eagerly anticipate whatever other surprises the island plans on hurling in your direction.
The maniacal giggling of a chipmunk draws everyone’s attention to the coffee table, finding the screen of your phone lighting up as a message arrives. “Oh, it's from Jacob.” You smile, reading over the message.
“What's he want?” Evie attempts to read the message over your shoulder.
“He wants to know if...oh...,” your cheeks flush, “...if the pillow fight had begun. He even added a wink.”
“See? An older man would never ask something like that.”
A roll of your eyes is offered in response to Caterina's comment. “I'm gonna have to disappoint him.”
“No, don't do that!” Élise snatches the phone from your hands before you had a chance to hit ‘Send'.
“What are y—”
You're silenced when she raises a finger and brings the phone to her ear. “Jacob? We all saw the message you sent. Don't you know it's impolite to ask what a woman does in the privacy of her own—” She interrupts herself with a loud yip and giggle, as though she was being tickled by some invisible source. “(Y/N), stop! That tickles!” There's a heat in her tone which has a blush clawing its way onto your cheeks. “Don't touch me there! Jacob, I have to go! I've got a naughty girl to punish.”
Right before hanging up, you could've sworn you heard Ezio shouting ‘send pictures' in the background. Élise tossed your phone back and eased into the cushions, propping her feet up on the coffee table with a satisfied grin. “That should keep their tiny minds occupied for awhile.”
Evie appears...displeased with how the situation was handled. “I can't believe you acted as though we were doing something. Now Jacob's going to be hounding me for details when I get home.”
The beautiful redhead goes to respond, but Caterina pipes up before even a syllable was uttered. “Don't take it too personally, Evie. Unfortunately our little Élise can't control that sluttish nature of hers.”
You're confident your jaw just dropped. Did this girl only come here to insult everyone?!
“I beg your goddamn pardon?” Élise sits up straighter and tucks her hair behind one ear. “My sluttish nature? That's a bit rich coming from you. I don't believe it were my legs that were spreading for Ezio on a first date.”
Caterina smirked, seemingly unfazed by her comment. “No, but that's because you were too busy being on your knees for the Al-Sayf brothers.”
Élise's perfectly manicured nails bite into couch cushion. “And you were bending over for Edward.”
“Whilst you were riding Arno.”
“This is why I usually steer clear of girls’ night.” Rebecca clicks her tongue and bangs on the table. “Listen, we came here to have a good time, so let's all pretend we're still virgins, and have some fun.”
You almost laugh at that - as if there were any need for pretending on your part – but currently your mind was still reeling from the knowledge that over half the population of the school has slept together at one time or another. It wasn't any of your business, you knew that. But still...something inside of you sinks. It can't possibly be disappointment. It's not as though you were actually interested in anyone – how could you be? It's only been a day. And yet you hated finding out about their...love lives.
“Now,” Rebecca raises herself from the rug and removes bags of crisps and cans of soda from the box she brought, “I've got extra spicy chips and ultra-caffeinated, sugary beverages.”
Evie stiffens beside you, and a quick glance to the left shows that the colour had drained from her face. “I...I don't suppose you have anything else? Something...lighter? Less calories?”
Less calories? The girl was a twig and she was worrying about calories? Why...oh. She couldn't be...could she?
Rebecca cracks open a can of soda and chugs it down. “’Fraid not, Eve.” She stifles a burp in her sleeve.
The weakest of smiles makes an appearance before vanishing completely. “No matter. I wasn't really hungry anyway.”
No one else even takes notice...but you do. Your own mother would suffer the same way. She would never say anything – as people don't – and no one dare draw attention to it. But the signs were there. And right now, Evie was exhibiting the signs. You don't understand – and you'll never pretend to – how someone so beautiful could have such a horrible illness plaguing their mind.
“Check it out.” Rebecca held up a gaming console. “I brought over my PlayStation4 so we could play.”
“We do have our own gaming console, Becs.”
She scoffed and sent a look your way suggesting she believed you to be insane. “An Xbox? Please. Everyone knows that PlayStation is the more superior console.”
You weren't going to argue with her. It was an argument you'd never win.
Whilst Rebecca got to work on setting up the console, Caterina took it upon herself to fill the silence. “How long have you and Edward been an item?”
You weren't aware she was speaking to you until all eyes zoned in on you. “Who? Me? I'm not with anyone.”
Did she believe you? Of course she didn't. “And we're supposed to believe that after what we witnessed in the cafeteria today? You were seated in his personal ‘fuck-of-the-week’ spot.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait...what?! Your eyes bulge from their sockets.
She smiles, but there was something peculiar in her eyes when she does. “Oh, were you not aware? Edward doesn't stick with one girl any longer than he has to...and neither does Ezio, but that's a story for another day.” With the slightest of head tilts, she continues, “If you think you're in any way important, then you're sadly mistaken, bambola (doll). You're nothing but flavour of the week.”
“You say that as though I'd actually allow myself be ‘flavour of the week’.” Did you look like an idiot? “Edward and I only met today. And even if I had known him longer, I have more respect for myself than to allow someone use me as a one night stand.”
Whilst the three other girls shared a smile, Caterina looked less than impressed. Sorry, but you were not some naive virgin who remained unaware of how the world operates. Truthfully, you were probably the only person in the universe who could see a person's true nature. It sounds strange, yes, but you possessed an unnatural ability since you were a child – you may even have been born with it. Though difficult to explain, it could best be described as an ‘extrasensory perception'. The ability to view the world in a way other's couldn't; hearing shapes, seeing sound, instinctively knowing one's true essence by the colour which surrounds them. It was difficult to understand at first – especially since there was no one with whom you could of spoken to about this – but you're fairly confident you've since mastered your gift over the years. Hell, in the beginning, it was something which could never be turned off; everything used to be a painfully blinding glow, and the piercing scream of numerous shapes was near defeating. Every day was spent nursing a migraine, but now...it was nice to be able to look at someone's face instead of a blur of colour.
“I was being considerate, you know.” Caterina says. “I warned you against Edward because I care.”
The level of sincerity in her tone would have been mistakenly believable were there not currently a scarlet glow betraying her.
All you can do is smile and nod. “I know, Cat.”
A/N: I can't wait until I start adding individual results - which will be soon, I promise~!
I don't know what it is, but there's something about Caterina that I cannot stand. Please don't hold it against me! So I've made her...well, I won't say enemy, because she's not going to be anywhere near as psychotic as Lucretzia, but she's definitely not going to be making you a friendship bracelet any time soon xD
How do you guys feel about possessing Eagle Vision~?
Chapter 12: Lies Lead to Snooping
The next chapter is finally out, huzzah~! I hope you all enjoy this one, and I apologise for it taking so long!
The clattering of dishes.
Nothing unusual about that, right?
But what about clattering dishes at three A.M when the entire household was supposedly tucked away in their beds and sleeping peacefully?
Different story, right?
That is exactly why you have flung yourself from the bed and army crawled across the floor towards the bedroom door, a can of deodorant in your possession. Realistically you knew that in the event of a home invasion, a cosmetic meant for preventing body odour would be an inadequate choice of weapon, but beggars can't be choosers, especially in a life or death situation.
What the hell is making that annoying thumping noise?
Oh...it was your heart. That's embarrassing. Hopefully it’s loud to only your ears, and not to the ears of the intruder. Speaking of which...
Peering over the banister to the ground floor, you see the kitchen light flick on, a masculine shadow breezing past the archway. An involuntary shudder wracks your body. The wiser decision would be to immediately fetch Desmond and Lucy, but for some unknown reason you remain where you are. Curiosity always managed to get the better of you – an unfortunate trait to possess, your parents would comment. But you didn't think so...well, not every time, that is. At times it was the bane of your existence but at other times it was your greatest strength.
“This is fucking ridiculous.”
You startle faintly.
That was Desmond’s voice.
And he sounds totally pissed.
“Keep your voice down. I don't want (Y/N) waking up.”
Okay...so, good news – there is no intruder and no risk of being horribly slaughtered in your bed. But now this scenario conjures more questions. What were Lucy and Desmond doing up at this time in the morning? What were they arguing about? And more importantly, what did they not want you to hear?
With as much finesse you could muster, you creep along the landing, wanting to get closer in order to eavesdrop. You stop and perch a little more than halfway down the staircase, attention fixed on Desmond's shadow flittering back and forth across the floorboards – he was an agitated pacer, that's what made it easy to recognize that there was a serious problem.
A cupboard is shut with unnecessary force. “No, of course not. If that happened, it'd mean coming up with some other pathetic lie on why you're arriving home in such a state.”
State? What? Does he mean...drunk? You never would have pegged Lucy for a drinker, but that's the only logical explanation for why Desmond didn't want you seeing her.
“I don't want to lie, Desmond. I have to, you know that.”
“She's not stupid, you know. She's going to get suspicious and start snooping around if you're not careful.”
She? Wait, was he talking about you? Suspicious of what? Now you were curious. What was Lucy hiding?
A chair groans in protest under someone's weight.
“I am careful. But if Vidic says-”
“Vidic could give a rat's ass what happens to you as long as he gets the information he wants!”
In the ensuing silence, it occurs to you that you don't truly understand what Lucy actually does for a living. The company she works for is Abstergo, but that's the extent of your knowledge. And now that you think about it, you knew a surprisingly little amount about Lucy; she never spoke of work or colleagues, never told humorous anecdotes about any friends...even her hobbies remained a mystery.
“You know what? I'm sick and tired of constantly having to defend myself, Desmond. You may not realise it, but my work is highly important and it's going to benefit a lot of people in the future. We are so close to locating the P.O.E.”
“And what about the poor saps who went crazy after helping you obtain this ‘beneficial’ information? Do you even give a shit that most of them died? For Christ's sake, Lucy, one of them was pregnant!”
Glass shattering has you nearly sliding down the stairs in fright and you grip the banister before your ass has a chance to hit the next step. It was probably time to get back to bed before one of them comes charging from the kitchen and catches you snooping.
You practically fly back to your room - no longer caring about being quiet – and dive back into the secure embrace of the covers. For a while you simply lay there, cocooned and wide-eyed, listening for any approaching footsteps or bitter voices. But the house has gone dead once more, leaving you to obsess over the conversation that had just taken place. What the hell was that all about?! Beneficial information...P.O.E...people dying...
It all sounds impeccably crazy.
Part of you wanted to go down now and confront the pair of them. Get the answers you deserve and put an end to their secrets. But the other part of you – the one that didn't want to risk death – argued against such stupidity and kept you rooted to the mattress.
What had you gotten yourself into?
Before tonight, never once would you have done anything but put your full trust into Lucy; she was a kind, trustworthy, and considerate woman whose blood runs through your veins. But now...well, you don't know what to think. Lucy is now some stranger with all sorts of secrets – and you don't mean weird fetishes or guilty pleasure type secrets. Dangerous secrets. Secrets that apparently involve death.
It would be easier and better for everyone involved were this night to be completely forgotten about and never questioned. But your own mind would never allow that. It will obsess over this information every minute of every day, driving you to the point of madness until it is given what it desires.
So that's what you'll do.
You'll feed its insatiable hunger.
But it'll have to wait until morning when Lucy and Desmond have both left the house. It means you'll have to miss school, but this is far more important.
Nearly everything had gone according to plan; Lucy had gone to work before you even woke, Desmond was preparing to leave, which meant the house was going to be empty and allowing plenty of time to snoop. However, there was one unforseen complication which had now made matters slightly more difficult.
That complication was called Shay Cormac.
Had you known the guy lived directly across the street, you would have decided on a more carefully selected hiding place rather than behind the tree in front of his window; it was such a rookie mistake – one you won't repeat in the future. Now not to be misconstrued, you did greatly enjoy Shay's company, but...you weren't entirely sure what it was you were going to find, let alone what you were actually searching for. What if there was something horrible to be found? Something so life-shattering that it will change the way you perceive Lucy forever? You shudder at the thought.
“For years you've had me believing that I was the bad influence. But that's not true at all.”
You hadn't even noticed that Shay had been whispering in your ear this entire time. You tear your attention away from the house long enough to cast a confused glare in his direction. “What are you babbling about?”
A finger connects with your ribs. “You. You're always dragging me into your crazy schemes.”
“I beg your friggin' pardon?” Was this boy on crack? “If anyone's the ringleader around here, it's you. I'd never get in trouble if it weren't for you and your Irish shenanigans.”
He continues as though you haven't spoken at all. “I used to be a good boy, and everyone in the neighbourhood would praise me for it. ‘Such an angel', they'd all say. But then you came along and poisoned me with your Siren song. Completely robbing me of my innocence.”
You can't help but snort. “Innocence? You do realise who you're talking to, don't you? I was there, and as I recall, grownups couldn't stand you. What was it that they used to call you? ‘Little Feral’? ‘The Barefooted Terror’? Those don't sound very innocent to me.”
“Those were mere terms of endearment, girly; they may sound harsh, but the love was there. It's like when you call me doofus. I know you don't truly believe that.”
Your lips purse. “Yeah...I wouldn't sound so confident about that if I were you. Now do you mind? We're supposed to be keeping an eye out for when Desmond leaves.”
“About that...he's already gone.”
A pause. “What?”
Shay nods in the direction of the house. “He left a minute ago. Look, his car's gone.”
For fudge sake. This boy could be so infuriating at times. “I'll be back in a minute.” For some reason, you find yourself whispering, as though Desmond or Lucy may somehow hear you were you to speak any louder.
“I thought I was coming with you.”
“This is something I'd prefer to do without you.”
“What? Why? What's wrong with me all of a sudden?”
“Nothing's wrong with you, I just—” You abruptly stop, exasperated, unable to resist those goddamn puppy dog eyes. “Fine. Whatever. Come along if you want to.”
“I don't want to. I just wanted you to want me to.”
There's a lull in the conversation whilst you fight to prevent a sudden surge of irritation from bubbling over. Why can't everyone simply say whatever it is they truly mean rather than fumble through with this whole rigmarole? You sometimes wonder whether or not Shay did this purposely just to irk you, but...you doubt he's capable of even considering being vindictive. Put quite simply – and yes, it sounds cliché – Shay was a good guy. He had his flaws, like everyone else, an he could lose his temper under the proper circumstances, but you've never known him to deliberately set out and cause someone harm simply because he could or that he sought retribution. And he was quite chivalrous when in the presence of women; he does his best not to use expletives when in your presence - even though you don't hesitate to let a few slip -, and he is typically rather considerate - he's the only one to date whom has ever opened the door for you.
Having taken a calming breath, you provide a different response. “Shay, I would really like it if you were to join me on this secret mission.”
He considers his answer for a moment before smiling. “Well...I suppose I can do that. But only because you were so nice about it.”
Alright. No more stalling. Time to find out what nasty secrets were being kept from you.
Shay squeezes himself through the door ahead of you before it was even fully opened. Apparently he planned to ‘scope the place out’. There wasn't any need for it since Lucy and Desmond were the only other people to reside here, but you don’t have the heart to argue with him. From the day you met, he's always done everything he could to prove that he was a man – from offering to carry heavy boxes to unhesitatingly jumping to the defence of any woman he thinks may be caught in a harmful situation. It seems to make him happy, so you never object to his help.
But as you wait by the entrance, it suddenly dawns on you. Rooni! The colour drains from your face as a gruesome image of Shay being mauled to death sears itself onto your brain. “Shay, hold up!” You screech, practically flying down the hallway and into the living room.
But such panic was all for naught.
Shay was perfectly fine. And Rooni...was in the exact same position as he was when you left the house this morning – sprawled across the couch as though he were royalty. You deflate. So much for a guard dog.
Shay glances in your direction, oblivious to your earlier panic. “What's the matter?”
“Other than the fact that Rooni has proven himself useless in the face of a home invasion?” You shoot an accusatory glare Rooni's way. He stares back, unfazed.
Giving underneath the couch a quick scan, Shay straightens up and places both hands on his hips, beaming with unbridled pride. “The place is secure, my lady.”
You offer a playful curtsy. “Why thank you, good sir. Now that the place is clear, let's get to snooping.”
It shouldn't excite you this much – especially when there's every chance of finding something devastating – but as you and Shay begin roaming the house in search of secrets, you can't deny the thrill coursing through your veins.
You're not crazy – at least, that's what you tell yourself. It's just...there's something so incredibly exhilarating about doing things you're not supposed to do. But that's human nature, isn't it? As a species, we're naturally drawn to anything considered forbidden or taboo. And scrounging through a person's personal belongings without permission is definitely considered to be one of societies biggest taboos.
“Find anything interesting yet?”
Shay hurls the box he was holding back into the closet, slams the door shut, and whirls to your curious form all in one fluid movement. “I saw nothing!”
Um, okay. Weird.
You convey your incredulity by raising both brows and crossing your arms. “Really? You didn't find anything?” Your eyes narrow curiously. “Why's your voice so high then?”
Shay has never been a good liar; the excuses he makes would be convincible if his face and voice didn't always betray him – either the guilt drains every ounce of colour from his face, or his voice suddenly sounds as though someone had pumped the poor bastard full of helium.
“No reason.” He squeaks out then clears his throat and tries again. “It's nothing you need to know, girly.”
“Saying that only makes me wanna know more.”
He slams his back against the door when you attempt move around him. “No! Trust me when I tell you, (Y/N), you don't want to see what's in there.” His fingers bite into your shoulders and his forehead lightly connects with yours. “I saw things...disturbing things....things no child should ever have to witness their guardians doing.”
You stare at him as though another head has suddenly sprouted from his shoulder. Disturbing things no child should see their-? Oh. That could only revolve around one subject.
Horror and disgust gradually contorts your features after you fail to keep from visualizing what is currently hidden within that little black box.
Shay immediately pulls you into a comforting embrace. “Pleasant thoughts, (Y/N), pleasant thoughts; puppies, and pastries, and...pillows with frills, if that's what floats your boat.”
“I don't think even pastries will help, Shay.” You look at his face after being ushered from the room. “Images are already formulating. I don't think I'll ever recover.”
“You won't recover? Count your blessings that you didn't actually see what was inside the box.” He glances at a hanging photograph of Lucy and Desmond, a slight crinkle in his nose. “I'll never be able to look at Desmond the same, that's for sure.”
Ugh. That one sentence has made things infinitely worse. What the hell kind of kinky shit do those two get up to behind closed doors? No! No, let's not open that possibility box.
“You know, you never actually told me what it is we're searching for.”
You answer him honestly. “That's ‘cause I got no idea what to search for.” You sink into the armchair with a sigh, shaking your head despondently. Maybe there wasn't actually anything to find? Maybe...maybe last night was all a dream? Or perhaps you misinterpreted the information you overheard? If that were the case, it would be both relieving and disappointing. “I thought there’d be something here worthwhile, but...I'm thinking now it was probably all in my-”
The end of your sentence is cut off by a mechanical grinding coming from the bookcase – well, actually it was more of a DVD case/shelf thanks to Desmond, but that's not the point. Your eyes are close to bursting from their sockets when the bookcase tremors and groans as it slides to one side, revealing a shadowed set of stairs leading downwards.
Shay stumbles backwards, tripping over a crease in the rug and landing hard on his ass – though he seemed more focused on the bookcase rather than the fall, which was understandable. “Holy...this is some Agatha Christie shi--stuff right here.”
He could say that again! Seriously, hidden rooms behind moving bookcases?! That shit doesn't happen in real life! Or it's not supposed to!
You raise yourself from the armchair and help him to his feet, your attention permanently fixed on the secret entrance. “How did you do that?”
He offers a slow shake of his head, just as dumbfounded as you are. “All I did was try pull out a DVD and the bloody thing began moving.”
“Which DVD did you pull?”
“Um,” He reaches out and grips a box you've never even given a second glance, “this one. The Creation of Man.”
Your brows knit together. “I've seen this damn movie a dozen times already, but I've never really given it much notice.” You scan the other titles among the shelves. It was only now that you were paying attention did you realise that this individual DVD was the one that stood out amongst the rest. Everything else on the shelves was a mixture of action, horror, and a few chick flicks - Lucy's choice, obviously -, so for there to be a religious film amongst them should have been a clear enough sign that something was off.
“What do you think's down there?” You find yourself whispering once again whilst reaching out to hug Shay's arm.
A slight raise of his shoulders is offered in response. “Don't know for sure. But, if I were to take a guess, I'd say...a sex dungeon.”
Your head snaps towards him so fast it was a miracle your neck didn't break. “A sex dungeon?! Man, why’d you have to go and say that? Don't you know what this is gonna do to my mental state?”
“Sorry, but after what I found upstairs, a sex dungeon is very likely.” His lips twitch faintly. “Perhaps you'd prefer we call it something else? Like a, uh...a ‘fun’ dungeon? A fungeon!”
If he weren't your best friend, you'd deck him right in the schnoz. “Riiiiiight, because calling it that will help take the nightmares away.”
He gasped audibly. “What? Was that...sarcasm? From (Y/N)? Say it isn't so!”
“Oh, shush up, you.” You give him a playful shove but he doesn't budge an inch – and judging by the smirk on his face, he takes immense enjoyment in the fact that you can no longer move him.
It was easy to forget that neither of you were children anymore. Especially Shay.
It seemed like only yesterday he was as delicate as a piece of glass – not in temperament, but in appearance. One wrong move and you feared his limbs would snap. Though such fear was all for naught, for whenever he would come falling from a dangerously high branch, he'd simply sweep aside the mop of chestnut coloured hair that dominated a narrow and dirty face and hurry along to the next life-endangering act. Heh. That boy...it was near impossible to ever catch him standing still. He made everyone believe that he always had somewhere important to be.
“Why are you staring at me like that?” Shay flicks your forehead, dark eyes glimmering with mischief. “You're not falling in love with me, are you?”
You rub the spot he's flicked to soothe the mild sting and offer a snort in response. “Don't flatter yourself, doofus. You'd be the last person I'd fall for.”
“Always so in denial.” He clicks his tongue, head shaking slowly. “You'll see. One of these days you won't be able to resist my masculine charms and you'll be swooning. And like a true gentleman, I'll be there, ready and waiting to catch you, and together we'll ride off into the sunset to begin our new life together.”
“Sadly enough, I think somewhere deep down in that pretty little head of yours, you actually believe that.” You gave his chest a playful pat. “Perhaps it's time to give those Westerns a break, hm?”
To your surprise, his eyes narrow. Was it something you said?
“That's a hell of a thing for you to say to me.”
Oh, wait. Now it all makes sense.
“You're quoting a Western right now, aren't you?”
“Uh, not just any Western – Tombstone. One of the greatest Western's ever made that doesn't star Clint Eastwood!”
Your eyes roll to the ceiling. “It's nice to know you haven't changed.”
“Why would I change? I'm awesome.”
“We all have our flaws.”
This sort of banter could continue on for hours if given the opportunity, and the pair of you had already gotten way off track – not that you minded. Realistically you were deliberately stalling to avoid going down into this ‘fungeon' and discovering something awful.
But it was now or never.
You needed to know what was hidden down there.
Shay takes possession of your hand as though sensing your internal conflict and gives it a comforting squeeze; he knew nothing needed to be said. That this was enough. And it was. Knowing someone was simply there by your side, even in silence, was more than enough. You return the gesture – though you're certain he felt the slight tremble of your hand – and together descend the staircase.
Chapter 13: This Is What Snooping Gets You
1197, Kamryn Morris
Tightening my grip on one of the many flying buttresses, one leg is raised and dangled precariously over the edge, a slight breeze clawing needily at my clothing, urging me forward; wanting to drag me down into death’s cold and unforgiving embrace.
It was remarkable, the calmness slithering through my veins, failing to warn me of the seriousness of what I was intending to carry out. No hesitation. No fear. The taste of freedom, teasing the tip of my tongue with its promising sweetness, deciding the outcome for me. One by one fingers unfurl, unhesitant, accepting the decision which can no longer be changed. Closing my eyes, I exhale a long and shaky breath and lean forwards.
“That's enough, Kamryn!"
With my plans momentarily interrupted, I have no other option but to turn and confront the man responsible for my current predicament: Al Mualim.
Accompanying our so-called leader are three of my fellow Assassin's; they, too, wish to see me punished. In their eyes resides an unbridled hatred our Brotherhood normally possess when encountering a devoted member of the Templar Order, never one of their own.
But I was no longer one of them.
Despite having plausible reasons for my actions, the entirety of the Creed still believed I was deserving of punishment. To be tortured and shamed until they grow tired of their torment and finally decided to end my pitiful life.
Al Mualim looked upon me as though I were nothing more than the hardened mud caught in the sole of his boot. “I cannot abide a traitor.”
“And I cannot abide serving under a man who speaks of principles yet possesses none.”
“You forget to whom you speak, girl.” He thinks nothing of the consequences as he takes a few steps closer, forcing my feet to slide backwards until the heel of my boots hang precariously over the stone ledge. “Our Creed means nothing if we do not obey its tenets; perhaps you have forgotten-”
“I did not break any of our tenets,” I argued despite knowing that my words fell upon deaf ears.
“You stole from the Creed! From your own Brother's, and for what?”
“To save my child.” My voice rings loud and clear across the rooftop. “And I do not regret my decision.”
“Child?” He laughed, a cruel, disparaging sound. “That abomination of the womb? Allah prognosticated your betrayal and saw to it that you be punished accordingly.”
My blood boiled at his insensitivity towards my child, but I was smart enough to understand not to react – he was simply baiting me, wanting me to step down from this ledge and into his damnation. “Punished? Allah favours me, Al Mualim; with His guiding hand, I was able to procure the item required in the rehabilitation of my son and give him chance at a better future.”
“And by doing so, you have destroyed yours.” He held up a hand, a signal for the trio flanking him to advance. “Give back to us the Shroud and we shall be lenient in your punishment.”
“Your hands shall never again come in contact with the Shroud; it is long gone. Hidden away from all those whom would abuse its power.”
The leader of the Brotherhood actually looks surprised. Or is that...enraged? Perhaps it was both.
“Who gave you the right to make that choice?!”
“No one. I simply took it.”
Even with the distance between us, I could see the froth beginning to spread throughout his mouth. Pupils dilated and trembling with raw insanity; the man had willingly succumbed to the power of these ancient artefacts. Hours upon hours he had wasted, hunched in his private chambers, cradling something known as the ‘Apple' as though it were a fragile infant in need of nurture. And now he sought the Shroud. Why he would want or have any use for such an item was beyond my comprehension, but I knew that in order to save lives, it needed to be taken away and hidden – no mortal should fool themselves into believing they were capable of possessing the power of a God.
“Insolent harlot!” He bellowed, spittle spraying through the air like that of a rabid mongrel.
I smirked, just a brief quirk of the lips, and held out both arms, just like I do right before a leap of faith. “Arak fe al-hayya kadima (See you in the next life), Al Mualim.”
And I fell backwards into death's embrace.
Warning. Warning. Unknown error has occurred. Searching for new memory. Memory not found.
DNA scan in process...loading...loading...error.
An expletive tumbled shamelessly from Shay's lips when he bit down on the tip of his thumb with more force than intended; you had strapped yourself into that...machine, or whatever the hell it was, against his wishes and now he was unsure of how to get you out. The idea of yanking the needle from your arm had crossed his mind more than once, but in no way did he want to take the risk of causing you any harm; neither you or Shay had the foggiest idea of what this contraption was or how it worked, so the obvious approach was to use caution.
Shay continued to gnaw on his fingernails as he watched over your motionless form. “C'mon, (Y/N).”
No sooner had he said those words than an alarm of some sort started screaming. The computers tucked away in the corner began flashing, warnings flickering across every monitor in a frenzy. Shay leapt to his feet but no further action was taken; he didn't understand the technology, which made him hesitant to help – if he was to yank the needle from your arm like he had planned originally, what would happen?
Fortunately he was never given the opportunity to find out.
Your eyes popped open and your body shot upright, face contorted by an unrivalled terror. Shay felt the colour drain from his face – what the hell had happened to you in that machine?! He rushed to your side, eyes sweeping frantically over every inch of your body, searching for some non-existent injury.
He's interrupted when you hastily lean over the side of the dark grey chaise and cough up a slurry of blood; the majority of it winds up on his shoes, but that's the least of his concerns. You continue to cough and splutter onto the floor, crimson tinged strings of saliva hanging flaccidly from your bottom lip.
Why were your insides burning?!
“Fuck,” Shay couldn't help but swear this time around. “Hold on, (Y/N), I'll...I'll help you.”
Anything said by Shay fell upon deaf ears; your mind was hazy, unfocused. All you could concentrate on was the fire sizzling your brain, the nausea bubbling in the pit of your stomach, and the painful shocks shooting up and down the length of your spine. It was torture. And yet, the only concern of yours was feeling well enough in order to tell Shay what you had just experienced.
The needle was removed from your vein by Shay's shaky hand and, with as much delicacy as possible, helped get you onto your feet. “Can you stand?” He asked, pulling both hands away from your body, just a fraction in case you began to fall.
And fall you did.
The room tilted horrendously to one side; you knew your body was preparing to hit the floor any second, but fortunately, Shay's arms were slithering around your torso and preventing such an outcome. Next thing you know, you're being hoisted effortlessly into his arms the same way a groom does with his new bride – only this situation was in no way romantic.
Shay moved up the stairs with as much speed as carrying you would allow. “We need to get you to a doctor.”
Involving a doctor would only complicate this entire situation even more; Desmond and Lucy would be called and then they'd learn that you had been snooping, which would be fine if you were ready to confront them, but you weren't prepared for that in the least. And then there's the issue of Shay's involvement...no one needs to know that he was an accomplice.
Shay didn't bother in hiding the fact that he believed you to be crazy. “Seriously? You just puked up blood, and you can't even stand on your own two feet – getting medical attention should be your top priority.”
“Shay...please...” You pleaded weakly, forcing a bat of your eyelashes, hoping it still had the same effect in your poorly state.
“Oh, fine,” He acceded with a roll of his eyes, a slight crease in his brow to accentuate his disapproval. “We'll go to my house and I can keep an eye on you there.”
And so you were transported from your home to across the street, forced to listen whilst Shay complained about your childishness and lack of self-preservation; this treatment continued right up until you were tucked safely away in his own bed, the blankets tucked so tightly around your legs that even the notion of escape was impossible. The house was empty, fortunately, so there was no need to make any excuses – it’d need to be one hell of an excuse for your current condition to be passed of as something simple.
Shay re-entered the bedroom carrying a tray containing a Dr Who mug of Earl Grey, a bowl of fresh fruit cubes, and different medications all aimed at treating different ailments. “Dr Cormac to the rescue.” He murmured, pushing the collection of crap atop the bedside table out of the way so he could set the tray down. “I know you don't like taking pills but if you don't want to go to a doctor than you'll have to take them.”
“Now this will help with any nausea,” he cut your objection off at the knees and held up a small bottle. “These are for headaches...and these are to help you sleep, which is what I think you really need now.”
He emptied one pill out of each bottle and placed them on the blanket pulled right up to your armpits. You watched him through glazed eyes. It was really sweet of him to take care of you like this - you'd have to thank him once you were feeling better and your eyes were no longer flickering between Eagle Vision and regular vision.
“Would it help if I put them in a fruit cube?”
He must be asking due to the fact that you had unknowingly started glaring at the medication. “Fruit...cube...?” Like what owners do in order to trick their pets into taking medicine as well?
He took those words as an agreement and forced one of the pills into a slice of watermelon before holding it up to your lips. “C'mon now, (Y/N), open up.” He urged, waggling the fruit enticingly in front of your mouth.
But still you were reluctant – hiding the pill probably only worked if the person having to swallow it was unaware that it had been hidden.
Shay wasn't going to take no for an answer; the fruit cube was pushed against your tightened lips, softly at first, but then a little firmer when you refused to part them. “In we go,” he crooned, the watermelon beginning to smush the harder it was forced against your lips. “(Y/N), c'mon, don't be difficult. If you don't open up, I'll tickle you until you do – and it won't stop there. I'll keep going, even if you beg, until you wet yourself. Is that what you want?”
Begrudgingly, and with no other choice, your lips part to accept the fruit.
The watermelon is inserted.
But that was only one of the pills. Two more to go. Unfortunately. You repeat the same process as before with the other two pills, shuddering once they were all gone. But now you can relax, and hopefully feel better in no time.
“I can't believe after all these years, you still can't swallow a pill without causing a scene,” Shay comments, lips quirking upwards into a tiny smirk.
You accept the Dr Who mug from his hands and slurp noisily on the steaming liquid, all the while glaring at him from over the rim.
“I'm only teasing.” He climbed onto the bed beside you, stretching out his legs and crossing his ankles. “In all seriousness though, you really scared me in there.” His gaze softens. “I thought I was going to lose you.”
It did honestly feel as though your body was preparing to die right there and then, and the experience had most certainly taken its toll – even something as simple as speaking was proving to be an arduous task. You still wanted to learn more though. You had to. You had to know what that machine was, why it was there, and the meaning behind such a vivid...simulation.
Shay drapes an arm across your shoulders and pulls so that you were leaning against him. Your eyes roll upwards to examine his face; he has closed his eyes, one arm placed behind his head as cushioning against the headboard.
Must be time for a nap.
Fortunately for you, those pills Shay had given you were fast acting; your eyelids droop without realising the same time as every muscle unclenches.
The last thing you remember is Shay planting a soft kiss upon your forehead.
The echoing shrieks of your parents and metal colliding with metal were enough to send your back straight; up like a bolt in pitch darkness as a cold sweat moistens your face and chest, heart attempting to escape through your throat the first chance it could get. Lately, nights hadn't been all that easy on you; the sudden death of your parents a few weeks back had completely shaken you, uprooted your sanity. You still wake up expecting it all to have been some Hellish nightmare, but then the officer's voice comes back to remind you of reality – ‘Your parents were killed in an automobile accident’.
Normally Lucy or Desmond would pop their head into the room to have a check on you, make sure everything was alright - it's as though they instinctively know when something is wrong. But tonight they didn't.
A strange sound mixed between a choke and a gurgle has you leaping out of bed; it was only when your eyes adjusted to the darkness did you come to realise that it was only Shay who was the source of such a monstrous noise.
Wait. Shay?! Why..?
Oh. Now you remember. This morning's events came rushing back as though someone had flicked a switch.
You finally calmed down enough to have a good think about today's discovery; what exactly was that machine you so willingly hooked yourself up to? And what exactly was it showing you? Was it some sort of virtual reality technology? Or was it something...more?
You grip the edges of the dressing table and peer into the sunken eyes of your reflection. That machine...it had to be something more than a simulation. The scene it showed you...it was just too real; everything that woman felt, you felt as well: the sorrow and determination, the sweat trickling down one side of your face, the weightlessness of your body when gravity took hold.
It was insane.
The biggest concern for you was why Desmond and Lucy kept such a machine in the basement hidden behind a secret door. If it was somehow something Lucy maybe needed for work, then why does she keep it a secret? Is this what that Abstergo company manufactures? That could be why Lucy never speaks of her job. But then, what's Desmond's role in all of this secrecy?
A blur of colour from outside prevents you from further contemplation.
You rush to the window and press your face against the glass, staring at the street below with a boggle-eyed look of shock. Is that...a person? But – no. No, it can't be...can it?
On the street stands a figure which greatly resembles that of a human, but it's...it's indistinct. It was more like a phantom. Surely you must be seeing things. Yeah. Yeah, that's got to be it. Your eyes are playing tricks on you. You close your eyes and take a few seconds to relax before reopening them for another look.
The phantom-like figure was gone.
Chapter 14: From One Game To Another
“It was just a game.”
Instead of enjoying the heavenly aroma of croissants, toast, hash browns and all the other confectionaries one could possibly imagine for breakfast on a Wednesday morning, you were preoccupied with explaining to Shay everything that had happened once being strapped into that peculiar machine; your supposed ‘best friend' insists it was nothing but some high-tech gaming simulation – he had explained it far better but admittedly some of the words he had used had thrown you for a loop.
Your eyes roll for the seventh time that morning and argue for the eighth. “But that doesn’t explain last night – someone was down there in the street, and then—“
“They disappeared without a trace.” Shay finished with a brief quirk of his lips.
Bastard didn't believe you.
“I'm not crazy,” you say, though your voice lacked the conviction necessary to make the statement believable, “I mean, I'm seeing the ghosts of the dead and I'm hearing voices, but I'm not insane.”
“Yes, because everyone knows that only sane people shout about how sane they are,” Shay mumbles. “By the way, a bit of froth spilled onto your chin while you were ranting about how not-crazy you are.”
You wipe away the spittle that had indeed dribbled down your chin and offer a pout. You weren't crazy...were you? Surely last night wasn't just some peculiar trick your mind had decided to play. It had to have been real. It had to. And one way or another, you were going to prove it.
Shay reaches over and gives your cheek a pinch and a pull. “You look so cute when you pout – like a toddler that’s been placed in time-out.”
You swat at his hand. “Oh, shut up, cabbage farmer – we're going to be late for school.”
His face falls at the nickname and you can't help but smile at your miniature triumph; it was a low blow, but his lack of belief in you was as equally insulting.
Picking your bag up from the floor and slinging it over one shoulder, you're just about ready to head out. But Shay's sudden spaz attack prevents you from taking another step.
“Wait ,(Y/N)! You haven't even tried my huevos rancheros.” Shay whined, reminding you of a 1950's housewife. “You want to know what my secret is? A dash of oregano.”
Your gaze drops to the dish in his hands. “That's...nice? But I'm not hungry. Now take off that damn frilly apron – it's freaking me out.”
Shay glances down at his mother’s hot pink apron with the words ‘kitchen bitch’ stitched on the front, offence crinkling his brow. “And here I am thinking we were living in the age of equality.” Both hands fell to his hips. “You should be ashamed of yourself (Y/N). I'm a strong, independent man; I can be a kitchen bitch if I want.”
Oh, he was acting like a bitch alright.
Suppressing the urge to roll your eyes, you turn your back on him and begin inching towards the door. “Whatever. Let's just get to school.”
“But what about the huevos rancheros!?”
“We'll eat it on the way!”
>>Fast forward to gym>>
Had the school been converted to a military academy and nobody told you?
You share an uneasy glance with the other students before refocusing your horror on Bartolomeo.
“Centuries ago there was a man by the name of Thucydides, and he taught a very valuable lesson: The strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must.” Passion oozed from his every pore, admiration glimmering within aging eyes. “Truer words have never been spoken. In this life, it is fight or die! When you are running from a lion, you don't have to be faster than the lion, just faster than your friends! When you are stranded in the Himalayas and starving to death, you do not lay down and die – you wrap your hands around your beloved wife’s neck, give her a quick death, then eat her body for sustenance! That is life!”
The gym is consumed by an excruciatingly awkward silence.
What an oddly specific – and tad concerning – scenario.
There's a wedding ring poking out from the pudginess of his fingers; you can't help but wonder what his personal life was like. What would his wife think if she had heard his little speech?
Bartolomeo’s hawk-like gaze scans across the class currently huddled together, analysing each individual student – for what, you weren't certain, but you did not like the near sadistic smile curling his lips.
“It is high time you learn the true meaning of the phrase ‘kill-or-be-killed’, in the only legal way I know.” He reaches a hand into the netted sack by his feet and removes a foam ball, tossing it into the air a few times, which turns out to be rather intimidating. “Dodgeball.”
Murmurs of surprise and reluctance erupt throughout the gymnasium; Lucrezia’s crimson lips curl with sadistic glee; Jacob and Evie nudge each other with competitive grins, giggling in anticipation of school-encouraged violence; Arno looks as though he had just been given the death-sentence.
“You will be divided into two teams. Cesare, you will lead Red Team – remember to use that sadistic streak God gave you. Caterina, you will lead Blue Team – remember that all good leaders rule with fear. You will each take turns picking your soldiers, then take a few moments to strategize. When you hear sweet Bianca’s war-cry, the battle begins whether you're ready or not!”
Cesare and Caterina took up position front of the class, ready to pick their favourite classmates. You choose to hover in the background, cloaked in shadow, hoping to remain unnoticed. However, your covert abilities were in great need of refinement, for something painful was being jabbed into your back, sending you stumbling forward into the light.
Lucrezia. Of course.
You should have known it was her from the get go since the perfume she drenched herself in was powerful enough to bring down every single person in Times Square; the thick, rich smell reminds you of cats, mothballs and fruitcakes, and you're fairly certain such a stench could induce a migraine if inhaled too often.
“Afraid to be picked last, puttana?”
Puttana? This time you were very much aware of the meaning of that word, which was the cause of your eyes narrowing.
Even when remaining silent and attempting to go unnoticed, still the heavily made up demon sought you out, sidling up for what can only be assumed as her next power fix – an ego boost at your expense is guaranteed. Since day one she has chosen you to feed upon like an aphid does on new Spring growth, leaving you withered and tense whilst she flutters away newly energized; the term ‘parasite’ springs to mind.
She has the nerve to touch your hair whilst she continues her verbal assault. “Perhaps you should sit this game out? It would be a shame for such a horrid face to be ruined even more.”
Unfortunately for her, your parents didn't raise you to be a doormat; in the words of your mother ‘act like a lady until some bitch tries to make a fool of you'.
You don't hesitate in swatting her hand away. “Actually, the real shame would be us getting stuck on the same team – I'd hate to miss the opportunity to knock you down a peg.”
The last thing you see – which fills you with great satisfaction – is the fall of Lucrezia’s Grinch-like grin; a softball connects with the side of your head a millisecond later. Wait. Did you say softball? How silly. You actually meant ‘cannonball' because that's what the damn thing felt like thanks to Bartolomeo’s monstrous throw.
Miniature Shay heads flutter in circles around your head, each one chirping the word ‘lucky’ repeatedly.
Once the black spots diminished, you came to realize everyone was staring – including a foaming-at-the-mouth Bartolomeo.
“Stillman! Look alive! It is your call to action! Your path has been decided on the crossroads of Destiny!”
Did all the educators within this building speak like freaks?!
With gritted teeth, your narrowed eyes flicker around the gymnasium in the hope of deciphering the man's conundrum; turns out your ‘destiny' was to be an unwilling participant on Cesare’s team.
Oh, sweet joy.
You think about objecting to being picked. To the game. To the entire gruelling torture titled gym class. But you're not so fond of death, and you're fairly certain that even allowing the most inaudible of sounds would cause Bartolomeo to murder you – death by dodgeballs does sound pretty cool though.
Cesare provides one of those finger gun actions complete with a flirtatious wink and click of the tongue – a little part of you dies at the motion.
However, you like to consider yourself an optimist, and being an eternal optimist means that you have somehow managed to locate a silver lining amidst the day’s mountainous amount of shit; Cesare chose you. Over his own sister. And not only did you derive pleasure from the fire in her eyes, but you could practically hear the boiling of her blood from halfway across the gymnasium.
You flash a smirk.
Teams have been decided.
Strategies have been concocted.
Students line the walls, competitiveness surging through their systems as they focus on the perfectly aligned softballs positioned in the centre of the gymnasium.
Bartolomeo has taken up position on the bleachers and continuously switches focus between both teams, hands rubbing together in unbridled excitement – he was enjoying this far too much for your liking.
“Remember,” his voice boomed, “no mercy is to be bestowed upon the enemy team; I care not if they are a friend or loved one, for there could easily come a day when you might stare down the barrel of a sniper rifle and be met by the eyes of a childhood friend – and if that happens, you will have to take that shot! For honour! For glory! Ready! Aim! Fire!”
Bianca is blown and the battle has commenced.
Students from both sides charge towards the centre at full speed, with Yusuf shrieking a blood-curdling war cry which adds to the intensity of the match. The balls are swiped up by a few lucky students from each team, with the remaining members backing up to a much safer distance.
You hover in the background and grimace at the abrupt carnage; dodgeballs hurtle through the air with the intent to maim. Students of both sides scramble to avoid being hit, a few of the more unfortunate individuals crying out in pain due to their inability to dodge.
Arno weaves skittishly through his team mates shielding his head. You were in the process of wondering exactly how long he would survive with that strategy when Yusuf seems to materialise from thin air and takes the poor French student hostage, proceeding to use him as a shield.
“What are you doing?!” Arno’s panic is palpable.
“What needs to be done,” Came Yusuf’s deliriously giddy response. “It’s nothing personal, arkadas.”
Arno’s eyes were wide with fear, and with good reason – dodgeballs sliced through the air like heat seeking missiles, each one making contact with his poor string bean body.
The assault came to a merciful end and Yusuf relinquished his hold on Arno, allowing him to wither to the floor, as deflated as an old balloon.
Bartolomeo roars his approval from the sidelines.
“Extra credit for thinking outside the box, Yusuf!“ Bartholomew bellowed.
You’re so absorbed in the sight of Arno limply dragging his freshly tenderised body off court that you fail to notice Lucrezia lurking along the centre line with a ball in hand, malevolent glee having contorted her features; by the time you do take notice, the ball has already left her freshly manicured hand.
But then the unexpected happens.
Before contact can be made, Cesare glides across the gymnasium floor with the same level of desperation as a man in need of a toilet and skids to a halt directly in front of you, shielding you from the incoming danger.
A sickening crunch of what you uneasily assume to be the breaking of bone tortures your ears, the ball having made impact with Cesare’s nose. Lucrezia remains rooted to the spot with a boggle-eyes look of shock – she was just as surprised with this outcome as you were. Tentatively, you lean forward and peer over his shoulder, wanting to catch a glimpse of his face.
What you saw was a nightmare.
Blood erupts from his nostrils and drenches the front of his polo shirt – not to be crude, but in that moment he reminds you of human tampon. Again, not trying to be crude. And if that wasn’t horrific enough, a sudden cry bursts unexpectedly from his lips and he sinks to his knees, cradling his broken nose.
The game comes to an unofficial and merciful end.
Bartolomeo strides towards Lucrezia with a gut-jiggling laugh. “Excellent work Lucrezia. You’ll be getting an A for this; you took out your own brother without an ounce of sympathy – broke his nose even. Have you thought about a career in the military? Maybe the police force?”
Cesare writhed about the floor spluttering profanities in his native tongue – at least, you assumed they were profanities – whilst Bartolomeo casually discussed career opportunities with the other Borgia sibling, who, by the way, appeared terrified for her brother.
You loom above Cesare feeling oddly concerned for his well-being, or maybe it was guilt derived from the knowledge that the ball responsible was initially meant for you. Either way, you felt compelled to help him. He did protect you after all, and didn’t deserve to be in pain.
“Um, Mr. Bartolomeo, Cesare looks really hurt. Maybe I should take him to the nurse’s office?“
Bartolomeo doesn’t even bother to glance in your direction. “Hmm? Oh, I suppose. The last thing I need right now is another complaint of negligence. What does that even mean? So what if the kid disappeared? We have the buddy system for a reason, and it is not my fault if some children choose to ignore my warnings.”
Choosing to ignore that disturbing revelation, you gingerly help Cesare onto his feet, sympathy rising at the sight of tears glistening on the ends of his lashes. He looked so vulnerable in that moment. Nothing at all like the arrogant alpha male he chose to behave as.
“It’s gonna be alright.” You soothe with what you hoped to be a comforting voice. “Keep your hands on your nose.”
Cesare blinked rapidly – no doubt trying to clear his eyes of tears. “I’m not crying.”
That sound as though he were repeating an oft-stated maxim.
You lead him towards the gymnasium doors. “I never said you were. But, even if you were, there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone cries. Hell, I broke my Nintendo, I cried for a week,” you joke, hoping to elicit some sort of positive reaction.
He seems to cheer up, at least if only for your benefit.
Chapter 15: Beach Appreciation Club
Hiya, lovely readers~~
So I'm finally getting to the point where I can begin writing individual results for most chapters - yay~! And it's finally time for club activities! Now, most of these club results will be rather lengthy, so I will be posting them as individual results.
Hope you enjoy~!
School was finished but in no way was the day even close to being over.
Being Wednesday meant that every student was required to attend a compulsory after school club of their choosing; no such thing existed in your previous school, so it came as little surprise to find yourself overwhelmed by the entire ordeal.
You thread your way through the crowded corridors on the way to the designated clubroom. All around you, the sounds of high school echo off the poster-covered cinderblock walls.
"If you threaten to spoil Endgame for me once more I’ll decimate you just like Thanos did the world!"
"I’m never talking to that skank again!"
"Oh, you dick – I was going to ask her out!”
A smile plays upon your lips as their conversations linger in your ears for the remainder of the journey; eavesdropping should be the last thing you find satisfying after all the secrets you’ve come to uncover these past few days, but unfortunately that’s the baggage of a curious soul.
No sooner had your mind began to wander back to the woman in the streets did you suddenly find yourself at the club’s place of gathering.
Primrose Island was renowned for it’s exotic beaches and exceptionally warm weather – a perfect tourist destination. When you first arrived, you doubted the memories from childhood and thorough investigation of guest reviews on TripAdvisor for it had been unseasonably cold and wet. But lately the weather had begun to live up to its reputation, gradually inclining to the point where performing a task as simple as breathing could, and does, conjure an onslaught of severe perspiration.
Indoors is pleasantly cool and acts as a temporary haven for students and teachers alike until the inevitable moment approaches when they would need to leave the commiserative embrace of the air conditioner and return home where they may once again find solace.
That moment of inevitability has arrived.
Trudging down a set of stone steps, you meander towards a decent sized gathering of fellow club mates all huddled underneath the tree providing the largest coverage, yet you could see, even from a distance, they each made a conscious effort to refrain from making contact with one another.
Like yourself, the students had replaced their uniforms with proper beach attire; the boys had stripped to their waists, enticing torsos bare in the shimmering heat, whilst half the girls donned bikini’s, the other full body swimsuits.
“You’re the last one, girl!”
Edward Thatch is the one to first notice your arrival; the man was a giant, fearsome and intimidating in appearance, yet somehow you were under the impression that underneath the gruff demeanour and copious facial hair there lay a gentle soul that would never even consider causing harm to another being; a quick scan with Second Sight provided the indication of truth to the theory, a pale blue glow emanating from his enlarged outline.
A flash of white pokes through the man’s thick beard – which looks newly brushed and conditioned – when he smiles in greeting. “Now we can haul ass.”
A trio of gulls prowl the shoreline with a common goal uniting them: food. The bounty of the sea was plentiful yet these three particular birds longed for a change. A delicacy for the palette rather than the bland and monotonous scull consumed on a daily basis.
Within their sight tottered a child no more than five years old, sticky hands curled possessively around a decent sized chunk of seedless watermelon. In that instant surfaced a simultaneous knowledge – they would obtain that watermelon slice no matter the cost.
Sprawling across a brightly coloured towel, you watch behind a pair of oval-lensed sunglasses as the feathered predators follow the child across the sand, providing the occasional cry to alert the child of their presence. They were daring, these birds. Too daring. And no doubt the notion of consequence never even crossed their minds.
The child casts an inquisitive glance over their shoulder and an unrequited fear causes their body to freeze; despite the child’s age, they instinctively knew what it was the gulls were after. The watermelon was pulled closer to their chest and the child’s eyes darted to the side, pinpointing the exact location of their family – they weren’t too far away. With a fleeting glance in the birds direction, the child took off in an ungainly trot, the feathery menaces pursuing.
“There’s more to the beach than just sunbathing, lass.”
Edward stands there, chest heaving in exertion from the aggressively competitive game of volleyball he, Adewalè, Vane, and Hornigold recently finished. His hair has been tied back haphazardly, a few stray strands clinging to his face due to sweat.
It was true that whilst everyone else had been competing against one another in volleyball, frisbee, races, and swimming, you had been confined to a towel. It’s not that you didn’t enjoy the beach – you had willingly signed up for this club, after all – but you had grown up in a city where beaches were a rarity, near mythological. And swimming in a body of water with a current was slightly unnerving.
Removing the sunglasses from your eyes, you gaze up at the figure looming above you. “And you’re gonna tell me all about what the beach has to offer, aren’t you?”
The slight purse of his lips told you that was exactly why he approached you in the first place, but now that his plan had been pointed out, his mind worked to construct another excuse so he could prove you wrong. “No. I’m telling you to join us in the water.”
Your attention drifts to the ocean, as calm and placid as a sloth, instilling in you a false sense of serenity. A couple charges head first into the water with delighted laughter, and you wonder if the idea of being sucked beneath the swell had crossed their minds at all, like it has yours.
Edward, seemingly oblivious to your hesitancy, motions to the oversized shirt you wore. “Bit overdressed, aren’t we?”
You cast an offended glance down at your apparel, prepared to argue, but then a better idea springs to mind. “Actually,” you begin, forcing the beginnings of a sly smile to remain hidden, “I’d say I was a bit underdressed; I’m not wearing anything under this.”
The breathiness of your tone astounds even you and, cringier than that, sounded as though it came directly out of a cheesy romance novel – not that you would know what resided within romance novels. But despite this fact, it was completely worth it to see the bob of an Adam’s apple as the senior before you swallows thickly, cerulean tinted eyes taking their time in appraising your body, eyes narrowing faintly as though trying to peer through the fabric to the body underneath.
Though it was fun to tease, you did have good reason for wanting to shield yourself from prying eyes, especially your torso; it wasn’t anything serious or unsightly to the point of being repulsive, but it brought forward questions. Personal questions in which you had no answers. And it didn’t help to have the voices of your parents take up residency within the shitty studio apartment which acted as your subconscious reminding you to keep the mark hidden.
The mark. A birthmark of strange and intricate appearance. It begins at the hip and ends at the top of the ribcage. You hadn’t a clue as to why it would be so horrible for the mark to be seen, but, as seems to be the norm, no answers were given. Just a command meant to be obeyed.
Edward, now having finished his acute inspection and winding up unsatisfied with the results, snatches at your wrist. “We’re going surfing.” He declares, giving your wrist a tug in order to get you moving. He doesn’t even have the decency to ask whether or not you cared to partake in the activity.
You fight against his incessant tugging by digging your heels into the sand. “Whoa, hey, hold up!” You blurted in panic, eyes round and frozen on the water, which seemed to be endless, traversing to unimaginable distances. “I don’t know how to surf!”
Edward’s body jostles as though he been kicked in the groin. He angles his head towards you, the movement stiff and robotic, his gaze accusatory.
Was it something you said?
“You don’t know how to surf?” He repeats the words as though they were of foreign origin, the tiny gears within his head at risk of disassembling due to the unnecessary speed they were currently spinning – one would think you had just asked for one of his testicles.
“I haven’t really spent much time at the beach,” you explain, still struggling with trying to ease your wrist from his grasp.
“Well then,” he starts, the initial shock having worn off, “it’s time you learn.”
You silently observe him after he provides what you presume to be his attempt at an innocent winning smile. He was attractive, you’d give him that, and you found your observations turn to admiration. The sea breeze ruffles his hair in the same tender manner a mother would her child and you find the need to hold yourself back from running your fingers through it; charm oozed from his every pore, and you most likely would have fallen prey to him if Mary hadn’t come to the rescue.
“Are you terrorising the poor girl again, Edward?”
She joins your side and raises a scarred brow in her friend’s direction. Meanwhile, your eyes rake over her, taking in her appearance; without her make up she was identical to her brother, though maybe an inch or two shorter. Her skin was a lovely bronze – clearly she spends much of her time outside, unlike yourself who is reluctant to leave the house even if it were set aflame. Her arms and legs were lean and perfectly toned. It was an athletes body, without a doubt.
“The girl hasn’t surfed a day in her life, Kidd.” Clearly this was a tragedy to him. “I plan to rectify that.”
Mary’s lips purse and you’re certain she was going to take your side. But that was just wishful thinking, for what she said next was the gavel coming down. “You’re a shite teacher, Kenway. I can teach her the proper way; you go on ahead and rent us some boards.”
You sentence had been decided.
So you wait for Edward to return, scanning the beach. Rackham, Vane, Hornigold, and Bonny all go jogging across the sand towards the ocean, surfboards cradled underneath their armpits with the same ease they carried their textbooks. You had always imagined surfboards to be cumbersome but they all made it seem effortless. They must surf a lot.
“So you’re a newbie then?” Mary asked.
“Alright, well, first I need you to turn away from me.”
An odd request but you comply without question and turn your back on her. You spot Thatch in the distance, inclined on a lounge with an ice cream in hand and cone crumbs ensnared within his beard.
An almighty shove is provided to the middle of your back, causing you to lose your balance and stumble forward, but your foot flies out instinctively and prevents you from kissing the sand. “What the hell?!”
“Don’t move,” Mary rushes out, preventing you from whirling on her. The urgency in her voice suggests that by your feet lurks some sort of deadly peril, a poisonous snake or fish that may have washed up onto the shore, but a glance downwards reveals nothing but lovely gold sand.
“See how that foot automatically went forward when I pushed you?”
“Well...yeah.” You say, unsure of where this was going.
“That’s your forward foot needed for surfing.”
And she needed to shove you in order to find that out? A gentle nudge would have sufficed.
Edward returns and has somehow managed to cart over three surfboards on his own. His attention drifts between the pair of you and a toothy grin is provided. “Ready to hit the waves?”
Mary answers for you. “Not yet.” She motions to one of the surfboards laying in the sand. “Lay down on one of the boards here.”
As much as you’d like to question her thought process, you know she’s doing this for a reason. So, obediently, you stretch out across a surfboard on your stomach. Mary follows suit. Edward watches on with an expression which suggests that he’s been in the same position before.
“You’ll paddle through the water.” She demonstrates paddling her arms in the sand. “Then, when the time is right, you’ll want to jump to your feet in one swift movement. First put your forward foot in the centre of the board and your back foot a stride behind. If you don’t feel confident enough to try that the first time, then you can start by moving to your knees, then stand from there.”
“Sounds simple enough.”
“Don’t get too cocksure, (Y/N),” She warns, casting a cautionary glance your way. “The ocean can be dangerous.”
Right, and you were being forced to go in there why?!
Edward interjects. “You’re going to turn her off from going in there, Kidd.” His eyes meet yours. “Don’t worry, lass. I happen to know mouth-to-mouth.”
That was supposed to be a flirtation, and it probably would have been effective were you not currently in the process of imagining all the grotesque ways in which the ocean could cause your untimely demise.
Mary shoots him a glare before continuing on with the lesson. You practice everything on the sand, Edward tossing a few unwarranted comments into the air, leaving you to wonder if he was distracting you on purpose. You weren’t athletic. At all. So you had difficulty keeping up with her light and rapid movements, the abundant slathering of sunscreen beginning to melt and ravage your eyes. But after fifteen agonising and chafing minutes of sand surfing, you were deemed ready to try the real thing.
Edward was already far out in the water, lounging on his board with a practiced ease. Show-off.
The water is up to your waist by the time Mary instructs you to stop. “We’ll start here. Hop up on the board just like we practiced, aye?”
Well...here goes nothing.
After several failed attempts and having either Mary or Edward hold onto the end of your board to help stabilise the carpentered slab of wood, you were finally competent enough to stand atop the board like everyone else. You even managed to ride a wave rushing towards the shore. It was a baby wave, but still, progress.
“Did you see that?!” You boast when paddling back to the other club members. “I didn’t even wobble that time!”
“The girl’s a natural,” Edward says with a laugh.
“Good work,” Mary offers a smile which complements the praise.
They, along with the other club members, were taking a much needed breather, their legs swaying beneath the water’s surface as they sat atop their boards. You wished to join them, thinking you had more than earned a rest, but then a challenge is presented to you by Rackham – mimic his actions whilst he rides the waves. It was a test, you thought. You knew from the slight mischief tugging at his lips that there was more to the request than silly competition. Was this his way of determining whether or not this club was right for you? To prove if you belonged there, to be one of them?
Like always, you couldn’t say no.
Rackham buzzes with unbridled glee and paddles further out. You follow him. The waves seem to have gotten larger, more aggressive. Or was that simply the perspective of a newbie? You were beginning to have second thoughts as your eyes narrow accusingly at the water; like untamed horses, the waves reared before crashing down onto the beach, pounding the sand with white foam hooves. But it was too late to turn back now; Rackham had somehow ridden a wave without your noticing and was paddling past you, a smug smile growing larger thanks to the enthusiastic response from the other club members.
It was your turn now and you began paddling further out once more, further and further away from the club, from the shore, from view of humiliation. This was your way of buying time. To steel yourself. But now you realise that swimming out this far was a grave mistake, for there, raging towards you, was the biggest wave you had ever laid eyes upon.
Your mind goes stagnant. Instead of concocting plans which could save your life, you remain seated on your board, catatonic, eyes wide and mouth agape as the monstrous wave closes in.
A helpless noise escapes the back of your throat. There were no options. No way of escaping. You were too far out. Too petrified. You were in the worst place anyone could possibly be. The knowledge made you sick. You were still sitting there. Hadn’t moved since the rogue wave appeared.
Panic consumed your mind. You were seriously concerned about surviving this mountain of water that was poised to slam into you. You didn’t even see anyone else; it was just you and Monstro out there. Closer and closer it came, and you still didn’t have a plan. In the back of your mind, you could swear that you hear your name being called, shouted. But the sound was muffled – you may as well have had your fingers in your ears.
The moment before impact, without any conscious thought or will of your own, you turn your board towards the shore, facing away from the colossal wave. There you sit, gripping the board with both hands and thighs, awaiting collision.
Despite anticipating the inevitable, contact still came as a shock, mainly because of its power. The blast knocks you from the surfboard, separating you from the only thing that may possibly have been used as a lifeline. And then you were gone. Swallowed by the wave as though you were a pill, down in one giant gulp.
You didn’t want to die but you were frightfully aware that you were going to. There was no escape from the ocean’s wrath no matter how much you struggled. You could swim, of course, but in no way were you a strong swimmer. Hell, you weren’t even a mediocre swimmer. Maybe if you had paid more attention to Lucy’s swimming lessons when you were younger then things would be different. Maybe you wouldn’t be about to drown.
But it was much too late for maybe’s.
You start thinking of your parents. Is this how they felt when that drunken driver ploughed into them? The helplessness? The fear? The loneliness? You hope not. You hope that their passing was quick, instantaneous.
Your eyes finally slip closed.
Water comes charging from your stomach and lungs, erupting from your mouth like the pea soup scene in The Exorcist. A violent cough follows suit. Your insides are suffering, sharp, blistering pain attacking them with every frenzied gasp of breath.
“Get it all out, lass.”
Your body is suddenly on its side with the sand now clinging desperately to your cheek. A large hand makes rough contact with the middle of your back repeatedly, forcing any excess water to leave your body. Black spots fade from your vision, though everything remains hazy, out of focus. Blurs of colour dance within sight, various voices growing softer then louder as you teeter in and out of consciousness. But you know them. The voices. Anne, and Vane...Rackham. Adewalé is speaking softly...it sounds like advice. Edward is yelling. And Mary is murmuring words of comfort.
The coughing subsides and breathing becomes a little easier – every gasp is similar to inhaling multiple shards of glass, but at least you could relax with the knowledge that water no longer blocked your airways. Arms envelop you. Warm and strong. Secure. Salt is the only thing you can smell until the one cradling you provides a new scent. A better scent which somehow puts you at immediate ease: mango.
“We need to get her looked at by a doctor.”
Mary speaks again, and you’re fairly certain those are her fingers currently brushing the wet sand from your cheek.
“I know. Go grab Thatch. Quickly.”
Edward. It was Edward’s arms you rest in. The words had caused his chest to rumble, and you felt every vibration. Had he been the one to save you?
“Edward?” You eventually croak, that one word spurring on a fresh bout of coughing.
“It’s me, lass,” He confirms, voice surprisingly soft and containing an intimate kindness. “Don’t speak.”
That was fine by you; turns out a near death experience can be quite exhausting.
The sand is no longer beneath you, Edward having stood and tightened his hold on you. You crane your neck with whatever remaining strength you had and stare at his face. Your vision had yet to return to full capacity, but at such close proximity, you could see him fairly clearly. He was even more dishevelled than usual, pale and sweating.
You force yourself to speak one more time. “...Thank you...”
“Don’t mention it, lass.” He meets your eye and smirks. “Told you I knew mouth-to-mouth.”
Chapter 16: Survivalist Club
Second club activity~! This chapter contains the love interests Connor and Altaïr.
Thank you ScreechingLife for giving me the idea of what should happen with Altaïr~
Deep within the vastness of the forest the sky is close to vanishing, only a mere splattering of blue fragments remaining. The air is thick and rich with the heavenly fragrance of flora and loam, combined with a faint dampness; rain had cleansed the island late last night, and even after so many hours, the soil remains wet, slowly releasing a heady fog. Outside is the daylight of late afternoon, the penetrative rays of early Summer, but in amongst the trees everything remains cool, the colours bearing an intimate softness of the time right before twilight. The only movement is the occasional brightly coloured bird native only to the island flittering from one branch to another or squirrel fleeing up the trunk of a nearby tree in fear of danger. The sound of running water in the brook has the same hypnotic quality as music, entrancing all those whom would stop and drink in the sound. The path beneath your Converse twists and curls, snaking around the base of ancient trees. Thickening roots criss-cross, gnarled and uneven- as beautiful as any picture book illustration.
But as is the story of your life, there is always something to emerge from the darkness and shatter the momentary happiness which had been so blessedly bestowed upon you.
Your hand shoots out with a speed unrivalled, ending the sadistic life of yet another blood-sucking monster that had chosen you to dine upon for the evening. What an unfortunate mistake that was. You wipe the innards of the little bastard on the front of your jeans in disgust before carefully wobbling up the rocky hill to where the other club members were gathered.
Kesegowaase, the silent and brooding club sponsor and guide, surreptitiously scans his surroundings – perhaps he is keeping an eye out for danger? He doesn’t speak much. In fact, he hasn’t spoken a single word since leaving school property, so it’s startling when his deep resonating voice carries across the whisper of breeze snaking through the trees, singling you out.
“Make haste, Ms Stillman; to stray from the group is an invitation to nature’s infinite dangers.”
You huff an incomprehensible expletive both from irritation and exertion as you stagger towards them, slipping a bit on a rock hidden beneath the sward. Damn. You never realised how unfit you were until arriving at the Island and having everyone around you excel at physical activity. It made you feel lazy. Debilitated. And you were more than a little embarrassed, nay ashamed, at having your fellow club members watch and silently pass judgement on the pathetic attempt you were making in trying to match their flawless synchronised pace; even Altaïr, who has yet to extinguish the cigarette hanging precariously from scarred lips, seems to possess an unnatural energy and has been a few paces ahead of everyone else – you’re fairly certain Connor could more than easily traverse these forests faster than all of them combined, however he lags behind, remaining a few paces in front you. You can’t help but wonder if the reasoning behind such relaxed sauntering was to provide aid in case you required it.
A pair of large male hands are reaching out and taking possession of your elbows in order to stabilise you. A face appears in front of yours. It was Connor.
“Are you alright?” His voice is low, soft, and genuinely concerned.
At first you don’t respond. It takes every ounce of concentration to keep from succumbing to the dizziness that has been threatening to topple you ever since arriving at the forest. You were quite ready to collapse, but somehow you manage to straighten the curve of your spine and feign a vitality not possessed – you did not want Connor discovering how much of a toll such a relatively undemanding hike was taking on you, though you suspect he already has a fairly good idea.
“You do not look fine.”
Clearly your appearance betrays you and provides insight to the impending death chiselling away at your features. It felt as though unconsciousness was imminent, and Connor, obviously sensing this outcome, inches closer, tightening his grip to prevent you from sliding down onto the ground. To your surprise, he pulls you closer until the skin of your cheek is pressed flat against a hardened chest hidden underneath the flimsy fabric of a flannel shirt; the rhythmic beating of his heart provides an odd, yet delightful, sense of tranquillity.
Connor speaks again though this time it is directed to someone else. The teacher, you conclude, since he uses a language you don’t understand, but Kesegowaase offers a stiff nod. Whatever was said must not have been something he necessarily agreed with, yet deemed it worthy of acceptance without need of further question. With a less than pleased ‘come along’, Kesegowaase turns sharply and slinks further into the forest, the other club members following obediently.
Gazing up at Connor you find his gaze refocused on you. There is still concern in his eyes, and it is intense, so much so that you can no longer maintain eye contact with those lovely chocolate buttons; your soul felt as though it was being penetrated, scrutinised, the Native American’s expression turning curious.
“Perhaps it is best you take a break?”
You knew it was supposed to be a command yet was smoothly posed as a question. Connor didn’t mean anything by it, you knew, so there was no need to feel offended. And maybe he had a point. Perhaps it would be beneficial to take a break, replenish your health. But your pride would not allow the luxury. You wished to prove yourself to these people. Prove yourself to him.
“A break? Hm, oh, um, no. I don’t think that’s necessary.” You wave off his concern. “Let’s keep on moving, yeah?”
Connor’s brows pull together to form a disapproving frown. That wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear: he indubitably wished to argue, to warn you of the risks obtained from pushing one’s limits, but rather than risk causing you upset, he thins his lips and concedes.
“If you insist, but please do let me know if you need to stop.”
You never took much notice of Connor’s voice until now; soft and rich with each syllable carefully pronounced, indicating English is in no way his first language and is still relatively new – he must have spoken in nothing but his native language back home. And yet, abashedly, his speech is far better than some individuals whom claim to be fluent yet have difficulty stringing a sentence together.
You provide what you hope to be a reassuring smile. “Cross my heart.”
A brief quirk of full lips is the response given and he turns back to the trail, continuing onwards and motioning for you to follow.
Which you do.
Connor keeps pace with you the entire journey, though you know he could go a lot faster. If you weren’t mistaken, it seemed as though the pair of you had taken an easier path, most likely for your benefit, but it wasn’t necessarily the quickest; Connor’s eyes would occasionally ghost along the trodden path to where the dirt had recently been disturbed – the groups chosen direction – before flittering to a smoother, more accessible trail. Whilst you appreciated the sentiment, you did feel guilty. You were holding him back, and though he didn’t seem to mind, you certainly did. However, it’s not like you could voice your guilt for Connor was too much of a gentleman and would dismiss your apologies without so much as a second thought.
Following Connor through the woods, you come to a clearing, the other club members already settled in the grass, hanging on Kesegowaase’s every word; the topic for this week appeared to be ‘shelter’, which you assume was one of the more important aspects of survival. Though thinking realistically, were you ever in a situation where you did get stranded somewhere desolate and needed to survive, your first objective would be to find food – lots of it. What can you say? When hungry, you’re a beast.
Connor forces a canteen into your hands, reprimanding you for not being completely prepared beforehand as he does so. You flush underneath his scrutiny and take a sip of water to distract yourself. You should have been better prepared, yes. But survival was a new experience for you. Hell, this entire Island was a new and unfamiliar experience. And whilst you did your best to adjust, it was still going to take time to fully settle in and feel like a Primrose native – until then you were still a stranger trying to avoid stepping on the wrong toes.
Kesegowaase abruptly stands. The man never smiles, you notice, silently counting the frown lines carved deep into his forehead. Half of his face had been burned, and though appeared to be years old, the scars remained red and relatively painful in appearance. You shudder to think of how such an injury could be inflicted.
He began to demonstrate the construction of something called a Wicki-Up, which is basically a tipi made of vegetation. Suitable for most climates and large enough to light a small, well contained, fire. Once finished, he clapped his hands thrice, signalling for everyone to spread out and attempt to reconstruct his example.
“You’re doing that wrong.”
Such helpful advice – note sarcasm – comes from somewhere behind you and is said with such smug arrogance that you know instinctively who is responsible for the misery now contorting your features.
As predicted, Altaïr stands there, well, lounges would be the more appropriate term, against a tree with crossed arms. Amusement dances in golden orbs, scarred lips quirked at one corner. Bastard found humour in your failings.
You scowl vehemently, hoping to will him away using the power of your mind. Unfortunately such a feat was unachievable today, but hey, there was always tomorrow. Turning back to the task at hand, you do your best to ignore him; you aren’t in need of or want his help nor opinion.
“I said you’re doing that wrong.”
The amount of enjoyment woven into those words makes you want to turn around and punch him. But that’s probably what he wanted. Masochist.
“I think I’m doing just fine, thank you very much.”
What did he know anyway?
A derisive snort escapes him and no doubt he even rolled his eyes. If you were so much of an annoyance, why was he hanging around? Was it to bother you? Possibly. But shouldn’t he be focusing on his own shelter rather than pestering you about yours? Surely his was no better.
Altaïr is unexpectedly crouched beside you. Oddly the close proximity has you flustered. Your nose crinkles at the smell of cigarette smoke trapped in the microscopic fibres of his clothing, but there’s another scent attempting to cover it up. Cologne maybe?
“Don’t you have your own tipi thingamajig to finish?” You snap, your inability to craft even the simplest of shelters making you crotchety.
He was amused again. “Thingamajig? I believe the name you’re searching for is ‘Wicki-Up’.” He meets your eye and smirks. “If you’re going to be rude, at least try and be intelligent whilst doing so. ”
Glaring, you try to ignore every bit of his conceited superiority but also the fact that right now he was surrounded by an infuriatingly attractive air; so full of himself, so cocky. It never occurred to you, but maybe that’s what you like. Perspiration has gathered around his hairline, causing the tightly cropped sandy brown hair to curl at the base of his neck and a few stray wisps to stick to his forehead. A bead of sweat trickles down his temple and comes to a standstill upon a flushed cheek.
It’s really no surprise as to why he appeared close to suffering from the effects of heat stroke – who in their right mind wears a hoody in Summer whilst hiking? It was ludicrous. An act of insanity. Though to be honest, you really were no better; jeans, you find, are not an appropriate form of hiking attire, and during the torturous trek up the insufferable trail, you did nothing but try and keep your underwear from being devoured by your cheeks. You could also feel the beginnings of chafing.
Altaïr snatches the clump of chaparral from your hands and finishes what you started. “Hey, I was doing that!”
“No, you were failing.”
Talk about being blunt.
Within a matter of seconds the Wiki-Up is completed and looking far better than how you had left it. Altaïr, knowing he had done a more than flawless job, looks to you expectantly, as though waiting for some sort of reward for his assistance. You begrudgingly provide him with a less than gracious ‘thank you’.
“Are you always this appreciative to those that help you?” He mocks with that infuriatingly attractive smirk, his very intention being to goad you into a reaction.
And stupidly you took the bait.
“Are you always this much of an asshole?”
He sounds incredibly proud of that fact.
Before anything more can be said, Kesegowaase calls for everyone to gather around. You, along with the others, obey the command; Altaïr has disappeared however, but you failed to notice which direction he went. Perhaps he required a bathroom break.
Speaking of which...
Resisting the urge to prance from one foot to the other in a flamboyant display of urine retention, you move, ungainly, towards Kesegowaase. He stoops at the gesture of your hand – not everyone needed to learn that you had to pee. The corners of his mouth tug down into a frown at your request but he couldn’t actually refuse you. Well, he could, but fortunately he doesn’t.
You make a break for the area where the coverage seems thickest; the voices of fellow club members fade completely, confirming you were now alone and safe to pee at your own pace. Yanking your jeans and undies down, you squat behind a scant thorn bush, grimacing as the sun pokes through the leaves overhead and strikes your bare bottom like a flaming whip; you can’t help but wonder how much simpler life would be had you been born with a penis.
Finishing up, you fix your clothing with a contented hum. That was much better. Nothing worse than running around with a full bladder.
About to head back, you come to an abrupt stop at the feel of something carrying a considerable amount of weight drop upon your back. But that wasn’t the worst part. Oh no. The worst part was that whatever it was starts moving. Moving!
With a cautionary over the shoulder glance, your eyes widen to the size of frying pans. There, clawing its way onto your shoulder, was the epitome of everything wrong with the world: the biggest, ugliest, most terrifying bug you have ever laid eyes upon. Nothing but eyes, legs, and pincers.
Your shirt was removed and thrown into the dirt faster than Lucrezia’s underwear – or so you’ve heard from a little birdie called Rebecca. Stumbling backwards, you nearly trip when the demonic creature emerges from a crease in your abandoned shirt and scuttles in your direction. Was it always that size?!
You hop, back and forth, side to side, hoping that in some bizarre way the constant movements would cause the bug to flee in the opposite direction. And guess what? For once, fortune smiled upon you; the bug went skittering underneath a bush, never to be seen again.
“Aw, hell yes! Sayonara, bitch!”
The celebration is short lived when something streaks across your vision in a blur of speed and motion. It pauses beside your abandoned shirt. A racoon. It was pretty cute, but you knew that it was up to mischief, the mask around his eyes providing insight as to its true intentions.
“Don’t even think about it, you hairy shit,” you practically growl, taking a threatening stop forward in the hope of appearing intimidating.
It didn’t work.
Guess only your mother possessed that gift.
Before any further action could be taken, your shirt is snatched from the dirt, clutched possessively in a pair of tiny hands which are disturbingly similar to those of a human. It raises itself on its hind legs and shrieks at you – oh god, horrific clearance sale flashback. And then it’s gone. Devoured by shrubbery.
Well...this is a right tit of a situation.
No shirt and stupidly no replacement. How could you have been so stupid as to not plan ahead? Though in your defence, bug attacks and raccoon thievery were not normal occurrences. You wonder if that excuse will satisfy Kesegowaase? Probably not.
Oh, wait. Kesegowaase....the other club members...Altaïr and Connor...
You can’t face them without a shirt!
“That was hard to watch.”
Your undignified yelp of surprise at the masculine voice from somewhere overhead echoes through the clustered trees. Heart hammering with more than just surprise, you turn your eyes to the trees and find Altaïr perched atop one of the thicker branches, a cigarette hanging from his lips.
Your mind races for an excuse, any excuse, but your lips remain moulded together. It felt as though someone had stuffed your mouth with cotton wool. Your eyes slink, fearfully, to the imperfection tainting your skin. The mark. A birthmark of strange and intricate appearance. It begins at the hip and ends at the top of the ribcage. You hadn’t a clue as to why it would be so horrible for the mark to be seen, but, as seems to be the norm, no answers were given. Just a command meant to be obeyed.
Altaïr’s golden gaze drifts downwards also, only his isn't full of trepidation and shame like your own.
A small frown crinkles his brow as he studies the mark for a few brief seconds before his eyes eventually slide back up and reconnect with your own. He raises an eyebrow, an expression of curiosity passing his features while you stand frozen, brain screaming for you to do or say something.
Altaïr descends the tree with the speed and finesse normally possessed by a cat, catching you off guard. He closes in, his hawk-like gaze never once wavering. You consider stepping away, creating some distance, but think better of it – he’d probably make a grab for you in order to keep you in place.
For a while the pair of you stand there silently appraising one another. It was never easy to tell what the Levantine student was thinking or feeling. Always his face remained impassive. A blank canvas. Maybe one day you’d be the artist to give life, colour and beauty, to that canvas, but it wouldn’t be today. Today you’d keep a safe distance – close enough to learn more about him, far enough to keep from getting bitten.
He drops the cigarette on the dirt and snuffs it with the toe of his Doc Marten. “You’re an embarrassment,” is all he says.
Damn, talk about a gut punch.
“Geez, Altaïr, tell me what you really think.”
It’s difficult to keep the bitterness from your voice, but even so, Altaïr doesn’t appear the least bit affected. Instead he does something completely unexpected; you don’t bother to hide your surprise as Altaïr removes his red hoody and offers it to you without an explanation.
“Unless you enjoy parading around in your underwear, put this on,” he says after a few seconds of you staring as though he had just carved out his own kidney and gave it to you.
“I...don’t know what to say...”
“Who says you have to say anything? Just take it before I change my mind.”
You hastily accept the proffered clothing and slip it on over your head. Strangely, it smells more of cologne and a natural masculine musk rather than cigarette smoke, and you resist the urge to bury your nose in the fabric and take a whiff. You don’t want to come off as creepy.
Before anything can be said, Altaïr turns sharply and slinks away into the trees, heading back to camp. You scramble after him, not wanting to be left alone and risk further misfortune.
Following silently in his wake, you can’t help but smile to yourself. Seems there was more depth to Altaïr than you thought. He was still brash and rough around the edges, but there was also a compassion there, a sense of empathy, one that he clearly doesn’t care to reveal very often. You were flattered.
“Thank you, Altaïr,” you say once arriving back at camp, “for letting me borrow your hoody.”
He huffs and crams both hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Shut up.”
All you can do is giggle as he stalks away in a sulk.