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i've tried to wash you away but you just won't leave

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Effy Stonem had something about her, something so dangerous that it threatened to swallow her whole along with everyone else around her.

It was a magnetic pull, attracting the pleasure and the danger; she couldn’t help it, the tragedy following her around like a dark cloud. It would be poetic if it wasn’t so worrying; it would be the stuff books are made of, if someone cared enough to write it.

It would be the theme of Katie Fitch’s first novel, if she wanted to admit to herself how much she still thought about it, about her.

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Effy Stonem drove her to the edge. Since she first saw her she knew she was trouble, the kind of trouble she was dying to engage in; Effy was daring, careless, cool in so many ways that Katie wanted to be but never quite managed.

Effy was like the mirror reflection of what Katie wanted to be. But, also, Effy had her demons under the surface, demons that Katie won’t ever know, demons that won’t dance with the redhead in the dark night.

The only demon that dances in her mind is that of Effy Stonem, hovering over her in the woods (Effy, holding her hand, offering her a cigarette; Effy, coming undone in the middle of a crowd; Effy, blood spilling from her wrists, screams coming from the throat of the boy she loved; Effy, kissing her carelessly, too high on life to ever remember it afterwards).

She tries to forget her demon, the one with the angel face, but she never leaves.

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Effy Stonem is coming back to Bristol today. She knows this because Naomi called her to let her know; Naomi called because she knows, even though Katie never said it out loud, even after all these years, even after all the water under the bridge, Effy still has her. Effy marked her, with that one kiss, and the mark still burns in her lips, the powerful grip of her tongue still taking a hold of her mouth, the fire scorching her collarbones like that night.

It’s been years, and she shouldn’t remember it in such vivid detail, she knows this. But Effy is unforgettable.

Effy Stonem is coming back to Bristol today, and Katie’s pride won’t let her admit that she’s both dreading it and looking forward to it.

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It’s been months since Freddie’s death, and the gang is broken beyond repair. Katie only ever talks to Emily and, by default, to Naomi. She doesn’t dare think of the past, she can’t think of Effy’s broken smile when she found out, she can’t think of the retreating silhouette of Cook as he ran away from everything he knew. She can’t let herself think of the time she spent hating them, never forgiving them, and how silly her anger feels now that he’s gone.

She goes to the clubs, watches with disinterest as Naomi and Emily grope each other in a dark corner, sways to the beat of the music while sitting, and spends three hours seeing life pass her by. She dances, sometimes, but she seldom drinks, and she never gets high.

She’s completely sober when she sees Effy again. Like a vision one has while high, she’s in screaming color even though she’s dressed in all black, the lights reflecting on her pale skin, her hair shorter than she had even seen it; her piercing eyes make Katie stop cold despite the distance, the look on her face is unreadable, enigmatic as Effy always was.

She likes to think she saw beneath the enigma, she liked to say she saw through Effy’s bullshit, but the truth is that she never really got her. She still can’t decode her stupid smirk, or the way she tilted her head to ask her for a dance.

She doesn’t even know why she stands up for the first time that night and approaches Effy. She doesn’t know why she dances with her so close, for God knows how long, to the beat of countless of songs. She doesn’t know why she never says anything, or why she lets Effy drop her mouth in her shoulder, kissing the place where it met her throat.

She doesn’t know why she lets Effy kiss her, hard on the mouth, or why she matches her tongue against hers, letting her hands grip the brunette’s hips. She doesn’t know why, when Effy walks away, her chest aches.

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She’s standing at the entrance of the Bristol Temple Meads, waiting for Effy to come out so they can walk together and catch up.

She doesn’t know why she’s waiting for her, but she’s been waiting for years. She feels as if, somehow, she never left the station since that time when she saw Effy leave. She’s eighteen years old again, watching a brunette walk away from her and from the city.

She’s eighteen years again, looking for Effy in a crowd.

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She doesn’t know why she’s there, saying goodbye to Effy. Maybe she’s clinging to the hope that she’d tell her she remember their kiss from three months ago, maybe she just wants to make sure Effy is never coming back to take everything from her ever again.

But she’s there, being kissed on the cheek by Effy, watching her infuriating smirk as she pulls away. She’s there when the brunette takes her luggage and walks away, ready to try to start over away from the constant reminders of love being the greatest weakness one can surrender oneself to.

She’s left standing there, alone, like an idiot, even when she can’t see Effy’s form walking away from her life.

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She’s twenty-two years old, being kissed in the cheek by Effy, watching her infuriating smirk as she pulls away.

“Hello, Effy,” Katie says.

Effy doesn’t say anything, just takes her arm in hers and starts to walk away, back to the place where all demons came afloat, back to the place where she vowed to never fall again.

“Nice haircut, Katie,” she replies, minutes later, her tone calculating, as if the redhead was missing something important, or as if she had a secret that she was planning on telling her afterwards.

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They are dancing together, bodies close, the beat drumming in their veins, completely sober.

“I remember that one time I kissed you,” the brunette says.

She’s eighteen again, having her world completely changed by Effy Stonem, and the worst part is that she doesn’t mind.

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She holds onto her demon, the one with the angel face, the one with the short hair, the one that dances with her in the night, the one that tangles her hands in her red hair. She holds onto her demon, hovering over her, kissing her throat, saying she’s sorry.

She holds onto her demon, the one that’s now careful, the daring one, the stuff of legends. She holds onto her demon, the one with the enigma she keeps trying to unlock, the one that stopped walking away, the one with scars on her wrists, the one with the piercing eyes.

She writes, and writes, and writes, and never once thinks of publishing. This demon is just hers, never to be shared by another. She holds onto Effy Stonem, the one girl that still has her.