Pyro

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Chapter 23

Modern Day; February 6th; Cleveland, Ohio; Willow

Sometimes I just couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. Even when it was so obvious that she was self-conscious about her different colored eyes. I loved them. I loved how different she was. It was my favorite thing about her.

“What are you looking at?” she said to me, looking up from her class notes.

She was sitting cross legged on her bed and I was lying on the floor, staring up at her. Occasionally I would look around at the rest of her room and my eyes would rest on one of the posters on the wall or the books on the bookshelf. But my eyes always returned to her, the most beautiful thing in the room. I would never have ever said this to her, since we had only known each other for a couple of months, but I already knew she was the person with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. We went together well in every possible way – except physically, but that was only because we hadn’t gotten to that yet. I knew the sex was bound to be amazing. Even our kisses were amazing. It sounded so cheesy, but it was like there was something electric between us. Something fiery.

“What do you think I’m looking at? You, of course.”

“Don’t you have anything better to do? Like homework, for instance? Some of us are actually being responsible.”

“Hey, I’m doing homework too. I just got a little distracted…”

“If I’m distracting you, maybe you should go. Homework is important.”

“I love that about you.”

“What?”

“That you’re not kidding when you say that.”

“Of course I’m not! I don’t kid about homework.”

“Melissa…?”

“Get back to work,” she snapped, looking back down at what she was working on.

But she had a smile on her face and she looked up at me again, willing me to go on.

“Do you want to go to Prom with me?”

She stared.

“Like, the dance? Are you asking me if I want to go to Senior Prom with you?”

“Well, it wouldn’t make sense for me to ask you to Junior Prom, would it?”

I hadn’t been sure of how exactly she would respond, so I was glad when she laughed. Any positive reaction was good.

“Of course I’ll go with you! We missed Homecoming, so I technically haven’t been to a dance yet. Of course I would love to go with you. It’s probably going to be lame, but it will be a lot less lame with you there with me.”

“That’s reassuring,” I said with a laugh.

She nodded.

“That’s how I roll.”

“Come on and give me a kiss, now.”

I sat up and crawled over to the edge of the bed. She leaned over the edge and we kissed. I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled so that she came falling on top of me with a loud giggle.

“Willow!”

“Is there something wrong?” I said as she looked down at me, sprawled underneath her.

“Absolutely not.”

She kissed me and I was glad that she did. I could feel her fire surging through me. Not actual fire, though I doubted her fire would even burn me. The taste of her lips was addicting and I succumbed to her, letting her take the wheel. First she slid a hand up my shirt. It wasn’t ice cold, but cold enough to make me shiver a little as it touched my bare skin. Melissa moved down my body to place her lips against my chest, rolling my shirt up above my head as she did. I took my shirt off the rest of the way and felt my heart hammering a mile a minute at the thought that she was seeing my body for the first time.

When I was younger, I both dreamed and worried about this moment. I wasn’t ashamed of how I looked, but I wasn’t proud of it either. I thought I looked rather ordinary. Melissa was extremely beautiful, though, so I tried to focus on this instead. I had always wondered what she would look like…

“Can I… Take yours off too?” I asked as she kissed my chest.

She sat up on top of me and I saw the uncertainty in her eyes. I realized with a surprising amount of relief that there was still a chance that this might not happen.

“Do you think Scott and Cierra have done this before?” she asked, which surprised me a lot.

“Are you really thinking about them right now?”

“I guess so. I’m sorry. I just killed the mood, didn’t I?”

My thoughts instantly went to the throbbing feeling I had between my legs. I realized that Melissa could probably feel whether or not she had truly killed the mood and I felt my face heating up.

“Maybe we’re just not ready for this yet. That’s fine.”

I sat up and she moved off of me, handing me my shirt.

“You’re right,” she said. I was almost glad to see that she was red-faced too. “That was a silly idea. I mean, I want to. Trust me. Just not yet. And, for God’s sake, not on the floor of my bedroom when Amber is just downstairs.”

As if she had heard her name mentioned, Amber suddenly hollered from downstairs, “Melissa! Willow!”

We both gasped and Melissa made frantic gestures at me as I hurried to pull my shirt on and make myself look like an intense make out session hadn’t just happened.

“What?!” she hollered back as we got to our feet.

“Come downstairs!”

We checked our appearances in the mirror above Melissa’s dresser and then walked downstairs, trying to look as normal as possible. Amber and Adam were sitting at the table when we walked into the kitchen.

“Hey, you two,” Amber said with a large smile.

Adam was smiling just as largely. I looked over at Melissa. We could definitely tell that something was up. I prayed that my face wasn’t red and that I didn’t look guilty. The last thing I wanted was for Amber to guess what we had been up to.

“Hi, Amber,” Melissa said as she took a seat at the table.

I took the fourth one and avoided making eye contact with Amber.

“Hey, guys,” Beth said as she suddenly walked in the room. “What is it that you wanted to talk about?”

“I called you guys here because…” Amber smiled excitedly and I looked over at Melissa, who still looked confused. Amber and Adam looked at each other, not unlike the way Melissa and I often looked at each other. “We’ve decided to get married!”

She giggled excitedly while Beth and Melissa gaped in shock. My mouth might’ve fallen open too. I had known Adam for a long time and he had always been like a father to me. I hadn’t known Amber for very long, but for the time I had known her, she had been very much like a mother to me. I often envied Melissa for having grown up with such a supportive mother, while I was stuck with Lady Catherine, a neglectful bitch.

Melissa looked like she had tears in her eyes as she jumped up to hug her mother. I was overcome with emotion as I watched Beth and Melissa react to the news that they were going to have two married parents. I smiled because I was happy for them, but inside I felt like I was breaking. I had never known the joy of having two good parents and I never would know that joy. I tried not to dwell on these feelings, but it was unavoidable.

“Willow!” Melissa said, suddenly flinging an arm around my neck. “They’re getting married!”

She flat out kissed me on the lips in front of the rest of her family and I was so surprised that I didn’t close my eyes. It wasn’t that long ago that Melissa had talked to me about being unsure about how she felt now that her parents were back together. I could see it on her face now that she had made up her mind that it was a good thing. I was so glad to see how happy she was, but I still felt a little awkward to be there.

“I think I’m going to go now,” I said. “I don’t want to intrude.”

“You’re not intruding, Sweetie,” Amber said, coming over to hug me.

“Still. I have things to do in the Underground.”

“Alright. Well, can you do me a favor and grab the mail for me before you leave?”

“Amber! Don’t make him get the mail!” said Melissa.

“It’s no trouble,” I said.

After I got my school things from upstairs, I grabbed the mail from the mail slot and glanced down at the envelopes as I carried them to the kitchen. There were two envelopes that looked like bills, a letter from a relative, and something for Melissa from Strangeton University. I left the envelope for Melissa on top when I handed the mail over to Amber, so she squeaked as soon as the mail was in her hand and handed the top envelope to Melissa with great excitement.

“Open it, Melissa!” Amber said before covering her mouth with her hands.

“I am, I am,” she replied nonchalantly, but I could tell that she was excited too.

She opened the envelope with nervous, shaking fingers and eagerly pulled out an official looking letter. After unfolding it properly, she held it in front of her face and read it quickly without expression. Then she handed it to Amber without words and buried her face in her hands. I put my bag down and went over to her, prepared for the worst.

As I put my arm around her shoulders, I said, “What did it say, Melissa? Did you get in?”

I tried not to sound too excited because I realized that there was a possibility that she had not been accepted. Though I couldn’t understand how that would be possible. Melissa was the smartest person I had ever met. And from an elf whose ability was problem solving, that was saying something.

Slowly, Melissa removed her hands from her face and nodded at me with smiling eyes.

“I knew it!” Beth shouted at the same time that Adam punched the air triumphantly and Amber squealed unintelligibly.

Whereas I had been focused on the negative side of things before, now I could finally celebrate. I put my arms around Melissa’s waist and lifted her up off the floor, twirling her around in a circle until she was crying with laughter.

“Willow! Put me down!”

“You did it! You got in! You’re going to university!” I said, kissing her on the cheek.

She kissed me on the lips and said, “I know! I can’t believe it! This is really happening!”

Amber, who was crying now, busied herself with getting champagne and glasses out for all of us, regardless of the fact that more than half of us were considered underage in America.

“We just have so much to celebrate!” she said as she popped the cork.

We all started laughing as foam dropped steadily onto the kitchen floor. After the mess was taken care of and we had all composed ourselves, we stood in a circle and toasted.

“To new beginnings!” Amber said.

We tapped our glasses together and drank happily. Melissa’s cheeks were rosy and she couldn’t stop smiling, which was something I wasn’t used to seeing. She was usually fairly quiet and attentive, but now she was giggling and I could see the resemblance between her and Amber.

When my glass had been drained, I said goodbye to everyone, gave Melissa one last kiss, and teleported back to the Underground. Jordan was on duty and he was pacing at the end of the hallway.

“Hey, Jordan!” I called, waving at him in a friendly way.

He nodded, his lips twitching with the hint of a smile. Sometimes I wondered if he was incapable of smiling, or if Frida had just been a bad influence on him after all of this time. It seemed like the two of them were almost always together, except for when they were on duty.

“Hi, Willow.”

He sounded so stoic that I almost laughed. Instead, I swallowed my amusement and walked up to him.

“How are you doing, man? I haven’t had a chance to talk with you in a while. I’ve been so busy with school and stuff…”

“I’m…fine. As fine as I can be after what happened.”

“What?” Dread filled me. I realized that of course Jordan wasn’t normally this down. Of course there was something wrong. There was always something wrong. “Jordan? What happened?”

It was amazing what I had learned after living in the Underground my whole life, the son of a Lord and Lady. It was so easy for me to flip the switch between happy and serene to serious and ready to handle anything.

“Madeleine is dead.”

“What?!”

My stomach lurched and I suddenly felt numb with shock. I had trained with Madeleine. She was so talented. She had a very useful ability to influence people. I had always envied her because I felt like my ability was useless and that I was a waste of space, while she could actually get things done. Now she was gone. We hadn’t been especially close, but we’d sparred together and we’d eaten together and we’d seen each other every day…

I sank against the wall. Jordan reached out and put a hand on my shoulder.

“Are you okay, Willow?”

No. Not at all.

“What happened?”

“She was one of the elves Cierra sent to be stationed elsewhere. Cierra started stationing guards-in-training, which is why Madeleine was there. She was in Germany and when it came time for the guards to change, Fancifer went to replace her and found her dead—stabbed to death with a knife. She was on the ground in the park just outside the entrance to where the German elves live.”

“She’s dead. Madeleine is dead.”

The more it was said, the more it seemed like it was probably true.

“Yes. Cierra is taking care of everything. From now on, there will be two guards at every location outside of Parcia. They’re examining her body now at the murder site.”

Another murder…in less than a year. What is happening? Life didn’t used to be this way.

“Can you take me there?”

“Yes. Stefan should be coming now to take over for me and then we can go. I’m sorry, Willow. I know you knew her.”

“No, I’m sorry,” I said.

I feel like all of this is my fault.

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