“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jett glanced in my direction, eyes wide with concern.
“How many times do I have to tell you,” a twig crunched beneath my feet, “I’m fine."
“C’mon A, don’t be like that” Brianna sidestepped a puddle before turning to face me, “He’s only worried about you.”
“She’s right Astrid. Plus, passing out in class isn’t exactly normal.” Lorenzo slowed down the pace of his walking so that he stood beside me, and gave my hair a ruffle. I laughed and pushed his hand away, looking up towards the darkening sky.
The trees towered way above our heads, swaying this way and that in the gentle breeze. The evening was eerily still that night, and even the birds had silenced their song. The only sounds that could be heard were the sound of our breathing and the snapping of twigs below us.
“I can’t wait to see the cabin...” Jett whispered into the air, voice dripping with anticipation.
“It’s been so long.” I nodded my head in agreement.
“Do you think it’ll still be standing?” Lorenzo questioned.
“Of course it will be standing!” Brianna chirped, sending us all a bright smile.
“What would we do without your positivity Bri?”
“Absolutely nothing,” she replied, “absolutely nothing...”
Throughout the following five minutes of walking, the temperature seemed to drop dramatically, and I found myself nuzzling further down into my coat and shoving my hands deep into my pockets.
I watched as one by one, everyone else did the same, and the quickened breaths we took blew out the cold air in clouds of smoke around us. Brianna’s teeth chattered as she tucked a lock of candy-floss colored hair behind her ear; and as if on cue of thought, my stomach growled.
“Do you guys know the three things I’m hoping for tonight?” I sighed, taking yet another step forward as we deepened our walk into the forest.
“We would if you told us.” Jett teased.
“The cabin to still be there, that the heating actually works, and food. So much food.” I groaned at the very thought of it.
“My guess is that about one out of three of those things will come true.” Lorenzo’s muffled words came from beneath the scarf that was wrapped tightly around his neck.
“Choo, choo!” Brianna piped up, “all aboard the negativity train.”
I ignored her and directed a frown at Lorenzo, “What do you mean one of the three?”
“The cabin will still be there,” Lorenzo pulled his scarf lower so that his voice became clear, “it’s not like we left it for years, it’s only been a couple of months. At most, a couple of rats will have inhabited it-”
Lorenzo was cut off by a high pitched squeal that sounded from Brianna, and a melodramatic wave of her hands. “I think I’d rather it be gone” she added, mouth pinched as if she’d eaten something sour.
“Don’t say that!” now it was Jett’s turn to be alarmed, “That’s like wishing away mine and Astrid's childhood. You’re lucky me and her even let you two in there in the first place.”
“You do make a mess...” I agreed.
“As I was saying” Lorenzo sighed, exasperated, “the whole heating idea is way out of reach. We couldn’t even get it working when we were going there often.”
“Are we forgetting the fact that I almost fixed it?” Jett wore a defensive look.
“Keyword babe,” Brianna pointed a manicured nail in his direction, “almost.”
“I would have if the EDO had kept their noses out of our business.” Jett’s mood looked dampened and guilt washed over me.
“I’m sorry about that guys” and I really was.
My dad had found out about the cabin 2 months ago when I was continuously arriving late back home and he had sent out an EDO agent to stalk where I was going. Yes, stalk. It hadn’t gone down well when the news got out that I had been taking treks into the very middle of the forest (where most Eternals hid) in the late hours of the night to hang out with my friends in a wooden hut that we liked to call, ‘the cabin.’
The argument that night raged like a fire, and he had even threatened to demolish the cabin altogether; insisting that whilst still in training I was forbidden to put myself and my friends in such grave danger. Even after insisting that I was capable of looking after myself, he wouldn’t take it. He wouldn’t take anything.
He told me that I wasn’t allowed to go back there again until I had passed initiation, and he believed that the time was right. If me or any of my friends disobeyed his orders, he would have it knocked down immediately and ‘he wouldn’t have a second thought about it.’
The cabin had been a part of mine and Jett’s life ever since we were old enough to sneak out without getting caught — which was quite an achievement if you ask me, especially with an overprotective dad like mine and an extremely paranoid mum like his — and went on countless walks underneath the starlit sky, young eyes shining in the moonlight.
We had discovered the cabin on the 3rd of October- I remembered the exact date. And I remembered the overwhelming curiosity and excitement that practically radiated from both me and Jett, the sparkle in our eyes that was brighter than all of the stars combined.
The chill that crawled down our spines and the fear that echoed through our minds, the questions that arose and the mystery of the place that almost swept us off our feet. How we had crept inside, quiet as mice, and examined every nook and cranny. It was an adventure I would never forget, and one that led on to so many more.
One time we had hidden in the darkness of the woodland shack from an Eternal — who was stalking it like prey — and kept our breathing hushed and our lips tightly sealed until it finally ventured away. That was the very first time I had seen one up close like that, and it was the same for Jett. It had been like we were discovering the cabin all over again, but this time, discovering something that appeared to be human but was the complete opposite.
We had gotten enchanted by its crystal green eyes and drawn to it’s calculated posture; the way it walked and the hypnotic melody that it hummed deep under the blanketing silence, making us shake from head to toe.
Jett had compared me to one once, and I had taken offense to it at first before I realized that what we were taught to hate and fear was actually beautiful and didn’t seem at all like the monsters we got told they were. They were human like us and felt the same as us.
His words still dance in my head ’till this very day, as clear as if he was speaking them aloud right this second.
‘When I look at you I see one. I see the beauty and the mystery and the hidden stories. It’s like you were meant to be one of them like there is some unspoken connection between you and their kind. I feel it, Astrid, I feel it like my feelings for you. You enchant me and I feel blessed to even come this close to you. To touch you like this...’ he had lifted his hand up to cup my cheek, and gently ran his index finger up and down in the most delicate way, that made me shiver.
‘To lean in like this,’ I could feel his breath on my eyelashes, ‘to look at you like this’ our eyes locked. ‘To kiss you like this’ his lips met mine for the very first time, tasting sweet like a Christmas candy cane. It was only quick but it was enough, it said everything that needed to be said. He exhaled when he pulled away and my heart was beating as loud as the blissful silence that embraced us before...
‘Before I tell you this’ he smiled and I could’ve sworn the room got brighter in that second, not too much but just enough to notice, ‘I love you, Astrid Lockwood.’
And if anyone asks me why I love the cabin so much I smile to myself; because yes, maybe in their eyes it is just a house made out of wood in the middle of nowhere but to me, it is so much more than that.
There it was, the same as ever.
Yet something wasn’t right.
Nobody spoke, not a whisper or a murmur. All there was, was a shiver that crawled down every person's spine.
“Someone’s been here.”