I can’t breathe.
Smoke surrounds me, consuming my room. My body erupts into a fit of coughs. Dropping to the floor, I cover my mouth with my thin t-shirt. My eyes glance around the room, searching for any scorching flames. Seeing none, I crawl over towards the door where the smoke is filtering from.
The siren smoke alarm won’t stop ringing, hurting my delicate ears. I can’t hear anything else other than that—I don’t know if my parents or sister are awake.
Coughing some more, my eyes begin to burn from the smoke. Panicked thoughts race through my mind, causing my heart to race. I can’t focus on anything. I need to be logical right now. I need to focus on one thing—getting out of this room.
Yet, I can’t get over the fact I might die in here tonight.
I don’t want to die. I have so much to do.
I don’t realize I’m having a panic attack until I start to see dark spots. With a woozy head and a hammering heart, I nearly lose control.
Stop it, Lily! If you keep mucking around, you’ll die.
I need to find Amber. I have to help her.
That last thought seems to hit me, hard. Amber might be the rational one but she doesn’t deal well with danger. She must be terrified right now.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I lift myself back onto my hands and knees—since I fell on the floor during my panic attack—and pull the door open with as much strength as I can muster.
Somehow, I manage to throw the door open. More smoke floods into the room, leaving me gasping for air. My eyes are now stinging from the amount of smoke.
I crawl through the hallway, that seems to be surrounded by smoke. Most of it is coming from my parent’s room, which is situated next to Amber’s.
It takes a lot of effort to crawl over to Amber’s room. My energy weakens as I continue to stay here. I pray one of the neighbours noticed the smoke and has called the fire brigade.
Three times I attempt to open the door, but it refuses to budge. Eventually, I realise I have to stand up. Pressing my lips together, I gather the strength I need to stand up and push the door open, lightly.
As soon as the door is open, my eyes locate Amber. Crouched on the ground beside her bed, she stares up at me with wide, fearful eyes. My heart breaks at the sight of my scared sister.
Immediately, I rush over to her and wrap a comforting arm around her. She sobs into my t-shirt, clinging onto me tightly. No words pass between us, partly due to the smoke but also because we don’t need to speak. Our eyes, our actions, speak volumes.
“We need to get out of here,” I manage to croak out, urgently. She raises her eyes to meet mine and nods her head. In order to get out, we have to pass my parent’s bedroom. That’s where most of the smoke is. I plan to get Amber out and then come back in for them. Opening the door as we pass could be a bad idea. I don’t know where the fire is yet. So far, it looks like it could be in my parents’ room.
I just hope they are okay.
I wrap Amber’s arm around my shoulders and hoist her up. Together, we both hobble out of the room.
The hallway is filled with smoke when we get out. It’s so unclear, I have to use my memory to navigate us round objects.
Just as we are about to pass our parent’s room, I faintly hear a wail over the noise of the smoke alarm. Amber glances at me with wide eyes, telling me she also heard it. I swallow the lump in my throat, thinking through my options.
That noise confirmed my parents are still in the room, trapped. I could go in there, but it would endanger Amber and myself. If I got Amber out, I could go back in more prepared. Or, I could make sure the fire brigade has been called.
Quickly, I make the decision that I will regret for the rest of my life.
I leave them behind.
Looking back at it now, perhaps that’s why Amber can’t stand talking to me. Maybe that’s the real reason why Amber doesn’t want anything to do with me.
I let my parents die. It’s my fault.
If I had helped them when I did, I might have saved them. But at the same time, I might have got us all killed.
By the time we made it out of the house, the fire brigade had arrived. But they were too late. The house was in flames. Everything was burning. They told us we were lucky to get out in time. One more minute in there and we would have been dead too.
To this day, I wish I had done something differently.
I bolt upright in my bed, gasping for breath. Beads of sweat trail down my forehead onto my eyebrows. Strands of hair stick to my face.
I had a nightmare.
Well, sort of.
It was a memory, of the night my parents died. I haven’t thought about that night for a while but now it’s back, to remind me what I did. To torture me again.
Running a hand down my face, I force myself to take in slow, deep breaths. Eventually, my heart rate begins to calm down and my breathing evens out.
I glance around the room and notice daylight peaking out of the gap in the curtains. My eyes zero in on the clock by my table and notice it’s seven in the morning. Since breakfast is in half an hour, I decide to get out of bed and ready.
Today is Monday, meaning school is back on. I spent most of my Sunday with the guys, playing games and catching up with schoolwork. My mind would occasionally wander to my time in the woods with Kacey or to that lovely evening I spent with Arlo. Several times, Talia would have to yell in my face, to break me out of my mental state.
After doing my business in the bathroom, I swiftly put my uniform on and grab the books I need for today. Trinity is still snoring in her bed when I leave. She’s going to be late if she doesn’t wake up soon. But if I wake her up, I’m going to give her another reason to hate me. I’m sure she won’t be happy seeing me first thing in the morning.
Once I make it to the dining hall, I am greeted by a chirpy Talia.
“Hello, Lily. How are you this fine morning?” She greets me, enthusiastically. I honestly don't know how she can be so happy all of the time. It must be some sort of crime at this early in the morning.
I groan, “It’s Monday and I’m tired. What do you think?”
She laughs her beautiful laugh and loops her arm through mine. “That’s a good point. But hey, think of it this way. It’s half term next week. You get to go home for a week!”
That definitely does not cheer me up. I’d rather eat slugs for a week than see my awful aunt who despises my existence. She will definitely make my week there a living hell. The one good thing is that I get to see Amber for a week. That is if she doesn’t bail out or ignore me.
Talia notices my dampened mood. The smile on her face slowly sinks to a frown and her eyebrows furrow.
“You are happy to get away from this place for a week, right? I mean, I’m getting fed up with seeing the same four walls. I want to go home where I can see my family.”
My stomach knots up at the thought of my family. My very dead family.
Talia is so lucky she can go home to her family, who will be waiting for her with open arms. I will be greeted with harsh glares and cold eyes.
When Talia stops walking and positions herself in front of me, I realise I haven’t answered her yet. Concern flashes in her eyes, along with curiosity. Throughout the entire day yesterday, I would feel her eyes on me, burning with interest. She would stare at me like a jigsaw puzzle that needed to be fixed.
And god, I hated it.
“Lily, I’m getting worried about you. You look like you have the whole world on your shoulders. I know I said I wouldn’t pry but what is bothering you? You don’t seem happy anymore.” Talia questions me, gently.
I wrap my arms around my stomach, wanting nothing more than to melt away right now.
“I’m just going through some family things, okay? I really don’t want to talk about it right here.” I tell her, darting my eyes around the busy cafeteria. This is not the time and place to tell her everything. That is if I am going to tell her everything. Which I doubt I will right now.
Talia nods her head whilst pinching her lips together. “Fair enough but please tell me if you feel it’s too much. I care about you. It’s making me sad seeing you like this.”
“Okay,” is my short response. I believe she’s willing to listen—I'm just afraid of what she'll think of me after the truth is out. I don't want to lose one of the few people I actually get on with.
Seeming satisfied, Talia drags me to the line to collect our food.
As soon as we sit down, we are joined by the others. We both greet the others and delve into a conversation about how tired we are and how we are dreading today. I feel Arlo’s eyes on me, assessing every part of me. Eventually, I lift my eyes to him and pin his stare down.
He smiles at me, taking my breath away. His smile is so beautiful and enchanting. It pulls me in and holds me hostage.
If he had done this a week ago, I would have been shocked and alarmed but since that evening, all I can think is that we are friends.
I feel happy and sad about that.
My feelings are all over the place when it comes to him.
When breakfast ends, I head over to my English class alone.
I spend the entire lesson staring out of the window at the woods, thinking back to Saturday night. It’s only when my English teacher, Mr. Knox, asks me a question, that I break out of my thoughts.
Stuttering an answer whilst having everyone’s eyes on me, I internally wish I was listening to what he was saying. Mr. Knox does not appear happy with my stupid answer because he gives me a look of disapproval. My cheeks turn bright pink from mortification.
“Lily, I expect you to be paying more attention. This is your final year; you should know better.” He claims, shaking his head in disappoitment. He then asks someone else, who gets the answer right straight away.
Mr. Knox then continues the class, gathering all the attention again. For the rest of the lesson, I force myself to stay focused, not wanting a repeat.
As soon as we are dismissed, I gather up my books and rush out of the classroom. The hallways are already packed when I enter it so getting through the crowd is tough. I manage to make it to my destination, the art corridor.
I’m one of the first to enter the classroom. I take my seat, knowing Arlo will be sitting right next to me. As everyone else filters into the class, I patiently wait for Arlo to arrive. When the teacher waltzes in and shuts the door, I begin to feel worried that he won’t arrive. But then, he rocks up, late.
With a smirk plastered on his handsome face and his uniform fitting his body tightly, he looks hot. I notice a lot of the girls straightening in their seats and throwing him lustful looks. Jealousy courses through my body, hitting me hard. Clenching my fists together, I remind myself we are only friends. We will never be anything else.
Arlo murmurs something to the teacher and then takes his seat next to me. His musky scent surrounds my body, calming me down. It’s strange how the smell of Arlo can affect my body.
Ms. Farris begins blabbering on about our assignment and how we only have one more week.
I haven’t even started my art picture of Arlo yet since things have been rocky between us. Since our bonding session on the grass a couple of days ago, there has been a shift in the atmosphere between us. I’m not dreading this project anymore but I'm still wary of hi
Ms. Farris ends her monologue and orders us to get on with our work. Arlo turns to me, giving me his full attention.
“Have you started it yet?”
“No,” I confess, embarrassed.
Arlo chuckles and leans in closer to me. My heart races and I involuntarily move in as well. “Neither have I.”
A smile breaks onto my lips at that. I don’t know if he’s saying that to ease me or because he simply wants to—either way, I’m glad he told me.
Everyone else collects the items they need for their piece. Talia passes me after getting a paintbrush and lightly taps the top of my head with it. I send her a fake glare, pretending to be mad. She only giggles.
Opening my empty sketchbook, I begin drawing. Arlo does the same beside me. He hunches over the table, staring intensely at the book. About halfway through the lesson, I glance over at him and his work. A gasp passes through my lips when my eyes land on the sketchbook. He’s drawn a picture of an eye—my eye.
The way it's depicted is astounding. It’s as if my eyes show a million and one different things.
Arlo must have heard my gasp because he stops drawing and peers up at me. I gaze at him with wonder and awe, completely mesmerized.
“You—that—I…” I stutter, my brain not being able to form a coherent sentence. I feel as if Arlo sees something in my eyes nobody else can. It feels as if he can see all my pain, sadness, emptiness, and guilt. I don’t understand how it’s possible. I never expected him to truly see what I’ve been trying to hide for so long.
Arlo knits his eyebrows together, his eyes shifting between his sketchbook and me. “Is there something wrong with it?”
Vigorously, I shake my head. “No,” I choke out, feeling overwhelmed by it. “There is nothing wrong with it. It’s perfect.”
Shock glimmers in his eyes at my emotional response. I’ve never acted this way around him or any of his friends. Well, I haven’t acted this way sober.
Arlo smiles a full-blown, gorgeous smile. A smile I feel that is reserved just for me.
“You have a real talent.” I compliment him, truthfully.
His mouth opens and closes several times. He is speechless. I don’t think anyone has ever said something like that to him before. Pride washes over me. I’m glad I’m the first.
“Thank you,” He eventually manages to say and avoids eye contact with me. For the rest of the lesson, we continue to work on our projects.
When the bell rings, announcing the end of the lesson, Arlo gives me one last parting look before exiting the classroom.
“Is there something going on between you two?” Talia asks from behind me, startling me. Whirling around on the balls of my feet, I give her a preposterous look.
“What? No.” I force a nervous laugh. “Why would you think that?”
Talia only arches an eyebrow. “You two just seem to…click.”
We do? I mean, it feels like we have a connection, but I wouldn’t say we click. We aren’t exactly the same…plus Arlo doesn’t even like me in that way. He’s made that perfectly clear.
“Yeah, no,” I reply, quickly. “Anyway, have you seen how many girls he’s been with? I think he’s afraid of commitment or something.” He’s also in love with you, so…
Of course, I leave the last part out. I can’t tell Talia that. Not when she’s dating his brother.
Talia frowns, remembering he doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to girls.
“Right…” She mumbles, frustration clear in her tone. “Is he still dating that girl, Louise?”
I shrug my shoulders, ignoring the pain in my heart at the mere mention of the beautiful blonde. I haven’t seen her for a while, I wonder where she is. Is Arlo still dating her? He doesn’t say much about his conquests.
Talia nods her head at my silent response. Together, we make our way out of the classroom to our next lesson. We split up when I reach my door and bid each other farewell. My next lesson runs smoothly, I manage to remain focused the entire time. When break rolls over, I stroll to my locker and dump my used books in there.
As I shut my locker, I spot a certain someone stomping down the hallway with purpose. Her jet-black hair falls down her back in waves. Her piercing brown eyes captivates anyone who stares into them and her smile entrances many of the boys.
She is looking quite happy today. Better than the other day, at least. However, when her eyes fall on me, they narrow to slits. She whispers something to her friend, who is walking beside her like a lost puppy. Her friend, who I think is called Tracy, glances at me and giggles like a schoolgirl. She then whispers something back, causing Trinity to smirk.
I can guarantee whatever they said wasn’t nice.
Just as I think she’s going to pass me, Trinity and her friend Tracy make a sharp turn, making a beeline for me.
I gulp and mentally prepare myself for whatever insult she’s going to throw my way. But instead of saying anything to me, Trinity drops something on the floor beside me and walks away.
I watch her disappear and then drop to my knees to pick the item up.
My fingers curl around the paper, which feels more like photo paper. Slowly, I unfold the picture.
When my eyes see the photo, my heart stops and my stomach drops. For what feels like hours, I stare at it in shock and anguish. My heart plummets to the ground. I can’t believe she did this. This is so cruel.
It’s plain mean and downright disrespectful. And, unfortunately, a part of it is true.
It’s a picture of my family—a picture from last year at the beach. But that’s not what hurts me. No, it’s the two X’s over my mother’s eyes and the word ’murderer’ over my name.
Aww, poor Lily. She’s still struggling with her parent’s death. I hope you enjoyed the early update!!
My next update will probably be either Monday or Wednesday depending on my schedule.