“Can we talk?”
Kira’s gaze snapped up to meet mine. She gave me a quizzical look as she settled back into the sofa, her coffee mug nestled between her hands.
The afternoon went by without anymore incidents or sneaky attacks and when the classes were wrapped up I went back to the house with my roommates to rest up before my lesson with Isaiah and Chase.
“What’s up?” Kira asked, her eyes flitting across my own warily.
“I need you to tell me what happened between Chase and Kyle. Why do they hate each so much?”
“I thought you didn’t want to know.”
“I’m done with that. I thought ignorance is bliss in this case but I’m slowly losing my mind.”
A defeated sigh escaped Kira’s lips.
“Are you sure you want to know?” She asked. “This isn’t a pretty story Lil.”
“Ever since I started dating Kyle you and Rose have made it clear that you don’t approve of my choice of boyfriend. And now Chase and Kyle are outright fighting in the middle of the quad and for some reason I’m right in the middle of this.” I laid back on the love seat opposite my best friend, unclenching my fists that I wasn’t aware were clenched in the first place, and gave her a firm nod.
“I need to know.”
“Everything started back in freshman year. Aline and Chase were always close having grown up together in Agni but I guess something clicked for them when they came to the academy and they started officially dating. Two weeks of school went by smoothly. Aline, Rose and I were roommates occupying this very house and we got along great. We met Chase through Aline and our group got bigger. We were close as thieves.” A bitter laugh escaped Kira’s lips and she blinked away the tears that pooled into her blue eyes. She averted her gaze from mine and stared out the tall glass window, a faraway look fogging her eyes.
“Then Kyle came into the picture. At first we thought nothing of his snide remarks because no matter how much the royals preached about unity and harmony and how much they wanted to pretend we were all one big happy family, there was always some lingering tension between the kingdoms. But then he started going after Aline.”
“What do you mean going after her?” I asked, my voice oddly low and trembling.
“It started with random greetings and short conversations between classes and during lunch. But then it turned into outright obnoxious flirting. To everyone else, he seemed like just another royal douche bag going after a girl who was already in a relationship, but we knew better. Kyle’s behavior was borderline obsessive. Everywhere Aline went he was there, smiling, flirting and pissing the living hell out of Chase. Aline, being the sweetheart that she was, thought Kyle was just trying to be her friend. She didn’t understand why Chase and the rest of us were being so overprotective. That is, until junior year rolled around.”
Kira was silent for a moment, still gazing out of the window absentmindedly. She was so lost in her own thoughts that I suspected she forgot she was telling me a story in the first place.
“What happened junior year?” I gulped, suddenly unsure I wanted to hear the rest of this tale when I saw the furious look on Kira’s face.
“Kyle started getting more aggressive. I guess he lost his patience when he realized his flirtatious smiles and sweet words got him nowhere. Chase and Aline were strong as ever so he changed tactics. He started ambushing Aline outside of classes, waiting for her outside the house every morning and evening. He became a fully fledged stalker and Chase had enough of it. Even Aline started getting uncomfortable. One day, as Aline was leaving the house to meet up with Chase, Kyle grabbed her and started going on a rant about how they belonged together and how she was his and not Chase’s. He was hysterical. Chase happened to come by then and a fight broke out between the two. It was so bad both of them ended up in the infirmary and were almost expelled. But then the attack happened and Aline was…”
Kira swallowed hard, looking back at me with steely determination shining in her bright eyes.
“Kyle is dangerous, Lilith. I wanted to tell you from the beginning but Rose said we should give him the benefit of the doubt. She was always a big softy, that’s why she got along with Aline so well. But in a way I agreed. I mean, what are the chances of history repeating itself right? But then again, what are the chances of our new roommate looking exactly like Aline and having Kyle go after her too?”
“What are you trying to say Kira?” I whispered, my mind already putting the pieces together before she confirmed them out loud.
“No one really knows why Kyle went After Aline in the first place. My guess is that he wasn’t used to rejection and took it way too personally, but I have a feeling Kyle’s only dating you to fulfill a sick fantasy of being with Aline.”
The rest of the evening went by painfully slowly. Kira’s story created chaos in my head as different scenes played in my mind before settling on a particular one. I knew every time Kyle said something about Chase taking what’s his, a feeling of foreboding settled in my chest but I didn’t know he was genuinely paranoid about losing me like he thought he lost my dead doppelganger.
By the time my practice session rolled around I couldn’t wait to get out of the house, if only to get away from my own thoughts.
“You look troubled.” Mr. Blackthorn remarked as soon as I set foot into his office. The sun was sinking fast behind the mountains and the temperatures dropped even more. I hugged my black coat tighter around my body and looked at Isaiah, an uneasy smile painted on my lips.
“Is it that obvious?” I chuckled bitterly.
“You never were one to mask your emotions well.” He said, a knowing glint in his obsidian eyes. “Do you want to talk about it?”
A long sigh escaped my soul.
“I learned something today. A truth that shattered my trust in someone I held dearly. I’m not sure what to do.” I gave my mentor a pleading look, as if asking for his advice even though he couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about.
He surprised me by giving me a knowing smile.
“As cryptic as that was, I think deep down you already know what to do.”
A moment of silence went by as I processed what he said, but before I could get too absorbed into my own thoughts the office door opened and a grinning chase stepped in.
“Sorry I’m late.” He scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. “I fell asleep.”
“Well you’re here now.” Isaiah smirked. “Show me what you two have been doing in my absence.”
“Here?” I looked around the closed office skeptically.
“Yes, here.” Isaiah gave us both a stern look. “Open spaces are ideal for fights but you need to learn how to pull back your powers as to not damage your surroundings in case you find yourselves in a situation like this.”
I shrugged, already coming to terms in my head with the fact that I was probably going to set fire to a desk or a chair, and turned to Chase.
“Ready?” He asked, a mischievous smile painted on his lips.
“Bring it.” I matched his smile, taking off my coat and crouching into a defensive stance.
Fire erupted from Chase’s hands and came straight to my face but I predicted his move and my water soon extinguished his first attack. However, I didn’t have time to bask in the joy of my victory because soon after the plants that were sitting on Isaiah’s desk and windowsills sprouted long, thin branches and surrounded me from every direction. I took a deep breath and concentrated, keeping my eyes on the plants that now resembled an octopus’s tentacles ready to strangle the life out of me. I had learned a new trick recently and couldn’t wait to show it to Mr. Blackthorn so instead of summoning fire from the palms of my hands like fire mystics usually did, I spread the flames around my entire body, focusing my energy on creating a shield that soon got strong enough to burn the plants that were closing in on me to a crisp. A victorious cheer left my lips and my fire died down and from the corner of my eyes I saw the impressed nod that Isaiah threw my way. I wanted to turn around and bask in his approval as it meant so much to me, but I knew better than to take my eyes off of my attacker, who was at that moment grinning proudly at me.
The adrenaline coursing through my veins pumped me up and I decided I had enough playing defense. Water rose from one palm and fire roared from the other, and as I slapped my hands together like my father did all those months ago back at our kitchen, steam rose from my hands and went straight for Chase’s face. It wasn’t much and I knew it wouldn’t cause any damage but it distracted him long enough for me to drown him in a stream of cold water.
As he sobered up, Chase gave me a mischievous smirk while pushing the hair that fell flat into his eyes back with his hand.
“Oh Lilith, you’re going to regret that.”
I giggled gleefully, high on the joy of mock fighting Chase, and dove behind Mr. Blackthorn’s desk. We weren’t exactly mindful of the space we were in but we hadn’t set anything on fire or did any sort of irreversible damage to the office so I didn’t feel too bad about flipping the desk over and hiding behind it. A move that turned out to be smart because I soon found out that Chase had the ability to summon the fiery rocks of hell.
“Hey, that’s not fair!” I yelled from my hiding spot, amusement clear in my voice.
“This is war Lilith, everything is fair.” Chase answered sounding just as amused.
“I didn’t even know you could do that!”
“I can’t reveal all my secrets now can I?” He chuckled. “Why don’t you come out of there and let’s keep this interesting.”
“And have my eye poked out with a rock on fire.” I scoffed. “No, thank you!”
I was currently sandwiched between the desk and the wall, thinking of a way to escape Chase’s attack unscathed, when a cold breeze blew through the room. A sizzling sound filled the office, and being too curious for my own good, I stood up just in time to see the fire of Chase’s rocks going out. I glanced at the window to find it locked like it was since we started and confusion filled my mind. The rocks that were hovering mid air just seconds ago fell to the floor with a clatter. I chanced a look at Chase, trying to see if he knew what was going on, only to find him already staring at me with a look of confusion and something else I couldn’t read. The breeze continued to blow through the room, sending my hair flying in different directions. I was about to ask if anyone knew what was going on when Isaiah’s voice cut through the eerie silence.
“That’s enough for today.” He pushed off the wall he was leaning on this entire time and made his way towards us with a look I couldn’t decipher. “You both did great. We’ll continue this tomorrow.”
Chase and I excused ourselves and left the office, beads of sweat rolling down our foreheads and exhaustion settling in our bones. As we left the main office and were greeted with the cold night air, I turned to Chase to speak.
“If he wanted us gone all he had to do was ask.” I chuckled lightly. “He didn’t have to literally blow us out of the office.”
“You think that was Mr. Blackthorn’s doing?” Chase asked.
“Well, he had earth and air under his belt so it makes sense.” I shrugged.
“Yeah, I guess so.” Chase agreed, but that unreadable look never left his face as he looked at me.
Was I missing something?
Chase ended up walking me home before going his own way and the good mood I got from the magic battle soon wore off when I found myself alone with my own thoughts. It certainly didn’t help when I came back to an empty house. Kira had a date with Gabby and according to a note I found stuck to the fridge, Rose went out with some of her friends from Avanindra. I ended up having dinner by myself and taking a long, hot shower to relax my sore muscles. But all too soon I found myself in bed staring at the ceiling and as much as I didn’t want to, my thoughts drifted to Kyle.
If the story Kira told me earlier was true –and I had no reason to doubt my best friend- Kyle and I’s relationship was nothing but a big fat lie. And what made things even worse was that his behavior recently started to match the behavior Kira described in her story. The possessiveness, the blind jealousy, the cold demeanor and the unexplainable hatred towards Chase, it was all new to me but it was apparently a side of Kyle that my friends were used to seeing.
What if Kira was right?
What if Kyle was only interested in me because I looked like his dead crush?
Was that all there is to it? He couldn’t get Aline so he went for the next best thing?
Was I meant to live the rest of my life in the dead queen’s shadow?
Questions swarmed around in my head until I finally drifted off to sleep with one thought lingering around in my brain.
I needed to talk to Kyle.
Wednesday was no different than the previous day. We went to class, dodged attacks from a certain vindictive blonde, and watched as the rest of the senior class destroyed the academy in their attempt to prove their worth to the council members. I went through the day in a daze, my mind too preoccupied and my thoughts too jumbled to pay much attention to my surroundings. Kyle had tired texting me several times during the day but I couldn’t bring myself to pretend that I could carry out a conversation with him through texts.
What would I say to him anyway? ‘Hey babe. How was your day? Catherine threw a fire ball at my face again today. By the way, I don’t find the fact that you pursued a girl who looked exactly like me before we got together creepy at all. Talk soon. XOXO.’
Yeah, I had a feeling that wouldn’t go over too well.
It was after I had gotten home from my late night practice with Isaiah and Chase that I had finally decided it was time to face the music. Firing up a quick text, I tossed my phone on the bed and headed for the shower.
‘Meet me by the lake in 30 minutes. We need to talk.’