The main office was once again buzzing as students lined up in front of four rooms to get their schedules. The scene wasn’t messy as, much like in the conference hall, the students were divided by seniority, each class lined up in front of their designated office to get their necessary documents. But just because mystics were awfully organized doesn’t mean they weren’t like your typical teenagers. Flirting, gossiping, whispering and laughing, these magical creatures suddenly looked like they belonged in a high school movie.
I stood in line, silent as usual, observing the behavior of my fellow students. To be honest I wasn’t that interested in what the juniors were gossiping about, nor did I find the sophomore girls flirting with the senior boys a fascinating scene to watch, but I needed a distraction of any sort. My mind was spiraling out of control and my friends’ silence made matters even worse. Nobody spoke a word as we made it out of the conference hall, and my tears seemed to stop only when we came into the main office, as my brain was no doubt trying to protect me from another wave of unnecessary and unexplainable gossip. Heads down, eyes teary, my friends looked like they came straight out of a funeral and I wasn’t feeling any better. Most of all I was surprised with my reaction. I had absolutely no reason to cry or feel this dejected, but somehow the feeling of pain and agony didn’t go away. My heart was torn to pieces and I had no idea why. I didn’t know Chase, sure we talked for a brief moment at the ball, and sure he was nice and charming and I wished his girlfriend never showed up and that we would have talked more, but that was in no way an explanation for what happened today. The pain, the tears, the shock, Chase had looked like he was just stabbed in the heart and for some reason that made me want to cry again. I swallowed back the lump in my throat, determined not to cry in a room full of mystics who already had enough gossip to spread about me. I was torn, shocked but most of all confused. I thought Kira and Rose were my friends but every time I asked them a question about the weird stuff that kept happening around me they either found a way to change the subject or flat out ignored me. Who was this Aline that everyone keeps mistaking me for? Where was she? And why was everyone so determined to never speak of her? My confusion slowly turned into anger and that anger turned into determination, I had enough secrets for one lifetime and I wasn’t going to go on with this school year without clear answers to my questions.
The line seemed to move at a painfully slow pace. How hard was it to give out these damn schedules anyway? For annoyingly perfect creatures, this task seemed too complicated for the mystics of Lixierra and that got on my very last nerve. I clenched my fists, digging my fingernails into my palms in an attempt to control the sudden wave of anger that took over my entire body. I tapped my foot on the floor loudly and groaned, counting the seconds until I got out of here.
“Are you alright?” Rose, standing behind me in line, stroked my back.
“Fine.” I snapped, louder than I meant to and immediately regretted it as a few heads turned to give me quizzical looks. “I just want to get out of here already.” I continued, lowering my voice.
“Me too.” Rose gave me a sympathetic look, no doubt picking on my hostility. “It’ll be over soon.”
“Not soon enough.” I unclenched my fists, wiping the blood out of my palms.
After what seemed like forever and a half, Kira, Rose, Gabriella and I finally had our schedules. I pretended to read mine, avoiding whatever conversation the girls were engrossed in. Truthfully I wasn’t able to read a word out of that thing, so I folded it and shoved in my pocket, making a mental note to check it out carefully later. I looked up as we got out of the office, following the girls who seemed determined to carry out the lunch plans we made this morning. In my mind, this morning seemed like ages ago and I wasn’t so enthusiastic about going to lunch at Joe’s, but the restaurant was cozy and quiet and it would be hard for Rose and Kira to ignore me there so I followed along, determined to get to the bottom of this mess. The sound of footsteps rushing behind me pulled me out of my messy mind and I looked back to investigate.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” a familiar, obnoxious voice spoke behind me and I immediately regretted ever turning back. The voice belonged to Catherine, who was scurrying to catch up with the person behind my inexplicable heartache.
“Talk to me!” Catherine whined again, her high heels clacking against the stone ground. In front of her, Chase seems unraveled. His eyes were bloodshot and his lips were quivering. His face looked pale, like he was sick and his hand shook as he ran it through his black hair. Once again, I froze in my spot as I saw him, my legs disobeying my mind that was practically yelling for me to move, to get out of here before we cause another scene. Just like me, Chase came to a sudden halt when he saw me, his eyes widening once again. Flashbacks of this morning ran through my mind as we stood there staring at each other. What was it about him that made me lose control of my mind and body? A loud gasp echoed through the quad and I snapped out of my frozen state. Next to Chase, Catherine looked even more stunned than both of us. She put her hand on her mouth and staggered back, reaching out to hold her boyfriend as if she was afraid that he was going to run away. A pang of jealousy ran through me as I stared at the way she held him, lacing her free arm through his. I wanted more than anything to look away, to walk away and never look back, to spare myself this pain I could not place nor understand but my muscles wouldn’t budge. Thankfully my misery came to a stop when Chase, untangling himself from Catherine, gave me one last look and walked away. I exhaled, unaware of how long I was holding my breath and looked at my friends, who just like this morning, were in a daze. None of them said anything as they looked at Chase, sympathy clear in their eyes. I started to move, heading towards the girls, when I noticed that Catherine was still staring at me. The blonde looked terrified, which was confusing. Was she scared of me? So far I got confusion, shock, tears, but she looked utterly petrified. What the hell was wrong with her? Suddenly, and for no apparent reason at all, all of my confusion and fear turned into anger, anger directed specifically towards Catherine. I hated her so much and I had no idea why. Maybe it was because she wouldn’t stop staring at me like I was a freak of nature, or maybe because she was a total bitch to me, or maybe because she was Chase’s girlfriend. I honestly didn’t care at all to interpret the reasons for this sudden outburst of negative feelings, all I knew was that I hated Catherine.
“WHAT?” I yelled. All of a sudden my anxiety, my stress and my confusion all disappeared into thin air. There was nothing but anger in me.
Catherine flinched, clearly taken aback by my outburst, but said nothing. She took a few steps back, still looking at me like I was a demon from hell, and took off. She was walking so fast, practically running away from me, and I fought the urge to run after her and give her a piece of my mind. In all my life - the life I can remember- I was never a violent person. I never got into fights or got physical with anyone, but right now all I wanted to do was kick the crap out of Catherine.
“Lilith.” Kira’s voice turned my attention back to my friends, and I was surprised to see an unfamiliar look on their faces. Was that fear? Or recognition? I honestly couldn’t care less as I had more important questions in mind that I desperately needed answers for.
“Let’s go.” I let out once I was next to the group. “I could use some lunch.”
Joe’s place was just like I left it the last time we were here. It was quiet, cozy and practically empty. It was past lunch time for mystics as we were well into the afternoon - apparently we stood in line for longer than I remembered- but I suspected this tiny secluded restaurant doesn’t get a lot of attention anyway. We sat at the usual table and ordered our food, falling back into uncomfortable silence as soon as Joe left with our orders.
The air around us was thick, and it wasn’t just the hot summer afternoon. You could cut the tension between us with a knife and it looked like every one of us was utterly miserable. It seemed like no one was going to talk, or at least attempt to make any sort of sense of the situation that occurred today, but I was itching for answers and I didn’t know if I could keep my tongue under lockdown any longer. I was about to open my mouth, to begin with the outpour of questions I was barely holding back, when an unfamiliar voice snapped our attention back to our surroundings.
A cheerful ‘Hi’ emitted from someone next to us and I looked up to be greeted by two boys smiling brightly at the girls at my table. These strangers, much like everyone here at Coleste, looked impeccably put together and ridiculously handsome. The first one had short black hair and a bright smile, his porcelain skin glowing under the rays of the sun above us. The other one had slightly lighter hair, brown eyes and a more petite frame than his tall friend. Their attention was mainly focused on Kira, but they both turned to give me what I thought was a warm smile. It was definitely warmer than the cold glares I got all day so I welcomed it with a smile of my own.
“How are you doing sis?” The first guy spoke up, directing his words to Kira. I vaguely remembered Kira telling me she had a twin, honestly I was surprised I could remember anything with the wild storms going on in my mind right now, but the memory surfaced back to the top. Now that I took a closer look at him as he stood next to my blue haired friend, their resemblance looked uncanny and I was stunned that I didn’t recognize him as he walked up to us. Granted I have never seen him before, and I wasn’t exactly in a clear state of mind to pay attention to cute boys, but my observation skills were usually perfect and to lose that today hit me harder than it should have.
“I’ll be a lot better when my food gets here.” Kira responded. “Did you get your schedule?”
“I did. It’s not a walk in the park.”
“It’s our senior year. The council is not taking it easy on us anytime soon.” The other guy chimed in, rolling his eyes as he studied a piece of paper in his hand.
“Lilith”, Kira looked at me for the first time in what seemed like a long time, “this is my brother Skyler. And that’s his friend Brad.”
“Nice to meet you both.” I gave them a sweet nod and a smile.
“Nice to meet you too Lilith. We’ve heard so much about you.” Skyler said. “Do you ladies mind if we join you? We haven’t had lunch either.”
“I thought Joe’s place wasn’t exactly your scene.” Kira said, air quoting the last part.
“I’m always open to new experiences.” Skyler smiled sheepishly. “Besides, I wanted to catch up with Gabby and Rose, I haven’t seen them all summer.”
“Is that your way of saying you missed me Skyler?” Rose giggled as the two boys pulled up a couple of chairs and joined us at the table. It was beginning to feel a little crowded in here. Under normal circumstances - as normal as my life can actually be- I wouldn’t have minded having Skyler and Brad join us for lunch, but today I was eager to ask a lot of questions and I somehow had the feeling that Kira and Rose were not going to be in the mood to share with extra guests at our table.
“Of course I missed you Rosie.” Skyler said as he sat down, giving Rose a wink. “How was your summer Gabby? Kira was really bummed that you didn’t visit.”
“I was going to but I got caught up with my family. But I’m here now and our senior year is going to be epic.” Gabby said as she held Kira’s hand, smiling brightly at her girlfriend.
“It already is, with all the drama Lilith has conjured up. I could already see Catherin’s head exploding with anger.” Brad laughed out loud, no doubt finding his joke hilarious, and Skyler joined in, and high fiving his friend in the process.
The awkward silence around them soon brought their attention back to us and they looked around, surprised with our strained faces.
“Oh come on you guys that was funny.” Skyler said. “You can’t possibly tell me you don’t enjoy this sis, nobody hates Catherine more than you do.”
Kira kept silent, avoiding the gazes of her brother and his friend. She was obviously not going to engage in this conversation, so I thought I would. If the girls weren’t going to talk, let’s see if the boys will.
“Excuse me Skyler”, I started, “but what drama did I conjure exactly?”
Skyler’s smile faded abruptly and he looked at me incredulously, as if unable to process the question I had just asked him. He then looked at his sister and her friends, confusion all over his face.
“You guys haven’t told her?” When his question was met with nothing but silence, he continued. “I can’t believe you. Especially you two, you are her roommates. She was bound to know sooner or later!”
Skyler cleared his throat, took a deep breath and then turned to me.
“I know this whole mystic thing is new to you, but how much do you know about our ruling system?”
The question took me off guard, this isn’t where I thought the conversation would be heading. Why on Earth would Skyler be asking me about the politics of Mystics? But I answered nonetheless.
“I know that the four kingdoms alternate the throne and that every kingdom gets to rule for 50 years.”
“Not bad newbie. Do you know what happened to our last queen?”
“I know that it was the Agni’s turn to rule and that a queen was chosen through the trial. But she died before she was crowned.”
“Her name was Aline Infernus. She was sixteen years old and full of life. She went through the trial like the brave girl everyone here at Lixierra knew her to be and she succeeded. She won and was about to be crowned queen when she was murdered.” Skyler let out, his voice strained.
“That’s terrible.” I whispered. “But what does it have to do with me?”
“Because”, Brad took over, “Aline was Chase’s girlfriend. She was his one true love if you will. They were together since freshman year and were the school’s IT couple. And you Lilith, you are the splitting image of Aline.”
I was at loss for words. Skyler and Brad’s revelation left my brain swirling, desperate to make sense of what I have just heard. Our food came and we fell into that uncomfortable silence once again as Joe placed our plates in front of us and chatted briefly with the boys, taking their orders as well. I replayed Brad’s words in my head, trying to determine if I heard that right. I glanced at Kira and Rose in hopes that they would help me but they were gazing at the ocean beyond, their faces dejected.
“I can’t believe it.” I whispered to myself.
“We couldn’t either until we saw you.” Skyler let out. “We heard the gossip going around at school and we thought someone was playing a sick joke or something. But here you are.”
“You look exactly like her Lilith. I mean you could be her twin, well except for the hair. Aline had raven black hair. Yours is white.” Brad explained.
“Platinum.” I objected.
“Same difference.” Brad smiled.
“So that’s the reason behind all the whispers and the glares and the gossip around school?” I swallowed a lump in my throat. “That’s the reason why Chase…” I couldn’t bring myself to finish that sentence. The encounter I had with Chase this morning was agonizing and I didn’t have the energy to replay it in my head.
“Can you blame him?” Skyler gave me a sympathetic look. “You look exactly like the love he lost. He spent the last two years trying to move on with his life and suddenly here you are and he just couldn’t handle it.”
I couldn’t blame him. I had no idea what he was going through and I couldn’t even pretend to grasp the pain he was in, and to have that big of a wound rip open again after two years, I felt sorry for Chase.
“Why didn’t you guys tell me this sooner?” I directed my question towards Kira and Rose who were playing with the food on their plates. My tone was defeated rather than harsh and I in no way meant to sound mad or aggressive, but for whatever reason, Kira didn’t take it well. She slammed her fork against the table and pushed her chair back, leaving the restaurant as fast as she could. Gabriella gave us an apologetic look and followed suit, hurrying to catch up with Kira.
Rose, looking sadder than I have ever seen this cheerful girl be, took a deep breath and turned to me.
“Aline was our best friend. Her loss was something we never got over and I don’t think we ever will. Everyone was concerned with her family, paying their respects to her parents and her boyfriend, but no one really thought how her death affected us. Especially Kira. Aline and Kira were friends since Kindergarten, they were inseparable to the point that I sometimes felt like a third wheel. When Kira lost her, she was devastated, she could barely talk or study or even eat. She finally started to be her old self again and honestly, I’m impressed with the way she handled herself when you showed up. She didn’t cry, she didn’t shut us out and most importantly she didn’t mistake you for her. She knew that Aline was gone and never coming back so when she told me we should never speak of her again I respected her wishes.”