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Chapter 5

This is bloody ridiculous, I thought as I stood in front of a bathroom mirror, trying to get better access to my bare back.

I didn’t know exactly when and how, but it seemed I got myself a tattoo over the night. And just my luck that it couldn’t have been a tiny, barely visible one.

Nuh-uh, nope, no. It was a freaking spinal cord tattoo that started at the cervical and finished only around the lumbar region of my lower back. How did I even get it in the first place, I had no clue. I didn’t get drunk for that matter. And my parents wouldn’t have pranked me like that. Mum was strictly against inks and I didn’t like them on my body either.

This was beyond ridiculous.

Even more disconcerting about the whole situation was the fact that the ink depicted moon phases: from New Moon, through Full Moon, and back to New Moon again. And though it was actually quite nice to look at (if I really thought about it, which I tried hard not to) and had all those intricate details... Well, never in my entire life did I want a freaking ink! I had been attempting to scrub it off my back with a wet towel and soap for twenty minutes now. And it wasn’t coming off! Gosh, if my mum ever found out, she would kill me.

I was so dead.

Unfortunately, the tattoo was not the only upsetting thing about today’s nightmare of the morning. Emmie went AWOL. No texts or phone calls since yesterday. I couldn’t really check how she was after the situation on the pitch. I was worried that her parents had enforced a phone ban on her for getting into the fight at school. And I desperately needed to talk to her right now.

“Honey, are you alright there?” Mum’s sudden rasp on the bathroom door had me spooked.

I jumped, knocking some of the make-up stuff over. It fell to the floor with a rattle. Shit.

“Um, I’m fine!” I shouted while franticly picking everything up and putting it all back on the sink.

“Breakfast is on the table! And dad has to leave in ten minutes! Chop-chop, please, or you’ll both be late!” She said, her voice muffled by the door.

“Comming!” I yelled back, grabbed my bra as well as an light blue turtleneck top, and started to dress up. Which, by the way, was torture when you suffered from a shoulder injury. Cursing under my breath, I finally got the top over my head, quickly put light make-up on, and headed downstairs.

“Here’s your plate, honey,” Mum said as a way of greeting, passing me china topped with a mountain of her signature pancakes.

“Thanks,” I mumbled, sitting down.

Dad glanced at me from behind a newspaper. He had his reading glasses on, which made him look rather respectful. Dad and I were a lot alike, as I mostly took after him. The only difference was our eyes - his stormy-blue one were currently scrutinising me carefully.

“How is your shoulder this morning?” He asked, already in a doctor-patient mode.

“Not so bad, actually,” I answered, covering the pancakes in the thick layer of syrup. I took a bite of the fluffy goodness in front of me and moaned. It was heaven.

Mum, noticing the look on my face, smiled.

“Take paracetamol if you feel any more pain during the day.” Dad advised. “And I want you to come after school to the clinic for a check-up.”

“Okay” I confirmed while munching on the food.

Dad harrumphed, content with my answer, and went back to reading.

We left several minutes later.

Emmie was avoiding me.

I hadn’t seen her since morning and, when I went to talk to her after one of the history classes we shared, Keeley Anderson yanked her by the arm and pulled her away before I had a chance to open my mouth.

She also wouldn’t sit with me during lunch. Instead, she was squeezed between Dwight and Bennett, shoving her food around the plate without much appetite. She seemed angry but otherwise rather accepting about the whole situation.

I didn’t understand it. Emmie wasn’t meek or submissive, and yet, she just let Bennett (because it was definitely his fault) walk all over her. I couldn’t even begin to phantom why.

I was considering for a while whether to confront her during the lunch break but, in the end, decided against it. I wasn’t brave enough to cause drama in front of the entire school population, and something told me that my outburst wouldn’t change much.

So, I went on moping and being depressed for the rest of the day. That is, until, all of a sudden, I was dragged into a janitor’s closet.

I squeaked in surprise, but my mouth was immediately covered by somebody’s soft, warm hand. I struggled to get free when a very familiar voice whisper-yelled in my ear:

“Shhh... They’ll hear you!”

“Jeez, Emmie, you’re going to give me a heart attack...!” I shouted back in a low voice, turning around. I regarded her with a worried look. She looked resigned. “Are you ok? I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday!”

Emmie sighed.

“Yeah... Mum has taken my phone, and I’ve been banned from seeing you for a while. My parents decided that you are a ‘bad influence’.” She made quotation marks with her fingers, disgruntled. “And Zach obviously agreed. Soo, I won’t be hanging around much, at least until the things die down. I’m sorry... I wish it was different, but I can’t really go against the... erm... against their wish. If I weren’t... God!, even now it is a struggle... ” She rambled, clearly upset, running a hand through her tangled, raven black hair. “Anyway, I wish I could explain everything more clearly, but I want you to know that I’m not okay with how things are, and I’m sorry that it came to this, and it has nothing to do with you. I love you, you’re my friend. Please bear with me and my stupid family until I manage to get them around. Please, Gem-Gem...” She begged hastily.

I didn’t know what to think or feel. I knew Emmie’s family was weird, but not like that. How could her parents forbid her from seeing me when I hadn’t done anything wrong?

I was perplexed.

“Are you a part of a sect?” That was the only logical conclusion my mind came up with after hearing her ramble. I didn’t hide concern from my voice. “Is your family the mob? Do you need out? You know you can always count on me. If you need help, I can...”

“I know, I’m not in either. Though, sometimes I wish I was.” Emmie interrupted me, sighing. “My parents are just... conservative, for the lack of a better word... You know how it is... ” She shrugged, trying to play it down. I knew shit but made no comment about it. “But they are not shady. In fact, they are usually quite normal, sometimes just simply unreasonable... ”

It still smelt fishy to me, but I didn’t want to push Emmie further. I had a feeling, she told me as much as she could without breaching whatever her family thought she would breach. So I decided to let it go. Just as I was about to change the subject, the doors flew open, and in came Bennett with a veeery pissed-off look on his face. Though his rage didn’t stop my pathetic heart from skipping a beat a the sight of him.

It was official, I had lost my mind.

“Emmie... get out, now.” He ordered, furious, his eyes glistening slightly. My friend flinched but otherwise didn’t move an inch.

“Please, Zach,” She whimpered, looking so desperately at her cousin it was beyond absurd. Since when did she need his permission to do anything? “She doesn’t understand. I had to...”

“I said, out!” Bennett turned his unyielding gaze at his cousin, and she cowered slightly.

“Emmie...” I started, worried, but she just shook her head and hastily left the closet under Bennett’s hard stare. Which, after a second, focused on me.

I sucked the air quietly, feeling the full force of the cyan blue eyes. They bore into me, literally piercing my soul and taking my breath away. What the hell was wrong with me?

“What in the stay the fuck away from Emmie did you not understand?” Bennett asked, gritting his teeth, successfully pulling me out of my stupor. “Are you that daft, Matthews? Emmie was in enough trouble as it was. You’ve just made it ten times worse.”

I felt my temper rising.

“First off, it was Emmie who approached me, and, secondly... Do you know how ridiculous it is that she’s banned from seeing me just because she stood up for me, her friend, after Keeley almost knocked me out? Do you even hear yourself? Are you nuts?”

Bennett’s eyes flashed icy blue, startling me. This time, it was definitely not my imagination. They really changed colour, just like Keeley’s when she got angry. I took a step away from him, suddenly uneasy.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about Matthews.” He spat. “I warn you, stay away. Otherwise, sooner or later, you’ll regret it,” With that, Bennett turned around and took off, shutting the door with so much force that it almost fell off its hinges.

Just what kind of freaks were Bennett and his crew?

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