Watered Down

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Chapter Eighteen

I counted the seconds on my way to keep up with how much time I had.

After two minutes I finally rounded on the house and my heart felt so heavy.

Tally was sitting on the little mat in front of the door, her bruised little knees pulled up under her chin and her shoulders shaking slightly. Her little eyes looked up to me and she covered her face. “Serena?” She whispered. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you.” I told her, a little out of breath from the run.

“You know where I live?”

“Of course I know where my best friend lives.” I smiled at her, pulling my dress up a little so that I could squat down and sit beside her. She sniffled, wiping her face dry, and trying to smile at me. “What’s the matter, Tal?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Nothing.”

“It’s not nothing.” I said. The warm breeze blew through, waving her hair into her face and I reached over to push it behind her ears. “You can tell me.” I insisted, and she turned to look me in the eyes.

“You’re so pretty.” She sighed.

I furrowed my brows at her. “Tally, so are you.” I told her. “You’re a beautiful little girl.” It was true too.

Her eyes welled up with tears again and I put my arm around her shoulder, pulling her over to lean into me. She hugged to me tightly. “But nobody likes me.” She whispered sadly. “I bet people like you.”

I shook my head. “People don’t always like me either, Tally, but you can’t let that make you so sad.” I told her.

“People do like you.” She insisted. “You have pretty friends, and my brother likes you too.” She said. “I don’t have any friends, and everyone is mean to me.” She sighed. “Even my teachers.”

I immediately felt angry. How dare an adult be mean to this sweet little girl? “Why do you think they are mean to you?”

I looked down at her and she was pursing her thin lips and looked up at me with a serious face. “They say it’s because I’m a hursed loser.”

I was confused. “Hursed?” I repeated.

She shrugged. “Or cursed or something.” She said. “I don’t know what it means, but it must be bad to make everyone hate me.”

I scooped her up and held her in my lap. “Tally, you look at me right now.” I said firmly, and she turned her head up slowly to me. “You are not cursed, and people do not hate you.” I told her. “Anyone who is mean to you, they are the ones who are losers because you are the cutest, sweetest, smartest little girl and they are missing out on having a friend like you.” I said. “You are my best friend and you are perfect just the way that you are, so don’t you dare let anyone make you feel bad. Don’t let those kids or teachers make you cry, you just keep being the strong little girl you are.”

She rubbed her eyes again and smiled up at me. “I love you.” She whispered, hugging up to my chest.

Tears sprung to my eyes and I smiled so hard as I hugged her tightly to me. “I love you too, Tal.”

“Mean it?” She asked.

“Totally.” I laughed and she giggled. “What day is it?” I asked her and she stood up slowly, stretching her arms out over her head.

“Thursday.”

I stood too, brushing the back of my dress off. “A school night?” I said. “Better get you to bed little miss.” I smiled. “Want me to help you pick out what to wear before you go to bed?”

She grinned from ear to ear. “Will you?”

I took her hand in mine and I gently opened the front door to the little house, careful because I didn’t want to wake up Theon. I let Tally lead me through the dark house to her tiny room.

She flipped on the light, showing her bright blue walls with gorgeous paintings of waterlilies, frogs, and fish covering one whole side of the room. On the ceiling she had hot pink stars that I assume probably glow in the dark. The bed was little, but it had a wooden headboard that was carved to look like a princess tower and a little sheer pink canopy hung over the front part of her bed from the ceiling. There was an orange fuzzy rug in the middle of the room, and she had a toy box at the foot of her bed that was overflowing with toys.

“Tally, your room is amazing.” I whispered. “I wish I had had this room when I was little.”

She smiled. “Theon made me this.” She said touching her head board, smiling proudly.

“Really?” I asked, impressed by the handiwork.

She nodded, then pointed to the other side of the room at the wall. “He did that too.” She said. I walked over to it, running my hand over the expert brush strokes and admiring the detail that was put into it all. “He likes to paint.” She said around a yawn.

I nodded to her. “I see.” I smiled. “Let’s get your clothes laid out and you into bed, missy.”

She giggled lightly as she climbed into her little bed and watched me go through her closet. She didn’t have a ton of options, but I picked out a simple grey t-shirt dress and her yellow high top converse for her, and laid them out on her little white dresser.

I flipped off the lights, and like I thought, the little stars on the ceiling were all a glow. I went to her, fluffing her pillow like I remember my mom doing for me when I was little, then pulled the covers up over her. She smiled up at me. “Thank you for being so nice to me.” She whispered sleepily.

“Thank you for being my friend.” I told her, leaning forward to kiss her on the forehead.

I stood up, creeping out of the room as she easily gave into her tiredness, and I pulled the door to. I stood in the dark hallway, the only light coming from my glowing amulet. I walked across the narrow hall, putting my hand on the door I assume to be Theon’s and I thought to myself that I probably have just under half an hour left to fix things with him, or at the very least, explain myself, and ask about why Alana was watching Tally.

I turned the knob and the door opened with a creak.

This room was small too, just a fraction bigger than Tally’s, but it almost seemed smaller since the bed was bigger, a queen size, taking up the majority of the space the room had to offer.

Theon was laying out on the bed, a dark colored sheet tangled around him and he was breathing heavily.

I tried hard not to notice that he was wearing nothing but his underwear, but with a toned body like his it was a little hard to ignore.

“Theon.” I whispered, standing beside the bed. He moved a little, but he didn’t wake. I reached out, tapping his shoulder lightly, and he jumped, nearly giving me a heart attack as he grabbed my arm and yanked me onto the bed roughly. He rolled toward me, pinning my left shoulder down with his right elbow, and raising his other hand up to strike before he finally realized it was me.

“What the hell, Serena?” He whisper yelled, looking anxiously towards the door.

His practically naked body was still pinning me to the bed so I was incapable of speech. I just stared up at him, my heart racing, obvious in the way my amulet pulsed in the darkness like a strobe light. He looked down on me for a second, a strange look in his eyes, before he rolled off of me, standing beside the bed now.

“I didn’t mean to scare you.” I whispered.

I could see his eye roll even in the limited light coming from his tiny TV on top of his chest of drawers in the corner. “You didn’t scare me.” He snapped. “But I could have killed you.” He said angrily, and I knew he was right. The display of power he just showed meant I was definitely never sneaking up on him again.

I sat up slowly, still trying to get my bearings and sighed, sitting on the edge of his bed. “Theon, I needed to talk to you.”

“There isn’t anything to talk about, Serena.” He said, crossing his arms over his bare chest, then he looked down and turned to go to the pile of clothes by the door and he pulled on a pair of sweat pants before coming back to stand in front of me by the bed. “I’m fine.”

“I’m not.” I whispered.

He was avoiding my eyes again, looking passed me instead. “You don’t need to feel bad.” He said. “I know you have a boyfriend, it’s cool. It’s not like I think of you like that, so I don’t know what you’re making such a big deal about it for.”

I stood up, my head swimming, wondering if he was telling the truth or if he was putting up a front. “Look at me.” I whispered to him, standing less than a foot from him.

He hesitated, but he licked his lips then looked down at me hard. “Why?”

I was searching his eyes with mine, not sure what I was looking for or hoping to find. “I want you to look at me and promise you aren’t upset with me about what I said to Alana.” I told him. “I was just angry, and I didn’t mean for what I said to come out so harshly.”

He huffed, rolling his eyes again, then he looked pointedly at me. “I’m not mad at you.”

“Do you promise?”

“Yes.”

I sighed, staring up into his eyes. “Ok, because it kind of seemed like it had hurt your feelings.”

“Are you that full of yourself that you think every guy must be in love with you if he’s nice to you?” He snapped, and as much as it stung, I knew from how defensive he was being now, that he was hiding his hurt, even though he doesn’t want to admit it.

“Don’t do that.” I said firmly. “Don’t be an ass to me just because you’re upset.”

“I’m not upset!” He whisper yelled. “Maybe you’re the one who is upset.”

“Yeah.” I said, crossing my arms. “I am.” I snapped. “I’m upset because I feel bad for what I said, especially since it wasn’t even true, and I only said it because Alana and the girls have been giving me a hard time, and then I come here to try to apologize to you, and you’re too busy being a jerk to be nice and realize that I…” I dropped my sentence, afraid of what I was about to say.

“What are you saying?” He asked looking down at me seriously.

I dropped my arms down to my sides and shrugged. “Nothing.” I said quickly. “I’m just sorry for what I said earlier, Theon.” I whispered. “I really am, and I just wanted to make sure you weren’t going to be mad at me.” I told him. “Your friendship means a lot to me.”

I couldn’t quite read his expression, but it seemed softer now than it had been. He was less standoffish. “Ok.” He said. “I’m not mad.” He told me, almost smiling. “Is that the only reason you broke into my house in the middle of the night?”

I rolled my eyes at him and smacked his shoulder with the back of my hand. “I did not break in.” I started to laugh, but then I remembered the last part of my mission here.

He must have noticed the change in my expression. “What’s wrong?” He asked, reaching up to pull the little chain on the ceiling fan to turn on the light.

I chewed my lip. “I snuck down to Alana’s cave when I was looking for you, and I saw her…I saw her watching Tally in the orb.” I admitted, expecting him to react, but he didn’t. “You know that she does that?” I asked him and he nodded. “Why?”

“You know I can’t say.” He whispered, shaking his messy head at me.

I sighed. “Theon, I saw Tally was crying, so I came here and she talked to me.”

He brought his brows together and went for the door. “Tally is upset?” He asked, stomping over that way, but I grabbed his hand, pulling him back.

“No,” I told him. “She was upset, but I came and we talked and then I put her to bed.” I explained. “She’s fine now.”

He looked down at our hands that were still clinging to each other and we both cleared our throats at the same time, dropping our hands back to our sides. “Why, um,” Theon stuttered. “Why was she upset?” He asked, running one hand through his unruly hair.

I frowned, checking my amulet again, guessing I’m probably dangerously close to only ten minutes max left. “That is something I wanted to talk to you about.” I told him. “Tally told me…” I wasn’t sure what to tell him, so I just blurted it all out quickly. “She said her classmates and teachers all pick on her and she thinks they all hate her, and the weird thing was, she said they don’t like her because she is a loser, and…cursed.”

Theon took in a long angry breath, shaking his head and balling his fists. “She told you they called her cursed?” He asked angrily.

I nodded my head. “Yes, but I told her it wasn’t true.” I told him, hoping he’d feel better that I had been able to calm her down. “But, Theon?” I asked. “Why would someone call her cursed?” I asked him quietly.

He looked like he wanted to punch something so bad, but instead, he sighed heavily, shaking his fingers out of their tight grip. “Because she is.” He whispered to me painfully. “We both are.”

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