I link my arm with Melayna’s as she gets close to Faegan, Malachi, and me. The sadness on her face is like a beacon to my heart, making it ache for her, even though she hides it. I smile at her softly, my eyes asking her to come with me so we can talk.
“Uh…we’re going to the bathroom.” Melayna announces loudly, waiting for everyone to nod. “Why don’t you guys go on out to the car? Sel and I will be right there. In fact, Em, you can totally go ahead – we’ll just meet you at your house.”
“Oh, okay,” she says hesitantly, seemingly unsure. I reach out and give her a big hug, squeezing her and waiting impatiently as Melayna organises everyone. I turn and make eye contact with Faegan, pulling him off to the side of the room to talk to me with a wave of my hand. As he walks towards me he seems conscious of every movement of his body, making sure to keep distance from me. Hmm, I must ask Lay about this, I think curiously.
“Fae, why don’t you go with Em?”
“What?” He looks shocked, and his reluctance to leave me – at least that’s what I think it is – is so cute it makes my heart flutter.
“Well, it’s just that my dad’s car is kind of small and even four people can be a squeeze, so someone’s going to have to go in another car and, well, Lay and Mal look pretty attached.” We both glance at the couple and I grimace. “So…” I trail off.
“No, no, it’s okay. I don’t mind. As long as one of the three of us is with you it doesn’t matter.” My stomach drops at his comment and I stare at his back as he walks over to Dudon and pats him on the back, smiling. The fact that one of the guys had to be with us doesn’t even register in my mind as my gaze is fixated on his retreating back.
“Oh, okay then.” I whisper, to myself or to him I’m not sure, before shaking my head and clearing myself from the daze I’d entered. I walk over to Melayna and grab her arm, dragging her into the bathroom before anyone else can delay us.
The bathroom is unlike any other bathroom I’ve ever been in – it’s pristine and would be sparkling white if not for the blue bulbs lighting up the room. It’s so that you can’t inject any drugs into your veins, some long-forgotten piece of information pops into my head and I clear the thought, focusing instead on Melayna.
“So, what’s up?” My sister looks at me curiously, and I just study her for a moment. Even in the blue light she’s gorgeous. Her hair shines and her eyes twinkle, drawing out her pale complexion and her shapely face. Her mask is good, but not good enough. It’s an Emily-level mask, but I know for a fact that she’s never created a Selena-level mask, and that she never will. There’s nothing you can hide from your one-and-only, and she is mine.
“You tell me,” I say, unfolding my arms and letting them settle by my side in an unthreatening manner. I see her mask crumble, her face contorting in pain as a single tear leaks from her eye. I stay steady, knowing she won’t tell me anything if I rush into a hug and comforting her – she’s always been iffy about physical contact.
“I don’t know what happened, I don’t know how she could do this.” Melayna sinks to the floor with her back against the door and I join her, thankful for the shining tiles and apparently lack of grime and germs. “After all he’s done to us, how could she take him back? I just…I don’t get it.” She hiccups through the sob and I watch her stomach lift violently with heaving sobs. I rest my hand lightly on her knee, my own throat tightening and my heart clenching.
“Why would he cheat? If you don’t love someone divorce them, don’t cheat on them! And then how could you allow that person back into your life? That’s like suicide. You know you’ll get hurt!”
“Well, sweetie, the heart is irrational.” I butt in, unable to stand her doubting our mother.
“I know, and I know this isn’t her fault. I could even forgive her for allowing him back, eventually, if she didn’t choose him over me. I mean, you saw when he left. That should be signal enough but, oh god, Sel, when we walked in…” She buries her head in her hands and I frown at her in confusion.
“What do you mean?” I ask, slowly patting her hair and waiting for her to explain as my heart wrenches for her.
“We walked in, and we were barely home for ten seconds before she was hiding him from me. And when I caught her with him, she was defending him like there was nothing wrong. Why doesn’t she tell my scar he’s a nice person, huh? Maybe she’d think twice then.” Her voice is no longer laced with sadness, but rather anger. Her tone barely even registers as I try to understand what she just said.
“Lay, what scar?”
She’s suddenly quiet – no ragged breaths, heaving sobs, seething angry breaths, or explanation.
“Melayna Gregory, you better answer me this instant.”
Melayna is still quiet, and I’m about to ask again when she starts talking softly.
“It happened, you know, when I was seven. He got – he got so mad when we tried to kick him out and he was…” she gulps in a breath and I almost stop her from explaining right then and there as her pain leaks into my veins, more effective than any drug in changing my emotions. “…he was drinking. He brought this bottle with him and…” she sucks in a breath and I do too, waiting for the next statement. “…he couldn’t control it.” She takes a shaky breath and I see her bottom lip quiver. “He finished he bottle there and then smashed it on the table, holding the bottle by the neck and he…he…he attempted to smash it over my head.”
I gasp and grip Melayna’s shoulders but she pushes me off and stands, pacing to the other end of the bathroom before sinking down again opposite me. I stare at her and she stares back, the memories filling her mind and overtaking her eyes, letting them gloss over as past pain returns.
“He was so drunk he missed, thankfully, but instead hit my shoulder.” She lightly traces a line down her left shoulder and I sit up to try and see, but her shirt covers her shoulder. “I’ll never forget that bottle. It was green, and tall and thin. The jagged edge looked so enticing at first, glistening in the light and making patterns on the wall.” Her tone is almost reverent and I start my slow butt-shuffle towards her. “It looked more like art than a weapon, but then bam!” She shudders and I watch as her whole body stops for a moment. Stops moving, stuck in a crouched position, her eyes wide with fear.
“I’ll also never forget what that bottle looked like after. Blood stained the tip and it was no longer art. Instead, it was a symbol. A symbol of the destruction he would wreck on my life if given the change, a chance I would never give him. A chance my mother has now given him.” She trails off and she ends in a whisper just as I reach her and envelop her in a hug. She leans on me and I tentatively pull her shirt down, gasping as I see the scar.
“Yeah, it looks bad.” Lay grimaces but I just stare. There, right in the middle of her left shoulder, is a scarred line tinged with a pale green and red pigment. It is raised slightly out of her shoulder, only noticeable it you are looking for it. I gingerly reach out and touch it, feeling the smooth surface which defies the terrible weapon that caused it.
“Why?” I croak out, unable to formulate a better question.
“Why is the glass still there?” Melayna laughs bitterly and my gaze is drawn to her face. “Because we couldn’t afford to go to a doctor, that’s why. He took all our money and we didn’t have any insurance. Going to the hospital was out of the question, so we put a Band-Aid on it.” I’m sure my face is looking horrified and I’m even surer of that when she lets out a real laugh.
“Now that I think about it, it wasn’t sensible and could’ve gotten infected, but at that time it seemed totally reasonable.” She shrugs and I shake my head at her, still staring at the line.
“But doesn’t the body reject foreign objects and like…push them out of your body?” My voice is shaky as I imagine a chunk of glass pushing itself out of her shoulder.
“I did some research. Apparently glass is inert, so the body just heals over it unless it has some lead or something in it. Most people get an infection and then the body pushes it out, but I guess I was one of the lucky ones who just…healed over it.”
“Lay, it’s okay.” I gingerly pull her sleeve back up over the scar, holding her hand and looking into her eyes as tears form. “Lay, it’s okay to have scars. You know, sometimes we want scars. We want scars not to prove that we’re breakable but to prove that we can feel and we can move on. We want scars not as a mark of bravery, but as a reminder of what we’ve come through. A scar is not a sign of weakness or a sign of courage, but rather it’s an individual symbol of hope and resilience. You should treasure it.”
She nods and I gather her up in a hug. “Alright, let’s get out of here. What say you?”
“Yes say I.” Melayna replies as she grins at me and wipes the last tears from her cheeks, linking our arms and walking out the room. We’re just at the door when I stop and pull her back.
“Lay, I…why didn’t you tell me?” I feel my eyes fill with tears as I stare at my very best friend, my sister, my other half. She looks at me with a deer-in-the-headlights expression and grimaces. Her lips thin and I fold my arms across my chest as she sighs in exasperation.
“I…I don’t know, Sel. I was…so ashamed.” She closes her eyes as if to regain her composure and I almost go and wrap her up in my arms again, but I refrain, needing to know, needing her to reassure me that it wasn’t because of me, or because she doubted me and my loyalty to her, but that it was for some other reason.
“Why? You know you can always tell me anything.” I reassure her, letting my face drop and display the hurt expression I was trying unsuccessfully to hide. My mask isn’t Melayna-level, and it will never be.
“I know that, Sel. It wasn’t-it wasn’t because of you. I never doubted you or your loyalty to me, or anything. I – I almost told you a million times.” Melayna trails off, looking guiltily at her feet.
“What stopped you?” I whisper, stepping closer to hear her voice.
“Mum.” She says softly, almost so softly that I don’t hear her.
“What? How?” The confusion is clear in my voice and her shoulders hunch and her whole body seems to shrink.
“She – she was so ashamed that she couldn’t protect me. Protect us. She – she didn’t want anyone to know that he was back, but I asked her if I could tell you. She said no and I agreed. I was only seen at the time and I had faith in her – I have faith in her, most of the time – and I believed that she knew what was right,” Melayna says, her voice getting slightly stronger, her spine getting slowly straighter. My whole body tightens as I consider the fact that the woman I’ve considered my mum since I was about seven years old would hide such a thing from me. I can’t help but wonder if Dad knows, or if she hid it from him as well.
“Does…does Dad know?” My voice breaks, imagining the pain he would feel if he knew. I can’t imagine he would allow Axel in the house if he knew, can’t imagine he would be okay with him being there at all. My whole body shudders and fills with disgust for the man.
“I don’t know. I never asked, and Mum never told me if she did.” Her voice is soft, unsure.
“But, wait…you did tell me.” Confusion and warmth brightens my tone. “I remember you telling me something about him, that you had seen him…I remember that he came back but nothing else.”
“Yeah, I did. I told you a few months after we moved in and then told her I told you. I told her that I needed to tell you and that you wouldn’t tell anyone. I told her it was my choice, and she told me that I was growing up.” A small smile appears on her face and it brings out my own. “But you’re the only one that knows. And about this too.” She gestures to her shoulder and I finally give into the urge that I’ve had all afternoon and grab her into a hug.
“Naww, Mel. You know you can count on me to keep a secret. Always.” I squeeze the life out of her and hear her choke out a laugh into my hair.
“Naww, Lena. I know, and you too. Always.” She squeezes me back and I grimace at her calling me Lena.
“You know, I remember the first time you called me Lena.” I say conversationally as I hook her arm in mine and we walk out of the bathroom. Melayna smiles at my comment and I continue with the memory. “It was about a week after you moved in, and we were eating at break time at school, and as the bell went you turned me to you and said, ‘see, Lena. I told you we’d be friends,’ before smiling at me and walking off into our classroom.” I laugh as I remember watching her back walk away. “I was so stunned that you were right, and that you were brave enough to give me a nickname, that I was a mute for the rest of the day.”
Melayna guffaws and smiles at me.
“I remember that! I seem to make you a mute quite a bit,” Melayna says almost proudly, and I think about that before concurring.
“You’re the only one, though.” I grumble and she laughs before squeezing my arm. “And I got you back by calling you Mel for the whole next week!” My voice holds mischief as I bash into her lightly.
“That you did!” Her voice is smiling, just like her face.
Everything is quiet for a few seconds.
“Thanks for talking to me,” Melayna says just as we reach the end of the corridor. She grabs me in a hug and I squeeze her back as my throat clogs once again, hoping that she knows how much she means to me, something I could never portray with words.
I smile as I see Melayna and Selena walk around the corner, unable to help the grin that breaks out on my face. My grin widens, if that’s even possible, as Melayna leaves Selena’s side and comes to my side, gripping my arm and looking up at me.
“Hey.” I smile down at her, and when she returns my smile my bones turn to jelly and I have to refrain myself from kissing her then and there. I want to do this properly, I tell myself. I’ll take her on a date and get to know her before breaking out in a kiss. Soul mate or not, connection of not, we’re still just two people.
You know I don’t mind, Melayna’s voice slips into my mind and my gaze jumps to hers in surprise as she smiles sultrily at me. I didn’t even know she was listening to my thoughts.
Maybe not, but I still want to wait. I want to take you on a date and wait for the perfect moment. The moment that feels right, that is void of any distractions other than you and me, and when we can totally be one. I send the thought to her mind instead of waiting for her to read me, while at the same time saying, “So, ladies, shall we leave?”
“Sure.” She says, while thinking to me, you’re kinda perfect, aren’t you?
“Great.” My mouth says, but I know she hears, no, that’s you
“Hey, where’s Dad?” Selena asks, walking back to Melayna’s side and wrapping her arm around Melayna.
“He went to get the car. He said he’d meet us around the corner, and that you would know where that is.” I pull my eyes away from Melayna and look up to meet Selena’s eyes, but she’s looking at Melayna and nodding, the two girls walking towards the door ahead of me.
“Selena, where were you and your friends this past month?” A flash of light accompanies the question. Or should I say questions, because every single reporter yelled a question at once.
“Is it true that you ran away with your boyfriends?”
“Did someone bribe the police into letting your friends out of jail?”
“Were you kidnapped?”
“Were you helping an underground organisation help illegal immigrants gain access to the country?”
We are showered with the questions and flashes of light, causing Melayna to reach out and grip my hand tightly as we are overcome. She cringes into my side as if she can bury herself inside my body and my arm instinctively comes around her, holding her securely. I feel the crushing weight of Selena’s hand in Melayna’s through the link and only wish I could comfort her; comfort them both.
“Alright everyone! Back up, nothing to see here!” The familiar voice registers in my mind but I shake my head in confusion – he said he wasn’t going to be here. Faegan stands in the middle of the crowd, pushing them to the side as he makes a path towards us with a cheeky grin plastered across his face. A grin that isn’t directed at me.
I turn and follow his gaze, taking in pinking cheeks and a gleam in the eyes. Selena releases her grip on Melayna’s hand as she takes what appears to be a subconscious step forward. Melayna’s own eyes fill with concern, but I remain silent as we follow Selena.
With Faegan splitting the crowd like Moses and the Red Sea, we make our way around the corner and out of view quickly.
“Fae! You were supposed to be going with Emily!” Selena turns to face him and slugs him on the shoulder, causing me to bite my lip to stop the laughter bubbling up in my throat. A quick glance down to Melayna by my side tells me that she’s not sharing the hilarity, and instead her look of concern has only grown. I send my confusion through our link, waiting for her to explain.
You guys aren’t…well, weren’t…supposed to touch us because of the connection, and I can tell that there’s something between Fae and Sel. I don’t want Sel hurt because he won’t touch her, or because he does and the connection is formed but he doesn’t reciprocate beyond it. I just don’t want everything getting awkward and complicated.
Her logic is sound, and I feel two inches tall when I realise that my own logic seems to have dissipated since meeting Melayna.
Oh, yeah. You’re right. My tone is soft in her mind and I release her hand, fisting my hands tight. The half-moons of my nails pierce the skin of my palm and I focus all of my attention on that sensation.
Hey, no, don’t do that. You haven’t lost your logic. You’re just-
Just what? I turn my body towards her, digging my fingers into my palms even more.
Just not as involved in the situation as I am. Her tone is indignant as she turns to look at me, defiance in her gaze. Faegan and Selena fade into the background as they have their own playful argument mere steps away from us.
Less involved? Less involved?! I know I sound indignant, my volume rising in her eyes as she winces a little, but I’m too far gone to care. Oh yes, the girl who found out about this entire situation mere hours ago is more involved than the one who has been intertwined in these things his entire life. Yes, that makes more sense. My voice is a challenge, one I can tell she doesn’t want to meet, but that I’m going to make her do no matter what.
You know that’s not what I meant, Malachi. The use of my full name hits me like a truck coming from her, and I visibly flinch. You’ve implied to me multiple times that you’re usually not personally invested or involved in these situations – having your own emotional stakes in something changes your perspective and if you’re not used to juggling yourself and everyone else then I know that’s difficult. Don’t make it out like I’m trying to know more – I’m just trying to explain.
There is ringing silence in my head as her words settle in, rendering me incapable of replying. Shit, what am I doing?
I was just trying to make you feel better, Malachi. Her voice is a mere whisper in my mind, and then she dead bolts her mind shut and turns away from me. Before I can even make a sound or movement, she’s grabbing Selena and walking towards a car that quickly takes off, leaving Faegan and I in its wake.
As we climb into the car and drive off I stared down at my hand in confusion. There are tingles climbing up my arm that feel almost like pleasant pins and needles. Focusing on the feeling, I can sense that it stops abruptly in my elbow and that it’s only in one hand. The hand I hit Faegan with. I shake my head, clearing my mind of thoughts and turn to Melayna who has tears in her eyes. How could I be such a bad sister that I didn’t notice this the whole ride to Emily’s house?
I look up and blink in surprise as I realise that we aren’t at Emily’s house, but rather back home. I look to the front seat and catch my Dad’s eye, seeing his gaze soften as he looks at Melayna. Jealousy flares in my stomach like a roaring flame, but I quickly extinguish it and smile thankfully at him, leading Melayna to my room. I hear Dad’s booming voice in the kitchen as he relays to Emily that we wont be coming, and leave my phone off downstairs so that we wont be interrupted.
“Oh, honey!” I say, throwing my arms around her neck and pulling her to me as she sobs into my shoulder.
“I’m – I’m sorry. It’s just…I’m sorry,” she chokes out through her sobs and I shush her, patting her hair and dragging her to sit on my bed. Normally it’s her doing this for me, and being able to comfort her fills me with warmth. She immediately slumps as she hits the mattress, pulling us both down until we’re lying horizontally. We end up in a fit of giggles, drowning in her sobs and laughing our hearts out.
“Better?” I ask, rubbing her back in soothing circles as our laughter dies down. Once she nods, I contemplate how to pose the question I want to ask, eventually giving up and just blurting it out. “Why’re you upset?”
Melayna is silent for so long that I’m about to repeat myself when she replies. “I fought with Mal.”
“Oh.” I’m stumped, not used to dealing with boy problems for someone else. Being on the other end of these conversations is usually easier. “When?”
Melayna bites her lip, pulling it between her teeth and sucking on it in hesitancy. “Just now, before we left.”
“Oh.” I rack my brain, trying to remember a fight but drawing a blank. “About what?”
“You.” The answer is so soft that I almost don’t hear it. That, and it’s so unexpected that I can’t believe it.
“Me?” I’m stunned; my eyes feel wide and I’m pretty sure my mouth is just hanging open in shock. “What about me?” I look down at my arm suddenly as the tingles intensify, then glance up sharply in shock as Melayna curses loudly.
“Damn it!” She gets up and walks to the window, pushing it wide open and leaning out into the back yard. “Can’t you leave well enough alone? Or have you not done enough damage?” Her voice carries venom that I’ve never heard from her before. She slams the window shut before I can hear a reply and stalks to the bed.
I get up and walk to the window, feeling my arm’s tingling intensify to slightly painful levels as I peer into the empty yard. “Lay?” My voice holds all of my concern, fear, and confusion. “What’s going on?” She sighs and gestures to the bed beside her. I sit next to her and she turns to me.
“I hope you’re ready. This is a long story.”