That night, Lilith left for the Sierra’s party after I told her that I’d be fine on my own. Better even. I had to catch up on essays, theories and years of missed education. I truly was privileged to be here. And had the guts to complain about it.
With Lilith gone for the night, I had more than enough time to spread out and get down to business. I used YouTube to help explain things in the way the notebooks couldn’t. As far as I knew, I was staring at some foreign definitions that wouldn’t make sense even if they weren’t written in English.
After three hours of pushing my brain until it felt almost fried, I went to the bathroom and took a quick shower. Luckily, we didn’t have any classes tomorrow so I didn’t have to go to sleep early.
I stayed awake until two in the morning before I finally drifted off into a peaceful sleep. I slept so soundly that I hadn’t even heard Lilith come in.
The ringing of the alarm clock was what woke me up. It wasn’t mine, it was Lilith’s. It rang once. Twice. Many, many times. It rang until I sat up in annoyance, fully awake by then and realized that Lilith wasn’t there to turn it off. Where was she and why the hell would she leave her alarm clock turned on?
Like the day before, I felt no desire to get up but this time, I had a mission. And that mission would be to turn that wretched thing off. I got ready in silence and had some time to spare before breakfast. I looked at my abandoned bookshelf and felt bad because I was seriously slacking off on reading.
Sighing, I shook my head and went on my phone to text Lilith. Just before I hit send, she walked into the room, holding a cup holder with two cups of coffee in one hand and a brown paper bag in the other.
“Morning, roomie,” she said cheerily. “Guess who’s the best?” She asked and set down the brown paper bag along with coffee on my desk.
“You?” I asked innocently and curiously eyed the brown paper bag.
“Of course. I brought reinforcements because, as I understand, we’ve got a lot of work to do. Especially if we are to prepare you for the show.”
“Lilith-” I started to object but she wouldn’t have it.
“You said it yourself. You came here because you wanted a fresh start. You’ll never know what that means and who you really are unless you try new things. It’ll be good for you.”
I didn’t answer for I had no response to that. Instead, I picked up the bag and looked inside. The smell hit me before I had seen the two small chocolate croissants. Delicious.
“Oh, I also forgot to mention that the boys will be coming here with our school breakfast so you might want to eat the croissants before they do,” she said with a devilish grin. “I’m going to take a quick shower and then we can start.”
A second later, she disappeared into the bathroom and I was left alone. To pass time, I decided to go on my phone and scroll through social media. Just my luck, I stumbled upon a picture Diana had posted. The caption was this:
Addie and I bet a certain someone wishes to be in our position right now... too bad she’s not here ;)
I knew immediately this was about me. And just then in that moment, I had realized that we were never truly friends. I moved away without even bothering to give them a call and they never bothered to try to get in touch. I didn’t trust them the same way I trusted Lilith or Delilah. To them, I was expendable. To me, they were replaceable.
Wow. It was shocking to say it but it was the truth. After what I had learned recently, I realized I didn’t know them anymore. I spent years in their company pretending that we were best friends forever but it was so far from the truth.
A part of me had wondered if that was why I had missed Vanessa so much. Because I knew my friendship with her was real and honest and heartfelt.
All these confused feelings suddenly turned into anger.
I was mad because they lied to me and still had the decency to talk about me or just to post that caption. It pissed me off.
But as all of the pieces were starting to come together and I slowly made sense of who wasn’t worth my time anymore, I was reminded of what Kai had said about my brother. Perhaps I needed to hear him out.
I knew that he was a big reason why I left and nothing he said would change my mind. I wouldn’t come back to that school and those people. Yet I still wanted to bring piece into my life.
Let’s video chat tonight, I sent him in a text.
I turned off my phone after that because I was too nervous to see his reply. Instead, I opened the window and cleaned the room for a bit. The last of my things would arrive today and I would finally be officially moved in. It was strange to say that but I loved the sound of it. I was away on a wild new adventure and this time, I wasn’t reading about it. I was living it.
Lilith came back fifteen minutes later with her hair up in a wet ponytail. She wasn’t wearing any makeup apart from her smudged mascara from the day before. It suited her anyway - like every look did.
“Ready to start?” She asked and glanced at our study area that I had made on the floor. I put down a blanket with pillows and piles of books. We were located in front of the balcony door so we had plenty of natural light and a beautiful view.
“I am,” I said and with that, we dove right in.
It wasn’t until a while later that the boys came in. Riley, Ford and Skye were the first ones to enter, with Abbott following closely behind. Abbott had been carrying a massive tray with pancakes and all these wonderful things and I knew they were planning to stay for a while judging by the books the rest of the guys had in their hands.
They had been invited to join us, I realized, in studying. Lilith had formed a study group and I wasn’t the only one in desperate need of some help. I didn’t realize what a relief would be to me to know that.
They got quickly settled in, I brought another blanket and it wasn’t until we were all sitting there with our books in hand that another thing dawned on me.
I have never felt more at home in my life. It was in that moment that I knew I belonged with these people. The people who didn’t laugh at me for studying or loving to read. Their first thing on their mind when they saw me wasn’t to ridicule or mock. It was to smile and warmly welcome me into their group. I wondered if that’s what it was always meant to be like.
We were all helping each other study. I sometimes had a question about the exams I’d have to take to catch up on all the years - the finals. And if I failed them, I’d have to repeat the year and wouldn’t stay in the same class as Lilith and the rest of the group. With every question answered, I also helped them with Math and anything else I knew from back home.
It wasn’t until two hours later when we took a longer break that the conversation took a weird turn.
“So, did you two lovebirds have fun yesterday?” Abbott asked, his glance sliding from Lilith to Skye.
My gaze followed and I saw Lilith’s cheeks slowly turn red. It was the only indication on her cold, serious face that she was embarrassed.
“Do I even want to know?” I muttered to myself but not silently enough because Riley, who had been sitting on my right all this time, nudged me and smiled.
“The two of them hooked up after the party,” he filled me in, in a much quieter manner than I had spoken before.
I had missed something Lilith had said in the whole ordeal but it seemed to be firm enough for Abbott not to respond. She did look like she was about to murder him.
I made a mental note to ask her about Skye later. But for now, we had more work to do as Lilith needed to prep me to be her understudy.
It was around half seven in the evening when I had finally decided to turn on my phone. The guys just left to find a good movie, steal some snacks from the kitchen despite the cooks still being there and bring them back for a movie night.
I had just enough time to check my notifications and to see if Connor had sent me any messages.
I suppose it was weird to have my phone off all the time but I liked to think I was on a social media detox as well as a life detox. My phone truly was only a means of staying in touch.
I received a single text from Connor, who had been very eager to talk. I told him to go on Skype and several minutes later he was there. In person. My brother.
And yet, he looked so much unlike him. His hair was messy, he had a bit of a stubble and big bags under his eyes. Truth be told, he looked like he hadn’t showered in forever. I could only wonder what state his room was in since I was usually the one who had to do all the cleaning.
I allowed him to recap his version of events and I forced myself to be honest about my feelings. It was hard to articulate properly what had been going through my mind but I did my best to make him understand. I told him how I felt after I found out what they did to me. I told him that whatever trust we had before was gone, as he did hurt my feelings, but maybe with time, we could get that trust back.
“I’d like that,” Connor had said to me in response. There were still some tears in his eyes as he cried. It was the first time in years that I’d seen my brother cry. It reminded me of all of those times when we were little, after he had a nightmare. I would sneak into his bed and he would pull me closer, shielding me from the terror of the dark. We grew apart after so many years and I eventually forgot about it, but I missed the Connor that would bring me chocolates in bed every time I felt sick, because that was his version of soup. He didn’t know how to make one because we were too little. I missed the Connor who chose me over his friends every time his friends and I got into a fight. I missed Connor who told me he loved me.
I missed knowing that I was the little sister he’d always be proud of and love.
A tear escaped me and I wiped it before anything else happened. The door suddenly slammed closed and I saw Lilith come in from the balcony, where she had been taking some pictures.
“Hey, Astrid,” Lilith called me.
“Who’s that?” Connor asked. I held a finger in the air, telling him to wait a second.
“You’re wearing that?” I asked only now. I hadn’t been paying attention to when she changed her clothes but she was wearing a bold top and high waisted jeans. Needless to say, she looked fucking amazing.
“Too much?” She asked. “I want to give Skye something to think about after he leaves.”
“You do you,” I replied. If she felt good in it then that’s all it mattered.
She answered me with a smile and then spoke, “I’ll go check on the guys to see what’s the holdup.”
“Okay, see ya later,” I said and waved before she left the room.
“Who was that?” Connor asked. I turned over on the bed and took the laptop in my lap.
“My roommate, Lilith. When I first met her, I thought she was a psycho but she’s awesome.”
“Is she hot?” Ha! Of course he would ask that.
“Yes but she’s also taken.”
“And when has that ever stopped me?” Connor raised an eyebrow.
“It will if you don’t want me to murder you.” It was an exaggeration but we exaggerated when we were serious about something.
“Okay, okay. Off limits. I get it.”
“Yeah. Listen, I have to go get ready. We’re having a movie night-”
“We?” Connor lifted an eyebrow.
“My friends and I. Lilith, her brother Abbott, Riley, Ford and Skye,” I informed him with a smile.
“So you’re doing well for yourself, aren’t you?”
“I am,” I replied, still smiling.
“I’m happy for you. I think this is the happiest I’ve seen in you in a long, long time,” my brother told me and I knew what he said was sincere.
“Thanks, Connor. I appreciate it.”
He smiled back and then I knew our conversation was almost over.
“Kay, talk to you soon.” Connor said.
“Yeah, tell Mom and Dad I love them.”
“Will do, little sis.”
And that’s how my life was slowly piecing back together.