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The hot water felt heavenly as it soothed the irritated skin where the stitches had been. They had been removed just yesterday and the skin still felt tender and the scab itched, despite its rapid healing. In a week or two the cuts would be nothing but silvery scars, even if the bruises remained for longer.
With a sigh I reached out to shut off the taps, stepping out of the shower and draping a towel around my waist as I went to look in the mirror. My hair dripped water into my eyes as I wiped a part of the mirror to see my reflection through the steam. The swelling had subsided almost completely which I was immensely thankful for and the redness in my eye had diminished to a few angry blood vessels but was otherwise healed if I didn't mind looking a little high. The bruising was still quite awful and I suspected that I would be dealing with that for quite a while.
After staring for a moment I decided that I needed to get a move on if I wanted to make it to school on time, it was after all my first day back since the accident. I brushed my teeth, careful of the abused muscles on the left side of my face and left the room to get dressed.
I found Alistair sprawled out on my bed, his dark skin standing out against my cream sheets as he rushed to get at least some of his homework done. I had no doubt that he'd probably had it all weekend if not longer, but then again it was surprising that he was even doing it now.
"You take like five years in the shower man." Alice whined, flopping onto his back as I walked towards my wardrobe, I flipped him the bird over my shoulder and grabbed a pair of boxers. I dropped the towel once they were on not caring that Alistair was there, nudity was a thing when you were in a sports team together, you'd seen what everyone had enough that it really didn't matter.
"You've literally kept Ash and me waiting over an hour for you to get ready so fuck off." I stated, flashing him a smirk when he gave me a mock hurt expression. He retaliated by throwing my shirt at me but I simply caught it with an eye roll.
"Whatever, hurry up and get dressed so we can go." Alice whined, and I shook my head in amusement.
"Bloody hell, never thought I'd see the day that Alistair Kensington wanted to go to school." I commented in mock amazement as I tugged on my jeans.
"Oh shut up, Willow will be there." Alistair huffed, and I raised an eyebrow at him.
"I don't think I've ever seen you so keen on someone." It was true. I don't think he's ever been invested in a girl for this long since Rachel Thicket from 7th grade. Alice wasn't the type of guy to do relationships, in fact the only one out of us three that actually bothered with relationships was Ashton and even his didn't usually last for longer than a month. Unless you counted his ridiculous on-again-off-again thing that he'd been doing with Rebekah for a little while - then again that didn't seem to be happening recently.
"I know man," Alistair replied looking deep in thought as he stared up at the ceiling, "There's just something about her."
My expression turned soft as I watched him, it was nice to see him finally settling down with someone. Who knows? Maybe she'll be able to straighten him out a bit. Get him to stop fighting at least. I knew it was a terrible thing to think, to put that much pressure on her, but Ashton and I honestly didn't know what to do.
I knew he was only doing it for the money, that he needed it for his mother so they could keep their house. But just.. It was awful. I'd offered so many times to give him some money, hell I'd offered the same to Ashton when his family was struggling to make ends meet. But they were both as stubborn as each other.
"What? You mean like she can actually stand to be around you?" I teased.
This time he threw a pillow at me.
It thwacked harmlessly against my chest and I kicked it out of the way as I grabbed my back pack.
"Come on." I laughed, "Since you're in such a rush to see your sweetheart, lets go."
Alistair grinned at me in excitement before haphazardly scooping his homework back into his own school bag and practically running after me as I walked down the hall.
The house was empty as we got downstairs, the coffee in the pot long cold. Mum had left to go join dad on business since she'd had to return prematurely when I'd been admitted to hospital and now the house was all mine for an undetermined period of time.
"I don't know how you stand it." Alice stated as we walked through the living room.
"Stand what?" I asked, glancing briefly over my shoulder at him.
"Being alone all the time, like I get that your parents suck, but like at least when they're home you know there's someone in the house with you." He explained, and I stopped to look around the abandoned house for a moment, taking in all the pristine white walls and the expensive furniture. It all looked so posed and purposeful but it was also cold and harsh. I understood where Alistair was coming from, I much preferred staying at one of their houses rather than my own.
"I think you sort of get used to it?" I tried to explain, shrugging my shoulders casually, "Plus I don't mind having the place to myself." Or at least I don't mind my parents not being around.
"If you say so." He stated, not looking like he really believed my answer.
"Who knows, maybe you're right. It could be time for another party." I said as a wiry smile spread across my lips.
"I dunno man, after the last one? Do you really think you're up for it?" He asked sceptically as we walked towards his beat up truck.
"Of course. It's not like I'm just going to avoid them, besides, we definitely need a good one to wipe away all the shit that went down at the last one."
"Okay...if you're sure." Alice started the engine once we were inside the vehicle, "But maybe, you know, make it a small one?" The concern was evident in his voice, I'd forgot how shaken he was about all this. I instantly felt bad for mentioning it.
"Yeah, it can be a small one." I assured and we drifted back to our usual conversations as we made our way to the school.
When we arrived at school Alice pulled his car in to park beside Ashton's in his usual spot. It was one of the perks of being both popular and a senior, we'd managed to score permanent parking spots that no one would dare to park in. There were rare cases that someone didn't realise that they were in our spot but they would figure it out pretty damn soon and the park would be free again the next day.
Ashton was leaning against the front of his car as we stepped out, Soraya sitting on top of the hood casually beside him. Ashton had given both Alice and me a brief rundown of Soraya's current dilemma and so it was quickly decided that she would have someone there to pick her up in the morning and drop her home at night. Usually it was Ashton that volunteered to do it, much like today.
"Morning." Soraya called brightly, unusually chipper for this early in the morning considering the girl usually required at least three coffees to be able to function properly. Although judging by the takeaway coffee cup in her hand it was clear she'd managed to sucker Ashton into stopping to get her one on the way.
"Jesus, what's possessed you?" Alice questioned, eyebrows raised in wonder. Ashton laughed at this.
"She's just excited about going to the baseball game this weekend." He explained, rolling his eyes in a good natured fashion.
"Oh you're damn right I am." Soraya practically cheered, and I didn't blame her honestly. Going to a major league baseball game was basically a dream. In fact it was a hella expensive thing to do and I was actually kind of shocked that Ashton had gone out of his way to manage it. Especially with how much it must have set him back.
"Bet she's already picked out her outfit." I stated in amusement, resting back against Alice's truck.
"Nah, I recon the days gonna roll around and there is going to be a panicked phone call to Alice's favourite red head." Ashton smirked, shooting her a teasing look.
"Shut up, that's not going to happen." Soraya insisted, but the lie was practically see through.
"Speak of the devil." I commented, nodding in the direction of the school where a pair of red haired people were making their way out of the building. Wilbur had a scowl on his face as his sister dragged him towards us. Alistair seemed to brighten at the sight of her and Ashton, Soraya and I all rolled our eyes in amusement.
"Will!" Alice called excitedly as he wrapped his arms around her the second she reached us. Willow laughed at his excitement, hugging him back just as tightly despite her brother glaring at them as he stood awkwardly.
"Well hello to you too, Will." Soraya mocked affectionately and Willow pulled back from her boyfriend with a red blush on her face.
"Don't be mean." Ashton knocked her shoulder lightly and Will, Alice and I all stared in shock when Soraya didn't flinch away from him. "It's hard to resist Alice's magnetic charm." he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at Alistair who burst into laughter.
"You're damn right it is." Alistair laughed turning his grin to Wilbur, "Morning Wilbur."
Wilbur gave him a sneer in response, crossing his arms and looking pointedly away without acknowledging his greeting. Alistair seemed to deflate. But thankfully, the warning bell for class sounded across the grounds to starve off the awkward air that had started to settle and we all grabbed our stuff to head inside.
It was a little strange walking through the halls. Outside in the carpark everything had felt normal, but now that we were inside with the rest of the students I was painfully aware that this was my first day back and word of the accident had definitely spread like wildfire. People stared as we passed, whispers taking off and I could feel their eyes burning with curiosity. It was a different feeling to having people stare when you knew that they were evaluating the bruises on your face.
As a group we all stopped outside each other’s locker, which was a longer process now that the two girls had merged into our group but none of us really minded. It was during these breaks that I found myself being ambushed by other students, all flooding up with concern or curiosity.
"Xavier welcome back, are you okay?"
"Does it hurt?"
"Are you holding up okay? Do you want to sit together at lunch?"
The day was a blur of questions and I answered them all half-heartedly, not really interested on giving people more material to spread around the school. Still I kept my famous lady-killer smile on my face the whole time, and the guys seemed to know exactly when to steer us away from particularly clingy people and I was incredibly thankful.
However, this wasn’t a fool proof plan and it was on the way to second period that I suddenly felt someone link their arm with mine.
“Oh Xavier honey, you must be feeling awfully tired of all these people coming up to you.” The person spoke in a soft French accent as she leaned into my slighty, “How about I walk you to class so they leave you alone for a bit?” She fluttered her lashes at me as I turned to look at the brunet bombshell on my arm.
The guys turned to look at us with varying degrees of uncomfortableness, Soraya was glaring daggers at the girl beside me, but none of us stopped walking.
“Jessica,” I greeted, “Thanks for the offer but I think I might be okay walking to class without a bodyguard…”
“Oh please.” Jessica shook her head with a laugh, refusing to release my arm, “I know you don’t need a bodyguard, not with arms like these. But maybe I just want someone handsome to walk me to class?”
I shot Ashton a look, but he just gave me an amused shrug. We all knew what Vancoover was trying to do, she’d done it enough times for us to know that she was trying to make him jealous. Oddly enough, this used to work a charm on him, Ashton could get very possessive sometimes, but it didn’t seem to be bothering him at all this time. Soraya was the one that actually seemed a little annoyed by her, but then again they really didn’t get along very well.
“Hey, Vanhooker… quick question, when did you get the feeling that any single one of us wanted you here?” Soraya asked, an innocent façade on her face as she spoke the question rather calmly.
“Well, I haven’t been pushed away just yet.” Jessica replied smugly, her eyes locking onto Ashton’s form.
“It’s been implied, Xavier doesn’t need you around him, he doesn’t want you around him, and the same goes for the rest of the people in our group. So if you wouldn’t mind, I think Xavier can walk without you hanging from his arm like a tumour.” Soraya responded, this time adding some venom into her words.
“You won’t let her speak to me like that will you?” The question Jessica asked me, although she was staring at Ashton as she spoke.
“They don’t ‘let me’ do anything, honey, so you might want to get moving before I kick you right in the fucking-”
“Sora…” Ashton trailed off gently, his voice calling the teenage girl to attention and stopping her from finishing the sentence. He walked next to her, touching her shoulder before looking to Jessica. “Jess, this isn’t going to work this time. We all know what you’re trying to do and quite frankly I’m not gonna fall for it again. So please, piss off.” Ashton stated, and I watched as Jessica’s eyes flicked between Ashton and the hand he had resting on Soraya’s shoulder.
“Really Ashton? Her? Talk about a downgrade.” Jessica scoffed before letting my arm go and walking away.
“Wow, I’m actually offended…” Soraya trailed off, but we all knew that it wasn’t going to end there. She turned to face Ashton. “I mean, she thought we were together.” She finished with a smirk, although the expression didn’t seem to reflect in her eyes. She was still worried about this Adam guy, but then again if I were in her position I would be too. All of us knew that, and the air suddenly changed to match that worry, Alistair took it upon himself to distract us all for a moment with his next sentence.
“Well, with that out of the way, should we get to class?”
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