Quarter Note - Book One

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Chapter 5: Spring Again

The start of the new semester was an anticlimax after the break. The last week I had seen Darryl, but I had made sure that it was in the company of others. Kyle and I were spending as much time together as usual and he was still giving me enough space to work out my own mind. He said that he would give me time. Time to heal. Time to move on. Time to maybe see him in the light he wanted me to see him.

I had been correct when I thought that the midyear break had been too short to erase the last days’ escapades when Kyle had arrived at my school. It didn’t help that Jayde and her entourage let everyone know that they knew who the driver was. Eventually people started to wonder if they had seen was correct, that they had seen Kyle with me and Chloë and Jack. I wasn’t too upset by it. It took enough attention off of us, but Kyle was perturbed by it enough to arrive at school during the week. According to him, he disliked it when people got information wrong. He was there just to make sure that people knew the facts.

He had arrived as classes ended. I walked out to see him standing at the same spot as the day he had arrived unexpectedly. Jayde and her friends were just ahead and they basically pushed their way through the crowd to him. I was getting use to the attention that surrounded him. It wasn’t hard to understand why. A handsome, charming guy in a very nice car. Knees have gone weak for less. But before they could get to the car, he had walked towards them, but as they stopped thinking he would stop, he greeted them and walked passed.

Everyone stopped in total stunned silence. He made his way to our group and when he offered to take my bag, I could see in his eyes he was on a mission. So I let him, but not before insisting that I was capable of carrying it myself.

We made our way to the car and before he closed the door he leaned in, “Just be happy that I only asked to carry your bag. I was planning on doing something that was going turn you into a tomato.” I looked up at him, about to ask him what it was, but I decided against it when I saw the smile on his face.

The days following his arrival were chaotic. There were a few people that remembered his career as a driver and when that had spread through the school, we were bombarded with questions. They ranged from the usual, “How did you meet,” to the intrusive, “what does he look like without a t-shirt.” My favourite phrase became, “Ask him yourself.”

When it became evident that I was not going to feed their hunger for information, stories started popping up about how we met. It went from the mediocre meeting, like bumping into each other at a shopping centre while Kyle wore sunglasses and a hoodie to cover his identity, of course, to the absurd, where I had tickets to some private concert, where on a private jet we had sat next to each other and ended the holidays on a private boat.

At first the stories irritated and frustrated me. The more I tried to correct what was being said, or just tell them it wasn’t true, the more they believed that I was hiding something even more fantastic and elaborate.

I eventually gave up. I hoped at some point it would just die down and be forgotten. Soon there would be something else that would make them go into a tailspin, I hoped.

It was getting closer to the talent show, and with all the attention that had come from Kyle being at the school, it made me even more nervous playing in front of my school and their parents.

I wanted to back out, but Chloë refused to allow me the opportunity to run and hide. She kept reminding me that I made a promise and even as I smiled and accepted what I had done, my stomach churned.

The last week I spent in perpetual tension and limbo. I knew that the talent show would be coming up at the end of the week, but somehow it felt unreal. We had heard that the tickets had been sold out and that more people had requested tickets, so they had moved the performance outdoors to accommodate the extra seating. I was hoping that the show would be less than a success, but it seemed that the marketing team had gone out of their way this year to advertise the show.

The thought of over 300 people watching made my belly ache. I wanted to run and hide somewhere where no one would find me. My family tried to give me words of encouragement, but even though I smiled back and thanked them, it felt as if something was squashing both my head and stomach. Why had I agreed to this? I was going to make a complete fool of myself on stage. I had always been accompanied by someone, but this time I would be playing on my own and everyone I had played in front of had been biased in some way. Here would be people who would have no reason to be ‘nice’. They would be brutally honest and could I handle that? It was nice thinking that I had talent. That I was exceptional at something, but the show would prove something I feared deep down, that I was average.

The night before I hardly slept. I tossed and turned and when I did sleep, I had nightmares of people either just sitting there, ignoring me, or laughing at me. By the following morning I was so tired, I overslept.

I got my entire gear ready and half asleep, I dragged myself for one more rehearsal before we would perform the evening. I dragged myself back home after a lacklustre performance, my heart wasn’t into it. Chloë had tried to cheer me up, but nothing seemed to help. I was going to mess this up worse than I thought. I took a nap to try and get in some sleep before I had to get ready again for the evening. It was either that I was dead tired or maybe I was just so scared that nothing I would have dreamt bothered me, but I slept without dreams and woke up more refreshed. Sitting at the table, my mom came into the kitchen. “You got a parcel while you slept,” she said handing me a square silver box with a red ribbon tied around it. “Who is it from?” “Not sure,” my mom shrugged, “when I got to the door there wasn’t anyone there, just the box.” My name was typed on vintage looking paper. I undid the ribbon and lifted the lid. Inside the box was red satin material and lying on top of it was something made of black lace. On top of it was a note that was made of the same paper that my name was typed on.

I opened it and on it were words that were also typed. Who ever had sent me this wanted to make sure that I did not recognize their handwriting. I read the note;

‘A Tool’

‘Sometimes we need to wear a mask to show who we really are.’

I was confused by the words. I put the note to the side and took out the lace object. Unfolding it, I could see it was a mask that would cover the top of my face. There was a black ribbon attached to either end to use to tie it on.

I wondered why someone would send me a lace mask. What was the purpose? “What is it?”, my mom asked. “A mask and there was a note,” handing both to my mom. “Hmm strange,” she said looking at the note, “wow the mask is beautiful. Did you see it’s little electric guitars?”, she said handing it back to me. I looked closer, she was right. The pattern in the lace was the shape of electric guitars, but it was so intricate that at first it looked like plain flowers, but if you looked a bit harder you could see the pattern. “Well who ever gave it made a lot of effort looking for something like that. Do you have any idea who it could be?”, she asked. Still looking at the mask, I was confused, “No, I have no idea.” “Well we can’t think about it right now, you have to get ready.” I looked up at the clock, if I didn’t move now, I would be late. Ida insisted on doing my hair and Alice had gotten me something for the show. I had convinced Chloë against some outrages costume, something simple would be more appropriate. I had wanted to put on simple black pants and a black t-shirt and have my hair straight, but my sisters had insisted on ‘dressing me up’, as they put it.

Ida had curled my hair in big curls, then brought it all together at the nape of my neck and made a loose fish plate, that hung down one shoulder. It would keep my hair out of the way, she said, but I wouldn’t look dull and I would have some body in my hair. She also did my makeup and when I looked in the mirror, I hardly recognized myself. I never wore makeup because I never found the need to wear it.

Ida had kept it natural, but with a hint of smoky cat eye at the edges. My lips had a mother of pearl pink colour with lip gloss and even I thought it was sweet to eat. Alice had got me a black chiffon top and tights. The top was the style that the ancient Greeks wore during the height of their rein. It had one strap and the neckline ran diagonally from my one shoulder down to underneath the opposite arm. The was a rope belt that you tied just below your breasts. The back was longer than the front, coming just underneath my buttocks, while the front just covered my lower stomach. The tights were cotton and was a rough contrast to the chiffon’s soft smooth texture. I wore plain peep toe pumps that were a similar colour to the belt.

When I walked out of the room, I could see by the expression on my mom’s face that I did not look like the Elly she was use to. “Elly, you look….” “Ridiculous.” “No not at all, you look beautiful. My little girl is all grown up,” my mom smiled, but I saw a sparkle in her eyes that signalled tears. But she smiled and it made me feel better. She sniffed a bit, “Ready to go?” “ Yes, just need my things from the kitchen.” Getting my bag from the kitchen, the box that had been left for me caught my attention. On a whim I grabbed it and made my way to the car.

My mom parked and we made our way to what had been set up as the backstage. With the amount of people that had bought tickets, the stage had been built outside, close to schools auditorium door. The hall could now serve as the backstage for the performers to change and get ready. I made my way to the door that lead to the makeshift backstage. I could see Chloë standing at our table, but there were two other figures with her, with their backs turned towards me. As I came closer, Chloë recognized me and had a big smile on her face, “Elly, you look amazing.” “Thanks,” I blushed. She pushed passed the two figures, which in turn turned to see who she was speaking to. The one was John, who I had expected to be there, the other was Kyle. In his hand he had a bouquet of flowers, with colours that rivalled a rainbow.

A stupefied look crossed his face, did I look that different? It was replaced by a look of satisfaction and something else that made me blush even further. John and Kyle made their way to me, “I have to agree with Chloë you do look amazing,” John said looking me up and down, but pulling Chloë closer to him. “Amazing isn’t the word I would describe,” Kyle came closer, his voice was as smooth as silk. “These are for you, but I think it pales against your beauty.” I rolled my eyes. He laughed at my reaction. He came closer, “I mean it. I didn’t know which ones you liked, so I picked what I thought was the most beautiful, but they aren’t as beautiful as I hoped they would be, now that they are put up against you.” I took the flowers, feeling the heat rise in my cheeks. It would be more apparent now that I had blush on, “Thank you, they are beautiful, even without being compared to me.” Someone had brought a vase, obviously they had seen Kyle standing with the flowers.

“How do you feel?”, he asked as I placed the flowers in the vase. “I’m good, as good as can be, I suppose.” “Don’t be nervous, be yourself and the good thing is that you generally can’t see most of the audience, so pretend you on your own.” Just then our drama teacher walked passed, “Fifteen minutes to curtain call. All guests to take their seats.” Kyle looked at her back, but there was disappointment there. “I suppose we have to take our seats. Although right now I don’t want to be anywhere else,” he smiled down at me. That fire started to burn even warmer inside. “Well you can’t stay backstage the whole evening, you will miss the show.” “True, but I wish I could be both places at once.” I looked up at him, “You have to go, I need to get ready.” I saw that same disappointment in his face as he bent down and lightly kissed my cheek. “Till later and I can’t wait.” I watched him walk away and I breathed deeply. One more thing to lay at my feet as I was about to do something that really scared me. How could I do this without anyone knowing who I really was? I looked at the box I had brought with.

The last few moments before getting ready, I heard a familiar voice calling my name from a distance, “Elly, Elly.” Looking up I saw Darryl making his way towards us, but as he came closer the same look that had crossed Kyle’s face crossed his. He slowed down. Did I really look that different?

“Elly...” “Hey D. I thought you would be seated by now.” “Uhm, yeah. I couldn’t until I had come to wish you good luck and give you these.” From behind his back he pulled out a small bouquet of yellow orchards, but as he did his eyes fell on the flowers in the vase. His face was suddenly crestfallen, “Seems that someone beat me to it.” “They gorgeous, you remembered my favourite flowers,” I said trying to take the attention away from those in the vase. I hugged him and his arms seemed to wrap around me like a blanket, being everywhere and warming me. Moving back as quickly as I could I thanked him, “They really beautiful, thank you again.” He smiled, down at me with his hands still on my lower hips, stopping me from moving further away, “It’s my pleasure.” He breathed out a bit and with it came, “Wow...I’m speechless.” “What do you mean?”

He had a sudden blush as if he had not meant to voice the last words out aloud. He looked down, smiling. What was he so shy about? He looked up again, “I mean I am speechless at how beautiful you look.” My heart skipped a beat, maybe it was a million beats, but I tried to keep my reaction to the statement as light as possible, “What are you trying to say? Do I look that different that it’s like day and night?”, I asked my one eyebrow arched.

His eyes went wide, “No, no, it’s..not..that I have never thought that you were beautiful, I have always thought that. Too beautiful for someone like me.” He stopped and I could see in his face he had not meant to tell me that. My heart began to race. He had always thought I was beautiful, too beautiful for him? I wanted to smile from ear to ear, but I bit the inside of my lip. I couldn’t allow myself to get excited at words.

Trying to regain his composure, “It’s.. Just..that..,” he was stumbling over his words, looking into the air to find those that he had lost, “it’s..just..that.. I.. have..never seen you like this before.” He took a deep breath, “and I don’t have words.” I didn’t have words either. Looking at him standing there, the only thing I could think of was that he had always found me attractive. He had always thought I was beautiful. “Five minutes people, ALL guests to their seats, Please,” the drama couch came back passed us. Darryl looked at her, then sideways at me, “Seems it’s my queue.” “Seems so,” I replied standing with the flowers close to me. My whole body was vibrating and I didn’t know if I could move or not. He bent down and moving to hug him, I suddenly felt a pressure on the side of my lips. It was warm and soft and my eyes closed taking it in. The feeling made my pulse race a million miles per second. I felt heat all over and it felt like the air had been knocked out of me. I wanted more of that softness.

I stepped back at that thought.

I couldn’t think like that.

Moving away I looked up at Darryl. His eyes were intent on mine, they seemed alive on its own. There was a sudden tap on my shoulder and the dream was broken. “Elisa, your friend?” “Sorry Mrs. Harper, he was just leaving.” Darryl smiled at the drama teacher, “My apologies.” Looking back at me with something that looked like a flame raging, “See you later,” he said softly. “See you later,” I replied.

I watched him walk towards the seating and slowly my heart seemed to ease and air fill my lungs. Part of my lips still felt swollen, not because it was bruised, but it is where I had felt his.

I sat down, confused at his actions. Why had he done that tonight? What had sparked him to go so far? I had made my decision to forget what I felt and it had been working, up until now. Everything that I had tried to erase came back to the surface. I looked at the box on the table. I wanted to hide tonight. I didn’t want anyone to see me. They couldn’t see the hurt that I felt. The pain that I was going through. I would break down on stage in front of hundreds of people.

I opened up the box and lay the lace mask on the table in front of me. Looking into the small mirror that was on the table, I made sure that all the makeup was still in place. I made sure that my face was still in place. Taking the mask, I put it across my eyes and carefully tied the ribbon at the back, so that it didn’t knot my hair. The motion of doing it was soothing. Adjusting it in the mirror was soothing. And looking at myself, the make-up covering the real Elisa, the mask covering up half of my face, looking through the eye holes, I felt anonymous.

Who could I be that no one would know me?

I looked at the masked person staring at me in the mirror, who was she? What would you call her? As the drama couch walked through the students, making them ready to go on stage, I called her to the side. “Ma’am, I know it’s very late, but can you change the name when you announce me?” She looked at me confused. “Elisa the judges have the names printed out already.” “Please,” I begged trying to put on my best sullen face with puppy dog eyes. “If you weren’t such a good English student, I would think twice about it, what is it?” “Instead of announcing Elisa James for the individual and group sets can you please announce ‘Masked Maiden’.” “ Masked Maiden? Isn’t that a bit extravagant.”, she looked at me with the mask on. “I’m nervous ma’am. The more anonymous I feel, the less likely I will faint on stage.” She let out a deep breath, “Okay, but I don’t know why. Most of the people you know will know who you are.” “It’s not them ma’am, it’s the ones that don’t know me.” “Okay. Okay. Just be ready when it’s your set. I will go and make the changes.” Greatly relieved, I thanked her. An added layer to anonymity.

I waited backstage as the other performers made their way to do their sets. Chloë’s individual set was before mine and I went up to the back of the stage area to watch her perform.

As usual, Chloë was nothing but grace and smooth movements. The music vibrated through her body and she absorbed it and let it out through her dance movements. Now fast, now slow. Hard, soft..pain, love, joy. Her body became an instrument that translated the music, the feeling of the music into motion. I watched her hypnotized, as I am sure the audience was as well. As she moved across the stage, I got my first glimpse of what it would be like being on it. There were lights everywhere and you could hardly see the audience. Even with the mask on I doubted if I could stand there, under the bright sun-like lights. Where all attention was on me. I closed my eyes and pretended I was at home. It was quiet enough, except for a cough here and there, but that was because all the attention was on Chloë and no one dared to make a noise.

As she came to a resting position at the end, a noise erupted that was deafening. From my angle I could see the smile that was planted across her face and even I had to clap, at both her performance and taking part in her joy.

I watched as the next performers went on and unfortunately, they had the bad luck of following Chloë. There was a rumbling in the crowd as if they found something better to do than watch the acts. I saw the disappointed that crossed the faces of the performers as they heard the same I had heard. Would it be the same for me? Would I bore the audience into speaking among themselves to keep themselves entertained? Mrs. Harper came up behind me, “Elisa get ready, you after this act.” I smiled weakly at her. It had come too soon. I wished that Chloë and my performance had been scheduled for an earlier spot. At least her dancing would enthral people, while I strummed away, unknown. It would have been easier to go up there with her at my side. Now I had to do it myself. I got my electric and the flowers shimmered neon blue as if in another world. They seemed to come alive the closer we got to the lights. I waited for my turn to perform to the unknown faces behind the lights. Chloë came up behind me. “Elly, how was I?” “You were great?” “Really? How can you know that?” “Everyone was so quiet because they were too scared to make a noise.” She had a big smile on her face and a slight blush. “Thank you. I was just in my own world, which I didn’t even notice. Well it’s your turn next, I can’t wait.” She still had that wide smile, I tried to copy it, but my stomach was too sensitive. “Don’t worry. Deep breaths, take your time and just let out your heart okay.” My heart? What was left of my heart?

I watched the act, without watching. I heard laughter in the distance and the humour, but it was as if it was miles away. I only knew it was finished when there was applause. Mrs. Harper made her way onto the stage and I heard her announce in the distance, “now for our following act, she is known as the ‘Masked Maiden’ who will be playing Broken by Seether.”.

I felt pressure against my body and I knew that it had been Chloë that had pushed me forward.

As I walked onto the stage the bright lights blinded me. I felt naked, even with the mask on. What did they say about imagining your audience naked? How could you, if you couldn’t see them. I slowly made my way to the middle of the stage. I sat down and faced those bright, flood lights. I had the feeling of being in a glass case, with unseen faces behind those lights. There was silence and for a moment I felt totally alone. Till there was a cough and the feeling of having hundreds of eyes watching me from all directions came flooding over me. My heart raced and it was as if monsters waited behind every dark corner to pounce. I closed my eyes, ‘breath’, Darryl had always told me to breath. His face flashed behind my eyelids, that sexy smile, those eyes that sparkled green and gold at times. His hair that warmed the rest of his body. I opened my eyes again and it seemed as if I was alone again. “Pretend you are alone,” I heard Kyle say in the back of my head. His deep blue eyes with the promise of dangerous charm that fired up my insides.

I closed my eyes again, breath.

I saw a man, tall with laughing eyes and music all around him. A man strong, but soft with grey eyes. I saw him smile, a smile of pure serenity and nod his head. All that tension was gone.

I saw him in the darkness as I strummed my first note, I saw his eyes close as if he was hearing something sweet. As I breathed out the first note to sing,

Verse 1

he slowly opened his eyes and a smile formed over his face. The air around me changed into rainbow colours and I watched as it stretched out towards him.

Chorus

He saw it too and his face brightened as it came closer to him. He reached out his hand to touch the tendrils that moved closer to him. I watched as the colours covered him and the wonder on his face.

Verse 2

He closed his eyes to breath in the colours. He opened his eyes and looked at me. I could see love, happiness and serenity. And it covered me like a blanket. I felt it moving into my body smoothly. I breathed it in and it filled my lungs, it filled my heart, it filled my head, it filled every part of my body. It filled me to a point of bursting, but I wouldn’t burst. I wouldn’t explode. I would keep it in always.

It seemed as I had been playing for hours, but it seemed as if he had only been there for seconds and as the song ended, he faded. The colours faded. There were bright lights in my eyes again and I could feel that my mask was wet. My eyes felt swollen, but I felt joy. I let out the deep breath I had been holding for days. For a few seconds, I wondered if I had been playing alone, in front of empty chairs. Had it only been the lights and myself.

Then there was a loud noise and I jumped. It was hands clapping. I was shocked. I slowly got up off my chair. What was I supposed to do now. Bow? I bowed and made my way off the stage, but the noise followed me. Mrs. Harper walked passed me with a big smile on her face, but I didn’t understand it.

I walked straight to Chloë, she had that same stunned, happy expression on her face. “Okay where did that come from?” she exclaimed. “What do you mean?” “I mean, what you just did now.” “Chloë I really don’t understand, I just played the way I normally do.” “Not tonight. You let something out tonight Elly, something that was amazing. You were so...” “So.. What?” “Full of emotion.” “I was?” “Yes” She looked at me for a moment after her excitement subsided. “Are you okay Elly,” “Yeah, I’m okay. Just happy that it went well.” She laughed, “It went far more than well.” I still didn’t understand what everyone was speaking about. The only thing I remembered was the vision of my dad standing there and watching me. Was it him, or was it just stress that caused me to hallucinate? I breathed again. That same serene feeling came over me. Did I really care? The memory of his face, his expression, him being a part of it was all that I needed. True or not, it was the best feeling I had felt in a long time.

I watched the rest of the other performers with a calmer feeling than I had earlier. I enjoyed the show now and not long afterwards it was Chloë’s and my turn for the group set. I was still nervous going back in front of those lights, but there was a calmness that covered me now.

And as the two of us made our way in front of the unseen audience, there was an eruption of applause before we started. This time I watched Chloë. Her smooth refined movements kept my mind off all the eyes that were watching us behind those lights. She looked like a swan gliding over a lake that was a mirror, then she was an eagle in mid hunt, swooping this way and that way after her prey. Then she was like ribbons blowing in the breeze. She came to the end, like a silk sheet falling to the floor. And before I overcame the feeling of seeing her dance, my thoughts were interrupted by a chaotic noise of clapping and whooping from the audience. We took a bow and made our way off the stage hand in hand, big smiles from both of us.

“We did it Elly, we wowed the crowd. You were amazing. It was as if I could feel the music in my bones,” she said smiling, out of breath. “Me? What about you. You were like silk and satin dancing.” “You were both amazing,” we turned around to see Jack coming towards us. We moved quickly through the crowd that was still getting ready to perform. “How did you get to come backstage?” “It wasn’t easy, but promising Mrs. Harper to clean her car for a month surely helped,” he smiled. “Sorry I couldn’t make it here earlier, but before you guys win this competition, I just had to say congratulations.” “Counting those chickens again,” I laughed. “I wish you were in the audience to know how amazing you were, but since you don’t believe me, there are cd’s that will be available for sale. It is of the whole show.” “What?” Chloë shouted before I could say anything. “You know what, and I’m buying one.” It would be surreal to think that I would be able to see myself, but something like curiosity nagged at me to see it. “I got to go before Mrs. Harper adds another month on our deal,” he hugged us both, “see you guys later.” He ran off towards the seats and I watched him go, Jack one of my best friends in the world. Between him and Chloë I felt peace and serenity.

The show was coming to an end and everyone around me started chatting about the results and who they thought would win or if they would win. The conversation drifted past me. I didn’t really care. I sat there smiling, remembering how it felt to play. “And why do you have that ‘Dopey’ grin on your face Elisa, do you think you will win with the cheering tonight?” I looked up to see Jayde standing over me. “No, I just don’t care. I have other things to be happy about.” She looked down at me and just about contained a sniff.

And then the time came. The results were about to be announced. Mrs. Harper went to the stage and started announcing the top five contestants in the individual group. I sat there in a daze, until Chloë shook me. “Hey what was that for,” I asked looking up at her. “They just called out our names silly, move it.” I got up quickly and moved to the stage area. Standing next to her and other finalist, I felt a bit silly. It felt like a pageant and I didn’t like pageants. “Well this year we have been blessed with so many talented students that took part,” Mrs. Harper began, “and it was a very difficult decision for our judges.” Wasn’t it always a hard decision? For one winner, how many losers were there?

She giggled, “Well let me continue. In third place,” and there was drum roll, “ Tommy Silver, whose humour brought a smile to everyone here.” There was applause. Mrs. Harper shook her hand to quiet the audience. “The following was very difficult almost a tie,” she giggled again,” coming in at a very, very close second,” She paused for dramatic effect, “the ‘Masked Maiden’.” The who? Chloë elbowed me and Mrs. Harper looked at me and with her eyes wide, she slightly tilted her head in a motion to move close to her. Masked Maiden? Oh that was me. I moved to stand close to Tommy. “And in first place,” silence for an even longer and larger dramatic effect, “Chloë Sebastian, whose grace showed us the beauty of a bird” and there was a large applause. Chloë came to stand next to me and we both refrained from grabbing each other and jumping up and down, I couldn’t stop smiling though.

After the applause had died down, the same was done for the group section and Chloë and I were called again. We stood there in anticipation. Even though I didn’t like competitions, I began to understand why people enjoyed them. The adrenaline that raged through you as you awaited the call of the winners was enticing and could become addictive.

Third place went to a set of twins, who’s juggling expertise were bewildering. The second place went to a small choir. I waited for the name of the winners to be announced, I wanted it to be us, partly because I wanted to win, but mostly I wanted Chloë and myself to win. She had wanted me to enter and I wanted us to win for her. I took a deep breath as Mrs. Harper was about to announce the name of the winner, I prepared to hear another name. No one was so lucky to be in the top three twice in a row.

“And the winner of the group set is Chloë Sebastian and the ‘Masked Maiden’.” I looked at Chloë stunned and she had a mirrored expression on her face. We hugged each other and this time we jumped up and down on the stage. The other performers joined us and it was the signal that the show was over.

After the curtains had been drawn, we made our way backstage. I still felt euphoria and I could see the same in Chloë, “We did it Elly, we really did it.” “We really did. I can’t believe I got through that without being sick. It was the best winning with my best friend,” I said giving her a huge hug,

We made our way to our table to get our things and the backstage was alive with chaos. As we made our way through the crowd of performers, their parents and friends, we received congratulations and pats on the back. We smiled back and returned the same gesture. It had been a good show and it felt like that even now as we were about to pack up and leave.

There was as small crowd congregated around our table and I recognized my mom and sisters standing with Chloë’s parents. When we got there my mother came to me and gave me a hug. “Oh sweetheart, you were astounding. She held me close and I couldn’t stop myself. I had to tell her. “I saw dad, mom. I saw him while I was playing.” She slowly moved away from me, but she was still close. I looked at her, but there wasn’t disbelief. There wasn’t confusion. She just looked straight into my eyes with a patience of someone that waited for the rest of the story to be told. I pulled her close and quietly spoke into her ear, “When I first came on I couldn’t play. Then I saw him standing in the dark and it was as if calmness came over me. When I started playing he smiled and when I sang it was broader. It was as if he was here, a part of the music, watching me, listening.” I pulled away from her. “Am I going crazy?” My mom smiled, a patient, reassuring smile. “I don’t think so.” “But it must have been in my mind, It couldn’t have been real,” I asked, willing her to tell me I was not going mad. “Elly,” she said quietly, “does it really matter?” “No,...but” I replied. “But what? My opinion, if this ‘vision’ was part of a hallucination, it came from a part that is your dad, because he is part of you. He was here, maybe not physically, but he was here because he is a part of you and you are here.” I held my mom closer. Ida and Alice came close, their face were made of bright smiles and joy. “Our little sister, a phenomenal musician, Elly you were awesome up there. Dad would have been proud,” Alice said. I could see that her eyes were slightly red. Ida had that same colour to her eyes, but she had joy on her face and I opened my arm so that they could be included and we all hugged for awhile.

We made our way towards our car with all my equipment and there was another small crowd that stood around my mom’s car. This time I recognized them as the McDougal’s, but there was a member missing. Emily came running up to us, almost picking me up as she hugged me, “Elly you were awesome. Our birthday was great, but this, wow.” I blushed, “Thanks Emily.” Mr. McDougal came up and took my hand shaking it, “Emily is correct you were phenomenal. You and Chloë make an inspirational team.” Mrs. McDougal came to hug me, “Ah, sweet child, agreed.” I wanted to know where the other member of their family was, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask them. They said nothing.

I packed my bags into the back, “So are we ready for this evening,” Emily said aloud. “Ready?” “Whoops,” she feigned innocence. “Well there is a little surprise for you and Chloë to celebrate such an awesome performance. “Okay,” I said uneasily, “what is it?” “Well it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you now, would it? You and Chloe will be travelling with your sister. Your mom will be travelling with my folks, but we need to drop off your equipment first.” I got my handbag and made my way with my sisters to fetch Chloë at her folks’ car. When I got there, I could see the excitement on her face, “Did you hear? There is a special party for us?” “What? I just heard surprise.” “Well that’s as far as they will tell me.” she looked at her parents and John, pouting a bit. “Now Chloë,” John looked at her scolding, “We have told you more than we should have. We really don’t want to spoil the surprise, now do we, Mrs. Sebastian.” “Correct John. Elly, we will be meeting up with your mom and then make our way to the destination. See you a bit later.” “Okay Mrs. Sebastian.” “I will walk Chloë and the girls to Ida’s car to make sure they safe ma’am.” John told her and all Chloë’s mom did was smile. I said goodbye and made my way with my sisters and Chloë to Ida’s car.

I saw Jack and Abby waiting for us at the car and next to them was a tall figure that I knew could only be Kyle. In the back of my mind I was aware that I had missed seeing someone else and that I had hoped that he would be the last person I see before we left, but for some reason he was absent. After what had happened backstage I could only guess that, right now, he felt it better to stay away, not to give me the wrong impression.

Kyle walked straight towards me and picking me up in their air, he held me close. “I have no words.” Lowering me onto the ground, he moved a stray hair out of my face. “Aphrodite could not compete with you.” I blushed, “Don’t bring the wrath of the gods on me,” I smiled. Jack and Abby came up behind him and Jack spoke up, “Elly congrats. You were awesome up there. You and Chloë make a great team.” I smiled, “We do, don’t we. Now you just have to learn to juggle and we can be the ‘awesome threesome’.” Jack laughed, “Yip, me and my two left hands will do well.”

Alice came up to announce that it was time to leave. “Ethan is waiting at the car and Jack and John will be going with us. See you soon,” Kyle bent down to hug me again.

As everyone bundled in the car I looked around to see if there was anyone else in the vicinity, but the car park was quiet with the last few stragglers making their way to their cars. I got into the car, into a commotion of everyone laughing and speaking at the same time. After everything that had happened tonight, the way it had ended I thought I would feel more joy. I thought I would be bursting at the seams, but now somewhere hidden deep down I felt if I was missing something. I knew what it was as well. It was not seeing Darryl’s face after the show. I had wanted to see his expression, to share how I had felt, to tell him what I had experienced. But it had not happened and now it felt like something had been lost, lost forever.

I took a deep breath and closed my ears to myself. I didn’t want to feel this sad anymore. I ignored that inner yearning I felt. It would not happen. I pushed all those feelings to the side and I opened up to the atmosphere that was surrounding me. I took part in the conversation that my sisters and Chloë were having about the other performers. The more attention I paid to them, the less thought I gave to myself.

Looking around, I suddenly realized where we driving to. I had thought we were going to ‘The Diner’ to have and after-show dinner, but this road led to a place I had spent most of my mid-year break. It was the road to Kyle’s house. What were we doing there?

As we reached his gate we were immediately buzzed in. We drove up the driveway as before, but this time there were cars, many cars. “Ida, why are we here and what are all these cars doing here?” I asked. “Wait and see little sis.” I slowly got out of the car, but I couldn’t see anything out of the blue. There was a slight breeze and I felt chilly through the chiffon top. As we made our way towards the steps, the door opened and Kyle exited. He had a smile on his face, but there was nervousness behind it. Only slight, but still noticeable, maybe because one hardly saw it. “Just on time,” he said coming towards us. “Ready?” He held out his arm towards me. “I think so, I’m not sure what I’m ready for though.” “Wait and see,” he said close to my ear. John had followed him and was standing next to Chloë who was more excited than anxious.

We made our way up the steps and into his home. We moved left this time, into what looked like another sitting area, but this time there was a piano at the side. The furnishings were warmer in this sitting area, as if to make the participants feel cosier. We moved through an archway that held a large dining area, with a table at the middle that could easily seat twenty people. On the middle of the table was a larger vase then had been in the ‘white sitting room’, that held more white roses than the other. As usual everything looked immaculate and something out of a magazine. We made a slight turn to the left and came to what seemed like an outside entertainment area, but this room was as large as the dining area with a table at its centre and at the far corner, what looked like an indoor braai area. While my attention was still on the room, Kyle turned to the right, forcing me to face the sliding doors. There was glass from wall to wall and one could see most of the back area of his home. In front of me was an expanse of lawn. On it was a large white gazebo, with lights all around it and underneath it were people. To the side there was a small band playing soft rock. Behind that I saw lights, the lights of the city. I had not realized that Kyle’s house was on the edge of a hill that overlooked the city. I stood there frozen in place.

“What do think?” he turned looking at me. “What is this for?” I replied. “This is for you and Chloë. I thought a proper after party would be fun.” “Who are all these people?” “Well you should recognize them. I invited all the performers and their parents.” “This can’t be all of them,” I looked at him disbelieving. “Well...the others are your cheerleaders as well, and” he looked down, “I invited a few of my friends, I would like you to meet them. Is that okay?” “Okay,” I let out a nervous laugh, “it’s your party, and you can invite who you want.” He smiled, “It’s not my party. I told you, it’s for you.” He took my hand, “We can’t stand here forever. You going to miss out and I want you to meet some important people, but first we need to find your mom so that she knows you safe.”

We made our way to the crowd of people and I became aware of the size of the gazebo. It had looked smaller before. Kyle guided me along the crowd to the centre where we found my mom and the McDougal’s. “Elly you made it. What do you think of your surprise?” “It’s..It’s..” “Awesome,” Chloë said coming from the side. “Elly can you believe this, this is so awesome.” She went up to Kyle, hugging him, “Thank you. This is awesome.” I wondered if Chloë’s vocabulary had shrunk. Awesome was the only word that was coming out of her. I smiled, yes it was awesome, I suppose. I looked at my mom, my eyes narrowing, “How long did you know about this?” “Well.. The first time Kyle mentioned it during the holidays. Apparently he had already set up everything. He just wanted to get my permission to go ahead.” So my mom had known about this for awhile and when did Kyle arrange this? It was before that. “Are you having a good time Mrs. James?”, Kyle asked, his hand covering mine that was still on his arm. “Yes, Kyle, thank you.” “Is there anything I can get for you?” “Not right now dear.” “Mr., Mrs. McDougal anything for you?” “No Kyle we are good for now,” they smiled at him, but I noticed Mrs. McDougal look at him in a way that looked as if she was making sure of something. “If you don’t mind, I would like to steal Elisa for a few minutes before she’s overrun with fans. Promise to bring her back as soon as possible.” “That’s fine Kyle, we will be here,” my mom replied.

Kyle turned to me, “This way.” All I could do was follow where he led me.

We came to the edge of the crowd and before us stood an elderly gentleman with white hair, but his face said that he was at least ten years younger. He was as tall as Kyle, with spectacles that had round eye pieces. Next to him stood a lady, petite and anyone would be forgiven for thinking that she was Chloë’s mom. She exuded grace and femininity. The way she held her glass was as if it was crystal and it would break if she held it a bit harder. Yet she held it with such confidence, like she had held crystal in her hand from a baby. We made our way to the couple and close up Kyle spoke up, “Mom, Dad. “ They turned and I was taken aback. They seemed to be a king and queen the way they held themselves, the effortlessness of their movements. The confidence in each movement.

“I would like you to meet Elly.” I shied away and thought about hiding behind Kyle. His parents intimidated me. Not that they were scary, just that the amount of confidence and assertiveness in their movements made me feel all my inadequacies at once. His father came up, he had a self-assured voice and a firm handshake, with a tight smile, not unfriendly, just not relaxed. “Good to meet you Elly. Congratulations on the show, Kyle told us all about it and I hope you enjoy a relaxed time now.” “Thank you Sir, you have gone to so much trouble, I’m sure I will.” “Kyle always goes the extra mile for his friends,” his mom extended her hand with a smile. But I felt as if she was examining me as she would one of the antiques in her home. “Thank you, Kyle didn’t have to, but it’s for all the performers.” “Yes it is my dear,” she smiled at me with even more grace. “Well we have to get going,” Kyle bent down looking at me, “there’s a few more people I would like you to meet.” I said farewell to his parents, but I could feel them looking at my back, standing there like statuesque figures.

Kyle introduced me to friends he had from school and some that he had from the choir that he belonged to, by the time we made our way back to my mom I was dizzy. “I hope you don’t expect me to remember anyone’s name after tonight,” I said. “Don’t worry, hopefully you will meet them on more occasions to get to know their names. Are you thirsty?” “Yes, please,” my throat was dry from the evening and speaking to so many people.

When we got back to my mother, it felt like I had a place to hide. Kyle left to find me something to drink. “So you met Kyle’s parents?” my mom asked. “Yes I did, did you?” “Yes. He introduced us when we arrived, very ‘graceful’ people.” “Yes they are,” I replied. Jack and Chloë came up to us, and we chatted about the surroundings and the evening. Kyle came back with my drink and he was off again, and before I knew it I saw him on the stage. “Good evening everyone.” There was a hush in the crowd. “I would just like to formally thank you for joining us this evening. It was initially intended to celebrate a special person,” at that he kept quiet for a moment and looked at me, “but tonight she reminded me that this was for everyone. All the hard work that had gone into this evening’s show by every performer that participated tonight. So I would like all of you from the cheerleaders to the artists to give yourself a round of applause for making tonight a beautiful success.” There was a loud cheer and clapping and soon Kyle was at my side.

“I knew you would not forgive me if I had to single you out, but this was for you and Chloë,” he bent to my ear, “mainly for you.” I blushed at him whispering into my ear. Chloë had been accurate that Kyle never did things in half measures.

The rest of the evening I spent catching up with my friends, Kyle at my side most of the evening. When I saw Joshua, Malcolm and Stephen I almost ran to them. I was happy to see them, since I hadn’t seen them since Darryl’s birthday. Darryl, where was he? I didn’t have the courage to ask them either and it seemed as if they didn’t realize he wasn’t there.

When I eventually sat down with Ida, it was one of the few moments that Kyle was not with me. “So what do you think about this set up,” she asked me. “Unexpected and a bit lavish.” “Yeah, Kyle seems to do everything big.” “ A bit like his mom, I expect.” I giggled. She nodded her head, “Did you find out if Darryl is coming. It’s not like him to miss anything that has to do with you.” I gulped, this evening came flooding back. “I haven’t spoken to him since before the show started.” I looked down, “I thought he would be here afterwards, or at least he would have joined us by now. Do you know why he left.” She gave out a deep sigh, “Well Emily told me that Anne was messaging him all through the show, asking him to come over. Eventually after your last piece with Chloë, she started calling him. I’m not sure why, but he left straight afterwards. He asked Emily not to tell you anything, said he would try to make it back before the show ended. She asked me not to saying anything either, but I couldn’t keep it from you for very long. Sorry sis. I know that you would have liked him to be here.” I gave Ida half a smile, “It’s okay sis. Look around us, it’s beautiful isn’t it?” Ida just looked at me and nodded.

I felt like I held a double edged sword. I felt relief that I had not been the reason why he had left, but the reason Anne had kept messaging was obvious to me now. She wanted him as far away from me as possible, for a good reason, and he had gone. He was probably trying to placate her, telling her that he had no feelings for me and that she was being silly. I could imagine the conversation they were having, him laughing off all the things that she had seen, saying that there was nothing there. Trying to be a good boyfriend and stay with her.

I sat with Ida for awhile till Ethan joined us and it seemed the conversation was more between the two of them. I was glad, it gave me an excuse to leave. I wanted to be alone.

There was a narrow walkway to the edge of the lawn that overlooked the city and next to it was a large tree that seemed to have dark spot underneath it. I wanted to go there. I made my way and under the shadow of the branches I stopped. I could still see the gazebo from where I stood, but if I moved slightly I could hide away behind the thick trunk. Standing there made you feel as if you were alone, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I was on the outside looking in. It was quiet this far from the gazebo, even with the party behind me it seemed as if that was miles away at that part of the garden.

I stood looking out at the world, watching the lights flicker. Thinking about what was behind those lights, why were they flickering on and off? Where were the cars going that were travelling? What was happening close to the lights. Did someone, which was standing at one of the lights, look towards us and wonder what was happening on the hill?

In the quiet I heard a crunch of grass under shoes and turned around to find Kyle coming up close behind me. It was darker this side of the garden and I could hardly make out his features with the lights behind him, but his blue eyes stood out, stood out like the sea, like ice.

He looked passed me at the lights and in a hushed tone he spoke, “It’s peaceful here.” “Yes it is,” I agreed. Coming to stand next to me, he replied, “Do you ever wonder what’s happening at those lights?” “Well I haven’t seen them from this angle, but I was.” He still looked towards the city, “As a kid I use to make up stories about the lights. What they were. Aliens, faeries, a city in a different country.” “Really?” He looked down at me, with a skew smile he replied, “Really.” There was that same fire starting in belly but I shivered a bit.

The chiffon was too thin for this time of year. Even though the days were getting warmer, the nights were still cold and it was colder here than at the gazebo. “You cold, here,” he said taking off his jacket, “I should have thought about it sooner.“ He came closer and wrapped the jacket around me, making sure that I was snug. Folding the collar down, he looked at me, “You are beautiful you know that?” I blushed, “No.” That fire was starting to burn brighter. “That’s one of the things that make your so amazing,” he said holding onto the collar. “What do you mean?” Keep him speaking, I thought. His voice became quieter, “You are so many things without even realizing it.” “Like what,” my voice was as quiet as his. Still holding onto the collar, he seemed to pull himself slowly towards me, “You are beautiful. A talented musician, intelligent, funny. ” He moved closer with each word. “You are humble, sweet and you have courage in you that you don’t know you have.” In the dark I could see his eyes and as they looked into mine, that fire began to rage. I felt warm beneath the jacket, but I was frozen where I stood, hypnotized by those eyes. His face was inches away from mine, “And watching you on stage tonight was like being transported to another world. I always said I want to experience that supernova and tonight I got a glimpse of it…..” I could feel the heat coming from him, “And it has made me even more determined.” My head tilted to look up at him and I could feel my heart rate quicken and my breath was nonexistent. I knew I could move away, but I didn’t want to. I knew that I had told him that I wanted space, but I really didn’t need it. What was I waiting for? The last words he spoke were almost a whisper, “Can I experience it someday?” As I breathed a yes, his eyes closed as he moved the last few millimetres.

I felt a slight smooth pressure on my lips. With that touch, it felt as if something inside me exploded. The pressure increased slowly and I felt my whole body on fire. I felt fingers softly move into my hair, his one hand cupping the back of my head, while the other snaked around my waist, pulling me close to him. He applied more pressure on my lips and I could feel the heat of his body against mine. My arms had been limp at my side, but now it felt as if they had a life of their own and my hands moved up his arms and it ended their journey in his hair, where my fingers made knots in his curls, which were like strands of silk between them. He parted my lips with his and I felt the tip of his tongue touch the tip of my lip and a shiver moved up my body which felt like an avalanche, and as he tasted the inside of my mouth, I felt like a volcano erupting. I had flown too close to the fire and now I was burning.

When we came up for breath, he put his forehead against mine, I could feel the smile against my face. “I have wanted to do that from the first time I saw you,” he whispered, “and now I don’t want to stop kissing you.” I took a deep breath trying to catch it. He still had his one hand in my hair and the other around my waist, but he moved his head back, to look at me. “Do you want to stop?”, he said in a quiet husky voice. I smiled back at him. Did I want to stop kissing him? The way it felt, the way it made me feel. The easy answer would be to say no. But I knew that, that was a path that I could not turn around from. I decided to take it and shook my head, no. He smiled at me and moved in closer.

But this time I heard crunching of grass, which startled me and looking towards where the sound was coming from, I saw Darryl coming towards us. A second later we were in his view. He stopped, startled by the sudden appearance of people and what was highlighted by the lights of the gazebo behind him.

It seemed as if time stopped as I watched Darryl’s reactions change. At first it had been the shock of finding people in the dark, deserted area and then it had been a rude awakening at realizing that it was Kyle and I. I pushed away from him. The closeness between us felt wrong under those almond shaped eyes. I felt Kyle stiffen at my reaction and then he relaxed and let me go, but he still stayed close.

There was a tornado of responses that moved through Darryl. I couldn’t place all of them, but the ones that I did understand made me want to recoil. When that tornado had eventually passed, there seemed to be a void. Something tore into me and I felt like collapsing. But I didn’t. I stood there, frozen in place by the reality of what was happening.

“Elly, Kyle...,” he was the first to speak, but his voice seemed strained and when I looked into his eyes it was like standing at the edge of a desert, with no mirage in sight. My lips felt dry and cracked. Kyle moved closer putting an arm around me, but his body felt edgy like it was on the verge of pouncing. “Darryl, glad you could make it. We..,” and he looked down at me, “thought that you weren’t coming anymore.”

I couldn’t get a word out. It seemed as if the link between my brain and my mouth had been severed. I wanted to say so many things. Why had he come now, of all the times, to have joined us. Why pick this time? Why had he come at all? Why did he think it was okay to look at me the way he did? To look at me as if I had done something wrong? As if somehow my actions hurt him more than his did me, when all he thought of me was a friend. I started to feel angry at the thought the he could feel slighted. Slighted by what? By the fact that I had kissed Kyle? I was attracted to Kyle and Kyle had made no secret that he was attracted to me. He had Anne and at no time had he ever shown me that he had felt more than friendship for me. So what right did he have?

I moved closer to Kyle, who relaxed slightly. Darryl spoke, up his eyes watching our movements more than looking at us. “Yea, I would have joined you earlier, but… something…came up.” Something came up?! Something came up?!

It is funny that when we are angry, angry more at ourselves than the other person, how we are more likely to lash out.

He had left at the request of Anne. He had stayed away at the request of Anne on an evening that was important to me and now he made as if it was nothing; and that I had somehow done something wrong? It seemed my anger gave me courage to speak. Courage to say the right or wrong thing, I wasn’t sure which, but courage to say something. “How is Anne doing? I thought that she would have joined you.” My words broke the clay mask that had surrounded his face. It showed that he didn’t think I knew why he had left. He looked at me, but that dessert had not retracted.

“She couldn’t make it. I just got here and came looking for you to congratulate you on tonight’s performance. Well congratulations,” he said deflated. “Thank you, it was really amazing.” I was angry at him, but I still yearned to tell him everything of my experience, but couldn’t and wouldn’t.

Kyle bent down to speak to me, “I think maybe we should get back to the party, before they send out a search party,” and with the last few words he looked towards Darryl. I wanted to stay in the solitude of the tree, but it seemed that neither Darryl nor Kyle would leave me there, so I looked up and nodded at Kyle, “Maybe we should.”

We made our way back to the gazebo. Kyle’s arm had slid from my shoulders down my arm. His hand hovering close to mine, not quite holding it. Darryl walked in line with us a few steps away, but he neither let us lead him or fall behind him. The silence of the night, with hardly any noise coming from nocturnal creatures, the distance between us and Darryl became wider the closer we got to the gazebo.

Nearer I saw that many of the people that I held dear were congregated at the one side on the edge. I wanted to flee and hide among them. There was a relief when we neared them, but it wasn’t to last long. Kyle and I made our way to one side of the group, where Chloë and Jack stood and Darryl made his way to the other side. It seemed as if there was a gulf stretching out between us.

Anne slithered out from behind Emily with a look of satisfaction that could be very close to bragging. There was a sudden look of surprise on Darryl’s face and I almost tripped over my own feet when I saw her. He had said that she had not come, what was she doing here then? I drew closer to my friends in an attempt at refuge, but Kyle was next to me in an instant. This time he just held my hand. There was slight comfort in it. Knowing that my friends were next to me and that Kyle was close, close enough to keep me out of awkward situation. Darryl’s face grew darker and the satisfaction that had been planted on Anne’s face seemed to drain out of it. I would be lying if I said that I did not feel a little satisfaction at her reaction. The smug look she had, had now been washed away by confusion and a tinge of enviousness.

“There you guys are,” Chloë spoke up, “we were just about to send out a search party.” If it hadn’t been more obvious that Kyle and I had been out on our own, she had made it abundantly clear with that statement. I had to reply to save myself from an embarrassing revelation. “No need, we were just at the edge of the garden. There is a beautiful view of the city. You should take a look.” Chloë gave me a knowing look that made me blush. “So what did I miss?”, I babbled on. “Nothing much, just chatting away.” “Oh, about?” “Well for one thing, I feel like dancing. Who wants to join me?”, she said holding her hand out to me, I needed an excuse to move from a position that would lead to questions, so I took hold while she lead me to what was the centre of the gazebo.

The song was slow enough to give Chloë ample opportunity to interrogate me, while still looking good dancing. “So, why were you gone so long?” “No reason,” I replied. “Come on, give me something. I am supposed to be one of your best friends after all.” I rolled my eyes, “I needed a break, so I took a walk down a small path way and looked at the view.” “And Kyle?” “What about Kyle?” “Well as soon as he noticed you were gone, he went after you like a rocket. What happened?” I couldn’t help it, I blushed. “He kissed you, didn’t he?” Chloë looked like she had just won the first prize of the show all over again, “I knew it. ” She looked at me from the corner of her eye, “How was it? Tell me all.” “It was just a kiss Chloë, nothing more.” “Far enough, but how was it?” “It..it was,” I felt warm again, warm like when he had been close. The memory flashed through my mind and all that stimulation I had felt ran through my body again and I knew that if he had been close, kissing me again I would erupt, “electrifying.” That word should subdue any more questions. “And now?” “Nothing.” “Why?” “Because we haven’t gotten there yet. It was just a kiss, okay,” I repeated. This time she looked at me head on, but her eyes were still narrowed. She looked past me towards where our group were sitting. “He got here just after Kyle had gone looking for you. Ida told me why he left the show early. I was surprised that she wasn’t with, but even more shocked when she arrived not long after he went looking for you. No one wanted to tell her that he had gone after you.” She took a deep breath. I took one too. The gulf was there, I had made my choice and there was no going back now. I looked at Chloë, the concern showing on her face, “I’m okay, that’s why I need time, just to get my head cleared first.” She nodded understanding.

It seemed to be a queue for most of our group to join us and for awhile I was lost in the music, dancing and laughing. Then that one type of song started playing. The one that makes every boy’s palms sweaty and every girl nervous that she would not be included. The slow song.

As always I made my way towards the seats. It was always my queue to get off a dance floor, but then a hand stopped me and as I turned, Kyle smiled, “May I?” It was going to be hard to ask him to give me some more time. That dangerous charm. For all that charm, for all that fire that he started in my belly, he was not the one that I had wanted to see when I turned around, but he was the one that was there. I smiled back, “You may.” Gracefully he took me into his arms. Warm as always and keeping me close, that sweet musky smell he had covered me. He moved me across the floor like we were slowly skating across smooth ice. My cheek against his shoulder, his head resting on top of mine. My eyes were open when we turned and the seats where my friends were sitting came into view. I saw two pairs of eyes watching. One pair was filled with envy and the other was a desert. I closed mine and in the view of each eye I saw a figure. One tall with dark hair like a black panther, the other bright and flaming like the sun. The sun got farther away till it disappeared and I pinched my eyes so that I could try and stop from seeing it fade away. When the song had finished, Kyle looked down at me. “Elly are you okay?” “I’m fine,” I replied swallowing everything I began to feel deep down into an abyss. “Are you sure,” he said wiping away a wet stream that made a light line down the one side of my face. “ I’m fine. Just an emotional day. Caught up to me, I think.” He wiped the rest away and lightly kissed my lips, “I’m here,” he said against my lips, “anytime you need to speak.” “I know,” I smiled weakly back against those soft cushions.

The gazebo was emptying and I would rather be sitting among friends than be one of the sole dancers. “Maybe we should get back to the others,” I suggested. He nodded back at me and we made our way back to the seats. Jayde and her entourage had found us eventually and they had taken up residence next to Anne. It did not surprise me at all to find them in deep conversation when we got to the seats. They had the same grimace on their faces when they simultaneously looked up at me. I did not have the energy to be close to them and I made my way to Chloë, where I took up a position close to her. Kyle followed me and sat closer to me.

The conversation at the seats passed around me and I could feel the stress and excursion of the day getting to me. A few times I had caught myself with my mouth agape, yawning. “You almost swallowed me whole with that last one,” Kyle smiled. “I think today has just caught up to me,” I replied. “Time to go home?” “Wouldn’t that be rude. There’s still a lot of people around and to leave you here on your own.” He leaned closer, “I think they will understand and I can look after myself.” “Okay, I’ll get my mom or my sisters.” “Not to worry, I’ll take you home.” “Wouldn’t that be even more disrespectful? You are the host.” “I don’t think anyone will miss me if I take you home. They seem to be enjoying themselves irrespective of my presence.” “Okay, well I have to find my mom anyway to let her know,” I replied. “You want me to come with.” “I think I’ll be fine,” I said getting up. As I moved away, I noticed Jayde getting up and moving towards Kyle, but he was up faster and made his way in a different direction. I giggled.

I searched the gazebo looking for my mother and found her sitting with the McDougal’s and a few other parents from the talent show. I made my way up to them, “Hey mom, enjoying yourself,” I smiled. “Yes, sweetheart, you?” “Yes, but I think today has caught up to me. I’m a bit tired.” “Do you want to go home?” “Yes, Kyle will be taking me home. Just came to let you know.” She still held that smile, but something flashed through her eyes, “Are you sure? I can take you home.” “It’s okay mom. I will be fine. Stay and enjoy yourself. I’ll meet you at home.” She nodded, “Okay sweetheart.” I bent down and gave her a kiss and said farewell to the McDougal’s and the other parents. I searched the rest of the area looking for Alice and Malcolm and found them in no time. I told them farewell, with the same invitation by both to take me home, but again I let them know that Kyle would be taking me home.

Making my way back to the seats to say my final farewells, I saw Darryl coming up my path. I looked for an alternative route, but there was none that would not be obvious that I was avoiding him. I took a deep breath and decided to face this head on. Within a few moments we were standing face to face. There was still a gulf between us and even though we were closer now than we had been at the seats, the distance remained. “So you going home now?” he asked. I could hardly look at him, “Yes.” “Today was a busy day. I should expect you must be drained.” In more ways than one I thought, “Yes I’m tired. Might fall asleep on the seats if I don’t leave now.” He looked away for a moment then he looked back at me. I ventured to take a glimpse at his eyes. They were still like a desert, but if a desert could be drier than it normally was, his eyes were like that. “I’m sorry I left early. It’s just that something came up and I had to take care of it.”

I had to stop him. I didn’t want to hear his explanation. I knew the reason why he had left. “Stop, you don’t have to explain. I understand.” “But I feel really bad and I feel I need to explain. There’s so many things I need to tell you...should have told you...” I interrupted him, too tired and drained to hear about what had happened. “Darryl, please. I know. Anne needed you and your first responsibility is to her and your relationship. Like I said, I understand.” “Elly, it’s not like that. Please I need to tell you. I think you misunderstand...” Before he could continue I spoke up, “Darryl, not tonight, please.” I needed to get away from him and quickly. “I have to go before I fall down asleep.” I tried to put a smile on my face, “Thanks for coming in the first place, it was enough.” I patted him on the shoulder as I moved passed him as quickly as I could, saying good night. I felt his hand brush my arm, but I moved out of the way quickly before he could grab it. I didn’t need to look back to know that he was watching me walk away. I felt that green and gold forest bore a hole into the back of my head.

Breathing deeply to keep myself calm, I made my way to the seats as fast as possible without running. I ignored the two pairs of blue icebergs as I came up to where everyone was congregated. I had avoided them most of the night and I was determined to continue till I left. I said my farewells to everyone, but when it came to Darryl I wasn’t sure to wave or give him the customary hug we always did when we said good bye. He made the decision for me and held on longer than usual, so that I had to push him away slightly to make him let go. I didn’t want to be that close to him. It hurt too much.

Kyle and I made our way away from the group, making a detour to his parents and I thanked them again for the evening. Even though it was evident that they were enjoying themselves, it still felt like I was watching aristocracy in a statuesque manner.

Driving away from Kyle’s home felt like moving away from both a fantasy and a nightmare. I hadn’t realized I had fallen asleep till I heard Kyle’s voice, soft and smooth close to me face, “Elly, Elly, wake up we home.” I slowly opened my eyes to see his face close to mine and a smile on his face when he saw me awaken. Drowsy I tried to move out of the seat, but his hands were there helping me, “How long was I asleep?” “Most of the drive. I think you fell asleep after we passed the gates. “Oh. I didn’t realize I was that tired.” “Well an evening like tonight can take a lot out of a person.” He didn’t know how true his words were. Groggily I made my way to the door yearning for the comfort of my bed. I unlocked the door, switching on the lights of the hallway, when Kyle gently took my hand. I turned around to face him, a slow smile moving across his face. “Thank you for bringing me home.” “It was my pleasure,” he replied as he moved away a non-existent hair from my face. “Did you enjoy yourself this evening?” “Yes. Thank you for the party. It was far more than could be imagined. I think everyone appreciated the effort that you and your parents did to bring it together.” “All that matters was if you enjoyed it.” I could see that fire starting to burn in his eyes again and I needed my head clear after everything that had happened. “It’s late and if I don’t get to bed soon you may have to carry me there.” He smiled, “I wouldn’t mind,” he replied. There was a moment of silence and then he moved closer, “What happened tonight was unexpected, but it’s something I have wanted from the first time I saw you.” He moved closer and his smell made my head foggy. As he moved in that same deliberate way he had earlier in the evening both my hands came up against his chest. He stopped suddenly, but he didn’t move. Instead both his hands came up and covered mine. A small smile appeared across his lips, “I know. I know you are confused by everything,” he whispered, “but if you can look me straight in the eyes now and tell me that there is nothing between us. That you feel absolutely nothing for me and never will, I will walk away tonight and never bring it up again.”

My heart stuck in my throat. I knew I couldn’t say that because it wasn’t true, but I wasn’t even sure what I did feel for Kyle. If it was real or if it was chemical. As I looked out into the ocean, it seemed to sweep me away. I heard his voice again, from far away, “I wish I had met you first, then you wouldn’t question what you know deep down.” I felt, rather than saw, him move closer and that musky smell engulfed me. “Elly, tell me know. Please tell me you can never feel anything for me.” I moved my mouth, but nothing came out. Even the part of me that always fought him was dubiously absent. It was true I did feel something for him and like the racers on the race track, I had put my full concentration on one thing and had been blind to the rest. His forehead came to rest against mine. His eyes were closed, his breathing was shallow and I could feel his heart pounding against my hand. He quietly breathed out, “Elly, please tell me that I can stop being in love with you.” My heart sank straight from my throat into my stomach.

I must have stopped breathing for a long time, because he opened his eyes and there was both fear and concern in them. He said nothing, but looked at me intently and I knew that he needed an answer from me to get passed what he felt. I licked my lips and swallowed deep. Slowly opening my mouth I watched as his eyes moved lower watching it for what would come out. I couldn’t think. I didn’t think and I heard myself speak without knowing who had given the instruction, “I can’t….I can’t tell you that.”

When I heard myself say it, I was both shocked and relieved. I couldn’t tell him to go away, but I had made a decision now. A decision to move into something I had been unsure about before. As I spoke the last syllables, I saw the understanding become clear to Kyle. His hands fell from mine, but instantly were at my face holding it to look up at him. His eyes searched mine, “Do you mean it?” I nodded.

Before the wave of relief had washed over him, I felt soft, smooth lips against mine. It was tender and sweet, but there was a sense of urgency about it that I had not felt before. The volcano inside me erupted and the lava came gushing out, spilling all over me. As I reached to snake my fingers through his hair, he pulled me closer to him. I was burning. I could feel it, but I felt alive doing it.

Over and over the volcano erupted and over and over again I felt the warmth wash over me. When we had run out of air and exhausted our tender lips we pulled away, only slightly. He still held me close. Using a finger to lift my chin, so that I could see his dark and deep blue eyes, he smiled, “Do you know how long it has been since I have wanted to tell you that?” I shook my head. “The night I met you, I knew that there was something between us and I couldn’t stop thinking about you Elly. The first time that you came over to my home and I saw you play, I felt it watching you, but I couldn’t believe either. I only realised what it was the night I got Jack to agree to let me come along to the movies. And every day since, it has grown and grown. Elly I’m in love with you.”

I smiled up at him, “I know you said it already,” a thought came to me, did he want to hear it from me as well? I liked him a lot, but love? “Kyle.. I can’t…, I’m not sure….” He still smiled down at me, “Elly, it’s okay. I just wanted you to know how I felt. You have just accepted how you feel about me, I’m not going to push it.” With that he bent down and kissed me softly, my heart rate started to beat fast again and I could feel that volcano awaken.

When he pulled away, I looked into those blue pools. They seemed serene now and I did want to swim in them and be swept away to, who knows where. “Elly..?” “Yes?” “Are you going to open up the door anytime soon…?” I shook myself awake. We were still on the front porch and I scrambled for my keys.

Kyle went in ahead of me and made sure that all was safe and when he was satisfied, we made our way back to the front door. “Goodnight my beautiful,” he said against my lips. I smiled brighter at hearing it, “Good night Flame…” He pulled away looking confused. “Flame?” “Yip. I always thought I would get burned if I got to close to you and I have, in a good way,” I said leaning forward and kissing him full on the lips.

He shook his head and moved to say goodbye again. I closed the door behind him, locking up and making my way to the room.

Flopping my bag on my bed, I pulled out my phone. I looked at the numerous missed calls and messages I had received. I realised that I had forgotten to take it off silent after the show. The first was from my mom. I called her immediately before she got to worried. After a brief talk, letting her know I was okay and getting ready for bed, I checked the other messages. There was one from Chloë and Jack. I replied saying good night and that I would catch up with them in the morning.

Then I looked at the rest of the missed calls. There was 10 in total, all from Darryl. They had started around about the time I had arrived home. He must have worked out how long it would take and called to find out if I was safe. Not like he needed to worry.

Then I went to the messages there were five in total, all from him as well. I feared opening them up, but curiosity got the better of me;

the first:

Hey Elly

Are you at home yet?

Please let me know when you at home safe

Darryl xxx

The second:

Elly

Tried to call, but there is no answer.

I need to speak to you

Please let me know when you home safe

Darryl xxx

The third:

Elly

Are you ignoring me? Please don’t, Not now

I need to speak to you soon

Darryl xxxx

The fourth

Elly I am getting worried

you not answering my calls or messages

please, please let me know

Darryl

The fifth

Elly

Please don’t make any decisions now before I have spoken to you

Please give me a chance to explain first

Please I beg you give me a chance

Your Darryl xxx

The last one sent my head into to a tail spin ‘Your Darryl’. Why now? Why not sooner? I looked at the message. It was too late, I had already made a decision. I needed to send him a message in case he freaked out and went to my mom. Even though I had called he, she may still worry.

So I responded:

Hey Darryl

Home safe

Sorry, too late

Decision has already been made

Elly

No ‘Your’ and no ‘xxx’

EPILOGUE

Hurricane Anne

It was the first, but not the last time that she was told that her best asset was her hair. Looking in the mirror she remembered feeling uncomfortable in the dress and the curls looked unnatural. She had been invited to Natasha’s birthday party. She didn’t like Natasha. She wasn’t nice. She thought animals were dirty and stinky. And Natasha didn’t particularly like Anne either. It was her mom that had gotten her the invitation and it was her mom that was forcing her to go.

“If you associate with pigs then people will think you are one.”

“But Mamma, I like pigs. They clever. They loyal,” Anne had protested.

“Anna…..,” she exhaled in an exasperated Russian tone, “my girl, which do you want to be? A bird or a pig?”

“Mamma I like both.”

The older lady shook her head. The platinum blonde waves shook as she closed her eyes, irritation starting to show on her face.

“My girl. No one wants to be around a pig. A bird is graceful and beautiful. Everyone always wants to cage a beautiful bird. They will do whatever to capture them. You have to learn to be like a bird.”

Anne looked in the mirror, staring at the other little girl standing in front of her. She looked weird. She wanted to wear her jeans and her t-shirt, and she wanted her hair in a ponytail, but her mom wouldn’t let her.

Her mother came to stand behind her, twirling one of curls around a finger. “You look beautiful.” Turning her around, she bent over trailing a finger along her face. She looked at the little girl standing in front of her with curls and a blushing pink party dress. Anne looked up her mother, older blue eyes mirroring hers. They were as deep as hers and you could look deep into it without finding the bottom. Her mom hid everything in her eyes, even her love for Anne.

“My sweetheart, remember something. Some people are beautiful, some people are intelligent and some people are lucky enough to have both. My baby, you were not that lucky, so remember to always use what you have.”

Her mother had been upset the day she had cut her hair. It was a pixie hairstyle and she loved it. It was freeing.

She had wanted to show the older Miss Romanov, that she was both intelligent and beautiful and that her hair was not her best asset.

It was something that she had done all her life. When she had done ballet, her mother had shown mild interest, but when she had been picked for a spelling competition, her mom had not attended.

It had been the same with the science fair.

She had been ten and had come home excited, bursting to tell her mother about it. Her science teacher had encouraged her to enter and told her that she had a very good chance to take the top prize, but when she had spoken to her mom about it, she had been dismissive and hinted at something that Anne hadn’t understood.

“What did you do for Mr Bold that makes him think that you, of all people, can get a top prize?”

“Nothing Mama, he just said I have a good chance.” Her mother had looked her with an eyebrow arched.

She had begged her mother to come and had finally convinced her, but only after she had agreed to extra beauty classes and making sure to keep the science project out of her mother’s sight. Regardless, Anne had been excited and when the day had finally arrived, not even her mother’s groaning about being bored could dampen her spirits.

By the time that Anne was ten, she knew that her mother was beautiful by any standards and she knew no matter where they went her mother got attention. Her mother being surrounded at the science fair wasn’t surprising, it was actually a relief. She knew that it would keep her mother out of her hair and she wouldn’t have to hear her complaining about coming.

At the end of the day when they had gathered all the entrants to hand out ribbons and prizes for the projects, Anne had thought she had been transported to heaven when they had called her name to receive one of the many ribbons they were handing out.

It was more than she had hoped for and it was enough. She felt her face crack as it split wide open into a smile. This time it wasn’t forced, like the times she had to smile for a camera or being on a ramp. Her face had stayed like that until she had come face to face with her mother. She had wanted to run up and hug her, but the the look on her face made Anne think twice about it.

There was a look of disgust on it.

“A ribbon? I was here almost the whole day, surrounded by bored old grubby hands and overzealousness and all you got was a silly ribbon?”

“Not everyone got a ribbon Mama,” Anne had protested.

“Anne, the way you made it sound was that you would come in the top three. You didn’t even make the top five. I suppose you needed my help with that too..”

“Mama?”

“Well what did you think I was doing? Having conversations because I enjoyed it and being here? I knew you couldn’t do it on your own.” Her mother had looked down at her expectantly and even if Anne had felt that she had gotten the ribbon on her own, her mother had sowed enough doubt in her to bring her crashing down to earth.

“Anyway, I suppose it wasn’t all a waste of time,” her mother continued as they made their way to the car. “That new little girl, I think her name is Ida, her father seemed interesting.”

“And her mother?”, Anne had asked, but knowing what the answer would be.

“Of no consequence…”

Her mother had not spoken about the new little girl’s father again. Maybe she had lost interest or maybe he had seen early what her mother wanted, but it didn’t matter. Not long after that they had moved because her mother had found a new conquest. The new conquest had been one of the few that Anne had actually liked. He was intelligent and took interest in her and not because she was a doll or a close replica of her mother, but because they both enjoyed science and she wanted to be a vet like him.

This one had lasted longer than she thought it would and when it finally ended, she had truly been sad to see him go.

She had just started high school and had to move again. Her mom had decided to move back to their home town and when she had started her new high school, her mother told her that it was a chance to make a new beginning.

“Anna, no boy likes a girl that is cleverer than him. You will never find a man that will stay with you if he thinks you know more than him.”

“But Mama that’s not the type of boy I want. What about James. He didn’t seem to mind it?”

“Pfft James,” her mother had snorted and then looked at her from the corner of her eye. “ You really liked James, why?”

“Because he was clever mama, you know that. I could speak to him about anything and he didn’t get annoyed when I asked questions.”

“Pfft,” her mother snorted again.

She had never understood why James had liked her mother in the first place. They had nothing in common.

“James was like all men. It wasn’t my intelligence that attracted him to me, just like it won’t be your love for science and books that will give you a reliable man.”

“Mama, why did James leave anyway?”

“It doesn’t matter,” her mother had retorted and she never did explain why James, like all her conquests, had moved on. Anne had bumped into him a few years later. He was happy and his wife was an unassuming looking woman, but there was a genuine happiness between them.

In the few moments that she had left them alone to run after their toddler, Anne had blurted out that very question.

“If your mother had your mind, she would have been perfect.” He had laughed, “Some beauty fades with time and some beauty grows.” He said the last words as he watched his wife walk back towards them with their offspring. They bid Anne farewell and she had looked on, hoping that she could be like that unassuming-looking woman.

It was during her high school years that she had learnt to hide her real thoughts and only show others what they wanted to see.

Her mother wanted a beauty queen that could be the centre of attention and she wanted to study. So she played the role her mother wanted in the daylight and when she was alone she took enjoyment in the subjects she had always loved.

She used the tools and tricks her mom showed her to get her way and at the end she was certain that she could make almost any man believe that she was what he wanted, but only for so long. Like her mother, she had not yet mastered the art of making him believe forever.

The senior Miss Romanov had taught her never to go after the heart.

“Never go for love. It doesn’t put a meal on the table. If you going to waste your time on a man, at least make it is worth your while. He doesn’t have to be rich in the beginning, but you have to learn how to look for the ones with real potential. Those ones will appreciate you for ‘being there in the beginning’.”

That is the way Anne had looked at all her relationships. It was like a business deal. When Darryl had come along, she hadn’t given him much attention. He was sweet, naïve and friendly, but he was not the type of guy to waste your time on. He was the type that you could lose your heart to and that was not part of her plan. Her eyes were set on Stephen the lead singer of the band and if she could get it right, Malcolm’s cousin Kyle. That was the ultimate prize to be had. Good looking, well connected and wealthy.

She had tried everything her mother had taught her to hook either one and reel them in, but they hadn’t bitten and she couldn’t understand why.

She was frustrated and bored and she wasn’t sure if she had lost her touch. An opportunity to practice showed itself when she noticed that Darryl was speaking about one of his students that he was tutoring with more enthusiasm than a normal tutor would. She immediately saw what he was blind to and that he was falling for this girl, and hard. As she thought about it, she smiled. She would have to wait till he was on the cusp of realising it and then make him change his mind without knowing it. It would be hard to do, to time it right, but to get him to pick her over this girl and make him think it was his idea would be what she needed right now. She needed a challenge and something to warm her up to make her way from Stephen to Kyle.

In hindsight, she had underestimated her opponent, or was it that she over estimated her power of persuasion?

Elly had put her off balance. This quiet, unassuming girl had something about her that drew everyone that was around close to her. She didn’t ask for a spotlight, it was handed to her. She didn’t ask for the attention, she shied away from it, but it was given to her. Anne had looked at Elly many times. She was pretty, but average. She didn’t have the height that her sister Alice had, nor did she have the piercing grey eyes that Ida had. Elly was of average height and of average build with a hourglass shape. She had common dark brown hair, that had a slight reddish tinge in the sunlight. She had a milky light olive tone to her skin, which immediately showed the pink on her cheeks when she was embarrassed and she had dark brown eyes. There was nothing that was immediately striking about Elly, but there was something about her. Was it the way she smiled at you, which was open and warm? Or was it the way she looked at you that seemed to open up everything and hid it at the same time? Anne had realised very quickly that Elly was a threat, maybe the biggest and most dangerous one she would come across.

“Sweetheart, it’s the ones that don’t know what they have that are the most dangerous, because when the realisation hits it comes at the most unexpected times. Be careful, this one can take everything away from you.”

Her mom had been right. She had underestimated Elly and her hold on Darryl. She had concentrated too much on the next step to take notice or even care that he was becoming aware of her true feelings. When he had caught her, she had to think quickly to keep him close. She could use the only and last resort that she had. Emotional blackmail. She had told him enough of her years growing up to make him think she had been neglected and that she was a fragile being. It was a card that she had kept close to her, to use one day and she had needed to use it then.

It had been hard making him agree to keep quiet about the true status of their relationship for as long as he did. It would have eventually ended, but she needed it to end at the right time.

The time when she could pull the rug out from under Elly and have everything that she wanted.

Tornado Jayde

She remembered loving to dance, but as the years had passed it had become and means to an end. It was a tool that served a purpose, the purpose to make you stand out of the crowd, to make you seem special. Special people were famous and only famous people were special.

Like most little girls, she entered the dance world through ballet. There she had met another little girl named Chloë. They had liked each other from the beginning and she was inspired by Chloë’s talent and natural rhythm. It bordered on envy at times, but Jayde liked Chloë and dancing too much to let it turn into anything more than that. She wanted to learn from her and she wanted to be like her at the same time.

It had been her mother that had made her aware of the threat that Chloë presented.

“She is your biggest competition Jayde, because she has something that you don’t possess and that is very dangerous.” “What are you talking about mom?”, Jayde had looked at her mother with large round eyes as if her mom was telling the scariest story that she had ever heard. “To be the best, one has to have both natural talent and determination, she has both and the love of dancing to make her the best,” her mom had told her. There had been a cold tone to her voice as if it was something metallic and mechanical that was relaying the information. “You can never be her friend Jayde.” “But why not mom, she’s nice and I like dancing with her.” “She will never be a true friend Jayde, not while she is a threat. She will learn your weaknesses and use it against you.”

Jayde had not believed her mother, she could not. Chloë was too nice and no one could be that nasty. It hadn’t been till their first real competition that what her mother’s words had come back to haunt her.

Their ballet teacher had put them up against each other as a challenge. Both Jayde and Chloë had laughed it off, but when the realisation hit that there really could only be one winner, their reactions were very different. It was Chloë that won the competition and it was the first, but not the last time, that the envy that Jayde had turned to resentment.

After the disappointment of the competition, her mother convinced her to diversify. “Maybe you are better at singing or acting,” her mother had told her with a smile, “between the three, one should make you special,” she hugged Jayde as she continued, “what you lack in talent you sure make up in persistence.”

She had been either talented or persistent enough a few months later to get a part as the understudy in a large local play. It was where she had met the dark haired boy with the ocean-coloured eyes. He was playing the lead and when she had first seen him her heart had skipped a beat, but she hadn’t known why. She wished she had known the type of person the lead actress was before she had confided in her what she thought of the dark haired boy. Zelda, horrible Zelda, had made it her mission to make Jayde’s life unbearable while they rehearsed for the play. She had even gone to the lengths of getting the blue-eyed boy to kiss her. Jayde had been sure that he had liked her, well that was what his friends had told her, but when she had turned the corner and saw them, she had wanted to hurl right there. It did not end there. Zelda had goaded her every moment. The day when the play did it’s last show, Jayde stopped being friends with Chloë and made sure that Zelda never did another play. It was the first lesson that she learnt that she would always remember. Being good and nice got you nowhere and friendship was a weakness that got you crushed.

It was lesson that she had made into a rule. It was what guided her and what ruled her decisions. It was the reason that she and Chloë were adversaries, nemeses was a better word and why, when she saw the dark-haired, blue-eyed boy standing outside the gate of her school on the last day before the mid-year break, she made it her mission not to let anyone get in her way this time around.


To be Continued

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