1. Glass House
“Your looking better, Caleb,” Stella smiled at her phone screen as she video called her friend back in her home town, London. She strolled behind her clad of siblings that were fighting over the last hundred dollar bill their parents had given.
“I am feeling better,” he laughed happily on her screen, “Are you still being dragged around for shopping?”
She snickered, “I don’t even know, one of them wants food, the other wants clothes, all of them want the extra cash mum and dad gave them.” She rolled her eyes, glancing at her bickering brothers and sisters ahead of her, “Although I’m hearing the word Mall a lot around here, so what you should really ask is if im still being forced to endure my dear sibling’s bratty selves in the middle of a busy Mall. Apparently, that’s what its called in America.”
“Damn, Seattle is changing you,” he winked playfully. Stella held the phone closer to study the boy she missed most, his frail wrists hooked up to machines and a cannula under his nose, with his thin, blonde buzz cut and a jolly smile across his face. How he was always so positive, she did not know. Stella admired how Caleb could always brighten someones day even if he was having the worst of the worst.
“Is that for the better or for the worst?” She questioned, adjusting one of her earbuds.
“Its too early to say,” he shook his head, smiling still.
“Stella, for god sake, keep your ass up with us, dad will be pissed if you go running off again!” Her irritated brother yelled.
“I’m coming, jeez Louise!” She yelled back and sped up her pace, sending a glare into Jackson’s back as he shoved his younger brother aside.
“What a prick,” Caleb moans through her earphones, he was pulling a dirty look.
She laughed at his attempt at being angry, it never really suited him. “Yeah well, he’s dads little suck up for a reason.”
“I dread to think what will happen when Jackson takes over for your dad,” he snickers, “The entire business will implode.”
“Probably,” she chuckles and walks into a chair outside a food stall, groaning in annoyance, “Seriously, who puts a chair right there, I’m trying to walk here.”
“Well you are on your phone-” Caleb starts.
“Talking to you, yes I am very sorry for giving my best friend miles away all of my attention instead of looking where I’m going in a place I don’t wanna be,” she finishes with a smirk. “Anyway enough about me, what about you? Did they get rid of that infection?”
“Stella,” he drags out her name in annoyance, “You know I hate talking medical with you.”
“Caleb, please, don’t make me worry about you,” she said lowly. Stella tended to worry a lot about him, it became a daily struggle of trying to get him to spill details on surgeries and medical business ever since she had to leave for Seattle. Not being right by his side, whether anything happened or not, was breaking her heart.
He sighed and tugged his camera closer to his pale face, “They said they got rid of it, there’s still a chance it can come back though so I have to stay in for a few weeks while they keep tabs on me. Mums running around like a madwoman.”
She nodded, “Well, keep me updated, Im glad your okay. I miss you.”
“I miss you too,” he smiled as his eyes began to droop as well as the angel of his camera phone.
“I’ll let you rest, talk later. Bye mate,” she blew a kiss and ended the call, refreshed that she knew he was currently at a good point.
She switched on a Nirvana album and shoved her phone in her jean pocket, she refused to walk any faster to catch up with her siblings stuck on the other side of a crowd pushing through to get fast food.
She struggled through, sighing as she reached the twins of her family; Katia and Kira. Or the sisters Stella refers to as the devil’s spawn.
“The fuck have you been?” Kira sneered, multiple Victoria Secret bags hung off her forearm and she shoved half of them in Katia’s free hand.
“Talking to my friend, what’s it to you?” Stella shrugged bluntly.
Katia rolled her eyes, “Why do you even ask? She’s in one of her moods again.”
“I’m not in a mood, why do you even care where I’ve been?” Stella grew irritated, she wanted their interaction to end being as their petty arguments normally last hours.
Stubbornness runs in the family.
“Because you always fuck off and we get the blame for not keeping you on a tighter leash,” Kira squeakily snarled.
Stella imagined daggers protruding from their skulls, drowning their long perfect locks of chestnut brown hair with the stain of red blood.
“Yeah, dog,” Katia added to her twin’s insult. They looked at each other with disturbingly identical and wicked smiles.
“What did you just call me?” Stella harshly spoke, taking a daring step closer to her bitchy sisters, practically asking them to repeat themselves so she had a reason to tear out chunks of their hair.
“You heard,” Kira flipped a thick strand over her shoulder, she linked arms with Katia and sauntered off to find their brothers in the nearby sports store.
Stella imagined another dagger stabbing itself in their waving behinds along with the stick she always called them out for having up there.
“Just one more year, I’ll be eighteen and I can have my own life,” she mumbles, reassuring herself that she won’t always be stuck in her sibling’s shadows.
She heads to the front of the sports shop, pop music blaring like a rave as clambered teenagers wander around holding overly priced designer trainers and trendy sportswear.
Nope. Definitely not.
Before her siblings could spot her and give another lecture about running off, she slips around the corner and jumps into a vacant lift. Pressing ground floor, she wanted so badly to be out of the buzzing public place, her headache starting to disappear. She cursed the screaming child that had followed her halfway across the Mall when they arrived.
The silver doors slide open, she was relieved that the ground level wasn’t as busy, it was practically the entrance near the parking area.
Stella pushed through the double glass doors, making her way further outside. Thinking she’d rather wait at the car with her music than follow around her five siblings for hours as they stroll aimlessly around repetitive and noisy clothing stores, fighting over who gets the pink bikini and who gets the latest white or black shoe models.
Although her eyes caught a better escape more to her liking. As she wandered further from the shopping centre, she spotted the beginning of a cobblestone trail leading into the surrounding woods. Stella strolled over and travelled further into the treeline, fresh air invading her lungs and the calming sway of lumbering trees as the clatter and honks of cars and the public hum grew faint.
She continued to delve curiously through the thick emerald brush, without straying from the path. Nightlights had been hammered into the ground on each side of the walkway and she passed occasional signs of direction. Although she never paid attention to the words or arrows, she found the unknown exciting.
Minutes pass and the towering structure of the shopping centre was completely out of view. She was alone with the sweet calls of birds and vibrant green canopy of trees letting thin streams of light seep through the cracks and onto her pale skin.
The stone path came to a junction, splitting in three ways. She glanced to her left and admired a well-maintained flower garden sprouting a variety of pastel colours.
A hayfever deathtrap.
To her right, the path leads to a rickety, moss-covered bridge overhead a subtle stream and continued deeper into a patch of woodland.
Then ahead of her, her eyes widened as she gazed on the proud structure of an octagonal glass gazebo. With black pillars surrounded by white Hydrangeas and two pink Blossom trees either side of the transparent house.
Although what inspired her more, was the grand black piano sitting lonely within the glasshouse. As unusual as it was, she was still completely entranced to find the beautiful instrument waiting to be played.
Her fingers began to twitch.
This might be someone’s property. She thought. Why else would there be a random piano in the middle of a nature walk?
Her feet took charge and the temptation was all too much to ignore. It would be a perfect chance to practice, the Blissett family aren’t fond of fine arts especially when Stella finds those things deeply inspiring herself.
She reached the door of the gazebo, no padlock, no keyhole, just a handle.
She pulled it open gently, carefully stepping inside as she expected some kind of security alarm to go off. But there was none, it was peacefully quiet with the occasional whistle of a Blue Jay.
Stella sat on the plush bench, still wary that anyone or anything could rip her away from the stunning apparatus. She admired the obsidian sheen of the piano, her dainty fingers grazing across the glossy black and white keys. The masterpiece was clearly maintained excellently.
A grin formed on her plump, pink lips as she began to play. Slow and soft as she took in its rich sound, getting used to the acoustics within the nature surrounded house.
(PIANO SONG: YANN TIERSEN - COMPTINE D'UN AUTRE ETE)
The tips of her fingers glided elegantly across the keyboard, tilting her head back enjoying the chill it gave her. The chilling muse of the song let her forget every worry, every negative emotion. It was just her and the song.
She ended the elegant melody, letting the last note echo delightfully between the glass walls.
“That’s a French one, am I right?” A deep voice spoke.
She jolted in surprise, glancing behind her, there stood a raven-haired fellow leaning casually between the frame of the door. “Uh-I-uh...”
A low chuckle rumbled from his throat. Stella locked eyes with his hazel ones, bright flecks of gold and green waving around in his orbs. The reflections of the sun shining the glass made his tan skin glow in the warm light. And dark, subtle, stubble grazing his lower face. “I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. Stella noticed a thin accent in his voice.
“No, it’s okay. Is this your property? I can leave, I just stumbled across it and me being curious-” She hastily started.
“It’s not mine,” he interrupted blandly, “It’s here for anyone who appreciates the refined art.”
“Ah,” was all she could say in front of the intimidating bloke. She assumed he was around her age, nineteen at the most, although his impressive build said otherwise. Tall but buff, she studied the ends of black lines tattooed on his skin around his neck and his right hand. The collar of his black jacket hiding most of the picture.
“You didn’t answer my question,” he added. She thought awkwardness would arise between them but the way he acted, his emotionless yet mysterious expression made things anything but awkward.
She raised a brow, turning her body entirely to face him, “Yes, yes the composer is French, it was also featured in a french film,” she said proudly. Stella was never afraid to brag of her knowledge within exquisite creativity. She thought of classic pieces to be very inspiring.
“Amélie?” He questioned the name of the film she spoke of.
“Yes, exactly,” Stella grinned.
He pushed off of the frame and strolled over, her eyes never left his towering figure as he got closer to her tinier sitting form. “May I?” He gestured towards the long bench accustomed for up to three people.
Such a gentleman.
She nodded kindly and returned her gaze to the keys of the piano.
Does he count as my first friend in Seattle? She thought randomly.
He sat down beside her, she gulped as the fresh scent of pine and a lusty cologne invaded her nose. She locked onto his jawline, sharp enough to cut like a knife, she found him unmistakenly attractive. His aura sent shivers through her spine, she found him powerful yet subtle, everything about him seemed mature and elegant but also fierce and deadly.
“Do you know Yiruma?” His eyes never left hers.
“The South Korean composer?”
“He’s also part British,” he pointed out, thin lips tugging into a smirk.
“Right,” she chuckled, “I haven’t played any of his songs in years, I admit I have forgotten a few of his pieces.”
He nodded, still refusing to break the lock of their eyes. “How about this one?” He suggested, lifting his hands and the notes began to play effortlessly under his fingertips, with perfect posture, she adored this boys skill.
(PIANO SONG: YIRUMA - RIVER FLOWS IN YOU)
Throughout the song, she played the higher notes during the chorus letting him take control of the base and structure of the music. It was familiar to her but not enough to play the entire tune by herself.
“You’re amazing,” she blurted after the song ended.
He blows through his nose, the corners of his nude lips twitching into a discrete smile, “So are you.”
Stella couldn’t stop the blush from heating up her cheeks and she looked down to her hands, fiddling with the hem of her long sleeve emerald top. She let out a little giggle, they sat and appreciated each other for a moment, never once has she met someone who loves the same art like her.
“I like your eyes,” he said randomly. Stella hadn’t noticed his constant gaze, he studied every detail of her face, the galaxy of freckles dotted oddly on her nose and under her eyes. The vibrant red of her hair, her bouncy, wild curls making her stand out in any place she goes. Then her eyes, odd but stunning. Her left iris, a light grey with ocean blue specks. Her right, seafoam green and subtle gold outlining her pupil.
“Thank you,” she smiled at the rare compliment, “It’s a bit of a curse, as well as the hair,” Stella added casually and her eyes drifted back to the beauty of the piano sitting before her.
“Why?” He scrunched his face up, confused at why she would call such unique beauty a curse.
Stella shrugged, surprised that he wanted to continue the topic, “Uh, well if I got a dollar for every time I have been called a freak, then I’d be rich.” She didn’t want to be pitied, it was wrong but Stella knew that the reason she has always enjoyed keeping to herself, was because she refused to go through the embarrassment of talking about how she appeared a little more different than most and wondering if they’d end up casting her out like most people in her life already have done. She despised wasting her time.
He didn’t laugh, she wanted him to, but he didn’t.
Ah, crap. Now he thinks im a loser.
“Anyway,” she dragged out, refusing to acknowledge the saddened glare he was casting her.
Pringgg! Pringgg! Pringgg”
She thanked the ring of her phone saving her from an awkward moment with the unnamed stud. Although the caller ID wasn’t much better, she answered it sourly. “Yes, Jackson?”
“Where the fuck are you? I told you not to run off again!”
“Stop shouting jeez, bloody India can hear you,” she moaned, yanking the phone from her ear.
“Dammit Stella, get your ass to the car!”
“Okay, fine I’m coming.” She ended the call and stood straight, “I uh, have to go.”
He nodded without getting up off the bench and watched her rush out of the gazebo, her dainty figure getting smaller and smaller.
He heard a cat whistle beside him as he exited the glasshouse, a short boy with light brown-black hair joined his side, “She was cute, never thought you’d go for a red-head though,” the boy said playfully. He was bouncing on his toes, a joyful smile and bright eyes.
“Oh shut it, Luca,” he seethed and turned away to join a group of three lingering between the trees, staring intently at his encounter.
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