Then You Look At Me

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Don't Leave Me Here

~I can’t forget. The sun don’t set for me.~ Freya Ridings.
Chapter Theme Song: ‘Elephant’ by Freya Ridings ^^

(The above song is at the top of the chapter on Wattpad.)

•••

Third-person Pov

Spring is that season that usually brings a feeling of refined bliss.

The temperature is mild and soothing, possessing a delicate warmth that spans widely over the earth. The grasses are a soft green that resembles a hint of blue and the balm air leaks the sweet scent of pollen and blooming flowers. Despite the clemency of the weather, however, Rainey cannot help feeling like it’s winter on the inside. Her heart is cold and empty, and no amount of May’s vibrant sunshine can thaw her soul.

“Slate?”

“Rainey.”

“Rainey Slate?”

She snaps her eyes from the window and to Ms. Forbes who is inspecting her from beneath her thick-rimmed glasses. She shrinks into her shoulders as the lady perches against her desk.

“What is Logic in Mathematics?”

She had spaced out once again. Her days have been a lot like this lately. She constantly becomes detached from her surroundings with only thoughts of Ansel raiding her mind. It has become a new norm for her these past three weeks and it only worsens as each day goes by.

She glances around at the many staring faces; Riley among them, giving her friend a soft smile of encouragement.

“Slate?” Ms. Forbes prims her lips expectantly, but noticeably, her face isn’t hard this time. Traces of patience and gentleness can be seen in her beady chestnut eyes.

“Do you know the answer?”

“Uh...” Rainey stares at a graffiti on the hardwood desk, rubbing her palms together. “Logic is the foundation which underlies mathematical logic and the rest of mathematics. It tries to formalize valid reasoning. In particular, it attempts to define what constitutes a proof.”

Ms. Forbes nods in approval. “Very well, Slate.”

The distant girl wastes no time to absentmindedly drag her eyes back to the window. Riley, who is sitting just a row away, gauges her with sad eyes before chewing on her lip and focusing back to her notebook.

“That’s it for today, remember to revise for the end of year exams starting next week.” Ms. Forbes gathers her files and the class begins their noisy gibbering as she regards the distracted teen at the back of the room. “Slate? Can I speak with you?”

Looking away from the evening scenery, Rainey dispatches a soft sigh before reluctantly grabbing her bag from the ground. She sluggishly strides up to the front of the room while pushing her arms through the leather straps.

“Yes?”

The teacher’s lips stretch in a wrinkly smile. “You weren’t here last week, we returned the group assignments, but since Ansel King—”

She stops short and Rainey drops her eyes as her heart rips for the hundredth time today.

“Anyway, I just thought you could keep the paper.” She takes up a thick brown binder from her desk before pushing her glasses up on the bridge of her nose. She ruffles through the file of papers while Rainey glances back at Riley, silently telling her that she’ll be there in a minute.

“Here it is. You both did so well.”

Training her eyes on the lady, Rainey slowly retrieves the outstretched paper from her hand. As soon as she inspects it, her stomach tightens. It was the Math group project she and Ansel had done a while back. She stares at his perfect handwriting for a while and memories of that moment in her room come rushing back.

“This has got to be wrong.”

Ansel chuckles. “Let me see.”

He leans over to see what she has. His face is unintentionally close to hers that she can feel his minty breath slapping her cheeks.

“Oh, I think I know what the issue is,” He takes her book and shifts so he sits directly beside her. She tries to ignore the weird feeling his knee touching her thigh gives as she focuses on his explanation.

“So, the issue is that you didn’t rewrite the power as an equivalent expression.”

She blinks her eyes cluelessly. “Huh?”

He tries to suppress a smile. “Okay, so the thing is, whenever the power contains a negative exponent, you rewrite the power as an equivalent expression with a positive exponent by taking the reciprocal. Do you understand?”

She smiles a little. “I guess.”

He laughs. “That’s a ‘no’ then. I’ll show you.”

Her vision becomes blurry as she stares at the paper, wallowing in a pool of bittersweet flashbacks.

“You both are so strong in the subject—” Ms. Forbes catches herself quickly. “Sorry, I mean, was-he was strong in the subject...”

Rainey bites the inside of her cheek before checking their score at the right-hand corner of the paper.

100%.

With glossy eyes, she quickly swings her bag around to stuff the paper in. “T-thank you...”

Ms. Forbes hears the crack in her tone and emits a soft sigh. “I am sorry, Slate. I heard you two were close.”

Rainey cannot bear talking about this anymore. At this rate, she’s bound to lose her sanity. She wipes her nose with her knuckle and nods to the teacher. “I have to go.”

Ms. Forbes opens her mouth to add a remark, but her student is already walking away, causing her shoulders to sag in pity.

•••

“You know tonight, we could watch The Walking Dead and order in?” Riley suggests while she leans against the opposite locker, gripping the straps of her bag with a gentle beam. “We could use the Penthouse movie room.”

Rainey shakes her head as she grabs the heavy physics book from her opened knapsack, stuffing it into her locker. “I think I’m just gonna go to bed early tonight.”

Riley exhales. She is starting to worry about her friend’s mental health. Rainey has not been herself lately which is understandable. Losing someone who meant the world to you could destroy even the strongest of persons.

Whenever the two girls would arrive home from school, Rainey would immediately abrogate; locking herself in her room and would not come out until the following morning. They would hear her screams of grievances but would be unable to reach out to her since she keeps her door closed during her consistent episodes. Riley knows that this is hard for her, but she fears the outcome of her friend’s constant isolation.

A voice comes from beside them and the girls turn their eyes in the direction.

“Hey, Rainey.” Olivia smiles sadly; Lisa standing next to her with a similar gaze of sympathy. Rainey cannot bear to see the pitiful faces, and so she quickly looks away, stuffing more books into the metal space with tightly pressed lips.

Riley crosses her arms. “What do you guys want?”

“I heard what happened with Ansel.” Olivia sighs, nervously fiddling with her fingers. “I am sorry; I know how painful his death must be for you. If I had known this would happen, I would have never—”

“You would have never what? Bully her?” Riley feistily raises her eyebrows, cocking her head to the side as her black hair follows.

The girls exchange guilty faces before Olivia speaks again. “Yeah. I was very mean to her and I am sorry. Jace says he’s sorry too.”

“Me too. I’m sorry,” adds Lisa while she stares at her white ballet flats.

Rainey closes her locker intentionally loud and exhales thickly. She looks at the two remorseful girls.

“To be honest, I haven’t thought about you guys since that whole bathroom incident; I forgot that you all existed. I have too much on my plate.” And with that, she turns around and walks off. Riley gives them one last glance before easing up from the locker and following her.

“What did she say?” Jace and Tate have now appeared beside the culpable girls, watching as Rainey and Riley disappear around the corner. “Did she accept our apology?”

Oliva’s shoulders lift in a shrug as she juts her lips. “I don’t know. She said she forgot we existed.”

“Is that a yes?” Jace scratches his head with a dumb look on his face, and Tate rolls his eyes before walking off in the direction the girls had left in.

As Riley and Rainey exit the doors of the school, the pitch-dark JMC van at the entrance catches their attention. After the detrimental predicament, some weeks ago with Ron Moretto, Rainey’s dad had ordered that Marco picks the girls up from school every day. Robert had everyone staying at a posh penthouse up in the hills of Crosshill. The area is secluded and tightly secured with cameras and alarm systems at each corner of the house.

Marco, who is standing at the back-door waves to the girls and Riley grins as she offers a greeting back.

“He’s here early today.” Turning her head to look at Rainey, she discovers that her friend is not beside her but slowly strolling a few feet behind. She stops in her tracks to watch her. Her head is bent as she bleakly gazes at her leather boots. Understanding that she is lost inside her mind once again, Riley jogs up to meet her halfway, playfully nudging her as she walks in line with her. “Hey~ cheer up, mm?”

“Girls! Wait up!”

A masculine voice from behind causes both girls to halt their steps, turning around as Tate jogs up to them, his dark mop of hair bobbing against his forehead.

Finally coming to a rushed stop, he tiredly braces his waists while puffing air from his cheeks. “Uh, I just wanted to tell you guys about this party I’m having tonight,” he starts, catching his breath as he forks his hair back. “It’s at my place, at eight.”

Riley looks to Rainey for feedback, but she is busy staring out into the distance wistfully.

“It would be fun,” Tate adds, “and a great opportunity to unwind...you know...” He glances at Rainey, whose head is now hung as she kicks the dust with her foot.

“Mm...” Riley adjusts her straps. “Yeah, it does sound great. What do you think, Rain?”

“I am tired,” she answers, looking up at Tate while using her palm to block the sunlight blinding her eyes. “Maybe next time.”

Tate’s eyes cloud with sympathy and he nods in understanding. “Alright...well, next time it is. Don’t forget.” He grins at her and she renders a tight one back before turning away.

“See you around, Tate.” Riley waves to him, and he uses a finger to salute her.

“Yeah, sure thing.”

She throws an arm around her best friend as they move toward the car. Marco opens the door of the backseat and both girls pile in before he closes it and gets around to the driver’s side.

“How was school today, girls?” He snaps his seatbelt then proceeds to adjust his top mirror.

“It was lame. Same old stuff. We got a test in Physics,” Riley shrugs. She looks over at Rainey, who has an absent expression while she retrieves her blue water bottle from the side of her rucksack. “Rainey got a 100 for her math project.”

Marco gasps dramatically and Rainey puts the water to her lips as she looks out the window.

“Math sucks, I don’t know how you do it,” Marco responds, starting up the engine before propelling out of the school grounds.

•••

The journey home is quiet, and Rainey can feel the eyes of both Marco and Riley as they traverse home. She keeps her vision trained on the elements outside her window, not wanting to exchange eye-contact with the two pitiful pair.

She is just riding the waves, going with the flow. Her life feels meaningless without Ansel. He had taken a huge mass of her soul when he left and now, she does not see the purpose to go on living.

The days and nights seem longer without him as if she’s stuck in this endless loop, unable to break free. She’s tormented on the inside as her mind constantly revisits the last few moments before he fell off that precipice. His eyes were so void and lifeless, and it pains her each time she recalls that he did it all for her.

He took a bullet for her.

He’s a hypocrite. That’s what she thinks. He was so mad when she chose to give herself up on his behalf and now, he jumped in her path and took a bullet to his chest...on her behalf. Nothing she could ever do would ever be able to repay what he did for her. She doesn’t deserve his unconditional love and perhaps if she had just followed through with keeping her distance from his family, he would still be alive. She misses him, and no-one will ever be able to understand the level of heartache she is experiencing. If only she could call a conference with God and the angels and ask if she could switch places with him. He deserves to be here; he deserves to be alive.

Marco stops at the entrance to the penthouse where a guardhouse is situated. After presenting his ID for the hundredth time since they have been there, the security officer raises the bar and grants him access. The procedure must be repeated daily since Mr. Robert changes the security officers every twelve hours.

The car drives down a narrow road, and the towering green trees encasing it forms dark shadows on Rainey’s face during each of their passing. The area is isolated and cool with the fresh scent of flowers marinating the atmosphere.

As they get closer, the three-story white and grey penthouse comes into view. It stands tall on a large mountain peak area with most of its structure made up of glass. The landscape is surrounded mostly by green healthy grass, and two tall crystal light posts adorn the entrance of the spacious gateway. An ancient fountain is in the center of the front landing, with fresh water springing from the sculpted chalice being elegantly held by a masculine statue. The aerie is lavishly modern.

Marco lets the girls off at the entrance then drives around the spherical driveway to park the car at the back of the house. They stroll up the large circular steps and make their way inside, immediately discovering that the house is quiet, with no sign of human life.

“No-one’s here,” Riley comments. “Alex should be home from school soon though.”

Rainey doesn’t offer a response and instead slips her leather boots off at the door before putting them at the corner. This has become a newfound habit of hers after spending time around the King family. Their traditions and tendencies have drastically rubbed off on her.

The inside of the penthouse is just as aesthetically pleasing as the outside. The white and grey decor with the aid of the transparent walls gives the house a bright glow even at nights. There is a large glass window in the ceiling and downlight crystal chandeliers hang gracefully from different sections of the roof.

Rainey’s socks faintly skid against the marble flooring as she hurries toward the modern staircase, mounting the steps in a rush to get to her room. Riley sighs as she hurls her knapsack onto the white sofa, pulling her tie from her neck as she gazes in the direction her friend had left in.

The broken girl has been waiting all day to be back home. Repressing her tears for the past eight hours has taken a chunk load of energy and she isn’t sure how much longer she can keep them at bay. She is happy she can now be alone to let it all out.

Carelessly throwing her knapsack onto the ground, Rainey jumps in bed and buries her face into her pillow, allowing the tears to flow unrestrainedly. A choked sob leaves her, followed by a louder cry until she’s wailing non-stop at the top of her lungs. The pillow is almost suffocating her, but it isn’t as smothering as the boy, whom she had built her world around, being gone.

This is all her fault. She was the one who impulsively went to sought out Ron Moretto. She caused this. She killed him.

Guilt takes its place in her heart, shattering her arteries and taking full control of her emotions. Loud, gut-ripping sobs tore through her chest as she squishes her face into the pillow, her tears soaking its material like river escaping a dam. She is drowning mentally in a pool of remorse, and lost, and heartache. It is all too much.

“Why did you leave me...?” She pules. “Why did you leave me here?! Why did you do this to me? You said you wouldn’t!”

She wishes he could hear how broken she is without him. How lost and hopeless she is.

“Rainey!” Riley twists the knob, immediately discovering that it is locked. She bangs softly on the door before pressing her forehead there. “Rain, we can talk about it. Open the door, please.”

In between her sobs, she eases up to lift the pillow from beneath her, pressing it over her head to block her friend’s voice out. If she doesn’t cry, she’s sure she’ll die. The heartache will be enough to kill her. She just needs to keep crying, even if it’s forever.

She knows Riley cares deeply about her, but no amount of talking will ever be able to heal her. The one person who’d make things better is—sadly— six feet under.

•••

It seems like forever when she finally stops crying and sits up in bed, staring at the promise ring encircling her finger. Twilight has now fallen, and she can see the young night sky from where she sits. It’s a beautiful scenery of technicolor, tattooing the earth with a soft orange glow as the sun sets behind the horizon.

She gets out of bed and strolls unsteadily over to the transparent wall. She pulls back the cool blue curtains and gazes down at where Marco sits in the pool area, sipping on a beer while peering out at the wide stretch of city lights below. The view is beautiful and if only she were not feeling this depressed, she would have gone for a swim.

Finding a bit of strength within her, she toddles to the bathroom to take a needed shower. After spending another full hour crying in the tub, she returns to her room with wrinkly fingers and toes. She throws on a black oversized sleep shirt then slips on a pair of grey socks before leaving her room.

Descending the glass stairway, she sees Riley sitting on the sofa while watching Tv. Her hair is tied up in a small messy bun and she’s wearing a large bed-shirt just like Rainey’s. The only difference is Riley’s is pink with an image of a tweety-bird imprinted on the front whilst Rainey’s is just a solid black with no design.

At the sound of the footsteps, she looks up from the screen, offering a little smile as Rainey walks over to the settee. She sits next to her, staring at what is being shown on the huge television while she rests her hands in her lap. It’s a stage performance of a music group but the songs are being sung in a foreign language.

“Who are they?” She quietly asks.

Riley looks at her with a soft beam. She is elated that Rainey is finally trying to converse. Patently, she hasn’t been interacting much. Most of her days have been spent staring in space or just being distant from everyone. Riley is lucky to get a full sentence out of her.

“It’s this K-pop group; BTS. Kept hearing about them on Instagram, so I just wanted to check them out. You know, to see what the fuss is about.” Riley smiles, grabbing a white furry cushion and tucking it beneath her stomach. “They are cool so far.”

Rainey nods silently as she continues to watch the virtual concert. A stillness hangs between them. Riley wants to offer some form of consolation, but she doesn’t want to reopen Rainey’s sensitive wound. She came out of her room on her own and even attempted to strike up a conversation, she’d hate to push her back into that unresponsive place.

“I am sorry.”

Riley’s face lulls at the almost soundless apology and she looks over at her with soft twinkling eyes.

“You’ve been trying to encourage me these past few days...but I’ve been blowing you off. I’m sorry.” Rainey drops her gaze, staring at her hands remorsefully. Her lips tremor, indicating that she’s close to crying again. Her silky orbs glisten under the white ceiling lights as Riley rests a palm on her shoulder. She slightly relaxes, using the back of her hand to dry her eyes.

“It’s okay, Rainey. I understand and I don’t blame you.” Riley pats her comfortingly while restraining tears of her own. She has been earnestly trying to keep it together for her best friend but even she cannot deny how much she misses Ansel. He was like a brother to her and not seeing him anymore is a hard pill to swallow. Crying in secret or in the presence of Alex but putting up a strong enshroud around Rainey has been her new ritual these past few days. She cannot even begin to imagine the depth of heartache her best friend is currently undergoing.

“It’s just so hard. I keep remembering things...”

“I know, it’s okay.” Riley pulls her into a gentle side hug, and she shuts her eyes, a tear escaping down her face.

The front door slides open, a surge of strong wind whistling into the passage. The girls break apart and turn their heads to see the brothers entering the room while laughing and chatting among themselves. Rainey narrows swollen eyes as she’s once again hit with a familiar confusion.

Strikingly, the boys do not seem to be mourning the death of their brother. She has been noticing this for a while now; how easy-going and composed they seem as if they have already gotten over him. Even his parents do not seem to be as broken as she is. But she knows everyone deals with grief in their own way.

Alex, who is leading the way, stops short with strangely wide eyes as soon as he notices the girls on the couch. Aiden bumps into him with a yelp, uttering a curse word before shoving him in the back with annoyance. When he spots the two staring females over his brother’s shoulder, his face shifts to one of extreme awkwardness as he rubs his neck.

“Didn’t expect to see you girls on the couch tonight...”

A peculiar silence flows among them and the boys’ attitude is as if they have been caught red-handed doing something massively shady. Alaric decides to fill the odd void.

“Rainey, I’m proud that you’re down here. I hope you’ll be eating dinner tonight.” He lifts a clear plastic bag of groceries, and her lips barely tug upwards in response. Her appetite has been non-existent these past few weeks and it brightly shows on her body. She looks a lot tinnier—as if she could easily be folded and pocketed without much effort—and her thighs are noticeably not as thick as they used to be. She is a wreck.

“Yeah, Ansel needs you to eat,” Arden says, and his brothers look at him weirdly before he quickly adds. “If he was alive, he’d want you to eat.”

“Riley, can you come here a minute?” Alex beckons to her, moving toward the hallway as she gets up to follow him. She sends Rainey, who is now sandwiched by the twins, an encouraging smile before disappearing around the corner.

Alex leans against the white passage walls, his eyes feasting on Riley’s smooth exposed thighs before returning to her face as she comes to a stop in front of him.

“Mm?” She crosses her arms.

“How has Rainey been today?”

Fixing all her weight onto one foot, she braces her hips with a worried sigh. “She hasn’t eaten lunch. And she barely spoke a full sentence all day.”

Alex tugs at his pink bottom lip thoughtfully. “Oh. She’s taking it pretty badly...”

Riley looks at him as if he were crazy. “What do you expect? Ansel was her boyfriend; the first and only guy she has ever loved. People don’t get over shit as quick as you guys, alright? Not everyone can handle grief.” She buffs his chest in annoyance, and he gently grasps her wrist, threading his fingers through hers as he slants his head back.

“Hey, come on. Don’t talk that way, we miss him too. It’s not like that.”

She pulls away to fold her arms. “Then what is it like then? The guy died barely a month ago and you all are here as if it was fifty years ago. Rainey and I are the only ones hurting and that’s pretty fucked up.”

Alex’s eyebrows rumple and he releases her to stuff his hands in his pockets. “That’s a very harsh thing to say.”

“Harsh because it’s the truth.”

He shakes his head and looks away from her. Emitting a loud exhalation, he leans his back against the wall before reuniting with her dissatisfied glare. “We care as much as you guys. As you said, not everyone grieves the same. This is the only way we can keep our sanity. If you can’t understand that, then don’t talk, okay?”

Alongside the pain in his voice, Riley notices the tears in his eyes as well. The grieve. The hurt. Her face softens and guilt takes over her emotions as she looms closer to him. “I’m sorry, Alex.”

He pushes his hair back, salivating his lips. “It’s alright. Come here.”

He wraps his arms around her and she lays her head against his chest. He kisses her cheek as she shuts her eyes, tears creeping from beneath her closed lids. “I didn’t mean to say all of that. It’s just that...I miss him. I miss him a lot.”

“Me too.” He breathes, shutting his eyes as his hold grows stronger. “We all do.”

•••

Rainey pushes her food around her plate, dodging carrots and beans before twirling a small ring of spaghetti onto her fork. She spins it around for a while before finally raising it to her lips. The aroma is glorious but since her stomach has decided to form alliances with her emotions, she cannot find the will to put it into her mouth. Giving up, she exhales weakly and set the fork onto her plate.

“I’m not hungry,” she mutters, retreating her hands to her lap.

Alex sighs. “You need to eat, Rain. You’ll only kill yourself if you continue like this.”

“At least have a small taste, Alaric is an amazing cook.” Arden whirls his fork in the noodles before stretching portions of the buttery spaghetti toward her. She stares cross-eyed at the food, and he jerks the fork, urging her to enclose her lips around it. Slumping her shoulders, she brings her head in as he gently ushers the food into her mouth. He grins as she chews it around slowly. “Nice, huh?”

It’s amazing; it really is, but regardless of that fact she has to fight down the bile that threatens to rise in her throat. She reaches for the glass of water and takes a sip before smiling faintly at Alaric.

“It’s delicious.”

His lips tug upwards as he puts a forkful into his mouth.

“Eat some more.” Riley presses and Rainey inwardly begs her not to do this. “Just a fork more.”

“Later. I’ll try to eat later,” she promises, and the brothers exchange sympathetic glances. They know she won’t. That is always her excuse to get away from the situation.

“We know how much it hurts,” Aiden starts, his forehead puckering in sorrow. “We miss him too.” His brothers look at him before silently nodding in sync.

She feels the salty fluids forming again and her chair scrapes against the floor as she begins to get up from the table. “I am tired, I am going to get some rest.”

“Why don’t you watch a movie with us? Don’t leave yet.” Aiden begs, knowing she’s escaping to indulge in another session of weeping.

“Maybe tomorrow night. I’m dying to get some sleep.” She turns away and hastily departs from the kitchen, leaving behind faces of melancholy.

That’s one of the biggest lies she has ever told anyone. She’s not dying to sleep—she would not be able to sleep even if she wanted to—she just needed to return to her room so she can scream into her pillow again.

She’s ticking—like a time-bomb—and if she stayed down there even a second longer, she’d breakdown in front of them.

And so as soon as she gets in bed, she lets it all out. Bawling, crying out, pulling at her hair, and burying her face into her duvet; something she has gotten too used to doing. Knowing it isn’t mentally healthy but not caring either. Without a doubt, her mewls can be heard throughout the entire house, and the audiences are not remotely unaccustomed to this. It happens every morning and every night.

Minutes past and she’s finally tired now as she lies still in bed, staring out at the starry night sky. Her bed linens are soaked with proof of her bereavement and her eyes are swollen to the point that she can barely see from them. Her body has reached its limit, now taking a moment to recharge before her next episode hits. She’s in pain; internal torment and it won’t stop. It will never stop.

The countless sessions of caterwauls have left her throat dry, and so she drags herself out of bed to get some water from the kitchen. As she flimsily returns to the living room, she notices that Riley has fallen asleep on the couch, an episode of SpongeBob playing on the Tv. Above is a large bird-shaped clock and she squints her pained eyes to read the time. It is now 9:30 pm but her dad and the boys’ parents aren’t home yet.

Groping her throbbing head, she lifelessly continues her journey to the kitchen, gripping onto different facets during her passing to keep her balance. She’s weak and tired—from not eating to bawling her eyes out every half of a second. As she gets closer, she can hear indistinct chattering. She immediately perceives that the masculine voices are that of the brothers.

“Just tell her. I can’t bear to see her like this. She’s going to kill herself.”

“We can’t do that. Look what happened last time. Just hold out.”

“If she ends up killing herself or something—”

“She won’t—”

“Just tell her!”

“Tell who what?” Rainey appears at the doorjamb, gripping onto the edge of the wall in case her feet decides to abandon her. The boys snap astonished eyes in her direction, and silence numbs the air as they gaze at her motionlessly.

“Rainey, I-I thought you were asleep.” Alex stammers, his orbs gliding to Alaric’s.

“No...who are you guys talking about, me?” Her eyebrows furrow in curiosity as she looks among the nervous boys.

She watches as they trade strange looks before Alaric plods over to her, letting out a breath. “No, not you. We were talking about Samantha.”

“Yeah,” Aiden adds. “Apparently, Alaric’s keeping secrets again. The guy just can’t keep his D in his pants. He just keeps using it and using it.”

Rainey lifts her head to gaze at Alaric, who is glaring daggers at Aiden for some reason.

“So, what brings you to the kitchen?” Arden glances at Alex before looking back at her. “Finally deciding to eat?”

She shifts her weight, pointing to the fridge. “Wanted to get some water.”

“I’ll get it for you.” Alex offers, readily reaching for a glass from the cupboard. The silence in the air could be easily sliced with a knife as he rinses it under the pipe, the sound of gushing water reverberating in the space.

She idly gazes at the brothers while she waits; Aiden shooting her a small smile to which she feebly raises her brows in response.

“And here you go.” Alex stretches a full glass of cool water toward her and she takes it with a soft ‘thanks.’ She puts it to her lips, her brown eyes ogling them as her throat moves during the passing of the cold liquid. She wipes her lips with her knuckle as Alex retrieves the utensil.

“You should get some rest; you look really tired,” Alaric suggests and she nods, knowing very well she won’t be able to.

“I’ll take you up.” He throws an arm around her, leading her out of the kitchen. “Alex! Come take Ry up to her room!” He yells over his shoulders as they pass by a snoring Riley in the living room.

•••

Insomnia. Rainey lies awake in bed, unable to fall asleep. Her days without Ansel have been tormenting, but it gets worse at nights when the world is quiet. The voices get louder and his face becomes even clearer. It is agonizing.

It feels like someone has shackled her to a chair, torturing her with different tools, tearing at her flesh and ripping her skin apart piece by piece. She wants it to stop, but she knows that that will never happen. Not when you love someone this much.

The most painful memory is the first night they slept together. The love in his eyes was so strong and fervent. She could feel his devotion through every touch, every look, without the exchange of words. Each time that moment resurfaces her mind, she feels like ripping her heart from her chest. It is more excruciatingly painful than any physical pain could ever be.

A tear streak down her face, and soon, she’s crying once again. Her voice is now strained and hoarse, her poor vocal cords unable to keep up with her weeping marathon.

This is all too much for her. She cannot bear this anymore. It hurts, her heart hurts too much.

She squeezes her eyes tightly, forming a fist with her hand and striking her chest repeatedly. Thick teardrops force their way under her closed lids as she bites her lip so hard it begins to bleed.

“I love you, Rain. We’ll be alright, yeah?”

She can still hear his soft voice, so clear and vivid in her head. She presses her hand to her ear, sobbing irrepressibly as she rocks back and forth. Her soul is on fire; her soul is burning. She needs some relief.

She staggers up, crying softly as she totters to the bathroom. Still wearing her bed shirt, she climbs over into the tub and switches the shower on. She closes her eyes as it rains down on her. Drawing her knees up to her chest, she buries her head between her knees as her body jerks with each sob.

The water doesn’t ease her scorched heart, but at least she’s able to scream at the top of her lungs without pulling attention to herself. Her voice is unyielding inside the four walls as she hugs herself, her body shivering from cold and heartache.

•••

Rainey is both physically and emotionally numb as she returns to her room in a white cotton towel. She pulls out her drawers and gets dressed in dark blue pajama shorts and a black tank top. Climbing under her covers, her face is utterly blank as she soullessly peers out the transparent wall.

A sudden screech of her room door causes her to promptly shut her eyes, instinctively pretending to be asleep. She doesn’t want whoever is standing there to start up a conversation; she prefers to not speak to anyone at this moment. Luckily, her strategy worked, and the person pulls her door back up with a gentle snap.

Her eyes reopen and she sits up, splaying her legs over the side of her bed. She stares up at the clock above the white wardrobe. 12:30 am. Her dad must be home by now; perhaps he was the one who had checked to see if she was asleep?

She pushes her feet into her bed-side slippers then slowly lurch over to the transparent wall. Looking heavenward at the small beads of silver lights, her heart aches with longingness just before she lowers her eyes to the pool deck below.

It is instantly brought to her attention that the brothers are all congregated there, and she narrows her eyes pensively as she watches them talk among themselves. Then she sees someone in a black pullover walking from the direction of the front door. Seemingly, the person is coming from inside of the penthouse. Fixing their hood properly onto their head, they join the boys by the pool as they all begin to indulge in a conversation.

Rainey’s curiosity sparks when she realizes that not only does the mysterious physic belong to a male, but it looks terribly familiar. In less than a second, she discovers who the figure resembles.

Ansel.

A ray of hope springs within her. Supernaturally gathering some amount of strength, she quickly leaves her room, hurrying down the stairs and darting for the front door. She slides it open and steps out onto the pavement. The cold night air hisses against her skin as she wraps her arms around herself, assertively moving toward the deck. She tilts her head as she inspects the person from their back view, her hair whirling around in the wind as she squints her eyes in observation. The closer she gets, the more her curiosity heightens.

Aiden who is sitting on one of the pool chairs, facing her direction, spots her moving toward them. After some seconds, the group casually begins to break up as the person in the hoodie moves off and begins to head toward the back gate of the pool area.

Rainey sees this and increases her strides. She can barely feel her numb feet as she walks briskly to catch the individual before they leave. But as she is about to pass by the boys, Alaric steps into her path, shoving his hands into his pockets with a tilted head.

“Thought you were asleep. It’s cold out; go back inside.”

She fights to glance over his shoulders, frowning when he’s way too tall and she’s unable to see anything. But she catches a glimpse of the person’s back from Alaric’s bicep as they break the corner.

She pulls inquisitive eyes to him. “Who was that?”

“Marco,” he responds flatly.

She crosses her arms. “In a pullover.”

“Yeah, because at least someone knows it’s cold out here. You didn’t even put on a jacket.”

Rainey glances down at her attire then looks back to him with dissatisfaction. “But why were you guys having a conversation at 12:30 am?”

Aiden chuckles, and Rainey looks at him as he rises from the pool bench. “Because we are boys.” He throws a lazy arm around Alaric. “And boys have conversations whenever they feel like it.”

Alex and Arden titters and she looks among them once more before shaking her head and walking off.

The warmth of the house greatly juxtaposes the temperature on the outside. Rainey feels disappointment growing within as she closes the door behind her, shutting out the whistling wind as the stillness of the house reawakens her noisy thoughts.

A huge part of her was hoping that the person was Ansel even though she had seen his ashes for herself, just before they ritually scattered it into the sea. She knows he’s gone, but she isn’t sure why she keeps hoping he’ll come back. She shakes her head; she must be getting crazy. If that’s the case, she isn’t surprised. Wallowing in depression for days on end could result in losing your sanity. She doesn’t mind though; at least she won’t be mentally conscious to undergo this agony.

She makes her way up to her room to resume her grieving. She opens the door with sagged shoulders before closing it behind her haphazardly. As she moves toward her bed, she notices something on the nightstand.

Mint-chocolate chip ice-cream. Her favorite flavor. The tub sets off a mental tape of that day Ansel had bought it for her. She recalls how cutely nervous he was after he had given it to her, rubbing his neck and fumbling over his words. She remembers how she elatedly sprung into his arms, knocking them both onto his couch as she hugged him tightly and whispered her gratitude. Her heart tightens once again.

Who left that there? No-one except her parents know about her undying love for this flavor. Even Riley isn’t aware of it.

No, wait...someone else does. Ansel.

Her heart swells with the hope she thought she had lost a moment ago as she lurches closer, eagerly taking up the note that sits beside the gift.

I am worried about you. Please eat :(

-A.

~

~Don’t leave me here cause I can’t forget. ~ Freya Ridings.

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