‘People always think that the most painful thing in life is losing the one you value. The truth is, the most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of valuing someone too much and forgetting that you are special too.’
They both laid on the grass, their ice creams long finished with their hands folded behind their heads. Astrid’s eyes followed the tiny blinking red lights of a passing aeroplane as she heard Asher let out a small sigh before turning to her. She met his gaze and raised a questioning eyebrow at him. He did not say anything.
“It’s rude to stare,” she deadpanned.
He looked like a deer caught in the headlights before he laughed at her words.
“Sorry. I was just thinking as to what to say,” he said sheepishly and turned his eyes back to the tiny diamonds glittering in the darkness. Still, Astrid kept her gaze fixed on him.
“You seem anxious,” she observed.
“Yeah, I am.”
She simply hummed in response. A while later, she asked again.
“Why?” She slightly winced at the choice of her words. He did not answer as his face became blank and body tensed at her question. He did not reply for a few seconds, making Astrid think that she was not going to get an answer.
“Okay,” she muttered under her breath before resuming her pointless stargazing.
“This is not fair,” he suddenly burst out, indignantly. Astrid was startled by his sudden outburst as she looked at him wide-eyed.
“This is not fair,” he repeated again, sitting up and narrowed his eyes at her. She copied his moments and asked him, confused.
“What is not fair?”
“This,” he said, gesturing between them. She tilted her to the side a little, still completely oblivious to the reasons for his annoyance.
“You know almost everything about me. Hell, you have met my mom too and have been to my house, not once, but twice. But I don’t even know your last name let alone anything else about you. It’s not fair how you know so much about me and in return, all I know is your name!”
His words hit her hard and she knew there was no getting out of this. This confrontation. To be honest, she had been thinking about this for a long time, about what she would do if she had ever found herself in a situation like this. A situation that threatened the wall that she had built around herself.
She let out a small sigh as she looked at his annoyed and slightly hurt expression before she replied.
“Well, shoot your questions but I can’t guarantee an answer for everything.” She quickly pulled out her phone and checked the time before continuing. “You have around an hour.”
He looked like a kid in a candy store and she could not help but feel guilty at that. She was going to skip all the hard questions anyways.
“Fine. I will ask you a question and you can ask me one in return if you want,” he offered.
She nodded and motioned for him to continue. He thought for a while before asking his first question.
“What’s your full name?”
“Oh. That’s a pretty name,” he mused.
“Thanks. What’s your middle name?”
“Everett. After my grandfather.”
She simply nodded.
“You can ask anything if you want.”
“Anything?” she repeated, raising her eyebrow. he nodded. So she got straight to the point.
“What happened at the ice cream shop that day?”
Asher tensed up at the question and regarded her with a cold face. But she refused to back down, keeping her gaze steady.
“You said anything,” she reminded him before adding, “You don’t have to answer if don’t want to, though.”
“If I answer that, would you answer any question that I ask you?” he shot back.
He watched her reaction as she became rigid, her cold and aloof exterior back in place. He knew what she was going to say. No.
Astrid carefully weighed her options. Did she trust him with her past? Yes. Did she mind telling him about it? Surprisingly, no. Was she ready to tell him everything? That, she did not know.
“I will be honest with my answers but I can’t promise that I will answer every question.”
“Fair enough.” He looked at her for a few more seconds before sighing and leaning his hands back, his eyes fixed on the starry sky.
“Where should I start?”
“From anywhere you want,” she offered. He chuckled at her response before continuing.
“As you know, I have a sister. Arianna.”
She nodded in response and waited for him to continue.
“Well, she is actually my half-sister. Her father and my mother got divorced when Aria was around two years old. And then my mom met my dad and they got married and had me and life has been good so far.”
“Oh.” That was the only thing she could think of.
“That night, my mum called me. She-” he was cut off by a phone ringing. His phone, to be exact.
It was almost like deja-vu for Astrid as she watched his face confront in anger, listening to what whoever on the other side of that phone had to say. He immediately got up and she followed him, looking concerned. He glanced at her, his face looking slightly worried but mostly angry as he hung up and faced her.
“We need to go now,” he gritted out. She knew something was up and she quickly nodded her head, walking up to the car and immediately buckling up herself. In another minute, they were off.
His knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel too tight as he manoeuvred through the traffic expertly, his jaw tight. She glanced at him every now and then, before turning her attention outside the window.
She thought he would drop her off at her home before he went wherever he had to but was surprised when she realised that he was driving away from her home. He was going to his house, to be exact.
“If you are in a hurry, you can just drop me off here. I will manage,” she offered. He barely offered her a glance as he replied.
“Not safe,” he muttered.
She huffed slightly but did not say anything else. Everything had been going well. She was so close to telling him about her. She thought she would finally be free from the guilt and the fear of hiding so many things from the people whom she had only recently met, but genuinely cared for her. It felt foreign yet nice. It seemed even fate wanted her to suffer.
It was not long before he pulled over in the familiar driveway. He was out in a flash and went barging inside, like an assassin on a mission. She hesitated for a second before unbuckling her seatbelt and following him inside. She lingered near the door, somehow feeling that she was intruding but when she heard a familiar voice scream, her body reacted in an instant.
Her feet carried her over to the living room where she took in the commotion before her. For a second, she felt like she should just walk away from all the chaos but one look at Kate’s tear-stained face and Asher’s anger riddled one, she stood frozen in her spot.
Her eyes drifted off to the three other people in the room. A man, much similar to Asher with his dark hair and physique who she assumed was his father, was glaring daggers at the other guy who was nursing his broken and bleeding nose. Astrid took in his features and she realised, from the very slight similarities between him and Arianna with the tilt of their nose and the shape of their eyes, that it was Arianna’s father and Kate’s ex-husband.
Asher’s father was trying to hold Asher back as he tried to land another hit on the man’s face. In the corner, Arianna was tearing up and trying to console a sobbing Kate who looked like she was about to pass out. None of them had noticed her standing there and watching the drama unfold.
Asher’s father was obviously losing his battle in holding his son back and Asher struggled to get out of his father’s confines, his furious gaze fixed on the man in front of him, his fists begging for another opportunity to land another hit on his face.
“Asher, calm down,” his father whispered furiously in his son’s ears. But Asher was nowhere near calm.
“I thought I made it clear when I said what the consequences would be if you ever came near my sister again,” he gritted out.
His father pulled him away and was muttering something to him. From the rising anger on Asher’s face, Astrid knew it was no good. Suddenly she noticed the man’s hand reaching over to the antique vase which was on the wooden cabinet near him. Arianna and Kate were hunched up in a corner and Asher and his father had their backs to him. All the four of them were completely oblivious to the man’s motives and his fingers wrapped around the neck of the vase.
But Astrid was watching his every move and when she realized what was going to happen, she moved quickly without much thought. Her instincts took over. Arianna, by this time, noticed him grabbing the vase and her eyes widened in shock and she screamed.
“Asher, watch out!”
The man raised the vase over his head as Asher and his father turned their attention back to him, shocked and frozen. Asher thought it was game over. The next thing that happened was a blur to him.
Astrid swiftly ran into the guy, knocking the vase out of his hand. He swore under his breath as vase shattered into pieces on the floor, the porcelain shards all over the place. He slightly stumbled on his feet and that was more than enough for Astrid to do what she did next.
She knocked him out cold.
What do you think is going to happen next?
Question for the Chapter: Are you scared of dying?
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