‘One of the reasons why people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they know, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with the pain.’
~ James Baldwin
It was around three in the morning when Astrid and Asher finally left to their rooms without Astrid killing him on the rooftop. She knew she would not be getting any sleep so she just switched on the bedside lamp and grabbed the novel that she had in her bag, before settling down on the bed with the comforter pulled up to her chin.
Thrillers were her favourite genre. She always got lost into the pages covered with the ink that almost had lured her to get involved in the mystery. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager had to her favourite so far. The clock kept ticking as she kept turning the pages, her eyes raking over the words.
She kept on dwelling deeper and deeper into the letters as sleep gently began to wrap itself around her like a blanket. Her eyes slowly closed as the book left her grasp and fell to the floor with a small thud.
Her neck was stiff. She had fallen asleep on the uncomfortable armchair again, with her head bent painfully. Something was not right. She suddenly let out a gasp of raw anguish as she noticed flames licking her limbs.
This time, the hospital room was on fire. Her vision was distorted as she desperately tried to make out the body on the bed, which was writhing in pain. She knew deep down in her mind who it was but she failed to admit it. She refused to admit it.
As always, she was unable to move. She screamed. Screamed for help. She prayed someone would come and save her. Her eyes refused to move from the other person on the bed. She kept yelling, her desperation seeping out of her voice. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks as the body stopped moving. She watched as its chest rose to take one last breath before the noise of the heart monitor flatlining and the echo of her screams rang deep in her head.
And then, everything became dark.
She woke up with a start and in her panic and grogginess, she did not realise that she was at the edge of her bed. With the comforter tangled in between her legs, she stumbled off the bed, landing on the hardwood with a thud.
Her body was screaming from the impact and the lack of sleep as she slowly pulled herself, checking the time on the clock that hung above the painting that decorated the otherwise, plain cream coloured walls.
It was seven in the morning. Waddling over to the bathroom, her eyes slowly wandered taking in the huge mirror and the marble sink, the shower stall at the corner with a grey mat near the door and even the toilet was a work of art made of white porcelain. She quickly brushed her teeth with the toothbrush that she had borrowed last night before throwing it into the dustbin and washed her face.
She stood in front of the mirror, fixing her bangs and hoping that she might be able to get rid of the purple bags under her eyes, which seemed to be her new buddy for the past few months. She grabbed the book which was on the floor, shoving it into her bag and threw it over her shoulder. She walked out of the room and down the hallway that was as long as the corridor in her school.
She looked at the house properly for the first time and as her eyes travelled around, her eyebrows got completely hidden beneath her bangs. The house screamed money as she took in the chaotic tumble of wood, glass and marble. She slowly walked down the stairs looking at the living room. Huge glass panes from the top to the bottom of the chocolate brown carpet covered floor, serving as windows with the long drapes of the thick curtain pulled back, letting the morning rays light up the rest of the house.
Beige, plush couches adorned the centre of the room with pictures and paintings on the wall, giving it a homely feel. A small rattle brought her attention to the kitchen where Kate was cooking without noticing her.
She jumped down the last two steps, intentionally making a noise which brought Kate’s attention to her. A warm smile spread on her face as the woman’s greeted her/
“Good morning, dear. How did you sleep? How are your neck and arms?”
“I slept good and I feel better now, thank you.” The lie flowed out her mouth so smoothly like liquid gold that even she was quite amazed at her newfound ability. Lying at people’s faces.
“That is wonderful. Are you hungry? I could make you something real quick.” Astrid noticed a cup of coffee in her hands before she slowly shook her head.
“I need to go home. My parents would be worried about me.” Again, all lies. Kate paused for a second, but from the look on the girl’s face, she knew she would leave no matter she said.
“Just tell me where you live and I could drop you off. Or Asher can. I will wake him up.”
“No.” The answer came up sharper than she intended.“Thanks for the offer but I really do not want to be a bother. And I love walking so I will be fine.”
There was no room for arguing. Astrid made sure of that. She was a pretty good convinced.
“Alright then,” Kate said, a little hesitant. “I will walk you to the door then.”
Astrid put on her sneakers and turned around to face Kate.
“Thank you again, for all that you have done for me.”
“Oh, I am happy to help. If you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to ask me.” The look in her eyes brought out a small but genuine smile on Astrid’s face for a split second before she put on her cold mask again.
“Thank you. Oh, and tell Asher that I will return the hoodie and the shirt to him.”
“That’s alright. Be safe, dear.”
She politely nodded her head, before walking out and shutting the door gently behind her. She pulled the hoodie over her head, silently thanking Asher for giving it to her. She shoved her hands into her pocket and started strolling down the sidewalk, humming a random song as if she did not get assaulted, with the cuts buried beneath her hoodie and her pain buried within the melody.
“What? She left? When? Why didn’t you wake me up?” Question after question tumbled out of Asher’s mouth as his mother sighed from where she was sitting on the couch.
“She felt a few hours back. She said she had to go home soon or her parents would be worried. I didn’t have much of a choice. She seemed pretty firm on her decision.”
Asher looked a little dejected but his mother was quick to notice it.
“Do you like her?” His head snapped towards her so fast that he almost got a whiplash.
“What? No. I just met her a few days back.”
“Why? She seems really sweet.”
“Sweet? Are we even talking about the same person right now? You should have seen her last night. I probably lost count as to how many times she had hit me or insulted me within a span of a few hours,” he grumbled.
“Then why are you so keen to know about her?” his mother asked him, with a smirk on her face. She was beginning to like this Astrid girl more and more considering she was the only one other than herself who could put her son in place.
“She is just so mysterious with that baggy hoodie and the cold exterior. It is as if she is some kind of robot. She rarely shows any emotion.”
“Just like you said, you have just known her for a short period of time. Maybe there is more to her than she is letting on.”
“Yeah,” he mumbled, as he zoned out, his thought filling his head. She was so intriguing, so mysterious. And he found himself strangely drawn to her. He wanted to know more. The sensible part of him told him to just leave her alone and mind his own business. To go back to his life.
The foolish part of him urged him towards her. To follow her. It told him to never leave her alone peacefully even though he knew he was getting himself into trouble. He knew he would get more than a few snarky insults and smacks.
And, after all, he was a fool. He thought he was ready to take whatever she threw at him. But he couldn’t have been more wrong in his entire life.