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“She won’t speak to me, at all,” I told Ellie, sadly.
“Hey, don’t be sad. It’s not your fault,” Ellie replied, gently. Her green eyes swirled with kindness. “You know what Georgia’s like, she just needs some time.”
“She doesn’t deal with being alone very well, Ellie,” I reminded her, hardly. My worry for Georgia was only growing. It had been two days since the incident with Raegan. Ever since that argument in the hallway, Georgia hasn’t been herself. She barely talked to any of us, barely looked at us. Her eyes were closed off, distant. She had put a wall around herself—for protection. “She doesn’t acknowledge her feelings. She lets it build up until it explodes.”
Ellie knew I was right. Georgia would never talk to people. She was like me. But unlike me, she couldn’t manage it. She needed somebody, even if she wouldn’t admit it. I was supposed to be the person there for her, no matter what. And yet, she couldn’t even look me in the eye. She thought I was abandoning her because I wasn’t there for her Monday.
I hated knowing this was the reason Georgia wouldn’t open up to me. She thought she had lost me. And in thinking that, I was starting to lose her.
“What even happened that night? It’s all a blur to me,” I admitted, flushing slightly. Drinking was always so scary for me. I hated not being in control. I needed to be ready for an attack from him.
Ellie chewed her bottom lip nervously, “Well, I didn’t see everything, but I heard from Dalia that Matt approached Georgia when he was drunk and begged her to take him back. Georgia refused. Matt went away, bumped into Raegan. I’m not entirely sure what happened after. I think Raegan tried to make a move on Matt, but he wouldn’t have it.”
“How could she be so thoughtless?” I questioned, aloud. Raegan’s own sister said she wasn’t a good person.
Ellie shrugged her shoulders and took a sip of her drink. The small café we were in was quite empty. It usually was at four PM.
“What happened in the hallway? I’ve only heard rumors. Some people are saying Raegan and Georgia got into a physical fight. Apparently, Raegan ran away to Russia in fear Georgia was going to kick her butt again.”
I couldn’t help but snort at that. People could invent the most stupid things.
“Where on Earth do people come up with such things?”
“Bored people come up with the craziest things. They need something to keep them entertained.” Ellie suggested, examining her manicured nails with interest. “Anyway, what happened?”
I exhaled loudly and shuffled in my seat, “Well, Raegan and Georgia did confront each other. Raegan said a few things that shocked Georgia. She hasn’t been the same since.”
Ellie’s eyebrows raised in disbelief.
“Georgia didn’t fight back?” She questioned, not believing me.
“Not after Raegan threatened her family and friends,” I answered. I could still remember her face.
“Raegan threatened us?”
“Indirectly, yes. More me than anybody else,” I supplied. “She said something about destroying our friendship. I still have no idea how though. I’m loyal to Georgia, she’s like my sister.”
Ellie pinched her lips together, mulling over what I said. “So, Raegan threatened Georgia’s family too?”
“Yes,” I nodded my head, wracking my brain for the exact words Raegan used. “She said she would destroy her dad’s ‘empire’ and expose her mom.”
She knitted her eyebrows together. “Expose her mom? What would she expose?”
I had a feeling I knew. Georgia’s mother hid a dark secret so well. She had been doing it for years. I only found out a few years ago, despite the fact I was always at Georgia’s house.
I scanned the café, making sure nobody was in earshot. I didn’t Cecilia Stem’s secret to get out. Despite her addiction, it wouldn’t be fair on her.
“Her drinking problem,” I whispered, quietly.
Ellie’s mouth opened in realization, her eyes widening. She only knew because she caught me and Georgia talking about it at Christmas. “Oh sh*t, I forgot about that.”
“it would be embarrassing for the whole Stem family. Georgia would never live it down,” I muttered.
“But would a threat be enough to make her withdraw from herself? She’s like a completely different person. She won’t talk to any of us, she hasn’t bossed any of us around. I just…I don’t see it,” Ellie thought aloud. “What if she’s keeping something from us? What if she knows something that could change everything?”
I hadn’t thought of it like that. And now that I did, worry blossomed in me. Did she know Lazarus’s secret? But how would she know it?
My insides quenched. It was certainly possible. But would it make her act this way?
I sighed and stared at my drink in disdain.
“I’ll try talking to her later,” Ellie said, attempting to smile.
I spent another fifteen minutes with Ellie before I decided to go home. Mom was already home, cooking something. Her hair was in a disarray.
“I’m trying to make a chicken pie,” She told me, lightly. I hovered behind her, peering into the dish. It didn’t look too bad.
Hiding my wince, I forced a smile, “It looks good.”
Even she could see I was lying. “You’re not a very good liar, sweetie.”
I huffed and stepped back. “I’m going to make a start on my homework.”
“Tea won’t be too long.”
In my room, I flicked open my Chemistry textbook and began making notes. It was a well-needed distraction.
“I think I’m going to go for a walk,” I told my mom after tea. She stilled and gazed at me concerned. I had never told her I was going for a walk.
“Really? Are you okay? Is there something on your mind?” I hated how she could read my mind. She knew something was bothering me. I had been acting differently for the past two years.
“Just some high school drama, nothing serious,” I lied for the second time today. This time, I didn’t make too much eye contact and I kept my voice strong.
She stared directly into my eyes for a moment and then let out a long sigh. “Okay, I know you will tell me if anything serious is bothering you.”
I felt awful. When did I start lying to my mom so often? Why didn’t I want to tell her? She was great at giving advice—she’d know what to say.
Walking out of the house with my head down, I ventured down my quiet street. I wasn’t fully conscious of what was going on—my body was on autopilot. I ended up at the start of the forest. The sun was beginning to set; I should have felt nervous about being out this late but instead, I didn’t mind. I felt protected. Like I wasn’t alone.
Sighing, I planted myself against a tree and leaned my head back.
It was a quiet evening.
My thoughts once again drifted to Lazarus. I imagined what he would be doing right now. Would he be doing homework? Playing the piano? Relaxing?
My heart longed for him.
These intense feelings I was having couldn’t be normal. Could they?
They were so powerful, they had so much influence over me. I feared if I succumbed to the urges, I would lose all control. I might do something irrational.
Then again, he had to feel the same. What happened the other day indicated so. Well, until he left me. Until he practically ran out of the room, in what? Fear?
Why had he left like that? Why couldn’t he look me in the eye? His actions definitely hurt me. Since then, he hadn’t said a thing to me. In the corridors, he would avoid me. Dexter and Marianne noticed what was happening but didn’t comment.
Everything around me was changing. Georgia was acting differently. Lazarus, a man I had only known a few weeks, refused to talk to me. I didn’t know what to do.
My phone vibrated in my pocket, startling me out of my thoughts.
Grabbing out of my pocket, I stared at the screen, reading the name.
“Matt?” I questioned into the phone, curiously.
“Oh, thank god you picked up,” Matt released a sigh of relief. “I need your help, Celeste.”
“What is it?”
He paused, “It’s Georgia. She’s at my house…drunk.”
I froze. Georgia never got drunk on a weekday, especially alone. Even when she had been drinking, she was never out of it.
“What is she doing, Matt?” I asked in a rush.
“She’s…crying,” He replied, cautiously.
Immediately, I was on my feet and sprinting towards Matt’s house. He lived a few minutes away, thankfully.
Georgia crying was bad. Very bad.
She was always so strong and kept together. In all the years I had known her, I only saw her cry twice. Once when her Nana died. The other time when she broke her arm. She hated showing vulnerability in front of others. She didn’t want to seem weak.
If she was crying, there was something wrong. I didn’t think it was this bad.
When I arrived at Matt’s house, he answered the door instantly. He looked stressed and unsettled.
“She’s in the kitchen,” Matt informed me, moving out of the way so I could walk past. He didn’t follow me, wanting to give us privacy.
The first thing I saw was her blonde hair. It was bundled up in a messy bun. Her shoulders were hunched over the table, trembling. Her hands covered her face, blocking us out. Her cries broke the silence hanging in the air.
It broke my heart to see her like this. If I knew it was this bad, I would have made a bigger effort to help her. I thought she wanted space.
Georgia didn’t notice my appearance until I spoke.
“Georgie,” I murmured, my voice cracking.
She stilled, her cries dying down. Hesitantly, I made my way over to her and kneeled down in front of her. She peered up at me over her hands.
“Oh, Georgia,” I exhaled, staring at her puffy red eyes. The bags under her eyes were more prominent. She stank of alcohol. “Come here.”
I pulled her into a comforting hug. She nestled her wet face into the crook of my neck.
We sat there for a while, embracing each other. I knew she needed this. She had been suffering for a few days, thinking she could cope.
But everybody needs somebody.
“It’s okay, it’s going to be okay. I’m here,” I cooed, gently.
“I want to help you, Georgie but I can’t unless you tell me what’s going on with you,” I said as she leaned back. Stray strands of her hair were stuck to her face.
“Please,” I implored, my eyes begging hers. “Please tell me so I can help you. I hate seeing you like this.”
Georgia inhaled sharply and pinched her lips together. She opened her mouth and then closed it again. I could practically hear the wheels in her head-turning. She was working out what to say.
“I don’t even know why I’m crying,” She began, shaking her head in disbelief.
“I think you’ve been holding everything in for so long,” I told her, softly. “You bottled everything up and what Raegan said triggered all the emotions you were blocking.”
She stared at me in shock. “When did you become so wise?”
I shrugged my shoulders, genuinely unsure. “I must have got it from you.”
She smiled slightly at that, “I can believe that.” Her smile began to fade and the light that sparkled in her hazel eyes dimmed. “You’re right though, I have been blocking my feelings. Mom and dad are fighting again. They’re not even hiding it anymore. It’s causing so much strain in the house. Mom is drinking so much—she’s always off her face. Dad is spending more time in the office. And…I’ve seen you hanging out with Marianne and Dexter and I was worried you would stop spending time with me.”
I listened to every word she said anxiously. She was finally opening up to me. It was only earlier today Ellie and I was talking about her. That seemed so far away now.
“I thought you were going to leave me.” She admitted, sadness creeping into her voice.
I never knew she felt like that. I thought Georgia knew I would always be around if she wanted me.
“Georgia…” I drawled, clasping her hands. “Why would you not tell me this? Why would you let yourself get in this state?”
She brushed a strand of blonde hair away from her eyes. “Embarrassment.”
I loosened a breath. “You don’t need to be like that with me. I’m here for you too. It’s okay to talk about these things. You’re not going to scare me away.”
She wiped her nose and hugged me again. I knew that was her way of saying thank you.
“You mustn’t tell anyone about this though,” She said when we broke our hug.
I sent her an astonished look, “Do you really think that low of me? Of course, I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“Not even Ellie.”
“Not even Ellie,” I repeated, firmly.
“God, I’m such a mess,” She cried, rubbing her wet eyes. Mascara smudged around her eyes, giving her a messy look. She looked like she just stepped out of a horror movie.
“Come on, let’s sort you out. You can sleep around mine tonight if you want.”
“I’d like that,” She replied, gratefully.
I linked arms with her once she was on her feet and guided her out of Matt’s kitchen. She swayed on her feet, no doubt due to the alcohol.
Matt was sat on the bottom stair, chewing his lip nervously. At the sound of our arrival, he leaped to his feet. His concerned eyes were trained on Georgia.
“Thanks for looking after her Matt. I’m going to take her back to mine.” I told him.
He nodded his head, keeping his eyes on her.
“Do you want me to give you a lift back?”
I glanced at Georgia to see if she was fit to walk back. Her eyes were half-closed from tiredness. She wouldn’t be able to walk back.
“Okay, I’ll just find my keys.”
Matt dropped us home. He didn’t speak during the ride and he avoided any interaction with Georgia. He didn’t want to upset her.
Their relationship was still rocky. I had to admit I was surprised Georgia went to Matt’s place. I thought she was still mad at him. I would ask her why she went to his tomorrow when she had recovered.
Matt parked outside my house and shifted himself so that he could face both me and Georgia. I decided to sit in the back with Georgia in case she threw up.
“Thanks for dropping us back,” I thanked him, offering him a small smile.
“It’s the least I could do,” He said, flicking his eyes between myself and Georgia.
Matt looked like he wanted to say something to Georgia but every time he tried to, he overthought it and decided not to.
I helped Georgia out of the car. We stumbled up my path and through my house. It was silent when I entered. Mom must have retired to her room.
With great effort, we managed to get to my room. Whilst Georgia had a quick wash in the bathroom, I searched for some clothes for her. When she returned, make-up-less, she didn’t look well. Her skin was sickly pale and she was sweating.
She collapsed onto my bed, groaning.
I quickly did my night routine and joined her in my bed. I set an alarm for school tomorrow and turned off my light. A blanket of darkness swept over my room. I could faintly hear my mother snoring from her room across the hall. She could sleep through anything.
“I feel like I’m dying,” Georgia moaned into the pillow.
I chuckled and stared at the ceiling.
“There is no way I can go to school tomorrow,” She said a few seconds later. “I’ll get my dad to pick me up early in the morning.”
Silence ensued after that. I laid awake, mulling over what happened today. I finally knew what was troubling Georgia—I could help her now.
Eventually, my eyes began to feel heavy. Just as I was about to slide into a deep sleep, I heard a voice say: “Thank you, Celeste.”
I slept that night with a smile on my face.
As usual, thank you so much for reading! I'm sorry this chapter is a day late! Please share your thoughts in the comments section. My next update will hopefully be on Tuesday! Have a great weekend.