10. THE STARS WILL BURN IN FLAMES
I step inside Mia’s house and I find myself unable to take everything in at once. I don’t expect this, it’s like stepping inside someone’s mind. Definitely her uncles.
“I’ll just quickly get changed, do you need anything?”
I look down at what I’m wearing, black leggings, an oversized t-shirt and boots — the same clothes that I wore to work. I didn’t bring anything to change into and I don’t plan on dressing up for this thing. It’s just something to take my mind off everything else — to spend time with normal people, doing normal college things.
“I’m good, take your time,” I tell her and I am drawn towards the large bookcase that stretches across the back wall. It’s filled with hundreds of books. I run my fingers over the spines and scan my eyes over the titles. They all seem to be spiritual and I understand what Mia means about Brody.
I pull one book out and glance at it.
“Page twenty-four,” a gruff voice says behind me and I turn around, suddenly feeling out of place. Brody.
“Hmm?” I ask but I’m already flipping through the pages.
“First line, page twenty-four,” he repeats.
“The stars will burn in flames,” I read out loud and look up at him for an explanation. He doesn’t give one, just walks towards a small room and closes the door behind him.
Okay then. That was strange.
The bonfire is on the other side of the lake, across where I’m living and it doesn’t take us long to walk there from Mia’s house, “Have you always lived with Brody?” I ask.
“Only for the last few months,” she tells me and adds, “My parents kicked me out for umm... ‘rebelling’,” she says snickering. “By rebelling, I mean cutting my own bangs and dyeing them pink.”
“Oh,” I say.
There are quite a few people here and before my eyes can adjust to the light of the flame, I notice a figure coming towards me. “I didn’t know you were going to come,” Theo says, embracing me in a hug. “I should have asked you, fuck, sorry. I didn’t think this was umm something that you would come to,” he rambles and I smile.
“It’s okay,” I say, hugging him back. Over the last couple of weeks, I learnt that Theo is overly affectionate with everyone and knowing that makes me more comfortable. Not that I wasn’t comfortable around him before, but I didn’t want to find out that he has some sort of crush on me.
“Mia,” I explain why I am here and turn to my side to motion to her but she isn’t there. I look around but she seems to have disappeared into thin air.
Josh waves me over and my eyes dart to the side of him, towards Ace. With Lexi. He doesn’t even look at me and I don’t know why I expect anything more from him. Just because we spent time together the other day, doesn’t mean we’re going to be best buddies. As I said, we’re barely friends.
I sit down on the log in between Josh and Theo. I recognise some of the people from the campus and some from Theo’s frat house but the rest look unfamiliar.
“Here,” Mia appears behind me, placing a cup into my hand.
I look up at her, “Thanks” I say, even though I know I won’t touch the contents inside.
Someone brought a speaker and is blasting Blink 182 songs. There’s couples making out all around us and someone even brought marshmallows. I don’t want to be here for long. Drunk teenagers and a bonfire doesn’t sound like the best combination and I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of it all when shit hits the fan.
Josh is telling me something, I’m looking at him but I can’t concentrate on his voice.
“Let’s go back to your house, Ace,” Lexi’s voice is barely a whisper but it’s like my senses are heightened.
“Maybe later,” I hear Ace reply.
“I’ll make it worth your while,” she says and I see her hand travel up his thigh.
“I’ll be right back,” I say standing up, suddenly feeling a little nauseous. I notice from my peripheral vision that Ace’s head snaps up and he shakes Lexi’s hand off his thigh.
“Are you okay?” Mia asks silently with her lips. I nod and head towards the deck on the lake.
I feel better when I’m away from everyone. I like being alone — most of the time I prefer it. However, I don’t like being alone for long enough so that the bad thoughts can take over. I never used to be like this. I was an extrovert before.
Before and after her death — those are the words I use to describe the timeframe in my life. Everything was better before.
“Why is someone as pretty as you, all alone?”
The voice startles me a little and pulls me out of my own thoughts. I turn around to find a tall figure standing in front of me with a cigarette between his lips.
“Uhh,” I don’t know what to say and he senses my uneasiness.
“I’m Logan,” he says and flashes me a smile. I can only partially make out his features, his chestnut brown is short with curls.
“Calla,” I reply and our eyes meet. I get an uncomfortable feeling. “Do you go to college here?” I try to make small talk — I really don’t want company but I don’t know how to get out of this situation without being rude.
“Not exactly,” he says and before I can ask him what that means, my eyes widen.
Ace strides towards us and my brows furrow in confusion. I don’t expect him and I certainly don’t expect what he does next.
He stops at my side and laces his fingers through mine. What the hell is he doing? I’m frozen, I have forgotten how to move. All I can feel is the warmth from Ace’s touch radiating through me.
“What the fuck are you doing here, Logan?” his tone is low and laced with anger. Logan doesn’t seem to care.
“Relax, I was just leaving,” Logan says, flicking his cigarette into the lake. “See you around, Calla,” Logan says and gives me a wink, I feel Ace’s grip tighten around mine. I force a small smile behind a grimace. Logan gives me a weird feeling — something about him seems off.
Ace and I stand there in silence. He is still holding my hand. I wait till Logan disappears into the crowd. “What was that?” I say spinning around to face Ace, breaking our contact and putting distance between us.
“What was what?” He asks, shrugging — pretending he doesn’t know what I am talking about.
Is he serious?
He takes a step forward and I can feel my pulse quicken. Why does he do this to me? I attempt to take a step back but I forget that I am already so close to the edge. Suddenly, I’m engulfed by ice-cold water. Oh my god. This can’t be happening right now.
When I come up for air, I see Ace’s face filled with concern. He offers me his hand but I ignore it, placing both of my hands on the deck and lifting myself up.
I’m soaked, cold and pissed off.
I notice Ace holding back a laugh, biting his bottom lip. This is all his fault, if he didn’t come here — this wouldn’t have happened. I would still be dry and warm.
“Shut up,” I warn when I finally get out of the freezing water.
“I didn’t say anything,” he smirks.
“I don’t care, shut up.”
He grabs the back of his hoodie and slides it over his head, “Here,” he says passing it to me. Of course, no shirt underneath his hoodie, what a surprise. Does he even own one?
I’m about to decline his offer but a breeze makes me reconsider. I shiver again and take his hoodie, “Take your shirt off.”
“What?” I ask clenching my teeth together to stop them chattering from the cold.
“It’s drenched, you’ll catch a cold.”
Why does he care? I look towards the bonfire and back at Ace, there is no way I am taking my shirt off in front of him — I’d rather have pneumonia.
“Here,” he says and stands in front of me, so no one would be able to see me and turns around —his back to me.
He doesn’t give me a chance to say no and I’m grateful. My stubborn-self would have suffered to prove a point. I take my wet t-shirt off, placing it gently on the ground. I hold my breath because, for some reason, I am afraid to make a sound.
When I pull his hoodie over my head, the intense smell of Ace fills my lungs. I drop my hands at my side, my back still against his. Our hands brush and the simple touch sends goosebumps up my arms. I blame it on the cold because I suddenly remember that I am angry.
I’m angry because his mood swings give me whiplash. He says he doesn’t feel anything for me but then he does this? What game is he playing? Because I’m not going to lose.
“What are you doing here? I was talking to Logan,” I tell him. Even though I don’t care about Logan and I’m glad he’s gone.
“He isn’t a good person.”
“And you are?”
He turns around, facing me. His expression is serious, but I like how it softens slightly when our eyes lock — like the way he is looking at me is different from how he looks at everyone else.
“No, I’m worse.”