End Of Summer
MY EYES FLASHED OPENED FOR WHAT felt like the thousandth time in the past two years. Staring up at the ceiling- full of sweat -my breaths echoing across silence and darkness inside our dorm.
Shite. Another nightmare.
The dream was not as horrifc as the others before this, but three months away from the only person who seemed to stop them with the power of sleeping next to me; I have relapsed. Poe was unaware of my condition, therfore suffering in silence was what I had to endure until the new year rolled in.
The only people who knew were Ridley and Carnation, but the last was not by choice.
I pushed the wet bedsheets back from my body and scanned over the sleeping form beside me. His arm was angled across my collarbones and a bold leg had entwined with mine sometime in the middle of the night, as if to keep me from leaving. The paranoid bastard. Ever since I told him of my past he became an overprotective freak, however there was more tale to the past I have yet to divulge to him.
Only because I feared it may break him.
Luckily, I managed not to wake him this time. For someone so introverted and inhospitable with people outside our group, he sure did fancy cuddling. I slid out from underneath his weight as light snores echoed in the room.
I searched for a sweater before stepping into my trainers and escaping outside.
A good run will clear my head.
The campus was quiet in the early morning because everyone had left for vacation with their families. Phoenix went back to England with his father to overlook business with an invested partner. Hansel on the other hand returned to Poland with his grandmother after the scandal between Charlotte Moon's death and the arranged marriage his parents made with her father took to the media.
Miss Adeline wanted to avoid the media until the start of the new school, and even that was questioonable as Hansel said she wanted to homeschool him.
Since the chaos that broke out everyone was on alert; news stations leaked information on the Mayor and his children's abrupt kidnapping; the killings and near massacre at the Four Seasons made headlines. It felt like 1988, the city in fear of Jack The Ripper who sliced up several prostitutes and left no trace.
Reputations were at stake and as the Headmaster proclaimed, so would Raven Oak Prep.
I stopped at a random street light and swiped a hand down my sweated face as I caught my breath.
The sun was a faint illumination beyond the towering buildings surrounding me, but so was the early cold which swept over Seattle like a ominous cloud.
I was a naturally patient person, but when it came to her I have fallen out of routine. Much like these nightmares, however since the summer started I became overly paranoid. More so now that my father's mistress came back from her vacation in Paris.
I needed her like a druggie needed his next fix. I was addicted to her, and I didn't know how to stop. Was this what it feels like to be in love? So completely invested all you want is to be them? Or think of them?
I raised my face to the clouded skies, and exhaled.
Only a couple more days.
We will have time then, and I planned to keep her for good this time. All I have to do was get the others to agree.
Ridley most of all.
I continued a couple more miles before I headed back to the only place I felt at home. Not even my father's mansion felt comfortable for me to return to anymore, although he and mum left everything to me I was not due the responsibility until I turned eighteen; twenty-one for the loaded inheritage for college.
Something my wicked stepmother wanted to steal from me since she married my father, three years after mum passed from consuption.
By the time I made it back to the dorms the sun had risen over a dusk sky and breakfast was set on the island of our spacious kitchenette. Not all the dorms got special accommodations, but as student council representatives we were elected the best dorm in honor of our high authority as will be done to the next selected few members when we leave for college courses, or get out voted in the next class elections this year.
"You're back." I turned to find Ridley coming out of the shower door with a towel wrapped around his bare waist and nothing else.
I grabbed a water bottle out of the small fridge plastered with stickers of Hansel and Phoenix's favorite boy bands, particularily The Beetles, Jackson 5, Nirvanna, Beach Boys and a lot of korean pop boys like Ateez and BTS.
"How long have you been up?" I asked.
He walked to the kitchen while running a separate towel through damp blue locks recently redone over the summer. It was darker than ever. "After you left. Your constant fidgeting woke me up, but I pretended to be alseep. I suspected you had another nightmare so I gathered you wanted to take a run to clear your thoughts."
Ridley would never admit it aloud, but the blue hair was the last connection he had to his sister, and after her death he never changed it back. I tried to convince him black was more his style, but that lead to a heated conversation and blood on both of our knuckles. That was the last time I spoke about her until we later learned her suicide had been falsified.
I leaned back on the island and put my hands in the pockets of my sweats. "I was thinking we should call the others back. I want to speak with everyone before the end of the night."
Ridley pulled back the wardrobe door layered with our school uniforms and looked at me with squinted eyes as if skeptical. "What about?"
"Just call them," I ordered a little forecefully.
He opened his mouth to argue with me, but decided against it and reluctantly nodded in submission. "Fine."
Later that day Phoenix and Hansel were back, suitcases placed in their own rooms adjoined with us. As Secretary and Treasurer their duties put them at the same level of stature as me, Ridley and our previous Historian so it was required all of us be placed in one room whereas Parliamentarian, Reporter and Committee Chairperson stay in separate rooms because of their less indispensable role within the student council.
All four of us have lived together for four years because of the circumstance of our positions, but Ridley and I knew each other at the start of primary education. We were paired as roommates since and continued on until Phoenix and Hansel later came into the picture with Beau.
Gradually the five of us clicked. Almost like a reverse harem romance novel, but without the end result of love won and happiness. There was more to the tale us falling in love with a beautiful, blue haired girl.
A lot of flaws.
Tons of manipulation.
And one truth kept buried with the dead to protect chaos from breaking us apart.
"What are we doing here, prez?" asked Phoenix, ever so impatient.
"I would love to know as well," Ridley followed up, staring at me with noticeable displeasure because he already guessed what this would be about. Changed into a pair of dark sweatpants and cutoff mucsle shirt for the routine workout performed each morning to help sustain the demons in his head, my dear friend was on the verge of losing his shite. "These meetings are normally called when you want to speak about news of my sister's killer."
I consulted myself to keep calm and avoid confrontation, but Ridley could be so difficult to talk to.
"This is not about Carnation," I started, careful to choose the words coming out of my mouth. "I am certain Ridley has come to that conclusion, and realized who I do wish to speak about with the three of you."
"If not Cara, then who?" Phoenix sat forward in anticipation and hope.
"Madelyn Monroe," Ridley announced for me.
Hansel's blonde brows went high. "The little psycho? What does she have to do with this?"
"I have come to a decision," I started, taking a sweep over each one of them and not breaking eye contact.
"A horrible decision, I bet," remarked Ridley.
I looked him the eyes as I confessed what has been on my mind since I first kissed Poe. "I want to make her ours."
"Are you serious?" Amber eyes gleamed as if offered a delicous treat. In a sense she was, and unlike Carnation I saw how differently he reacted to her. Competition surrounded us when we dated Cara, but I know Madelyn would not make us compete in a contest of wills.
I nodded. "I have a plan in motion."
Phoenix stepped back from excitement and started an assessment in his head about the pros and cons as he always did. He pulled out that signature blade given to him from Carnation and flipped it about before meeting my gaze. "This will be a high risk. We will be letting her in on all aspects that formulate the Sparrows. Are you sure you want to be prepared for that?"
I already evaluated the consequences, even going as far to hope she never finds out ablout the shite we had in store for her. Over and over in my head I ranted things would go our way as long as we keep it secret to make it real so when the time came and Madelyn accepted us, I might not feel as stressed as I was now about her finding out.
Did that make me fucked up? Yes.
But what would you do to keep someone you love?
"Are you?" I retorted, rewarded a glare in response.
His meadow green eyes percolated. "What comes next is we make her ours? Huh?"
"If she becomes a Sparrow we can protect her."
Hansel joined in, suddenly intrigued. "He has a point. We have the means to do so. Monster and the detective will not renounce their fight to bring Madelyn to their side, and that psychotic bitch, Cassidy, won't rest until she has you at her feet and has killed the rest of us from stopping her."
"Or worse," Ridley added. "The people we care about."
"We can update security. Get somone on our to watch over her while we cannot," I suggested.
Ridley scoffed and unhitched himself from the black loofah we bought years ago because of the vintage leather. His eyes livid. "So now we are going to delegate ourselves to this girl to keep her safe, when the smartest choice would be to stay the fuck away from her?"
I did my best to keep my mask from slipping, but I also had limits. Limits he rarely got to see because I held back each time for his safety. I was suppose to be the collective leader within the group, so we don't come across precarious circumstances we are not able to overcome. But something about Madelyn challenged each of us unlike any girl in our life. She could be the final bridge to emancipate from the past in which haunted us.
"Not without consent from all of us. We made an oath to make any volition together the day we pursued Carnation. We are a brotherhood. That is what we do and claiming Madelyn may be my only desire, but I have seen the effect she has engraved in all of us." I stared straight at Ridley with all seriousness. "You too."
He pursed his lips. "You see what you want. I still disprove of this idea to claim a girl surrounded by death. She will get one of us killed."
I walked into the parlor and stood before him. "We die every day. Just slowly and unnoticeable until the gray hair and wrinkles come in," I stated as a matter of fact.
Ridley wrang fingers together at his sides. A sign he did not like my snark response. "Don't be a smartass. This girl is trouble, and she will stomp over your bloody heart without a single remorse once she finds out what we did. You want to risk that?"
"She will never get ear of what we did," Phoenix interjected, eyes glued to his beautifully carved dagger. "Only we have access to this secret. No one else knows what we have done. Or rather what we planned to do. If we come to agreement about making Madelyn one of us- wholly -I suggest we lock and key the bullshit so she can never find out."
"Are you serious?" Hansel looked unconvinced. "Maybe if we tell her-"
"She'll leave us. In a fucking heartbeat."
"He is right," I said, watching as Hansel's amber eyes dimmed at the realization what we did was not a simple prank. Nor what we tried to accomplish. "From here on out the demons we birthed are buried between the four of us."
"And what about Hannibal?" Ridley asked, raising a brow at me. "The bastard has been smitten with her long before us. Do you believe he will lie to her face when he has never done it in his life?"
I shrugged. "There is a first time for everyone. He is just as guilty as us. If he wants to be a part of this he will have to pay the price of submission. Especially as a past member of Corvus. That could be trouble for us until he sorts out his alliance with us."
Hansel pouted his lip. "I still don't like him. Bastard is cocky as shit."
Phoenix smirked. "So are you. You guys have so much in common I'm surprised you haven't shared mirrors yet."
Hansel grabbed a pillow and whacked Phoenix in the face. That started a brawl neither Ridley or I tried to stop. The pair were such neanderthals we refused to be mixed up in their childish squabbles because we were mature.
Ridley saddled up next to me, question marks in his mistified gaze. He said nothing. Just stared as I watched our brothers wrestle like awkward teenagers on our carpet floor. Finally, I gave him mercy. "What is on your mind, my dear friend?"
"You never took an interest in girls before. Not even Carnation was enough to vanquish the demons of your past." I struggled to keep my composed stature as he mentioned her name.
I tilted my head at him with a stone face. "Your point?"
He frowned. "What is so special about Madelyn that you want to keep her so badly and chance the exposure of your past. Of our past."
I flashed a small smile and ruffled his tangled blue curls. "She challenges me. All of us." Turning back to our friends who were now laughing and out of breath I absorbed the moment like it were my last. "She keeps me interested even when I tried to hate her for Beau's vengeance. Even as I hated that simply sleeping beside her soothed the darkness that has consumed me for years."
"Does not make her our forever. That was Cara."
"Not for me." I glanced at him as that wrinkle formed between each eyebrow. "I apologize in advance, but there is a lot more to the story of our beloved Carnation not even you are aware of because she was your sister. We all loved her, but I acknowledged the real person masked underneath that sweet smile."
Hansel sat up and twisted to level me with a hard look. "What the hell are you talking about? Cara was the best thing that ever happened to us."
Phoenix nodded. "He is right. Our love for her can never be replaced."
I understood that. Even in death Carnation still managed to have control on their hearts. How can I ask them to move on when it was obvious the ghost of her remained imprinted in their minds? What kind of friend would I be to ask to give up their first love?
"The choice is yours. I have already made my decision to keep Madelyn. You can either get on the train or be left at the platform to continue to grieve a ghost."
"Careful," Ridley growled at me. "She is still my sister. You may not have loved her like we did-"
I stopped him there. "I never said I did not love her. I once shared the same feelings you have now. I wish more than ever to have those back, but I cannot change what I know. Nor will I give up the first girl who has kept the nightmares at bay, and who needs my protection. Therefore, I plan to make her my fianceè."
"The fuck you are!" Ridley instantly went in for a punch, but I deflected smoothly with a step to the right. He missed and spun back.
"This is not up for negotiation. I am making her mine with or without you, but it will be nice if I have all of your support in this."
"What will marriage accomplish if you want her so badly? She is damaged goods."
"That is what you care to see." I crossed arms and stuffed my fists in the corner of each armpit. "Try looking harder and she might surprise you."
"I don't like surprises. This girl is full of them and more. She has proven to me a life with her will be our death sentence if we continue to play this game with her fucked up father and brother. Do you not see how insane she is. We saw the proof on camera. She fucking talks to herself because to her the voices come from the walking dead in spirit!"
"You should not appraise her so quickly. She is like us more than you know."
"I am nothing like that crazy bitch-!"
I swung so fast he did not get the chance to finish. His head snapped to the side and a splatter of blood graced the floor as he regained balance. Licking the remainder of blood on his bottom lip; Ridley laughed. Not a sarcastic one either, but rather a deep and sinister kind that could raise the hairs on someone else had they not known him.
But I do.
I realized this side to Ridley a long time ago. He always had a temper, but the calm before the storm was something darker. Like a domestic animal on the hunt for blood- lurking in the shadows -and patient for the moment its victim was vunerable. In one split second he became the very thing we all tried to contain within him since Carnation died, and by the murderous look in his eyes I was to be the intended target.
I raised a brow in challenge.
He better do his worst, because I will not hesitate to retaliate.
Brother or not.
I smirked. "You have lost your touch. Perhaps you should be demoted from your position as it seems you are unable to perform your duties as my second in command. There other worthy options. Hannibal can even take your place."
Ridley grit his teeth. "Stop fucking around, Kieran."
I tilted my head at him. "Does it look I am fucking around? Understand that I am in control here. You all chose me to act as first." I scanned a hard look around the group. "Do you regret it now?"
Phoenix chuckled as if I said something funny. "Don't underestimate yourself, Kier. We will never regret making you our prez. If you want to make little psycho your forever wife then that is up to you. Ridley will be your best man and we will be your groomsmen. The one concern would be how would we fit into your circle if we choose to date her as a group?"
"I admit to having the same thoughts as you do now. With society it seems a harem such as this might cause a scandal in the media, but I say fuck the media. I want her. You all want her. Who has to stop us from achieving that?"
"No one is going to stop me. But why do you get to claim her?" Hansel asked.
I crossed arms to intimidate. "Because I am the only one who wants to claim her. Unless you are willing to take the step towards marriage? Tell me now and I pledge to not approach Madelyn with similar intentions. If you don't want it; I get the privilege of putting a ring on her finger."
He hesitated a moment. "You know I hate the idea of marriage."
"Then I have your support?" I slid my gaze over Ridley and Phoenix. "Feel free to object now. I want to believe we have not allowed the past to interwine with our present, and what future awaits us."
"You truly belive this girl is that future?" Ridley said, shoulders slumped in defeat.
"We cannot predict the future." I branched out a hand and hooked the back of his neck with a firm hand, pressing our foreheads together. "I am taking a risk and for the first time it feels like no matter the obstacles we can finally be healed."
"I didn't know we were broken," Hansel said and merged with us, followed seconds later by Phoenix. His eyes were a bit misty and I noticed the effort he put in to suppress the tears from falling. He was a bit more sensitive than the rest of us, but as a orphan without parents it took him time to find love in others.
We all had our stories. Our flaws. Our demons.
Madelyn did too.
I have confidence she can lead us away from what has forever held us back from moving on, because although the others may not say it aloud we needed her as much as she needed us. Especially in a world where the broken are left abandoned and forgotten.
We took comfort in each other that day.
And we were prepared.
The road to getting what we want was not going to be easy, but when has easy ever made for a good romance?
The comments are all in your hands. What do you think of this chapter? Any predictions?
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