The Whitlock Academy

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Chapter Fourteen

Emery’s POV.

Irene is right about the skills lesson. We are escorted out onto the field, where archery targets have been set up for us. There are two different sections, for beginners and experts. It turns out that a lot of students did some archery last year. I didn’t, I missed it.

I’m assigned to the beginner’s section with Esme, who says she was hopeless at it last year, but still enjoys giving it a go. Honey, Irene and Sal are in the expert’s section. I watch them enviously as they knock arrows into position and fire them confidently at the targets.

One of the teachers shows me how to hold the bow and then how to shoot the arrows. After some very embarrassing fails for the first fifteen minutes, I manage to get the hang of it. Esme is still failing miserably next to me. I’ll admit, that makes me feel a bit better.

Am I terrible friend?

Half an hour into the lesson, I’m starting to improve. The sound of chatter, arrows whizzing through the air and the rhythmic thuds of them lodging into the targets, fills the field.

It suddenly goes quiet, and I glance over my shoulder to see why. It appears that The Four have decided to grace us with their presence. They stride across the field, heading for the expert’s section. The wind blows around me, whipping my hair up. It travels downwind and reaches The Four.

I know the second that they catch my scent, because all four of them turn to look in my direction.

“Why are The Four staring at you?” Esme asks with interest.

I force myself to look away before I get sucked in. I shrug and take aim with my arrow. “I don’t know.”

I release the arrow and it lands in the red ring. The closest I have ever gotten to a bull’s eye.

“Yes!” I shout triumphantly and a couple of students look over.

“Well done!” Esme congratulates me and claps. She glances over at the experts’ section and takes a step closer to me. “They’re very strange, aren’t they?”

I feign disinterest, despite the fact that my heartrate has picked up. I know exactly who she is talking about. They’re the students that everyone is constantly talking about.

“Who?”

“The Four,” Esme says insistently. “They’re handsome and intelligent, of course. But they’re also strange. It’s the way they keep to themselves yet are so popular somehow. I wonder what their mates will be like.”

“I wonder,” I mutter and then think of something. “They’re a year late in meeting their mates, aren’t they?”

Esme nods. “Usually, you find your mate straight after receiving your prophecy. But, if your mate is younger or older, it might take up to five years for your paths to cross.”

“Five years?” I echo, feeling worried.

What if my mate isn’t at this school and I have to wait five years to meet him?

Esme gives up trying master archery. She satisfies herself with collecting my arrows and handing me ones from the quiver.

“You’re getting so good at this!” She says excitedly as I keep landing arrows in the red ring.

I’m desperate to get a bull’s eye before the end of the lesson.

“Final five minutes, guys!” One of the teachers shouts. “Make these last shots count!”

“Come on, Emmie. You can do this,” Esme urges me.

I knock another arrow into place and take aim, pulling the bowstring taut.

“Whoa,” she says in awe.

I relax my arm and lower my bow, intrigued by her tone. “What?”

“The Four are coming over here. Like, straight towards us. What the fuck?” She whispers.

I glance over my shoulder and see that she is speaking no word of a lie. The Four are strolling across the field to us. Their faces are expressionless as they approach where Esme and I are standing.

When they get to about four metres away, they stop and cross their arms over their chests in unison.

“I think they want to watch you, Emmie,” Esme says quietly. “Show them how it’s done.”

I look at her in shock. “Are you mad? I’m a beginner.”

“They’re watching,” she hisses. “Show them that you can be just as good as them. I know you can do it, you’re so close.”

I glance back at them and realise that they’re not moving. They’re still standing there like statues, watching me.

Weirdos.

I turn back to the target, pull the bowstring again and take aim. I take a deep breath, trying to block out all of the noises around me. I can feel their gazes burning into my back.

I release the arrow and it misses completely, flying over the top of the target and disappearing behind me. I lower my arm and turn around to glare at the four.

“It’s kinda hard to concentrate with you all staring at me,” I snap angrily.

None of them react. They remain frozen, watching me without shame. Growling in irritation, I turn back to Esme and snatch an arrow from her hands.

I quickly take aim again. Without overthinking it, I release the arrow. I don’t even look to see if it sticks the landing before I grab another and fire it.

I grab another and then another from her, until I have shot four arrows.

“What in the…’ Esme trails off, her tone filled with amazement. “Emery…that’s incredible.”

I follow her gaze and swallow hard. All four arrows landed in the middle yellow spot on the target. They’re overlapping each other, squashed into the tiny centre ring.

When I turn back to see The Four, all of them are smiling proudly.

What the fuck just happened?

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“Today it is your birthday, and we sing to let you know, that you will be Queen for a day, whatever you say goes.”

I wake to the continuous happy singing of my three dormmates. They’re standing at the end of my bed, holding cake and presents.

I sit up and rub my eyes sleepily. My brain catches up as they sing the line again.

“Are you really singing Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses to me?” I ask, disbelief in my tone.

Honey grins. “I knew you would remember! We watched that film like a million times when we were kids.”

“Happy Birthday, Emery,” Irene says and holds the cake over me. “Make a wish.”

Dutifully, I close my eyes and blow out the candles whilst the girls cheer.

“You’re eighteen!” Esme cries happily. “You’re officially an adult!”

I feel a little disappointed that I don’t feel any different in myself. I thought I would feel the same way I did when I turned sixteen. That birthday was ground-breaking. I awoke feeling like a whole new person. I guess that was because I knew I was off to the academy the next year.

My birthday last year sucked. I was meant to be going to the academy and then…I was hurt, and everything changed. I spent my birthday in bed in agony. Hopefully, today will be very different.

The girls leave me to get ready. When I come out of my bedroom, they have decorated the dorm with balloons and streamers. There is a pile of presents sitting on the coffee table.

“Your parents sent a ton of presents for you,” Honey explains. “They also sent the decorations and the cake.”

“Thank you so much, girls,” I tell them and take a seat at the breakfast bar.

We all have cake for breakfast. They woke me an hour earlier than usual, so I have time to open my presents. I call my parents and get them up on FaceTime so that they can watch me open them.

They have given me some beautiful new clothes, the perfume and make-up I use and a moleskin diary with the family crest on it. I’ve been completely spoilt. I tell them that it is too much, but I know my mum was keen to make this birthday special after last year’s was a disaster.

The girls have gotten me their own gifts. Students are allowed to place online orders to be delivered to the school. They got me some things to decorate my room, a pair of heels and a gorgeous set of leatherbound notebooks.

Honey and I walk to homeroom together. I feel extremely grateful to have such wonderful friends. I have maths first lesson, which isn’t great on my birthday. I treat myself to a couple extra glances at Oro. He smiles at me when I catch his golden eyes.

Alchemy is next, with Salvador. A small box, wrapped in black paper with a red ribbon, is sitting on my desk when I come into the room.

“Happy birthday, Emmie,” he says warmly.

He gives me a genuine smile and, honestly, that’s a present in itself.

“Thank you so much. You really didn’t have to get me anything.”

“I wanted to. Open it.”

I do as he asks and carefully take off the paper. I lift the lid on the box and gasp. Nestled in the box is a stunning ring. It has a thin black band and a blood-red stone in the centre.

“Sal…it’s beautiful,” I murmur and take the ring out of the box.

I hold it gently between my fingers, admiring the way the stone catches the light.

“It’s been in my family for generations. It belonged to my great-grandmother, the one who helped her husband found this school,” he says.

“I can’t accept this, Salvador. It’s too much,” I protest to him. “It should stay in your family.”

He sighs and his expression turns serious. “I want you to have it, Emery. I’m not going to get to give it to anyone…I’ll know it’s in good hands.”

I watch him as he rubs his tattoo through his sleeve. His tattoo that is a daily reminder that he has a death prophecy. Tears pool in my eyes. I don’t want to lose my friend. I pull him into a hug and a tear escapes my eye. I swipe it away quickly, behind Sal’s back, before he sees it.

“Thank you,” I whisper.

“Alright, class,” the teacher shouts. “Get out your books. Today, we are going to be looking at…”

I pull back and Sal coughs awkwardly. “Glad you like it,” he says gruffly, shrugging off our shared moment.

I slip the ring onto my ring finger on my right hand. It fits perfectly. When I look up, I meet the green eyes of Esteban. Even from across the room, I can see the jealousy burning in his irises.

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