I nod in response to Mal’s offer and get to my feet.
Mal leads me to the first bedroom off the living room.
‘This is Lucio’s room,’ he says as he opens the door.
The room smells of vetiver and bergamot. It is the same dark grey as the living room. The sheets on the bed are blood-red. There is very little on the desk and shelves, no clutter. It is exactly how I would imagine Lucio’s room to be; organised.
The next room is Malvolio’s. His bedsheets are navy blue, like the deep part of the ocean. His walls are light blue, matching his eyes. He has more things out than Lucio, but it is still relatively neat. It smells like sea breeze and sandalwood.
Esteban’s room is next. It is the messiest of them all, as I imagined it to be. The walls are forest green and the bedsheets black. There are drawings scattered on the floor and all over his desk. It smells of pine needles and forest.
Oro’s room is last. To match his hair and eyes, the walls are black but have gold trim. His bedsheets are white, in contrast. Most of the decorations are gold. It smells of citrus and spice in his space.
Unlike the other rooms, he has an entire bookshelf filled with books. I browse a couple of the titles on the spines.
If I had to choose, I would be unable to. I love their scents for completely different reasons, they’re impossible to compare.
I pick up one of the drawings on Oro’s desk. It is obviously done by Esteban, if the signature in the bottom right corner is anything to go by. It’s a drawing of three of the four, minus Esteban, standing proud on a tall rock in the forest.
It’s amazing. I study it for several moments. Mal comes up behind me to look at it.
‘He’s very talented, isn’t he?’
I hum in agreement and put the drawing back down. ‘Definitely.’
‘When we move forwards with our bond, the five of us can move into a separate dorm, down the corridor,’ he explains to me.
Honey mentioned this. When mates are chosen and have bonded, the academy provides them with their own. Like married quarters. It is separate from the males’ and females’ dorms.
‘How many bedrooms will there be?’ I ask him.
Mal smirks. ‘Just the one. But it is the size of the four usual ones combined.’
I can feel myself blushing again. The thought of us crammed into one bed is a funny one.
Mal and I come back out into the living room. Esteban eagerly pats the space next to him for me to sit down. I take a seat beside him.
‘We have Skills tomorrow,’ he says. ‘You were really good at archery the other day. You impressed all of us when you fired four arrows in a row.’
I look down at my lap, too shy to hold his gaze. ‘That was a stroke of luck.’
‘Looked more like skill,’ Lucio comments.
‘You said that you like human TV shows. Which series are your favourites?’ Esteban asks. ‘I fucking loved The Order.’
We talk until Oro announces that dinner is ready. I thought I would awkward or a little uncomfortable at least, but the more time I spend with them, the more I relax.
The five of us eat at their dining table. I can understand why Oro is the chef of the dorm, the food is wonderful. I even have seconds, which I rarely do with human food.
I help Oro clean up afterwards, despite his and the others insistence that I don’t have to. After we’re done, we all go back into the living room and continue getting to know one another.
There’s a lot to learn about a person when you first meet. Times that by four and there is endless conversation between us.
The Four are so similar in so many ways. They share looks, laugh at the same things and react as one sometimes. Yet, they all have different interests, different likes and dislikes. They’re their own person, too.
Conscious that it is still a school night, I tell them that I need to go after it gets to quarter past nine.
‘Can we get a hug before you go?’ Esteban asks hopefully.
I hug each one individually. They all have their own scents that match their bedrooms. I find myself reluctant to leave.
‘Do you want one of us to take you back your dorm?’ Lucio offers.
I smile at him. ‘It’s not far, I think I’ll make it.’
‘Please?’ Mal pouts.
I try to hold back a smile. ‘Okay, Mal. Please could you walk me back?’
‘Yes!’ He fists pumps the air triumphantly.
I open the door and say goodbye to the others. Mal holds his hand out for me in the corridor and we walk hand-in-hand back to my dorm. When we get to my door, he pulls me into a second hug.
‘Thank you so much for coming tonight, angelita,’ he says. ‘We loved it.’
‘So did I,’ I tell him and pull back. ‘I’ll come round again.’
‘Soon?’ He asks hopefully. ‘Like, tomorrow?’
I chuckle at his eagerness. ‘Okay.’
He grins at me. ‘Awesome.’
He hesitates for a moment and then leans in. I tense up as he presses a gentle kiss to my forehead.
‘Night, Mal,’ I call after him as he walks away.
When I get into the dorm, the three girls are sat on the sofa, waiting up for me.
‘Finally, she’s home,’ Honey says with a grin. ‘How was it, gorgeous?’
I fall onto the sofa with a happy sigh.
‘Dreamy,’ I reply. ‘They’re just so…attentive. They listened to every word I said, they asked so many questions and showed such an interest. I got to find out what they like and don’t like etcetera. I just feel like I know them so much better already.’
‘Tell us every detail,’ Ireland demands. ‘What did you eat? What do they like? Did any of them try and kiss you?’
I wake up with a smile on my face on Thursday. I have four mates. I think I’m slowly getting used to the idea.
I shocked my mother last night, I know I did. I called her and told her the startling news. She was quiet for longest time as it sank in. Once she had recovered, she was squealing with excitement, impressed by the high ranks of my mates. I can’t imagine my father was best pleased, he didn’t comment.
I have a free first period. I decide to check out some books in the library. After telling my mates that I like reading, I realised that I haven’t read one book since arriving here. I know it’s only been a week and a bit, but still.
The library is dead, as usual. I swear students don’t seem to study here. I guess a lot of them use the study area.
I head for the fiction section and start browsing the shelves for an interesting title. I am, quite literally, judging books by their covers.
‘See anything you like?’
A deep voice makes me jump. I spin around and find Oro leaning against the bookshelves behind me. He doesn’t have his bag or his blazer on him. He has rolled up his sleeves to his elbows, revealing his half-red, half-blue prophecy tattoo.
His blonde hair is pushed back, leaving his gold eyes framed by long eyelashes. It takes me a second to notice that he is holding an open book in his hand. He snaps it shut and places in on the shelf behind him.
I still haven’t replied. I’m standing in front of him, openly staring.
‘Not yet, I’m just browsing,’ I tell him.
‘Can I recommend one?’ He asks.
He leans towards me and reaches for the shelf behind. His proximity brings the smell of citrus and spice, making my body warm up with excitement.
I look up at him, admiring the concentration on his handsome face. He retrieves a book from behind my head and places it in my hands. He doesn’t make any move to step back.
‘This one is very good,’ he tells me. ‘If you like poetry.’
I look down at the book in my hands. I open it to the middle and flick through the pages.
I glance back up when I feel his eyes on me. Oro smiles and takes a seat on the floor of the library. I look up and down the aisle, wondering if there is a reason he’s chosen to randomly sit on the floor.
‘Join me,’ he says, gesturing to the space near my feet.
I close the book, slip it into my bag and sit cross-legged on the carpet opposite him. Our knees touch.
‘So…’ Oro gets comfortable. ‘Who is your favourite author?’
We talk authors and books for almost the full hour of our free period. I saw the most books in Oro’s room and it becomes obvious that a love for reading is something we have in common.
We debate controversial books and share our favourite quotes and scenes from others. It’s one of the most satisfying and intellectual conversations I’ve ever had.
I discover that I’m also a bit of a sapiophile. Seeing Oro get so passionate and talk so knowledgably about the books has me becoming more and more attracted to him.
Five minutes before the bell is due to go, I check my watch.
‘We only have five minutes left,’ I tell Oro and get to my feet.
He stands up next to me. He towers over me and I have to lean back to maintain eye contact. Looking down at me causes a couple of strands of golden locks to fall over his forehead, brushing the tips of his eyelashes.
Unable to stop myself, I reach up and sweep his hair back from his face. Oro’s eyes close briefly as he savours the contact. I quickly pull my hand away, embarrassed with myself.
His golden irises swirl with emotion. His focus drops to my lips. Instinctively, I rub them together. Oro leans in closer to me and my heart starts thumping wildly.
Is he going to kiss me?