Antithetical

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Chapter 14 - Isolde

I wake to Isaac’s mum, Ann, gently shaking me awake.

“Isolde, dear?” she says.

I blink sleepily. The events of the previous days crash back down into my memory, and I sigh heavily.

“Mmmh?”

“Your mother’s here.”

Rubbing at my eyes, I get to my feet, and stretch out my stiff legs – I sat on them for hours. I glance at Isaac before I go. His sleep is troubled; his limbs jerk and his face wears an uncomfortable expression. Nightmares, I guess.

I sigh again, and follow Ann outside. It’s pitch black; must be the middle of the night. Mum stands anxiously outside Isaac’s house, fidgeting with the bottom of her long white top.
“There you are, Isolde,” Mum says with relief. She is overly concerned; she probably heard about the water pipes gushing at school today. Or yesterday, seeing that it’s so late.

She sees Ann, who is already moving back into her living room.
“I’m sorry about your loss,” Mum tells her. I wince – I don’t think Ann needs to be reminded. Plus, I don’t really want to continue hearing it. I don’t know – didn’t know – Gideon as much as I know Isaac but I still feel a sort of small hole in my torso. Like I’ve lost something, but I don’t know what it is.

Ann just nods with a stiff ‘Thank you’.

The door closes, and Mum turns to me.

“You told him?” she asks quietly as I walk to meet her.

“No,” I reply, my voice as hushed. You never know who could be eavesdropping.

“OK,” Mum says, and though she tries to hide it, she sounds pleased. For fear of anyone hearing what we’re talking about, she doesn’t ask any more questions until we get home.

It’s midnight; I should really be in bed, but Mum sits me down at the kitchen table for a discussion, which I have no interest in right now. I want to go to sleep before the bad thoughts make that impossible.

“What happened today? Details, please,” she adds.

“Mum, I’m tired,” I say. “All that happened was the pipes started leaking badly, and I went to see Isaac after school. He was really upset.”

Even the brief summary of today – well, yesterday – gives me a cold feeling in my stomach.

I swallow, and Mum studies me, then sucks in her lips before saying, “I just wanted to make sure that everything wasn’t . . . exceptionally bad.”

“My best friend’s brother just died. I made a hall flood with water,” I say slowly and quietly. “Of course it’s ‘exceptionally bad’.” I draw back my chair and escape the table before Mum can reply.

Once upstairs, I fling myself onto my bed.

Gideon is – was – fifteen, but smart, very smart. We weren’t that close, but shared a discussion every now and then, though obviously we haven’t been talking much in the last couple of weeks, what with the news I received. He was well-meaning enough, sarcastic, like Isaac, but fairly jovial. He shouldn’t have died. He was a good person.

I’m suddenly aware that I’m extremely thirsty. I want to go to get some water, but I don’t want to encounter Mum.

“Can’t have everything,” I murmur to myself, and exit my room to get a drink. I think Mum has gone to bed; she isn’t in the kitchen or the living room, or the bathroom.

After my thirst has been quenched, I brush my teeth and then head back upstairs to my bed, even though there’s only a small chance of me getting any sleep tonight.

I should tell Isaac about being an Antithetical, but I’m too afraid of him hating me. If he did, I don’t know what I’d do. But I don’t want to carry on keeping secrets from him. I made up my mind to tell him two days ago, but he wasn’t at school. Now I am rethinking that decision. So many pros and cons. So much to deal with right now.

I groan into my pillow. Sleep. I need sleep to get a clear mind. I’ve still got a Finals test left, though it seems ridiculously trivial compared to everything else I’m facing.

Against all odds, I manage to sleep. I was expecting nightmares, but I get a relaxing dream instead – that I’m on a boat, in a wide expanse of water, surrounded by my friends. We are happy, we are laughing.

We do not have dead siblings, and we do not have destructive powers.

*

Isaac, unsurprisingly, is not at school the next day.

My friends are not that gullible; they know something’s really up with me. I answer their well-meaning questions with an assortment of lies. Gideon goes to another school, and I don’t know if I should tell people about his death. I try not to get angry at my friends, and hide in the library at lunchtime, reading a book, but not really getting into the story.

Frustrated, I throw the novel down with force. The librarian gives me a look. I go red and quickly shove the paperback in its shelf, and find another place to cower from my nosy classmates, which turns out to be the toilets. I sit on the closed lid in a locked cubicle, and put my head in my hands. I can’t stop thinking about Gideon. The poor boy . . .

What is it that drove an Antithetical to kill him? At least animals kill for a reason – to sustain themselves.

I sit there for a while, agonising over the subject, until the bell goes. I unlock the door, wash my hands. Deceiving, as usual.

My hands grip the sink, and I stare at my reflection in the mirror.

“I hate you,” I hiss vehemently.

I remove my fingers from the basin and walk away.

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