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Chapter 2: Two.
“Oh, just quit it, would you?” His annoyance made me cringe, but I kept my silence, worrying my stained red lips between my teeth. “You know how much I hate it when you’re like this!”
“I’m not like anything,” I insisted finally, my arms still out-stretched as I let the wind twist my hair and skirts wherever it pleased.
“You’re a witch, not a fucking fairy,” he growled, throwing himself back-first onto the sandy grass and staring skyward as though he could not bare to watch me a minute longer. His tone was no longer seething though, and I laughed despite myself.
“Are you quite sure?”
He groaned, “Most of the time,” he paused as I dropped to the ground, sliding my hand into his breast pocket in search of a smoke. Once recovering one, I curled my knees up, my back resting against his middle as he shifted onto his side to support me. “And then sometimes you’re barely here at all.” His fingers idly dusted the sand still clinging to my ankles and I watched him for a minute, finally leaning my head back and letting my eyes slip closed, smoke lazily hazing from my lips.
“Don’t be daft, it’s not like I have anywhere else to be.”
“Good,” and I allowed myself to relax into him, the certainty in his voice made me feel safer than anything else. I knew no matter how far I floated, he would always manage to pull me back. I refused to remind myself that during my off moments, (the one’s Felix titled ‘fairy’), it was the very same knowledge that left me hollowed and lost. Because really, I needed him, and he wanted me. To stay here, with him. And it was his determined certainty tied me to reality, perhaps even moreso than my sister.
His fingers slid along my leg, almost demanding me to stay entirely in the present. He always played his cards well, because as much as he didn’t comprehend me, he somehow managed to understand me better than anyone, save a single soul. I let a gentle smile play upon my lips, leaning down with barely tangible hesitancy. I hovered with a minute distance between us, half wondering why I always felt so incomplete until we made it here. As if knowing my doubt, his hand found my cheek, pulling me from my thoughts and encouraging me to dive into the need completely. I straddled his middle, feeling some small part of me soar as his other hand gripped my leg, our lips already meeting easily across the divide. I leant into him, desperate to find the fullness of soul he managed to provide in our passing moments. Because it was only now that I could imagine that he needed me too.
He pulled me closer, his hands clutching at me, sliding against my skin as though I truly might disapear. And in this exact moment, as fleeting as my certainty was, I prayed I never did.
My footsteps became lighter as I stepped onto our winding drive, somehow feeling the necessity to merge my person with the delicate rustlings of the maples lining the path. I silently admired the dappled ground, enjoying the refreshing coolness in the sun’s fading haze. The height of summer was beautiful and yet entirely stifling, and I found myself in a constant yearning for the dusk to find me. And here I was, an awed witness to the graceful exchange between day and night, heart already longing for what was to come. And almost hoping I never made it that far.
“E?” Hestia’s voice was soft and golden to my ears, further enchanting the scene in which we stood. I twisted in my tracks, feeling almost envious of just how much a part of the beauty she seemed. Her careful footsteps carried her to my side with her usual grace, and she gently reached across and caught my hand, stroking my palm before she laced her fingers in mine. “Just getting in?” It was a breezy statement, holding nothing more than our usual almost-curious apathy.
I nodded, knowing enough from her own paled features and slightly mussed hair that she followed suit. I imagined myself, with my tangled hair, salt-stained petticoat and bruised littered body and gave a rueful smile, leading her towards our childhood home before I wondered too much. Before I questioned whether or not I’d lost the right to guide us a single step further, incase it went too far astray. She still had lines with which to follow, my Hestia, and I think I might have lost mine. I couldn’t place just how long ago though, and it terrified me.
“Tonight’s going to be so grand, E,” she sighed happily, “absolutely everyone will be there.”
“It’ll be magic,” I whispered dreamily enough to entice imaginings of pleasure.
“I only hope the Muggles don’t make themslves too obvious,” Hestia murmered, “You know how Lu gets.”
“He’s a sodding imbecile,” I noted.
“You don’t need to say it though, do you?” My sister’s eyes silenced me, and I broke the gaze between us.
It was with unsteady hands I let us into our mother’s house, the obnoxiously large white doors swinging open at my gentle touch, their spell knowing the rightful blood flowing in my veins. I dared not acknowledge the sorrowful hand Hestia ran through my matted hair as she parted ways with me by the main stairs, just throwing her a quick smile as I made my way towards my rooms. I could play oblivious, and sometimes, it was safer than gauging my own reactions.
I stripped myself of my dress and camisole, glad to be free of the sea-stiffened fabric as it pooled at my feet, marring the creamy carpet with a rebellious indifference. I glanced at my reflection, tracing the blueish tinged spots adorning my skin with dispassionate fingers. Most I couldn’t place, assuming perhaps the newer, more vivid few scattered across my chest and somewhat angular hipbones could be blamed on Felix, if not my own pasty ability to bruise too easily. I sighed, rubbing at a tender spot on my hip as I crossed to the bathroom, throwing myself under the tumult of steaming water awaiting me.
Sometime later I emerged, still dripping in my towel, to find Felix lounging on my bed. I raised an eyebrow, drifting over to my wardrobe, “Why did you come?”
“Hestia let me in,” he said, disregarding my question. I pulled a fresh slip over my head and turned to look at him, further irritated by his cheeky grin.
“You’re impossible,” I hissed, rummaging about until my fingers found the familiar tube of my favourite red lipstick. I quickly smudged it against my lips, knowing how much he disliked me wearing it, and finding a small comfort in it as my entire system twisted towards turmoil. What was he doing?
“Don’t be like that, for Merlin’s sake,” he stepped nearer. And before I could object, he was tenderly caressing my collarbone, his hand soon finding my cheek, pulling my trembling body closer. I melted against him, furious that he had come and so desperately confused by his willingness to ignore the game’s rules that I didn’t know how to fight. I wasn’t even sure if there were any rules being broken, and I felt accutely aware of the fact that Felix created and disbanded them at whim, without warning or consideration. Simply as his moods struck him. His thumb pressed against my stained lips, and he sighed, bending to kiss my forehead in an entirely foreign action. “I just did, is all.”
“I should get ready,” I pulled away, avoiding his face as I drifted across the room. His eyes burned me as I continued on in forced obliviousness, slipping myself into a pale chiffon dress and carelessly refrencing the mirror as I twisted a few coils of blonde hair back in my usual unkept fashion. I could never be beautiful like Hestia, even as a child, and I hadn’t sought to try in years. I wondered if he cared I was a mess.
Close enough to being ready to claim it, I turned to face him, muggle boots still untidily unlaced. He stared at me, his hand sliding from his hair to the back of his neck, where it remained with a firm grip, as though he were pained. He cared, I decided firmly, gazing back as boldly as I dare. Yet another sigh left Felix’s lips, and without a word he knelt at my feet and started to fix my laces, “You’ll trip, and you know it,” he spoke, forseeing my protest. “Come on, you hopeless tease, lets just go.”
Hopeless tease. I barely managed to trail behind his footsteps, which seemed oddly impatient. It didn’t feel as though I had anything left to tease him with.
“Evie-la! You made it!” Clara danced across the busy room with gleeful disabandon, a drink forgotten in her hand as she swept me into her embrace. “What do you think?” she mumered, “The blonde on the chaise? Isn’t he scrumptious?”
“Completely lovely,” I agreed aloud, my eyes finding him with a practised vagueness. He was easy to find, wearing the usual look that crossed any face lucky enough to have been graced the passing attentions of Clara Gillies. I threw a crooked smile in his direction, wondering if he’d manage to keep her for the entire night, even with his pretty face.
“Don’t I know it,” she laughed, already twisting back towards him. “Have fun dearest, won’t you?” and with that she melted into the stranger’s arms like silken gold. I slid through the crowded room, brushing past familiar and unfamiliar faces alike as I made my way to the curving staircase across the way. It seemed like the closest thing to an exit I could take without raising brows, so I took it.
“There you are you fucking minxy! Take a look at you,” Hugh clamped me on the shoulder suddenly, beaming, and a drink was thrust into my hand with careless enthusiasm. “This place is mad, innit?”
“Very,” I grinned impishly, taking a quick drag of his offered spliff and downing a mouthful of the potent drink. Hugh’s mixers were always nasty. “Plenty of prettty Muggles too, by the looks.”
“Tonight’s my night! Merlin knows it, I know it, and the titties know it,” he winked overtly at a girl squeezing past on the stairs. She smiled, and with his usual manner, he followed her without a seconds thought, forcing his fag onto me as he left. “Lick’s that way, if you’re after him,” he waved vaguely in the right direction, his mouth already creeping to her ear to whisper bullshit.
I pondered his words. I wasn’t looking for anyone, let alone Felix. Still, I found myself lingering briefly in the doorway. My eyes found his back instantly, and as though he sensed me as strongly, his eyes were on mine before I’d even realised it. He flashed a suggestive smirk over the head of the blonde curled against him, who remained oblivious. They always did, I thought with a funny disconnection. I did all I could do, ignore him, flicking my gaze over her as my feet led me away from the door and out of sight. “Do you really want to play our games, pretty head?” I murmered, trailing my fingers against the dated embossed roses printed on the wallpaper. She shouldn’t try, everyone who did was over their head. Even we were, naturally.
Already bored by the various antics around me, and the strange, anxious claustrophobia clinging to me, I grabbed a bottle from a bookshelf and made my usual escape. I couldn’t care less for this night, with its jaunty claim to the night of our lives. It was with little care I climbed over the lone, dozing occupant on the lounge, and slipped out the window, seeking the refuge I’d found the previous year’s party. It was the furthest edge of the awning I finally sat, out of view from the window pane, legs dangling from the end of the precipice. It felt like floating, but with no wands, no lies of magic. Just air before me and solidity beneath me. I threw my head back, my arms outstretched in surrender to the feeling of hesitant possibilities of freedom. It wasn’t until something shifted behind me and I twisted around to the open window, surprised, with my deep breaths cut short.
“What’re you doing over there?”
“Flying,” I replied, not knowing what else to say.
“Mind if I watch?”
“Not at all,” I studied the boy’s face for a minute longer before turning away, back to the street stretching below me. Silence fell between us, growing more and more profound with each breath. He came forward at some point, lounging beside me as though he’d done it yesterday, somehow obnoxiously suffocating in every movement. His presence made me feel more lost than usual, because something in his unaffected manner played me like I’d usually chose to play him. He was winning; sitting too close, too calm, too comfortably sure. And finally I snapped, feeling like a four year old all over again.
“Don’t you think it’s funny how the smallest passing thought can change the way you see everything?” My mouth felt dry, and suddenly the words were falling too quickly. With a lovely sort of danger, the sort that matched the rooftop, a rapid plunge into absolute wrongness when it’s all you could imagine wanting, even just for the second you decide to leap. It felt as though I could tell him everything, because he didn’t understand, and he couldn’t possibly help me, even if he did. “You don’t even realise you’ve kept in your head long enough for it to make a difference. But suddenly, everything reminds you of it...The teeny little observation you can barely remember making in the first place. It ends up being so ridiculously profound though, it’s like an obsession. Like connecting all the dots. Making sure it fits into every pattern. Because once you know it can fit, you can’t help but want to know how. You have to know. Because it has to fit. Which is funny, isn’t it? When you realise it only ever had a place because you put it there. Entirely by accident.”
“Tell me what you’re thinking then, Engie.”
My insides leapt unnaturally, shocked into nausea by his easy acknowledgement. He recognised me as easily I did him, even though I had never felt less sure of where I had started. He could still tell, and I almost wondered if he even had the right to. Despite my turmoil, my lips quirked a little, impending fondness. Trust. I was unreachable here, with him.
“Remember tying shoelaces when we were little. Being so proud for doing it, because you still knew how it felt not to know how. But then they get looser, and you realise you didn’t do it well enough. So you retie them again, and again. And the novelty ends up wearing off. Because you already know how. And one day you knot them, and you knot them until there’s absolutely no way they’ll wriggle themselves loose. It’s not until you want to take them off that you realise it isn’t so easy. You’ve trapped yourself in with your own idea. An idea you were so proud of, but now you hate yourself for being so stupid. You’ve messed the laces up so badly, and you can’t even fathom what you’d had in your head when you did it. Because it seems so silly. You can even recognise what you’ve done with the laces. It’s like someone else did it. Like you’re wearing someone else’s shoes.”
I didn’t reply, forcing him to plunge into his own. I passed him the stolen bottle, still half full of wine, and scrapped through my pockets to find a smoke, lighting it with a deft puff.
Finally, after a grimacing gulp, he found it. Whatever it was on his tongue, “Where’d you go?”
“Mum sent us off to school, that’s all.”
“You never said.” I almost heard a goodbye leave his closed lips, and my eyes flushed warm. I took a long blink, forcing myself to calm before I faced the view again, smoke now twisting out before us before fading into nothing. I took another desperate drag. He wanted answers, of all things. I didn’t want to see his face, darkened by moonlight and questions pending.
“You should have forgotten anyway, after a bit.” It was a guilty thought now, the passing whimsy that he never had and I was quite sure I couldn’t say the same. It was only his presence making me remember so vividly, and if it weren’t for this moment, I doubted he’d have crossed my mind as a character of any nameable substance.
“Of course I din’t. You and Hes-you were...”
“Special.” I sighed, remembering how many times he’d said it before. How worried Mother had been when she heard we had a Muggle friend nextdoor who knew enough to think so. “The twin thing,” I dismissed, almost sad to even say it when he understood so much more than that, even without actual proof. He’d never needed it.
He scoffed, “So you’re a liar these days, eh?”
“You don’t really want the truth though,” I took another puff. “Circumstance considered, it’s better if I am, don’t you think?”
“Of course not, you’ll forget y’self even more, for Christ’s sake.” He rubbed his face tiredly, making me wonder yet again what he had recognised in the twiggy blonde as me.
“S’alright, okay, Reg? I’m sorry for both of us, Hes and me. We never meant it.”
“Where the fuck did you go? What happened?”
“Nothing happened, we just left,” I let my head fell to his shoulder, needing to feel something less empty, sitting next to him, the definite essence of everything he was ever going to be. “We went to school, and found out we aren’t all that special after all. We didn’t say goodbye, we didn’t think we’d ever have to say sorry. But we didn’t mean it badly.”
“Don’t be daft,” he growled, shifting beneath me, to pull my body closer. I curled against him, clinging to the lovely sense he gave of solidarity and sureness all the while somehow knowing how untouchable I was to him now. He probably imagined he could help me with the knots, help me be Engie again. And yet, he had nothing to save me with at all, other than his own brave ignorance. I smiled into his shirt, knowing that he was dafter than ever.
“Hes is here too,” I told him after a bit, trying to imagine her talking to him like she used to, hands flying with animation. I couldn’t grasp it clearly, not my Hes, with her elegant composure and ample friends to giggle, whether they should or not. “I can’t promise she’ll remember.”
“I din’t think you would.”