Disclaimer: I don't own anything
So, right now, I'm sitting with Fred and Luke (Dom went off to be social and cool and stuff) and the thing is, I would totally be having fun but … well, this kid's here.
Not just any kid either.
If I wasn't such a redundant girl, I would probably be drooling/and or blushing and trying desperately to flirt. But, no, because I lack any feminine qualities, (no, seriously, even heels reject me. This one time, I was wearing these beautiful heels when I fell backwards into this pram, right onto this baby and I had to flee for my life because the mum was hysterical and screaming at me, but I just couldn't run because of those stupid fucking heels so I had to throw myself over a nearby fence and crawl off), I'm just sitting here, staring off into space.
Which was great and all until they started talking about the fittest girls in our year (like seriously, I hate boys). I mean, they were talking about Quidditch literally half a second ago and then they just switched topics.
'I'm going to find Dom,' I declare loudly.
They ignore me and continue to talk about whether or not Imogen Richards' boobs are big enough to be considered hot. I roll my eyes and get up and leave. When I find Dom, she's in her natural habitat.
I hate to admit it, but she's pretty popular. I'm inclined to believe it's because she's related to Harry Potter. No really, it's got nothing to do with being waif thin and blonde and like, a sixteenth Veela. Oh, and it's not because she's the funniest person ever or anything like that either.
Also, you know what's odd? I've met Harry Potter before and everything and you'd think he'd be this big-shot superstar with an ego, but really, he's a shy little thing. All modest and big doe-eyed stares. It makes me wonder how a man who saved the entire Wizarding World from a raving lunatic can act like he's afraid of his own shadow.
But I digress. The little tart's surrounded by boys, basking in their attention. She's all glorious hair tosses and giggles. I have to practically drag her away.
'See you later, Dom!'
'Bye, Mitch,' she sings, the corner of her lip curling into a smirk as she faces me again. She looks positively smug.
'Oh, shut up. Don't even,' I say under my breath, pulling her away from the masses of blokes just waiting to swarm around her. Not even one of them said hello to me. Not that I care. 'I know you and no. It's a stupid idea, I'm telling you now.'
Dom glares at me. 'You are literally trying your hardest to kill my buzz, aren't you? I can actually see that you're trying really hard. There's a vein in your head throbbing with all the effort.'
I glare back at her. 'Hooking up with other guys isn't going to make you forget Luke.'
Dom scoffs disbelievingly and pulls out of my grasp. The both of us stop walking. 'Well, at least I'm trying. And what makes you think I want to hook up with Mitch?'
'Oh please.' I roll my eyes and cross my arms over my chest.
Now Dom seriously looks offended. I try to shake off the feeling of guilt but she doesn't give me a chance. 'Look, Miss—Buttface,' she splutters. 'I do not like what you're insinuating here—not one bit—not at all. If you're saying that I'm acting like some sort of … of … of … scarlet woman, then you're just being a right—right git! I have the right to be—promiscuous. Mum,' she adds poisonously. 'Speaking of which, you are most certainly not! Just stop trying to pretend like you know—things! About … me.'
I stare at her, open mouthed. Okay. I've been insulted better before in my life, I have to say. I'm not actually sure how to respond.
'Um … what?'
Dom stares at me. Well, more like glares. 'Can you not?'
I don't respond because I know it's happening again. I can see it on her face, that horrible mix of disappointment and real hurt. In my mind, I've suddenly lost my grip on the ledge I hadn't realized I was clinging onto so desperately.
'You know,' I say. 'I am trying. Very hard.'
'I know.' Dom looks off, an expression on her face that I can't read. 'I'm going to go get a drink or something. Or talk to James. Something.'
Why do I feel like crying? I nod to let her go and she does. God. I was trying so hard.
I feel a heavy shoulder knock into mine before I hear the words. I let out an extremely unattractive noise and stumble back. A hand shoots out and grabs my arm, twisting it Indian-burn painfully. My eyes slide up, away from my butterbeer soaked shirt, to Oliver Gamble, who's staring at me, sheepish and apologetic. All the muscles in my body seem to freeze.
You see, I have a syndrome. A disease, if you will. I have this horrible urge when I'm confronted by beautiful people, intimidating situations, and the fact that I'm inferior, to be a complete bitch. Like, a blunt and rude bitch. It's a defensive mechanism I like to say but it's probably not.
'Jesus fucking Christ!' I snap, right on cue. I pull my arm out of his grasp and stretch my shirt out in front of me, scowling. I look back up at him. 'Great! This is just perfect! Why don't I just escort you to my wardrobe and you can dump more of your stupid butterbeer all over my clothes, huh? Let's make a fucking day of it.'
Oliver Gamble's eyebrows shoot up, his mouth open a little. In complete terror probably. 'Look, I'm sorry—'
I let out one, maniacal laugh.
Fuuuuuck, Jenelle, fuckfuckfuck. Stop yourself. Stop it right now. Act normal, Jen. Do it for you, do it for that weird girl who eats—
'You're sorry? Wonderful! I hope that sorry can bring back this shirt that my dead mother gave me.'
'Jenelle—' He stares at me for a beat '—your mum isn't dead.' Oliver rolls his eyes. 'And calm down, I can fix it in a second.'
I open my mouth and then close it. I deflate as he pulls out his wand. He's just about to siphon the butterbeer off with magic when I find my brain again. 'Wait,' I say suddenly. 'You're not supposed to use magic.'
'I'm sure it's fine,' says Oliver, waving me off. 'No one will care.'
'No, I'm pretty sure someone will care,' I protest. 'It's okay. It's just a shirt anyway—'
The corners of Oliver's mouth quirk up, almost as if he can't help it. 'Right. Just a shirt.'
I let out another laugh. Nervously this time. I smooth down the shirt in mention and avoid his eye. 'Right … yes, well. Sorry about that.'
Oliver laughs, too. 'Don't worry. It's my fault and …' he trails off, his gaze flickering over my wet shirt and back up to my eyes. 'Here—' I look at him, cheeks flaming, but Oliver is already on the move, not paying attention to me. He hastily shrugs off the flannel shirt he's wearing over a grey t-shirt and hands it over me, avoiding my eye. I take it without any protest and button it up.
I look down at my feet, feeling embarrassed and pick at the flannel. It takes me a minute to fully comprehend that he gave me his shirt like a motherfucking gentleman from the 90's or something. 'Er … thanks for the shirt … I'll give it back to you, I promise. I mean, well, I didn't mean like I was planning on keeping it forever or—you know what I mean.' Cheeks still hot, I look up suddenly, pretending to spot someone in the distance. 'Anyway, I think I see my friend over there so I'll just go—'
'Sure,' says Oliver, a laugh barely suppressed in his words. I'm so embarrassing it's awful. 'Sorry about your shirt anyway—'
'Oh no worries,' I say. 'And thanks for your shirt. I'll make sure to wash your shirt.'
'Right, thanks.' He gives me a small wave with the hand that's clutching his now almost empty butterbeer bottle and saunters off. 'See you later, Jen!'
'Bye!' I call after him meekly.
Dom looks up from the log she's sitting on. Her face is glum. 'What do you want?'
'To apologize,' I sigh, sitting down beside her. 'Sorry I judge you all the time.'
'Yeah,' she says with a sigh. 'I'm sorry you're such a git too.'
Dom grins and then it flickers away. 'I wasn't actually mad because you said that, you know. I wasn't even mad at you. More at myself … because you're right—'
'What?' I exclaim. I shake my head emphatically. 'No Dom, no I'm not—believe me—'
'I always think flirting with another guy, being with another guy, just anything with another guy will make me stop thinking about—stop wanting Luke.' Dom looks at me. 'And I always take it out on you. It's not your fault.'
I look at her blankly. 'I … you lost me.'
'Never mind,' she says hastily, setting her butterbeer down. 'I'm tired. Let's go back?'
'Yeah,' I reply after a moments hesitation. 'Yeah.'
We both get up and I tentatively link my arm with hers. She's in one of her moods. Dom's Moods are something of a rare occurrence but when they do happen, I'm not really sure what to do with her. It's like walking on broken glass.
'Fred's been acting weird.'
I look up at Dom, startled, so lost in my thoughts. 'What? What do you mean—'
'I don't mean on this trip,' she interrupts. 'I mean since like … the year started. He's been acting really strange.'
'Aren't you ever bothered by him sometimes?' says Dom, shooting me such a fierce look.
'No,' I say slowly, watching her expression. 'What do you mean?'
Dom sighs and looks away, tucking a piece of silvery blonde hair behind her ear. 'I dunno. It's just … I don't know.'
'Oh … okay.'
Dom looks up and breathes heavily, as if she's got the weight of the world on shoulders, but in reality, her 'problems' are about as big as a speck of dust. The only thing she ever really has to worry about is if Magic Makeup still stocks their Cherry Charmed lipstick by the time we get back from this nightmare.
Instantly, I feel terrible for thinking it. I really do assume the worst in people and I'm horrible because of it. But oddly … I don't really feel horrible. I just know it, another fact, like how these houses are white, like how James is now dating Morgan. At most, the only sensation I have is that I'm watching myself from outside my body at my worst, feeling mild disgust.
'I wish I didn't like Luke so much.'
'Well, you do,' I say lamely. I frown at how that sounds and try to muster up enough energy to say something better, but Dom's already snapping at me.
'Can we not do this again?' I say, feeling suddenly angry. What gives her the right to control what I say and feel? I have a hard enough time understanding what is apparently appropriate to say in front of her these days, I can't censor my entire goddamn being. 'Look, sorry if I can't find all the right words to make whatever conversation you want with me to be normal but guess what Dom! Nothing's normal! This whole thing is fucked up and I'm the only one who has the balls to say it!'
Dom stares at me, open mouthed, almost as if I've slapped her, and it makes me feel good, it sends a rush of satisfaction flushing through me. She's acting like the lunatic in the family that's' trying to convince the whole world that we're all still best fucking friends forever and I can't stand it anymore.
'You just need to see it!' I continue, my voice growing angrier, increasing to a shout. 'You need to fucking open your eyes! What makes you think this is okay?' I gesture around. 'What about this is okay? We're living in a house with them, Dommie.' I can feel the tears in my voice, because it suddenly hurts all that much. 'I'm living in a house with him and I'm sorry if I can't … I'm …' I turn away because her face has become a blur.
I walk away.
I trudge up slowly behind the boys. Dom's walking with them, though I can tell she's not saying much. Hands stuffed in my jacket pockets, head down, I try to ignore their loud voices floating back to me. How many words can say that I'm not comfortable, that I don't have to be comfortable? What can I tell Dom to make her see that she's not okay either? That being in a house with Luke will only destroy her.
'Oi, perk up, ugly.'
I look up, surprised, thinking it might be Dom, only to find that it's Luke.
'I wouldn't try to contain your obvious excitement,' he says dryly. 'It won't do you any good seeing as nothing is as exciting as I am. You'll only hurt yourself.'
Luke knocks his shoulder into mine. 'Hi yourself. What's up?'
Luke raises his eyebrows. 'Really.'
I look at Luke, wondering what he's doing, wondering why he's talking to me when I clearly don't want to talk to anyone. The odd half light caused by the sun almost completely setting—what my father would call l'heure bleu—makes him look almost golden. His fair hair, his skin, his eyes.
'What's going on between you and Dom?' he asks. I frown. He's more perceptive than he looks. 'Are you two fighting?'
'No,' I say. 'No we're not. At least, I don't think we are.'
Luke looks amused. 'She doesn't think so. But she thinks you're mad at her. She hasn't stopped blathering on about for a while now.'
My eyes dart up immediately to her. I feel annoyed again. At her, and then at Luke. I look at him. 'Why do you care? What does it matter?'
Luke raises his eyebrows and stops me. We both turn to face each other. 'You're being hard to talk to.'
'So don't talk to me,' I snap. I want to walk away and leave it hanging there, but something in his expression roots me to the spot. I don't think I really want to leave anyway. He looks like he's the only one who really cares what I feel.
'But let's talk anyway,' he says, continuing on as if I hadn't said anything. 'How are you?'
'How am I,' I say. 'I'm fine. How're you?'
'I'm very good. Thank you,' Luke adds with a laugh. Then he turns serious. 'This isn't … this isn't ideal, I know. I can see it on your face you'd rather be dead than with us here, but—okay I won't say it's going to get better but maybe you'll care less. About what he does—'
'Stop,' I interrupt. My head is starting to hurt. 'Stop—talking like that.'
'Like a book—or a story. You're talking like a book.'
Luke looks amused, and he takes a step forward. 'How am I talking like a book?'
'Normal people don't say things like that,' I mutter. 'You're supposed to not understand—or I don't know. Ignore me. I'm—' I stop talking because Luke's hand is touching, feather light, my elbow. 'You're not supposed to be so aware.'
'I'm aware of—'
'Hey! Oi! Luke! Luke and oh …' Luke's hand drops. We both tear our eyes away from each other and look to our right. The burning silhouette of two people entwined around each other becomes bigger and bigger. But I don't need their faces, I can tell by that voice.
'Hello, Jenelle,' says Alexandra Morgan, tucking a loose strand of her hair behind her ear, her arm wrapped around James. My stomach drops. She glances up at James but he's watching me, his mouth twisting into a cold smile. Then his gaze flicks up to Luke's, as if I don't exist at all.
There's something odd about the way James looks. He as two hectic red spots on his sharp cheek bones that make him look he's burning, and his eyes are unusually bright. He looks unusually jittery.
'Hi,' I say to her.
'Didn't know you were with her,' says James, still smiling. It doesn't quite reach his eyes and the knot is my stomach twists. 'Where are the rest of them?'
Luke looks over his shoulder and then shrugs. 'Gone. Mate, what are you doing?'
'What?' says James, eyes widening.
'No offense,' says Luke, nodding his head at Morgan. 'But what exactly are you doing here? We passed your house ages ago.' His voice is stiff, uncharacteristically harsh.
At this, Morgan flushes—or at least, I think she does, it's hard to tell in this light—and James grins devilishly. It makes me feel sick, and suddenly I just want to go. 'I'm leaving,' I mutter to Luke. He looks at me, confused, and says, 'Wait—'
'Yeah, don't leave on our account, Jen,' says James, grinning widely now. 'Luke needs some company too. Right, mate? I know how you've always liked her company.'
'Shut up,' growls Luke.
'I'm leaving,' I say. Before anyone can say anything else, I whirl around and almost start running back to the house. I don't stop until the door is shut firmly behind me and the only voice I can is the one in my head.
I'm in the kitchen because I can't sleep. There aren't any lights on, so it's dark apart from the moon's white light filtering through. But it's sort of peaceful this way, though everything feels more … open, naked. The from where I sit, on top of the kitchen counter, I can see the row of white houses, like dominoes all waiting to fall.
All of my hairs stand on end as a chill creeps through me. I could recognize that voice anywhere. In a crowd of screaming people, in the dead of the night—anywhere. My eyes flicker up, cornered and with no excuse not to face him after all this time.
The dim, translucent light of the moon makes James look bigger, and he looks feverish, like he's burning from the inside out. I try not to wonder where Morgan might be. Or where they might sleep. Or if they might sleep at all—
James shifts closer to me, almost imperceptibly. The smell of firewhisky burns my nose and I want to cringe away, but all of sudden he's over me, blocking me. I look up, startled—and stare.
I'm just staring at his face. His sharp nose, his smooth skin, his smattering of freckles, his wide, full mouth, his burnt amber, chocolate brown eyes. His broad shoulders, the curve of his neck. My heart starts to beat out of rhythm. He looks at me from under his thick, long lashes.
'You're so pretty,' he murmurs, and it's like he's taken the my thoughts and put them into words. I'm so stunned that I can't move, I can't even speak. My heart is racing wildly, now. I want to push him away—tell him he needs to go away—but I can't. His callused thumb brushes across my lips and I jerk back suddenly. In an almost fluid motion, I push him away, jumping off the counter.
'What the hell.'
James moves closer to me again, his body pressing against mine. He opens to say something but I cut him off bitingly cold. 'No. Shut up. Get away from me. Right now.' I can feel the cold marble of the counter burning my back.
Obediently, James lifts his hands up, palms facing me, and takes a step back. The smile that curls his lips is heartbreakingly beautiful. And even now, even after everything, I want him. I ache to touch him, to have him near me again.
'Whatever you want, whenever you want.'
The words jolt a memory in me, so strong, so vividly sharp, that it's all I can do not to slap him across the face.
'What's wrong with you?' I whisper instead, knowing that if I raise my voice any louder, I will cry. 'Why are you doing this? Where is Morgan?'
At the mention of his girlfriend, James frowns, looking suddenly irritated with me. 'She left.' Then, with the air of somebody remembering something important, he says, 'Because of you. She left because of you, because you stormed off—'
'You're drunk,' I say disgustedly. 'You are so out of it's—'
Suddenly, he's on me again, pressing me against the counter. His face is inches away from mine, his eyes unnervingly bright and clear. 'Not that drunk, love.'
What is he doing? 'Morgan,' I force out, pushing him away, watching him stumble back for the millionth time. He looks at me, his expression sad, as if I've disappointed him. I want to break down, I want to throw something, but I don't, I can't. And suddenly the words are bubbling up my throat, hot and heavy, burnt and bitter.
'You can't do this,' I say in a strangled voice. I can't look at him. 'You can't—I don't understand—'
'Don't you?' says James, sounding almost pleading. His voice drops into a murmur, so gentle and soft it half scares me. 'I wish you would just tell me …'
He's so terribly close me my thoughts are scattered, I can barely hear his words, I just want him near him. Without my knowing, my hands reach out, but they don't even graze his shirt before he's pushing them away so he can move closer. His hands lace with mine. 'Tell you what?'
James doesn't say anything, just looks at me through hooded eyes. His hands are slick with sweat and I try to pull it out, but James' grip is iron hard. He doesn't even seem to notice my struggle.
'Never mind,' I say, licking my lips. His eyes flicker down to them, but instead of kissing me like I'd expected, he dips his head down so his forehead touches mine. It's cool and instead of steadying me, it scares me. This is not the atypical James behavior.
Slowly, I unlace my hands from his, snaking them up around his shoulder and neck. We're hugging, I think, controlling the strange urge I have to laugh. We're hugging.