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Risen: Out of the Ashes by PhoenixFlame86
Chapter 22 : Trapped in a Maze
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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A/N- So this is an edit of an original chapter... as of June 5th 2014. Enjoy! 

 






Charlotte’s POV

It was getting late. Asher and I had been dancing for a while, and then sitting and talking for a while. It was well past midnight and we still hadn’t gone through the maze. It didn’t look like much fun, but it was apparently the only way to leave. So I'd been told. 

I heard rumors that if you didn’t go through the maze you’d be jinxed to look like a human toad for 24 hours. James and Freddy had thought of everything. I hadn’t seen James since our dance, and was getting worried about him. Asher shook me out of my reverie.

“Do you mind if I go talk to Will and Henry? I don’t want to leave you here all alone though.” I looked around, seeing the twins watching us. They waved and smiled brightly at me. I waved back. 

“Go.” I smiled at him and looked around, spotting Rose by herself. “I’ll go talk to Rose.” He bent down and gave me a quick kiss before running off. I started walking over to Rose, but got stopped by Freddy.  

“Have you seen James?”

“Not for a few hours, no. You haven’t seen him either?” I asked, watching as Freddy kept glancing to the maze, to me, and then back again. 

“He went into the maze, but hasn’t come out.”  

“How would you know if he came out or not?” 

“The entrance is also the exit.” He nibbled on his nails, looking at me furtively. He was up to something, I was sure of it. Was this all part of some elaborate Halloween prank? 

“Clever. Should we look for him?” Freddy got a weird look on his face and suggested that I go look in the maze for him. “Ok. I’ll go by myself then,” I said to myself as Freddy ran off, “Into the dark, scary maze I go.”

It occured to me as I walked past the entrance, craing my head to look at the sign at the top, that I should have told Asher I was going to do this. I turned around, intending to go back, but instead saw only a solid, green wall. Huh. Ok then. Onwards I go. 

The walls were pretty high and just as I’d walk past one corner, it would disappear behind me. I had no clue where I was. It was dark and I kept hearing weird noises. My wand remained in front of me, and I went over every defensive spell I knew. 

The clouds parted overhead and moonlight lit the path I was walking on. It went straight for a while and then turned left. I went left and then froze. There was a dead end. I turned back around and there was another dead end, right where I had just come from.

“That’s not possible.” I tried to use a spell to part the wall, and nothing happened. What had James done to this maze? It was annoying and had his name all over it. After using a number of spells that all failed to do anything, I thought through my options. Maybe I had to ask?

“Can I please get through?” Nothing. I glared at one of the four green walls closing me in.  Just as I was about to try running through, vines came out of nowhere and dragged me through one of the shrubs.

A loud scream tore itself out of my throat. As soon as it had begun, I was released into a space with black floors and a fountain. And I wasn’t alone. There was a figure lying on the ground. It looked dead and I whimpered. 

This was so not how I wanted my Halloween to go. The body moved and I let out a sigh of relief. It quickly turned to a gasp when James sat up and stared at me. He looked bored. 

“Oh Thank God! I thought you were dead.” I clutched my hand to my chest, and tried to steady my breathing. My hair had gotten tangled as I'd been dragged through the stupid wall. 

“Bored to death maybe, I haven’t been able to entertain myself since being dragged in here.”

“Vines?” I asked, wondering how he had gotten in here. 

“Yup.”

“Me too. Why are you trapped in your own maze? I’m assuming you’re trapped anyway, because you haven’t been seen for hours. Unless, of course, you like sitting here being bored.” I reached up and started taking out the pins holding my hair up, running my fingers as best as I could through my rats nest. Eventually, I got so fed up that I turned my wand to my head and whsipered a spell under my breath. Dom had taught it to me, and it instantly cleaned and styled hair. 

“It was the stupid maze. I got this bit of magic from my Uncle and he must have added his own surprises.” He stood up and walked over, checking me for scrapes and bruises, which he didn’t need to do. 

I felt something on the back of my neck and my hair parted as I reached around and pulled out a twig from my costume. James was staring at me, an astonished look on his face.  

“What? It’s just a twig. See, look, just a stupid twig.” I waved it in front of his face and then threw it on the ground. 

“Not that, your hair.”

“What about my hair?” My hair should look perfect right now. As perfect as if I'd just spent three hours in a chair being styled for a photo shoot. 

“You have a gold streak.”

“No I don’t!" I had never dyed my hair. Maybe he'd been in here too long as was going crazy. 

“Yes, you do.” He pulled the section of hair forward and it was indeed gold. Huh, wonder how that happened. 


“Well, I didn’t put that there. Is that another one of the stupid maze tricks?”




 




“No, that would be one of mine.” I looked up at him, utterly confused. I didn't feel any better when I saw the look on his face. 





“So why do I have a gold streak in my hair?” He smiled, a really silly stupid grin and I couldn’t figure out why he looked so damn happy. It had been weeks since I'd seen him this happy. Summer even. What the hell? 




 




“I can’t tell you.”





“Ok. Can you tell me how we get the hell out of here then?”





“I can’t tell you that either. I don’t know how I ended up in here, and I don’t know why you got dragged in here.” 





“What do you know?”





“I know that when I tried to get out, words appeared in mid-air saying that I couldn’t get out until my partner arrived. You arrived, so I assume you’re my partner. But I don’t know what for. I don’t know if this is a scavenger hunt, or if it’s a very strange version of hide and seek… I don’t know.” He tugged on my hair again, looking happier than he should given our predicament. I wanted to keep frowning, but when I looked at how stupidly happy he was, I couldn't help but grin. 





“I’m not very fond of your Uncle right now.” He looked down at me, pleasure dancing in his eyes. I put my hands on my hips and tried my best to look intimidating and annoyed. 





“Me neither, I’ve been wondering about the ways to get him back for the past… however long I’ve been in here.”





“Close to three hours. Asher is going to freak out when he can’t find me.”





“You’re safe with me.” James sounded insulted. 





“Of course I’m safe with you. But he doesn’t know that I’m just trapped in this pain the ass maze. He might think something really bad happened.”





“You two seem to be getting awfully close.” And now he sounded angry. I was pissed at getting trapped and snapped at James.





“What’s it to you?” He looked taken aback. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you.”





“I just care about you and want to make sure you’re happy. That’s all. Just…why him?” There was a question he hadn't asked yet. All the other things we'd said to each other, and this had never been one of them. 





“Honestly?” Did I really have it in me to answer this honestly? 





“Yes, I need to know.” He needed to know? James looked at me and I stared back, trying to read his expression. I was usually pretty good at figuring out what people really meant. James was really confusing though. He said one thing and meant another. Was he trying to move on? If he heard me say that I was truly happy with Asher, would he let me go? Would he go back to his old ways? "Charlotte?"

He reached out and pulled forward the gold streak in my hair, staring down at it with a smile, his fingers running through the streak. 





“He’s there, he pays attention to me. I don’t ever have to worry about him giving up on me, or cheating on me.” James winced a bit at that part. “He’s sweet, he’s thoughtful, he makes me laugh, he’s a good kisser…Asher is what every girl wants.” So why did I spend most of my time thinking about James? Why did I dream about James and not my boyfriend? Why did I find myself wondering what it would be like if James kissed me, again. I wanted that kiss again. 





Why wasn’t Asher good enough, when he was the only boy who’d ever really paid attention to me? If I didn't count James and this summer. 





“So why don’t you sound entirely convinced?” And that right there is why I liked James, he pushed me. And secretly- I wanted that. I wore my mask and pretended to be invisible, and pretended to like it. What I craved was someone that would make me fight back, to help me be the person I knew I could be. 




 




Asher, being such a sweet guy, never pushed me. He just let me be, which was nice in its own way, but not what I secretly craved. A smile crept across my face before I could stop it. I looked up at him, and found myself reaching up to push his hair back from his face. It was drying, why was it drying?





“Why is your hair wet?”





“The stupid fountain. You didn’t answer my question.” I bit my lip and took a step back. 





“What did the stupid fountain do?”





“Well after I tried to blow it up for the 3rd or 4th time, it got annoyed and soaked me.”





“Why were you trying to blow it up?” James looked like he wanted to strangle me for not answering his question, but at the same time was at least happy that he was alone with me and talking.





“Because I figured that a fountain might have a drain underneath it, and if I blew it up, I could crawl through the drain to freedom.”





“And people think you aren’t smart.”





“You’re the only one that really knows I’m smart.” He took a step towards me, effectivaly closing the gap I'd created. 





“Why is that?”





“Why don’t you sound like you’re genuinely happy with Asher?”





“Because he’s not enough, as amazing as he is.” The answer came out of my mouth before I could stop it. I clamped my hand over my mouth and looked at James in horror. There was no point trying to say I didn’t mean it, because I did.





“You’re right. He’s not enough for you. I’ve known Asher for a long time, and you’re also right that he’s what girls want. But he’s not what you need.” He stood uncomfortably close to me. 





“What do I need James?” He had that look again, the same look he’d had multiple times over the summer. The same one he'd had in the broom cupboard. 





“You need someone who’s going to help you tap into the fire.”





“Sounds dangerous.” I muttered, my breathing uneven. 





“Only if you’re with someone who can’t get burned.” James reached a hand out and pushed my hair behind my ear, and then didn’t move his hand. He stood inches apart from me and I wanted to wrap my arms around him, but I couldn’t. No matter how much I thought about James, I was dating someone else.





“We should probably figure out how to get out of here.” I could almost feel the disappointment rolling off of him and it hurt me. I risked a glance up at him. James ruffled the back of his head, and took a large step away from me.





Before I could stop it, a shiver ran through me and my teeth clattered together. It was quite cold away from the heated party tent. James undid his fancy cape and held it out to me. Not only was it warm from his body heat, it smelled like him and I wrapped it close around me.





“I’m gonna be honest, I think we’re stuck here until the morning. The maze is designed to disappear at dawn.”





“And there’s no way to get word out?”





“Freddy can probably put two and two together. In fact, he probably knows more about this stupid maze than I do.”





“So that means we have a few hours to kill.”





“Looks like.”





“And you’ve tried everything?”





“You’re welcome to figure out another way.” He bit back at me, half bowing in a very mocking manner.





“Gee, tone down the sarcasm there.”





“I’ve been in here for 3 hours! You really think I haven’t thought of everything? Go ahead and try if you think you’re smarter than me!” 





“Take a chill pill James. And I don’t think I’m smarter than you, although I am in Ravenclaw.” I tried to crack a joke to lighten the mood, and James scowled at me. Ok, he wasn’t going to be laughing anytime soon.

I tried all of the things he had done (getting soaked by the stupid fountain same as James) and a few other random spells, before finally giving up and lying on the ground next to James.





“I told you.”





“You were right!” I threw my hands up and yelled in pain as they flopped onto the slate ground. James chuckled, then yelled in mock pain as I smacked him, thereby hurting my hand again.





“You really can’t be trusted to not hurt yourself? Does Asher know this about you?”




 




“I’m more cautious around him, so no.”





“So basically, you just like hurting yourself around me.”





“It does seem that way.” I turned my head and found him looking at me. His hazel eyes bored into mine and I found myself wishing I could look at him like this as often as I wanted. After what seemed like a very long time, he spoke.





“So does that mean that you’re just more comfortable around me, or that I’m so stunningly attractive that you forget what you’re doing?” I smacked him again and he grabbed my hand, then quickly let go.





“I’m not that attracted to you that I trip over my own feet every time I see you.”





“That’s a shame. I like being your knight in shining armor.”





“Well, you’re definitely the best knight in shining armor I’ve ever known.” James smiled and put his arm behind his head, staring up at the sky. Five minutes later he had fallen asleep, and I quickly followed suit.












The rising sun woke me first. I slowly opened my eyes and saw that I was in the middle of the Quidditch Pitch, the stupid maze had finally disappeared. It was desperately cold out and I was ever so grateful that I had cast a warming spell over us before falling asleep. 




 




The frost clung to the grass and low mist hung over the grounds. James made a noise and shifted, which alerted me to the fact that we were spooning. His arm was draped lightly over my waist and my head was right underneath his. How many girls inside the castle would kill to be in this position right now? 





I wanted to stay and enjoy it, but knew that was wrong. I tried to lightly raise his arm and roll away from him, but the second I touched his sleeve, he pulled me tighter into his chest. I suspected that he may be awake at this point. I tried again to get away from him, but he was a buff athlete and I was not.




 




I muttered a spell and it worked. James let go of me with a loud yell, shaking his now wet head at me. I rolled away and sat up, smirking at him. He flew at me, and pinned me beneath him, shaking his head and doing his best to get me wet too. I shrieked in annoyance, but it didn’t come across as being serious because I was laughing too.





He stopped and looked down at me, smirking and I realized the compromising position we were in. A loud cough sounded near us and we both looked up. Freddy and Georgia stood there, looking at us. Freddy looked amused and Georgia was smirking at me, looking incredibly satisfied and vnidicated. 





“So… welcome back, yea?” Freddy said, looking abashed, rubbing the back of his neck. 





“Your father is a dead man next time I see him!” James hastily stood up and started towards Freddy. Georgia walked around them and helped me up, looking like she had something she wanted to say.





“Oh c’mon… it looks like you had fun. No harm no foul.” I laughed hearing Freddy trying to defend his father's magic maze. 





“That doesn’t change the fact that his stupid maze attacked me and held me hostage.” James was quite intimidating when he was worked up, and I was impressed that Freddy just stood there casually, grinning.





“Charlie- Asher was worried sick about you, we should probably go up so he can see you’re ok.” Georgia said, looking down at her nails. She looked like she couldn't be bothered with having to deliver the message. In reality, she'd probably wanted to come down to see if James and I were rolling around on the ground making out. She would have preferred that, I'm sure. 





“Right, ok.” I turned to James and wondered what to say to someone I had been trapped in a maze with all night. “Um… Bye James." He looked at me, and I looked at him, the weight of the unspoken words filling the space between us.  I stood up, hooked my arm through my cousins and started walking with her back to the castle. Looking over my shoulder, I saw James looking like he wanted to punch Freddy.

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, I headed with Georgia and Dom down to the hall for breakfast. I was half-way through recounting the tale of my evening with James when Asher came running up to me. He swept me up into his arms, hugging me tightly, spitting out question after question.





“Charlie- thank God you’re ok! What happened? Why were you missing all night? Are you ok, you are ok right? Did something happen in the maze? Why didn’t…” Dom, bless her heart, interrupted Asher’s rant. 





“Asher, why don’t you just let her explain after she’s had some food. She’s fine, as you can tell. Don’t be such a drama queen.” She stalked off, and I made a mental note to ask her later what had gotten into her. Georgia ran off to follow her, looking behind at me sympathetically. 




 




Asher pulled me back into another long hug, and then put his hands on the side of my face, raising my mouth to his for a kiss. It was nice, it always was. Asher was a good kisser. There just weren’t any fireworks. It was comforting, but not exciting. And even though deep down, I knew this wouldn’t work, I kissed him back.




 




It was nice to be around a guy I could do things with. Asher placed a quick kiss on my lips and then rested his forehead against mine, his green eyes searching mine.





“Are you ok?”





“I’m ok. The stupid maze decided to hold me hostage all night.”





“Alone? I should have gone with you, then we could have been trapped together.”





“I wasn’t exactly… alone.”





“Who were you with?”





“James.”





“Oh. Why were you trapped with James?” I shrugged my shoulders and told him I hadn’t the faintest idea why the maze held us hostage.





“Did anyone else get trapped?”





“Not that I know of. I tried to get out, James did too. Nothing worked, not even trying to get word out. It was like an anti-magic zone. Gave me a greater appreciation for my American family and what they have to put up with. I’m sorry if you were worried about me.”





“I’m just glad you’re safe. I would have preferred you got trapped me with instead of James, but I’m glad that at least you weren’t alone.” He held my hand, lacing his fingers with mine and leading us into hall for breakfast. As usual, he sat at the table with us. I sometimes wished that I could just have meals with the girls, but having Asher there wasn’t all that bad.

When I looked over my shoulder, I saw James staring at me. I smiled against my better judgement and stared back at him, only coming back into the conversation at my table when my cousin nudged me in the side. 

I'd given myself a week to make a decision. I pushed it back. 











It was two weeks later that I received a letter in the morning post that ruined my entire day. Asher was, thankfully, sitting at the Gryffindor table. There was another match coming up soon, and seeing as he was on the Quidditch team, he was strategizing with James and Freddy. It was mid-November and everyone was casually starting to talk about plans for their winter break. 





Asher was going skiing with his family until New Years Eve. Dom was spending it with her family, as she always did. Georgia didn’t know what she was going to do, her parents had told her that they would take her anywhere she wanted, as an apology for trying to transfer her. She was debating how much she wanted to weasel a trip out of them with knowing she’d actually have to spend time with them if she went.

I didn’t know what would happen. Usually, my sisters and I spent winter break in America with our Dad. Given his recent marriage though, I wasn’t sure if he would want all 3 of us around. 





It may be like this summer, I’d be left alone with the ghost and my sisters would go to the States. As I was sifting through what I actually wanted, the owls started flying in and dropping letters. I saw two flying at me, and stared in surprise. They both dropped their letters into my lap and flew off.





Dom and Georgia looked at me questioningly, I never got letters. Like ever. The only time I ever got letters happened to be when I was away from school. I looked down at my lap and my face fell instantly. The two handwritings I didn’t want to see. My mothers and my fathers. 




 




The sheer fact that they had both written me meant something bad. I looked towards the Gryffindor table and noticed that my sisters also had two letters. They looked at me and I mouthed Mum and Dad at them. When they both nodded, it confirmed that this was indeed not so good news.





“Well?” Dom looked like she was about to grab them out of my hand and read them first.





“I don’t know. Mum and Dad wrote to all of us. It can’t be good news. I’m going to go see Harp and Ava. I’ll let you know!” I stood up and walked over to the Gryffindor table, too occupied to notice the looks Asher and James sent me.




 




My sisters looked up at me when I sat down. They had the same gray eyes as I did, but that’s where the similarities ended. Ava had wavy auburn hair with straight bangs and Harper had reddish brown hair- they looked like our Dad, I looked almost exactly like our Mum. You wouldn’t know we were sisters just by looking at us.  





“Hi.” I sat down next to them.





“Hi Charlie.” As I expected, Harper was the only one that responded. 





“What are Mum and Dad writing about?” I asked them, figuring they would probably know.





“Probably about Christmas break. Harper and I wrote to Dad to confirm our usual plans.”





“But Mum? She never writes us.” Ava was ignoring the conversation Harper and I were having and was furiously reading one of the letters.





“Well, looks like we’ll have to stay with Mum for the holidays. Screw that!”





“What? Why? We always go to Dad’s.” Harper asked, frustrated. 





“Dad says that he and Angelica are having a delayed honeymoon and are going to Spain for the holidays. They want to enjoy their last few months together before our half-sibling arrives. He says he can come to London for a few hours on Christmas Eve to see us, but that’s it. He says we need to make plans with Mum to stay at the Manor.”





“But we always go home!” Ava looked more upset than me, so did Harper for that matter. In a rare gesture of sisterly affection, I held Ava’s hand across the table and pulled Harper closer in a one armed hug. Ava glared at me, and pulled her hand away, rubbing at it furiously, as if my skin contained some sort of toxin. 





“What does Mum’s letter say?” Harper was already reading it.





“What the fuck!”





“Harper! Language!” I tore the letter out of her hand and started reading it, my mood growing darker with each word.





“Well, looks like we will get to see what Hogwarts is like at Christmas!” I wasn’t all that upset, it would be far better to be here than being ignored by both my parents.





“That’s not fair! Why can’t be we stay with Mum?” Ava asked, looking anywhere but at me. I handed her the letter and noticed that her mood visibly darkened the same way mine had. We did have very similar reactions to things, which I guess proved that somewhere under all this family drama we were actually related.





“So Dad doesn’t want us around…”





“Welcome to my world!” It slipped out before I could stop it and noticed that Harper looked sad and Ava looked annoyed. “Sorry, you guys know that you’re the favorites and I’m not is all.” They didn’t say anything, not that I expected them to. 





“Mum says she’s having the house renovated, which will take months, and that she can’t handle the stress, so she’s going to Russia until it’s done. Who the hell goes to Russia during winter?” Harper flung the letter onto the table, resting an elbow on the table. She cupped her chin in her hand, and stared at me. 





“Mum apparently.” I muttered. 





“I don’t want to stay at the castle over the holidays! It will be boring.” Harper pouted, sounding miserable. 





“Doesn’t look like there’s much choice in the matter Harp.” I was suddenly feeling giddy, I was saved an awkward holiday with both my parents!





“Well, I’m not staying here! I’m going to ask Lily if I can stay with her.” She stood up and went to go find Lily. I yelled after her.





“HARPER CHRISTINA!” She froze and whirled around to face me, looking mortified that I had yelled her name. “You are not allowed to ask if you can spend time with someone elses family!”





“Her parents won’t care! They’ve already said Ava and I are welcome anytime we want.”





“And I have the same invitation, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to invite yourself for the holiday!”





“I’m not staying here, and that’s the best place to go!” While I was arguing with Harper, I didn’t realize that Ava had left and was sitting next to Al. Her head was on his shoulder and she was crying.





Oh geez, it’s not that big of a deal. Then again, I’m used to being ditched by my parents, they aren’t. Lily wandered into their conversation and then immediately ran over to Harper, who was still standing in the middle of the aisle having a staring contest with me. 




 




“Hi Charlie! What’s this I hear about you not having anywhere to go for the holidays?”





“My parents suck and they’re both too busy to have any of us around for Christmas.” Harper was looking depressed, but also managed to give Lily her puppy dog look. Oh geez.  





“Stay with us! Mum won’t mind.” Harper brightened and turned around to look at me with a triumphant smirk.





“Lily, that’s really sweet of you to offer, but we’ll be perfectly happy staying here. We don’t need to impose on your family.”





“Nonsense. It’ll be too boring here and we have tons of room. I’ll write her now, come on Harp.” Lily grabbed my sisters hand and they shot off like bullets, heading towards the Owlery, I would assume.

I watched them leave, noticing that Asher had climbed hurridely off the bench and was basically running through up the aisle, making a sharp left. Where was he going in such a hurry? I didn't remember him mentioning anything. When I looked back down the table, to see if Ava was still having a dramatic fit, I saw James staring at me. 
 




I banged my head against the table and decided that I should read the actual letters addressed to me. My Dad’s letter was almost identical to Harper's, only he asked me where he should send our presents. My Mum’s letter, however, ruined my whole week. 





Charlotte,

I am sure you will hear from your sisters that you cannot stay here for the holidays. I am writing to you for a different reason. As I said in my letter to your sisters, I am having the house re-decorated.

I did not tell your sisters why, and will leave it up to you to tell them. I will be renting out the Manor, and taking an extended trip to Russia. I will be gone for more than a year, and do not expect to see you or your sisters for a while. I will have all of your things boxed up and put in storage until you can move them into your flat (see below). Your sisters belongings will be shipped to your fathers flat. Please tell your father that he will need to expect their belongings.  The rest of your school breaks will be spent with him, if he wants you.

I have allocated part of your inheritance towards the purchase of your own flat in London. You will receive what is left, which is still quite a substantial amount, on your birthday. Once your flat has been purchased, the agent will send you all the paperwork and keys. I expect that you will spend the rest of your school breaks there, as you will be old enough to live on your own. I trust you will like the flat picked out for you.

Your Mother,
Violet Wicklow Gray


I had to re-read the letter about 5 times before the magnitude of it finally sunk it. Tears formed in my eyes. She was just going to leave without a goodbye. Not only that, she was destroying one of my favorite places in the world, my room at her home. 




 




She didn’t ask if I was ok with any of this, she just made the plans. My belongings would be packed up by strangers- to be later shipped to a flat I hadn’t even picked out. Though I’m sure it would be nice, it would never feel like mine. I shouldn’t complain about the flat thing, but it was all done so wrong. How could she do this? And all without an ounce of love. What had we done to deserve this?





Being in a room full of chattering, happy people was too much to handle. I ran out of the hall, hand covering my mouth and barreled down a quiet corridor. I fell against the wall, gasping for breath through the tears pouring down my face. I held the letter, balled up, in my hand and slammed that against the cold wall. I didn’t even care that it hurt.




 




I stared at the wall inches from my face, and then found myself suddenly whirled around and found myself staring at a white shirt instead. Instinctively, I grabbed onto who ever was holding me and buried my face into the shirt. A hand wound into my hair and held my head gently as I cried, making a mascara mess onto the nice white shirt. I wrapped my arms tighter around the narrow waist, and knew instantly who was holding me.





“Lottie, what’s wrong? Please tell me.” A choking noise tore itself from my throat and James pulled me back, checking to make sure I could still breathe. I looked around and saw Dom and Georgia running up the corridor to me. I buried my head back into James’s shoulder and he held me tightly. 





“James? What’s wrong? Why is she crying?”





“I don’t know. I noticed that her sisters looked sad, and they told me there is some upset with their holiday plans. I figured Charlotte would be thrilled, so I looked up the table at her and saw her crying. I was about to get up and go talk to her when she ran out of the room.”





“Charlie? What’s the letter say?” My brilliant best friend noticed the piece of paper crumbled in my fist and I just opened my hand. I felt the letter being taken from me and just kept crying. Dom started tugging on me, and I whirled around and let her hug me instead. I just needed to be held. My heart felt like it was breaking apart, a feeling I had had too many times before where my mother was concerned. 





“That bitch!” Georgia yelled loudly and a small chuckle found a way between the crying gasps. “Oh Charlie, I’m so sorry!” Dom passed me off to my cousin/best friend so that she could read the letter.





“That bitch!”





“I already said that.” Georgia exclaimed, with an edge to her voice.





“It seemed worth repeating. I can’t believe her!”





“Can someone tell me what’s going on?” James yelled at them, since I was still too emotional to form words.  





“Charlie, honey, can he read the letter?” I nodded into Georgia’s shoulder and heard the exchange of paper from one hand to the other. James must have made a gesture, because I was passed off again and I found myself within the most comforting circle of arms I could be in.





“Come spend the holiday with me, please? You shouldn’t be stuck here in the castle because your parents don’t care enough to spend time with you. Both Al and Lily already wrote to Mum anyway, she’ll be happy to add you to the mix.” I still couldn’t find words and just shook my head side to side. “Fine then, I’ll just add your name to the list of people going to my house for the holidays.” I shook my head again and he persisted even more. “I won’t take no for an answer. Besides, that means Dom will be around a lot, and you can’t say no to that.”





“She could just stay with me you know!” Dom sounded amused, but annoyed that he was insisting that I stay with him.





“But my house is closer to hers, and if she needs to go over to retrieve anything personally, it will be easier to do from my house. Besides, her sisters will already be at my house. No point adding to their issues by keeping them apart.”





“Dom, he has a point. I can’t believe your mother. I mean, I knew she wasn’t ever coming close to winning mother of the year, but this is just cold.” I mumbled something into James’s chest, but it was loud enough they heard me.





“I hate her.”





“You have every right to love. I can’t believe I’m related to her. Our family is messed up dear cousin.” I finally raised my head and turned it so that I could look at Dom and Georgia, but still remain in James’s arms. They looked at me in pity and I hated it.





“Maybe it’s good I’m about to have my own flat. I don’t need them anyway.” As I said it, my voice broke and more big, fat tears escaped.





“James, I know you’re great about being her knight and all, but I think we should have a girls day in our room.”





“Can I at least help bring you girls food?” I noticed that they both grinned at James and nodded. James hugged me tight for a minute and bent down to whisper something in my ear. “If you need me, I’ll be there, ok?” I wrapped my arms around his neck and then stepped back, letting my best friends lead me away. I ran back to him and whispered something into his ear.





“Tell Asher that I’m ok, and just can’t see him today, ok?” He nodded and then walked me back to my best friends, before we parted ways.

With James’s help, we had plenty of junk food to eat while I cried the day away. Georgia and Dom kept alternating between making me laugh (or trying to) and hugging me while I cried it out. 




 




Asher apparently came asking for me a few times, but I sent other people down to tell him I’d see him tomorrow. It didn’t escape my notice that I was perfectly happy to be comforted by James, but didn’t want to see Asher, the guy I was actually dating. 




 




Realizing that made me cry harder, I hated myself sometimes.












A/N- So yea... hope you enjoyed that. That's the best I can come up with right now. I'm tired. More exciting things coming up for this bunch of raggety characters. Hope you stick around to keep reading. :) 

  





 


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