The world is plunging into darkness, the days growing shorter and the nights longer. Meteor showers are falling to the earth and there are some who would take advantage of the growing darkness.
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“Listen. Can you just take the cap off? It’s annoying me.”
He laughed, an unexpected sound. He seemed too intense to be the kind of person to laugh. “Well, I’d hate to annoy you.” He swept the cap off, leaving a shock of jet-black hair standing on end.
“Oh.” My mouth fell open.
“Oh, what?” His eyes narrowed and I snapped my mouth shut.
“Nothing.” I took a few breaths, just to make sure I was alive and there was the slimmest chance this was real. “So, am I going to ask the questions or are you going to talk?”
He laughed again, and I was sure his body pitched a little bit closer to mine. Violet eyes pinned me in place and I struggled to remember how to swallow. “When you were seven you decided you wanted to climb trees.”
My body stiffened. “Yes?”
“There’s a fir tree in your back garden that’s easily sixty feet high.”
“What do you remember about the time you fell?” The violets flickered at me. “It was August and scorching hot, you were wearing red shorts and a yellow T-shirt. You fell through the branches like a pine cone?”
I stared up into his face, his skin was dark olive, eyes burning bright. My tongue ran along my lips while my heart made a terrible thudding noise in my chest. “I don’t.” I whispered. “I woke up and I was on the ground.”
“I know. I caught you.” My body stepped back although his hand darted out and snatched hold of mine. “Bronte, I’ve been watching you your whole life. I know it sounds weird.” His nose scrunched as he contemplated just how weird it sounded.
“Why?”“Because,” he ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up at electrifying angles. “Because you’re the last of the star children. The last of the half born.”
I rubbed my thigh, which was already aching with that heavy lead sensation that comes from a dead limb, and tried to gain my footing.
“Easy there.” A hand jutted out and grasped my elbow, stabilising me as I threatened to topple again.
“Sorry,” I mumbled. My cheeks were glowing a vicious, volcanic, burn. I could live without Eleanor Heavers finding out I’d fallen over not once, but twice on the first day. I knew she would, though. Gossip spread through the school like fire through a parched forest.
“You seem to be vertically challenged.” The voice was soft, bringing a low bell to mind. My stomach felt all squishy, which was odd when combined with numb legs.
My eyes snapped up into the shadowed face of the boy from the picnic bench. His face tilted under the worn peak of his baseball cap. His features obscured in shadows so I couldn’t get a good look at the caps owner. “I am not.” I stated. My blatant lie made the burn running along my cheeks intensify until I was uncomfortably hot. He was scrutinising me and I didn’t know why. I stood there, while from under the cap, I knew he was evaluating what he saw. I prickled, straightening my shoulders. I didn’t exactly march off down the corridor in outrage at his blatant presumptuous scrutiny. I just kind of suspended there while he stared from under the cap.
“No?” he asked. His fingers still held my elbow, and I tried to peer closer so I could see him better. It was an impulse I couldn’t ignore and I shifted forward.
“You also don’t seem to grasp the concept of personal space.” He stepped away, breaking the spell that had pulled me towards him. The burning flush transformed into an all out uncomfortable sweat.
“Sorry, I was just. Um, just.” What was I doing?
“Just, what?” The voice sounded like it might be amused if it could be arsed.
“Just trying to see you.” The words blurted from my mouth, clanging into the air around me like boulders into a small rain puddle.
“Trying to see what?” As he spoke, my bag slipped off my shoulder. It smashed onto the floor with the heavy thud that twenty overdue library books will make. I scrambled to pick up the mess.
“You,” I said. Glancing up, I looked to see his reaction to my outrageous declaration, but there was nobody there. Just me and an empty hallway and the bell tolling on the wall, telling me I was late for my first class.
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