Chapter Five

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I've never been to Jensen's house before, but it more than lives up to my expectations

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I've never been to Jensen's house before, but it more than lives up to my expectations. It's the stuff of legend, those high-pitched whispers in bedrooms and giggles on the grass behind the school buildings. The stories born from that great white house with its pillars and balcony, its winding driveway, and lavish garden that seems in constant bloom.

I'm not the kind of girl who gets invited to parties. Mia had been a few times with an ex-boyfriend. She'd told me about the drinking games and the music and the secret kisses stolen in dark corners. In typical Mia style, she hadn't been phased by it at all, and she certainly wasn't impressed. Even as Becca and me hung on her every word, practically draped across the canteen table as she described every tiny detail we could drag from her lips.

Everyone knows where Jensen lives. Mum's nurse's salary wouldn't buy a shed in this part of town. I trudge up the street, the silverish tile of the roof peeking out over the dark trees that hid the bulk of his house from the main road. My stomach is twisted into steel knots, which tighten more and more with every step I take. An icy feeling I can't really explain creeps up my spine, growing with every crunch under my boots. When I reach the coiling, grand iron gate, I flinch when I see it's open. A bloody handprint marring the metal. On the ground, a little way ahead, I can see tiny droplets of red. The blood seems to glow against grey beige of the ground.

Swallowing hard, and wiping the cold sweat off my forehead, I slip in through the gates. They shriek painfully loud as I push it open, careful to avoid getting blood on my skin. The thought of it made me gag.

The blood stops when I get to the main door of the house. As I stand outside, staring up at the elaborate townhouse, my mind whirls as I debate what to do. Jensen had bit Mr Jones, actually tore a chunk out of our teacher's arm like he was a chicken drumstick. Yeah, I didn't feel a great deal of sympathy for Mr Jones. It had always seemed a matter of time before someone snapped at his sneers and passive aggression and bullying, but I don't imagine anyone thought it would be quite so bloody. Jensen had barely been human... and his eyes. His irises had blazed like fire. And his bones had snapped as brittle as a bird's bones. Strange things, Mum had said. Strange things had happened around Dad. Strange things were certainly happening around me.

The house is silent. It's too early for lights, but there's no TV noise, no open windows, no sign of anything at all. Exhaling, ignoring the quiver in my limbs, I follow the path, not to the front door but as it winds toward the garden.

The garden is insane. Enough that I almost forget why I'm here when I see it. It's the size of a football field, and half of that is just plush grass sweeping towards a view of the suspension bridge as it glimmers over the river, rolling hills in the background. The half closest to the house is all colourful plants and flowers that bloom and flourish with colour. As I step closer, the wooden decking creaking underneath me, I see the infamous hot tub that people fantasise about, that rumours and whispers that spread around school like veins under skin start in. Stories that take shape and form from drunken kisses and touches under those fairy lights hanging from the canopy above. There's a hollow feeling in my belly just looking at it. I'd never been here. Had never been considered vital enough to be asked.

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