Chapter Thirteen

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I run into the house

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I run into the house. My limbs are burning, my panting breath creating vapour in the icy air. The door slams behind me and I rush deeper into the house, not knowing where I was going or what I needed. Just knowing my heart was pounding, a lump had grown in my throat so large I couldn't swallow and tears were burning the corner of my eyes. I didn't understand it. These feelings were too large and wild - I couldn't control them. And I couldn't make sense of them. Or maybe the horror was that I understood them completely.

I'd discovered I was a necromancer, a curse inherited from my dead dad. That I could bring people back from the dead. And if I did it wrong, they'd turn in zombies and create even more zombies. All these things I'd accepted, maybe not easily, but I knew them to be true. But Henry liking me, that's what I battled with. Even though some part of me already knew he felt that way.

I'm breathing so hard, I don't make it past the kitchen before I lean down on my knees. I'd run across town to get home, not really thinking, just needing to flee. Not from Henry - it was me I was running from. It was from a lifetime of thoughts I didn't think I believed, that I thought I was above. But in the end, I was no different from Mum.

"Willow!" Mum rushes into the kitchen from the front room. She's in her post-work uniform of joggers and a faded Rolling Stones T-shirt. "My god, what is it? You scared the life out of me, sweetheart."

I turn to face her. The room is dark. All sharp angles and sliced light from the streetlights peering through the blinds. The flashing rainbow of colours from the TV in the front room fills the hallway, lighting Mum in a strange glow.

"Why did you do it? Why did you tell me all those things!"

Mum's eyes narrow, her face lined with worry. She takes a slow step forward and I realise just how absurd I must look. I'm still covered with grime from the museum, the bloodstones still weighing down my backpack.

"Willow, you're scaring me. Just tell me..."

"Henry likes me."

Mum's shoulders drop, and she smiles. Then her face twists into confusion and her lips tighten into a line.

"The boy you sit with in geography? I had a feeling. When he came over to study that time, he couldn't take his eyes off you."

I shake my head and move to the table. Had everyone known? Was I the only one who hadn't noticed?

"He can't like me. It's not how it works."

She stops dead and cocks her head.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not... I'm not the sort of girl who boys like. Boys like... skinny girls." The words are bitter in my mouth. I know they're not true. And if anyone had ever said them to me, I'd have argued, stood firm on that hill until I'd changed their mind. But knowing something to be true and believing it are too different things.

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