Chapter 9

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Evelyn ate breakfast and ducked out of the house as quickly as she could. Although no one had rushed into her room the night before at the sounds of her waking screams she also knew the thin walls would have done little to mask her outburst from her parents. Talking about the nightmare or listening to their concerns about her pale face and the dark bags under her eyes was the last thing Evelyn wanted to do to start her day. All she wanted to do was forget the terrible images and put the night behind her.

Yet the dream stayed in her mind all through the morning, like a tiny thorn stuck in her shoe during a long run, it stabbed itself deeper into her waking thoughts. A miniscule irritation that grew in intensity until it completely dominated her thoughts, no matter the effort she placed in pushing the memories away.

Unlike any nightmare before, this one felt real. Its memories and sensations stalked her like a hungry wolf. Remembering the face of the tall king was like looking into the face of a long lost friend, the memory of his death felt like the death of close family. She could still feel the cool, damp air of the battlefield against her skin, could almost taste the spray of blood and hear the clang of metal as swords collided. The smells of death and fire followed her no matter if she was outside or in, filling her nostrils and masking even the sweet scent of syrup on her morning waffles.

Rushing herself outside and into the sunshine, Evelyn hurried to school. She wanted to find Brandon, wanted to feel his kindness in hopes that the warmth of his friendship would melt away some of the ice that even then seemed to frost her spine. She knew he would listen, and even if he couldn't understand her exact feelings, she knew he would do what he could to comfort her. And somehow she knew that would be enough.

It was a need that was both new and alien to Evelyn. This desire to connect with someone other than her parents, to share with another her deepest secrets. The need almost seemed to grow by the hour, the pull to Brandon almost magnetic. It wasn't some love at first sight deal; at least that much she knew for sure. Besides, it was still far too early to decide if her feelings for Brandon would grow past friendship. But it was almost as intense. Opening up to Brandon had unearthed an emptiness within Evelyn she had long ignored, a blank space on the canvas of her life that now demanded attention.

She found him outside the main drive into the school, walking towards her along the narrow sidewalk silhouetted by bright rays of sunlight penetrating the morning mist. The yellow rays illuminated small tufts of slightly messy hair and gave him an almost haloed appearance. That, combined with the warm sensations emanating from Brandon as he saw Evelyn approach drew her towards him with more eagerness than she had intended. Surprising both Brandon and herself, Evelyn pulled him into a tight embrace when he was within arm's reach, the longing for comfort superseding her usual apprehensions.

"Well hello to you too." Brandon said, his voice a mixture of amusement and surprise. But he was glad she had embraced him, she could feel it. Warmth surrounded Evelyn, penetrated the icy chill of the terrifying dream. Between their pressed bodies Evelyn could feel her jewel begin to vibrate against her skin, felt it warm itself to match the comforting sensations that were coming from Brandon. Instantly she let go and jumped back with surprise, the jewel had never done that before. At least not when she wasn't tapping into her powers.

Brandon looked as shocked at her sudden movements as he was with her sudden embrace, only this time the welcoming feelings of warmth were replaced by the tingling sensation of worry. "I'm sorry, did I do something?" He asked.

"No, no. Just a little rattled this morning." Evelyn replied truthfully. "Bad night, that's all."

Brandon nodded, nervously reaching his arm around Evelyn's shoulders and pulling her back in gently. His nervousness at the gesture made Evelyn smile, his feigned confidence was cute. "Anything I can do? I'm a good listener and we have about a half hour before school." He said, giving his phone a cursory glance.

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