Chapter Twenty-Four

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I push on the double doors and slip into the carnage that was once our main hall

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I push on the double doors and slip into the carnage that was once our main hall. Lights from the stage flicker against a floor strewn with blood, glitter, and sequins. The air smells of copper and sweat. A painfully upbeat tune plays out from the DJ's crumpled deck before fading into a slow melody.

Henry is standing in the centre of the dance floor, eyes fixed to the ceiling, his hands in his hair. I step tentatively forward, my shoes slapping against the laminate floor. Henry turns, his eyes are red and swollen. He flinches, but when he sees it's me, his body relaxes. He rubs his hands across his face, rubbing the tears from his cheeks. I stop a little away from him, wringing my hands awkwardly before me.

"I'll go if you want me to?"

He shakes his head but doesn't move.

"Sorry, I just... I needed a minute. I'm not angry with you, Willow." He stares at me hard, his eyes firm, willing me to accept his words. "I just... I can't get over the unfairness of it. Jensen he... he deserves a life."

"I know. Nothing about this is right." I move towards him until we're only inches apart. I want to pull him close, I want to hold him. But I don't know what he needs and I certainly don't know if he needs that. My fingers flex and curl at my sides as I fight the urge. "He's your best friend. You're allowed to feel this."

He glances down at me, a sad smile on his face.

"You knew. So did Sophie and Kira. I was the only one who didn't. I don't think I wanted to accept that once this was all over, he'd be gone."

My heart cracks right down the centre for him, and I can't fight it anymore. I put my hand on his upper arm. Feel him shaking a little under my touch. I move closer till I'm pressed against his chest. He doesn't hesitate. He wraps his arms around me, holding me tightly against him. Till the warmth of him envelopes me, the feel of his heartbeat against my cheek.

"I'm so sorry," I whisper. "I wish... I wish there was something else I could do." I move back slightly and peer up at him. He's bathed in shadows, and the lights shifting from green to pink across his skin. A bloody gash is on his forehead, bruises and scratches across his skin. He puts a tentative finger under my chin, raising it and gazes into my eyes.

"If it wasn't for you, he wouldn't be getting an extra day. He wouldn't get to say goodbye. Thank you, Willow."

I feel the blood heat under my skin. I feel the need to look away, but he keeps his finger curled under my chin. The sad smile returns.

"So this is prom, huh?" He pulls away and steps around the dancefloor, eyeing the crumpled tables and pastel-hued decorations, all crammed together and now dripping with blood.

"I think it usually looks a little different." Henry chuckles. He stops and turns back to me, staring at me up and down in my dress. I glance down. It's torn, coated in dirt and ash and blood. So much blood.

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