Chapter 8

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I decide to follow the boy down to see what he's doing and maybe, if it's something suspicious, catch him red-handed. Then I can have something to my advantage. Oh, how I wish I had the advantage of the situation right now.

The stairs are creaky but I tell myself there's no point in trying to be quiet. If I did try to be quiet, he would hear me anyway. He knows I won't stay up here cooped in a lonely room forever.

The paintings of flowers stare back at me when I pass them in the hallway. Most of them are close-ups of pretty plants but there's something about them that unsettles me. I can't seem to put my finger on it.

I hear the scuffling of feet from down the hallway to the end. I follow it down until the doorway to the kitchen awaits me. The light's on, giving the room a sense of unreality and the boy's in there, stirring a cup of coffee.

He looks up, twiddling the spoon between his fingers. That's when I realise how thirsty I am. My mouth's so dry I think I could make a sandcastle out of it.

"Water," I say, trying not to sound desperate. I fail miserably.

His eyes flicker to the fridge. Timidly, I shuffle over to it, pulling it open. Inside it's full. It's full of the most glorious things I've ever seen. Slices of cold meats are stacked neatly to one side, the bread on the other. He's even got fresh food too. Salad in the drawers with the sauces in the fridge door.

The whole thing makes my mouth water even though I'm parched.

A noise makes me turn round. He's there, holding out an empty glass. I shakily reach out for it and try to say thanks but the words are caught in my throat.

"Drink," he says, nodding to the filter jug in the fridge door. "Drink all you want."

I pour myself a glass and hear as he shuts the fridge. I raise it to my lips, forcing myself to take tiny sips otherwise I'll probably drink the size of the ocean.

When I set the glass down, he's watching me. His eyebrows are furrowed together, almost making a kind of unibrow. The sight makes me want to giggle.

His hands curl around the mug of coffee and he raises it, eyes still never leaving mine. When he removes it from his lips, he says:

"Sit down, Amelia."

I follow him to the table, where there's a stack of magazines for reading along with other papers. I slide into the chair, placing the glass on the table. "How do you know my name?"

He fingers his mug, which is plain white, staring at me like I'm something he needs to figure out.

"Amelia," he says.

I breathe in sharply and repeat the question again.

"How do you know my name?"

He doesn't reply.

After a few seconds, I ask him something else. "Why am I here?"

This seems to provoke something out of him. He straightens his back, adjusting his position in the seat.

"I found you lying in the snow," he replies, "and you were so cold I decided to bring you in."

I tap the sides of the cup, trying to stay calm. "So, this is your house?"

He nods silently.

"And you live here alone?"

He nods silently again but his lips purse together.

"My Dad lived here too. And my brother," he says eventually, "but they were unfortunate."

The way he says unfortunate makes my stomach churn. The thought of his family not making it fills my heart with sympathy.

"Oh, I'm sorry." I reply, biting my lip.

He glances up from his stare at the table. "What about you?"

I chew the inside of my cheek. Should I tell him? Should I really tell him? Does he need to know about my personal life? Well, he did help me when I blacked out and he did give me water and he did feed me when I was hungry.

Before I can stop myself, the words tumble out of my mouth.

"Mum, Dad and little sister."

This seems to soften him. "What happened?"

My tongue probes the raw flesh. Do I really need to tell him? What if I can't trust him? What if he's just like all the others?

And again, for the second time, the words tumble out of my mouth.

"I left them," I blurt out, clutching the glass tightly. He looks down at it confused, as though he doesn't know why I did that. I try to hide it with lifting it up and taking a sip. The water feels so cool when it slides down my dry throat.

"Good," he replies. I stare at him. Did he just say good? Does he think me leaving my family is good?

"Excuse me—" I start but he cuts me off.

"Amelia," he says gently and it shuts me up at once. There's a sense of... power in his voice, like he's got control over everything. The thought makes me shudder.

"Amelia, go back to sleep. You look tired."

I am tired but that won't stop me. It won't stop me from shying away from this mysterious boy.

"I'm not tired," I reply, trying to swallow down the big lump in my throat. "I slept a long time, remember?"

For about the millionth time that day, he doesn't reply.

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