Chapter 21: Second Anniversary

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I arched an eyebrow up and in a bored tone I snapped, "Jealous of what exactly? You? I'd say that's a step down from self-improvement. Nobody wants to go backwards and make themselves less attractive."

Her dark eyes flashed but she kept a lid on her anger as Ms Smith barked at the class to return to their work stations.

"Let's be real here, you're just jealous that you're from the shallow end of the genetic pool and I'll try to be less insensitive about your obvious insecurities," Michelle cackled, linking an arm through Ali's arm who was too slow to pick up on the insult. She elbowed her friend to laugh as Mona fumed beside me. "But it's really too bad you're one of puberty's failed results."

"Well, I'd say it's too bad you're proof that evolution can go in reverse!" I raked my eyes over her and strode off to my work station, no longer in the mood for her bullshit. "Get a grip Michelle and fuck your way through the soccer team till you find your way to hell."

Mona let out an echoing hoot and shook her wrist so that her fingers snapped repeatedly.

"Need some ice for that?" She sang as Michelle flipped her off and sashayed her way back to Dylan, falling in step with him as they returned to their station.

Exhausted by the sudden argument, I leaned over the counter and breathed heavily as I waited for my fury to ebb away. Thing is, if Tyler had been here today she wouldn't have dared to bare her bitchy claws but his absence gave her a sudden confidence she never had. I cursed Michelle and pushed her out of my mind, focusing on the daunting fact that Tyler still wasn't here. It was obvious he wasn't in school, but still, I kept hoping that he'd walk through the doors and brighten my day.

Thinking back to the blonde haired girl that burned alongside my father last night, my stomach heaved, lurching up before slamming back down as if I was on a fairground ride. I bit my lip to stop them quivering as I fought back a sob. I wasn't surprised to have had another nightmare, I knew all too well how to deal with them, but with the addition of Taylor's appearance this morning, I immediately woke up, covered in a thin later of cold sweat as I trembled uncontrollably and sobbed hysterically. And to top it off, I let loose last night's dinner onto Mom's favourite gown.

Great going Ashley! I thought darkly as I glared at the chunks of flour that were still floating inside the gooey mixture.

Even though my shower had woken up my cramped muscles, my mind was still in haze like I couldn't quite shake the horrors off just yet.

Tyler, where are you? My mind asked for the billionth time today. More than half an hour had passed but I still kept my eyes glued to the door, praying that he would stride into class with that infamous scowl of his.

Pushing the bowl away from me, I slumped against the counter as my eyes scanned the classroom before settling on my two friends. Neither of them were talking and it was understandable. I could barely utter a word without feeling the urge to let Niagara Falls spurt out of my lids. I could see Mona's deflated shoulders and Blake's tense posture whilst he attempted to whisk a bowl of cream with more force than necessary. I guess their mixture wasn't holding up too well either.

Drinking in sight of his knuckle white grip on the whisk, my chest clenched when Blake lifted his head in my direction, shooting me a pained half smile.

"You okay?" He mouthed, handing Mona the bowl and running a hand through his lifeless hair.

Shaking my head, I tried my hardest to pull the corners of my mouth up into a smile, but all I managed was a grimace.

"Not really," I mouthed back, trying not to dwell on the dark circles under his eyes as he approached me.

Mona's glanced up in our direction when she realised her partner had disappeared and sympathetically smiled at me just as I was enveloped into a choking bear hug. Her eyes slid to Michelle and the proud smile she wore made the lump in my throat dissolve. Maybe her fiesty attitude was rubbing off onto me after all.

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