Chapter Nine: Paraselene

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Content Warning:  mentions of injuries, mentions of drowning, graphic depiction of falling from a tree


The voice caught me off guard and I snapped my eyes wide open. Grabbing at the ground below me, I tried to find something to hold onto and calm myself down, but the leaves crumbled in my hands and my heart shot into my throat.

I hadn't heard anyone approach, but this person... This voice...

"Is that you?" Luke abandoned his resolve to stay silent and let his feet fall normally as he came over to me. "I thought you were at the diner."

Luke's sudden appearance sent my mind into overdrive. The scene with North in the back of Silas's truck played in my mind over and over again and I couldn't bring myself to look at him. I couldn't, despite him stopping only feet away from me.

He had been so kind and considerate on the phone earlier. I'd never met him, yet he went out of his way to help me.

Even though what had happened with North was unintentional and I would've never intended to make him so... so overcome with grief, especially because of something I'd done... Even though that was true, if Luke found out about it, would he hate me?

Luke's stare was insistent, focused only on me. I knew he wanted me to meet his eyes, but I stayed unmoving, staring blankly above at the swaying leaves and the sky which was turning bluer by the minute as the morning pushed onward.

"You know..." His voice was unreadable.

My heartbeat was a steady pound in my chest. For some reason, though I'd never met him before and had barely talked to him on the phone, I felt comfortable with him. He was friends with the others. I could trust him. He'd proven it earlier when he'd gone out of his way for me. I had to believe that he would not hurt me.

I almost thought he'd given up speaking to me, but the moment the thought came, he let out a long sigh. Something thumped as it fell to the ground and then there was distinct crunching of leaves as he sat down.

I couldn't see him now even if I tried; I'd have to sit up, and as comfortable as I was with him, I wasn't yet ready to face the day. I'd stay here for a little bit longer. I would relax now, when I had the chance, because I surely wouldn't have the chance in the future while trying to find a way to survive.

Just a little bit longer.

"You don't have a lot of stuff."

I blinked a couple times and furrowed my eyebrows. Was that surprising? I knew I didn't have all that much, my mother and Marie made sure of that, but... Was it really that unusual?

"I planned on just using one bag for the stuff you needed right away and going to get the rest of it later with another bag, but even with your clothes, everything fit in the one. Still some room leftover, actually." He paused. "I left it at Kota's since you probably don't wanna lug it around everywhere you go and I doubt you're going back there... But don't worry, I brought you clothes so you can change at the diner. No underwear, as requested, even though I did put them in the duffel bag."

My cheeks betrayed me and heated at the thought of Luke handling my underwear. I squirmed a little in my place on the ground and pressed my hands to my face to cover up the evidence. Not smart, as the movement sent my pajama shirt riding up a smidgen and I felt a cool breeze hit the small patch of bared skin on my stomach. I quickly moved to pull my shirt back down, but Luke sucked in a quick breath and I knew I hadn't been fast enough.

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