BOOK 2 // TWELVE: Candlelight

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            The longer the storm went on, the more my stomach twisted itself into knots.

Panic rose and fell with each crack of thunder, and Nova's own unease seemed to pulsate around the room, infiltrating everybody else. Part of me wanted to speak to someone, if only to pass the time while the rain slashed against the window. And yet the other – more powerful – part of me dismissed talking as the last thing I wanted to do. It was easier to retreat into myself, shrinking into the corner with my back against the wall, wishing for it to be over soon.

I kept looking for Art, my neck twisting every time I thought I heard the creak of the door, just in case I was about to see him walk in. If anything, it was Nova's concern that had planted the seed of fear into my own head. The panic in her voice had ignited my own, until I was only capable of envisioning worst case scenarios, in which trees fell and crushed buildings and left Art bleeding in the cold.

I was doing a good job of holding onto my brooding, miserable mood – or at least projecting it to ensure no one would approach me. Left alone, I could simmer in peace, relishing in the self-pitying perspective that the world was against me.

Unfortunately, Maggie wasn't about to let that happen.

At some point in the evening, somebody had found a stash of candles, which were now dotted around the room in an attempt to give out some light. The darkness still held most of its power, but now I could faintly make out faces – and therefore I soon realised who had sidled up next to me.

"Are you alright, dear?"

Despite everything, I managed a smile, if only because her concern was so unprompted, and yet completely genuine. "I'm fine, thank you. Just waiting it out."

With her greying hair and face streaked with lines, she had a gentle look that seemed to warm everything around her. Good nature radiated from her, working its way in, even when I didn't want to let it.

"It's always worrying when they hit so suddenly." She reached out, and before I could say anything, her hand landed on top of my closed palm. "I understand."

I thought back to what Nova had said earlier. "How's Sylvie?"

Maggie paused. "She's okay. She likes to pretend she's not scared of anything – which is true, when it comes to most things. She'd probably bungee jump from the top of The Shard if only someone gave her a rope. But times like these... well, we all have to take a little extra care of her."

For a moment, I didn't say anything. I couldn't help feeling sorry for Sylvie. Since the rain had started, I'd been so wrapped up in my own problems that I'd barely spared a thought for anyone else. Now I realised how awfully selfish that was.

"Where is she now?"

"She's with Nova. She always likes to make sure Sylvie's okay, and she's got a real knack for making her feel better. I do my best, but... well, I'm not sure my words have quite the same impact as Nova's."

I didn't know what to say. Whatever I was thinking was certainly not fit to be said aloud, especially to someone like Maggie. She was always so full of respect; it was hard to imagine she'd ever said a bad word about anyone in her life. I was a sinner by comparison.

However, amidst my silence, Maggie seemed to sense there was something going on in my head. "She talks about you a lot, you know. Good things. How glad she is to finally have you here, and how she can stop worrying about you being trapped there in New London."

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