THE CURSE was muttered under her breath as her hand twitched upwards, ruining the tail end of the black liquid. Eyeliner was a bitch, Ivy decided. She smudged the mistake away, not caring much for the faint mark that remained, and slicked on a line to match onto her other eye.
She turned up her music to mute her thoughts. Texted Clara to ask if she was going to Caleb's. She wasn't. And Ben was busy. So it was just Ivy, then. Maybe in a time before, she would've been uncomfortable going somewhere like this on her own, but as of late she'd grown fed up of who she was in her skin, so she got herself a new skeleton. And it turned out that this one did things differently, made her mind think and her body move in a way that was foreign. It liked the feeling of tiredness; it had a fondness for exhaustion from always doing and never resting. Dwelling anywhere or on anything was out of the question. Ivy was used to it now.
Knowing her parents would stop her if they knew she was leaving, she spared herself the trouble and left the house without a word.
Caleb Nielsen's notorious parties were known at Archer West for being the go-to for a good time, and luckily for Ivy, there was a shortcut to his place that meant she could get there on foot, no problem. Just enough time to savour a cigarette and a couple of mints. The dark and the closeness of the hedgerows on either side of the narrow path she took was comforting. It was as if the world was closing in on her, slowly, squeezing her out of existence and into oblivion.
She arrived at the front door, which was shut but unlocked. For a moment, Ivy watched the moving shadows that danced behind the glass panels, before stepping in.
The girl was engulfed; welcomed with the bubble of sensory overload consisting of harsh lights outshining softer ones and loud music that made cross-rhythms with her own thumping heartbeat. It was now that she understood the hype. Caleb's house was huge, and elegant. A double staircase. Glass and delicate woodwork. The smells and noise almost didn't belong here, yet without them, all this place would be was too empty and too silent.
Surveying her surroundings, she decided it best to beeline towards the drinks now, find company later. A few people, some she vaguely knew and others not, squeezed her arm or greeted her in acknowledgement as she made her way to the kitchen. She ignored most of them, not interested in their pity. Downing her first drink and pouring a second, she realized with a jolt that tomorrow, just a few hours away, was her birthday. Oh, the irony. She snickered humorlessly into her cup, hoping by some miracle that she was the only person who remembered it this year.
"Hey, Paper Girl!"
A hand snaked around her back. Caleb Nielsen himself was staring down at her with a grin and a cup in his hand. Ivy ignored the fact that this unasked-for nickname was patronising and downright factually incorrect. She was no paper girl. She was the fucking editor. Instead, she smiled sweetly up at him as he continued to talk.
"You do the school newspaper, right?"
"That's cool. I read every issue. It's great." Lies, lies, lying through his teeth. But she decided to stop caring. He could be her game tonight.
"I'm glad you think so." Cat paused. "I love your house, by the way. It's gorgeous."
"Thanks." He still wore that grin, as pointy and poking as the rest of him. Cheekbones, jaw, tongue. "What's your name again?"
"Wanna see the pool, Ivy?"
Mouse didn't stand a chance.
* * * * *
Just two hours later, Ivy had grown bored. She'd filled her belly with booze, felt its effect (it was never enough), seen Caleb's swimming pool, let Caleb make a move on her while they sat by it, danced with him, spoke to a few familiar faces. This raging, rocky music sounded all the same to her. Her brain felt a little like gloop and her eardrums hurt.
It was as she sat on the third step of the Nielsens' stairs that she heard words from a voice she'd almost forgot. Followed by laughter. Something inside her tugged painfully. No. It couldn't be.
But it was. There he stood just around the corner and down the hallway amidst a faceless crowd, defying all Ivy's sense of reason. How could he be here? She stared at his profile. Aaron Montclair was back. He was here, but not for or with her - and that stung a thousand times worse than his absence ever would. A gunshot to the head would hurt less.
If he was really him, if that was still him in there, he would've called her. Messaged. Knocked on her front door. Her mind flashed back to the last time she'd seen him - unstable, worn down. So what? So what if he'd gotten a new skeleton too? That couldn't matter less. He couldn't have gone through nearly as much shit as she had for that to be an excuse.
How could he be here? The question had been rhetorical, yet the betrayed, seething part of her demanded an answer. Fury crackled within her; she felt heat in her eyes and fire on her skin, as she was forced to relive slivers of the distant past; adventures in the park, paper aeroplanes, heady long grass at their shins, makeshift dens in her bedroom, cello and piano duets, countless pinky promises.
It was clear now that those promises had been pointless. They were all broken, what with Ivy in one room and Aaron the next, yet the two of them further apart than ever. Distance bore no correlation with closeness.
She ignored the blur in her vision and stalked out, away and into the night. Her phone read 12:02. If this was what seventeen felt like, she didn't want it.
a/n: it has been a minute but ivy bennett has never been more riled up and i'm weirdly revelling in it mwahaha
if you like the 1975 and/or short stories, i've posted a couple in a series called mixtape!! each story is inspired by a song and it's been so fun writing them so far!! i'd love for you guys to lemme know what you think!!
as always, i heart yous