Chapter 30

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                   “Oh Ruth, I don’t think-”

            Thalia was cut off by her friend’s imperious stare. “You are wearing something nice to the after party. At the very least, you’re wearing a hot top. Absolutely no T-shirts! It’s all you ever wear. This is the last chance to show off to the rest of the school. And without-With it being just everyone who’s graduating, it’ll be a good way to get to know everyone before we all scatter. Now, put this on so I can see. There’s less than a month left until the party, and knowing you, it’s better to pick something now.”

            Eyeing the shirt, a low-cut black and silver one that Ruth had forced her to buy before Christmas, she sighed and took it. The look on Ruth’s face had told her further arguing would be an exercise in futility. Sighing again, she turned her back to her friend and stripped her current T-shirt off, tossing it to the ground. Putting on the far more fitted shirt, she immediately, felt exposed.

            Crossing her arms tightly over her chest in an attempt to hide how much cleavage the shirt showed off, she shook her head as she turned back towards her friend. “I can’t wear this, Ruth.”

            “Nonsense. It looks good on you. Now show it to me properly,” she replied, already reaching out to tug at Thalia’s arms.

            Wincing slightly, she let Ruth pull her arms away, feeling her skin pebble as the air conditioned breeze wrapped itself around her. The shirt, black edged in sparkly silver in a mock-kimono style, fit her well enough. It was only the neckline that made her uncomfortable. She’d never had the courage to wear the shirt in public before.

            Ruth looked her over and nodded, her smile holding a trace of smugness. “Good. You change into that and those new jeans of yours before the after party. I can’t wait to see the looks on everyone’s faces. You might even find yourself a boy in this. Now turn and face the mirror.”

            “But I’m not looking for a boy,” Thalia said, obediently turning towards the full-length mirror she had mounted beside her door. Still feeling self-conscious about the amount of skin showing, she caught movement in the reflection and caught Ruth’s hands before she dug her fingers into Thalia’s sides, a trick she’d been doing since she first discovered how ticklish Thalia was, back in first grade.

            Ruth laughed and Thalia opened her mouth when a yelp from the doorway had both their heads snapping up. It took half a second for Thalia to realize who had made the noise and she felt the blood in her face leave in a rush. She turned slowly to look at Ruth, finding her friend doing the same. “That wasn’t you…No, of course it wasn’t. It sounded like a guy and your parents are gone. Who’s there?” She called the last bit out, straightening as she stared at the door.

            Trying to form some words that would stop Ruth, Thalia tried to grab her friend. But Ruth was already striding forward, eyes going greener with each step. A moment later, she heard a clatter and thump as someone, and she could only assume it was Colt, ran into the hallway table, knocking every photo frame down as the table wobbled. She ran forward to try and get there first but Ruth was doing the same, and she was closer.

            Thalia had one hand wrapped around her doorframe, leaning into the hall and seeing her friend stalking towards the still faintly rocking table. Heading swinging back and forth as her eyes scanned the whole of the hall, Ruth continued to pace slowly forward, acting as if she expected someone to come popping out at any second. Thalia’s hands were clenched into fists around the edges of her shirt, praying that Colt had managed to hide himself, preferably in her parents’ room.

            She held her breath as Ruth passed the table, reaching the bathroom door without incident. Thalia released the air into a sigh, feeling one knot of anxiety in her back relax. She stepped forward to try and explain the noise as the house settling and an earthquake for the table, when her foot caught on the raised bit of wood that had once held some of the carpet nails. As if someone had hit a slow motion button on her life, Thalia could feel her hand fail to catch the doorway, as the floor began getting closer and closer to her nose. She cried out, her balance completely lost. She tried to get her hands in front so she could keep herself from doing a true face plant.

            Suddenly, she felt arms wrap themselves around her, jerking her headfirst fall to a halt. She clutched at the arms, her breathing coming rapidly as she tried to right herself. Only when she was had herself halfway steady did Thalia remember Ruth. She froze for a long moment, her heartbeat beginning to hammer, mind trying to figure out some way to explain her unnatural position. She could only imagine how she looked right now, weight supported by the hands she had wrapped around Colt’s arms, the same arms that were keeping her from continuing her forward fall, her toes only barely on the ground.

            Slowly, she looked up into Ruth’s wide, hazel eyes. She bit her lip and straightened with Colt’s help. “This…it’s not what…I can explain.”

            “Y-you were…in midair…should have fallen! How did…just like before, when Brant attacked…I thought you were hanging in the air for a moment but…it’s impossible! How…?” Ruth ended in a whisper, face the colour eggshells.

            Thalia opened her mouth to say something, anything, but Colt squeezed the arm he still had around her waist. She froze, halfway turning to look at him before she again remembered the situation and Ruth’s eyes on her.

            She heard a faint sigh from Colt, before she felt him move to stand beside her. She couldn’t tell, but she thought he was facing her best friend. “Hello Ruth, I would like to say it’s nice to have finally been properly introduced, but if I’m honest, I’d say I’d much have preferred you not knowing about me at all.”

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