Chapter Twelve: Punishment As Befits The Crime

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"Shh, shh, shh

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"Shh, shh, shh. It's okay baby, just breathe," Eisa returns to full consciousness as Noel continues to whisper soothing encouragements in to her hair, one arm wrapped comfortingly around her as the other rubs calming circles into her back.

"I'm back. Sorry," Eisa distances herself from her ex-boyfriend, now fully in control of her own body, and realises they're sat on the floor of her kitchen, and she has tears streaming down her face that have yet to subside.

"You don't have to pretend you're fine around me. I know you."

"No. No you really don't. We shouldn't... We're over, we have to act over, no matter what happens today, that isn't changing," she tried to push herself up, but found her legs still a little wobbly from the panic attack. She slumped back to the floor after her attempt, and quickly and methodically removed her heels, lining them up neatly at the corner of the island bench. She then pushed herself all the way up on her shaking legs, shaking off Noel's attempts at assistance along the way. She leads the way back to her living room where she left her coffee.

"I know enough to know that you haven't had a panic attack that bad since after Ali first went missing. I know enough to know that there is something wrong with that message. Seriously, Eis, what's going on? I can help," she goes to drink the coffee, but finds it cold in her shaking hands. Her bottom lip trembles, and in one instant, she goes from strong and emotionless, to a blubbering mess, sobbing as she blurts out everything. She doesn't get very far, he calms her down so she can explain a bit more lucidly.

"It all starts before Ali went missing. It was... A thing in our friendship group that Alison would collect the other girls' secrets, would collect everyone's secrets, and she'd tell me so we could best utilise them to cause havoc. One of the secrets was, well bad, and I wasn't involved, because at the time, I was dating a much older boy and I spent most of my time ditching them for him," she paused to let him digest, and she could see a flicker of jealousy run through his eyes.

"How old are we talking? Would I know him?"

"He was 21 at the time."

"Jesus E, that's... Isn't that illegal?" His fingers roughly tug on his hair as he anxiously runs them through it. "God, that's my brother's age... Tell me it wasn't my brother!"

"No! God no! I... No, I would never have dated you without telling you if I'd slept with your brother. Plus he's... kinda skeevy. But yes, I was 15, and age of consent here is 16, I checked, back when it was a thing. It's why basically no one knows about him and me. Except Spencer, and now you. All the other girls know is that I was dating someone older that summer, and they covered for the fact that I was with him when Ali went missing."

"So you lied to the police? Had all of your friends lie to the police? For some guy?" She could see the anger rising in him, could feel the dreaded question on the tip of his tongue, and knew she would have to answer with the full truth. "Who was it?"

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