Chapter Five

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Is Anyone There?

Inside my room, I lean against the door and try to breathe. What was that? And why does everything he say have a layered meaning? I shake my head. This is ridiculous. I'm being ridiculous.

Eden said that he's weird, so maybe I should just accept that and move on. Clearly, I'm not the only one getting vibes. He must be like that with everyone. 

Right?

Wiping my hands on my jeans, I look around the room. My room now, I suppose. It's a reasonable space, with a desk, side table and single bed. My window provides me with a small view of the campus and, outside, rain falls like mist as dusk takes over.

The space smells a little stale, though, so I unlatch the window and let in some fresh air. I breathe it in like a drug.

Trying not to think about whose bed is beyond mine, I pull up my bag and stare at the case for a second. Inside is my entire life, all packed up and ready to go. So, why do I feel like I've left something behind?

I pull out Daisy's photograph. It lies neatly on top of my clothes, picturing us both at Crystal Lake the summer before the accident. Her blonde hair shines in the sun and freckles kiss the tips of her cheeks. Water shimmers in the background, a blue beacon of life.

I smile and try to swallow the lump in my throat. She looks happy here, which was a rarity those days.

I can't pinpoint the exact day Daisy lost her spark, but one moment she was happy and the next – well, she just wasn't anymore. If I close my eyes, I can even remember the day this photo was taken, taste the wind on my lips.

Behind the camera, Elliot was doing laps of the lake and our Dads cooked a barbeque on the patio by the house. Our mothers sat on the pier, their feet dangling into the water. And Daisy? She pulled a curtain over all our eyes.

Turning around, I place the frame onto my desk where I'll always be able to see it. If I'm going to last the night, I can't let these old memories get to me again. Not now. Not tonight. I take a deep breath, filling the empty space between my mouth and lungs. I'll be okay. I have to be.

***

By the time I'm outside and ready, the music has already started and I'm five minutes late. Vibrations pulse beneath my feet, the beat matching the rhythm of my heart. Over its roar, I hear a distant haze of conversation but can't make out any words.

I bite my lip and start walking downstairs, one step at a time. My feet fall quietly against the hollow, wooden floor. Meeting new people has never been difficult for me – I've always had Elliot or Daisy by my side, so a lot of the time they took the lead.

Except now, it's different. Now, it's all down to me. I don't have anyone to rely on other than myself, and I think that's what scares me the most.

Through the corridor, I freeze. Eden and Riley are arguing. My mouth goes dry.

'Come on!' Eden says, her voice loud against the music. 'It'll be fun.'

'No, Eden. I don't wanna play,' replies Riley. 'It's stupid.'

A calculating pause. 'Why? What do you have to hide?'

'Nothing. I'm just over it. We did this in high school. Don't you have any new ideas?'

Eden's voice is angry. 'Do you have to be so rude?'

I choose this moment to walk in. And it's a good thing I do, too, because they look ready to kill. By the sofa, the two girls glare at each other. Tension wraps the air, electric. In their hands, they each hold a drink filled to the brim, but their eyes are focused elsewhere, steady and narrowed.

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