Chapter 6

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After Daniella's outburst, I chose to stay quiet for the rest of the lesson. Rather, I didn’t speak much for the entire day. Liam of course noticed, but he knew better than to comment.

It was Ryan's behaviour that was weird. He looked almost guilty at having instigated the classroom discussion. I saw the strange emotion flash across his face as he scrutinized me throughout the day, but it dissipated as quickly as it formed.

Liam let Ryan sit next to me in every lesson, and Ryan seemed even less pleased with the arrangement than I was. His lips showed a permanent grimace, and his eyebrows were equally as furrowed.

At the end of the day, I tried to put distance between myself and the two boys. I strode out of our final class and practically flew outside, shoving a few people out of the way on my journey.

“Liv! Liv!” Liam shouted after me, but I ignored him.

Eventually, he gave up. After I rounded the corner and shielded myself from view, I procured my old curtains from my bag and surveyed my surroundings. When I decided the coast was clear, I threw them into a large dustbin.

Apparently I hadn’t checked the area closely enough, because two loud voices interrupted me.

“There you are, Olivia,” Liam greeted me. Ryan was hot on his heels. “It’s not a race, why did you run off like that?”

I moved to stand in front of the bin, worrying in a moment of stupidity that they may look inside. “I just needed some air,” I replied.

Liam was unconvinced. “Oh.” When he noticed the bin behind me, Liam's eyes widened. His lips twisted in sympathy. “The curtains?”

Reluctantly, I nodded and studiously ignored Ryan's confused stare. “Yeah, I couldn’t exactly throw them away at home. Mum might have seen them.”

“What happened to your curtains?” Ryan interrupted us.

Liam laughed. “It’s mental really. Olivia somehow set fire to her curtains with her birthday cake.”

I shot Liam a look that clearly said: “shut up”, but he ignored me. Instead, he continued in his explanation.

Understanding dawned in Ryan's eyes.

“Liv’s parents are really weird about fire because... you know... They'd be super annoyed if they found out about the candles.”

“Your parents don’t let you have birthday candles?” Ryan's eyebrows rose into his hair.

“No,” I mumbled. Then I blushed and moved away from the bin – there was no point trying to hide it any more, and if I was being honest, it smelled foul.

Ryan snorted. “That’s so ironic.”

I scoffed, suddenly angry. “Yeah, I know. The arsonist’s sister is terrified of fire. How hilarious.” The words left my mouth in a rage, each syllable more venomous than the last.

“Something like that.” Ryan smirked.

I didn’t have time to contemplate the real meaning behind Ryan's joke; my thoughts were interrupted by Liam roughly grabbing my arm. His fingernails dug into my flesh, even through two layers of clothing.

“Incoming,” he whispered in my ear.

“What...” Ryan began to ask, but the words he meant to say hung in the air, unsaid. 
Brandon Reese, Daniella's father -- otherwise known as the town hero -- had silently stalked toward our little group.

“Olivia,” was his warm greeting. “How are you Dear?”

Brandon was a small man, not much taller than me, but he had very broad shoulders. It gave him the appearance of a square. Or more accurately a box, given the roundness of his stomach.

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