Chapter Thirteen

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An Uninvited Guest

I drop my file onto the desk with a heavy thump. The papers ruffle in the light breeze that lulls through my bedroom window and goose bumps rise on my skin as I pull off my jumper, reaching into the closet to find something to wear.

My shoulders are tense, aching numbly as my English meeting plays a repetitive loop inside my head, mocking me for what feels like an eternity. Least to say, I'm not as academically prepared as I thought.

In fact, if I were to describe the meeting, I'd say it's akin to going into a room and having your dreams crushed, stamped on by a stranger wearing Louboutin heels until said dream is beaten blue and bloody. I knew Simone didn't like me, especially after I nearly fell asleep in her lecture, but I didn't realise the extent of her distaste until now.

A small part of me hopes she's like that with everyone, but a nagging feeling in my gut tells me otherwise. I sigh.

Outside, the sky is on fire. The sun's flames reach into the clouds, tinging them a pink, orange and red that glows through my window. My room grows darker as the sun continues to set, but I don't turn on a light. If I do, then tonight will be real and I'll have to face it.

Here, concealed in the darkness, I can hide if only for a minute. Crows caw from the trees, and I watch them for a second, flying from branches like black silhouettes, there one second and gone the next.

Taking a deep breath, air rushes through my lips as I try to remain focused on the task at hand – getting ready for Mara's party, which is the last thing I want to deal with tonight. The thought of going sends ice through my veins and, if it were up to me, I'd stay here and get on with the ever-growing pile of homework I haven't been doing.

It stares at me in the corner of my room, sitting on the desk with its judgy little eyes that remind me of Simone's. But according to Eden, I don't have a choice. I'm here to have fun, she says, and wouldn't it be nice to get a little look into Mara's home life?

Between you and me, I think she's enjoying this far more than she should.

Looking into my closet, I browse through my options – which is, unfortunately, severely limited. Least to say, I didn't anticipate so many parties at the beginning of the year, and it's not like I can wear what I did on the first night, right? I'm sure that counts as sacrilege in a college girl's bible.

I bite my lip, eyes darting across my clothes that drape from their hangers.

There's a red dress I wore for my sixteenth birthday – a little tight, if you ask me, but it clings well on my hips.

There's a black dress that hangs in the corner, but that was Daisy's and the thought of wearing it feels wrong and displaced. I shake my head. I don't know why I even bought it here in the first place.

Was it to feel close to her in some kind of way? She gave it to me a week before our accident, claiming it would look better on me with her sly smile. I knew it was a lie, but accepted it to make her happy because, well, it wasn't like Daisy to let things go.

I look at it for a second, in this room that still smells of fresh paint. Its material is sleek and velvety beneath my fingers and, if I close my eyes, I can still hear her laugh, smell her sweet perfume as she reaches out to hold my hand the night of...

No.

I can't think about that. Not now. I'm just about to head into the bathroom, pulling off my shoes with a towel tucked under my arm, when a knock comes from the door.

The two sharp taps make me freeze, and suddenly the breeze from my open window picks up. Cool mountain air kisses my bare skin as the crows fall silent, and the only sound that remains is the sharp inhale of my breath. I'm expecting Ellie, but it's only six o'clock and she said she'll be here at seven.

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