Chapter Seventeen

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Smoke and Mirrors

When it rains in Woodcreek, it pours.

The next morning, as I wake and stretch in bed, that much is evident. The clouds have cried all week and, by the looks of my weather app, that isn't about to change. The drops drum heavily against my window and the wind carries them in flashing, diagonal sheets that rouse me sharply from sleep.

In the room beyond my own, an alarm faintly beeps. Through the bricks separating us, it's muted yet incessant – like a police siren wailing through your window from a city ten miles over.

For a second, as I grumpily rub the sleep from my eyes, I can't help but think about how horrible it'd be to wake up to that sound every morning, but then I remember whose room it is, and Wesley's bad moods suddenly make a lot more sense.

Downstairs, the kitchen is empty.

The air is cool on my skin and, with each step I take, I gradually feel more awake. The first thing I notice once I'm through the door is the kitchen floor – clearly, nobody wiped their feet upon returning last night, because the wooden panels are smudged with puddles of mud and God knows what else.

Nonetheless, I breathe a sigh of relief at the empty space as I open my cupboard and pull out a box of cereal. So much has happened in such little time that I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.

Last night's memories are fuzzy in my mind and I'm not sure I can find the will to conjure up a conversation if any of my flatmates happen to join me – not to mention that someone keeps stealing my milk. That alone is enough to get me in a sour mood.

I grit my teeth as I stare into the fridge, cold air kissing my cheeks. I knew people would borrow certain necessities from the kitchen – because that's college life, right? – but I've barely gotten to use it myself yet and I'm the one who brought it.

Taking a seat on the counter, I sigh heavily and look out to the mountain. Dark clouds of mist cover its sharp peak, moving in the wind like a living thing. Rays of yellow light shine from the rising sun, battling hopelessly against the impending storm.

As I rub my temples, massaging the headache that's slowly taking form, I wonder if the sun knows it's a pointless task. As September ends and October takes form, the light of day will soon become a memory of the distant past.

I try to shake these thoughts off, but my ears keep ringing (no doubt a symptom left over from the music at Mara's party) and I can't stop thinking about how everything went so disastrously wrong last night.

It started with Wesley and, with the benefit of hindsight, I now know from that point onwards, I should've just followed my gut and stayed home.

Because now, not only do I still have to deal with the mountain of work that awaits upstairs, but I also can't stop thinking about the note. I blink, and it's there.

I know what you did. Bitches get stitches. XOXO.

Who would send that? How could anyone here know what happened? And, perhaps most importantly, who got close enough to place it in my bag?

As I think about it, panic rises within me, pacing back and forth in my mind like a wolf waiting to pounce.

There's Evelyn to worry about too, and Wesley, and – well, you get the idea. I'm surprised I even managed to get to sleep last night, especially after taking Evelyn to the nurse with Wesley.

That was a whole ordeal in itself – one I certainly don't want to be reminded of.

These thoughts swirl around my mind like a whirlpool and, no matter how hard I try to think of something else, I can't. Not even the picture Elliot sent me this morning of his new dog managed to lift my mood, and that's how I know something's wrong.

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