• 6 •
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– Anna’s POV –
I look at myself in the mirror, not really caring about what this outfit looks like. It’s casual. It’s simple. And best of all, it covers my face if I want it to.
I haven’t worn this hoodie in two hundred and three days. It’s Dakota’s. He should be wearing it. Not me. I feel selfish putting it on, because it’s not mine.
If he were here, he’d wrestle me for it. I’d wear a smile once more and laugh as he tickles my sides – my weakest point ever. Eventually I’d give in and hand over the piece of clothing.
But now is not that time. I haven’t smiled a genuine full-blown smile in what seems like ages. That’s why I’m always thinking about everyone else that does it so easily. How do they do it so easily?
My brother’s scent still lingers on the green and grey material. It’s the smell of pine and evergreen trees, with just a dash of his cologne. I think it was called Mujer Hermosa. He always attracted girls with it, so I guess its name owns up to itself.
I sigh and throw the hood over my hair (that I still wear in a ponytail everyday) when a low rumble of thunder tickles the bottom of my feet. I walk over to my nightstand and grab two blue gel tablets out of the medicine container and pop them into my mouth. The water next to it is then opened by me, and I down both of the pills together. Hopefully Dr. Sloan prescribed enough to last me the whole day like the bottle says it will. Because if this doesn’t work, I’m going to lose my mind.
After I down the drugs, I grab my bag off of my bed and find the cream, shoving it into the side pocket just in case. Then I hustle down the stairs and meet Hayley in the car, Ms. Morgan unable to drive us since she goes to work early in the mornings.
Hayley turns off her phone and backs out of the driveway, putting us on the path to school. I wrap a pair of ear buds around my neck and let the actual bud parts hang down my shoulders.
“Do you have plans after school?” Hayley asks when we slowly halt at a red light.
I almost shoot her a deadpan look. It’s not like I can just make plans whenever I want to. I mean, I could, but it’d have to pass my checklist of “musts,” the system gave me.
It must be safe. It must be no further than thirty miles away from my foster home unless permission is granted for otherwise. It must have some sort of purpose for me going (i.e being social, working out, practicing, making friends). And it must not include any sort of alcoholic or influential substance. There’s more, but I don’t feel like getting into the other thirteen things.
I nod anyway. I do have plans. I have to go to the gym. It’s the only time I’ll have available this week to fill the one of two times I have to go.
“Really?” She sounds surprised as the light turns green and she begins driving again. “Where are you going?”
“Boxing,” I mumble, staring out the window as rain patters onto the pane. Is it even considered safe for someone as energetic as my foster sister to be driving in storms like this all the time?
“Boxing?” Now she sounds even more surprised. “That’s…really cool! You box?” Her words come out in breathless bursts of amazement.
“Not because I want to.”
“Oh…well then why do you do it?”
This girl and her relentless questions.
“Because I have to. My social worker and the board made me learn self-defense.”
For a moment, everything in the car goes silent apart from the sky’s tears making ticking noises onto the windows and metal body. But then Hayley speaks again, softly and quietly.
“Why do you need to be forced to learn that?” Sympathy has a cobra-like grip around her words. I don’t reply and instead clench my jaw tightly.
She doesn’t know. She doesn’t know about my father still being out there. She’s completely been thrown into the shadows and dark by whoever should inform her about my situation.
It dawns on me that if they did tell her my story – if they showed her their version of my story on my file – then she wouldn’t of dared to breathe in my direction. I’m sure she knows I went through something, but she most likely even barely understands a general concept of what happened. She would be petrified if she knew the full realty, and would try her best stay away from me.
Maybe I prefer it this way though. It ticks me off that people weren’t telling the truth, and even when they were, they were telling their version of it – but at least Hayley isn’t bothering me because she feels sorry for me. She’s not pitying me. She’s just being herself. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, but never had.
Besides, it’s not really her place to know anything about me. Neither does anyone else that already knows (even if they really don’t know anything about me at all). It’s probably better for Hayley to just…not know. She doesn’t need to. I can keep it that way.
“I never had an adult to teach me how. And sometimes they put me into houses without someone who has fighting experience. They just want me to be prepared,” I lie smoothly.
Hayley releases a breath and and tilts her head back a little, chuckling at herself. “Right. Duh. I thought there was something we needed to be prepared for. Whew.”
Well, she’s not wrong about being prepared. But she isn’t right about what to be prepared for.
It’s not something. It’s someone.
The classes in school didn’t go by very quickly. I was bored out of my mind, staring at the lesson plans in front of me in disappointment. Was that seriously all the curriculum offered? I was doing that before second grade.
The other thing that made time slow down was the fact that my shoulder was bothering me. It didn’t hurt too bad because of the medicine, but it still was kind of stinging. So that’s all I could focus on.
And now I am in the music room during lunch period, grateful to finally have some sort of isolation from everyone. The music teacher isn’t currently in the facility, meaning it’s left to myself and myself alone.
I stroll around, looking at the vast choice of instruments they have here as a distraction from the tingling on my mark. They’ve got everything from orchestra flutes to ginormous basses. Adoration fills me from head to toe.
My movements come to a stop when I notice the gorgeously crafted Martin sitting on a stand. It wasn’t as pretty as the one I was given, but it’s still beautiful nevertheless.
I pick it up and wrap the strap onto myself, being cautious so I don’t rub the material on my shoulder blade. Once the instrument is situated, I grab a chair and plop down, picking at the strings. A hollow majestic sound floats from the sound hole and fills the void-of-noise room.
I take a deep breath and begin to play a song written by me a year and four days ago. It brings back some painful memories, but I wanted to just play it once. I haven’t sang the lyrics since I wrote it. They were far too personal and frightening to be sang aloud.
Aren’t I defiant today.
I keep the steady beat of an intro going, tips of my fingers stroking each string softly.
Limb by limb,
Heart caving in.
Scar after scar,
Empty and hollow,
Worn like tar.
Why does it feel like every time I breathe,
My lungs are going to collapse,
And then I will writhe and heave on the ground,
As I fall into yet another relapse.
Why does it feel like every time I walk,
My legs are going to buckle out from under me.
It’s like I have no support,
Not even from my own d*mn body.
It’s the why of the world and whatever’s in it.
It’s the pain of the past and whatever caused it.
Suddenly the sounds of boingling strings and out of tune guitars are heard, cutting me off from the song. I jump, my heartbeat speeding up a million miles a second. Now on my feet, I spin around quickly and spot the heap of acoustic instruments lying on the floorboards.
My head snaps over to the right, just as the door is bashed into its closed position. Footsteps follow that noise, and I instantly feel angry. Angry and nervous and flustered and afraid. Someone was in here the whole time? And they just watched me?
I narrow my eyes to thin razored daggers and run over to the place where the guitars are stored, setting the Martin back into its rightful home before running out of the music room. In the hall, a few students linger and chat with one another. They give me weird glances as I rush by them, shoving through a few of them too, to find whoever was stalking me.
As I round a corner, my face is met with someone’s hard chest. I hiss, backing up. Aiden Foster looks down at me, head tilted a bit like the last time we met, swirling deep green irises studying me. His expression is neutral, but underlying you could guess was brooding.
“Sorry,” I mumble.
I move around him, continuing my quest to find the person in the music room with me. His eyes stay trained onto my back (I can feel it) until I’ve completely disappeared from his line of vision.
But as I keep going on my search, I realize that lunch period is almost over, and there’s no point in to keep looking. The person watching me could’ve stopped by a locker or joined in a group conversation. They could’ve blended in and made themselves look normal easily. And besides that, they could’ve bolted to a hiding place like a fat man bolts to the bakery on French Roll Friday’s.
I sigh and lean against a wall, unsure of what to do. I could just wait here until the bell rings. That sounds like a plausible plan. I could just wait out the storm and punch anyone who gives me, the loner chick, a strange look. What’s it to them anyway? It’s not like me standing here is hurting them…unless they stare at me for too long. Then I’m probably going to be the reason for their pain.
I freeze. My thoughts are interrupted from a familiar muffled voice coming through the wall behind me. I glance over at the door that says “Custodian’s Closet.”
“You’re so beautiful, baby,” another familiar voice breathes heavily, almost huskily.
I slap a hand over my mouth and back away from the closet as more heavy breathing and…moaning…commences. I just stare at the door in shock.
Well then. I see Hayley isn’t as innocent as I thought.
When I’m backing away, I end up hitting the lockers. I gasp and shut my eyes tightly, awaiting for the sensitivity in my shoulder blade to erupt in burning flames. But slowly, I peel them open again. First my left, and then my right.
It doesn’t hurt.
It doesn’t burn.
My brows dip in confusion. How does it not burn? Just moments ago, in the music room, I was trying to distract myself from the pain that was slowly building up again. But my tattoo seems to be completely fine.
Hesitantly, I bring my hand over my shoulder and let my fingers graze over my hoodie right where my devil’s wing should be. But as I press around, I don’t feel any sort of pain at all.
My heart rams against my rib cage. It throws a tantrum inside the more I think about this.
The medicine wasn’t working that well a moment ago, so it definitely wouldn’t be working when I just bumped into some lockers. This doesn’t make any sense. There’s only one other logical explanation as to why the pain stopped, but even that isn’t logical.
I don’t even know who my matched person is supposed to be. How could I have touched him? I haven’t touched a single boy since I moved here. In fact, I restrain from touching at all. Physical contact just makes me uncomfortable. There’s no one that could’ve-
My brain stops thinking for a moment as my thoughts – once again – turn frozen. And then my eyes flicker around the corner I had turned to dodge his gaze.
The only boy I touched was Aiden Foster. But it was only for a second. I just accidentally ran into him because I couldn’t see around the incoming white wall. Although, I know it doesn’t matter. You could touch with a single hair strand and all the burning would go away.
Does he know too? Is that why he was so intently scrutinizing me? What do I do now? Should I tell anyone? Should I tell him that I know?
I groan and grip my hair in frustration. This can’t be happening.
Aiden Foster can’t be my soulmate.
But you used the word, Anna. You used the word.