Authors: Eleanor Wood
‘That reminds me, actually…’ Elyse goes on. ‘You know I said I’d lend you some of those books if you wanted? The star-sign stuff I was telling you about. Well, I brought a few round with me…’
She moves her drink and a packet of cigarettes out of the way, and shuffles through some of the books I’ve been staring at on the coffee table. With a grin, she pulls out some crazy-looking hefty volume called
and shoves it at me.
‘Yeah, I know it sounds weird,’ she admits, maybe catching the cynical look on my face. ‘But it’s really cool. Promise. Together, we’re going to be able to do some awesome stuff. I thought you’d be up for it.’
‘OK.’ It feels like a dare. We look at each other – eyeliner to eyeliner – and then both burst out laughing and take another gulp of wine. ‘Whatever – I’m up for it!’
‘Cool. We can start with drawing up your chart…’
‘Well, my birthday’s–’ I begin telling her.
‘Shut up! I mean, wait a minute – let me see if I can guess. You see, I’m really good at this stuff.’
‘Yeah, right,’ I mutter, with a friendly eye roll.
‘Hey! Anyway, I already had a feeling, but you were talking the other day about the epic party you’re going to throw at half term…’
‘So what? My parents are going to be away
and it’s half term. Of course I’m going to have an epic party – in fact, I’d say it’s going to be legendary!’ I laugh.
‘And it’s for your birthday, of course!’
Even though she’s being crazy, Elyse looks so majorly delighted with herself, I almost feel bad for raining on her parade. Still, there’s a small win to be enjoyed in proving her wrong.
‘Sorry, babe!’ I sing-song, giving her a better-luck-next-time smile. ‘Try again.’
The words have barely left my mouth before I realise they were the wrong ones; I got it all wrong. I don’t even understand why, but I regret it straight away.
Elyse’s face hardens like concrete; I swear her eyes practically change colour, flashing a dark anger I’ve never seen before. I have to look away. Just for a second, I don’t even know why but I really feel scared.
I look away from Elyse and turn to Mel – stupid Mel, with her spookily blank face. She looks like she’s watching a horror film – her mouth even hanging open slightly.
My flash of fear passes quickly, and it shifts into the much more familiar and comfortable zone of annoyance. What’s the big effing deal?
‘What’s the big deal?’ I say out loud.
I’m irritated with myself to notice that my voice comes out sounding weirdly nervy.
‘What’s the big deal?’
Elyse repeats back to me. ‘You’re joking, aren’t you?’
She interrupts me but her voice is low and dangerous. ‘Amie, when –
is your birthday?’
This is such a weird conversation to be having – particularly because I’ve always had such a love-hate relationship with the date myself. God, I wish my birthday
at half term, a nice June birthday.
I look Elyse in the eye and I am extra careful to keep my voice steady and normal. I call up all of my bitch powers – I think for a second of Lexy and it’s not hard.
‘The first of January. My birthday is on New Year’s Day.’
For a moment, I actually think she’s going to hit me. Instead of pulling back, I find myself tensing up, spoiling for a fight. There is a pause, which hangs heavy in the air for a moment before it shatters into a million pieces.
‘You fucking liar! You lying bitch,’ Elyse shrieks.
She goes off into a massive rant, screaming and shouting at me, and I realise that she is not joking. On the edges of this chaos, I notice that Melanie, as if she knows to expect the worst from her sister, is practically cowering into the corner.
I’m not a chicken like she is, at least.
‘Look, calm down – you freak,’ I sneer back.
going to be scared of her. I’m not going to let some weird, random girl talk to me like that in my own house. I’m the most popular girl in the class – what the hell does she think she’s doing? She must be mental or stupid – probably both. Shame I’m only just realising it now.
Although, whatever she’s playing at, this is going to be way worse for her than it is for me. She should realise that her life will be hell back at school tomorrow if she keeps this up. One half of my brain is already turning this into a hilarious story to tell Lexy and the others.
‘I don’t know what kind of demented shit you’re trying to pull here,’ I go on, ‘but I’m not
having it. You can either stop it right now or you can get out. Your choice.’
Elyse just laughs in my face. ‘You think you can control the whole world, don’t you? It’s pathetic. You seriously need to be taught a lesson. You’re not getting rid of us that easily.’
There is actual hatred in her eyes, out of nowhere. I can’t believe this situation has gone so wrong so quickly, based on nothing. It only makes me angrier – I can up my game, too.
‘Look, Elyse. I gave you a chance. You should watch it, or you’ll be sorry. I don’t think you understand how it works around here…’
‘Are you actually trying to scare me with your sad little mean-girl tactics? That ship has sailed,
. You’re not the queen bee you think you are. Even your so-called best friends hate you. It didn’t take a lot to find out all the gossip.’ She puts on a high, bitchy voice. ‘
Oh, Lexy, you’re the pretty one; everyone likes you the most, you really shouldn’t let Amie talk to you like that…
It didn’t take a lot to get your pathetic gang of mates on my side. Some of what I heard was pretty interesting, actually…’
‘Oh, for f– Whatever, Elyse. I couldn’t give a shit about your stupid star signs and this kind of immature crap. I just want you to get out of my house and take your weird sister with you.’
I grab her drink from her hand and bang it down on the coffee table. OK, I do kind of push her in the process, but I’m not trying to start anything. There is no need for her to lunge at me like some kind of mentalist. I just want to get rid of her.
She slaps me hard around the face. I’m so stunned that I don’t have time to stop her before she goes for my hair, grabbing handfuls of it with both her fists until I am practically on my knees. I manage to stop myself from screaming on principle, but my face is contorted with pain and hers is sneering right back at me in extreme close-up. I grab at her hands and dig my long fingernails in, trying to release her claws from my head.
Neither one of us will give in, so we’re locked into a weird slow-motion ballet, and I start to think we’ll probably stay like that for ever, we are both so stubbornly clinging on for dear life. Until I hear a horrific noise that makes us both relax our grip for a second.
It’s a second before I realise it’s coming from Mel, screaming at the top of her lungs. Elyse and I both turn around and stare at her.
She leaps out from her corner of the room like some kind of hunted animal. As her scream turns to a weird strangled gurgle, she jerks her arms and sweeps our drinks off the table, along with Elyse’s books and my mum’s blue glass vase.
Once she’s done that, it’s like she doesn’t know what the hell to do with herself. I’m braced for her to keep on trashing the house on some crazed rampage, but she just stands there, wild-eyed, by the wrecked coffee table while wine and broken glass drip onto the rug. She catches my eye and for a second we both pause; I can’t read her expression, but for one weird instant I think that she’s trying to tell me something.
Then Elyse steps in between us and gives Mel a look that freezes my blood as well as hers. I feel worse than when she hit me – I realise in a flash that this is way more serious than just trading insults and a silly play fight. I hate to admit it, but I am actually frightened of her. It feels like all my power and confidence have left me and transferred somehow to her. I feel drained.
‘Fine,’ Elyse says to me flatly. ‘We’re going. I don’t want to stay here anyway. And don’t ever, ever talk to me again. By the way, I wanted to tell you – I was only trying to help. I could have explained if you hadn’t gone mental and attacked me. Mel had a premonition
about you; she saw that you’re going to have a really bad accident. Soon. I’d watch that pretty little face of yours, if I were you. Just a friendly bit of advice before you start blabbing about this.’
She grabs her books off the table and shoves them into her bag, apparently not noticing that they are splashed with wine. She glares at me before she pushes past on her way out; Mel follows behind her without saying a word. She looks back at me once over her shoulder, before following Elyse out into the hallway.
I find myself lingering behind them, at a distance. I am practically hiding in my own home and I hate myself for it. I jump as Elyse slams the door behind them.
I should be glad they’ve gone, but I can hardly register what has just happened. Suddenly I am alone in the silent hallway. I just stand still for a moment, like I am lost – the same feeling as when you walk into a room and instantly forget why you went in there.
Eventually I go into the kitchen and pick up a cloth, and start cleaning up the family room. Robotically, I mop everything up and wrap the broken glass in newspaper before I put it in the bin.
On the table, damp and transparent, there is a piece of paper. It’s covered with symbols and scratchy line drawings – it looks like something out of
The Blair Witch Project
or something, and I don’t even want to touch it. I can’t stop myself from looking at it more closely and I see some words in there, hidden away and tiny. They are not only weird but they feel threatening, even though they are only isolated words – flashes of death and destruction. I assume that Elyse wrote this and left it here for me to see. I suppose it must be some kind of message. I don’t know what, but it’s nothing good. When did she even write it – was she planning this all along?
I shouldn’t be bothered by any of this, but Elyse’s words are still ringing in my head. I don’t know why I can’t just forget the whole thing. I’m still sitting on the sofa and gazing into space, replaying it again and again, when I hear a key in the door and know my brother must be home. I scrabble up the stairs before he has even got the door open and luckily he doesn’t spot me.
I run up to my room, close the door and throw myself on the bed. I know I won’t move all evening, even though it’s still early. I’m also pretty sure that I won’t sleep tonight. I can’t shake the feeling that Elyse was right – something very bad is going to happen.
* * *
The feeling of doom is still there when I wake up. It’s stuck in the back of my throat and it won’t go away.
I’m not exactly in the habit of bouncing out of bed with joy in the mornings, but I’m not used to dreading going to school. Suddenly I wonder if this is what some people – some losers – feel like every day. I can’t even secretly congratulate myself on being on the winning side any more – I’m not sure I still am.
All night, I couldn’t get Elyse’s face, and her words, out of my head. Just those last words, before she left, about some terrible accident – I don’t know if it was a warning or a threat. Before then I hadn’t taken any of what she said seriously, but there was something about it I still can’t shake off.
The piece of paper, now dried out and brittle, with its evil message – whatever it is supposed to be – is now tucked away in a side pocket of my Cath Kidston schoolbag. I want to get rid of it and I know I should probably throw it away, but the paranoid part of my brain says I should keep it. As evidence – like ‘if I die, I know who did it’. Melodramatic, much? Maybe. Maybe not.
Despite the feeling in my stomach that I have swallowed a bowling ball of doom, I know I have to go to school and face up. I might be a lot of things – stone-cold bitch according to half of my best friends – but I’m not a coward. I need to be there so I can take control, not hide away like some loser.
I’m out of the door and on my way to school even earlier than usual, unheard of when my parents are away. Of course, I realise too late: the downside of this is that Sorana bloody Salem is the only other person there. This is a regular occurrence so I should have thought it through; if I’d been on it as usual, I’d have gone into town and got myself a coffee or something. Too late now; I suppose I’d better
to keep up normal appearances.
I have obviously failed to grasp how bad I must look, until I see Sorana’s face as I walk in. She looks so shocked, I’m suddenly aware of the fact that I have no make-up on and my hair is a total state. It’s only Sorana but I have to force myself not to look self-conscious. I avoid her eyes and make myself look suddenly very busy.
It must be bad because she actually tries to speak to me, asking me if I’m OK. Why today? I don’t register what she says and pretty much ignore her.
‘Just leave it,’ I find myself snapping, when she refuses to shut up.
I feel kind of bad – further proof that there must be something seriously wrong with me today. It came out of my mouth automatically, before I had time to think. I can’t bring myself to mention any clue of what really happened –to make a cutting remark about the twins, a mean joke to laugh the whole thing off, or anything.
I realise that – even though I am constantly saying it’s the cowardly loser’s way of doing things – I am going to keep quiet and hope that this goes away. Today, at least – I’m tired and depressed; I don’t have the energy to start a smear campaign. Let’s hope I’m not the only one.
I sit down with my back to Sorana and pretend to be engrossed in a book – two can play that pretentious game, it turns out. Maybe now she won’t think she’s so fucking special. The silence is even thicker than usual, pretty much the consistency of treacle.
Sorana and I awkwardly stick it out and I wait for whatever’s going to happen. Until the door swings open and Lexy arrives. That’s all I bloody need. I look the other way as my supposedly ‘best’ friend approaches, and wish that anyone but her were here.