Chapter 4: Discovering

It was on the night that she turned fifteen that I discovered what hatred was.

The four of us had riffed through The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast (no matter how old we got, Disney movies would never lose their charm) and eaten through the contents of Amber's bed, then fell to verbal maundering, as girls are wont to do. The basics were excavated in the first hour: Yuli would chose to be stranded on a deserted island with Seth Backer, Maggie would rather make out with Paul Newland than see the horrors of Jorden Caulen naked. Following their trailblazing into the Land of Boy Gossip, I (with insistent prompting), systematically charted the attributes of Charlie Edmunds that made him desirable—artistic, quiet, smart, adorable shoes, curly hair—and, unmentionable: we'd never exchanged more than fifteen words. He was a safe choice, one that I knew the girls would approve of, but I knew would never progress farther than shy glances and unfulfilled predictions. I could very easily like him.

The girls captured my words enthusiastically. At last, Emily's telling about her feelings! As Yuli plotted ways to connect us, I snuck a glance at Amber. Her pensive look shifted immediately to a warm smile, and she mumbled something about how perfect Charlie and I would be together.

Amber effortlessly evaded questions about Beckett (they were dating again) by a combination of ambiguous answers and suggestive expressions that sent Yuli into gales of giggles. I, the observer, listened.

Maggie had fallen asleep with her head on Yuli's knees, and Yuli was blearily wading through late-night television shows, sprawled on the rug with a dish of Skittles on her belly. She was determined to stay up the entire night, but it was only three am and her eyelids were spending more time down than up. I was half asleep, curled next to Amber on her bed, absently tracing the pattern on her comforter with a finger. She wriggled out from under the blankets and sat up, half-turning toward me.

"Em?" she whispered.

"Mmm?"

"Have … have you ever had a secret you were afraid to tell anyone?"

My heart paused for a second, then banged sideways. "Like what?" I said carefully, rolling over so I could see her—then I noticed the blue stains mottling her arm, visible now that she wore a camisole instead of a sweatshirt and wasn't hidden beneath her bedding. "Amber—how did you get those bruises?"

I was startled to see tears migrate to her eyelashes. Her eyes unwrapped themselves to me. "He—he didn't mean to," she whispered, tears adventuring silently down her cheeks. "It was an accident."

Something dangerous and prickly uncurled inside me, pulsating.

"Beckett." I didn't phrase it as a question, and she didn't confirm or deny it. She just lost herself quietly in the pocket of my shoulder. I burned from the inside out. I was so hot I was afraid my skin would scald her.

I knew jealousy, I knew cold anger. But this was new.

This was unconditional hatred. And it burned; it set fire to the tangle of thoughts and emotions that grew in the jungles of my mind, and when the foliage had burned away an elusive truth was irrefutably illuminated among the ashes. No longer could I deny the dangerous form that beat its wings beneath my skin.

I was in love with her.

So I would lock it away and bury the chest where it wouldn't be found.

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A/N: I may add more to this chapter... wanted to post it, though, since it's almost 3 am and I'm too sleep deprived to write more.

Edit #1 complete.