Chapter 11. Because Tara's Here

"Come on, smile," Taranis wheedles, her blue eyes wide and persuasive.

I try – I really try – but I can manage is a pained grimace at best. She sighs and gives me a tight, one-armed hug. We are both ditching class and hiding out in one of the many little reading rooms in the school's massive library. She had even cast a special spell to temporarily prevent tracking spells or wandering faeries minds to touch us, so we are virtually unable to be located. I look around the reading room, which is really small and cosy, littered with comfortably worn bean bags and huge pillows to recline on. Vacantly, I reflect that the library will be a really nice place to hang out sometimes, albeit the emptiness and loneliness of the place. The library is a massive, old Victorian-style building and it has five floors; thank goodness for the nifty little spell on the stairs even though most of the students have the perfect capability of climbing those stairs without panting, unlike me. I am currently ensconced in a bright green bean bag – green is my favourite colour – with my knees tugged under my chin and a large picture book on the floor in front of me. Tara had picked it out for me, saying that it's filled with human faerie tales I might feel comfortable with. I can see her desperation to ease my depression and anguish.

I peer sideways at her. She is sprawled over a large red pillow, her curls corkscrewing wildly in all directions. She is twirling one lock around her finger, her lips puckered and her brows knitted. She is glaring at the ceiling, probably filled with vicious thoughts of revenge against Doni, whom she is convinced is completely at fault in this matter. I did try to explain to her everything, but her prejudice against him made her rather deaf. She did however reluctantly comply when I pleaded with her not to storm after Doni right then and there and punch his lights out. Instead, she accompanied me to find a suitable place we could hide out because she refused to leave me like this even though I did not want to get her into any trouble. She had waved her hand at me nonchalantly as if it was no trouble but I'm fairly certain that truancy still does count for punishment in Hell High, despite the obvious leniency in rules here. The silence is killing me because the hurt is just waiting at the back of my mind, preparing to pounce when I'm most vulnerable and swallow me whole.

"Tara, say something," my voice is hoarse from the two hours of steady crying.

"What do you want me to say?" she asks, her face quizzical, as she sits upright with her legs crossed.

"Tell me about... about being a werewolf. What's it like?"

Her face lights up with obvious glee and pride at the subject and she begins to talk about being a werewolf. I smile, instantly at ease, and look at her, letting her sweet voice wash over my ears even though I'm not taking in a single word at all. It is nice to see her animated face, her fine features dancing with delight and expression, as she talks about the freedom she feels, the beauty she can see running through forests, the power in her limbs and the lethality of her fangs as a wolf. She obviously loves being a werewolf, as much as she loves being a witch. Despite the prejudice and resentment she faces for being a mixed-blood, she clearly loves being both a witch and a werewolf. Then she mentions her father and love and adoration creep onto her face. Her father, she respects and admires above all. She describes him as powerfully strong, untouchable, impenetrable, indomitable. He has to be; after all he's the alpha male. She wants badly to be able to live up to his reputation and she muses rather unhappily that it will have been better if she's born as a male because unfortunately, male werewolves tend to be stronger. I laugh at that.

"Adair won't be happy," I point out.

She stops short in her rambling and her cheeks flush a brick red. "Why would you mention Adair?"

I just smile at her, raising my eyebrows. She sighs, relenting, but she doesn't say anything for a while. She stares broodingly at the picture book not lying forgotten at my feet, at the pages open to Hansel and Gretel's tale. I wait. She doesn't disappoint my patience because after a while, she looks up, her face pinched with uncertainty and confusion.

"He told me that he's in love me almost exactly one year ago, on the first night of our summer holidays," she explains. "I was stunned because I always thought he saw me as a sister despite us being engaged and all. I never really minded being engaged to him in the first place because... well... it's like with you and... Wersray. We're best friends and I've never been attracted to any guy before. I mean, I love Adair. He's such a wonderful person, so sweet. But... I never really thought of him as boyfriend material, you know? He's just my best friend."

I nod solemnly. It is almost eerie how identical our situations are, sans for me being in love with Cadfael, but let's ignore that for the moment.

"When he told me he's in love with me and he told me several times after that too," she says that with a quick flash of a grin, "I felt happy. I became confused as to why I would feel happy. I'm still puzzled over that now too... but I have a sneaking feeling that... that I might..." she swallows loudly and blurts the next part out in a rush of words, "beinlovewithhimtoo!"

I burst into laughter at that, genuine mirth flaring up inside of me and warming my otherwise cold, clammy insides. She stares at me, offence clearly written on her face. I bite down on my lip hard, attempting to stop my bubbling laughter, but it is only to no avail. I laugh, long and hard, and I can see momentary relief on her face that I seem to be cheering up and the anger on her face becomes exaggerated and she places her hands on her hips huffily.

"Perri!" she complains. "I'm pouring my heart out here and you're laughing at me, you stupid troll!"

I stick my tongue out at her. "You stupid mutt!"







We go on like that for several long minutes because I hold up my hands, laughing uproariously at our childish argument. She laughs along with me as well, though I can tell it is more from relief that I am even laughing in the first place than from the hilarity of the situation.

"We're both idiots," I proclaim.

"Ah, well, it's the idiots who run the world anyway," she shrugs with a smirk. "Because we're powerful idiots."

"You know it," I return her prideful smirk. "Anyway! About you and Adair. The way I see it, you have to tell him."

"No!" she recoils instantly, withdrawing from me as if my words burn her like a white-hot flame and looking utterly terrified at the mere idea.

I laugh again at her dramatic reaction. "Taranis Eruhryn, the only child of the great werewolf alpha male and a powerful witch, scared of telling the truth? Has the world gone mad?"

She glares at me, her blue eyes wide and incensed. "Periwinkle Greenhaer, you're goading me."

"Tara," I sigh, internally pitying Adair to have fallen for such an obdurate, adorably moronic girl. "You know you're killing both yourself and Adair by keeping quiet."

"But-But confessing, Perri! Me confessing to him? I can't do it. I seriously can't!" she declares, looking nothing like the proud werewolf princess from just a few moments ago.

"Hey, what happened to your Herculean courage?" I tease, raising my eyebrows. "I don't know anything about confessing because the only guy I ever liked can read my mind but I know this. Adair loves you, doesn't he? What do you have to fear about confessing? Rejection? No."

"It's just the thought of those three words out of my mouth..." she shudders, wringing her hands. "Ohmygod. It's horrible! I just can't bring myself to say those three words! Seriously, Perri! I can't."

"Poor Adair," I murmur, shaking my head. "So you're going to have him suffer forever? Uh, because in case you're forgetting, you're going to be married!"

"Shut it!" she lobs a fuzzy ball of magic at me.

I easily fend it off and it dissipates with a loud hiss and black sparkles. She scowls at me, put out.

"Perri, just stop with this topic, okay?" she begs, looking at me with those big, persuasive eyes again. "I just can't right now. I will confess to him soon, but... not now. I just can't do it right now."

I sigh, running my hands through my hair, before grinning at her weakly. "Ah well, he's a boy. Let him suffer a bit."

She shares my grin with relief that I'm letting the subject go. "Yeah! After all the emotional turmoil they put us through, they deserve this!"

My grin fades at that point because I know Doni doesn't deserve any of this pain I'm putting him through. Taranis realises her mistake instantly and she swears, slapping her hands over her mouth with a chagrined and horrified look on her face. I moan, putting my head in my hands.

"I'm such a selfish bitch, seriously," I mutter. "Doni hates me now. What am I going to do? He's my best friend, Tara. He hates me now. He hates me now."

"I'm sure he doesn't!" she says hastily. "If he does, I'll kick his butt until he doesn't!"

I lift my head to smile at her feeble attempt to drag me back to a lighter mood again, but the noose has returned to around my neck now and the boulder attached to it is fast dragging me under to the murky depths of despair and self-loathing. How can I have hurt Doni like that? Damn it, why can't I have lied? Why am I so susceptible to Doni's eyes? Even when we are growing up, I never can lie to him. One look in those eyes and I'm blurting out the secret location I had hidden the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies I had stolen from the kitchen and decided to gobble down all on my lonesome. I press my palms against my eyes hard enough for the blackness to turn red. This is so stupid. We just had that retarded fight not too long ago and here we are, fighting again and it's all my fault! Before coming to Hell High, we've never had such serious fights before. Damn it, it's all bloody Cadfael's fault; why couldn't have he gone on an exchange programme instead? Then maybe I won't have fallen so hard and so fast and Doni and I might have a chance. I ignore the voice buried deep in my subconscious telling that I'm just lying to myself again.

I won't be able to stand it if Doni truly hates me. We have been friends for so long. We survived being friends through the cooties stage and the awkward prepubescent, puberty stage before our friendship was unfairly cut short. I was only recently reunited with him again. No, I don't want our friendship to just end like this. I know I hurt him and bad. Well, I'm going to find out and I'm going to make it right. I'm not going to give up on our friendship like this. I'm done weeping and crying like a weak, oh-save-me-knight-in-shining-armour damsel in distress. I'm going to make Doni forgive me somehow. I'm going to make it right.

"Tara?" I rise to my feet suddenly.

She starts, her head jerking up to stare at me because she was obviously shocked by my sudden recovery and leaping to my feet.

"What time is it? Is it lunch yet? I need to ask Adair something," I say.

She has a suspicious glint in her eyes before I say, rolling my eyes, "No, honey, it's none of the 'Tara's actually in love with you, Adair!' stuff. I just need to ask him something important. Seriously."

"Okay," she says, rising to her feet, the suspicion placated, and glancing at the hour-glass used for time-keeping around here and which I have yet to learn how to read. "Yep, lunch is in five minutes."

"Let's go then," I say.

She snaps her fingers and brings the spell wrapped around the room down. She keeps up with me easily as I hurry down the stairs, anxious to get to Adair and have my worries appeased, despite her shorter legs. She glances at me warily from time to time as if she's afraid this sudden upbeat mood of mine is delicate and may implode at any moment. I laugh internally at her worries. Seriously, does she think I like crying? Before coming here, I hardly ever cried... mostly because there was nobody important enough for me to cry over. Besides, I'm not like the rest of the students who go here, who will most probably look as if they're filming a touching scene in a family drama when they cry; when I cry, mucus starts dripping attractively from my nose and my eyes becomes squinty and pig-like. Definitely not attractive, unless your idea of attractive is Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer crossed with Babe the pig.

The moment we leave the library, receiving a glare for the hook-nosed librarian for our footsteps thumping loudly on the gleaming, polished wooden floor, Cadfael apprehends us. I stop short, my blood freezing in my veins at the sight of the look on his face. He is positively livid, his perfect face pale and pinched with outrage. Tara stops next to me. I glance at her briefly to see her eyes wide with shock and fright. We are both bringing out the "deer caught in headlights" quality very well. He walks closer to us, deliberate steps that of a skilled predator. I swallow, cursing and swearing. How could I have forgotten that I was supposed to be training with Cadfael and that he was personally responsible for me? Oh no, maybe these few hours of truancy are going to affect his overall grade! Didn't the headmaster say something about how well I do is going to determine his grade? Shit, I'm dead! Dead, I tell you! His face twitches as he reads my terrified thoughts. Shit! That must have been a smirk! He's going to kill us! I have trouble breathing, but unlike the usual breathlessness I feel about him, this temporary respiratory problem is caused by my sheer terror. I'm practically choking on my fear.

"What," Tara and I flinch at the wrath in his quiet, cold words, "do you think you're doing?"

"Don't kill us!" I blurt unthinkingly. "Think about it! We're both princesses! If you kill us, you-you're more than dead!"

"Kill you?" he repeats the words with a mirthless laugh. "Why kill you when I can make you suffer?"

I blanch, my eyes wide and fixed on his pitiless amber ones.

"Where the hell were you?" he demands heatedly, his eyes flaring momentarily with anger. "I've been looking all over campus for you!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Taranis bursts out and the two of us look at her; she looks perplexed. "You're the one who-"

"You know perfectly well what I'm talking about," he cuts across her words callously, his eyes now fixed on hers, a strange sort of grimness and warning in them. "This is your final strike, Eruhryn. You know how much trouble you get into."

Tara's eyes widen and for some reason, instead of the outrage I'm expecting, she looks even more puzzled and lost. She cocks her head, a frown on her face, and she is about to ask more questions when he adds, "We can talk later." She snaps her mouth shut then, looking perturbed. Their intriguing conversation seems to have ended because Cadfael turns back to me and unleashes his fury on me.

"Don't you ever dare skip class like that again!" he hisses menacing, causing me to take an unwitting step back. "You're going to stay back after school today to make up the lost training."

"Sorry," I say, subdued. "I'm really sorry. I'm going to work doubly hard!"

He glares at me, causing my heart to clench painfully. I grimace, stepping back again and attempting to regain control of my breathing, which is becoming too rapid. The pits of my stomach are tight with a mixture of distress and sorrow that he's so angry at me. I suppose the dreams I've been having of late, with those vivid glimpses of a warmer Cadfael, has softened the edge of whatever anguish he puts me in when he glares at me because surprisingly, I don't feel as if he has taken a knife to my heart and is slitting me open. Then something falls into place with a clunk. It isn't exactly that I have grown accustomed to the pain or anything, it's that his anger seems half-hearted. He isn't truly mad at me. My heart gives a joyful little leap at that. Yes, I can see it in his eyes. They're softer, more frustrated than furious. He reads my thoughts and scowls, attempting to hide his true feelings with disdain. I smile, my dreams pressing to the foremost of my mind more insistently now. Are my dreams really coming true? They never were dreams to begin with, you idiot, his alluring voice grumbles in my mind. I frown, shaking my head. Okay, there I go again with the hallucinations. This is not good.

"Okay, if the two of you are done staring at each other like lovesick fools, I'm hungry!" Tara complains loudly, startling me.

"I'm not staring at him like a lovesick fool," I protest.

"Yeah, you're more of an obsessed stalker," he mutters.

I glare at him, unable to muster any real anger at all.

"Oh, enough with the cute flirting already!" she groans and grabs my hand. "Damn it, I'm hungry. I'll make sure you get to the gym on time later okay, Cadfael?"

Then without a word, she begins to drag me along. I look over my shoulder to see him already walking away. I turn back to the front, stumbling over my feet and not really listening to Tara's prattling because I still have trouble accepting the fact that Cadfael had been anything less than nasty to me in real life. I smile, hugging myself happily despite the current troubling situation with Doni because Cadfael was just nice to me again. Adair, Deihan, Eydis and Llyr are understandably furious that Tara and I had cut class without telling any of them. They don't stop berating us as we make out way into the dining hall, our heads bowed because we are in disgrace with our friends. I look towards the trolls to check if Doni is there, but I just see Max and Gen sitting there, looking lost and lonely. I wave them brightly, hoping to reassure that everything is okay because it seems that everybody's terrified Doni's just going to explode again, which is once more caused by me.

"Seriously, Tara!" Deihan grumbles. "Just disappearing like that after something Ca-"

"I'm starved!" Tara interrupts, dramatically dropping into her seat and glaring viciously at the empty plates in the middle of the table. "Where's the food?"

"Adair," I tug on his sleeve before he sits. "Can I talk to you later? It's important."

He takes a look at my face and nods, his anger dissolving into concerned complaisance. I smile gratefully and sit down next to Llyr, who looks at us curiously.

"And you, Llyr," I say sternly, pointing a finger at him. "You have some explaining to do, don't you?"

He pales and quickly looks away, mumbling, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

I grin, a wicked glint in my eyes, as Marshall serves my lunch – pork chops – and smirk, picking up my fork and knife.

"Llyr, you haven't known me for long, but I'll tell you this," I say teasingly. "I'm very stubborn about something like this."

He pretends not to hear me as he digs into their lunch – a gigantic drumstick from some sort of enormous bird I would be afraid to encounter when it's alive that is still dripping with blood when you bite into it – with bright, false gusto. His torture is only beginning.

AN: Hello there! So you guys probably hadn't heard from me in forever and I'm really sorry about that! I can't help my busy schedule, much as I want to update more often. I manage to write once in a while whenever time and inspiration permit me. I'm so sorry for not updating in forever and I really love you guys for reading this! (: