There's a special magic that hides, ducking and weaving through days and nights. It's the cold, not bitter but brisk, that settles around brown, thinning trees, that collects itself to thicken in the thorough darkness of autumnal nights. Through the crusts and shells of fallen leaves, it finds its way by crawling on needle-like, spidery legs, to find my nose, that reddens, and stings my fair cheeks.
The sky was a thick shade of gray that hung in the air like a constant fog. The wind was a wild thing, messing my hair so it worried at my face.
I pushed open the wooden front door and submerged myself into the warm inside of the foyer. "I'm home," I called out, quite simply. I unwrapped the thick beige scarf from my neck and kicked my shoes off on the rug. "Mom?"
There was no reply. I walked through the empty living room across the always-creeking wooden floor. I called for my mother again and wasn't surprised when there was no answer.
Once in my bedroom, I tossed my leather backpack 2onto my bed and shrugged off my green canvas jacket, hanging it on the hook next to the dark wooden door. A stagnant chill hung in the air and I made way to the window, wiggling the mouse of my computer on the way there.
The window was a sad thing. The wood was withered and wrinkled with age, curving into lines and knicks that told stories that I didn't know. It barely secured the thin glass between its panels and did nothing to keep out the frozen promise of winter.
I did my best to push the towels I kept there further into the sill, my thin fingers shoving it into the crack where the frame didn't meet the bottom.
My room was a simple thing, covered in books and not much of anything else. My twin bed with the soft suede covers, the closet that spilled open with thrifted and vintage threads, the pots on my desk that were overgrown with herbs and aloe. The corner dedicated completely to an eisel and stacks of canvas, the paint splashed wooden floor. The walls were a soft violet that matched the gauzy curtains and pillows on my bed. Two white book cases stood next to my closet and sulked with the weight of novels and textbooks, stories and paperbacks.
I sighed. This was a lonely room.
I sat down at my desk and waiting for my laptop to come to life. I pulled my heavy blond hair off my shoulders and twisted it into a bun of sorts atop my head. The screen on my Mac twisted into the homepage and I started my music.
This was the routine. Wake up too early, make it through the school day as a zombie, homework, work out, make dinner, read, stay awake too damn late.
My door opened just a crack and my cat's fluffy grey body wiggled through. Mia looked up at me with curious blue eyes and stood near my feet, begging to lay in my lap. "Oh, sweet girl," I said to her, lifting her to my chest. Mia purred loud enough to compete with my music.
"Adria? Are you home?" My mother's voice came from down the hallway. Seconds later she was in my doorway, dressed in her blacks. "Oh, you are. You're later than usual."
"I don't have my car," I reminded her. "I walked home."
To that, my beautiful mother made a face. "That's my fault, isn't it?" It wasn't a question. I nodded apologetically.
"Right. I'll get on that." She moved to hug me around the shoulders with a thin arm, careful not to disturb Mia. "I have to be at the concert hall in 20 minutes, I really do have to go. I hate leaving you without a car." She released me and kissed my forehead. "I'll be home before 1. I love you."
"I love you, too, Mom." I told her. She left me then, closing the door behind her. Mia moved to jump to the floor.
"I really don't have homework," I thought out loud. It was a Thursday, so I didn't have anywhere to be. Yoga on Wednesdays, Pilate's on Sundays and therapy on Tuesdays. Thursday was usually a good day for me.
I stood from my desk to check my phone, tucked in the front pocket of my backpack. The green light flashed in the corner. A text from Gian asked me if I wanted to grab dinner with Jace, and one from my cousin reguarding our plans for the next weekend. I called Gian, not wanting to go through the informality of a text message. He answered on the second ring.
"Hey," he started. His voice was low and inviting. "What are you doing tonight?"
I laid down on my bed and stretched my sore legs. "Taking my favorite Bengal tiger to meet up with his friend the moose. Why, what are you doing?" I had meant it as sarcasm, but he took it jokingly. Dinner with Gian was never actually a good plan.
"Come to dinner with us. My parents made the reservation and went out of town for work. Prepaid and everything. Come with us, Addie."
I made a face. I really had no excuse not to go besides the fact that I didn't want to. I rubbed at my temple. "What time, Gian? I'm tired, I don't want to get home too late. Plus I probably look like shit."
"I'd pick you up in half an hour and I could have you home before 9. Fair enough? I know you want to, Adria. Free food."
He had me on that. I exhaled my defeat. "Fine. But if I'm not home before 9, I will royally and personally kick your ass. See you in 30." And with that, I ended the call.
I regretted my choice almost instantly. Gian and I had been best friends growing up, all the way through junior high. In high school, we had went our seperate ways for the first few years until we were put into the same AP Art History class junior year and magically became friends again. But now it was senior year. Gian had a history with drugs and alcohol abuse that I didn't respect and he hung out with people I didn't get along with. Gian was blessed with dashing good looks, way too much money and way too much freedom to make his own choices.
I sighed and pushed myself off the bed. I was dressed in simple black leggings and a flowey grey shirt, and knowing Gian's parents, the restaraunt was probably dress-coded. I sifted through my closet and rescued a black pencil skirt, soft grey tights and a loose grey knit sweater. I pulled my hair up into a cleaner bun, brushed some mascara over my dead eyes and slipped into a pair of simple beige flats. I stuffed my wallet, phone and house keys into my favorite dark leather clutch, slipped back into my canvas jacket and wound the same scarf around my neck.
I still looked dead.
I kissed Mia's sweet, soft fur and placed her down onto my bed.
Gian was honking impatiently in my driveway. His black Mustang looked too out of place next to my antique castle house. I saw Gian's best friend, Jace, in the back seat. I climbed into the front as gracefully as I could.
"You look great," Gian started. I shot him a look that stopped him from making any other mistakes. He was dressed sharply in black slacks and a dark green sweater, layered under a brown leather jacket that screamed money. His sleeves were pushed up to expose a gold Rolex.
"Alright then." Gian pulled out of the driveway recklessly, probably leaving skid marks on my sidewalk. A Coldplay song whispered out through the speakers.
Behind me, Jace coughed. I didn't know if it was genuine or forced with the intention of getting my attention, I assumed the former. I didn't know much about Jace. I knew he used to be captain of the lacrosse team before he started hitting the bong. He had long blond hair that hung too far into his face for my taste, and stoney brown eyes that lead nowhere. He screamed douchbag to me. He had a reputation as a womanizer, more so than even Gian.
"So how is Mia?" I could at least admire Gian's effort at creating small talk. He had been with me in the eighth grade when I bought her from a vendor at the fair for six dollars.
"She's very well, thank you. She has some seasonal allergies right now, but it's nothing to worry about." A long, awkward pause hung stagnant in the air of the cab. Jace coughed again. I shifted in my seat.
"So I heard Nicole Friedrichs sent a nudie to Kyle Polson." I really hoped Gian was talking to Jace and not me. He drove through downtown as any teenage boy would, unobservantly and fast. Jace made a sound offering his interest.
"Really? I always thought she was kind of ugly." Jace laughed. "Something about her teeth."
"I think she's hot," Gian argued. Another silence enveloped the car. Gian drove onto and off of the highway and into the city. I realized then I didn't even know where we were.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"The new seafood place up here, the Hebrem. It's really good, Adie, don't worry."
I made a face. "You know I don't eat meat, Gian."
"Oh, c'mon. There will be a salad option or something. Don't worry. Plus, fish isn't meat." He stuck his tongue out.
"It has a face," I challenged. He was quiet after that. Gian pulled into a small place, a building with big glass walls and black frames. It looked sleek and modern and all together uninviting. I climbed out, careful not to let my skirt up. Gian offered his arm and, respectfully, I took it.
Inside, the walls were thin and a cold shade of eggshell. The vases that cluttered the tables and front desk were bright accents of dark purple and orange. The redhead hostess seemed overly excited when she saw Gian and Jace. "Table for two?" She asked, batting her lashes.
"Three," Gian corrected. "We have reservations under Bardakian." The hostess eyed me and sneered.
"Right. Three." She lead us to the table furthest into the corner, her hips swiveling far too much to be natural. I didn't like this girl. "The specials today are cream of carrot with walnut and Alaskan salmon with wild rice pilaf on a bed of greens." She licked her lips before looking back at Gian. "Can I start you off with something to drink, Mr. Bardakian?"
"I'll take a gimlet, hard." He pointed at me. "She'll take a black tea with lemon." The waitress glared at me through the corner of her eye and scribbled the order down onto her notepad. Gian knew me too well.
"I'll have a martini. Dirty." Jace winked at her. She blushed.
"Your waiter will bring those out shortly," she gave a smile and turned on her heal. She gave me a bad feeling.
"So I'm assuming your family's known around here?" I asked. I pulled off my jacket and set it on the back of my chair.
"What makes you say that?" He retorted. He, too, shrugged off his jacket. Eventhough he was Gian, I had to admit that sweater looked great on him. It hugged his built shoulders and softly hinted at his hard chest.
"Gian, she didn't even card you." That must have been one of the many perks of being a Bardakian. Everyone knows who you are, who your parents are.
Gian shrugged it off. Jace looked too relaxed in his chair across from me. A rumble of bass line music poured through hidden speakers, too loud to be comfortable. I shifted in my seat.
I started to tune it out. Until the waiter came.