"What the fuck!" I hear Matt Cook's unmistakable voice from the entrance to the bathroom. I crack open an eye and see him framed by morning light coming through a window in the hallway. I panic for a second, not sure where the fuck I am, but then the events of last night come crashing back to me like a wave. Matt's party, Matt's house, drunk, bathroom, some girl…Alice?...Horror movies? I feel someone shift next to me and I start when I turn and see a half-awake girl sitting next to me. Asteria. Shit. Her tan skin is framed by somewhat frizzy hair that has obviously been straightened way too much. Any idiot can tell she's self-conscious and unstable. Her brown-hazel eyes are like deer eyes, all round and scared. A smattering of freckles streaks across the bridge of her nose and the tops of her cheeks. Thick, expertly outlined eyebrows lie straight over her doe eyes.
She scrambles to get out of the tub and stands up, looking back and forth between me and Matt. "Why the fuck are you two still here?" Matt yells again. I shrug and he nudges my foot angrily. "Get the fuck out of my house!" The soft sound of a far-away garage opening comes from downstairs and Matt's face goes white. "Shit," he whispers, and then grabs me by my hood and drags me unceremoniously from the tub and out of the bathroom. He shoves me in the direction of the stairs and I'm about to tumble down to the first floor when the door to the house creaks open and a woman with mousy brown hair pulled into an elegant bun steps into the house. There's no sign of a party anywhere except for the two leftover guests upstairs. Matt grabs my shoulder and pulls me back, then pins me against the wall of the hallway. "Don't fuck this up, buddy," he growls, glancing worriedly downstairs. "There's a window in my room that opens onto the roof. You can figure a way down from there." He lets me go and I stifle a laugh. I've never seen the legendary Matt Cook this worried or angry.
"Shit, Asteria, you good?" he asks, turning around. She shrugs, locking eyes with me. I give her a reassuring smile even though I feel like I've been hit by a semi. "Sorry about last night. I thought you could handle my strongest stuff," Matt adds guiltily, scratching the back of his head. Asteria's mouth twists tightly, like she's torn between being treated delicately or not. I tilt my head, noticing the difference between the girl I met last night and the girl who stands before me now. She's just stiff and wound up now.
"It's fine," she answers softly, looking at the ground and folding her hands behind her back.
"Can we maybe ditch now?" I ask sarcastically, surprising myself with more edge in my voice than I'd meant. Matt swivels around to fix me with his mad brown eyes. He runs his hair through his short brown hair and then sighs, exasperated.
"See you at school, Asteria," he mutters, traipsing downstairs.
"Matthew? Why aren't you at school yet?" I hear his mom say from downstairs.
I smile at Asteria, but she just glares at me and walks towards what I assume to be Matt's room. The second I step through the doorway I'm hit with the powerful aroma of several different scents of cologne. I cough and Asteria turns around sharply. "Window," she says bluntly, pointing at a large window that lets in the only light for the dark room.
"Great observation," I say, keeping a straight face. I look around at the walls, noticing how lifeless the room is besides the piles of dirty laundry littering the floor. I hook a pair of underwear off of the floor and grin at Asteria. "How much do you think people would pay for an STD?" I ask. Her tight lips loosen and I can see the start of a smile in her eyes, but she turns away. Satisfaction trickles into my system, and I count it as win, although I could do better.
Asteria cracks open the window, and climbs out onto the roof. She glances back at me but doesn't wait. She probably just wants to leave me behind and run back to her little mansion away from her responsibilities. A burst of some feeling- jealousy maybe -makes its way through me, but I flush it out quickly and follow Asteria outside. I find Asteria sitting beside the window, peeling her heels off her feet. She glances sharply in my direction when she notices me watching, and I bashfully shut the window and, hands in my jean pockets, carefully walk to the side of the roof. It's a pretty long drop, so I walk along the edge of the house until I reach the back. I laugh when I see the clear blue pool lying in wait.
Curious, Asteria hurries over to me and looks over my shoulder. Immediately, she lets loose a crisp laugh and shakes her head. "No fucking way, Eri." A kind of warmth fills me when I realize she remembered my name.
"It's not the worst idea," I say, trying to hide an excited smile. "I've always wanted to do this."
"I can think of better ideas," Asteria points out, looking nervously at the pool. "You could break your legs. You don't even know how deep it is. Or we could miss the trampoline entirely. And what if his mom sees? And I'm wearing a dress, asshole." I shrug, my smile fading.
"I prefer not to look at the cons."
Asteria makes an annoyed noise and throws a middle finger at me. "I'm looking for a different way down. You can break your legs if you want to, but I'm way smarter than that." She hesitates, as if she doubts her own words, and then circles the edge of the house. When she gets out of view, I look back at the pool, deciding whether to risk it or not. It's not like it's impossible. And I'm pretty sure I could make it to the deep end of the pool if I really tried. But then again, everything always looks possible from up high.
"Fine," Asteria says, making me jump.
"That was quick," I say, watching her sulk towards the edge of the roof, where I stand.
"Well-" she starts, but then sighs in defeat. "I hope you know this is a terrible idea and I would never do it if there was another option. Especially not with you of all people!"
I fake a hurt expression. "Ouch."
"Sorry," she mutters, scuffing her heel on the roof tiles. "Be kind to everyone," she echoes like a robot, shocking me. She looks up at me and fixes me with those big brown eyes, but her eyebrows are narrowed and she looks completely distrustful.
"Ready?" I ask, not daring to break eye contact with her.
"Fine," she says quietly, as if to herself. Then she repeats it louder, as if coming to terms with the decision. Shaking her head she backs up, peering at the pool. I hold out my hand for her and she wrinkles her nose at it then looks apologetically at me. "I just met you, pal," she says, something like pity and a hint of distrust in her voice. Her voice… it was like she had a cold, but less nasally and crisper. I guess I hadn't noticed it last night, but it's odd and unique.
"Aight," I say, pulling my hand back towards myself. "I guess I see where you're coming from. But how can you not trust-" I'm cut off when she takes a deep breath and runs at the edge of the house, surprising me. She stops short just inches from falling off, and teeters dangerously over the far away concrete of the backyard. I pull her back from the edge, laughing nervously. "Damn, girl," I breath, not knowing what else to say.
"Fuck. Shit. Oh lord," she says, her voice high and scared. "Yeah, no, I'm not doing this."
"Sure you are," I say energetically, and then without a second thought and not really thinking about getting a running start, I leap off the edge and noisily into the pool, limbs flying everywhere. I don't exactly make it to the deep end, but at least I didn't land in the 3 foot section. My feet hit the pool floor hard and I open my mouth out of shock and pain. Burning water floods into my lungs. I push off of the floor, ignoring the sharp bursts of pain that shoot through my legs. When I breach the surface, I let loose a volley of earth-shattering coughs while weakly paddling to the edge of the pool.
Moaning, I pull myself onto dry land and flip onto my back. I give a final few coughs and suck in fresh breaths of the crisp morning air, never valuing oxygen more. "You're a fucking idiot!" I hear Asteria yell from the rooftop before remembering we're escapees and slapping a hand over her mouth. I laugh and pull myself up into a sitting position, massaging my damaged legs. Nothing seems broken, maybe sprained or bruised, but not that bad. At least I don't have much of a headache anymore.
"Maybe get a running start," I yell back at Asteria. I check the elegant looking wall of glass that opens into Matt's house to make sure his mom's not there looking on in horror as two teenagers jump off her roof into her pristine pool. She's not.
My attention is suddenly diverted when I hear Asteria scream and watch as she plummets from the sky into the pool, making it into the deep end this time. A wave of water cascades over me and I wipe water from eyes. She swims to the surface and glares at me, her makeup running. "You're a dickhead, you know that?" she says, then paddles towards me. I help her out of the water, laughing.
"Honestly, I didn't think you would actually do it. Thought I might have to call the firefighters and tell them some crazy girl got stuck on a roof."
Asteria glares at me, but I can see she wants to smile. The girl I first met is poking through. Then she looks me up and down, wrings out her hair, and walks away from me toward the road, not looking back and I feel hopeless again. Maybe she's just a bitch.
I don't know if she knows exactly where she's going, but she's been keeping the same steady pace for a while now and answering all my questions with short answers like yes, no, and fuck off, so I would assume she knows what she's doing.
She glances back at me and sighs. "Look, I don't know what led you to believe we're all besties now, but let me make it clear that we are not. Go home. Stop following me." She pauses on her dedicated path and turns around, looking at her feet. "Sorry if I said anything weird last night, that wasn't me."
I shrug, taken off guard. I wasn't expecting anything like an apology from her. "It's fine, I don't really remember you saying anything weird or anything. I probably would have remembered if you told me something big," I lie. Like a queen bee admitting to her geeky obsession with films. I smile thinking about it. I guess she never did, but I'd like to think she did. Just so I could have something real associated with her.
"K," she says, abruptly turning around and continuing on her quest to find her house. "God, what are my parents going to think? Oh my God, I'm in so much trouble," she mutters, running a hand through her damp hair.
I laugh. "Calm down, rich white parents don't really give a shit about this kind of thing," I say. Asteria narrows her eyes at me over her shoulder, seemingly deciding what to say.
"Only one of my parents is white," she says so quietly I almost miss it.
"Wait. Oh. Dude, that's like… pretty cool. What race is your other parent?" I ask dumbly, not really sure what I'm supposed to ask, but wanting to keep the conversation going.
"My mom's black," she says curtly. I pick up on the social cue that she doesn't really want to talk.
"That's cool," I say. She hums in silent agreement and I sense a hint of annoyance peeking through.
There's a moment of silence and I wither inside. I just want the girl I met to talk to me. She was amazing. I feel guilty for liking a drunk version of a person better than the sober version of them, so I ignore my feelings and focus on the present. I jog to catch up to Asteria and then keep pace with her. I glance at her annoyed expression, and stupidly decide to continue the hopeless conversation.
"You live in Haven?"
"That's pretty cool." Silence. "It's a pretty racist town."
"What do you mean?" She doesn't say it like a question, really.
"I mean if you noticed, it's all mostly rich white families."
"I don't really notice it. I doubt it's there," Asteria says, as if she's making up her mind on how to respond.
"I moved here from closer to the Pacific. There's a big change."
I bite my lip and rub the inside of my left wrist out of habit.
"Jackson's pretty segregated, too."
"How so?" Her voice is all edge and annoyance now. I kick myself mentally. What the fuck am I doing?
"Everyone sticks with people like themselves. We have this whole moto of diversity and appreciation, but nobody really notices how they stick to people who look and act like they do."
"So you're saying you're better than my friends because you have a token black friend, a token Asian friend, a-"
"What? No," I say laughing.
"Uh huh," she mutters. "Jackson isn't as segregated as you think it is." She turns away from me and looks down an empty street of cookie-cutter houses. "Where the fuck…" I hear her mutter under her breath.
"Asteria… do you even know where you are?" I ask.
"Shut up," she says pridefully. She takes a few unsure steps and then turns and speed walks down another street until she gets to a small park in the middle of a circle of suburban houses. She sheepishly looks at me. "Ok, fine. I don't know where the fuck I am."
I stifle a smile and then sit down on a park bench. "I can hook you up with a ride," I offer. She looks suspiciously at me and then sits down on the opposite side of the bench. "My sister could pick us up. You live near Vixen Court?" I ask, although I'm not even sure she knows where that is.
"Kind of," she says quietly.
"Great!" I say and text my twin sister Nyx. We wait in uncomfortable silence, Asteria's heels keeping the distance between us. A little kid walks by, practically pulled along by his dog almost two times bigger than he is. I let my head fall back and close my eyes, listening to the sounds of dogs barking and birds chirping. I busy myself with naming the different kinds of birds, a habit I picked up from when I was 6 and got a bird watching book for Christmas.
"Your ankle okay?" Asteria asks softly, surprising me. I stare at her for a few seconds before realizing what she said.
"Uh, yeah. Yeah, it's fine," I say, laughing a little.
"You laugh a lot," she says, still not looking at me.
"You don't laugh enough," I shoot back, smiling.
She turns and looks at me then offers up a dry, sarcastic "Ha" and then her lips turn up into a loose, genuine smile. Her eyes sparkle and she looks like she's about to say something, but then a big black Mazda loaded with bumper stickers of every kind pulls up in front of us on the curb and Asteria jumps slightly.
The window on the passenger side rolls down ominously and I crack a smile when I see Nyx twirling her white-blond hair into a petite bun on the top of her head. "Get in loser, we're going shopping," she says, not bothering to look at me.
"Mean Girls," Asteria murmurs, then realizes what she said. Her cheeks go red immediately and I laugh.
I hop off the bench and sidle over to the window. "Can you give my friend a lift?" I ask in the sweetest voice possible. "She's really cute," I add, winking. Nyx glares at me, then leans over to get a look at Asteria.
"She looks like a bitch," she mutters, her voice raspy as always. "And I am not an uber."
"C'mon, please?" I push.
Nyx heaves a long, dramatic sigh and then pops open the door. "Fine." I smile gratefully at her and then wave Asteria over. "Dick," Nyx adds spitefully. I slide into the passenger seat and turn the volume up. Sedona by Houndmouth is playing, and I sing along, much to Nyx's annoyance. I keep catching her glance at Asteria through the rearview mirror and then at me, unsure. Eventually we get to Vixen Court and I turn to look expectantly at Asteria, who seems to have zoned off.
"Where ya headed, ma'am?" I ask, tipping an invisible hat. She rolls her eyes and feeds me directions quietly. Once we get to her neighborhood Nyx and I stare in awe at the towering mansions around us.
"You sure you live here?" Nyx asks sarcastically. Asteria doesn't say or do anything and I glance between her and Nyx trying and failing to figure out a way to break the mild tension.
"This one," Asteria pipes up from the back, and darts out of the care before Nyx even has time to put it into park. "Thanks," she mutters, jogging to the garage and punching in the code. She glances behind her, gives me a surprising smile, and then vanishes as the garage door closes behind her.
"Nyx. We can go now," I say when I notice Nyx gaping at the mansion.
"You hooked a good one," she mutters, smirking. I make a sour face, not knowing what to say and ending up not saying anything. She pulls away from Asteria's house and out of the neighborhood, back into the maze of suburban, one-story, cookie cutter houses. We get to my house and she glares at it, not daring to park in the driveway. "Mom home?"
"Probably not," I answer, looking at her questionably.
"Aight. You need a ride to school, too?"
"Sure, I guess. Thanks, Nyx," I add.
"Yeah, whatever. Beats hanging out with Dad," she lets go of the wheel and pulls on her shirt sleeves to cover all of her hand except the tips of her fingers.
"Johnson's on break?" I ask, surprised.
"Teacher work day," she says.
"In the middle of the week?" I ask, suspicious.
"Yeah," she shrugs, her voice higher than normal.
"Seems a lil sus," I say, grinning.
She answers with a shrug and a smirk. "Go get your school stuff."
A/N: lol so it turns out i didn't update as much as i thought i would over break haha.. but anyway, here's chapter four, i should probably pick up writing this i miss that feeling of having some story to work on yk? if u know, u know.. anyway, imma have a pretty hectic life til summer, then i'll have a bit of free time so i'll write and stuff :)
lov reviews, tell me what you think, leave a little constructive criticism, it rlly makes my day to hear from u guys :))