‹ Prequel: Smirt
Status: finished.



“I can’t believe you gave me fake hickeys,” I whispered, trying not to let anyone hear me. There was a pained look in my eyes as I reached up to touch them lightly with my fingertips. The hickeys were few in number but they already marred the smooth skin in the hollow of my neck, close to my collarbones.

A short bark of a laugh from Ellie caused the frown on my face to deepen. She was putting a sundress on over her shorts, her legs shimmying out of the denim bottoms as she zipped up the back of the dress in one fluid motion. “You’ll get over it. I mean, I could’ve given you ‘em the old fashioned way but you were totally against the notion.”

“We haven’t even kissed or made out or whatever it is that couples do to show affection. We’re fucked. Royally fucked. Who is going to believe us? I don’t even believe us. Do you believe us?” I was growing anxious and needed to have a cigarette soon. This was a real mess I’d gotten myself into this time.

Ellie glanced at the small mirror that hung on the wall, scrutinizing her appearance at every angle. “Of course I believe in us. You just need to stop being so awkward and relax. Breathe. This is going to work, alright? It’s. Going. To. Work.”

I took deep, even breaths, focusing on inhaling and exhaling at a steady pace. That’s the one fear I have about the paralyzing emotions that accompany a panic attack. An anxiety attack, as it is also known as. It creeps on you when you least expect it at times and doesn’t give you any mercy. There’s the noise of your pulsating heartbeat in your ears, the terrifying dread in the pit of your stomach, and that golf ball-sized lump lodged in your throat. Even worse, there’s the need to runrunrun away from everyone but not knowing where to go that’s safe. Safe. There is no feeling of relief during an attack; even afterwards, there are aftershocks and the opportunities to soothe a person are slim to none. Do you ever feel like you want to be left alone yet you don’t want to feel insignificant? That’s a small fraction of how an attack unfolds. It’s something I wouldn’t dare wish on anyone to experience. An attack, in my opinion, is equivalent to a deathwish.

“Ready?” Ellie’s eyebrows rose slightly as she moved closer, her fingers lacing with mine. She swung our hands back and forth. “I already told Taylor to start spreading rumours about us. I’m sure that the whole bus is aware of our relationship including Dahlia and Carter. Be prepared for some weird looks of disgust and awe and envy. Well, maybe not the last one but you can think of them as jealous glances.” She smirked and opened the door, pulling me along with her.

As soon as we entered the room, the tension was thick in the air like syrup. I imagined that every glimpse in my---our---direction was equivalent to a gunshot. Bang. Headshot. It wounded me when I felt the gaze of my bandmates, my friends, on my hands intertwined with Ellie’s. I saw confusion, shock, and feigned indifference from a few of them. Taylor was trying not to laugh, composure setting in as an unreadable expression that was eerily placid. A tremor that chilled me to the bones materialized as I saw Dahlia’s lips were a thin line and Carter had clasped both of his hands in one of hers. Her other hand was clenching into a fist, and then relaxing as her knuckles turned white. She was wounded too and I was the cause of it. All of these self-deprecating thoughts swirled around in my mind as I sat down beside Ellie, my arm instinctively resting on the couch right behind her head. In that moment, the tension deflated like a balloon popped with a needle as conversations started up again. But I still felt that current of electricity that passed between Dahlia and I whenever there was the chance that we met the other’s eyes. That current was like a tether, anchoring me to her like a boat that was shipwrecked.

“Shit, man, what did you guys do earlier?” Hayden had noticed the hickeys and I instantly felt regret as if it had punched me right in the gut. His observation piqued the interest of the others who, no doubt, didn’t believe that I would be that “type.” Well, at least in my fabricated relationship, I didn’t have a fetish for striped socks or girls in cat ears.

Ellie leaned in close, cupping one hand near her mouth with a conspiratorial grin. “You’d be surprised at the type of stuff he’s really into, Hayds. But we’re private people; not secretive, just gotta keep them guessing. You understand right?” This explanation was further punctuated with a wink. I was not amused.

“The next round of shots is on Chris!” said Caleb with a smile, raising his half-empty bottle in triumph.

I looked at Ellie, fully aware that I wasn’t giving her a moony-eyed stare of devotion. “This is going to be a long night.” Nobody else heard me but her.

“Definitely. Live it up, Ingle.” She kissed my cheek, much to the enjoyment and fascination of our friends.

As the cheers and catcalls grew louder, I kept thinking that this was not going to end well.
♠ ♠ ♠
The song Awful was sort of on repeat as I wrote this chapter.
I finished a really good book last night and that inspired me greatly.

Anyway, have a lovely week & stay safe.