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The Vast Ocean

Lu didn’t stay for long, probably for good reason, as I was evidently shaken after unpacking that box. His eyes watching me as he left meant to provide sweet comfort, but the taste on my tongue was nothing but bitter.

I took the box with me upstairs, dumping it on my bed as I rummaged under it for my dress. The feeling in my hands and the material in the box were one and the same – and I found myself wishing I could be sick.

Somebody actually kept the fabric that they had ripped from me? I wasn’t sure if that was more disturbing than just the murdering.

I didn’t want to think about, so I crumpled up the note and flung it and the dress in the box.

Although it was hidden, it plagued my mind. Who wrote it? Why would they? Who could honestly be this disgusting? And what did I do to them to make them hate me so much?

Checking the time, I was relieved to see it was just after eleven. My mom wouldn’t be awake yet, probably hungover for another handful of hours. So, I took the opportunity to stay out of her way, and texted Ambrose to say I was coming round.

Since he was probably the only person that could make sense of all this, it was logical. Besides, I’d like to think he was the one who wanted to help me the most.

No offence to my other friends, but this was surely his area of expertise.

Pacing the streets of my quaint little hometown, cardboard box in my hands, the bright colors of the blooming foliage and the sweet autumn air once used to caress me with love and care. Tickled my bones, and I succumbed to it because it was home, and I thought I was in the arms of someone I loved.

But the kisses on my cheeks weren’t of passion, kindness and support – instead I sussed them out to be of misery, fury and a strong urgency for glory.

Against me. Against everything that I am and what I could be.

It was shallow, and dark, and cruel. It ached to be here, to walk these empty streets alone. To know that the dreams in my head were dying, replaced with the hammering reality. That life wanted me to end, that this skin I wore, this heart that beat, this brain that processed familiar faces and eventful situations… it was a lie.

Everything I knew, everything I thought to be true; my family, my friends. They didn’t know me, didn’t love me and, if they were dumb enough to kiss me, they’d soon realise it was better just to kill me.

Finally arriving at Ambrose’s house, I took in its stability. Must be nice to be shrouded in comfort.

Because I’d texted earlier, I expected Ambrose to answer, but apparently that would be asking for too much.

The door swung open, to reveal Ciara, make-up on point and perching a cute baby blue bag on her elbow.

I didn’t get any words out before she rolled her eyes and screamed at the top of her lungs. I winced, it was a bit too pitchy for morning.

She turned back to me, smirk settling in as she began to brush past me.

“You know, Ash, when they say less is more,” She roamed her eyes over my clothes, a plaited shirt and baggy jeans. “They weren’t talking about class.”

Taking my silence for anger, or anything at all, she smiled devilishly before bouncing down the porch steps. I had only the one thought about her: why wasn’t she at school? I thought she loved tormenting her peers.

Putting all thought of her aside, I stepped forward, greeted once again by the extraordinary décor of the Ford residence.

The calming pastel of the foyer and hallway alleviated me, as it tended to. The eye-catching gold and silvers just screamed privilege.

I looked up, in time, as my friend’s head popped out from behind a wall. He welcomed me in with a curt nod.

Ambrose’s room wasn’t like my other friends’. He still clung onto his teenage possessions, such as the Hatsune Miku figurine sitting adorably upon his dresser, and the multitude of certificates he’d earned in English class. Not to mention the corkboard and stacks of newspaper he kept in the most inconvenient places.

He scooped up a clutter of them he’d left on his bed and leaned down to place them elsewhere.

I took the chance to lift the lid off my box.

Turning back around to face me, he found it and, with my permission, rummaged through the contents. As he read the letter, I watched him out of my peripheral, slowly descending to fall beside me on the bed. It gave a small bounce under his weight.

I allowed a few minutes to pass by, as I gathered he’d seen all the evidence, before I spoke.

“What should I do?”

He sighed, as he thankfully folded and placed the note out my line of sight.

“Well, they know, so maybe the next step is informing the police. If you’re being targeted, then it’s best to make sure you’re still safe.” When I groaned, I could feel the weight of his gaze. “We could go to Fletcher’s right now and you could give a statement to the Chief.”

I scoffed. “What statement? Ambrose, I don’t remember half the day.”

He exhaled again, but this time pairing it with a gentle hand caressing my back. His nimble fingers clung to me only lightly, moving so swiftly I barely noticed.

Finally, I faced him.

Of course, it had gone totally past me earlier that he wasn’t wearing his glasses. Without them framing his face, the cluster of freckles around his nose and eyes were more prominent, ensuring me that although he was slightly older, his features could’ve still belonged to someone less mature.

His pupils dilated, just as the sun decided to remind us it was still present.

Hanging his head again, he didn’t pause his movements on my spine.

“Well. Well, we’ll figure something out.”

Will we? Will I?

I only asked because, even though we were only a few days into this, I was exhausted. I was tired, and scared, and hurt. I didn’t know how much more of this I could take, I would do anything to resume my life the way it’d been just less than one hundred hours ago.

Ambrose didn’t sound too sure of himself either, as if he and I were thinking the same – and what if we were? What if we both had reservations? What if, he was reading into it more, and perhaps had more qualms about it than I did?

I wanted to voice it, to get some sense of validation, but I found that when we connected eyes again… I saw more.

More than just a boy who wanted to help out a friend. More than just another headline, another reason to get his name on the front page. More than I ever hoped to find.

“Ambrose, I… I don’t, I mean…”

He visibly swallowed, and I felt his hand stop massaging. Instead, it raised to my face, where he unstuck a blonde strand of hair from between my lips.

His skin was smooth, I don’t think he realised I kissed his fingertip.

Fuck me, what was I doing?

Brushing him off, I approached his corkboard, waiting for my heart to catch up. It beat out of time with me, as I studied the empty panel.

Why was it so?

I was about to ask when there was a knock on the door. I wasn’t startled when Mr Ford came in behind it, dressed to impress, as usual.

“Son – oh, good morning, Ashley,” His attention wavered between me and Ambrose, as he fiddled with his tie. “Anyway, I just came to say I can’t make it to dinner tonight. I think I’m getting closer to that promotion every day.”

I went to read some of the clippings on the wall, but then my eyes betrayed me, drawn to his arm. Behind the crisp folds of his pristine white shirt, I thought I saw something. Light brown, with a tint of red. It looked kind of scabby… almost like a scratch.

I went to ask about it, but Mr Ford was already leaving, though not without a sly wink.

Almost instantly, Ambrose fell down on the bed. He had his eyes closed, but I didn’t know which reason it was for.

“He’s going to be with her all day,” Breathing out evenly, I examined him close, somewhat growing flustered when his Adonis Belt was showing only by a few inches. “There’s no promotion, I bet.”

Not bothering to test the waters, I sat at the extreme edge of the bed. I didn’t want to take any chances.

"Well, why don’t we follow him?”

He sat up straight, eyes so wide I worried they might pop out.

“You’re kidding.”

“Do I look like I am?”

When I didn’t say psyche, he just laughed, albeit uneasily.

“He’s my dad, Ash, It’s bad enough to think about. I don’t want to go out airing his dirty laundry – if there even is any.”

“But how else can you be sure?”

He opened his mouth to respond, but when we met eyes again, his entire being just deflated.

I didn’t like the idea that his dad was a cheater either, but if he wanted hardcore solid evidence, then I didn’t see a better opportunity.

Going against myself, I interlaced my fingers with his. The finger that I’d previous inadvertently kissed perched upon my knuckle.

Giving my hand the lightest squeeze imaginable, he shook his head.

Of course, I didn’t press any further.

Instead, I grabbed my note and frayed fabric and pinned them to his corkboard. I knew I couldn’t rely to keep them at my house and, besides, they belonged in a place where minds would turn upon seeing them.

And I would much rather prefer that be Ambrose’s head than mine, admittedly.
♠ ♠ ♠
Give me back my spanner!