Fifteen

☼►twelve◄☼

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I stared in the mirror, at the reflection that stared back. Dark hair, dark eyes, but not my face. The pink-painted lips shined in the light from overhead, twisting into a smile that wasn’t my own. Wrenching my gaze away, I took in the sight of my pyjamas, printed with cartoon dinosaurs, and my lilac toenails.

Everything was the same - except for the girl in the mirror. She was taller, older, more slender. Her face was less soft, and her eyes weren’t as wide as mine. They gleamed with a happiness I rarely felt any more. I raised my hand, pressing it to the cool glass, and she did the same.

“Why?” I whispered, and Sophie shrugged.

“Because I wanted to.”

Her image warped and blurred at the edges, twisting from what I knew to something nebulous. Hideous. The brown turned to black, her skin slowly faded until the wall behind me was visible through her. Red seeped from her nose, dripped down her lips, stained them bloody. Her fingers drummed a painful rhythm against the glass, louder and louder, harder and harder until -
slap! - her palm slammed into the mirror.

The thundering crack sent lightning crashes of sound to fill the room, and I clapped my hands over my ears to block out the noise. It was in me, however, in every bit of my being, and it reverberated in my bones. Sophie disappeared from view, though her cackling lingered, echoing in the space where she once was. I collapsed to the floor, scooted backwards until my back was against the wall, and screamed as loud as I possibly could to cover the cold sound of laughter - a laugh I’d never heard from her before.


My heart pounded beneath my ribs, and I struggled to catch my breath. Whispering that it was only a dream, I shifted until I was able to lean against the headboard, swallowing in gulps of air. My sweat-soaked skin crawled with goosebumps, though the room was warm and the blanket still rested over me. My hands trembled as I wiped the tears away and stared around at my surroundings.

Moonlight filtered through the curtains, weak and hazy but enough to fill the room with some illumination. Soft strains of music played from down the hall, and I focused on the notes I could hear instead of the nightmare that was replaying in my mind. I hardly ever remembered my dreams, but I knew I would never forget that one.

Eventually, the silence and isolation grew to be too much to bear. So I pushed back the comforter and scurried across the room. The music was louder when I came to a stop outside of Harry’s bedroom. Once I made sure Anne and Robin’s door was still closed, I knocked on the door in front of me - a quick drum of my fingertips followed by a rap with my knuckles.

Stevie Nicks’s voice softened, then Harry stood in front of me. His brows furrowed as he scrutinised me, but he stepped back to let me in. Stepping carefully around the clutter on his floor, I made my way on unsteady legs to his bed, dropping gracelessly to sit on the edge of the mattress. He didn’t hesitate to sit beside me, wrap his arms around me.

“What happened, Star?”

“Bad dream,” I whispered. “Can I stay for a while?”

“Yeah, of course.”

It felt… right, to be lying next to him. To feel the warmth of his arm pressed against mine. To not be alone with nothing more than my thoughts to keep me company. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply. The rapid beat of my heart slowed the longer I laid there, and I felt like I could breathe again.

“Do you wanna talk about it?”

“Not really. I just, I wanna lay here for a while.”

“Okay.”

I rolled over to face him, resting my forehead against his arm. “Hey, Curly Sue? Do you think we’ll still be friends after I leave?”

“Definitely. Just because you’re in another country doesn’t mean our friendship has to end.” He exhaled slowly. “We could write letters or emails to each other. We could IM. There’s loads we can do to keep in touch.”

“Good. I’m glad.”

“Did you think I’d say no?” he asked quietly after a moment.

“Yeah. I mean, we’re not, y’know - I dunno. Like, we have no other connection besides your family is hosting me as an exchange student. I didn’t know if, if you’d still care.”

His finger was warm, gentle, as he nudged at my chin until our eyes met. “Star, I let you call me a girl’s name. I think that’s proof that I care. You going back home has no effect on that.”

I smiled as best I could; his words were a reassurance that I didn’t think was possible. Without hesitation, I shifted closer, closing my eyes as I settled more comfortably next to him. The hug he gave me was awkward, but heat flooded through me anyway. I knew then, with no doubts, that I was too far gone for this boy. And I liked it, even with all the discomfort it brought to know that he’d never feel for me what I felt for him.

Apologising quietly, he rolled over to face the window, and his hand reached for mine, tugging it over his waist. “You’re a jetpack,” he murmured with a soft giggle.

We didn’t speak any more. All that was between us was the sound of Fleetwood Mac mixing with our breathing, and I let the silent comfort he offered bring me the peace I ached for. Letting out a measured breath, I bit my lip and wondered if it would ruin everything if I spoke the words on my tongue.

“Harry?” At his sleepy hum, I swallowed hard and, with my voice thick and shaky, admitted on a whisper, “I think I hate her.”

His grip on my hand tightened, squeezed comfortingly, and he held on tightly as I fell apart. I cried the tears I’d refused to shed for so long, let myself feel everything I fought so hard to remain numb against. All of the things I kept to myself burst out of me.

I was safe now, there was no need to hide away any longer. Harry didn’t say a word, but he didn’t need to. Him being there, his fingers laced with mine, his body solid and real in front of me…

That was enough.