“Truth or dare.”

I cocked my head and stared at Harry, eyes narrowed as I thought. “Hmm… truth.”

“What’s your favourite animal?”

“Seriously? That’s the truth you want from me? Sheesh, make this easy on me, why don’t ya.”

“Just answer, Seren,” he laughed, pushing at my shoulder, the contact leaving a handprint of warmth on my skin.

“Fine. Ducks.” His brows disappeared into his curly fringe, and I shrugged. “I like ducks. A lot. I, uh, I kinda want a farm full of ducks when I grow up.”

“That’s an interesting life goal.”

My laugh escaped on a sharp exhale, and I swatted at his knee. “Shut up, jerk. So... truth or dare?” I asked once we were calm again, and Harry shifted awkwardly in front of me, knees knocking against mine.

“Er... Truth,I suppose.”

“No fun. Okay, uh, what’s your biggest secret?”

He stared at me with wide eyes, something reminiscent of panic painted on his face. The silence stretched on between us, through the small distance dimly-lit by the lamp. Finally, he shook his head and swiped his palms against his sweats.

“I changed my mind. Dare,”

I pouted rather dramatically - I had thought it was a good question! - but then a thought hit me. My lips curved into a mischievous smile, and I leaned forward until I was sure his attention was fully on me. His jaw dropped when I told him what his dare would be, lips forming silent words as if to argue. Before he could, I reminded him he had already passed on the truth. Backing out of the dare wasn’t allowed.

He sighed heavily, muttered that he hated me, but he clambered off the bed to fulfil his duty anyway. I trailed after him, already barely able to stifle my giggles; they broke loose when he stopped in the archway to the living room and gave me one last pleading look. Gesturing wildly toward where his parents sat on the couch, I gave him what I felt was an encouraging smile. The eye-roll he gave me said otherwise.

I honestly hadn’t expected to find the utter confusion in Anne and Robin’s faces to be so comical. They were almost as hilarious as Harry bending at the waist, tucking his hands into his armpits, and clucking like a chicken - if the chicken sounded like it had a head cold.

He kept it up until his mother cleared her throat and asked what in the world he was doing. That was the approved signal for the end of his dare. He let out a final, ear-piercing squawk! then bolted from the room, my laughter grew louder when I watched rhe adults stare after him as if he’d lost his mind.

“I hate you,” he grumbled once I settled back on the bed. “Why would you make me do that?”

“Because you chose not to answer the truth.”

“My mum is going to think I’ve cracked.”

“Maybe you have, if you think that is what a chicken sounds like.”

He shoved at my shoulder, not bothering to prevent me from falling to the floor. I couldn’t be upset, though. After all, I’d made him act like a farm animal for my own amusement. And god, had it been far more entertaining than I could have hoped for.

Harry’s expression darkened more and more the longer I laughed, which certainly didn’t help matters any. I knew I risked actually irritating him, but I just couldn’t stop laughing. It was a simple, harmless dare, and I was going to take my fill of amusement from it.

A knock sounded on the door, and we both turned our heads to see Anne poking her head into the room. Her face was still twisted up in confusion, but she didn’t say a word about the chicken act. She also didn’t question why I was rolling around on the floor.

“Okay, you two, it’s time to calm down and get to bed. You have school tomorrow.”

I nodded as steadily as I could through my giggles, and she smiled at us before leaving. Harry climbed off the bed and stepped over my body without a word. At the door, he paused then turned to face me.

“I really, really hate you.”

There was a subtle curve to his lips, though, so I knew there was no genuine malice or animosity to his words. He left then, after another heartbeat of staring at me, an undecipherable expression on his face. Once he shut the door behind him, I clambered awkwardly to my feet and tugged back the blankets on my bed.

After brushing my teeth and using the toilet, I shut off the light and stepped out into the hall. A sliver of space was between Harry’s door and the frame, yellow-white light spilling out onto the floor. I tapped lightly at the wood and waited for him to acknowledge me, then pushed the door open.

He looked up from where he was readying for bed, and I bit back a giggle before clucking softly. His lips thinned; I scurried back a few steps when he reached for a pillow. It thumped against the wall where my head was a millisecond before.

Harry got his revenge for my dare: Over the next week, he did everything in his power to irritate me. Never at school, where my reactions would affect my relationships with the friends I’d made or my schoolwork. But at home? It was an entirely different story.

If I was reading, he was right there chattering in my ear about literally everything he could think of in attempts to distract me - which worked. I made no progress in any of the novels I tried to concentrate on. I tried knitting, even though it required more of my attention, but he would bounce on the bed or couch, nudge my arm constantly, and ignore me telling him to stop.

He never took it too far, thankfully, always stopping before my mild frustration turned into full-blown anger. He seemed to know where the line was and kept to his side of it. I did begin calling him “Curly Sue” more often over the week, though.

Anne put her foot down on the eighth day, when she found me dismantling the sofa and moving furniture around, searching desperately in and under everything I could think of. She tugged me to a stop, forced me to face her, and I wrung my hands around each other as I manged to blubber out that I’d lost my bracelet. Before she could say anything else, I pulled away and resumed my frantic movements.

I yanked the drawer from the end-table, no matter how little I thought it might be there. She watched for a moment then disappeared from the room. Over the roar of blood in my ears, I heard her asking Harry what he’d done.

“I didn’t do anything!”

“Then explain why Seren is out there tearing apart the sitting room looking for the bracelet I know was on her vanity this morning.”

“She is?”

Footsteps neared, and Harry and his mother rounded the corner. I barely looked up from where I sprawled on my belly, reaching as far as I could under the television stand.

“Seren, stop. Here, I have your bracelet.”

I froze, stared up at him. The thin chain dangled from the tip of his finger as he held it out to me, and the lamplight glinted off the silver. Yanking my hand out from under the stand, I rushed to my feet, hurried across the room, and swiped the bracelet from his hand. He chewed on his lower lip before opening his mouth.

I didn’t let him have a chance to speak; I shoved past him and scurried to my room. The echo of the door slam was loud behind me, but I couldn’t apologise for that. Not when my heart was pounding so hard, I was nauseous. After tucking the bracelet carefully into the pile of socks in my top bureau drawer, I dropped to sit on the bed, putting my head between my knees.

It was an overreaction. Disproportionate to the situation. I knew it was. There was no reason for me to get so upset about him hiding the bracelet from me. I hadn’t even reacted like that when he put my journal behind the refrigerator or my books in various places around the house. He probably didn’t expect such a response. I certainly hadn’t.

But the bracelet meant more to me than anything else I had. There was no logical explanation as to why that was, but it did. As much as I loved it, I didn’t dare to wear it for fear of losing it. Of losing whatever it was that made it so dear to me.

Burying my face in my hands, I struggled to breathe properly. The visceral panic that had overtaken me was abruptly gone, vanishing into nothingness and leaving me with little more than the vestiges of adrenalin and fear. Exhaustion bled through the empty spaces, weighing down my body. I exhaled shakily and scrubbed my hands over my cheeks, but the tears were still there.

“I’m so sorry.”

I glanced up at Harry’s voice, watched him run a hand through his hair as he smiled sheepishly. I shrugged and picked at a thread on my T-shirt. “It’s, it’s fine.”

“No, Star, it isn’t.” He sat next to me, lacing his fingers together in his lap. “I went too far. I shouldn’t have done that. I just, I didn’t think it would scare you like that.”

“It’s fine, Harry. It was just a stupid overreaction”

“Can you just let me apologise? I did something that scared you and hurt your feelings. I shouldn’t have done. So I’m sorry.”

“You’re forgiven.”

I didn’t feel guilty about the little white lie - I knew I would forgive him in time, regardless of the fact that right now, I just wanted to be angry with him. He hesitated then wrapped an arm around my waist, pulling me into his side, and I let my head fall to his shoulder.

It wasn’t really his fault that I’d lost the plot so much about it. We had been escalating our pranks and retaliations on each other all week, after all. It was bound to happen that one of us would take it too far. I exhaled heavily, closed my eyes.

“I forgive you,” I whispered, and he rested his chin on my head, fingers pressing firmly into my side.

We sat together in silence for a while before I pulled away; Harry watched as I let myself fall backwards onto the mattress, my hand reaching for a pillow. Once it was under my head, I rolled onto my side, curling into a ball, and Harry shoved at me gently until I scooted over.

I didn’t bother questioning it as he laid down next to me. It wasn’t long before the fatigue consumed me, the warmth of him so near comforting me. My heartbeat slowed, my breathing evening out. I fell asleep with my fingers resting against his arm.