Umbra

Umbra: Latin for shadow, shade, dark, dust, ghost.
During a solar eclipse the world becomes the area of Umbra… the area in total darkness, but isn’t the eclipse what everyone wants to see, the rare beauty and intriguing flaw? The sun, necessary to the world’s life, completely hidden and everyone wants a bit of it, even though certain death would be imminent.
The earth is caught between the contrasting moon and sun… Will it go for the sun- survival, life, warmth- or the solar eclipse- chilled, different, and ghostly?
But of course, it’s not as simple as that, there are forces working against the world and things are not as simple as saying so.
Umbra…
What will she choose: is there a choice when it’s destined?

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8. Chapter Eight

 

For the rest of the week Gracelynn up kept her 'good behaviour' to get out as soon as possible. Staying, however, wasn't nearly as bad as she believed it would be, with Zeph around the whole time and her mother there until the Wednesday.

After a few encounters Diana and Zeph appeared to get along swimmingly. There was something about his undeniable charm that led people to trusting him so quickly.

Each day he and Gracelynn would sit closely on the stiff bed, and read Treasure Island together. It was then they promised each other to share an adventure: it was just what she needed. But how could they possibly have an uncontrolled adventure in such a strict setting as a school?

"Oxen and wain-ropes would not bring me back again to that accursed island; and the worst dreams that ever I have are when I hear the surf booming about its coasts or start upright in bed with the sharp voice of Captain Flint still ringing in my ears: 'Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!'" He concluded the book, shutting it over in a clean movement.

"The end," Gracelynn turned to him a grin smugly across her face. "Zeph?"

"Yeah?" He looked down to her as she lay carefully in the crook of his arm.

"Promise we'll have adventures?"

"You mean to Treasure Island?" He kidded, standing up and placing the book away for them returning to Quinciple.

"No." She guffawed.

"Falling out of tree's?" He continued with the sarcasm.

"No. I don't really know myself. I'm just done with being stuck in hospitals."

"Like running away somewhere?" His eyebrows arched and a smirk crawled up the side of his face.

"Sure, something like that. I promised myself a new life and I intend to do it."

"Then come stay with me, Ceire and my parents in our summer house in Oxford?" He came up close to her face, expecting an immediate 'yes'. Of course, she wanted to, but after the past being careful had to be one of her priorities: her heart had been shattered too many times. Everything was moving far too quickly. Within three weeks he was offering her to stay the summer. The 'meet the parents' process had already begun, that couldn't be taken back, but the whole six weeks of summer? Daunting didn't even begin to describe it. The fact he wanted an immediate answer, or appeared so, didn't help either.

"Oh my, Zeph, it's very soon" Gracelynn stuttered not sure how to approach the situation.

"But you're only an hour away from London and I swear if anything turned out bad, I would still be your friend. Come on, what's the worst that could happen?" His face filled with awe and excitement. Gracelynn honestly wanted to. Not only would it be an experience of a lifetime but it would rub it in Adrian's face that she had moved on: that silly, childish girl had found someone amazing to care for her.

"I'll think about it, the holidays don't start until Friday. I- I'm really sorry I can't give you a confirmed answer right now. It's just I've had my heart broken before and it was really, really hard to mend." She bowed her head, embarrassed over the confession. Still he did not question her words.

"Okay, think about it then." He looked to her every slightly disappointed. Oh look, I've done it again, she thought: hurt someone who was there for her. Possibly broken another heart.

"Okay." She brushed her hair to in front of her ears, hiding her embarrassed face.

"Let's collect all your stuff together and get back to school. I've got money for a taxi." Gracelynn wanted to refuse his generosity so she didn't have to owe him any more, but if she did, how could she possibly get back to school? Zeph's car was in Oxford for him going home for the summer and Gracelynn had missed the opportunity to learn, being a sick, crazed child.

"Well, only if you're sure."

"I'm sure." He piled the last of her clothes into her bags and handed over her vermilion tea dress Diana had brought with her.

"Okay," she said stiffly, while heading for the bathroom to change for school.

Gracelynn went through a series of questions and forms before she could head for the taxi that Zeph had booked for them both, a hold all bag in his hand.

"Quinciple Independent if I'm right?" Called the burly driver into the back seat.

"Yes, thank you." She leaned forward to answer taking off the arm band they placed over her arm to 'keep it strong'. It was as ever strong since that first night.

It hit her that she would have to stay in Zeph's company for the next twenty minutes to get them back to school: how could she possibly pass time? She realised she had made a fool out of him, and therefore herself. Hugs and kisses weren't an option. She couldn't dare do any more damage to him and the situation.

The only problem was him. He didn't seem willing to let go what had just occurred.

"So what exactly are you doing this summer?" He turned to her to catch her glorious moss eyes, like the dew on a spring morning, but staring carefully at the floor he was unable to.

"I don't even know: read books, write a book, clean, avoid people."

"Me?"

"No."

"Who?"

"Adrian. Elina."

"Who?"

"My friends. Who are now in a relationship. That's who."

Feeling genuinely guilty for being so selfish, so inconsiderate, he wanted to give her a hug but it was obvious that was not at all that she wanted so settled for an "I'm sorry"

The tension seemed to build up and up until it resembled a prison wall between isolation and happiness. Silence was the only interaction that took place. And it had never been quite so loud. 

"Is here okay?" The taxi driver parked in the lot, not all too sure who he was talking to, aware of what had just occurred.

"Yeah thanks here's fine. Just keep it at sixty pounds," He handed over the money with Gracelynn's hold all. "Come on Lili." He opened the door and lay his hand out for her to take and climb out gracefully. Instead her hands fell tightly into a crossed fold. Time needed to pass to let this wound heal, that had been a previous discovery.

Gracelynn went through a repetitive series of questions and forms before she could head for the taxi that Zeph had booked for them both, a hold all bag in his hand.

"Quinciple Independent if I'm right?" Called the burly driver into the back seat.

"Yes, thank you." She leaned forward to answer, taking off the arm band they placed over her to 'keep it strong'. It was strong as ever since that first night.

It hit her that she would have to stay in Zeph's company for the next thirty minutes to get them back to school: how could she possibly pass time? She realised she had made a fool out of him, and therefore herself. Hugs and kisses weren't an option. She couldn't dare do any more damage to him and the situation.

The only problem was him. He didn't seem willing to let go of the conversation that had just occured. 

"So what exactly are you doing this summer?" He turned to her to catch her glorious moss eyes, like the dew on a spring morning, but staring carefully at the floor, he was unable to.

"I don't even know: read books, write a book, clean, avoid people."

"Me?"

"No."

"Who?"

"Adrian. Elina."

"Who?"

"My friends. Who are now in a relationship. That's who."

Feeling genuinely guilty for being so selfish, so inconsiderate, he wanted to give her a hug but it was obvious that was not at all that she wanted so settled for an "I'm sorry"

The tension seemed to build up and up until it resembled a prison wall between isolation and happiness. Silence was the only interaction that took place. And it had never been quite so loud.

"Is here okay?" The taxi driver parked in the lot, not all too sure who he was talking to, aware of what had just occurred.

The school was a beautiful sight after the bland uniform hues of the hospital ward. The ostentatious Quinciple decor never seemed quite so anticipated.

"Yeah thanks here's fine. Just keep it at sixty pounds," He handed over the money with Gracelynn's hold all. "Come on Lili." He opened the door and lay his hand out for her to take and climb out gracefully.  

Instead her hands fell tightly into a crossed fold. Time needed to pass to let this wound heal, that had been a previous discovery.

They headed into the school. This time she found people were much more intrigued in her: the girl who managed to crack the silent Zeph, the girl who seemed to tame the most erratic in the school, the girl who fell out of the tree by the mysterious blackbird. Eyes gaped widely and faces churned into bizarre looks, as if they weren't sure whether to judge her, ignore her or worship her.

"Just ignore them." His breath echoed in her ear leaving a pleasant shiver.

"Don't worry I do." She smiled, realising he was only trying to help. Maybe he did want to care for her, no matter how awkward that moment was. But she had to be careful, for herself. A broken heart wasn't an option for her: possibly a consultation with Rachael Blair, Aimee and Amina would help.

They arrived up at the west wing within a couple of minutes and she chapped on her door.

"Look, Lili, I just want you to know I don't want to force you into anything."

"Lili your back!" Rachael Blair bounded up and down, a grin unable to shift off her face. 

Gracelynn returned the favour, before turning to Zeph and letting it cool down slightly. "Thank you. I'm sorry."

"Bye Zeph." Rachael Blair stumbled, noticing the tension between the two.

"Bye Rachael Blair."

And the door shut over carefully.

"Oh Lili, I can't believe you fell out the sycamores. How on earth did that happen?" Her voice upbeat and bright until she noticed Gracelynn's solemn face droop, "Lili, what's happened?" 

She slinked onto the bed exhausted after the awkward taxi ride and the stressful return to the hospital environment.

"I don't know what to do. I just don't." She rolled onto her front, the covers concealing her face. She could feel herself getting hacked down with emotion after emotion. She wasn't all too sure whether Rachael Blair was close enough to confide in, though she had proved more trustworthy than Elina and Adrian. Trusting Zeph had already exploded up in her face: everything was going at light speed which had lead to the exact problem. Why she was in this state.

"Hey, come on Lili. Sit up," She went over to her and rubbed her back trying to comfort. It was clear she was being genuine. The least Gracelynn could do is being cooperative in her helping. "You tell Aunty Rachy what's happened." Rachael Blair pulled her into a deep hug: she could feel her begin to breath heavily into the vintage lace of her crop top.

"It's all going so fast." She muffled into the top.

"Uh huh."

"He asked me to stay with him in his family's summer house in Oxford." She rushed, ripping off the plaster. Her eyes scrunched not willing to watch Rachael Blair's reaction.

"Shut up," she squealed.

"Aunty Rachy, please." Gracelynn joked, attempting to calm her.

"Lili, tell me: do you enjoy being around him?"

"Yes."

"He's never done anything to hurt or upset you, right?"

"Yes." Her voice grew exasperated realising where she was going with the conversation. How stupid, and rude, she had been to shove his request off. If anything, she had hurt him. Yet another casualty at the hands of Gracelynn Daniels.

"You're happy around him?"

"Yes... yes, yes, yes, yes." Gracelynn jumped to her feet realising her mistake and rubbed her eyes with her hands.

"There's your answer."

"Do you realise how much I hate that your right?" Her hands placed firmly on her hips, a smile flicking up at her lips. She couldn't help but be grateful for Rachael Blair's forever pure, funny and generous personality: another person to owe.

"Everybody despises me here, Lili. Hence why we are friends, you only hate me," She followed Gracelynn and mimicked her stance. "So you're going to do it?" Her voice inflected into a high feminine screech.

"To hell with it, sure," She flung her hands in the air joy invigorating her body. Until she remembered- what if he no longer wanted her? In any way: to stay the summer, be a friend, or her partner? "What if he hates me, though? I don't think I could bare making a fool out of myself and him. What if he- if- if?" She began to drive herself into a panic. She'd have to talk to him, there was no other option, but when? If she left it, it could heal or become infected.

"Go," Rachael Blair protested, looking carefully into her eyes leaving her stiff. "Go see him," She flapped her hands shooing her to go.

"You're right." Something knocked into her head, clearing the disorientating mist.

"Always am," she called to Gracelynn as she chased out the room.

She knocked on the door franticly, emotions hitting her from every corner. She carefully bit onto her lip in apprehension, and her hands fiddled at her sides. The door creaked open to have his face only visible. 

"Zeph." She whispered out to him, eyebrows arching in a pleading manner. The least she could do is be apologetic.

"Lili." He opened the door fully letting her in. His face mirrored hers, desperate, slightly saddened.

"Look I'm so sorry for acting that way. Look I told you I've been hurt really, really badly before. I can't even explain it." Her head shook with the poisonous memories entering her mind "And then you came along." 

"That was lucky." He tried diffusing the tension.

"It was, but I was still hurt. I still am actually. I just want to be careful this time, you know? Do it right, end up in a good place." They eventually came together as she opened her heart, so close that they were merely inches from each other.

"I'm sorry for being inconsiderate, the guy sounds like a tit for letting you go." She couldn't help taking a small second out of the serious moment to laugh at his stark response.

"He did indeed turn out to be a 'tit'. But I'd like to say, I would love to spend the summer with you." The joy that flickered on her face exploded into a fire and she crooked her neck up to him.

She waited for him to speak, but nothing came from his mouth other than a smile. He picked her up at the waist, holding her in close and spun round, dizzying them both.

"I guess that's made you happy then?" They fell to the bed together, the welcome nausea taking them both over.

"What made me really happy, is you being happy." He always said the right thing, well, except for once, but people make mistakes. It sparked that horrible question in her mind: what caused him to be so lovely? And why did he care about her and her horrible nature? She knew he denied this before, that she shouldn't listen to those people, but she knew for herself that she was. It was a parasite that had been eating away at her for who knows how long.

But questioning it would only snatch away the blissful moment as the lay alone on the plush bed.

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