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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5. Chapter Five

 

The first sleep at Quinciple Independent was pleasantly comfortable, the delightful padding underneath her and Rachael Blair contributing to the calmness. The alarm had been set up for nine am in the promise of Lucca coming to meet her for her first weekend.

"Are you up to anything today Lili, because feel free to come with me?" She rubbed her eyes in her permanent dramatic fashion and fluttered her eyelids.

"I think I'm going with Lucca today thanks, some kind of football match going on I think he said." Gracelynn tried to recall.

"Oh... bludgeonball by any chance?" She rolled her eyes and shuddered.

"Yes, that's exactly it!" It came to her, "Why, what does it involve?" She noticed Rachael Blair's reaction and giggled not all to sure what she was going to hear from what she had witnessed of her personality.

"It's basically soccer with these sticks for weapons and punching. Totally barbaric. Just give me a text if you want to escape." Gracelynn raised her eyebrows in shock. Lucca was the last person she thought would be one to partake in violent activities. Then again his bulky physique seemed out of the blue.

Gracelynn proceeded to get changed, brush her teeth, get washed, everything beautifully normal. But by eleven o'clock, no Lucca and no phone call from her mother. The new people in her life were appearing to be more reliable.

Soon enough, it became apparent that she would have to take action herself if she were to meet up with Lucca, and so left Rachael Blair to go to room one-hundred and ninety-six. Along the corridor were uniform doors only differentiated by the golden number plaques nailed in place.

After several minutes of meandering down the corridor the number shone in front of her: Lucca's room. Rachael Blair's words from the previous night boomed in the back of her mind and she cautioned herself as to what she was about to expect. A chap on the door sent a soft noise pulsing through the wood and Gracelynn gnawed at her fingernails which had become small stumps as of late.

"Hey Gracie," Lucca grinned a toothy smile as he gave a warm pat on her shoulder. "Guys, this is Gracie I was telling you about." He turned his back to his cousin and gave a strong point towards her before taking his arm and putting her head through the loop that was created. Lucca had always been confident and powerful, but never quite so cocky and forceful. It took her a minute to remind her that he was a teenage boy.

There were three other boys most likely the same age as Lucca. One had a short hair, with small spikes protruding out, toasted brown eyes and a peachy skin tone. The one in the middle had eyes that pierced through Gracelynn with their small staring pupils. His slender frame and long hair seemed to only emphasise this. The final boy was olive skinned, hair that smoothed down the side of his ears and had undoubtedly Mediterranean features.

"This is Niall, Topher and Florian." He pointed going along in a line, his arm now cocooning round her shoulders. Each one chorused back a greeting in a friendly manner. Gracelynn, however, was still weary after what Rachael Blair had mentioned and so her guard was well and truly put up.

"So we off to go play bludgeonball?" Florian asked in a soft French accent. Burly cheers of agreement burst into the air, causing her to jump in surprise. Surely they were harmless, just... enthusiastic? She considered.

* * *

Lucca lead her and his friends out to the impressive grounds that had been tended by Angus recently. The smell of mown grass was inhaled and the sweet syrupy pollen roamed in the air. If there was one thing Gracelynn had noticed recently, it was the stunning weather. London was now a wasteland, the definition of gray and clouds covered around every diameter. The pungent lavender was the only real colour. Here the land secreted vibrancy and life. They ended up at a playing field marked with white lines darted over it.

Lucca revealed a ball out of his bag slung over his shoulder. Around ten more boys arrived, some with girls in hand that appeared dazed and boy driven. She couldn't help but feel out place as she rooted on her cousin, not particularly noticing the attractive physiques of the other players. There was Adrian at home. And she loved him. And they were going to write letters to one another. Just like Noah and Allie, maybe even end up like them.

Her mind was brought back to reality when the game started, branches in hand. The players’ faces, including Lucca's, seemed to turn ferocious. Staying well into the sidelines seemed like a wise plan as they punched and shoved at each other in an attempt to get that precious ball into the net. Gracelynn twizzled at her hair and chewed at her nails as Lucca threw a hit. It soon became apparent what Rachael Blair meant about the sport: pushes and kicks coming from every angle. All the while the girls at the side with her lurched over as if they were trying to touch something intangible. She couldn't possibly stop feeling embarrassed for them. And not one introduced themselves. How polite, her head moaned.

"Hey Gracie," called a voice off to the left. "Look at you at bludgeonball." She squeaked. Of course, it was Mia.

"Hello Mia," She replied, remembering the events that occurred, when they met last. There were so many questions to ask but began with, "How does Mr Anderson allow this to go on?" Something like this would never occur at her old school. There was something about London that left people strong , butcautious. You'd never start a fight without good reason.

"Phillip turns a blind eye to a few things you know." She took a hipflask out, Gracelynn presumed was filled with alcohol. She squirmed as she remembered her past. But did Mia mean the alcohol or their relationship.

"He lets you bring alcohol into school?" Gracelynn fiddled about the conversation to get an answer.

"Yes Gracie, that's what I meant." She replied sarcastically. It seemed like the appropriate point to stop the conversation and Mia sat down and called out for her brother, like the other insane girls were doing.

The cliques in the school weren't obvious to her. There weren't the jocks and nerds and goths and the dramatic types and cheerleaders and stoners. It all seemed more serious than that; blended. As if you could guarantee at least one of the people in your group would be friends with someone in another group, but another of your friends, hated someone in that group. And everyone hated each other. Her mind boggled as she continued to observe the people, more than the game.

And it happened.

A cold flash beamed in the corner of the eye: like a magpie to metal. It entranced her to the point no sound, sent, taste could bring her to reality.

Then came the harsh thump.

"Do you people not have a fucking conscience?" She heard someone directly above her, holding her neck in the crook of an arm. Adrian, she instantly thought. But no, he was over two-hundred miles away in London.

"Lucca?" She croaked, coming back to the world.

"No. It's Zeph," He hushed gently while stroking the hair off of her face.

She managed to awaken enough to find everyone around her, including Lucca whose face was poisoned by guilt.

"Sorry Gracelynn, the stick it- it got knocked out my hand and I- don't" She recognised Florian's French accent but he was unable to finish before Zeph cut back in.

"Can't you people just play normal football like others?" He snarled at their guilt tarnished faces, "And you say I'm crazy." He added before giving her a careful hand up.

She hated how everyone cared about her now she was in trouble. Except Zeph. Zeph appeared from nowhere to help her from the hit.

"Do you want me to take you to the medical office, Gracie?" A deeply concerned voice called from the back. Lucca. His eyebrows were arched in, in a guilty and saddened look.

"What she needs is a drink and a paracetamol to get rid of the damn headache you'll have given her." Zeph said in defense.

He was right; her head was pulsing at a hundred beats a minute and it drove her insane. She gave a feel at her forehead as if it would do some good, but found a small graze producing a little blood, leaving her woozy.

Zeph made sure to hold her at the arms to prevent another blackout.

"Come on Lili, let's get you sorted." Gracelynn didn't refuse his offer, wanting to get rid of thoe shallow people instantly.

The pair walked in silence while in the view of the game, however, his face seemed close to exploading. She didn't mind someone caring about her so much, but what worried her was why. Or maybe it was the sheer hatred towards Lucca's friends.

"Thank you for helping me." She muttered, her head still agony.

"It's no problem, my dad's a doctor and taught me first aid." He said with a sudden warm smile. She could feel her heart make small fleeting convulsions which left her insides warm.

"That's lucky," She giggled at the coincidence, "I hope I wasn't interupting anything?"

"Not at all. I was just about to go for some lunch and sit by the lake..." He began. She knew what was about to come. "If you want to come too?" His arm was protectivly around her waist. No longer was it her head that was pounding, but her heart.

"I'd like that." She beamed a smile. What was the harm in it? Adrian wasn't here. And there had been no kissing and such, just a hug here and there. She wasn't the juvinile silly girl that Adrian used to make her out to be, she had a voice.

The lake had been her favourite part when she toured with Lucca. Swans and other waterbirds graced the surface, gliding and flying; the stunning array of the blooming flowers and the flutter of the water enticed her to the spot even more.

He held her hand as they chose a spot to eat the picnic and they both took fleeting looks at each other like five-year-olds in front of their crush. Only the flushing of her cheeks became noticeable to her.

He rummaged about his satchel, bringing out a large water cooler filled with pink lemonade, sandwiches and for desert strawberries and cream. It came to her quickly: he had, had this organised, it was a stroke of luck he was able to help her.

"You've had this prepared, haven't you?" She cringed.

"What makes you say that?" Zeph exclaimed in an over defensive tone, giving away the truth. That smile that curved up on his lip didn't help either.

Everything felt so much easier with him, there was no need to impress, opening up meant no judging, just a caring ear to hear and heart to share.

"Tell me Lili, why did you move here?" He asked genuinely.

Her mind rocketed through a list of lies she could share: better academic prospects? No, her old school produced just as good results. She was lonely? No, she couldn't hide the truth of her old friends back home. She just wanted to? What a blatant lie that'd be. And trying to be a better person meant not lying, not being deceitful. She inhaled a deep breath before she began, "My dad, I loved him so much. And he- he got pretty down." She could see Zeph's face beginning to droop and become solemn. "He died, just before my sixteenth birthday. And then I guess I went the same way for a while." Her eyes were beginning to flood. Not even with Dr Hilsbourgh was she so honest. "But now I'm clean, I have my scars to shine to the world. Because I'm better now. And I'm proud." By now a tear was making its way down her pinked cheek.

"Hey, don't cry." He tried to get a look at her face which was now bowing down in shame. He took his thumb and swabbed away the trickling droplet.

Why was he being so... generous? She couldn't contemplate an answer. She had just told this amazing boy that she was insane. But then again, it seemed like the people who had just launched a branch at her thought he was crazy too. Maybe he was, caring about a childish girl with emotional problems.

"Why do you care about me so much?" Her words trembled as she chewed at her lip.

"Here, have a strawberry," He moved the punnet in between the two of them, along with the cream, plucked a ripe one dipping it in. He smiled a soft and gentle smile and moved the strawberry to her mouth. Unsure what to do, she stiffened. "Eat it. This isn't Snow White and the poisoned apple, you know." He frothed a laugh.

She bit into it clumsily, catching some of the cream on her lip. She looked around for a napkin to clean it off, but in a matter of seconds it happened. He was on her mouth, kissing away the mess. They fell together onto the bed of cut grass that infused the air around them. His lips were electric upon hers, like elements bonding together. Her hands touched the soft elegantly moulded strands of his hair as he ruffled his through hers. The touch of the skin was nothing she had felt before, soft yet dangerous, but not to her. Opening her eyes was out of the question: in their small bubble everything was sweeter and belonged to them. Reality would only demolish the classic fairytale that churned inside them.

Reality. Adrian. And her eyes opened. She couldn't help pull away. "Oh my god," She shivered, "I- I've done it again." He looked nothing less than startled and scared.

"What again?" His eyes turned to slits, as he was on his guard.

"It doesn't matter," She began tripping away from the scene, "I need to go though. I'm sure I'll see you soon." And it hit her. She would see him soon: on Monday. In English literature. And drama.

But it wasn't him she resented, he knew nothing about Adrian. It was herself. How could she do this to the one person who never stopped caring: Adrian? She had to tell him. Dr Hilsbourgh had taught her that. Keeping dangerous secrets only let them fester and get worse. Writing a letter to him was the only choice.

It took several disheveled minutes to get back to herdormitory. It was still an abstract maze to her but her memory helped her in parts. She floundered about with the key, desperately hoping Rachael Blair wasn't in to question.

She turned the handle and went in finding that she was indeed alone. A sigh of relief was ejected from her lungs and she scrambled about for stationary. Sitting down at her desk she began to write.

Dear Adrian

Wow our first letter to each other. This is brilliant isn't it? Just to say, I really miss you. A lot. But that's not to say everyone here's amazing. My room mate, Rachael Blair, is hilarious. A bit insane, but who isn't? And then my cousins, Lucca and Mia. I know you've not met them, but I think you'd really like Lucca. He's really sporty and likes books like me. Mia, she's really girly. My mum and Aunt Julia always thought we were each other with different colours of hair. But we're not that similar anymore. There's also Zeph and his sister Ceire. They're nice. Crazy too.

And I just want you to know, I think I love you. Everyone wants to fall in love with their best friend and I think I did. But something happened today, I was honestly only trying to make a friend. But I went for a walk with him, Zeph. And he kissed me. I stopped it, I honestly did. It meant nothing, I swear. Please take a moment to know how truly sorry I am because I know it was a mistake. I really tried my best. That's why I'm telling you. I'm trying to become a better person and I'm trying not to break your heart again. It happened and it can't be taken back but if I never told you, it'd just become this horrible monster boiling in the back of my mind. I know you're good at forgiving and I'm not taking advantage of it, I promise, but could you maybe just do it one more time? You're the one who always saves me and I just need my sins to be forgiven once more.

Ever thine

Ever mine

Ever ours.

Gracelynn.

She sealed, with Beethoven's words. Hoping somehow the melodic beauty would confirm forgiveness.

In the corner of her ear she heard a vibrating coming from her phone, it had to be her mother. She opened the phone and read the caller id. Not Diana, but Adrian.

Her heart plummeted into her feet, deliberating to answer or not. But the plaster needed to be ripped and so she pressed the green button to confirm. "Hello?" She questioned innocently, dabbing off the tears with her white, embracing cashmere jumper.

"Hi, it's Adrian, I think we need to talk." Every girl knew what that meant, including Gracelynn. Did he find out? But who on earth would tell him? He knew not Mia, Lucca, his friends, Rachael Blair, Ceire, Zeph?

"Adrian I- I'm so unbelievably sorry. How did you find o-"

"What do you mean? I haven't found out anything, but I guess I'd appreciate it if you told me." He rampaged and his voice growing even cooler.

"It's such a long story. I was only trying to become friends with people, honestly."

"Just tell me." He demanded his voice booming.

"A boy. He kissed me." Her voice drowned in guilt, she couldn't even get a chance to explain in this situation. Zeph was the one who kissed her, she didn't enjoy the warm safe, hold he gave her. No. She couldn't possibly.

"You have to be fucking kidding me. You always do this kind of stuff to me. Always treating me like I'm some kind of pushover," Adrian had never spoken to her like this. Not even close on that day they first kissed. "Well you know what, this is going to make what I'm about to tell you ten times easier," Gracelynn was now crying as if the ocean was escaping from her eyes and small weeps caught her breath. "Elina and I are moving in together. You're not around. I'd be throwing everything away for you. Elina actually loves me. She can actually say those three little words that you could never commit to. And I love her too, so there you go."

She wanted to revolt but she couldn't. The silly little girl couldn't confess her love to him personally. "You're right."

"I'm glad you understand, because I don't know why I put up with you for so long." His voice seemed to calm, realising the damage he could have caused.

"Is this goodbye?" She whimpered as the door creaked open: Rachael Blair. Her face appeared shocked but sympathetic, her eyes shaping into round circles as she watched Gracelynn snap like a twig. The last few minutes had spiraled out of control into a sucking tornado. Everything simply went from bad to worse. The final curtain call: she could never love Adrian again. Either that or lose him and Elina and her mind.

"Well I don't think we should talk for a while, if that's what you mean?"

"Okay."

"Bye."And a slam of the phone came down the line to her.

"Lili, are you alright sweetheart?" Rachael Blair quickly came up towards Gracelynn's shivering body and gave a secure, soft hug.

"No." Remembering lies weren't good and realising a caring voice was what she needed.

"Who were you on the phone to?" She soothed Gracelynn's back and led her over to her bed.

"Adrian," She held her blotched face in her hands. "I don't even know what we were. I think we were together. He was trying to screw with my mind. The stupid boy has done it since we were twelve. Then bam! He gets me at the worst time. And you know what the worst thing is? Huh? It was with my friend. I don't even have her." Another rushing flow of tears came pouring into her cupped hands. "I don't know."

"Shh," Still patting her back Rachael Blair hushed into her ear. Gracelynn couldn't believe how kindly and generous this girl was. This for sure cemented their friendship. Elina with her horrific lack of social skills would mearly stand, observe and get you a drink.

"Now he's moving in with her," Rachael Blair's eyes popped as she listened, stunned at the bluntness. "But I did something so wrong. Ugh, you're going to think I'm insane."

"It's not your fault sweetheart." She turned Gracelynn to face her, moved her hands away from her face and carefully dabbed it with a cloth handkerchief.

"But I kissed Zeph Ellis... He kissed me I mean, I don't really know." Rachael Blair's face looked as if she had been hit by a train, eyes even more pronounced. 'Puzzled' didn't even cover it.

"I hate to say this, Lili, but my god," She began, her eyebrows raised high and lips turned up in a small, uncontrolled smile at the side. "He is one hunk of meat. Crazy, but hey, so am I."

Gracelynn wanted to see this as a good thing, but she simply couldn't. Zeph probably would never talk to her again, even less than the other people at this school. And there was that slap across the face; another broken heart that she had lined up and shot. Only the pain, too, hit her. Then Adrian was gone, no more love letters to, or from him, no more sweet kisses. Elina was probably aware of the situation now, how Gracelynn was the betraying, deceitful friend. And they'd be listening to each others stories as she holds onto Adrian in their bed, in their home. When it could have been her if she wasn't such an idiotic and immature thief.

"I just wanted to paint a new life, you know?" She opened to Rachael Blair.

"And you will. I want to be friends with you, okay? You go out and get that Zeph. Better than this old tit Adrian anyday."

Gracelynn considered a life with Zepp: a life of eating strawberries by the lake, speaking in ancient languages that warped the minds of curious passers by, reading old fashioned books together, quoting by mind, a beautiful house if he ends up like his doctor father, looking at his raven locks and periwinkle, violet flecked eyes for as long as she wanted. And all wasn't so bad... as long as he didn't reject after her crazed fleet.

"Okay." She giggled softly, a grin firmly in place. The tears began to soak up and the blotches simmer away.

"That's a girl. Tell me, what happened with Zeph?" Rachael Blair panted like a bee that had just spotted nectar.

Gracelynn retold the story of the morning: of how she was hit by Florian's branch from the, yes indeed, barbaric bludgeonball, the chivalry of Zeph as he ranted, the out of the blue, completely unorganised date. That kiss; the collapse to the ground like they commanded each other, knew each other inside out. How it was all so beautiful. Capturing. Then falling, not in love, but realising what she had done to Adrian, yet again.

She noticed how Rachael Blair sunk at every romantic part her eyes fluttering theatrically and gasping at others. Nevertheless, she listened attentively.

"Do you think he'll forgive me?" Gracelynn stuttered, unsurely.

"Which one?"

"Zeph." She laughed at this sudden change of heart.

"I guess there's only one thing to do isn't there? Ask him. Room forty-four." Rachael Blair beamed a crazed look, not boy obsessed, just excited in her own way.

Gracelynn sat calculating the options, unsure whether he'd think of her as one of those girls who just couldn't take her hands off a guy or if he'd question her flight at the kiss. He may as well hate her if she was like the others: selfish and dull. But it was her canvas. An abstract mark or two wasn't going to stop her new life. By now she was calm and refreshed, mind clear as a lagoon.

"Okay." She mumbled unsure what she was even going to say. 

She stood outside the door, the forty-four shining in her eye. Her hand moved from her side, stuttering and deducing whether this was a wise idea.

"Go!" Rachael Blair whispered, head poking out precariously.

She ratted lightly on the door a couple of times and the door creaked open. Zeph stood before her, and to her surprise, a grin was firmly whacked across his face.

"Back for more?" His smile somehow became even more elongated.

"No. Why, what would make you think that?" Her face screwed up, angry that he assumed she was that easy.

"Someone still has her panties in a twist." He said in a frilly manner.

"Don't, for one minute, think that you had any effect whatsoever on my panties." She said, quite pleased with herself remembering the line from an old movie.

"Don't fool me. I've seen that movie." He walked deeper into the room, inviting Gracelynn in.

She walked in unsurely. How were they so completely equal, balanced, correct? He watched the same movies, took similar subjects, both came from London, a list could go on and on infinitely.

"Look, I'm here to say sorry." She panted like a puppy begging its owner for forgiveness.

"For what?" His naivety was almost too sincere.

"For running away earlier. And to thank you for helping me at bludgeonball and for the picnic." Her hands were clenched in a ball, kneading into the knuckles to try and find some confidence.

"Oh that," His face was poised into a sarcastic shock. Gracelynn wanted to fight back, but all that came was a smile. "No, it's cool, people run from me all the time. And people run from themselves, problems, their friends, family. Which they shouldn't. But you should always run from me." It was a slap on the face. She knew he didn't mean her depression; there was no possible way he could. But the memories refused to stay hidden away in her mind. She wasn't one to open up her heart but with him it was so much simpler, but why, she did not know. It was just something out of her control. Had he already found a burst seem and attacked at it?

"I said I was sorry." She attempted to raise her authority, but her small elfin frame was nothing compared to him, almost a foot taller.

"Why don't you say sorry to me on Saturday, here, and we'll watch Gone with the Wind, if you love your old movies so much? I have a dorm to myself." His face was perky in a mischievous way that caught her off guard.

"W-well," She stammered, meagrely keeping up the defensive tone. "I'd like that very much." Her face screwed up at his but that smirk was still there.

"Fine."

"Yeah. Fine." And she stormed out in a warm, angry flush.

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