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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4. Chapter Four

 

The athletic car jittered along the country, tarmac road guarded by tall blossom trees. There was no sign of the pungent, genetically enhanced lavender to mask and decrease the fumes which made for a delightful change.

Emotions jumbled in Gracelynn's head like letters in a scrabble bag, unsure whether to be happy of a new start, or sad of losing an old life. But wasn't her old life gone long ago? Unsure whether it was bad she was leaving Adrian, good that she was leaving behind Elina's dramatically new personality, good that she didn't have to witness their relationship... or the collapse of it.

A lone tear cascaded down her chartreuse eye like a droplet of water melting off of tangled ivy. She quickly brushed it away from Diana's peering eyes and the rest of the world, but soon realised her swift movement wasn't quite swift enough.

"Oh darling," She said to her daughter sympathetically, rubbing her back and taking odd looks off the road to her, "You know this was the best thing to do, don't you?" An abrupt snuffle came from Gracelynn as she comforted.

"That's the thing. I know it is," She shook her head looking in search of meaning, "But I don't want it to be. I wish I could go back to that day and been maybe that inch stronger. He's right. I'm a lost little girl." She dragged her forearm across her face before realising she'd most likely have to explain who said this to her now.

But all there was, was silence. Did her mother honestly believe she was lost too? But then she didn't want to reveal that kiss, argument, agreement or whatever she had with Adrian. And certainly not the fact she kissed a taken man. Even if he did 'belong to her'.

"Turn left, and you will arrive at your destination." The gentle, robotic voice commanded. Diana swerved her car precariously, not to the left but to the right into a layby and Gracelynn sprung up confused.

"Mum where the hell are you going, left, the multimedia player said left. Not a ditch of cow dung."

"Just want a talk with my baby by herself for the last time." Her face was soft as she looked into her child's water speckled eyes.

"You're baby's coming home at the holidays." She let a laugh bubble in her voice, but she struggled to keep the tears from dripping.

"Just know you're beautiful. You really are sweetheart. I love you so much. Show them what you show me and everyone's going to fall for you, okay?" Gracelynn brushed off the comment thinking, 'you're my mother, it's your obligation to say this, you hardly mean it.' But the act of kindness soothed the nerves. "And stick with your cousins, I called Aunty Julia and she says they're going to keep an eye on you." She added.

"Okay mum." It was another one of those moments where she couldn't find the words and after a moment of nothing at all Diana skidded out and left down to the grounds for Quinciple Independent.

There was a sudden change in scenery. The quaint, twisted trees sewn from the random drop of a sky bird, the long spikes of grass that meandered with the rhythm of the wind and the un-flattened surface of the road which produced a small beat for the vehicles above suddenly transformed. Majestic sycamore trees sprung up like uniform army soldiers preparing to camouflage the school, the grass was kept at a strict level and the road, no longer asphalt but a beautiful ivory paving.

The stark change left Gracelynn awestruck, unsure how she was meant to cope in this grandiose, rural complex from being brought up in bustling London. With only one thing to say she came out with it, "Mum, I love you so much. Please know that." No tears were produced due to the shock. This time was Diana's chance to be silenced and a look of fulfilment was the only emotion visible.

In front of them was the gate, the entrance to the main grounds. At either side there were two, ten foot pillars, fish open-mouthed at either side on top and strong muscular bars as the gate itself.

The car continued to glide the two of them along the driveway which lead them to the building itself, "Home sweet home, huh mum?" Gracelynn sniggered, sarcastically as they widened their eyes at the traditional, sandstone building that had at least celebrated its two-hundredth birthday. Somehow it seemed to spit out royalty. However the mother and daughter just guffawed it off.

The car was unable to make itself towards the lot before a woman waved from the main doors. She was too far for Gracelynn to make a concise judgement, but was able to make out the flaxen hair and the ivory skin and the ghastly pink freesia suit.

"Yoo hoo!" The eccentric woman wailed flapping her hand in the direction of the car. Diana drove towards her, the violent pink growing even more aggressive. The woman signalled a rolling down motion to place down the window, "I'm guessing you're Mrs Daniels and this is our brand new student Gracelynn." The woman grinned with an American accent: east coast and precise.

"Y'all be right, I'm sure excited to meet you. This place looks swell." Gracelynn mimicked a harsh southern accent which caught the lady, who was hunched over at the window, by surprise and she leapt up to a prim and proper pose. Diana threw a scowl at her daughter, how was she meant to leave with this firecracker attitude in action?

"Oh dear, Gracie." Diana chortled a fake laugh, "She's just kidding. Her Grandma used to live in New Hampshire, she loves it there honestly."

"Not far from me then. I lived in Maine until I was twenty. Anyway, I'm Miss Mulberry. So Mrs Daniels, would you like our groundskeeper to park your car?" Gracelynn wasn't sure if this Miss sickly-sweet Mulberry was a horrendous actress or a spoilt suburban princess with a lack of brains.

"I best be on my way soon, I have a meeting early tomorrow," Something plummeted in Gracelynn as this was announced. She was struggling to cope with Miss Mulberry's dreary, demure attitude and needed help in holding back her emotions, "Gracie," Diana turned, eyes deep and sincere "I swear I'll give you a call as soon as possible. Ingrid's got me booked in for a meeting at six tomorrow morning."

She sat there in the passenger seat like a four-year-old, eyes pleading for her mother to come in and settle her in school... unsuccessfully. She drew them away to look downwards seeing her efforts demolish.

"Remember, Lucca and Mia are here." She clenched her hands over her daughter's to reassure her, and added in a last attempt "Everybody's going to love you. Why do you thing I've put up with you so long, huh?" She kidded.

Maybe because I came out of your womb? She growled in her head. And why would people love her? After all she broke her best friend's, or whatever their relationship was, heart twice, left him, tried to break up him and her other best friend. Hated Diana's lovers one after another without truly knowing them, resenting her mother for months for not loving her father. She already despised Miss Mulberry for her upbringing, something she couldn't control. A continuous list flooded her mind as she realized how disastrous this new life could turn out. But it was her new canvas to paint and it was one big canvas.

"Okay," She wheezed and planted a kiss on her mother’s cheek making the best of the time left. She scooted out the car and headed for the boot taking out multiple suitcases that possessed her belongings from home.

"My goodness, a girl after my own heart. I guess you like shopping then?" Miss Mulberry squeaked at the revelation of finding common ground to break the tension.

"No," She replied abruptly, "Books, lots at lots of books. The occasional movie, food, vinyl. Medication." And the trademark smile that blushed across Miss Mulberry's face flushed away.

"Oh well... There's a huge library here so I'm sure you'll have a brilliant time at Quinciple."

"I'm sure."

"Of course she will" Diana and Gracelynn said in unison as she hauled out her sixth and last bag.

A last, long hug was exchanged and Diana jetted off down the cream brick road.

"First things first, you have a small meeting with Mr Anderson and I'll get Angus to take your bags up to your dormitory." Gracelynn could notice her losing her sweet touch, maybe she was the bad actress she first believed "Angus." She barked over to a man in his fifties in overalls tending the grass. Gracelynn could tell his disprovement and his struggle to smooth over the cracks in his cement.

"Yes Susie?" He said in a gruff tone, some natural, some from emotion.

"Suzanne or Miss Mulberry in front of the pupils Angus," She threatened. "Please take Miss Daniels' suitcases up to her dormitory, forty two west wing."

Angus flung his gardening gloves shabbily to the ground in a strong movement and raised his eyebrows at Miss Mulberry in the same way she was doing. With her six inch court heels on, she dribbled the gloves onto a nearby patch of land while he proceeded with the bags. Once her ever so challenging task was complete she headed towards the main entrance waving Gracelynn to follow her.

A gust of warm air hit Gracelynn like a soothing tornado. Her new home: the interior was multiple times more modern and inviting than the elderly exterior. Bands of pupils shuffled by in their identical uniforms before her. Maybe within a few weeks they'd be best of friends, or maybe they'd hate each other, or maybe room mates, or nothing at all?

"This way Gracelynn," Called Miss Mulberry standing in a corner capturing Gracelynn out of her trance. Nodding she followed the bright material over to a door which read "Head Master Office" in a gold plated sign. "Well it was delightful meeting you, I'm sure I'll be seeing you lots more for all the right reasons. On you go, he's waiting."

With a lump in her throat Gracelynn headed inside. There was Mr Anderson, sitting in a chair which greatly resembled Dr Hilsbourgh's. The whole seating plan resembled that therapy room. Calm, Gracelynn, breath. She thought to herself.

He was surprisingly young , possibly in his early thirties, black eyes which he looked up to her with.

"Gracelynn, Gracelynn Daniels?" He asked hand extended.

"Yes- yes." She stuttered unlocking herself from her daze. This place was already having a shocking effect on her. It calmed her she was only here for one year and then it was university, work, just somewhere away from here.

"Well sit down, I need to go through some things with you." Sheet upon sheet of paper was fed out to her, folders, verbal information. Entering school again after months out was suddenly a huge feat especially with the new concept of boarding. 

After around forty-five minutes of instructions she was released and given the day’s classes off to tour around the grounds with her cousins. Packing together all the paper work into a neat pile she stood outside of the head masters office alone. Except there was one girl, she assumed skipping class smoking a cigarette under the stairs. The unknown girl locked eyes onto Gracelynn in a threatening manner. Quickly she tried to drop her look, in fear of the girl wanting a fight or manipulating her. Eyes still watching on her the girl cocked her neck, took the stick of nicorette from her mouth and coughed out the fumes. 

Coming out of the shadows her eyes drew in focusing on Gracelynn's face, "Gracie, is that you?" Her voice kept elevating in pitch with its husky undertones from the smoking.

"Yeah, Mia is that you?"

"Shut up, someone grew up didn't they?" Mia scrutinised her cousin’s appearance looking at her hair, measurements, scent. Gracelynn couldn't stop contemplating what this school taught that produced such nut cases. "My rude, want a fag?" She discreetly took out her packet and held them in her cousin's direction. The urge to take one seemed impenetrable but she pulled through and once again brought herself into focus.

"No, just quit. I better not."

"Whatever you say frig tits." Mia said pulling a face at her cousin.

Gracelynn thrown aback replied, "Excuse me?"

"Party pooper, dull, tragically boring. Whatever floats your boat. Thanks for getting me today’s classes off. Gives me a great opportunity for a cig. Did you just get to meet Mr Anderson? Hottest thing in Quince." Her eyes bulged and she bit her teeth on the side of her lip.

"Is he not a bit old?" The memory of Will flared. He was only six years her senior, not sixteen.

"Shh." Mia winked and placed her index finger over her plump nude lips.

Was this not her several months ago? Older men, cigarettes, alcohol, a tiny frame. All of it poison. But time would tell the truth of Mia's actions.

Out of the shadows came a boy with wispy, blonde hair, similar to Mia's.

"Gracie!" He called gleefully. Lucca, but four or five years older and a foot taller than the last time they met.

"Lucca, you're so different." Gracelynn laughed in disbelievement as they hugged.

"It's called the free school gym." He kidded and they shared a moment of complete comfort. Mia lurched over counting out how many cigarettes she had left.

"I hear I'm getting a guided tour from you today?"

"Of course, only the best tour guides are provided here." He placed his fist on his hip leaving a loop for Gracelynn to hold onto.

"Uh guys. I have a- I've to go see Mr Anderson right now." Mia called stumbling backwards towards the office that read 'Head Master'. She chapped the door and bubbled a smile while Lucca appeared disgusted.

Once Mia left, she couldn't contain her questions. Turning to Lucca she came closer to his ear "What's the deal with that?"

"Oh, Mia and I may be twins Gracie, but well, she got the slut genes. It's common knowledge that she's, what some would say, pressuring a relationship with Mr Anderson, or Phillip."

"That must be illegal." Was Lucca the only sane person in this entire school?

"Of course it is, but this school, it's prestigious. Would you blow a placement here and you gain nothing? And then there's a matter of parent's: they pay for their child to go here. Some of them are psychos. They'd slaughter their children if they were expelled. And who would you believe? A teenager or a respectable thirty-year-old man with a stable job." The list seemed to exhaust him but felt he needed to prove his point sufficiently.

"I guess. But what about Aunty Julia?"

"You know what your mother and mine are like: they don't see anything, they don't mind."

She knew this perfectly well from experience, but to this extreme, no, "Is he married? Does he have kids?"

"No, he lives in the school grounds, what woman would enjoy living like that?"

"No one." Gracelynn considered.

"Exactly, so he get's with my sister." Lucca appeared blank. Surely he should care more? Gracelynn thought but his face stayed still and flat.

"What a shame." Gracelynn felt concluding the conversation would be appropriate as she herd giggles coming from the office. Plus she was meant to be shown the grounds right now, not getting the daily portion of gossip.

"Should we go?"

"We shall." All the smiles came back and everything was easy again. She often felt that she and Lucca were much better suited as twins, sharing the same traits, hobbies. He was an avid reader just like her and listened to old fashioned music.

The trip round the school was only what could be described as stunning. The outside had beautiful playing fields, capturing gardens, the oriental one impressing her most, a small lake which had more tall standing sycamores beside, a stable with horses used for sports and small forest area with pines. Angus clearly had his work cut out, but did an impressive job.

Indoors was every bit as enchanting, radiating homeliness, the interior decorators pleasing her with the bright freshness that contradicted, yet somehow blended with outdoors.

"So how was that?" Lucca asked.

"It's gorgeous I have to say. I met the groundskeeper, Angus, this morning." She couldn't lie, the man deserved every bit of commending.

"Angus, brilliant man, raving lunatic. But ever the same: a legend and a half." From the short encounter she had with him this appeared to be an accurate depiction. The creepy copycat eyes the did to Miss Mulberry were terrifying but she wasn't exactly her favourite person so added to his likability. The two laughed for around two minutes until they cooled down.

"How about we go relax in the social hall?"

"You lead the way." Gracelynn said trusting his judgement.

The hall was just as attractive as the other rooms. A few students were strewn around sitting on the sofas laid about. A large girl, a boy with a hooded jumper over his uniform, a black-haired girl with pigtails, a boy with a small multimedia player and another. Where he was sitting, he was directly facing her and her cousin. His eyes were mellow and a glorious azure, strong eyebrows sinking into them. His lips curved into a slight cupids bow as he smiled a toothy smirk. His jaw was strong and possessed impressive bone structure.

Observing his smile, Gracelynn pouted in confusion and her eyebrows came together. You couldn't forget someone who looked like him. Or maybe you could, just she couldn't. It was as if she was trying to see underwater, clear from outside but blurry in. Obvious yet not certain.

All the while, Lucca sat on confused at the sight. "All right there, Zeph?" he questioned, trying to dig at the situation.

The boy responded by placing the book he had on his lap to the side and shut it over with a bookmark in place, "All is right, Lucca. All right with you?" An uneven smile propped up his face.

"Yeah."

"Who's this?" He nodded at Gracelynn.

"I'm Gracelynn, just call me whatever."

"Nice to meet you Whatever. London girl I presume? Just wondering, where does Whatever originate from? Sounds exotic."

"It's from Wherever," She continued to play along, knowing if she did there'd have to be a winner, "How do you know where I'm from? Lucca, Mia?"

"Not us," Lucca held his hands up surrendering, "We... don't really talk."

"You have the lavender look. And yeah that Wherever, I've heard of it, pretty sunny there." He nodded his head realising he won the game.

"The lavender look?" Gracelynn repeated seeking an answer.

"You know, Londoners, they have a hint of purple, either in their eyes, lips, nails, skin tone, for you it's your hair. Cute. It's a side effect from that awful enhanced stuff they planted to eliminate climate change." Gracelynn struggled to comprehend this, living in the city all her life, and never hearing a bit about it. But sure enough, her almost ebony hair had occasional strands of purple as she examined, "They keep this kind of stuff confidential when you live there. So many conspiracies I couldn't stand moving back."

"You lived in London?" She sprung out.

"Chelsea, you?"

"Kensington."

In the corner of her eye pounced a feline girl, features precise and delicate, oozing power, intelligence and charisma, just like the boy Lucca called Zeph.

"Come here, you have food on your face Zeph," She licked her index finger and rubbed it on his cheek as he sat reluctant. A girlfriend. Just as she thought maybe there's life after heartbreak there was another crack. The alluring girl turned to introduce herself when something struck her and her cat eyes widened. Maybe she had something on her face that needed dabbed down with salvia as well. "It's her." The girl stage whispered into his ear. Zeph, in defence gave a shove at the girl.

"Gracelynn, or Whatever, this is my sister Ceire," He looked less than amused at his sister but pleased with his success at continuing the joke. A balloon of relief was let out of her, maybe he was free after all, "And as you've heard, I'm Zeph nice to meet you." His hand stuttered out to take Gracelynn's and she followed.

The touch electrified and something surged in her brain: a low concussion pulsed and flashed inside.

Her senses awoke again, but nevertheless she was still startled.

"Are you and Lucca together then?" He said, comfortably knowing the answer and Gracelynn and Lucca knew what he was after: her. The face shone the words brightly like the Hollywood sign.

"He's my cousin."

He fiddled with his lips, eyes still beaming, "What subjects are you taking then?" 

"English literature, drama, Latin, music and psychology." She smiled, knowing he was going to react to her five subjects.

"Five subjects?" There it was. But his face didn't change, "Wow."

"Problem with that?"

"No, just didn't think anyone could have kept up with my five subjects." His head tilted to the side and smirked.

"Oh," She sat dumbfounded and her fingers twizzled, "Why, what subjects did you take?"

"Greek, religious studies, history, English literature and drama." A connection was speedily made between them both taking English and drama in her head. Although she was all too unsure how to take it. Being stuck with his witty charm could very well be a blessing or become deeply irritating.

"You're really talkative today, Zeph." Lucca blasted in a tone a little to certain for Gracelynn's liking. Lucca was a great guy, friend, cousin: all the things you'd want to be. And if he had a bad feeling about this illusive boy with bright blue eyes and flecks of indigo, it was enough for her to bring herself back down from the clouds and take a second thought.

"Just thought I'd be polite, Lucca. If you join the school midterm like I did a few years ago, I guess you know how hard it is to meet people." He didn't smile, but he wasn't sad, possibly concerned. Did everyone judge you in this school if you were new?

So much for my canvas. She sighed inside and her heart stopped.

Zeph stood up with a slick attitude in his gait and went up to Gracelynn. Lucca's face produced a sour look as his face lurched up to her ear.

"I guess I'll see you in drama and English." He breathed in her ear, it was cold and magnetic but Gracelynn's face kept forward to where Ceire was fingering her hair. He continued with his saunter and headed for the door. Now his metallic attraction was working and she saw him out.

"So Gracelynn," an amorous voice chirped. Her head turned to face Ceire who had witnessed her starting at her brother, "Is there anything you want me to call you specifically? I mean, you better get that sorted out before the entire student body starts calling you 'Whatever'."

She smiled to the ground to think for a moment. Gracelynn could see herself being friends with Cerie, she meant well with everything she said and, well, didn't seem to be boy crazed, weak and annoying like Elina had proved.

"Lili, like the flower but spelt differently." Somehow a key opened a previously secure door. The name that was owned by Adrian had now become this near stranger's too. And undoubtedly her brother's too.

"Oh I love lilies! My mum used to teach me to do flower arranging, ginger lilies were always my favourite. Fiery, know what I mean? So what dormitory number are you?"

Fumbling about with the leafs of paper she found the one she needed and replied, "Forty-two, west wing."

"Brilliant, I'm forty-five. They go in alphabetical order, what's your surname?" Her inquisitiveness seemed innocent enough but Lucca appeared nerved which begun to transfer onto Gracelynn.

"Uh- yeah. Sorry. Daniels, it's Daniels." She stuttered.

"Well mines is Ellis. It's great we're so close together. I mean considering there's around five-hundred dorms, it's not too bad, huh?"

"No, I guess not." Gracelynn cringed quietly. Ceire was being so incredibly sweet, even the stuttering went unnoticed and she and Lucca were judging. "Remember Lili, your trying to be a good person, now actually try." She reprimanded herself.

Then it whacked her across the face full speed. Alphabetical? Zeph was her brother. They both had the same surname and would therefore be right next to her too. She had still not confirmed how she felt about them, but she was sure now she'd be seeing him a lot more with being in two of the same classes and living virtually next door.

Ceire seemed to be reading into Gracelynn's emerald eyes, to the centre of the jewel, once the silence erupted. And it all seemed to be clear.

"I better get going too." She slurred slipping herself up and tiptoed to the door.

As she left, Gracelynn observed just as she did with Zeph. A chunky boy walked past her and hollered like one of those shallow, athletic types in movies, "Show us your tits." making sure all heard.

It seemed to have no effect on her emotions simply replying while continuing on her way out, "Bite me." This brutal yet brilliant attitude seemed to answer, that they could be friends. After all, she wasn't a 'lost little girl' who was in need of people to choose her friends.

"You honestly don't think they're..." Lucca's face squirmed,  "normal Gracie, do you?"

"They seemed sweet, I guess, Lucca. If they're willing to talk to me, I suppose it's worth a shot to be nice."

"But they're crazy, right you know? You heard: flower arranging. What person, who doesn't have a pension, does that?!" His voice was hushed but critical. Where was this brilliant friend she had known for so long? The one with the friends, the hugs, the adventures, the advice?

"Each to their own."

"They never talk Gracelynn. Never. Sure to the teachers and occasionally if someone approaches them, but then other than that they only ever talk in Greek. Probably got some kind of mass murderous agenda going on."

She couldn't help but snigger at this comment, "Lucca." her head tilted and lowered the tone of her voice hinting to him to calm down.

"Okay, but it looked like he had his eye on you. He's worse than Ceire. Raving loon. Probably measuring you up to cook you on a spit." He exaggerated mocking himself. There he was, the happy-go-lucky attitude that always seemed to enlighten her.

"You've got a bit more meat on you, can't be that." He brought a smile to her face.

"All right Gracie. Classes are ending soon so maybe you should go meet your dorm partner. I'm along at one-hundred and ninety-six, central wing. Just give a knock if you need one." He took his arms that began above Gracelynn and gave her a tight squeeze. The amount he reminded her of her father scared her.

"Thanks Lucca." She breathed out lightly.

Lucca continued guiding his cousin along the maze-like school and along to the dormitories. A line of doors that appeared to go on forever spread down the corridor, intimidating Gracelynn.

"There's a whole other floor, you know," He caught a glance of her overwhelmed face as her head turned side to side. She couldn't get anything out of herself except from a jolted stutter and a creaking smile. "You're down to the left, I'm just along here. I'll come get you with Mia tomorrow. Just get yourself settled in." She elongated her smile and gave another genuine hug before heading for her new room.

It wasn't common for her to be surrounded with such consideration. In a family sense. What she had with Adrian was passion, not compassion. Mia was still missing after her rendezvous with Mr Anderson and the lack of care left Gracelynn feeling not betrayed, nothing as severe, no, but almost lost with how she felt towards her. But then Mia was beautiful and for someone starting out at this jury-like school someone with the upper hand on the social ladder could prove powerful.

She fumbled about her bag for the key to her new room until she found it. The air in her lungs appeared to get trapped as she considered what could be before her. All she knew was this place had some alphabetical order system, but no clue if it would play in her favour.

Before her was a girl with a lollypop playing about her mouth. Her hair looked like maple syrup drooping gracefully down to her elbows in waves and eyes like amber crystals.

"Susie didn't do me too bad this time then." The girl said with a puzzled look in a Texan accent, the lollypop now being fiddled in her fingers.

"Thanks," Gracelynn replied unsure how to react but knowing if she crossed anything out of the equation it could become problematic.

The girl was in one word, quirky: the lengthy hair with full bangs, a ring looped around her nose, a collection of string bracelets and a baby doll dress that resembled the clothes worn in World War II.

"Your boobs are tucked away. Good sign," The girl drew a circle around Gracelynn's chest which caused her to laugh. It wasn't a rude statement, if anything it was a complement in a tongue in cheek, mischievous manor. "Bloody awesome taste in books too, I had a look, mind if I borrow some maybe?" The girl skipped deeper into the room.

"Sure, just ask whenever." She replied still beaming a smile after the joke.

"Thanks, Gracelynn. Gracelynn, right?" The lollypop was now back in her mouth which blurred her speech.

"Yeah," The fact this girl had taken the time to learn her name raised her moral even more. This arrangement was already proving to be a success. "But call me Lili, like the flower, for short."

"That's cute," The girl wrinkled her nose and bared her teeth in a grin. "Rachael, 'a-e-l that is, Blair Dellarose. Born Rachel, 'e-l', Wright. But how freaking boring is that? You know, like Marilyn, Norma Jean, my old name just didn't have that... ring." She danced about the room ending up flat on one of two double beds.

"Nice to meet you Rachael Blair. I'm guessing this is my bed?" She pointed at the vacant one with her bags laying beside it. The bedding was a paled white, a complete contrast to the vibrancy of her old room. But it still had a classic sleekness that drew her in.

"See Lili, I like you, and I think we're going to get on well. I'm going to give you a chance." Rachael Blair made the 'chance' sound like a prestigious award.

"Well that's very kind of you." Gracelynn replied, being sure to keep friends with her new room mate.

"Yes a chance is all very good. But you can blow chances," She swiftly replied, "Why do you think I had a empty bed here, Lili?"

"I guessed it was something to do with the alphabetical order, Lucca Kitchin told me about." It took a moment before she realised she had just name dropped

"Lucca?" She whipped out her lolly and sat up quickly.

"Yeah..." Gracelynn stretched out to give herself more time to think, but nothing was stopping Rachael Blair's runaway train talkativeness.

"Is he your boyfriend?"

"No!" What was it with people here that caused them to question Lucca and her relationship? They had the same eyes and lips, of course they were related. And what was it with people so obsessed with Lucca's status... and hers? Her mind drowned with thoughts. All she wanted was simplicity after her previous horrific year.

"Okay, I mean he's alright himself... But my god, his friends," She mimed a strangling motion cartoonishly. Gracelynn made a mental note to remember to be cautious around them and see if Rachael Blair was indeed correct. After all, it could very well confirm their similarities. "So what I was saying about... chances. Don't change and you'll be cool." She winked.

It might have been the forward American upbringing or the theatrical nature or even the school, but one thing for sure was Rachael Blair was insane. And it was the kind of insane that Gracelynn needed. She could provide freedom, the untarnished canvas, a shoulder to lean on, someone to stick up for her. The balance was perfect as they discussed conversation upon conversation, not like with her and Elina where there was far from equilibrium. Home hadn't felt quite so homely since her father was alive. By the time Gracelynn had unpacked her several cases into the pine furniture, with a hand from Rachael Blair, there was more discussion.

And everything seemed to be beginning perfectly.

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