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.
What will she choose: is there a choice when it’s destined?


6. Chapter Six


The week had been, to say the least, interesting for Gracelynn. The majority as such being positive, the painting beginning to grow beautifully. The classes vastly exceeded her expectations, multiple times more than in London: Latin captured her mind; music excited her, the grand piano being the most magnificent instrument she had played and the violin too; psychology enlightened her, but then there was English literature and drama. Magnificent. Engaging. And of course Zeph.

Flirtations were uncontrollable during their shared classes, the gravitating connection pulling them together making it unbearable to resist. The reactions of the students varied from group to group. Lucca's friends appeared appalled, yet wouldn't, or possibly couldn't, shun Gracelynn for she was their friend's cousin. Losing Lucca, the logical, calming one, in their group could prove damaging. Rachael Blair's seemed fairly oblivious to the whole situation, but welcomed her in with open arms along with her friends, apparently something uncommon. Those that were uninvolved seemed to each have mixed emotions, of course, nothing could be universal in a group of friends; someone had to have a different opinion to each other. Although drama was the last thing Gracelynn ever wanted in her new predicament, it was nice to be the subject of gossip, to be noticed. Blending in was her speciality in London, only ever being noticed due to her and Adrian's special relationship.

But who could blend in with the charcoaled haired, azure blue eyed, crazily smiled, tall boy they called Zeph fiddling with their hair, talking to them, carefully touching the nape of their neck, ears, waist and giving modest yet gentle kisses on the odd occasion? Really, what a stupid question.

* * *

"Is this dress okay?" Gracelynn stared, observing the situation in the mirror, analysing each inch of her body, hair smile, outfit.

"Gracelynn, chill." Rachael Blair chuckled as she sat on her bed along with Amina and Aimee, holding their hands tightly together. "You look real cute. Why are you panicking so much? You're not like this at all."

It was true, Gracelynn had spent her whole life attempting not to conform to the mould as well as being independent. But everything was so new, good, healthy. Losing it, losing Zeph, could be the last chip to her sanity... again. 

"You're right." She shook off the nerves and twizzled the buttercup material of her dress with daisies printed on. Maybe it was okay to feel like the princess, the damsel in distress, just this once.

"You look almost as pretty as Aimee." Amina kidded as she turned to Aimee, her girlfriend, and placed a small, modest kiss upon her lips. Her dry humour had proven to blend in well with Gracelynn's.

The couple had been friends with Rachael Blair for the last four years. If it weren't for their appearances you'd think the three to be triplets with their mad hatter and dramatic personalities.

"I'm flattered Amina, I'll let you know if I change teams. But for now, just stick with Aims." She attempted a smile while ruffling the citrus material in her hands. Shivers were pulsing up and down her arms with nerves and excitement.

Amina and Aimee were so perfect together, it almost left Gracelynn jealous. She admired the way they did whatever was natural, not what others wanted. And the fact that they were gorgeous didn't go amiss; Amina with her spiralling coils of hair and Asian features, Aimee's prissy, delicate eyes and lips and contrasting bold opinions.

She had discovered during the week they originated as best friends since the age of six. They would play dress up, tea parties, Barbies like any other pairing of little girls would. All that changed two years ago. Gracelynn found it romantic, how they fell in love with their best friend and how it was so real. And then how she began writing the letter to Adrian, how she could write down the words, how she found the best thing in the world, love, in the safest and most brilliant of places, but could never say it. So for that, she admired the strength they possessed together.

The three proceeded to comfort and prepare her as she readied herself for the date, or whatever the gathering was with Zeph. Gracelynn wasn't all too sure herself. The only emotion she could feel inside was enchantment. As if something magical was starting. It terrified her through and through the fact her defences were down and how different she was around him. She was a better person, but weaker and less careful.

It was all so different than it was with Adrian. With him, she had to fight to show love and sincerity. He'd always point out her flaws; the weakness, the way she broke the hearts of those she loved, self hatred. The list could go on indefinitely. With Zeph these flaws were transformed into something good. It combined them.

"So what is it you two are exactly getting... up to? Ahem." Aimee flashed her dark nature.

Shocked and embarrassed Gracelynn replied, "Nothing!" Her mouth open wide in shock, "Nothing, just a couple of friends watching Gone with the Wind."

"Oh, Gone with the Wind," Amina said in a sassy voice, "I got my gaydar on, Lili, and it's tingling." She polished off with a snap of her fingers.

"Nobody actually knows him that well. For all we know Gracie, he might be hiding a closet, excuse the pun, full of vintage Chanel, Louboutin shoes and a whole load of gay." Aimee joined in on the banter that Gracelynn had learnt not to take too seriously.

"Can't be, I've seen tongue action." Rachael Blair contributed.

"Rachael Blair I expected more from you," Gracelynn by now was in stitches, laughter, realising how incredibly happy she was now. "I should go now. I guess."

"Use protection sweetie." Amina hollered as she headed for the door.

"Whatever you say."

She found herself in the same position as the previous week: that beaming number flashing in her face, leaving her intimidated and thinking of all the possibilities that could go wrong. Her hand moved towards the door to knock but was unable to make it before it became ajar.

"Hi." He smiled that smile that seemed to crack her heart.

"Hey." She hesitated, struggling to find the smile through the nerves. There wasn't any time to think before he was leading her by the hand to the heart of his room. She couldn't believe it: her eyes burst open at the shock of what was before her, the enchantment shooting through to the sky.

The room was decorated by candles on almost every surface and rose petals pillowing the bed. The television was set up and the movie was ready to play. How could everything with him be so perfect and blissful? Amina's words rang in her head, maybe he was gay? But the kisses and soft touches were beyond authentic.

Gracelynn's emerald eyes glistening with magic, enchantment that lay before her. Her arms lay softly at her side as the shock left her body limp.

"Oh my god Zeph." She turned, her mouth gaping in awe.

"Like it?" He asked, while sweeping his arms under her legs, like a prince charming would do to a princess.

"Like it?" She exclaimed as if he were a fool to question it. "It's gorgeous. But why are you being so nice to me?" She smiled softly holding onto the contours of his face, observing every part and emotion.

"I don't know who it was that kept telling you that you were a bad person but please, don't listen to them," He said while releasing her carefully on the bed. "Lili, you're one of the few people who actually talked to me here, you don't judge a single soul, you're one of the funniest people I've met. You're beautiful." He drew back a stray hair that lay on her face.

She couldn't find anything to reply with other than a smile and a kiss. She had noticed herself doing a lot of that; smiling and kissing. It was much more preferable to tears and blood.

She could smell the delightful roses linger on his skin that always felt so dangerously protective.

"Okay, okay, the movie?" She found herself dragging off reluctantly with light kisses dotted in between each word.

He went over to the television to turn the movie on. The room was silent but the connection between them surely buzzed as they sat watching the movie hand in hand.

"You know, Scarlett really did deserve someone amazing." Gracelynn observed, she couldn't help  but sympathise with her.

"I guess she just didn't find him. I don't think many people do really. I see it that, sure people can be content with many different people. They confuse that with love. Love is only found with one person." His words rung in her mind as she recalled her life before with Will. She believed she loved him, the false love he gave her as she was at her lowest point, she felt it was all she deserved. Maybe it was. And of course there was Adrian. She thought she loved him, she was almost certain. But he had assured her she was wrong. And then came along Zeph; charming, exceedingly perfect for her, quixotic. Why did she deserve him? The thought plagued her mind. She wasn't all that he made out to be.

"Those people who do are sure lucky." She replied before leaning her head upon his while continuing to watch the movie. Everything was so serene and the nerves that had appeared earlier had somehow vanished.

Slam. It came from the corner by the window.

The tranquil moment ended as Zeph pounced up to where it had came from.

"Wait on the bed, Lili." He said, caution in his voice, as he lifted up the window.

Outside a wolf call blew through the cool English summer breeze. She could here him mumble some short sentence but nothing quite clear enough for his words to be audible.

She fidgeted as she on watched at him look out the window for evidence of what had just occurred.

There was a sudden blow coming from outside, knocking over one of the lit up candles and hitting Zeph. He crouched over in pain, gripping onto his left hipbone. The candle was lying on the magnolia carpet, turning it into toasted ochre. Suddenly, Gracelynn sprung into action, taking a pillow and snuffing out the candle, cooling it down with a jug of water on the desktop, then proceeded to Zeph.

"Jesus, Zeph, what happened, are you okay?" She panted, losing her breath in the shock. He sat silent gripping his hip in pain. She speedily took his shirt off to get a closer look. In the spot of impact there was a small dent with blood and a bruise framing it.

"Hey, I don't think I've had a girl take my clothes off on a second date before." She laughed at his joke and his inappropriate timing. She rushed off to the bathroom to get a damp face cloth to clean the wound. As she dabbed it on the cut she could tell the pain was cooling down.

"Zeph, what happened?" She repeated, hoping now the pain had calmed he may be able to speak.

"It's too dark I-I"

"Zeph. Please."

He seemed to consider many options before concluding on one.

"I think it was Niall, Topher, Florian. I think I heard some girl voices too." A bubble of anger grew inside her as she heard of their betrayal. They wouldn't hurt her, of course, Lucca was too important and necessary in their group, but they had found a way to get to her, through Zeph. It was all so unnecessary and spiteful. She kissed softly onto the bruise, not a movement came from his body. Maybe pain had the same effect on him as it did with her when she cut. Sobering, touching, that made everything so real. But she couldn't let herself think that she had just caused him to feel the same as her.

"Right, I'm going over there. It needs to stop, Zeph you're a good person, you have done nothing wrong." She stood up frustration becoming evidently stronger.

"Gracelynn, no they'll only hurt you. Your new, don't give them a reason to have something against you for the next year." He tried to convince her unsuccessfully.

"Zeph, everyone's going to realise they hate me soon enough. I may as well do the right thing for one person, and besides with Lucca being my cousin they won't do much."

"Lili, do you realise how stubborn you're turning out to be?" He kidded. She new he was being caring with the grin upon his face and the warmth in his voice. She couldn't deny it herself, if she wanted something, and it was what was right, she'd go and do it.

She bulleted up the corridor, her not-so-threatening floral, xanthous dress in swing. How could her brilliant, friendly, kind cousin be associated with such cruel people? They had for sure left him with a small scar with the stone or whatever they threw. That was the other issue: Gracelynn was all too unsure what had taken place, but she knew there was someone injured and that was enough for her to reprimand those who caused it.

She pounded forcefully on the door leaving Lucca startled inside.

"Lucca." She called at a medium level before raising her voice and shouting once more.

"Gracie, what's wrong?" He questioned, not all too sure about her disappointed face.

"I need to come in Lucca." She demanded while slipping herself into the room. There they were, sitting on Lucca and Topher's beds.

"He's injured you know. I hope you're happy." She placed her hands on her hips trying to gain authority, but looking no more powerful than a Stepfords wife. Their faces grew perplexed as they looked to one another.

"What are you on about Gracelynn?" Niall asked, his nose screwed up.


"Zeph?" Topher replied with a laugh that drove her even angrier.


"What's happened to the nutter now? And what's with little miss suburbia here." He continued and floated his hand around Gracelynn's silhouette.

"I don't think he's the nutter, he's not the one throwing stones, or whatever it was, at people." She could feel herself becoming frustrated and Lucca's silence began to concern her. "Lucca?" She muttered.

"Honest Gracie, they've been here talking about today's bludgeonball. We won today." Although he was sincere it made the frustration even worse, the fact they were still playing that neanderthalic game. But she had known her cousin long enough, almost her whole life, to know that he was one to be trusted and truthful.

Somehow she remembered: I just want to be a good person. It wasn't her fight to fight, or at least not become so defensive over. Zeph was a big boy after all. And she wasn't a silly little girl that flapped over a boy. Her defences lowered, arms fell to the side and her face became soft.


"I promise Gracie." Lucca gave her one of his signature hugs and it felt like home.

As she held him back, she leaned to his ear to whisper, "I really, really like Zeph, Lucca. Please can you try to see that. He's amazing I swear."

He let the hug loosen before he gave a light nod to confirm. This was how Dr Hilsbourgh taught her to cope, through communicating not violence and arguing. "I'm glad you're happy here Gracie." She really loved her cousin, she really did. Maybe at times he was lead by peer pressure. But she always loved him.

Gracelynn left the room not too certain about what had just occurred. Zeph had been able to tell that it was them, or so he thought. Did he just not see correctly? Was someone trying to stitch them up? Was he trying to stitch them up? But how could he, he had the injury to show? Was Lucca lying? Drama was something she didn't want in her life. But somehow it chased her.

The only thing she could possibly do is go to Zeph again and, somehow, go on from there. She needn’t chap on the door for she left it unlocked for her return.

"Zeph. Are you sure it was them?" She questioned, not sure too how it would come across.

"No. I just thought I saw Florian's long hair." He was standing up perfectly fine by now as he sauntered over to a confused and disorientated Gracelynn.

"Oh okay... They said they were discussing today's bludgeonball." She said with disgust in her voice and spread out her arms to hold his body into hers. She couldn't help but asses the situation in comparison to the previous relationships. With Will he would have undoubtedly brushed her off or demanded more. There was no sweet, caring middle: either nothing or raw passion, minus love. With Adrian the same would have occurred; his secretive yet possessive nature could have led to an argument.

But the next thing that happened was so beautifully refreshing, she couldn't help but fall into the mould of his body that appeared to be made for hers. He folded his fingers into her right hand and held onto her at the waist and called out a command to his multimedia player.

"Thought I'd keep the old World War two theme up." He whispered into the ear right next to his mouth, leaving a chill all over her body.

A grin was now safely slapped across her face, gleaming like the Cheshire Cat "Vera Lynn." She confirmed.

All they did for the next half an hour was dance, spin, glide lightly on their feet. That enchantment was still there after all that had happened tonight. The mistake he made had blended into the back of her mind, after all they were still horrible to him and he was human, humans make mistakes, right?

"I'm really happy Zeph." She said uncontrolably. It needed to be said. She waited for him to speak up, to reply with something similar of the sort, but no. He leaned in to kiss her electrically on the lips that always got her head spinning. 

Won't the students love this drama? She thought.

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