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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2. Chapter Two

 

It was Adrian. Her best friend. Before the heartbreak took over her they were the doppelganger of each other. The gossiping whispers around the halls of Holland Park thought there was more to their friendship. And it was something she was about to believe herself. Now there was Will. And she was content with him.

"I know." That annoying breath was mostly what came out of her, words almost silent.

"Why? We all miss you. Elina, god knows, the poor girl couldn't talk for weeks, you know she doesn't have many friends. And as much as I can't stand Lola, Georgie and Celia, well, every day for about two months they asked how you were. Me, not a single call Gracelynn."

"I know" She caught a short gap in his speech to redeem herself, ashamed staring at the ground.

"Why is that all you're saying to me? I was there too. I could have helped you Lili. Why won't you let me help you?"

"I don't need help."

"Really, the bandage on your arm says otherwise."

"The vase broke as I was changing the flowers." She had become a good liar. It had proven to be a useful defence mechanism. Acting had always been something she was good at. She had won "the most promising theatrical performer" award at school for the last three years.

"Right. Maybe next time I could help you stop that precious vase from breaking, how about that?" She couldn't hide the fact she missed him in her life. Maybe this was the moment she was waiting for, to take the leap back to being friends again. Right now was not the moment however. She needed to make her way to the safety of Will's house to be finally rid of Diana and her controlling nature.

"I'm busy right now" Her eyes skimmed the floor.

"Oh, right. I get it." His powerful hands slid up to rest on his hips, eyes began to wonder and seeped frustration and betrayal.

"No. No, I will call you." She took her uninjured arm and gently placed it upon Adrian's warm abs. God, he was strong, she thought. This flicked a small smile upon her face. One of the first in the last seven months or so. "It's just been really, really hard for me to cope after it."

"Lili, I was there too. If there's anyone you could have confided in, wouldn't it be me? You don't even need to tell me anything. Just for you to be comfortable with someone," He took her bandaged arm. It hurt, that was for sure, she could have easily flinched away but there was something sobering, numbing about his touch. Reaching midway he leant down to kiss the back of her hand. A flushing that was not common to Gracelynn in recent months blossomed onto her cheeks. She liked how he called her Lili. Everyone else called her 'Gracie' which created a churning feeling in her stomach. 'Patronising' sprung to her mind. Lili was his own call and it was nice to be called it once more. "So what are you doing here?"

"Diana." She blurted starkly while heading for a nearby bench.

"You're going to sleep rough?" he said disapprovingly squashing his brow into his now awakened eyes.

"God no. Will, I'm going to call him." It then struck her: he had no clue who Will was.

"He your cousin?" The pair sat down. She knew he knew the real relationship with Will.

"No." She gave a sweetly smile. "A bit more than that I'm afraid." She dug into her thrown together handbag, scavenging about for a packet of cigarettes. Relieved to find a full packet she whipped one into the crack of her lips and ignited the end with a spark of a lighter. The warming, sweet taste encased her lungs and dispersed the stress that attacked her that morning.

"So you started smoking, I see." Gracelynn forgot how he had been absent for the last while.

"Yeah, I guess I did." Slipping the stick out of her mouth she said, pouring smoke out of her lips. Her eyes fluttered not sure about his reaction to her.

"When you start?" The conversation began to grow tense.

"A while back." She said gulping, taking another full puff.

"Right. Will introduce you?" He began staring up at the sky, squinting at the brightness.

"Can't really remember." The truth was, he was right; it was Will who started her. She had, had another argument with Diana and Will gave her one to try. The little magical tube of herbs seemed to relive all the tension in her. Ironically, this time it seemed to provoke the tension.

"Okay. Tell me about Will."

"You don't want to know about him really."

"Need to know what my girl's getting into. If he's good enough for Lili. Tell." The way he called her my girl got to her. How could she deny someone who owned her?

"Alright. He's kind of tall, I guess, brown hair, brown eyes," She said scattering around her head.

"Sounds like a looker." He butted in.

"He's mine isn't he? Of course he is," The truth is, he wasn't really, average, yes, not Adrian though.

"Good. Do you ever think of us?" His eyes were circling the ground and he took the grip of Gracelynn's hand.

"Us?" She replied in an all too fake perplexing tone.

"Us."

"Those rumours at school you mean? You're like my brother Ad." Her head rested on his shoulder confirming that what she said was a lie. It was funny to her, how but fifteen minutes ago her world was bleak, lonely, emotionless. A little bit of her soul seemed to be clicked back into place.

Silence seemed to attack Adrian, something that was extremely unusual. He took his free arm and placed his fingers under the crook of her neck. Was it going to happen? The eyes of one another seemed to scream, hurry.

A sudden vibrating tone radiated from Gracelynn's handbag, capturing her from the moment. "It's Will." She muttered feeling ashamed of leaving the perfect moment for Will. Adrian sat motionless, back straight, as he edged away from her.

"Babe, you called?" A nasally voice snarled down the phone.

"Uh, yeah, I- I did." She found herself caught on the spot.

"So, what is it?"

"Diana. She, she found out," Her voice grew colder. "Can you come and get me? I'm at Marble Arch. I just need a place to go." She could tell Adrian was growing embarrassed, his eyes fixed on every direction other than the one she was sitting in. He didn't possess the same talent for acting as Gracelynn did.

"Fine then. I'll be there in twenty minutes." And then came the withheld tone. A small smile kicked up on the corners of her lips. It wasn't her finest dramatic performance, but then, Adrian had always been able to tell when she was putting on a show when nobody could so her attempts simply went to waste.

"Oh Lili," he gasped "You really do have trouble following you." His body had turned back to her now the phone call was over. His fingers playing with the material of her trousers. He was right when he said that. For some people destruction and tragedy bubbled in their blood and at times it would become too severe to clot. But there were always stitches and such to prevent it.

"So Elina, How is she?" Gracelynn chirpily questioned, trying to prevent another conversation over Will.

"It's hard to tell, I try talking to her but she just shies away when I do. She has no confidence without you."

"Okay... Oh! So how is Haylie? Did you finally get with her?" She teased, giving a gentle poke with her elbow and something resembling a giggle.

"No, no. I'm afraid nothing there," He laughed along. "God knows though, there is one girl. Sweetest thing alive," His smile grew more serious. "Yeah, she went missing, I don't know where. I think maybe she moved schools for a while, I heard she's making a come back however."

"I don't know if I know this girl." Gracelynn replied, fully aware.

"Oh I think you would. You couldn't miss her. Her smile was the biggest around, like her heart."

"She sounds like a dream." Her chest thumping she held in a deep breath, it didn't take much to know he was talking about her, yes, he was a horrific actor.

"Sometimes I think that was all she was." His arm took itself round Gracelynn's back to allow her head to tuck into his warm chest.

For the next fifteen minutes or so the two kept warm in each others arms. It was more than pleasant to her. Every now and then he'd take a lock of her thinned hair and twizzle it around his fingers. Or he'd take his head and place it upon hers.

A ring coming from her bag was the only thing that cut of the hold. The caller id confirmed it was Will. Guilt consumed her, she was undoubtedly flirting, somewhat outrageously, with someone from her past. This was going to have many consequences. It'd destroy Will, they had something good together, he and Gracelynn. It'd destroy Adrian, losing her again. He had made it obvious of how bad it wad to lose her once, but twice? She didn't dare think of how that would affect him. And her? Well, her conscience was already doing somersaults.

"Hello." She answered unsurely.

"I'm on Green Street, I'll be there in a minute babe."  

"Okay, by-" He hung up early, again. Her head cocked to Adrian, her eyes looking south. "I'm so, so sorry." Her eyes began to well. "I'm a truly horrible person." She gulped, "I can't believe I've done this to you again. You deserve the best in life. The best person. And god knows, that's not me." Her eyes managed to connect to his to take the blow. It wasn't anger in him however. It was something numb, searching, desperate. She knew he was going to try and stop her from leaving with Will, maybe try and stay with him for a while. But that was not an option. With him living only three doors down the street from her mother's house the purpose would be defeated.

"Lili, you're lost. You're a lost little girl who is in need."

"I'm a 'little girl'?"

"Let me help you. Stay with me." His hands leapt to her face and his lips became planted upon her mouth. It tasted sweet, delicate, right. As if you had been staring at the last slice of a cake for five years and it was finally yours to have.

Why am I giving him this false hope of 'us'? She questioned herself. Gluttony took over and she accepted the request of his lips. Her hands came up to where his were placed and their hands fell together into an intertwined mess.

She dragged her mouth away whispering, "I have Will." before pressing herself back into his hold.

"Fuck Will." He slipped away for a moment before taking her head back into his hands. Gracelynn's eyes fluttered open to see Will lurking out the corner.

She snatched herself away from Adrian's pulsing lips. An overwhelming lump developed in her throat. She just kissed her best friend and got caught by her boyfriend. Was it the being caught that confused her? The finally giving into Adrian? The guilt that she cheated? All she knew was that it was if a big red brick wall had been whacked across her face. Maybe that was the kiss.

"Will." Her glassy eyes looked up to him from the bench. She leapt off the bench and cradled her arms around his neck, with no response from him.

His nicotine stained breath trickled down her ears, "Who the hell is this?" He muttered.

"It doesn't matter." Her eyes began to trickle salty tears onto the shoulder of Will's musky t-shirt.

"Does to me." He elevated his chin in an attempt to appear authoritarian towards Adrian.

"Adrian. Adrian Reed." He extended his arm out.

Will took his free hand and held it under Gracelynn's jaw, lifting it up to his face. He forced his lips onto Gracelynn, trying to get further with no success.

"See this girl here, Adrian" he growled, jaw clenched, "Mine. Back off"

* * *

It began on 14th of April 2050. The syrupy sent of spring had arrived and a new feeling was in the air as she was walking home.

"So you're going to be interning at your dad's work this summer?" Gracelynn chirped to Adrian.

"Yeah. Spending the few days of sunshine in this bloody country in Starbucks collecting ridiculous orders for accountants." He groaned still managing a signature smile upon his cheeks.

"Ooo, exciting." She giggled sarcastically while looping her arm around him. She felt secure with him and he was content with being her personal body guard.

"Your dad get you a place at his work or are you going into the lions den?" He lifted his arm that cradled Gracelynn's and kept his lips placed on her hand. She creaked her neck upwards to observe his face: she knew flirting when she saw it.  

"No. My dad," She began, trying to find words that wouldn't reveal his current predicament, "He's taking some time off, hurt his leg" She bluffed, knowing fully well that Adrian knew she was lying. He knew all her tricks. "I think my mum's working on something for me." Her head fell into the crack of his neck.

"Sounds good." She felt his breath land on the back of her hand.

Sure, they knew they had something and so did everyone else, however a wall always presented in front of themselves that stopped the final leap.

"So your Dad's in the house then for when you get back?"

"Yeah," She muttered trying to avoid a conversation about his depression. It was one of the few things that had made her close to cracking. She feared one more chip could be the end for her too. "You know Elina was telling me she liked you."  

"What?" He exclaimed, baffled. "Lili, she's your best friend. There couldn't be anything between us." He replied. She liked how he was possessive over her, as if they were in a relationship.

"So what. It's not like we're together..." She tested and he smiled, realising her aim.

"Sure."

"Apparently she's certain you're going to ask her to prom. You know you should, you'd be cute together." Gracelynn said with a swing in her step.

"I- I don't know." He stumbled.

Gracelynn wasn't lying about Elina, she did have feelings for Adrian and when she fell, she fell hard. Elina had been Gracelynn's friend since the age of six. She was tall for her age, lean and had demure Scandinavian features. She was the sort of girl who with some social engineering, a dab of make up and contact lenses could be plastered across the covers of high end fashion magazines. Gracelynn being Gracelynn always saw beauty in things that possessed it under a few thin layers and so the two highlighted the best in each other. The one tense issue between her and Elina was Adrian. They both knew in each others hearts that they both liked him and that Gracelynn was victorious.

"There's always Haylie too." She began before he interrupted

"What? Where on earth are you getting this nonsense from?" His voice turned into a defensive, feminine squawk.

"Oh come on, Sex God of the School, you are." She mocked taking hold of his cheeks and squashing them together with her delicate fingers.

He wasn't much of an Abercrombie model or a Roman god, that was for sure. If you saw him passing on the street you'd think what a spectacularly average chap. It was the fact girls couldn't get to him due to Gracelynn that created the allure.

"And you'd know how?" He teased, playing on their relationship once more.

"I don't. Yet." her smile extending mischievously upon the left hand side of her face.

Their houses in distance she moved on ahead from him turned and did a skip backwards calling, "I'll text you tonight, okay?"

"Don't worry, I expect you to now." He called into the distance.

With her thoughts now free to wonder she couldn't help but think about her father. Most likely alone, maybe with a bottle of some kind of alcohol, pills, gauntly, blank: numb. And how it was getting to her. Slowly and surely transforming her into the same state he was in. The depression, like vampire venom corroding away her identity, blood, DNA and turning her into a monster. Adrian was her only escape.

She rummaged around her satchel for her house keys becoming exasperated. She thumped on the front door to gain her fathers attention, "Dad, you in?" She gasped, "I've left my keys on the worktop I think, can you open the door?" She lifted up the letterbox flap to gain a better look. There was no sign of life in the house. Her mother had suggested her father take a trip to the gym to relive his tension, and so Gracelynn assumed he'd taken the idea on board. Adrian was the only person nearby who had a spare set and so she headed out through the blossoming spring garden and along to number ten.

"Back for more?" Adrian tested.

"Sure, whatever you want to believe sweet cheeks." She played along. "My dad's out at the gym I think." She said truthfully only to remember her cover up was her fathers 'damaged leg'. "You know, to... to get some light exercise on his leg. Strengthen it." She couldn't help but feel pathetic and sick. Lying was bad enough but being caught by someone close to her was indefinitely worse.

Keeping arched downwards and attempting to look unconcerned he replied simply saying, "Okay, I'll go get the spare, Lili." Sympathy vibrated through his voice. Was he taking her for a weakling? A stupid lying little girl? Of course she was small but she could fight her case. Anger became a natural instinct when people looked down on her. Her father had taught her that.

Fight for yourself and you'll become limitless.

Adrian returned with the keys and dangled it upon his index finger to show proof and his jaw clenched a smile. The pair walked towards her house in silence. The distance presenting itself like the Atlantic ocean between Europe and America. The two only touched momentarily through the passing of the keys. The door flew open and a blunt silence swept through bouncing off the walls.

"Dad please answer. Are you upstairs?" She called creating a ghostly echo.

"I'll wait here if you want to go up." He stuttered. They both knew well enough that he was only waiting behind so they could depart on good terms rather than the awkward mood floating over their heads right now.

Gracelynn scampered up the staircase towards her parent's room. Something strange was occurring and it wasn't between her and Adrian. Something bad had happened though she wasn't all to certain how serious. She knew her father was one of those lost, desperate souls stuck in a world of self destruction. And that was something that terrified her to the point she was turning into him.

A final tap on the door and a call, "Dad, seriously." Tension growing inside her like an inflating balloon. Pop. It burst.

A screech exploded from her mouth and a kick pounded into her stomach creating a sickening churn.

"Shit," A mere breath came from Adrian's mouth, "Gracelynn, Jesus Christ, Gracelynn," He shouted up to her while charging up the steps and into the bedroom. Gracelynn sat in a praying position, knelt on knees, arms folded to act as a pillow for her draining eyes. He had never seen Robin, Gracelynn's father, in this way. A generally youthful man, inside and out, energetic.

Now he was a lifeless corpse swinging from the ceiling. A noose for a necklace. He bundled her up like a parent holds their child, an arm supporting the weak back and another round the legs. "It's going to be alright." He lied. How could someone possibly recover from witnessing the death of their father in such a way, at the age of fifteen? But it was the right thing to do. She would do the same. Her motherly, sweetly, caring nature that came out of no where would have reacted and cared for him in the same way.

But there it was. The last chip. 

* * *

"I'm sorry." She murmured. Fear branched out into every centimetre of her extremities. He was dragging her by her elbow, commanding every move.

The puppeteer's got you played. She thought to herself. There were occasions when small threads of her old self came through on the tapestry of her life, but they were often masked by fear and made insignificant by time. He dragged her along, her feet tiring along the asphalt ground as they headed towards the car.

"To hell you are." He growled. He was good at that. It was rare he shouted but the growl, the animalistic tone was ten fold more terrifying. "Stupid bitch. Who the hell was that?" He demanded.

"Doesn't matter." She said, pushing her past to the back of her head again.

"Stop it. Stop saying that." He tugged harder catapulting her forwards.

"He's someone from my past." Somewhere she found the courage to raise her voice, "I don't live in the past, Will. What does it matter? I'm with you, right? And he kissed me." Her voice soon trickled away into the retreating quiet voice it was before and her head drooped downwards in shame.

"You were practically all over him. Flinging your tongue down the bastard's throat."

"I'm sorry." She wept as her free hand drew across her face to fight the tears. The one good thing she had would soon be disappearing.

"Sorry?" He exclaimed, raising the pitch of his voice again. In a fit of rage he drew her into an empty close. Was this the end? The end of what? The relationship? Her life? Could someone who loved her do that? She thought. The fact she didn't know killed her. "There's one thing you could do, babe." He said, changing his attitude like a snake changing its skin. He took her body and pressed it up against a wall, leaned in towards her ear as she shook in fear. He took a callous hand and ran it up her protruding ribcage.

"No." She said firmly into his ear.

"No? Where are you going to stay then? With your favourite, dearest mother? A park bench? Or are you going to be a little whore and stay with boyfriend number two, whose head I could kick in with the tap of my foot?" His voice grew colder. How had she not seen this maliciousness before, his poison? "Your choices are pretty slim babe. Looks like I have the best deal. Plus, you get something out of it."

"Don't call me babe." She grew stronger and more defensive.

"Okay, babe." He said while grabbing her breast. She tried to fight but her so very thin frame struggled to take on his. Her eyes clenched shut realising what was going to happen, growing sicker, wondering if she would actually be. Out of no where came a thud. A blunt hard blow, sweeping past her ear. Her eyes flung open to observe.

Adrian.

Will lay there so sweetly vulnerable a flow of blood haemorrhaging from his crooked nose. He lay their unwilling to move. Gracelynn could only imagine the headache he must have been experiencing from the blow he got. "Come on Lili. I'll take you back to mine." He said taking hold of Gracelynn's hand, carefully placing fingers in between the slots.

The car journey was close to silent. Words were unnecessary when they knew exactly what one another were thinking. Adrian could tell the recent events weren't something she would want to discuss. Her eyes were tinted a bloody maroon colour with splodges dotted around her socket. She whipped out a cigarette to calm her nerves and inhaled the fumes. He considered saying some kind of disapproving statement, but again, he knew how turbulent the last few months were and felt a friend, not a judge, was what she needed.

"Do you not want to say something about my smoking?" She could sense the fact he wanted to mention it.

"I don't really care. Just as long as I get back my old Lili," He replied, straight to the point, and she took another full puff to gain a reaction, "Promise?" He said as she began staring out the window to avoid this awkward contact. "Gracelynn, I lov-" he began, voice elevating.

"Please no." She contested, "Don't. Just don't say it. I- I can't be having anymore drama in my life. Please just let me be your friend." She pleaded, eyes becoming emerald pools again. Only seven months ago, back in April, she longed for him to say those three words and for her to share them in return. But now things had changed. Although they still cared for each other, the wall that was so thin before, it could be knocked down by a single touch, now stood tall and vast.  

They arrived back in Bedford Gardens within a few minutes and he guided her to his bedroom. "Here, go to sleep Lili," He said while pointing to neatly folded down navy sheets. She slipped off her shoes, laid down her handbag and fell like a plucked feather into the hold of the material. "I'll just be down stairs."

"No," She stopped him just as he was about to exit, "Please don't leave me." She pleaded. She was so embarrassed around him after today she couldn't even gain eye contact. How could she have asked such a stupid question? Only minutes earlier she had told him love and a relationship was out of the question.

"Okay," His answer was a surprise to her. But this was Adrian, the boy who had been best friends and more with her since the age of twelve. "I know how horrible it is to be left by someone."

This only reminded her of the fact she was a silly, little girl: how selfish, inconsiderate and poisonous she had been in the last few months. It was a wonder these people still cherished her company and wanted her. It was lucky she had that magnetic spark. He slid into the empty side of the double bed. Slowly but surely they began holding hands, then an arm, a torso, a hug and then a hold.

Something ignited within her. I want to be me again.

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