Burning Ashes (Sequel to Willow House)

Cassie Brooks has a heart rendering decision to make, between Ash and Liam. Who will she choose?

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19. Return

Words cannot describe how great the sleep I received last night. Simply awakening the next morning left me missing the soft, cold feel of my bed sheets. I sighed happily and sat up feeling refreshed for the first time in my meagre life. Smiling down at my knees as I recalled how much laughter had filled this bare room the night before. I begun giggling to myself just thinking how silly me and Natalie had gotten. Our girlie night full of the awful things girls do at sleepovers. And me? Well I loved it more than any other night I'd so far experienced... Well, it's one of my top ten at least.

Rolling along to the bottom of my bed, I expect to see Nat curled up in a mess of duvets and pillows, but for once on a Sunday morning, my best friend isn't where she should be. My brows furrowed, but I shrugged it off. 
She has a life, let her live it.

So, instead I recoiled and slumped down on my bed, my naked face too far from the pillow. I groaned loudly and brought my hands before me, as if by putting them in view would give them more energy to haul myself up. Essentially, it worked, though I'm sure that was just me trying to smart ass myself. 

Finally regaining a sense of direction, I pulled at the creases in the shirt I was wearing to sleep in. It was a little short, simply because the effort to buy new bed clothes was far too much for me to handle on the day to day basis. I tugged at the shirt once more and stood in the middle of the room like a lost zombie. My arms sluggishly hung by my sides as I used only my eyes to search for some means of warmth. Soon enough, I located my much favoured jacket. The one I had stolen from Ash. 

I mumbled something to myself, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't awake enough to hear any of the nonsense escaping my lips. Upon finally reaching the jacket, clumped at the other end of my cold room, I wrapped the large material over myself and felt a new feeling arise inside of me.

Hunger.

I licked my chapped lips as the faint smell of bacon drifted into my room. Catching the scent I soon had speed within me, enough to push my lethargic legs to the door and run out without any other meaning in my life. 

I barged past a slow walker, aka Liam, not even bothering to apologize. Part of me said this was just down to the fact I was in desperate need for that bacon. That bacon cooking away, without me. Then again, it could be the fact that Liam doesn't even give two shits about my existence. 

But I don't even care. 

Well, I do. 

Just I care far more so for that bacon.

 

I rushed in and felt centre of attention as I shot though the doors to the kitchen. Most of the house was already sat at their designated seats, happily eating away. Glancing up at the clock I find myself to be strolling in for breakfast at 11 o'clock. Still doesn't explain why Natalie is up and cheerily discussing her prom dress with Ash. I mean, Nat doesn't wake up till evening on a Sunday. Rolling my eyes at Ash's false attempt to seem interested in Nat's pointless babble about girl aspects of prom, I took a seat beside the boy. He seemed relieved to have another soul to share his pain in. 

A warm plate full of bacon was placed in front of me and I had to force myself to not drool at the sight. Teresa was holding a protective arm over Corey and spoon feeding her as always. A glare was sent my way as she caught site of my wandering eyes. I, myself, was relieved to have her deathly stare removed from me when Liam stumbled in. 

Boy did he look rough. Rougher than me on a morning, and that was saying something.

Having the sickening gaze of an overprotective sister given to another member of Willow, I dug into the meaty feast on the edge of my fork. I grinned as the taste hit my tongue and the flavours danced around my pallet. 
Let's just say it's been a while since I've tasted bacon.

Ash was chuckling to himself, a cheesy grin displayed on his face as he bit into his hand. I ignored him and continued to enjoy my breakfast for once. Liam came to join the table and by pure boy annoyance, he decided to sit opposite me. I avoided eye contact, my inner voice, the one that actually made sense most times, was warning me off. 

But of course, my eyes decided it would be utterly hilarious to look up between bites and admire his crazy hair. 

Inside my head, that wise inner voice is face-palming. 

"Yes?" He asked innocently. The smirk that raised half of his face crookedly made me smirk to myself. "What?" He raised his voice again, a laugh seeping through his words as the edge that had been forming between us since his last out burst eased. 

"Nothing." I laughed to myself, stabbing my fork into my last slither of bacon. 

"Cough it up!" He leaned over and snapped the slice from my fork and held it out of my reach. "Now!" My happiness dropped as my life essence had been ripped from my fingertips. 

"Give it back!" I yelled, ignoring the sighs and protests from other members and staff of Willow as I wrestled the boy before me for my bacon. 

"Then spill it!" Liam dangled the bacon over his mouth, head tilted to watch my expression as the holy piece of meat got closer to his tongue. "I'll do it!" He choked out, rather unattractively. 

"All I was thinking is I can't take you seriously with that hair do!" I whined, snatching back the bacon with my bare fingers. 

"Rude." He muttered with a wide smile curving at his lips. I wrapped the bacon around my fork and placed the bundle in my mouth, chewing loudly. I added a few 'ums' and 'aahs' here and there for effect. Liam just huffed a small laugh and played around with the food on his plate. I leaned back triumphantly and stared at the empty plate I had left. My back was protesting against the hard wood that was pushed against my back, when Ash, whom had spent the whole incident glaring between us, placed his hand on my upper thigh. I sat in a little and took a small glance in his direction. He smiled slightly, causing the snake bites to jostle. Ash's warm hand snaked over mine lonely cold fingers and squeezed them to remind me that he was holding them.

Liam's smile had faltered and disappeared as he looked over at Ash's smug smile. He spat to his plate, pulling a disgusted face towards me and took his plate to the sink. I took the movement as my cue to cut the awkward silence that had come to hang over the residents.

"So.." I begun, rubbing at my face. "Prom." 

 

 

 *******

 

It bugged me that we had more or less a week of education till Prom. I groaned, feeling another habit joining the ever growing list, and headed to my room to change. 

Soon enough, I was fully dressed and my hideous face had upped to 'satisfactory'. I was pulling awkward faces involving the showing of many chins, when Nat burst into the room. 

"Cass! Come quick Cassie!" She jumped up and down on the spot with glee emitting from her. I could feel the sweat drop that could have formed over my head if I was one of those cute anime girls.

What am I thinking? How in hell could I resemble my dark ass to a cute girl?

"Nat... Why?" I hung onto her name, whining from the floor where I sat staring at myself shamefully. The bundle of joy I called my best friend, literally ran, (yes, she ran) across the room to clutch at my numb fingers. 

"We have a new addition to the family!" She called out in a slightly melodic tune. Staring wide eyed at the girl, I pulled my dulled red locks over my face, moaning as always. 

"But.. I don't caaaare." I grumbled, pouting for effect. Natalie dragged her index finger over the protruding lip and giggled as I pulled a face at the off taste of her finger, still holding the intoxicating taste of foundation. Don't ask me how I know what it tastes like, it was an accident.

"Yes you do lazy, c'mon or I'll get Ash to drag you out by your butt." I sent a glare up at her smile from under my eyebrows. 

"No need to involve my butt in all this." I stated, beginning to giggle along with her. She yanked on my arm and forced me to my feet. I swayed slightly as I regained sense, before allowing the chirpy girl to drag me out of the room. I smiled gently at how immature she was, and how much I loved the way she was. I couldn't have made it this far without her, that I'm sure of. 

I soon heard all the calls from Mark and Eleanor as we neared the large staircase. Some of us were already assembled. I wriggled out of Nat's grip as she joined Liam's side on the banister to take hold of Charley. He did that high pitched giggle kids do when you hold them. I adjusted him to sit just over my shoulder and was staring up at his smiling eyes when a hand touched my waist gently. I shuffled Charley and looked over my shoulder to find the kind smile of Ash staring down at me, his arm sending heat to my lower back as it sat there comfortably. Nat's busy head was searching for me in vain until she laid sight on the three of us. Upon catching a glimpse of our arrangement she suddenly watered slightly. I smiled and shook my head slowly at how soppy she could get. 

However, it would seem this was my own doing. A boy with his arm around the girl that held the child in her arms... Because that didn't seem like everything I would one day want. 

I pushed the thought away and let Charley down as he begun to kick at me when the excitement arose. Ash, in turn, pushed me forward, till we were lent over the banister. I was smiling softly, still imagining how perfect we must have looked. I closed my eyes and momentarily allowed myself to rest on Ash's chest as he kept the arm circled around my waist. 

Is this happy?

My eyes shot open and I stood by myself as Ash stiffened. I looked along the banister, fearful for something Liam had done, to only find shocked faces gazing down at the new comer. Liam's shock held reminiscent of pain and a slight twinge of dark happiness spread among his features. Natalie was smiling warmly, but she seemed to be the only one who did so. I cocked my head at the arrangement of faces along the staircase before finally turning to look down on the addition to Willow. 

A huge sense of déjà vu washed over me as I recalled the night of my own arrival, the start of my own new life. What bullshit that turned out to be. 

But it was day, not night here. It was sunny, no rain could have poured even if I had begged the God's to do so. So what felt so familiar.

It was the face. The face that smiled evilly up at me from the floor she stood proudly. Her dark locks were cut short to her head, but I could still see her original form so clearly. The blue highlights had been stripped from her strands of hair, but I could faintly catch a glimpse of the electric colour in what was left of her. 

My heart had already stopped beating, just from seeing her hair. She dropped her blue bag to the floor causing us all to snap from our hypnosis as she began to smile darkly up at me alone. 

"It's been a while, Willow." She taunted, her voice still held all of the menace I remembered it to have. I started backing up to head back to my room, but there was no escaping this girl. I had found this out last time. My cold fingers pressed at the centre of my chest which still held a faint scarring of where she had mercilessly cut at my skin. 

Ash's arms wound around me, though his eyes were fixated on the way she licked her lips, expectant for my next move. I pushed at his grip and kicked away, shouting and screaming at everyone, anyone who was listening. I need to get away from her.

"Let go of me! Ash! She'll kill me!" I screamed harshly and spat through the banister to her feet. She eyed the disrespect I paid her and gawked at me with a false innocence plastered over her face. She brought her hand to her face and fanned herself in a flurry. 

"Oh my Cassie! Guess tigers never change their stripes.." She said more to herself with a happy smile towards Mark who seemed to accept her once again. I struggled against Ash's restraints as my anger continued to boil. All attention was on me now, this was all her plan. Nat looked horrified at me and in that moment, her face caused my body to grow weak for I had shamed her. 

I hadn't been the person she knew me as.

 

I pushed free and headed for the only escape.

 

Molly was back.

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