I spun round to face him. “What!?” I shrieked.
“Grey, you’re going to die”, Ace said, quieter this time. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? How can you say sorry after that!? This has to be a nightmare, has to be, or you’re lying, yes, that’s it. I’ve never met you before and you’re crazy, that’s it. Everything’s fine, everything’s going to be fine. Look, Ace, I’m going, goodbye, have a nice life”, I said. I was panicking, I was terrified. If I didn’t calm down, I’d break down, it was as simple as that. I started back towards the coffee shop door but Ace stood in front of me.
“No, Grey. You are going to die and I’m trying to stop that. Listen to me. I will protect you, I don’t care what you say.” I couldn’t breathe. I shook my head, tears began rolling down my face.
“Why do I believe you?”, I whispered.
“Because you know I’m right”, he replied. I tried to breathe normally but I was just hyperventilating. “Grey, breathe in through your nose and count to eight, then hold for four and breathe out for eight. Keep repeating that”, Ace said. I tried it. He seemed to know what he was talking about. I looked into his eyes, trying to figure out his thoughts but they gave nothing away because he didn’t want them to. After five minutes of breathing in and out, the tight feeling in my chest eased slightly and I was able to breathe normally.
“Thanks”, I said softly. I still hadn’t stopped crying though.
“This probably doesn’t need to be stated but you’d be best not telling your friends or family or anyone about this.” I nodded. It wasn’t exactly a topic that comes up in conversation.
“I can’t go back in there now, but Ocean will worry.”
“Just ring her and tell her… tell her that I asked you out and we are going on a walk around town together.” I nodded and pulled out my phone. I dialled Ocean’s number. She picked up immediately.
“Grey? Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, great actually. Turns out that he’s surprisingly really nice. We’re going for a walk around town. I’ll ring you if there are any problems. I’ll meet you for the sleepover later, okay?”
“Okay. Have fun, oh and just so you know, we’re going to grill you on it later!” Brilliant.
“’Kay, see you later, bye!” I hung up quickly and put my phone back in my pocket.
“Surprisingly?” Ace said.
“A guy you don’t know suspiciously walks up to you in a coffee shop and asks to talk to you alone. What did you expect her to think?” I said sharply, still sort of mad at him.
“So, where are we going? And isn’t your dad still in the coffee shop?”
“My dad texted me whilst you were ringing your friend, Ocean, was it? Anyway, he’s gone home. I’d ask you to go there with me but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t come. Did you say you were meeting your friends again later?”
“Yeah, we’re having a sleepover at Tansy’s.”
“Sounds fantastic. You can’t go.”
“You can’t go.”
“Yeah, I got that. Why?”
“I’m not leaving your side until I know you’re safe.”
“Yeah, that’s going to be a problem. Even if I skip Tansy’s, I can hardly bring you home with me and I am sure as anything not going to yours.”
“Then we’re stuck aren’t we. What did you expect when I said I would protect you?”
“I don’t know. What did you expect when you told me I was going to die?”
“Nothing good.” He started staring at me. I looked back at him.
“What?”, I said harshly.
“Just trying to figure you out. You’re terrified. I can tell that much.” Did he have to be so smug? And right.
“Look, Ace. Following me around isn’t going to work. There’s no way I can keep this from everyone if we’re together constantly.” I hadn’t realised but we had been walking the entire time we had been walking.
“Ace, where are we?”
“Whoops, I went on auto-pilot. We’re at my house. I promise I didn’t mean to.”
“You know what, let’s just go in. I, er, trust you.” Ace’s house was quite small looking from the outside. It looked homely and sweet but it was in the middle of nowhere. That made me feel unsafe. “Why can’t you live in town like everyone else”, I muttered.
We stepped through the door straight into the living room. The walls were painted coffee coloured, the floors the colour of dark chocolate, the furniture the same. The house smelled clean and felt safe. I was more at ease. “Dad, we’re here”, Ace called. Ace’s father rushed into the living room as if he’d been waiting. He probably had actually. “Dad, this is Grey.”
“Grey? Hmm, an interesting choice. I’m Seth. Has Ace explained… everything.”
“Uh, yeah, he has.”
“And you knew he was telling the truth?” I looked at Ace. He answered for me.
“Well, it took a while, she called me crazy and walked away but she believed me quicker than I thought.”
“Good-good. Will you be staying here tonight?”
“Ah, yeah, about that dad, she’s supposed to be staying at her friend’s house tonight and she doesn’t want to stay here. It’s fair enough but I don’t know what to do.”
“Grey, you’d be safer here, even if it seems more dangerous, you have to understand that”, Seth said.
“But, even if I stay here, what am I going to tell everyone. I can hardly ring up the girls and say ‘Yeah, you know that boy I literally just met today, the one who wanted to speak to me alone outside, the one who looked like trouble? I’m staying at his house tonight. No, it’s not in town, it’s right next to that super creepy forest in the middle of nowhere’”
“True”, Ace said. “Wait. Looked like trouble?”
“Messy dark hair, smug look on your face, eyes sharp as knives, yeah, not scary at all”, I said.
“Okay, so just tell your friend that you don’t feel well enough to stay at hers and are staying at home instead. Your parents will still think that you’re at her house.”
“Yeah, that’s not going to work. The girls can see right through me, besides, they’d still be suspicious of you. Tansy’s parents would ring mine to check on me anyway. I’ve got to stay at Tansy’s.”
“Dad, she’d be okay at Tansy’s, wouldn’t she? I mean, there were four girls besides Grey.” Seth started thinking.
“Alright, Grey, stay at your friends but Ace, give her your number just in case. Grey, are you busy tomorrow?”
“I don’t think so. I mean, I’m at Tansy’s tonight and we’ll sleep in late but I’ll be free in the afternoon. My mum said I had to be back by five though.”
“Right, we’ll tackle that when it gets to it. I’ll drive you to Tansy’s and I’ll pick you up tomorrow. Call me when you’re ready”, Ace said.
“You drive? How old are you?”, I asked. Passing him my phone so he could put his number in.
“I turned seventeen a fortnight ago. I had the premonition about you on the morning of my birthday at three in the morning. Not fun. Dad arranged for me to have driving lessons and take the test whilst I was sixteen so I could drive as soon as possible.” Good plan, I supposed.
“Okay, thanks”, I said. I yawned.
“Tired?”, Ace said, passing me my phone back. I nodded.
“Turns out that being told you’re going to die makes you cry and crying makes you tired”, I said.
“If you want to go to sleep for a bit, you can sleep in my bed, or the couch? I have work I need to do for a bit anyway.”
“Okay, thanks, I think I’ll just stay on the couch.” Seth left the room.
“He’s probably trying to figure out how to keep you safe. He’ll be in his room for ages. I’ll be upstairs in my room if you need me. Just shout up.” Ace said. He turned and left. I heard him go up the stairs. I unlaced my shoes and lay down on the couch. I shut my eyes and began to drift off.