M E G A N
The stag stared at me flatly from within the paper. Its antlers stretched up to the top of the page, gleaming and shiny. The brown eyes dully watched me as I tossed the pencil down. Nothing was turning out right. The deer’s legs were too slim, the body too fat.
Well, that’s another piece of my art folio destined for the trash.
“Megan! There’s someone at the door for you!”
I frowned. Who could it be? I hadn’t had the chance to ‘make friends’ here yet. Not that I really wanted to.
Clicking the table lamp off, I sighed and went downstairs.
On the bottom step, I froze.
Caleb stood, face slack and unemotional, in the doorway. His hands were shoved deep into his pockets. Behind him, the sky was dark and cloudy—a storm was coming. It was quite fitting, really; a stormy night for a stormy kid.
Steely, he grunted, “Hey. Can you walk with me?”
I doubtfully leaned around him, peering out at the impending rain. “Right now?”
“Megs?” My mother appeared in the doorway to my right. Her eyes darted to Caleb. “Who’s this?”
I flapped my hand towards him and said, “Uh, school...friend. Acquaintance. Person. Can I go out for a little while? I won’t be long.”
A smirk appeared on her lips. “Sure,” she drawled, trying her best to appear nonchalant. “Just be careful, Megs, it looks like it’s away to rain.”
Rolling my eyes, I grabbed my shoes. “Yes, because I have heard that rain can kill.”
Caleb’s lips didn’t even flicker. My mother sighed. “Don’t be rude, I was just pointing out a fact.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure,” I replied, grabbing Caleb’s arm and making to leave.
“Wait! Put on a jacket at least.”
When we eventually left my house, I had my leather jacket on and I couldn’t remember for the life of me why I’d chosen that particular one. Sure, it hugged all the right curves but it was almost November—not leather jacket weather.
Neither of us said anything. We walked in a comfortable silence, subconsciously nearing the fringe of the local woods. The wind was icy, and the stones underneath my feet were slippery. The mud was dry, at least, but they wouldn’t stay that way for long. This was gonna be one hell of a storm.
I grew tired with the silence. We walked deeper into the woods, and the anger radiating off of him vibrated through my skull.
“So, first of all,” I said, breaking the silence. “How the hell did you know where I lived?”
Caleb hopped over a fallen log and sighed. “Luke lives next door to you.”
I stared at him blankly.
“Oh,” he added. “Luke? My best friend?”
Vaguely, the memory of the fumbling guy from my first day at school came to my mind. “Oh, yeah,” I said. “Him. I didn’t know that.”
He didn’t reply. The sky overhead grumbled, the underbelly of the rolling, grey clouds streaked with purple. The trees grew together overhead, and I hoped they were enough to prevent the worst of the rain. In front of us, a wall of brambles appeared. I stopped, but Caleb didn’t. Unflinching, he pulled apart the brambles, shoving them to either side to reveal a natural walkway, worn away by hundreds of feet.
His jacket sleeve rode up.
"Where's your band?"
“Your band,” I noted, frowning. “Where is it?”
I found myself begging internally that he was a leftie.
He swallowed and shoved his sleeve down. Shiftily, he scuffed his Converse against the ground, kicking up dirt.
“Yeah, uh, that’s what I needed to talk to you about.” Lifting his head, Caleb scowled at me. “They’ve...Jesus, they’ve removed the band because it was triggering all this crap to happen to me and I’ve been paired with the worst girl ever and I don’t know what to do—“
“Wait, what?” My stomach fell into my shoes but I didn’t know why. I hated this guy only a week ago; why the hell did I care so much about him now?
He nodded and ran a hand through his floppy black hair. “I can’t do it. Tracy Grant is one of the worst girls I’ve ever met. I don’t want to be near her, never mind stay with her for the rest of my life.”
Swearing, he flopped down onto a rock and held his head in his hands.
Tracy Grant. I struggled to put a face to the name. It didn’t even matter; Caleb had been Claimed. Just my luck. The only good looking, nice guy in miles around here, and he got Claimed early.
I tucked my shaking hands into my pockets and gently took a seat beside him.
“Hey,” I whispered, butting him with my elbow. “Its not that bad. It could’ve just been a malfunction of the system. That happens sometimes.”
“No,” he moaned. “They’ve checked it. Tons of times. My match is definitely Tracy freaking Grant.”
I placed my hand on his knee. He jerked, but didn’t move away.
Sighing, I whispered, “Caleb, its gonna be okay.”
“How?” He whispered, lifting his head to look at me. “How is this gonna be okay, Megan?”
I tried to swallow past the lump in my throat. It was hard not to focus on his dark eyes. Not yours, a voice inside my head whispered. He isn’t yours, Megs.
“I don’t...I don’t know.”
He leaned into me. I was grateful for the warmth—it was starting to get darker, and the wind blew colder. Tiny spatters of rain dripped onto my face.
I didn’t know where I fit into all of this. He was spoken for, out of bounds. Caleb’s future had already been decided for him, and I was stuck just being Megan.
My name was less than a whisper.
“I can’t go through with this,” he breathed, turning his head into mine. I lifted my head up, flicking my fringe out of my eyes.
“You have to, Caleb. You don’t get to pick and chose.”
“I don’t love her. She’s the same as every other girl I’ve ever met. I couldn’t ever love her.” His eyes scanned my face and he looked so lost in that moment that I wanted to sling my arms around him.
I shut my eyes. I didn’t want to be here but I couldn’t find it in myself to get up and leave.
“Megan, I don’t love her. I love you.”
My eyes opened again and his pupils were blown.
The stars exploded above our heads, and the heavens opened.
Rain poured down in sheets, soaking us through in seconds.
I sat, wide-eyed, staring at Caleb. It was like I didn’t even know it was raining.
He sighed. “I know that’s probably really what you didn’t want to hear...”
I leaned in.
I couldn’t. I had to do what was right.
And this was wrong. So wrong.
So wrong it was right.
I pressed my lips to his as the sky screamed.