"So, what's the plan?" Carlotta asks, Carlos in tow, though he does not look very happy about it. "You know, I've heard loads of things about her, I'm sure I can convince people that they're true - and they probably are anyway."
"Nope," I laugh. "This is way better than that."
"What, then?" Carlotta appears rather impatient at my secrecy, and I almost laugh out loud, biting my lip to hold it back as Carlos winks.
"Okay, okay, I'll tell you." We reach our table and sit down, heads bent inconversation. "So, it's Kasey's birthday next week, right?"
"Yeah," Carlos confirms, earning him a sharp glance from a clearly jealous Carlotta, who obviously is not happy about him remembering his ex's birthday. I try not to roll my eyes.
"So what are we gonna do?" Carlotta thrums her perfectly painted pink fingers on the grey sheet of plastic, eyes boring into my soul. Well, they would be, if I actually had a soul.
"We're gonna gate crash her party, 'kay?" Carlotta smiles in delight, eyes brightening with a wicked excitement. "And then we're gonna pretend we're sorry for taking her boyfriend, even though he clearly doesn't care about her, right Carlos?"
"Sure," he mumbles, and Carlotta and I turn back to each other.
"So we're gonna have a fancy bag from, like, Lipsy or something, or Harrods, I don't know, and have a pretty box inside it. Then, we'll give it to her, and inside will be a film tape of her that we'll have made up, and she'll be shagging," I hoped that was the right word "another girl. And we'll play it to everyone, saying that it's Carlos' message of why he wants to get back together."
I am shocked at my wickedness, and it appears Carlotta and Carlos both are too, for both mouths are open in perfect 'O's. "That is so mean, Layla," Carlotta says, looking genuinely impressed, though I am not fooled. "It's perfect."
Beside me, Carlos mumbles, "I've gotta go," and hurries off, leaving us extremely perplexed.
"What's up with him?" I scoff, shocked by how off-hand he is, how he scurried away like a mouse sniffing out cheese.
"Probably lovesick, now that he's with me instead of Kasey," Carlotta says with a vindictive laugh, making me doubt her 'feelings' for Carlos. "Who can blame him?"
I laugh in unison with her as we ignore the other girls' questions. "What are we doing?" rings out the clearest, and there is an obvious answer.
"OMG, are we gonna, like, do something to Kasey? That is so fetch!"
"Calm down, girls," Carlotta laughs as I shrink slowly into the shadows. "I'll text you all the plan later. I need to catch up with Carlos before class. Coming, Layla?"
Pressed back into the spotlight, I nod, standing up. It is never a good idea to disagree with Carlotta.
OMG, Layla, your dress is gorgeous!” squeals a girl with an incredibly high-pitched voice. “Where did you get it?”
I struggle to voice my thoughts, mind as blank as Human printer paper. “Oh, it’s this really, like, super fancy boutique place in Paris. I got it last Summer.”
Strictly speaking, this isn’t actually a lie. I followed Aisla to Paris a few centuries ago – I think it was during the revolution – and the last place I spoke to her was a shop. Except it was a butcher’s, not a boutique. Same thing, really.
“OMG, you’ve been to Paris? My parents won’t even let me go to London.” I don’t have any real parents, and for once I am glad. If I do have real parents, I don’t want them.
“Yep,” I say, though I am quite uninterested in her opinion which she will probably voice in a second or so. To prevent the stream of babble from coming out of her mouth, I add, “And New York.”
“OMG, you’re so lucky, like, OMG, it isn’t even right!” the girl gushes as I bite back a gloating smile. Oh, how I hunger for Human admiration, how I know my place is on their thrones.
By now a small cluster of strangers has formed around me, and my eyes scan the room for Carlotta, crossing my fingers, searching for our host. She is nowhere in sight, and I find myself lightly cursing her for not being here to take the Humans’ attention off of me. They know nothing of who I am, so why should I care about their real opinion, just as long as they know I’m much, much better than them.
“Well, it was pretty awesome.” I push my way through the crowd, searching wildly for Carlotta. Now I think about it, she’s probably with Carlos, aka the- stupid- idiot- boy- who- never- does- as- my- mind- games- say, in some secluded room as they rip each other’s’ mouths off. Disgusting.
“Hey, Layla,” a tanned, tall boy says, edging closer to me with every syllable. “How you doing?”
“Fine, thanks,” I murmur distractedly, shuffling away, lowering my eye line as I attempt to avoid an awkward situation with him. I don’t even know his name.
He calls out something that sounds suspiciously like, “Aren’t you wanting me?” and I roll my eyes, swinging open the kitchen door.
A couple pull apart suddenly, startled by my arrival, looking sheepish. “Hey, Layla,” the girl says, irritating me with her repetition of the words every other soul already seems to have uttered. She shifts her weight nervously from side to side like a see-saw. “You won’t tell Carly, will you?” With a needle point finger, the girl points to the boy beside her. Carlos.
“So you want me to betray my best friend here?” The best friend I really find it incredibly difficult not to despise. “You want me to be underhanded, sly, and cruel?” All very appealing prospects.
“Relax,” I say, smiling slightly at her expression. “I won’t tell Carlotta.” Yet.
“Thank God. She’d go insane.”
By now Carlos is gone, disappeared to who knows where. Probably with another girl.
Rolling my eyes, I shove roughly past the girl, on my way to find Carlotta. It is rather unnerving to see that she is not, for once, at the centre of attention. The foul stench emitted from a nearby bin causes me to gag, and I hurry on, swinging the creaking door open.
"Hey, beautiful," a voice whispers in my ear the second I leave, and a shiver runs down my spine as I recognise it. Carlos.
"Um, Carlotta's over there." I point randomly to an empty black space, but he doesn't turn around, and I can imagine his laughing face. In the dark of the night, it seems evil.
"I'm not looking for Carlotta, baby."
I almost gag. "Oh,yeah, sorry, I forgot; you're cheating on her, aren't you? With that stupid little S 2 or something?"
Carlos chuckles maliciously, and I begin to walk away, disgusted by the hideousness of both his faces. "Aw, come on, she's not important. I love you, Layla."
He pulls me closer, and I try to hit him, but he is - rather annoyingly - stronger than me. "You've only known me for, like, two days," I insist, stamping on his massive feet.
"Playing hard to get. I like that." I try not to vomit as he pulls me to him. Resisting the urge to scream, I let his wet, sticky lips hit mine as I wince, ready to destroy his mind.
"As if." I turn around and hit him full on the face, and he steps back slightly. Balling my hands into fists, I send the signal to him, knees weakening as the fire in my eyes begins to glow. A gasp escapes my mouth, and I shake, crumpling to the ground. Of course. It doesn't work on him. Stupid intelligence.
"Wow, careful, babe," Carlos chuckles softly, wrapping an arm around my waist. "Don't want you to get hurt, do we?"
"Get..." I gasp as he pulls me closer, " ... off ..." I whimper, "... me."
"I can't even keep my eyes off of you, baby," he says with laughter in his voice.
The next thing I know, his lips are once again on mine, disgustingly slimy, and his hand runs a marathon over me as I try to pull away. I knee him in the balls and he curses, but not before a hear a shriek from the doorway.
"What are you doing?" I hear Carlotta whisper, voice shaking slightly as though there is an earthquake rippling through her bones.. "Carlos?" Her voice turns in my direction, dropping sadly. "Layla?"
Though I find it hard to believe, I feel she may be genuinely upset. "Carlotta, baby, she - she just came on to me, I'm so sorry, I couldn't stop her. She said - she said if I didn't, she'd beat you up. I couldn't let that happen to your beautiful face now, could I?"
"Don't worry, babe," Carlotta sughs. "I believe you."
What did I say? Stupid, good-for-nothing, idiotic, irritating Humans. Worthless, ugly, self-righteous, arrogant, pious Humans.
"You two disgust me," I decide firmly, stomping away.
"Burn in Hell, bitch!" Carlotta shouts after me. How right she is.
Their voices create a radio of noise behind me, but I can't bring myself to listen in, as I debate joining forces with Kasey. Despite her simply disgusting perkiness and hideous emotions, she must at least be a better person than Carlotta.
"Hey, Layla," Carlotta's friend, Rhiannon, simpers. "Enjoying the party? I think it's simply divine; Carlotta's awesome, don't you think? I love this house, too, I mean, look at the wardrobes. I love it."
"Shut up," I growl, marching through the house. "Shut up, shut up, shut up, all of you idiots!"
Reaching the foot of the stairs, Carlos has reappeared, and I turn around, returning to the party, refusing to speak to him. A cold hand is placed on my arm, and I shake it off. "Hey, I'm sorry," he says, trying to lead me up the stairs, but to no avail. "I didn't mean for Carlotta to ruin our fun. What do you say we try again, huh?"
"You disgust me." I kick Carlos roughly, though I still feel weak, and run, mentally reprimanding myself for being so idiotically Human.
Shaking door handles in a panic, tears begin to stream down my face, and I wipe them away, trying to clear my mind. "No, this is wrong," I whisper repeatedly to myself. "Wrong, all wrong. I have mind control, I have fire, I have power. I can't let a stupid Human ... Cheater, hurt me. No way."
Bursting through a door finally, I stumble, and lean against the wall at the sound of a voice.
"No, I know, Gabriella," the voice says. "Yeah, of course I want to join you, but the M's being a complete bitch. Yeah, Carlos was taken by her. What if I can't reincarnate next time? I thought he was mine."
She pauses for a moment, listening to words which sound something like, "You say that every time."
"Okay, sorry. Look, I have to go. Bye."
There are a few moments of silence before I block Carlotta's path, stepping out of the shadows. "What are you doing here?" Carlotta's voice shakes with an undying fury, but I refuse to give up my guard.
"Hiding from your creepy as hell boyfriend, why else?" I very much hope that is the right word, otherwise I shall be incredibly embarrassed.
"Carlos, you mean?" Carlotta considers this for a moment, before nodding slowly and asking, "What did you hear?"
"Reincarnation, M being a total bitch."
"Oh, that's just a joke between someone and me," she stutters as bells toll sadly in my mind. Gabriella. I know that name. Oh, I know that name.