Whisper

//He had a smile on his face like the climax of a novel, and his kisses were the chorus to a treasured favourite song.\\

Benedict has lived six months in a ragged half existence, torn apart after his twin brother's accident. Still, when he meets Whisper, the happy-go-lucky boy in the wheelchair who volunteers at his support group, Benedict starts to realise that maybe it isn't totally impossible for him to begin enjoying life again. It's only after the two uncover some incriminating evidence that Ben understands that his brother's car crash wasn't quite so accidental as he originally thought.

\\The amazing, beautiful, wonderful cover is by @violets//

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9. CHAPTER SEVEN| July

 

“IT’S LOUD IN HERE, HUH?” shouted Leanne, struggling to be heard over the throbbing pulse of the music. And, thought Ben, it was barely seven thirty. His head was going to be little more than an exploded mush of nerves and gore by the end of the night.

Not that Whisper would care, thought Ben sourly. Even though Whisper probably would care. A lot. Whisper was like that- he cared. He was the sort of person who’d win the lottery and give it all to an abandoned cat’s shelter, or something. Ben would be more likely to spend it on himself- on video games, or ice cream, or Netflix subscriptions.

Still. Whisper being such an awesome caring sort of person hadn’t stopped him from goddamn kissing goddamn Julian the minute he thought Ben had turned the corner. Though, he had to be honest, it hadn’t been all Whisper’s fault. Actually, about 80% of it could easily be attributed to Julian.

That only left 20% of the kiss as Whisper’s fault. Suddenly, 20% seemed massive.

“IT’S SO LOUD IN HERE!” shouted Leanne again, leaning closer to Ben’s ear.

He winced at the added noise. “Yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time.”

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

Ben rolled his eyes. “Come on,” he said, grabbing Leanne’s arm. “Let’s go over there.”

And by ‘over there’, he preferably meant the other side of London, as far away from this party as possible. Since they’d only been here for twenty minutes, and the party was on a boat, the furthest he could currently manage was the other side of the deck. Ben was starting to question why he’d agreed to come here in the first place. (But not seriously, of course, because then he’d have to think about the kiss, and why watching it had felt like someone had started excavating his heart from his chest, and what it meant that he wished he hadn’t ignored Whisper in the forest when they’d almost become something more than friends.)

“WHERE ARE WE GOING?” shouted Leanne. Ben, personally, was getting a little tired of all this shouting. Sure, it had been impossible to speak at a normal level when they had been practically sitting on the speakers a few seconds ago, but now they were halfway across the room.

He wrestled with the urge to turn around and yell ‘STOP SHOUTING’ in her face. Unfortunately, that would make him even more of a total hypocrite than usual, so he decided to keep his mouth shut. Instead, he pulled Leanne out through the large, glass double doors and onto the deck of the ship.

Dusk was already mixing itself into the sky, lapping at the Themes in a great long ribbon of sultry blue.

“Why did she decide to host a party on a boat?” Ben asked himself out loud, chewing on his lip. He didn’t usually get seasick or anything, but equally the idea of dealing with the floor rocking up and down beneath him for hours didn’t really appeal to him.

Leanne laughed. “Probably because the music’s so bad, if people could hear it on land everyone’s houses would crumble and plants would wither and the entire population of London would just generally be totally screwed.”

 Ben pulled a face. She was right- the music was terrible. May (or June or whatever the girl hosting this thing was called) had hired some boy-band barely out of Uni to play live. And sure, that would have been cool, except that the band were really, really crappy.

They laughed and then were unusually silent, listening to the wind and its stories.

Leaning out over the boat, Ben looked at his reflection in the water. “Leanne?”

“Uh-huh?”

“What are you thinking about?”

She looked at him, one eyebrow arched. “Why’dya want to know, stalker?”

“I’m just asking.”

Leanne sighed. “Okay, fine. There’s this thing that’s been bothering me for about a day now, and I guess you and your freaky way of over analysing crap might help.”

“Over analysing crap is what I do best. Apart from swish my hair around.”

“For a second there I actually found you funny. For once.”

Ben elbowed her. “What were you saying before you started giving me vaguely insulting compliments?”

 Leanne rolled her eyes. “Okay, okay. So, what do you think: would a hundred duck-sized horses or one giant horse-sized duck win in a fight?”

“Wow. Okay, wow.” Ben raked a hand through his hair, grinning sheepishly. “I was hoping for something deep and poignant.”

Shrugging, Leanne shook her head. Reaching one hand behind her head, she patted her carefully arranged messy bun to make sure that it was still perfectly in place. “My policy is total honesty. It’s your fault for expecting me to actually say something meaningful.”

“Sometimes you do. Sometimes. Occasionally. Very, very rarely.”

“Hilarious.” Leanne turned suddenly, looking over her shoulder. “Hey, is that July?”

“Who the hell’s July?” Ben followed Leanne’s gaze down the steps that lead to the lower deck of the ship, strictly off limits to guests. There was no one there that Ben could see- but then again, there were no lights on down there. Any dark, suspicious looking figure would blend in easily with the crates full of extra food and whatever else was kept down there.

“Oh my god, you’re officially an idiot,” moaned Leanne. “July’s my friend – you know, the girl who’s hosting this whole party? Any recollection of me telling you that?”

“I thought that was May.”

You thought she was called May. Damnit, Ben, sometimes you really are as stupid as you look.”

Ben glared at her, and Leanne threw up her hands in mock defence. “Joking, joking. God, you’ve got to learn to take a joke sometime soon.” She shrugged, her hand moving absentmindedly to curl with a tendril of her escaped hair. “You coming? I want to go thank July for inviting me to this party.”

Ben coughed. “No, you want to use ‘thanking July’ as an excuse to look round the off-limits lower deck of this ship,” he corrected her, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. People were boring when you knew them as well as Ben knew Leanne.

“You got me,” Leanne smirked, ducking under the rope and heading down the stairs. Ben followed, mainly because he didn’t want to have to stand out on the top deck on his own.

When he was on his own he couldn’t escape his thoughts. When he was on his own, he’d think about Whisper.

The lower deck of the ship was like walking through tar in the middle of the night. After almost falling on his face going down the stairs, Ben had crashed into Leanne at least three times and counting.

“Oh my God!” hissed Leanne, as Ben fell against her for the fourth time. “Try and walk without help you-“ She cut off, looking around nervously. “Did you hear that?”

“No. You sound like someone from a horror movie.”

“No, I’m sure I heard something… Listen!”

Ben listened for about three seconds, before rolling his eyes at Leanne. “There’s nobody here. Are you actually sure you saw someone?”

“Yeah, yeah, I saw July, I swear- though why she didn’t turn the lights on, I have no-“

As if on cue, the lights flickered on, illuminating the lower deck of the ship in a dull, tinny sort of glow. There was a long closed off cabin across the far side of the wall, but other than that, the deck was open and spacious.

“Ooh,” said Ben, decidedly unenthusiastically. “Spooky.”

The door that lead from the cabin swung open, and a tall, messy haired guy stormed out, glaring at them. The door slammed behind him and his gaze rested on Ben, his frown slowly easing into a smirk. “Well, whaddaya know?” the boy told them flatly. “It’s like seeing a ghost.”

“Darren,” said Ben, by way of acknowledgment, matching the older boy’s gaze.

Darren. Darren, Darren, Darren. For months and months and months all Seb had talked about was Darren, Darren, stupid goddamn Darren. Ben clenched his fists, a sudden wave of fury washing over him as he stared at the guy. He hated him. He hated him.

Leanne pulled on Ben’s arm, the two of them stumbling backwards. “Sorry,” she garbled, apologising to the boy in front of them. “I just thought I saw someone I know down here, and-“

Darren shrugged, curling his lip. “I don’t care what you were doing. How long have you been down here?”

“Only just now. Right, Ben? We only just came down the stairs, and now-“

The door Darren stood in front of clicked open, cutting Leanne off. A girl both Ben and Leanne recognised stepped out from behind it, combing her hands through her long blonde hair.

Ben made the classic schoolboy error of gasping much too heavily and frowning in shock at the girl. “It’s you!”

She’d been the one he’d seen in the woods that day with Whisper. She’d probably been the one to steal Seb’s license from his pocket, back when she’d hugged him so unexpectedly on his walk home from school.

From the way Darren moved to slide a hand protectively around her waist, she was also most likely his girlfriend.

“July!” cried Leanne in relief, writing off Ben’s reaction as nothing weirder than was usual. “I thought I’d seen you come down here! I- well, we, I suppose, wanted to thank you for such a great party.”

July smiled sweetly, blatantly ignoring Ben (who currently resembled a stupider kind of cyclops with its eye popping out). “Leanne!” She moved forwards to hug her. “I’m so glad you like it. It’s Darren’s brother’s band.”

Leanne raised her eyebrows, struggling to be polite. “Oh! They’re… um, so cool!”

Darren rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “If shit was a band…” he muttered under his breath. Ben snorted.

Well, he thought, at least we agree on something.

“But anyway,” asked July conversationally. “How come you guys came all the way down here? It’s still roped off, right?”

“Yes...” answered Leanne, a little uneasily. “But we, er-“

“But what?” July rolled one of her shoulders back, her smile still fixed in place. “You see, Darren and I wanted…”

“To be alone for a while,” Darren finished.

Leanne’s eyes widened. “Oh! Oh.”

“Yeah.” July flashed her teeth winningly. “So, if you could just-“

“Piss off?” suggested Darren.

Go back to the top deck, that would be great.”

“Oh,” said Leanne. “Right. Fine. Thanks again for the party.” She pulled at Ben’s sleeve. “Come on, let’s go.”

Ben shook his head, his jaw tight. “Wait,” he said slowly, staring at July. “Who the hell are you?”

Darren sneered at Ben, his lips curved back against his teeth like a wolf. “It’s rude to go to a party without even knowing who’s holding it.”

“July,” said July. “My name is July.”

It was Darren who turned away first, stalking back inside the little cabin. Leanne slumped back up the stairs, slightly more down cast than she had been on the way down. Ben and July made eye contact. Slowly, with great precision, she mouthed two words.

Ben watched carefully, before following Leanne to the top deck.

 

Ten minutes later, Ben slouched against the drinks table, trying to avoid the crowd of Incredibly Annoying Year Twelves threatening to knock into him. Leanne thought he’d gone to the toilet, and was waiting for him outside. Or something. Ben wasn’t really sure, but he didn’t particularly care, anyway.

July knew something. She must do. July had something to do with Seb, and his driver’s licence, and the attempt on his life. Ben gritted his teeth. If only Whisper were here. He himself had a tendency to overthink things, and another opinion would be a godsend right now.

What was it that July had mouthed? He thought she’d said punch bowl, hence why he was waiting next to the scarily precarious looking drinks table. But what if it was something else? Young foal? Black coal? My soul?

He shook his head in irritation. This was ridiculous. He was ridiculous.

Closing his eyes, he let the weight the whole Seb Thing was having on him settle across his eyelids, painting them in the dreary, dusty colours he could no longer bear to look at. A cool hand tapped him on the shoulder, and then a body brushed against his own.

Ben’s eyes snapped open.

July stood on tiptoe to whisper to him, her lips soft against his ear.  “There’s going to be another attempt on Sebastian’s life. I don’t know when. Tomorrow, next week. But if you don’t stop trying to stop them now, they’re going to try to kill you too.”

Ben gulped. “So it’s true? There are- you and Darren and… Are there more of you? You’re trying to kill him?”

“I’m trying to warn you.”

He pressed his head into his hands, the true magnitude of the situation striking him across the cheek like a blow. “This can’t… I wasn’t even…”

“I have to go. Darren’s waiting for me.”

“Is he trying to help me too?”

A pause. “No. But… It’s not just me on your side.” July stepped backwards, the crowd close to engulfing her.

Ben flung out a hand to her, desperation jerking his limbs like a puppet master might have. “Wait! What about the driver’s license you took? Seb’s driver’s launce? If you’re helping me… Can I have it back?”

July shook her head impatiently, her blonde hair flying around her shoulders. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I never took anything from you.”

The crowd moved, surging with the pulse of the music, and July was gone. 

 

-

WHISPER

A ROMANCE BY MIRLOTTA

//cover by @millie and the poltergeist\\

-

 

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