Friday, April 27, 2012

Consume Chapter One by Shell Crane

One
            I felt wretched as I walked away from Tate's house. His mom hadn't let me in to see him, which really was fine with me. I just wanted to drop off some pamphlets. Last night at the carnival, Tate just seemed distraught on a new level. So I researched a recovery program for kids who were having problems with drugs or steroids who didn't have any support from family or friends. I thought that fit Tate's situation pretty nicely.
          So I went down to the center this morning, picked up some pamphlets and put them in an envelope. I knew that Tate had told his parents I dumped him. Or he probably said it was him who had done the dumping. I'm sure the story was something ugly that I had done because his mom basically snatched the envelope - that I said was a school project - and then slammed the door in my face.
          I asked Eli to let me go alone, for obvious reasons; an altercation with Tate right now wasn't going to solve anything for any of us. I wasn't trying to give Tate false hope by helping him, he just used to be my friend. He used to be my boyfriend. He used to be a good guy, and he had helped me through the worst time in my entire life. So, I thought it was only fair and right to try to help him, though I doubted he was going to take the advice. I could hope.
          I twisted my dark hair to the side of my neck and let the spring sun beat down on me. It was almost summer, almost prom, almost graduation. Almost a new life for me in every conceivable way.
          A face suddenly nuzzling my neck from behind and arms around me made me smile. I turned in his arms to see the purple eyes that looked at me with love that we never spoke out loud. "Hey."
          "Hey, you," he said and with a hand on my jaw, he pulled my face up to kiss me. "How did it go?" he asked, but he covered my lips with his again refusing to let me answer. He knew just what to do and how to do it to render speech an impossibility. I leaned back, forcing him to groan in complaint. "I don't really care how good old Tate is doing," he informed me. "I was just being polite."
          "I know that," I said. "And I'm grateful that you allowed me to see him," I spouted sarcastically. "But I felt I owed it to him."
          He sighed and rubbed his hand down my arm to my wrist. He caressed it lovingly, and whether he knew what that was doing to me or not wasn't clear. "I know, and as much as I hate to admit it, I'm pretty grateful to Tate for taking such good care of you before I got here."
          I know what he meant. I told him all about Tate last night and how he helped me when my parents died. We rode the Ferris wheel with Patrick a couple of times, and then by ourselves. We didn't get off. It was a good a place to talk as any, so we just kept riding, over and over. We talked about everything but the Horde and Hatch. Well, I talked.
          Eli was interested in what my life had been like without him, without Pastor and Mrs. Ruth's influence and care for me. I told him all about my parents and my sister and how I was a mere shadow of the girl I'd been before.
          He held me as we watched the city made a loop under us, the Ferris wheel the only thing that seemed to hold us to the earth. He had hummed a nameless song that deliciously haunted my dreams last night. I eventually had one of those epiphany moments this morning in the shower and realized it was 'Paradise' by Coldplay, and got shampoo in my eyes as I stood there trying to remember the words.
          "I know," I told him. "But you're here now, and I've done my deed for Tate. Now we just have to worry about trying to finish high school."
          "You mean you have to worry about finishing," he corrected and grinned. "I'm not even technically registered here."
          "So," I thought, "how many times have you technically graduated?"
          "None," he said and grimaced. "I always left before graduation. Dresses and I don't mesh well."
          I laughed and shook my head. "It's not a dress. It's a gown."
          "And what's the definition for 'gown' in the dictionary?"
          "Ok, fine," I surrendered. "Are you at least going to watch me in my dress?"
          He gave me a puzzled look. "Of course I am. I wouldn't miss it for anything, and I'm not going anywhere without you."
          "Good," I whispered. I watched him lace our fingers between us, the barbed string attached to us both seemed to hum at his attention. He slowly inched his way back to my lips, pulling me up as he did so. He captured my mouth in a slow and lazy motion that had me digging my fingers into his shoulders. Something seemed to change between us last night. After he saved me, after all the Horde and carnival stuff, we seemed different. For one, I'd never been so caressed and devoured with someone's eyes before without even touching. And when he added the touching…like now…it was a whole new ball game for me.
          I slipped my hand into the collar of his black button up shirt and inched my hand to the back of his neck. When his lips left mine, I was sure I whined, but then I didn't do anything at all as his mouth made it to my chin, and then my jaw, and then the side of my neck. I felt the warm metal of his tongue ring and exhaled an embarrassingly loud breath into his hair. I swore I felt his lips smile.
          And then an annoyance worse than an alarm clock blared near us. "Eew! Seriously?"
          Eli growled his irritation against my skin and turned to look at Deidre. No matter the differences that were so blatantly attached to Eli and me, Deidre apparently hadn't changed. My little speech hadn't broken any barriers of her conscience. Eli spat his words to her. "I suggest you walk on."
          "What? Done with me so now you think you have to protect Clara?"
          "I had to have you first to be done with you," he rebutted. "And Clara didn't need any of my help dealing with you last night."
          Deidre huffed. "You weren't even there. Hearsay doesn't count."
          "Oh, I was there." He laughed softly and pulled me closer, his arm possessive and intimate around my waist. "Better scurry along or you'll be late," he told her as he turned back to me. He smiled before kissing me once more on the lips. We heard her shiny flats padding away angrily on the sidewalk. "We better go, too."
          "Yeah," I agreed. We started to walk and he grabbed my hand as we crossed the street. The sun was bright and overly warm for so early in the morning. It beat down on my jacket and  then crested in a blinding arc over the top of the school as we approached as if welcoming us in.
          High school. Only a couple of months to go and it would all be history. Good riddance.
~ ~ ~
         
          The bell came and went as I slammed my locker shut. Math book in hand I looked up to Eli and smiled as I saw him etching a path through the air to me. I accepted his easy kiss and smiled as I turned to head to homeroom.
          Floating on a cloud I felt lighter than I'd felt in days. I sank into my seat in homeroom, not even glancing Tate's way, and said my 'here' when roll call was in full swing. I rested my chin on my hand and tried to act normal, when all I really wanted to do was crash through the door and get back to my Eli.
          What was wrong with me?
          This was pretty crazy. I definitely had to label myself as the boy-crazy girl I'd been borderlined as before. I was no longer borderline. I was full-fledged, dreamy sighs and proneness to daydreams included.
          The bell jerked me from my thoughts and I looked up at to see everyone piling out of the classroom. I grabbed my stuff and stood, only to bump into someone…Tate. Great.
          "Hey, Clara," he said oddly.
          "Tate," I answered back evenly. I wasn't looking to get into an altercation, and if he was fishing, I'd throw the bait back at him.
          "I got your envelope this morning…and, uh…" He cleared his throat exceptionally long. I looked up at his face and tried to keep the pity to a minimum. "I just… What were you thinking?"
          "What?" I asked in a flurry as his sudden change in tone.
          He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at me. "My dad could have intercepted your little 'present' and then I'd have really been in it deep."
          "I was trying to help you. You helped me…when I really needed it." My voice went all soft and sympathetic. I reigned it in as his face lost some of its tightness. "I just wanted to return the favor. You need help, Tate."
          "I…I know," he admitted to the floor. "I just… I just don't know where to start."
          "Where to start would be telling your parents."
          Back to square one. His jaw tightened and he jammed his hands into his pockets. "No way. I'll be fine. I really don't see why you're so worried about me anyway."
          "I told you. I felt like I owed you."
          "I wasn't nice to you so you'd help me hide my addiction later, Clara," he said harshly.
          "I know that," I told him with certainty. I didn't say anything else. The person had to want to change. It couldn't be forced. And from the way his nose was scrunching, the change wasn't coming today.
          "Please just stay out of my business," he said and walked around me. I heard him mutter as he kept walking. "Especially since you don't belong to me anymore."
          Ok. I took a deep breath and realized this was what I thought was going to happen. He admitted it at least, but wasn't looking for a fork in the road. I had done my deed and felt good. Maybe one day he'd come around, but for now, I was free of him and any guilt that I may have felt. Though it was totally stupid to feel guilty over any of it.
          Done. With. It.
          I bumped into someone as I scrambled for my next class. I apologized and started to leave, but they grabbed my sleeve.
          "Hey," she said.
          "Oh, hey, Ariel." I stopped and looked at her. "Are you ok? Pat said you were sick or something last night."
          "I'm fine," she said, but she totally wasn't. Her eyes were black underneath, and not from any Goth look she was rocking. She hasn't slept at all and I felt terrible.
          "Hey, you want to have a sleepover or something tonight?" I blurted out in my newfound need to try to fix things. I was no longer going to sit on the sidelines while things happened around me.
          "Really?" she said stunned. I nodded. "Ok," she answered quickly. "My parents have been out of town for a few days. They come back tomorrow night so that's perfect."
          No wonder she didn't sleep last night. After Demarcus has scared the crap out of her, and there was no logical explanation for it, she'd gone home to an empty house. "Great! It's settled. Vamp show marathon, here we come!" I said excitedly. I was actually excited and it wasn't all for her benefit! My other friends never slept over or did anything like that with me. I was always alone in my Salvatore\Spike obsession. Until now.
          Her eyes seemed to brighten a bit, her pallor and color becoming a thing of the past. I looked at her objectively for probably the first time. The nose ring connected to her earring was intimidating to say the least, but at least she rocked it. The short hair she had sported since I could remember did bring out her cheek bones, for real. She wasn't thin, but wasn't heavy either, her curves showing through her skirt, unlike mine. Our feet were total contrasts to each other; my petite ballet flats and her big black boots.
          I smiled. She was my complete opposite. A foot in the right direction away the guarded years of pretending to be something I wasn't.
          "Come on," I said. "Who do you have next?"
          "Smith." She drawled and popped a piece of chewing gum into her mouth and grinned. "He hates it when I chew gum."
          I laughed as I glanced around for Eli. I spotted him watching me, leaning against the lockers with his hip. He was smirking. "Lunch," I called to Ariel and waved over my shoulder.
          "Mos def!"
          I pushed my way through the throngs and liked it a lot when he opened his arms to me. I went and almost slammed into him as the masses scrammed to make it to class before the bell. He caught me easily and pulled me to the side as if to protect me from the herd. "It's crazy today," he muttered.
          "Yeah," I agreed halfheartedly because my excitement and focus were definitely elsewhere now. "So, Ariel's coming to spend the night with me."
          "She is?" His voice was high with surprise.
          "Yeah. Her parents come back tomorrow night, but she didn't sleep at all last night because of what that," I looked around for listening ears, "Devourer did to her."
          He nodded his head in recognition. "Ok," he said slowly. "Does that mean you don't want me to come to you tonight?" His voice went ground level and he inched closer. "In a reverie?"
          My stupid teenage girl heart started to flutter just like butterfly wings. Just like in those books that Ariel reads. I wanted to curse it and be mad at it, but Eli's breath hit my cheek and all thoughts of insignificant things left me. "No, you can come to me," I said breathlessly. "I want you to."
          "Good," he answered, his voice almost a growl. He kissed me cheek and then turned me. He pushed me gently on the small of my back with both hands and said, "Bell's in eighteen seconds. Go fast."
          I turned to look at him as I almost sprinted down the hall. He was watching me to as he walked into his class. I thought he'd bump right into the wall because he never once looked up to see where he was going. But he walked right into his class door, and his eyes disappeared.
          I didn't have the same luck.
          I banged my shin on a small metal trash can keeping my class door open. It resounded around the room and hall as I tried not to howl. "Ow," I muttered and ignored the couple of idiots who laughed.
          "Right on time," my teacher said and then the bell rang starting another class.
          Another meaningless cycle. I couldn't concentrate or focus or think. Everything just seemed so mediocre, miniscule and pointless now. Didn't these people know there was more to life than this? There were monsters out there. There was a great big ol' world with all sorts of things in it that didn't give a flip whether we passed High School Spanish or not.
          They'd kill you all the same......

Consume is the second book in The Devour series by Shell Crane and will be released May 22.

Source: Shell Crane

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