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       Moonbeam, p.21

           Adrienne Woods
 

  I started to listen to new music. I was tired of Blake’s voice in my headphones. There were a few new songs that I felt were just written for me. And I told myself that it would pass. I would get over Blake. Everyone did eventually.

  “Elena,” Lee stopped kissing me. I opened my eyes.

  He wasn’t hard on the eyes. Even in the light of the moon streaming in the window, I could appreciate that. He stared at me with his deep brown eyes and knitted eyebrows. His blond hair was tousled from our make-out session.

  “What?” We were on his bed, riling each other up again.

  If his mother found out I wasn’t in my room, like all good princesses should be this hour, she was going to phone mine, and this would be the end. But I didn’t care.

  “Where are you?”

  I felt confused. “Here.”

  “No, you are not,” he said and rolled off me. We were still stuck on second base because I refused to sleep with him. I’d given him so many reasons why not. They all summed up to one truth: I wasn’t there with Lee.

  “Is it him again?”

  “Who?” I pretended that I didn’t know.

  His voice was sullen. “That lame-ass fucking dragon of yours.”

  “No,” I lied. “Seriously, I could’ve seen him this Christmas, but I’m here with you.” I pushed myself from the bed. “I hate your insecurities, Lee.”

  “I’m sorry.” He reached out for me.

  “Just go to bed,” I said. I shoved myself off his bed and tiptoed out of his room.

  I had to lie. I loathed the lying, but Lee could never know the truth. If he knew I had no intention of ever sleeping with him, that I really was still stuck on Blake, he would break up with me. And he was such a great distraction.

  School started again after our break. It was hard to pretend to be happy and jolly when all I wanted to do was rip out a little royal’s heart for running away. So she had a fucking boyfriend now. It wasn’t because of that fact that I was pissed off. She was still like my little sister, I told myself. No, it was just the fact that I was dark, and she didn’t care because of one lame fucking kiss.

  The next few months flew by. No crows came. Not even a birthday wish.

  As her birthday neared, invitations started to reach everyone…except me. Lucian and Annie got their invitations for Elena’s fifteenth birthday. I didn’t.

  I called my father and asked if I could go home with Tabitha. The darkness was growing stronger. Phil, her brother, had Fire Caine.

  To my surprise my dad asked, “What about Elena’s birthday?”

  “I’m not going.”

  His hologram frowned. “Blake, what the hell is going on? You’ve never missed a birthday of hers.”

  “Yeah, there’s always first time, Dad.” I slammed down the Cammy.

  The next day Lucian asked me if he was going to see me at Elena’s party.

  “Nope,” I said. “I’m going to visit Tabitha for the summer.”

  He just looked at me. “And what do I tell Elena?”

  “Believe me, she isn’t expecting me,” I said.

  “Blake, what the hell happened?” Lucian asked. I’d told him some, but not all of what was going on between us. “The crows stopped coming, I get it. But I know you found another way to communicate with her.”

  I scowled. “She is a spoiled brat, Lucian. A spoiled brat who only cares about herself.” I opened the door. “Enjoy your summer break.”

  I sent him an invitation. By now he would’ve RSVP’d. Why was he doing this?

  So he doesn’t want me. I’d never taken him for such a fucking jerk.

  I’d ruined everything with that kiss. The hardest part was that I didn’t know how to take it back. I’d apologized. I’d sent him almost a dozen heartfelt letters. Things would never be the same.

  It had been a year since I last saw him. Well, my birthday would mark a year.

  My mom kept telling me that his dark side had started to rise. Aunt Issy fretted about that. She was disappointed, apparently, that I hadn’t showed for Christmas. She believed my effect on him, as lame as it sounded, would have made the past six months a little easier.

  “Then why doesn’t he let me know, Mom? He might not like me that much, but at least I can take the dark away.”

  “Because he is Chromatic. Chromatics doesn’t want good around them. You know that.”

  My brow puckered. “It doesn’t make any sense. He promised.”

  “People sometimes break their promises, Elena, especially the ones who tend toward the dark side.”

  “It’s not like him,” I whined.

  “Elena, what do you want me to say, huh? Lucian is going through the same thing with him. His mom told me that they are only roommates.”

  My mouth fell open. “They aren’t friends anymore?”

  “He’s even pushing Lucian away. Even aunt Issy is worried about him. About the two of you. I don’t know what to tell everyone. I’m trying to say the right words to you. I don’t know, sweetheart.”

  I felt sorry for my mom. I knew she was trying really hard.

  “Don’t get your hopes up that he’s going to come to this year’s party. At least Lee and all your other friends will be here.”

  I scowled. “Lee isn’t coming,” I said.

  “What, why?”

  “He doesn’t like Lucian, and told me if he Lucian came, he wouldn’t.”

  “Lucian?”

  “Yes. They were in the same grade until Lucian went to Dragonia, Mom.”

  She gave me a calculating look. “You okay with it?”

  “It’s Lee, or Lucian. Lucian is by far one of my best friends, Mom. So, sorry, Lee.”

  She shook her head and kissed me on my temple. “Already breaking hearts.” She gave a satisfied sigh, which made me laugh.

  My fifteenth birthday was in two days. Blake still hadn’t RSVP’d. They’d brought nametags, and his wasn’t even printed.

  Tabitha could’ve come with. I would’ve acted as if nothing had happened. I would’ve even ignored him. I just wanted him to be there.

  Why was I even hoping?

  The Shifters had a brand-new single out. It was a haunting song. A bit on the dark side. No message lingered in the lyrics. Nothing. He sounded so angry.

  One song was about betrayal. It was how I felt. Had he written it from my point of view? It was as if he knew what he was doing to me, and he didn’t know how to make it right. Because he was dark. Or maybe it was a song that made him and that cow of his laugh their heads off.

  The song’s title was “What If?” What if…what? What if I hadn’t kissed him? More like “What if that Snow Dragon had kept her grabby paws off him?” He wasn’t hers. She knew how it would end and still…

  It angered me all over again.

  A knock came at my door. Mom popped her head into my room. She didn’t look happy. She had grave news.

  “You don’t have to say it, Mom.”

  “Okay.” Her expression was sympathetic. “Sorry sweetheart.”

  “Let me guess, he didn’t go home for the summer.”

  She shook her head. I nodded with a faint smile.

  He was with his Ice Queen. She really was a pain in the ass. The wedge between us. Something I never thought anyone could do. Everyone had been wrong about our bond. I was right. We weren’t destined to be like Cooper and Merica.

  Still, I put on party clothes. I wore a sequined black miniskirt and cute boots, and pretended to have the best birthday ever.

  We even ended up inside my treehouse—all of us, even Arianna. The air between us felt dead without Blake.

  Nobody mentioned him. Not Annie, Lucian, Sammy, or Arianna.

  I had to disrupt the tenuous peace. “Are you guys not friends anymore?” I asked Lucian as he took a drag of his cigarette.

  He shook his head and handed it to me.

  “Why?” I asked. The cherry glowed red as I inhaled. But I lost my cool when I almost coughed up a lung. All of them laughed
, happy for the levity.

  Lucian’s face got serious again as he took the cigarette back from me. “Because he’s an asshole. He’s fucking angry at everyone. The worst part is, he doesn’t speak to anyone.”

  I knew the feeling.

  “When was the last time you spoke to him?” Lucian asked.

  “You really want to know?”

  He nodded.

  “A year ago.”

  All of them stared at me.

  I studied them back. What was I missing?

  “You haven’t spoken to him for a year?”

  “Yes,” I said. “I wasn’t here for Christmas, and the last I heard from him was my birthday. I tried. He never replied to my crows. So what am I supposed to do, Lucian?”

  “See? He’s a fucking asshole.” Lucian glowered.

  “He might have changed if you weren’t dating fucknut Lee,” Sammy said.

  Lucian looked at me. “Who’s Lee?”

  I glared at Sammy.

  “Where is he tonight anyway? You didn’t break up, did you?”

  The others gasped—except Arianna. “I’m with Sammy, Elena. He is a douchebag.”

  “So? He’s my douchebag.”

  “Lee who?” Lucian repeated. My face said it all. “Lee Evers. You’re fucking kidding me, right?”

  I laughed. “What’s the deal with you two, anyway?”

  “He’s an asshole, Elena.” I’d never heard him so mad. “Believe me, punching him felt fucking awesome. The grounding after that, not so much, I’ll admit. And what did his dad do? Bought him a fucking bike because he’s a fucking man.”

  I giggled. “You guys were in a real fight?”

  “He’s an asshole. Break up with him.”

  “It’s not like that, okay?”

  “So why isn’t he here?”

  “Cause he gave me an ultimatum.” I hesitated. “Um, involving you.”

  Lucian smiled and we high fived. “Seriously?” he said.

  I nodded. “You’re one of my best friends, Lucian. There wasn’t even a doubt I’d pick you.”

  We went back to the party and danced like there was no tomorrow.

  Overall, my fifteenth birthday sucked. My best friend was dark, didn’t want anything to do with his friends, all thanks to a certain Snow Dragon with perfect tits and a perfect ass.

  I told myself that was all she was to him. But he’d been with her for more than a year.

  I didn’t look forward to going to Dragonia Academy anymore. Just one more year before Sammy and I were going to join. Then I couldn’t avoid him.

  How did everything get so upside down?

  The new school year started. It was my last year at Mastersons. The tutors at home increased, too.

  I knew almost all the spells there were, all the subjects I was going to have, and all the potions, even the deadly ones, thanks to Frank’s fascination.

  My favorite subject was Art of War. I was now on my second trainer; the other one could only teach me what he knew. I’d surpassed his talent. Mom got a ninja. He had many dans and whatnot. His training was exceptionally hard, too, but I was giving it my all.

  My body started changing. Mom didn’t like that I was growing up.

  Lee kept his toehold in my life. Part of me wished he would just move on, but I let him stay. He was a delicious distraction.

  I hadn’t been in the spotlight the past four months. I hated the cockroaches who called themselves the media. I hid underneath shapeless hoodies. Anytime they succeeded in getting a shot of me, it made front-page news. Lee made it into the photos a couple of times, too. He loved the limelight. The question was starting to get asked: why didn’t they see me and Blake together anymore? After all, the fates of the Rubicon and the Princess of Paegeia affected the whole nation.

  I tried not to be bothered by their headlines.

  My mom scolded me once when they took a picture of Lee and me running from the cameras—I’d given them the middle finger. I was grounded for a month. That picture was on the cover of every magazine. My face wasn’t visible. Just my rude gesture. I’d promised that it was the last incident like that. Now I hid from the cockroaches.

  Other headlines made the front page, of course. Stuff about Blake, pictures of him and Tabitha at nightclubs. He was drunk, yeah, but so effing hot. How could I have ever thought of him as my brother? I missed him so much.

  He was going dark. Even in photos I could see it. I always whizzed through the transcripts of his interviews to find the one question I needed answered. Where is Elena, Blake? Why don’t we see the two of you together anymore?

  He ignored this question every time. He never answered a thing. It was as if I didn’t exist.

  Still, I ignored it. They always published whatever they wanted to, anyway. No matter what I said, they twisted my words and made me sound more horrible than reality. Maybe they did the same to Blake. I eventually stopped reading magazines and newspapers.

  My father made a speech about respect for the private lives of young people, when the cockroaches got to be too much.

  Everything stopped after that. Life couldn’t be better than it was, and I’d made peace with that.

  I took another snort of Fire Caine. Usually the darkness would subside for a couple of days after I used.

  I didn’t hate Elena as much as I did when I came off the Fire Caine.

  I missed her face. I missed her laughter. I missed her irritating the living crap out of me. And yes, there were times that I wished I hadn’t stopped her from kissing me that night and just gone with it. At least it would’ve been better than this.

  This darkness.

  She would always be my happy place. It was evident in the poems I wrote, evident in my music. I hated her for just giving up.

  Was she even going to claim me one day? Now that was the big question.

  When all was still fine, before that party that ruined everything between us, Lucian had asked me what I loved about Tabitha. I’d told him she was one step away from being perfect. She was beautiful. She made me yearn for her in a way I’d never wanted anything. She was funny as hell. She was kind. I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. Her ice had a calming effect on my Pink Kiss.

  Lucian had narrowed his eyes and asked me what the one missing step was.

  It was that dash of trouble. She was too scared of just letting go, too scared of cutting class with me, too scared of taking that drag with me. What could I expect? It was how Snow Dragons were built. But other than that she was perfect.

  He’d laughed and shaken his head as if he knew something I didn’t. He left it there.

  I stared at the white lines on the sideboard in front of me. Should I take another? Now I suddenly wondered what the fuck he knew. Why had he shaken his head like that?

  I still saw Elena as my little sister, as my best friend. It hurt that she didn’t want to see me. She held a grudge like nobody else I’d ever met. Hopefully, she would decide that it was enough. All I could do was hope. A part of me knew that in the morning, when I came down, I wasn’t going to give a shit about any of this and I would hate her for not fighting harder.

  I flicked on the television. A news story was on. I straightened. It was Elena’s dad, asking for help.

  I squinted to focus. A picture of Mr. Pluggs the monkey came on screen. He was missing.

  It seemed like a great idea. To be the one to find him. Maybe I would be her hero again.

  I started the search. But hours later, the Fire Caine clouded my thoughts and I ended up in a club, dancing and flirting with Sophie, a beautiful brunette. Tomorrow, Pluggs would be a distant memory.

  Christmas came again

  This time we were going away. My dad phoned and said that he’d booked a trip to China. The people there would make me feel like a god again. Just what I needed. The last time I’d seen them, I hadn’t had my human form yet. They adored the Rubicon.

  It was time to go back and let them meet the guy behind the Rubicon.

&
nbsp; I hated the fact that Lucian was going to spend Christmas with Elena. They’d invited them this year.

  I secured a seat on the flight to China for Tabitha. She was coming with; her parents had said it was okay. At least it wouldn’t be boring.

  A scream shredded my throat and left my mouth. Tears poured over my cheeks.

  My mother was the first to reach me. My father and Sir Robert dogged her heels. When she saw the blood on the walls of the porch, she grabbed me tight.

  My horrified gaze, blurred with anguished tears, was riveted to a tiny body, a brutally slit neck. Pluggs. My Pluggs. My heart felt like it would burst.

  “I told you they couldn’t be trusted!” my mother roared at my father. “Why didn’t you listen to me?” She dragged me into the house.

  Pluggs had paid for his mistakes. He’d wandered off and been missing for a month. My father had held a press conference asking for help. The entire nation had searched for him. Nobody could find him.

  And here he was, laying in a congealing pool of his own blood.

  A message to my father, written in Wyvic, was scrawled across the white porch floor in monkey blood.

  Why had he even had that meeting with them? Mom had insisted that they couldn’t be trusted. Why?

  Felix the Great Dane and Shauna the Persian cat stayed inside my room. I didn’t let them out of my sight. It was two days before Christmas and I could do nothing but clutch my two remaining pets and sob.

  I swore to kill the Wyvern who had done that to Mr. Pluggs. But my father, always diplomatic, didn’t want us to make a fuss. It would create more chaos among our people.

  I didn’t understand Wyvic. Not even Dad did; he had to get a translator to come and tell him what it meant. He was scared afterward. He refused to tell anyone what it said. It was something bad, though. He doubled the guards around the castle.

  I cried for two days. When the tears finally dried, I slept.

  Christmas was upon us, but I wasn’t in the mood for people.

  Sir Robert left on a long-overdue trip to China. Something to do with them meeting Blake’s adult form. I was too grief-stricken to care.

 
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