Golden sun rays pierced through her windows waking her up. Lazily, she stirred in her bed. Her body felt as if it weighs a thousand pounds, her limbs were so sore that they ache every time she tried to move a muscle. Raine reached over her bedside table for her mobile phone. Her bedside clock just struck 2pm. 10 missed calls and 3 messages from Kaelan. Just as she was about to get off her bed, her phone rang again.
“Where the hell were you? I was worried sick! Why didn’t you answer my calls? I even went over but you weren’t home. Why…” “Kaelan, please…” Raine stopped him mid-sentenced. “My head feels like a bomb just exploded inside.” “What’s going on Raine? Lately you’ve been so distant, so different,” “Do you really want to know?” Raine snapped. Her head throbbed so much she felt like passing out. “Yes,” he answered. Raine took a deep breath and let out a huge sigh.
Should I? I don’t want to lose him. But then I don’t want to keep this hidden from him anymore. I’m just so tired with all these secrets. “Fine. But what I’m about to tell you will freak you out and there’s a high possibility that things will change and that it could never go back to the way it was. Meet me at The Shack in an hour.”
Raine walked into The Shack and headed towards the counter. After placing her order, she looked around but there was no sign of Kaelan. The Shack was packed with university students bustling here and there, happily chatting away, oblivious to her existence. Some were familiar faces, some were newcomers. Raine, being a regular customer, knew all the staffs there but she hardly talked to any of them. The staffs all knew her to be quiet, but they were friendly nevertheless. Her usual spot was vacant, as if they had reserved the table especially for her. The tables around her were all occupied.
As she was about to take out her cigarettes, Kaelan walked up the creaky wooden stairs. “Sorry I’m late,” he said sheepishly. Raine just shrugged. She barely looked at him. In her mind, she was trying to figure out how to explain things to Kaelan. Things have been so crazy that she had trouble where to begin with. Obviously, she can’t just blurt out about her powers right there and then, although she wished with her whole heart that she could. That will definitely scare Kaelan away, and that’s the least she would want to do. If she starts rambling on about the attacks, he might think she’s out of her head and will take her to see a psychiatrist. That too, was the last thing she would ever want to do.
Raine’s usual chicken fajitas came hot and steamy. It looked marvellously delicious, what with the melted cheese, fresh salad and crispy pita bread. But no matter how mouth watering it looked, bidding her, Raine lost her appetite. The stank from the creature’s ashes was still fresh in her guts.
A group of guys came out of The Shack. They were Kaelan’s football team-mates. Kaelan stood up to have a quick chat with them. “So what are you guys up to?” Ken, an exchange student from Japan asked Kaelan. “Nothing much, just having a late lunch. Catching up,” Kaelan answered with a quick wink towards Raine. She pretended not to notice. Ryan smiled sheepishly towards Raine, and she smiled back. “Sweet. We’ll join you guys. A couple more hours here won’t hurt. It’s not like we have anything better to do anyway.”
Raine looked up at Kaelan, giving him a sharp look as if to say, “no way!” but before he could stop them, they had already drag extra chairs and sat down at the table.
An hour passed. Kaelan and the guys were busy gabbing away, and Ryan tried to forge a decent conversation with Raine. She was getting bored and she barely touched her food. Ryan noticed her boredom and whispered to her, “You wanna bail?” Without a word, she stood up and just walked away. She heard Kaelan called out her name but she ignored him.
“It’s alright man, I’ll handle it,” Ryan told Kaelan as he got up and caught up after her. Ryan found her sitting cross-legged on a boulder near the lake. “You alright?” he asked. “Yeah. Well, you know, I’m just not close to his friends. It was awkward,” she smiled. Ryan felt his heart melting at her smile. It was the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. Raine found his company pleasant. Talking to Ryan away from the cluster made her ease up. It took her mind off things, even if it was temporary.
Ryan was really deep; they talked about various issues from snobbish cheerleaders and jocks to the university’s political agendas and mismanagement to the recent death of his pet Labrador Snowy. She didn’t take him to be smart before and was surprised at how much she opened up to him. To an extent.
They were in the midst of talking about favouritism among lecturers when Kaelan walked up to them. “Hey,” he playfully poked Raine in the ribs. She didn’t respond. “Are you mad at me or something?” he asked. She stood up and looked him in the eye. “Did you even bother to know what I wanted to talk to you about? Or am I that invisible that it just slipped out of your head?” she snapped.
Ryan looked away, as if pretending not to hear anything. “No, of course I remembered. But the guys…” “Yes, the guys. It’s always the guys! You know what? I don’t give a rat’s ass anymore,” Feeling as if he’s not meant to be there, Ryan got up and with a slight nod towards Kaelan, he went away. “What’s up with you Raine? You’re never like this,”
“You! You’re what’s up. You know this thing I wanted to tell you is serious! But you’re acting like it’s no big deal. Do you know how much shit I’m going through? I’m going insane just thinking about it. Do you know how much gut it takes me to be ready to tell you? And you’re not making things easier,” she screamed.
Kaelan was taken aback from her outburst. Never throughout their entire friendship had she raised her voice to him. Sarcastic remarks, sure, it’s not Raine if it’s not sarcastic. But hysterical? This is the first time. “Hold on. You’re not being fair. What’s this thing between you and Ryan? How do you think I feel when you just walked away like that?” “What? This has nothing to do with Ryan,” she held her words. “Yes it does! At least to me!” he shouted back, surprised at his own pent up rage.
“Huh? Why would you care? You don’t care at all! At least Ryan notices me,” “Oh so you got one attention from a dude you’re all high and mighty now? That gives you a right to scream in my face?” Now he did it. She blinked, shocked at what he just said. Tears formed in her eyes. “I had never said a damn word about your girlfriends. How could you even say that?” Kaelan’s face changed dramatically as she spat the words. “Raine, listen, I’m so sorry,” he tried to grab her shoulders but she backed away.
Suddenly, the sky above them darkened. It started to drizzle but the sun was still up, burning red. There were no traces of clouds in the sky. As the raindrops touched their skin, it sizzled away, forming steam around them. Raine felt a chill run down her spine. Something’s not right. “We have to go,” she took Kaelan’s hands and started dragging him away from the lake. Kaelan struggled to break free from her grasp but she kept dragging him. Stumbling, he forced her to stop.
“What the hell is the matter with you?” Raine looked around frantic. The lights from The Shack blinked in the distance. They were standing on the cobblestone pathway leading out to Royale Street. The trees around them shuddered, but they could feel no wind. “Raine, look at me,” Kaelan grabbed her by the shoulders, his voice deep and serious. Suddenly out of nowhere, something shoved him hard and he fell to the ground. Raine gasped and tried to protect him from whatever that pushed him. “Don’t hurt him! It’s me you want. Leave him out of this!” she screamed into nothingness.
An evil laugh boomed but she could not see the source. With her right palm facing upwards, she bid her blue flame to light. “Where are you? Show yourself, you coward!” “Soon, my dear Raine,” the voice echoed. Outraged, she threw the fireball into the sky and it burst into tiny embers, sizzling as they collide with the raindrops. And with another laugh, the voice disappeared in thin air and they were left alone on the road. The sky started to become lighter, and the rain cleared.
Early signs of dusk bestowed upon them as the sun changed into yellowed hue. A cool breeze blew by kissing their wet skin, making them shudder from cold. She turned around and held out her hand to help Kaelan up. But he moved away from her. His eyes were staring at her in disbelief. His mouth was gaping, as if trying to say something but no words came out. “Kaelan, are you hurt?” she cooed, trying to calm him. “Let me help you up,” Without taking her hand, he stood up, trying hard not to stumble. He was in a daze, his face curled into confusion.
Raine stepped nearer, but he backed away. “I, I…have to go,” he started to walk, but Raine held his hand. “Kaelan, this is what I wanted to tell you. This,” she held out her free hand, and a small blue fire ball lighted. “I’m not like everyone else.” He broke free from her grasp swiftly and turned his back to her. As she watched her best friend walk away, her heart felt like it had dropped 30 storeys and shattered into pieces.