A/N: Here I am again and in a timely manner more or less! First of all, I want to say THANK YOU a million times to everyone who read, liked, and/or left comments on my previous chapter. That was pretty much the best welcome back in the world. You guys are amazing and I couldn’t be more thankful to have your readership!
Also, there’s an avalanche of schoolwork coming my way and I haven’t even written out the next part yet, so the next chapter probably won’t be posted until late May. That chapter will be Part IV, followed by a Joanne update, finally, lol. On that note, make sure that you have read Augustus and Gemma Part I and Part II before reading this one.
Now, without further ado, we continue on directly from the last part—like literally, I wrote them all at the same time and split it, lol. Happy reading and I can’t wait to see what you all have to say! ^_^;
The earth continued its circuitous revolution around the sun and the days continued to pass in wholly predictable ways. Gemma Winters stood in front of her mirror, tying her limp curls into a high ponytail atop her head and then briefly checking over her eyeliner before heading downstairs. She grabbed an apple from the basket of fruit on the kitchen counter, bit into it, and then grabbed her backpack from where it lay abandoned by the couch, shouldering it and making a slight face at its weight. Taking another bite from the apple, Gemma left the house and began the fifteen minute walk to her first class of the day.
It was a little warmer this morning than it had been in the past few days, but as autumn steadily faded these days would soon die away. In fact, the temperature was set to drop substantially by the end of the week, a fact for which Gemma was grateful as she had always preferred the cold. There was something exhilarating about feeling the bite of winter on one’s face and the icy air entering one’s lungs. It made her feel alive and allowed her to cocoon herself within layers of comfortable clothing without suffering from heat exhaustion.
Finishing her apple, Gemma threw the core into a trashcan she passed and then quickened her pace, not wanting to be late to the start of lecture as this particular professor liked to take points off people’s grades for tardiness.
As usual, the number of people she saw increased as she neared the heart of campus. Some were alone, but most traveled in groups, laughing and chatting with one another about holiday plans as they continued their stubborn denial of the irrepressible approach of finals. Most of the voices blended together, but two stood out in particular to Gemma as they were rapidly speaking in a different language.
Curiosity sparked, she glanced over to look at them, only to immediately avert her gaze as her eyes caught sight of a highly recognizable pair of blue and black framed glasses. Feeling vaguely embarrassed, Gemma quickened her pace yet again and did not look up until she had reached her destination.
There, Gemma slid into the nearest seat of the still fairly empty classroom and leaned over to retrieve a pen and a notebook from her bag.
A touch of awkwardness was not uncommon when Gemma crossed paths with individuals who she didn’t have an interest in seeing again, but the feeling was markedly more intense in the case of the bespectacled young man because the two seemed to cross paths all too frequently. After all, Ashton apparently had many classes in the same building (especially this semester) and, like her, spent countless hours at the library, which was where she had met him in the first place. The fact that he remained as mysterious and as handsome as he’d ever been did nothing to help her uneasiness around him. Not to mention that even after all this time, she hadn’t forgotten how nice that evening had been, which somehow made constantly running into him all the more uncomfortable. How stupid she was to have ever pursued someone in a place that she frequented.
Pushing these thoughts from her mind, Gemma titled and dated the top of her page and then proceeded to flip through her past notes as she waited for the lecture to begin.
Her attention was peaked once more, however, when she heard the language spoken again from outside the open door. Unable to help glancing in the direction of the voices, Gemma cautiously watched as Ashton bid a quick goodbye to his friend.
It was the only phrase she understood from what he was saying, and this she only knew because her grandmother had picked up a little Arabic from her numerous trips to Egypt and, of course, Gemma had to learn every word that she knew. It wasn’t much, but this was made up for by the long hours she and her twin had sat with their grandfather as he’d patiently try to teach the two youths as much Chinese as he could—no easy feat given its difficulty and their at times wandering attentions. Their grandfather had seemed to have a vested interest in doing so though because he had worked so much during his own children’s lives that he’d barely had the chance to teach them any. With Gemma and Augustus came a new opportunity to pass down his native tongue. The twins had only managed an elementary knowledge of it, but it had still been much more than anyone else in the family.
The memories of those lessons made Gemma’s heart ache for she missed her grandfather terribly. Unlike most, he had seemed to fully understand her insatiable hunger for finding logic within falsely perceived chaos and he never once seemed to tire of her questions, instead always encouraging her to ask even more. In fact, at times he would ask her questions, and her little ten-year old self would get stumped and frustrated and he would tell her that you could learn even more from not knowing than you could in knowing itself. Then she’d be even more confused, but Gemma understood what he meant now and she wished so much that she could tell him so.
Horrified by the sudden realization that she’d begun to cry, the curly-haired brunette hastily wiped her cheeks with the bases of her palms, but not a single person had seemed to notice anyway.
No longer was there anyone outside the door, nearly every seat was filled, and the professor had begun to write something on the board, leaving Gemma to contemplate which of the following scenarios was worse: A stranger noticing that you’re in pain and reaching out to you, or no one noticing this and being left on your own?
It did not take her long to reach a conclusion.
The latter was so much worse.
* * * * *
Augustus could not quite get the sound of his sister’s gut-wrenching sobs out of his head. They haunted him, leaving him both easily distractible and with a lingering pain that had settled deep within his chest over the past few days.
It wasn’t as if he’d never seen or heard Gemma upset before, but her recent breakdown had been on a level that he hadn’t ever witnessed before and it scared him. After all, what if it meant that everything was about to get worse? What if it meant she wouldn’t be able to pick herself up this time? What if—but no, he couldn’t get ahead of himself. They’d talked more since then and she didn’t seem as bad.
In fact, perhaps the magnitude of her crash had only been because of the information she’d discovered and now that she’d processed through it she would be okay. Perhaps the situation wasn’t as dire as his mind was making it out to be. Perhaps…but he certainly wasn’t naïve enough to bank on that hope.
“Are you o-okay, Augustus?”
The sound of Patrick’s words pulled him out of his thoughts, but he’d been so inextricably lost within them that it took him a moment before he managed to answer, “Uh, yeah. Sorry. Just…started daydreaming, I guess.”
Patrick bit his lip and was quiet for a few seconds before he tentatively asked, “Do you m-m-m-maybe want to watch something else?”
“Sure,” Augustus replied, giving Patrick’s knee a comforting squeeze. “Um, how about a movie?”
“Mm, one of the m-movies on your shelf d-d-did catch my eye.”
Patrick nodded and got up from the sofa, venturing over to the bookshelf in the corner of the room and grabbing one of the DVDs before he turned and held it up to Augustus with a smirk.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Gus admittedly had to smile at that. “Good choice.”
Kneeling before the television, Patrick carefully took the disc out of its case and then promptly dropped it onto the carpet, his face turning a noticeable shade of crimson as he hastily picked it up and popped it into the DVD player before it could fall again.
“Muggle,” Augustus playfully teased, and Patrick laughed before getting to his feet and mumbling, “Oh shut up.”
The dark-haired young man smiled, watching his boyfriend return to him and then abruptly pulling him down onto his lap. Unfortunately, the unexpected action made Patrick trip over his own sneakers and fall harder than Gus had intended, but he was in his arms now and that was all he’d really wanted so after a brief look into his eyes to make sure he was okay, Augustus drew him into a soft, but earnest kiss. Though his cheeks were pink from embarrassment, Patrick returned it without hesitation, reaching up to wind his fingers in Augustus’ long hair and pressing even nearer to him.
It made the world around them disappear for a blissful moment—a moment that only felt more magical when the familiar opening theme song began to play on the television.
Then Augustus remembered that the last time he’d watched this movie it had been with Gemma and how she’d seemed so much happier then and this realization had him quickly distracted as he broke the kiss and buried his face in Patrick’s shoulder.
The smaller young man responded by wrapping his arms around his neck, holding him closely and not saying a word. Augustus wasn’t sure how long they stayed like this, with Patrick hugging him comfortingly as he took quiet, calming breaths, but eventually he pulled back and said with a wince of chagrin, “Shall we start the movie?”
Again, an expression of uncertainty appeared on Patrick’s face, but then he nodded and moved off of Augustus’ lap to grab the remote from the side table and press “play.”
He knew he probably should’ve explained his odd behavior, but all Augustus wanted to do was watch a movie with his boyfriend and forget about everything else, so he wrapped his arm around Patrick’s shoulder and brought him near again as the film began to play. Whether it was because he understood what Gus wanted or whether it was because he was reluctant to push it, the purple-haired young man leaned his head against his shoulder and let Augustus be.
At first this weighed on him like so much else in his life currently, but apparently the movie really had been a good selection because eventually it managed to successfully divert his attention as he got swept into the energy of an epic quidditch match between Bulgaria and Ireland, the chaos a simple mark high in the sky could engender, and the following magic that was always present at Hogwarts.
Instead of ruminating on his worries, Augustus found himself thinking of how it was a shame that they’d cut the S.P.E.W plot line from the movie and how outstandingly boring it must have been to stare at an unmoving lake for an entire hour while waiting for the competitors to rise back to the surface. Then he found himself thinking how if they’d had underwater cameras filming maybe it wouldn’t have been so boring and yes okay, muggle electronics would go haywire around the school, but if you’re talking about a population that can use MAGIC, why didn’t they have their own version of an underwater camera so that it wasn’t as dull? Then again everyone seemed to be having a rousing good time, so maybe the wizarding world was simply more easily entertained and had better imaginations or something.
“I love how you still get so into the m-movie when you’ve p-p-probably seen it a hundred times and read the b-books a hundred more,” Patrick pointed out, a smile crossing his slightly blushing face.
“Oh,” Augustus sheepishly replied, taking his eyes off of the screen with some effort. He dropped his arm from around Patrick’s shoulder and then absently reached up to rub the back of his neck. “I…I guess I never get tired of it. The story draws me in every time.”
“I see that,” Patrick said in quiet amusement, and then reached up to touch his face and shyly met his gaze, which was a fairly rare occurrence. Augustus wished it weren’t as Patrick’s eyes were such a fascinating shade of gray—multihued granite whose tones were only revealed in the shine of light. The dark-haired young man felt his heartrate increase and he was just about to lean in to kiss him again when Patrick said, “Y-y-y-you’d be m-my second task, you know.”
“What?” Augustus asked, briefly confused as he thought of massive lakes, merpeople, grindylows, and a glaring lack of underwater observation methods, but then it dawned on him all at once and he thought someone would need to have been constructed out of unyielding metal not to feel their heart give way.
The thing he’d miss the most.
“Oh Patrick,” he mumbled, and the purple-haired young man smiled, which was always an inexplicably beautiful sight.
“I t-thought you’d like that.”
“I really do.”
It was Patrick who leaned forward then and kissed him, his hands on either side of Augustus’ face as his practiced lips moved gently across his own. It made Gus’ heart melt even further, though it gave a significant jolt when Patrick moved to straddle his waist while simultaneously deepening the kiss.
In spite of his sudden nerves, Augustus drew Patrick nearer, running his hand up his boyfriend’s back and opening his mouth when he felt Patrick’s tongue run lightly across his bottom lip. He tasted sweet like apples again, a fact that Augustus rather enjoyed exploring as they continued to exchange increasingly heated kisses.
Without thinking about it, Augustus lifted his hips to tentatively move against him, causing Patrick to let out a barely audible moan. He moved his hand from Gus’ face down his chest and to his waist, where his long, slender fingers slipped beneath the hem of Augustus’ shirt and grazed his bare skin. Augustus felt his breath catch, his eyes squeezing tighter shut, but at the same time his nerves sparked anew. This must have shown more than he’d presumed because Patrick moved his hand back over his clothes and softened their kisses, his lips gingerly meeting Gus’ before roving down his jawline instead.
“Sorry,” Augustus mumbled with a second wince of embarrassment that was only made worse by how obvious it was that he’d been enjoying this.
“D-don’t worry about it,” Patrick assured him a little breathlessly, and then pressed a sweet kiss to his cheek, but Augustus couldn’t help but do so at least a little. After all, the purple-haired young man wasn’t a stranger to any of this, and Gus…well, was—a fact which admittedly seemed to bother him a lot more than Patrick, but shattered his confidence all the same.
“I do though,” Augustus mumbled, his face feeling hot as he awkwardly shifted his position. “I do because you’ve already done all this before.”
“D-done what?” Patrick asked innocently, leaving soft, yet lingering kisses down his neck.
“Patrick,” he groaned, finding it difficult to stay on the already uncomfortable topic when he was doing that.
The purple-haired young man stopped, pulling back to glance at Augustus unsurely before asking, “What does it m-m-m-matter if I have? D-does it really change anything?”
“No. Well…sort of. I mean—I don’t know.” Augustus heavily sighed. “I guess I feel like I need to at least…match that level, or something.”
Patrick’s granite-gray eyes briefly widened in surprise and then a small crease appeared between his brows as he inquired, “Because you…you feel like y-y-you’re not as good as anyone else I’ve b-b-been with if you don’t?”
Augustus closed his eyes. That was actually exactly how he felt. Add the fact that he was quite nervous about fucking something up or making a fool of himself and Patrick may as well have been a mind-reader.
“Well,” Patrick began, gingerly cradling Augustus’ head as he looked down at him, “it m-m-may not change how you feel, but know that, in other ways, y-y-you’ve already bested them all by miles, and….” He paused, a sly smirk pulling at the corners of his lips as he bent low and breathed into Augustus’ ear, “and as much as I’m d-dying for you to fuck me—”
Augustus’ heart stopped, a sure sign that he was going to die right then immediately.
Patrick suppressed a smile upon seeing his face, quickly adopting an apologetic expression before he continued seriously, “I d-d-don’t mind waiting, Gus. I honestly don’t and n-never have. I w-w-want you to feel comfortable and I….” He hesitated, briefly chewing his bottom lip before concluding, “I really enjoy just b-b-being with you.”
Augustus cleared his throat, finding it very difficult to attend to the second part of what Patrick had said and not the first. “You’re too good to me,” he finally managed to express, which made his boyfriend let out a short, nervous laugh.
“I often feel the s-s-same way about you,” he confessed.
Augustus looked curiously back up at Patrick, who took the opportunity to wrap his slender arms around his neck and capture his lips with his own. It was fairly quick kiss, but nevertheless it made Augustus’ stomach flutter before his boyfriend moved off of his lap to sit beside him once more. “N-no pressure, no f-f-feeling bad, okay?” he asked hopefully.
“Okay,” Augustus quietly replied, and then reached up to brush Patrick’s bangs out of his eyes, but he must have moved too fast or otherwise caught his boyfriend off guard because he abruptly flinched—and badly too.
Though admittedly thrown off by his reaction Augustus hastened to apologize, but Patrick shook his head, looking embarrassed and oddly frustrated as he quickly said, “It’s okay. Just—d-d-d-didn’t see—”
“Sorry,” he breathed again, unable to help it, and Patrick nodded, but still seemed down on himself, so Augustus took his hand in both of his and squeezed it comfortingly. It wasn’t his fault he was easily startled and Gus, knowing this about him, should have been more careful.
“J-jeez….I do n-n-n-nothing to h-help the f-f-f-fact that y-you’re stressed, d-d-do I?” he asked, and Augustus felt his eyebrows furrow, both at Patrick’s worsening stammer and his despairing tone.
“Don’t,” Patrick firmly interjected, taking his hand away and catching Augustus by surprise. “You d-d-d-don’t have to tell me why you’re stressed, but quit l-lying to my face and t-t-t-telling me you’re not, when it’s obvious that you’re at least b-bothered by something.”
Augustus slunk down in his seat, feeling rather like a puppy who’d been scolded for tearing a hole into a couch cushion. Not to mention feeling bad because he only ever wanted to make Patrick happy, but apparently seemed to be failing at that on top of everything else right now too.
It was a particularly bitter pill to swallow, for as fucking stressful as everything else felt nowadays, Patrick had always managed to be the one aspect of his life that Augustus could depend on to be fairly free of worry. Being with Patrick made him forget everything and now he was bringing it all up and it was the last thing in the world that Augustus wanted right now. It would only upset them both.
“It w-would be a lot easier to stay a-a-annoyed with you if you weren’t so damn cute,” Patrick grumbled, looking away and folding his arms across his chest.
“I’m not trying to be cute,” Augustus protested, sitting back up.
“That’s the p-problem—you’re cute without even t-t-trying,” the purple-haired young man explained in exasperation, and Augustus didn’t know whether he should laugh or blush, but regardless ended up doing a bit of both.
Patrick sighed then, glancing over at Augustus with a helpless sort of expression. “Just—it’s okay, alright? I get it, I g-g-guess, but…if there’s anything I c-c-can do to help, let me know, Gus. I…I w-want to help.”
“Be with me.”
“That’s too easy,” Patrick responded with a small smile, and Augustus couldn’t help but smile too at the sight.
“Be with me,” the dark-haired young man repeated, closing the space between them, “and everything else falls away.”
Patrick frowned, and Augustus knew that he must have been wondering what ‘everything else’ was, but he still didn’t want to talk about it. Not only because he wanted to spare his easily worried boyfriend and not only because he wanted to pretend for a moment that none of it existed, but also because he wasn’t sure where to begin or how to explain it when he barely even understood it all himself.
“If t-t-that’s w-w-what you want,” Patrick agreed with some difficulty, his stammer inexplicably worsening again.
Augustus took Patrick’s hand in his, kissing the side of his head, his cheek, and then his jaw before he murmured close to his ear, “Being with you is always what I’ll want.”
* * * * *
When Gemma made her way home late that night she was both mentally and physically exhausted. Between the three classes she had back to back that day, the two hour class she had after a quick lunch break, the four hours spent in the library trying to catch up with as much homework as possible, and the general massive effort it’d taken to pull herself together after her silly meltdown that morning, Gemma wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of the week.
Lamenting both her inability to do that and the fact that it was only Monday, Gemma climbed the few stairs up to the small porch, swung her backpack around to her front to retrieve her keys, and then unlocked the front door and stepped inside. While typically she would have been assaulted by a multitude of florescent lights, the only light on in the house was the subtle blue glow from the living room television. This was somewhat odd as neither she nor her brother watched much T.V., but it became less strange when Gemma caught sight of the fact that Patrick was over. The two were in fact sound asleep on the sofa.
Turning around, Gemma locked the door as quietly as possible and then set her backpack down before stepping further into the house.
She approached the couch, debating waking the two in case they hadn’t meant to fall asleep or in case they’d prefer going upstairs which had to be a lot more comfortable, but between how content Patrick looked nestled closely to her brother and the protective way Augustus held onto him to ensure he didn’t fall, they looked much too sweet and peaceful for Gemma to bring herself to do so.
Instead, she carefully picked up the remote from the side table, turned off the television, and then took out her phone to light her path as she turned around to sneak up the stairs and into her bedroom.
Once inside, she again closed the door quietly behind her and then switched on one of her bedside table lamps. Figuring they probably wouldn’t hear it so long as she kept the volume low, she opened up the music library on her phone and pressed “Play,” allowing the soft tunes to chase away the noiseless heaviness of her room.
Gemma brushed her teeth, washed her face, took two sleeping pills to ensure she wasn’t kept awake by unhelpful thoughts, changed into her pajamas, and then set an alarm on her phone before climbing into bed. There, she turned off the light, hugged her pillow close, and tried to let the entrancing sounds of the music soothe her. In truth she’d been hoping to talk to her brother for a bit, but she likely wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing so with Patrick over anyway since, given how badly she’d treated him in the beginning, he was still quite wary around her.
Perhaps it was good that Augustus was asleep though because Gemma knew she’d been relying on him too heavily as of late and the fact that her twin wouldn’t push her away even if he could use a break was even more reason to ensure that she herself backed off sometimes. Her brother was often too kind for his own good and she needed to make sure she never took advantage of this…even if it would have been nice to reminisce about their grandfather and even if it would have comforting to be reminded by someone other than herself that she wasn’t stupid or pathetic for feeling the way she did as of late.
Gemma sniffled, wiping her eyes and shutting off her music before turning around and hugging her other, cooler pillow instead.
Relax, she gently thought to herself. As the song that had been playing insisted, “Tomorrow will be kinder.”
* * * * *
Gemma woke up late the next morning and had to scramble to shower and get ready, cursing the fact that her phone had died in the middle of the night, but mostly cursing herself for having forgotten to plug it in. There was still an hour before her first class, but she had originally planned to go to the library early and get in a couple extra hours of studying for her exam and now she was going to be lucky if she got an extra thirty minutes to look over her notes.
Wincing as she tried to untangle her hair, she finally gave up and tied it back up before exiting her bedroom. The muffled music she’d been hearing became instantly louder—an alternative rock song that sounded vaguely familiar from the previous times her brother had probably played it. Though to be honest she was surprised it wasn’t dubstep or electronica blaring throughout the house.
As Gemma crossed the dining room though it became apparent that perhaps it was Augustus’ boyfriend who had chosen the music as he was not only still there, but also sort of dancing in place and bobbing his head to the song as he picked up a stack of finished waffles to place on the small kitchen table.
Her brother, meanwhile, was starting up the coffee maker, but glanced over at him when Patrick began to sing along: “Though the storms and the light….Baby, you’ve stood by my side, and life is wine.”
Gemma curiously watched as Augustus’ expression shifted to one of puzzlement before he commented, “I just realized….You don’t stammer when you sing, do you?”
Patrick set the waffles back down and then turned toward Augustus before shrugging a bit. “N-not usually,” he confirmed somewhat bashfully. “It’s…different. I c-c-can’t explain it. Um….I dunno if you’ve n-noticed, but it’s the same with w-w-whispering too. And uh, I guess also if you p-p-put like…noise canceling headphones on me. So I just need to live in a m-m-musical or a colony of whisperers or…yeah I d-d-don’t even know,” he finished with a slight laugh at his expense.
“I’ve never minded your stammer,” Augustus assured him, and then reached out to hook his finger into one of Patrick’s belt loops and gently draw him nearer. “It is…interesting to hear your voice like that though. It’s—” He paused, carefully considering his words before he smirked a bit and concluded, “It’s different. I can’t explain it.”
Patrick smiled in amusement and then reached up to presumably kiss her brother—presumably because Gemma figured that was a fantastic time to race out the door as fast as humanly possible. In fact, she felt vaguely mortified for even having stood there as long as she did and so bolted perhaps a little too quickly because she immediately crashed into one of the dining room chairs.
“Sorry,” she mumbled as she felt two sets of eyes fall upon her. “Just…going.”
Before she could take even a single step though she heard Augustus ask, “You’re not going to eat something?”
Gemma winced, still feeling rather embarrassed as she slowly turned around to face her twin, but her feelings were nothing compared to Patrick’s it seemed as his eyes were determinedly downcast and the barely visible tips of his ears were bright red and clashing profoundly with his vividly dyed-purple hair.
Feeling especially bad now Gemma hastily answered, “I’ll grab something after class.”
Augustus fell quiet, but before the curly-haired brunette could add a reassuring comment Patrick glanced at her brother and then quickly looked to her and suggested, “You should stay. There’s um, p-p-p-plenty—” He took a breath and then hastily finished, “Plenty of waffles.” Both Gemma and her brother looked at him in surprise, not only because he of all people was trying to convince the curly-haired brunette to stay, but also because that had probably been the longest sentence he’d ever directed toward her.
Gemma bit her lip as she debated. She didn’t want to stay if it would make Patrick uncomfortable, but at the same time maybe this was an opportunity to show him that, despite her previous behavior, she didn’t actually hate him?
“Um, I…I suppose I could have one.”
She watched curiously then as Patrick picked up the plate of waffles from the counter and, peering at her from over the stack hesitantly asked, “Only one?”
There was something oddly adorable and innocent about the sight, and so it was that Gemma helplessly found herself correcting, “Well, or…or maybe two.”
Patrick smiled, looking quite pleased with himself. He put down the waffles then to grab another ceramic plate from the cabinet.
He was interrupted though when Augustus came up behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist and kissing the side of the head. Patrick blushed, mumbling something Gemma couldn’t quite make out, though whatever it was caused her brother to smile.
Feeling torn between finding this sweet and finding this awkward, Gemma hastened to busy herself by fetching three coffee mugs to prepare.
The three eventually sat down with Gemma still feeling somewhat uneasy, but then Augustus began casually talking about how they should invite Tobias out for dinner soon because he feared that due to his “dorm-living experiment” he was solely living off of cereal and Ramen. Patrick followed up by jokingly asking in a small voice if other food groups even existed and soon enough, though some awkwardness remained, they were laughing and talking as if they’d all always been friends.
It was a little weird because it was unfamiliar, but it also made Gemma feel a lot happier than she’d been in some time. Most of all though it made her hopeful that despite her private skepticism, the day was starting out kinder after all.
* * * * *
Augustus felt a little lighter when he left the house early that afternoon freshly showered and dressed to go to his first class. He’d spent the night with Patrick in his arms, saw him and his sister getting along for the first time since he and Patrick had started dating over a year ago, and had even heard Gemma genuinely laugh, which was a sound that had been far too rare as of late. Not to mention the fiery kiss he and Patrick had exchanged before his boyfriend had to leave to get ready for class himself was still buzzing at the forefront of his mind, leaving Augustus’ thoughts wandering in distracting, but not unpleasant ways.
Perhaps his thoughts diverted Augustus’ attention a little too much though because the next thing he noticed was that he’d completely passed the Fine Arts Building.
Muttering a curse under his breath, Augustus doubled back, making it to class at the same time as the professor. He greeted her and then took a seat, briefly glancing at the door to see if Patrick was nearby. It was the only class they shared together that semester and even though the two had parted barely an hour ago Augustus was already looking forward to seeing him again. However, his familiar mess of purple hair was as of yet nowhere in sight.
While waiting Augustus took out his notebook, which was about as much notes as it was idle sketches and doodles. His favorite drawings were not his own though, but the ones Patrick would occasionally sneak over and pen in the margins of his notes. His attention was drawn to a sketch now that Patrick had done after abruptly switching notebooks with him. In Patrick’s notebook Augustus had drawn a silly sketch of himself filing a police report for a stolen notebook, but the one that Augustus had received in return was infinitely better: Beneath the heading “Vincent van Gogh,” which Augustus had written in cursive, was a sketch of van Gogh sitting grumpily on a cloud while an ear with angel wings fluttered about his bandaged head.
It was in such moments that Augustus would find himself thinking of the very real possibility that Patrick was all that he could ever want or need in his life. It was a scary thought—one that he fell in and out of frequently as he tried to figure out what exactly his feelings were when he had so little with which to compare them.
“Hey,” a breathless voice suddenly said from beside him, and the dark-haired young man turned and looked up to see Patrick looking a little windswept, but happy as he took his usual seat next to Augustus.
“Hey,” he said back, and the two exchanged meaningful glances and smiled at one another.
It made it awfully tempting to steal a kiss from his gorgeous boyfriend, but sitting in class was probably not the most appropriate setting to do so. Instead, Gus returned his attention to the sketches he’d been looking at as Patrick leaned over to retrieve his own notebook and pen from his backpack.
“You know.…” Augustus began as soon as Patrick righted himself, “if I fail this class, I’m blaming you entirely.” He gestured pointedly to Patrick’s drawing and his boyfriend laughed.
“Mm,” Patrick hummed in amusement, and then took Augustus’ notebook from him and added a scroll with angel wings next to van Gogh. On it, he wrote ‘Augustus’ Grade.’
“Since my grade is in heaven, doesn’t that technically mean it’s good?” Augustus challenged as Patrick handed his notebook back to him.
“Yes,” Patrick confirmed, and then shyly smiled over at him and added, “I’ve just g-g-given you luck.” The young man with the perpetually dyed purple hair directed his attention to the professor then, who had begun to speak, but Augustus’ eyes lingered on him a moment longer as the same, familiar possibility once again flittered into his mind: All he could ever want or need.
* * * * *
When Patrick and Augustus left their class the sun was high in the sky, but there was an undeniable chilliness that had most students zipping up their jackets and stuffing their hands into their pockets. As it was, Patrick slid one arm around Augustus’ waist and leaned into his warmth, causing the dark-haired young man to smile and hold him even closer.
That smile vanished though when he all of a sudden heard a smooth, highly confident voice announce, “Fancy running into you again—though not literally this time.”
Augustus felt his face redden as he caught sight of Isaac grinning handsomely at him. His strikingly bright hazel eyes darted to Patrick, where they lingered for a brief moment before he moved off the planter he’d been leaning against and made his way over.
Patrick’s arm slowly dropped from Gus’ waist as the stranger approached, an apprehensive expression crossing his pale face.
“Isaac Santiago Taveras,” the tanned young man greeted, his name rolling fluidly off his tongue. He held out his hand to Patrick and then smirked. “I’m an old friend of Augustus.”
The purple-haired young man glanced up at him through his bangs and then hesitantly took his hand. “Patrick O’Doherty,” he said quietly and then let go, already looking highly embarrassed.
Isaac shot Augustus a questioning look, clearly finding this odd, but the dark-haired young man didn’t respond, instead watching as Patrick pulled his phone halfway out of the pocket of his jeans to check it.
“I have to go if I’m g-g-going to m-make it to my shift on time,” he said to Augustus, his cheeks steadily turning pink.
“Okay. Text me when you get there?”
Patrick nodded and then glanced at Isaac once more, adding, “N-nice to meet you,” and then hurrying to go, but Augustus took hold of his hand, giving it a squeeze. His boyfriend paused, smiling up at him and giving his hand a squeeze in return before setting off.
“Shy?” Isaac inquired, approaching the dark-haired young man as Patrick hurried off.
Augustus hesitated, absently moving his hair out of his face before answering, “Around people he doesn’t know very well.”
“That’s cute,” Isaac remarked with a tight smirk, and Augustus frowned, but before he could say anything the brunet asked, “Is he the jealous sort too?”
“Jealous? No….No, not that I’ve—”
“Good,” Isaac interjected with a chuckle, “because I was going to ask if you wanted to grab some lunch or a coffee or something. As old friends, obviously—to catch up.”
“What? You’re not allowed to have friends?” Isaac taunted, leaning toward him, and Augustus was again dismayed to feel his heart skip a beat.
“I’m allowed to have friends,” he hastened to make clear, taking a half-step back and beginning to feel annoyed. “It’s just—”
“You’re not interested in being friends with me,” Isaac stated succinctly. Augustus opened his eyes, surveying him warily, but the brunet’s face held no traces of anger.
Instead, Isaac cleared his throat and then slowly followed up with, “That’s…actually why I want to talk to you, Gus. I want to talk about what happened between us. I know that’s probably the last thing you want. Hell, you probably never even wanted to see me again and it probably sucks for you that I’m here now, but you deserve to know. I owe you that much.”
Augustus pressed his lips together, sticking his hands into his pockets. He could not deny a single word that Isaac had said without lying through his teeth, so he instead he asked evenly, “And if I’m not interested in hearing what happened?”
“Then I’m gonna be selfish and tell you anyway because it’s driving me crazy that you don’t know.”
Augustus let out a breath, feeling somewhat irritated again at this lack of choice. After all, about 80% of him was firmly against hearing Isaac out. Not only because Gus hated the way that he behaved around him, but also because he didn’t care to know the details of their falling out. As far as he was concerned there was nothing to say. Augustus had thought Isaac was interested then; could have sworn Isaac was interested; and then the minute he decided to make a move Isaac was pointing out a turtle on the bank and the next thing Augustus knew he had moved to another state and they’d barely spoken again. They weren’t memories on which he cared to dwell, especially as he now realized they were probably at least partly to blame for his shaky confidence in relationships ever since. It was a wonder that he and Patrick had happened at all. Also, he didn’t like turtles very much anymore.
Damn you, Isaac.
“What are you doing here anyway? I thought you didn’t start until next semester,” Augustus commented, stalling.
Isaac arched an eyebrow at him, his bright hazel eyes surveying him closely. When Augustus continued to keep his gaze downcast though he dryly answered, “I had a meeting with an advisor about what credits would and wouldn’t transfer. Now do you want to comment on the weather too, or can we cut to the chase?”
“Look, I’m not fucking interested in digging up the past!” Augustus snapped, surprising even himself. “What’s done is done and none of it even matters anymore. I mean, did it hurt? Yes, it fucking sucked. I’d really thought that you, you know, liked me or whatever, but you didn’t and that’s fine. It’s always been fine, so just fucking drop it, okay?”
Isaac grimaced and soon after Augustus felt his face burn hotly as he noticed that several people had stopped to stare, alarmed by or simply curious about the heated conversation taking place literally right in front of one of the most heavily frequented buildings on campus.
To make matters worse, Isaac cleared his throat and quietly replied, “You’re wrong, Gus. I did like you.”
Augustus’ eyes shot up to meet his and for a second he seriously considered hitting him, but his anger was admittedly more directed toward himself than anyone else because instead of not giving a shit like he so wanted to, he felt a sudden spike of curiosity. He tried to ignore it, but this only seemed to make the feeling that much more insistent. It nagged at every corner of his brain, poking and prodding him to seek the answers to his questions until he simply couldn’t take it anymore.
Letting out a frustrated groan, Augustus grabbed Isaac’s wrist and proceeded to lead him away from the increasingly nosy bystanders.
Most likely because he was too taken aback to react, Isaac followed him without a word.
Once they were successfully hidden amongst overgrown bushes in the much less frequented back of the building, Augustus let go of him and then folded his arms across his chest. “Talk,” he said sharply. “You have one minute.”
Isaac did not begin to speak right away, instead absently rubbing his wrist and causing a crease of concern to form between Gus’ brows. “Wait, did I hurt you? I didn’t mean to—”
“What? No,” Isaac interrupted with a slight laugh. He shook his head in mild incredulity and then took in a steadying breath. “Fine. I’ll try to hurry then. So….You said that I wasn’t interested, but you couldn’t be more wrong. That day at the lake, when you leaned in to—”
Augustus preemptively cringed, and Isaac raised an eyebrow at him before firmly continuing, “That day at the lake, when you leaned in to kiss me, even though I wanted it more than anything—I panicked.”
“Why?” Augustus asked, and though his retort was given without hesitation, it wasn’t without some embarrassment at the distant, but still vivid memory.
Isaac shrugged, but the gesture was inconsistent with the obvious discomfort on the deeply tanned brunet’s face. He glanced at the wall, taking apparent interest in a small spider that was making its way up the stone surface. “You were the only one who knew then,” he said. “You were the only person who knew I was gay—I hadn’t even come out to my own parents yet and I just…I fucking lost my nerve.”
Augustus pressed his lips together. He could see why that might have made him hesitant and it was certainly concordant with what he knew about Isaac’s situation then, but it still wasn’t coming together in a way that fully made sense.
The spider suddenly fell, causing Isaac to automatically jump back and then scowl at his own reaction. Augustus almost laughed, but it felt like a really inappropriate reaction given their current conversation.
“Fuckin’ spiders,” Isaac muttered, and did not take a step closer to the wall. “Whatever. That night, when I came home…I felt so guilty about doing that to you and so frustrated about hiding that I told them. I didn’t really mean to, but it slipped out and that’s where I fucked up. Well, that was the second time I fucked up because I should have accepted that kiss from you too.”
“What do you mean that’s ‘where you fucked up’?” Augustus pressed, feeling rather clammy despite the frigid temperature.
“My parents flipped,” Isaac bluntly replied. “I figured they would though, which was why I didn’t tell them in the first place. They started shouting bullshit about being tempted by the devil and immorality and I don’t even know what the fuck else because I wasn’t listening by that point, but then they did something I didn’t anticipate: They threatened to kick me out of the house.”
Isaac shook his head, tapping the tip of his shoe against the dirt in agitation before he sighed and mechanically intoned, “That’s when you came up. I think I mentioned something about how I’d just go to your place or whatever—you know, trying to pretend like I wasn’t fazed when I was actually scared out of my fucking mind, and that’s when they decided that…that you were the problem, I guess.”
“Next thing I know we’ve moving to my aunt’s place in Lucky Palms and they’re telling me that if I ever talked to you again, that’d be it.” He glanced at Augustus and then looked away before bitterly stating, “I was a coward. I mean I told you I was moving, but I know that wasn’t enough. I was a fucking coward and I’m sorry, Gus. I really, really am.”
Augustus stared down at his shoes and ran his tongue slowly over his teeth, despairing over the fact that as much as he wanted to be, he just wasn’t angry with Isaac. On the contrary, his stomach twisted uncomfortably and his heart sunk as he thought about what had happened to him. After all, Augustus knew all too well what that fear had been like—could still taste its acridity as he’d tried to hide it himself; as he begged his overly perceptive twin to promise not to tell anyone after she’d figured it out; as he stood completely terrified after he’d forced out the words in front of his entire family. Of course, in his case, all the fear had been for nothing. His family hadn’t batted an eye; hadn’t loved him any less; and were as proud of him as they ever were.
Not so for Isaac.
Augustus had been fortunate and it was so extremely fucked up that any one of them should have ever felt afraid of something so deeply a part of themselves and so out of their control, but it was also their reality, and he’d been on the lucky side.
Not so for Isaac.
“You don’t have to apologize—it wasn’t your fault,” Augustus finally said glumly. “I don’t think you’re a coward either. You were 15 and it was an impossible situation that you never should have had to go through. I’m…really sorry that happened to you.”
Augustus chanced a glance at Isaac. He looked fairly taken aback, his mouth slightly agape, but no words leaving it. For the first time, Isaac genuinely didn’t seem to know what to say.
The dark-haired young man looked back down at the ground, sticking his hands into his pockets and running the sole of his shoe over a small rock. He didn’t know what else to say either. Truthfully, he didn’t even want to be standing here any longer, but it felt far too rude to walk away now.
Isaac cleared his throat once again, reaching up to absently tug on one of his ear piercings. “It’s whatever now,” he said with a slight shrug. “I mean, I eventually got sick of sneaking around and having to pretend I was someone I wasn’t, so I stood up to them, I guess. Told them my senior year that they could either accept me as I was, or I’d walk out the door myself and never come back. I was 18 by then—they couldn’t stop me.”
“….and?” Augustus hesitantly prompted when he failed to continue.
“Ahh, well,” Isaac awkwardly began, “after shouting for hours my mom started crying and that made me cry and then my dad started crying and in the end….They asked me to stay.”
“Yeah….I doubt they actually accept it, but I can tell they’re trying now and….I don’t know. I appreciate that. I mean I realize they don’t sound like great people after that, but they’re not all bad and I still love them so….” Isaac’s expression grew momentarily defensive and then he sighed dejectedly and mumbled, “I guess that sounds pretty stupid.”
“No, it doesn’t. I mean….They’re your family and you said so yourself—they’re trying,” Augustus pointed out, and leaned against the wall to lessen the weight of his backpack on his shoulders, but the casual gesture made Isaac abruptly tense up. “….are you okay?”
“Ah…yeah, just….” He eyed the wall suspiciously, and Augustus found himself having to bite back another laugh as he realized what was making Isaac uncomfortable.
“The spiders?” Augustus knowingly inquired in a playfully teasing tone.
Isaac rolled his eyes and scoffed. “Man whatever, you can lean against a fuckin’ spider hive all you want—”
“Colony? Nest? Fuckin’ lair?” Isaac attempted to amend, and shook his head in disbelief when Augustus abruptly burst out into laughter.
“HAHAHAHA. Lair. Hahaha. Sorry, I know they bother you. Sorry. It’s just—” He took a breath, but then ended up continuing to laugh anyway. “It’s just I’m suddenly picturing like thousands of spiders hiding in the shadows with little bandanas and tiny swords or something.”
“That sounds terrifying,” Isaac pointed out seriously, and Augustus laughed even harder. So hard that he didn’t even notice the soft smile that appeared upon the brunet’s face as he watched him. “I missed this,” he said quietly.
Augustus’ laughter died down some and he gave Isaac a curious look before asking, “What was that?”
“I uh…I said I missed this,” Isaac repeated, giving a bit of a nervous chuckle. “Us, being friends, I mean.”
“Oh,” Augustus said, and then shuffled his feet a bit before admitting, “Yeah. Me too.”
The two young men looked at one another for an extended moment before Isaac let out a heavy sigh. “Anyway, that was it. That’s what happened. I did like you, but I was a coward, even if you say I wasn’t. And now….Well, you have a boyfriend, I see.” He paused and glanced at Augustus, his expression turning quite sincere. “In fact, if you want to forget about that campus tour you offered to give me next semester, go ahead. No hard feelings.”
Augustus hesitated before responding. On the one hand, this was his chance to put the past back where it belonged, but on the other, he genuinely did miss the friendship that they’d had.
The problem, however, was that this friendship had always been in a “gray area.” There’d been far too many moments in which their eyes would meet; far too many “accidental” brushes across the other’s skin; far too many questionably innocent comments and not so platonic hugs; and even blatant instances where one would lean against the other as they stole hours alone and talked. All too much gray and why “friendship” was never, and would never, be the right word.
Still, it was different now, wasn’t it? It’d been so much time. They’d moved on and so much had changed, including themselves. Not to mention that again it was only a tour and if it ended up being too awkward they had no obligation to ever meet up again.
Thinking of this, Augustus found himself answering, “That’s silly. I can still show you around….point out the locations of all the spider hives on campus, you know?”
“You’re hysterical,” Isaac deadpanned, and Augustus couldn’t help but laugh again.
“Maybe I should consider a backup career as a comedian too!”
Isaac shook his head and chuckled. “Yeah, maybe,” he agreed, and then rubbed his shoulder before adding with a slight frown, “I should get going.”
“Me too,” Augustus agreed, his own shoulders and legs aching a bit from standing in one place and with his backpack for so long.
“Until next semester then, Gus—unless administration fucks something up,” Isaac said with a smirk, his bright eyes twinkling.
“Until then,” Augustus echoed.
The two stood standing for an awkward second longer and then Augustus did this stupid sort of wave and turned around, walking fast and with burning ears until he could no longer see the all too familiar brunet.
His heart seemed to be beating a little too hard, but maybe this was normal after having learned that such an impactful event in one’s life was actually nothing like how you’d always assumed. Besides, it was fine because Isaac knew that he had a boyfriend now at least and—
Augustus hastily grabbed his phone out of his pocket, wincing when he saw six unread messages from Patrick.
Augustus took a breath and then carefully typed out and sent back his responses.
* * * * *
Whether it was the positive start to her morning or the hours she had spent pouring over the material the previous night, Gemma rather felt as though she’d aced the exam she’d taken in her first class. She felt so good in fact that during the break she had between classes she called up her mom to talk and ended up getting to speak to both of her parents as her dad had apparently decided to surprise her at work that day by dropping in for lunch. They weren’t able to chat long as her mother’s lunch break had been coming to end, but still she’d enjoyed talking to them while they could and thought it was very lucky that she had managed to catch the two together.
Then it was off to her next class, during which Gemma participated and became quite interested in what they were learning, to the point where the margins of her notes were peppered with further questions she planned to look up the answers to later. She didn’t even go out of her way to avoid the young man with the blue and black framed glasses as she usually did, though she still hadn’t quite been able to meet his eyes when she passed him on her way to lab.
All in all though, everything felt okay, so as Gemma donned her lab coat and goggles before grabbing a set of samples to test, she barely even noticed the glances she got from her fellow research assistants. Nor did she notice the whispers they exchanged or the way a certain redhead had stopped smiling the instant she had walked into the room.
Instead Gemma got wholly absorbed in her work, her mind becoming keenly focused as she realized that the patterns of data that were emerging seemed to lend support to the new hypotheses Dr. Saint had formulated. This was rather exciting, so even though there wasn’t yet enough information to confirm this she couldn’t help but run some initial analyses through SPSS. What was even more exciting was that there seemed to be another trend taking form that he hadn’t predicted, and Gemma was looking forward to seeing where that would go in the weeks to come.
As into her work as she was, she barely noticed the hours melt by until she felt a vague ache in her neck from having been bent over the computer screen for so long. She rubbed at it, realizing that she also felt quite hungry, which became less surprising when she realized it was already 9:00 P.M and that all but one of her team members remained.
Deciding this would be a good time to stop, Gemma put away her things and had just finished hanging up her lab coat when she heard spoken from behind her, “Hey, could we talk?”
Feeling perplexed, Gemma turned around only to come face to face with Kelsey. She too had gotten rid of her lab gear, the slight red imprint of her goggles still visible on her freckled face as she observed Gemma with an expression that did not look particularly kind. Noting this, the curly-haired brunette cautiously replied, “It’s getting pretty late. Do you think we could talk another time?”
“It’ll only take a minute,” Kelsey assured her.
Gemma’s brow furrowed as she tried to formulate hypotheses as to what Kelsey could want. It wasn’t as if the two were friends, but it wasn’t as if the two were on bad terms either, so she couldn’t imagine what was making the normally bubbly redhead look so unfriendly. Perhaps Gemma had logged something incorrectly or was leaving her lab station messy or something? Automatically, she turned her head to examine the area where she usually worked, but the space looked even neater than it had been when she’d arrived.
More puzzled than ever, Gemma glanced back at the redhead, giving her a reluctant, fleeting smile. “I suppose we could talk for a minute.”
“Great. Walk with me?” Kelsey asked, almost sounding like her typical self.
“Alright,” Gemma agreed. She bent over to grab her backpack and then hoisted it onto her shoulders before following Kelsey out of the lab and down the hallway. They headed toward the back exit, which Gemma did not think much of because it was technically closer to the lab anyway.
It was when they stepped out into the night though and Kelsey glanced around that Gemma’s suspicions rose. She made to take a step to the right, not wanting to corner herself in, but just as she had begun to move Kelsey abruptly spun on her heel and snapped, “You’re a fucking bitch, Gemma!”
The curly-haired brunette blinked, initially startled, but then she sourly muttered, “Good talk,” before definitively turning to leave. Realizing her intentions, the redhead side-stepped and blocked her exit.
What the hell?
“You slept with Takashi!” Kelsey hissed so furiously that spit flew from her mouth.
Gemma grit her teeth tightly, making a show of wiping her cheek before coolly retorting, “I know neither why that matters nor why that would be any of your business.”
Kelsey’s pale, freckled face turned red with embarrassment and Gemma once again tried to get away, but this time the redhead grabbed her wrist.
“Don’t touch me!” Gemma hissed, wrenching her arm away, but Kelsey responded by pushing her back against the wall and blocking her in once more.
Adrenaline shot through the brunette’s system, her back giving a twinge of pain from having been banged against the stone wall behind her. She was quite sure that the redhead had lost the capacity for rationality, which made her particularly threatening.
Regardless, Gemma stood her ground, glaring defiantly up at Kelsey and refusing to let even the slightest ounce more of her fear to show. “I still fail to see why any of this matters,” she stated, folding her arms firmly across her chest.
“It matters,” Kelsey began to answer in a shrill voice, “because I must have mentioned about a hundred fucking times that I liked him and then you go off picking him up like it’s nothing! You’re such a slut!”
Gemma raised one eyebrow high at the irate young woman before her, her own temper now raging like a chemical fire, though she tried to remain perfectly impassive. “I don’t recall you ever saying that,” she started to say, but Kelsey cut her off with a rude, exaggerated snort, clearly doubting the sincerity of her words.
This only served to irritate Gemma further for she was telling the truth. She narrowed her eyes and then icily continued, “But I understand now why you’re angry. After all, by your logic if I’m a slut then Takashi most certainly is one too and it must be so very difficult to be as besotted as you are with a person who clearly demonstrates little interest in monogamy.”
Kelsey’s face turned an unattractive shade of puce as she defensively stated, “Well, maybe not with someone like you, but—”
“Excuse you!” Gemma fiercely interrupted, taking a step forward and successfully making the redhead back up. “Do you actually believe you’re all that fucking special? Do you actually believe you’re all that special to Takashi when he didn’t cast a single glance in your direction that night? When he approached me, rather than you? When it was me he left with, not you? Do you actually believe in your deluded perception of reality that he was somehow thinking of you when we were up fucking half the night? If so, now I just feel sorry for you.”
Gemma anticipated Kelsey’s response about a second too late, and so it was that Kelsey, in a fit of rage, reached up and slapped her so hard that bright flashes of color appeared before her eyes.
It did not take long, however, for the curly-haired brunette to smack her right back and furiously yell, “A fucking crush doesn’t mean you own him, Kelsey! You have no rights over him—none! He made his decision. You’re just angry it wasn’t you.”
The redhead reeled, her bright blue eyes rapidly filling with fat tears as she held her hand to her face and took a step away from her. “I hate you so much, Gemma,” she whispered. “You know that? You’re cold and uncaring and I fucking hate you!” she ended in a hysterical shriek.
“Yes well,” Gemma began caustically, her amethyst eyes locking with hers, “as you so kindly pointed out, I really don’t care.”
“UGH!” Kelsey shouted in frustration, literally stomping her foot, and then ran off just as the sobs she’d evidently been holding in finally broke free.
As soon as Gemma could no longer hear the redhead crying she leaned heavily against the wall. Adrenaline was still pulsing through her veins. Her cheek was stinging quite badly. It had likely been scratched by one of Kelsey’s many rings, but Gemma found herself far more distracted by the mental dam that’d been shattered to bits inside her, leaving her distinctly breathless from the onslaught of thoughts and feelings that crashed over her all at once.
She really hadn’t heard Kelsey mention that she liked Takashi. If she had, she never would have pursued him.
Are you sure about that? Look at what you said and did to her just now. You are cold, Gemma. It’s no wonder that no one likes you.
That wasn’t true though. Her family liked her. No, her family loved her; they all did, unconditionally.
That’s because they have to—they’re family, after all.
That was no guarantee though. There were plenty of people who were completely disconnected from their families, blood relationships be damned. Her family was not among them. They loved her anyway, always.
If they weren’t family though, would they still love you? Could they still love someone as awful as you?
She…she wasn’t that awful. They would still love her. Augustus—
Feels sorry for you.
Gemma shakily slid down to the ground, removing her backpack as soon as she touched the browning grass and placing it beside her. She felt sick to her stomach and as if she was going to collapse in on herself like a dying star in the emptiest reaches of space. Pulling her knees tightly up to her chest, Gemma rested her forehead upon them as she drew in short, ragged breaths that were faintly visible in the rapidly cooling night.
Time dragged onward—how long she sat there, she wasn’t sure.
All she was sure of was that if her brother ever did find that genie she would not waste her wish on forgetting a silly, school-girl crush—she would wish that she had never existed and then float away like untethered balloons.
To be continued soon.