I sat on the porch swing, drawing shapes in the condensation on my lemonade glass. It was fairly quiet, the only sounds being the wind ruffling the trees and the soft clinking of the ice in my glass. The serene atmosphere was almost too good to be true.
"Hurry up, pretty boy! Quit flirting with your reflection and give me the bathroom!" came Tori's irritated voice from the floor above. I spoke too soon. Her vocal chords always seemed to be in check even when she just rolled out of bed.
It was our second day here at this gothic safe house. We all had to be up and ready by at least eight o' clock to eat breakfast and then do a couple chores. I didn't mind though. Our schedule wasn't nearly as full as the Lyle house schedule, and the people seemed fairly nice. The ones I'd met anyhow. Maybe I like this place more due o the fact that their aren't therapists and pills being forced on us.
Even if there weren't therapists and pills though, we still had to deal with the weight of the Edison Group issue on our shoulders. The feelings about how to handle the situation were mixed, causing a bit of tension between all of us. I didn't know what to think about the group at the time being. I was so confused, still getting over Aunt Lauren and…
And I wasn't going to think about that right now. We had a few days before we really had to get down to business and I wanted them to be as little burdensome as possible. Just relax, Chloe.
I leaned back in the porch swing, realizing that I had been stuck in a tense, hunched position, and watched the surrounding woods as I gently swayed. Taking a long sip of my lemonade, I wondered what Derek was doing out there in the woods. He was neither sweaty nor sickly looking. In fact he looked better then I'd ever seen him. His face was starting to clear up a little, a couple spots on his chin or so, and he didn't have to shower as often as he did before. Mother nature seemed to be cutting him some slack.
I'd woken up early this morning, and came out to enjoy the rest of the sunrise, showered and refreshed. Just as I'd settled into the swing, Derek stepped out of the house. He'd looked a little concerned to see me out there that early, and asked me if I'd gotten any sleep.
I had gotten some. I was so exhausted that my mind couldn't even activate the dreaming function I my sleep. It felt like I'd closed my eyes at night and then opened them again to find it to be morning.
Derek then nodded to that and relaxed before heading down the steps and into the woods. He was so strange sometimes.
I watched the stillness of the trees and set my glass aside. He was probably just scoping out the area, making sure everything was alright. That seemed like him. I wished that I'd asked to go with him. That might have been cool.
I heard Simon and Tori bickering upstairs. The hall window must have been open. I sighed. I had limited time before they affected my good mood with their arguments, or before Simon broke away and came down and asked me to do something else with him. Not that I didn't like Simon. He was great and all, but he seemed to be taking uncomfortable advances on me.
I stood, the porch swing swaying slightly, creaking. I padded down the steps and down the ground I'd watched Derek walk fifteen minutes ago.
I followed a narrow path until I iscovered a creek weaving its way through the trees. There were a couple of rocks poking out of the water that seemed sturdy enough to walk across. I pushed up the sleeve of my sweater and dipped my hand into the water, quickly bringing it back when feeling how cold it was. I wiped my hands on my jeans and looked across the stream. On a rock was Derek's navy sweatshirt and grey T-shirt.
Was he swimming in the water? I stepped onto a rock, slowly and carefully, and looked into the water. It was then that I noticed a figure in the water, lying motionless, eyes gazing sadly straight up at the sky. It was a girl, most likely, due to the long dark hiar that flowed with the creek. Her foot seemed to be caught on the rocks I was standing on. I let out a small gasp and reached forward. Maybe she was drowning. My hand passed through the water, and then right through her arm. I tried again, just grabbing a hold of more water.
Tears sprung to my eyes. She was long dead. A ghost. Her glazed over eyes staring up into the canopy of trees and sky for who knows how long.
I recoiled so quickly that I lost my balance. My foot caught between two rocks and I fell backward into the water. I think I screamed, but it all happened so quickly I couldn't be sure.
I thrashed in the water, dislodging my foot. A sharp pain burned in my ankle. Thankfully the water wasn't that deep, so when my bottom hit the floor, my neck and head were still above the surface. I coughed and spluttered, ridding of the water I accidentaly inhaled.
I evened out my breathing and lifted myself off the muddy floor with my good foot. When I went to use the other, it protested with another pang of pain. So I settled for using my one good foot and arms to pull myself onto the bank. I twisted and looked at my ankle, which seemed to be bent in an odd way. I grimaced and looked away, shivering.
My ears felt hot with frustration. I had to be the most accident prone person in the world, always tripping over air and stumbling into sticky situations. I wasn't sure whether to call Derek or not. He'd probably be mad at me for wandering off again like a lost puppy. Plus, lately he has been kind of tense about the whole missing father scenario. I shouldn't give him something else to worry about.
So there I was, wondering how I was going to get back to the house. My ankle had to at least be twisted. Probably ten minutes passed before a familiar voice stirred me from my planning.
"What're you doing there?" I looked up, seeing Derek looking at me from across the creek. My eyes landed on his chest..his bare chest, slightly glistening with sweat. I tore my eyes away from the well-sculpted planes of his stomach and pretended to be interested with the clouds, my face heating up. All I saw in those billowing white cliuds however, was the slightly sweaty Derek across the little creek.
"I'm j-just..sitting," I breathed, hearing him grab his shirt and pull it over his head. I looked back to him, now in his T-shirt, "What were you doing?" Derek studied me, grabbing his sweatshirt and easily crossing the slippery rocks.
"Running," he replied, stopping at my side, taking in my appearance. I probably looked like an idiot, sitting on the side of a creek, soaked to the bone, muddy, hugging myself for warmth. I met his green gaze, shivering a little. Not entirely from the cold.
"Why are you all wet?" he asked, hiding the concern in his voice in his voice with a gruff tone. Nice try Derek, but I caught some emotion in there. I shrugged and laughed nervously, bracing myself, preparing to be yelled at.
"I-I fell in." I nodded to the creek. Instead of lashing ou on me he sighed and told me to take off my jacket, which I did rather reluctantly due to the sopping wet white T-shirt underneath. He then handed me his black sweatshirt and I slipped it on. It was enormous on my, but warmer than my wet jacket. I smiled thankfully up at him, and his lip twitched into a brief half-smile. Small, but a sincere smile. You had to take what you could get with Derek. He extened a hand to help me up and when I hesitated to grab it, he frowned and dropped it quickly. He shoved it in his pocket and opened his mouth.
"You can't stay out here alone. If you want I'll go get Si--" I cut him off before he could finish his brother's name.
"No!" I said to quickly, than smiled meekly, "No offense to Simon Derek, but you've been giving me a little more of your brother's attention than I want." He looked confused for a moment, and I relished in that look. That too was a rare thing to see. He shook his head.
"Well you can't stay out here alone," Derek told me. I smiled again and patted the ground next to me, deciding to procrastinate on telling him about my ankle, which throbbed dully now.
"I won't be alone. You'll be here," I responded, elated when he scowled and sat next to me. He asked me if I was cold. I told him not anymore, and he seemed to relax a bit more. I pulled the jacket up a little, discreetly smelling the fabric. It smelled like pine and dirt, and there was a faint trace of salt. A nice smell. Woodsy. Since Derek's B.O had let up his other outdoorsy smells had become noticable. And they were nice, good smells. Familiar.
"So how did you fall in?" he asked tentatively. My dopey grin fell and a hugged the oversized hoodie coser to my body. He looked at me, noticing my pause. I refused to meet his eyes, knowing what I would see would be more concern. I failed to not add to his worries.
"I-I saw a g-ghost," I said, mentally cursing my stutters. I inhaled deeply, "she was drowning, and I tried to reach in and grab her, but s-she wasn't..solid. So I jumped back and tripped and--and.." I shook my head. Derek lifted a hand towards me, as if to lay it on my shoulder, but let it drop.
"Chloe," he sighed, looking to the creek as if expecting to seee the girl, "Chloe, I'm sorry." It was still kind of rough, but I detected the softness in his voice. That did it. I started thinking of the other ghosts, of Aunt Lauren. I felt the tears rising again.
"No, I'm sorry. I'm always c-causing you trouble, and r-r-raising things and bothering spirits. I'm sorry about it all. I-I wish I didn't have such a knack for finding trouble, for finding g-ghosts. It's terrible, seeing their deaths like that, not knowing how to help them," I started spilling, going over the edge. I looked away from Derek, blinking the tears back, "The girl in the water, she looked so troubled, so helpless. She must have b-been, to resort to s-s-s-s-su-sui--" I couldn't say it. Suicide. I swallowed hard. I felt something touch me etrmely softly on my back, just a light touch at first, then small, comforting circles. Derek. I leaned into his hand a bit and wiped my tears on his jacket sleeve.
"I'm sorry," I managed, chuckling a bit and turning to face him, "I kind of just snapped. I shouldn't have made you stay here." His eyes, deep forest green, watched me closely. I saw a shocking softness in them when I had been expecting to see frustration. The rest of his face was unreadable.
"Quit apologizing," he said firmly, his hand pausing on my back. I smiled a little and dared to give him a hug.
My arms were loose around him, but I felt his many muscles tense beneath them. I didn't care. I needed a hug and albeit Derek secretly needed one too. My cheek was pressed gently against his shoulder, and I wondered if he was ever going to take his other strong arm and hug me back. I gave him an encouraging little pat.
"I don't bite," I whispered, barely audible. I knew he heard me though. His other arm came around my back and gace me a light squeeze before releasing. He seemd a little more relaxed. I laughed a little and let go of him, quite proud that I had the courage to give him the hug. Derek Souza probably wasn't exposed to much affection.
"Thank you, Derek," I said to him, and he gave me a full smile. No teeth, but still a bigger smile than the usual. VERY rare, and meant to be remembered.
"We should go back now. Breakfast is probably already being served," he said. My jaw dropped slightly. Food shouldn't be on his mind right now..then again, he was a werewolf. He stood and held out his hand. I bit my lip. Time to spill the beans.
"Uh..Derek, when I fell, I kind of..hurt my ankle. I can't exactly walk on it." He puffed out a deep breath and grunted before stopping down and lifting me of the ground. I guess he really was hungry.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he sounded a little angry now, as he began to walk back. I was too happy to care. Derek was carrying me, against his warm chest. I felt embarrased and at the same time ecstatic. I wondered if I wanted Derek to be more than my friend. Did friends really like being this close to friends? I couldn't like Derek. I'm sure that he barely liked me as a friend. Maybe that was why he was always getting Simon to do things for me, so that he didn't have to. I felt the frown forming on my lips. I must have been such a hassle to Derek.
So why does he always rush to your rescue? Play hero? My subconcience asked me. I glanced up at his face, green eyes trained on the path ahead. He shifted my wieght a little to get a better hold of me. Here I was, being carried through the woods, in his hoodie that smelled of the forest. I could always count on him to be there to save me, again and again. Despite his bossy, quiet, know-it-all demeanor he was a pretty good guy, admirable really. No, I don't like Derek any more tan a good friend.
That's why you followed him in here like a lost puppy, and oggle his chest after he's gone for a run, my mind reminded me. I mentally cursed myself. I had to admit, he did look and smell better lately.
I released a sigh, tired of arguing with myself. Hearigng my sigh, Derek focused on me, eyes locked with mine as if asking if I was okay. The close eye-contact made my throat go dry, my stomach flip.