Sorry, it's been so long. Life is just hectic. People in hospital, blah, blah, excuses. I hope most of you are still here with me, reading (:
Anyway, here's the chapter that I've been doing in bits amongst the chaos. I'd recommend going back a chapter, just to remind yourselves and keep the story pace. Hope you all enjoy it. Please review to show me (and this story!) some love.
I worked my nail over the surface of the table, grimacing a little when the greasy red vinyl crumbled and flakes clung to my fingers. Hastily rubbing my hand against my jeans, I surveyed the small area that served as a collection of varied fast-food stands, gathered around an array of cheap tables and seating, it was the perfect place to grab a snack or, in the case of Elena and Clay, who were seated at a nearby table, a feast.
A young mother in the corner was wrestling her toddler for control of a fat fistful of fries, sticky chocolate smeared around his chubby cheeks, while another calmly fed hers pieces of fruit; the child sat demurely, eyeing the arcade signs visible through the archway, a desirable reward, fitting for exemplary behaviour. I took a long sip from my cup; the straw pulled on air and the melting ice rattled in the depths of the container. I begrudgingly nudged the cup forward onto the plastic tray that was amounting to an impressive amount of rubbish, and leaned back against the tacky chair.
A group of teenage girls had just settled at the table across from us, giggling and gossiping. From where I was sat, I could hear them simultaneously gushing about cute boys and complaining about their upcoming History test. I cocked my head back against the wall, eyeing Derek who, in my peripheral, was also watching the girls, an almost deadpan expression glued to his face. I felt my face twist into a frown as I glanced back at the group. They were all skinny, yet none possessed the unfortunately childish figure that I seemed to be cursed with, with the exception of one extremely curvy girl, who was digging into her burger with absolute enthusiasm, much to the dismay of the others, who warned her cattily about the dangerous calories that lurked within the food. She shrugged off their words, taking unnecessarily large bites.
Rolling my eyes, I turned my attention back to Derek, who was still watching the girls intently, as though he was going to be tested on their behaviour. I reached for his fries slowly, warily, and plucked one from its greasy cardboard confines with no dispute. Frowning, I pushed it into my mouth and took more. Still nothing.
"All right, what's wrong?" I asked, jolting Derek from wherever he had been. He focused on my face, jade eyes suddenly aware and alert.
"What?" He questioned, his mouth set in a firm line. "I- wait, are those my fries?" I paused, a handful of fries in one hand, the other popping them one by one into my waiting mouth.
"Um… yes?" I replied, "They're mine now." I affirmed, keeping my handful close to my chest.
"Fine." He said, rubbing his forehead roughly, "I wasn't too hungry, anyway." I shoved the remaining fries into my mouth and, while chewing frantically, reached over to lay my hand against his forehead.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine." He snapped, holding my wrist away from his face. "Just tired."
"You slept the whole way here." I spoke, a little dismayed to realise just how whiny I sounded.
"Well, maybe I want to sleep some more." Derek snapped, his face still retaining a slightly dead expression, while his fists clenched angrily against his thighs.
"Um, guys?" Elena was suddenly at our side, hauling her backpack onto her shoulders.
"I was just thinking that we might as well get some shopping done while we're here. All expenses paid." She flashed a toothy grin, one that, under other circumstances, may have appeared a little sardonic.
"Wow, that's really nice of you." I started, floundered by their generosity, but Derek interrupted curtly.
"We're not charity."
Elena, if she was surprised by his rudeness, didn't show it, instead smoothly retorting. "I know that, Derek, but Jeremy wanted to-"
"I don't care what Jeremy wants." Derek spoke aggressively, lowly, into his hand. "He's never bought me anything before, and I don't need him to start now."
"Derek," I began, but he cut me off, his eyes red and feverish, sweat beading on his brow as he agitatedly scratched his arms.
"No, I have a family, Chlo. I have money. And I sure as hell don't need anything from Jeremy." He spat, "I don't even know why we're here."
"You're here because you wanted answers, Derek." Clay sauntered up to the table, placing his palms flat on the sticky surface and leaning threateningly over Derek. "And if you talk to Elena like that again, I'll remind you of what you really are, which is nothing more than a mu-"
"Clay." Elena grabbed his arm, staring at him urgently. "I'm okay. Lay off."
He grunted, but did not relax his aggressive stance, keeping his eyes fixed on Derek. "Kid, right now, we're keeping you safe. Safer than you realise, I bet. Be sure to remember that."
"I'll keep note." Derek snapped, rubbing the curve of his palm across his face roughly.
The tension was high, so high that I felt strung up and agitated, nervous and wanting to get as far away as possible.
"It couldn't hurt to have a look around the shops, I guess." I said quickly to Elena, fully aware of how squeaky my voice had become.
"I suppose." She said doubtfully, casting a wary look at Clay and Derek, both with defensive postures. "Chloe, why don't you put our trash away? I'll catch up."
Suspicious, but I wasn't going to bother arguing, especially after Derek's tirade. I rose from my seat, the tacky vinyl making a flattering noise, and gathered the rubbish onto the tray, forming a hazardous heap. "See you later." I smiled at Derek, and he grunted in return, his green eyes hard and defensive. Pursing my lips I made my way past the giggling girls, and upturned the plastic tray over the hungry gaping mouth of the litter bin. Sliding it onto an abandoned pile, I glanced over my shoulder, watching Elena hiss angrily at Clay, gesturing curtly, an icy fire burning in her eyes.
I awkwardly waited under one of the archways, arms crossed, and watched Elena cuss out both men, who continued to stare at each other coldly. I started picking my nails, and shifted my weight, feeling the wall force my bag into the small of my back. Elena paused in her rampage to check on me, her eyes scanning anxiously. She scrunched her face up subtly, her nose crinkling, and her eyes found me by the door. Confident that I wasn't going anywhere, she pulled her backpack onto her shoulders, angrily retorting to whatever Clay had said in return.
I let my eyes wander, following the generic pattern that laced the mall floor, dirty and discoloured with wear. I ran my eyes over the area; the cheap plastic seats that by either paranoia or mandate were bolted to the floor, the shop windows that featured colour and sale opportunities, and the large dark-haired man that leant casually by the entrance to the toilets, eyes fixed firmly on me.
Feeling suddenly self-conscious, I shifted uncomfortably, tugging on my backpack straps and glancing at the table. Elena was sat beside Derek, talking quietly to him while he doggedly gazed at the red vinyl. Clay was nowhere to be found. Outside, I assumed, searching for a car to replace our little red one. Confident that I was safe within eyesight of both Elena and Derek, I decided to keep a subtle eye on the threatening man.
I was trying not to appear obvious, but subtlety was never my strong point. Recalling something from my years watching people rehearse while painting sets and editing scripts, I lifted my arm to my face, resting it on the arm drawn across my stomach protectively, and peeked delicately past my hand. Still he watched me, a lazy smile swimming across his face, his eyes animalistic surveying my short body and child-like features. Panic struck me, and the look on his face apprehended me, leaving me unable to move. Was he some kind of pervert? Worried, I glanced back at Elena; she was standing from the table, gesturing to Clay who had magically reappeared, drink in hand.
I glanced back at the man, who threw me a languid wink and turned, disappearing into the toilets. I gulped nervously, my insides twisting, feeling sweat break out across my brow.
I jumped skittishly as a hand touched my shoulder.
"Are you okay?" Elena questioned, her stormy eyes searching mine. I nodded, though I must have been unconvincing, as her mouth twisted and she took the crook of my arm uncomfortably, dragging me forward into a clothing store.
Thanks for reading!
I'm working on the next part tonight, as some was in this chapter, but didn't fit the pacing. (:
Hope you enjoyed it anyway! Please review! (: