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Aleris stumbled through the doors of her house, the taste of bile prominent in her mouth. Her head spun, weaving thoughts that stung at her eyes. Fear settled and seized at her chest, and it wasn’t long before she was keeling over to vomit on the dark wood floor.
A cough wracked her body, rattling her bones. Cold hands shakily rubbed at her eyes, before standing up quickly. She had to clean up this mess. Indigo couldn’t know. Her parents couldn’t. It would all have to wait until the morning, when it would be easier to deal with them if they didn’t know she was involved.
Aleris cleaned up the mess swiftly. The tools she used quickly stained, and the house smelled more of bleach then it did like home, but she didn’t care. The mess was cleaned, and no one would know.
A breath passed between her lips as she leaned against the wall. Her body ached and her head thrummed. As she ran a hand through her sweat matted hair did she realize a shower was in due course.
She stumbled up the stairs and down the hall, blinking furiously as she switched on the bright lights of her bathroom. As her hand ran under the water she decided it was far too cold and turned the handle all the way to the left. The scalding hot water did nothing to combat the numbness below her skin.
Her thoughts wandered as she stood under the harsh pelt of the water. Betrayal simmered in the back of her mind, but she was too exhausted to approach it and the rage that would surely follow. Instead she focused on the wall, her eyes swirling over the patterns painted over the tiles. She stayed in the shower until her skin burned red and the air was too thick to breathe in.
A sigh escaped as she stepped into the cold hallway, relief flooding through her. No one knew. No one would know until tomorrow at least. Aleris was filled with a strange sense of happiness at this thought, but her exhaustion quaked inside her, making it obvious she needed to rest.
She wasn’t able to make it to her room, though, as the voice of her sister halted her. “Aleris! You’re back so early. I thought you were helping Pierce and Lyra with graduation setup?” came the soft voice of Indigo. The gentle and honest question struck Aleris, the fear of the truth closing up her throat. Tears, now of fear and sadness, streamed down her face as she willed herself to keep her back to Indigo, to reveal nothing and keep it masked.
“Speaking of Pierce, where is he? I thought you two were going to come back together?” questioned Indigo. Aleris’ hands clenched at her sides. She had to stay strong, even if just for today. Tomorrow she could break when no one would notice, when they would be broken too.
Aleris was too caught up in her thoughts to hear the tentative steps of Indigo. It wasn’t until she felt a gentle hand touch her shoulder, and a loving voice ask “Aleris are you okay?”, that she realized her sister had gotten too close.
Aleris broke at those words, the fear previously trapped in her throat escaping through wretched. She couldn’t hear the concerned voice of her sister, nor could she feel the hands pulling at her. Her eyes were screwed shut, trying to prevent the tears from welling out. Her thoughts were a flurry in her head, bouncing around and consuming her. Her skin was warm and sticky with sweat, everything she had washed off returning. She screamed. Fear enveloped her completely, bile rising again. Before she could throw up again, she was submerged into cold water, everything coming to a sudden halt.
“Aleris! Aleris, are you listening to me? I need you to tell me what’s wrong! Where’s Pierce?” Indigo rambled frantically. Aleris blinked, her breaths were uneven but her thoughts were clearing. Her face was stoic as she stared at the water gently rippling from the sudden commotion. She blocked out the bombardment of questions from her sister. Her eyes were still heavy with sleep.
“Tomorrow, Indigo, tomorrow. I’ll explain everything to you tomorrow. Just please, let me rest.” Aleris begged, her exhaustion shown in the way her words slurred together.
“No, Aleris, please. He’s my-,” Indigo hesitated, “our brother. Where is he? Is he in danger? Please Aleris, what’s going on?” Aleris shook her head, her brain was too sluggish to process the questions.
“Aleris, please,” it came out as a whisper, pleading for the truth. Aleris felt her heart crack, her head bowing down as a whimper escaped her lips.
“Indigo, I-I, please. Just let me-“
“No! I don’t understand why I have to wait till tomorrow. It’s a simple question! Where is-“
“Pierce is dead!” The words cut through the air, slicing through and rebuilding the tension all at once. “Pierce is dead, Indigo,” Aleris continued, refusing to look her sister in the face, already knowing the expression it held. Silence settled and Aleris swallowed thickly.
“Pierce is what?” Indigo whispered brokenly.
Aleris’ heart ached, her head nodding slowly in confirmation. She heard the choked sob followed by the loud sounds of Indigo’s crying. They stretched out for what felt like ages, seeping into the cracks already formed in Aleris’ heart.
“How?” Indigo croaked in between sobs.
Aleris shook her head again, memories of just hours earlier flashing through her head. She shoved them down. She wasn’t ready yet.
“Aleris! Please! How? Tell me please, Aleris please,” Indigo sobbed, her hands gripping the tub’s edge so tightly her knuckles went white.
“Indigo, I can’t, okay? I’ll explain everything tomorrow, please just wait till then,” Aleris begged. Her voice was soft, gentle, attempting to calm her frantic sister.
“I can’t wait till tomorrow! He’s my brother! He’s your brother! Aleris-“
“Indigo? What’s wrong, are you okay?” their mother, questioned from outside the door. They froze, Indigo’s wet eyes darting to Aleris. She shook her head ‘no,’ mouthing,‘don’t tell her’.
“I’m fine mom! I’m just…um, I’m on the phone with Aleris. They’ll be back tomorrow okay?” There was a beat of silence before a response sounded on the other side of the door.
“Okay! Tell them I love them and to drive safely!” They waited until the footsteps faded away. Aleris ignored the way the lie burned underneath her skin.
Indigo turned sharply to Aleris. Her eyes narrowed, filled with nothing but detest. “You get your wish,” she spat, and Aleris flinched at the venom in the words.
“You’ll explain everything to me tomorrow, and I swear if you don’t-“
“I will, don’t worry, I promise Indigo.” She could feel Indigo’s eyes studying her, the sadness from earlier obviously replaced by anger. Aleris sunk further into the now warm water, watching out of the corner of her eye as Indigo stood and left the room. Relief flooded her as the door clicked closed, and she found that her thoughts that were slurred and disconnected when she had gotten home we’re now thrumming.
Her fingers twitched, and her eyes flicked feverishly as she tried to think of a way to explain everything to Indigo. How was she supposed to tell her that it had been Lyra, their friend and Pierce’s girlfriend, who had killed him? How was she supposed to tell her she stood there and did nothing as Pierce was murdered in front of her? If none of it made sense to her now, it would never make sense to Indigo who would be blinded by rage and sadness.
Aleris curled in on herself inside the tub, knees pressing themselves tightly against her chest. Pierce was dead, and Indigo would hated her. Her loneliness made itself evident, and she couldn’t help the soft sobs that bubbled up her throat at the thought that she had no one left to turn to. The water grew cold around as she sat in the tub sobbing, but she could still feel the coldness slither up her arms and seized at her heart, freezing it’s remnants over.