"Stop," says Hugo. "You're drunk, man."
Gabriel shrugs. "Did I say anything wrong? She'd rather kiss me than you."
Vellary frowns, uncomfortable with his words. "Why are you acting this way?" Surely alcohol doesn't change someone like this.
Gabriel tilts his head at her, his expression patronising. "Because you like me," he drawls, "and Hugooo likes you!"
Her heart drops. "Excuse me?"
Hugo grabs Gabriel by the arm and tries to drag him up. "Get the fuck up--"
"No, no, I gotta tell her. She thinks she has a chance with me," Gabriel shrugs Hugo off before grinning at Vellary, "when I only invited you so he can take you to my room and fuck you."
A glass shatters.
It happens too fast.
One second Gabriel's laughing, and the next he's knocked to the ground by Lucian and punched in the face.
Vellary quickly shields Lily with her body as the boys roll around the rug. Hugo tries to separate them, but he's shoved back by Rebecca, who grabs a handful of Gabriel's hair and pulls.
"Argh! let go, you bitch!" Gabriel yelps.
"Shut the fuck up!" she yells back.
Hugo grabs Rebecca and pulls her back, but her grip on Gabriel's hair is strong, and she ends up dragging him across the ground along with her.
Gabriel yells in pain, but is cut off with another punch from Lucian.
Three more boys join in to help Hugo stop the fight while others video the scene. Vellary remains on the couch with a sleeping Lily held close to her chest. Her heart pounds erratically as she watches Hugo take Rebecca outside.
He gestures to the girls filming. "You two stay with her so she doesn't come back."
He glances in Vellary's direction but she quickly looks away.
Was that what he meant when he said he wanted to enjoy the party with me?
"You're a fucken dickhead!" Lucian yells at Gabriel, his body held back by two boys. "I'm going to kill you!"
Hugo grabs a wobbly Gabriel by the arms and silently lifts him to his feet. He wraps an arm around his waist and heads towards the stairs.
Did they both plan it?
"You too, Hugo!" Lucian's voice cracks. "Didn't think you'd stoop so low, you coward--let me go!"
Hugo pauses, but doesn't turn around. "Please leave."
Vellary clenches her fists, the knots in her stomach too tight for her liking.
'I only invited you so he can take you to my room and fuck you.'
She stares as they disappear up the stairs. Did you, really?
"Mother-fucker! Just wait till I see you at school, you jackass!"
Vellary takes a deep breath, a lump forming in her throat. I think I'm gonna puke.
She glances at Lucian. "Lucian."
He stops, breathing heavily, and releases himself from the boys' grips. "Are you okay?" he says, kneeling in front of her.
A camera clicks.
Vellary's head snaps to the sound, and Jamie, Roset High's magazine photographer, is there, taking pictures of them. She blanches, suddenly aware of all the eyes and phones on her.
"Hey!" yells Lucian. "Don't fucken take photos."
Vellary swallows and stands up. "Let's go, Lucian." I feel so sick.
Lucian wordlessly carries Lily in his arms and gestures for Vellary to walk in front of him. She does.
"You better not post shit online," she hears Lucian say.
The heels of her boot clack against the tile in the corridor, the sound light, but heavy enough to have her stomach churning. I can't believe I dressed up for him.
"Alright everybody!" She hears someone from the living room say. "Party's over. Y'all get your asses home!"
Her eyes tear up. They're going to laugh at me tomorrow. Why else would they take videos and pictures?
She opens the front door and lets Lucian exit first. They'll post online about my stupidity and how I fell for Hugo and Gabriel's trick.
"Y'all better delete those vids too!" is the last thing she hears before she shuts the door.
All I wanted to do was talk to Gabriel. Not even date him--just talk.
Vellary stands under the porch and sucks in a deep breath. The cold air burns her nostrils and throat, but she doesn't care. It suppresses her urge to puke.
She gazes up at the dark sky. Did I do something bad?
Its blanket of stars twinkle, but they're not large enough to keep everyone underneath it warm. Why didn't youcover me with your blanket too, God?
"Hey," Lucian calls out from the bottom steps.
Vellary glances down at him.
He beckons her over.
She heads down, and with every step she takes, the blurrier her vision gets.
When she reaches him, he says, "I put Lily in the car. Do you wanna stay at her place?"
"Lucian," Vellary whispers, and a lone tear trails down her cheek.
"Oh, no, no, no..."
"If...I was--if I--" She chokes back the tears and eventually covers her eyes when she can't contain them.
Lucian wraps his arms around her and pulls her tightly to his chest.
If I was a good person, she wants to say, If the blanket covered me too, would I have been protected from whathappened?
She sobs quietly, a great sense of shame, anger and grief clashing together within her. It hurts. It hurts so much.
She grips Lucian's jacket tightly, the pain of the heartbreak too much to bare. Stop, please. I just want it all to stop.
Please God, make it stop.
741Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡZ6Vpue7Trx
Time has stopped for Hugo.
He stands in Gabriel's low-lit bathroom, his hands resting under the running tap. Its scorching water washes off the remainder of the blood, droplets of red splashing across the sink.
Once he's done, he dries them with a hanging towel and heads back to Gabriel's bedroom.
He pauses at the entrance, dark eyes following the gentle movements of the girl on the bed. Hugo enters, locking the door behind him.
The girl, Rebecca, is sitting next to an unconscious Gabriel, cleaning the bloodied and bruised wounds on his face. "You're back," she states.
Hugo hums in reply and takes a seat by the window. It's been two hours since everybody left, including Vellary.
He stares down at the front steps, the very steps she stood at and cried.
"You didn't have to go this far, you know."
Hugo turns to her. "Really, now?"
"Yes, really." She presses a wet cloth onto the side of Gabriel's head. "You're lucky he's still alive."
"Don't be dramatic."
She glares at him, "You think she's going to appreciate what you did?"
He looks back out the window. "I didn't do it for her."
Rebecca scoffs. "Then why did you do it?"
Hugo gazes up at the dark sky, the once brightly-lit moon now swallowed by the grey clouds that surrounded it. "I wonder why too."
741Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡh38bDQ8ucH
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