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CHAPTER 2 (IATB)

CHAPTER 2 (IATB)

Jan 11, 2023

CHAPTER 2 — HAUNTED HOUSE, IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, AT LIKE MIDNIGHT

[DANESH]

"Where are we going?" Zacharrine asks me for tenth time in less than three minutes.

"Somewhere," I roll my eyes.

"A–," he opens his mouth, but I beat him to it.

"One more word, I'm gonna leave you and not even look back once,"

"I can easily catch up to you," he says oh-so smugly and I want nothing more than to punch his idiotic face.

"Oh, you can try," I reply just as smugly.

Why is he here? I didn't even ask him to come with. It's just neither of us could sleep, and I decided to ride around, and he took Val's bicycle and followed, like a little lost puppy. If he were a puppy, he would definitely be a very ugly, despicable puppy though, always getting on my nerves.

"Seriously, where are we going? We've been–,"

Deciding to ignore him, I pedal a little bit faster and get ahead of him. I could have just as easily lost him and just go about my way, but he has my sister's bicycle. I can't possibly just leave the bicycle with him now, can I?

A few more minutes pass, before I stop and get down from my bicycle and wait for the slowpoke to catch up.

"I. Told. You. I–" he is panting so hard he can't even speak; I have to bite my inner cheek to stop myself from laughing, "–could catch up. Damn," he heavs, "Glad to know you find my misery amusing,"

"I am not saying anything," I raise my hands, shrugging.

"You don't have to," he then scans our surroundings, shaking his head, "We rode all the way to a forest in the middle of nowhere at like midnight. Great, just great,"

"Hey, no one asked you to come with and no one is asking you to stay,"

"Rude. I thought you'd like some company,"

"Well, I don't,"

"Well, I do. So I'm gonna stay,"

"Suit yourself," I shrug, and start walking into the forest, pushing the bicycle.

"Where are you going?" he yells, but soon enough he is following me.

Like I said, a lost puppy.

I don't say anything and just keep walking, but that doesn't mean the idiot shuts up too.

"This is so not a good idea. Do you know how many terrible things can happen in a forest? And at night? Have you never watched any horror films," the fact that he is whispering only made it more annoying, "Or what if like horrible creatures lived here? Vampires? Werewolves? We–,"

"The only horrible creature here now is you," I retort, unable to help myself.

"Ha-ha funny. Seriously Dan, where are we going?"

"What, are you scared?"

"If you think I'm gonna say no, you're so wrong buddy," he scoffs.

I just shake my head — is he trying to prove that he is much more of an idiot than I presumed him to be?

"Wait, no. That came out wrong,"

Thankfully, we reach our destination before he can ramble any more.

It is an old mansion. No one lived there anymore, at least not to my knowledge. Plus, there are vines overgrown around the house, and there are spider webs everywhere, it has to be unoccupied. I have been visiting this place ever since my family and I moved here and there isn't a single time I'd found anyone around the house.

"A haunted house?" he squeals like a hyena, "You brought me to a haunted house?"

"I didn–,"

"Yes, you didn't ask me to come," he cuts me off, hissing, "But you could've at least warned me!"

I sigh. Seriously what is wrong with this boy? And is he starting to hyperventilate? You've got to be shitting me.

"Hey, hey," I nudge his shoulder. "This is not a haunted house. Look at me," I try to talk to him as calmly as I can, reaching out and holding him by the shoulders, willing him to look at me, "Look at me, Zacharrine. It's not haunted; I've been here countless of times before. Just relax,"

He nods as he tries to bring his breathing back to a normal rate. I wait patiently, as he collects himself. This is the first I is seeing him so... frenzied, and perturbed. He is always calm and kind of a happy-go-lucky guy. It is surprising to see him wound up over nothing. I let go once I am sure he isn't sure going to freak out again.

"Come on," I nod towards the house, and start to walk when I feel him quickly reach for my jacket sleeve and hold onto it.

I don't know why but my heart skip a beat at the small action and suddenly I am overcome with this urge to protect him against anything and everything. I exhale deeply, you don't like him, Dan — remember, I tell myself. From the corner of my eye, I see him giving me wary glances, I guess he is hoping I won't notice and even if I did that I wouldn't mind it. I go with the former option and pretend to not notice him holding onto my sleeve; I even walk slowly so that he won't be startled any further, allowing him to adjust to the surroundings.

A warm feeling starts to spread throughout my chest and I do my goddamned best in ignoring it, squashing it to non-existence. I can't be dealing with this unnecessary stuff, I don't need it.

I am already regretting coming here. This is the place I go to whenever I get too angry at things and need some peace and quiet. There is not one other single soul who knows about this place, not even my own sister, the one person I am closest to. This is sort of my place and I never want anyone else to know about it. Yet here I am with one of the most irritating guy in the world.

What is wrong with me?

"It looks much neater inside," the scaredy-cat states.

I don't say anything. I don't want him to know anything more about this place, my place. It is clean because I took the time and effort to clean it up. I spend up to a few hours in this place at times and figured I could clean it up as well. It helps calm my mind.

He finally lets go of my jacket sleeve to look around and I light up some candles. I still can't find the main switch so there is no comfort of electricity, not that I mind much.

"I'm sorry,"

I turn around, surprised at the statement. I can't have been imagining it, can I? From the look on his face, I can tell that no, I am not imagining it. There is a frown on his face, and he isn't looking at me. He seemed... embarrassed?

"For?"

In my defence, I wasn't being snarky; I genuinely don't know what he is apologising for.

He doesn't answer at first; must've thought I was ridiculing him. But then he looks up, and must have seen the serious look on my face. Only then does he reply.

"About just now, outside," he shakes his head, "That... I just had a really long day, and you dragging me into some creepy place, my brain just kinda short-circuited,"

I don't say anything for a moment, and look at him. I can tell by the way he averts my gaze he doesn't want to talk about it anymore than he has to, so I just shrug, purposely choosing to respond only part of his apology, "I didn't drag you with me, you followed me,"

"I didn't want to be alone," he sighs.

"Go to your friends then,"

"I did, she wasn't at home,"

"What abo–"

"Don't," his voice suddenly takes an edge.

I was about to suggest Joshua, other than my sister, he is also his best friend. The three of them — Joshua, my sister and Zacharrine, are closely knit together. Or at least I thought so, but guessing by his tone, there is something clearly amiss there. 

My curiosity is piqued, but I choose to not ask any questions. I know to not poke my nose into other people's business and it's not like I expected him to–

"I just found out that Mr Goldmann is cheating on his wife with my mom," he blurts out all of a sudden.

At first, it doesn't sound like anything of significance but as soon as his words register in my head,  I don't know what to make of it and I certainly don't know what to say.

Mr Goldmann is Joshua's father — his best friend, Joshua's father.

I look at him eyes wide, mouth slightly agape.

Wherelse he only shrugs casually, "I know," he says.

I urge my vocal chords to work, and gratefully they comply, "I– I'm sorry," what else can I possibly say.

He shrugs once again, shaking his head. Then, he looks up at me and smiles. If not for his eyes which are still slightly swollen, you can possibly not tell that he is upset. He can fool you so easily, that's how believable his smile looked. I replay every single moment ever since he was on my doorstep that night, and I'd never felt like more of a jerk before.

Where the fuck is my sister? He clearly needs a friend and all he got is me. As much as I dislike him, it isn't fair what's happened to him.

"Just–," he lets out a deep sigh, "What do you do around here anyway?"

I can tell that he is trying to change the topic. And I can also tell that he is still upset, so just for this once I decide to forget my dislike of him, and humour him—just this once.

़़़

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