Home > Crave (Crave #1)(16)

Crave (Crave #1)(16)
Author: Tracy Wolff

Maybe if I’m lucky, I can kill two birds with one stone here. I can meet the very cool librarian responsible for this library and get a lesson from her (because the voice is definitely female) on one of the native languages. Even one of those options makes for a much better night than standing around being stared at at a party that was supposedly thrown to welcome me.

But when I step up to the door, ready to introduce myself, I find that the person doing the chanting isn’t the librarian at all. She’s a girl about my age, with long, silky dark hair and one of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen. Maybe the most beautiful.

She’s holding open a book and reading from it, which explains the chanting I heard. I want to ask what language it is, since I can’t see the cover, but the way her head snaps up when I step over the threshold has the words drying up in my throat.

Whoever she is, she looks fierce, cheeks flushed, and mouth open wide to let out the unique sounds of whatever language she is speaking. She stops mid-word, with what looks an awful lot like fury burning in her swirling black eyes.

12

It’s All

Fun and Games

Until Someone Loses

Their Life

I fumble for an apology—or at least an excuse—but before I can come up with one, the rage in her eyes is gone. In fact, it dissipates so quickly, I can’t be sure I didn’t imagine it. Especially since the anger, or whatever it was, turns to welcome as she walks toward me.

“You must be Grace,” she says in slightly accented English as she comes to a stop about a foot in front of me. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” She extends a hand forward and I take it, bemused, as she continues. “I’m Lia, and I have a feeling we’re going to be really good friends.”

It’s not the strangest greeting I’ve ever gotten—that honor still belongs to Brant Hayward, whose version of nice to meet you was wiping his boogers all over my first-day-of-school dress when we were both in kindergarten—but it’s a close second. Still, there’s an infectiousness about her smile that has me grinning back.

“I am Grace,” I agree. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Oh, don’t be so formal,” she tells me, gently steering me out of the room before I can mention that I want to look around. Seconds later, she’s got the lights off and the door closed behind us, all in the most efficient way possible.

“What language was that you were speaking? Was it native to Alaska? It was beautiful,” I say as we start walking back toward the center of the library.

“Oh, no.” She laughs, a light, tinkling sound that perfectly matches the rest of her. “It’s actually a language I came across in my research. I’ve never heard it spoken out loud, so I’m not even sure I’m pronouncing it correctly.”

“Well, it sounded amazing. What kind of book was it in?” Now I wish more than ever that I’d gotten a look at the cover.

“A boring one,” she answers with a wave of her hand. “I swear this research project is going to kill me. Now, come on, let’s go get some tea, and you can tell me all about yourself. Plenty of time to talk about classes when you’re actually stuck in them.”

I decide not to mention that starting new classes is pretty much the only thing I’ve been looking forward to about the move to Alaska. I mean, my public school definitely didn’t offer Witch Hunts in the Atlantic World for a history credit. Besides, tea sounds wonderful, especially considering what just happened when I tried a Dr Pepper. So does the idea of making a friend at this place where everyone looks at me like I have three heads…or like I’m nothing at all.

“Are you sure you aren’t busy? I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just wanted to explore the library a little bit. I love the gargoyle theme. Very Gothic.”

“It is, right? Ms. Royce is cool like that.”

“Oh, yeah? Let me guess. Flannel shirts and a hipster vibe? That kind of thing?”

“You would think. But she’s actually more a hippie skirt and flower crown kind of woman.”

“Now I want to meet her even more.” We’re on the other side of the library from where I came in and we pass through a sitting area with a bunch of black couches, each one dotted with purple throw pillows bearing different quotes from classic horror movies. My favorite is Norman Bates’s famous line from Psycho: “We all go a little mad sometimes.” Although I’m also partial to the pillow next to it: “Be afraid. Be very afraid,” from The Fly.

“Ms. Royce is big on Halloween,” Lia says with a laugh. “I don’t think she’s put everything away yet.”

Oh, right. Halloween was three days ago. I’ve been so focused on everything else that I just about forgot about it completely this year, even though Heather spent months making her costume from scratch.

I put the book I picked up earlier down on the nearest table—I’ll come back for it when the librarian is here— Lia pushes the main door open and gestures for me to precede her. I wait while she turns off the lights, then locks the door. “The library is usually closed on Sunday nights, but I’m doing an independent study this semester, so Ms. Royce lets me work late sometimes.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize—”

“No need to apologize, Grace.” She shoots me a vaguely exasperated look. “How were you supposed to know? I’m just telling you why I have to lock things back up.”

“Good point,” I admit, a little surprised at how nice she’s being.

She starts down the hallway. “So I’m assuming, since you aren’t at the party Macy organized for you, that your first full day at our illustrious school hasn’t been as smooth as your cousin hoped it’d be?”

She’s got that right, but I’m not going to admit it when that would sound like I’m throwing Macy under the bus. Especially since Macy isn’t the problem. Everything else is, but not her. “The party was good. I’ve just had a really long day. I needed a break for a few minutes.”

“I bet. Unless you’re coming from Vancouver or something, getting here is never easy.”

“Yeah, I’m definitely not from Vancouver.” I shiver a little as an unexpected wind whips through the hallway.

I glance around, looking for where it could be coming from, then get distracted as Lia raises her brows and says, “Alaska is a long way from California.”

“How did you know I’m from California?” Maybe that’s why everyone is staring at me—I must be wearing my not-from-here vibe like a parka.

“Foster must have mentioned it when he let us know you were coming,” she answers. “And I’ve got to say, San Diego is pretty much the worst possible place to move here from.”

“It’s the worst possible place to move anywhere from,” I agree. “But especially here.”

“No doubt.” She looks me up and down, then smirks. “So are you freezing in that dress?”

“Are you kidding? I’ve been freezing since I landed in Anchorage. Doesn’t matter what I wear—even before Macy talked me into putting on this thing.”

“Guess we better get you that tea, then.” She nods to the staircase that’s just come into view. “My room’s on the fourth floor, if that’s okay?”

“Oh, ours is, too. Mine and Macy’s, I mean.”

“Awesome.”

Lia keeps talking as we make our way to the stairs, pointing out different rooms she thinks I need to know—the chem lab, the study lounge, the snack shop. Part of me wants to pull out my phone and take notes—or, better yet, draw a map, since I’m hopeless with directions. Maybe if I can figure out something as simple as the layout of the castle, other things will fall into place, too. And then I can start to feel safe again—something I haven’t felt in a really long time.

We finally make it back to Lia’s room—she’s in what I’m assuming is the West hallway, judging by its location in relation to mine. I’m a little surprised when she stops in front of the one door on the hallway, maybe on the whole floor, that doesn’t have some kind of decoration on it.

My surprise must show, because she says, “It’s been a rough year. I just wasn’t up to decorating when I got back here.”

“That sucks. The rough-year part, I mean. Not the decorating part.”

“I knew what you meant.” She smiles sadly. “My boyfriend died several months ago, and everyone thinks I should be over it. But we were together a really long time. It’s not that easy to just let him go. As I’m sure you know.”

It’s been a month since my parents died, and I still feel like I’m in shock half the time. “No, it’s not.”

Like I wake up every morning and for a minute, just a minute, I don’t remember why I have that sinking feeling in my stomach.

I don’t remember that they’re gone and I’m never going to see them again.

I don’t remember that I’m alone.

And then it hits me all over again, and so does the grief.

Getting on that first plane yesterday morning was the hardest thing I’ve ever done—besides identifying them—and I think it’s because it made their deaths sink in just a little more.

Lia and I just kind of stand there in the middle of her dorm room for a second, two people who look fine on the outside but who are destroyed on the inside. We don’t talk, don’t say anything at all. Just stay where we are and absorb the fact that someone else hurts as much as we do.

It’s a bizarre feeling. And an oddly comforting one.

Eventually, Lia moves over to her desk, where she has an electric kettle plugged in. She pours some water into it from the pitcher she also has on her desk, then turns it on before opening a jar of what looks like potpourri and scooping it into two tea strainers.

“Can I help with anything?” I ask, even though she seems to have things under control. It’s nice to see her go through the ritual of making tea from homemade leaves. It reminds me of my mom and all the hours we spent in the kitchen assembling all her different blends.

   
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