Home > The Soul's Mark: FOUND (The Soul's Mark #1)(13)

The Soul's Mark: FOUND (The Soul's Mark #1)(13)
Author: Ashley Stoyanoff

The words of her psychiatrist echoed loud and clear through her mind. “Mitchell is a figment of your imagination. It’s all very normal Amelia. You have created a fictional character, an imaginary friend if you will, to help you deal with your loss.”

That was the logical explanation. And Amelia was usually all about the logic. But if Dr. Roth was right, then that meant Mitchell wouldn’t be with her forever. Sooner or later, she wouldn’t need him anymore. Maybe that’s why she hadn’t dreamt of him last night. Maybe it was because she actually had real friends now. Maybe this was her psyche trying to tell her that she no longer needed him. Maybe she would never dream of him again.

The thought of never seeing him again hurt, sticking her like a knife through the heart. She shivered as a prickling sensation enveloped her skin as if she had lain down on a pincushion. Wow. This is just sad, she thought. Pull yourself together. Look around you. You have friends who actually care about you and you live in a castle. You are following your dreams and going to University. You even have a housekeeper.

Life was finally starting to look up. She was finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So why did she still feel so empty? So alone? It was as if something was missing, something important. There was a void inside her that seemed to stretch out forever, leaving her filled with misery.

Her eyes started to sting and she squeezed them shut, willing away the tears that threatened to spill. She sucked in a gasping breath and got out of bed. She craved fresh air and yearned for exercise. Running was like her coffee. It woke her up, giving her that jolt of raw energy she needed to start the day. And it was late enough that the curfew was over so that meant it was safe. Right?

In about two minutes, Amelia had pulled her hair up into a bun and slugged her way into her yoga pants and hoodie. She snagged her water bottle off the table and frowned when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She looked like crap. And what was the dark, puffy circles under her eyes about? She poked at the saggy looking skin and sighed. It looked as if she hadn’t slept in weeks and she wondered if she could sneak out of the house without her stunning roommates seeing her. Probably not.

A tantalizing whiff of pancakes, maple syrup and freshly brewed coffee drifted from the kitchen. Amelia’s stomach rumbled, but she didn’t want to eat because if she ate, she would have to sit at the table and smile and pretend that everything was fine. Right now that seemed like way too much work.

Trying to stay as quiet as possible, she inched her way down the hall, hoping to avoid her roommates. But, of course, it was just her luck she ran into Angelle in the hallway, just outside of the kitchen. She was in pink today—a frilly, hot pink mini skirt, matching hot pink camisole and a light pink open cardigan. Her hair was tied up with an assortment of pink ribbons and her lips were painted in a soft pink shine. For most people, it was just way too much pink, but on Angelle it was somehow perfect.

Hit by a sudden twinge of jealously, Amelia wondered if there was anything that wouldn’t look good on Angelle. She instantly felt guilty for the thought and fire burned in her cheeks; she blushed, embarrassed. She wasn’t one of those catty girls and she wouldn’t start now. Nevertheless, seeing her drop-dead gorgeous roommate looking so spectacular did not help her sour mood.

“Good morning, sunshine,” Angelle chirped in a bubbly voice and if Amelia hadn’t been sour before, she definitely was now because no one should be that happy in the morning. The cheerfulness surged through her like nails running down a chalkboard.

“You’re way too perky for this early in the morning,” Amelia groaned.

Angelle’s big brown eyes widened and her lips curved into a playful little smile. “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed I see.” Amelia rolled her eyes and slid past her into the kitchen.

Mabel, who was busy loading the dishwasher, gave her a warm, motherly smile. “Oh, you’re up. Did you want breakfast now? The rest just finished.”

“No thanks. I’ll grab something later,” Amelia replied, dragging herself over to the sink and filling up her bottle. Why couldn’t everyone still be asleep? she thought sourly.

“Morning, Millie,” Eric greeted. She hadn’t noticed him when she walked in but he was sitting at the table looking just as chipper and awake as Angelle, in jogging pants and a faded beer logo t-shirt. He beamed at her. “You look like shit by the way.” She didn’t bother to answer him but shot him a look that clearly said, screw off, which just made him laugh.

“Someone’s not a morning person,” Angelle chirped, gliding in behind her and gracefully perching herself at the island, newspaper in hand.

Eric laughed harder and Amelia felt the ice melt just a little. What a laugh, so clear, almost musical. She gave herself a little shake, clearing the fog that seemed to suck her in whenever he was around, padded towards the door and jammed her feet into her running shoes.

“Hey, where are you going?” Eric asked, hopping up from the table.

“Run,” she grunted, and opened the door.

Eric darted around, putting his hand up, stopping her just before she made it outside. “I’ll go with you.”

“You’ll just slow me down,” Amelia said, and weaved around him, ducking under his arm, and out into the cool, crisp morning.

Eric followed her out, not taking the hint that she just wanted to be alone. “I doubt that,” he said with a lazy, lopsided grin.

Amelia gritted her teeth and clenched her fists into little balls. “Fine. Whatever. But I’m not slowing down for you.”

She skipped her usual stretching, annoyed that he was insisting on coming and took off down the driveway at a sprint, not bothering to warm up her muscles.

If Amelia had been worried he would not be able to keep up, she was wrong. After ten minutes, she was breathing hard, in short bursts and dripping sweat and he looked like he was just out for a leisurely stroll. At least he wasn’t talking to her, she thought, glad for the silence.

As if he could read her mind, in that instant he said, “Millie?”

“What?” she gasped, short of breath, and pushed on, harder and faster.

“What’s made you so crabby this morning?” he asked, shooting her a sideways glance.

Crap. Not what she wanted to talk about. What was she supposed to say? I didn’t see my imaginary boyfriend last night? If she had any hope of impressing him, and she really did want to make an impression, because, he was, really, oh-my-god-hot, that really wasn’t the topic to do it with. “Just run,” she said and hoped she didn’t sound sad. The running helped cover the tremors in her voice and she picked up the pace.

“I get it,” he said, “You don’t want to talk to me. But you can if you want. I’m a good listener and you’re not alone anymore.” He sounded a little strange, tired and a touch too serious.

Amelia didn’t know what to say so she just kept running. She suppressed a wide smile. Not alone. That was good, right? It sure felt good.

****

By 11:30, Amelia was curled up studying on one of the marshmallowy chairs in her room, a soft fleece blanket wrapped around her. It hadn’t been her first choice for spending the day but Luke had some emergency business meeting, Eric was playing video games and Angelle was busy doing God only knows what.

Amelia flipped open her Linear Algebra I textbook. The main structures of linear algebra are vector spaces. A vector space over a field F is a set V together with two binary operations…

She hadn’t gotten very far when Angelle burst through the door in a frenzy. “There you are!” she said. “I’ve been looking all over for you. You have guests.”

“Guests?” Amelia questioned, closing her book, “But I don’t know anyone.” And she really didn’t want to meet anyone, at least not in yoga pants and a hoodie. She hadn’t bothered getting dress up since she had planned to study all day.

Angelle swooped over to Amelia, tugging the blanket away and yanking her up. The book that Amelia had on her lap fell to the floor with a thud. “It’s time for you to meet the neighbors,” Angelle said, looking her over with a look that clearly said she didn’t approve of her attire. “I bought you so many nice things yesterday. Why are you wearing this?” Angelle picked at the hoodie like it was filthy and she didn’t want to get her hands dirty. She sighed loudly. “Well I guess you’ll just have to go out like this. Your guests have already been waiting too long.” She grabbed Amelia by the hand and towed her out of the room.

“Wait a minute,” Amelia said, trying to pull away. It was a useless effort. Angelle was a lot stronger than Amelia had guessed and she didn’t waver at any of her tugs. “Let me have a shower.”

Angelle ignored her and dragged her down the hallway, up the grand stairs and straight out to the outside lounge. The second Amelia’s bare feet hit the cold balcony she shivered, but Angelle pulled her on to where a crowd had gathered, lounging on some fancy chairs and chatting amicably.

One of the girls turned around and squealed, “Amelia!” and she rushed over, smothering Amelia in a hug.

Amelia stiffened. Why did everyone keep hugging her? What happened to shaking hands? Amelia thought the girl would have gotten the hint from her stiff stance but it didn’t ruffle her in the least and she was starting to think the girl wasn’t going to let go.

“Jessica,” a man said, chuckling softly. “Let the girl breathe.”

“Oh, sorry,” Jessica said, stepping back from Amelia and looking bashfully at the man who, Amelia assumed, had saved her from the hug. She was short, not more than five feet tall, and she looked like a miniature Barbie doll—busty and curvy, which really stood out in her low rise blue jeans and yellow scoop neck t-shirt that fit like a second skin. “I’m just so excited. She’s finally here.” She looked back at Amelia and grabbed her hands jumping up and down excitedly. “We are going to be the best of friends.”

“Hello, Amelia. I’m Doug and you’ve already met my Jessica.” He stepped forward out of the crowd and Jessica dropped Amelia’s hands. He was taller than Amelia but not by much and he had a deep tan. The kind of tan you could only get by spending hours out in the sun. He had on a white button up dress shirt with a tie and black slacks, a bit formal for a Saturday, but Amelia quickly noticed that all the men were in the same sort of get-up. He gave Jessica a look that made Amelia blush. It was the kind of look that should be private, filled with raw passion, devotion and pure love. His eyes lingered on her for a moment, before turning back to Amelia. “Aren’t you a cute little thing!”

   
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