Lyrical: Chapter 23

Pen

It’s ten minutes past eight, and I’m purposely late. Screw Xeno and his demands. He’s being an arsehole. How dare he say I’m fucking around? We all knew he was talking about me reconnecting with Zayn and York, rather than not taking my position at the Academy seriously. It makes me wonder if that’s what he thought of me when we were kids. Deep down, did he genuinely believe that I was a slut wanting to be with them all by refusing to choose?

couldn’t choose because I loved them equally.

I fucking loved him.

Heaving a sigh, I decide that I won’t let him get under my skin anymore tonight. He’s taken up residence in my thoughts for too long already today. I’m going to get this torture over with and then drink myself into oblivion with Clancy straight after. It’s her birthday next Sunday and I’ve got a plan that I hope she’ll enjoy.

Pushing open the stairwell door onto the third floor, the Academy is quiet, and the hall dark save for a light on in Xeno’s studio at the end of the corridor. All the students have gone home, and the rest of the scholarship students are either in their flats or out for the evening. I saw Tiffany and Sophie heading out about half an hour ago dressed to impress. I might not like the pair, but I have to admit, they have style. No doubt they’re heading back to The Pink Albatross. It is Friday night after all, and those who can afford to go more than once, do. Rather them than me. I won’t ever return there, not when I know Jeb owns that place. It does make me wonder about D-Neath though, given that’s supposed to be his club. Actually, I’ve been wondering about the whole reason the Breakers are here and am now convinced it has everything to do with D-Neath and the plans I overheard him talking about with Madam Tuillard.

As I walk towards Xeno’s studio, I brush my hands over my skin tight black jeans, benching those thoughts for now. My brother is going to call soon, it’s been a while since we spoke and I’m going to have to have something to tell him.

My phone vibrates for the hundredth time in the last half hour and I reach into my back pocket of my jeans, pulling it out. I shake my head, clicking on the message from Clancy.

Clancy: Don’t forget. Drinks. My flat. 9pm. River’s coming. Want me to invite York and Zayn?

Clancy ends the message with a wink emoji, and I roll my eyes. She’s been bugging me all afternoon about what happened between York and me earlier today. I was hoping to have her to myself tonight so I can share, but she’s invited River over to her place so any convo about the boys will have to wait. I like River, he’s a cool guy, so I don’t begrudge her their friendship. Besides, I couldn’t think of anything worse than sitting in her flat between York and Zayn whilst River and Clancy watch us like some kind of side-show. Not that they’d go anyway even if they were invited.

Clancy: So…?

Me: Ha Ha! Nope.

I can see the three bubbles moving as she types a response.

Clancy: If you want to spend the night with them I won’t be offended. Gotta admit, I’ve always wondered what a ménage á trois would be like.

She follows it up with a wink emoji, drool emoji and two eggplants.

Me: Sod off Clancy.

Clancy: Seriously, girl. I don’t mind.

Me: I want to spend time with you. Besides, I have an idea for your birthday. I wanna chat to you about it.

Clancy: Oh yay! Atta girl!

Me: See you at nine.

The three bubbles move again, but I shove my mobile phone back in the pocket of my black jeans and ignore the vibrations of a new message. It’s probably just a string of emojis anyway. The girl’s fixated with the damn things. Sometimes she sends me text message after text message filled with emojis that I have to decode. It’s just as well really because all of them are rude. She’s a saucy minx, that’s for sure. I’ve no doubt she’d enjoy a ménage á trois. Knowing her, she’s already experienced one. My thoughts stray to the memory of York and Dax when we were younger. Fairly sure Clancy would enjoy that memory just as much as I do. To this day, I’m not sure if Xeno has any idea what happened that night. I doubt it.

Reaching the studio, I take a deep, steadying breath and ready myself for Xeno’s attitude, then push open the door, repeating the same mantra in my head.

It’s just a dance lesson. I’m just catching up with what I missed. It doesn’t mean anything.

I’ve been telling myself those lies over and over again. Whatever Xeno has planned for me, I’m not stupid enough to believe it’s catching up on what I missed today.

“You’re late,” he snaps, meeting my gaze in the reflection of the mirror. Moody fucker.

“This look takes time, you know,” I sass back, doing a little twirl on my heeled biker boots that are totally inappropriate for a dance lesson. It was another purposeful move on my part. Being small isn’t something I enjoy for the most part. These boots give me at least another three inches. I don’t feel so Tiny in them. Xeno turns to face me, leaning his arse against the edge of the table which he also grips with his hands a bit too firmly in my opinion. His heated gaze roves over me slowly, and even though I’m feeling more than a little uncomfortable under his scrutiny, I sure as fuck don’t let it show. Instead, I cock my head, allowing my hair to fall over my shoulder.

“Didn’t know you liked Black Sabbath,” he says, commenting on my top.

“Why would you? We’re not friends. I’m not sure we ever really were,” I say, stepping towards him. It pains me to say that, but his insult earlier hurt, and ever the petty bitch, I want to hurt him back. So sue me.

He nods, pushing upwards off the table, a strange look on his face. For a beat he just stares at me then seems to make a decision. Picking up a chair from beside the table he strides to the centre of the room, dropping it down so that it’s facing the mirror. “Take a seat, Pen,” he says, tapping the back of the chair.

“I thought you wanted me to catch up on what I missed out on today. If that’s not the case, then I have better things to do.”

“That was the original plan, but given you’re refusing to take me or my classes seriously, I’ve decided to switch shit up. Sit down, Pen.”

“Why?” I ask, suddenly feeling nervous. There’s a knot of anxiety in my chest that has gotten more twisted every second that I’ve been in the room with him. He’s always made me feel on edge. Even as kids, I was always that bit more nervous around him than the others, and I hate that after all this time it still feels the same way. Back when I was a kid it was because he never quite opened up to me in the same way as Dax, York and Zayn did. He always held back that little bit of himself, and I never quite felt good enough, like he didn’t trust me enough, or even like me enough to fully open himself up to me. Now, he’s even more closed off. He’s a stranger, and that hurts. He’s also an arsehole, and that makes me feel a tiny bit better. It’s easier to dislike an arsehole.

“Just sit.” He turns his back on me and picks up his mobile phone flicking through it, completely oblivious to my current indecision.

I should walk away. I should tell him to go fuck himself right now. I don’t because when it comes to Xeno, I’ve never been able to say no. It’s that little girl in me who still craves his approval, his acceptance. He was the last piece to our puzzle that never allowed himself to fit, and when he did, it was too fucking late. It pisses me off that he seems to know that and is using my weakness against me. Then again, walking out of here wouldn’t be any better either. So, I remove my phone from the back pocket of my very tight jeans, and sit, resting it on my lap.

Xeno strides over to the door, locking it, then reaches for the hem of his t-shirt and pulls it off, chucking it on the floor. He flexes his neck, rocking his head from side-to-side like he’s about to step into the ring and fight. I swallow hard, hiding my surprise and prickling of fear behind bravado. It worked for me as a kid, it’ll work for me now.

“What’s this? Some kind of pissing contest, Xeno. Are you jealous and needing to make a point? I thought you had no interest in me, but here you are getting naked?” I reel off. What the fuck is he doing? More to the point, why is he so damn hot? I will my cheeks not to flush. I do not want him to know how much he turns me on despite his cuntish attitude.

We are not friends, and we sure as fuck aren’t lovers.

He smirks. “I find I can dance better unencumbered,” he says, sounding ridiculous.

Unencumbered? Did he swallow a damn dictionary tonight? “It means not having any burden.”

“I know what it means, Xeno. Out of the five of us, it was me who actually bothered going to school the most. What’re you gonna do next, grab a dictionary and start lambasting me with words? I’m a street kid, and whilst sticks and stones may break my bones, names sure as fuck won’t hurt me.”

“No, that’s not what’s gonna happen tonight.” He smiles evilly, like the hottest fucking devil who knows he’s as beautiful as much as he’s dangerous. I grit my jaw, my gaze roving over his body as he circles me, all predatory.

“You know if you wanted to fuck me, perhaps you should’ve taken your chance at Grim’s club. Oh, wait, Jeb didn’t give you permission to rape me like he did Zayn…” I snarl.

“And yet two days later, you let Zayn fuck you with his fingers because of a few sweet words and smooth moves in the studio,” he bites back, sneering.

“Number one, fuck you, and number two, how the fuck do you know what happened?” I move to stand, but he rushes forward, and places his hands on the backrest, lowering his gaze to meet mine, his lips pulling up over his teeth.

“Number one,” he retorts, mimicking me, “I’m the one who holds the Breakers together so I make it my business to know what’s going on and number two, you should lock the fucking door to the studio if you want some privacy!”

“You piece of shit,” I snap, my cheeks roaring with heat at the thought he had watched Zayn and me, just like he did when we were kids. What is he, some kind of voyeur?

“I gotta give him credit. He’s smooth, real fucking smooth.”

“Fuck you!” I flinch looking away, not able to hold his stare. My eyes catch on something glinting at his neck. It’s the same necklace Zayn gave me that night at Rocks. It was their birthday gift to me.

“That’s my necklace,” I say, reaching for it, but Xeno captures my wrist, preventing me from touching it.

“No, it’s not. This is mine. The Breakers are my brothers, Pen, and I will do anything to protect them.”

“I’m not a threat,” I lie, because the truth is, I am and Xeno knows it.

“That’s where you’re wrong. You threaten everything and I’ll be damned if I watch them fall for you again only for you to break their fucking hearts. You need to stay the fuck away from them.” With that Xeno steps back, lifts his head and says, “Play track twenty-two.”

I recognise the track immediately. It’s You Broke Me First by Tate McRae. The singer is a few years younger than me and is a dancer as well. I remember watching her on some American dance show. Girl’s got talent.

She’s edgy. Current. Cool.

The song begins to play, and for the whole first verse Xeno just fucking stares at me like some goddamn creeper. As she sings, the words feel too raw, too specific to our situation. I grab my phone and stand but Xeno steps forward once again and I drop to my seat.

“You will sit there, and you will watch me dance this time, Pen.” There’s a steeliness to his gaze, a coldness that makes me swallow hard. When did he get so fucking cruel? I must’ve asked that question out loud because he laughs bitterly, stepping away from me. “I told you before. I’m no longer that boy you knew.” Then he flips backwards, lifting so high in the air that I forget for a moment to hate him and only watch in astonishment as he performs a series of tumbles that are damn near perfect.

Xeno’s head snaps up, and he pins me with his glittering green eyes. His chest heaves, and if the words to the song weren’t a big enough clue to how he’s feeling, the expression on his face doesn’t leave any room for misunderstandings.

Then he dances.

Not bachata.

Not hip-hop.

But lyrical. He dances to express the words of the song and every damn move he makes is like a knife gutting my stomach. York was correct. He is hurting, and it’s painful to watch.

But that doesn’t make this right.

I danced the way I did to prevent myself from getting raped.

He’s dancing to hurt me.

With every step he rips up the friendship we had as kids and leaves it in tatters across the studio floor. With every jerk of his torso, and snap of his limbs, he shreds my heart.

The tears come this time, and there’s nothing I can do to stop them.

If Xeno notices my tears, it doesn’t prevent him from sliding the knife in further.

He glares at me, every sinew and muscle taut and angry as he dances. There’s no softness to his movements, there’s no empathy in his gaze, no understanding.

Just anger. Raw, painful anger.

He thinks I’ve got a nerve wanting to reconnect. He doesn’t believe I deserve them. Well, fuck him.

On the other side of the studio, Xeno drops his head, his shoulders stiffening as he breathes heavily. My stomach tightens, and my heart squeezes painfully. He’s so fucking lost in his anger, and I hate it. Why can’t he let it go? Why can’t he allow himself to see past his own pain?

“Xeno…”

His head snaps back up at the sound of my voice and his eyes narrow.

Fuck.

Xeno sprints towards me, all that anger and pain forcing his legs to move, then he throws his legs out in front of him and slides across the floor. I stiffen, waiting for the moment of impact, but his feet meet the front chair legs and he pushes me across the floor a few feet from the force. My heart hammers inside my chest as he looks up at me from his position on the floor.

“Xeno, stop,” I whisper.

My voice comes out weak, and I hate that. It doesn’t reflect how I feel inside. I’m angry, livid, and so utterly heartbroken. Swallowing hard, I wipe at the tears on my face and maintain his gaze. I want him to know that I hurt just as much as he does, that he doesn’t get exclusive rights to pain.

He shakes his head and grits his jaw then pushes upwards onto his feet and continues to dance. Every step is as angry as the last. By the time he’s finished, I’m as heartbroken as I was that night at Rocks when I walked away.

“Now you know how I feel,” he grinds out, striding towards me, a light sheen of sweat covering his skin. “Get out of my studio, Pen.”

But I can’t seem to move. Instead, my gaze drops from his eyes to the tattoo on his right arm that I’ve seen from a distance but haven’t looked at closely before now. There’s an anatomical drawing of a heart surrounded by a diamond shape. Three of the points have circles and the lowest point merges with the bottom of the shattered heart, broken pieces falling into a coin with large cracks running through it.

penny.

I reach for it, my fingers stroking over the shattered heart, and resting on the coin. Beneath the Queen’s head is a name.

Tiny.

“Xeno?” I question, looking up to meet his gaze once more.

“You broke me first,” he accuses, echoing the title of the song.

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