Lyrical: Chapter 9


The first thing I do when I get inside my flat is ring my sister. She answers after the sixth ring, her voice sleepy.

“Who’s this?” she asks.

“It’s me, Pen,” I say, sighing in relief just at the sound of her voice.

“What time is it? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just checking in—” I flick on the light switch in the bathroom and catch sight of my reflection. I look like shit. No, I look broken. I’m far from fine, but she doesn’t need to know that. I’ve always protected her, shielded her from all the shit. Tonight’s no different.

“Pen,” she whines. “You told me off for calling you in the middle of the night. Not cool.”

“Sorry, erm, is Mum home?”

“No. I mean she might be. I’m not there is all,” she whispers into the mouthpiece.

“Where are you?” I ask trying to sound casual but failing.

“At a friend’s house.”

“Which friend?” I ask sharply.

“Stop stressing, Pen! I’m at Simone’s house for the weekend seeing as you’re so busy all the time.” She hesitates a beat. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that.”

A long sigh escapes my lips. “I know you didn’t.”

“I’m fine. I miss you, that’s all. Plus Simone’s taking care of me.”

“Good. That’s good. Ring as soon as you wake up, okay?”

“Alright. Pen—”


“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Of course I am,” I say brightly, hiding the wobble in my voice. “Love you, Lena.”

“Love you too, Pen.”

“Go to sleep, sis,” I say gently. She clicks her tongue against her teeth in annoyance, but I end the call abruptly so she can’t hear the sound of me falling apart on my bathroom floor.

Sometime later, I’m lying on my bed wrapped up in a towel with wet hair, dried tears on my cheeks and a painful kind of anger that verges on homicidal.

I want to kill Jeb.

I want to murder my brother.

I want to hurt the Breakers as much as they’ve hurt me, and yet…

Confusion wars inside my chest because tonight Dax stepped up. He stood between me and Malik Brov, twice. Zayn apologised, though I’m still uncertain for what or even if that brief moment of connection between us was even real. York had looked at me like he knew something was up, like he finally understood my pain and hated himself for it. Xeno… well, Xeno didn’t do a damn thing, but the look he gave me, that spoke a thousand words. Just words I wasn’t able to interpret. These thoughts sit like a grenade inside my chest. Someday soon the pin is going to be removed and I’ll detonate. Maybe then I’ll finally be at peace or at the very least, dead.

For the rest of the weekend I hide out in my flat, living off the remains of my cheap food and waiting for the world to end. Clancy leaves me various text messages that I ignore. She even knocked on my door this morning, but I didn’t have the energy to face her. It’s Sunday afternoon now and I’m still trying to piece myself back together again. I’ll have some grovelling to do with Clancy, but right now, I don’t have the emotional energy to fake feeling okay when I’m not.

The only person I spoke to the whole weekend was Lena. I’ve been ringing her obsessively to the point of distraction and only relaxed when I found out she’s going on a school trip tomorrow to the Isle of Wight for a week. I didn’t ask where mum got the money to pay for such an expensive trip or acknowledge the jealousy I feel that she has. Money wasn’t something we ever had much of, and even when mum did have some spare, she never used it to buy me things. I lived in hand-me-down clothes from our neighbours’ children and survived on free school meals. Treats weren’t something that were a part of my life, but none of that matters now. I’m just relieved that Lena’s out of harm’s way for the time being.

Now that it’s past three in the afternoon, I’ve recovered enough to haul arse out of bed. I’m tempted to knock on Clancy’s door, apologise, and hang out, but honestly, I’m still not ready to face anyone just yet. Physically, I’m stronger. My feet aren’t as sore as they were, and my strength has returned enough for me to wrap them up and want to dance. But emotionally, mentally, I’m still on edge. Jeb has made no contact after that evening at Grim’s club and I’ve no idea what he has planned for me. I’ve been waiting for the guillotine to fall because if there’s something I know for certain, Jeb won’t let this go. He’ll come back tenfold with something heinous for me to do, or maybe he’s just planning to kill me.

Needing to let off some steam, I dress in a pair of joggers and a loose t-shirt, pull on my trainers and grab my last bruised apple from my pathetically empty fruit bowl, and creep down to one of the studios. Once I dance, I’ll feel better, at least I hope so anyway.

The hallway on the next floor down is quiet, peaceful, and I head into the nearest studio and hook up my mobile phone to the speaker system. Placing the apple on the table, to eat after I’ve finished, I remove my trainers and press play on Elastic Heart by Sia, and let the music wash over me.

I don’t think beyond this moment.

I just move, running to the far wall.

Anger burns as I slam into the brick. My screwed up fists, smashing against the wall. Inside, all I can feel is this pent up energy, this rage needing release. If I don’t find a way to ease it, I might just self-combust, and I can’t afford to do that. I have to regain control, just like I did at Grim’s club. Drawing in a deep, ragged breath, my feet glide lightly over the wooden boards as I spin and twist my way back to the mirror, stopping just before I crash into it. My chest heaves as I stare at myself, at the person I’ve become.

Fighting, always fighting.

Fighting to save Lena. Fighting against Jeb, my brother, the Breakers.

I feel exactly like the rubber band that Sia sings about. Right now I’m stretched thin.

I may have a thick skin but I’m fucking scarred from all the fighting. I might be able to take more than others. I might keep fighting back, but I’m only human and everyone has a breaking point, including me. Some days I’m strong, I’m fierce, and others I’m on the verge of breaking, my edges fraying. I can feel myself unravelling. This back and forth, this push and pull, the ups and downs, acting strong but feeling weak, it’s taking its toll. I put up a front to the world, never really revealing who I truly am deep inside, even to the ones I love the most. But I did at Grim’s club. That night, I fucking peeled back the thick skin I wear so well, and I let the Breakers see me.

Did it make a difference?

I’m not sure.

Does it even matter?

I don’t know that either.

All I know right now is that I need to dance. Some people sing to let out their emotions, some people paint, some draw, some write, some play a musical instrument. I dance.

It’s the only source of freedom I have left.

Flaring my nostrils, I draw in a deep breath then lift my fists and slam them against the mirror so hard it wobbles under my anger. “Let it all go, Pen,” I say to myself fiercely, my reflection misting beneath my words. Pressing my forearms against the mirror, I drop my head between my shoulders and breathe in deeply, absorbing the music and Sia’s lyrics until all I am is another outlet for emotion.

I’m no longer Penelope Scott.

I’m not Pen, Kid, Titch or Tiny.

I’m not someone with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I’m not a girl fucked-up by dangerous men who want to hurt her.

I’m not a woman still in love with the Breakers.

I’m just an instrument of dance.

My body sways, as I clutch my head in my hands and stumble backwards on heavy feet. Pulling at my hair, I tip my head back and let out a silent scream, my body swaying in time to the music. It fills me up, it vibrates the air around me, the lyrics wash over my skin giving me the fuel I need to let it all out. I just go with it. This isn’t a choreographed piece. This is me bleeding out. This is me trying to make sense of everything that’s happened recently.

My hands fall away, and I jerk my body as though electrocuted. The reality of my situation and the events of Friday night finally sinking in. I drop to my knees, crawling across the shiny wooden floor before turning onto my back and slamming my hands and feet in time to the music, my feet push against the floor so that my body slides backwards. Sia’s voice flows over me, and I absorb every damn word. I draw on it, using it to give me the nourishment I need to dance the way I must.

Arching my back, I lift myself up off the floor onto my hands and feet, then push up onto my hands, flipping upright in a back walkover that a gymnast would be proud of. Flinging my arms wide, I spin like a little girl who’s carefree. I spin on my still sore feet trying to free myself of the pain and anger that’s eating away at me and like Sia sings, I want my fucking life back. I want to live. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.

I don’t want to be afraid for my sister.

I don’t want to be afraid for my life.

I don’t want to be afraid of my feelings.

I want to live. I want to be free.

All these secrets, all this weight sits like rocks within my chest, dragging me down until it feels like I’m drowning. My body folds over and like a marionette doll, my fingers drag across the floor as though my strings have been severed.

But somehow I stand upright, just like the song. I bounce back. I keep fighting because vulnerability is a choice and I refuse to be a victim. I do what I do because I have to, not because I’m weak. With a heaving chest I run, leaping into the air, my legs kicking out in a split. I land and transition into a low spin, my right leg extended over the floor, the tips of my toes drawing an invisible circle over the floorboards before I put all my weight on my right foot and hands and tumble into a forward roll, pushing upright once more. My heart pounds inside my chest at the exertion, my skin flushes with heat and sweat beads on my forehead, but still I dance.

I dance to let go.

I dance to keep sane.

I dance even when Zayn steps into the studio.

I dance despite his presence.

Because of it.

I dance to show him that I can’t be beaten.

That I won’t be beaten.

No. Matter. What.

I might be pulled taut, I might be fraying at the edges, but I’m still here. I’m still fucking dancing. And even though I was brought to my knees in the cage at Grim’s club, Jeb didn’t break me. None of them did. I fought back. Just like I’m fighting back now.

Leaping into a spring jump, I extend my legs then land lightly, locking eyes with Zayn. My chest heaving as he watches me. My heart might be broken, it might bleed but it still beats.

It. Still. Fucking. Beats.

My fisted hand bashes against my chest, echoing my moves on Friday night. I’m not broken. I jerk my chin before throwing up my hands and stamping my feet. Anger oozes out of me like an invisible monster seeping into the wooden floors, edging its way towards Zayn. I can almost see the sharpened claws scratching across the wood.

“Pen, there are things I need to say, and you need to listen,” Zayn demands, his words firm and unyielding even when he steps backwards, away from my pain like the coward that he is. Where’s his apology now? Where’s the sorrow in his gaze, the fucking empathy? I look into his pitch-black eyes and seethe when I see nothing but a fierce determination to hurt me even more. He’d get the same look in his eye when we were kids, when he was pissed off at something and wanted to vent, to hurt those closest to him because he knew we’d love him anyway. Today, I’m not feeling so generous.

“Just stop a moment,” he continues, grinding his teeth.

My nostrils flare and my eyes narrow at his. “No!” I retort, refusing to let him control me, refusing to let him off that easy. Dancing like this is to help me cope. It’s not my fault he’s finding it too hard to stomach. He can stay and watch, or leave, either way I’m not stopping. With no more fucks left to give, I flip forward landing close to him then immediately spin away and out of his reach. I leap into the air in a scissor kick then drop to the floor into the splits before sweeping my legs out to the front and throwing my hands above my head. I lie on the floor, my back arching before dropping back down in time to the music as though my battered heart is desperate to burst free of my chest. It sure as fuck feels like it wants to. Sia continues to sing, her haunting voice floating over me, the lyrics to the song perfectly revealing how I feel. Squeezing my eyes shut, I force back the tears, needing a second to catch my breath, to shore up my defences. It’s the worst thing I could’ve done because a beat later the air shifts above me and Zayn’s warm breath wafts over my cheeks, his jacket brushing against my arms.

“Pen…” Zayn grinds out, his firm legs encasing my hips, his voice cracked and breaking. Brittle. “I need you to stop. I need you to listen…”

My pulse races as his body cages mine. his nearness creates an ocean of fear inside my chest and suddenly I feel like I’m losing the battle to stay afloat. Is he here to finish what he started? Is this the point when I completely lose my faith in the memory of the boy I loved more than life itself? My throat closes over as Zayn lowers himself over me, his warm breath feathering over my skin as his lips brush against mine. That delicate touch is too much, and a sudden, soul-searing anger rises up my chest.


“No!” I repeat out loud. He doesn’t get to invade my space like this. He doesn’t get to be this close. He doesn’t get to dominate me this way. He doesn’t get to make me feel exposed, weak. He doesn’t get to make me want him, despite it all.

Fuck this!

I snap my eyes open and glare up at him. Putting all my hurt into that one look. I imagine tiny little blades flicking from my eyes and into him. I imagine each one cutting him deep and causing him pain. I want to hurt him. I want to hurt them all. Every-fucking-one. He flinches, but he doesn’t move.

“Fuck you!” I snarl, refusing to engage him further, willing to fight against this man I clearly don’t fucking know. Lifting my hands, I push against his shoulders, shoving him upwards. He rears backwards and our eyes meet. His black orbs spark with fire, but rather than say anything he waits, his chest heaving as he looks down at me. I’m still on my back between his legs, but as Sia sings about hiding vulnerability, I flip onto my stomach, and use my forearms to pull myself out from between his legs, refusing to be vulnerable to him.

A warm hand wraps around my ankle, yanking me backwards and I slide against the floor as he drops back over me, his fingers wrap around my throat possessively, but his hold is gentle as he urges me upwards into a kneeling position.

“Listen to me, Pen,” he growls, pulling me back against his body as I face away from him.

I’m ready to scream, to fucking elbow him in the stomach, to kick and scratch. I’m ready to fight, but then he presses his lips against my ear and whispers something that surprises me, that makes me question my sanity. “If you don’t want to talk, then at least let me dance with you. Help me to feel again, Pen.”

There’s a desperation to his request. A heavy sadness, a longing. Am I imagining this? “What?” I whisper out, confused, taken aback. That’s not what I thought this was.

“I need to feel like you do.”


“It’s been too long,” he whispers into my ear. “I want to know I’m still capable.”

“It hurts,” I admit, meaning the pain between us, the deep ache I feel with his arms wrapped around me like this.

“I know.”

“I can’t—’

“Don’t make me beg.”

For a split second I consider turning him down, I consider doing exactly that and making him beg, but as he drops his forehead onto my shoulder, his fingers stroking lovingly against my throat, I find that I can’t.

I can’t turn him down.

Instead, I raise my hand and tangle my fingers with his then push upwards, twisting on my foot, and pull him upright too. We lock gazes, our fingers gripping tightly. Zayn pulls me towards him with such force that instead of colliding with him and ruining the flow of music, I leap into his arms, my legs and arms wrapping around his body. He grunts, stumbling back slightly, then his arms come upwards as he holds me to him.

But I’m not ready to give in.

Not yet.

So I push back against his chest and drop my feet to the floor. His arms unravel from behind me and I run backwards away from him. Zayn chases me, throwing himself forward onto his knees so he slides across the floor and ends up at my feet. His chest heaves as he looks up at me his expression earnest, humble, as he begs me to forgive him without words.

And I want to do that. I want to do that so badly, but I need him to understand that I’m not a pushover, that he hurt me and that needs to be addressed.

He wants to feel, so he’s going to feel.

I grab his throat.

My fingers dig into his skin as I pull him upright, and even though he towers over me, he allows me to squeeze just that little bit, submitting in a way I never thought he could.

Still holding onto him, I rise up onto the balls of my feet and clamp my knees together, bending them slightly. Moving my hips provocatively, I roll my body before him, close enough so that he can feel the whisper of me against him, but not close enough that my body is pressed against his. In a way, I suppose I’m pushing his boundaries, daring him to claim me like he wanted to do at Grim’s club, like I believe he still wants to now. Zayn’s pulse beats erratically beneath my fingers, but a fierceness replaces the humility. He knocks my hand away then reaches for my waist, yanking me towards him, but I don’t let him get purchase. I spin away, slipping out of his hold.

He chases me.

Rather, he leaps into the air in a barrel jump, his right leg kicking out as his arms spread wide, and he turns in the air, landing before me with a glint of iron in his stare. My mouth pops open, but I slam it shut. Zayn has just performed a move that I thought only Dax could pull off.

Where the fuck did that come from?

Even though Zayn is a hip-hop dancer at heart, he just moved with a fluidity that speaks of contemporary dance. I don’t get to voice my question as he reaches for me, pulling me against him before placing his hand on my chest over my heart.

Without thinking about it, I raise my own, placing my palm over his shirt between the lapels of his jacket, and with only our palms touching each other, we move together. Zayn steps away from me, sliding his feet lightly over the floor. I mirror him. Chasing his every move.

I feel the heat of his body, the thump of his chest, the beat of his truth.

I see that honesty in the way he moves, in the sincerity of his stare, in every single step.

It upends me.

We dance, our hands moving away from each other’s chest as we spin in unison, only to press back in the same place again. It’s like we’re two skaters dancing on ice as we slide over the floor, close, but not close enough. When he grabs my wrist with one hand and flips me around against him, my back to his chest, he groans again, his arms wrapping around me in a hug, his fingers finding my throat. For a moment we stand like this, his heart beating hard against my back. My tears clog my throat as he presses against it with the pad of his fingers. When his open mouth falls against my shoulder, his lips and tongue rubbing against the bare skin there, something inside opens up to him. I open myself to him.

“I hurt you,” he mutters.


“But you hurt me too. You fucking hurt me too.”

His hand slowly moves downwards, his fingers spread wide as he slides it between my breasts, resting it there over my frantic heart. Zayn bites my neck where it meets my shoulder, his teeth sinking in. Not hard enough to break the skin, but hard enough to make me suck in a jagged breath. The pain is pleasurable, especially when he licks over the same spot. Then he runs his lips up the side of my neck and latches onto my earlobe, biting it gently. I can’t help myself; I moan. Goddamn him. With one hand wrapped around my waist, Zayn yanks me tighter against him, his hand working its way back up to my throat and cupping my chin as he stretches my head to the side and lavishes my neck with kisses. My toes curl, my core gushes with heat and my heart pounds erratically as he kisses and licks, bites, and teases. I’ve always had a sensitive neck and he fucking knows it.

By the time the song ends, I’m finding it hard to step away from him, but somehow I manage to do exactly that. Twisting on my feet, I stare at him, the distance between us vast even though in reality it’s only a few feet.

“You may be the Breakers, but you will not break me,” I say, my nostrils flaring as I echo Sia’s words. It’s a warning as much as it is the truth. I love him, but no matter how talented a dancer, a kisser, I won’t let him break me.

I will not let them break me. Not now. Not ever.

Because I won’t survive it again.

Zayn nods, his expression beaten, sad almost. “What if I told you that I don’t want to?”

I bark out a laugh, my eyes narrowing on him and it’s only then that I really see him. He’s still wearing the same clothes from Friday night. My anger was too vivid, too in the moment to allow me to really see him.

But now I do.

I see the dark circles beneath his eyes.

I see the sorrow on his face.

I see something I hadn’t before.

I see him. My best friend.

I see the boy I loved morphing into a man who’s no longer a stranger.

Right here, right now, he’s in front of me. There is no mask, no bravado, no distance. Just him, just Zayn, and my determination to hold onto the hate begins to crumble.


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