Angry God(3)

By: L.J. Shen

He was destined for greatness, and I was destined to whatever purpose he’d see fit for me.

I felt his finger touching the side of my neck. It was cold and dry from sculpting. He brushed it down along my spine, standing over me, watching what we both pathetically pretended was my sleeping figure. But I was wide awake, and I felt everything—the threat wafting from his touch and his scent of shaved stone, rain, and the sweet, faint trail I’d find out later was a blunt. Through the narrow slit of my closed eyes, I could make out the way he tilted his head as he watched me.

Please. I will never tell a soul.

I wondered, if he was so formidable at thirteen, what he would be like as a grown man? I’d hoped to never find out, although chances were, this wouldn’t be our last encounter. There were only so many billionaire-spawns-to-famous-artists in this world, and our parents ran in the same social circles.

I’d met Vaughn once even before he came to school, when he was vacationing in the South of France with his family one summer. My parents had hosted a wine-tasting event for charity, and Baron and Emilia Spencer had attended. I was nine; Vaughn was ten. Mum slathered me in sunscreen, put an ugly hat on me, and made me swear I wouldn’t get into the sea because I couldn’t swim.

That’s how I’d ended up watching him on the beach under a canopy the entire vacation, in between flipping pages of the fantasy book I was reading. Vaughn broke waves with his scrawny body—running straight into them with the ferocity of a hungry warrior—and dragged jellyfish from the Mediterranean Sea back to shore, holding them by their tops, so they couldn’t sting him. One day he’d poked ice lolly sticks into them until he was sure they were dead and then cut them, mumbling to himself that jellyfish always cut into perfect halves, no matter which way you sliced.

He was odd. Cruel and different. I’d had no intention of talking to him.

Then, during one of the many grand events that week, he’d snuck behind the fountain I sat leaning against, reading a book, and split a chocolate brownie he must’ve stolen before dinner. He handed me half, unsmiling.

I’d groaned as I accepted it, because I had the silly notion that now I owed him something. “Mummy will have a heart attack if she finds out,” I told him. “She never lets me eat sugar.”

I’d then shoved the entire thing into my mouth, fighting the sticky goo on my tongue, the rich nougat coating my teeth.

His mouth, a slash of disapproval, had cut his otherwise stoic features. “Your mom sucks.”

“My mum is the best!” I exclaimed hotly. “Besides, I saw you poking sticks at jellyfish. You don’t know anything. You’re nothing but a bad boy.”

“Jellyfish don’t have hearts,” he drawled, as if that made it okay.

“Just like you.” I’d been unable to stop myself from licking my fingers, eyeing the untouched brownie half in his hand.

He’d scowled, but for some reason, he didn’t seem upset by my insult. “They also don’t have brains. Just like you.”

I stared ahead, ignoring him. I didn’t want to argue and make a scene. Papa would be mad if I raised my voice. Mum would be disappointed, which was somehow even worse.

“Such a good girl,” Vaughn had taunted, his eyes gleaming with mischief. Instead of taking a bite of his brownie, he’d passed the second piece to me.

I took it, hating myself for caving in.

“Such a good, proper, boring girl.”

“You’re ugly.” I shrugged. He wasn’t, really. But I wanted him to be.

“Ugly or not, I could still kiss you if I wanted to, and you’d let me.”

I choked on the rich cocoa in my mouth, my book dropping to the ground and closing without a bookmark. Shoot.

“Why would you ever think that?” I’d turned to him, scandalized.

He’d leaned close, one flat chest to another. He’d smelled of something foreign and dangerous and wild. Of golden California beaches, maybe.

“Because my dad told me good girls like bad boys, and I’m bad. Really bad.”

And now, here we were. Facing off again. He was, tragically, nowhere near ugly, and he seemed to be contemplating what to do with our newly shared secret.