The ground is rough under my feet, the moon bright and vivid; the sky is blue-black, full of stars that glitter like diamonds. The night silhouettes Azure in blue, drawing the edges of her frame in silver. As beautiful as ever, impossible to tear my eyes away from.
I watch Azure for a long moment, turning the scene over in my mind. My feet feel glued to the road. My heart hammers inside my chest, telling me that I should not be out here. I don’t even know why I came.
The month has been long. I avoid Dominique and Azure when I can, shoving away the pain of seeing them together, but I had always known that I’d see something I didn’t want to see at some point. Anger toward Dominique burns through me when I think of the scene I’d just witnessed. My stomach revolts violently at the image.
That should have been me. It should have been me.
I take an infinitesimal step forward, trying to control the angry rage of magic in my fingertips. Azure starts to turn at the sound of my footsteps. “I’ll be there in a minute, Mama-”
She stops mid-turn, eyes sweeping from my shoes to my hair, sending me to a screeching halt. Why did I come out here? It should have been me. The thought is selfish, but I can’t escape it.
“Peter. What - what are you-”
An image flashes at the back of my mind - an image of Dominique, looking through a window into a small, sweet Azure’s bedroom. “How could you go out with Dominique Birdbox?”
She scowls at the dirt as if it were to blame.
“How? Haven’t you paid attention these past few years?” I ramble. “He’s dangerous. You could get hurt!”
“And why do you care?! The last time you kissed me, you freaked out and left! I’ve barely spoken to you all year long!” she shouts, glowering at me.
I look away from the heat of her glare, gritting my teeth. “If I could explain, I would.”
“So basically, you’re just going to barge out here and scream at me for kissing Dominique and the only reason you can give to prove you’re the better option is that he could hurt me? You already did!!!”
I flinch. What am I supposed to tell her? That my reason for pulling away is that I’m afraid I’ll accidentally burn her to death with magic? And if not that, then seriously injure her? No, that won’t do. I know Azure, and I know that she will try to help me. It can only end in her getting hurt.
Old dreams come pouring back into my mind. I squeeze my eyes shut in an attempt to push them out, lock them back where they belong. There’s a familiar feeling at the back of my wrist - like liquid sunlight dripping down my fingers.
My blood freezes in a solid patchwork of ice. My heart pumps harder, trying to flush warmth into my veins, sending a shockwave of sudden fear through me.
I’m losing control.
Azure’s voice pierces my thoughts, more speculative and suspicious than concerned or gentle. “Are you okay?”
“Just go inside, alright?” When she doesn’t move, I take a couple of steps forward, trying to channel the heat in my hand into the pleading of my eyes. “Please, Azure. Go inside.”
“Why should I?”
The burning sensation doesn’t stop at my hand - instead, it seeps through my arm, my chest, my eyes. “Please,” I whisper. “Get away from me.”
She recoils ever so slightly, hurt flashing across her eyes, and I want to take it back, but this is urgent… still, she steps forward, her stance softening.
The fiery feeling starts to fade out of my veins, concentrating in my fingers. Azure takes three steps, four, then five, and I try to make myself back away, try to unglue my feet from the road, but I can’t move. Her dark hair hides her eyes from mine, making her look both shy and sad. Her breaths come in fluttery spurts - more of nerves, I think, than anger.
Then she looks up, and meets my eyes with hers-
And it is over.
The surrounding houses fade out of being around us. We’re locked in our own world, floating in a bubble out into the unknown. She tilts her head up toward me. I almost lose my control.
An infinitesimal second before our lips can make contact, I wrench myself away, sweeping back up the steps to my house. The feeling of heat flares through my arm so viciously that I almost cry out with surprise. It follows down into my chest, my legs, and I have to limp to reach the door and shove it roughly open to get inside.
I risk one last glance back at her before letting the door slam shut between us.
And I swear, I will never forget the look of heartbreak that was on her face in that breath.