warning: this chapter includes coarse language and moderate sexual references (visually: some skin, no nudity). please do not continue reading if this may trigger or offend you. i recommend reading this on my blog, not reader.
“Have a nice day.” I slide the vinyl back across the counter, and the young man leaves with a friendly nod. The late afternoon sun gleams against the glass as the door shuts behind him. The shop is quiet today, one or two customers shifting through old vinyls and indie records, dust motes dancing lazily in the slanting light. I can see the ocean shimmering into lavender beyond the window. It’s one of the reasons I like working at this tucked away record shop; the sea is always changing, offering a new picture every morning.
It’s also a nice place to sit down and work on new songs. No one will stare at you when you hum, and the shop is always less busy in the evening, letting me pencil out notes in half-daydreaming peace. Although, these days, I am more focused on the customers coming and going. The serial killings have not gone unnoticed in the city. This is not some gang rivalry murder, or a slum homicide, that the authorities can brush under their red carpet. Anyone could get attacked, no matter how rich or poor. So I keep my senses open, carefully analysing those who enter with more paranoia than is probably needed.
The bell tinkles and I look up to see a man entering, his tall build and leather jacket familiar. I hop up from my stool to meet my boyfriend, reaching up on my tiptoes to kiss him, not caring if anyone in the shop sees us. “You’re way too happy to see me,” Luc laughs against my lips, but he squeezes my hand affectionately. “What are you doing here?” I smile shyly up at him, and he smiles back at me. “I’m here to walk you home.” At this, I tip my head in confusion. “Oh… because of the serial killer? Luc, home is only a ten minute walk away.” In response, he tightens his grip around me and frowns. “There was a third murder this afternoon, right in broad daylight. I don’t want to take any chances.”
I blink with slight indignation. “You don’t need to worry about me.” Luc raises his eyebrows. “Has it crossed your mind that, as your boyfriend, I might possibly give a shit about your safety?” I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. He smirks at me and then strolls off to look at the record collection. I am torn between whether I should laugh or sigh. The thought of being walked home like a child is, quite simply, embarrassing, but it is also nice of him to care, and that thought makes me smile.
When the clock strikes five, I close up the shop and pack up my things. My boyfriend is looking through the classical shelf and when I walk over to him, he reaches absentmindedly for me, resting his hand on my waist. “Hélène Grimaud. Oh, her music is beautiful.” I lean over to look at the record. Luc smiles and points to a battered vinyl nearby. “What about this one?” “I’m not a fan of Nirvana, whatever the posters may say. But ooh, this one…” I ramble on happily about which artists and albums are my favourites, and which pieces I have tried playing, until I realise something. “Wait, do you even like classical music?” I twist around and I see the corner of Luc’s mouth twitch. “Nah. I just like listening to you talk.” He leans down to kiss my cheek, and I smile, abashed. “Oh… well, I guess we should head back home. It’s fifteen past five already.” We both glance out of the window, where the sun is already sinking into the ocean. Soon enough, the stars and moon will steal over the city.
After I lock up the shop, we walk along the quiet harbour street. The evening breeze is salty and sweet, cool against my skin. Luc takes my hand, his palm a little rough against mine, but in a comforting and familiar sort of way. I don’t talk and just let the peaceful sunset wash over me. So it shocks me when we almost bump into a tall man coming out a nearby pharmacy. The light of recognition sparks in his eyes the same time as mine. “Cherry and Luc. It’s nice to meet you again,” He says politely. “Hi, James.” I smile, impressed by his tailored blazer and his height — even taller than my boyfriend, and perhaps Raphael, I might dare say. “What are you doing in this part of town?” Luc ventures, and I poke him discreetly in the arm. He has a point, though, because James’s suave style stands out against the rusting fire escapes and worn concrete of the street. Luckily, James doesn’t seem offended.
“I was visiting one of my friends in that pharmacy.” When he sees our confused faces, he elaborates. “I’m a doctor.” “Oh, that’s nice! Which hospital?” I enthuse, and I sense Luc glancing down at me. He’s probably wondering why I am so chatty. The thing is, being around my boyfriend makes me feel safe to speak my mind, and that means I am more sociable to others, too. “Whitecliffe. My great-grandfather founded the place,” James says with a slight smile. “Well, it was good to see you, but I must be off now.” He bows his head in a respectful gesture. I wave and Luc echoes a goodbye. A wealthy man who runs his own practice. My, does Lilith have fine taste.
Since the shop is only a quick walk from the penthouse, we reach home before long. Everyone seems to be gathered in the living room; Gabriel looks up and gives me a distracted sort of smile, Michel waves happily at me along with his lovely boyfriend Jake, while Lilith and Raphael seem to be embroiled in a heated debate, as always. “Mexican,” Lilith says sharply. “Sushi. We had Mexican last time!” Raphael looks like he usually does, in a deep and constant state of exasperation. “Raphie dear, chicken quesadillas never get old, unlike your stubborn ass.” “Guys, calm down.” Michel shakes his head with a tiny smile, and the two quit shooting daggers at one another, finally noticing our arrival. “Cherry!” Lilith beckons me over. “Tell this idiot that we’re having Mexican for dinner tonight.” I think for a moment. “Sorry, I have to side with Raphael on this one.” “Traitor,” Lilith mutters.
After a little more arguing and thirty minutes of waiting, the two come back with boxes of fresh sushi. Gabriel has lit the fireplace to keep away the cold fall evening, and after Lilith lays out the sushi and beer on the coffee table, I settle comfortably into the sofa with Luc. These sort of dinners are rare nowadays. As the balmy nights of summer had faded, work had come back in full force, and the nights when we can thieve decrease as people hide in their mansions for the approaching winter. And in such a large penthouse, with many separate rooms — Gabriel mentioned it used to be a disused lodge — it isn’t often that we meet all together. It feels nice to just listen to everyone chattering, and I am content to just rest my head on Luc’s shoulder, as we feed each other sushi from time to time.
When I am full, I go sit by Gabriel, who isn’t joining in the conversation as well. His jaw is tight with what looks like worry. “What’s bothering you?” I say carefully, and he turns his silver gaze from the window to mine. “The murders.” He pokes at the sushi rolls on his plate. “I know none of us are in direct danger, but I can’t help but worry,” Gabriel sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “You know we can all take care of ourselves,” I reassure him gently. He gives me a pale, fleeting ghost of a smile. “Of course. Anyway, have you made any progress on that new song of yours?” Gabriel asks curiously. I perk up at his question and wriggle out a crumpled piece of paper from my pocket. He reads the notes with interested eyes. When we have time, and I’m not with Luc, we sit and exchange what we have been doing on the piano.
I ask him the same question, and Gabriel leans back to rest his head on the cool glass. “No. Work has been really busy, there’s been an influx of new students because of the serial killer.” For the first time, I notice the faint bags under his eyes. I lightly touch his arm. “Are you coping?” He nods slowly in reply, then gets up with a deep sigh. “I just need to sleep, so I guess I should go to bed early. Goodnight, Cherry,” He smiles at me tiredly before leaving. His absence makes me realise that was the longest conversation we have held in a while, and the thought makes me happy. I yawn and feel myself becoming sleepy as well. Perhaps it’s the warmth of the crackling fire, or that I may have overstuffed myself on sushi, but I stand and drift over to Luc in a haze. “I’ll see you later, but I’m going to shower now,” I say softly, running my hand over his shoulder. “Want me to join you?” He says lazily, and I feel my cheeks flame up immediately. “We’re sitting right here,” Raphael points out. Luc laughs and cocks an eyebrow at me. “Relax, I’m kidding. See you later.”
He pulls me into his room that night, as he has for the last few; the door closing behind us, quiet and final, shutting out the rest of the sleepy world. I know what Lilith and the others must think, especially after the kind of things Luc says — but it’s not like that, at least not yet. Truth to be told, I like lying within my boyfriend’s arms, letting his warmth lull me into sleep. It’s comforting to talk to him on the soft line between wakefulness and dreams, blurring words and kisses until we both close our eyes. And embarrassing as it is to admit, I also get to see him shirtless, which is a nice bonus.
Tonight, comfortable and sleepy, I let my fingertips wander lightly over his jaw, tracing the scars over his cheekbone. I had never really paid attention to them, but lying this close and quietly to him lets me focus on the details of his face: the freckles on his nose and gold flecks in his eyes. And the scars. The long, jagged ones across his cheek, of course, but the more I look, the more I find, faint lines and blemishes all over his face and arms and torso. A map of faded white scars that are only noticeable if you really look at him. “How did you get these?” The words spill before I think, and for a moment it seems that Luc won’t answer. “I got attacked when I was fifteen,” He finally says, and I kiss his cheek softly. “I’m sorry.” “Yeah, well, it was my fault for getting myself into that situation.” A bitter smile flickers across his lips. I silently wonder what situation that might be, and how he got all those lighter scars, but I am distracted when he brushes the pad of his thumb across my own scar.
“What about you?” Luc’s question makes me hesitate. “A house fire when I was seven,” I whisper, and then continue a little braver. “It was arson, actually. Mom is a police chief, and… I guess she just gained enemies. One of them must have wanted revenge.” Even after twelve years, the memory of being trapped in the burning house makes me flinch. My boyfriend notices and pulls me closer to him. “That fucking sucks,” He murmurs, and despite the bad feeling in my chest, I laugh quietly. “I suppose that’s a good way of putting it.” Luc kisses me in response, deep and slow, and my eyelids flutter shut as I feel his weight shift over me. He is done talking for tonight, at least in words; his language is kisses and rough hands on my skin, a language I am beginning to understand. His lips trail down from my lips to my throat, and his teeth graze against my pulse, which beats frantic and delicate against him. I know what Luc wants. I can tell, because the past few nights have been like this, him pressing a little harder into me, his touch flirting more boldly along my bare legs.
It’s not that I don’t like it; now, I can feel my skin humming underneath his, warmth sparking wherever his hands move. And yet, I can also feel my chest tightening with the cold anxiety I am never able to get rid of, despite the fire kindling in my veins. I don’t think Luc senses it, but he seems to be guessing from my inexperience, and is trying to go slow. I keep quiet, ignoring that feeling in my chest, and only my breath hitches when Luc’s hands slide along the curves of my hips and waist and chest. The soft knit of my nightdress feels like almost nothing against him. He hooks his fingers on the hem. “Is this okay?” He asks, and I nod silently. He eases the fabric down my shoulders and suddenly, the dress is nothing against him. It’s okay. His fingertips trace fiery lines along my collarbones and sternum. It’s okay. His lips burn kisses over my chest. It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay- “Cherry.” Luc stops abruptly, and my eyes snap open to see him frowning at me. “What’s wrong?” I say in a small voice. He sighs, gently easing my dress back up. “You were shivering. Why didn’t you tell me?” “Tell you what?” My gaze flits around to everywhere but him, and he tips my chin up, forcing me to meet his own gaze.
Luc’s green eyes seem to reflect mine, dark with worry and guilt. “That you’re scared.” He cups my face and I bite my lip hard, feeling my eyes start to sting. “I’m sorry,” I whisper, shame washing over me in a dizzying tide. Luc shifts off me and pulls me into his arms. “You don’t need to apologise,” He says with patience, and I shake my head frantically. “But you want-” “I can wait. Just tell me when you want to stop, Cherry. I’m not good at reading people, not like my siblings.” He gives me a distant sort of smile and I reach up to kiss him, relief and gratitude almost pushing me to tears again. We don’t say anything more — Luc just turns off the lights and lets me curl up against him, pulling the blanket over us. I listen to the steady rhythm of his heartbeat, and soon enough, I fall asleep.
I blink awake to darkness, confused for a moment. There is moonlight gleaming softly on the frosted window, and the sky is still drowning in the ink of midnight. As my eyes adjust to the night, I realise Luc is gone from my side, the bedsheets cooling. There is the tick tick of a lighter. “Luc?” I say sleepily, pushing myself up. He’s facing the window, which is cracked open, letting in a draft of salty breeze. “Go back to sleep, Cherry.” His voice is muffled by the glowing cigarette pinched between his lips, but it sounds strained. I tip my head, watching Luc carefully. There’s something different about him. In the darkness, I can just make out the muscles in his back, rigid with tension. “What’s wrong?” I whisper. There’s silence for a moment, just the wind whistling through the room. “Nothing’s wrong,” He finally replies, but then he winces and rubs his forehead hard.
“Luc–” “I’ve just got a headache. Go back to sleep.” He turns and smiles at me. That smile is ghostly in the moonlight and smoke. I narrow my eyes, unconvinced with the apparent lightness in his voice. “Do you need anything to help with-” “Cherry, I’m fine.” This time, he speaks sharper, harder. After a moment of hesitation, I sink back into the bed, curling up into a ball. I am cold without his warmth.
Yay another modern day chapter!
I must say ~that~ Luciferry scene was frickin hard to write. I hope it was at least written tastefully! Good luck to me for the next present day chapter lol. I really enjoyed writing their conversations and little moments though. It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that I like doing everyday dialogue type storytelling, rather than overly complicated and dark action-based plots, so that’s what the next generation will be focusing on. Also, I’ve finally started working on Cherry and Gabriel’s friendship, it’s about bloody time. This is much nicer to write than their awkward and tense interactions in the last few chapters!
The next chapter is a flashback and this one has a big time jump, four years after Chapter 3.12; excuse me for the jumps but I need to do them to keep the chapters reasonable lengths. It is structured in the same way (three perspectives/sections) but hopefully it will be more exciting, because two important new characters will be coming into play, although one has appeared in the story before. Things are about to get messy, my friends. *nod nod*
Ooh, a funny little side note: you know when your pairings get Attractive moodlets for each other, and you’re just like ‘even the game ships them!’? Well, I know for sure Lilith and Raphael are attracted to each other, but the most interesting part is Cherry and Gabriel are attracted to each other, while Luc and Cherry are not. I know this because I moved everyone in different rooms to test 😛 My game is trying to tell me what to do hah.
Finally, I didn’t actually show Michel’s boyfriend in the chapter, so here is Jake! He’s 19, same as Cherry.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and I wish everyone a great day ❤