I had fallen for Asher. I’m hyper-romantic– me falling for a date isn’t so much of an occasion as it is an eventuality. The feelings were mutual, which was a plus, because people who were in love with me were likely to listen to me talk for long periods of time.

It was getting to the point where Ash and Arkady were objectively spending more time with Zara, from Syracuse, than me, who they lived with. I’d agreed to her coming over the first couple of times, but after, permission of the entire household was just assumed. I was told when I’d be having company in my house. She was over so often that, Ash, without prompting, made her a copy of a key.

In April’s eyes, Kara was defensive, arguing out her ass, and way too sensitive about foundation. She was, of course, correct. In Kara’s eyes, April was arrogant, always felt the need to feel superior to others, and was way too harsh with her surmising. She was also correct.
This devolved into a war wherein one’s friend group too close to the corner of another’s was seen as an all-out territorial dispute. They were both pressuring Neb take sides. This was officially the closest thing to a gang war that’s ever occurred in Marysville, Ohio.

Here’s how deep the delusion sank: See, this group was confronted with evidence, later on, that Sed was probably about as sick as they said they were. Did they say, ‘Shit, my bad’? Nope. Arkady was who piped up with the notion of “I bet the gods knew they were faking their illness, and decided to actually make their lie true. That’s what you get!”

Kieran had spun this story about how he had never expected to live beyond the age of eighteen. There will be other lies; we found out that Kieran was lying about being on testosterone, initially, due to a House of Cards reference. Next, you’ll hear about his coconut allergy, his racially charged mishaps within the shampoo aisles, and the fourth cone in his eye. Maybe this bullshit just ran in the family.

Visarden had been half vampire, half elf. Because of course he was. I remember when Arkady had first unveiled his appearance to me. He’d bought sclera lenses and a long black wig that he’d tinted with the slightest hint of violet. I’d opened Snapchat to see Visarden beaming at me, looking like Holly Black’s muse come to life. “Yeah, so… Here’s… Me.” The memory can still bring a flutter to this tired, mechanical heart.

After a brief yet tense discussion, Ash put forth the issue that March would have trouble moving to the smallest room of the house. “He can have my room. I can move to the smaller room.” It wasn’t ideal, but with the amount of time that I was spending with my family and in Arkady’s bed, being snuggled– I would honestly only be sleeping in my new, tiny room. If I had known it was to be my jail cell a mere five months later, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

“Yeah, I decided that it may be time for you to go home when you suddenly seemed way too fascinated with the owner’s description of the air duct system,” Cotton told me. “He was telling us how he had to install some new vents and you were like ‘Wow! Are you kidding me?'”
“I don’t even remember anything about the air duct system,” I laughed. “No, I’ve just had a really stressful couple of weeks. See, after [April] and I broke up, I joined Tinder.”

Ash is a predator.
They go after systems and traumatized, mentally ill persons without a solid sense of self. They seek the under-aged or monster-like alters or “past-lives” for their own sexual gratification. They will synthesize a sense of belonging using religion and magic, and then turn the tides against you once you either learn to say ‘no’ or you start questioning too much.