“This is probably a bad idea,” I muttered as Amanda and I snuck across campus.
I couldn’t see Amanda’s face, but I could feel her smirk.
“It’ll be fine! We can be romantic under the stars!”
“Under the stars of an Anchor!” I hissed.
Our college is a bit of a weird one. We have all of the normal things colleges have, but we also have some… extras. The Anchors are one of those.
I couldn’t really tell you what an Anchor is. I doubt anyone but They can. One girl, who seems to know an awful lot and absolutely slays at card games, tried to explain to me once how they’re like trees, except that their roots grow down millenium. I’m not really sure how something can grow down a time period, but I wasn’t keen on asking. Anyways, it’s commonly accepted that Anchors are places you Don’t Go, especially since one time Joshua went to one on a dare and never came back. That was a year ago, and we still haven’t heard from him, but his girlfriend insists she can hear him whispering to her when she walks past that specific Anchor.
A week ago in the dorms I was hanging out with Amanda and her friends when they dared her to spend the night at an Anchor. Amanda being Amanda, she cheerfully agreed, and who would I be to let my girlfriend face certain doom alone?
So that’s where we were headed. The sky was vast and cloudless, littered with tiny stars, but I was more focused on the way Amanda’s long hair bobbed against her back. Amanda wasn’t fully like the rest of us, so she could be a little rash sometimes. I still loved her, though, even if she couldn’t hold my hands because my rings burned her.
The Anchor Amanda brought us to didn’t look like anything to do with a magical millennia-spanning tree. It looked like a perfectly round, grassy hill. There was no clear ring around it, no “keep out” signs or mushrooms, but I could feel my skin crawl and prickle as soon as I passed over the five foot line from the start of the Anchor’s slope. Amanda didn’t shiver. She looked perfectly fine as she hiked up the hill ahead of me, though maybe her hair looked a little more vibrant, and her long legs a little too long. She sat down below the crest, so that her head didn’t go over the top of the hill. Everyone knows that you never stick your head up over the top of something here. It’s just dumb. I didn’t speak any more of my doubts as I took my place next to her on the cold grass, not willing to jinx things. She twined the tips of our fingers together and looked up at the stars.
“It’s so pretty out tonight,” She mused. “Look, you can see the Milky Way.”
I didn’t look. I didn’t feel like it was a good idea to expose my neck, so instead I watched Amanda and the way the stars cast silver highlights on her cheeks. For a split second, her eyes looked yellow with slit pupils, but then she was smiling at me and they were human again.
“I’m so glad I’m out here with you,” she said.
“I couldn’t let you go alone,” I hedged, fully knowing I never would have been able to stop her, let alone “let” her.
She flashed a white, pointy grin at me before observing the lawn. “It’s nice out here. I wish we didn’t have to stay inside so much, the gardens are so perfect at night.”
Yes, it’s been a couple of years now. From a recent interview with Mr. Porter:
The Cork-born actor and his wife, artist Ms Yvonne McGuinness, exchanged Queen’s Park NW6 for Dublin in
2015, after deciding it was “time to release a bit of pressure”, he
says. “I don’t miss London. There’s only six million people on the whole
island of Ireland. It’s just better for your head to have fewer people
around, and Irish people are really sound.”
The couple and their sons – Malachy, 11, and Aran, nine – share a
Victorian townhouse on the coast south of the Irish capital with a
16-month-old black labrador, whom the boys named Scout after seeing To Kill A Mockingbird. “I’ve always loved labradors,” Mr Murphy says. “They’re so caring and emotionally smart. We walk him on the beach every day. He has the best life.”
“That tree isn’t even going to fit in the house! Why did you buy it without measuring it first?”
Cassian closed his eyes and counted to ten as Nesta’s irate voice resounded down the hall. The whole gang gathered in their Victorian townhouse in Brooklyn and he was hoping the company would soothe his fiancee’s stormy mood.
Definitely wishful thinking on his part. When Nesta had a problem with something, she didn’t beat around the bush.
And boy, did she have a problem with Christmas.
One that Cassian absolutely understood. He knew that when Nesta’s family had lost most of their wealth doe to her father’s shady investments, holiday season had been the hardest for her.
“It’s an abhorrent waste of money,” she would say and his heart broke for a 10-year old girl who had been hungry and neglected.
“Why care for a commercialized holiday that’s designed to make us spend obscene amounts of cash for things we don’t need?” she would ask and he could almost see her as a child, waiting in vain for the smallest gift.
“You and my sisters are the only family I need,” she would answer his silent question every time her father wouldn’t show up to Christmas dinner despite his promises and Cassian’s hands closed in fists, his anger at that careless fool coming off him in waves.
Most people were put off by Nesta’s cold attitude. But he knew the truth of it - she had been cold for so long so she forged herself in ice. But there was warmth and fire simmering deep under this exterior, for those who cared to look.
And Cassian cared deeply. Irrevocably.
It didn’t change the fact that he was crazy about Christmas, though. And that he wanted the biggest freaking tree out there.
Opening his eyes, he registered half-sympathetic, half-amused (mostly amused if he were being honest) looks Rhys and Az were casting his way as the three of them struggled to get the gigantic spruce through the door to the living-room.
“Woah!” Mor emerged from behind Nesta’s back, her eyes widening as she took in the sight before her. “That is going a little overboard.”
“He must be compensating for something,” Amren drawled lazily as she sprawled on his favourite armchair.
“Fuck off, Amren.”
“Tsk, tsk. Such foul language, Christmas boy.”
Cassian was about to say something back but Elain chose this exact moment to come out of a kitchen with a a few bottles of eggnog and his friend’s attention was diverted elsewhere.
He didn’t have as much luck with Nesta.
Hands braced on her hips, she looked at him expectantly, her eyes blazing. “So?”
“It was the biggest one in the store. I had to take it,” he mumbled, a groan escaping his lips as one of the branches pressed into his side.
She rolled her eyes at this. “God, you’re such a man child.”
“But you still love me, Nesta Archeron,” he sang smugly, ignoring the snickers coming from behind the spruce.
She merely scoffed in response, sending him her patent I-will-deal-with-you-later glare and pivoting on her feet to join her sisters, Amren and Mor. “You’re so the one cleaning the carpets when this green pulp starts losing the needles,” she shot from behind her back.
“Green pulp?! How dare y- “ Outraged, he didn’t hear Az yelling at him to step back as two of his friends gave a tree a big push and it fell through the threshold, knocking Cassian down. The last thing he remembered was Nesta’s cry for help as his head hit the floor.
Fortunately, the visit to the ER was surprisingly short for this time of year and Cassian was released home with a diagnosed mild concussion, with orders to wake him every few hours.
The good thing was, Nesta was so angry at Rhys and Az for knocking him out with a tree, she forgot about her annoyance with him. After they had come back home, his friends set up the tree in the living-room, valiantly enduring Nesta’s snide comments and accusing glares. Cassian’s lips curved in a smug grin when his fiance took over decorating the tree, claiming wryly that she wouldn’t want them to hurt themselves too.
And in the evening when everyone had left, she tiptoed to bed and slid under the covers, her warmth settling over his skin when she snuggled close to him, her head in the crook of his neck.
“You’re an idiot,” she whispered softly, her hand drawing patterns on his chest.
“But you still love me, Nesta Archeron,” he repeated the words from earlier today.
She raised her head and looked up at him and the fire burning in her eyes was all the confirmation Cassian needed. And then her lips ghosted over his jaw as she whispered, “Sleep tight, Cas. I will watch over you.”