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CHAPTER
1
Knife
CRASH!
With a head-splitting noise, the cymbal rocketed to the floor, clanging as loud as it possibly could. Sighing, Aaron stooped down to pick it up, his tall, large frame smacking right into the xylophone in the process. Groaning, he rubbed his back, knocking over the mallets, which clattered onto the floor noisily and rolled away to hide under the piano. He let out a frustrated growl, slamming the cymbal back into place on the stand.
Grinning, Elea swung her legs back and forth as she sat on top of the piano chair, laughing at her clumsy friend. She raised her head, watching a cloud of dust exploded into the air as Aaron collapsed onto the sofa faded sofa next to her. Particles of dust swirled around them momentarily, shimmering tiny dust molecules that made Elea’s nose itch, before floating out of the window. Sneezing, she waved them away.
To Elea, the smell of wood, brass and music was comforting. She had lived with it her entire life, as her mother was a famous musician. She had grown up with Beethoven surrounding her, as the notes floated through the air until they rested upon the music sheet. Aaron, on the other hand, had no musical skill whatsoever, and preferred to stay on the soccer field, streaked with sweat and dirt. He was probably one of the most popular guys in school - he was hot, he was fourteen years old, and he was fairly funny. Even though girls crowded around him, and the other jocks called, he preferred to stay with Elea. It made her wonder, why had he chosen her?
Aaron bent down, retrieving the mallets, smacking them back onto the xylophone, frustrated. The xylophone retaliated with a few out-of-tone notes as complaint. The mallets bounced across the surface of the xylophone. Elea watched as Aaron swept his fingers over the dusty white piano keys. There was a sudden tension in the air as he turned to her, his eyes dark.
“What happened to this place?” He finally asked, blowing the dust of his fingers. There was a strange pop! and then a sharp twang! as one of the piano strings broke, echoing in the empty, dark room.
Elea smiled broadly, tossing her head back. Her golden curls fell against her back, tangling in the piano keys. She pressed her finger against one of the notes. The sound was off-key, strangely lonely and despairing, as if it was calling out for help.
“Mom said it used to be a famous instrument seller. But I guess it closed down.” She shrugged, sitting up to gently pull on Aaron’s arm. She stood up, looking around. There were a few sad, pitiful worn instrument cases that were placed in the middle of the room, as if somebody had been prepared to take them somewhere. The lightbulbs were flickering, and most of them were broken. It was slightly damp and chilly in the room, which explained the wild outbreak of mold and moss.
Aaron put his hands in his pockets, leaning against a splintering shelf. “It’s so dusty here. It’s like they just left in a panic and forgot everything.” He pointed at the music sheets and stands scattered around the room, like somebody had tripped over them in their hurry.
Elea glanced at him, her dark eyes flashing. “Hey. Don’t judge. I guess something happened. Maybe it was an emergency. Maybe they became clumsy and knocked the cymbal and mallets over.”
Aaron rolled his eyes, but a smile tugged the corner of his lips. He ran his fingers through his coppery hair, then put both hands in the pockets of his jeans. Without saying a word, he opened the door of the store, holding it out.
“You coming?” He grinned, a lopsided smile that Elea returned warmly. She skipped through the door and grabbed Aaron’s arm as they walked out.
Neither of them knew what was watching them from the corner of the room, hiding in the shadows.
The air outside was cool and welcoming. Elea shielded her eyes against the bright sun’s rays, and squinted into the distance. She could see something, or someone, approaching. Unfortunately, the sunlight was right behind the person, so she could only see the silhouette. It looked like a guy in his teens, or possibly a girl with a ponytail. It was impossible to tell, but Elea felt a sense of dread flood through her. Something about that person was not quite right. Shuddering, she turned around, clutching Aaron’s arm for comfort.
“Hold your horses,” Aaron grinned at her, nearly tripping into a trash can on the sidewalk. “What’s with the rush?” His eyes glinted, mysterious and beautiful. Any other girl would have melted, but not Elea. Shivering, she tried to smile, shrugging. When she turned back to look at the horizon, no one was there.
Aaron watched her, his eyelashes fluttering with every blink of his green eyes. The smell of petrol was overwhelming now - Elea’s lungs hurt, and her stomach knotted. Looking around, it was obvious that the instrument store had been closed for many years. There were many other stores around it, but even those were faded and dark. Try as she might, Eva couldn’t see the insides of those stores. It was like the previous owners had blocked out the windows, like they didn’t want the public to know the massive secret they were hiding.
Elea was so deep inside her thoughts, that she hadn’t noticed there was an empty bottle in front of her until she tripped over it, grabbing onto Aaron to regain her balance. He grabbed her shoulders, setting her upright.
He grinned at her. “I’m the clumsy one, not you. Are you okay?” For a moment he looked worried, contrary to his usual witty but idiotic self. Elea glanced over her shoulder again, zipping up her hoodie. Something in her brain told her something was wrong; and not just wrong, but about to become worse than anyone had ever expected.
Taking a deep breath, Elea forced out a little laugh. “I’m perfectly fine. Never better. Anyway, how come you are so good at sports when you’re so clumsy?”
Aaron struck a pose, grinning. “It’s because I’m awesome.”
Elea rolled her eyes. “No, you’re pathetic. That’s what you are.”
Aaron pushed her, nearly knocking her off the sidewalk. “You know you love me.”
Who knew how long they had been friends for? It felt like forever. They were born pretty much in the same month. They had gone to the same schools for what seemed like ages, but they had only become friends in the third grade, when Aaron had poured water all over her head and she had pushed him into the pool at the water park. Elea ran her fingers through her hair, rolling her eyes. Aaron pushed her away, laughing. “You’re hair is tickling me. Get off.”
Elea turned to toss her hair into his face, but something made her stop cold.
The silver glint of a knife.
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