You're The Reason | TeenInk

You're The Reason

January 16, 2011
By Lros3 BRONZE, Syndey,
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Lros3 BRONZE, Syndey,
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Favorite Quote:
"If you risk nothing, you risk everything"


Author's note: Whenever I'm in a bookstore I head straight for the Young Adults section, hoping to discover another Hush, Hush or Some Girls Are, a combination of lust, despair, secrets and twists, but never coming up with anything, instead faced with the onslaught of 'summer romances' and Twilight remakes. Since no one was writing my style of book, I thought I would. I hope you enjoy it.

A prologue
I wake alone in my warm bed; her sickly sweet perfume wraps itself around me, suffocating me, as I crawl out of the white sheets.
I sit alone at the kitchen bench top, my forgotten toast turning cold as I prepare myself for the first day of the end of my sanity: Day 1 of Year 12.
I walk alone down the bustling streets of Nirvana State, being sure to dodge the eager children and beaming parents, as this sight only causes my heart to ache in a way that I have become accustomed to since The Accident.
I push my short blonde hair behind my ears, something that she thought was a cute habit of mine, and shield my emerald eyes from the harsh sunlight that beats down on my pale skin. My father used to say that the colour of my eyes resembled the colour of the water in the rock pools.
That was until the meaning of his life was murdered, with the only reminders of what once was packed away in cruel cardboard boxes that hide amongst the shadows in the attic. He may view my features as some sort of beauties, but I will only ever think of them as haunting reminders of her.
I finally reach the grand steel gates of Nirvana’s one and only high school and enter alone. ‘Alone’ is not usually a word that you would associate with any other normal 17-year-old girl. Except the thing is, I haven’t been ‘normal’ since I lost her all those months ago.

Chapter 1 Don’t look up Eva, I tell myself as the wave of noise that filled the classroom crashes into an anticipative silence; don’t look up. I rebel against the voices in my head and slowly glance upwards. I am greeted with the uncaring and weathered face of Mrs. Bingham, or Mrs. Bang-a-Ham as drop kick Tommy takes goodish pleasure in calling her. “Eva? Excuse me, Eva!” the English teacher raves again and again, until her whiny voice merges into something of a child who’s pestering for her lollipop. “Your excused,” I reply to her hammering questions as I lift my heavy head off of my beaten textbooks. I slowly start to move my head from side to side as I stare at her gaping mouth, which seems to be the only reply to the statement that has set off the entire class in an endless spiral of laughter. I can tell that this one liner will be repeated and repeated throughout school for the rest of the day. It will be passed along the greedy tuckshop line and swapped together with lip-gloss in the girl’s bathrooms, each comment re-telling Eva Duke’s grand moment of rebellion in second period English on a Monday morning. I’m granted a detention that receives a wild round of applause until Mrs. Bingham threatens the rest of the class with a wave of the orange slips and a meaningful glare. The class falls deathly quiet. I am sternly told to move over into the corner of the dank room, where my eyes dance with the silver cobwebs for the final ten minutes of the lesson. As I make my exit from classroom D14, during which I actually have to Hi-5 Tommy Welkins, my mind drifts back to the moment when I broke my mother’s ‘commandments’ and talked back. For once in my life, I had made my own rules on how I should behave, which really should enlighten me, or at least somehow ‘set me free’ from the policies that my parents have held over me for the past 17 years. Instead it only frightens me, both of myself, and the things that I am capable of. I shuffle through the throng of people that heave toward the glass doors, that in this moment represent Heavens’ Gates, as they hold the almighty key to the student body’s sanity: freedom. I push to the left of the crowd, hoping to make a break in the dizzying colours of the school uniform. Instead I am just thrown right back into the bull pit by my peers hunger for the outside world. After many elbow jabs and skirt pulling I finally reach the flapping slate of wood that conceals the girls bathroom. I pull fast and hard on the doorknob. The smell of hairspray and urine poisons my hair as soon as I step inside the empty tiled room. But I soon realise that I am not alone as I can hear voices, sweet as honey, that wash over me with each step I take towards the culprits. I glance at the brightly lit mirror, hoping to only see a few grade 8 girls twisting and bunching their hair to perfection for the eager boys that wait outside. Instead my eyes only make contact with one image amongst the ghostly white reflections: me. I freeze instantly, my eyes bore into the fragile and lying surface of the mirror as I reflectively put my hands to my hair, fiddling with the grade 6 fringe that I keep meaning to grow out but never do. The fluorescent glow of the lights play tricks on my hair, making the gold strands dance along the short length as they grin at me, a true golden smile. “Oh My God Bridget, that is so not true!” A shrill voice pierces the space, followed soon after by a clang that could only be a cubicle door hitting the lined wall. My hands pause amongst the waves, a lock of hair left half curled around one pale finger as my eyes dart to the other side of the room to where the noise has come from. The sound of my own breathing is so deafening that I hold my breath, pleading with each and every religious figure to be invisible to these girls. I scrunch my eyes as tight as I can, hoping against hope that they won’t be able to see me: the only other colourful blob in the white room. “Eva! Hey!” They cry in unison, their strained American wannabe accents piling on top of one another as they move swiftly towards me in a pack lead by no other than Bridget Green. I stop shuffling backwards when my thighs hit the hard counter. The bitter cold of the surface bites at my skin, pushing me back into the now crowded space. “Oh My God, we heard what you said in English,” Kat practically screams at me, as she thinks that if she’s loud enough she may grow a few more inches. This is one of the many theories that she has about the human body, and it’s right up there with the infamous question “If we like, cut our hair and apply like, buckets of hairspray to it, will our hair like, stay that short forever?” So now you know the sort of genius’s I am dealing with in this compound that they call an ‘educational environment’. Yeah, well this ‘environment’ is currently being polluted with too many egos the size of Antarctica and knock off designer perfume. Kat’s brown arm gets tossed out of the hoops of fake tanned skin that connect the clones while they compete against one another for the best mindless compliment that suits this particular situation. “Mrs. Bingham is like a total cow times a lot!” Declares Sascha with a mixed expression on her tanned face that she must think is ‘like cute/disgusted’. “Eva you’re so witty, like how do you think of those lines?” Quizzes Ellen as she twists her bird nest that just passes as hair in this school, her pimples standing out proudly under the florescent light. “You’re just so funny Eva!” Giggle Issy and Caity, their slim hands raised in forms of Hi-5’s in my direction, an action that I do not return. This seems to confuse them, as their perfect brows furrow in oblivious impersonations of Chihuahuas. “That is like so shrack,” Bridget states in her famous raspy hiss, flicking her raggedy brown hair over her shoulder as she drags out the final word, which results in a whole lot of spit on my clean uniform that is certainly not mine. I stare unblinkingly at these girls, the infamous, arrogant, ‘popular’, boy-driven ‘Gutter Girls’ as I call them in my dreams, which are the only places that I have enough strength to walk away from this mindless high school cult. Their repetitive compliments hit the shining walls, only to bounce back and hit me all over. Their words leaving bruises that only remind me of my cowardice. Wini makes the first move towards me, her arms out stretched in a way that is obvious that she is about to give me one of those ‘girly hugs’, in which the arms go around the girl but the bodies do not touch. “You were so brill Eva,” Wini says sincerely with a smile, and even though her neatly scraped back hair lacks the boldness of the other girls nests, Wini’s smile wins over all, as it’s not just a show of fake emotions but is actually genuine. With this thought in mind I step forward into her thin arms, allowing my own hands to pat her softly on her uniform covered back. We break apart just before the other girls jump in, as one waft of Chanel Num5 is about all I can handle today. I know that the only way to get out of this situation is the same way that I got into it, to fake it. So I make eye contact with each girl, blocking out they’re too short skirts and ‘natural’ application of make up as I say: “Oh well thanks guys, your just too sweet!” In the sickly sweet voice that I only reserve for the GG’s (Gutter Girls) or when the neighbour’s dog is pulling on my new dress. I discard all my dignity as I giggle along with them, allowing my mind to go into ‘Bimbo Mode’, which is the only way that I can survive these confrontations. “It’s just so rough that you got a detention,” Kat says in a forced tone, her confused expression now crossing over into bi***y territory, which lets me know that we are about to embark on a stereotypical American gossip session. This is it, my excuse to leave, to run far away from these girls: the Queens of the school. “I know like what an old hag, I mean she was so TF,” Sascha pronounces, letting this one remark settle amongst the clad of green and white, waiting for the expected explosion of bi***ness that is too follow. “Your so right Sascha, I mean she was just way to out of line,” Bridget agrees as she lazily loops arms with Sascha, which seems to set off everyone else in a frenzy of grasping for an arm to hold onto as they venture on with their gossip. Sascha smiles as if she is Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua, and has just been granted a Hollywood pedicure. She greedily grabs her second in command’s hand, Kat, as the whispering commences. “Well I heard that she sells pot on the side to kids down at Oriel Park,” Wini states triumphantly, which grants her an inviting arm that belongs to Ellen. She grins a Cheshire smile as she entwines her newly manicured hand with Ellen’s. This is it, the time in which I sound mysterious as I casually exit from this bathroom-turned-asylum. I prepare myself, disconnecting my arm from Caity’s in a languid attempt to pluck my keys out of my pocket. As I twist the keys around my fingers I state: “Sorry guys but I don’t feel very comfortable with bi***ing about Mrs. Bingham, I just don’t want to get any more bad karma.” This comment seems to startle everyone, bringing them back down from their gossip cloud with a crash. They’re made up eyes stare at me with a mixture of disappointment and confusion. As Bridget is always the first to speak, no matter how awkward a situation may be, she jumps in. “You actually believe in that superstition stuff Eva?” She questions in a way that says she will think I’m a freak if I say yes, but I don’t care. I stopped caring for anything and anyone six months ago. “Yeah I do, and you should too Bridget, you didn’t think that you could be who you are without any consequences?” I smirk, knowing that I’ve over stepped the line in that one sentence, as I have just stated quite obviously that I think that she’s a b***h. “Well I don’t believe in superstition, but my cousin does and she says that it’s the same as like black cats and stuff,” Slides in Wini, hoping to distract Bridget from seeing past my words to their true meaning. I glance over at Wini and nod appreciatively at her, knowing that she has just saved my arse from getting chewed by the Queen’s henchmen. She smiles at me, it’s small but definitely there, flickering across her smooth white skin. It is this hint of friendship that gives me the strength to carry on with my exit. “Look I’ve got to go, Mrs. Bingham is going to throw another of her famous spitting spazes if I don’t get to detention on time, and I think I have enough of her spit on me to last a life time,” I declare, flashing the GG’s a smile as I weave through their too skinny bodies towards the door, my hips swaying to the victorious music of their laughter. With one final toss of a hand over my shoulder I’m out of there, opening the heavy door with a triumphant push. As I’m walking down the isolated hallway I listen to the hinges sigh as they trap the buzzing Queen bees inside the white room.

Chapter 2
Now detention is usually in the teacher’s classroom, right? I question myself as I make haste down the slippery hallway, the bright tiles blinding me with their unnatural light. Crap, what if we have to actually clean this hole as a punishment! I start to panic as I picture the montage of straining butt cracks and dripping soap that would soon be me and a couple of other mindless classmates in the dreaded detention.
The thing is, I have never had a detention before. Which is admittedly a declaration that receives a lot of disappointed looks at the ‘cool’ parties. I mean, I have been known as the ‘smart arse’ in classes with the particular teachers who’s beady eyes always seem to be burning a pitiful hole in my head. As if some how their recognition of her death would shed some light over my broken life. Idiots, I mutter just as Mrs. Bingham’s enormous mountains collide with my shoulder. This sudden impact releases my textbooks like fireworks from my new shoulder bag and onto the floor.
“Good Lord Eva, I apologise for my oblivious blundering that seems to have resulted in this somewhat awkward collision,” Mrs. Bingham explains in that squeaky voice of hers, which I personally think is the reason for all the smashed mirrors in this school, and not Tommy’s anger management problems. I just nod in reply, wisely deciding to save my voice for the moments when it is desperately needed. Say when Mrs. Bingham is holding out a sponge and mask in my direction while gesturing to the male toilets.
I hastily get down on all fours to pick up the cursed books, hoping that she would just simply heave away, or however it is that she transports those mountains around, and leave my fallen fireworks and I in peace.
“Oh no darling let me help you,” Mrs. Bingham declares, probably thinking somewhere in her deeply disturbed mind that this statement is the beginning of her charitable life in ‘helping the needy’. Her beady eyes squint sympathetically at me as she slowly lowers herself down to my exploded landmine of books. Mrs. Bingham will be one of those grannies that loiter around the children’s playground, eager to save one oblivious child from the dangers of the monkey bars. It was this mothering mentality that made me snap this morning. Her simple assumption of my emotional position frustrates me. Her kind smile smothers me, dragging me down into the endless pit of guilt and regret.
“Eva? Eva!” Mrs. Bingham pesters while slapping her plump hand back and forth in front of my blank face, thinking that maybe the sight of her little piggy fingers will awaken me from my thoughts. As I gradually drag my eyes back up to the piggy in question I am suddenly sidetracked by some sort of God that stands in front of me.
But instead, as the sunshine melts away behind the person’s figure and the blinding halo is lost amongst the waves of fluorescent lights, I am greeted with the startling image of Leo Darcy: Cooks High School’s very own rebel in torn jeans. Of course he doesn’t see me, as he never does and probably never will. Instead, he usually substitutes my annual freak shows co-starring one of the many oblivious teachers for the angelic view of the perfect, yet uncomfortably bony backsides of one of the GG’s.
My eyes finally travel back up the ever-fluctuating planes of floral material, and past the chins to meet Mrs. Bingham’s beady little eyes, which seem to be carrying the weight of absolute annoyance, which is blatantly directed at me, if the tearing of her hair in utter frustration is any clue.
“Eva Duke, if your complete and utter lack of respect for me is any hint for how this year will pan out then I’m foreseeing many more detentions to come,” Mrs. Bingham pronounces in a spiteful huff, her furious spit flying right past my shoulder as she articulates these last words, “starting this week you will have detentions every Wednesday for the rest of the month. You can’t dream your way out of this one Eva,” she triumphantly states as she waddles away in her worn slippers, or are those raggedy pieces of material actually shoes? She continues to make a definite exit from the building by managing to make it to the door without tripping over her enormously educated ego.
I stare after her slowly retreating back, or backside, I can’t tell, as they both look the same to me. I begin to pick up the forgotten textbooks from the dust covered floor, preparing myself for the unpredictable waters of Detention, of which I am about to dive into head first; spit-ridden uniform and all.

Chapter 3
About ten minutes into the actual detention I am the first to discover the fresh gum underneath my shabbily marked table.
“Jesus Christ,” my throat burns with shock, thinking that I have come across some sort of squashed bug. Then I remember that I am in detention that is currently being played out in the walls of a Catholic school, and that I have just cursed the foundations that this ‘educational system’s’ beliefs are built upon. My swearing receives a few smothered giggles from somewhere in the back. These giggles soon quiet down when Mr. Thompson’s ever-wandering eyes close in on the immediate space around me, his gaze hard and cold.
“You think that profanity is funny, do you Tommy?” Mr. Thompson questions in a sarcastic manner. He has obviously already been filled in on Tommy’s incapable mind and his natural instinct to be in the middle of every situation. Of course Tommy doesn’t pick up on Mr. Thompson’s obvious tone, instead choosing to rise from his tiny chair, his biceps bulging as he blatantly flexes them with every movement he makes.
“Yeah I think it’s funny, you have a problem with that?” Tommy asks in his infamous ‘mucho’ tone as he pounds his fist into the ratty textbooks that lie vulnerably on his table. Tommy’s tatty excuse of a desk lies right at the back of the room so that the shadows can conceal his indecent gestures, which are usually directed at the teachers. Sometimes even I, the person who has shared the same educational space as Tommy for all eleven years, can be shocked by the stupidity that this boy can stimulate in his mind, and the fact that he is actually proud of it shocks me.
Mr. Thompson chooses to ignore Tommy’s predictable outburst, instead directing all of his frustration to the third desk in the middle row: my desk. One of Tommy’s equally steroid pumped friends pulls Tommy back down to his fragile chair, which seems to shiver in terror when his pumped muscles make contact with its brittle wood.
“Now you Eva Duke, I expect more from you, in both your manners and respect for the higher power,” Mr. Thompson declares with a flick of his weathered hand in my face. His tired face stretched with aggravation and distress as his hooded eyes portray to me the great extent to which he is disappointed.
“Why are you here Eva? Why is it that you have sunk this low?” Mr. Thompson spits out regretfully, his words adding to the heavy weight on my shoulders, which I am only now beginning to feel. His latter question receives many shocked grunts and complaints from the swamp of rebels behind me. I can practically see their hands raised and flipping the teacher the bird, even though my eyes are glued in this battle of power with Mr. Thompson.
“Mr. Thompson, my fingers are stuck together with fresh gum,” I say frankly, spreading my fingers to show him the cobweb of blue crap stuck between them. My remark is surprisingly followed by a few startled chuckles from the audience, which gives me the energy to continue. “I have just discovered this gum underneath this ancient desk on what happens to be the worst day of my life, so forgive me if I don’t shout with joy at this finding,” I finish with a smirk, the random wolf whistles in the detention giving me ammunition to follow up that suggestion with a sarcastically raised eyebrow.
Instead of raising his voice Mr. Thompson shuts his mouth. Instead of reaching across the desk to slap down my gesturing hands, he clasps his own tightly together. Instead of his eyes filling up with rage and shock, his eyes stay heavily hooded with disappointment, glistening with defeat as he utters, “What has happened to you Eva Duke” He doesn’t articulate these words with a question though, as it seems that he already knows the answer to his question, and that it’s the answer that shocks him and not my actions.
The class collapses into a church-like silence, all praying eyes locked on my expressionless face, waiting for my reply, anticipating anything, everything. I choose not to satisfy their hungry needs with another display of ‘rebellion’. Substituting their applause for silence, and their acceptance for judgement, I slowly close my eyes on a sigh and softly admit; “I really don’t know.”

Chapter 4 What happened today? I question myself as I make my way slowly down the eroded path towards the school’s car park. My bare knees scrap lightly against the occasional overgrown plant, its branches reaching over the prehistoric path. The warm oranges and bright pinks of the sunset hug me tightly as I spontaneously decide to detour off this straight path into the harsh forest just before the car park. With my head down, my arms swinging by my sides, I stride out deeper into the forest, kicking at the thick tree roots that protrude out of the soil like veins of a heroin addict. Every step I take only pushes me further into a place that I know nothing about, where there is no reprimand like in school or the comfort of an ordinary Colorado home. The sharp whips of the leaves against the rushing wind keep me from slipping into another of my haunting nightmares. I look up for the first time, my eyes widening at the soft glow of the moonlight that settles above the forest floor. My head snaps from side to side, fervently seeking out any kind of familiar landmark that could calm my pounding heartbeat. Right, so now all I have to do is remember which way is back to the car park…I tell myself, unconvinced that I will ever actually have an answer, as my past history with directions is not a positive one. I start to spin around slowly, squinting against the darkness to see through the similar forms of the foliage. Everything starts to blend together, the flowers become leaves and the leaves become bugs, which are crawling about everywhere, up the trunks of trees and into my bag…. “Crap,” I scream in horror, smacking my bag onto the ground in a fit of shock as I shake out my arms while jumping around like some kind of loon on speed. Since I am momentarily blinded by the fear of a bug crawling into my top, I do not see the thick root sticking out of the ground. Its bony branches reaching out to me, as if to catch me as I fall. I hit the ground hard, my limbs falling in a heap like scrambled jelly, my head beats profusely as I try to regain my senses. I wriggle my fragile fingers, their tips silhouetted by the crack of moonlight that slips through the leaves of the crouching tree ahead of me. My legs begin to quiver as I try to ground my feet in the harsh soil, my hands acting as unpredictable anchors on both sides of me as I attempt to push my body off of muddy floor. I try this process again and again, my breath driving out of my mouth in frustrated puffs as I try to regain my forgotten strength. Between each breath I take I can hear some kind of rumbling sound, getting closer and closer to my vulnerable body. The warm sound wraps around my injured body in a suffocating hug that only weighs down on my aching self. Its ridiculing sound pulls at my arms until I finally collapse into the slippery mud, yet again. “Your really attached to that mud, aren’t you,” states a deep voice, its timbre tone humming with mischief. Since my eyes are caked with the brown s**t of the earth, I cannot see the person who’s laughter is the one thing that is stopping me from escaping this unbearable pit. “What, your just going to lay there all night?” asks the bemused voice, which seems to be closer to me now. It’s shoes making sloshing sounds amongst the shifty soil as it comes closer to my body. I decide to let this cocky guy in, let him get a real good look of my nature covered arse before I kick him in the nuts and sliver away in the mud. “I mean I know you are the new rebel of the school and all, but do you really want to be mooning these conservative trees?” He questions amid a cheeky chuckle that triggers a remembrance in my mind, but as my head is clogged full of the environment these thoughts never reach my lips. Instead I stupidly nod my head, which only lodges my soaked hair further into the mud. So far so that I think my nose is currently being used as a bed by some eight-legged creature. “I’m just trying to look out for your reputation amongst nature, that’s all” He declares, as if he’s some kind of knight in shining armour and I’m his damsel in distress. Well this aluminium knight is this close to tasting metal. “Because those blue spruces can be real bi***es when they want to be,” he finishes as I feel a callused hand curl around my arm and tug; its solid energy brings my sopping face out of the mud. As my hands are otherwise occupied with boosting my lower body out of the swamp, my first view of the outside world is darkness. It couldn’t be that late, could it? And if it was, then I was going to be the recipient of some major trash from my father when I get home. While I was experiencing one of my many panic attacks, my vision started to clear, allowing slits of glowing moonlight through the midnight cracks. All of a sudden I’m being tugged up so that my shaking arms can hold my upper body out of the swell, my nails digging into the earth as I try to flick my sodden hair out of my eyes. “Jesus, you look like some kind of old school movie monster,” states the voice in shock, as smooth skin rubs the rest of the mud out of my eyes, the crust falling like tears down my cheek’s. My eyes splinter open, the sheer longing for fresh air overcastted by a looming shadow, literally. “Oh My God, what are you doing here?” I shout, startled by the person that towers over me as I struggle to my feet, my uniform ripping on another of natures delights: a fickle branch. I still cannot believe the person who is in front of me, the same person that has stood by lazily as I practically drown in this brown heap. “Need some help there, Beauty?” Leo Darcy asks cheekily, his eyebrow arched in his famous attempt at looking cool while subtly insulting someone. His smugness pours out of him like he is the Trevi Fountain and his peer’s predictable laughter the foundational marble. You would think from the size of his cocky grin that he was the first person to ever use sarcasm. This is why he is always getting in trouble for wagging school, not because of the fact that he spends the majority of the school hours in his car with his current squeeze, but because he doesn’t have enough imagination to be able to build upon the old excuse of: “I was just at the doctors Miss.” “No, I’m fine,” my voice trembles on the last word, but I have my back turned away from him so he wouldn’t have heard my rare display of vulnerability. He probably would have laughed anyway. “Right, so you weren’t just drowning in brown crap before I arrived?” Leo asks mischievously, his grin widening. The cocky s**t. “If by drowning you mean dying then yes, I was,” I stab at him as I trudge out of the heap, which now looks half the size than it originally was. Probably because I have most of the soaping mud packed away in the many pockets of my uniform. “You women and your dramatics,” Leo says in some kind of English accent, obviously quoting some hilarious show he watches. I flip him the bird and spin around in the direction of the crouching tree, while in the process tangling up my feet until I stumble backwards into Leo. His hands crash into my back as my grubby hair whips against his trademark leather jacket and seemingly into his eye, as he lets out a strangled yell and tugs at his eye, muttering incomprehensible crap as he grabs my arm. “Screw it,” Leo mutters and digs his fingers into my hips, flipping me over his shoulder in one smooth movement. No warning at all for me to maybe, oh I don’t know, hold onto my slowly dropping panties? And there go my treasured paint splattered hipsters, mashing into the soil with each oblivious step that Leo takes, leading us only further into the forest. “Leo! Leo! My pants!” I scream in horror, waving my hands about like a mad homeless person. “What?” Leo asks in annoyance as he hikes me further up on his shoulder, his hand sliding up my thigh to the area that is no longer covered in the process. He stops mid step, throwing me off of his shoulder completely, my hands go out to grab his shoulders as his body collides with mine, my feet in line with his. His hands secure me against his body; his rough knuckles accidentally slip down my stomach as he tries to untangle us. My lower body jerks back slightly in response, pushing out a shivering breath that strokes the hair just above Leo’s ear. My thighs suddenly begin to ache, for what I don’t know, and the skin of my belly button grips painfully onto my body. We both stand agonizingly still, each breath we release sounds like an explosion. My eyes burn with anticipation as I stare at his chest, watching it jerkily rise and fall. My pulse thumps like a savage animal as I glance down at Leo’s tightly curled fists, his knuckles blooming red. Reach out. Touch him. But I can’t, I refuse to be another notch on his bedpost, everything about this moment is wrong. But right now, with my thighs pressing against his and his breath punching at my forehead, I just don’t care. All I know is that I will die if he doesn’t touch me. Please. Reach out, Leo. Touch me. My breath is painful; my skin burns as his fingertips sprinkle my skin. I stand as still as I can as Leo’s hand slowly scraps up the back of my thigh. My tensed up muscles melt on contact with his touch, his fingers whisper over my skin to the point where my breath comes out in gasps as I try to hold in everything that I’m feeling in this strangely beautiful moment. My nails dig into my palms as his hand circles the top of my thigh, nearly taking out my legs as I focus on not fainting from this intensity. I see his adams apple jumping back and forth as he slightly presses his fingers between my two shivering thighs, the sensation of his coarse skin on my damp skin awakens panic in the depths of my chest, causing my chest to press against his more firmly as I try to control myself. Don’t freak out. He’s not going to hurt you. He isn’t one of them. You’re not strapped down. It’s not like before. Breathe. Leo swallows loudly, his wet lips slapping together as he breathes roughly against my cheek and he dips his soft lips to the hard edge of my collarbone. Breathe. He retracts his fingers, his hand twitches slightly as it curls over my curves, his fingernails gently scratching across my skin, the sharp sensations make me fearfully tighten my muscles. Breathe. Leo’s throat hums with an echo of a sound; a sound if amplified and beaten was the soundtrack to my summer inside those insane white walls. Breathe. His hand pursues my skin up to my lower back and then floats back down, his fingertips lightly pressing into my hips, into the bruises that lay beneath as his tongue finds the cracks in my skin. Breathe. Don’t think about it. I scrunch my eyes closed, the sterile white light the only thing I see on the back of my eyelids. My panicked breathing matches that of Leo’s, except for entirely different reasons, reasons that seem only too clear as Leo’s other hand starts to glide up my dangling arm, his gentle fingertips smoothing over the microscopic holes that scream at his touch. I can’t do this. “Eva”, Leo softly growls in my ear, as if my name is the answer. stop. His fingers dip into the hollows of my collarbone and slip around to the back of my head, tracing the sensitive skin around the tiny scattering of scars. Stop. His other hand dances up under my shirt, tapping along my ribs, cruising over the self-inflicted scratch marks, his touch oblivious to my skin’s past suffering. “Please,” I whimper, dragging my nails down his arms, red skin chasing after my fingertips. “STOP,” I force out, my arm ripping out of his grasp as I push against his chest, watching as he stumbles back and collides with a tree, his breathe puncturing his chest as he slumps to the floor, his eyes tearing open with shock. The silence burns my ears as my lungs open up to take grateful gulps of clean air, my hands pull down my skirt, my fingertips alight with the heat of where his hands were, where I wish they still were. S**t, s**t, s***. Why do you do this? You will always be alone if this keeps happening. They will send you back. That thought terrifies me, engulfs me as I begin to scratch at my wrists, my long nails ripping tiny pathways in my marked skin. Hot tears smoulder the scratches as they continue to land with an increasing pace. “Eva,” Leo whispers into the night from where he is seated, the outline of his figure rising as he whispers my name with force this time, “Eva!” I hear the spines of the leaves cracking under the weight of Leo’s shoes as he strides over to me, his presence slowing down my nails, until they just hover above my bloody wrist. Leo strokes his fingers across my wrist, and on feeling the slipperiness of the bloody, curses in a low breath. I’m a freak. I’m a freak. “I’m a freak,” I whisper the realisation, my chest convulsing with the word. Freak. Freak. Frea- “Eva, you’re not a freak,” Leo tells me as he gently grips my wrist, his thumbs lightly rubbing over the blood, his skin soaking in my despair. “I was going too fast, I should have….I mean I should have asked you…” Leo’s voice wanders off as his eyes desperately seek out my own. I need to get out of here. I have to scrub this feeling of utter humiliation off of my skin before I self-combust. “Take me home,” I whisper desperately as I wipe my drowning eyes against the cotton of my sleeve. I can feel him nodding as he attempts to wrap his arm around me to steady me, but I shrug him off. I don’t want his sympathy. I can tell that he is hurt, the air is sick with his shock, but I block it out, I block it all out. I just need to get home. “Follow me,” is what Leo manages to let slip out, the blackness swallows up his expression as he turns his back and begins to walk towards the crouching tree. Never again. I tell myself as I pull back my hair. Never again.

Chapter 5 “You want a ride?” Leo asks timidly as we break out in the glaring light of the lamppost in the car park. I glance around the isolated car park, knowing that I was not in the right mind to drive, never the less speak, so I just nod. Leo reaches into his pocket and whips out his keys, the sound of the sharp metal clattering together echoes in my vacant mind as I follow him to his car. He reaches out and tugs open the passenger door, waving his hand into the car as if to signal that I can sit there. I accept and slide onto the freezing leather, the cracked surfaces prickling under my skin. Leo shoves the car closed, slightly shaking the weary car as he makes his way over to the drivers seat. The cold metal of the key ignites with the heat of the ignition as Leo tugs the car into drive, his eyes as blank as his expression, the only tell tale of emotion held in the tension of his clenched jaw. I realise that I am staring at him and quickly look away, staring out into the blackness. As the car trip drags out with continued silence, my fingers reach up to trace shapes in the fogged up glass of the car, carving pitiful love hearts and stars into the hard surface. When my breathing becomes too deafening amongst the silence, I reach out to turn on the radio just as Leo’s fingers touch the station seeker button. My fingers brush over his as I retract my hand, the sudden impact ignites my regret and straightens my fingers, as if to reach out to touch him again. But instead I shove my hand down underneath my thighs, the friction between my torn skin and the hard leather shoots burning sensations all the way up my arm and to my head until I can’t think properly from the sudden pain. I bite down on my lip to stop from screaming as I pull out my wrist to see the line of blood I have left across his bright white seat. “Sh**,” I gasp as I grab at my shirt and start scrubbing at the blood, the sickening red soaking into my still damp muddy shirt. “Eva, stop,” Leo says sternly, his hand grabbing at my shirt and ripping it out of my desperate hands, my whole body tenses with surprise as Leo pulls over, turns in his seat and turns my head to look at him. “Please just….stop,” Leo whispers distraughtly, his clear blue pools swirling with distress as he continues to stare at me. I begin to nod, anxious to do at least something right today. “Okay,” I say between nods, “okay”.

Chapter 6 I bash open the door to my apartment, the solid wood giving way to the fury of my fist as I shove my fragile key into my pocket. The slamming impact of wood on plaster resonates throughout the entire space. Once again it is the only sound I come home to. Some teenagers come home to the sound of their mother chopping food or they’re siblings fighting, simple reassurances of the love that surrounds them in their life. Instead all I get are the hollow sounds of my own footsteps as I sub-consciously tip toe around the apartment. My mud soaked shoes leave obvious dark marks along the snow-white floor. At least now the apartment actually has a little bit of character, I think to myself as I kick my shoes into the spotless corner. I peer around the white wall into the kitchen, its frighteningly clean surfaces grinning smugly back at me, as if looking over my dirt ridden self and thinking: “What a waste of space this girl is.” I know that I’m just making this up, that the gleaming colours of the kitchen’s features are not really saying this to me. But this does not stop me from marching right over to the stupidly superior fridge and kicking its solid skin. “You don’t understand!” I scream out to the empty air as I continue to crash into the fridge. I begin to angrily rip pointless cooking things from the countertops and cupboards. The sounds of forgotten objects falling brokenly to the floor are smothered by my heavy breathing as I collapse against the fridge. I peer out from behind the cloak of hair that has fallen across my face. My eyes run over the disaster scene in front of me, a scene that belongs in a segment for Oprah: “When guilty daughters have had enough.” Finally my hooded eyes stumble across the only photo in the house of her, it’s intricate frame sitting snugly next to the vase of flowers. The stretching stems hiding parts of her remarkable face, her glittering eyes shadowed by the bold shapes of the petals. The colourful flowers only contrast to the blank white walls and bland furniture, shades of pink and red splattered like blood across the wall. My father is allergic to pollen. He can’t even walk one metre into the Botanical Gardens without having an allergic reaction. So it’s only appropriate that the two things that he never approaches in life are to be together: my mother and flowers. Sitting side by side on the vast crystal table, tucked neatly away into the smothering corner. ‘Out of reach, out of mind’ is always the policy whenever it comes to my mother, in my father’s case anyway. Speaking of the disappearing man, I wonder if he is actually home on time for once in his life. As I scrap my hair back from my face, my arms ground themselves against the cool surface of the fridge and lift my defeated body off of its skin. I begin to search for my quiet mouse of a father, stepping silently across the plush carpet towards his office, or his cave as I call it, already anticipating his predictable absence. My hand closes around the ice-cold doorknob and twist its metal face. The creaking of the door fills the bare space as I take my first steps into my father’s most secret hide out. ~ The eerie yellow glow of the lamp settles uncomfortably amongst the clattered space. The cushiony brown leather of my father’s oldest chair crackles at the sudden touch of light. Books bully tattered pages off of the stacked shelves, their levels drowning in pointless factual books: ranging from ‘bull fighting’ to ‘how to knit a jumper’. I weave throughout the piles of empty food packets and more books, their old pages shivering under my gaze. He never leaves his office unlocked, not even if we were to have an open house inspection, he would still keep it tightly sealed. The office’s dark door protects my father’s deepest thoughts, marked walls hugging his secrets tight I start to riffle through the odds bits and pieces on his scratched desk, trying to find something that would make me understand him more. Something stabs into my palm, unleashing sharp pain up my arm, a warning maybe to stop snooping around, to leave it. It’s like my father is watching me without even being here. It wasn’t always like this, I mean before my mom died we were a unit, bonded to each other like macaroni to a kindergartens homemade ‘happy birthday’ card. It wasn’t until she was run over whilst running across the street to catch up with me that my father forgot I existed, I’m just another piece of modern furniture in this apartment, my pulse quieted by his blame for her death. Not one therapist could believe that my father blames me for mom’s death, they all think it’s just a self hate phase I’m going through, but really, isn’t their an expiry date on that kind of sh**? She died one year ago and I’m still here, still breathing, yet forgotten.

Chapter 7 Oh good lord, not again. This is what I think to myself as Bridget approaches me in the tuckshop line, her eager smile instantly giving away her scavenger intentions. “Oh Eva, my babes, I’m freakin’ starving but I forgot to bring my wallet to school today, and I sweat I am about to die,” Bridget drags out dramatically, her pouted lips shaping the words that she has been using ever since seventh grade to get a free meal. Her words promise you that she will pay you back, to be your best friend, if you just reach into your wallet and pull out $3 for the icy pole that she so desperately needs. The words are usually the thing that pushes over the new girls, Bridget’s sweet smile only seals the deal. It’s not until you have lived through at least 5000 of these money scams that you finally learn to look her in the eye and tell her to take her cheap ass somewhere else. So I decide to use the one excuse I know that will work, it’s the one line that I have been saying to these girl’s pathetic attempts at using me since the very beginning. “Sorry Bridg babes, maybe another day,” I tell her, my eyes locking with hers in a warning to back off, not to push it any further. As predicted, she is the first to break the sickly sweet stare. Her eyes flicker away quickly over to the other line where a bunch of new girls stand patiently, girls she know will never say no to her. I watch her flounce away, her ratty hair swinging out behind her as she approaches the poor girls that would soon become victims to her begging; and I thought I would only ever see this kind of stuff in the Valley. This just shows you what popularity can do to some people, one minute their hosting the ‘bash of the year’ and the next their pushing money out of your own arse. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother, but then I remember this small fact: that lunch lasts for 40 whole minutes. Minutes that I am not going to waste hiding away in the girl’s bathroom nor the meeting place of Nerdom, as I have been expelled from the library ever since that little incident of stealing that particular edition of Twilight. Never underestimate a grown woman’s desperate passion for a corny love story. As I am mindlessly flicking through the many different flavours of Paddle Pop’s I begin to feel uneasy. The kind of feeling that you experience when you are alone in the house and you have just heard something that sounds like a knock on the door; except you are not expecting anyone. I whip my head around; my eyes seeking out the thing that makes my heart beat faster as I sink my nails deep into my palms. But I see nothing, only the usual excessive spread of food that clings to the bench in the middle of the tuckshop. My eyes start to wonder over the layout of the shop, my lips curling into a small smile as my heart begins to slow down. Students mill purposely around the clattered space; grabbing item after item as they chat amongst themselves. The cocky younger boys yell across the small space to a group of also younger heavily made-up girls, their flirty eyes rolling in annoyance as they swish their short skirts from side to side. My smile grows bigger as I realise that I was one of those girls, back when the latest accessory was a cute guy and invites to ‘gatherings’ had started to arrive in my hot hand. Back when I was normal. Suddenly my heart starts having an epileptic and my palms become clammy, reactions I don’t fully understand until I make eye contact with Leo Darcy. His golden eyes smoulder in response to my obvious reaction to his presence, a smirk tugging annoyingly at the edges of his lips as he nods in greeting to my stunned self. I knew he would be here, I didn’t expect him to take off a day of school just because we had that screwed up moment in the forest. A moment I relived while blankly watching a rerun of Glee; a moment I tried to resist reliving in the shower; a moment that stalked my dreams until I woke up to an aching pain just above my thighs. This kind of reaction to guys is not normal for me. Where the random hook ups of the past were sloppy and borderline, what I’m experiencing with Leo feels like it comes straight out some kind of steamy romance novel women never buy but always flick through. I am so over my head with this. Oh Jesus, he’s coming this way. How the hell am I going to be able to explain my one moment of weakness to him? How can I tell him that the reason I was so torn up was because of my past? How can I confess that his touch made me feel like a burning star? Me: Cooks High School’s very own train wreck, admitting her pathetic feelings for the predictable bad boy who must view the many declarations of love that are thrown his way as being mundane. I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who threw herself at Leo Darcy in the middle of the Tuckshop at peek hour pig out. I spin back around to the cluttered wall; my hands plant themselves firmly on the slippery surface of the freezer. I close my eyes to put some kind of barrier between the embarrassing truth of the situation and me, but instead all I see are mirrored images of the Paddle Pop covers and somehow I don’t think that Rainbow Dream will be able to stop Leo’s ever descending footsteps. Right, well I could maybe use the icy cold treats as some sort of grenades, but then one of the lower immature year 8 may think it’s the start of a cave man like food fight. Suddenly I am being shoved into the sturdy structure of the drink fridge next to me. The rock hard handle crashes into me, my elbow jarring as it slams into the reflected image of ‘Tropical Juice’. “S**t,” I mutter to myself, my eyes stay downcast, too embarrassed to look up into the confronting audience of hungry peers. I close my eyes on a sigh, but release them instantly as all I can see are those stupid cartoon Paddle Pop covers. “Oh My God Eva, we totes didn’t see you there bebz,” exclaim Kat and Caity in high-pitched voices that resemble a cats scream when its being run over. I unwillingly look up into their wide eyed Snow White expressions, Kat’s delicate fingers dance along the ice surface of the freezer as Caity stretches out her arm with cat-like grace. Her fingers curl themselves around my trembling hand and tugs lightly, her manicured nails pressing into the smooth curve of my palm. Now my palms are tattooed with both my own nail indents as well as those of a Serena Van der Woodsen wannabe. Beats those ridiculous ‘virginity’ roses these girls get just below their hip, as if we believe that their the only ones who see them on a regular basis. Leo probably has his own rose garden by now. I just stare at them in disbelief, their eyes portraying that this little run in wasn’t any accident. I untangle my fingers from Caity’s and push myself off of the fridge, much to the disappointed sighs of the naïve year 9 girls that now surround this corner of the tuckshop. What? Did they really think that I was going to stay lounging against the fridge? What do they expect, some kind of catfight? Why can’t they just run off to their Mickey Mouse sounding pubescent boyfriends and leave us alone! “What was that for?” I demand, my shoulders squaring as I stare straight into the depths of Kat’s doubtful eyes. You see; Kat was never the strong one, as she has always had Caity there to do the confronting part of things for her. She may ooze attitude by the way her hand is routinely placed on her protruding hip and how her head is cocked to the side in the ‘don’t mess with me’ expression. But over the years I have come to conclusion that the only reason she is leaning to the side like that is because that beehive on top of her head that she calls hair is too heavy for her petit body to hold up. Its either that or she has some sort of balancing problem, as this stance definitely does not resemble those of the crank African Americans in the hip-hop movies who are the very definition of attitude. Kat backs down, her hand drops to her side in order to fiddle with the extended lengths of her hair as her white teeth nibble on her skinny pink strips of lips. My eyes glide back over to Caity, my lips pursing into a bi**hy pout; the only thing that the confrontations with these girls have taught me. I slowly lower my eyes down the short length of her body and back up again, all while the message of ‘Who do you think you are?’ is broad casted across my forehead in her direction. Kat doesn’t seem to approve of my sudden attitude change as she takes the first plunge into the bi**h-ice water that lies between us. “We were just looking for an ice cream for Bridget as were going to buy one for her, since no-one leant her any money,” Kat manages to force out of her tensed mouth, her eyes staring straight at me, which I’m guessing means that that arrangement of words were directed at me. I shake my head slowly as I gradually raise my eyelids so that my own eyes can look Kat dead on as I state: “What a shame, but I thought that Bridget was on the Formal-diet, as you know how badly she wants to be able to fit into that size 10 dress.” These girls were not expecting that, and as their eyes shot daggers at me, the year 9 girls step ever so closer. They’re foundation choked faces screwed into expressions of sheer enjoyment as they continue to watch this subtle display of bi***ness. Not ever does a friend reveal another friends dress size, never the less the size that they no longer fits. I can actually feel the sharp tips of those daggers, piercing a reputation-killing hole through my head. But I still hold Kat’s gaze, daring her to reply to my statement, to stand up for the girl who is known to casually bitch about Kat whenever she is bored. But as per usual it is Caity who speaks up, and here I was thinking that I was actually going to help Kat is some twisted way to get back her confidence. Instead my assured façade is shattered by the force of Caity’s harsh words. “What? You think just because you got a ride in Leo Darcy’s famous sl*t-convertible that it gives you a right to b**ch about my best friend to my face?” Caity asks abruptly, her glare turning me to stone as my heart begins to mimic the beat of David Guetta’s latest track. I open my mouth to rebut her beliefs, my mind quickly riffling through the dusted box of ‘amazing comebacks’ that I keep stored away for situations just like these. Except, as I am mentally fingering through the very last of the pathetic first grade lines, Caity continues to stamp my damaged heart further into the dirt. “Do you actually think that he would take an interest in you?” Caity spits at me as she flicks her glimmering ponytail to one side. That one action seems to be some sort of open invitation to the year 9 girls as they start to shuffle in, closing off the space around me until there is no escape, no gap to slip through or door to bang down; only the bodies of eager teenage girls armed with the same wish: “Too witness the first catfight in Cook High.” And to think that this morning just happened to be the morning that I filed down my nails, which certainly do not add up to the glinting shapes of the girls claws in front of me. Kat seems to have shaken off the stunned spell as she is now lazily draping her arm around Caity. Her slim pointer slowly slides up and down Caity’s shoulder, as if she is sharpening her nails in preparation for the unbelievable fight to come. I know I am probably just assuming too much, too many American teenage movies; too many confrontations with bi***es. I unglue my eyes from Kat’s gliding finger to gaze over Caity’s shoulder in hopefully a casual way, pushing my shaking fingers deep into my jumper’s pockets as I do so. Oh God he’s still here. His chocolate hair is being polluted by the bottled blond strands of Kat’s intrusive hair, which she insists on flicking around as if she is the five hundred thousand dollar pony her daddy has just bought for her. My gaze grabs a desperate hold on his concerned eyes, his eyebrows raised as if to ask if I was alright. I answer with a slight nod of my head, careful not to draw to much attention to our exchanges. But I’m too late, as Kat’s always wandering eyes picks up the tension that lies between Leo and I, even from across the crowded tuckshop. Kat smirks, her too glossy lips pursing so that they disappear within the millions of lines created around her thin mouth. “I would suggest avoiding all future eye contact with Leo Darcy, unless you want his girlfriend breaking more than just your nails,” Kat states more than suggests, her smirk forming into a sneaky cat-like smile, as if she is the Burmese and I am the helpless goldfish. Caity lets her slim hand gracefully drop from Kat’s shoulder, her fingers falling like soft raindrops from Caity’s bony white skin. Girlfriend. It is this one word that only reinforces the harsh facts of high school life: guys like Leo Darcy belong to those girls with the sparkling smile, the unlimited number of Facebook friends and the ones whose reputation actually heightens when given a detention. And that’s how I know before Kat even opens her gossiping lips that this apparently menacing girlfriend is Bridget Green. “Bridget would be very disappointed in you Eva if she caught you looking at Leo like that,” Caity slides in casually, her head shaking from side to side, as if explaining something to a five year old. I am stunned by her statement, my mind reeling in all other thoughts as I focus on those words. Now she’s classifying my looks? I mean, I know they do it for everything and everyone else: skirts, shoes, attitudes, boyfriends, family; but I would have never thought that they would have a category for me, that I’m the kind of person who would gain something like that. Because to be in one of those lists you have to be a somebody, the kind of person who knows who she is and goes for what she wants. I am a nobody, the person on the brink, the person who could not even begin to answer one of those “All About Me” quizzes as I don’t even know who ‘me’ is, and I’m starting to think that I never will. “What look?” I question genuinely, my eyes never leaving Caity’s, my expression blank as I bat my eyelashes at Caity, just like Bambi to the Hunter. “ ‘What look?’ Oh my, you really are in love with him,” Kat interrupts, her fingers lift, seeking out Caity’s like a drowning man reaching for a life jacket. Their fingers interlace as Kat juts her hip out, her free hand wraps a deathly drip around her unnaturally thin waist, which was probably achieved by hourly trips to the bathroom. My heart beat speeds up, thumping against the flimsy material of my uniform, like out of some crazy Bugs Bunny episode. My sweating palms fly to my flustered cheeks; clammy skin extinguishing red-hot fire. I tell myself to calm down; to not let these girls petty jabs many any impact with my already bruised heart. It isn’t even true, I have no feelings for the infamous Leo Darcy; especially now that I know he would sink as low to actually date someone like Bridget. I don’t even know him, I don’t have the slightest clue of what movie makes him laugh so hard that he cries or what song he sings in the shower; nothing personal, nothing real. Only those few breathless minutes in the forest. 180 seconds of pure, magnetic attraction. I begin to shake my head from side to side, at first to tell them that those words were not true, but once I had started I couldn’t stop. Trembling fingers wipe at my watering eyes, causing tears to singe my heated cheeks. Blunt nails tear white streaks across my flushed pink face as I try to hold my head still. Leave me alone. I push my body off of the fridge and shove at their bony bodies, nearly setting Kat flying. “What the f**k Eva!” shrieks Caity as she smothers Kat with a insincere hug where her twig arms jut out sharp enough to cut into Caity’s foundation layered skin. Everyone is looking. Everyone is looking at me. As if I am some sort of psychotic freak, my hair wild as I rub my temples to erase the screeching of Caity’s voice, the judgemental stares of my surrounding peers. I push past Caity and Kat, numb to their scratching at my skin as to hold me back, to bi**h in my face. I keep my head down and walk away from the crowd, slow at first but building up pace as I can now hear the questioning voices of the teachers as they look after my tensed figure. Mr Charmers calls my name but I can’t stop, I can’t go back, because if I do then their hands will be on me again, pulling me towards the guidance counsellor’s office, her fingers punching out the digits of my dad’s mobile. They’ll send me away again. Just like last year. I start to run, shedding my school bag as I head for the school gates, the chorus of my name from the crowd hum around my head like a swarm of bees. I run faster, scared of being stung. I stumble through the gates, gravel slowing my pace until I stand perfectly still on the side kerb, suddenly faced with the consequences. I don’t have a car. I don’t have any money. And my house is in the complete opposite direction. Maybe I should go back. They’d probably just write off my behaviour as being a side affect to my medication. No one would ask any questions as they’re too afraid of the answers. I turn my foot into the dust and look back at the regal gates when I hear my name again, but this time it’s different, it’s softer, not desperate or confused, just waiting. I look towards the voice and see a mustang crawling up to the kerb, a tanned arm out the window, tapping the sunburnt metal as a face appears through the shadowed interior. “Get in,” Leo says with the flick of his hand, his fingers twisting the radio knob until a swell of a bad 80’s song fills the void between him and I, words of technicolour and shoulder pads make my mouth twitch into a smile, it’s small but it’s there. Leo notices, his eyebrows rose as a lazy grin of teeth and lips brightens his face. I step off of the kerb and lean into his car window, my ears burning with the electric drums of the song as I open my mouth to say something, maybe to tell him to piss off or warn him of what’s happened, I don’t know, but I choke on my words when Leo’s intense gaze meets mine as he repeats more firmly: “Get in”. To be continued….



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