Cold Water
Author: AnnmarieM

Chapter 3
The lady dost protest too much

If I were a character from a movie, I would be the lion from the Wizard of Oz; the one looking for courage, because at the moment I don’t even have enough of it to pick up a damn phone. But then again, I don’t have a tail or paws or fur either. Maybe I need to stop comparing myself to fictional characters. It’s insulting to the lion, either way.

The wretched contraption is sitting only a tantalisingly short distance away, mocking me from the table just across the bed. Just a little stretch and I could reach it and call home, tell them where I am and ask them to come and pick me up. Then I would be back to square one, where I started from; living with my three personal demons older sisters. I consider Jenny’s words and mull over the pros and cons of staying here for a little while longer. Anything would be better than going ‘home’.

It’s raining outside. The clock illuminates a bright green ‘5:24 am’ after a long, dreamless night and I’m not surprised because I’m used to getting up early in the morning. I used to love getting up to watch the sunrise, to see those pretty shades of rose pink and light indigo splayed across the sky. The habit never left. I liked cloud-watching too; picking out shapes from the white masses that hung, greyscale, in the sky. I used to imagine Heaven would be up there somewhere, a huge castle on top of the clouds. It turns out though that clouds are only water, nothing else.

I perch on the edge of the window sill of my room. Although my body still aches, it’s a bearable kind of pain easily subdued by an aspirin. It’s cold in my borrowed pyjamas, but it’s worth it. The trees can be heard rustling gently in the distance and rain dances on the rooftops. I stare out through the fogged up glass into the misty morning, seeing the pampered estate of newly built houses looming in the dullness. I trace my dainty fingertips along the line of the window pane, eyeing those raindrops that cling to the glass and slide down slowly, like tears. I remember I used to do this once, a long time ago on those stupid road trips we took into the middle of nowhere, when all five of us simply piled into the car and drove in any direction just because we could. Sometimes, it would rain while we were driving. I would stare outside in wonderment and count the trees that flashed past, race the raindrops that trickled across the glass, only half listening to the pointless conversation going on around me.

“Can we get a dog?” Had been a hot topic of discussion, started by a 6 year old Dawn. Her grey eyes had been alight with excitement as she sat wedged between Faith and I. Our father, the irresponsible pushover, had chuckled and asked:

“What sort of dog?” which had caused mother to immediately send him a pointed look that said clearly ‘it’s never going to happen.’ After that, I had tuned out. Dawn became so excited by the concept of getting a puppy that she rambled aimlessly on about them for the whole journey, not seeming to care that no one was listening to her. That was just the way our family worked. There was Faith; the eldest, the calm and the serious one. Then Lily who was second eldest, fiery and easily angered. Dawn was the cute, innocent and shy one. And finally there was me: the odd one out.

It’s funny because even though we never had a destination in mind, we always found somewhere perfect in the end.

It’s pathetic but sometimes, these memories of a better place and a better time depress me. I have to leave my post at the window and amble quietly out of room, in a shrewd attempt to distract myself. I decided long ago that I suffer from the same imperfections the rest of humanity seems to. Just like everyone else, I never appreciated what I had until it was gone. And it seems that it is one mistake I never learn from.

When I next look up I find myself in the kitchen, unsure of how I had gotten there. I lean against the window pane and listen to the sounds outside, my mind blank. I’ve been downstairs for a grand total of half an hour before I am abruptly awoken from this meditative-like state by the steady slap slap slap of slippers on tiled floor. It’s too early for people to get up already I think, reluctant to socialise.

“Hope?” A small yawn follows. “What are you doing up so early?” Forcing my features out of a fixed grimace and into something more neutral, I turn around.

“Ah, morning Jenny,” I greet. “Sorry, I couldn’t sleep, so I came down here.”

There’s a knowing look in her eyes that scares me a little. “I see,” she says. “How are you feeling?”

 “Still a little sore and my head hurts a bit, but a lot better thanks.”

 “That’s nice to hear, but you should probably rest.”

“I will later,” I promise.

“Okay.” She gives me an understanding smile, which irritates me. People can’t be kind and caring and happy all the time. Trying to keep the annoyance from showing, I sit down at the table.

Jenny retrieves a small tub from a cupboard above the fridge. “It’s my special fancy hot chocolate,” she winks at me. “Please don’t tell Ash about it though, I want to keep it for more than a day.”

A ghost of a smile flits across my face. “I won’t,” I say as she prepares the drinks. A few minutes later she shuffles over to the table, setting the steaming mugs down. I take a sip.

“Do you like it?”

“This is the first time I’ve tried hot chocolate. It’s nice.”

“I’m glad you think so.”

I take another sip. It’s deliciously sweet. “Do you always get up at this time?” I ask.

“Only during the school term. I usually get up to make breakfast. But this morning…I just couldn’t sleep.”

“I know the feeling.”  I turn to stare down into my drink moodily, resisting the urge to fidget as an awkward silence ensues. Silence has become my companion over the years, but not this sort of silence. In the end, when it stretches on for a few minutes, I try to think of something – anything – to say to break it. I finally come up with: “Jenny, do you have a job?”

“I used to,” she admits. “I was a primary school teacher, but I resigned about a year ago. I just don’t think it’s what I want to do in life.”

 “Then what do you want to do in life?”

“I honestly haven’t got a clue,” she chuckles slightly. “You probably think I should know by now, considering my age.”

“You’re not that old,” I murmur, but she just shakes her head.

“Most women by now have already had their careers or have reached their dreams, but I’m still searching. I don’t mind though, if I never find what I’m looking for. I’m happy now, as I am.”

“And you’re satisfied with what you have? You never wish for something…more?”

The smile is still there, but it’s more wistful than anything else.  It highlights the aged worry lines that crease her forehead, and her eyes are suddenly dull. “Of course I do sometimes, everyone does. It’s just part of being human.”

I sigh quietly. “Well, being human sucks.”

“Unhappiness is just a state of mind, you know.”

 “No, it’s not just all in our heads,” I say. “Being like this all the time gets tiring.”

There is a glint of sadness in her eyes. “Then let others in for a change. From what I’ve heard, you could do with a break from your own mind.”

I smirk humourlessly. “You’re right about that. After the fifteen year relationship with my sanity, we’ve finally decided to split up.” She laughs. “I’ve been waiting to use that joke for ages. Sorry, I’m a hopeless cynic.”

“But you still have a lot of life to live. I doubt you’ll be a cynic forever.”

“I hope not,” I frown, looking away. “I think I scare people off.”

“You don’t. But it would be nice to see you smile more, dear.”  I sip contently at the long-forgotten hot chocolate that has turned cool, acknowledging her with a nod. “How did you come to be this way?” she asks.

“Practice.”

And then something finally seems to click behind those confused, dark eyes. “Hope,” she asks hesitantly. “Where are your parents?”

I stutter for a moment, unsure what to say, but I realise in the end that it’s pointless because she seems to know anyway. “I don’t know,” I mumble. “But hopefully Heaven, if it does exist.”

In the end everyone has secrets; some are just darker than others.

“I’m sorry…” the whisper breaks the peaceful quiet and I internally cringe. Here it comes. The pitying looks, the fake comforting words, the false promises that things are going to turn out okay that no one really believes but cling to for hope anyway. She doesn’t understand.

She opens her mouth to speak again, but I cut her off before she can even start. “Just don’t say anything, please.” I don’t want to hear it. Shakily I stand, the chair scraping noisily backwards and I hear a distant thud as something – oww, on second thoughts my leg – knocks the table. For a moment, my gaze accidentally raises. Jenny’s eyes are pained, wearied by age. I leave the kitchen as quickly as possible.

It’s not a matter of why you’re running away, it’s how long you can keep running for.

 

*****

 

Breakfast is an awkward ordeal.  I have no choice but to come downstairs and pretend everything is fine and that my conversation with Jenny only a few hours ago never happened. She acts her usual self; checking my temperature, frowning a lot and prodding me in various places asking if it hurts or not. I can see it easily though – the tightness around her eyes, the glance she shoots me when she thinks I’m not looking. Maybe he’s just unobservant, but it is a wonder that Ash does not notice it as well.

I escape the kitchen as soon as possible and try to make a daring escape up the stairs, feeling traumatised by the recent events and unwilling to talk to anybody. However it seems whenever I am at my most antisocial, someone always comes along with no respect for my privacy and bursts my personal space bubble. Ash catches me before I can dart up the stairs and insists on walking with me. He seems to take my silence as a ‘yes’.  

“Well,” I start, trying to get away but failing miserably. “I’m sick. It looks like we can’t go out today, what a pity.” Maybe he’ll take offense from my blatant lack of enthusiasm.

 “Oh, but we can’t just give up that easily,” he says in a voice that is clearly mocking. “Haven’t you ever broken the rules before?”

‘Miscreant’ my head screams. I ignore it, too used to voices inside my head, and instead mutter: “We should listen to Jenny and stay inside,” like the ‘good’ little girl I am.

And he laughs, because apparently the idea of obeying rules is something unheard of. I wonder briefly if this boy has a criminal record.

“You’re no fun!” he cries.

“You hardly know me.”

“Well you won’t tell me anything about yourself! And I was okay with that, so won’t you at least just let me show you around?”

 “Are you trying to guilt me into sneaking out of the house with you?”

“No. Technically, you owe me. I saved your life, remember?”

“Oh, so it’s blackmail.”

 “No. It’s settling the score.”

And, although my aching limbs protest, I realise that he’s not going to give up easily. A look out of the window also proves that it is a nice, sunny day. “Fine,” I sigh in exasperation. “But, how are we going to sneak out?”

“Through the front door.”

A little while later I find myself standing outside on the street, mummified in a large, borrowed coat despite the fact that it’s summer. No one had stopped us as we simply walked out of the front door; very anticlimactic in my opinion.  It seems breaking rules is overrated, like most things.

Ash ambles up to me casually and says: “Well, I told you so didn’t I? Simple.”

I bite back a smart remark. “Let’s just go,” I say, while trying hard not to grit my teeth in aggravation.

“Ok, fine.” He waves me off and, not bothering to wait for me, begins to walk.

 I grudgingly follow. As strange as it is, I’m suddenly reminded of all the desperate girls at my school who would have paid to have this chance. And then there’s me, who had to be forced into it. Oh the irony, I chuckle.

“Is something funny?” he asks.

“No.”

“Fine, be difficult.” He rolls his eyes.  “So where do you go to school?”

 “It’s not a big school, or a good one. You won’t have heard of it.”

He laughs. “I assumed you went to some sort of posh, snooty private school.”

 “And I figured you just dropped out of school completely,” I mutter under my breath.

“I’m sorry, did you say something?”

I fake an innocent, rather transparent smile. “Nope, nothing at all. Now, where are we going?”

He turns right sharply. “You’ll see,” is all he says. And then the rows of dollhouses, the clean, neat street with its tidy front gardens, small shrubs and parked, shiny toy cars end abruptly. And where the road ends, the field starts.

The grass is brittle and dry, crunching beneath our shoes like fractured bones as we trample across it and leave the street, and reality, behind us. Wildflowers flourish everywhere in clumps, creating a green and yellow carpet. The sides of the meadow are enclosed by thick foliage which thin at one end into a vaguely distinguishable path. It is a perfect day. Above us the sun escapes the wispy clouds and shines brightly while a light breeze plays with our hair.

“This field,” I breathe. “It’s beautiful.”

“On days like this,” he replies softly. “It really is.”

The grass reaches up to my ankles and I like how it feels brushing across my jean-clad legs. We wade through the green sea and somewhere nearby there are birds chirping in jubilance. A lush hill looms up ahead. Strangely the grass there is trimmed short, as if the person doing the mowing simply got bored and left. I used to wonder if I could do that with school, simply wake up one day and decide not to go anymore. At the time, I had been accustomed to missing most of my classes anyway. It had been in the ‘after-era’ when frankly, everything had seemed pointless. I had only stopped my routine of skipping class when one of my teachers had threatened me with the mortifying possibility of weekly appointments with the school counsellor.

Poke.

I snap out of my thoughts abruptly and swivel around. “What’s up with you?” he asks. We stop at the base of the hill.

“There’s nothing ‘up’ with me.”

“What were you thinking about just now?”

“Broken mowers and missing class,” I reply honestly.

You missing class?” he raises an eyebrow patronisingly. “I thought you didn’t break rules.”

“I used to skive all the time, you know.”

 “I don’t believe you,” he jeers. I feel insulted.

“You really don’t give me much credit.”

“And I get the feeling that you don’t like me very much.” He smirks that infuriating, cocky smirk and as much as I would love to agree with his observation, my pride refuses to.  

So instead I say: “Don’t smirk at me like that” and in reply he asks:

“Why not?”

I suppose you could say it’s the beginning of war. Well, not war exactly, it’s more just a competition. Like a chess game, except in real life. One false move and everything comes tumbling down.

He starts walking again when I simply glare holes into the ground and don’t answer. I follow, making sure to walk beside him rather than behind him and I can tell that he has noticed.

“So,” he says. “Are you still feeling okay?”

“Fine.” I ignore the angry protest of my limbs and their pleas for more aspirin.

“That’s good, because technically I’m responsible for you.”

“I don’t need a baby sitter. I told you I’m fine.”

He waves a hand lazily in my direction. “Good for you. Now, how long did you say you’ll be staying here, again?”

I feel slightly insulted by the obvious implication that he wants me to leave, but I suppose I should have expected it. “Don’t worry, as soon as possible,” I say. Yes, back to books and dark bedrooms and days spent staring at the ceiling hiding from my sisters. Can’t wait.

But then he surprises me. “Oh,” he says in that casual, laid back tone of his. “I didn’t mean you had to leave. If you want, the offer’s still open to stay here if you don’t want to go back to…wherever you came from.”

“Really?” I question warily. “I thought we didn’t like each other.”

 You don’t like me, not the other way around,” he says. Damn him. It makes me sound like a bad person when he puts it like that.

“I never said I didn’t like you,” I try to salvage the remains of my dignity. “I mean, I suppose I might owe you my life.”

 “You say it like it’s a bad thing.”

I grimace. “Maybe it is.”

A look of confusion passes across his face. “You wanted to die?” he asks carefully. This time there is concern in his eyes coupled with apprehension. It makes me feel powerful.

“No, of course not.”

 “What was your plan then?”

“To become a hermit and live off squirrels.”

He snorts before bursting into loud, open laughter and it sounds kind of nice. Then before I know it, I’m chuckling quietly too which is something miraculous yet strange in itself. My own laugh sounds odd, alien and uncertain in my ears and it’s even worse because I think I must be laughing at my own joke, which wasn’t even that funny, but it also feels nice because I haven’t laughed properly in so long.

“Good one,” he says to me with a grin once he has calmed down, and I smile a little too.

“Thanks, I guess. So, does this mean we’re friends?”

 “I thought we’d already gone over all of this yesterday.”

I think for a moment, before sticking out my hand. “Do you think we could just start all over again?”

 “Sure,” he smiles, shaking it. “Hi, I’m Ash, nice to meet you.”

“Hope, nice to meet you too.”

Ah, much less confusing. He leads me across and past the hill, past the colonies of yellow dandelion flowers and the occasional family of buttercups. I can hear crickets chirping from the long grass. Someone once said to me ‘the more crickets chirp, the younger they die.’ It’s a morbid saying, one of my favourites.  

We walk for a few more minutes and I still don’t even know where we are going. It doesn’t matter much. These are my few days of freedom and I want to enjoy them. I miss being happy. And it almost feels nice to be sharing this silence with somebody else for once, even if it’s not the ideal somebody. Even if this freedom is only temporary, I can make the most of it.

He leads me to the very end of the meadow, until we reach the fringe of trees that border it. They thin in one area and a manmade path can be seen carved clearly through them. “Stop here,” Ash tells me. In a moment, he has vanished from my side and I can sense him standing directly behind me.

“What are you doing?” I ask in confusion.

But he never answers. Instead he puts his hands on my shoulders, leans in and mutters: “Close your eyes,” in my ear.

“Why?”

“It’s a surprise,” is the only answer he gives. I’m cautious at first, but I know he has no motive to harm me and comply with a defeated sigh. “Good,” he says. “Now we walk. I’ll guide you, just keep your eyes closed or you’ll ruin it.” I feel his hands guiding me forwards. I take a few steps and hesitate. He seems to sense my apprehension and I can imagine him rolling his eyes. “Trust me,” he says, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world.

 I search blindly in the darkness for something to cling onto and find there’s nothing there. I feel his hands on my shoulders nudging me forwards again and this time I obey them, almost expecting to walk into a tree. I never do. He leads me forwards like this for several minutes and I can hear the twigs and the rotting leaves cracking and crunching beneath our shoes. I put my hands out in front of me, trying in vain to feel any obstructions. A few times I almost trip and I’m scared that he’ll get distracted and accidentally let go, sending me tumbling into the dirt, but he never does.

And then I feel a slight wind whistling through my hair and the crunching beneath my feet suddenly sounds different – it’s the crunching of grass. He continues to lead me forwards and I keep my eyes closed, listening intently. There are birds chirping somewhere. The sound of the crickets is suddenly more distant and I can also hear something else; something quiet, gentle, serene. Water.

We both stop. I open my eyes and my breath catches.

The scene before me is stunning.

Stretching out in a vast expansion of blue is a lake. The water is a deep azure, shimmering and glinting under the sun. I can see gentle ripples lapping at the grassy bank in a steady rhythm, like a heartbeat. Right in the middle of the lake is a small island, two large trees hanging over the edge of the land.

“It’s…wow, it’s pretty amazing,” I breathe, causing him to grin beside me. We are standing on the grassy bank, our shoes inches away from the water lapping gently at the family of rounded pebbles that make up the bank.

“It’s called Cleadon Creek,” he informs me. “It’s named after the village.” In my opinion, it should be the other way around. I stare out over the water, watching in fascination as it glistens.

“Do you come here often?”

He nods. “Sure, especially in the summer. Sometimes you can see swans here.”

I drag my fingers gingerly across the surface, feeling the prickle of cold water. “It’s a natural lake, right?”

“Yup. In fact, you can even swim in it.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, and it’s a good fishing spot.”

The water is pretty and pure and untainted, I think to myself. It’s something I used to wish I could be. It reminds me of legends, myths with grand castles sporting numerous turrets and moats like giant, coiled serpents. Every great castle has a lake, or a moat at least.

“Ash?” I point towards the middle of the lake, at the small, sheltered island with its shrubs and oddly shaped trees. “What’s that?”

“That island’s been there as long as the lake,” he explains. “But I have no idea where it came from or why it’s there.” Compared to the rest of the lake, the island looks out of place. Its trees are bare, all except for the biggest one which hangs, or rather droops, sullenly over its own banks while it’s maze of roots provide homes for moorhens and ducks.

“It looks a little bare,” I comment and he nods in agreement.

“Look,” he points at something. “See those? They’re stepping stones.” I follow his gaze and notice the small, mossy surfaces of rocks that protrude from the water like flat turtle shells.

“Stepping stones?” I question. “For what?”

“To get to the island. I used to go there all the time with my father when I was young. It’s actually quite a peaceful place.”

“They’re not natural as well, are they?”

 “No, they’re not. Someone put them in a long time ago.” He takes a step forward and bends down, fingers ghosting over the water. “It’s not too cold today,” he decides, then turns to peer up at me. “If you like, we could go there now.”

 “Isn’t that a little dangerous?”

 “Scared, are you?”

“No way!” Damn pride. It gets me into these sorts of situations and then leaves me stranded to fend for myself.

“Right, of course you’re not,” he grins deviously and it’s obvious he can see through my bluff. I fold my arms in indignation.

“Just show me what to do and I’ll try it,” I say.

He straightens up, running his fingers through his messy hair. “Fine. In that case, I’ll be giving you your first lesson in stone-hopping.”

“Stone-hopping?”

He shrugs sheepishly. “Well, we had to name it something.”

“Right.”

“Don’t worry,” he adds. “It’s perfectly safe. Even if you fall off, the water’s not too deep and besides, I think I’ve got some experience in saving your life,” he winks at me and it’s infuriating to no end. But before I can contradict him he bends his knees, pushes off hard and springs up, making quite an impressive jump onto the first stone. He repeats the process and lands on the second stone, leaving the first one open. He spins gracefully and looks back at me smugly. “Your turn.”

It can’t be too hard if he managed to do it, I try to comfort myself. ‘But’ my traitorous common sense decides to point out, ‘there’s a difference between him and someone like you who can’t even get a C grade in PE.’ Screw common sense. It gives terrible advice. With a sigh I bend my knees and try to focus on the stepping stone. It’s not that far away, really. Anyone with basic coordination and relatively long legs could reach it. And so, with that thought, I push off from the pebbly ground and I fling myself through the air.

I reach the first stone easily, to my surprise. I let out a sigh of relief when I feel my feet hitting hard rock and I straighten up, brushing the dark strands out of my eyes. “Not bad for a beginner,” he approves. Then, as if he’s just looking for a chance to show off, he leaps elegantly to the next stone, spinning again to watch my jump. I have something to prove. I manage the next jump easily as well. Not perfectly or agilely or gracefully like him, but I don’t fall into the water and that’s good enough.

My luck runs out quickly.

The third stepping stone is further away. Of course Ash had made it look easy, but he has the advantage of being athletic and right now I’m not even at full health…why am I being put through this torture? However in the end it’s my miscalculation allying with my impulsiveness that is my downfall.

I feel my feet touch the edge of the stone before I realise something is wrong. I slip, my stomach lurches and my breath catches before suddenly I am falling through thin air as I let out a strangled scream. It’s not like those stereotypical thriller movies at all. Time doesn’t stop and my heart doesn’t skip a beat; it’s quite boring, really. It’s over in a second and I don’t even realise what’s happened before a horrible coldness consumes me and suddenly I’m underwater where it’s muddy and murky and I can’t see anything. And it’s freezing.

My clothes drag me down, but my natural instincts kick in automatically and I flail and thrash my arms and legs, dizzy and disorientated. My precious oxygen escapes in a string of bubbles and I claw at the water to try and follow them. Thank god humans float. I somehow manage to find my way to the surface and I thrust my head upwards, up into the beautiful sunlight and the air which I gasp for greedily.

I wheeze and take in deep breathes, relief washing over me as I tread water and make big splashes. I’ve never been a great swimmer. I try to calm my racing heart and everything around me is blurry because of the lake water in my eyes. Finally, I catch sight of the offending stepping stone right in front of me along with a pair of trainers. I crane my head, still gasping and splashing, to see messy hair and a smug smirk that clearly has a condescending ‘amateur’ written all over it.

“Need saving again?” he squats on the stone so that I can see the amusement on his face.

 “I’m fine,” I assure him forcefully through gritted teeth, trying to hide the fact that the water is still freezing cold and I’m shivering. Is that a piece of lake weed wrapped around my leg? With a scowl, I manoeuvre myself in the water and kick hard, doggy-paddling it back to the bank. He also makes his way back, the same way we’d both come, a triumphant grin on his face.

I drag myself out of the water, stumbling onto the grassy banks, gasping for breath while my saturated clothes weigh me down and threaten to topple me over. My head pounds, my limbs ache. Suddenly a hand appears in my line of sight. I recognise it as his hand and I force myself to stumble ahead without his help. He’s standing a few paces in front of me, smirking as though me almost drowning had been funny.

“Are you okay?” he asks, feigning concern. I collapse onto my back, breathing deeply.

“Just peachy thanks,” I gripe. “I thought you said it wasn’t dangerous.”

He calmly sits down beside me. “Hey, you should’ve been more careful.”

You were the one who suggested it in the first place.”

“Well, you listened to me!”

I stare at him incredulously. “So it’s my fault?”

“I wouldn’t say all of it was your fault but…”

“Can we just go back?” I sigh in irritation and cut him off, trying to find the will to move. My arms and legs do not respond; traitors. I swear my conscience is recruiting.

“Hope?” I give him the silent treatment. “Are you actually okay?”

My limbs still won’t move. “Oh I’m just great,” I snap. “You know, apart from the fact that my head feels like it’s being split open, I can’t move, my arm hurts and – what is that slimy thing on my leg?”

He laughs as he reaches over and gingerly picks it up, dangling it in the air. “Lake weed, apparently.” Then he stands up and I envy how easy it is for him. His face, complete with gradually-becoming-insufferable smirk, appears over me and he offers me a hand. It’s my pride, or sleeping here for the night.

Although grudging, I accept the offered hand and with impressive strength he pulls me to my feet. I feel dizzy and stumble, but he steadies me. My wet clothes cling to my small frame and although the sun is beating down on our backs, I’m shivering.

“Here, take this.” I’m surprised when he strips off his jacket and offers it to me. There is a genuine concerned look on his face which catches me off guard.

“No, I’m fine.” I try to refuse the offer but my shivers betray me.

He rolls his eyes and despite my protest drapes the jacket over my shoulders anyway. “You’re my responsibility, remember?” he says. I pull the jacket tighter around me. It’s warm, much too big for me and feels lovely. “Better?”  I nod uncertainly.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” I ask. “Your jacket’s going to smell like lake water after this.”

“I’m willing to take that risk.”

 “Thank you, I guess,” I offer him a small, nervous smile.

“So you can smile,” he notes. “You should do it more often.”

I blush slightly, but don’t saying anything else. I suddenly feel warm inside; a comfortable and pleasant sensation, one which I have to convince myself is only due to the jacket on my shoulders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A/N: Hi all! So, I know you're probably like 'what the hell? I completely forgot she even existed' and I know haven't really been fair to the people who actually like this story, so I'm sorry. but just to make it clear: I'm NOT going to be posting the whole book up here. In my year break from WOP, I finally self-published this book on the amazon kindle store and smashwords, and I would really appreciate it if you went and took a look at it.

 

The whole book is 65,000 words long in total, about 150 A4 pages. By clicking the 'buy this book' link you can buy it on the amazon kindle store for your computer, phone or kindle.

Thank you to everyone for being so supportive :)  

 

Oh and to give you a little taster of what actually happens in the book (and to prove that there IS a plot) here is small excerpt from chapter 13 for you:

 

 

 

 

He’s waiting at the bus stop for me, and his eyes light up when he sees that I’ve come. “That’s twice now,” he smirks. “I must be doing something right.”

I look away, biting my lip. “I haven’t told Ash,” I say.

“Good. He doesn’t need to know.”

“I’m still not sure about this."

“Then why did you come?”

I just shrug. “Come on, are we going to do something or not?”

“Sure,” he agrees, smiling. “I was thinking noodles today.”

“Fine. As long as you’re paying.”

“Of course.” He leans down, and with a sudden bolt of panic I realise that he’s trying to kiss me on the lips this time. I duck out of the way, so that he misses.  He gives me an annoyed look.

“Dinner only,” I say simply. He rolls his eyes, but doesn’t argue back.

When I come back later that night, I lie to Ash again, telling him I’ve been with Claire. The guilt is still there, festering in me like an open wound, and I can barely look him in the eyes. I know that what I am doing is wrong. I don’t even understand why I’m doing it. I need to stop this, I tell myself, and silently promise that I will.

Maybe then I’ll stop feeling like a traitor.

 


 

 

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