Candy Necklaces

Ashley Vincent has a panic disorder, and she gets an attack every time she feels pressured or upset. The truth is, she isn't very good at protecting herself or defending herself. She knows she's weak, and she's already accepted that, because no one has ever tried to mess with her. No one cared about her enough to do that. But that was before they discovered that she used to be the best friend of the most popular guy in school, Heath Logan.

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1. Candy Necklaces

     Candy necklaces.     

 

     Whenever I was upset, they were always something I could look forward to. After all, he always seemed to know when I was feeling down, and he never failed to give me a candy necklace just to cheer me up.     

 

     But that was when we were younger. When we kids.     

 

     I'm sure I wasn't the only girl in this world whose ever lost a friend. In my case, it was my best friend. We grew apart during high school. It was one of those 'He became popular and now we no longer contact each other' stories. Cliche, yes, but not impossible. I really did lose him to popularity.     

 

     While Heath became the guy, I became no one. And I was okay with that. I blended in with the crowd. I never tried to stand out, never tried to get noticed. I was contented with my peaceful high school days.     

 

     I should have known the peace wouldn't last that long.     

 

     When I arrived to school on Monday morning, instead of being ignored by my peers, I was suddenly put exactly where I didn't want to be - the spotlight.     

 

     "That's her?" someone said out loud. "How's that possible? She's so plain!"    

 

     I blinked, taken aback by the comment. I had no idea why everyone was suddenly talking about me, but I had a feeling I wouldn't be enjoying this day.     

 

     I walked to my locker with my head down. It was hard to ignore their stares when I could feel eyes pointed at me in every direction.     

 

     Suddenly, I was slammed into the lockers with great force. I winced as the pain hit me, and my heart began to pick up speed.     

 

     I found myself locked in an eye contact with Milan Jacobs, the most popular girl in school, and Heath's girlfriend.     

 

     "Ashley Vincent," she smirked. "right?"     

 

     I nodded slowly, wondering what she could possibly want with me.     

 

     "Apparently you were Heath's best friend, right?" she asked sweetly, but I could hear the venom laced in her voice.     

 

     "That was a long time ago," I whispered, my voice cracking at the end.     

 

     "Right, right, so how can you explain this?" she held out her hand, and one of the girls on her side handed her a photograph. She held it up to me, an eyebrow raised in question.     

 

     It was an old picture of me and Heath, taken back when we were in middle school. His arm was around my shoulder, and mine was around his waist. We were both looking at each other with huge smiles on our faces.     

 

     "Where..."     

 

     "I found it in Heath's locker," Milan's lips formed into a straight line. "You've been seeing him behind my back, haven't you?"     

 

     I shook my head in denial. I haven't talked to Heath since we were freshmen. He hasn't even looked at me for the past three years. "No, I haven't. Why would you think that?"     

 

     "If you haven't, then how can you explain this picture?" Milan demanded. She was really overprotective about Heath. I knew - well, everyone knew - she kept a tight grip on him.     

 

     "I - I don't know," I stuttered nervously. "Ask Heath. I have nothing to do with him anymore."     

 

     Milan let my shirt go, and she backed away slowly, her eyes still narrowed on me. "You better be sure about that."      After she left, I leaned against the lockers, my heart beating so loud I could hear it in my ears. I knew it wouldn't be long before the tears started pouring down my face.     

 

     The reason why I always tried to blend in was because I didn't want to deal with people like Milan. I was scared of her, of what she could do to someone like me. I had absolutely no self-confidence, no faith in myself. I shattered as easily as glass.     

 

     I was weak.     

 

     That was also another reason why Heath and I were no longer friends. I couldn't handle his popularity. Whenever he invited me to hang out with his new friends, I always felt suffocated. His friends would look down on me in disdain. Before Heath had even introduced me to them, it seemed as if they already disapproved of my existence.     

 

     Instead of heading to class, I turned around and walked towards the entrance as quickly as I could, while I tried to ignore the whispers and the stares of other students as I passed by.     

 

     Out near the entrance, I could see Heath with two of his friends. I looked down and tried to walk past them without getting noticed.     

 

     "Ashley?"     

 

     My head snapped up. Heath had called me.     

 

     Our eyes met for a second, and the smile on his face disappeared. I looked away and made a beeline towards my car.     

 

     "Ashley, where are you going?" he called out. I ignored him.     

 

     "Dude, do you know her?" one of his friends asked.     

 

     I didn't stick around to hear Heath's reply. I jumped into my car, started the engine and ripped out of the parking lot like I was being chased.     

 

     As soon as I got home, I started trembling. My breaths came up short and my heart was palpitating in my chest. I got out of the car, feeling dizzy.     

 

     I had a panic attack that day.     

 

     ***     

 

     Only my family knew about my panic disorder.     

 

     Well, Heath knew, but right now he was in position to care about that.     

 

     Imagine how people would treat me at school if they found out I had to take antidepressants. Right now if anyone even found out about my disorder any hope I had of going back to normal and blending in again was gone.     

 

     Milan Jacobs knew about my past with Heath. The entire school knew as well. I was going to have to lay low for a few weeks. I didn't want to have an attack in school. Everyone would find out.     

 

     I put the bottle of pills down and left my glass in the sink before I trudged up to my room. The house was empty, seeing as I was the only child of two workaholics. I only get to see my parents in the morning before I leave for school.  

 

     I dropped my bag by the door and slipped my shoes off. For a minute I simply stood there and looked around my room. Nothing had changed much over the last three years. Nothing except for my relationship with Heath.     

 

     I collapsed on my bed, fighting off sleep until I finally gave in and closed my eyes.     

 

     ***     

 

     When I woke up it was dark outside. I looked over at my bedside table to check the alarm clock. It was already seven pm.     

 

     I rubbed my eyes and stretched before reaching over to turn on my lamp. I could hear the vibration of my phone through the silence in my room.     

 

     I had one message from an unknown number.     

 

     Outside your window. It said.     

 

     I immediately turned towards my window. It was closed, but the curtains were pulled back. I walked over to it and cautiously peered outside, not knowing what to expect.     

 

     What I found caught me completely off guard.     

 

     It was a candy necklace.

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