Letting Go

After being brutally abused by her father and outcasted by her classmates, seventeen year old Keller Alvidas is glad and even relieved to spend her last year at Edge-of-The-World, the sleepy small town she grew up in. Everything changes when the Gabriels, a group of orphaned teenage boys arrives. They break all her rules about meeting new people but they too have secrets and when the truth comes out Keller has to decide wether to let go and save herself or to continue to be dragged through everything she wanted to run away from, all for one chance she might never get.

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15. Burnt

Keller's P.O.V

Al's tears wet my shoulder, leaking through my sweater and my shirt within seconds. I wrap my arms around his shoulders and let him sob quietly. His heavy stubble and bloodshot eyes gives the impressoin that he hasn't been sleeping in a long time. I feel terrible for Al, he must've been fighting the pain all this time and we didn't see it. The pictures must've put him over the edge. 

"It wasn't your fault," I whisper after a while. He lifts his head swiftly.

"No, it was. It was completely my fault she died. Can't you see that? She was protecting me, as always, and it killed her!" he screams and goes back to crying on my shoulder. I look around the room at sad eyes and guilty looks.

"She didn't kill herself. She fell down tackling that Jones guy or whatever. It was her choice, you didn't force her to help you. It was never your fault," I finish.

"It was, it was! If only I listened to her... It's just so hard being alone, you wouldn't know that though," Al says venomously.

"What in the world are you talking about?" it's my turn to get angry now,"My mom died when I was twelve and I don't even have good memories of her because she was in the hospital so much! My father didn't  didn't even lift a finger to help me when I growing up, I've never had friends until the five of you came around so I know all about being alone! You've had these guys all your life, they're always here for you! You've never been alone, ever."

"She's right mate, you're not alone, we're here for you," says James and I smile half-heartedly at him. At least he's making an effort.

"We're here now, and we're not leaving anytime soon," adds Ian. Al looks up with tears still lacing his eyelashes and the corners of his mouth quirk up in a small smile.

"Group hug," yells Will. The bed creaks with the weight of the guys being takn off it. They meet each other in the middle of the room and join together in a hug, silently lending each other support. Will says something funny and they break apart laughing. I stand there feeling extra until Al faces me.

"I'm sorry, I was being a jerk. I was only thinking of myself, I forgot what you've been through," he says quietly.

"It's fine, I shouldn't have yelled at you. It's just that you have such great friends, you should remember that," I say.

"I will," says Al as he wraps me up in his arms. I hold him tight and send him all the comfort I have.

"You have us too, remember that," he laughs after we let go. I smile my thanks at him. I take one more peak at the box and I realize what I have to do now.

 

"Do you really think that this'll help him?" wonders James skeptically.

"Positive," I reply with an unsure smile. The plan was to do a little ceromony with the pictures of Alice and everything else the old orphanage gave back, a sort of vigil. We're planning on burning everything to represent to burning away bad memories and only keeping the good ones. Al didn't want to at first but agreed afterwards.

"Did you bring everything?" I ask. James looks over the box carefully and nods his response. I take a deep breath and sit down on the log we set up here on the beach. The bonfire in front of us is huge and hopefully big enough. I kick sand around with my shoes until James takes a seat next to me. He takes something out of his pocket, a small bag of crisps I think, and he offers me some.

"You brought food?" I laugh poping some into my mouth.

"I thought we could stay here for a while, since the weather is nice. I just wanted to bring something in case we got hungry," he shrugs. He was right though, the weather was gorgeous for March. It was bright and sunny and there was a light breeze in the air. I kind of wanted to stay after too.

"Well, then you made the right desicion," I say grabbing some more. I brush my hands off on my jeans and continue drawing in the sand with my shoe.

"You're wearing shoes?" asks James suddenly after a while. I blink and stare at his own feet, free of slippers or shoes.

"Yeah, is there a problem?"

"It's the beach, no one where's shoes on the beach!"

"In March you do."

"Well how're you supposed to stand in the water with shoes on?"

"I'm not planning to stand in the water." He considers my answer.

"Take your shoes off." I untie my laces and step onto the warm sand with bare feet.

"What are we doing?"

"Well, I'm going to teach you a little lesson," he says with a strange smile on his face. Next thing I know James' throws me over his shoulder while I shriek and scream. He doesn't seem to notice and laughs at my efforts. I squirm around until I can see where James is headed, straight for the roar of the ocean. His shoulder jutts into my ribs but I don't really care right now because I'm with James and him arms are around me like that time we were on the roof. The sea gets louder and it knocks me out of my day dream.

"James you better put me down," I warn.

 "Okay," he laughs as he sets me down, right in the water. The water is warm and salty as it seeps into my clothes and in my mouth. An enormous wave knocks me down into the shallow water as sand finds way into my eyes and hair. I whip my head around expecting to find him on the ground laughing but instead he already has his shirt off and running into the deep end. I'm contemplating about swimming in after him guranteeing that I'll never get dry or running back to our spot on the beach. I see James poke his head out of the water and think, I'll worry about getting dry later. I push against the waves and make my way over to where James is floating. His blond hair is wet and plastered to his face and his blue eyes are lit up and bright with joy. He would have taken my breath away if I had any breath still left in my body.

"Now you know that you never wear shoes on the beach, just in case some jerk decides to carry you up and dump you in the ocean," he says.

"Hey, you're the jerk who dumped me in the ocean," I say indignitantly.

"To teach a lesson," he responds.

"Fine, lesson learned," I say giving up. We float and rock in the water for a long time until James speaks again.

"You're very strange," he says almost absentminedly.

"Thanks," I say sarcastically.

"No, not like that. It's just you weren't what I was expecting from a person like you," he says.

"Well, what were you expecting?" I ask facing him.

"Honestly, something else. I've wanted to get to know you since I sat beside you on my first day here, remember?" I look back and remember.

 He takes a deep breath."Well, you're different and special and what I guess I'm trying to say is-"

"Hey guys, we're ready!' yells Ed from the shore. I let out my held breath and curse the interruption.

"We better go," says James sadly. The moment is awkward with our foolish smiles falling and my hopes sinking. A thought hits me.

"I'll race you," I say and my feet hit the water before I can even hear James' reply.

 

We make it back to spot on the beach dripping wet. I tie my hair up in a loose ponytail and roll up my soggy jeans. I borrowed one of Ian's old t-shirts that he found in his car and it hangs loosely off my body. The massive  fire in front of us leaps high into the air, it's so warm that I strain not to warm my hands in front of it. 

"Who wants to go first?" asks Ed. James raises his hand and starts. The roar of the ocean mixes with our little speeches.

"To Alice, you were always taking care of us even though most of us were not blood related. We miss you," he walks up and puts some pictures in the fire. Will steps in front next.

"To Alice, you always made one hell of an omlette. You're always going to be missed." Again he steps up to the fire and lays more pictures into the heat of the fire.

"To Alice, you always stood up for what was right even when we didn't have the guts to." Ian lays more photos into the devouring fire.

"To Alice, I miss seeing your smile everyday." Ed takes slow steps to the fire and reluctantly throws them in. Me next.

"To Alice, although I never knew you I really wish I did." I take one more peak at the picture of her wide unseeing eyes before the fire eats them up.

'To Alice, thank you fot taking care of me when no one else did. I love you." Al takes a deep breath and throws in the last of the memories before stepping back inside our little circle. We let the fire eat up the last remains of the pictures and the memories before we put out it out. It's nighttime by the time we're done.

"Thank you, for doing this guys. It means a lot," says Al after a while.

"We're here for you man! We have your back," says Ian. We walk back to the orphanage in silence, the vigil still deep in memory. Once we step inside we go our separate ways to our bedrooms.

I change into my pajamas and click onto my laptop and read the local news. I don't normally do this but I heard people on the beach talking about a certain article on it. I google Edge-of-the-World news and tons of articles pop up. My breath stops and I drop the laptop onto the ground. All the articles have the same title:

Local Abuser Returns To Edge-of-the-World

Gerald, my father is coming back. my throat constricts as I try to breathe and I'm frantically grasping at my chest. It's no use, my lungs feel burnt. Stars form before my eyes and the world goes fuzzy.

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