To Feel Alive

Louise has never been lucky in life, losing her best friend and mother within a year, and now has a Dad who barely recognises her existence. All she has left is Cody, with whom her relationship is strictly friendly, and a small but successful business where she anonymously helps girls decide whether a boy is worth dating. But one day she receives an email from Maisie, the most popular girl at school who she tries to avoid at all costs, asking for her help. The choices that follow will make life as she knows it unrecognisable.


5. Chapter Five


It appeared I was not going to be allowed my afternoon nap in any way. As I walked the short distance back home, I discovered the annoyingly sleek Mercedes was parked back in the drive way and by the smell of burning that greeted me as I opened the door, I knew Dad was home.

“Hello?” he called out as I tried to shut the door quietly behind me and slip in unannounced. I sighed as I failed at completing this.

“Hi Dad,” I said over the sizzling noises coming from the kitchen. He walked through into the entry way smiling at me in a defeatist manner and I made no attempt to even match the expression.

“Good to see you, kiddo,” he said, and I rolled my eyes.

“If it was that good to see me, I’d think you’d make more of an effort to do so,” I said, dropping my bag down onto the floor and kicking off my shoes. I made to get past him and make my way upstairs but he stopped me, holding me by the shoulders firmly and forcing me to look into his faint green eyes. Everything about him was uncertain, even the way his grey hairline preceded into a dark brown.

“Listen, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have left you this long. I should have called.”

“Yeah maybe,” I said, laughing exasperatedly. “Fifteen days since the last contact! And you didn’t even tell me you were coming home!”

“You know my work is very changeable…”

“And demanding and tough and I need to accept this – I know Dad; I’ve heard it all before. Now can I please go to bed?” I said, rolling my eyes.

“No, I…well I wanted to make dinner for you but I mucked it up a little. So I think we should go to Penny’s! It’s a tradition!”

“I don’t exactly think we’ve had much respect for traditions ever since Mum left,” I said, frowning.

“Come on, Louise. For me. Please?” I stepped away from him, taken aback.

“Why do you deserve anything from me?”

“Because I’m your Dad,” he said bluntly, as if it were obvious.

“You may be half the reason I’m alive, but it takes more than that to be my Dad,” I scowled, folding my arms.

“Well I’m at least doing a better job than your mother,” he said, tone rising as a vein in his forehead began to pulse venomously.


“I’m still here, aren’t I?” he said, throwing his arms up.

“Every couple months,” I sniped.

“Oh God, Louise, you don’t like to make things easy do you?” he said, turning away and placing his hands to his head.

“I learnt that from you; the guy who can’t even cook pasta without making a mess of it.”

“Okay, I’ve had enough of you being all sarcastic. I have authority over you,” he said, facing me again, his face severely reddened as he pointed a threatening finger in my direction. I stared at it, and then slowly looked up to his eyes as he froze in that position.

“Only for another year. Then I’m gone,” I said coldly, and walked right past him and up the stairs, slamming my door behind me and throwing myself onto my bed, scrunching duvet in my wrists in an attempt to release my anger.

When he’d come home from being away before, I’d been so overwhelmed somebody was finally back to take care of me I hadn’t cared how useless he was at being a parent. I’d grown older, and I’d gradually noticed how other kid’s fathers actually stuck around, and attended recitals and award ceremonies and sports games, but for some reason I’d been stuck with a loser who hid behind an expensive suit as he flew around the world making decisions he wasn’t entitled to make. I hated him and that was the truth.


I finally managed to lull myself to sleep as I lay there, engrossed with heated thoughts towards my Dad that were eventually suppressed so I got a few hours rest. I showered and took a great deal of time drying my hair, enjoying the tickling sensation as the heat brushed the back of my bare neck, and warmed me up in contrast to the chilly surroundings; when Dad was home, he refused to even acknowledge the concept of central heating – “That’s what jumpers are for!” Idiot.

I checked my email and found a request from Sasha, who had indeed, as I’d expected, asked for my help in inspecting Jake; the obnoxious football player from home room. I’d have to look past how much he already annoyed me and be passive in my observation, looking for merits rather than flaws.

I replied to her saying that I’d of course accept for a charge of thirty dollars, and as I idly sat there staring at my inbox, and my conscience told me I had two essays I should be doing, I received another email to my Anonymous Town Whore account. From Maisie.

Hey ATW,

Thanks for your help with Brody. I’m upset now but hopefully I’ll feel better soon. I’ve sort of asked for this girl Louise’s help; you probably don’t know her. She’s really pretty, but quite private, and she was Lily’s friend. I can guess you know who she is now, but anyway, she seems nice though I don’t think she likes me that much. I never really liked her, but she knows pain like nobody else in this town, and my friends are acting all strange around me. Particularly Vanessa.

I got her to pretend for me that she was the one who’d seen Brody and some girl hook up at that party, because I didn’t want to confess to using this service. I guess I don’t have much of a reputation left to lose but anyway, she’s been really distant. She barely even gave me a hug when I told her.

I guess the reason I’m emailing is that I need a friend. I haven’t had a real one for a while. I sort of hid behind Brody, and my looks too. But I’m quite insecure. I feel like this whole thing has stripped me of everything that made me…me. I’m paying you fifteen dollars to reply. I know that’s not one of your listed services, and it’s sort of low of me to be buying companionship but I’m desperate. If you don’t reply, I get the message, but if you could help me, I’d really appreciate it.


I was left stunned as I sat back from my computer, contemplating all that she had told me. She’d recognised my dislike for her, and I gathered that in some ways I’d been the last person she thought she could turn to that wouldn’t completely crush her status in school, and I’d disappointed. I’d left her hopeless.

So now she wanted to charge an online service she’d openly mocked to talk to her. Like a prostitution service for friends. It seemed a little extreme, and almost laughable if I hadn’t seen the state Maisie had been in earlier on the bathroom floor, but nevertheless it was easy money.

Additionally, Maisie seemed a lot less bitchy across email than in real life. I could most probably tolerate her, combined with the fact I was far more eloquent and able to disguise my distaste towards someone by the use of the written word.  I hit reply and quickly typed in;

Submit the first transaction and you just got yourself a friend who can be trusted.

Love Always,


I sat back smiling and went downstairs in a far happier mood than I had been on my previous ascent. Dad looked up from the sofa, face paling as he saw me. “I’ll make us some dinner,” I said casually, crossing to the kitchen and opening the fridge I constantly kept well stocked.

“Oh, thanks,” he said, as I began to draw out ingredients. I may not like him, but I was hungry and I didn’t want him leaving just yet.

I secretly, in the darkest corner of my mind, found comfort in the idea he was just sleeping in the other room whenever he was home, suppressing my irrational fear that the customers I served at the gardening shop would come to find me in the night, armed with their trowels and spades.

We ate our spaghetti Bolognese whilst exchanging small talk strictly about work and school, and then said goodnight to each other as we returned to our previous positions; at my laptop and on the sofa, watching the game. At least this way we wouldn’t kill each other.

It was just how I aimed to help Maisie; by keeping a considerable distance from her by way of cyberspace, and yet not completely isolating her from my help. I wasn’t a people person in any way, which was why ATW suited me so well, and I was about to extend my amenities one step further. By helping those I affected by the news I so readily delivered. Doing what I always vowed never to get involved in by sticking to only becoming truly passionate towards relationships inside books; I was going to be extending beyond the happily ever after stage. 

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