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.


2. Chapter Two


I didn’t want to go to the party as I got home from school that Friday afternoon. I had two essays to write, TV shows to catch up on and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s in the fridge calling my name; but this was my job, as unconventional as it appeared. I showered, trying to allow myself to forget about all that I’d be missing by going to Anna Rover’s party. She was loud, cocky and dumb, and I attempted to maintain a ten metre distance from people like her at all times.

I sat at my laptop with my hair wrapped in a towel to dry as I tapped the start of an essay and sent a follow-up to Rachel, whose potential date, Louis Moskawin, who I’d talked to in English today, had proved to be very sweet, and definitely appropriate for her, though he’d blushed and giggled a little too much; enough for me to briefly question his sexuality.

I shook my blonde hair out, lacing my fingers through the loose curls, pursing my lips as I tried to decide whether it needed straightening or not whilst simultaneously suppressing the urge to grab the ice cream from the fridge and abandon duty and make up my reply; which would be a first.

I pulled on a figure hugging, pink, sparkly dress, – just as bad as it sounded - decided against shaving the faint stubble on my legs and went in favour of tights before I finally styled my hair in an up-do. I chose my least uncomfortable pair of heels, begrudgingly slipped them on my feet, and finished my makeup before I was finally ready to go with fifteen minutes to spare in which I would complete my essay.

Anna lived in the richer part of town which was a short ten minute walk from mine that always seemed far longer on the way back. I joined crowds of teenagers on the street, swarming towards her magnificently designed, well lit home, like bees to honey. People were already gyrating on the steps that led to her front door as music pulsed from the inside out, and it took all my willpower to not turn back around and return to my sofa. They were playing typical, party tunes, and I needed to stop expecting they’d play anything more decent. Yet, every time I endured one of these painful social events, there was a slight sliver of hope in me that just maybe they’d play a song that didn’t feature in the top forty. These hopes were in vain.

I quickly located Brody, right in the middle of the dance floor as I expected, winking at various girls as they moved around him, desperate for attention. Some of them were Maisie’s friends, and I’d have felt slightly sorry for her, if I didn’t know she’d be doing the exact same thing were she in their position. Everyone knew she’d stolen Brody from Kristen Chapman in the first place, who had consequently moved schools.

I found my way to the drinks table, located in what I guessed was a typically spotless, gleaming kitchen Anna’s parents were proud of, shown by the covered white surfaces in cloth as well as the distinct lack of blades in the knife holder. They’d taken all precautions after the horror stories we heard about in school; kids being stabbed at parties or houses being vandalised by crashers.

I finished my bottle of beer whilst perched on a counter top, observing the party as the kitchen led directly into the main living area, and I had a good view of Brody from here. I could also identify potential customers as couples became intimate or a girl and a boy gained contact from across the room, drawn to each other by the power of alcohol, and the confidence it gave them.

I then watched as Brody grabbed Vanessa, the cheerleading second captain to Maisie, by the wrist, eyes jittering to her voluptuous breasts poking out of a bra top that was far too small for her. He said something to the stunningly trashy looking girl, which made a slight flush tint her smooth chocolate cheeks, and Brody led her out of the room, right past me and up the stairs I could see out of the opposite door, blissfully unaware that I was here for a reason, and he’d just finished my job for me. I hadn’t even had to pretend to be interested in him. He was probably so drunk he’d forgotten he even had a girlfriend.

I waited a considerable time after for them not to suspect me following them, and then casually walked in their direction, dodging through the crowd and thick, musky density of the air smothering us all. I reached the top of the staircase just in time to see Brody shut a door behind him, and I tentatively walked over, trying to conceal a look of smugness from my face. I stood by the door, pressed against it as far as I could go without opening it, and listened to the sounds of lips sucking against face. Mission complete.

I made my way back downstairs to the kitchen making mental note of what exactly happened and then grabbed a bottle of wine, pulled on my thin coat and, concealing the stolen beverage underneath, ducked out into the dark, cool night, the flickering light of the street lamps guiding my way.

I felt the gradual vibration of the house melt away from me as the music become inaudible leaving only a slight buzzing in my ears and my heart rate returned to normal. All I could hear was the click-clack of my heels against the pavement, destroying the tranquillity of the evening, and so removed them, dangling the shoes I hated but was socially obliged to wear from my right fingertips.

I walked in a straight line, placing one foot carefully in front of the other. It was a ritual I liked to undertake every time I went to a party, deriving from the first time I'd properly drunk. I had been fourteen, in my first few weeks of high school, and my parents had been so disgusted they'd made me walk up and down the living room on a piece of tape, convinced it would sober me up whilst Lily giggled from the sofa. I vaguely remembered it. The way the room had spun, ornaments and photographs merging into each other like the world was being sapped away as I breathed, leaving only empty, peaceful space.

I hadn't gotten that drunk since. It didn't give me the joy it did others, and I also had a secret to uphold. One little slip up from a drink too many and I was finished.

I made my way towards the edge of town, manoeuvring up over the gate of a large, open field, and enjoyed the feeling of the strands of grass stemming their way through my toes. The evening was cool and I saw my breath hang in the air. I’d always thought that looked so mystical when I’d been younger, and had ran along the pavement, filling my cheeks before exhaling dramatically, grinning as I ran into my own smoky cloud.

Life had been simpler then, and yet, like everyone my age, I’d been so desperate to grow up. To be able to reach the top cupboard where I knew the cookie jar was conspicuously stored. To see myself in the bathroom mirror without being propped up on a stool. To find love and have it returned. I’d achieved all but the last one.

I made my way up the cobbled path, imprinted into the hillside, intertwining with various clearings where I was sheltered even from the glimmer of the stars, piercing their way through the majestic  night sky. I arrived at the top a little more unsteady than I had been at the bottom due to my frequent sips of the wine bottle as I went, and I then allowed myself to fall to the ground, limbs heavy and sprawled. I wrapped my coat further around me, chin tilted to the heavens, and felt the breeze ripple through my hair. This was my favourite spot.

It overlooked the town in its entirety; all the little houses, some still with warm, glowing lights showering out through the windows. I heard the slight thrum of an engine as a car trundled through the uneven roads. It wasn’t much, but it was comforting as, ever since I’d been four years old and found this place almost by accident, the view hadn’t changed. And change was what I’d always dreaded the most. More than exposure, or public ridicule, or confined spaces, or spiders. The thought of time pushing forward against my will, manipulating my life as the hands continued to spin around the clock, wrinkling people’s faces, wiping away their smiles and then taking their lives without mercy, was my biggest fear of all.

I made my way back home in a slightly less stable fashion than before, tucking myself into bed with a hot chocolate piled high with toppings at one o’clock. I read and sipped simultaneously until I’d finished devouring my latest novel from the library and was about to go turn off the light when I felt the urge to get out of bed, go downstairs and lay a piece of tape out on the living room floor. I managed, after a few attempts, to successfully make my way along it without meandering too far right or left. I allowed myself a small smile before I withdrew the tape and sat back on the sofa, sighing emphatically.

I’d drunk more than I’d had that night several years ago, I was certain, but alcohol no longer gave me that bubbly feeling inside, that empowers you to do whatever you choose. Instead, it filled my head with thick, hefty thoughts, and I pictured Lily in the large chair opposite, by the fire that hadn’t been lit for years. I was hit by an instant stream of memories, merging into each other like a slideshow behind my eyes; inescapable recalls. They ran away with themselves, turning good to bad, and smiles to tears, and life to death.

Hope to despair. And then, bowing my head and drawing my knees up to my chest, I started to cry, sobs echoing around the constantly empty house. 

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