Frozen Sea

Sixteen-year-old Alaska's whole world is slowly but surely starting to crumble. Her boyfriend is charged with the rape of her best friend, and she is staring at a long, lonely summer of secrets and unimaginable pain. Losing herself in surfing and her night shift at the local pub seems like the only way to pretend none of it is actually happening for real. Until she meets Connor, a mysterious musician on a holiday of inspiration, Alaska finally realises that sometimes the only way to move on is to face up to reality.

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10. IX

The figures fuzzed waywardly on the screen as the wind knocked the T.V ariel fixed to the roof of our house backwards and forwards like a wonky see-saw. The programme on was a soap of some kind, not something I normally watched, but my mind was too distracted to care.

I had been glad, well, more relieved actually, when the clock finally struck seven and it was time for me to get a move on. Relieved that this whole 'date' thing would soon be over. Thankful that, after tonight, I could just go back to being mopey, lonely old Alaska and focus on distracting myself from the things I didn't want to dwell. 

Outfit wise, I had decided on black jeans, a denim shirt and a grey pullover, just to accentuate the fact that I really couldn't give a damn. My hair had been useless but manageable; pulled back into a sloppy ponytail you could hardly notice how unbearably thin it was, not that I cared what Connor thought. It was sad really how much I was kidding myself that tonight didn't bother me in the slightest, when in actuality, tonight was the beginning of a whole new chapter. The night when I could finally forget about Carter. It was a stupid cliche, but weirdly true.

Despite the wind that was howling like a banshee on steroids, the night was dry and surprisingly warm. I tugged at my pullover as I turned the corner of the road leading up to the cinema complex downtown. Trust tonight to be the night when the weather finally behaved itself.

The butter coloured light of the cinema shone dimly ahead of me and I let out a shaky breath. It had been months since I had been on a 'date', and years since I had been on a first one. With Carter, we didn't go out much; I liked to think that it was because we didn't need anyone or anything else to keep our relationship working, but the truth was that Carter was possessive. A trip to the park could mean that I would be eyeing up other lads. A walk down to the sea pool could mean I could spot a teenager in his swimming trunks. Even a simple visit to the shops might tempt me to leave Carter and make out with someone else instead. Sometimes I wanted to know what was going on inside his mind, but most of the time I was too scared to. His bedroom and the beach were the only places we would be seen together, and even then, no one saw us. There wasn't space for anyone else, that's what he told me. I guess it was just another way for him to tighten his grip on me, keep me firmly in his possession. 

I spotted Connor first. He was standing there, leaning against the outside wall plugged into his IPod, his left foot tapping a silent rhythm, his head rocking back and forth in time with a beat. He was dressed well: his dark chinos were carefully pressed and the blue cotton shirt he was wearing clung to his hard chest impressively. Altogether, his outfit gave a slight hint of designer, but not in an overpowering way. It seemed to me that Connor just didn't realise how beautiful he was.

"What are you listening to?"

He jumped backwards in shock, but quickly composed himself. The corner of his mouth twitched upwards in a gorgeous lopsided smile. "Good evening to you too, Alaska Cartwright".

"Sorry. I was just curious."

He shoved his hands deep into his pockets and surveyed me under his deep set brows. "Do you ask that question to all guys on the first date?"

"I thought this wasn't a date."

As soon as I detected that joking smirk play across his lips I swatted him with my arm, the setting sun casting a warm glow over his caramel eyes. 

"I didn't know you were so sensitive," Connor chuckled, "I guess we've got a lot to learn about each other."

All of a sudden I was distinctly aware of how close his hand was to mine as it dangled carelessly down his side. Of how soft his voice was. Of how serious his gaze was, fixed right on me, holding my eyes to his. For a second I thought about what this guy was after, why he was behaving this was with a girl he had met barely a week ago. Then, as Connor finally broke my gaze and opened the door to the homely, cozy cinema, I decided that really, I couldn't care less.

For a Tuesday evening, the cinema was unseasonably packed full of teenagers enjoying a summer weeknight, when normally during term time they would be stuck inside doing homework or rushing through late coursework, a deadline looming. I suddenly felt self-concious and peered through the crowd, praying that no one from my school was here. Any other girl would have been proud to be seen with anyone like Connor, but for me, who had only recently split up with her best-friend-raping boyfriend, it wasn't something to be self-respecting about to be linked with another guy. It was bad enough to have rumours going around that I had been harbouring a rapist, let alone that I had got myself a new guy. 

A tall, slender girl with hair the exact colour of melted chocolate cut across me suddenly, chatting and laughing amiably with a couple of her friends, and my mind shot to Lily. However much I blamed my lack of a social life on what had happened between Carter and I, this was the actual reason I didn't go out. Wherever I went, there would always be a similarly gorgeous teenager that I always took to be Lily. It may just be my crappy guilty conscience tormenting me, but it scared and annoyed the hell out of me. The girl must have caught me staring, for she turned back to look at me, her nut-brown eyes dancing in the gloomy light of the lobby. She nudged her friend, a comparably skinny black girl, and they both stopped to giggle at me. I didn't even notice that Connor was nudging me. I looked up into his eyes that were squinted worryingly at me. "I said, do you want anything?" he repeated, calmly.

"Um... no thanks."

Connor nodded once and joined the refreshments line, head down, hands in his pockets, concentrating on something on the floor that was invisible to me. I was still scrutinising him when the brown-haired girl approached me, somewhat apologetically, and tapped me on the shoulder.

I turned to face her, taking in her white lace shirt, the blue skinny jeans clinging snugly to her slender legs and the brown ankle boots she wore on her pixie-like feet. I tried to smile, my mouth aching with the effort.

"I'm Ruby," she offered, rewarding me with a pearly grin.

"Hi," I managed weakly, eager, but worried to find out what this Ruby was after. I didn't provide my own name.

"You know that guy," she whispered, jerking her thumb in the direction of Connor, who was in the middle of paying for a bottle of water, "are you two like... going out, or something?"

Six pairs of eyes burned into me as the girls waited for me to answer their question. I sighed. "No. We're just mates."

Ruby straightened suddenly, flicking back her silky mane. "Oh. Right."

Then Connor was behind me, lowering his chin so that his breath tickled my ear. "Let's go."

"Hey," Ruby said flirtatiously in a song-like tone, waving her sparkly pink painted fingernails in Connor's face. He blinked. "Hello," he replied gruffly, then before I even had time to react he was holding my arm and dragging me to screen two. When he finally let go the crowd of teenagers were already making their way into the movie, and I stopped to stare at him. "What the hell was all that about?"

"Sorry." Connor's voice was still hard. "Did I hurt you?" He was distracted.

"No," I sighed exasperatedly, "but that's not the point. I meant why the big production?"

Connor's eyes were like pools of ice and his gaze was fixed firmly forwards, his mouth clenched into a taut line. A muscle jumped in his jaw. "I just get pissed off easily."

"I can see that."

Connor ran a hand through his tousled hair, squeezing his eyes tight shut. "I didn't want to lose it," he said in monotone, "do anything I would regret."

I frowned, registering his tone. Part of me was screaming at myself to not be so stupid and to run, for God's sake, but my feet were rooted to the ground. I couldn't, however much I tried, leave him. 

"Anyway." His voice snapped me back to the present. Connor smiled crookedly, as if nothing had happened before. "I chose the one about the zombie apocalypse. Is that okay?"

I shook my head confusedly. "What?"

"The movie?"

"Oh," I let out a breath, "Right." His sudden change in tone was still bothering me. Maybe Connor was bipolar. Well, he did say we had a lot to learn about each other. 

"You coming, Cartwright?"

I stared at him, standing there by an ancient curling movie poster, the dim overhead lights casting an eerie glow over his face, making it seem translucent. His eyes seemed to bathe me in warmth, even though the air-con was on full blast and I was shivering slightly.

I walked towards the door, waiting until the darkness from the movie theatre swallowed us up completely. 

 

 

 

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