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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6. V

The Bush Inn was just as I remembered it to be. Warm, homely, old; with slow droning music and delicious smells leaking from the kitchen. It was dark and gloomy but somehow not threatening; the lack of light just made the pub seem even more welcoming. I felt self-concious as I took off my rain jacket and stepped through into the bar. Isaac had told me to meet him there at six o' clock sharp to introduce me to the staff and give me the uniform. The job was just as good as mine, he reassured me. I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure.

Over the counter facing the other way, chatting friendlily to an old bearded man while he fixed him a pint, was Isaac. I could tell it was him immediately just by his shock of black curls. Almost as if he had heard my thoughts, Isaac turned away from the gentleman and waved, grinning at me. "Alaska! You made it!"

I forced a smile.

"Come here! This man wants a word with you."

I stepped forward uneasily to shake the man's hand nervously. "Pleased to meet you, Mr..."

"Shackleton." The man offered, providing me with a broad smile. "Thomas Shackleton. Owner of the Bush."

I nodded, my heart pounding too fast to care about making a good first impression. "Oh. Right."

I don't know why, but somehow I had expected the owner of such a fine establishment to look more... professional. A feeling of uneasiness swept through me suddenly. I had always prided myself on being a non-judgemental person, and now look at me. Thomas Shackleton appeared a friendly man, with his rapidly balding head and thick figure, though the sharks tooth dangling from a piece of string from his neck through me off a bit.

He looked me up and down quickly, too quickly, like he didn't want me to notice. But I did. Isaac reached down and gave my hand a squeeze, and I looked up at him gratefully.

"You'll do."

My head snapped up at these words. "Really?"

"Yep." Thomas reached behind the bar and pulled out a black bundle, as if he had been waiting for me all his life. "We're pleased to have you on board. Go change, and you can start tonight. That all right?"

In truth, it wasn't. I was depressed, tired and feeling ever so slightly nauseous. However I owed this to Isaac, and to my dad. And maybe, even to Carter. I didn't want him ever to see me in such a mess, it would probably put him on cloud nine. I had to perk up, and I had to do it now. 

"Thank you," I managed to whisper. I took the uniform and tried to smile, even though all I wanted to do was curl up into a corner and sleep. The coffee from last night was really starting to take it's toll on my body. I left Isaac and Thomas chatting amiably and pulling pints for the handful of customers around the bar, and escaped to the bathroom. 

Looking into the clouded mirror in the bathroom, I realised that the black uniform made my skin look even sallower. If that was even possible. For a second I wished I had brought my bag of make-up and maybe my hairbrush, but somehow I couldn't find myself caring anymore about what I looked like to other people. Since I lost Carter, nothing mattered. 

Figuring that cowering in the bathroom all day would do me no favours with my new boss, I sighed and opened the door right into the corridor that led to the kitchen. Someone was waiting for me right outside, and soon enough they were right in front of me. 

"God, Isaac! What the hell are you doing waiting outside the girl's bathroom?"

He grinned, tucking a strand of his silky hair behind his ear. "Waiting for you."

"Why?"

He coughed. "You're needed on table nine."

I stopped, and grabbed Isaac's arm in blind panic. "What? You're sending me to work now?" 

Isaac saluted. "That's the plan, captain."

"I... But...But," I spluttered, "That's madness! I mean, don't I need any training or anything first?"

Isaac handed me a name tag, with 'Alaska' inscribed upon it in beautiful copperplate lettering. "No training required. You're a smart girl, Alaska. Use your initiative."

"I think I just flushed all the initiative I had down the toilet."

Isaac laughed, and enclosed me in a brief, tight hug. If it was any other guy I would have felt extremely uncomfortable right now, but I knew Isaac. He smiled at me, his golden eyes glinting in the gloom. "You can do it."

I squeezed his hand gratefully. "Thanks, Isaac. Hey, do you think there's something wrong with that boss of yours?"

He laughed. "Probably. But if you're referring to why he hired you so fast, it's cause he needs some pretty girls to pull some pints. Draws the skanky old men in."

I pulled a face as we walked back into the bar. "Gee. Thanks dude. Nice to know I'm working for a pimp."

"Any time, baby. Remember, if you need me, call me, and I'm there."

"Thanks."

I watched as Isaac disappeared behind the bar and emerged a moment later with a couple of packets of nuts and crisps, delivered swiftly to delivered swiftly to table nine to save my skin. I shot him a grateful look, then surveyed my first customer with dissatisfied trepidation. 

"Pint of HSD if you please, love."

His Cornish accent was strong. I looked down at the labels of the pump. Sure enough, there was HSD. I grabbed a glass from the driftwood shelf over my head and quickly filled it up to the brim. The guy, about fifty or so and smelling faintly of car oil and detergent winked at me. "Thanks." He slid a fiver over the counter.

"A brandy for me, please."

The voice was so quiet and musical that, for a second at least, I couldn't register the order. I looked up slowly, dragging out the moment that my eyes could rest on his. "Sorry?" 

"A quarter of brandy. I'm not old enough to drink here, I know. But hey, it's been a long night."

Even then I still couldn't comprehend this relatively straightforward command. I was so sidetracked by his face. It was long, slender; dotted with freckles and the colour of fresh caramel. The cheekbones stood out prominently from his face, and his jaw was so deep set that it appeared as if he was permanently grinding his teeth. The boy's eyes were hard, but soft somehow; the exact shade of burnt sugar, and they bored into mine questioningly, surprised, as if he were completely unaware of his beauty.

I doubted that very much.

I had just torn my eyes away from his hair: curly and tousled, falling over his eyes perfectly, when he coughed.

"Please. I promise not to get wasted." His voice was deep and scratchy now, and it was directed right towards me.

Still dazed, I reached again for a glass and began filling it with brandy. "Okay. In my defence, I did actually think you were over eighteen."

He laughed, and it was so attractive that I got the heart-in-throat feeling I had only experienced with Carter before. THe boy downed his drink as I surveyed the rest of his appearance: grey hoodie, skinny jeans, and an earring just poking it's way out from a curl in his hair.

A two pound coin was suddenly thrust in my direction. "Connor," he said, not quite meeting my gaze.

"Alaska." I returned.

 

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