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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9. VIII

The bright lights of the supermarket aisles were comforting, familiar. It was calming to be surrounded by inanimate objects for once, and it was satisfying to be conducting a task I had been doing since I was eleven. Dad had given me the task of doing our weekly shop firstly, because he was too busy to do it himself, but mainly because I knew what to buy, and he didn't. He was a fantastic cook, but knowing what to buy wasn't exactly his strong point. If it was up to Dad, we would be eating beans on toast for every meal, 365 days a year.

We made a pretty good team, Dad and me. I shopped, he cooked, I washed up, he dried. Everything was so perfectly in balance that it made me nervous to even think about destroying the routine.

I chucked a packet of peppers into the trolley lazily. Would Connor disrupt that balance, if anything did happen? Ever since last night my head had been filled with constant 'what if's' and 'maybes' and to be honest none of them really made any sense. Had I actually wanted to go out with Connor after all, or did I just miss the fact that no one had wanted to be friends with me since that night? I guess I would never know, but now it was inevitable. Stopping for a moment in the cereal aisle, I checked my watch. Eight hours to go until Connor picked me up.

Not that I was counting.

Cringing at the certainty of it all, I scanned my list to make sure I had everything I needed. Dad and I, we were going on a fishing trip, and I hated that I had the power to spoil it with my asking permission to go out with Connor. With the aggravating pop song playing from the speakers ringing in my ears, I loaded up my items on the till. As the woman scanned my groceries, blatantly exasperatedly, my eyes flickered to a rack of magazines by the automatic doors. 'L.A Lifestyle' was the cover of one, 'American Properties' the other. For the first time in three weeks, my thoughts drifted back to Mum. Right now, she'd either be in bed, catching up on beauty sleep for a shoot, or out partying in a Kardashian hot spot. Obviously, sometimes I envied her and thought about how different my life would be if I begged to go with her; but the more realistic part of me reminded myself that my mother and I were two completely different people, who wanted two completely different things.

"Twenty pounds fifty-six," The cashier said, snapping me out of my thoughts. I paid, loaded my shopping into carrier bags and left the warm supermarket into the drizzly car park, into the next phase of my life.

                                                                                  * * *

"Nice weather for ducks," Dad commented helpfully, as the rain pelted down into the water on either side of our pathetic, yet loyal boat. "Yeah, Dad," I sighed, "So remind me, why are we fishing again? We'll be lucky if we catch a plastic bag the way the rain's coming down."

Dad laughed, and tightened his line. "You're probably right," he said. "But hey, it's nice to spend some time together. I feel like I never see you anymore."

"Ditto."

The rain masked the sudden silence at the unveiling of truth. Dad took a soggy sandwich out of the icebox and took a bite, grimacing slightly. "You know I don't choose my hours, Alaska."

I smiled at him, trying to hide any upset I felt at that moment. "I know. It's the job of your dreams."

Dad threw out his line a little further. "Well, I did always want to be an interior designer, but you know that if it was between you and the job, you would always come first every time, right?"

"Yeah, Dad." I wasn't so sure. Peering sideways, I stared at the huge willows dipping lightly into the green clouded water. The raindrops appeared like diamonds stuck on the leaves. It was a pity that when I first moved here I didn't realise the beauty, the potential in this murky, rainy seaside town. I saw it as a nightmare, a prison sentence, something I couldn't get away from no matter how hard I wished it wasn't happening.

"Dad..." I began.

"Hold it!" Dad suddenly leaped off the wooden bench and reeled in his line lightning speed. "I think I've got a bite!"

I waited patiently, my jaw clenched, as Dad finally got to the hook of his line, and pulled off a bike tire. "I could have sworn I saw trout," he muttered bitterly as I ate another saturated sandwich. Finally he turned back to face me.

"What was it that you were going to say?"

I blushed. "Well, Dad, I was just going to ask..."

"Wait!"

In a matter of seconds Dad had ripped my rod out of my hands and was reeling it in desperately, carefully this time, his eyes begging a catch. To my utter shock, a small yet unmistakeable trout flopped onto the wooden deck; gasping for air.

"God, Alaska," Dad breathed.

I laughed. "Looks like it's perfect weather for fish, too."

Dad couldn't believe it. He hugged me with one chunky arm so tightly that I was suffocating from the stench of his aftershave and bad breath; but I was pleased he was happy. When Dad finally pulled back I noticed his tired grey eyes were glinting. "Well, Alaska, whatever you were going to ask me the answer is an resounding yes!"

I took a quick breath. "Dad, can I go out with a friend tonight?"

For a moment, all you could hear was the relentless water lapping peacefully against the boat. Then, "sure, honey."

It was obvious he was faking brightness. Behind that mask of pleasure, I could see a mountain of questions trying to tumble out of his mouth. I knew one of them was looming.

"Which friend?"

"I... Um... Met him at the Bush."

"Him?"

"Calm down, Dad. It's not Carter."

Dad put down his rod and looked at me. "It's not just Carter I have a problem with, Alaska. It's the whole bloomin' teenage male species."

I bit my lip. "Connor's different, Dad. He's not after anything."

He raised an eyebrow. "So he's got a name."

I threw out my line again, annoyed at the way he was reacting. Sure, I hadn't been out at all since Carter and me broke up, but that was no reason to denounce all boys at the click of a finger. Dad was obviously too holding back something ferocious. "Where. Are. You. Going?"

The way his tone was so flat, you wouldn't have thought that it was a question.

I sighed. "The cinema."

For a second I thought he was going to say no. Dad's face was certainly unhappy, but nevertheless he said, "Be back by eleven, Alaska. No later."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome, honey."

 

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