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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12. XI

The wind had picked up again by the time we had turned onto the highway, the forests of trees swaying savagely in the moonlight, the faint outline of the sea just beginning to be covered by the grey clouds that loomed above us in the sky. I turned to look at Connor, his face still darkened from the incident with Carter, his knuckles white from gripping the steering wheel too hard. The only sound was Connor's midnight blue Volvo turning up the puddles on the side road. "I didn't know you drove," I said, breaking the silence.

"Well if you told me you didn't," Connor said, his teeth clenched, "I could have picked you up this evening instead of you walking."

I looked at him. "That's not what I meant."

"I know." Connor sighed. "I'm sorry."

I let my hair fall over my face and I watched the raindrops glide slowly down the tinted window. "I don't even know how old you are," I breathed, tracing the windowpane with my finger. 

"Seventeen," said Connor. He sounded calmer now, more able to talk perhaps. "And you're sixteen."

His habit of asking questions without the correct tone was beginning to get slightly unnerving. "How did you guess?"

I heard Connor's light chuckle, muffled by the gentle tapping of rain on the car's roof. "Number one, you can't drive."

"Fair enough."

"And number two," he continued, "your ex-boyfriend's a total moron."

I frowned indignantly. "And how does that prove that I'm sixteen?"

Connor laid a gentle hand on my shoulder for a brief moment, and waves of electricity swept through my body like a tide rip. Then, just as quickly, he took it away again. "Most guys are jerks to sixteen year old girls. First boyfriends and all that."

I fought the urge to laugh, despite the seriousness of the conversation. "And you know this because, doctor Connor?"

He shrugged, coolness radiating off him like a dodgy inferno. "Experience I guess."

I shook my head, smirking ever so slightly as we turned off the main road onto a bumpy country lane. "Go on then, show off," I jeered. "Tell all."

Connor looked sideways at me, his long slender fingers tapping the steering wheel to a silent rhythm. "I'm not giving away anything, Alaska," he murmured, "until you tell me what's gone on with you and Mr. Moron."

I slumped lower in my seat as the mood in the volvo deflated like a lead balloon. I tried to fight the tears pulsing at the back of my eyes, and turned my head to face the misty window. Connor looked down to my balled fists, scrunched into my grey sweater, and let out a dismayed sigh.  "Alaska, if I have to apologise to you again tonight I fully give you my permission to thump me."

Suddenly I noticed that the car was no longer moving. I bolted up in my seat. "For God's sake, Connor, you can't just stop in the middle of the..."

"Relax, Cartwright." Connor rolled down the window, and was rewarded with a sudden gust of wind that ruffled his already disheveled hair. "We're at your house."

"Oh." I surveyed the house in front of me. Our porch light was still flickering tirelessly; Dad was obviously waiting up for me. I turned back around, and found Connor looking at me again with a slightly amused expression in his eyes. "I'd like to er... thank you."

He raised a bemused eyebrow. "For what? Delivering you home semi-safe?"

"No." I sighed, shaking my head. "Not just for the movie either," I added hastily, recollecting his bad taste, "but for being there. When Carter turned up." My voice had lowered embarrassingly, and my hair had fallen over my eyes again. Connor lifted a strand delicately with his finger. "Are you going to tell me," he murmured gently, his gaze fixed on mine, "or am I going to have to ask you?"

                                                                       * * *

The lights in the house were dim when I finally cycled up the pathway to my front porch, my textbooks tied haphazardly to the back, the moon casting an eerie, silvery glow on the path in front of me. Carter would be here, he always was here; every Thursday after my study group he would be waiting in my living room or the kitchen patiently, my mug of coffee already made, Ice Road Truckers blaring obscenities from the T.V. Dad would be out with his mates from work in the pub or the social club, so we'd be alone. Where Carter was concerned, Dad kept a strict distance. But that night, when I clicked open the door and entered the hallway, the house was silent. 

I frowned. "Carter?" I called, my voice bouncing off the empty beer bottles that were littered aimlessly on the threadbare carpet. Suddenly there was a thump from directly above me.

My bedroom.

"Carter? Are you here?" I repeated, confused. What would Dad, or Carter for that matter, be doing in my bedroom? I took each step slowly, not really sure what I would find, or what I wanted to find. Blood was pulsing in my ears horribly by the time I reached the door. I thought I  heard a muffled yelp, but by the time my hand was on the handle the room was silent again. Just as I had my mobile out ready to call Carter and ask where the hell he was, there was a loud, blood-curdling, ear-splitting scream coming from right inside the door. Without pausing for even a second I rammed my way in, and simply stared.

The only movement that went through the whole of my body at that moment was my trembling lip, wobbling pathetically in the dim lamp light. The rest of my body was frozen, completely unable to move, and as much as I willed myself to run from the room as quickly as I could, my feet just wouldn't let me. Someone was whimpering, and it took me a good thirty seconds for me to realise it was myself. Helpless, angry tears blinked my vision and I wavered, my senses completely flummoxed as to what to do next. Part of me wondered why I was angry. But most of me didn't care. I was blinded, not only by my tears, but by the sudden rush of emotion that held me hostage.

But I was not the only one crying.

Lily stared at me, a low wail escaping from her clenched mouth, torrents of gushing tears pouring from her beautiful burnt amber eyes. Her baby pink bra was shoved up roughly against her delicate chin, my knitted bedspread my grandma had knitted me when I was a baby protecting her dignity. I blinked, as if even my eyes couldn't register what had happened. I looked to the floor where her eyelet lace shirt and blue chinos were torn and crumpled, like a dead child. Her eyes pleaded my help, but I couldn't move. Lastly, as if it was all he was worth, I looked to Carter. It was a quick, fleeting look, but even then I saw more than I wanted to. His bare chest glinted with sweat and Lily's tears, and his normally immaculate inky black hair was uncombed and disheveled. The worst thing though was his eyes. They were neither regretful or apologetically. They were proud. 

Satisfied.

"Alaska," he coughed, running a hand through his hair. "Shit. What can I say."

But I was gone. Out of the door. Abandoning my best friend when she needed me most. Slamming everything we had been through together in her face.

                                                                           * * *

Connor swore softly. It was all he could say. It was all anyone could say. It was all anyone had said, when they had heard what had happened. "Yep," I spluttered, failing to swallow the rising lump that was lodged in my throat, "My boyfriend raped my best friend. And I watched."

"There was nothing you could do," Connor said softly, "you didn't have a choice."

"There's always a choice, Connor!" 

He looked down uncomfortably. I hadn't meant to yell, but something inside me had snapped. I was sick of people telling me that it wasn't my fault, that there wasn't anything I could have done, because I knew that there was. I could have helped Lily. I nudged Connor with my shoulder apologetically. "I'm sorry."

"But that's not all, is it Alaska?"

His tone was neither gleeful or inquisitive, purely concerning. I tore my eyes off the porch light that looked so warm and welcoming and looked at Connor, his tousled hair falling gently over his perfect eyes. "What do you mean?"

Even I heard my voice trembling. Connor's voice was soft. "Something else happened. I can tell."

"Well maybe you should review your psychic skills, Sherlock," I snapped, unbuckling my seatbelt angrily and opening the car door with a thump. I felt a restraining hand on my arm. "Alaska, please."

"Get lost, Connor."

"No," he almost growled, "Don't. Walk. Away."

I stopped. Connor's voice was cracked. His face was hurt, as if another girl, another night, had done exactly the same thing to him before. Hastily, I leant forward and kissed him fleetingly on the cheek. "See you tomorrow, Connor."

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