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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16. XV

I followed Connor blindly down the front steps of Isaac's house, my eyes still stinging with tears I was too ashamed to shed, Lily's words still raw in my mind. I didn't ask any questions, and Connor didn't provide any answers; he just opened the passenger door to his car widely and gently eased me into the soft leather seat. I stopped his arm before he could reach the seatbelt "I'm not handicapped," I reminded him. "I can buckle my own belt."

"Sorry." His liquid-gold eyes were apologetic. "You just seem so upset."

I swallowed, looking down to my shoes. I could still hear the thudding bass of the music from the party, and my head throbbed in syncopation. My fingers rose to my temples. "Are you alright?" Connor asked, but before I could reply, a faint "Alaska!" interrupted me.

Isaac.

Laces whipping wildly in the moonlight, his hair knotted and matted with sweat, his face a mixture of worry and anger and frustration, Isaac came running down the steps, his eyes pools of fire. "Alaska! Thank God I caught you. Are you okay? I just heard about what happened."

"I'm fine," I lied, as Isaac pulled me to his chest. His heart was hammering vigorously through his shirt, and I put my ear to it, just letting the rhythm calm me. Then I remembered Connor. I pulled back and shot him a rueful smile. He was leaning against the car, casually examining his fingernails like he was on another planet. He looked up and smiled, somewhat forcefully, at Isaac. "I'm Connor." He introduced himself gallantly, extending his hand. Isaac took it, slightly grimacing at Connor's vice-tight grip. "Isaac. Nice to meet you."

I couldn't help noticing that Connor was a few inches taller than Isaac, and I think he was distinctly aware of it. 

"Isaac is..." I paused. There were no words I could use to describe what Isaac meant to me. Soul mate? Life giver? They were all too sickeningly cliched. 

"He's my best friend," I finished lamely.

"I was just going to take Alaska out," said Connor smoothly. "You don't mind, do you? I think she's had enough of this." I saw his nose turn up slightly as if he had smelled something bad. I wanted to kick him.

"Fine." There was a resigned tone in Isaac's voice, as if he was too tired to argue. I could see the hurt and rejection glistening in his eyes, even if Connor wasn't aware of it. "I just wanted to make sure Alaska was okay."

"Why wouldn't she be?" snapped Connor, his indignant eyes darting from me to Isaac like he was watching a tennis match. "What happened?"

"There was an... incident." Isaac shuffled awkwardly, as if he wished that the ground would swallow him up. "And then I heard she bumped into Lily. I didn't know..."

"What?"

It was hard to ignore the the aggressive anger in Connor's voice. I put a firm hand on his chest, restraining him, as if he needed to be controlled. Maybe he did. I could feel his torso quivering under my touch.

"So you're telling me," Connor continued icily, "that Lily was at your party, and you didn't even think to tell Alaska?"

"I didn't know," Isaac retorted in a hard voice, his jaw clamped together so savagely I thought he might break all of his teeth. "And what does this even have to do with you, anyway? How much has she told you?"

"Enough," replied Connor, his eyes glittering with resentment, "And I'm here to support her in any way I can."

"I am here, you know!" I exclaimed, but Connor and Isaac were already squaring up to each other, fists clenched, and carried on arguing as if they hadn't even heard me. 

"So what are you?" jeered Isaac wildly, "Her father? Her protector? Her boyfriend?" He made it sound like a dirty word. 

"I'm whatever she wants me to be," Connor said, his voice the same texture as melting chocolate, his eyebrows furrowed as though he was thinking about something, hard. Then he turned to me, still waiting by the car like a pathetic bystander. "Are you ready?"

I looked from Isaac to Connor, unsure of what to do. Isaac was my best friend, and I knew deep down that I would always choose him over Connor, but at the same time Isaac had let me down. Lily would hate me forever, now, and that could have been avoided if Isaac had warned me she would be at the party. I walked towards Isaac and wrapped my arms around his waist. "I love you."

"You mean that?" His voice was rough and muffled against my hair.

"Of course I do. You're my best friend."

At those last two words Isaac seemed to sag in my arms, and he unwound himself from my grasp as if I was a disease he didn't want to catch. "Isaac..?" I tried, but he was gone, out of my reach, already making his way up the steps back to his sodding party. There was a silence for a moment, as if Connor knew better than to say anything now. Maybe he knew he had been wrong to mock Isaac. I expected an apology, but instead, he took my wrist. "Come on. It's not your fault."

"But it is," I replied quietly. "He probably loathes me now." Looking up at Connor, I continued. "I've known you for two minutes. I've known Isaac for almost my whole life."

"He'll get over it."

"Everything's so bloody simple for you, isn't it, Connor?" I snapped as we got in the car and buckled up. Connor had the most annoyingly attractive grin on his face. "On the contrary. My life is actually quite complicated."

"I can imagine." Sighing, I looked out of the window as Connor started the car up and sped off onto the main road. It was a clear, cool night, and Connor wound down the windows to let the sweet, summer air wash over my face refreshingly. He started to say something, but caught himself. I looked at him. "What?"

"I was just going to say..." He coughed, looking sheepish, a look that hadn't appeared on Connor's face before. "I mean..."

"Spit it out."

Connor's eyes drifted out of the window where a couple of bats were twirling and spinning in the air, creating a beautiful yet haunting whirlwind of darkness. "I don't blame him if he's in love with you."

There was a momentary silence. Then I collapsed into helpless laughter. "Isaac isn't... I mean, he's not..." I took a deep breath, composing myself. "Connor, Isaac's gay. Of course he's not in love with me."

"Well maybe he's lying, or he's confused."

"He's not lying. Or confused." I traced a pattern in the dust on the dashboard lazily with my finger. "I know Isaac better than anyone."

"If you say so." Connor's voice was exasperatedly self-righteous. Even though I knew it wasn't true, the thought kept on nagging at me like an itchy T-shirt label. It wouldn't go away, no matter how hard I tried to block it from my mind. I tried to distract myself by staring at Connor, taking in his beauty like a fish gasps for oxygen. Tonight he was wearing a dark navy shirt, taut over his well-built chest, and seemingly casual grey jeans, though something told me that they were designer. Suddenly I realised how much I didn't know about Connor, but something about the ever-present anguish in his eyes warned me not to ask any questions. 

Maybe the answers would be too difficult for me to bear.

However there was one aching question at the forefront of my mind that I thought I could get away with. "How did you know where I was?"

"I called your father," Connor explained cooly, wholly unashamedly. 

"What?"

"Calm down," he stopped me, putting a cold hand on my bare leg, "I pretended to be Clarissa's father."

I shot him a perplexed, outraged look. "Who the hell's Clarissa?"

"As far as your Father knows, a girl from your biology class," he elucidated. "She wanted to invite you round for pizza tonight. Your Dad explained that you were at Isaac Reynold's party. I got the address. Simple."

"Very clever," I retorted drily.

Connor smiled, a brief charming smile that sent shockwaves down the whole of my body, and seemed to warm the chilly night. It wasn't until I looked past him into the forest of trees that I realised that we were approaching the beach. "What are we..?" I tried to ask, but Connor didn't reply, just took a thick woollen blanket from under his seat and put it on my lap. "It might get cold," was all he said, and as we turned off onto the thin, narrow road leading up to Duckpool, the moon uncovered itself from the coagulated grey clouds and turned the dark sea below it a magnificent milky white. 

 

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