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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17. XVI

The sand felt cold between my toes as we made our way down to the water's edge. The sea was quiet, almost motionless; the small crests lapping up the sand by our feet soundlessly. The ragged cliff face that stood majestically on either side of the water was black as an oil slick and just as shiny. It was so dark that it almost resembled a silhouette. I looked to Connor, and he was bent down at the side of the ocean, his eyebrows furrowed, his gold-flecked eyes scrutinising as he prodded a dead jellyfish that had been washed up on the cement-like sand. His head snapped up suddenly, as if he could feel me watching him. "Did I ever tell you about the time when I got stung by one of these while cliff-diving with my brothers?"

I poked the creature with my big toe, shuddering at the hideous squelchiness of it. "No," I answered, curtly. "You haven't told me anything about you. I didn't even know that you had siblings."

"Did I not?" His lip curled upwards at the corner. "I'm sorry, I've forgotten how sly I am."

"You must have." I nudged him playfully with my elbow. "So how many brothers do you have?"

"Three. Jonah, Marcus and Alex."

"I'm an only child," I murmured, kicking up the foamy froth at the sea edge with my foot. "But I've never been lonely. Isaac's always been like my big brother."

"This just keeps getting weirder and weirder," laughed Connor, and I gave him a seething glare. "Isaac is not in love with me. The sooner you drop this crap the better we'll get along."

Connor raised a delicate finger to my face and brushed a stray piece of hair away from my face. His caramel eyes were deep and questioning, and bore into mine innocently. "I thought that we were getting along perfectly."

"Connor," I warned. 

His hand dropped abruptly to his side. "What?" An unmistakeable wave of hurt washed over Connor's face, and for a moment I regretted my rashness. "I'm sorry," I sighed, "I just didn't think you'd brought me here to..."

"Hey," he soothed, "it's okay. We can take things slowly, if you want."

"Okay," I stammered, my heart pounding loudly through my shirt, blood pulsating in my ears. Connor actually liked me. The truth was so utterly unbelievable that I felt like laughing. Carefully, watching me intently as if he was afraid I might stop him, Connor wound his fingers slowly through mine. They were cold, but soft somehow, and I clasped them tightly against mine as if I had never had anything before in my life that I had wanted so much. We stayed like that, wandering up the slippery, wet pebbles until we found a rare sandy spot. Connor pulled me onto his lap and cocooned us in the blanket, his warm cheek pressed gently against my face. The sea was making lulling rhythmic sounds and I was so tired I would have fallen asleep if it wasn't for the electricity sizzling through my body with every touch from Connor. 

He smelt like coffee and pine trees, with just a hint of clone, but not in an overpowering way like every other guy I had ever met. Connor's lips were pressed against my collarbone. There were so many words I wanted to say, but was scared too, and if he hadn't had kissed me right then at that moment I wasn't sure if I would have ended up saying any of them. 

His lips were soft against mine, pleading somewhat, and laced with the kiss was an distinctive feeling of... hurt.

Pain.

Anger

The way our mouths were moving together was not fuelled with passion, neither with desire, or even love; there was a sort of sadness about the way our lips moved. I pulled back for a second, breathless, but Connor held on. His arms were locked around my neck, his fingers clutching at the collar of my shirt, his eyes clenched together tightly as if he was experiencing some kind of pain. I pressed my lips against his cheek once, twice, three times. "Are you okay?"

For a second I thought I saw a tear glisten in his eye, but when I blinked to make sure it was actually there it had gone. Connor swallowed, turning his face to the sea, rippling beautifully in the moonlight. A muscle jumped in his jaw. When he finally looked back at me, his expression was penitent. "I'm sorry," he whispered, his voice cracked and hoarse. "I'm sorry. We could go again..."

His soft lips brushed mine briefly, but before he could continue I put a finger to his mouth. "No. We don't have to." I pushed him down on the grainy sand and rested my head on his chest. "We can just stay here."

Connor stroked my cheek with his thumb as we lay there, the moon bathing us in subdued pearly light, the smell of fish and sea and sand wafting through our noses. The sky was a midnight blue, lightly speckled with stars, the almost omnipresent cover of clouds suddenly vanished from the heavens.

Sure, it hadn't happened the way I had wanted it to. I had half expected Connor to get down on one knee, profess his everlasting love for me, play me a hypnotising melody on his guitar, but this was just as good as any of those things. A part of me had wanted Connor to open up to me and explain his secret, but after his obvious distress when we kissed, I felt it best not to.

I still wasn't sure if I loved Connor. This time, there was none of the suffocating-type love I had felt for Carter, but this type of love was comforting love. I knew that Connor wanted nothing from me, and what we had presently would be enough for now. Wriggling out of Connor's grasp, I sat up and looked at him. His beautiful dark curls were tousled and rumpled, and his maple eyes were tired. I ran a hand through his hair. "I'd better go."

"It's two in the morning. What's the point?"

"I'm freezing." Connor reached for the blanket, but I continued hastily, "And my Dad's going to kill me."

"Exactly. Why go home and face the wrath now? Come back to my place."

I must have looked wary, for Connor took my wrist and unclenched my balled fist. "No crap. I promise," he assured me, "I'll even let you sleep in the spare room. Maybe."

I grinned slightly, and let Connor lead me back to the car. As we set off on the Highway pink ribbons of light were just beginning to stream through the sky, and Connor kept one arm around my waist the whole time.

In the end, I didn't sleep in the spare room. Connor and I collapsed on his bed, sleep deprivation and intense feelings of love finally beginning to take it's toll, and passed out tangled in each other's arms. 

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