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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22. XXI

Walking up to my porch, I was surprised to see that nothing had changed. Sure, I had only been away two days. But that was two days on top of the month that I had spent at Isaac's while I was grieving what had happened to Lily, and what Carter had done to her. Back then, although my dad was worried, he was understanding. He knew that, although what had happened to Lily was worse, I was still broken by the fact that Lily was my best friend, and Carter was my boyfriend. My dad understood that sometimes it was friends like Isaac who could heal things that fathers just couldn't.

However now, as I stood by the front door with the doorbell resounding loudly in my ears, my palms sweating as I waited, I wasn't so sure he would understand this time. For a moment, I regretted not using my key. What was I expecting, a grand serenade and a full orchestra to welcome me home? But after a couple of seconds, I realised that I had other things to worry about.

My dad approached the door with a face like thunder. As soon as he unlocked it, I knew that I was in deep, deep trouble. "Alaska." My dad was dressed un his old American football hoodie and paint splattered jeans; his feet were bare on our rose-patterned carpet. His hair fell greasy and lanky onto his shoulders, and his jaw, set firmly as he glowered at me, was rough and patchy with stubble. I felt a strong sense of remembrance as I looked at him; my dad looked exactly the same as he had two weeks ago, when I had come home from being at Isaac's- and promised never to leave again. I wanted to hug him, but I wasn't sure that this was the right moment. "Hi, Dad."

"Come in." His voice was loud, unwavering. He reached out for my backpack, which was slung over my shoulder. "Thanks," I said. Slowly, I followed him into the kitchen, where I was greeted with a mountain of pizza boxes and take-out containers. Bottles of beer were spilling out of the bin, along with a couple of banana skins and a sloppy collection of tea bags, leaving a murky brown residue along the side of the bin. At this point I realised two things: when my dad was worried he overate, and I was the one who normally did the cooking. The result: my father had been living off take aways for the past couple of days. I pushed away two containers from the Chinese place and swallowed.

"Dad, I'm really..."

"Alaska, I don't want to hear it."

God, he was really mad.

"Can you at least let me apologise?"

My dad turned around from where he was filling up the kettle, which he was doing with fierce concentration. "For which part?" He said incredulously. "For getting paralytic at a house party, lying to me, or not coming home for two days?"

I stared blankly at him. "Lying?" I repeated dumbly. 

"Yesterday, when that tosser informed me on the phone that you were at Isaac's house." He sighed. "You weren't, were you?"

It was pointless challenging this. "No, I wasn't," I said. "But that guy's not a tosser."

Dad threw the teaspoon loudly into the sink, it clattered noisily. "Who is he, then?"

"He's my boyfriend."

"God, Alaska." He groaned and thumped the sideboard with his fist, hard. "You told me that you didn't have a boyfriend! Where does it end with you?"

I tried to keep my voice level. "I didn't when you asked me."

My dad's voice, however, wasn't low at all. He was shouting now, loudly, all pretences of trying to keep calm and measured long gone. He pointed an accusing finger at me. "So that's where you've been staying the past two days? At his house?"

I nodded.

My dad looked on the point of explosion. "When that tosser called me..."

"Stop calling him a tosser!"

He ignored me. "When he called me I believed him when he said you guys were at Isaac's. I really did." He shook his head. "But then I get Isaac banging on my door at an ungodly hour last night asking if you were home yet. It didn't take much to get out of him the situation." All of a sudden, his voice cracked. "You have no idea how scared I was. If Isaac was that worried..."

"He just doesn't like Connor, Dad." I tried to stop the anger bubbling up inside me when an image of Connor's mother resurfaced in my mind. Isaac had no idea what Connor was going through. I turned to face my dad indignantly. "There's nothing wrong with Connor, Dad."

He let out a breath, slid a steaming mug over the counter. I slipped my fingers around it gratefully. When Dad sat down opposite me, a brimming cup of tea in his own hand, I found that his face had softened. "I thought that you had run back to Carter," he said quietly. "I thought that you were hurt."

I looked down into my mug. "You know that I'd never do that," I mumbled. "Not after what happened to Lily." I'd decided to leave out the part where I'd gone to visit her. I didn't want him thinking I was dwelling in the past even more than he thought. There was a silence whilst my dad contemplated this. Then, breaking the silence, I spoke. "You know, I wasn't the only one lying that night." 

Dad looked up. 

"I wasn't actually drunk on Friday night, at Isaac's," I told him. "He told you that because he wanted to protect me. I went to stay at Connor's that evening."

My dad blinked. I guess he hadn't expected a breakfast with so much truth telling. He leant forward over the counter, took my hand in his. My dad's eyes were wide, and pleading. "Just promise me, Alaska," he said. "Promise me that you'll keep yourself safe."

I nodded, barely breathing. Satisfied, my dad slid out of his chair, awkwardly patting my hair as he did so, switched on the radio and began clearing up the pizza boxes.

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