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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23. XXII

The warm, familiar, slightly sweaty air hit me in the face as per usual as I entered the Bush one Thursday evening in mid August, the cool sea-salt wind from the car park disappearing just as quickly as my dignity as Isaac's face peeked out from behind the bar. I pulled my parka closer around my face, kidding myself that he hadn't seen me. It had been weeks since I had spoken to Isaac, not for any reason except that he hadn't spoken to me. We weren't in an argument, as such. Not the traditional form of 'argument', anyway. It was just a difficult situation. And it wasn't hard to guess what the issue was. I had an image in my head of Isaac crossing off the days of his Slipknot calendar until Connor and I broke up, but even I couldn't be so self-absorbed. Deep down, I knew that Isaac had moved on- I had hurt him by choosing Connor, and ultimately, changing my life purely to suit my boyfriend, whilst pushing my best friend out of it. I couldn't remember the last time Isaac and I went surfing together.

I guess instead of surfing, I spent three days a week at Connor's. I helped him with the cooking, the cleaning, re-decorating. We had even begun clearing out Connor's mothers room and had started talking about moving her downstairs. At first it was a prospect that had frightened Connor so much he had shouted at me, but after a few hours of gentle persuasion he realised it was the only way to move forward. Despite the many ways Connor was letting me into his life, letting me see things he hadn't let anyone else see, he still hadn't told me what was wrong with his mother- something I had taken to be entirely essential. However even at the word 'doctor' Connor grew white, so I dropped the subject. With every passing day of brushing her silver hair, changing her nightdress, pushing spoonful after spoonful of porridge into her shrivelled, puckering mouth I had tried to figure out what was wrong with her, why it was that all that she did was stare blankly into space, but I was no doctor and she have me no clues.

All of a sudden Connor and I found ourselves on top of each other virtually every single second of the day. Even when it was one of my days at home with Dad, Connor would always be there at the other end of the phone if I wanted to see him. And recently, that was a lot. I guess we had gotten so close, so intimate, so comfortable with each other that when we finally did collapse into bed with each other, it seemed natural. When Connor and I made love, it wasn't 'magical' or 'special' like all the girls at school had said. I just felt warm. I felt like I finally meant something to someone. After all that had happened with Carter over the past year, I finally felt like I was whole again.

The new life that I led kept me busy, but every day the one image that remained permanently implanted in my brain whatever I was doing, was the beautiful, dark-haired girl in the photograph. So much had changed over the past few weeks that it would be easy to ask Connor again but somehow, I didn't want to know anymore. Not just yet. I was happy, and because I was happy, Connor was happy. It seemed futile spoiling that.

But while my heart seemed entirely full and delirious with contentment, there was just one part missing, and it was an Isaac-shaped part. During the day, ashamedly, he didn't cross my mind as much, though in the evenings when Connor would drop me off to work at the Bush, suddenly I was faced with him. That's when I remembered how much I had lost.

Isaac began walking my way as soon as I hung my parka and backpack up on the hanger marked 'A. Cartwright' in the staff locker room. He kept his coffee eyes down as he spoke to me, the long eyelashes he possessed fluttering furiously against his cheekbones, the dim lighting casting long shadows over his tanned face. 

"Hey. How you doing?"

"Alright, I guess," I replied. "How about you?"

"Okay." He stretched out a long, brawny arm towards me, then after a second let it drop back to his side. "I was just checking to make sure you're okay."

I looked at him. "Well... Thanks." I dug in my bag for my Bush Inn shirt and held it up to him. "Don't mind, do you?" 

One of the perks of having a gay best friend.

Isaac frowned for a moment and shook his head, but I saw him turning away, hiding his face as a blush spread across his cheeks as I pulled off my floral vest, revealing my bra, and tugged on my  Bush Inn shirt. Isaac swallowed before continuing. "Alaska, I want to make things right. I want things to go back to the way they were before..."

"Connor," I finished for him. "You can say his name, Isaac."

"Are things serious?"

"Yes. They are." Now it was my turn to blush. Isaac noticed. His voice now had a distinctive edge to it. "Alaska..."

I pulled my lipgloss out of my make-up bag and opened it crossly, ripping off the lid like a plaster. "Christ, Isaac, don't look at me like that. I'm not a child."

"I just hope you know what you're doing," Isaac warned me. 

"Well, I do. Thanks for your concern." I began applying the gloss thickly to my lips, trying to hide the quivering. I didn't want to hurt Isaac, but obviously it was inevitable. He put a hand lightly on my shoulder. "Look, Alaska. You and him. It's none of my business."

"You got that right."

"I just want us to be friends." His reflection in the mirror where I was doing my make-up was desperate. "Please." 

I sighed, squeezed his hand lightly with mine. "Of course we're friends, Isaac. We always have been."

"So come to my barbecue tomorrow? It's just some mates from college. At the beach. Just like old times."

Old times. The words stuck in my throat like a stone refusing to dislodge itself. I swallowed, the lump rising. "Can Connor come?" I asked. "I really want you too to get along."

Isaac sighed, ran a hand through his hair, rolling his eyes as if I was asking for the moon. "Fine," he said. "But he's bringing the beer."

"I'll tell him."

Isaac gave me a fleeting smile, turned towards the door and looked back. "Nice talking to you, Alaska. See you tomorrow."

"Bye, Isaac." I returned the farewell, despite the fact that we would be working in the same place, on the same shift, for the next three hours. As the door closed behind Isaac I hurriedly pulled out my mobile from the pocket of my parka and typed two words to Connor:

Isaac knows.

Because Isaac did know. Partly by my fault, but mainly by Isaac's superior deduction skills, Isaac now knew that Connor and I had slept together.

And that was dangerous.

Because after recent weeks I couldn't trust Isaac unconditionally the way I had before. I couldn't know what Isaac would tell my father the moment I did something to upset him. And somehow, I knew that Isaac was upset. When he finally figured it out something changed inside of him, something snapped.

And now had to act the guilty suspect in front of my best, and only, friend. 

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