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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26. XXV

The sirens never stopped. 

The days that followed were possibly the worst kind of torture that anyone could ever put me through. It was like I wasn't human anymore; I couldn't feel anything. My blood had stopped moving around my veins, my organs felt pale and grey and oxygen-starved. They had no need to work. didn't need them anymore. Every time I breathed it hurt.

Dad didn't understand.

Everyday he would knock on my door; place some food, a glass of water, a novel and the house phone on my desk. The pile of plates grew larger, the food slopping off onto the table. The cups of water endless. The books unread. The phone unused. My routine now purely consisted of sleep, or rather the lack of it. It was as if images of what happened that Friday night at the barbecue were on a constant replay through my mind; unrelenting, ceaseless. I would have better luck sleeping if someone was forcing my eyes open while pouring chlorine straight into them. 

My chest ached. I had spent two weeks lying in bed, my arms wrapped tightly around my stomach, telling myself that I was fine, that I wasn't going to fall apart. But, that's as sure as hell what it felt like. It was as if everything I knew had turned to dust. I had disregarded all the lies, furiously ignored the demons threatening to tear my life apart, only to find that there was no truth; the demons were, in fact, those who were closest to me. The worst thing was, I hadn't even seen it coming. I hadn't heeded Connor's warnings. Ignored the jitters and knowing glances at the party. Mistook Isaac's behaviour for friendship, intimacy. Trust.

Trust. That irrelevant word. All the trust that had existed previously between Isaac and I had vanished just as quickly as Isaac's blood as the pure, white sand sucked it up, greedily. Every time I remembered the ferocity of his kiss, the pressure of his lips on mine, I couldn't help thinking a revolting, disgusting thought that lingered in my mind ever since the kiss had taken place. I'd rather it was Carter. I'd rather it was Carter. I'd rather it was Carter.

"Alaska."

The familiar knock. The unnecessary announcement of my name, just to check that I was still alive. The absurdity of it. I buried deeper into the mountain that was my duvet, my dad's voice now distant, and muffled. My bedroom door creaked open, the beads of my dreamcatchers clinking delicately against the driftwood. I sneaked a look at my watch. Quarter past one. Dad would be on his way to work. I craved the quiet. The peace.

"Honey." When I didn't reply, he sighed. "Love. It's been two weeks. Please, just say something to me."

Another silence. The chink of china against china as Dad began to stack up the untouched plates, the thump of books as he re-arranged my desk, biding his time. Waiting to tell me something. My skin began to crawl.

Isaac.

Something had happened to Isaac.

"I need to tell you something, Alaska."

So this was it. The moment. The moment where duty and loyalty told me I would have to feel guilty about hating what Isaac did to me. But I didn't. I couldn't.

"It's that guy. Your... boyfriend."

I bolted up in bed. Stared at my dad, as if the words that had just come out of his mouth were a lie, an allusion. But they weren't.

"Connor?"

My dad shuffled on his fete, uncomfortable. He rubbed his head with the back of his hand. Clearly, he was upset at the fact that I would get up for my boyfriend, and not for him. Sure, my dad was sympathetic. But Connor understood. He gave me a brief, fleeting smile. "Sure. Him. Should I send him up?"

I nodded. Tried to smooth my hair into a respectable amount of 'untidy'. At the moment it was an illegal amount. Dad looked over at me, somewhat sadly. "I wouldn't worry," he said. "He doesn't look so great either." Dad turned towards the door. "Looks like neither of you have slept well recently."

I swallowed. Half of me was scared to see Connor, scared to face the guilt. The police sirens. The screams. Connor could have been arrested for all I knew. All I had done was run away, leave him there, abandon him in his hour of need, to pay for my mistake. I returned my dad's smile, equally as forced. "Thanks, Dad. And I'm sorry," I added. He dipped his head briefly. 

"You have nothing to be sorry for, Alaska. Whatever Isaac did, it wasn't your fault. He's had his punishment."

"How is he?"

"I don't know." Dad's voice was sharp, cold. "And to be honest, I don't really care. I know he hurt you."

I still hadn't told my dad what had happened. I couldn't face it. He leaned over and rumpled my hair affectionately, and I closed my eyes. The annoyance was bubbling up inside me, threatening to explode over the surface. Whatever empty words my dad had used over the past two weeks in futile attempts to console me meant nothing. What I wanted, what I needed was the truth. The last time I had seen Isaac, he was lying unconscious in a puddle of his own blood. Knowing if he was alive or not was a question I couldn't even begin to form in my mouth.

Dad had disappeared down the stairs when I finally opened my eyes again, and there was a murmur, a sigh. The next second he had re-appeared back in my room, and next to him, stood Connor. We stared at each other. Despite normally being one of the most well-dressed people I knew, Connor was now dressed in worn grey tracksuits and a maroon hoodie, the cotton grubby and crumpled like he had been in them at least a fortnight. However it wasn't just Connor's clothes that looked tired; his face was weary, drained. Dark circles hung below his bloodshot eyes, a deep, inky purple colour, and his hair was greasy and hung like straw down his thin, hollowed cheeks. The conflict of whether I wanted to cry or hug him battled inside of my mind.

There was a long, aching silence.

My dad coughed. "Right," he said. "I'll leave you guys to it. Got to go to work."

"Thanks, Mr Cartwright."

"No problem, son." Dad's voice lowered to a hoarse whisper. "Look after her." I let him believe that I couldn't hear him. As soon as the door squeaked behind Dad, Connor pulled off his trainers and slipped into bed beside me. I sighed, lowered my head on his hard chest. In the distance the front door slammed behind Dad, the choking splutter of his interior design truck sounded mutely as he pulled away onto the highway. Connor fingered a lock of my knotted hair. "You okay?"

I grunted. 

"Yeah, right, sorry. Stupid question."

"I just don't know what to do anymore."

Connor caressed my face tenderly, kissed me lightly on the forehead. His scent of pine and coffee washed over me deliciously. "You don't have to do anything. Let's just let things work themselves out."

I let out a breath, felt Connor's chest move as he exhaled also, in total syncopation. "How about you? Are you okay?"

"They dropped the charges," Connor replied gruffly, by way of an answer, "They let me go this morning."

"They?"

"Isaac's sister came in. Talked to him." Connor stretched his brawny arms above his chest, the muscles popped. "Then the police guy told me Isaac was dropping the charges and that I could go. And that he apologised for anything he might have done to aggravate me."

"Isaac said that?" It sounded just about as improbable as you could get. A month ago, Isaac would have given anything to get Connor out of Seaview and into the county jail; out of my life. Banged up. I guess that's what you call a guilty conscience and a bucket-full of anaesthetic. 

"I know." Connor began fiddling with a loose thread on my sweatshirt. "Just as well, really. I would have gotten six months." His voice wavered slightly. "I would have been just like Alex."

"You're nothing like Alex!"

"Yeah, well." Connor cleared his throat, shifted his position under the duvet. "It's not uncommon for him to throw a fist or two at a rave."

"It wasn't a rave," I told him, "and you didn't 'throw a fist'. You were aggravated. His words."

"You got that right."

I closed my eyes for a moment, letting the memory fade. Blood. Screams. Sirens. "How is Isaac?"

Connor's body stiffened. His hand stopped moving and fell from where it had been stroking my face, softly. "Hospital. Broken nose. No big deal."

I thought of Connor's red-splattered shirt, like a bad tie-dye. "The blood?"

"The impact. They said I smacked him pretty hard. Had to be x-rayed for a sprain."

I nodded soundlessly, snuggling into Connor. "That's all I needed to know."

He didn't reply. He didn't need to. But somehow, he thought he did. A duty of one's boyfriend towards his bereaved girlfriend who had just lost her soulmate.

"I'm sorry."

There was nothing more to be said on the subject of Isaac.

"So." Connor's breath was at my ear, the warmth casing my skin. "What now?"

"We move on, Connor. Summer's too short."

"Here's to that."

We spent the rest of the day curled up in bed, the sun slanting through the gap in the curtains, dappled on Connor's face, a Debussy CD in the background, and all memories of Isaac and the barbecue slipping out of my memory and through the window as effortlessly as any memory I had forgotten before.

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