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.


27. XXVI

The light pattering of rain spattered faintly against the window pane behind my curtain as I opened a page of my biology textbook, the pages fresh and crisp and clean. I got out my notes, pierced the thin paper with my blotchy biro. With all the events that had taken place over the pas few weeks, homework had been fiercely, and wrongly, neglected. I sighed as I began neatly copying the diagram of a cell onto my page. Biology was constant. Something that didn't change; at school it was the one subject that I was good at. 

Ever since I had put Isaac out of my mind, nearly two weeks ago, I had slept better. Eaten more. Started to get up when it was still light outside, go for walks with my dad on the beach, not take my job at the Bush for granted. On reflection, I had a lot to be thankful for.

Outside, I heard a distant, familiar growl that was unmistakably Connor's Volvo. I drew aside my curtains, saw him pull up aside my dad's truck in the driveway, slip out of the driver's side, the grey hood of his sweatshirt pulled up against the sheeting rain. He looked up at my window. Waved. I grinned back. 

Homework could wait.

As Connor slouched up the path that led to my door, I heard the T.V that had been buzzing incessantly downstairs for the past half-hour stop, suddenly. My dad's worn blue flats scuffed against the carpet as he moved towards the door. "Connor, lad." He had unlocked the door, the chain brushing against the door frame lightly. "Nice to see you. Come on in."

"Nice to see you too, sir." I heard Connor slip off his own trainers. "How's the project going?"

"Steve, son. And it's good, thanks. Only going to be another couple of weeks, I'd say."

"That's great news."

I crossed the landing and sat waiting on the stairs as Connor and my dad made small talk. Football, fishing, music. Me. 

"How is she?" I heard Connor whisper. 

"Better." Dad slapped Connor on the back cheerily. "All thanks to you. She wouldn't have gotten over this so quickly if you hadn't been here."

I saw a cherry-red blush spread across Connor's cheekbones as he laughed. "Don't be silly," he murmured. "Alaska did this herself. It was nothing to do with me."

"It was everything to do with you," I corrected him, slipping slowly down the stairs so my face finally came into view. I met my dad's gaze. He smiled, softly. "In any case, we're proud of you, Alaska." he said. "Don't forget that."

I let him kiss my forehead, the stubble scratching roughly against my cheek, and then he straightened. "I'm just popping out to get some groceries, honey. I'll be back soon."

"Groceries?" Now my dad was obviously out to impress. Talk about changing the status quo. "Yes. You two go spend some time together." 

Connor looked sideways at me, gave me a quick, momentary smile. I sighed. "Okay. Just don't forget your keys."

Dad rolled his eyes, but I saw him pat his pocket anyway just to check. Connor waited until Dad's truck had pulled away into the drizzly morning before looping his arm around my waist, kissing me tenderly. "Good morning."

I kissed him back for a moment, then rested my palms on his shirt. The fabric was soft and cool on my bare skin. "I was doing my biology homework."

"Sorry." His teeth grazed my ear once, twice. "I always arrive at the most inconvenient times. Would you rather I leave you in peace?"

Smiling, I bit the inside of my cheek. "No." Connor's lips found mine again and we stood there in the hallway, the rose-patterened carpet beneath our feet, the shaded over-head lamp casting dim shadows over our skin in the gloomy morning, our lips moving slowly and warmly together as the rain fell outside onto the slippery tarmac. Connor slid his hand around my neck and cupped my chin so that I was looking straight into his eyes. "Want to come for a walk with me?"

"A walk?" I repeated. "Sure."

I grabbed my jacket from the hook by the front door, slipped on my boots, crusted with dried mud and sand. "Where?"

"Edgewood Forest?" Connor venture.d

"Yeah, alright."

As we pulled onto the Highway in Connor's Volvo the rain had softened to a light drizzle. The sun, emerging gradually from the full set of clouds hanging over Seaview threateningly, cast pools of light onto the tarmac, glittering and sleek and black. The sea, grey and luminous, was just visible behind the green-meadowed hills and cliffs, patched with clumps of purpling flowers and coarse hedges, and in front of these hills was the dense, verdant forest; the tops of the pines swaying gently, glittering with dew and rain. As Connor pulled up alongside a giant, stocky four-by-four and a similarly massive jeep, the trees had shaded from us the warming light of the sun, and only ribbons of it were pouring through the thin gaps between the pines.

The hike wasn't long, and we hadn't trekked too far before the mud thinned and the shadows of the trees grew lighter and papery along the moss-covered floor. We came to a clearing, filled with sprays of powder-white snowdrops and light dewy grass, and Connor pulled off his jacket and spread it on the ground. "Lie with me."

And I did. We lay there, side by side, only the tips of our fingers touching, the only sounds being the birds quietly tittering in the trees and our soft, steady breathing. "So, what did you want to talk to me about?"

Connor looked at me with a bemused expression. He raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"Oh, come off it." I nudged him gently in the ribs. "When was the last time we went for a forest hike?"

"Can't a guy take his girlfriend for a country walk without getting interrogated?"

"You can't," I said, "Not when you're so transparent."

"Fine, fine." Connor slid his fingers slowly through mine. "I did want to talk. About the future."

I scoffed. "We're not getting married, Connor."

"Did I propose?" He smiled as I breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief. "No. I wanted to talk about the immediate future. It's the end of summer, you know. Back to the real world, soon."

"Don't remind me." But Connor was right. This time in a mere couple of weeks, I would be sitting in a classroom full of teenagers, listening to a teacher I didn't know, learning subjects I couldn't understand. I would be way out of my depth. Of course, one thing I didn't have to worry about was starting at a whole new institution- Dad had made it clear he'd be more comfortable if I stayed at the same school to study my A-levels- however in Seaview even staying at your school for sixth form was like entering into a completely new and different world. Half the kids that had been in your Year 11 class would drop out before Year 12, and then in came the shipment of private school kids from the surrounding towns- their own schools being too full to keep any more of their shining pupils. Seaview Comprehensive of course jumped at the chance at having straight-A students studying at their crappy sixth form, however it was Seaview kids like me who would, as a consequence, be stuck in a class full of posh, caviar-eating and yacht-owning teenagers who they didn't know.

"It's my final year of sixth form," Connor continued, "and then... it's university." I stared at him dumbly, looked down at his hand, curled tightly around mine. "I don't understand your point, Connor."

He leant closer, his sweet breath washing over my face and casing my skin. "My point is," he said, "we need to figure out what we're going to do. To keep us together."

I rolled over so that I was lying on Connor's chest. His long, tattooed arms automatically wound around my waist. "Whatever I choose to do, whatever happens, you're going to uni."

Connor's voice was muffled against my hair. "I'm not going if it means I can't be near to you."

"It's not a choice, Connor. As I said, whatever happens."

His grip around my waist tightened somewhat. "Oh, so you want Carter to come back, do you?"


"I'm being serious, Alaska." His jaw was clenched. His eyes were cold, and hard. "As soon as I'm out of the picture, he's going to come back. You know that, don't you?"

I swallowed. "I guess so. We're just going to have to work it out when the time comes."

Connor gave me a lopsided grin. "The time will come sooner than you think."

"I don't want to think about it!" I rolled lazily off Connor's chest and stood up, brushing the dirt from my jeans. The rain had started up again; the heavy drops pouring incessantly through the thick canopy of trees. The scent of salty, Cornish rain mixed with the pine filled my nostrils. I leant down and pulled at Connor's sweatshirt so that he stood up too, and as he did so he pulled it down again where it had exposed his tanned midriff. He put his arm around my shoulders. "Where to, Cartwright?"

"You seem to know the forest better than I do."

"I was hoping you'd say that." He winked at me and began leading us through the rich, impenetrable forest, the rain spattering our clothes and dampening our hair as we pushed our way through the branches. "Follow me."

It wasn't long before we had reached the end of Edgewood and arrived on the side of a pallid-grey path that led up a steep hill. I pulled on Connor's arm. "It seriously concerns me how you find all these shortcuts." I shook my head. "What were you in your past life? A tracker?"

Connor grinned, thumbed the belt of his jeans like he was an old, Western cowboy. "You could say that."

It wasn't a long walk until we had reached the top of the hill, but I was still bent over, haggard, and as out of breath as if I had just sprinted a marathon by the time we were stood at the highest point. Great, looming clouds hung over us like an omen. "Look," Connor said suddenly, the rain running in cold rivers down his face, his curls flattened and dripping into his coffee eyes. "Ahead of you. Look."

And I did look. Because in front of us, murky and shaded in the late afternoon light, was the promenade. I took in a breath. "How did you know it was this way?"

Connor smiled, tapped the tip of his nose with his forefinger. "I have my secrets," he told me. "Especially when it's our two month anniversary."

I groaned. "Shit," I said, "I'm sorry. I completely forgot."

"No worries. You've had a lot on your mind recently." His hand travelled down to rest lazily on the small of my back. "Like making out with other guys right in front of your boyfriend."

I stared at Connor, open-mouthed. He winked. Giving in to helpless, uncontrollable laughter I shoved him playfully before wrapping both arms around him. Only Connor could joke about Isaac. We walked in comfortable, companionable silence for a while, our shoes kicking up the puddles that had congregated on the pale, sandy wood of the promenade, the sea that lay alongside it grey and pulsing in the skyline. Then Connor broke the silence. "That's something else I wanted to talk to you about."

"What? Isaac?" My arms dropped back down to my side. "If you're about to say what I think you're going to say, then the next word you utter will be from the middle of the ocean."

"Alaska, please." Connor looked at me under his eyelashes. "Just listen to me."

"You have to be joking. I am not going to visit Isaac in hospital."

"Please." Connor's voice was soft now, pleading. Strained. "You were such good mates before I showed up. Don't you want things to go back to the way they were?"

"This isn't about you, Connor. And it's not that simple." My gaze lingered on the sea, still and dappled in the watery sunlight. "I've just got over what happened. I never want to see him again. He probably won't even be in hospital anymore. It was only a broken nose." 

Connor looked away for a moment, his head hanging low, his eyes fixed on the wood panels beneath our feet. "Wasn't it?"

"I don't know." Connor's voice was hard. "I think..." He sighed heavily. "There might have been... complications."

"Well?" I pressed him, holding his wrist tightly, as if I could squeeze an answer out of him. "Were there or wasn't there?"

He looked at me. "What?"

"Complications, Connor."

"I told you, I don't know. There might have been. I heard some of the doctors talking to Ella..."


"Alaska." Connor stopped walking and took me by the shoulders, holding my gaze fiercely to his. "I'm just saying you should see him. That's all."

We carried on walking, each of us lost in our own thoughts. It was one of those long, balmy summer evenings, where tourists would stay out until midnight at the beach bars or on the grassy, sandy banks by the river than run by the side of the holiday cottages; talking, drinking, laughing, enjoying the last few rays of sunshine before the cold, Cornish night closed in on them. As we came to the end of the promenade I saw a young family on the beach, the mother lounging on a sandy towel under a huge shrimp-pink umbrella, the dad, belly bulging out over his bright red swim-shorts swinging a toddler by the arms into the glacial, frothing waves. The child was beautiful, tanned; his rounded, smiling face framed by a sleek mop of liquorice black hair. His caramel eyes glinted in the chalky sunlight. 

A lump rose in my throat. 

"Okay," I finally said to Connor. "Fine." His eyes gave away no emotion. His mouth remained stuck in a firm, tight line. "Great. What time shall I pick you up?"

"You're impossible."

Connor smiled at me, fleetingly, before planting a kiss softly on my forehead and leading us off into the basking, late afternoon sunlight. 

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