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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32. XXXI

As we finally pulled up at my house, the envelope seemed to weigh a thousand tons. During the journey I had fantasised so much about what was written inside, that it seemed to open it would ruin the reverie I was experiencing at having just one last piece of Isaac to myself. I couldn't help tracing Isaac's scribbled name on the front with my finger, lightly. The hard indent in the paper reminded me that he had existed. He wasn't yet a forgotten dream. We had been best friends. He had fallen in love with me. Just his name brought up a multitude of memories in my mind. Reading his letter would only increase the pain. "You sure you don't mind me coming in?" Connor's eyes were liquid gold. His tone soft, and sultry. I smiled, ran a hand through his disheveled curls. "Don't be stupid. Is your mum going to be all right, though?"

"I'll go round later, once you're asleep." He gently took a strand of my hair and tucked it behind my ear. "I just thought you might want to read it on your own."

"Hey," I reproached him, "we both went to Ella's. We both have to find a way to deal with this." I gestured to the two of us. "It involves us both. Whether Isaac wanted you to read it or not. He knew we were an uncompromisable package deal."

Purely from his expression, I could sense that Connor wasn't certain. While Isaac was alive, Connor would always ensure that he always did the complete opposite of what Isaac wanted, but now that Isaac was dead, Connor was warier. I didn't know if this was down simply to guilt, or just basic respect for the dead's wishes, but I still had the feeling that, even after our meeting with Ella, Connor still had the weight of culpability hovering over him like a rain cloud.

It was quiet inside the house. When we reached the kitchen, I found lying on the table a scribbled note from Dad on the back of an old receipt. 

'Watching football at Joe's. Be home later. Love you.'

I crumbled the receipt in my hand, chucking it into the bin as I passed. At the moment, Dad seemed to be spending more time with his friends and a can of beer than his own home. Not that I worried too much. I guessed that this was his way of dealing with everything. As we made our way silently to my bedroom, each step felt like an eternity. The longer the journey felt, the less and less I wanted to open the letter and hear what Isaac had to say. Once in my bedroom, I pulled off my Converse, not bothering to change into my pyjamas, and slipped underneath my bed covers. Connor pulled my desk chair over to where I was dozing and sat in it, covering himself with my ragged, patchy quilt that lay at the foot of my bed. He was preparing himself for a long night. Whatever my reaction to the letter, I knew that Connor would stay and watch me until I fell asleep. 

All was silent. For a moment, both of us just stared at the white envelope, hoping it would evaporate into the silk bed cover.

"Scarlet," Connor said, carefully, "maybe you shouldn't open it, after all. You might be disappointed."

"I'm not expecting him to apologise, Connor," I retaliated, "I just want to know why. Why he killed himself. If it was because of me, or you, or..."

Connor moved to sit on the edge of the bed, his fingers twined with mine, his lips in my hair, his teeth grazing my ear. "He might not give you any of the answers you're looking for, Scarlet. He'd know how angry you'd be. How disappointed. And do you really want to know if he blamed you?" he continued, letting out a long, broken breath, "Reading, in his own hand, that you were the reason he topped himself?"

Connor was right. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew deep down that, if Isaac so much as hinted that the weight of culpability should lie upon my shoulders, I would never recover. Watching Connor play the blame game was hard enough. If the tables happened to turn, I didn't know how I would cope.

Connor was staring at me underneath his impossibly long lashes. The dim light of the street lamp shining outside the window reflected a pool of buttery light onto the wooden floorboards, which left his skin golden and warm. I raised a hand to rest it on his cheek. "I'm ready."

"You sure?" His voice was dripping with unease, and dread. For Connor especially, this was the moment where everything could change. Either he could be cleansed from all the blame he had shouldered for the past few months, or he could be left with a new burden. Something dangerous. Something unforeseen  The ripping of the envelope sounded harshly into the silent night. Connor winced, as if it was a limb from his own body. I closed my eyes. Through the veil of sudden and unexpected tears, Isaac's words blurred and danced on the cream paper. I brought a hand to my face, wiping them away hurriedly. This was it. The moment I could never regain. The moment when I, for the first time, read the last words of my dead best friend. 

Scarlet,

I apologise in advance for how crap this letter will turn out to be. I've already written it five times. I don't think I can ever get it right. There's nothing I can say that will measure up to the amount of emotion I feel when I think about you. Not in a lovey-dovey sense, mind you, not at this point anyway. At the moment, I hate you. But that will pass. Just like everything will eventually pass. The weeks of summer. Your relationship with Connor. My life. Don't label me as being melodramatic. I know I am, but please, allow me this one last dignity. It's how all the greats go, don't they? Mark Antony. Cleopatra. Sylvia Plath. Well, I'm one of them. I want to gain back control over my life. Even if that control comes only with death, I'm ready to take that risk.

I get why people say it's selfish. They're right. It is the ultimate selfish act. Deciding when you want to die. Not thinking about how it will hurt others. How it will cost a fortune. Especially if they think my death is suspicious. All the investigations and shit like that. Well, you can correct them on that one. You know the truth. You can break the awful news. But keep this is mind. My suicide is not about you. None of this is about you. Sure, I am in love with you. I haven't hidden that fact, as I know Connor and yourself are aware. But there are deeper reasons why I've chosen to do this. First of all, I don't want to be taking anti-despressants all of my life. Second of all, I don't want people asking me, 'are you all right?' every single day of my life, until Seaview forgets about everything that has happened this summer. As we both know, Seaview doesn't forget about anything that easily. 

The final reason, is to get revenge. Not on you. Not on Connor either, you'll be surprised to know. But as soon as Ella told me not to press charges, I knew that I would have to do something to make everybody stop and listen. So many things in my life have happened because I wasn't brave enough to do something to make people think. When my mum died, don't you think I wanted another mum and dad to take care of me? I did. I was only ten, for Christ's sake. But even so, I let Ella take me to live with her in an old castle in the middle of nowhere, with no one else but us two, having to depend on each other for everything.

I'm sorry, Scarlet. I can hear how bitter I sound about everything. But I'm not. I don't regret anything I've done in my life, not really. One of my proudest moments will be when I kissed you. It was worth the broken nose, believe me. I know what you all really wanted to know: was I ever gay? That, I can answer in the affirmative. But as well as always having been gay, I was always in love with you, too. You know that saying, that you should never change who you are for someone else? That's bullshit. You were always worth changing for. Scarlet, I would have sold my soul to the devil himself, for you.

I don't know what I expected to happen. The outcome seemed fated, anyway. My hypothesis, is that ever since Lily's rape, everything in our lives has started to go wrong. That's no one's fault. Just the way it is. All it takes us for one big tragedy to happen for everything to start going right again. Scarlet, I am willing to be that tragedy, to make things better, for you.

So I guess that's all I have to say. Except that I'm sorry. Again. This isn't your fault. Or Connor's. Or anyone's, in fact. You know, I only hated him because he was with you. You love him. And he has one too many secrets. If you were to read this before I were dead, (and that's not going to happen), you would yell at me for going into other people's business. But I only did it for you. I researched Connor. Scarlet, when I say this, I say it because I care about you, and want the best for you. Ask Connor about his past. Ask him why his brothers are on tour without him, when he was the one who put the band together in the first place. Ask him who Jasmin was. That's all I ask. My dying wish, if you will.

I know that I'll be dead before you read this. That's because I have planned everything. Tomorrow, at 6 o' clock. That's when I'm surfing out. It won't be a painless death, I'm well aware of that. But I'd rather it be painful than undignified. Remember that film we watched once, that Sunday before we went back to school after that summer when it didn't stop raining? We were 12, I think. Pointbreak. The guy at the end commits suicide by catching a wave so large it drowns him in minutes. His lungs get pumped full of water so quickly he doesn't feel anything. He dies doing what he loves. Because it's more dignified than being caught by the cops. That's why I'm doing it. The best death I could possibly have.

I am scared. But I know by doing this, I am part of something bigger. We can't see it yet. But, damn it, Scarlet! It's there.

I'll let you know when I get to wherever I'm going. Until then, be happy. Love. Dream. Don't throw any wild parties without me there in spirit. Look after Ella. She knows I love her.

I love you, too. Tell Steve thanks, for trying to turn me into a man. It was never going to happen, anyway.

Isaac

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