Nowhere

She is hanging below me, clinging to a loose rope. I reach out. She’s too far away. She is too afraid to let go, and I am too afraid to lean out any further.
She’s helpless.
The rope creaked ominously. I look up instinctively, and in that second I see the rope snap high above us. My head snaps down in an instant. Just quick enough to see her fall.
I hear my own screams mixed in with hers.
“Megan…!”
***

Lauren's friend, Megan, died five years ago and Lauren has never really gottten over it. Finally she decides that it's time for her to face her fears. She goes back to the place Megan died, hoping to find it in herslef to move on. What she doesn't bargin on is what she discovers about her death. What really happened? And what has it got to do with Lauren? All the while she finds herself falling for boy she'd have ben better off running far away from...

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7. Apologies

  I find myself back in the woods. I stop at the edge of the clearing, avoiding looking too closely just yet. I reach up to grab a low branch on one of the nearest trees. I hoist myself up a few branches until I find one that sticks out at ninety degrees. I sit on it, leaning against the tree trunk.  I face the high ropes course in front of me, but it’s deserted now, whereas before it was swarming with paramedics. I stare at the spot where it happened. Megan’s body appears in my head, as if it’s superimposed onto my skull. Whatever I do, I can’t shake the image. But now, along side Megan’s body, I can see Chloe lying next to her, except in my mind, she’s dead, just like Megan. Why does this always happen to me? Why do my friends always fall? Why not me?

  The last thought doesn’t shock me like it should. I’ve always thought of suicide. It’s always been in the back of my mind. Not so much in the last few years, but after Megan, I thought of following her. I always thought it was me that deserved to die, not her. It wasn’t fair. So I had the idea of balancing the scales; joining her. I don’t know why I never did. I still can’t tell you what it was that stopped me. But today, I was ready to jump after Chloe. Unconsciously, I know that’s what I was doing. In that split second I couldn’t cope. I unbuckled my harness, fully ready to jump. Only someone stopped me.

 

  I feel hands wrap around my waist, pulling me back from the edge of the platform. I struggle. I kick and scream, but their grip on my only tightens. I try pushing away the hands, but they don’t budge.

  I hear a soothing voice in my ear, “It’s okay; it’s going to be okay.”

  “No! No, it’s not okay! She’s going to die!” I shout. The hands stay firm around my waist and I realise there’s no point struggling; they’re not going to let me see her. I stop and fall limply into the arms, letting the tears run down my face like waterfalls.

 

  Tyler. I know now what I hadn’t realised then; that was Tyler’s voice that reassured me, and it was him that stopped me.

  I don’t know whether I’m angry at him for not letting me end it then, or happy that he made sure I didn’t.

  Tyler was here that day, I reminded myself, He was here when Megan fell.

  He blames me for it. I can see he does. So now both Yasmin and Tyler know, where does that leave me?

  I stare at the spot on the ground below me and hug my knees to my chest. What is with my life?

  I hear the snapping of twigs as someone walks below me, but I don’t look down, assuming they’ll walk past. But they don’t, instead they stop below me. I sigh and look down at the last person I want to see right now. Tyler. Can’t he just leave me alone?

  He climbs up and sits on a branch a few feet over from mine, but at the same height. No, obviously he can’t.

  We sit in silence for a while as I completely ignore him. I know I should say sorry for my outburst, but I don’t.

  Finally I can’t stand it any longer. “You were here weren’t you?”

 

  He doesn’t answer for a minute, so I open my mouth to elaborate, but he starts talking. “Yeah.”

  Instinctively we both know that we’re talking about the same thing, without even having to ask.

  After a pause I ask, “Did you know her?” He takes a breath, and I glance at him. He looks nervous and he picks bark off the tree trunk. “Well, did you?”

  “Yes.”

  I lean back, surprised. I don’t really remember ever talking to Tyler that summer. Then again, I don’t really remember anything much from that camp. “How?” It sounds stupid, but for some reason, I feel it needs asking.

  He looks even more nervous now, looking everywhere but at me, running his hand through his hair, making it look tousled in the breeze. How can I still like him? But then he answers and all thoughts of running my own hands through his hair disappear.

  “I was her boyfriend.”

  “What?!” I almost fall off my branch, clutching it desperately, but at the same time I stare at Tyler. Did he just say he was Megan’s boyfriend? No she didn’t have a boyfriend. She would have told me. We told each other everything.

  I laugh, shaking my head. “Tyler, she didn’t have a boyfriend.”

  “Yes she did.” He murmurs.

  I laugh again not believing him, “She would have told me if she did.”

  He looks up at me and meets my gaze for the first time. “Lauren, I was Megan’s boyfriend.” I search the chocolate for any hint of a lie. I can’t find any. The laughter dies on my lips.

  I frown. “Seriously?” My voice is barely a whisper now.

  He nods.

  “But... but-” I struggle with the concept in my mind. How did I not know? Why didn’t she tell me? I would have told her if I had a boyfriend. I always tell her everything. I trusted her with all my deepest secret. But Megan obviously didn’t trust me. A sob rises in me. “She didn’t trust me.” Tyler has the sense to keep quiet while I try to sort out my thoughts, looking at our friendship in a whole different light. I shake my head and look up at Tyler. “What happened?” I don’t want to know, but at the same time, I have to know what happened or I won't be able to grasp the idea.

  He takes a deep breath. “Well, we met on the first week of camp, doing the gorge scrambling. She fell and I helped her up.” I draw in a breath. He did that with her too. And I thought it felt specially. Stupid. I should know by now that no one is ever going to choose me. “We flirted a bit but then she went back to you, but I told her that I’d meet her later after dinner. We did and well... we hit off straight away. After that she would sneak out of the cabin at night and we’d meet in the woods. I asked her to be my girlfriend one night, and she said yes, but the next day she was dead.”

  I could see the tears in his eyes, but all I can feel is the intense wave of jealousy rising in my chest. All that happened behind my back. She never once told me about it, and by the sounds of it they were sneaking out for at least two weeks. But every word of his speech hurt me. They hit off straight away, but with me, Tyler’s been off from the start. Along with a wave of jealousy comes anger. Why does Megan have to ruin what I could have had with Tyler? He probably can’t look at me without thinking of Megan, I bet he wishes I was here. Even five years after she’s died, Megan is still ruining my life.

  I regret the thought instantly. She was my best friend – I wouldn’t take back the time we had for anything gin the world. And it’s not her fault she died, if it’s anyone’s it’s mine. But in the jealous, spitefully corner of my brain, I hate Megan: She’s the reason the last five years of my life hell; She’s ruined my chance with Tyler and now I find out that she wasn’t even a proper friend.

  Tyler stares at me worriedly, but I turn away from him. He only sees Megan when he looks at me anyway, so why should I bother? I sit staring out into the trees, feeling betrayed by everyone. I don’t know why I should feel so angry at Tyler, at least he’s told me. But the thing is, deep down, I know it’s my fault. It’s my fault for not being a better friend, and it’s my fault for not catching her.

  Tyler clears his throat behind me. “I wanted to say sorry. I’m sorry I’ve been so hot and cold, I... Well I always blamed you when Megan died.” I turn to look at him and he ducks his head, ashamed. “All I kept thinking was that if you’d caught, taken her hand, she’d still be alive. That’s why, when I recognised you by the lake, I left. I was still mad at you. But... I – I Know it’s not really your fault, but I think everyone needs someone to blame. And I blamed you.” He shrugs faintly. “I’m sorry.”

  I’m touched by his apology, but I’m in a bad mood, so I’m not about to let him see that. “Apology not accepted.” I snap. He looks up at me blankly. “You think this is meant to make me feel better? In what twisted universe is this meant to make me feel better? I find out that my best friend was going out with you and she didn’t tell me, and then that you blame me for Megan and Chloe falling. Yeah, thanks, I really appreciate that.”

  Tears pour down my cheeks; I finally let out all the tears I’ve been holding in over the last week. They all pour down my cheeks, and I let them. I haven’t the energy or the will power to do anything to stop them.

  Something inside of me just snaps. “You don’t get it do you?!” I scream at him. “You don’t know what it’s been like for me! You think that you can just pin the blame on me, and everything’s alright for you, because you have someone to blame. But what about me? What about little old me? I have to live with that; I have to live with the fact it was my fault. How do you think I feel Tyler? Ever think of that? I KILLED my best friend! I don’t care what you were to her - you knew here, what – a couple of weeks? We’d been friends since we were two. She was my best friend! And I killed her!”

 I drop my head into my hand. I want to storm off, but I haven’t the strength to get down from my branch. I can’t say anything else, as much as I want to scream at Tyler, my mouth refuses to work. All I can manage are heartbroken sobs. There’s no point explaining anyway. He won’t understand - how can anyone understand? Especially Tyler. My lip curls up in disgust. He acts the heartbroken boyfriend, but doesn’t he realise that it’s the exact opposite of what I want to hear? He tells me that he dated Megan, and she – my best friend – didn’t even tell me about it. She snuck out behind my back. And to think I trusted her with everything. To think I actually had feelings for Tyler. I shake my head, disgusted at myself now. How could I ever have been so stupid?

  “Lauren please-”

  I lift my head up from my hands, laughing at him in disbelief. “You think that you can just charm me out of this? Well I’ve got news for you – it’s not going to work.”

  “Lauren, just hear me out-”

  “Hear you out?” I bark, “You think I want to stay hear and listen to your excuses?”

  Tyler opens his mouth, about to argue with me, but he realises that there’s no point. He sighs in defeat. “Well, I just thought you ought to know.”

“Thanks.” I say bitterly.

  I climb down the tree, and jump down to the forest floor. I refuse to look up at him, but I hear his voice follow me down, “Sorry Lauren.” With that I charge off into the trees.

  I remember his words in the hospital; ‘this is why you should have left’.

  How did he know this was going to happen? Because it sounds like he did. He tells me I need to leave, and a day later Chloe almost dies, and he tells me that that was why I should have left. What does he know?

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