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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1. Boy by the Lake

  A scream rings out behind me, I freeze; it’s a familiar scream. No, no, it can’t be - I turn quickly on my heel.

  Behind me is the platform, built around a tree, high off the ground. The ropes keeping us in place hanging from a wire above us. In front of me a harness hangs limply, where just two minutes ago, she had been.

  I gasp, choking in horror, and run the short distance across the wooden platform, I hear the people behind me unfreeze and a voice calls me back, but I take no notice. I drop to my knees and lean as far out as I dare.

  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…!”

 

*

  I wake up, sitting up abruptly, breathing fast as if I’d just run a marathon. I look around and slowly my heart rate returns to normal, and my breathing slows down. It’s okay, I’m in my room - it was just a dream. But then I slam my head down against the pillow; No, it’s not okay. Megan’s not okay. I let the tears fall onto my pillow, sobbing silently so as not to wake anyone. Megan’s not okay.

  Oh god, what am I doing? I can’t go back. There’s no way I can go back to the place she died. I’m not ready.

  The pain sears through me, but I try to stop the sob, pushing it down. I tell myself the same thing I have for weeks; it’s been five years. I can’t keep doing this to myself. Megan would want me to get on with my life, but here I am, still crying.

  I roughly wipe away the last of the tears and square my shoulders. I need to move on, and the only way to move on is to go back.

  I glance at the alarm clock; it’s barely five o’clock, but there’s no way I’m going to get back to sleep now. I sigh and pull back my duvet. I look down at my suitcase, still empty after last nights fruitless attempts to pack. I can’t put it off any longer.

  So, I reluctantly turn on the light and get to work. It’s going to be a long day.

 

*

 

  “Are you sure about this?”

  I look at Dad’s concerned face. “Yes.” I say, more confidently than I feel; inside I think I might have a mental break down. That’s the last thing I need.

  “Well, call me soon and tell me how it goes, okay?”

  I give him a quick hug. “Sure.” I dash out of the car, and slam the door shut before I can think it over. As soon as my Dad’s car turns the corner of the forest track, I slowly turn, unwilling to take in the surroundings. Familiar even after five years. I rub my head, feeling the start of a headache coming on. I’ve been getting them a lot lately. Maybe because of lack of sleep.

  A sign at the side of the road announces; Haverton Adventure Camp. That’s where I’ll be working. A whole six weeks helping out at the camp. If I last that long.

  I pick up the case I had finally managed to pack, and walk into a clearing in the forest, all around me are log cabins, each with a large sign outside telling everyone what was inside; Dining Hall, Toilets, Offices. I can’t see any of the cabins we’ll be sleeping in. Kids are starting to arrive, but the clearing is mostly empty. I spot a woman standing by a group of kids with a clip board, I head in her direction.

  As reach her, the kids move away, and she turns to me. She smiles widely and I warm to her immediately. She’s dressed in loose grey joggers, a pink sweatshirt, and has long black hair, tied up in a high pony tail. Glasses frame her dark eyes; she looks about twenty, so she’s not that much older than me. She holds out her hand for me to shake. “Hi, I’m Yasmin; I’m the activities organiser here.”

  “Hi Yasmin,” I smile. “I’m Lauren; I’m helping out for the summer.” An expression I can’t quite fathom crosses her face, so fast I can’t even be sure it was there.

  Her smile just widens, and she looks down at her clipboard, “Oh yes, Lauren Fanon. You’re in Cabin Two with Chloe, just through there.” She points to a track leading off the main clearing. “We’re all meeting in the Dinning Room for dinner and the announcements, timetables, that sort of thing.” She pulls a face, “I hate public speaking.” Then she laughs, which makes me crack a smile despite myself. She looks over my shoulder and grins. “Oh, there’s Tori! I better say hi, see you later Lauren.” Yasmin skips off to a girl who’s just entered the clearing, they greet each other enthusiastically.

  I smile slightly to myself. Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe it’ll do me good being around other people who don’t know me, or my past. I pick up my case, wondering in the direction Yasmin pointed out to me. I come out in a smaller clearing than the last one, with four cabins in a circle and the remains of a campfire in the middle. I walk over to the cabin with a large number two on the front of it, and push open the door.

  I’m in a corridor with five doors leading off it. I smile, remembering the layout of the cabins. Lauren and I always went for the dorm nearest the showers and furthest away from the student worker’s room. That was the room everyone wanted, but every year we would come early just to get it. Tears prick in the corners of my eyes, and I shake myself, heading straight for the leaders room.

  It’s bigger than the rooms I remember staying in, with two beds, a wardrobe, a large window and a door leading off it, presumably to the bathroom. Everything is completely made of wood, making the room smell of pine. I close my eyes, sinking down onto a bed and breathing in the familiar smell. A wash of memories comes with it, but I push back the tidal wave.

  I snap open my eyes and find myself looking out of the window at the trees, just meters away. I feel the itching need to go back into those trees that used to be my home every single summer. I knew those woods like the back of my hand.

  I quickly slip off my jeans and top and replace them with leggings and a camp vest top, with the Haverton logo on the front.  I lace up my trainers, and step out into the sunshine flittering its way through the trees, casting dancing shadows across the ground.

  I take a familiar trail out into the woods. I breathe in the fresh air, and realise how much I’ve missed the freedom of the woods. I’ve spent five years stuck in the crowded, smoky city; I hadn’t realised how much I hated it, until now. How will I make myself go back? I laugh at the irony of that; I hadn’t wanted to come, but now I don’t think I can ever leave.

  After about five minutes jogging along the path, I spot the lake sparkling through the trees. I take the right hand trail at a fork in the path, running towards Sparrow Lake. I come to a halt as the trail ends at the edge of the river. I lean on a tree to catch my breath, staring out into the deep blue of the lake, reflecting the cloudless sky. I don’t think I ever really appreciated how beautiful it is before now. In the silence, I listen to the birds singing high above me, all the voices harmonising together. It’s always reminded me of the flowing water of the river. If I let it fade into the background, I can almost imagine I’m standing next to a river.

  Memories crowd me; memories of Megan and I playing down the lake; swimming in the clear water in the hot sun, paddling on the edge when it was colder, sailing paper boats out across the lake, laughing as they slowly sank. But along with the good memories come bad ones; screaming, a body lying twisted in the carpet of leaves-

  No. I cut off the thoughts, squeezing my eyes tight shut. Slowly I open them and I inch closer to the lake’s edge and stare down at my reflection. I look at the girl in the water. If Megan were still alive, she probably wouldn’t recognise me. I swallow down the tears, but the truth of it hits me. I’m nowhere near the person I was five years ago. That’s why my parents have been so worried, hanging over me, asking about my friends. If you could call them that. I hear them talking, when they think I’m in asleep, Mum says it’s just my hormones, all teenagers go through it. My Dad says it’s the pressure of all the exams. We all know what it really is.

  The girl in the water looks up at me with the same black hair and blue eyes as she always has done, but the life has gone out of them, like I died along with Megan. There’s no life in the ones sparkling blue, all the determination has vanished, the thirst for adventure and the longing for the adrenaline of extreme sports.  All I am now is an empty shell, living an empty life. No real friends, nothing to do but mourn the long gone days of the popular, confident Lauren and contemplate the new, shy, withdrawn Lauren.

  I hate myself for letting my life fall to pieces in front of my eyes, but yet I don’t have the energy to stop it. I feel like my life was an endless dream of walking around, and being, yet not living, and now, coming back here, I feel like I’ve finally woken up. A surge of hope floods through me. Maybe this is what I needed after all.

  My eyes glaze over as I stare down, but a breeze blows ripples across the water, twisting the image of me into dancing shapes. I notice another reflection join mine. I jump and look up to find a boy about my age, standing just behind me. I wonder how I didn’t notice him coming up the trail.

  I take a second to drink him in. Dusty blond hair falls across his forehead – the way I see the boys at school wear it. Usually it annoys the hell out of me, how they think they’re it, tossing their head to the side every minute, looking out of the corner of their eye to see if any of the girls have noticed. That’s all the think about; girls. It makes me feel sick. But somehow, twined with deep brown eyes, like liquid chocolate, and tanned face, I don’t mind his hair one bit. In fact, I think as I surreptitiously look him up and down, taking in the muscular arms and chest, this boy is nothing short of gorgeous – hot as I might have once said. But I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen him before, which is stupid because surely I’d have remembered if I’d seen him before?

  Just as my mind begins to wonder, he brings me back to earth, smiling at my reaction. “Hey, didn’t scare you, did I?”

  I laugh, and turn back to the lake, if only to stop staring. “Just a bit.”

  He takes a step forward, so he’s standing next to me. I notice he’s a whole head taller than me. Damn, I’m not normally so small.

  “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

  “Huh?” I’m still thinking about his hair.

  He smiles and nods at the water, “The lake.”

  “Oh,” I hide the blush. “Yeah, I love this place.”

  There’s a long pause as we both stare out at the lake, and, to my surprise, it isn’t at all awkward, just us staring out at the sparkling lake.

  Finally he turns to me, “So, you’re working at Haverton?”

  “Yeah, are you?”

  He nods, then, as he looks at me and I turn to meet his gaze, I see a flash of recognition; maybe I have seen him before. “Have you been here before?”

  I shrug, “I haven’t worked here before, but I was here years ago.” I swallow the lump that appears in my throat.

  Suddenly his whole manner changes; his back stiffens, the chocolate eyes hardens and just like that, gone is the open friendly guy I just met. “I have to go.” His voice is cold, and he backs away, before turning and striding off down the path I came down.

  I stare after him in shock, frozen to the spot. What was that about? What have I done?

  Then I kick myself (mentally) for even caring. It’s just some guy I’ve known for two minutes – I don’t even know his name for God’s sake. Just because he’s hot... Ergh I should have known, I mean, all the best looking guys are total jerks. What is his problem?

  I try to push him out of my mind; I don’t come here to fall for a jerk. Still, this particular jerk is proving hard to shove out of my mind. Well, it’ll be your own fault if you get hurt, says a snide voice in the back of my head. No. I’m coming here to get over Megan, and then I can go. I’m not tying myself down.
  I shake my head at my own mentalness and turn to walk back to the cabin.

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