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.

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...


16. Withheld

   It could have been minutes, or hours, but inevitably, Tyler finds me, curled like that. I surprise myself with the amount of tears, but they won't stop, by borrowed clothes soak through with tears, and some of it with blood from cuts from the broken glass.

  He doesn’t say anything; he just crouches down next to me and lets me bury my head into his chest once more.

  I want to tell him that I’m sorry for yelling at him and he was right; I should have calmed down before speaking to them, but before I can say anything, he shushes me.

  His presence calms me, but only slightly. Still, the questions circle my head and no answers present themselves. I long for Tyler to say something comforting, even though I’ve no idea what I want to hear. I realise at some point that it’s not that I want Tyler to do anything differently. I just don’t want Tyler. At the same time I realise a few things; what I want, quickly followed by the knowledge that I can never have it.


  I need Megan next to me, comforting me, telling me that everything is going to be alright. Then, even through my tears, she’d make me laugh, and for a moment I’d forget everything that’s wrong.

  But nothing would be wrong if she was here. None of this would ever have happened, right? But I would still have been adopted, and I might still have had Yasmin after me, maybe I’d still have met Tyler, but as Megan’s boyfriend and we’d find Luna to help us figure everything out.

  Instead, I’m going through the same, but without my best friend at my side.

  I only cry harder into Tyler’s shirt and he continues to sooth me, making gentle shushing noises.

  After god knows how long, I fall silent, only sniffling slightly. It’s another while before Tyler moves, gently pulling me up with him. I don’t resist, but my legs protest from being in the same position for so long. He sits me on the bed and disappears through a door, coming back moments later with a wet flannel. Carefully, so not to hurt me, he wipes the blood from my cuts; I wince nonetheless.

  All the while, we’re silent. Eventually Tyler’s finished and he stands up, taking my hand and tugging me to him. I sigh into his chest and push my head into the crook of his neck. Against my hair he whispers, “It’s going to be okay. I promise.”

  That’s one heck of a promise.





  I away from the bookshelf I was staring at, not reading any of the titles on the worn spines. “Yeah?”

  “Lauren,” Luna repeats carefully, like if she makes one wrong move, I’ll crack, or snap, or whatever it is I do. “I know this might be a bit too much to take in, but I thought you should know.”

 I’m instantly alert, placing the book down on the coffee table in front of me and folding my legs up onto the sofa. “What is it?” I ask warily.

  Luna leans forward across the antique dining table, “Your real parents, I mean, your birth parents, well...”

  “Well, it says their names are ‘withheld’ not ‘unknown’. So they do know who they are, they just aren’t telling us.”

  My eyes widen in shock and I sit up straighter. “You mean - I could find out who they are?”

  She nods slowly, “You could-”

  I interrupt her, “How?”

  “Lots of ways, but the easiest is to just wait until I get the copy of your full file.” She hesitates, choosing her words carefully, “But I’m warning you that you shouldn’t go looking for them once you know who they are.”

  I nod. “It’s enough just to know.”

  Luna looks doubtful, “Let’s hope so.”




  I think I might have been staring at the exact same patch of wall for an hour, at least, completely lost in thought. Tyler has thrown me a few worried glances, but otherwise let me be, for which I’m grateful.

  I’m not totally sure on much of my surroundings. I haven’t seen Luna since she told me about my parents, so I’m assuming she went out somewhere. Tyler’s probably been left behind to keep an eye on me.

  I think, although I’m not certain, we’ve only been here three nights. Day and night don’t mean much when all I can think about in my head is mainly gibberish. I haven’t had much to do with myself, and I’d normally be going stir crazy cooped up for so long.

  Finally I voice a question to the room, one that’s been plaguing my mind since Luna’s announcement. “What do you think my parents were like? Were they like me?”

  Tyler looks up from the laptop screen in front of him. I turn my head to look at him. Our eyes meet, and for the first time, I see that I’m not alone. The deep chocolate colour is full of worry and wariness; most of which is aimed at me. I wake up to the fact that, although my suffering is probably the deepest, I’m not the only one.

  Momentarily distracted in marvelling in the depth of his eyes, remind myself exactly why I feel for him, I’ve forgotten my question by the time Tyler comes up with an answer. “I don’t know. We haven’t really got anything to go by.”

  Right, my parents.

   I gaze out of the huge window at the thousands of streets below us, tiny ants moving along them. It’s such a busy city that you always feel like if you step out, you can just loose yourself in the urban jungle. You can forget your own problems and concentrate on everyone else’s. Amongst all the people, everything disappears and you’re so insignificant to the world. Each and every time I stepped out of the house here, I would consider just walking away and becoming one of the crowd that no one notices and no one cares about. But every time I’d remember what it would do to the only people I had left; my parents. What a joke that is now. I almost laugh out loud, but there’s nothing remotely humorous about this situation.

  I think about all the tiny specks that are people and think about each individual. “Do you think they’re out there?” I ask, nodding at the skyline.

  “In London, the country or the world?”

  I pause, unsure. “I don’t know; the world I suppose. Are they even alive?”

  “It just said that their names were withheld, nothing else about them. I guess it’s possible that they died and you were put up for adoption?”

   Catching the question in his voice, I turn my head towards him, seeing him frown in concentration. “But you don’t think so.” It’s less of a question and more of a statement.

   Tyler continues to stare at the glass with a distant expression. “Well, they might have done, but it seems too simple.”

  “How do you mean?” I pull myself up, leaning against the arm of the sofa, my legs stretching its length.

  “Well, think about it,” he begins, the air of trying to explain something to himself as well as me, “you didn’t have a birth certificate, which is odd in itself. If your parents were, well, normal, then you would have had one, no questions asked.”

  “Couldn’t I just have been born at home or something?” My expression contorts at the thought of some unknown woman giving birth to me in a bath, another stranger holding her hand.

   He shakes his head. “No, they’d still have had a midwife. They would have registered the birth with someone. If they’d gone for scans, doctors would know your mother was expecting a baby. No, this is different. They wanted to keep you quiet.”

  Silence falls over us. Why on earth would they want to keep me quiet? Why would anyone go to such lengths to stop anyone knowing they’d had a baby?

  Tyler breaks the quiet abruptly, “And then there’s the fact the file doesn’t state who they are.”

  “Should it?”

  “Yes. Legally, those records should say because, say your birth mother gave you up for adoption because she was only a teenager and couldn’t look after it. Well, if in later life, she found out she had some hereditary disease and you had a high chance of contracting it, you should be warned early, in case they can prevent it.”

  My eyes widen, “You mean I could have cancer or something?”

  “No, no,” Tyler corrects himself quickly, realising his mistake, “I mean, of course, everyone has a chance of having it, however unlikely it is. You probably won't have the gene, it’s just an example.”

  I relax, but not much. There’s still a chance I could have some disease that my mother had. Maybe that’s how she died... No, I can’t think about that on top of everything else, so, for the time being, I put that thought to the side. “So, that means they were... they were what?”

  Tyler’s eyebrows furrow deeply, showing his frustration. “I don’t know,” - I’m beginning to really hate those three words – “but it means there’s something important about them. Something you aren’t meant to know.” A shiver runs through my spine; I’m starting to get a sinister impression of my parents. He shakes his head again, as if it would shed some light onto the situation. “It doesn’t make any sense unless...”

  “Unless what?”

  “Unless, maybe, they had something to do with the government,” He seems to be talking to himself more than me.

  “What do you mean, ‘had something to do with the government’? What?”

  Finally, Tyler’s eyes meet mine again, still calculating, but as if some of the puzzle pieces were slotting into place, though they can’t show much of the full picture, it seems so large and out of reach. “You were found somewhere, yet they still knew who your parents were, even without records or a birth certificate, which means they must have already known who they were. So the government must have known them.”

  I can here the cogs turning in my own head, fitting this conclusion into the facts I already had. The connection between everything makes a little more sense now. So my parents must have something to do with why the government are so interested in me. My eyes, which had been gazing down at my lap, suddenly shoot up to meet Tyler’s. They seemed to be reaching the same silent conclusion as me. “Tyler... Tyler, if my parents were known by the government, and now they’re after me, does that mean they were after my parents too? Like, they were criminals?”

  Slowly, with a guarded expression, Tyler nods. “That’s what I was thinking. It doesn’t totally explain everything, because there’s still the whole thing in you head situation which we can’t make sense of... but that could be a cover?” he grimaces in annoyance. “I really don’t know Lauren, right now, anything’s possible. Someone could tell me aliens and a government cover-up are involved and I don’t think I’d be surprised.”

  Unconsciously, my head turns to gaze back out at the people below. A feeling other than hopelessness sears through me; determination.

  “We’re going to find out.” I’m surprised by the conviction in my own voice, and Tyler glances over at me with a curious expression.

  The feeling consumes me; I can’t do anything much right now, but if there’s one thing I need, it’s answers. And I will get them if it’s the last thing I do, because right now, if I don’t find out, it could well kill me.

  I feel like a total cliché girl in the movie – shock, disbelief, anger, tears, acceptance and determination, all in twenty-four hours. It’s draining. I will never again criticise the characters in the films – it’s hard work being the hard-done-by, my-life’s-falling-apart teen.

  But unlike the girls in the movies, no miracle is going to change anything.

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