How To Live Without Dying

Tinsley was always loped in with the popular crowd in one way or another. It was just what her mother wanted. But, Tinsley couldn't stand it.

Ian was an indie skater kid with an undeserved bad reputation.

Sparks fly when they meet, but things quickly turn dangerous.

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Sort of happened by chance, and I just kept on with it, but all of the chapter titles are taken from songs by Land of Talk.

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1. It Started at a Summer Lake

"Hey, Tinsley," Brad said and leaned ever so slightly into my open window as I parked my and my brother's car.

I hated that we shared a car, but my dad was cheap and had been distrustful of me ever since I moved back in with him and Jack. Or, maybe he'd just always been distrustful of me... I don't know. It doesn't really matter, nor does it change the fact that he didn't trust me.

"Hi, Brad," I smiled weakly.

Brad was the only person I knew at my new school, but Jack knew everybody because this is where he grew up.

"Hey, Brad," Jack said and got out of the car. "Ready to get taken down tonight?"

"Not hardly," Brad replied cooly, then turned back to me. "Your hair looks nice, today."

"Geez, just ask her out already!" Jack exclaimed, feigning exhaustion.

Jack's face turned bright red and he looked flustered.

"Thank you, Brad," I said as I got out of the car. "Ignore him."

Brad just nodded and scratched at the back of his neck.

"Hey, um, Tins, I -"

"I've got to get to class early," I interrupt him. "Can we talk later?"

"Sure," he says.

"Thanks," I gave him a quick hug and ran towards school.

Everyone seemed occupied with something, of what I wasn't sure. Whispers of 'Did you hear...?' and 'I can't believe...' echoed around the halls. I sped up my pace, then started running as I hit the art hall. No one ever monitored the art hall. It was the oldest wing of the school and smelled like mildew. Old paintings from students of the past still clung to the walls. At the end of the hall was the room I was looking for.

"Mr. Scott," smiled Mr. Wolf. "Happy to see you in so early. How can I help you?"

"I was hoping to get in a little extra throwing time," I smiled and went to my assigned locker.

"Have at it," he said. "You're not trying to evade your friends, now, are you?"

I rolled my eyes.

I'd made a habit of doing exactly that. I came to his classroom every morning just so I wouldn't have to be pestered by my brother's girlfriend Mandy about trying out for cheerleading.

Every school I'd ever been to I'd managed to land with the same crowd despite my best efforts. At first, I worked my hardest to get there because it made my mother proud. She loved to see me cheer at the football and basketball games at my old junior high. And I loved how happy she looked.

But, then she died and I moved in with my grandmother. And my friends showed their true colors. And I quit trying to be a part of what was never for myself anyway.

At the end of my sophomore year, my grandmother died and I spent the summer trying so hard not to get placed into my father's custody. But, by the time the school year started, I found myself unpacking my bags in his house.

And now, here I was. At the end of my junior year living in a halo of distrust and deceit. Hiding from the people I let think are my friends. Torn, because I feel like that's cruel. Because, if I didn't make myself stomach them and actually tried to befriend the people who interest me, then my father would storm down and pull me out of school.

My only confidant is the sixty-year-old man who teaches ceramics and lets me sit and throw pottery on the wheel before the day starts.

Mr. Wolf turns the stereo to a station that plays music that's older than dirt and walks back to his desk to work on finalizing grades.

"Are you going to pester the teacher who takes my place next year as much as you pester me?" he asked.

"I'm still pretending like you're not retiring today, old man," I answered.

"I still think you would be much happier if you were honest with everyone," he said.

"I'd be under house arrest if I told my father who I really was," I told him. "Just six more months before I turn eighteen and can have everything behind me"

"Still planning to quit school, then?" he asked.

"Getting my GED is not the same as quitting," I said. "It's practically graduating."

"Practically, but not exactly," he said. "You'll have your diploma, sure. But, you won't get the satisfaction of walking across the stage with your classmates."

I rolled my eyes.

"Five minutes before the bell rings," he said. "You finished, yet?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said and turned off the wheel.

"Come by and see me before you leave, okay?" he asked.

"I will," I smiled.

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I made it to the first class of the day before the bell rang.

"There you are!" Mandy yelled. "You know, we can pull together a special tryout at lunch if you want to be able to go to cheer camp with the squad this summer."

"That's really sweet of you," I said. "But, I'm not feeling well. I'll just wait and see how it goes this fall."

"You know," she frowned. "I'm starting to think you don't want to join the squad at all. I've given you several chances all year long. Am I waisting my kindness on you?"

That was the kind of maddening talk I always got from Mandy and I couldn't hold myself together to give her a satisfying response, so I just turned in my seat to face the teacher as she shut the classroom door.

"You're still going to the summer house with us, right?" she asked.

I nodded.

"Great!" she smiled. "Brad said his parents finally said he could go, too. You guys would make a fantastic pair, you know."

"Amanda," our teacher said. "Class is starting, now. You'll be free to chit chat in just eight short hours."

"Sorry, ma'am," she said and leaned back into her seat.

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I skipped my final class so that I could say goodbye to Mr. Wolf. We were on the road as soon as the final bell rang.

Mandy's parents' summer house was an hour away on a man made lake. It was massive and obnoxious and built of imported stone that cost more than it should. There was a pool and hot tub in the back and a dock that stuck out into the lake. The main house had six bedrooms, the guest house had one bedroom. A fulltime maid and butler lived in a two-bedroom apartment over the garage.

I guess it's a little late to say that Mandy's parents were loaded.

There were seven of us total staying there for the week. Three girls and four boys. Mandy, a girl named Krystin and myself. My brother, Brad, Krystin's boyfriend Kendall, and a guy named Preston. The boys took the main house because the prospect of any two having to share a queen sized mattress creeped them out. We girls set up camp in the guest house. Mandy and Krystin took the bedroom and I claimed the sofa bed in the living room.

I wasn't going to be able to get a moment to myself at all.

Everyone changed into their swimsuits and met at the pool. Jack started to grill hamburgers and Brad plugged his phone into the stereo to play some music. Preston made eyes at me and I pretended that I didn't notice.

To tell you the truth, I didn't mind any of these people at all, except for Preston. Mandy always tried her hardest for you. Krystin was very sweet, if a little not-all-the-way-there. Brad was ultra sincere. Kendall was loyal to Krystin to no end. My brother was always looking to protect me. But, Preston... I'd never seen him do anything bad but always got the feeling that he was very capable of bad.

I was starting to feel uncomfortable, so I excused myself and made my way into the house. I wandered around, just kind of exploring the place. I found Mandy's dad's office and the huge fish tank within it. It was amazing, and filled with fishes of every size and color that you could reasonably fit inside of a domestic fish tank. I killed a good fifteen minutes examining the aquatic life before deciding I should go back out to the group. But, before that, I wanted a snack.

So, I made my way to the kitchen. I opened the door, only to see a man I didn't recognize. Scared, I grabbed the closest utensil I could find.

"Who are you?" I asked, pointing my weapon at him.

He turned around with his hands up.

"Whoa there, I'm just making a sandwich," he said, his green eyes nearly disarming me right then and there.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" I asked again.

"I should be asking that of you, since this is my house and all," he said. "But, judging by your bikini, you're here with my vapid little sister. Now, what are you planning to accomplish with that spoon?"

Embarrassed, I dropped the spoon to the floor and lamely wrapped my arms around my stomach.

"I'm Tinsley," I said quietly and extended my hand.

"Ian," he smiled and shook it before returning to building his sandwich.

 

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