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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3. Speak to Me Bones

I couldn't sleep that night.

Something about the dull look in Mandy's eyes for the rest of the night bothered me. I was starting to feel like there was more to her than just a run of the mill cheerleader. I was starting to feel like I had some kind of duty as her friend to figure out what was going on and patch things up. But, all of this was very wrong since I was planning to abandon everyone and everything in the near future. It would be cruel to invest. Cruel to me, cruel to her.

I stood up from the sofa bed, unable to quiet my mind, and wrapped myself in a blanket before leaving the house. I looked out to the dock and could make out the tiniest hint of a silhouette.

"Please don't be Preston or Brad," I said under my breath and crossed the back lawn to get to the dock. As I got closer, I realized that the person sitting there was too skinny to be anyone in out party. It was Ian.

"How am I supposed to stay away from you if you follow me?" he asked as I sat a few feet away from him on the edge of the dock.

"I'm not following you, I just needed to come out here to think," I said quietly.

"This place is definitely good for that," he sighed and tossed something into the water.

"Do you mind if I ask what the issue is between you and everyone else?" I asked.

"Why do you want to know?" he asked.

"I want to decide for myself who can and can't be around me," I told him. "And, it bothers Mandy. I'm worried about her."

"It's a long, stupid story," he exhaled and rubbed his hands roughly on the sides of his jeans.

"Maybe it'll put me to sleep," I smiled. "You'd be doing me a favor."

"Alright," he laughed. "So, I used to play football with all of those guys."

I chuckled and he threw me a perturbed glance.

"Sorry, it's just..."

"I know, I know," he said. "I quit working out and I've lost a lot of muscle. I promise, I used to be a pretty big guy."

"So, what made you quite playing?" I asked.

"I didn't quit," he said. "That's the point. I was really, really good. I was actually going to be made the starting quarterback for this last season and try to end the fall of my senior year with the sate championship. Everything was going great. Then, out of the blue, Preston's girlfriend told our principal that I assaulted her at some party I didn't even attend. I have no idea why. There wasn't any evidence, so it never went to court. But enough kids testified that I was at the party, which I wasn't, and that was enough to get me kicked off the team. I started receiving threats, then one day Preston cornered me and beat the living daylight out of me. That's when my parents pulled me from school and shipped me out to a boarding school in New York. What really gets me is that Preston's girlfriend broke up with him and announced it was a hoax a few months ago before checking herself into a rehab facility for drug use. She said she did it for fun."

I shivered. I knew who and what he was talking about. Preston's ex-girlfriend was nasty. She was also a pathological liar. And, she and Preston still hook up all the time.

"You probably don't believe me and you probably think I'm a disgusting, awful person," he said.

"No," I said and turned to face him. "I was just putting two and two together in my head."

"Are you hungry?" he asked.

"A little," I told him, even though I wasn't.

"Come on," he said and stood, then extended his hand to me.

I took hold of it and he helped me to my feet.

We snuck into the kitchen of the main house and he grabbed a tub of ice cream out of the freezer.

"Get a couple of spoons," he whispered.

"Shouldn't we get some bowls?" I asked.

He shook his head and said, "There's only enough here for two people anyway. Let's get back out there before we wake anyone up."

"Okay," I said and we snuck back out to the dock.

"So," he said as we dug into the ice cream. "Jack Scott's infamous little sister. When did you move back in with them?"

"September," I said and took a bite. "How am I infamous?"

"Mandy talks about you on the phone and in her emails," he said. "You talk about cheerleading, but dodge tryouts. You never date anyone even though plenty of guys chase after you. You never talk about yourself, so no one really knows you. And Jack acts like your own personal bodyguard. I guess I should've said mysterious rather than infamous."

I snort.

"What?" he asked. "Why don't you let people get close."

"There's no point to it," I said.

"Why?"

I didn't want to get into it, but he kept pressing.

"I know what your dad is like," Ian said and I choked on the cold ice cream.

"Are you okay?" he asked, panicked, and started patting my back.

I held my arm up and finally got a hold of myself.

"What do you know?" I asked.

"I know he used to beat your mom and that's why she left with you," he said. "I know that Jack stayed with him to make sure he didn't drink himself to death."

"How do you-"

"Jack and I used to be pretty good friends," he explained. "Mandy knows about it, too. She worries about you both. Says she's scared you'll just disappear some day."

I stood up, not wanting to hear any of this.

"Why are we talking about this?" I asked.

"We don't have to," he said quietly and took another bite. "I just wanted you to know you aren't alone and that there are people that care about you, whether you want to believe it or not. You might want to keep that in mind before you do disappear."

I stood up and started walking angrily back to the guest house, before turning around and storming back towards him on the deck and slapping him across the face.

"You don't know me at all," I lied. He seemed to see straight through me.

"You know, life is a lot easier and a lot more fun," he called out after me as I turned again towards the guest house, "when you're honest with yourself and you let people into your life to share your burdens."

When I was inside the house, I threw myself onto the bed and cried myself to sleep.

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