After Eden

When mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school Eden Anfield is intrigued. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So how come he doesn't recognise pizza and hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden most, however, is the interest he's taking in her.

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1. Prologue

Perran – June 2012

 

She was dancing with somebody else.

She looked different. Her auburn hair had been pinned up so that the waves that usually fell below her shoulders fell just below her chin. The beads on her green dress swayed as she moved across the floor. She caught his eye and smiled.

Flicking his hair out of his eyes, he pushed through the crowd towards her without thinking, without allowing the fear to stop him.

‘Will you dance with me?’ he asked.

She grinned. ‘Thought you’d never ask.’

She placed one of her hands loosely around his waist, the other one lightly on his shoulder. She was close, but their bodies didn’t touch, not the way Amy and Matt were pulled together so that every inch of them joined. Connor pulled her gently towards him, encouraged her head towards his shoulder. He breathed in the green-apple scent of her hair. The warmth of her skin. The faintest smell of soap or perhaps perfume. All around him was the music, the swirling lights, the mass of people dancing and laughing and shouting over the music. But all he knew was the feel of her warm breath on his neck, the thumping of his own heart, his hand as it moved around her waist and settled on her rear.

‘Connor?’ she said quietly.

He looked down, found her neck with his lips and began kissing her; small light kisses.

‘What are you doing?’ she asked.

‘Something I should have done long ago.’

He kissed his way up her neck towards her lips. This was it. The moment he had dreamed of for the last two years. The moment when he would finally have the courage to kiss the girl he’d loved for ever and tell her how much he loved her.

‘Stop!’ she shouted above the music.

He froze. This was not the way things played out in his daydreams. Out of the corner of his eye he could see some of the couples near him staring, waiting to see what would happen next.

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.

‘Connor, you’re my best friend. I don’t feel that way about you.’

‘But you’re my date,’ he began.

‘I thought you understood.’

She had raised her voice loud enough for him to hear it over the music, but it felt like she was broadcasting it to the whole world. Tears tickled the back of his eyes. There was no way he was going to stand there and cry in front of just about everyone he knew.

He pushed past her and headed out of the room. He would have gone outside, but Mr Chinn, the science teacher, was between him and the door and the last thing Connor needed was some teacher asking him if he was OK.

Instead, he took the other direction.

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