Truth is Unforgettable

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. At least, that’s what they always said. For the longest time though, Charlotte Harrison didn’t believe it. She believed that if you lived your life responsibly, with honor and integrity, the rest would fall into place.
That was then, this is now.
Now, she realizes how naïve she really was to believe that good intentions couldn’t bring hellish consequences. Desperate to leave her past behind her, she embarks on a trip to a place unknown to her, nearly three thousand miles from the only home she’s ever known.
Determined to regain control and fix the wreckage of her life, Charlotte takes an unexpected leap of faith. She agrees to temporarily move in with Jason, a blonde haired, blue eyed groom to be, and his best friend, Evan, a brown haired boy with the most addictive emerald eyes she’s ever seen.
Addictive emerald eyes she has to remember to stay away from.
Before long, her past comes searching for her, an unsettling reminder that a history like hers isn’t one that can be escaped, even with distance. Fighting to find the truth, Charlotte just may have to break her own rules and form an alliance, trusting that not everyone in this world is against her.
Her strength will be tested, her trust will be broken, and the unforgettable truth will be torn open.

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2. Chapter Two

In the few hours since I’d arrived, the entire lower level of the house had been transformed. White icicle Christmas lights lined the bannisters of the stairs, the valances above the windows, and the mantle above the fireplace. Red and white candles were scattered throughout the room, accomplishing a romantic feel perfect for an engagement party.  The decorations were gorgeous and not even slightly gaudy or out of place. Pictures of Jason and his fiancé were visible from every angle of the room, and even though I’d never met her in person, Jason’s fiancé looked to be just as attractive as he bragged she was. They looked flawlessly happy in the photos, and despite my pessimistic doubt that such uncomplicated happiness existed, I was happy for them. Jason was my knight in shining armor as far as a place to stay, and if anyone deserved true happiness, he did.

People were scattered throughout the room, clustered off in groups of about four or five each. The room was packed, but the constant chatter from the crowd made my entrance feel less awkward. Stepping off the last step of the staircase, I allowed my eyes to wander the crowd.

Just as I’d suspected, the room was filled with people wearing clothing fancier than anything I’d ever worn before. The women wore dresses with heels and expertly applied makeup.  The men surrounding them donned tuxedos or dress shirts, each and every one of them looking like they belonged perfectly. A sense of fear bubbled up inside me, allowing a tiny voice inside my head to command me to go upstairs and stop being an idiot. I didn’t have to prove anything to a single person in the room before me, but I did have something to prove to myself. I had to shake free the dark fear that had settled in my bones, and running away from Jason’s engagement party wouldn’t do anything but allow that incessant fear to spread.

So, I told that tiny, nagging inner voice of mine to go to hell.

I stepped through the crowd carefully, twisting and turning myself as to not bump into anyone as I passed through. The few bits of conversation I’d managed to pick up were typical for a wedding party. A group of women off to the right were chatting in hushed tones about their choices for wedding gifts, an older clan of attendees were reminiscing about times from when Jason was a child, and directly in the center of the room stood a large clan of college –aged guys arguing about their choice of favorite football teams. Go figure.

By the time I’d maneuvered through the crowd, the kitchen’s location was no longer a mystery to me. In the center of the room was an island fully decked out with a multitude of drinks and an array of fancy looking appetizers. With the inside of my mouth feeling as dry as a cotton ball, I was more than glad to have found the refreshments. I was not glad, however, to see that everything was already poured out into plastic party cups and more than a quarter of the bottles were vodka or liquor of some sort. For one thing, I wondered why they used such cheap cups if everyone attending the party looked so wealthy, and for another I wondered if the drinks already poured were spiked.

Knowing that the chances of anything on the center island being non-alcoholic were slim to none, I decided to find an alternative for myself. I glanced to my left, and realized that all the plastic cups were already used up. Opening one wooden cabinet door after the other, I sighed with relief as I found the small assortment of cups.

Selecting a small chocolate colored cup, I turned my attention towards the fridge, feeling my eyebrows rise as I opened the door to find emptiness. Clearly the only things that had been in the fridge were the beverages that now covered the kitchen’s island.

“What the hell are you doing?” squealed a female voice from behind me. She accentuated the “g” in “doing” in a way that made preventing my response of an eye roll impossible.

“Currently, I’m trying to crack the code to the safe so I can steal all the jewels and run off into the night.” 

Her unchanged, flat expression was all the response I received. Clearly, the party girl in the fuchsia nightmare of a dress was in a rather stale mood.

“I’m just looking for something to drink, you?” I sighed, hoping my honest answer would do more to break her accusatory glare than my semi- humorous reply did.

“There are drinks right in front of you.” She retorted as she pointed in front of her, nearly knocking off a few drinks teetering on the edge. Apparently, she’d already hit up quite a few of the plastic cups, of which I was now certain were all spiked.

“I’m looking for something else to drink.” I stated, hoping my tone didn’t sound harsher than I meant it to. The last thing I needed to do on my first night here was fight with some drunken Barbie look-alike. Trying to smooth it over, I flashed a tight smile and spoke in a lighter voice. “I’ll just get some water and be out of your way.”

Her brows furrowed with anger as she refocused her attention away from the cups and back to me. The scrunched look on her face did nothing to intimidate me, as she clearly hoped it would. If anything, it drew my attention to the half ass job she did applying her eyeliner.

My blood boiled as I watched her visually appraise me as if she were on a pedestal and I was a worthless piece of dirt. Her eyes scanned my clothes, scrutinizing every last detail, clearly showing her distaste for my choice of apparel. My shoes were next, earning an eyebrow raise and short, very rude snort as a review. I’d expected to feel inadequate at this party, but nothing like the predatory level of scrutiny her gaze instilled in me.  I’d been wrong before, my previous harsh tone was suddenly not anywhere near harsh enough.

“If you were going to crash this party, couldn’t you have at least tried to look the part? It’s obvious you don’t belong here.”

Involuntarily, my jaw dropped. A wide array of colorfully offensive words to respond with swirled through my mind, but I reluctantly decided to take the high road. Literally biting my tongue to avoid the inevitable scene with the half-in-a-bag drama queen, I simply filled the cup with water and attempted to walk past her.

Surprisingly swift on her feet, she sidestepped directly into my path.

“You can’t just ignore me!” she yelled, slurring her words more noticeably. “Tell me who you are or I’ll go get E!”

I couldn’t help the slight laugh that escaped my lips as I replied “E? Seriously? You’re threatening me with someone named E?”

Somehow, Seattle must’ve become the twilight zone in which single letter nicknames were actually socially acceptable.

I attempted to brush past her teetering form once more, but her outstretched, nearly flailing arms left me cornered between the sink and the massive island. For such a fancy house, it was surprising to me how small the kitchen was. Between the overwhelming stench of alcohol pouring out of little miss judgemental’s pores and the unnatural nearness of the walls, I needed air.

“You’re laughing now, but you won’t be when he throws you out. Two words: social suicide.” She snarled with a finger pointed towards my face.

Way beyond annoyed at her condescending stance and judgmental words, I blurted out “I live here! I just moved in today, hours ago. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Suuuureee you did.” She replied, maneuvering her heels awkwardly as she turned back towards the party. Seeing her retreating back to the dining room she’d came from, I took a breath of relief, hoping she’d grown tired of berating me.

Luck, as always, was not in my favor. I momentarily froze as I heard her holler out into the crowd for the “E” she’d threatened me with earlier.

Maybe I was better off staying up in my room after all.

As the blindingly pink color of her dress came back into view, I decided to stay right where I was. Partly because I wanted to stand my ground, and partly because I’d love nothing more in this moment than to see her face as she found out that I really was the new roommate and not just some party crasher.  I crossed my arms over my chest, still hanging on to my water cup, and waited for the mysterious “E” to follow her into the kitchen.

“What is the issue now, Ellie?” asked a gruff, familiar sounding voice.

I could only grin as I saw Evan walk in behind the nightmare I now knew was Ellie. Then, I realized that meant he was the “E” that Ellie thought I’d be fearful of. Her definition of fearful definitely wasn’t mine.

“She was just in here helping herself to your kitchen, E!” Ellie pointed furiously in my direction. “She’s some criminal, obviously trying to crash the party for free drinks and whatever she can sneak out of here with.”

Her hand wrapped around his wrist, trying to tug him towards me. His feet stayed firmly in place, much to Ellie’s annoyance, but his reluctance to follow her only enticed her to try to move him more forcefully. If I hadn’t been in such an annoyed state, I may have been tempted to laugh at the ridiculous scene unfolding before me. Evan trying to stand his ground against an infuriated, drunken girl who’d no doubt been a prom queen in the past did have a humorous element to it. At the moment, however, my sense of humor was a little lacking. 

I sighed, internally wondering what I’d gotten myself into by coming here. I’d never been fond of stereotypes or clichéd labels, but this house seemed to be the billboard advertisement for a party house, regardless of how well the guests were dressed. I was never, nor will I ever be, a party girl. Large crowds, alcohol, and repeatedly poor decisions just weren’t my thing. Especially now.

Attempting to focus my vision on something other than the pattern of the tile floor, I looked up to see Evan looking directly at me. Once again, I felt under the scrutiny of someone’s gaze. His eyes flickered for a second, and I watched as one of his eyebrows arched slightly towards his hairline. Judging by the look on his face, he’d just come to terms with the realization that I was the “criminal” Ellie was referring to. He did look visibly pissed, but I couldn’t tell if the anger was directed more towards Ellie or me.

“Aren’t you going to throw her out?” She whined. “I have no idea how she got in here, but, Oh my god!” Her eyes visibly widened. “What if she came with others? Where’s my purse?”

I watched as she frantically looked around, feeling my own eyebrows raise in disbelief.

“Oh, come on.” I exclaimed, rolling my eyes without attempting to hide it this time. “I’m not going to steal your purse or anything else in this place. And no, I’m not with others. I just wanted some water. Calm the hell down, drama queen.”

Expecting to hear some diatribe about her disagreement with the term drama queen, I waited for her response.

“You broke in the house for water?” She asked, and I laughed out loud. This girl must’ve been drunker than I thought if she interpreted my response in such a twisted, nonsense way.

“Yep, I sure did. I just felt like spicing up my night.” I retorted sarcastically. “I’m going to try the neighbor’s house next. My homies told me they just stocked up on some killer granola.”

Evan’s aggressive demeanor finally cracked, and a short burst of a sound suspiciously like laughter escaped. Ellie noticed it too, and narrowed her eyes in his direction.

“You’re laughing? It’s not funny! Get her out of here, she’s going to ruin everything for Jason and Lydia!”

Evan opened his mouth in what I presumed would be a response, but I knew it wouldn’t be worth more of my time. Attending this party did nothing but show me what I already knew to be true: I didn’t belong.

Coming to terms with such an exclusionary statement should’ve hit me harder, but I didn’t even feel the sting.

“I’m not about to ruin anything. I’m about to do what I should’ve done from the beginning of this night. I’m not a criminal, or a punching bag worthy of your condescending looks, or any part of this drunken circus. Have fun with your impending hangover, and good luck getting that stain out of your dress.”

She looked horrified. “What stain?”

“The one from the jell-o shot you spilled on yourself when you needed to rescue your purse from the invisible group of misfit criminals I brought along with me.” I replied dryly, terribly irritated at her idiotic search for the stain that was front and center on her blindingly pink, desperately seeking attention dress.

While she proceeded to beg Evan and some other random guy who’d just joined the room to find the stain, I took the opportunity to wash out the cup I’d used for water and place it back in the spot it came from.  I may be new to the roommate thing, but I knew that the already limited time I had here didn’t need to be shortened by me leaving a mess behind, even if it was just a cup. The less strikes against me, the better.

Once again using Ellie’s fashion emergency to my benefit, I slid past the continually arguing trio back into the dining room. Evidently, Ellie wasn’t the only one who was a fan of Jason’s alcoholic drink options. The chatter in the room was noticeably louder, half taken over by drunken laughter and what was sure to be a lover’s spat over on the extravagant looking couch. The previously tuxedo filled crowd now looked to be a sea of dress shirts, with the majority of their expensive jackets cast off to the side of the room. At least four women had decided to carry their shoes instead of wearing them, and I couldn’t help but wonder why they’d wear shoes with stiletto heels if they intended to dance at the party, like they currently were. Obviously they were out to impress with shoes like that, but was the need to impress someone really worth the blisters their feet would undoubtedly have by the end of the night?

Finding myself once again at the base of the stairs, I hesitated as I decided what to do next. I wanted fresh air, but I also wanted to escape the constant thump of the music and the growing roar of the crowd. I’d assumed that my room was where I’d hide away after the accusations that were thrown at me in the kitchen, but the room upstairs still felt foreign to me.

I didn’t want foreign. I wanted familiar.

I turned away from the steps leading up towards my room and walked out the front door. From the window up in my room I’d remembered seeing the backyard, and couldn’t think of any time that would be better to investigate it.

The autumn chill affected me immediately, slightly making me gasp at the temperature shift. The first few days of November came in with a vengeance, something I was used to back home, but not prepared for here. The moon was brighter than usual, half full and peeking out just above the trees in a way that cascaded light everywhere. 

The backyard looked even larger than it did from my window, giving me just the glimpse of familiar that I needed. The fallen leaves had been raked into a line at the back of the property, with two rakes still tossed to the side, clearly left there to finish the task some other time. A small shed was at the far end of the yard, painted to look identical to the main house, even with its very own scarecrow wreath. Two massive pine trees stood on each corner of the property, each with a wooden bench below.  It was beautiful, especially underneath the glow of the moonlight.

It was hardly anything like I was used to back home, but it was the closest I’d gotten in months. Even with being on the opposite side of the country in a fancy house full of strangers, the feeling of stillness and peace that came from stargazing in the calmness of the night was just enough to keep me grounded.

“Have any luck with that granola?” Evan’s voice called out. Turning to acknowledge him, I realized he was closer than I thought. Had he just been standing there watching me zone out at the stars?

“Not so much. Their security system was too secure.” I responded, wishing I’d come up with a better item to sarcastically steal than granola.

“Too secure? Even for a hardened criminal like you?” He teased, a smile evident in his voice.

“Everyone has their limits.” I responded flatly, letting the cover of sarcasm drop away from the conversation. I could’ve continued on with the “criminal” charade, but the appeal of it had faded away quicker than I thought it would. I liked that it gave me a form of control, a way to avoid how I’d felt being berated as a criminal in the kitchen, but something about being referred to as a criminal hit too close to home for me to continue the joke.

“Look, I’m sorry about Ellie..” He began, but I stopped him.

“You don’t have to apologize for her. I knew what I was getting into when I walked down those stairs.”

His eyebrows creased in confusion as he spoke. “Meaning what?”

“Meaning I knew I wouldn’t belong.” I said with a sigh. “I just wanted to go down there, congratulate Jason and his fiancé, and then slip away peacefully. As much as I disagree with everything Ellie said, she’s not exactly wrong.”

“How can you disagree with her and think she’s wrong at the same time?” He asked slowly, as if piecing my reasoning together in his mind.

“I disagree with her assumptions of me, but I understand how she assumed them.” Noting the even further scrunched look of Evan’s eyebrows, I continued. “I mean, compared to that crowd in there? I noticeably stand out, and not in a good way.”

“You wanna know what I think?” he asked, turning to look at me instead of facing the house.

“I think you’re going to tell me no matter what my answer to that is.” I replied.

“Then you’re smart.” He said, the green color of his eyes seeming to sparkle as he spoke.

He hadn’t realized that in his attempt to lighten the mood, he’d hit a nerve with me. I tensed, and before I could stop myself I mumbled under my breath. “Not smart enough.”

“Huh?”  he said, surprising me once again. Despite me speaking my mind involuntarily, I thought I’d spoken faintly enough to prevent him from noticing.

“Nevermind.” I said quickly. “You were about to share your words of wisdom, remember?”

“Right.” He  replied, turning back to face the house.

“For one, I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit. This is all new to you here, it’ll take some time to adjust. You can’t let someone’s criticism of you define who you are.”

“Hmm.. philosophical.” I joked, hoping he wouldn’t take it the wrong way.

“Smartass.” He retorted, with laughter in his voice. “I’m serious though. You handled yourself really well with Ellie. Most girls would’ve welcomed the drama and ended up in a catfight. I’m impressed.”

His words surprised me, but I tried not to let it show. I’d never heard anyone say they were impressed by me before. It was refreshing, but odd at the same time. Suddenly, it felt as if the chipped paint on the bench required all of my attention. After the past year, I didn’t have the right to hear that someone was impressed by me. I wasn’t impressive, and didn’t deserve such a title. 

“You’re quiet.” He observed.

“Hm?”

“I said, you’re quiet.” He replied. “Did I say something wrong?”

I internally sighed. My own mental contemplation of the path my life has taken in the past year made me make Evan feel weird. Great.

“No, Evan.” I reassured, “You’re fine. You’re giving me more credit than I deserve. Walking away was hardly impressive though, it was just the right thing to do. I’ve always believed that you should choose your battles wisely, and that was hardly worth the battle.”

He seemed to let my words sink in for a moment, a look of content contemplation on his face.

“What would be? Worth the battle, I mean.” He asked, looking down towards me. Once again, I was caught off guard. He was either genuinely trying to get to know me, or he was challenging me. By the level of attention he’d been placing on my words, I’d have guessed a mixture of the two.

“Something I couldn’t stand losing. Any other battle would be just for the sake of the fight.” I replied honestly.

“You sound older than nineteen.” He remarked.

Confused by his unusual statement, I looked up to the stars once again before I replied. “The way you say it, I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing.”

“It’s just an observation.” He reassured, “You’re just different.”

“How many times have I heard that before?” I said with a dry laugh, until I realized I’d spoken my inner thoughts out loud again. How could Evan throw me so off balance that I’d do that twice in one night?

“Now it’s me who’s not sure if that’s a positive or negative statement.” He said, the curious expression from earlier making a comeback.

“It is what it is.” I sighed, knowing if I explained anymore I’d be digging myself a hole I couldn’t crawl out of.

A blanket of uncomfortable silence seemed to settle over us then, sucking the previously easy-going conversation dry.  If it was possible to think loudly, Evan was doing just that. His muscles seemed to tense up as his eyes remained fixed on the same chipped paint my attention had been drawn to mere minutes before.

I scoured my brain for any tidbit of conversation starters I’d stored, but nothing sounded quite right. Talking about the weather was cliché and lame, and the party had already been declared a conversation bust. Maybe that girl from ninth grade who accused me of having “poor social skills” hadn’t been so far off after all. Of course, I can faintly recall fantasizing about drop kicking her into a volcano at the moment, and retorting that she could use some help in that department herself, but looking back at times like these, I realize she was right.

“Can I ask you something?” Evan spoke, breaking the silence as well as tearing me away from my retrospective thoughts.

“Depends.” I replied.

“On what?” He asked hesitantly.

In an attempt to lighten his clearly darkened mood, I joked, “On whether or not your new roommate gets to share some of the ice cream you have hidden away in your freezer.”

He laughed, and I was surprised by how much I loved the sound. It was carefree and effortless, in a way that was almost mystifying. Evan’s naturally calm, introspective demeanor had cracked, and allowed his hidden, unguarded side free.  All too soon, it faded away into his response.

“Of course. My freezer is your freezer.” His elbow slightly bumped my arm with his words, causing me to wonder if he was joking for a split second. The lightness of his smile told me he wasn’t.

“Thank you.” I replied, gratefully. Food hadn’t been on my list of items to bring with me, although it should’ve. I’d appreciate the offer, but made a mental note to buy my own food. I wasn’t about to depend on anyone for anything.

“So what was your question?” I asked, curiosity wearing down my patience.

“I probably have no right to ask, but..” he hesitated, and I could feel my smile fade. I knew where this line of questioning was about to go before the words had even flown from his lips.  The desire to run was clawing at me, overpowering me in a way that made it hard to sit there and act unaffected.

“Why are you here? I like the rain too, but nobody moves across the country just for that reason. You didn’t bring much with you, so you’re either not staying long, or you were in a hurry to leave.” He pauses, and looks directly at me, his face marred with confusion and an interrogatory glare in his eyes.

If I thought the air was thick before, it was like concrete now. I bit my lip to bring me back to the moment, bring me back to my decision to stop running.

“Look, whatever you’re running, from, I can help you.” He spoke, softer now. His hand jetted out to rest on my knee, a maneuver that was meant to be comforting, but felt suffocating to me.

I jumped off of the bench and into standing position on shaky knees, noticing the startled look on his face as his eyebrows shot up and he pulled his hand back towards his chest as if it’d been burned.

Taking a deep breath, I managed to unknot the thoughts swirling in my head to verbalize the first reply I could think of.

“How do you know I’m not from the west coast?” I asked, breathier than I’d hoped, betraying my attempt to downplay how well he’d interpreted me.

“Lucky guess.” He said shortly, before continuing. “I saw your bag, the one with your name in sharpie? It has a New York City keychain on it.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m from New York. Lots of people have keychains of places they want to visit.” I reasoned, wondering just how much he’d noticed in the short time I’d been here.

“Sure they do, but I heard you tell Jason that you hate traveling, and that it’d been a long trip. I was just guessing, but your reaction just now proved me right.” He said, sounding proud of his assumption.

“You’re overthinking it all.” I responded, lost for any other words to say.

“Am I?” He asked. “Why do you have to protect the knowledge of where you’re from so badly if you’re not running from something?” The interrogatory look was back in his eyes now, just taunting me to deny it all.

“What the hell does it matter to you?” I retorted. “I’m not running from anything, not anymore.” I spoke with uncontrolled venom in my voice.

Then, I regretted my choice of words. More precisely, I regretted the use of one word.

“Anymore?”  He asked, his voice sounding soft and inquisitive, looking at me as if I were a puzzle he were trying to piece together.

Turning away from his gaze, I stepped backwards. His green eyes were powerful, and dangerous, from the way they affected me. Even the tiniest slip of my tongue would give him something to piece together, and I wouldn’t risk that.

“Your brother told me that you like mysteries, and I didn’t understand the meaning before, but now I do. I’m not in need of solving, Evan.” I said, stealing one more glance in his direction. I’d barely even been around him, and yet, his perception of me was more spot-on than anyone had ever been.

Too spot-on.

Feeling his eyes on me, the walk through the backyard to the front door was one of the longest of my life.

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