Unbroken


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1. Forrest

I had no idea what made my idiot and sometimes harebrained mother waste most of our savings and buy a house in an extremely small town that held no interest for me.
       I huffed like the teenager I was and crossed my arms, looking out my new bedroom window in a sulk. The room itself was a pale yellow, tiny with a built in wardrobe to my right and all my stuff to the left next to the bedroom door. It was a good thing I didn’t have a lot of things or there was no way it all fit. Turning around, I spotted a bag and walked over to it. I unzipped it and sitting on top was a photo of mum and I that was taken on my sixteenth birthday with me looking happy for once.
       My father, Saul Morrison, had decided to walk out on us when I was very young. That was the last time I saw him. Mum had used the money that he had to pay her in child support to save up for a house and working two jobs had helped a lot. Otherwise, we would have been in a lot of trouble when it came down to the punch. Mum relied on the help of my grandparents to look after me while she worked her heart out just to put food on the table and money for a home deposit. 
       Which brings us to this small town Forrest; population: around 170 people. Apparently, the cheapest houses were in this town and we couldn’t afford much. Either that or mum didn’t have enough money for a better and bigger house that might have made me happy about living in this small upon small town. 
        “Brianna, can you give me a hand with some of this stuff?” mum called down from the living room. 
        “Just a second,” I shouted back. 
        Mentally I thought that she should do all the work on her own since she dragged me to this place with nothing but force, but she had done enough in her life time and I wasn’t that type of person. Everything was dumped everywhere as I walked down the hall way. It was a miracle that I didn’t trip and land flat on my face from all the clutter and mess that was everywhere.
        “What do you need help with?” I asked when I walked into the room.
        “Unpacking all these boxes,” she replied. “They are starting to do my back in and I have to work in the morning.” 
        “Great,” I muttered, tempted to now fake an injury so I didn’t have to really help, but I wasn’t that type. I was raised to help someone when it was needed. 
        As I got further down the box; I found an old picture of mum and dad in happier days in a photo frame. Looking at mum in it, I realised that I couldn’t see a single bit of my father in me. I had mum’s almost forest looking green eyes, extremely pale skin complexion with a dusting of freckles, thin nose, pouty lips and auburn coloured hair that everyone thought I secretly dyed to get such a vivid red colour. It was freaky seeing so much of me in a younger looking mum. And that was just looks. I got her 5’5 feet in height, and basically no fat on me. 
       I knew that everyone thought I had an eating disorder of some sort to be so thin, but I didn’t. I just couldn’t put weight on.
       “What are you looking at so intently?” she asked, looking over my shoulder.
       The only difference was now in mum that she was older and had laugh lines and dressed for her age. When she saw what I was looking at made her eyes turn hard and tense up. I didn’t blame her. 
       “I forgot I even had that,” she said and went back to doing what she was doing, trying to forget the pain that the photo brung up.
       “He left because I looked so much like you and there is nothing of him in me. He couldn’t handle that his daughter had more Clarkson genes in her than Morrison,” I stated and placed the photo back in the box, were it was going to stay.
       “Your father doesn’t realise what he is missing out on now. He didn’t get to watch you grow up into a beautiful girl that you are now and he won’t have anything to do with grandchildren if you have any one day,” mum told me. 
       She turned her back and started on another box, but I wasn’t finished talking about this yet. Why did she still have this photo for after all these years? Did she still love him? Would she forgive him if he came begging for a second chance? There were a lot of questions that I had, but I knew that I wasn’t going to get a proper answer that I wanted. 
       “Then why don’t you just burn it in the fireplace? You can save yourself from all the hurt and anger that he has caused you over the years and forget about him and everything that has happened with him. You can forget about the past,” I said, staring at her back, but got no response from her.
       I sighed, trying to find it in my heart to find some love for him, but I couldn’t find it. There was another emotion I couldn’t place. Anger or hurt. He was the one that missed out on all the good things in my life and was never going to see them again. Most things that I did involved my grandfather to support me. Saul Morrison wasn’t my father in my eyes. He was nothing to me anymore.
       “I try to find some sort of emotion inside me about him, but I can’t. All I can feel is coldness to-wards him,” I told her and clenched my fists.
       “He is the one that is going to realise what a huge mistake he has made when it’s too late for him to fix the problem. Anyway, you should finish up your room and get to bed. You have school in the morning and I want you refreshed in the morning, not looking like a corpse like you do today,” mum said and walked towards the kitchen. 
       Gee, thanks for the self confidence boost. I really appreciate that. 
       “It’s too late for him to fix the problem now. And I can’t I have just one more day off school?” I asked and followed her into the room with a hopeful look on my face.
       “Nice try Brianna,” she said, smirking at my attempt of getting my way. 
       Grumbling to myself, I walked back up the hall and into my room. Most of my things were up in place within twenty minutes. A lot of my things were hand me downs, since we couldn’t afford much as it was and I was grateful for the things I did have. It was a good thing mum took a job at the chemist in Colac. We needed money so we could save for other things. 
       After eleven o’clock, I made my way to bed, but I couldn’t get to sleep. My mind was active and I was full of dread and worry for school. Since I was going to be the new girl, everyone was going to be in my face, trying to make me feel welcome and seeing who can befriend the new girl first but not knowing what this redhead was capable of doing or the temper she unleashed when pushed enough. They were going to be all over me like Magpies swooping humans when protecting their young ones. 
      Morning came around fast and before I knew it, we were on the way to Colac. The whole drive, I looked out the window. I was in no mood to talk. The only time I became alert was when we pulled up to the school. Colac senior secondary college was a light grey brick building. It was two stories high with other buildings that extended out around it.
      “Brianna, I know this isn’t going to make any difference but good luck today. I know that you will be fine,” mum said, her eyes tearing up.
      “This reminds me of prep. You trying to hold it together for me and for you,” I said and tried to smile.
      I didn’t know why I was getting so emotional for. It was just school. It wasn’t like I was leaving for university or something. Grabbing my school bag, I got out of the car and walked towards the main office. I was lucky that you could dress in plain clothes, and not have to wear a uniform. I don’t think I could have gotten use to a uniform for the whole school year. 
      When I walked into the room, everyone looked at me and started whispering. One thing I hated about small towns; they gossiped. It was like they had nothing better to do with their time. I approached the main desk, clearing my throat.
      “Can I help you?” a woman asked at the desk, looking up from the computer monitor. 
      “I’m the new student that is meant to start here today and I was told to come to the office on my first day,” I said, hoping to jog something in her memory. 
      “Oh yes of course,” she said and started looking for something.  
      She handed me a bunch of books and a time table before calling over someone. She had light brown hair with brown eyes and a tan complexion and was a bit shorter than me and looked to be the same weight as me. She grabbed the strap of her school bag and held onto it. 
      “Hudson could you and I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,” she said and looked at me.
      “Brianna,” I told her. 
      “Could you show Brianna around today since she is in all your classes?”
      “Sure,” she replied and looked at me.
      I grabbed everything and walked over to the chairs so I could sort out everything so I wouldn’t be pulling my hair out come lunch time.
      “So as you know I’m Hudson Mahoney. I’m sure that you have heard about me in Forrest by now,” she said, making me look at her. 
      “Actually, I haven’t. We only moved there yesterday and I haven’t had the chance to meet the locals or catch up on the local gossip,” I told her. 
      “Well, I can already see that we are going to be great friends,” Hudson said and smiled warmly at me.
      We walked out of the office where she waved at someone. I glanced over before doing another take. The boy was breathtakingly beautiful. He looked about over six foot in height with a lean body. His skin was very pale and from the distance, I could tell that he had features that the girls in Hollywood would crave. How he didn’t have girls hanging off him, I didn’t know. 
      “Do you know him?” I asked Hudson.
      “Yes and you will soon also. His name is Brandon Johnstone and we are currently dating,” she said. “Come on, we have classes soon and we don’t want to be late on your first day. That wouldn’t leave a good impression.” 
      Taking one last look behind me, I followed. Hudson showed me my locker, which was right next to hers. I looked around me to make sure that no one was close by and opened it up and placed everything inside of it. I didn’t need them knowing what things I had and didn’t have
      “You are going to need your English book and pens,” Hudson said.
      I nodded and grabbed what she told me. Walking to class, everyone was looking at me. I was started to feel intimated. I didn’t like all the attention on me and I didn’t know how long it was going to last here. 
      “So, I hear that you are from Melton,” Hudson said, making small talk.
      Well, it was good to know that I hadn’t been here for twenty-four hours and already my life story was beginning to show.  
       “Yes I am.” 
       “What does your father do?” she asked suddenly when we came to our class room.
       Crap, was my first thought. How on earth was I meant to answer that? I didn’t want anyone knowing about my father and I had planned on keeping it that way. But what made her ask that question? Was that gossip about my father not being around going through the town also? 
       “I really don’t wish to talk about that,” I said in a clipped tone.
       I pushed open the door and walked inside the classroom. Some students were already there and didn’t bother to look up when I entered the room. I noticed the teacher and could tell that she was beautiful. She looked up and I saw that she didn’t have any aging lines or anything on her face. Her eyes were a pale blue that were welcoming. She was also wasn’t very tall. 
       “You must be Brianna,” the teacher said and walked up to me. “I’m Mrs. Franklin, but you can call me Aubrey.”
       I smiled and looked around for a spare seat. I didn’t want to take someone else’s by mistake. 
       “You can go take a seat next to Alexander as that is the only spare in the class,” she said and walked back over to her desk, grabbing a piece of paper. 
       I was frozen solid in my place. Either I needed glasses or that was my cousin I was looking at. The blonde hair was the same and so was the face. He had my face as he got that feature from his mother. I placed my books down on the table, making him look up and open his mouth in shock when he realised that I was standing there.
       “Brianna,” he whispered in shock.
       “Hello Alex,” I said and sat down.
       “What are you doing here? I thought Melton was the rage for you and that you had no plans on leaving?” he asked, still in shock that I was in front of him. 
       “Mum decided to buy a house in Forrest as the memories were starting to get the best of us so we left and you know that I have never really had a say in stuff that involves this sort of stuff,” I muttered.
       “I take it that he still hasn’t bothered to have a relationship with you yet?” he asked, already knowing what the answer would be.
       “I believe that he is counting down until I am eighteen so he doesn’t have to pay any more money to mum for me. He has missed everything that has happened in my life, so it’s best if I stop trying to find him and just forget about it.” 
       Mrs. Franklin clapped her hands to catch our attention. During my chat with Alex, the class filled up, except the empty seat next to where Hudson was sitting. Hudson kept on looking at the door, before narrowing her eyes and shaking her head. I had a feeling that it involved the person that sat next to her. 
       “Okay class, before we do anything today, we have a new student, Brianna so I expect all of you to treat her like you do with your fellow classmates and not any differently,” she said and looked straight at me.
       “That’s you, my dear cousin,” Alex whispered, earning himself a glare from me. 
       Everyone’s attention was on me, making me slither down the chair until I had almost fell off it. Attention was not a strong point with me and it would never be. Hudson smiled at me in sympathy, but then shot a look to Alex basically telling him to back off and leave me alone. She didn’t know that he was my cousin and wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. This was going to be an interesting lunch break when it came up. 
       The classroom door opened and my mouth dropped open. A gorgeous teenage boy walked into the classroom. His skin was paler than mine but flawless, pouty lips with light honey coloured hair. He looked up from the ground and made eye contact with me. He had high cheek bones and light green eyes. They reminded me of emeralds. Another thing I noticed was that he was tall. 
       I felt my heart rate pick up and couldn’t understand why. I mean, he was gorgeous, but why would that make my heart rate speed up? I looked at Alex and saw that his eyes were narrowed at this boy. Straight away I knew that Alex wasn’t a fan of him and now I wanted to know why. 
       “Nathaniel, I am so glad that you finally could join us in learning but you have missed the introductions and I have no plans on redoing them again to please you,” Mrs. Franklin said, glaring at him and crossing her arms. 
       “I don’t even want to hear them as you should know that they don’t hold any interest for me,” he muttered, glaring back at her. 
       He walked over to where Hudson was and sat next to her, but he never broke eye contact with me until he was seated. Hudson whispered something to him but quickly glanced over to where I was and turned her attention back onto Mrs. Franklin. 
       “Alright, I want you to take out a piece of paper and write down what you got up to in the holidays. You will be having an easy week this week until I throw you into the deep end starting next Monday,” she said, smirking when everyone but Nathaniel and I groaned. 
       “I hate when she does this,” Alex muttered.
       “Why?” I asked.
       “Because you can bet that she will have something up her sleeve that we all wont like,” he re-plied, shaking his head. 
       I didn’t say anything in reply. I liked being challenged with things, not like my cousin. Sighing, I grabbed my pen and started writing. The bell rang an hour later, signalling that the class was over. As I was packing my things, Hudson got up from her seat with her bag and walked over, glaring at Alex. 
       “You couldn’t help yourself, could you Alex? Why don’t you just stay away from Brianna?” Hud-son asked; her voice laced with venom. 
       “What are you talking about?” he asked.
       “You know what I am talking about, so don’t you go playing dumb with me. Brianna doesn’t need you hovering and getting obsessive over her, so I wouldn’t even think about it,” she said, her eyes narrowing. 
       Had my cousin changed for the worst and I wasn’t aware of it? Or did she always do this when a new student had arrived? She didn’t know him like I did and basically didn’t have the right to judge. 
       “Hudson, Alex is my cousin,” I said, putting an end to this fight.
       “What?” she asked. 
       “You heard what she said Hudson. I am her cousin and I do have a right to hover over her if I have to. It is my job to protect her and I will be doing that, no matter what you say. No one can keep me away from my cousin.” 
       Hudson walked out of the classroom, leaving me alone with Alex. I grabbed my books and start-ed to walk, Alex by my side.
       “What was that?” I asked after awhile.
       “What was what?” he asked.
       “What was that back in the classroom?”
       “Brianna, I was just standing up to Hudson for my own sake. If she got her way, we wouldn’t be around each other while she was in the same room. She would stop it, thinking she was saving you from going down a dark path, but you already have.” 
       I stopped at my locker and yanked it open before looking at Alex. “How did Rachel raise you?” I asked. 
       My whole life, I had never heard Alex speak like that to anyone and never about me. All he told people was that I was his cousin and that was usually it. I didn’t know if Rachel had said anything and he was listening to her. 
       “My mother raised me fine thank you very much.” 
       Rolling my eyes, I placed my books in the locker and grabbed my school bag, before shutting it and turning to walk away, but I hit something hard. I grabbed onto Alex for support and looked up. Looking down at me was another beautiful boy. How many where there in this school? He had sandy blonde hair and dark blue eyes that laced amusement in them. He was tall also, but not as tall as Nathaniel and his features weren’t as full. 
       “Oh, I’m sorry. I was in my own world and didn’t even see you,” I said, trying not to fall to a puddle of goo on the floor.
       “It’s quite alright. I just happened to look over and see a very beautiful girl standing here with this idiot and had to introduce myself before she got away,” the good looking man said.
       “James, quit flirting with my cousin, Brianna. Amylia would have your neck for it if she was here today and saw you doing that,” Alex said and smirked. 
       “I can handle Amylia,” James said, looking at my cousin.
       “Why do I have a feeling that you both are trouble when in the same room?” I asked suddenly. 
       James looked at me and smirked before looking at Alex. “She is very smart.” 
       “She’s a Clarkson. We figure things out very quickly.” 
       “Well, as much as I would love to stay and talk, I have a break that I wish to enjoy. James, it was nice meeting you and Alex...just...forget it,” I muttered and walked away. 
       I pushed open the door and stopped when I noticed a boy with bleach blonde hair looking straight at me. He was looking at me like I was his prize that he had won. Great, that’s what I need-ed; a stalker and on my first day, too. He started to approach me and his brown eyes looked dirty, but it was just the colour of them. It matched his creepiness 
       “Hello,” he said, stopping in front of me. 
       “Hi,” I said, unsure of what he even wanted. 
       “I haven’t had a chance to introduce myself. My name is Jason and saw you all alone and thought that you might have wanted some company.”
       “Brianna, and I’m sorry, but I have to go,” I said and tried to walk away from him, but he wouldn’t let me as he grabbed onto my arm. 
       My skin felt like it was crawling from Jason’s touch and I didn’t like it at all. I looked down and forced myself not to shudder from his touch. That wouldn’t have been a good thing, and he might have taken it the wrong way. 
       “Why? Are you in a hurry?” he asked, not giving up.
       “Of course I am,” I muttered.
       “Well, that’s a pity. I’ll see you around beautiful,” he said and walked away.
       Something about him gave me the creeps. Hudson walked over to me with; I believed to be Brandon, behind her. She looked over towards Jason and glared.
       “Stay away from Jason Hargreaves. He isn’t someone that you would want in your life for any reason,” Hudson said and looked at me.
       “He came up to me,” I said, feeling offended that she thought I would have gone up to someone like that. 
       “Hudson, let the girl breathe,” Brandon said, crossing his arms.
       I looked at him and half smiled, trying to gauge his reaction on me, since I was new and wasn’t sure that he even liked me. He looked me up and down before muttering something to Hudson and walked away. 
       “Don’t worry about Brandon. He isn’t too sure about you at the moment because you are new here at the moment,” Hudson said.
       “Does he think I am going to murder you or something?”
       “You’re the new kid whose father no one has seen. Everyone is a bit jumpy.”
       “Oh, so everyone is judging me because they haven’t seen my father? Well, for your information and you can pass this along to everyone else also, I haven’t seen my father for a very long time, since I was eighteen months old,” I said in a calm voice. 
       “Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?” she asked.
       “Because it’s none of your business to know where my father is or not, I don’t want anyone knowing anything because I don’t want questions fired at me all the time,” I replied and walked away, leaving her standing there. 
       I walked down to the football oval and sat down on the grass. I pulled my knees up to my chest and sighed. I should have just done home schooling and been done with it. I didn’t need the stress from everyone and this wasn’t going to help my mood at all. James looked over to where I was and walked over to where I was sitting.
       “I thought it was you sitting here alone Brianna,” he said, making me look up.
       “Who else would it be?” I asked in a dead tone.
       He sat down next to me, looking concerned. If he was putting on the niceness for more infor-mation about me and my life, he wasn’t getting anything. He did look concerned for me though, so maybe he did care and wasn’t acting.
       “Are you okay?” he asked.
       “Do I look it? I haven’t even been here for twenty-four hours and everyone wants the gossip on me,” I said, feeling frustrated and upset that everything about me couldn’t be left alone. 
       “We had that problem when we moved here also. They are like leeches that want to suck your blood all because they want to know everything about you,” James told me. 
       “How did you put up with it?” I asked and sniffed, trying to fight back the water works that wanted to break free. “Because I am ready to hurt the next person that has something to say about my life or at least scream,” I finished.
       “We ignored them and now all but three people are still trying to make our lives a living hell and one of them has already spoken to you. I can tell whatever they want to know and saying is upset-ting you,” James said and wiped away a tear that fell. “Don’t let them get to you and don’t ever let them break you. That is what they want to see Brianna. They want to see the vulnerable side of you so they have something to bully you about.” 
       His skin was cold, but it wasn’t enough to make me shiver. It wasn’t a cold day though, so why would he be cold? I decided to let it go and didn’t say anything. I took a shaky breath and didn’t say anything for awhile. 
       “All I want is a friend that won’t want to know everything about what happened in my past and why I won’t tell anyone because I don’t want them knowing everything about me but that will never happen,” I said and looked down at the grass. 
       “Brianna, you do. I’m your friend, though I hardly know you, I still care about you even though I have only known you since this morning, and Alex would kill me if I did something bad to you and mind you, he fights like a girl sometimes,” he said, making me laugh.
       “That’s my cousin for you.”
       There was something about James that made me feel I could trust him. It was like he sent off this calming vibe, but I couldn’t understand why though. Sighing, I got off the ground, and turned around to look at James. 
       “I’ll see you around,” I said and walked away. 
       I stopped walking and turned around, seeing that James was still sitting where I left him. I cleared my throat, making him look up from the ground. “James, thank you for caring about me,” I said, earning a smile off him.
       “You’re welcome, Brianna.” 
       I kept my head down as I walked towards the classrooms, hoping that no one would pay any attention to me. When I got back inside, Brandon was waiting at my locker. What did he want? He must have sensed that I was approaching as he turned and looked at me, standing still in my spot. I walked over and didn’t look at him. 
       “Hello,” he said and gave me a tight lip smile. 
       “Are you here to judge me like usual?” I asked and looked at him. 
       “You are as feisty as your cousin said you where,” he snapped.
       He was getting on my nerves and I really didn’t want to lose my temper. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, then reopening them.
       “Listen glamour boy, just tell me what you want because if you are here to annoy me, don’t even bother about it,” I snapped, glaring back at him. 
       “No Brianna. I just want you to know that I am protective of Hudson and if I came across judge-mental, I am sorry,” he said.
       “Did Hudson set you up to this?” I asked and crossed my arms. 
       “What makes you think that?” he asked.
       “Why else would you say sorry for? It isn’t like that you would come up to me for no reason and apologize. There has to be a motive behind this.” 
       “I can be nice when I want to be.” 
       “Look, is there a reason why you are here for? I thought I would be too plain for your liking and too secretive,” I said and opened my locker, pretending that I was looking for something when I clearly wasn’t. 
       I just didn’t want to look him in the eye. 
       “Brianna, I want to be your friend for Hudson’s sake. You are the only person that she has to class as a friend besides the Pryor’s and I don’t want to ruin that for the woman I love,” he said and looked down towards the floor. 
       I laughed to myself and cleared my throat, catching his attention again before shaking my head and speaking. “I guess we can try for Hudson, but I am not holding any promises.” 
       “Neither am I,” he said and smirked. “So you are from Melton?” 
       “I thought my dear cousin would have filled you in on all that by now,” I replied.
       “Alexander really hasn’t said a lot about you. He has been secretive. When someone asked a question about you when we all found out that you were coming here, as we had questions, but he never really gave us an answer and now I can understand why. You don’t like people knowing about you or anything about you. It’s like you are hiding something that you don’t want anyone knowing.” 
       I stopped stiff and looked Brandon in the eye. “You make me sound like I am the wicked witch of Colac and Forrest for having secrets,” I replied.
       “Leave that to Augusta. Once she gets wind that you are the interest of the day, and she hasn’t yet, she will unleash her Tornado of fury and I will tell you this now, it isn’t a pretty sight to be around when she does.” 
       Hudson came up and looked between us with a glint in her eye. She grabbed Brandon’s hand and smiled at me. I smiled back before looking at Brandon. 
       “I see that you both are getting along?” she asked in a happy tone.
       “Hudson,” a cold, icy voice said behind Brandon.
       They both looked at each other with the same look of hatred in their eyes. This must have been someone they didn’t like. I shut my locker and leaned against it. 
       “Augusta, what do you want? Haven’t you caused enough pain and trouble in my life without adding to it?” Hudson asked and turned around to face her. 
       I stood behind Hudson so I could get a look at this Augusta. Her hair was black as midnight, her skin, covered in white foundation that you could actually see under the lights to try and fit in with someone, but I didn’t know who.  And her eyes were ice blue and held a glare towards Hudson and myself, but not towards Brandon. That was strange. 
       She was just a bit taller than I was, but was clearly intimidating and vain towards most people. The look in her eye was murderous. The words if looks could kill sprung to mind and if that was true, both Hudson and I would be dead. 
       “What are you doing with this new person?” she asked, raising her eyebrows. 
       “Being nice; that is something you wouldn’t know how to do,” Hudson replied. “By the way, the black clothes match your black heart and stone soul.” 
       “Brandon, I haven’t seen you around for a long time. I thought you would have moved on from the plain Hudson Mahoney by now and find someone else that will suit you, like me,” Augusta said in a sickly sweet voice. 
       I looked at Hudson with questions in my eyes, but hers were glued onto Augusta. I started to wonder to myself if this was the reason they didn’t get along. It seemed like she tried to move in on every guy in the school. Straight away, I felt sorry for James and this Amylia that I hadn’t met. 
       “Augusta, you know that I am in love with Hudson and nothing is going to change that,” Brandon said.
       “Honey, you are still only young. You wouldn’t know what love is...unless you went out with me, of course. I could and would show you a good time. I don’t have values like she does,” she said and placed her hand on Brandon’s arm. 
       I grabbed onto Hudson’s arm to stop her from killing her in the middle of the school hall, and I wanted to do the same thing and I didn’t even know this person. I removed my hand from her arm and looked at her. 
       “Are you going to be okay by yourself?” I asked Hudson in a quiet voice.
       “I will try not to hurt her, but I want to pull those hair extensions out of her head one by one just to see her in pain for once and not causing it,” she said through gritted teeth. 
       I nodded and walked away, going back to my locker before heading off to finish the rest of my break before lunch time.  As I walked outside, Alex came running up to me, almost knocking me over onto my back and making me drop my school bag onto the floor.
       “Where’s the fire?” I exclaimed and grabbed my bag.
       “Am I not allowed being excited to see my cousin?” he asked and pouted like the child he was at heart.
       “You saw me this morning when I arrived, Alexander.” 
       “Which, I didn’t even know that you were moving to Forrest until I saw you before. Did mum know about it?” Alex asked. 
       I sighed and rubbed my temples, hoping to ease some of the throbbing that started to form with Alex’s game of twenty questions.  
       “No, Aunty Rachel did not know that we found a house until mum told her last night over the phone,” I replied and crossed my arms, waiting for the rest of his questions.
       “I have more questions for you another day to answer, Brianna Christina,” Alex said, smirking at the look I gave him.
       “Ok Alexander Tyler,” I shot back, earning a glare from him.
       The bell rang, signalling that it was almost lunch time. Alex went off in a different direction while I slowly made my way to the lunch room. I was looking down at the ground when I walked into someone. I looked up and was face to face with Nathaniel. He was even more beautiful close up. 
       I noticed that he was slightly muscular and when I looked into his eyes, they were cold, hard and extremely unfriendly towards me. I was tempted to take a step back, but I couldn’t move from the spot I was in. 
       “I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying any attention to where I was going,” I said, hoping to break through some of his icy exterior.  
       “Just stay out of my way and look where you are going next time,” Nathaniel said in a harsh tone and walked away from me. 
       I turned around and looked at his retreating form, speechless. Is that how he spoke to everyone?  I slowly walked away and shook my head. I would have to ask Hudson about that later on.  When I made my way into the lunch area, I saw Hudson and Brandon already sitting at the table, looking towards the door. Hudson got up and smiled when she saw me walk into the room. I placed my school bag on the floor and smiled back, hoping that it wasn’t a grimace.
       “We were starting to think that you got lost or something since you are new,” Hudson said, earning a smile of Brandon. 
       “Ha-ha I didn’t get lost, but thank you for your concern. I ran into my cousin outside and had a not so nice meeting with Nathaniel in the hall way before making my way over here in one piece surprisingly,” I said, grabbing Brandon’s attention.
       “What happened with Nathaniel?” he asked, his grey coloured eyes showing interest for a change.
       “I ran into Nathaniel by mistake as I was on my way here, and he spoke harshly to me. Told me to stay out of his way and to watch where I was going. I just don’t understand what I could have done to earn such a cold response off him,” I said and leaned back into my chair.
       “Speak of the devil and he shall appear,” Hudson muttered and looked over my shoulder.
       I turned around and saw Nathaniel walk in with James. They both looked over to where we were, before picking a table near us. I automatically looked the other way so I didn’t have to see Nathaniel’s hard, cold stare again. That was something that would get etched into my mind permanently 
       “Don’t worry about him. He sometimes gets like that, and for all you know, he could be nice next time you speak to him and might apologize for lashing out like that,” Brandon said and grabbed Hudson’s hand.
       “I don’t really have plans on speaking to him again if he is going to be like that towards me all the time. I don’t like being treated like dirt when I haven’t done anything wrong,” I said and looked down to the bare spot on the table.
       Throughout the whole lunch break, I could feel Nathaniel’s hard and cold glare on me. I fought the urge to look at him and ended up winning. Hudson ended up looking over at him and glared, making him look at James. In the end, I got up and grabbed my school bag, catching the attention of both tables. I didn’t want to be around this environment any longer than I had to be. It was starting to make me feel unhappy. 
        “Where are you going?” Hudson asked. 
        “I need some air,” I said and started walking away. 
        “What about your lunch though, even though you didn’t get anything?” Brandon asked.
        “I lost my appetite,” I said back, looking over my shoulder at him
        “You and your hostile reception, Nathaniel. You will never learn, will you?” I heard Hudson say.
        “Why are you blaming me for? Why do I have to be nice for when I don’t even know the girl? I mean, for all I know, she could throw herself at me like every other girl in the school and I don’t want that from someone else,” I heard him say, in a husky voice that held anger.
        I stopped walking and turned around, making Nathaniel look towards me. Hudson crossed her arms and bit her lip, while Brandon glared at Nathaniel. 
        “You don’t need to talk like I am not in the room, when you clearly knew I was still in hearing range and for your information, I had no plans on throwing myself at you. I don’t even know you so why would I want to do that? I’m not even that type of girl. I should have just stayed in Melton and none of this would be happening right now,” I said and walked away, not bothering to hear what his response was. 
        As I went outside, I felt like I was being followed. I turned around and noticed that Jason was there, smiling at me, like he was up to something. He must have followed me out here, as he was inside when I left. He was giving me a bad feeling.  
        “What do you want?” I asked, not caring that my tone wasn’t friendly. I didn’t even want to talk to him. 
        “I couldn’t help but hear that you and Nathaniel had clashed twice in one day. I thought I should tell you that you shouldn’t hang around Nathaniel, his family or Hudson and Brandon. They are trouble and think that they are better than everyone else and I wouldn’t want you to fall into the trap they have set of lies and betrayal,” Jason said and got into my personal space and grabbing a strand of hair that was around my face. “You have beautiful red hair and lovely green eyes. They remind of the forest.” 
        “Thanks,” I replied and looked away from his greedy eyes. 
        He was starting to freak me out even more. During the clash in the lunch room, we had spoken quiet so no one would be able to hear us or make a fuss and yet Jason had known about it. The lunch room door opened and Augusta walked outside. She looked over to where we were and smirked at Jason, but glared at me. I then knew that she had told him that I left the room and that gave him a chance of getting his claws into me. 
        Or hoping he could brain wash me into joining a cult or his group of friends, who I hadn’t even met and didn’t plan on either.
        “Is there something you want, Jason? Or do you just like wasting my time and energy talking to you when I really don’t want to?” I asked, hoping to insult him and give him the hint that I wasn’t interested in him one bit. 
        “How about we go somewhere more private and talk without any interruptions?” he suggested and smirked, completely ignoring what I just said. 
        This was just great. First I had Augusta sending death stares my way throughout most of the day, Nathaniel being cold and hostile towards me, but now I had Jason Hargreaves to deal with. I did not want a stalker at my age. 
        “No thank you. I am happy right here,” I said and tried to walk away from him, but he wouldn’t let me as he grabbed my arm. 
        He didn’t even know me and it seemed like he was obsessed with me. And that frightened me. I needed to plan things a lot better from now on so I didn’t meet Jason face to face all the time. 
        “Jason, what are you doing with the red head, Brianna?” I heard Augusta ask in her cold voice and walked up to us
        I looked at her and noticed that she was looking smug about something. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to know. She whispered something into Jason’s ear making him nod and walk away, leaving me alone with her. Her smugness had something to do with me. She knew something that I didn’t want her knowing.  
        “So, everyone is wondering why your father isn’t around,” she started. “What is the reason for that?”  
        “You don’t need to know that. How do I know that you won’t spread it around the school?” 
        “Alright, you listen to me, pasty skin. I don’t like you and I don’t want you hanging around Jason, me or my boyfriend Daniel and Nathaniel because if you do not listen, I will make your life a living hell,” she told me. 
        “Is that a threat?” I asked.
        “Damn straight it is and also, I know why your father isn’t around. He couldn’t deal with the fact that you looked like your mother and fled when you were eighteen months old and that you haven’t had any contact since and you don’t want anyone knowing about it. It was like he doesn’t love you because he doesn’t.  I wouldn’t want that getting around and ruining your life in Forrest and everything you have built with your mother, would we?” she asked, raising a perfectly waxed eyebrow at me. 
        Augusta was trying to ruin everything and I was only new in this town.  If she told anyone what she knew about my father, I wouldn’t be able to handle all the questions thrown at me and it would be the same for my mother. She smirked, happy with what she had done and walked away, shoving me out of the way in the process. I felt a tear run down my cheek and wiped it away, but more followed. I turned around and saw Nathaniel standing there, looking at me with hard eyes until he saw my tears. 
        I turned on my heel and walked away, not wanting anyone to see the vulnerable side of me. I spotted Alex and walked over to him, not caring that he was with someone else, but I needed to talk to my cousin. He was too busy talking to another teenage boy to notice that I was behind him.
        “Alex,” I said, making him turn around to look at me.
        “Brianna, don’t you know how to wait until I have finished speaking?”  He asked; annoyed until he saw what state I was in. “What happened?” 
        “I need to talk to you alone,” I said, ignoring everyone else. 
        He grabbed my hand and led me away from them, explaining that he would be back. He waited until we were out of everyone’s hearing range before stopping and looking at me with concern in his eyes. 
        “Okay, what happened?” 
        “I haven’t even been here for two days and Augusta has already threatened me and she knows,” I said.
        “What does she know?” he asked.
        “About my father; she knows the real reason why he left and I don’t know why she does. I don’t want it getting around and the only way she won’t say anything is if I stop hanging around everyone, including Nathaniel, Jason and her boyfriend, whom I haven’t met. How did she find out about my father?” I asked, getting frantic with every word.
        Alex placed his hands on my shoulders and told me to take deep breaths. Once I was calm enough and wasn’t going to faint from lack of air, I told him to start talking. 
        “She is going to try and manipulate you into doing things her way, so she can try and take Na-thaniel and she doesn’t want you hanging around her group as you don’t have much money to your name. Because no one knows much about you, she wants to find out everything and expose it, causing maximum damage so she can get what she wants and making you want to curl up into a hole and die,” Alex told me.
        “So she only has the time for people who have money?” I asked.
        He nodded and waved someone over. A boy with black hair and grey blue eyes came over and looked me up and down. I crossed my arms and waited for someone to start speaking. There was no way I was starting this conversation. I was slowly getting sick of getting my head ripped off for no reason. 
        “Daniel Delamare, meet my cousin, Brianna Morrison-Clarkson. She is currently your girlfriend, Augusta Nicholson’s, rival for doing nothing but minding her own business like Brianna usually does,” Alex said.
        “How can you put up with someone as cold and heartless as Augusta?” I asked. 
        “I don’t see her enough to see the trouble that she causes. She is too busy trying to cause trouble between Hudson and Brandon and with every other couple in the school. Oh, and trying to impress Nathaniel Norwood-Pryor but that hasn’t worked which is good,” Daniel said. 
        I nodded and looked at Alex before walking away, hopefully trying to beat the bell. I got to the music room with five minutes to spare. I knocked and opened the door to see an empty classroom and a teacher setting everything up. He looked up and over to where I was standing.
        “Oh hello,” he said and walked up to me.
        “Hi, is this the right room for music?” I asked.
        “Yes of course. I am Joseph Franklin, your music teacher,” he said and held out his hand.
        “Brianna Morrison-Clarkson,” I replied and shook it, ignoring the coldness of it. 
        The door opened and both James and Nathaniel walked into the room. James came up to me and smiled, while Nathaniel kept his distance from us, or from me. I couldn’t tell.
        Mr. Franklin put me with James and Nathaniel until he could find someone else to place me with. James was talkative, but Nathaniel wasn’t. He stayed quiet the whole time and only spoke when James asked him something, totally ignoring me. It was like I was invisible to him and I couldn’t understand why. At one stage I looked over towards Nathaniel and saw that he was looking straight at me. Our eyes locked and he quickly looked away.
        “Nathaniel, you are meant to be helping us, not staring at Brianna for ten minutes straight. I know that she is a beautiful girl, but some help would be nice so we can pass this subject,” James said.
        “James, I am not in the mood for you or your insults so just leave it alone for once in your life,” Nathaniel said in his husky voice and glared directly towards him. 
        “And I don’t want to hear anymore of your sulking or your PMS because mother won’t be happy when I tell her about the day you are having today and how you spoke to the new girl also. You know how she likes us to treat people with respect and not the way you are right now so you will be in big trouble off her and off Jack,” James retorted back.
        I looked between the two of them, but didn’t say anything. I didn’t want a lecture from Na-thaniel after Augusta ruined my day and was going to try and ruin the rest of them or die trying. All I just wanted to do was go home and hope that tomorrow was going to be a better day. The bell rang, signalling that it was time to leave the school grounds. I got up and grabbed my bag before noticing that everyone had rushed to the door in a hurry. I hung back and waited for the rush to even out. James and Nathaniel stood next to me, doing the same. 
        “So what did you think of your first day here?” James asked me and smiled warmly at me.
        “Different to what I expected,” I replied and smiled back at him.
        “So in other words, not enough drama,” James replied and looked at Nathaniel with a hard glare. 
        “Too much for my liking; I like to keep to myself and not being the centre of attention, but I am here and then there is the trouble with Augusta that she obviously wants to start causing for me and some other things that are starting to happen to add to my drama laced first day at this school,” I said, trying not to look at Nathaniel. 
        James nodded and placed a hand on my shoulder for comfort. I could tell that James was going to be a good friend towards me, but I didn’t want that. For some strange reason, I wanted Nathaniel to like me more than James. I had never felt that urge before and it freaked me out. And I didn’t want to throw myself at him as I wasn’t that kind of girl. I would leave that to Augusta and some of the other girls in this school. 
        “You will get use to Augusta and her schemes after awhile, but it will take you a long time,” Na-thaniel said to me since our issue in the lunch room. 
        “I hope so. I don’t think I would be able to handle her and trying to stay sane at the same time. It’s hard enough without her helping,” I replied and walked out of the classroom, leaving them standing there, staring holes into my back. 
        Alex was talking to some girl when I walked outside and I could tell by the look on his face, he had strong feelings for her. Making sure my school bag wasn’t going to fall off, I started walking into town. Hudson and Brandon quickly caught up to me and decided to walk with me. 
        “What was with Nathaniel today? Is he always like that to everyone that he crosses?” I asked after a minute of silence. 
        “Well, after you left the room, we had a discussion and Nathaniel left halfway through it and didn’t come back. James followed him and said that he was saying something about Brianna, tears and Augusta, but he couldn’t place the rest so he left him in his own thoughts. If James pushed Nathaniel, it wouldn’t have ended well for either of them,” Hudson said. 
        “Augusta threatened me and Nathaniel saw me in tears from it. That’s what he must have been saying when James got to him but I don’t know why it would bother him for. It’s not like he cares about me or anything, especially after the way he spoke to me in the hall,” I said.
        Hudson raised her eyebrows and shot Brandon a look, thinking that I would miss it, but I didn’t. It was obvious they knew a lot more about Nathaniel and why he was acting like that with James then they were letting on. I let it pass and decided not to say anything about it. I don’t think they would tell me if I asked anyway. They were secretive about certain things and Nathaniel would be no different. They would protect their friend and his secrets. 
        “Don’t worry about Augusta, Brianna. She is always trying to manipulate people, and she sees you as someone that will be easy as you are new and don’t have anyone to protect you, like I do with Brandon, but then that doesn’t even stop her making my life a living hell also. You saw what she did before, trying to steal Brandon and everyone else’s boyfriend who has beauty and a lot of money so it would raise her profile at school and fund her spending habit for expensive things that is running her father into the ground. The only thing Augusta cares about is wealth, being selfish and getting everything that she could ever want, not caring about the trail of bodies that is left behind in her wake,” Hudson said. 
        Brandon wrapped an arm around my shoulder and grabbed Hudson’s hand. That I wasn’t expecting. I soon realised why he did it. Jason, Daniel and Augusta walked past us, but didn’t say anything to us as they walked past. 
        The day slowly went by and both Hudson and Brandon waited with me until mum had finished work. I saw her approach us, which made me get up from where I was sitting.
        “Hello honey,” mum said and hugged me.
        She pulled back and looked at Hudson and Brandon with questions in her eyes. I don’t think she was expecting me to bring anyone to keep me company and it shocked her. She looked at me with questions in her eyes, but I shook my head, not wanting to explain anything just yet. 
        “Mum, this is Hudson and Brandon,” I said, making the introduction. “This is my mum Marie.”
        Hudson said hello, but Brandon didn’t say anything. His mouth had dropped open and was looking between mum and myself. Hudson waved a hand in front of his face, knocking him out of his own world. 
        “You are both identical,” he breathed. “You can tell that Brianna is your daughter as I can see where she gets her beauty from.”
        “Thank you,” mum said, flattered from this young boy. No wonder Hudson fell for him. 
        “Why don’t you say things like that to me anymore?” Hudson asked and crossed her arms, rais-ing an eyebrow at him.
        “Hudson, you know that you are very beautiful in my eyes,” Brandon said, trying to get out of Hudson’s anger.
        The look on Hudson’s face made me laugh to myself on the inside so they wouldn’t hear. Hudson rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, huffing, making Brandon whisper something in her ear. Whatever he said made her happy as she smiled. 
        I bid my farewells and walked to the car with mum. As we made our way back to Forrest, I no-ticed Nathaniel in the street with who I assumed to be Chase. Nathaniel looked up and locked eyes with me again. He had a look on his face that I couldn’t place, but I couldn’t get past his changing moods. It was like he had a personality disorder or something. It was strange. 
       While on the drive back home, I slipped into my own world of thinking about Nathaniel. He was a very attractive teenager and he was someone that I could easily see myself starting a relationship and falling in love with; besides the cold natured vibe he gave off to me and the fact that he seemed judgemental in the process. Maybe he was just protecting himself from something, but what and why? 
       “Brianna, are you alright? You aren’t your usual self and that is not normal,” mum asked, snap-ping me out of my thinking.
       She only asked me things like that when I wasn’t talking and the quiet got on her nerves. I had two choices. I could lie to her and say it’s nothing, or tell her that I clashed with a few of the students. I picked the second one, knowing that if I picked the first one, it would come back to bite me and I didn’t want that.
       “Just thinking about someone I met at school before and that how I am not going to fit into this school like I did with my last one. I should have just left or just did home schooling to save my mind from all of these thoughts that are starting to run through it,” I said my tone flat.
       “What happened?” she asked, worry lacing her voice.
       “I met someone named Nathaniel Norwood-Pryor today and you could say that we didn’t get along,” I said, leaving out the part with Augusta and her knowing about my father. Mum didn’t need the extra stress from her making my life a living hell. 
       “I work with his father, Jack Pryor and he seemed very nice, so I can’t understand why Nathaniel would be so cold for. I mean, Jack told me during lunch that his daughters, Amylia and Dakota are always giving to charity or doing something nice for charities, while his sons, Chase, James and Nathaniel are friendly and helpful when they have to be, but they don’t get close to anyone. Unless there something was on Nathaniel’s nerves and he took it out on you by mistake is the only thing I can think of. He could apologise to you tomorrow for all you know,” mum told me. 
       “The only one out of that family that took the time to talk to me and make me feel welcome was James and that might have been because he is friends with Alexander and felt that he had to befriend me because of Alex. For all I know, Alexander could have told James to befriend me so I wouldn’t be alone or something crazy like that,” I said and crossed my arms.
       Mum didn’t say anymore after that and left me in my own world to think. The night went fast and by the time I got to bed, I was mentally exhausted, but not physically. I spent most of the night wide awake thinking. I didn’t know what to expect from Nathaniel at school. I didn’t know if he was going to be icy and cold, or nice and warm. For all I knew, he could avoid me or pretend that I didn’t even exist in his world. I could just become a shadow hiding in the corner and he still wouldn’t notice anything. I was nothing but an annoyance in his eyes at the moment and that was something I wanted to change. 
       “Why is Nathaniel making me feel like this and I don’t even know him enough to stir up these feelings and emotions inside of me?” I asked aloud, wanting the silence to give me an answer to the question, but knowing that it wouldn’t and couldn’t.  
       An unopened box in the corner of my room caught my attention. I grabbed it and ripped off the tape and looked inside of it. Gasping aloud, I pulled out a photo of me and my father from when I was born and looked at it. The emotion in his face showed that he didn’t even love me as a newborn baby. It looked like he was only holding me because he had to for the photo and that if it wasn’t taken, he wouldn’t have bothered. He would have left the work for someone else to do when it came time for him to do something. I flipped the frame over and opened it up from the back and pulled the photo out. 
       Time for closure, I thought to myself and ripped it up into a thousand tiny pieces before placing it into my bin next to the desk. It didn’t even make me feel any better like I had hoped it would. The anger and hurt still ran through my veins and stabbed into my heart like it was a shard of glass. The pain my father caused both my mother and I wasn’t going to heal, and even if it did, it was going to take a long time for it to go and leave us alone. It had haunted us in Melton and it had followed us here. And it always felt like it was my fault that it happened in the first place. 
       It was just like a ghost that had followed or haunted someone and didn’t want to leave them alone. Even if my father thought about entering our lives and tried to make us act like a happy family, it wasn’t going to work. There was too much pain and not enough trust from either of us. And besides, my mother would have to be crazy to take him back after everything that he has done to us. 
       I looked over at my alarm clock, squinting at the brightness from it. Four in the morning and I was still wide awake. I tucked a piece of hair behind my ear and sighed. The moon was shining through my bedroom window, making me walk over to it and look at it. it helped me stop thinking about Nathaniel and my father, but I had no clue how I was going to cope at school half asleep, since I was still wide awake and did not like it one bit. 
       But what I did know was that Augusta wouldn’t want to have spread or told anyone anything about my father. That would have been the breaking the point for me and my mother once she found out about it. I didn’t want any more pain than I had already, especially caused by the witch of Colac and Forrest, Augusta Nicholson. 

 

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