It wasn’t long before I reached the edge of town where the woods started. Making my way through the trees, I followed the black piece of twine I had tied to the base of the trees making sure no one would be able to see it unless they knew about it. I had done this only a few days after I had finished building my little sanctuary all those years ago. The small clearing came into view and I couldn’t help picking up my pace. The tree right in the centre of the clearing held my tree-house. It was perfectly hidden between the big branches hanging over its roof and the ivy growing up its sides. I smiled. I was proud of it. All on my own, every day after school for two months I came here, building my little heart out.
I climbed the steps to the top and crawled through the hole in the floor. I looked around making sure everything was still there and it was. Guitar, violin, record player, everything. The frame that kept the only memory I had left of my parents stood on the makeshift table made from an old skateboard. I missed them to be honest. They were like me, free spirits. They dared to be different. They made me who I am. I felt a tear spill down my cheek and quickly stopped reminiscing. This was my life now. Being misunderstood and hated by most people including my twin sister. High school was a bitch until Lilly came the previous year.
Freshman year was when it all went sour. Melissa and I stuck together at first, then she tried out for the cheer squad and it all went downhill from there. I can’t remember exactly why she started hating me. Maybe it was because of Mitch liking me and not her, but he moved anyway. Music and art became the only things in my life that stayed with me through everything. I could always escape to my own world and draw or write a song.
I sighed running my fingers across the black velvet journal I kept near the matrass in the corner of the small room. I kept everything in there. Songs, thoughts, dreams, wishes, future plans and photos. I sat on the leopard print covers and made myself comfortable on the tons of scatter cushions. An old rock vinyl was already playing softly in the background and I was calm. No one knew of this place and I was planning on keeping it that way. I wouldn’t be able to have moments like this if people knew. Especially Lilly… she’d always be here.
Clutching the journal to my chest, I drifted off.
I woke up a few hours later with Andy screaming at me. My phone was ringing. I checked the caller ID. Ugh. So called mom was phoning. I quickly pressed it to my ear.
“I don’t care where you are or why you’re there. Just get your ass home. You’re late for dinner.” That’s all I heard before she hung up. I checked the time. 6 PM.
“Fuck!” I yelled scrambling to get my bag. I turned the record player off and practically flew down the steps. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I ran through the main street and turned onto mine. It felt like my lungs were going to give in. I finally reached our driveway and made it to the front door. I heard shouting and suddenly I was afraid to open the door, but I had no choice.
It creaked open and there was a pause.
“Jessica! Get in here!” I heard Adam call. Probably drunk.
I slowly walked into the kitchen where he and Sheila were seated. Melissa was god knows where. Not that she’d be of any kind of help.
“Where have you been?” Sheila asked.
“I was at school.” I lied.
“Until now?” she questioned further.
“Yeah… I need to catch up on… History.” I said having to think of something fast.
“I don’t believe it.” Adam said from behind the bar. I knew it.
“I have a letter, Adam.” I felt my cheek sting with the pain from Sheila slapping me.
“Since when are we on a first name basis?” she shrieked.
“I’m sorry…” I mumbled through gritted teeth.
“You better be. Now where’s this letter?” she asked eyeing me suspiciously. I rummaged in my bag and pulled out the blue piece of paper.
“Here.” I said holding it out for her to take. She did. She gave it a quick look over and pulled a face.
“Checks out.” She told him. “Now. We’re going on a cruise to the Portuguese Islands for a month. Melissa’s in charge as usual. Don’t go making unnecessary trouble like skinning the neighbours’ cat again.”
“I told you that wasn’t me!” another stinging pain, this time from Adam and it was twice as hard.
“Don’t raise your voice at your mother!” he shouted.
“She is not my mother, nor will you ever be my father.” I glared at him. I knew what I was doing was the stupidest thing in the world.
“You will not speak to me like that.” He said clenching his fists. Here comes trouble.
“You can’t tell me what to do anymore, Adam. I’m 18, remember?” I shot at him.
His hand moved towards the tequila bottle that was standing on the bar counter. His fingers tightened around the neck of the bottle as he brought it above his head. I knew it was coming for me and if I hadn’t moved, it would have struck me right on the head. Instead it hit me on the shoulder. It didn’t shatter, but it still hurt like a motherfucker.
I yelled out in pain when Sheila struck me in the stomach. I could have sworn something burst. I doubled over trying to back away from her, but ended trapped in a corner.
“You. Will. Not. Tell. Lies.” She shouted in between blows.
“Stop! Pl-please!” I begged, but it didn’t help at all. She kept going. I couldn’t stand anymore and fell to the ground. She stopped for a second then, but Adam started kicking me all over. I covered my head as he kicked against my arms, sometimes moving to my legs and stomach. The pain was unbearable. Why couldn’t it just end?!
My body was going into shock and was beginning to go numb. I was grateful. They knew exactly when to stop, I thought. I opened my eyes slowly and saw them walking away with their bags following behind them. I tried pushing myself off the floor. After what felt like ages, I finally got up and started climbing the stairs to my room which was technically the attic. Not that I minded. Except for the stairs which was a pain in my ass when these beatings happened. I trudged across the room to the mirror and took off my clothes. The bruises were already forming. They were red welts now, but tomorrow I’d be purple. I inspected everything to make sure nothing was broken before I threw some sweatpants and a hoodie on. That was all I needed. If they were gone for a month I won’t be sticking around just so Melissa can boss me around. I grabbed the important things. Laptop, charger, toothbrush. Just the essentials. I was planning on going to Lilly’s, but I went where my legs were taking me. Soon, I found myself inside the tree-house lighting the numerous candles that were placed around. It wasn’t cold out, it wasn’t hot either, but just the right temperature for me to be able to sleep here. It was going to be a while before I could sleep. Not that I wasn’t tired, believe me I was.
I took the scrunched up note from my hoodie’s pocket. He had neat handwriting for an Art teacher. I should probably let him know that he can tutor me. It was only 8. I pulled my phone from my pocket as well. I sighed unlocking it. The screen had shattered. My brand new iPhone had shattered.
Hey Mr Clifford,
My foster-parents said it’s alright if you help me.
It’s Jess btw :)
I hit send and put my phone down beside the matrass. I grabbed the journal and started writing until I fell asleep soon afterwards.
Every night was band night. Not that we called ourselves a band yet, but we still came together to practise. So there we were, sitting around the living room, just jamming like always, when Luke stood up from his seat near the window.
“What’s up dude?” Calum asked.
“It’s getting really late and I’ve got rugby try-outs tomorrow after school.” Luke was the PE coach. We all knew each other from school.
“At least you don’t have Maths Olympiads to set up. Ugh, why did I ever become a maths teacher?” Calum sighed packing his bass away. I chuckled softly to myself still strumming at my guitar.
“Mike, we’re done for the day. And I think you have a message. Didn’t you hear your phone like three hours ago?” Ashton asked moving his box drum out of the way.
“No. Must have been an unknown number or something.” I sighed setting my guitar down on the couch next to me.
“So… are you going to check who it is?” Luke asked from the door.
“Nah.” I shrugged. I would probably check later when I’m bed though, I thought to myself.
“See. I told you he does it to everyone.” Ashton said walking the others out.
“Michael! You’re a twat!” Calum said before they disappeared. I laughed.
“What’s the time Mikey?” Ash asked.
“Eleven thirty five. Why?” I asked checking my phone. Just the one text? Unusual.
“I’m hungry. Aren’t you?”
“Not really. I had something before the guys came over.” I smiled as I read the text.
“Oh and that smile?” he asked joining me on the couch, a bowl of ice cream in hand.
“Jessica texted me.”
“Wait… isn’t that the girl from your class?” he asked around a spoonful of ice cream.
“Yup. She needs tutoring. Apparently she’s fallen behind with the history side of music.” I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I saved the number and quickly typed a reply.
Great! We’ll set up a time tomorrow then.
Oh and you can call me Michael.
“You realise she might not even be awake anymore?” Ash asked raising his brow.
“You never know, she doesn’t seem like the type who’d go to bed early.” I shrugged just as my phone beeped. Wow. Fast replier. I like that.
I won’t be at school tomorrow. Some personal issues
came up. I’ll be sure to remember that, Michael :)
“What did she say?”
“Not going to school tomorrow…” I frowned. Personal issues, huh? I wonder what.
Sorry to hear that :( please, if there’s anything
I can help with, let me know.
Ashton didn’t say anything. He just finished his ice cream and went to bed. I sighed picking my guitar up again and strummed softly as to not wake him up. Tomorrow was going to suck. I couldn’t stop thinking about what could have happened. She said personal issues, but what could that mean?
A horrible sound interrupted my short thoughts. Great Michael, snapped a string, I thought to myself. Checking the time, I walked to my room and sat on the big empty bed. It got lonely sometimes. Sure, Ash and the others were there and of course the occasional one night stand, but nothing could compare to sharing your life with someone. If only she were still here…
“Michael! Not again. C’mon man! Get up!” I faintly heard Ashton yell at me.
“5 more minutes…” I mumbled from under my sheets.
“You already had 15 extra!” he rushed pulling the sheets and the curtains open at the same time exposing the blaring sun.
“Get up Dracula. There’s no more time left.” He said rolling his eyes when I hissed and covered my face.
I blindly pulled on some clothes and a pair of Converse. I ran my fingers through my hair and it looked okay. I rushed to the bathroom to brush my teeth, tripping as I came rushing around the corner and hit my arm against the counter top. A drop of blood trickled down my bicep.
“Ashton? Do we only have Batman band aids left?” I asked rummaging through the drawers.
“Yeah, sorry about that.” He laughed passing the passage with all his stuff ready by his side.
“Grr…” I growled sticking the stupid thing on its place. The rest of the morning was just rushing around. When we got to school we were late. We rushed down the halls towards our classrooms, kids already seated. Bursting through the Art room’s doors, I heard a few laughs and snickers.
“Late on our second day, sir?” Melissa basically purred at me. She had this extremely low cut, skin tight dress on and I swear to god a push up bra trying to push her non-existent breasts out of the top of the dress.
“I… uh…” I couldn’t stand the sight of her. She was trying way too hard.
“Melissa, boo, I know chu be trippin’ thinkin’ he’d go for a slag like chu. Now cover them non-existent hush puppies and sit yo ratchet ass down.” She’s here?! I recognised her voice even with the urban accent.
“Excuse me?! Michael, did you hear what she said to me?” she bitched looking at me expectantly.
“It’s Mr Clifford to you, and yes, I did hear what she said to you.” I sighed. She huffed and sat down. “You should cover yourself miss Welsh. That dress is surely not school regulation.”
A few snickers from her fellow classmates and an extremely embarrassed Melissa later, we got on with the lesson. I couldn’t take my eyes from Jessica. She sat in her seat at the back, staring out of the window. Dressed in a The Walking Dead hoodie and a pair of baggy sweats, her hair tied up in a ponytail, she just sat and stared. They were supposed to be busy reading and summarising the work, but I didn’t want to disturb her. She seemed so deep in thought. She wasn’t wearing any makeup today and I have to say, even without it she looked amazing. I couldn’t see a reason for her to wear that crap anyway. Did her cheek seem a little… blue? No, it can’t be, must be her hair. Her crystal blue gaze caught me staring. She looked confused for a second before looking down. A slight shade of pink crept onto her pretty little face and I thought my heart melted. She was just so cute.
I took a glance at the clock on the wall and cleared my throat.
“You can start packing up. Bell’s gonna ring in five.” She was just putting her notebook away when I saw a paper ball hit her. I watched as she opened it and frowned. She glanced at Melissa who had now started chatting to one of her groupies. This was weird. Jessica seemed worried, yet she wasn’t scared.
“Jessica, could you please come see me after class?” I asked hoping I saved her from whatever her twin had planned.
“Sure thing Mr Clifford.” she said relieved just as the bell rang.
I waited until everyone was out before motioning her over.
“Glad to see you at school. I thought you said you weren’t coming.” I smiled at her.
“Oh, I wasn’t planning on coming, but yeah… I had to, I guess.” she stumbled over her words.
“Well, whoever got you to come needs some credit then.” Noticing her cheek again, I realised it wasn’t her hair causing the shine. She had definitely been struck once or twice. “So about that note. What did it say?”
“Here. Read for yourself.” She sighed handing me the ruffled page.
When we get home you are so dead!! How dare you say those things to me in front of him!!!!
Watch your back bitch.
“Have you reported this?” I asked. It was troubling me. This could lead to a lot worse things happening.
“Of course I have. The school just doesn’t give a shit.” She shrugged.
“So about those extra hours. How about we start Monday after school at your house?” I asked hoping to ease the tension.
“I guess it’s okay… I apologise in advance for my airhead of a sister.” She said rolling her eyes.
“That’s alright. She won’t be bothering us much if we just ignore her.” I smiled and threw the piece of paper in the bin. “Are you gonna be okay for the rest of the day?”
“Yup. I don’t stick around much after Art and Music anyway.” She said turning to the door.
“If you need anything, you have my number and I’ll see you on Monday then. Take care Jess.” I said as she made her way to the door.
“Thanks Mr Clifford.” She waved. I noticed her walking wasn’t as fluid as it should have been. It all left me with so many questions. I sighed gathering my things from the cluttered desk and made my way through the halls. I had just turned the corner on my way to Ashton’s room when I heard a terrible shrieking sound. Turning back to the way I came from, I looked down the hall of kids. They didn’t seem to be bothered by the crying and yelling. I heard her cry out again. That’s when I saw them.