My toes sunk deeper into the white sand, feeling the grains filter between them. My muted navy sweater was flapping in the early morning wind. It was a bit chilly out today, it would probably warm up later. I hoped so as I was anxious to go out into the water at some point.
Dad called me last night, soon after my neighbour had strolled back to his house, and urged me to go into town to at least look for a job so I could actually support myself here. But I wanted one more day of relaxation and ignoring all possible responsibility.
"Stefani," A voice called out from behind me. There's only one person here that knows my name, and it was a private beach after all. I was grateful to see the boy from last night making his way towards me and planted himself down next to where I sat. "What are you doing up so early?"
I flashed a smile his way, my dimples showing. "Jet lag. What about you, Calum?
He chuckled, rubbing one of his eyes with the back of his index finger. "I couldn't sleep. You, actually, were in my dream last night, although I don't remember what happened."
I felt a blush creeping onto my cheeks. This was quite flattering, but I doubted it was actually me. He probably dreamt about Madison and just said that it was me to be nice. "Oh really? Are you sure it wasn't Madison?"
"Of course, I can tell you apart you know." He grinned proudly, and I couldn't help but giggle at his claim.
"And how's that, may I ask?" I played along with him, putting on a shocked voice and even bringing a hand to my wide open mouth.
He chuckled, to hear him laugh was comforting and I could almost still feel his chest against mine. "Easy, for one Madison doesn't dimples like you."
I nodded and smiled super big so they would show again just to prove his point.
He shook his head at me, still laughing. "Secondly, your hair's lighter than Madison's. Like way lighter, I just didn't see it the first time because it was dark out."
"I do dye it, so that makes sense." I gave him another approving nod.
"And lastly, Madison doesn't have freckles." He flashed me a cheeky smile, nudging me with his knee.
I could feel the heat in my cheeks rising. It took me a while to find my words. "What's that supposed to mean?"
He placed one hand on my thigh, and his touch stunned me so much that I nearly flinched. His fingers traced their way along my skin before finding the freckle I had right below the line of my shorts on my inner thigh.
"Yeah." I whispered, I wasn't sure what to do. I wanted to swat his hand away but at the same time his touch was so warm.
Immediately he pulled his hand away, hiding his face from me. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that."
"Don't worry about it." I thought hard, trying to think of a way to change the subject.
"It nice, being able to talk to someone again." He cut me off, giving a shy smile.
"What do you mean?" I inquired, knitting my eyebrows together in confusion.
He just simply shrugged. "Something changed in my life a few years ago, and nobody's really treated me the same since. Well, at least, except for Madison. She wasn't judgemental or anything, just like you. You know, you're just like her."
I smiled shyly, his explanation was vague, but there was no reason to press him on the subject. I didn't know how to feel about being compared to her, to be fair though he was close to her and we'd only just met so guess it was a compliment. "Hey, would you mind showing me around town today? I need to look for a job. I mean, I guess that would be the smart thing to do."
Calum immediately looked uneasy. I noticed it by the way his jawline clenched. "Um, I don't think it's the best idea for you to go with me."
I placed my hand on his elbow and shook him slightly with a light giggle. "What do you mean? You're literally my only friend here."
He flinched away from my touch, which I had to admit stung a little. Maybe I had misread his friendly words and he was only talking to me out of politeness. "Friend? Look, Stefani, we just met yesterday. I'm busy today anyways and you do not want to go into town with me."
I blinked rapidly, completely puzzled by his astounded reaction. I pressed my hands into the sand and pushed myself up off the ground, letting out a sigh. I had to go before he could see how upset he'd made me. "I'm sorry if I jumped to conclusions. I'll see you around."
My heels dug into the warm beachfront land as I spun around. Picking up my flip flops and heading towards the narrow path up the cliff that lead me back to my temporary home.
It wasn't a long walk and the cliff was less steep than I'd expected, so I reached the top in no time. Even from outside the house was charming. I unlocked the screen door and headed inside, feeling slightly disappointed that Calum hadn't followed me.
But although I hated to admit it, he was completely right. We'd only just met yesterday. I knew barely anything about the dark haired boy and the way he acted not moments before made me feel like everything I thought I knew about him was wrong. He was so expressive but he was nice to me, but I couldn't tell if it was only because I looked like Madison or he actually liked me for me. I guess his last words confirmed my fears.
I sipped the cup of coffee that was lingering on the mahogany table top. It was bitter and cold now, unlike how it tasted when I first brewed it. Glancing at the clock, I realised it was a more reasonable time to be out and about, and after spritzing some perfume on my neck and slipping into my flip flops, I headed out on my mission to explore.
The town was small, which I adored. I was never into big cities. Possibly because I was an anxious person, and the thought of all the people all the time wasn't ideal. I loved how everyone knew each other here, and it wasn't crowded at all.
After strolling through endless independent shops, boutiques and the odd pharmacy, I stopped in front of a record store. The large "Help Wanted" sign plastered against the glass caught my attention. I inhaled deeply before pushing the glass door open, causing the bell above my head to jingle and echo through the empty store.
Records of every colour lined the walls, stacked on shelves that reached right up to the ceiling. I picked out familiar albums all throughout the store and gentle lights illuminated the vinyl covered wall in the back of the store, where the front desk was. I was in awe of it's quaint charm and the nostalgia it brought me. I recognised the Nirvana track that was being blasted from the back of the store as 'Dumb' and I began to hum along as I made my way towards the desk.
A boy with brightly coloured hair, one that stood out from the dark tones of the back wall, peaked out from the back room. He seemed startled by the sight of me. He quickly turned the volume down, stepping out to greet me, he wore a name tag on his shirt that read 'Michael'.
"Oh, hey," Michael greeted, standing himself behind the counter. "It's Madison, right?" He looked immediately uncomfortable when he said that name.
I smiled politely. "No, ugh, my name's Stefani. Madison's my cousin."
"Wait a second," He was visibly relieved. "You're not from here, are you? What kind of accent is that?"
I let out a slight chuckle. "I'm from America, just came here yesterday. I'm staying in my Aunt's house off Newman Street, not sure if you know which one, but yeah. I was wondering if I could get an application? I saw the help wanted sign and I could really use a job."
Michael flashed me a broad grin, leaning down behind the counter to pull out a packet. "Well sure you can. Not sure why you would, you could definitely do better, but here you go."
I let out another laugh, gripping the papers from his hand. "Not trying to pry or anything, but you fit in so well with this store."
Now it was Michael's turn to chuckle. "My mom owns it, big groupie in her day. So you just moved in yesterday, does that mean I'm the first person you've met?"
"Surprisingly, no," I replied, running a hand through my blonde hair. "I hung out with my neighbour last night. I wouldn't say we're friends or anything, I don't know. His name's Calum, apparently he's quite close to Madison, you probably know him since everyone here seems to know each other."
Michael dropped the ballpoint pen out of his hand almost instantly after the words left my mouth. "Calum Hood?" He questioned, his voice was more reserved than a moment ago.
I bit on my lip. "I'm not sure, he never told me his last name. He has tan skin, dark brown hair an-"
"That's Calum Hood," He interrupt me coldly, leaning closer to me across the desk. He opened his mouth again but it was his turn to be cut off by a girl walking in the front door.
She had dusky ginger hair, closer to brown than bright red. It suited her light tan and she was absolutely beautiful when she glided through the door. The girl clipped a similar ivory coloured name tag to her front before standing next to Michael. "Oh, Madison?" The girl who's name tag read 'Megan' looked at me with surprise. Clearly, Madison wasn't around here often.
"No, I'm Stefani, Madison's cousin. I just arrived yesterday." At my words she flashed a bright smile before switching her attention to Michael.
"Who just said Calum Hood?" She interrogated in a serious tone.
"Me. So Stefani wants to apply for a job here for some reason, which is great you know, we could use the help. Anyways, that's not the point. Stefani's living in Madison's house and as you know, Calum is her neighbour." Michael paused letting the information sink in.
Megan's eyes widened slightly. She muttered something to Michael I didn't catch and he nodded his head. I suddenly had the urge to run out of the store. Something wasn't right. Megan reached across the glass countertop of the desk and comfortingly placed her hands on top of mine. "Stef, can I can you Stef? You need to stay away from him."
"What? Why? I don't understand?" I demanded, feeling a sense of panic wash over me. My eyes flickering between the two, who looked about my age.
Michael shook his head repeatedly. "He's a bad guy, Stefani. You just need to stay away from him."
I breathed out, I hadn't even realised I'd been holding my breath. "Um, okay. He seemed nice to me but- So when should I have this application in by?"
"Whenever," He responded nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders as if this change of topic was no big deal. "I can guarantee you'll get a position so it doesn't really matter."
"Alright, thanks. It was nice to meet you both. I'll see you soon," I said politely, manoeuvring my way through the timely maze of famous artists.
My heart was still racing as I walked back on the sidewalk towards my secluded home. I was curious as to why people were so heated on the subject of Calum. He seemed like such a sweet boy. What could they possibly be talking about?
I was utterly overwhelmed by this new perspective. My fingers rummaged through my pocket to find my keys and when I finally felt the cold metal between my fingertips I pressed it into the lock of the door, revealing a coincidental sight in front of me.
The same Calum that my two future co-workers had warned me about was sitting at my kitchen table. "How the hell did you get in here?" I exclaimed, not too thrilled about the security system.
"I have an extra key from Madison," He told me, placing the grooved tool out on the table. "You can have it. But it came in handy tonight because I really wanted to apologize."
"For what?" I pressed, hoping he'd get the hint to elaborate.
"For hurting your feelings and snapping at you. Things are just very complicated in my life right now. But I really would like to be your friend, Stefani. You're funny and kind. I need someone like you in my life," Calum admitted smiling sheepishly at me.
My green eyes flickered from the attractive boy in front of me and my feet. I was positive that he was harmless and I ignored the cautions I had earlier received. "I guess I need a friend in my life too."