Running felt good, I felt free. The feeling of my feet pounding on the sidewalk, my high ponytail swinging back and forth like a pendulum. My head, empty of thoughts; thoughts of Clayton, of Vicky, of all of them. Nothing but concentrating on my breathing, in and out… in and out... in and out. My music blaring through my earphones giving me a beat to match my tempo to. Just as I’m about to step out onto the road a car honks its horn and startles me, making me jump back. This is the downside to staying away from the forest or the wooded areas. There are cars; but where there are cars there are people, where there are people there are no wolves. Granted there may be pack members but I’m just crazy enough to blank out that they transform into hideous creatures when they are in a coffee shop or outside the food store. That’s why I don’t go into the woods.
The woods are where my nightmares happen, where human bodies change and mutate into beasts of fairy tales. It makes you realise that nothing you were told as a child is actually very nice. Fairy tales that are really horror stories and most likely real. In one of my dreams I’m in a red cloak and well… we all know how that ends. I never wake up before I am devoured.
No, the woods are the one place I steer clear of. I make my way back home and shower off ready for the day. My dads already left for work and my mom just sits in the kitchen, that awkward silence that awaits hangs in the air, when she doesn’t know how to treat me. She wants to constantly wrap me up in cotton wool and she treats me as if I’m as fragile as a newborn baby. I don’t want to be treated like this. I refuse to be treated like a victim. I didn’t die, Alex didn’t die. We are not the victim. The victims were the people who lost their lives saving us. The victim was Vicky and I refuse to let her death be for nothing. I refuse to be less than what she would want us to be. So, I carried on, I finished school, worked through summer, started college. I do everything that I should be expected to do at my age.
However, I have no control over my unconsciousness, no control over my fears, no control over my inward thoughts running through my brain. I just paint my face, brush my hair, cover the scars, smile and carry on like everything is perfectly fine. No one but my parents know about the nightmares. I told Alex I had stopped having them long ago. I couldn’t cope with knowing that she had gotten over everything so quickly, but I was still stuck.
Still stuck there… in that room... huddled in the corner grasping onto a broken piece of mirror for dear life. I can still feel the blood trickle down my hand, still feel the raised scar on the palm of my hand.
“Some coffee sweetie?” my mothers voice once again brings me from my thoughts as I walk into the kitchen.
“Yes please. That sounds good.” My reply is cheerful and with an instant smile and she smiles back. Relief washed all over her pretty face. Some days even she believes my lies.
“Toast, eggs?... I can make some pancakes.?” She asks quickly, thankful to have found me in a seemingly happier mood. I shake my head but keep my smile fixed in place.
“I’ll just grab a cereal bar, I wanted to get some books from the library before my first class. I should get going. I’m meeting Alex in town after so I’m not sure what time I’ll be back. I’ll probably get some food with her so don’t worry about dinner for me, just eat without me.” I place a kiss on her check and leave as quickly as I can before I’m questioned further on the actual time that class finishes, and where I’m meeting Alex. She feels the need to know every detail and it drives me insane. I know its because she worries and I love her for it, but still… It’s not helping me get over anything. I feel like I’ll never get over it.
College is a good distraction. A chance to fill my mind with work and essays and assignments. A chance to concentrate on my future.
My future… that was something that I once thought I wouldn’t get. Even after we got back home. I couldn’t explain how I felt to anyone. No one would understand. Don’t get me wrong I was… I am grateful to Logans pack for saving us. I wanted nothing more than to be out of that filthy place; but when we got home… I just didn’t feel the same. It felt like something was missing. Almost like there was a longing to go back there. Stupid right? But how do you say that to someone without sounding like a crazy person. A one point I thought I was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. My future was the last thing I wanted to concentrate on, but in the end, it was the only thing that got me motivated to actually get out of bed. Eventually that longing just ceased to exist; just like my tormentor.
My classes flow easily into one another, and my day passes quick. I have made some new friends, but I mainly stay to myself, or I’m with Alex. Our friendship seems to have taken a step back, however. It’s not her fault, it is me and I know it is. I’ve pushed a few people away over the past few months, she keeps trying though and I love her even more for that. Out of everyone she understands the most, and I don’t think it was just because she was there with me, but I suppose it could be. I have made a promise to myself though to make more of an effort, which is why I asked her for a coffee after her last class.
“Hazelnut Latte please” I politely ask the barista after waiting my turn at the coffee shop in town, it’s changed a little recently though. It’s trendier and the music is always new recent tunes. I have heard a rumour it was under new management, but no signs have been put up. Memories of being here when we were in school and were carefree flood into my mind. People say you should enjoy your high school days as they pass too quickly. I did enjoy my high school days, I just wish I could get a do over on the last few months of it, because it taints all the other good memories. I find a booth and wait for Alex, I’m a little early but I don’t mind waiting and pull out a book I have to read for one of my assignments. My coffee being placed in front of me startles and I just a little. Red flushing into my cheeks out of embarrassment.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. Just bringing you your drink. It’s Amber right?” I place my book down and look up to the stranger that knows my name. It’s the same guy I placed my order with. He’s a cute guy, a year ago I would have noticed that already. He does look familiar, but I don’t know his name.
“Err yeah. Sorry do I know you?” He smiles and shakes his shaven head
“No, I was a few years above you in River Falls. I just finished college and came back home. I’m Ryan.” He introduces himself and holds his and out for me to shake which I hesitantly take, double checking my sleeve is covering all it needs to. I smile in return but am unsure on what else to say. I hate that something I used to be so confident in doing makes me feel so awkward.
“Nice to meet you Ryan. I’m Amber, but I guess you already knew that.” I pull my hand back swiftly and place it around my coffee cup.
“Sorry that made me sound really strange. I’m actually not strange I promise I just recognised you is all.” I find it cute that he seems a little awkward of himself and it brings another smile to my face.
“Well… I’m going to get back to work before I can embarrass myself even more.” He nods his heads and turns swiftly with a smile almost bumping into Alex who must have spotted me at the booth.
“He was cute. What’s his name?” she asks in a sing song voice as she takes the seat opposite me.
“His name is Ryan, I just met him, he works here and he bought my coffee over. Nothing more to tell than that.” I blurt out quickly taking a sip of my hot drink.
“Yeah but… he is cute…” I roll my eyes and push my book back into my bag.
“So what’s going on with you?” I move the conversation away from the cute guy and onto her. She doesn’t miss my tactic and smiles smugly.
“Well not much. Apart from I’m moving in with Logan…” Alex says it casually like it’s no big deal.
“What? That’s… What did Sara say?” Alex lives with her aunt, she moved in when both her parents died in a car crash.
“She was actually okay with it. I think she knows it’s serious between us and he was pretty much living at ours anyway. At least this way she figures there will be more parents around as she’s at the studio so much anyway. But I just wanted to know if you would still come and see me? I know you don’t like going there but I’ll… I’ll miss you. I do miss you. Jasmine does to. In fact, she wanted me to ask if you wanted to come over Friday for a girl’s night?” She plays with her fingers, a sign she was nervous to ask me. I promised myself I would make more of an effort with my friends, I know I need to.
“That would be great.” She looks up at me shocked.
“Really… just like that? I thought…” She stops talking as Ryan comes back over with her hot chocolate and two cookies.
“Oh thanks, but I didn’t order any cookies. Did you?” She looks to me, but I shake my head and we both look to him.
“Actually, they are on the house. The owner said they were the last two and needed to be eaten before they went stale. So, enjoy.” Ryan leaves with one last look at me and heads back over to the counter.
“I think he likes you” Alex leans forward and whispers to me while swiping up a cookie from the plate.
“Don’t be silly. He was just doing what his boss told him to do.” I pick up the second cookie and start breaking it into small pieces.
“We’ll see. So, Friday… really, you’ll come. Over to Logans?” she looks to happy that I said yes even if I wanted to change my mind, I don’t think I could do that to her.
“Yeah I’ll come. I… I wanted to say I’m sorry, you know for the past few months.” She reaches across and takes my hand, squeezing it in hers.
“You have nothing to be sorry for. Do you understand me? What happened, what we went through… it just takes time.”
“Yeah but you handled everything so much better than me. I mean look at me. I couldn’t even flirt earlier when Mr Cutie came over. I’m a mess.” I push the cookie plate away from me, unable to eat it.
“Hey, the only reason I look like I got over things quicker than you was because of Logan and the whole mate thing. I still can’t explain it, but I know it helped. But… some nights, I still have the nightmares. You never need to say sorry to me okay. If anything, it should be me saying sorry to you.” I shake my head quickly and brush away a stray tear, squeezing her hand through.
“You don’t need to say sorry either. But I know I pushed people away, and I think I’m ready to move on now. I feel stronger. I want to just… get on with my life.”