"Maybe that's it. We eventually go numb; because you can't break a heart that's already broken." ~Unknown
The fire is crackling softly, the heat warming my cheeks. I haven't really spoken much during the time I've been here. Surprisingly, the need to smoke another cigarette hasn't arisen since my last one a few hours. Maybe it was because I was afraid of talking to a certain boy again, but that didn't matter. Not really.
Kate didn't try to strike up a conversation again after I snapped at her. And I was alright with that. Truthfully, my mind was at ease at this moment. With no one trying to talk to me, I didn't need to fake a smile or come up with a reply to anyone. I could sit in my chair, sipping on my water, while listening to the fire sputtered and spat, growing in its flames. I was chewing on a piece of mint gum, contemplating over the night. It was just past midnight, and nothing happened.
My nerves were still on high alert; anticipating a move at every waking moment. I don't know why, but something told me I wasn't going to be sleeping tonight. Something told me I would be sitting in bed with my eyes wide open. A part of me couldn't believe I was outside my room on a Saturday night, to begin with. I suspected them to hit harder at this moment than ever. I expected the flashbacks to come in waves. One reeling nightmare after the other. But in fact, none came at unexpected moments.
Maybe I could start to live again.
Maybe this night would be the first of many nights in which I could forget. In which I could take back control of my life. It's been two years since that night. I was fifteen when that happened. Maybe- maybe I was finally getting past it. I don't think I'll learn to trust boys in the same manner again- but tonight was a start. A start to a new me.
Not the old me.
Not the me that was a result of that night.
But a me that could forget about what happened to me. A me that could live life for what it is and not have to constantly look over my shoulder. I was in a new state for crying out loud! Those men couldn't hurt me anymore. But it's not to say I could still be hurt by other men. But maybe it was a one-time thing.
After all, what are the chances something like that happens to a girl a second time?
I could exercise caution, still. Hell, I could even learn self-defense just to be on the safer side. Maybe this was the push I needed all along.
I spared a glance next to me, a soft smile curling at my lips when I looked at Kate. She was talking animatedly to a girl next to her, her hands flailing out all around her with a twinkle in her eyes. Again, I couldn't help but admire Kate.
Maybe this wasn't that bad of a night after all.
* * *
For the rest of my time there, I sat in the same chair while listening to everyone else talk. Few people tried to strike up a conversation with me, but after my first few short responses they got the hint and moved on. It didn't bother me at all.
I cherished the silence that consumed me.
Across from me, I spotted Zander smiling as he was talking to the few girls who were around him. All of them had a hand on his arm, flirtatious smiles on their faces while flipping their hair every so often. I noticed the look of seduction in all of their faces.
After all, I used to be one of those girls.
Zander's smile wasn't really a flirtatious one, though. In fact, I don't even really think Zander ever truly smiled. That was sad, considering I've known of him for not even twenty-four hours. Something told me he wasn't a man of many words. But when he spoke, it was usually important. Or maybe I was just overanalyzing him. I've always been bad at reading people, anyways.
The black strands of his hair still stood up in a slicked style. I couldn't see his eyes because they were trained on an unfamiliar brunette in front of him. But of course, it was at that moment Zander chose to look up. His lips curled back into that sly smile of his when he caught me staring. Rolling my eyes, I turned my attention away from him before I could embarrass myself any further. I was not going to give him the satisfaction of watching a hot blush creep upon my cheeks. No matter how dark it was which meant he probably wouldn't be able to see it anyways.
"Hey," snapping out of my embarrassment, I spin my head around to see Kate smiling at me.
"Hmm?" I questioned.
"It's getting a little late so everyone is about to head home for the night. Did you wanna meet in my car? Here are the keys. I won't be long, promise." Kate handed me the keys and I nodded, standing up.
I spit out my gum as I walked to her car, praying my breath didn't smell of smoke anymore. If I really wanted too, I knew I had time for another, but I didn't want to risk it. Taking out my phone, I noticed I would be home before curfew.
I don't think I've been on time when my parents set a curfew for me. It was a good thing though because it meant my parents wouldn't lose their trust in me. If I wanted to go out again, they would trust me to be back on time.
I wasn't close to my parents. Ever. I still wasn't close to them. I loved them. I loved my parents with all my bitter heart could muster, but there was just no connection with my parents besides the fact that they created me. I had a love for them because they were my parents. But not because we were close. I was their only daughter, I know if they found out something ever happened to me, they would only blame themselves. What kind of parents wouldn't blame themselves?
Not wanting to think on it any further, I pushed my thoughts to the back of my mind. Unlocking her car, I got in the passenger side and started the car.
Kate was the girl I wished I could be. She was perfect. She was smart. She was beautiful. She was sweet and witty. She was the daughter I wished I could be. I bet she made everyone around her proud. It wouldn't surprise me. Kate Withers was just flawless. She probably never experiences a bad day in her life. And I envied her for it.
The door opened and Kate slid into the driver's side. Followed by another car door slamming in the back. Confused, I turned around, only for my eyes to widen in shock.
Zander smirked at me.
"Someone else drove me here. But I figured since you and I live right across from each other, Kate wouldn't mind dropping us both off." He defended, that stupid smug smirk of his playing on his lips.
He was so infuriating! I scowled, crossing my arms like a little child and looking out the window.
"Oh, right. Hope it's okay with you, Layla." Kate said, starting the car.
I didn't comment, choosing to shrug my shoulders as if I didn't care. I don't know what it was about Zander that made me want to strangle the living daylights out of him. Maybe it was that smirk that never left his lips. Or his intense eyes always seeming to catch sight of mine. Or even the fact that not a single strand of his hair was ever out of place.
"So, did you have fun at all?" Kate asked, glancing at me for a split second.
Recalling my previous thoughts of the flashbacks not filtering through my mind, I found myself nodding. "Yes." My answer was short.
But Kate didn't seem to mind. Scary enough, it only seemed the smile she had widened.
Goodness, if she and Zander ever got together, it would make a match made in Heaven. I thought sarcastically,
"That's great! I knew you'd enjoy yourself." After seeing I wasn't going to respond, she and Zander made small talk through the rest of the ride until we got to our destination.
I couldn't get out of that car fast enough.
"Thanks," I mumbled quietly, before shutting the door behind me, not bothering to listen for a reply.
Before I could make it to my door I felt a sharp tug on my wrist. Immediately, I yanked my wrist from his grip. My heart picking up in speed and I could feel my eyes widen. I held my wrist to my chest, looking frightfully into Zander's eyes as a memory flashed through my mind:
I couldn't feel my body. My limbs were numb and there was a tingly feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was really dark but I couldn't open my eyes. Why can't I open my eyes?
I started to move lazily, praying and trying so hard to gain feeling back. But nothing happened. It still felt like I was weightless. It felt as if I were a feather floating through the night sky. But I didn't like this feeling. It was a feeling I didn't welcome. I was unaccustomed to this.
What did I drink? What made me feel this way? I've never felt this way before.
Willing myself to finally open my eyes, a scream lodged in the back of my throat at the sight in front of me. Hovering over me, there was a man. His hot breath was fanning my neck and tears pricked at the edges of my eyes.
"S-st-stop," I croaked, trying to struggle out of his grip. But he wouldn't move. Why wasn't he moving? I didn't want this. I really didn't want this. I wasn't feeling well.
Heaving in a deep breath, I tried again. Hoping my voice was louder so he could hear me. "S-stop! Please, get off."
My voice fell on deaf ears.
The next thing I know, a sinister smile appears on his already wicked face.
"Be a good girl and take it." The man growled, his eyes darkening.
I could feel the tears start to trail down my cheeks. Using the last of my strengths, I pushed him with all my might.
But I was weak.
In a flash, another set of hands tugged around my wrist, sending pain soaring through my arm. My hands were slammed against a hard surface, over top of my head.
It was then my mind came to a thought: there wasn't just one man here.
"Layla?" Zander's concerned tone brought me back to reality.
I blinked rapidly, focusing on the worrisome eyes of the boy in front of me. I still held my wrist to my chest, rubbing circles into my own skin; calming myself down from the hellish memory.
"Yeah?" I found my voice cracking at the end and I quickly took a deep breath, counting to three in my head.
"Yes?" I corrected, staring up at him. Now just noticing how tall he was. He was at least a head taller than me.
He stared at me, his eyes flickering with concern. "Are you okay?"
What answer did people really expect from that question?
What did being okay even entail?
I was breathing. I was alive. I had a roof over my head and food to eat. I had an education. Physically, I was okay.
But mentally, in my head, I was slowly drowning in my own despair. I was choking on my own thoughts. I was lost. I was not okay.
I could've said all that. But no. Instead, I looked at him in the eye, squared my shoulders, and took another deep breath.
"I'm okay." Even I didn't believe in my own words. Apparently, neither did Zander because doubt still danced within his eyes.
Nevertheless, he stuffed his hands in his pockets, cocking his head to the side. Then, he stuck out his hand.
"Well, new neighbor, since we're so close and go to the same school and you seem oh, so friendly," he paused, grinning sarcastically,"we're gonna be great friends. Let me properly introduce myself: The name's Zander." He grinned devilishly. "Zander Collins."
I stared at his hand blankly, not willing to shake it. Getting the hint, he lowered his hand, a dejected look crossing his face.
Chewing on my lower lip, I prayed I wasn't making a mistake when I answered in a small voice.
"I'm Layla. Layla Adams."
At the sound of my voice, a grin covered his face and he was back to normal, it seems. "Beautiful," he murmured, his eyes scanning over my face.
I almost looked away, I felt so vulnerable.
"Well, get some sleep, Layla. See ya at school." Flashing me one last grin, Zander saluted me, before walking up the steps to his porch.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
I wanted to open myself up. Badly. I wanted to love again. I wanted to live again.
But it seems like my what happened to me would forever be embedded in the back of my memories. Coming to the forefront of my mind in the most unexpected of moments.
I'd never be free of my demons.
I'll never learn to accept what happened to me and move on.
It was a fact, and I knew it.
Sighing sadly, I rubbed my wrist again, trying to soothe the pain that raced through it like thousands of bees stinging me at once.
There was only one upside to this night, really.
I still wouldn't break my parents' trust.