Exams were finally over.
It had been the hardest four months of my life, trying to concentrate hard enough to get the results I wanted to study on a scholarship to get my bachelor's degree. I couldn't afford it otherwise. I wasn't one hundred percent sure what I wanted to do, but I didn't want to work and live here, that was for sure.
I'd applied to Rochester University, New York, and providing I did well, I would be able to start there in four months time. My mom and sister were already sad, which showed their tremendous belief in me. I'd recently started training with Rock, who was now practically living in my house. I felt better when I was outside running, my music pounding in my ears blocking out any invasive thoughts I had. My fitness was improving rapidly, and I began running daily, working out at the gym with Rock regularly to build on that.
It was about nine in the evening as I pounded the local streets, sweat dripping down my back as my body screamed with the pressure of running for a total of one hour. I pushed through it, knowing pretty soon those endorphins would kick in and I would feel seven feet tall. My watch beeped, indicating it was time to rest, my heart rate well in the cardio zone I was aiming for. It was important not to stop moving, as Rock had told me repeatedly, his voice echoing in my head as I pushed forward, my aching limbs throbbing in retaliation.
I heard a breathless voice call, and I turned to see Clarissa grinning at me from across the street. I smiled as pulled my earphones out of my ear, a she gawped at me.
'Wow Ace, you are looking good. ' she mumbled as I rolled my eyes.
'You're making me blush.'
She crossed over, her red curls bouncing as she hugged me before grimacing.
'Ew. You're all sticky.' She complained, wrinkling her nose up.
'Sorry. You ok?'
I lifted my water bottle to my lips and drank, the cool water greatly welcomed by my dry mouth. Clarissa and I hadn't caught up properly since the whole Veronica thing, but I knew she was seeing Roe again. I hoped it was working out for her, she certainly looked happy.
'I know it's none of my business, but I wanted to tall to you about Veronica.'
The air seemed to evaporate at the mention of her name, and my heart ached with pain I refused to endure.
I narrowed my eyes at her and sighed.
'You're right, it's not any of your business.' I muttered, knowing she would continue regardless.
'Ace. Roe told me something, and it's too serious to keep from you.'
I folded my arms as I exhaled, wanting to jam my earphones back in and run until Clarissa was long gone.
'I know about Veronica and Red.'
Their names together like that made my skin crawl, my stomach twisting in anger as I tried to push away the images of them together, unable to bear it.
'Spit it out Clarissa.' I snapped angrily, as she flinched, making me feel like shit.
'For one in your fucking life, stop thinking you know best Ace.' She was shaking in anger and I kicked myself mentally.
'I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you like that.'
She nodded, but her eyes were cold as she continued.
'She's got a little sister, but they don't have the same Dad.' She said quickly as my jaw clenched.
'Veronicas mum owed Red alot of money. She didn't have it, and he began threatening to kill Harvey, her boyfriend at the time.'
I listened in stony silence, my blood beginning to simmer in my veins.
'Belles dad. Harvey.' She clarified, her eyes on mine. I nodded, wondering where this was going.
'Harvey left her and took Belle with him, leaving Veronica home with her mum. She was fifteen, Ace.'
I swallowed, waiting for the story to come to a conclusion.
'Red went round, looking for Harvey. He wouldn't hurt a woman, so Harvey was going to pay for her debts. With his life.'
Clarissa bit her lip then, grabbing my hand that hung limply by my side, my body ice cold now despite the exercise.
'If Veronica slept with him, the debt would be paid. All ten thousand of it.'
I closed my eyes then, nausea sweeping through me.
'She's not a slut Ace. She's really, really not. Roe said Ryder doesn't know. I don't think many people do.' Her voice was soft as I squeezed her hands in mine.
'Fuck. I've not given her a chance to explain. I just lost it.'
Clarissa nodded, her eyes shining with tears.
'You know what Ace, you love this girl. I can see it when I look at you. Don't lose her over this, please. You never know if she is The One, and what if you never meet anyone that makes you feel like that again? So what if shes got a past. Focus on your future.'
I know she was speaking from experience, the hurt in her eyes spoke more than words ever could.
'I need to go. Thankyou for telling me. I wouldn't have listened to anyone else, but you made me.' I kissed her hand, before turning and running in the direction I had come from.