From the time I was 4 up until I was 12, Cameron Smith was my best friend.
We teased each other, we laughed together and we were inseparable.
I'd always thought that we'd be friends forever but everything changed on my 12th Birthday.
My mom threw me a party, inviting all of my friends, including Bella and Cameron Smith. I was beyond excited, almost bursting with how happy I felt. There was ice cream, sweets and a table piled high with presents for me. There was even a bouncy castle.
I remember thinking that it was the best day ever, but that changed pretty quickly.
I'd gone inside to get changed after I'd dropped ice cream down my T-shirt, but I found myself walking towards the kitchen when I heard voices. As I got closer, I recognised the voices. Cameron and his best friend, Zack.
I found myself creeping ever closer without even thinking about it, curious about what they were saying. I knew that eavesdropping on other peoples conversations was wrong, but I couldn't stop myself as I pressed myself flat against the side of the wall, trying to keep as quiet as I could so that I could hear their words.
"I don't know, Zack! I don't know!"
I could tell by the sound of Cameron's voice that he was angry or frustrated, or both. The hard edge in his voice made me frown as I fought with the urge to walk right in there and hug him and make him feel better.
"When did it start?" I heard Zack's voice, full of concern but also curiosity.
I heard someone exhale harshly and somehow knew that it was Cameron.
"I don't know! It just happened without me even realising! I can't stop it! I can't think straight! I don't know what to do, Zack! I don't know what's happening to me!"
Cameron sounded near to hysterical now, which only made the urge to comfort him even worse. I didn't like the way he sounded. I didn't like the fact that he sounded lost and scared.
"You need to calm down otherwise she's going to know that something is up with you." Zack said.
My frown deepened as I wondered who he was talking about. His mom? Bella?
I heard Cameron let out another breath, then I heard footsteps and I could imagine him pacing back and forth through the room.
"I don't understand this, Zack. Why do I feel like this? What the hell does it mean?!" He exclaimed, still sounding scared.
"You know exactly what it means. You just don't want to admit it." Zack said, sounding remarkably calm despite the fact that his best friend was freaking out completely.
"I can't do this. She can't...She can't ever find out, Zack. I need...I need to stay away from her or this is only going to get worse." He said, sounding as if he were struggling to breathe.
I wondered once again who they were talking about and I was slightly surprised to feel my stomach dip with a feeling I didn't recognise when I thought about them talking about a girl.
"What are you going to do?" Zack asked, his tone sharp, as if he already knew exactly what Cameron was going to do and he didn't approve of it one bit.
"I'm going to make her hate me."
Those were the last words I heard Cameron say. Before I could back up and make my way up the stairs to my room, Cameron and Zack turned the corner and saw me standing against the wall.
Cameron stared at me as if he'd never seen me before, his mouth slightly open as if he were surprised. Zack didn't look that surprised to see me as a frown marred his face, a sad look passing across his features, which confused me.
When Cameron's gaze darkened and a scowl formed on his face, directed at me, I almost took a step back in surprise. He'd never looked at me like that before and I didn't like it.
"What the hell are you doing?" He demanded, his tone harsh, making me flinch involuntarily.
I couldn't find my voice to answer him, but I knew that even if I could find the will to speak, I wouldn't be able to think of an excuse to save me.
When I didn't answer him, he shook his head with a sneer on his face, as if I disgusted him and it felt like he'd slapped me across the face.
"You're pathetic, Hailey. I don't know why I bothered with you for so long." He snapped, each word hitting me like a physical blow.
I felt my eyes fill with tears, but tried to blink them away, trying to fight the urge to cry. His words had hurt me more than anything I'd ever felt and I didn't understand why he was acting like this. I didn't understand why he was treating me like this when we were supposed to be best friends.
"But..." I stammered, my voice shaking, my words trailing off when I couldn't think of what I wanted to say.
Cameron laughed, the sound cruel and humourless, which made me wince. Zack didn't say a word. He just stood there, looking at me with the same sad look he'd had on his face before.
"What part of that didn't you understand? We were never friends. I was only ever your friend because I felt sorry for you and you were always there, hanging around when you weren't wanted. I'm sick of pretending. I'm not going to pretend anymore." He sneered, his voice cruel and harsh.
The worst part of all of this was, I could tell that he knew how much every word hurt, but he didn't care. It was like he wanted to hurt me as much as he could and for that, I hated him.
I suddenly stood up straight, lifting my chin and looking him straight in the eye, clenching my jaw with the anger that was quickly swallowing up the hurt blooming inside of me.
"I wouldn't want to stay where I'm not wanted. Have a nice life, Cameron, because I know I'll have a nice life without you in it." I snapped, then before he could say anything to hurt me more, I turned and took off up the stairs, running along the corridor and bursting into my bedroom, slamming the door shut behind me.
As soon as I reached the bed, I burst into tears, my knees buckling beneath me. I slumped down onto the bed in a heap and buried my head in my arms, crying until I felt like there was nothing left of me.
As I sat on my best friend's bed and looked up at the pictures on her wall, scanning every one carefully, following the line of them that showed how we'd grown up, my gaze caught on one in particular and my mind went straight back to my 12th Birthday. In the picture, I was sitting at a huge table, with Bella beside me, a huge cake in front of me as I grinned at the camera. In the background, I noticed Cameron and Zack sat on a wall at the side of the garden. Cameron's gaze was fixed on me. I could see it clearly despite the fact that he could have been looking at anything.
I still didn't understand what had changed for him to have treated me the way he did, for him to still treat me that way now.
I was so focused on my thoughts of the past that it took Bella a good three times of repeating my name for me to come back to the present.
"Huh?" I mumbled as I tore my gaze away from the pictures on her wall and looked at her instead.
Bella was incredibly pretty, with brunette hair that hung down her back in waves, perfect skin and the brightest blue eyes I'd ever seen. Whenever I looked at her, I was struck by her beauty, feeling a little envious that I would never be as pretty as her.
Before she could speak, I looked back at the pictures on her wall, my gaze catching on one in particular. In it were me and Cameron. I was about 7 and he looked 8 and we were holding hands and grinning at the camera. I was unable to tear my gaze away as I stared at it, all of the time we'd spent together as kids flashing through my mind.
"I didn't realise you still had this." I murmured as I reached my hand up and let my fingers drift along the edge of the photograph.
"You and Cameron actually got along back then. I'd never get rid of that." She said, a smile slipping onto her face as she probably remembered all of us hanging out when we were younger.
After a moment, I managed to snap myself out of my nostalgia and turned back to face Bella, managing to plaster a smile on my face.
She continued to look at the picture for a moment before she turned her focus back to me with a grin that told me that she had an idea.
"I'm going to give you a makeover and we're going to go hang out at the skate park." She announced, as if it was the best idea in the world.
I found myself grinning back at her, despite the fact that I felt all twisted up from the memories swirling through my mind.
I allowed Bella to give me a makeover, which didn't take long. It consisted of her doing my make-up, which included dark eyeliner and dark lipstick. She curled my black hair into loose ringlets, leaving it down framing my face.
After she'd finished with my hair and make-up, she went rummaging in her closet until she found me something to wear, which didn't seem that realistic in the circumstances, but she insisted that I put it on despite my arguments.
When I emerged from the bathroom, dressed in the bardot style black dress that came down to my ankles, she clapped her hands with a smile on her face as if she were pleased with herself, then she chucked me a pair of black converse sneakers and I quickly put them on as well as the black leather jacket she handed to me before following her downstairs.
When we reached the living room, I noticed Cameron and Zack sat on the sofa, engrossed in conversation about something.
They stopped talking when they heard our footsteps and when they both turned around, all I could see was Cameron as his gaze landed on me, trailing from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, making my heart stutter in my chest.
Cameron had always been good looking, even when he was a child. As he'd grown older, he'd only gotten more beautiful. More breathtaking. More unbelievably gorgeous.
He was taller than me by a few inches, with a well built, muscular form. His shoulders were broad, leading up to a sculpted throat, a well-defined jaw and amazing cheekbones. His lips were full and looked incredibly soft and I'd always thought that they looked perfect for kissing which I'd imagined in my head on multiple occasions, despite the fact that I knew it was never going to happen. His hair was such a dark shade of black that it almost looked blue and it was on the longish side, hanging into his face and curling slightly along his jaw. His eyes were blue, just like Bella's, except they were ten times as captivating and every time he looked at me, I felt like he was looking straight through me to my soul. Like he could see the real me under all of the pretending. Like he could see how I really felt about him. That had always scared me, but I refused to back down from his stare now.
I met his stare head on, daring him to say something, to say anything. I could see that it took him a moment to clear his head and compose himself, before a frown marred his face.
"Where are you going?" He asked, directing his question at Bella rather than me, his tone slightly suspicious.
"We're going to the skate park." Bella said.
Cameron's frown only deepened, though I didn't understand why.
"When will you be back?" He asked, his tone a little sharper.
I could understand why he was concerned about her, because it was already 9 at night and I understood that he probably didn't want his little sister going out in the middle of the night.
"We won't be gone long, don't worry." She said, as if just saying the words would stop him from worrying about her, but I could tell that they only made him worry about her more.
"Make sure you're back by 12 at the latest. Mom and Dad will kill me if something happens to you." He said, his concern for her showing in his voice.
I felt my heart stutter as I remembered a time when he'd been concerned about me like that, when he'd cared about me, but I guess that was all a lie. He'd just been pretending the whole time.
Bella nodded her head, flashing him a smile, then before he could say anything else, she pulled me towards the front door and she didn't stop dragging me along until we were halfway down the street.
"Did you see how Cameron looked at you? He couldn't keep his eyes off of you." She said, sounding pleased, as if her makeover had done its job.
I smiled slightly at the reminder of Cameron's gaze trailing over me, but didn't let myself dwell on it, because I knew that if anything, it was purely a physical reaction. It had nothing to do with me being me.
It didn't take us long at all to get to the skate park. When we arrived, we sat on a picnic bench to one side of the ramps, talking about nothing and everything.
When it was almost 12, Bella stood up, obviously preparing to go back before Cameron got worried, but I stayed sitting on the bench, taking deep breaths of the cool night air.
"You go ahead. I'm going to stay for a little longer." I said.
Bella turned back to me, a frown marring her face.
"Why? What's wrong?" She asked, sounding worried.
"Nothing is wrong. I just want to be alone for a while." I said, flashing her a smile to reassure her.
She hesitated before she let out a sigh.
"Are you sure?" She asked.
I nodded my head as I turned my gaze to the stars shining in the sky above our heads.
"Make sure you don't take too long." She said, then she gave me a hug before walking away into the dark, leaving me sitting there alone.
I just sat there for a while, thoughts of Cameron swirling through my head. I'd tried to stop myself from feeling this way about him, but nothing would work. I'd tried to convince myself that it was pointless, but it didn't make a difference.
I hadn't realised until now exactly what the extent of my feelings for him were, but it suddenly hit me as if I'd known all along, which I thought maybe I had.
I was in love with Cameron Smith and I probably had been for a while, but I just hadn't understood it until now. I hadn't really thought about it until this moment. The fact that he seemed to hate me made all of it worse. How could I feel like this about someone that hated me? How could I feel this way for someone who would obviously never feel the same?
When I realised that I was making myself miserable thinking about this, I quickly stood up and immediately knew that I'd made a mistake. I stumbled slightly and before I could grab onto the bench for support, my leg buckled under me, my ankle twisting painfully as I tumbled to the ground.
I cried out in pain as I cradled my twisted ankle in my hands, biting my lip to stop the tears that were burning in my eyes from escaping.
I knew from experience that I wouldn't be able to walk and I instantly panicked about how I was going to get back to Bella's house.
"Hailey!" I heard Cameron's frantic voice a second before I saw him running towards me, his eyes wide.
As soon as he saw me on the floor, cradling my ankle, he sank down onto his knees beside me, nudging my hand out of my way and checking my ankle over himself, looking concerned.
"What happened? How did you do this?" He asked, his voice still as frantic as before.
For one moment, I was happy that he was there, but then the fact that he hated me sank in once again and I found myself feeling angry rather than grateful.
"What are you doing here?" I demanded, my voice clipped and harsh.
He glanced up at my face before his gaze drifted to my ankle once again as he gently brushed his fingers against my skin, sending a shiver through me.
"Bella told me that she left you here, so I came to get you. My parents would also kill me if anything happened to you." He said.
"You're not my keeper, Cameron." I snapped, my anger taking over.
He shook his head as if I were unbelievable, which only made my anger grow.
"Whatever. I'm the one that will get into trouble if anything happens to you." He said, as if he actually cared about me. That only made me want to punch him in the face.
"You don't give a shit what happens to me." I snapped.
I saw him flinch as if I'd physically struck him, but he quickly composed himself.
"How did you do this, Hailey?" He asked, somehow managing to sound concerned again.
"I tripped." I stated, because that was basically what had happened. I'd been clumsy and managed to trip over my own feet as I'd stood up.
"We need to get you back and get some ice on this." He said as he examined how much it had already swelled.
The thought of walking sent a throbbing pain through my ankle and I somehow knew that I wouldn't be able to walk.
"Can you walk?" Cameron asked as he stood up and held a hand out to help me up.
I took his hand and he attempted to help me up, but every time I tried to put weight on my ankle, I cried out in pain and tumbled back to the ground.
"Are you okay?" He asked after my second attempt to stand, his voice full of concern once again.
"I don't think I can walk." I said as I shook my head, cursing myself for being so clumsy.
"No problem. I'll carry you." He said, as if it was no big deal.
The moment the words left his lips, my heart stuttered in my chest and I thought that I must have heard him wrong.
"Are you serious?" I blurted out, my eyes wide with surprise.
He turned to me and nodded his head.
"Do you have a better idea?" He asked, his eyebrows raising inquisitively.
I sighed in defeat as I shook my head.
Without another word, he knelt down beside me and slipped one of his arms underneath my legs, almost making me gasp in surprise when the material of my dress slid up and I felt his skin against mine. He put his other arm around my back, slightly curled around my waist and I could feel every inch of his skin as if he were branding me through both of our clothes.
I automatically lifted my arm and looped it around his neck so that I leant against his chest as he stood up as if I weighed nothing and began walking back in the direction of the house.
"Why did you stay out here on your own?" He asked after a few minutes of silence.
"I just needed to be alone. I needed to think." I found myself saying, despite the fact that I didn't want to share anything with him.
He frowned, looking troubled, though I had no idea what was troubling him.
"About what?" He asked, sounding curious.
I bit my bottom lip hard as I closed my eyes. How could he be so clueless about how he made me feel? How could he not see it every time I was near him?
"Nothing." I mumbled, not looking at him.
"Whatever." He said, his tone nonchalant, but I could have sworn I detected a note of hurt beneath his words. It was probably nothing but my imagination.
"Don't act like you care when you don't, Cameron. There's no point in pretending." I muttered, my tone angry.
He flinched as if I'd physically hit him and I wondered if he was remembering those words he'd said to me so long ago that had torn me apart inside.
"You're right. There's no point pretending." He said.
I frowned as my heart stuttered in my chest again and I leaned my head against his chest, right where his heart would be.
I could hear it beating beneath my ear, fast but rhythmic and it soon lulled me to sleep.
I couldn't stop staring at Hailey as she slept in my arms. I couldn't stop thinking about how good it felt to have her in my arms. How right it felt for her to be there.
I couldn't help myself as I gently brushed her hair from her face, allowing myself to get a better look at her.
She looked peaceful while asleep, the constant anger she seemed to wear like armour vanished into nothing. Her eyelashes fluttered against her cheeks, as if she were dreaming and I ached to know what she was dreaming about, whether it could ever possibly be me, but I shoved the thought out of my head as soon as it had emerged, knowing that there were no way she'd ever feel anything but hate towards me after the way I'd treated her.
Despite knowing this, I couldn't help imagining what it would be like to kiss those soft, pink lips of hers. I couldn't help imagining what it would be like to touch her skin without having to worry about what she'd think or how she'd feel. I couldn't help imagining what it would be like to run my hands through her soft, midnight black hair and kiss her skin until I made her breathless.
I quickly shook my head in an attempt to get rid of these stupid thoughts, but it was no good. Once I'd started imagining it, I couldn't stop. All I could think about was kissing her, telling her how much she meant to me, telling her how sorry I was for everything.
I just kept repeating the same things in my head over and over as I continued to walk, hoping that they'd somehow stop me from feeling like this, but knowing that they wouldn't no matter how many times I tried to convince myself.
She hates me; She will never feel anything but hate towards me; There is no way we will ever be together.
The only thing I could do was forget about her, no matter how impossible that seemed to be.