『 One 』
It’s not the place that’s bothering you, it’s the thought.
I stared blankly up at the ceiling, desperately trying to regain control over the erratic gasps of air I was taking, which served as breathing. In through your nose, out through your mouth, slowly and steadily, repeat the sentence...
It’s not the place that’s bothering you, it’s the thought.
Not the place, the thought. Just a thought.
Letting out a shaky breath, I sat up and rubbed my palms against the duvet’s soft material, closing my eyes for a moment and sighing. The murmurs of twisted memories and possibilities died down as my heart rate gradually returned to its normal pace. It’s always the same nightmare.
I pushed the duvet off of my body and slipped out of bed, pulling a hoodie over my head and parting my curtains a little. The sky was a sleepy pink-blue streak, still quite dark. It was fairly early in the morning, everything hushed apart from my now even breathing. Grabbing my pillow, I set it down on the floor beside the long window that overlooked the streets of my town and occasional early workers’ cars passing by. I watched the calm scenery of the outside, absent-mindedly musing over the things I block myself from thinking about in the day. Big mistake.
The watery sting of forming tears suddenly threatened me, and I wrapped my arms around my legs, pulling them into my chest and blinking hard.
‘Don’t let them spill, don’t you dare let them spill,’ I urged myself silently, biting down hard on my bottom lip. ’Stop thinking so much, or you won’t be able to stop. And they’ll see. You know they’ll see--'
That was enough to stop myself, and I rubbed my eyes determinedly, sighing and getting up off the floor. I had won again.
I was doing well so far. Sticking to positivity and optimism. Literally, if optimism was a person, she’d be me. That was my goal, and so far, I was succeeding. The close calls are when I’m alone - often at night, when that extra energy to hold it together disappears since there’s no one around to catch me out. All negativity had to be gone by the time I needed to get ready for school. It was the start of the last year of sixth form, so positivity and my normal happy self needed to kick in quick.
Usually, sleep comes at the right time, but then the nightmares come to attack randomly, cruelly, at unpredictable and weakening moments. But I almost always pull myself together again, in time for the morning where the sun rises and the day starts. The day is my saviour. Night is my worst enemy.
So I started my normal routine. Positive music, bright clothes, all of that. Daylight started to filter in through the windows, making it all the easier to keep going. The dark memories were pushed away into the background as I grabbed my bag and jacket and headed downstairs to get a breakfast bar, stuffing my lunch in my bag too just as my dad walked into the kitchen groggily.
“Off to school?” He mumbled in acknowledgement, switching the kettle on and running his hands through his messy brown locks. “Good. Good. Oh, and tell your mother,” he added, tone changing significantly at the mention of her, “that I’m working overtime today. We’ve got a massive property up, and a massive amount of people wanting in. So she’s gonna have to step up and be here while I’m not. Okay?”
I nodded with a slight smile. “Sure. Good luck with the property, dad. I’m sure you’ll get great results with it. See you later then.”
He smiled slightly and nodded at that, patting me on the shoulder and pouring himself a coffee as I left the room, slipping my pumps on and opening the front door, where my friends were lingering impatiently outside.
“Well hi, Miss Lately,” Reid Tucker commented with a smirk. “You ain’t got no excuse, Maise, I’ve already said you don’t need no beauty sleep.”
I smiled and rolled my eyes, locking the front door behind me. “Hi to you too, Reid.”
“He’s staying after school for that football club,” Louise Barion informed me, flicking crimson red locks out of her face, “even though he doesn’t need to because his team had their session yesterday, and why? - so he can watch the cheerleaders jump around and show off their figures. Horndog.”
Katie Preston burst into a fit of giggles, Reid waving his hand dismissively.
“’Ey, you wouldn’t get it,” he said with a wink, “a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.”
“And I’m guessing these are guys that are single as hell?” Louise questioned with a grin. “Yeah, whatever. A word of advice - rethink your methods. Maybe rethink isn’t a strong enough thing to do. More like get rid of them asap, before you hurt someone.”
“Speaking of hurting someone,” Katie piped up with eager brown eyes, “you’ll never guess what Richard Kempt did to Jason Cleary yesterday...”
The four of us made our way to school as Katie gushed and gossiped, with me tuning out after a while. Come to think of it, I won’t deny the fact that we were a few of the ‘popular’ people in school, or whatever the guys that made the phrase up class that to be. Getting invited to parties, getting into trouble often, loud pretty much everywhere, people next to you in class starting up conversations easily instead of ignoring you, doing a lot of things that earn gasps of disbelief and immediate attention... We were a few of many in sixth form.
I wasn’t completely careless though, and have never actually smoked before - and don’t really intend to - but I was one of them. Most of it was down to just naturally being nice to literally everyone, not being that much of a shy person and more outgoing and friendly. I guess I have a way of knowing what topics suit what person, and after just a few minutes of casually talking, I’m a part of their group or one of their friends or just someone they don’t mind talking to inside and outside of school.
Reid Tucker had short dark brown hair in an undercut style, with emerald green eyes and a common disposition of flirting with basically any sixth-former girl who lingered near him for more than a few seconds. He was captain of the boys’ football team and often hung around with Chad Garner and his mates, another popular boy who partook in several extracurricular sports. He was a tease and often was told off by teachers for being too noisy, and his habit of being... well, a player, sometimes got himself into complicated relationships. But overall, he was a nice boy and a good friend, especially when we weren’t at school and were just hanging out in one of our houses on a weekend to binge-watch movies, where he let his smug demeanour go and let his nicer, easy-going nature replace it fully.
Louise Barion had feathered, dyed red hair to her shoulders and cyan blue eyes she narrowed when she was curious or suspicious. I knew that lots of people at school saw her as having a toxic personality, as she was fairly opinionated and didn’t hold back from telling someone the truth, tactfulness usually not included. She was exceptionally dedicated to the dance and drama courses and extracurriculars that she was a part of, similar to Katie, who was a part of the dance classes and course too. She soaked up any ounce of gossip she heard, which was probably another reason why she and Katie were good friends, and gave the focal person of the conversation knowing, sneering glances when she passed them in corridors while Katie giggled. I had met her when we were put in the same sixth form room for registration, and one comment on how I liked her outfit and she immediately started talking to me about how what you wear makes a statement about who you are, and to avoid the weird-ass outsiders. It sort of went on from there, and then here I was as a part of her group. I did agree that she regularly acted arrogant and judgemental, she did have her good points and stood up for me if ever someone tried to insult me or any one of us.
Katie Preston had honey-blonde hair that hung down to her ribs, which she styled in a half updo with neon bobble hairbands. Although she was just as big a gossip as Louise was - if not, more - she was a genuinely nice girl and wasn’t as opinionated as Louise. When it was just me and her we’d often have fun as normal friends, talking about things outside of school and hobbies and shared interests. She took dance and art courses, and almost every time she was out of one and met up with us she had something ‘juicy’ to share or an idea for us to try out at a party or something crazy like that.
“...so weird, because apparently, he hasn’t been seen around until earlier this month by Melissa Stone’s cousin, since he moved house to his street,” I heard Katie say keenly. “He’s a total emo by the way - you know, black hair, black clothes. And Melissa told me that when her cousin tried to talk to him he didn’t... ugh, you know, start up a conversation or anything. She said that he was pretty reserved and quiet. And he’s got blue eyes! Don’t you love that in a boy?”
“Who are you talking about?” I asked in confusion.
“Some new guy called Jude,” Louise responded. “Jude Hayden. He’s recently moved here, at like, the beginning of the month. He sounds weird. Not that I care or anything.”
“Oh, but you should," Katie insisted. “I wonder what classes he’ll be joining? Because Melissa said her cousin told her he looked our age and briefly said he was in sixth form he was asked about school and stuff. Maybe he has--”
Katie stopped short in her sentence, eyes widening suddenly as she started to make frantic gestures, eventually clapping her hands to her mouth and bouncing on the spot. Louise scrunched her nose up in scepticism, raising a brow at her.
“What?” Louise asked impatiently, Reid watching in bemusement as Katie pointed to the far corner of the opposite street indiscreetly. My gaze shifted to find her point of attention, and I caught sight of a boy with jet-black hair to his chin which framed his face messily, fringe sweeping over his right eye. He wore a black hoodie and black denim jeans, with black and white Converse shoes, the white wire to his earphones dangling about his front and tucking into the middle pocket of his hoodie. I quickly pushed Katie’s outstretched arm down, but the boy didn’t notice - or if he did, he didn’t acknowledge it, turning the corner and going out of sight.
“That’s Jude?” I asked in curiosity, and Katie nodded her head vigorously.
“That’s Jude,” she repeated, “I’m sure of it... yeah!”
“He’s going the wrong way then,” Reid pointed out, nodding forwards to show the school gates just up the hill. “That’s where the park is. Unless he wants to go the long way.”
“Wherever he’s going, it’s not our problem,” Louise said with a roll of her eyes. “Let’s just hope that this start of the new and last high school year is one of the better ones.”
She had no idea.