By Nazarea Andrews
Expected Publication: May 1, 2014
Northern was supposed to be a fresh start—a place where people didn’t know who I was or how I had spent years in and out of mental institutes. People didn't know about my parents death or the island no one heard of. But when Peter sits next to me in lit class, I can’t stop the memories, and I don’t want to. He looks too much like the boy from the island, and despite my best intentions, coaxes my secrets from me.
He’s gorgeous, irresistible, a little mad, and completely lost—we are a pair of broken cogs in a world neither of us truly fits into. And he listens when I talk, about the past and the terrifying future. He is somehow gentle and fierce, heartbreaking in his devotion and savage in his defense.
When Belle, his best friend, shows up, pale and lovely and sick, Peter pulls away from me, a startling withdrawal. It’s a relationship that scares and confuses me. She is at times warm and friendly, and other times is violent and unpredictable.
Peter says that he wants me, but refuses to let himself get close. And there are secrets, surrounding both of us, that border on nightmares. As the memories close in, as Belle gets sicker and more violent, I’m torn between what is true and what I believe, and what this magical boy knows about my mysterious past.
I lost it. I haven’t been that caught up in the delusions in years—I’d almost forgotten the others, the ones who followed my boy like a loyal pack.
How the hell had I forgotten them? And—more importantly—why was I remembering them now? Was I going backwards—was I going to lose it completely? Again?
A sob gets stuck in my throat, and I make a strangled noise, and drop my head. I can’t go backwards. I can’t go back to Pembrooke.
A hand settles on my back, warm and heavy. I flinch, almost pulling away. But this feels different from my brother, and after the disaster that was yesterday, Peter won’t come to me. Cautiously, I look up.
James crouches next to me, pulling his hand back to run a nervous hand through his hair.
“What are you doing here?” I ask. My voice is raspy, like I’ve been screaming. I wonder if I was, if I’ve merely forgotten.
How does one forget screaming her throat raw?
“I saw you leave. What are you doing, Gwendolyn?”
It annoys me that he calls me that. No one calls me Gwendolyn—not even Aunt Jane. Daddy had, before the accident. But hearing a familiar name wrapped in James’ silky tones, with odd inflections—it sets my hair on end. I shrug, slightly. “What business is it of yours?” I demand.
He hesitates, and finally settles on the ground, abandoning his crouch. He makes a slight moue of disgust as his hands hit the mud and I smirk. Who would have though James would be so damn fussy?
“You matter to Orchid. Orchid matters to me. So, by default, you matter to me.”
“I didn’t ask for that, and I don’t want it,” I snap. “I want to be left alone. Don’t you think if I wanted company, I would have woken Orchid up?”
He shakes his head, “No. I don’t think you would. You open up to her, Gwendolyn, but you hide so much of yourself. You won’t even tell us where you came from.”
I go quiet, and compress my lips into a thin line. That is also none of his damn business. I’m not giving up my secrets to some good looking boy with a pirate’s smile and a fleeting affection for my roommate.
“Go away, James,” I say, tiredly. “I’m not up for playing games and I don’t want to be bothered.”
“Will you be safe?” he asks, softly, touching the bare skin of one arm. It’s a barely there gesture, a brush of his fingertips. I struggle to hold in my shiver, and nod my head, vigorously. I will tell him anything I have to, if it will get him to leave.
“I don’t believe you,” He says, his voice laced with amusement.
“I don’t give a fuck what you believe,” I snap. His eyebrows shoot up and it occurs to me that James and Orchid aren’t used to seeing this side of me—the angry girl with a mouth of a sailor and no need to make the people around me happy. “Fuck off.”
“I can’t,” he says simply.
“Why do guys keep saying that?” I demand, furious now. “You can. I want you to. But for some reasons that only you seem to know, you won’t. And you’ll tell yourself its okay because I don’t know what I want, because I was angry and hysterical, but the truth of the matter is, its creeper behavior and it’s not okay. And I’m over it.”
I push to my feet and grab my kayak. It’s light enough that I can carry it easily to the boathouse. I make it maybe twenty feet before I hear James’ footsteps, crunching the rocks together as he tracks my progress.
“I’m not being a creeper, Gwendolyn. I’m just being a friend.”
“I don’t want a friend,” I say.
He catches my arm, tugging me to a stop. He’s standing too close, and I know I should step back. Everything about this boy screams danger and I should run from that, but I can’t bring myself to move. Can’t bring myself to shake his hand free from where it’s playing in tiny circles against my bare skin. I can’t bring myself to do anything, because how long has it been, since a guy came this close? Since I let one? It’s been since the Boy, and the island.