Chapter One.

Chapter One.

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.
June 2006.


I stare profoundly at the little white pill in front of me and put it on my tongue. Nope, still tastes disgusting. I hold my hands to my throat as I gag slightly at it’s acidity. Tumbler, water, NOW. I let the water slide down my throat, mouthful after mouthful to erase the foul taste. At least today I remembered.

I run my hands through my hair, deciding on how to put it. Not that it matters. Not that anyone cares.
I frown at myself and decide on a braid. I weave my hair in and out creating a perfect pattern. I stare sadly in the mirror at the girl looking back at me. My black hoody, and tight denim jeans do not show who I am. They hide me. My chestnut brown hair matches my pale grey blue eyes, and my skin is flawless.
I look down at my wrist and notice a scar has appeared on my arm. I pull my sleeve down, conscious of its existence.
My cell starts to vibrate, suddenly distracting me from the pain and sorrow of my white lines. I pick it up from the side and answer the call. It’s Jade, my best and most beautiful friend. She has the most perfect chocolate brown eyes, and rich copper hair. Of course, her body is perfect. She intimidates me. I’ve lost count of the number of men who beg at her pretty little feet.
“Hi Jade, everything okay?” I can sense the distress in my voice, twisting my hair in my plait I smile instantly at her.
“Yeah babe, just checking you’re still coming to pick me up.” Oh shit, of course. Today’s Friday and I always pick Jade up. It hasn’t changed since I passed drivers Ed. I check my watch and start to quickly grab my things.
“Yeah um…I won’t be long about half hour?” I say with a rush. I look down at my jeans and pull hard across so the button matches the buttonhole. Why won’t my jeans fasten! Great, now I’m fat. I sigh at the thought.
“Okay babe, love you” she says quickly and hangs up. Shit, school. Shit.

– – –

School is always like this on a Friday. Boring and well, boring. I sense the people passing me in the corridor, oblivious to me and my tears.
I’ve never felt as much sadness in my heart as I do at this exact moment.
I’m being stupid. I run to the nearest restroom and dry my eyes. Silly, silly Ella. Always dreaming and never believing.

I need a love in my life.

I need hopes, a real dream to chase me, to follow me. To help me. Maybe one day I will be okay again. That’s all I want. I don’t care what it takes. I just want to be okay again. Maybe my day is today. I shake off the idea, dab my eyes with the toilet roll and reapply my mascara. I just want someone to call me angel, or baby, or anything. Something that means something to someone. So that I mean something to someone. I don’t like being Ella ‘Smella’ anymore.
The school bell startles me, and I snap back to reality. As I finish up my pointless bit of makeup, I look up and notice Jade looking directly at me.
“Ella, what’s wrong? You said you were okay on the ride over here.”
“Nothing Jade, just me being stupid, ignore me.”I lied. I shrug my back pack onto my shoulder and turn to look at her.
“Ella I’m not stupid. I’ve known you since kindergarten. Stop this,” and before I know it, I’m in Jade’s arms. Comforted by her embrace, I take full advantage. She smells beautiful today, especially her hair. I envy her sometimes. She gently pulls me into full arm’s length, and her brown eyes are studying me, invading me.
“Tell me Ella, or I’ll force you, and that’s not a threat, that’s a promise.” Her smile is infectious. I find myself laughing out loud, and she joins me. This is why she’s my best friend. She’s amazing.
“I’m just sad Jade, fed up of hiding myself away from everyone, everything. I just want to be found, you know? By someone that maybe gives a damn about me and my feelings for once, not including you as you care for me more than anyone I know. I’m just lost right now. I know I will find my way. It just counts as to where and when.” I smile softly at her and she hugs me again.
“Your life has just begun.” She whispers in my ear. “Come” she commands and links her arm through mine. But the truth is, i’m not living. I’m just surviving.
We walk through the corridor and people wave and say hello to Jade, I’m ignored. My head hangs low and I watch my feet move, but I can’t feel anything. The pang of jealousy always makes me envious and alone. We walk past a group of boys stood by the lockers. Jade’s boyfriend, Mark is there and he waves us over.
“Don’t be afraid.” She whispers to me.
“I’m not.” I whisper back, she smiles at me and unlocks her arm.

Shit, she was my shield. I am not ready for this. She wanders over to Mark and I’m left standing there, staring at my sneakers.
“Ella.” Mark acknowledges. I give him a brief smile and turn back to my feet. There are 4 or 5 other boys standing at the lockers. They all look the same, dressed in the same clothing I think, and their hair is all in the same style – surfer rugged and loose. I feel a shudder run through my body. It’s so unexpected it scares me. I turn to walk away. I shouldn’t be here. These people are strangers to me.

I need to run.

As far away as possible. I can feel eyes on me and I can’t feel what direction they are heading from. I scan the hallway in the direction I have turned.
“See ya later Jade!” I shout as I start to walk away.
“ELLA!” she shouts but I’m walking fast, I need to get away. I feel myself starting to run and I really don’t want to stop. All my depressive thoughts fill my head again.
You’re not worth it Ella, the world would be better off without you and your stupid fucking brain. 

This causes yet again, more tears. I pull up my hood over my head and slow my pace through the school. I try find my iPod in my backpack but it’s buried in the abyss of books. I’m looking down when I bump into him.
“Sorry” I stammer as I look up to meet the person I had rudely interrupted. Whoa.
“That’s okay,” the kindness in his voice startles me. No, ‘Ella Smella’.
His smile is widening as he looks at me. His deep green eyes searching mine, his soft brown hair combed to the side with some escaping onto his forehead, a messy look that takes my breath away. His chiseled cheekbones fit his face perfectly. He looks muscular beneath his blue hoody, and he is tall, boy is he tall! About 6 foot I’d say. I know him. I know who this is. He’s the most popular boy in school. Luke James, but I’m feeling something from him. I can’t pinpoint it, and it’s bugging me.
“Ella?” How does he know my name?  “Are you okay, have you been crying?”
“Um, I’m fine, just tired Sorry Luke.” I wipe my face in the most un-ladylike manner.
“Don’t apologise Ella. I wasn’t looking either,” he whispered. For the first time today I feel a genuine blush cross my face. Luke is beautiful. Taken of course. Jenna Roberts is her name – I think. She has bleach blonde hair and deep dark brown eyes, full of deep dark secrets. She is most definitely the most popular girl in school. She is one of the only people who has ever made fun of me for no reason. Torturing me with her awful name calling.
“See you Ella, try to stop crying. Life is a mystery.” He smiles. I look up to meet his gaze once more, and melt.
“Bye Luke.” I whisper. I scurry off past him, and feel his eyes follow me as I go.

What the hell was that?

– – –
I find myself sat in English. My favourite lesson of the day. I slowly drift off into a deep daydream, and I find myself falling, much deeper.

I’m in a room. Its pitch black and I’m all alone. I’m panicked and my breathing is erratic. I steady myself, and breathe as deeply as I can, and release the air from my lungs. Then, in the shadows a voice appears. It’s dark, seductive and captures me.
“Don’t worry Ella. I’m here too.” I can feel his presence as he walks towards me. Light comes streaming through a window that has just appeared. This full 6 foot body of a man is reaching for me. His hands begin invading my body, his strong long arms holding me tightly at my waist. His fierce green eyes look deep into mine, green to grey, and they invade my soul. They captivate my heart. I reach out and feel his tanned, muscular torso beneath my trembling hands. He feels so nice to touch. I reach up and feel his dark brown hair float through my fingers. My eyes never leave his and as I comfort his embrace to reach my mouth to his he shouts at me.

“ELLA!” I wake up this time and it startles me awake. I had dozed off on my desk.
“No time for dozing in my class young lady.” He snaps at me. It’s Alex my English teacher. He’s about 32 and is pretty gorgeous.  He only lets us call him by his first name. He has beautiful bright blue eyes and blonde sandy hair. He looks like a surfer boy who never grew up.
I heard rumours last year that he took a student, funnily enough Jenna Roberts to a swanky bar in town and then had his way. Well, I wouldn’t have said no.
But, I am still a virgin and intend to stay that way. That is my promise to myself, well until I meet the love of my life at least. It’s sacred giving yourself to someone, especially that way. I want it to be special, and deep, and something beautiful, but yet adults assume we know nothing at this age.

– – –

School finishes, and I make my way to the school’s exit. Being careful to dodge Jade, mainly because of my little escape earlier. No doubt she will call me later. I make a stop at my locker, and pick up a few school books which I need for homework.
Continuing my exit, I walk over to the oldest car in the parking lot. I climb into my vintage, yes vintage, Mustang. It’s a 1965 soft top, it’s so beautiful. I love old cars, especially this one. It’s bright blue on the outside but inside it’s wrecked. I’ve lost count of all the silver duct tape that holds the leather firmly in place. I climb in and attach my iPod that my Daddy installed for me.
Lostprophets fill my ears with a song about Rooftops. As I turn the key to drive away the lyrics speak to me, so I scream them.
My breathing is fast. Time to drive, Ella. As the engine roars into life I go as fast as I can to the school gates. All these people are staring at me but I don’t really care. The music is much louder than it should be. My mom would be so annoyed.

I slam my breaks and screech to a halt. In front of me is the guy I ran into earlier. His blue jeans hang softly from his hips, his hoody defining his broad shoulders. He smiles at me and I turn the music down.
“You have a knack for running into me today, huh Ella?”
He shakes his head at me and walks around to the driver’s door. He looks just as good, even though I nearly knocked him over. His eyes never leave mine. He squats next to the drivers door, his forearms leaning against the cool blue metal.
“I don’t believe you’re okay Ella, I mean that music for one, the lyrics are quite sad right?” He says quietly.
“Not that it makes any difference to you, or me, or anyone. Just go home. I’m worthless. I’m told enough. I believe you said it to me once as well. I don’t have time for you.” My words just stumble out and I regret them straight away. He starts to walk away and I restart the ignition. My passenger door opens and Luke climbs in. What the…?
“Luke what are you doing?” There is such anger escaping my mouth.
“Ella, let’s go somewhere, you and me.”
“I don’t know you Luke? You are a stranger to me.”
“You know me well enough to know I won’t hurt or kill you Ella.” He laughs.
His laugh is actually beautiful. Just like he is. This could be the chance I wished for this morning. I shudder at the idea.
“Fine” I submit. My hands hit the steering wheel.
“Where you wanna go?” I ask.
“Anywhere, somewhere we can just talk?”
“Luke, this makes no sense?”
“Just drive Ella. Turn the music back up loud. Let’s go.” I turn the stereo back on and drive out of the school gates. I notice Jenna in my wing mirror with her posse, just stood in shock. I laugh to myself in my head.
For once, I finally have something to laugh about later.
I stop at a bridge. It’s one of the most private places in the world to me and if he wants to talk then at least we are in one of my comfort zones and not one of his. I switch off the ignition and look down at my hands on the steering wheel.
“Why are we stopping?” he asks.
“This is one of my places Luke, where I go to write at. You want to talk? We can do it here. This is where I’m comfortable.”
“Sure Ella, let’s go.” He climbs out of my car and shrugs his backpack over his shoulder. I lead him down under the bridge where there is a single bench.
“This bench has been in my life for about 5 years. I ran away when I was 11” I murmur.
“Why did you run away?” he asks.
“Because I was sad.” I whisper.
“Like now?” he asks, and I nod. “Come on Ella, we only get one chance in life, okay? I’m here for you to talk to, to confide in. Maybe it’s a bit headstrong, I admit, but I want to help you and I couldn’t shake the thought off all afternoon, since you stumbled into me looking like you did.” He laughs and I join in.
“You have a great laugh Ella.” He smiles at me. A full beam of beauty. We sit side by side. I wave my fingers in and out of each other. Neither of us speaks for a whole minute. The tension is dangerous. I suddenly feel frightened. Maybe it’s because I’ve brought a guy up here, to one of my only sanctuaries. Now I’m always going to be reminded of him.
“Luke-” I start and he stops me.
“Ella, I’m here because I want to be. You need a friend that won’t destroy you, or your mind, someone who can help you through stuff. I need to be that for someone, I can’t explain why, but it won’t leave me alone and you walking into me today opened that up for me.”
“So you just want to be my friend? Right?” I can’t hide the hurt in my voice. I don’t even deserve to feel hurt, I barely know the guy. He’s a stranger to me, but if he wants to be friends, I could at least try.
“Yes Ella. I want to be your friend. Look at me.” I turn to face him. I realise I haven’t checked my face since I cried again earlier.
Mascara has probably destroyed my cheeks.
He slowly pulls my hood down over my head and pulls my braid out of the jumper so it slumps over my right shoulder. He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a T-shirt. He gets out a bottle of water and puts some on the T-shirt sleeve.
“Hold still, close your eyes” he whispers. He leans over and wipes my eyes, my cheeks, and tucks my hair behind my ear.
“Now you look like you, you have beautiful eyes Ella” he smiles.
“Thank you.” I manage to mumble.
“No problem Ella, you owe me a new T-shirt though” He smiles from the corner of his mouth, and bumps his shoulder with mine.
He puts the T-shirt back in his backpack, and turns back to face me. He really is a stunning man, his brown hair shades his eyes slightly and the green looks so intense through the brown. He makes me nervous. I still don’t understand this. I’ve never really had a friend, apart from Jade. Yet here we are, a guy I barely know wants to get to know me. I shift slightly, and he puts his hand over mine. Skin on skin.
The feeling runs through me like an electric shock. It makes all my hairs stand on end. I get goosebumps immediately. Whoa.
He removes his hand, and his expression is the same as mine. He must have felt it too. He shakes his head slightly and rubs his plasm along his jeans as if to ‘shrug it off’. It was strange and delightful all at once. It’s made him edgy, he shifts like I did a second ago, and he turns to look at me. Our eyes meet, and he looks down at his hands.
“Ella” he whispers. “You know when I asked you to turn the music back up loud? It’s because I wanted to know what songs you listen to. What lyrics make you feel sad-” I raise my hand to stop him.
“The music doesn’t make me sad Luke. It makes me think. The lyrics save me. The words sang in a song define my love with myself. With the world. I was in the mood for the music I put on in the car.
You know? Someone you don’t know, singing to you, telling you about waves crashing, fires never burning out, love never ending. I like to believe it, sink into the words. Fall in love with a song for all the right reasons. Feel the music penetrate my heart, flow in my blood. Breathe in my lungs. I have an eclectic taste in music, it varies.” He just stared at me for a split second, and his eyes studied my face.
“Ella you have the same look in your eyes as I have. I feel the same way about music. It rules me.” He runs a hand through his hair. “Music is love, Love is music right?”
“Where did you get that from?” I ask.
“Get what?”
“That quote?”
“It’s written here Ella.” He points to the quote which I had written quite some time ago. It’s written in black marker pen on the dark wood of the bench. Yes, of course. I knew I recognised it. His eyes widen when I look back at him. We are meant to be talking as friends but I feel focus is only based on me.
I hate it being about me.
“Luke, tell me about you, this can’t all be about me. Okay?” I ask him.
“Yeah sure Ella. What do you want to know?” He smiles.
“Whats your favourite ice-cream?”
“Whats yours?” He smirks.
“Cookies and Cream, this is about you not me remember? Favourite ice-cream please?” I smile. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled as much.
“Cookies and Cream.” He replies. Snide bastard, he is obviously just trying to impress me.
“Seriously?” I ask with a massive frown upon my face. He lifts his hand to my forehead, and runs a finger along the width.
“You know you use more muscles in your face when you frown, more then when you smile. So stop frowning. Smile, and yes it’s my favourite.” I breathe in slightly and I honestly think I forget how to, just for a second. I stand up and walk over to the edge of the river that gently flows under the bridge.
I sit, my knees crossed beneath me and leave him for a second.
“What do you want Luke, seriously? We have just met, and you want to be my friend. This isn’t the normal way to make friends. For some reason I have brought you here.
Some subconscious or something has told me to, and here we are. Talking about ice-cream. When this morning I couldn’t even get my hair straight, and I felt just as alone then as I do now. You can be here, but my mind seems to lack the knowing of letting people in. I’m sorry, but I just can’t understand it.” I shake my head slightly and sigh. I turn back to look at him. He’s looking at me intently from the bench, and has his phone in his hand. He’s twirling his cell through his fingers – it’s distracting.
“Ella” he manages. “I want to be your friend because earlier-when you bumped into me-” He swallows hard.
“What Luke?”
“I felt something I have never felt before. It felt like a current or something and it rushed through my body like lightening.  Like an unstoppable force that just overpowered me.” He whispered.
“I felt it too, but we can’t be more then friends Luke, it would destroy us.” He gets up and walks toward me.
“Stand up” he commands, and I do unwillingly, taking the hand he holds out for me. He turns my shoulders so I’m looking at him. He looks into my eyes, and then looks at his feet and shakes his head. His hands still on my shoulders looking at me from arms length.
“This is wrong.” He whispers and pulls me into an embrace. If it’s wrong then why is he holding me? No, this can’t happen if he doesn’t want it to. I inhale his scent and begin to fight him off. I push but he doesn’t let me go. My arms push against his chest, his arms, but it’s hopeless.
“Luke-” I whisper. “I can’t if you can’t” he still doesn’t release me and I give in and hold him back, my arms wrap around his back and his head rests down on my shoulders.
His hands are on my back and I feel the current and it doesn’t leave. It flows through us like waves and it makes me feel complete and an emotion I don’t know captures me. I can’t condone it.
“Ella” he manages. “I can’t know you. This was a mistake.”
“Why can’t you know me?” I snap back and push him away, the embrace breaks this time. I nearly stumble over my own feet, the feeling of want is immediately replaced with rejection.
“Ella I-” he stops.
“Luke, if you don’t want to know me, why lead me under false pretences?” I say quietly. “Who do you think you are Luke? Do you do this regular? Huh? Get girls to let their guards down and let you in. Luckily for me I didn’t do it too soon. Go away Luke.” I shout.
We are about 3 feet apart. He steps towards me and I instantly step back my arms raised.
“Luke, this is weird right? We both feel something we shouldn’t, you much more than me, but if you don’t care don’t. My heart is as fragile as glass okay? It breaks easy. I can’t cope with a broken heart Luke. I can barely cope right now. Go home, forget this, me, us. Forget my favourite ice-cream. Forget my music quote. Forget your embrace. Forget this. Okay?” The hurt in my voice this time cannot be hidden.
“Ella, I can’t hide you. I can’t make you feel something you don’t. I can’t be your friend. That’s why this is wrong. I need to go home Ella.” He turns toward the bench, picks up his backpack and looks back at me. In that moment something shifts. I walk toward him and hug him he retaliates but hugs me back softly.
“Bye Luke” I whisper.
“Bye Ella, remember you’re beautiful okay?” We shift and he looks down at me. In that moment I don’t care, I don’t wonder.
I stare at his mouth, and he looks at mine. Our eyes meet and lock, and I lean up and kiss him gently on the side of his mouth.
“Maybe one day.” I whisper. “When high school isn’t so complicated.” I turn to walk away and he grabs my arm. He pulls me back and our lips lock, and the kiss is meaningful, deep and passionate. His hands cup my cheeks, his mouth claiming mine. He pushes me up against the wall and pins my arms either side of my head. His tongue explores and fights with mine and I’m being kissed. I pull away.
“Luke no, we can’t” I whisper. He puts his forehead against mine and kisses me briefly on the lips. Then he walks away, and all I’m left with is his taste, his scent and his feeling all embossed into me and at that moment I know I will never get to kiss him again. The feeling destroys me.


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