I would miss the sun, the long summer nights. The beach being right on my doorstep. I would miss a lot of things. Chewing the inside of my cheek I stood staring at the sold sign. I had lived in Florida my whole life.
You see it was just my gran and I. My mom died during childbirth and I didn't know my dad. He wasn't really someone we talked about.
"Still staring at that sign, I see".
Today was another day closer to leaving. She was uprooting us to Texas. Change was good apparently. I didn't want to move, didn't want to start all over in a new place.
My friends were here, my boyfriend was here. For being eighteen my life was pretty good. I got good grades; I had a part time job. I liked where I was at right now. She knew how I felt about leaving but that didn't matter. She had made up her mind.
"Leah, you'll make new friends, you'll get a new boyfriend. We need to do this sweetheart. Change is good".
I didn't want new friends and I didn't want a new boyfriend. My gran wasn't Tommy's biggest fan. Always insisted something was off with him, didn't like the feeling she got when he was around.
He was my first boyfriend, slightly older but only by three years. But that didn't matter. He had a car, the brightest blue eyes I had ever seen and he was nice to me.
I knew I would make new friends. I would leave regardless if I wanted to or not. I would move on and get on with my life but leaving them behind wasn't my biggest worry.
"My mom's here". I whispered.
"Sweetheart, your mom's in here". She placed her hand over my heart. "No matter where you are or where you go your mom will always be with you".
I knew she was right but being here, living in this house, it made me feel closer to her.
"How about some hot chocolate and we can watch the sunset?".
"I'll grab a blanket".
Another reason why I didn't want to leave. Most nights we'd come out here and watch the sunset. It was kind of our thing. The beach was my favourite place to go. It was my safe space.
Kicking off my shoes I placed the blanket on the sand before taking a seat. The view was beautiful. Staring out into the water a sigh fell from my lips. I would never have this again. Sure, they had beaches in Texas but not this beach and not this view.
"It sure is beautiful".
"Tommy, what are you doing here?". I got to my feet.
He shouldn't be here. We said our goodbyes already. Him being here was only making it harder. I looked around for my gran. She tolerated him for my sake but she wasn't his biggest fan. And by that, I mean she really didn't like him.
"We can't leave it like this Leah. I can't believe I'm never going to see you again". He slipped his arms around my waist. "I don't want you to go".
I bit back my tears. I would miss him. We had become inseparable over the last few months.
"You shouldn't have come. You're only making it harder".
"I'm sorry baby". His grip around my waist tightened. "I love you Leah, I love you so much".
A voice clearing caught my attention. My gran was back.
"I'll see you again. That I can promise you". He placed the softest kiss on my lips before turning and walking in the opposite direction.
Glancing down at the ring on my right index finger a sob fell from my lips. A promise ring he gave me 6 months into our relationship. He was special, he was good and I was never going to see him again.
"I'm okay". I dried my eyes and cleared my throat. I couldn't dwell on not seeing him again. Her mind was made up. We were moving and it was happening in the morning. "I need to finish packing".
Goodbye Florida, hello Texas.
We could have flown to Texas but no my gran wanted to drive. A little sightseeing on the way.
20 hours we had been on the road for. Stopping every so often for gas and food. My legs were numb, my bum was numb. I couldn't wait to sleep tonight.
"Texas isn't so bad". She smiled. "We're about half an hour away. Go get some coffee".
I looked around. It may not be bad but it wasn't home. I wasn't sure it would ever become my home.
Heading inside I went straight for the coffee machine. Caffeine was life, I couldn't live without it. As I fixed two cups the door chimed and instantly the hairs on the back of my neck stood.
A strange sensation washed over me; I felt a little dazed but weirdly enough it felt nice. Then I felt it, a presence behind me. My heart rate picked up, the palms of my hands starting to sweat.
This was weird.
Straightening my shoulders, I put the lids on both cups, took a deep breath and turned around.
No one was there.
I frowned. I felt someone or I was that tired I was losing my mind. Sighing I made my way to the cash register. Today had been a long day.
“Large or regular?”. The girl asked. Her smile bright, contagious even that I couldn’t help but smile back.
“Regular and these”. I grabbed a pack of twizzlers opening them right up. I had the biggest sweet tooth. “Sorry”. I grinned. “Sweet tooth craving sugar”. Suddenly embarrassed I handed over my money and lowered my head.
Great first impressions.
“That’s alright. I’m Alanna”.
“Leah”. Taking my changed I lifted the cups.
“New to town?”.
“That obvious?”. I chewed my bottom lip.
Again, the hairs on the back of my neck stood. The feeling from earlier returning. Only this time I felt hot, flustered even, the feeling of being watched crept in. Maybe I was coming down with the flu.
“I have a feeling you’ll like it here. You’ll fit right in”. She winked.
Making a face I shrugged. Only time will tell but something was off about this place. From the minute I stepped inside I could feel it.
“How you do not have cavities I’ll never know”.
Closing the car door, I grinned. She knew how much I was addicted to sugar. Passing her coffee, I glanced back at the gas station as we drove away, 4 guys were stood outside staring directly after our car.
Yeah, because that wasn’t odd.
“I like sugar”. I grinned sticking another twizzler in my mouth.
“You won't be saying that when your teeth fall out”. She turned onto the highway picking up speed. “How are you really feeling about all of this?”.
“Ask me again in a month”. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her because I didn't want to upset her. She thought this was the best thing for us and I was going to try and make it work.
“I know you weren't big on the idea of moving but I think you’ll love it here. All I’m asking is that you try and make it home. Texas is beautiful, the people are friendly and I think we’ll fit in perfectly”.
I would give her the benefit of the doubt. I would try but that’s not to say it would be easy. Making new friends was, starting over again was hard.
“I’ll try but please don’t push it on me”.
As the car began to slow down, I became aware of my surroundings. Trees, trees, and more trees.
“Are we living in the forest?”. I asked.
Laughing she placed her hand on my knee and squeezed. “This is just the road we take. We’ll be there soon”.
“Where are the-…". I paused when houses started to appear.
“We live in the middle of nowhere, great”. I didn’t have a car which meant I was restricted on what I could do. Our new house was located in the middle of nowhere. How was I supposed to go out?
Did any buses run through here?
Sighing I ran a hand down my face as the car came to a stop. I looked up at the house and smiled. The front bedroom had a balcony, just like my old one.
I was in awe.
The house from the outside looked beautiful. A little old and it looked like it had been empty a while but nothing a little love and care couldn’t fix. Maybe living here wouldn’t be so bad afterall.
“It needs some work but I had to buy it”.
Stepping inside my heart fell a little. Everything screamed old and out of date. The carpets, the furniture, the smell.
“I have contractors coming in a few days. I know it doesn’t seem like much but we can give it a real go out here. Decorate the way we want; we can make this our home”.
She was happy and who was I to take that away from her. My thoughts were irrelevant right now. I had to think of the bigger picture, our future. I wasn’t going to burst her happiness over a few old carpets.
“It seems like a quiet area. How far is the nearest beach?”.
“Missing the beach already?”. She smiled.
“I am but I can wait. Do you want me to start unloading the car?”. I was only to bring the stuff I couldn’t live without. She was going to buy everything else new. Where she was getting the money from, I will never know and I dare not ask.
“Yes, and I’ll see if I can get the heating working”.
Rolling my eyes, I made my way outside. Surely it wouldn’t get any worse right?With half my body inside the car I didn’t hear anyone approach.
“Need a hand?”.
Wait, was that?
“You’re moving in there?”. She asked as I pulled myself out of the car. “You bought that house?”.
I didn’t like the feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was there something wrong with it? Kicking the door shut I stared at her. Something felt off about her too and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
“Is there something wrong with it?”.
“No of course not it’s been empty for a while. I live a few houses down but I mostly stay with my brother. He lives on the corner”.
“Why has it been empty for so long?”. I was curious.
“Not sure”. She shrugged. “Let me help with that”. She took the box from me and made her way up the driveway. I wasn’t sure if we were going to be friends or not. Wasn’t sure if I liked her.
“Leah, I managed to get-...oh who is this?”. My gran took the box from Alanna.
“Alanna, she lives across the street. She was telling me this house has been empty for a while. Are you sure you made the right decision with buying it?”. I didn't want her spending all her money on a house if something was wrong with it.
“Leah”. She warned.
That was all I needed to keep my mouth shut. Once she was set on something there was nothing anyone could do to change her mind.
“Go and unpack the rest of the car. I will fix us some hot chocolate”.
“She seems sweet”. Alanna smiled as she grabbed another box.
She was sweet alright but she was also fierce and fearless.
“Thanks, I’ve got it from here”. I couldn’t seem to figure this girl out. I wasn’t sure if she was being friendly because she wanted something or friendly because we were new to the street.
“I don’t mind”. She shrugged picking up another box. “Besides my idiot brother has friends over and I’d rather not be there”.
“How old is your brother?”. I asked.
“24 going on 50”. She smirked. “Bit of an asshole”.
“How so?”. I was digging but I couldn’t help but be a little curious.
“I’m sure you’ll meet him one day. Do you have any siblings?”.
Making my way up the drive I tripped over my feet and fell to the ground. Box up in the air I put my hands out to stop my fall. “Shit”. I groaned grabbing my knee. Lifting my jean leg up I pulled out the stone that was embedded in there.
“Are you okay?”.
Then I heard the voices.
My hands were bloody, my knee grazed but I'd be fine. A little embarrassed but at least it was dark and no one else saw.
“Need a hand little one?”.
“Jake”. Alanna warned.
Glancing up a gasp fell from my lips. Who was he and where did he come from? Wait why didn’t he have a shirt on? Was I dreaming? I couldn’t look away, couldn’t break our stare.
“You shouldn’t talk to your older brother like that Alanna”. He finally looked away and I felt like an idiot.
4 guys were stood outside my house shirtless.
It was freezing.
Blinking a few times, I think I may have hit my head on the way down to. Why didn’t they have shirts on?
Wiping my hands on my jeans I got to my feet. Everything that was inside the box was now scattered all over the driveway. Sighing I went around picking up all my things.
“Jake, please just go away”. She begged.
He didn’t. He stood staring and I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable. That soon disappeared when I noticed what he was holding.
My mom's blanket.
It was old and ragged but it was the only thing I had of hers. I didn’t let anyone touch it in the fear it would fall apart. And here he was holding it like some old dishrag.
“Jake”. Alanna hissed.
I was too busy staring at the blanket. I couldn’t find my voice to ask for it back.
“Leah, what’s going on out here?”. She stood beside me her eyes instantly landing on the blanket. “Young man I believe what you are holding doesn’t belong to you. Give it”. Her voice was stern, it held authority.
His eyebrows furrowed, his eyes landing on mine. “I apologise”. Handing it over I grabbed it before she could touch it.
I held it to my face my eyes closing. I didn’t care that they were watching.
“Come inside the rest can wait until tomorrow. Alanna you are more than welcome to join”.
She didn’t need to tell me twice.
“You girls sit, I’ll sort some hot chocolate”.
“I’ll be back my phones in the car”.
Opening the glove box, I retrieved my phone and made sure the car was locked. What I didn’t expect was to find her brother waiting at the bottom of the drive. Tightening the blanket around my shoulder I stopped a few feet from him.
“Alanna is still inside. I’ll tell her you're here”.
As I went to walk away, he grabbed a hold of my wrist and pulled me flush against him. I froze. What was he doing?
“Little one”. He growled.
I couldn’t breathe.
“Please let me go”. My voice was barely a whisper.
He didn’t. Instead, his grip tightened as he buried his head in the nape of my neck and inhaled deeply.
“Fuck baby, you smell like the ocean”.
I was afraid, my body rigid. I couldn’t move even if I wanted to.
“You don’t have to be afraid of me princess”.
I wasn’t aware that I had closed my eyes but by the time I opened them he was gone.
Gone like he wasn’t there to begin with.
I was officially creeped out.