Home > Dear Ava_ Enemies-to-lovers Sta

Dear Ava_ Enemies-to-lovers Sta
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

1

 

 

Junior year

 

 

My hair covers my face and I shove it away, my heart speeding up and pounding as my eyes flare open in the dark. The air is cold, an early winter nipping on the heels of fall.

Where am I?

Straining to recall, I distinctly remember the road that brought me to these trees, a narrow, rutted lane, can barely even call it a road, really just a path used by tractors, ATV vehicles, and cars with good front-wheel drive.

No matter the road you take, it doesn’t matter if it’s beautiful or ugly, hard or smooth, paved or pitted with ruts—it’s your road to take. What matters is how it ends.

One of the nuns told me that once, but I can’t recall why—wait, God my head hurts as if someone took a sledgehammer and whacked me.

Blinking, I swallow and focus, mentally willing the pain to stop.

Where am I?

A high keening sound breaks into the night, and I jerk, realizing it’s me making that weird noise. Shivering at the eerie sound, I stop, sucking in air then hissing with the effort it takes as I attempt to sit up. I decide against it when agony reverberates through my lower body. There’s a gnawing there—

Screw it. Just let me lie here.

I’m in tall grass, that I do know, and I breathe slowly, orienting myself as I stare up at the starry sky and look for answers. The moon is full and bright, illuminating the high pine trees towering over me, their branches rustling as the wind blows, like ghostly hands rubbing their fingers together. Watching the slow, creepy movement reminds me of a horrid Grimm fairytale where a young girl ventures out into the enchanted forest to pick flowers, only to be gobbled up by a monster.

I close my eyes.

Open them again.

This isn’t an enchanted forest, but it’s definitely the woods.

How did I get here?

Twisting my head, I see the embers of a low bonfire glowing several yards away in a mostly open meadow. Images dance in my head—me at the fire, laughing, dancing, drinking—

I inhale a sharp breath as another memory pierces, and I kick it down. Just not ready. My hands clench the dirt and damp leaves underneath me. My clothes are dirty. At least I didn’t wear my red and white cheer outfit. No, I had time to change into a mini skirt and a new blue tank top with scalloped lace at the top, “the perfect match for my eyes,” Piper had said even as she told me not to—what? What did she tell me not to do?

More pain spirals in my head, and I wince, swallowing convulsively to pull moisture into my dry mouth.

I focus on that meadow.

Before I was in the woods, there was a party there, the Friday night kegger after the football game. Yes. At one point, people and music and cars encircled this meadow. Guys still in jerseys, some in jeans and preppy shirts, pretty girls decked out in expensive clothes I can’t afford, jewelry and shoes I’ll never have…

It’s empty now.

I lick dry, chapped lips when my stomach swirls. Bile curls in my gut. I’m not sure how my addled brain knows poison lies somewhere within me, but it does, and my body wants to eject it.

But it’s so hard to move, and I’m exhausted and sore, and if I could just close my eyes and drift…

The wind blows again and an owl hoots. Something howls off in the distance, a dog or a coyote.

Definitely not a wolf, I remind myself. This is rural Tennessee, not Alaska.

My body twitches in disagreement. Doesn’t matter! Leave this awful place!

But, I’m so tired and weak and maybe if I just go back to sleep and wake up again, this will all just be a bad dream—

Those ghostly fingers in the trees brush again and I snap to awareness, forcing my eyes to stay open.

I sit up and prop my back against the tree behind me. A collection of pictures tiptoe through my mind: Jolena and me getting ready for the party at her place and my nervousness at being surrounded by the opulence of her huge mansion, then us arriving at the field party in her black Range Rover. We chugged shots of Fireball before we got out to join everyone. She offered, her ruby lips smiling, and I took it anxiously, needing the bravery for my first kegger. These people weren’t like me, didn’t really know me, except as Chance’s girl. They’re the Sharks at Camden Prep, rich and popular and pretty much assholes except for Chance. They rule the school. They decide who comes to the parties. They decide if you’re good enough.

My fingers press on my forehead. Knox Grayson, QB1 and the leader of the Sharks, was the first person I saw when we walked up to the fire, his arm curled around…Tawny? Yeah. With the golden brown hair like sunlight. She’s not just pretty; she’s beautiful, wrapped in wealth and superiority—ah, crap, forget her. She doesn’t even know my name. It’s an image of him, of Knox, that lingers…the long, ugly scar that runs down from his right temple, through the hollow of his cheek, slicing into his upper lip. The devil. Hades. I call him that in my head sometimes before I shove him out of my thoughts and lock him away tight. My subconscious has always known to flee when I pass him in the hall, to run like the hot winds of hell are at my back.

He watched me walk up with Jolena, an intimidating glint in his narrowed gaze.

What are you doing here? his face said with a curl of those twisted lips.

His little looks—oh, how can I call them little? They’ve always been big looks, sweeping and brushing over me then dismissive, reducing me down to nothing but the air he breathes, the very dust motes that float around our hallowed school.

But…tonight—God, it’s still the same night, right?—I forged ahead, swallowing my misgivings about him because Chance appeared in front of me. Beautiful, sweet Chance. My heart, which feels sluggish and weak, beats a tad quicker. He’s a Shark, in that inner circle, but he likes me. He’s been mine since this summer, little touches and slow kisses. We’re building up to more, so much more. A leftover wisp of joy caresses me as I recall him twirling me around, kissing me on the cheek, and asking me to sing. After much prompting and cajoling and another shot of Fireball, I stood in the bed of someone’s truck and belted out “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato. Cheers rang out. Even Jolena smiled, and I don’t even think she really likes me. I felt…elated.

Things get fuzzy after that.

Stumbling around inside my head, I wince at the images I see. Chance is there, but he isn’t glad to see me anymore—which is weird because he invited me. He begged me to come. He made other promises too, but suddenly I see him right up in my face, jawline clenched, eyes blazing with anger.

What…what did I do to him?

Doesn’t he know I’ve put him on a pedestal and thought he might be different? I didn’t want to fall so fast. I don’t love much. I don’t. To allow love in makes one vulnerable and it—

Forget him.

What is wrong with my body?

A lone tear wets my face and I wipe it away fiercely, surprised by the emotion.

Stop it, Ava.

You’re just in the woods, and God knows you’ve slept in worst places.

Still, another drop of moisture sneaks out, and I swallow down the lump of emotion in my throat.

This is just me being drunk. That’s all.

Nothing terrible has happened. Nothing at all.

I…I drank too much. That’s it.

I suck in air as more faces from the party zoom in and out of my head, their features vague, funhouse images playing out, a horrible fair ride gone wrong. I see Knox leaving with Tawny. I watch Chance with another girl and my heart cracks. I see Jolena whispering to the other girls on the squad while they stare daggers at me.

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