forgotten autumn nights
Allele was still sulking when it came time to go to her high school's beginning of the year picnic. Looking out across the park, she watched miserably as everyone else chatted, laughing and having the time of their lives. Caroline, the princess, had joined the mass only half an hour ago, blue eyes sparkling and blonde braids swaying in the wind, a smile of … contentment on her lips.
God, what wouldn't she give for that? Just for one moment, to feel like she had everything she could ever want, to feel like she belonged, to feel like she was who she wanted to be, to feel … happy. Even when Noah was alive, there was something missing. Even as she hugged him or had him read to her, a part of her mind was always on Caroline, on her parents, on everything else she just couldn't forget.
Sometimes she felt like she was suffocating. Every foolish moment, every embarrassment, every regret — they all came back to haunt her, making her clench her fists in frustration and flush in anger and self-hatred, until the moment passed and she could breathe again. And then there was always the memory of the accident – the flashing lights, the fear rippling through her frozen body, her own scream echoing through the empty street, the blood … and the emptiness that followed.
Always the emptiness.
Curling up into a little ball, Allele pushed her knees against her chest and looked back out at the park where the Orientation Picnic had already entered full swing. All 1,000 students from her high school, minus a few drug addicts who were probably too stoned to come, were there, already formed into their little cliques. A few familiar faces caught Allele's eye and she scowled.
Mirissa Heningway, animal lover, human rights activist, teacher's pet, and altogether Ms. Good Girl of the junior class. They'd been friends once – Mirissa and her, but that had been a long time ago … before Allele realized how empty Mirissa really was.
Katherine Sitter was another one of her old "friends." They'd hung out, even shared secrets and crushes – then Katherine found makeup, a boyfriend, and learned how to stab people in the back. Guess who she betrayed first?
There were a couple other fleeting faces among the crowd she recognized. None of them had been friends with her for longer than two weeks. It was pathetic, really. And after a while, Allele simply decided it was useless. Friends were useless. They were all so…fake. And none of them understood, anyway.
No one understood.
Except Noah, but he had been there. There when their parents called her worthless, there when she ran to her room crying, there when she felt like dying…there to tuck her in every night, there to watch her with worried gray eyes while she trembled and prayed that someday…someday, her parents might love her too.
She had whispered her dreams to Noah. She had confided her secrets in him. She'd given a bit of her soul to him…and never once worried he'd break it. He was so different from everyone else…he understood. And that's all she wanted, really.
Even the girls who weren't supposed to be shallow, the ones that were supposed to be worth talking to – they had no dreams. There was nothing they'd die for, nothing they valued more than anything else, nothing they'd cried over, nothing that…mattered to them.
And because of that, they would never understand her.
A Frisbee came zooming her way and Allele ducked just in time. A few girls giggled and a brown-haired boy yelled out an apology amidst a smile. Allele glared viciously as the boy jogged over, retrieved the Frisbee, and headed back to his little collection of swooning admirers. Headed back to the rest of his life, of which Allele certainly wasn't – and would never be – a part of. Just like she would never be a part of the lives of the thousand other people in the park she was supposed to know…
A cool breeze fluttered against her skin, lifting up a couple strands of auburn hair and tickling her bare arms. It was a beautiful day, and it stung that she couldn't enjoy it the way everyone else did. Wouldn't it be nice to be…like them, for once? Hugging her arms woefully, Allele blinked away a few tears. It wasn't that she was jealous – well, she was, but, oh, it was just…she was so…lonely sometimes.
Her thoughts went to Brandon, as they usually did in moments like these, and Allele wondered for the millionth time that day whether he did like her. He certainly seemed to. Everyone was expecting them to start dating anytime soon, and many thought they already were. But at the same time…there was something missing. Allele sighed.
God she hoped he liked her.
Closing her eyes dreamily, Allele smiled as she pictured Brandon. He was so perfect. Perfect brown hair, perfect brown eyes, perfect smile, perfect voice…and he was always so nice. Gentleman through and through. He was probably too good for her.
A shriek launched through the air, snapping Allele out of her reverie. Opening her eyes warily, Allele watched as a blonde rushed forward and bear-hugged a new arrival to the picnic. Allele smirked, feeling almost sympathetic for the poor guy. If he didn't go deaf from the blonde's shrieking, he'd be strangled to death from the way she was squeezing him.
Finally, the blonde unlatched herself, looking like she was about to die from excitement any minute. "Oh my God! I can't believe it's you! Wait until I tell everyone else! Oh my God! I can't believe you're back!" Launching herself forward again, she placed her hands on the back of Damien's neck and gave him a long welcome back kiss. After about a minute, she drew back, cheeks flushed and eyes starry. "Don't move, I have to tell everyone else you're back!"
With that, the blonde rushed off, and everyone else was left gaping at the newcomer. Allele herself leaned over to the right to get a better view. Messy blonde hair, impish blue eyes, a smirk…
"Amazing, isn't he?" A dreamy voice reached Allele's ears and she turned to see a girl she didn't know staring off at Damien with a dazed smile.
Allele gawked at the girl. Opening and closing her mouth a couple of times, she sputtered defiantly, "Um, actually no. He's not."
The girl didn't seem to hear her. "Those eyes…and that hair…" She sighed. "Well, it doesn't look like I'll have any sort of chance, what with all those cheerleaders crowding about him."
Allele turned and saw that already a crowd of girls had formed about the boy. Airheads, Allele jeered silently. But those were the girls the guys liked. Those were the girls who were going to marry rich and spend their lives in lavish mansions with servants and silver and velvet carpets. Not because they were smart, or they were kind, but because they knew how to go to the right parties, look pretty, and flirt.
It was a fucked up system.
"He's an asshole you know?" Allele found herself saying.
The girl turned to look at her incredulously. "Like any of them aren't?"
Surprised, Allele jerked around to stare at the girl. It was then that she noticed that the girl wasn't a prep at all. She was wearing a long baggy t-shirt and plaid shorts. Her mousy brown hair was tied into two braids, and her eyes, a strange blue-green-brown, had a strange glint to them.
The girl didn't seem to care that Allele was staring. Perhaps she was used to it. Offering a small smile, she continued, "Well, it was nice talking with you. I might see you around some other time…probably not, but who knows? Stranger things have happened."
And with that, she left.
Allele blinked, unsure of what had just happened. She shook her head disbelieving. It was a crazy world.
"He's so hot."
The first girl smacked the second with her purse, lightly rolling her eyes. "God Leslie, you know who I mean."
The second girl giggled, flipping her sleek brown hair over one shoulder. "Who wouldn't? You've only been talking about him for the past two hours."
"I think I should go up to him. Talk to him, you know? You think it's worth a try?" The first girl looked towards the second intently, blue-green eyes wavering, unsure.
"You want my honest opinion, darling?"
"Not to be mean, but you don't have much of a chance. Sorry hun." She pointed wayward toward a couple figures walking out towards the parking lot. "I think he's already chosen his girl."
Damien, flanked by a crowd of girls, had his arm around the prize: a slender, blue-eyed, vivacious blonde that had a smile no guy could resist.
"Caroline." The first girl sighed. "Well, if it's can't be me, at least it's her. She deserves him. I mean, she's so nice."
Allele stopped listening to the conversation at this point, a disgusted grimace crossing her features as she tapped the toe of her shoe against the gravel. 30 minutes. She'd waited an entire half hour for the bitch who was – still – talking animatedly to Damien. Figures. Twirling a strand of her hair around a finger, Allele wondered how long it'd take before they started going out. A day? Another hour? Maybe they were already dating. It definitely wouldn't surprise her. Caroline worked fast.
Maybe, Allele thought, she could can whatever it was about Caroline that was so alluring and sell it. She'd call it "Instant Popularity" and be a millionaire within days. Then, maybe she could get that ranch in Colorado. It was a nice thought. Perhaps having a perfect sister wasn't that bad.
Allele almost laughed. Like hell it wasn't.
Caroline and Damien had finally made their way to the parking lot, and Allele moved towards them. If it was up to her, Allele wouldn't ride with Caroline if she had been paid to. But as things were, her car was at the dealers (again) for repairs (again). For some mysterious reasons, her 1993 Corolla just didn't work as well as Caroline's new convertible.
Their parents had actually offered to give Allele and Caroline co-ownership of the vehicle, but Allele had refused. What was the point? Caroline would get it all the time. And besides, the Corolla had been Noah's.
"This is my car," Caroline gestured to the convertible and unlocked the doors. "What do you think?"
Damien shrugged. "I don't know." he smirked slyly. "I'll have to ride it first."
Caroline rolled her eyes. Then, as if seeing Allele for the first time, she said casually, "Oh, this is my sister."
Allele looked away determinedly.
Damien looked at her quizzically for a moment. "Hey, you look familiar." Allele didn't glance at him. "Oh, I remember! You're that Starbucks girl. The one with the loser of a boyfriend."
Caroline raised an eyebrow. "You two know each other?"
Allele turned to Damien with a fierce glare. "Excuse me? Loser? Looked in the mirror lately, huh?" Huffing indignantly, she pulled open the car door, got in, and slammed it behind her unrelentingly.
"Allie!" Caroline stared at her sister. "You have to forgive her. She has these…anger fits." Sighing, she got into the driver's seat and motioned for Damien to get into the car too. "Come, I can take you around town," she dimpled.
Damien smiled. "How can I resist an offer from such a hot girl?"
Allele ignored them for the rest of the car ride.