Favourite Time of the Year

Chapter One –

"Kisses on the Necks of Best Friends"

Autumn slipped out of her bed, scratched her scalp delicately and muttered at herself in disdain. Where had she been the previous night? No answer could be found. She looked out of her window, upon the grey, saddening streets of her neighbourhood. The weather was heavy, damp and wretched, suiting her mood at that particular time and place. Her eyebrows rose as she saw a dark and tall figure sulking his way down the path beneath her. A hooded jacket hid his face from view – but she knew who he was. She knew all her 'victims' from her high school. The ones she'd been praying on for the past few months of her existence.

Slowly she gazed as he raised his fist and punched a sharp dent in her mailbox. What a bastard. Didn't he have a clue whose house this belonged to? He seemed to be under much frustration as he slumped away again, kicking up a stone that smashed a gnome from the house beside her. So this wasn't all from spite. He was just hung from a heavy dense cloud, much like her own. A small twitch could be seen creasing the side of her lips. She knew how to raise them both out of the doldrums of depression. Her eyes twinkled slightly as she turned around and quickly made her way to her closet.

Sigh. But how many skeletons had she kept behind these oak doors? Her soft pure white wrists twisted the brass knobs sketchily. The note stuck to the left door hovered for a moment before settling down. It was from her older sister; the one who had ditched her family last year to run off with her biker boyfriend all the way north to New York. She wished they'd all die in a diabolical taxi car crash. She could just imagine the blurring lines of yellow and black, a frenzied swarm of bees stinging the couple till they ended up bloated and blue upon the hospital bed pan. How sadistically horrifying was she at the moment?

She stripped her pale salmon dress away and pulled on her jeans and black jacket. Masquerades and disguises were her friends when she was in doubt. Half-heartedly, she smeared the coal black eye shadow upon her eyelids and whispered sinister words towards her mirror. The lies that slipped from her tongue hung in the air as cold icicles in the winter, frosting the surface and her reflection, till she was not able to recognise herself. But it had been years since she'd been able to notice herself at all.

Autumn slunk down the stairs and opened her front door. Her sneakers padded on the steps and gave soft crunches where the insects and sandy pebbles sat. The grass snarled in protest. But when had the grass ever given her decent advice? Like a leaf insect, herself, she camouflaged against her surroundings and caught up with her so called prey. Of course, he had a name: Jaime Reed. He was the outcast of her year. A stubborn and discontented boy who had yet to realise that there was more to the world then rock and emo tunes buzzing in his ear from the sanctuary womb within his home.

She saw him eye her tensely from the corner of his pupils. He sank deeper beneath the hood of his jacket, cowering like a turtle within its shell. Good, her presence was felt. Now it was her decision on whether to make her appearance a fortunate or disastrous one. Autumn noted the headset pressed against his ears. She boldly took the closest one and pressed it against her own. Thank the Lord, she knew the song well. Her sister was a devoted dark rocker herself. (Damn her.) However, Autumn's ruse could continue. She handed it back to him, saying, "Pantera rocks."

Reed's eyebrows rose to the shadows of his hood. She had left an impression on him. He dug his hands into the pockets of his jacket, and that was where they disappeared to for the first few minutes of their walk. Autumn was patient. She knew the kinds of things that ran through little boys' minds. That was how she made them tick. Brainwash them till they didn't know whether they were sane or in a mental asylum, strapped in one of those crazy leather jackets. She took the time to look away at the sun, trying to look enigmatic. Well, from years of practice Autumn knew that the afternoon sun did wonders to her complexion. She was born with naturally elastic skin and chiselled cheek bones.

A few seconds later he spoke up. His tone was broken, "What are you doing? Following me?" Straight after he said that, his cheeks grew crimson, rosy. Autumn almost giggled at his effort to talk to her. How innocent was he?

"Who said that I was following you?" Autumn replied gently. "I may just be going your way?"

Reed's face grew even redder, till all you saw was a red light in the dark mass surrounding his head. Autumn knew better, he was signalling the exact opposite to her. He was giving her the green light. Go ahead, he was saying deep within his mind, go and fuck with me. She knew what the guys wanted from her. They all wanted the same. She was reputed for it. Her mother always told her she'd end up this way, because that was all her family was ever good at. "You're a tool, Autumn, and men just want to use you. So be an attractive tool, get some rich husband, and get him for all he's worth." Ah, the good old advice of a mother.

Thanks Mum. Thanks for driving Dad away and my sister away and all the other people that I cared about in my life.

They were walking into town now. You could tell, because the buildings were well structured here. They were growing tall, towering above the two, glaring down at them as if their lives were not worth the waste. Alleys appeared out of nowhere, and with them, the huge menacing green monsters that smells wafted across the roads and beckoned the scavengers of the sewages to take a peek. City folk passed empty greetings to one another and smiled futile salutations – you know, the usual shit. It was a grey wasteland with desperate dreams. End of story.

Autumn could feel the atmosphere between them building up. It wasn't coming from her. Reed was the one creating it entirely. She always allowed them to stir her into the moment. It was what they wanted, not her. This one was strange … interesting almost. It was completely different from those forceful, macho jocks that would throw her on – whatever surface they could find – and getting their way with her. He was timid, as if he did not know what to do with her, like she would almost not come to him when he gave the signal. Boy, did he not know the truth! But she played his game either way.

Acting all 'dark', Autumn tossed her brown hair dangerously, trying to egg him on, but all it resulted in was a loud gulp from his side. Screamo punk music was now buzzing from his ears. She knew that he was urging to mouth the lyrics. She had seen him do it in his small corner during lunch in the cafeteria. Reed always had looked at peace in his own world. He would scream out invisible words to the world (his small cries for help) and Autumn, somehow, could hear them echo within the deep recesses of her mind. It was strange how they spoke to her. She had always felt on the receiving end of his words. She never knew what he was singing out, but she always felt like it was directed to her. They somehow made her guilty.

A faint thundering of wheels against concrete could be heard in the distance, coming closer. Autumn watched the skater swerve side to side, avoiding the crevices and cracks of the pavement. His eyes flashed upwards, jagged auburn, and he mouthed out a warning, "Get out of the way!!" How rude. Autumn stepped aside and her fingers faintly brushed against Reed's. It may have been an accident, or it may have been on purpose, at that particular moment, she couldn't quite tell. The skater flashed past them and was gone in a few minutes. Autumn looked up at Reed to see his reaction, but he had none. He had regained composure in an instant. He was back to paying attention to the music blaring in his ears.

Experimentally, Autumn brushed against his hand as she moved back to her position a few inches away from him. Suddenly, he grasped against her forearm. Autumn never realised how long Gothic fingernails were. His black cuticles dug deep within her flesh and she bit her lip agitatedly. That was bound to leave a mark. "What are you still doing here?" he asked bitterly.

"Again, what makes you think I'm following you?" Autumn replied coyly. She cocked her head sideways playfully. "I could very well be heading in the same direction as you."

Reed's face screwed up slightly. Autumn hid a smile to herself. "You can't just come here and pretend to be like me!" His voice was highly strained as he released his grip. "You can't just – just wear dark clothes and pretend to know rock, and smear on black eye shadow and –"

Now he was just ranting on. Autumn was willing to shut him up. Taking her signal, she leaned forwards in an attempt to plant a kiss on his lips. Instead, he shied away deeper into the hood of his jacket, and her lips landed on his neck instead. When she looked up at him, Reed's eyes were widened and he stared at her in complete shock. She had never noticed how sweet his cobalt eyes were. It was a pleasant surprise. She tried to replan her strategy, but she soon found out that this was not necessary. After she had made her move, he was quick to follow and he leaned forwards slightly to brush against her lips. It was a nice change for once, to have a simple, tender kiss. Autumn had always been used to the forceful tongue against tongue push from egotistical jocks that meant nothing whatsoever.

Reed moved forward to grip her shoulder and leaned closer in. He either knew a thing about love, or he had a lot of time to practice it, because he was no virgin when it came to kissing. Autumn didn't know whether to be relieved or anxious. She had misjudged her victim. This was one of the worst things you could do when you seduce a guy. Autumn edged him towards the closest alley; giving a confident grin and pressing close up against him. He was not unnerved now that he knew what her intentions were. He even managed to laugh. It was amazing for Autumn, to be able to make a dark guy like him laugh.

She examined her surroundings and found a bottle green door to her left labelled 'Storage'. How clichéd was this? She sidled towards it, grabbing the rusty doorknob and turned it. To her relief, there was the satisfying click and the door swung willingly open. Some new employee was bound to get fired from this. Reed stared at it, but his expression was indecipherable. Autumn took that as a good thing, because that was all she could hope for these days: good things. With one arm, she dragged Reed into the unpretentious room and pinned him against the wall. Reed only managed to smile, and raised his arms to drop his hood – drop his protecting wall. Long, golden blonde hair, it was a wonder to look at.

Autumn landed a few more kisses against his neck, supple and mild. He got to work on his jacket, unzipping it and shedding it to the grimy floor. She ran her arms against his chest and slowly peeled his black shirt off of his sweating flesh. He gave a sweet sigh. She was glad that he was releasing some of his nerves. Someone had to do it, these days, if it were not her. Lately, she had been so tense from her older sister's recent note, the one she had sent yesterday afternoon. She shook her head to release the thought, her honey blonde highlights catching the little rays that floated through the small gaps of the door. His chest was bare now and she was taken aback by it. It was not the usual tanned, chiselled abs of athletic men. It was still of a little boy, flat, milky white and sensitive. It shuddered beneath her touch. Somehow, the muscles in her shoulders relaxed at the sight of it.

"Is there anything wrong?" Reed muttered. His eyebrows rose. He seemed uncertain of his own body.

"No," Autumn replied comfortingly back. "Everything is perfect." She planted another kiss against his lips and then fell back. Progressively, she began to unzip her jacket as well, revealing her own bare skin underneath it. Reed's eyes opened as wide as saucers as he realised that she had been completely naked beneath that one layer of black cloth. His blue eyes shone bright and his lips parted faintly in apprehension. Autumn froze halfway as she watched the expression blanket his visage completely. Her heart beat wildly as she realised the innocence of the boy standing right in front of her.

"You have the sweetest face I've ever seen," he had laughed. He brushed his fingers against her cheek and then through her hair. She closed her eyes and allowed him to take over her. She felt her toes leave the ground as his arms supported beneath hers and lifted her high up into the air. He swung her around and kissed her cheeks lovingly. "I love you so much. You have no idea how much I love you!"

She felt her toes graze the grass blades beneath her. She felt the autumn breeze play with her brown tresses and the sun bathe her in such naïve, childish glee. And when she opened her eyes, she saw his blue eyes smile at her. They were only for her. That was what she liked best about it. They were only for her.

"I'm sorry," Autumn muttered, she zipped herself back up, fumbling uneasily. "I'm sorry. I'm just using you." She bent down and took his shirt and jacket from the floor, handing it back to him in one disorderly pile. His eyes stared at her crazily in confusion. He looked down at his clothes and then back up at her. A grim expression slowly encompassed his face.

"That's okay," he groaned. "I'm used to it. I knew it was all a game – because why would a girl like you pay any interest to me?"

Autumn shook her head. Now she was angry at herself. "Don't believe that," she answered. "You're a good guy."

"But – good guy's finish last?" he suggested.

"That's how the world works … sometimes."

"The world is truly fucked up."

"I have to agree with you on that."

Autumn opened the storage door and smiled at him. She leaned forwards to give him a cordial kiss on the cheek then walked away, not looking back. Outside, the commotions of the city overwhelmed her, and the cars blaring voraciously made her head spin. A swift turn from the alley and she hit the ground running. Her breath couldn't catch up with her, her feet pounded against the hard ground, and her eyes were half open. But she kept on sprinting.

It was a wonder why she had stopped this time. She had never stopped before. Men always got their way with her – all the way, till the next morning when they wake up resting beside her; and with a bittersweet taste in the depths of their throat. It was even stranger, still, for her to think back to him. She had done it millions of times before, of course, but never in the middle of her game. It was always a strict rule of hers to put him in the back of her mind while the rest was at the front. She had never spoken of him to anyone before. It was a heartbreaking secret of hers. She had broken the rule for the first time.

When she reached home, she threw herself upon her bed, baffled and distraught. Sixteen words suffocated her thoughts, seven lines ran through her mind, and one face haunted her dreams. But there was no name. No. She had never learnt his name.

Author Note: It's a developing idea so I want to know what you think – especially of Autumn. So, please review!