A/N: Dedicated to Steph. I owe you EVERYTHING, pudding. I love you forever. Hope you like.
This first chapter might throw you for a loop...just stick with it, eh?
"Today is the greatest,
Day I've ever known.
Can't live for tomorrow,
Tomorrow's much too long."
"I don't know what happened. One minute—happy, fun, laughter, smiling; the next—extreme pain, blood, screaming." I don't remember much after I watched Cam's face distort into complete horror. "His expression made me look out the windshield glass, and then there was the screaming. Yes, the screaming started first. I remember that."
"Okay, and this screaming. Who was screaming? Yourself? Were there others in the car with you?"
"…yes, there were others. There was me, and Cameron Green. DJ GreenAnd then there was Bella Scarpelli—Isabella, really, we just call her Bella…and Lex Ross was in the back with her…Tristan Birch was, too."
"Who was screaming?"
I try very hard to remember if I had been screaming or not.
"DJ. DJ was screaming. I remember her yelling, 'Look out, Cam! Oh, my God!'"
There is a momentary pause. "Bella was screaming, too. And Lex. Yeah, I remember seeing Lex hold on to Bella just before…"
"Before the accident."
My questioner sighs uncomfortably, and shifts in his chintz chair slightly. "This accident…did you see who was in the other vehicle?"
"So there was the screaming, and then what?"
I don't respond for a moment, and then I say, "The screaming. The screaming was awful. After the screaming was the extreme pain."
I start laughing; I must be insane, to laugh about all of this—about any of this. "Do you see what happened to my arm? This scar is from the nine-inch shard of glass that penetrated my skin. So...yes, the fricken pain was extreme."
"Calista..." He sighs again, and pinches the bridge of his nose. He chuckles darkly. "I see that your infamous hot head is returning."
My eyebrows skyrocket. "What do you mean? Who are you?" I glance around the room—any sign of my laughter from seconds ago is gone. "What am I even doing here?"
"Why don't you do us both a favor, Calista, and start telling me the story. Start at the beginning."
"When did Cameron Green come into your life exactly?"
"…I don't really think he came into my life. It was more the other way around. Let me explain…"
It was a cold day. Not the kind of cold day where you want to run back into your house, get back into bed, and pretend you never went outside to begin with, though. No…it was more like the kind of cold where you just know that something's going to happen that you would rather it didn't.
And something probably was going to happen. It was my first official day as a resident of Springford Grove, New Hampshire, so something was bound to happen. It was also going to be my first day—my first real day—without my father. I didn't want to have to go live with my mother; she was psychotic. But I had to. No one else in my family was qualified to take me into their homes.
But, as I was saying—it was really cold. I was shivering the whole three-hour drive from my home in Tallenford, Massachusetts, to Springford Grove. I got goosebumps as I pulled up in front of my mother's house. My teeth started chattering when the front door of the picturesque home burst open to reveal Jay, my fifteen-year-old half-brother. I grimaced and wrenched open the driver's door of my father's old SUV, walking over to meet him.
"Need any help bringing stuff inside?" he asked me over-cheerfully, in a way that made me suspect my mother had bribed him to be nice. "Mom's not home from work yet."
"All set, thanks, though," I responded cooly, brushing past him and into the house. I would grab my things in a minute.
I walked through the archway on the left, into the kitchen, and picked up the phone on the wall. I couldn't wander anywhere, because it was cordless, so I just stood where I was and dialed the number to my best friend's house. It rang three times before--"Hello?"
"Hi, is Isabella there?"
"Sure, hold on a minute." Bella's mom called for her up the stairs, and came back to the phone. "Give her five seconds, Cal."
"No problem," I replied easily, keeping my voice light. Bella's parents didn't need to know that I was on the verge of a complete and total meltdown.
"Hey—Cal, listen, honey. I heard about your father, and I just wanted to say that I'm sor—"
"Mom?" Bella's voice. "I got it."
"Later, Reisha." There was a click, and I waited several seconds before I spoke. "Bella?"
"Right here, Cal."
"Could you come over here? I don't think I can handle being alone here with Jay—"
"Hey! I heard that!" Jay's indignant voice carried into the kitchen from the living room, where he was watching TV.
"Then don't listen!" I called. I spoke softly into the phone, "Bella, will you come over? I'm dying here."
There was a pause for a moment on the other end, and then Bella's voice responded, "Yeah, I'll be there in five. Don't do anything until I get there. Especially thinking. No thinking allowed."
I chuckled feebly, and hung up the phone once the dial-tone reached my ears. Bella Scarpelli was my mother's cousin's child—so I think that made us second cousins, or something. She and I had been tight since we were little kids, as we had grown up together in Tallenford—both of our families originated there. And she was pretty much the only person my age that I knew in New Hampshire.
I could feel the nausea kicking in, so I tried to stem the flow of logic. Bella would be here in a few miniutes. End of thoughts.
Taking a deep breath, I walked back out the front door, and headed to my dad's old car. I pulled open the back door and grabbed my black duffel bag. Then I grabbed my backpack, and turned to go back into the house.
There was a screeching of tires at the end of the street, and I glanced up. Bella.
The girl couldn't drive for the world—well, not without killing someone—and her parents' decision to buy her a Porche for her seventeenth birthday was obviously a dangerous one.
She barely managed to park the flashy car behind the SUV, and then she jumped out of it before she even cut the power. "Oh, Ca-al!" she cried, grabbing my bags from me and tossing them aside so as to embrace me tightly. "If I knew you were coming up today, I would've been here waiting for you!"
I smiled faintly, and nodded once, waiting for her to let go. She sighed and took a step back, holding my upper arms and looking me over. I noticed that she hadn't changed much since last I'd seen her—three months ago. Her chocolate-brown hair was still dyed that deep shade of purple, angled over her left eye dramatically, with the black streaks adding a tinting of sarcasm to the look. She was still so very petite, and small—Bella had always been able to make me feel gangly and awkward—and was wearing a white tank-top and tight, faded blue jeans.
She sighed again and released me, going to turn off the Porche. "So, how long have you been up here?" she asked over her shoulder as she skirted quickly to her car, killed the engine, and then returned to grab my duffel bag.
I shrugged halfheartedly, "'bout a half-hour...I left my grandmother's house at, like, eleven, and then stopped for lunch at around one, so I pretty much just got into the state..." I trailed off as her face contorted into anger.
She snatched up my backpack. "You didn't think to call and tell me you were coming up? Jeez, Cal, I would have thought—"
"Sorry," I muttered, "it was just one of those things where I just decided that today was going to be the day. I woke up, grabbed my stuff, and left before I could have any second thoughts."
"Even so," Bella continued, heading into my mother's house ahead of me.
I shook my head and walked back to my car. I grabbed my last duffel bag of stuff and followed the sound of Bella's upset voice into my mother's house. "...and the least you could have done would have been to help her carry her things in, Jay," Bella finished lecturing Jay as I walked into the house.
He opened his big mouth to defend himself, but I beat him to it. "Leave him, Bells," I muttered. "He offered and I declined."
Bella's jaw locked, and she sniffed. "Still," she mumbled angrily as she stalked up the stairs and into the room where I would be staying.
I followed her reluctantly, not looking around the room as I entered it. I already knew what it looked like; this was the same room I always stayed in. The walls of the tiny room were painted bright yellow, and the only source of light was the standing lamp in the corner. The twin-size bed was shoved up against the right wall to make room for the smallest of dressers against the left wall. On top of the dresser was a tiny television set that only played VHS videos in black-and-white. In the wall opposite the door was the glass door that lead out to the second-story deck...my wooden balcony.
That balcony was where I met Tristan Birch; the boy next door. Well, since I'd known him, he had become the boy-down-the-street, and then the boy-across-town, but then the boy-next-door again. He had introduced himself by reciting Shakespeare on one of my star-gazing nights.
"Do you recall that memory clearly, Calista?"
I start. "Huh?"
"The memory of the night you met Tristan Birch. Do you recall that clearly?"
"Of course. I could never forget meeting Tristan. That night might have changed my life."
"Could you relive that memory for me, before you continue with Cameron?"
"Yes, I could."
"Forget it, Phoebe, I don't care. Just leave me alone and stay out of my room." I slammed the bedroom door shut in my mother's airy face and swiftly locked it.
I tried to just sit on my bed and ignore Phoebe's attempts to turn the doorknob, but she started singing that stupid song that she loved so much--'Calista' by the Acid Drinkers. "Skin and bones, crocodile gloves, she loves the jazz, baby be my guest!" Her nasally voice made my skin crawl, the way it usually did when she spoke or sang, and I stormed out of my room, onto the balcony.
When Phoebe and my father had been together, before I was born, my father had built this deck with his best friend—Phoebe's cousin—my...er...second-uncle Chris. It took them three months, during which time Phoebe was in the hospital, pregnant with me. Sometimes, when I got lonely at my mother's house—which was actually more like all the time—I sat out on my wooden balcony with either a book or a sketch pad. I loved spending starry nights out there, and when I was allowed to have Bella sleep over, we slept out under the black New Hampshire sky.
Tonight, when I was out there, I didn't have anything to be doing. My book was in the kitchen, and I wasn't willing to face her until I had to. So I pulled my chair up close to the railing, sat, and leaned my chin against the well-sanded wood. I let my eyes wander around my mother's backyard, and spotted the car in the driveway next door. That house had been empty for several months, and I was both surprised and pleased to see it was being occupied again.
"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?"
I jumped when the boy's voice reached my ears and penetrated the velvet silence around me. I stood up and looked around franticly for the source of the voice, and spotted him down in the grass, a tall silhouette looking up at me.
"It is the East," he continued, "and..." he trailed off.
"Calista," I filled in for him awkwardly, leaning over the railing.
"It is the East, and Calista is the sun!"
I flushed and prayed to a God that I hardly believed in that he would not go on. He didn't, and I looked down at the boy reciting the literature, intrigued. "Romeo?" I asked, puzzled.
He laughed—a healthy, happy laugh—and said, "No. My name is Tristan Birch. I just moved in next door a few days ago, and I just happened to glance out my window and see you sitting out here by yourself...and I couldn't help but realize that you look almost exactly like I thought Shakespeare's Juliet did." He shrugged his wide shoulders, and I grinned.
"So you moved in next door, Tristan? Well, then...I think it would be awfully decent of you if you would stop by this house tomorrow afternoon at around one...we could properly introduce ourselves..."
"Yes, alright, Calista. Continue with your story of meeting Cameron, please."
"Oh, right. Sure."
"...so then my mom told me that if I wanted to keep dating Cam, I was going to have to pick up some slack around the house, and I just told her that we had already broken up, and she would have to think of some more legit threats," Bella laughed, flicking a strand of her choppy purple hair out of her eyes.
I grinned and sighed. "Wish I could have met Cameron. He sounded nice, unlike some of your other dating selections."
Bella laughed again and slid off the balcony railing, shaking her head and collapsing into a chair. "You could still meet him; he and I still hang out a lot...we've got, like, the same friends."
Looking out across the yard, my eyes picked up the smallest movement in Phoebe's shrubs. That was when Bella's cell-phone started ringing. She pulled it out of her pocket and smiled at the name on the ID. "Speak of the devil," she muttered, before flipping open her phone and exclaiming, "Cam! I was just thinking about you."
I smiled as Bella's grin widened, and I looked back out towards the shrubs. Any moment now, Tristan would appear. He somehow always knew when I was in need of his company, and appeared promptly.
And, sure enough, no sooner than I thought this, Tristan clambered clumsily through the greenery that separated our yards. "Cal!" he called happily, waving up at me with that big smile of his. As he got closer, his smile faded, and he stopped. "Bella," he said, much less enthusiastically.
"Oh, hey, Tristan!" Bella exclaimed, much more excited than he was to see her. She laughed, and spoke into her cell-phone. "Yeah, Tristan just showed up. I'm at my cousin Calista's house. Yeah, it's right next to Tristan's house—well, sure. That's cool, I guess...see you in a bit!" She flipped the phone shut and turned back to me. "Cam's coming over, with his sister DJ."
I smiled faintly, and looked down at Tristan, who seemed less than happy that Cam and DJ were coming over. "Front door," I called to him, and he nodded breifly, then turned to walk around to the front of the house.
Sighing, I led the way back into my bedroom—refusing again to look around at it all—and through the rest of Phoebe's house, ignoring Jay on the couch in the family-room, right out the front door. Tristan smiled down at Bella and I once we were outside, all hostility towards Bella evaporated.
"Hey, guys," he said cheerfully, his optomistic grin getting me again and forcing me to smile. I couldn't stand being unhappy when Tristan smiled that smile—it was enough to make me want to melt into a puddle. But, then again, Tristan had always had a soothing quality; he was always there to make me feel better about anything that had me down.
"Hey there, big guy," Bella said to Tristan with a perky smile, her unnaturally pointed teeth glinting in the light of the bright November sun. She stepped forward and hugged him around his waist tightly, and he wrapped his arms around her tiny shoulders; the usual Bella-Tristan greeting. Bella was so short that her head barely came up to Tristan's shoulder...not that he was short in any way—he was taller than me, the gangly 5'7" 17-year-old, by a good two inches.
"So, what's up, Cal?" Tristan asked me, the vaguest glint of concern tinting his jade-green eyes.
I shrugged. "Not too much..."
Tristan glanced between me and Bella. "What's the deal, guys? Cal, you never come up here during the week...no school this week in Massachusetts, or is there something else?"
"Something else," I mumbled. I could feel the tears coming—my throat was tightening around a hard lump, and my face was burning up.
Tristan's arms were around me in a second, holding me in a warm embrace. "What's the matter, Cal?" he asked me anxiously, tightening his hold when I tried to shove him away. "Tell me what's up," he pleaded softly.
I sighed and pulled away slightly, looking up into those eyes of his. "My dad died," I said weakly, feeling the hysteria building up in my chest. The tears started coming.
"Oh my God, Cal," Tristan said, gripping me tightly to his chest again. "That's horrible."
I nodded, sobbing into his shirt and staining him with my tears. "Yeah, well...I thought I was over it," I laughed feebly, "so maybe we shouldn't talk about it too much, if that's okay."
Tristan nodded, and squeezed me quickly before letting go. "No problem. Forget I even mentioned it."
Bella let loose a frustrated gust of air, blowing a few misbehaving slivers of hair out of her eye. "Oh!" she squeaked, jumping, "That's Cam and DJ!" Her slender arm raised to point a tiny finger towards the end of Phoebe's street.
A roaring filled my ears before I saw anything, but seconds after the deafening noise filled the air, a sleek red-and-black motorcycle raced around the corner and turned onto Governor Drive. Astride the machine were two helmet-clad figures.
I felt myself saying, "Wow," but don't remember hearing any noise escape my mouth. Bella squeaked again and ran towards the sidewalk, jumping up and down and waving the motor-bikers toward Phoebe's driveway. The person driving nodded twice and pulled in, revving the bike's motor twice before cutting the power completely.
The person that had been riding double jumped off immediately and yanked the helmet off of her head. My jaw nearly dropped as I took in her appearance. She wore her blond hair cropped short—even shorter than Bella's shoulder-length hair—, and spiked it with some gel-substance. Her make-up was dark and prominant, emphasizing her gorgeous amber eyes. In her left ear's cartalidge was a diamond stud, sparkling prominently in the sunlight. She wasn't short—not Bella short—but wasn't tall, either. Her jeans looked like they were several sizes too large and were held up by a black-studded belt. Her red shirt's sleeves had been cut off carelessly, revealing her muscled and tanned arms. The shirt's collar dipped deviously low, revealing more than I would have been comfortable with. She grinned at my bewildered gaze, revealing perfectly straight, pearly-white teeth. "Hey, Bella," she said casually, striding over to where Bella stood waiting at the end of the driveway. Her voice gave me shivers—it was silky smooth and somehow reminded me of black licorice.
"DJ!" Bella squeeled, no longer containing her excitement and dashing over to DJ, embracing her more tightly than she had Tristan.
"Calm down, Bells," said the person who'd been driving the bike. He swung his leg back over the bike, stepping away swiftly and removing his helmet. This time, my jaw did drop.
Cam—at least, I was assuming it was Cam—had the most angelic face I had ever seen in my entire life. His amber eyes matched, if not out-shined, DJ's eyes incredibly. His brown hair wasn't as long as Tristan's, but definitely wasn't short, and it fell in a perfect framing of his face. He was barely taller than me, and shorter than Tristan. He wore baggy jeans also, and had on a black fleece, tight over his heavily muscled upper-body.
Bella flushed a deep red and released DJ, grinning. "Oh yeah!" she gasped, having remembered that I existed. "Guys, this is my cousin Calista."
I felt extremely plain under their gaze, and blushed as their eyes appraised me. "Hey," Cam said, stepping forward with an amiable smile, "I'm Cameron Green." Where his sister's voice reminded me of licorice, his reminded me of chocolate...He held his hand out.
I hesitantly took it, and we shook. "Calista Hart," I responded quietly, embarassed at the way my heart lept as my hand made contact with his. "And you must be DJ," I said, looking pointedly at DJ as she and Bella walked toward Tristan, Cam, and I.
"Yeah, so?" DJ replied, her glance turning skeptical as she got closer.
I didn't know what to say to that, so I just kept my mouth shut. Tristan cleared his throat, and DJ flashed an exceedingly attractive—and apparantly genuine—smile up at him. "Nice to see you again, Tristan," she said in her licorice-voice, batting her long eyelashes up at him. Tristan nodded once and took a step closer to my side. DJ kept her exotic eyes on Tristan's stiff expression as she adressed Bella. "Bella, did you invite Lex over?"
"No...?" Bella responded unsurely, afraid that she might have displeased one of her ideal friends. She bit her lip. "Did you want—"
"No," DJ interrupted her curtly, her amber eyes swiftly moving from Tristan's fixed expression to Bella's hand, which was gripping her cell-phone. "No, don't invite him."
Cam chuckled a chocolate-coated laugh, "Oh, invite the poor guy, Bells." DJ sniffed, obviously displeased, and Cam looked at her, inclining his head slightly. "He's your boyfriend," he told her in a chiding voice.
DJ scowled angrily, her perfect features becoming distorted around her fury. "I wish," she said with a forced politeness, not meeting Cam's stare, "that you wouldn't bring that up."
I was surprised. Didn't girlfriends usually like their boyfriends? I wasn't exactly sure how it all went down—only ever had the one boyfriend by this point in my life, and that had been two years before my dad died. "So, should I...?" Bella half-asked, conflict splayed across her face as she decided which friend to please.
Cam nudged DJ gently, and she winced. "Alright...fine, invite him. I don't care."
"Are you sure?" Bella asked hesitantly, biting her lip again. "I could just—"
"Invite him," DJ hissed between her grit teeth. "I said just invite him."
"Alright..." Bella's voice trailed off, the tone of hurt prominent in the two-syllable word. She flipped open her cell-phone and pressed a few buttons, then pressed the phone to her ear.
As I stared at my shoes, I felt a pair of eyes on my face. I glanced up at Cam nervously, and he stared back, grinning in a way that made me blush even more than I had before.
Suddenly, I felt like being in Sprinford Grove might not be such a bad thing.
"I see." There is another pause. "Why don't you skip ahead to where you and Cameron became involved."
"Where we started dating, you mean?"
"Calista, I honestly don't care about what everyone else thinks about me and DJ!" Cam yelped, jumping up from his seat in the dining room.
I shook my head, the frustrated tears forming in my eyes. "I just thought you should know what people have been saying—"
"Stop, Calista! Stop." Cam turned away from me, facing the frost-covered window. "You're being rediculous."
"I'm being rediculous?!" I stormed, standing up and feeling the tears of anger streaming down my face. "You're the one that invites me over to talk, and then demands that I leave immediately! Cam, you are so impossible. All I did was mention Lex, and you just—"
"Alright, I do feel like I've missed something."
"What are you talking about?"
"What exactly happened between Cameron and yourself to cause you two to fight with each other? I thought you got along quite well."
I shrug. "More or less. We were fighting over a lot of things that happened between our meeting, and our getting together."
"Well, perhaps you should explain these things to me before you continue."
I shake my head. "It's too complicated. I can keep going from where I met Cam, or I can skip ahead."
"Well, then, continue from where you met Cameron. But first, I want to hear more about after you met Tristan."