A/N: Hi guys! Here it is: my second story on Fiction Press! I've been working on this one for a very long time, and I've got all of the chapters mapped out already. There will probably be 2 books in the Secrets of Andover series, but possibly three.
The idea for this story originally came to me in a dream, and as soon as I woke up, I wrote it down and played with it for a while until it turned into something with a good plot. I did a lot of research, had some help from a few great friends, and it turned into this! A lot is written from experience—the relationship Holly has with the boys is similar to my own guy friends, and some of the more immature things the boys do are taken from my own friends… I hope you all enjoy! :D
A few things—I have pictures on my profile of the main characters. Also, below them (right at the bottom I think) I have a link to a playlist I made for the story. Check it out and let me know what you think! I love suggestions.
Here's the link, in case you want to listen while reading (just replace the dots: www[dot]playlist[dot]com/playlist/19188433675
Disclaimer: my Westerly Academy is completely fictional. As for the historical background of some of the characters in this story, I used actual facts for the backbone, but the story of their ancestors is just as fictional as they are.
And one last thing: I return reviews! (Sorry for this ridiculously long note, won't happen again!)
If we knew each other's secrets, what comforts we should find.
-John Churton Collins
I had never been this close to danger. I could feel its bite in the air, taste its sharpness on my tongue, and sense its imminence as I drew breath. Every step I took brought me closer. Half of me wanted to sprint ahead; the other half wanted to stay rooted to where I was forever. I was afraid, so scared that my bones rattled in their sockets. But I wasn't scared for myself—I was scared for him.
Everyone had their secrets, I knew that only too well—Lyla, Jackson, Parker, Seth, and even myself. We all concealed our own secrets—some would be discovered in time, others we would take with us to the grave. They were secrets regarding our families, our pasts, our hopes, and our feelings; secrets that could change the future and throw all of our lives out of balance. And there was one deep and terrifying secret we all shared that had changed my life forever.
Moaning in pain, I rolled over in bed and tried to sit up. My insides were on fire and my head was spinning. Where was I? The strange room swam before my eyes. It felt like I was underwater.
I had a massive, throbbing headache, and it wouldn't go away. I flopped back onto the pillows just as soon as I had tried to get up. Light streamed through an open window across the room, blinding me. A stabbing pain shot through every part of my body. Cursing, I pulled the covers over my head to block out that piercing light.
I didn't know what time it was. I couldn't remember how I'd gotten to the strange room or why I was in so much pain. With my head safely under the covers, I tried to recall what exactly had happened. I didn't get very far, though; all my recent memories came in short fragments with no connections whatsoever. As if things weren't bad enough, now my memory was shot. Fuck.
The only memories that seemed to make sense were at the beginning, when I first arrived at Westerly Academy.
It was a bright sunny day; the air was ripe with the end of summer. I had spent all morning in the back seat of a stuffy cab that smelled of stale cigarette smoke and alpine air freshener, squished against a window with a heavy bag on my lap. The drive from my family's house in Boston to Westerly Academy on the outskirts of Andover had taken at least a few hours, and by the time we pulled up at the school, every body part from my butt down was asleep. Grateful for the end of the ride and some clean air, I stepped out and stretched my arms, paid the driver, and hauled my bags onto the curb.
Looking around me, I smiled. Westerly reminded me of an Ivy League college more than anything—the campus had probably been built around the same time. Huge dark brick buildings stood tall, with arched ceilings and frosted glass windows, encircling the bright green grounds. Students dotted the grassy areas between and around the buildings-- boys throwing footballs, girls basking in the sun, and groups of students chattering and enjoying the last day of summer.
On either side of me, students were still arriving, bags in hand. A dark family pulled up next to me in their BMW, jabbering in French. The father unloaded all the bags and hauled them to the curb, while the two daughters stood on the sidewalk texting, blissfully unaware of his struggles. I glared at them. At least they had their parents there to help. Mine were probably in Africa by now.
As I passed by, I let my largest suitcase knock into theirs.
"Hey!" The closest daughter looked up from her cell phone to give me a dirty look. "Watch it!"
I shrugged and kept walking.
I looked down at the piece of paper I had received in the mail, which instructed me to check in at the front office to get my room assignment. Not wanting to bother with my luggage, I left my bags on the curb and hurried into the front building.
"Are you new, dear?" the little old woman behind the front desk asked as I approached. I nodded.
"Yes. My name's Holly Peyton," I said, and she rummaged through a manila envelope until she found my room key. I quickly hooked it onto my key ring.
"Okay, hon, it looks like you're in Greenwood dorm. You're going to go back out the front doors, turn to your left, go across the quad, past the library, and turn left again," the secretary said slowly, pointing the directions with her fingers. She saw my slightly puzzled expression. "There's a sign, don't worry."
I thanked her and went to go get my bags from the curb. I had no idea how I was going to bring them all across campus, but I did my best to arrange them so that the smaller bags were strapped to the larger ones, and I had a grip on every loose handle. I made it as far as the edge of the grassy quad before I had to drop my bags and reorganize them. As I knelt down to pick them up, a football thudded to the ground right by my feet. I picked that up instead.
"This yours?" I asked the boy who had come running after it. He took the ball without answering and brushed his sandy hair back into a neat part. I stood up with my bags, teetering slightly under the weight of my load.
"You need help with that?" He laughed. I probably looked ridiculous. I did need the help though, and I nodded gratefully. "I'm Henry, by the way." One of Henry's friends, a lanky redhead with messy hair, came running over to see what was taking him so long. "And that's Tucker," Henry said, pointing to the redhead.
"I'm Holly." I smiled, and Henry and I set off, with Tucker tagging along beside us.
"Where to?" asked Henry regally after we passed the quad.
"What grade are you in?" Tucker asked.
"I'll be a junior."
'Same." He grinned and waved to a short-black haired boy and his family.
Looking around, I could tell that just the look and feel of Westerly was completely different from my previous school. All my life, I had attended an all-girls private school in Boston. My parents said it was "the best of the best"—McAvoy Preparatory School for Girls, "Educating girls to become fine women of society." Yeah, right. It was more like "Educating girls to become fine bitches of society."
I hated that school and got myself into trouble quite a lot, for the sole reason that I despised it so much. If it hadn't been for my parents' well-known status, I would probably have been kicked out long ago. But nobody would dare get on the bad side of the rich-and-famous Peytons, not even McAvoy's headmaster.
Last year, though, to my great delight, my parents announced that they would be traveling the world, doing who knows what, for who knows how long, and decided to send me off to boarding school for junior year. To Westerly, of course, the most prestigious school in all of New England. I was happy enough to go, if only to escape the constant nagging of my parents. I was ready to take things into my own hands, thank you very much.
Finally, Henry, Tucker, and I arrived at the large brick building marked "Greenwood Dorm" and stepped inside. The interior had a shadowy feel; I couldn't quite place my finger on it. The hallways were lit by dim yellow sconces, which resembled the feel of candles or lanterns.
"Here it is," said Henry, and we hauled my bags up the stone stairwell, finally making it up to the second floor all in one piece.
A few students were lounging on leather couches in what looked like a common area, and Tucker went over to join them.
"I'll be fine now," I told Henry. "Thanks a lot! I owe you one."
"See you around!" He waved, then sat down with Tucker and a few other girls. I turned to drag my bags down the dim hallway. Just then, a stuck-up looking girl, blondest of the blondes with a navy ribbon in her hair, stepped out of a room to my right and watched me struggle with my bags.
"Who're you?" she asked, not offering to help. She had this expression like she smelled something unpleasant, and it seemed to be plastered onto her face.
"Holly Peyton," I answered quickly, straightening up to my full height. I was taller than she was.
The girl nodded. "I'm Bryn," she said, "Bryn DuBose. Which room are you in?" I gave her my number, and a strange look passed over her face—it was something between recognition, jealousy, and pity. I had yet to see her smile.
"What?" I asked bluntly.
"Your roommate, Lyla Bishop, she's a little—ah well, you'll see for yourself," prompted Bryn, a slow smirk spreading over her face, clearly waiting for me to ask more. I rolled my eyes. Could she be any less subtle?
"What d'you mean?"
"Well, let's just say she thinks she's really special. Better than the rest of us. Too good to hang out, too good to even have a roommate!" Bryn saw my puzzled expression and laughed, rather loudly. "This is the first time she's got one. And I hear she's pretty pissed about it, too."
Bryn slammed her door behind her, looked me up and down, and turned her back on me and marched down the hall. What the fuck? I didn't ask to be judged, thank you very much.
It was true that I applied to Westerly very late, which was probably why they placed me with this girl who was "too good" for a roommate. I took a deep breath as I continued to my room, the last one at the end of the hall. It was going to take a lot of self-control not to hurt that girl.
I paused outside the door for a second, listening. She was definitely in there. It was stupid to be nervous to meet this girl—I'd only heard about her from one person, who didn't seem like such a reliable source. Subconsciously, I rubbed the tattoo on my lower back. A pair of wings to set me free. Getting it had been a mistake, but it was too late for regrets now.
I glanced back over my shoulder, down the hall to the common area. Everyone was huddled around a low table, listening intently to Bryn. She looked up for a second, staring straight into my eyes, and I knew she was talking about me. And I could tell it wasn't nice. Clenching my fists to stay calm, I shoved the door open and pushed all ten of my bags into the little room. My roommate looked up from her desk and a giant bag of chips, and her eyes widened.
"You're Holly?" she asked, not smiling, with a plainly curious look on her face as I stood in the doorway.
"Yeah," I answered tensely. "And you're Lyla?" I asked, without missing a beat. We stared at each other for a second, and then she smiled. Our little power-play was over.
"One and only," she said, and resumed devouring her chips. Something about Lyla was different, but I couldn't sense what. I stole a glance at her as she put her feet up on the desk. She was tall and thin with long blonde hair-- nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe it was her attitude. She certainly wasn't as bitchy as Bryn had described her to be.
I began unpacking my bags and moved them over to my bed. The room was almost symmetrical. Two low beds lined either wall, and we each had a dark mahogany desk with a matching wardrobe and shelf. The only difference was that Lyla's side of the room had another arched, frosted window, which didn't offer much more light to the already dimly-lit room. Every building in this whole freaking school was dark! Not that I minded, though. It reminded me of a Harry Potter movie set. I wouldn't be surprised if there were fire torches in the main buildings; they'd sure fit right in.
Lyla's side of the room looked pretty lived-in; I guessed she had been here for a few days already this semester. With her back towards me, it looked like she didn't want to talk. I didn't want to bother her, not on my first day, at least, so I set to the task of unpacking every bag.
A little while later, Lyla's phone rang. She picked it up, exclaiming, "Parker!" A wide smile spread across her face.
I could only hear her side of the conversation, but I listened anyway.
"No, I haven't seen him. He's okay, right?…Good. Yeah, I'm fine. I'm a bit tired, too, but not that bad anymore…Parker, it's over. Just don't think about it…Sure, where?...What about…her?...Are you sure? What did Seth and Jackson say?...You're sure about this?...Good for me?" She laughed. "Okay, see you then." And she hung up.
I was about to ask about the phone call when she turned around in her chair. "Holly, you're not doing anything tonight, right?"
I laughed. I'd only been here an hour and didn't really know anyone except her—how could I have plans? "No, I don't have plans," I said shortly.
"Good," said Lyla, checking her phone again. "My friends and I are going out to dinner in about an hour. You should come."
Hearing that, I sped up the process of unpacking and eventually finished, all my belongings in the mahogany drawers, my uniforms hung up neatly in the dresser, and my suitcases piled on top.
I moved over to the single arched window, leaned on the windowsill, and stared outside. I couldn't really see through the frosted glass, but I could tell it was getting dark. My distorted reflection stared back at me, with the same chest-length brown hair, dark eyes, slight bump on the bridge of her nose, and curious smile. I watched the sun begin to dip below the horizon, and Lyla checked her watch.
"We should go," she murmured, and I followed her out of the building. I remembered reading in the school's information package that students were permitted to go off campus, but I knew we weren't allowed to keep cars on campus, so I couldn't imagine how we were going to get anywhere. That was the school's philosophy, too.
"Right, so how are we getting there?" I asked Lyla once we neared the front driveway.
"Oh, you'll see." She laughed, and we walked side by side down the road and two more blocks to a small parking garage. "I keep my car here." She chuckled. "I'm surprised nobody else's figured this out yet." She shrugged. "We're technically not breaking any rules."
We climbed into her bright blue Audi SUV and sped along the road toward the restaurant. "Alright, so let me tell you about the guys," Lyla began, her eyes on the road. "They're all players, all three of 'em, so don't be surprised…"
I rolled my eyes. "And they know it too, right?"
"Naturally. They're sort of notorious here…" She raised her voice to a mocking tone as she said their names. "Jackson Stonewell, Parker Murray, and Seth Price. You'd think they were gods or something, with all the attention they get." She rolled her eyes.
I nodded, smirking, and we pulled into the parking lot of a small bar, with "The Lucky Star Tavern" spelled out in neon-outlined letters. Music boomed from inside, and Lyla and I hurried in. The dimly lit bar was filled with chatter, mainly from younger people like ourselves. Passing the pool tables and small dance floor, Lyla led me over to a small booth, already crowded with empty cups and plates. Seth, Jackson, and Parker were lounging at the table, just as Lyla had described them.
"Hey guys." Lyla smiled, her demeanor changing a little. Her eyes darted between all three of them, almost as if she were gauging their reactions. "This is Holly."
Then she turned to me. "And that's Parker," Lyla said, pointing out the one in the middle—with untidy blond hair falling into his eyes, one earring, and a beat-up leather jacket. He looked like he belonged in this place more than any of the others did.
"That's Seth," she said, pointing to the boy next to him—quieter, with dark hair and an easygoing smile, wearing a tight-fitting black sweater.
"And that's Jackson." Lyla pointed to the last boy, with messy brown hair—lighter than mine, and a playful expression gracing his face. I had to admit, all three of them were pretty good-looking. I could see why they were the school players.
Lyla looked at the empty plates disapprovingly. "You ate already?" she asked.
"We were hungry," Seth said sheepishly, with a ridiculous grin on his face.
Lyla pulled out a chair for me and sat down eagerly. I could tell she felt more comfortable here with all her friends than she did up in the dorm.
"Hey, babe," Parker said, leaning across the table after I sat down. "So, where're you from?" He flashed a small smile.
"Don't even think about it, Parker!" reproached Lyla, and everyone laughed.
"Boston." I shrugged, answering his question as if I hadn't realized what he had really been getting at, and we all launched into conversation. I gathered that the four had been at Westerly since freshman year and that they had known each other beforehand.
After a minute or so, a waiter about our age came by. He and Lyla seemed to be friendly, and the two chatted for a few minutes. Parker and Seth glanced at each other. I heard Lyla mention something about a steak. Boy, was I hungry. I paused my conversation with Jackson and turned to my other side.
"What's that?" I asked Lyla.
"Steaks," she answered, her eyes still on that waiter, who turned to me. My stomach growled.
"Oh, I'll have one, too," I told him.
"Well…" Lyla shrugged. "I guess I'll just have a steak also."
"God, five steaks!" The waiter shook his head.
"Yeah, and….?" I heard Parker mutter.
Lyla looked around the table. The boys all looked pretty hungry even though they had already eaten. Boys. "And two plates of fries," she added.
"Alright, I'll be back with those," the waiter told Lyla and turned away.
Jackson, with even more charm than the waiter, with his glowing green eyes and playful smile, resumed grilling me about McAvoy. I usually hated talking about it, but there was something fun in telling him long stories about getting myself in and out of trouble on a daily basis. Maybe it was just because I got to look into those liquid emerald eyes.
The dinner wasn't nearly as awkward as I had expected. The boys let me in on their jokes, and I felt much happier than I had in ages. Parker never apologized for his greeting, but I could tell that acting like he did was just part of his nature. Seth was a bit quieter, but still had a great sense of humor when it came to making fun of the other two boys. And Jackson—Lyla said he was the most notorious out of the three for his… conquests, and I believed it. His smile was contagious, complete with dimples and a rolling laugh, and I couldn't help but grin every time he even looked over my way.
We talked and joked until the food came—Jackson, Parker, and Seth devoured their second set of main courses. How much could these boys eat?
I could feel Jackson's warm gaze on me, but whenever I glanced over at him, he was looking somewhere else, his brow furrowed in thought. Something had changed, and he wasn't engaged in our conversation like he had been before.
"Lyla, you want a drink?" asked Seth smoothly as he was getting up, and Parker immediately stood up next to him, giving Seth a look out of the corner of his eye. This seemed to make Lyla laugh nervously, shaking her head no, but I could sense that there was something else going on. I would have to watch them closely if I was going to figure it out. The three boys got up, and suddenly, Lyla and I were sitting alone with their empty plates.
"What the fuck? Where'd they go?" I asked, slightly annoyed that they had left us at the table just as we had been getting along so well.
"Probably to go play pool or something." Lyla shrugged, and I moved to get up. "Where are you going?" she asked.
"To go play with them!" Duh. I strode over to the other side of the restaurant—I wasn't about to sit around and wait for their game to be over.
"Now this I gotta see!" murmured Lyla from behind me.
"Hey, watcha doing?" I asked, moving around the pool table to where the three guys were standing. At the same time, Parker whistled, and I looked over to where the three of them were staring. At a nearby pool table stood a girl not much older than myself, her chest literally spilling out of her shirt.
"What do you say?" asked Parker, putting down a ten-dollar bill. "I say she's a C!" His eyes roamed over the girl as if she were a piece of meat even juicer than the steak he'd just devoured.
Jackson slapped down another ten-dollar bill, that playful, confident look back on his face. "I say D!"
Seth slapped down a twenty-dollar bill and said confidently, yet seriously, "Double-D," which made Jackson burst out into laughter. His laugh was infectious, and soon all of us were laughing.
"You guys can't be serious…" I started, but Seth just looked at me with a smile, and nodded.
"Jackson, it's your turn…" said Parker in a low voice. "Go get 'er!" He slapped Jackson on the shoulder. I felt a slight pang as I saw him walk up to the girl, give her that seductive smile, begin flirting, and disappear around the corner.
"Give him twenty minutes, he'll be back," said Seth reassuringly, noticing my expression. As if that was reassuring.
"Come on," I said gruffly, grabbing a pool cue and dismissing all rogue thoughts from my head. "Let's play."
A/N: So, how'd you like it? I want to know what you think! Constructive criticism is always welcome! If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them! Thanks so much. I'll review back : )