Chapter Two - I'd rather be lonely, I'd rather be free.


A/N: So, um, ten months too late, we know, but we have the HSC beginning in like two days and decided that we may as well finish the chapter we've been writing since January. We'll send you our photos from schoolies. :)

Enjoy.

xx Alex & Kelly.


Nate.

Nate really disliked going shopping, much like every other guy on the planet. He'd been lucky growing up these past few years with a father who felt much the same on this matter, but his younger sister – even at the tender age of six – had decided that she enjoyed dragging Nate along to go shopping for absolutely nothing. The last thing Nate wanted to do on his last day of sanity was to go shopping, but Jade had given him those doe eyes that he could never resist and his father had given him that look which meant that he had no choice in the matter and had handed him a list of necessities they needed to make their trip 'perfect'.

With Jade clinging on to his hand, they made their way through the shopping centre, occasionally catching a few looks from teenage girls who walked past them. Nate supposed he was quite good looking. Anyone would correct him, though, and state that with his dark, shaggy black hair and his piercing blue eyes combined with his need to be friends and make everyone happy made him one of the most gorgeous guys, well, ever. Nate was just one of those naturally good-looking people. He didn't spend hours trying to perfect his hair or colour-coordinate his clothes. He just made everything seem so effortless.

He had a lot of friends, too. His easy attitude and his gorgeous smile drew many people to him, and not many people actually saw the hidden parts of Nate – aside from Issy, much to his dismay. He was one of those people who could immediately find something in common with you and made you feel like you'd known him all your life. Nate was a person you'd go to when something was wrong, when you needed a friend, or merely just to have a good time. He accommodated people and through making other people happy, Nate somehow found his own happiness.

Jade, much like her brother, was one of those children who could step into a room and have everyone's attention. She, too, had the piercing blue eyes, but her hair was much lighter which she got from their mother. Jade possessed the same charming smile and it was clear to everyone that she adored Nate to no end and while Nate sought to make everyone else happy, Jade sought to make Nate happy, feeling that someone had to take care of him while he took care of everyone else.

Nate's anxiousness was building about the looming summer trip and he wasn't too happy. He'd put off packing as a method of denial, but he really, really wished he had other options, other plans, but he didn't, and his dad knew that. This holiday could go both ways, though. It could be good for the relationship between Nate and Issy, or it could completely backfire and then they'd end up hating each other more. The latter option seemed more plausible than the prior, though.

"Keep an eye out for beach chairs," Nate told Jade as they walked through Big W.

Jade nodded idly, her big blue eyes scanning their surroundings. Nate felt at peace during that moment, just wandering down the isles of Big W, where the lights beamed down on them and the sounds of music played faintly in the background. The only thing he had troubling him was the looming hell he would have to endure with Issy for the rest of summer. But for now, he could just enjoy his time with Jade.

"Tyler!" Jade cried as they passed the electronics, where Tyler was looking at the Xbox games.

He'd spoken too soon. Nate stiffened, knowing that wherever Tyler went, Issy wasn't too far behind.

"Hi, Tyler," he said with a strained smile.

Tyler looked back with the same painful expression. "Look, I want to tell you that everything is okay and she's not here…but she's here and she's approaching us right now so you can either move away very quickly and very subtly or you can face her." He then looked at Jade with sympathy. "Someone help us."

"What are you, a stalker?" Issy snapped when she came to stand in front of Nate, Tyler and Jade.

"Issy," Nate said in the most genuine voice he could muster. "I'm sorry." Her eyes widened slightly. "I wish I didn't have to be the one to break it to you, but I suppose I must. Not everything revolves around you. I'm sorry, I know it's a hard concept for you to grasp, but I hope that you'll take it into consideration."

"Oh here we go," Tyler muttered in annoyance.

Jade let out a small giggle, but tried to conceal it when Tyler shot her a look of warning.

"I know that must have been hard for you, Nate," Issy said. "Almost as hard as your little boner last year at Jessica's birthday party."

Nate felt his ears begin to burn. Issy would never let him forget that moment and it was always a sensitive matter when people brought it up. Although, Nate couldn't help but feel some sort of satisfaction at the fact that Issy always reverted back to that moment in an argument, merely because she thought she'd win because of it. But, then again, Nate could only tolerate that being flung in his face in small doses, and he most definitely wouldn't be able to remain sane when he was shoved in that house with Issy for the summer.

Jeez, why the hell was he even here? He could easily continue on his way, get the things on their list, buy Jade an ice-cream and go home to enjoy his last day of sanity; but Nate was a guy, and his pride refrained him from doing either of these things, so instead he stood his ground and fought back.

"It's okay that you can't come up with a better comeback," Nate said. "It's easier for my ego."

"It's okay that you're in love with me," Issy replied breezily. "It's good for my ego."

"In your dreams, Issy."

"No, in my nightmares, Nate."

"Well –" Nate was about to reply but Tyler cut him off.

"Shut up!" Tyler snapped. "I have to deal with this all summer, please, please, please just allow Jade and I to have our last day of peace without having to hear you two bickering. Seriously, grow up and move on. Issy, let's just go, okay? I'm gonna buy this game and then we can leave Jade and Nate to finish their shopping."

"This isn't over," Issy said with a glare as she and Tyler started walking towards the cashier.

"Oh, I'm only getting started," Nate replied before they continued walking, keeping an eye out for the beach chairs their father had requested.

Nate was still mulling over the argument with Issy. He could have said so many things and in the end, he sounded like an idiot who needed better comebacks. Sometimes comebacks came to you naturally, but other times it was embarrassing the amount of time it took and the pathetic-ness of said comeback. That was the trouble with being enemies with someone, Nate supposed, you were always on your guard and you always had to have better wit than the other.

The problem with Nate and Issy was that they'd grown up together, so ultimately, all through these years of being best friends and then being enemies, they began to know exactly what the other would say. They constantly needed original comebacks and they constantly had to compete with each other. Most of the time, Issy's words would have absolutely no effect on him whatsoever, and his on her, but other times, when the dig was particularly deep, or he was just in a bad mood, then her words stung.

And it's really embarrassing when Issy's words sting.

"Nate," Jade said quietly once they were on their way home. "Why do you and Issy fight?"

Nate sighed and looked at his sister. "You wouldn't understand, Jade."

"But it's silly," she said with a frown. "You're both so mean to each other and I don't like it. I don't like her being mean to you."

"I know, sweetie," he said calmly. "But you don't have to worry about Issy and I. We're used to it."

Jade pouted a bit. "But –"

"Jade, seriously. I'm flattered you're worried, but you're six. You don't need to worry about this stuff," he said, cutting her off. "I'm fine, and Issy doesn't hurt me, it's all okay. I don't like you worrying about me."

"But someone needs to," Jade said stubbornly.

"Yeah, sweetie, but you don't. You just need to enjoy being a kid while you can," he said.

Nate hated people worrying about him. He was the fixer, he didn't need to be fixed, he didn't need people to worry, and he didn't need pity. He was strong, he'd live; he was a guy, for god's sake. He wasn't some pathetic damsel in distress who needed saving. He was the strong guy who would save everyone else. Some people felt it was because through fixing everyone else, he didn't have to worry about his own problems, others just thought he was doing it out of the kindness of his heart.

Nate never really thought of it like that. He didn't want people to be sad, he didn't want them to be lonely, so he made sure every single person knew that he was there to help them. Ultimately, it was spurred by an error in judgement from a few years ago, which he would deny quite vehemently. Nate liked people, he liked trying to figure out what went on in their head and he liked to analyse them. That was really the only thing he knew about himself: that he liked to understand people. Aside from a few random hobbies, Nate didn't really know much about himself.

He was a guy, his mother had abandoned him, he was now enemies with the person who used to be his world, he was an older brother, and he was an analyst. It all seemed so simple for such a complex person, but Nate had given up focusing on himself years ago and put all of his attention on others, feeling that if everyone around him was happy, then he would be too.

"Putting off packing won't make the holiday disappear, Nathaniel," his father told him in his emotionless tone as Nate and Jade brought in the shopping.

"I never said it did," Nate answered, wishing he could punch his father for getting inside his head.

"Go and pack. Now."

"Thank you, Nathaniel for taking the time out of your day to go and get these supplies. You're a champ," Nate muttered angrily, storming upstairs to his bedroom, Jade not too far behind him.

Packing for males and females were quite different. While girls had to pack a million things in order to make sure they didn't wear the same outfit twice, Nate only had to make sure that he'd have enough clean shirts. Four weeks away, he decided, would constitute in bringing about five shirts, two pairs of jeans, board shorts, and then the usual necessities.

"Pick five colours," he told Jade, who was now bouncing happily on his bed.

"Blue. Green. Yellow. Black. White," she chimed.

Nate pulled out the five shirts and chucked them in the suitcase his father had put in his room. While he began to pull out things and decide whether to bring them or not, Jade had hopped off the bed and was now darting around the room picking things she thought he should bring.

"I think you should bring this shirt, Natey," she said, holding up a dark blue shirt.

"But I've already got a blue shirt in there," he told her gently.

"I want you to bring this one," Jade said, giving him her puppy eyes.

Nate thought whoever taught children that puppy eyes always works should go die in a hole. "But I won't need it," he said in a pathetic attempt of resistance.

Jade grinned, knowing she'd won. "But I want you to bring it, and this photo of us. Oh, and this pair of shorts and this perfume thing, because is smells nice."

"It's called cologne," he corrected her with a sigh, helplessly watching her dump things in his suitcase.

"Jade, you do know that I won't need any of this stuff, right?" he asked her hesitantly.

She fixed him with a serious look. "You need everything I say you do."

He nodded. "Of course I do. Why would I need to pack, when you could just do it for me?"

Jade pulled a book off his bookshelf and examined the front cover before deciding she liked the look of it while Nate went to open his window.

"Ooh!" Jade shrieked as she ran over to the window. "Can you see Issy?"

"I CLAIMED IT FIRST!" someone shouted from the Evans' house, followed by a series of thumps and crashes. Issy and Tyler then stormed into Issy's room, both holding some sort of suitcase.

Nate cleared his throat before calling out, "Is everything okay over there? It sounds a bit like someone is being murdered." Issy and Tyler both turned to look at him. "Hopefully Issy," he muttered under his breath.

Throwing him a glare, Issy stormed up to her window, and before slamming her window shut screamed a variety of colourful words at him, then closed the blinds. Nate wondered that if that suitcase murdered Issy, then their holiday would be cancelled. Either way, he was cheering for Tyler.

Issy.

Issy's carefully planned and well organised list rubbed against her bored fingertips as she walked down yet another isle with her brother Tyler to find him a new boogie board. Her mother, never being one to cope with last minute problems had freaked this morning upon realisation she had one day left to re pack their suitcases so their shirts were parallel with the suitcase corners, written Issy and Tyler this list, and sent them on their way. She paid little attention to the boring written instructions her mother had given her as she usually did, knowing it was just that more fun when she came home with new shoes instead of groceries.

"Which one do you think? Black one? Or Blue?" Her brother asked her holding two boogie boards in his hands. She paused momentarily considering which one she'd rather use all summer.

"The black one, like your men," she replied coolly to the laughter of her brother as he threw it into their trolley.

Staring down at the list written in her mother's elegant script she smiled, feeling as if she had found enough of what her mum wanted plus extra that she wouldn't be too mad. Her brother was walking ahead of her and flicking his hair in the direction of a somewhat pretty girl in the isle with them. She stared up at the tall boy with dark hair and dark eyes with his pink lips pulled up in a crooked smile, and blushed red.

From a completely third party non-incest point of view she could agree that her brother was very attractive, although she'd never admit it to him as he already knew this and took complete advantage of it. Usually if he was bored or just for his and Issy's own entertainment he would do something as simple as say 'your number' when the clerk asked 'would you like anything else with that?' and try not to laugh at their adoring reaction. Mostly he just did it to get things for free. She really did hope that one day he would find a girl and stop his womanising ways, but she had never seen any girl able to capture his attention for that long, apart from Georgie. She was his best friend and he was hers and they were practically inseparable. Although her parents were very overprotective and even if Tyler wanted to he couldn't have her.

"Tyler," Issy called out to her brother, deciding to have her own fun with his constant flirting. She walked quickly, catching up with him and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and stared at him with deep concern. "Don't run off like that I was worried. Now come on, we need to get you some more adult diapers; we don't want you having any more accidents do we?"

Her flesh was burning off her face from the death glares he was giving her, and she just smiled over at the now laughing girl next to them. Tyler couldn't even speak he was so embarrassed from Issy's obvious complete lie, and the girl's reaction. Jumping away from her hand on his shoulder he stormed out of the isle and away from Issy. She just laughed happily to herself and walked back to their trolley and followed after her annoyed little brother.

Turning the corner she nearly screamed in annoyance at the male figure her brother was talking to. Nate was staring over at Issy in horror, clutching the hand of his unfortunately adorable little sister Jade. Turning around quickly Issy contemplated how awkward it would be if she simply turned around and ran, but deciding against it she inhaled once, clutching courage from the air around her and marched forward to meet her enemy.

Nate took in a sharp breath as if bracing himself before Issy exclaimed, "What are you, a stalker?"

She didn't enjoy fighting with Nate, especially in front of his little sister, but there was something about him that whenever she was near him this violent urge to punch him seemed to replace the blood in her body controlling her.

"Issy, I'm sorry." He began and she felt her heart skip a beat at the use of the 's' word. "I wish I didn't have to be the one to break it to you, but I suppose I must. Not everything revolves around you. I'm sorry, I know it's a hard concept for you to grasp, but I hope that you'll take it into consideration."

"Oh here we go." Her brother mumbled next to her.

Issy rolled her eyes and turned them back to stare into the blue of her enemies. Her lips parted as the wires and cogs in her brain roared to life, turning over each other and producing a comeback for her.

"I know that must have been hard for you, Nate," Issy said. "Almost as hard as your little boner last year at Jessica's birthday party."

Internally she could hear the applause and calls of 'OH SNAP' she thought up for herself as she praised her cruel and well timed reply, but externally she kept her expression flawless and cold.

"It's okay that you can't come up with a better comeback," Nate sharply replied, and Issy rolled her eyes immediately. "It's easier for my ego."

"It's okay that you're in love with me," She argued, internally feeling sick at the thought. "It's good for my ego."

"In your dreams, Issy."

"No, in my nightmares, Nate."

"Well –" Nate was about to reply before her brother's voice cut him off.

"Shut up!" Tyler snapped. "I have to deal with this all summer, please, please, please just allow Jade and I to have our last day of peace without having to hear you two bickering. Seriously, grow up and move on. Issy, let's just go, okay? I'm gonna buy this game and then we can leave Jade and Nate to finish their shopping."

Rolling her eyes at his dramatics, she turned to walk away from Nate, before glaring at him once more.

"This isn't over," she spoke, eyes burning holes into his forehead.

"Oh, I'm only getting started," Nate replied as he walked off, and hopefully for Issy's sake, off a cliff.

Tyler ran his fingers through his dark hair while leaning against the rack of magazines watching Nate and Issy's latest mini-drama. He shook his head at his sister who smiled sweetly back at him, feeling sorry for her pathetic failed relationship with her once good friend. Issy continued pulling items out of the trolley and watching the cashier bag their goods before paying. Much to their relief they were soon out of the maze of florescent lights and verbal assaults and back in Issy's car driving swiftly home.

"You know, you are going to have to get along with him Issy," Tyler announced while flicking through radio channels. Issy's knuckles whitened around the steering wheel as she increased her grip. "I don't know exactly what he did to you that was so horrible, and I doubt you'll ever tell me, but you need to suck it up Iz, it's pathetic."

She knew what he did. That's all that mattered. Issy ignored her brother's request, and voice altogether, and continued down the road. She leaned forward, trying to focus her restless thoughts on the surrounding scenery and traffic. If there was one thing she did not want to do it was relive that fight. Hear the same sentences burnt into her memory on repeat.

Pedestrian, cute dog, tree, parked car, unbroken white lines, red traffic light. Everything Issy could see was filling every space of her skull in an effort to block out his words. She concentrated harder. She glared enviously at the skinny and tanned legs of the girl walking her dog, the contrasting dark brown, honey and cream tones of the cute dogs fur and the sunlight reflecting against the parked car. She tried to fixate against every single detail of her environment as if it could force out her memory.

"Seriously Iz, what even happened? I don't get why you won't tell me?" Tyler pushed and she shot him a glare.

"Look, I don't really want to talk about but let's just say he said something so cruel and out of line I never forgave him," she replied coldly and Tyler took his hint to drop the subject.

She pulled the car into a more familiar street and was relived at her chance to escape the awkward conversation. Issy walked quickly into the house carrying groceries in both arms. Her mother sat smiling in their living room, twirling her light brown hair at the TV. Issy knew from her transfixed expression something mother- like Opera was on.

"Hey mum," Issy called out, capturing her mother's attention. "We're home, and we have... most of what you asked for.

She simply nodded and mumbled instructions about packing suitcases. Tyler and Issy walked obediently into their rooms to pack.

Issy's room, like most teenagers, was her sanctuary. Her double bed pressed against the edge of her bedroom, surrounded by hundreds of pictures of her friends. Her laptop lay charging against her familiar wooden desk, filled with the remnants of her HSC exam notes. The desk stood pressed against her light pink walls, which to her 5-year-old self were a good colour choice at the time. Its once glossy finish was worn away from years of pen to paper pressure. On the wall opposite her bed, next to her door was her large wardrobe, filled with all her favourite things.

But Issy still could not look into her room without seeing her once favourite thing. Her large window next to her bed facing Nate's bedroom. She knew that sounded creepy in her mind, but to her younger self it was her secret connection to her best friend. She resisted a smile as she remembered a time where they kept walkie-talkies to talk to each other every night.

Then very quickly shook away the image.

She walked towards her wardrobe and began pulling out her clothes and folding them on her bed. Issy was going away for a while so needed at least two suitcases for her clothes. She folded her six dresses carefully, feeling that she could really use another four, just in case. If there was anything she hated more than the annoying pest next door, it was packing. Issy never felt happy trying to fit her entire wardrobe into a tiny box, and knowing there was something she was bound to forget. It was all too stressful. Why didn't they have a maid or something?

Issy pressed down firmly on the suitcase lid and sighed in relief as it clicked shut. She only had one more to fill until she'd be satisfied, but the second suitcase was missing. She scrambled around her room, throwing clothes around looking desperately for it.

"What are you doing?" Her little brother's voice questioned from her door. She turned around to see him holding her suitcase under his arm and pounced.

"What the hell Tyler! Why did you take my suitcase?" She yanked at its handle, pulling it away from her brother.

"Issy you have one already, what's wrong with you! You don't need that much shit, we're only going for a couple weeks," Tyler replied, pulling hard on the suitcase.

"I do, thank you! You're a boy you don't get it."

"Who are you trying to impress? Nate? There's no one down there to impress Issy!"

"ARE YOU INSANE? GIVE ME THE SUITCASE I CLAIMED IT FIRST!"

Tyler suddenly released his end letting Issy tumble backwards on to her floor, landing with a thud. She screamed in frustration as he pounced for her dropped suitcase. They continued wresting until a voice called out to them from a distance.

"Is everything okay over there? It sounds a bit like someone is being murdered," Nate called out to the siblings and in an instant they were on their feet, smoothing out their hair and clothes and trying to look normal.

"Yeah, don't worry stalker, everything is fine," Issy called out in reply and Tyler rolled his eyes. He didn't care enough to watch their fighting, and left the room without the suitcase.

"Stalker," Nate snapped, standing up and walking over to his window. Issy marched over to hers and leant out to glare at him. "Our bedroom's face each other. I'm not 'stalking' you, you idiot. I wasn't the architect!"

"Like you wouldn't watch me getting changed or something like that you freak!" Issy replied, oozing intelligence.

"Sorry Issy, but I, like I assume all your ex-boyfriends, would rather throw up than look at that!" he snapped back, and she practically snarled at the boy in the window.

In motions that mimicked each other so perfectly it made Tyler double take, Issy and Nate slammed down their bedroom windows, after screaming "I HATE YOU".

And she really did. That was one thing she was absolutely sure of. Issy hated Nate with every inch of skin and bones that made her whole. She hated him.

And that there were 18 hours until their trip started.