A/N: Just like The Growl of the Lions, I'm not sure if I am going to continue this. I might. I really like Charlotte's charecter and she deserves a story of her own. So what I guess I'm saying is, if you want more, let me know, and I'll let that decide the fate of this story. Reviews make my day, so do it up. lol. But, thanks for reading(:
It was warm that day, a nice 80 degrees with a hint of a breeze. To any one else, it would have been a beautiful day, but to Charlotte, it wasn't. She sat on her bed staring out of her window at the street below her. Children rode their bikes, dog walkers walked their dogs, and joggers enjoyed the sunshine. She wasn't ready for the warm weather, not in the slightest.
She pulled her sleeves up over her wrists, hooking her thumbs inside the black fabric. Linking her arms around her legs, she rested her head on her knees. Her black hair fell into her eyes, hiding the brilliant shade of blue that seemed to glow when the sun hit just the right angle.
Charlotte whipped her hair out of her eyes as she stood up. She had to go, even if she knew she'd be miserable the entire time. "Come over on Saturday, I'm having a pool party!" Her friend Julie had grinned. "Please? Promise me you'll be there." And, even though she was sure it would be her undoing, Charlotte had promised.
Her sister knocked three times on her bedroom door, opening it just after the third knock to see if she was ready. One disdaining look from her fashion-conscious older sister and Charlotte knew she would not be allowed to leave the house in her black shirt and jeans. No, before Kylie would drive her to Julie's house, she had to don 'something acceptable for a pool party, not this unattractive look.' Charlotte cursed her black Jeep for picking this week to stop working. She watched as her sister pulled out a bikini top and the matching shorts from her closet. Charlotte grimaced. She'd rather die than be seen in something so revealing.
Kylie left, mumbling something about how if Charlotte was too stupid to know anything about clothes, how did she even have friends? Charlotte pretended not to hear her. It just wasn't worth the battle.
She pulled off her shirt and bra, quickly slipping the bikini top on but even more quickly pulling on a lightweight, white sweatshirt. She zipped it up to her collarbone, making sure it was the one that had the holes for her thumbs to slide through. It would help stop her from pushing up the sleeves if she got hot. She slipped into the shorts but pulled her jeans back on over them. She would meet Kylie's demands, but in her own way.
The sound of Charlotte's pink flip flops as she walked informed Kylie of her presence long before she had reached the bottom of the stairs. Kylie crossed her arms, looking over her sister with a disapproving eye. Charlotte unzipped the sweatshirt partway to reveal that she was, indeed, wearing the bikini top. Kylie groaned but grabbed her car keys. "God, Char, you're such an idiot. How do you ever expect to get a boyfriend if you keep wearing those big, ugly sweatshirts? It's not a sin to show a little skin, you know. You're so lame. How are we related?" Kylie continued her rant the entire drive, making sure her sister knew exactly what a failure she was.
Charlotte jumped out of the car before her sister could take the time to turn around. She muttered her thanks to Kylie and was almost inside the house before her sister called her back. "You forgot this," she said, throwing Charlotte's cell phone at her. "Call me when its time to pick up your sorry butt."
Charlotte pushed the phone back into her pocket. She wasn't sure which would be worse- going inside to this pool party or going back home to Kylie.
There were the whispers, again. They always started when she walked into the room, especially now. She stood out like a Clydesdale in an Arabian horserace. Girls were clad in skimpy string bikinis, and boys showed off their muscles - or lack there of. All of them gave her mocking looks. They bounced giant inflatable beach balls around, both inside and outside. Some danced to the beat of the music that was playing. But at some point or another, eyes always wandered towards her. She could only imagine what they were saying.
Charlotte, as always, avoided eye contact with any of them. She poured herself a soda and walked onto the back porch, hoping to find Julie.
The sun beat down upon her back, as if it was asking her to remove her sweatshirt and jeans. She hugged her arms to her waist, trying to ignore the sounds of the splashing and laughter.
"Hey, Jules." She hugged her friend, plastering a smile on her face. "Cool party."
"Yeah. I'm really happy. A lot of people showed up. I'm really glad you're here though." She squeezed Charlotte's hand. Whispering, she asked, "Will you at least tie your hair back? You have the most beautiful eyes."
One more compromise couldn't hurt. "Sure." Julie pulled a hair tie, still damp from the pool, off of her wrist and gave it to Charlotte. "Come with me. We've got a little set up in the shade way back in the yard."
Charlotte followed Julie past the pool and into the back where only Julie's boyfriend waited. He nodded his hello to her and wrapped his arm around Julie as she sat next to him. He smiled at her and gently kissed her forehead . Charlotte felt a pang in her chest. She knew better than to hope for someone to love her, not after what she'd been through, but it still hurt to be reminded.
"I'll be right back," Zack smiled as he squeezed her shoulders. He walked away, high fiving a few of the guys he passed as he walked into the house.
"What's up?" Julie asked Charlotte. She shrugged. "Oh, that."
"Excuse me." Charlotte said, "I think it's more than just an 'oh, that.'"
She thought back to the stares, the whispers, not just from today, but from the past year and a half, ever since the Incident had occurred. Julie had been the only one that had stayed her friend. Charlotte's heart had never fully healed.
Julie pulled Charlotte closer to her. "You are beautiful, exactly the way you are. I don't care what happened in your past and I don't care what happened to you. I mean, I do, but you know what I mean. The monster is behind bars now and you are free. Every thing you are, every part of you is perfect, do you understand?"
Charlotte nodded, but wasn't convinced. She whispered that she just couldn't do it. She told her friend how the stares and rumors were hard enough to handle now, and if they saw…
Julie smiled sadly. "You deserve better than this."
"It was stolen from me."
Zack returned, two sodas in hand and plopped back down next to Julie. "I would have got you one, Charlotte, but-"
She raised her glass. "I'm good, thanks."
"Hey, freak." Charlotte heard a voice behind her. She shrank down in her seat.
"Get out of here, John." Zack growled. "Leave us alone."
John, one of those boys who lacked muscle, laughed. "Why do you two hang out with her? She's such a loser. She wont even let a guy look at her. Is that why you wear all those clothes, Charlotte? You don't want guys to be with you?"
"John. I want you to leave, right now." Julie's face flushed in anger. "Get off my property."
"Come on buddy." Zack grabbed John and pushed him away from the group as Julie pulled Charlotte inside.
John put up a fight, but Zack was stronger. He dodged the blows John was throwing and shoved him out of the party.
Julie was red with rage. "I'm sorry, so sorry." she said to Charlotte. "He wasn't even invited. He just barged in."
"Whatever." Charlotte snapped. "It doesn't matter. This isn't the first time."
"It does matter. What are you talking about? "
"I'll just deal, like I always do."
"He does this to you all the time?"
"Can we just drop it? Please." Charlotte desperately wished someone would turn on the air conditioning. She was sweating more than usual. It was hot . . . So hot. She looked out the window longingly, towards the water and smiling people splashing each other. Swimming had been one of her favorite things before the Incident. Now, she lived in fear of the water, unless she was alone.
Julie's determined glare met Charlotte's defeated blue eyes as Charlotte pulled the hair tie from her black locks. "I need you to do something for me. But, only if you want to." Charlotte was afraid of what she would hear next. "it's for you, really. After everyone leaves, come swimming with me."
She paused before responding, shaking with confused emotion. "You know there can be no one else, right? Not even Zack." Julie nodded, promising it would be just her and Charlotte.
"I know how much you miss swimming. I know how much you loved it. I hate him for ruining it for you. But, you can do this, I know you can."
Charlotte bit her lip. "Maybe." But, she knew she'd give in.
She remained in Julie's room for an hour. Only after she was sure John was gone did she return to the party. The heat was intense. It had gone up to 90. She waited, and people began to trickle away. The party ended around midnight.
The night air was cool and still, but the water was still warm from the sun. Julie left Charlotte alone for a few minutes so she could comfortably ease herself into the water. Charlotte stood, alone, on the deck of the pool, watching the stars reflect in the chlorinated water. She saw her reflection looking back at her, complete with a worried expression on her face. She reached up to unzip the sweatshirt, but stilled her hand. She took a deep breath before pulling the zipper down. The sound seemed much louder than it actually was. Her shirt slipped off of her shoulders and onto the deck beside her. The air was beautifully refreshing to her pale skin. She smiled. It felt so good. She kicked off her flip flops and then her jeans, standing beside the water in only her bikini top and bikini shorts. She refused to look at her reflection. If she did, she knew she would hide beneath her clothes yet again. She wanted to forget, forget the scars that laced her wrists, hips, and legs were there, forget the reason they were there, forget her sister had ever been in a relationship with that monster, forget that Kylie had been stupid enough to leave her alone with him when they were swimming. She dipped her toe in, then removed it just ask quickly. The memories came flooding back.
She squeezed her eyes shut, blocking them out. She gathered all of her strength, the moonlight bathing her skin in its light, nearly ready to jump into the water. She felt beautiful for the first time in a year and a half. She could feel her confidence trickling back into her body. She pulled herself down, ready to jump, ready to feel so free, until she heard the laughter.
"Scarred! She's a scarred freak! No wonder she's always wearing sweatshirts and jeans. Oh my god, look at her legs would you? What the heck is wrong with her?" John laughed to the group around him. They hurled insults and jokes in her direction as she gathered her clothes, ready to run into the house and away from their evil laughter. Hot tears streamed down her face.
"Just go kill yourself, Charlotte! It's clear no one wants you anyway." A girl laughed as she hung onto John's arm.
"What the hell are you doing here? Go away!" Julie screamed as she flew out of the house. "Get off my property I swear I'm calling the police I'm going to kill you, you stupid ANIMAL!" she said in a rush followed by streams of curses. The group only laughed more.
"This was so much better than what you had planned, John." One of the boys snorted. "Freak girl exposed!"
Julie turned to Charlotte, but Charlotte was long gone. She had taken off for home at a run, ready to trade the pain of torment for the blade of her knife.