Read Hello World Online

Authors: Joanna Sellick

Hello World

 
 

Hello World

By Joanna Sellick

Copyright © Joanna Sellick 2013

 

No part of this eBook may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written
permission from the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any names or characters,
businesses or places, events or incidents, are fictitious. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

CHAPTER
1

 
 

 
The snow continues to fall thick,
covering my hoodie as I stand frozen in place, my hands shoved deep into my
pockets. Shaky breaths puff like smoke in the chill.

My feet
are stone cold but I stay planted where I am, like I do every month. I would
visit more often if the very thought of being here didn’t turn me upside down
and flip me over so fiercely. It feels like being trapped in an open oblivion.

Alex Mason.

The name
stares back at me, burning into every fibre of my being, my skin itching as the
words crawl under it. I close my eyes, icy tears rolling down my frost-covered
cheeks.

That one
name will stick with me until the day I die. My best friend. The only person I have
left in the world. The person who died because of my own stupidity.

The only
movement I make is the involuntary shivering of my body as I stand in the
cemetery. Today is the 8
th
December. Every month since the 8
th
September I have visited here, alone.

Alone
because the one person I would have ever asked to come with me is already
before me, the only sign of his presence, the shiny black gravestone.
Underneath it reads ‘
In loving memory of
our beloved son. You will always be in our hearts
.’

It may
sound insensitive, but the line always makes me smile, ever so slightly. Purely
because Alex never cared much for mourning. He would have much rather preferred

buried alive’
or
‘I’ll be back
’.

Alex
refused to live in the past and if he could see me now he would tease me or
just yell until I snapped out of whatever
this
was. That’s what I want; for him to tease or yell but all my prayers are met
with silence. Cold, stony silence.

But it
wasn’t me who’d had the stone engraved, it had been his parents. His loving
family who I haven’t been able to face since that day. I can’t face anyone.

As for my
own parents, they had died before I can even remember. Sometimes snippets of
their faces or voices appear in my mind, but I know they are fiction, tricks of
my cruel imagination. I was too young for any part of them to have really stuck
with me.

Yet Alex
is a completely different story. I can picture him so perfectly, as if he is
standing right beside me. I can hear his voice, clear as day as he strums over
his old, hand-me-down guitar, trying to persuade me to sing along with him. I
can still feel his warm arms around me, holding me tight and telling me it’s
going to be okay.

Now
though, all I feel is numbness. All I hear is silence. All I can see is a long
stretch of fog that drapes over everything and everyone my eyes fall upon.

My phone
buzzes and I pull myself out of my thoughts, yanking the thing out of my
pocket. Clasping the phone tightly until my knuckles turn white, my stomach
turns at the sight of the all too familiar number. Much like my best friend’s
name, the digits had burned into my mind long ago. Feeling violently sick, I
reluctantly press down hard on the open button and read the newest text.

I know your secret, you stupid little
whore.

The words
have been written down so many times, in so many ways, some more threatening
than others, some almost casually. But all of them mean the same thing. I choke
on a sob and pocket my phone deep inside my jeans, fat tears streaking down my
cheeks now.

My
breathing races and becomes heavy as I try to push down my emotions but I just
end up drowning in them. Gasping for air, I turn on my heels and run out of the
cemetery.

My feet
pound against the pavement, taking me God knows where.

Eventually
I’m forced to stop, the cold air burning my lungs, burning me from the inside
out.

I realise
I’m on a bridge just outside of town. It over looks a small river that runs
through it and is completely abandoned, especially at this time of night. A
measly street lamp is the only thing showing any sort of life here.

I tilt my
head to the side and in a sort of trance I pull myself up onto the unsteady
railing, holding onto the street light next to it. The metal is frosty and
sticks to my skin but my focus isn’t on that, it’s on the water rushing
fiercely below me.

In an odd
way, it’s sort of calming.

I gently
move my foot backwards and forwards against the railing, testing to see if the
rubber of my shoe provides any friction. It doesn’t. My foot slips around
easily but that thought doesn’t encourage me to get down like it should do.

The phone
in my pocket seems to weigh heavily, about as heavily as the message I received
does in my heart.

I know your secret, you stupid little whore
.

I don’t
know how my tormentor knows things. No one knows, because I haven’t told a
soul. No one is
supposed
to know.

For a
moment, I wonder what it would be like to step over the edge, to take one step
and be done with everything, with this torment.

Only ever
on my darkest days have I even toyed with the idea, never have I come this
close before. Yet now I can practically taste death on my lips, and it doesn’t
seem all that bad.

In a past
life, I’ve criticised suicides; labelled them as selfish because of the pain
they leave behind. Yet I have no one to cause pain to, except maybe Charlie.
Would that be selfish? If I left my uncle? Or maybe it would be a blessing to
him. He wouldn’t have to be stuck with a kid in care. He could get a
girlfriend, maybe start a family of his own.

I would go
so quietly no one would notice. I’d just be taken away with the current.

One step.
That’s all it would take.

Yet I
don’t get time to think about anything else because someone suddenly wraps an
arm around my torso and yanks me down, the tips of my fingers stinging as they
are torn away from their icy prison.

I land
harshly on my back, falling against the stranger’s arm and swearing loudly. I
quickly roll over and brush myself down angrily, my cheeks burning crimson red.

‘What the
hell do you think you’re doing?’ the stranger shouts, pulling himself up. ‘You
could have been killed!’

My cheeks
turn even darker as a furious pit in my stomach bubbles. Who the hell is this
guy?

‘Who do
you think you are?’ I snap back. ‘Mind your own damn business, you stupid
son-of-a-bitch.’

‘I just
saved your life and you’re giving me crap?’ The stranger points at himself
disbelieving.

‘Well no
one asked you to play the hero!’ I scream, pulling up my hood and turning my
back on whoever
he
is.

‘Wait,
where are you going?’ the guy calls after me.

‘None of
your damn business!’ I give the stranger one last look of disgust and force
myself to start running again.

I don’t
look back.

CHAPTER 2
 

‘Charlie
tells me you didn’t get home until late last night. Where were you?’

I take a
moment’s pause from scratching at my black, chipped nail varnish to peer up at
my counsellor.

Nadine
Hemsworth sits with her legs folded neatly, not a strand of blonde hair
escaping from the tight bun on top of her head. Her black skirt and blouse
set-up is spotless and there isn’t a trace of a single crease. She raises a
perfectly sculpted eyebrow when I don’t answer the question.

‘I needed
a walk,’ I shrug, going back to my nails. Nadine sighs and jots the notes down
in her book, tapping against the clipboard impatiently.

As far as
counsellors go, I don’t mind Nadine. She’s okay, apart from times like this.
Times when she knows exactly where I was but wants me to state the obvious
anyway, just for her stupid notes. I let out an agitated sigh and stand up,
pulling my hoodie tighter around me and wandering over to the window in her
office.

The view
isn’t the nicest, it just looks over an alleyway, various bins scattered around.
I hate my counsellor’s room. It feels so cold and empty, and the walls are
starting to peel in places. I can’t even count the number of times I have been
tempted to just throw around a few pots of paint.

‘Fine, I
went to visit Alex,’ I say quietly, yet stubbornly.

‘Was
anyone else with you?’ she asks, even though she knows perfectly well that I
have no friends, let alone someone who would come with me to visit a dead guy.

Well no one except some stranger, who just
happened to be milling around last night and stopped me from falling head first
into oblivion.

I frown.
Just exactly what had that boy been doing, wandering around the streets at
three in the morning?

‘Neve,
it’s been months,’ she says softly. ‘Don’t you think its time to start-’

‘Moving
on?’ I snort, whipping around. ‘Make new friends, forget all about him, right?
That’s what you want me to do, just so it makes your life easier, right?’ I
snap.

‘That’s
not what I mean-’

‘But
that’s what you want!’ I scream. ‘Just leave me alone, I’m seventeen for
Christ’s sake. I don’t need you, or Charlie or anyone else on my back. You can
all go to hell!’ I yell before storming out of Nadine’s office.

‘Neve!’ I
hear her shout after me but I pull my headphones up and over my ears and crank
up the volume to drown out the noise around me. I stalk out of the building and
grab my bike before heading off down the busy streets.

People
around here know that I don’t stop for anyone, so although I get the odd swear
word tossed my way, people still make sure a path is cleared for me as I speed
away.

I take the
road into town and down towards Charlie’s house, making sure I avoid the idiots
that go to my school. I’m cruising away when a car suddenly pulls out from one
of the tiny, normally deserted streets and I swerve my bike too heavily to the
left, so it skids and then buckles underneath me.

With a bit
of a scream, I manage to jump off just in time before it falls to the ground
and screeches along the pavement. I curse and spin around to face the idiot who
has just pulled out.

‘Watch
where you’re going!’ The boy who hops out yells, barely sparing me a glance
before crouching down beside the bonnet to inspect his precious car.

I stand
there, blinking in disbelief.

‘What? You
almost- You knocked over my bike! Who drives like that?’

The boy
jumps up and spins around, anger plastered on his face.

‘Maybe if
you didn’t have your music up so loud you’d be able to hear me coming,’ he
argues, pointing to my giant headphones now resting around my neck before
pausing, as if seeing my face for the first time. ‘Hey, it’s you!’

‘What?’ I
ask with confusion.

‘Last
night, you were the girl on the bridge!’ he says, a little too loudly.

My mouth
drops into a little ‘o’ shape and, without thinking, I slap him.

‘How dare
you?’ I hiss, frantically looking around to see if anyone from school is
lurking around in the shadows. I’ve had my fair share of the rumour-mill these
past few months, the last thing I need is something like this popping up.

He touches
his cheek in obvious shock and blinks again.

‘You
slapped me!’

‘Yeah
well… mind your own business,’ I remind him, the situation causing my insides
to flip inside and out. I just need to get out of here.

Oh God, what must he think about me? Do I
just seem like a desperate schoolgirl in need of attention? How long until this
gets around school?

Panicking,
I feel my cheeks redden and I step back until I reach my bike, erratically
reaching down to pull it up. It doesn’t look busted at least.

‘Hey, what
were you doing there anyway?’ he asks, still cradling his red cheek.

‘I dropped
something and wanted to see if I could find it,’ I tell him over my shoulder
before mounting my bike. ‘Just leave me alone, you creep!’ I add before riding
off.

‘This
isn’t over, Red!’ I just manage to hear him say. At first I think he’s
commenting on my blushing cheeks but then I realise that my shoulder length,
coloured hair must stand out like a sore thumb against the dull, grey landscape
and snow on the ground. That must have been how he’d recognised me, since I
hadn’t stayed around long enough last night for him to remember my face.

I’d dyed
my hair from a natural auburn colour to a bright red a few weeks before Alex
had died. He had decided I would be too chicken to touch it, so I proved him
wrong, determining after that it looked pretty damn good after all. I honestly
thought Charlie was having a heart attack the first time I’d emerged from my
room, holding the bottle of dye triumphantly in my hand.

It had
only meant to be a temporary thing, but now I can’t go without it. Getting rid
of its vibrant edge would be scrubbing away yet another piece of Alex and
enough of him was already slipping away as it was.
  

By the
time I reach home my hands are shaking and tears are already staining my cheeks
but I dump my bike outside clumsily anyway and let myself in, heading straight
for the stairs.

‘Neve?’ I
hear Charlie shout from the kitchen. I shout a greeting, but stay intent on
reaching my goal. He pops his head around the doorway. ‘I just wanted to
introduce you to Lisa, we’re going for a movie and then dinner so-’

I slam my
bedroom door shut and fall backwards onto my bed, squinting my eyes shut and
digging my nails into my palms to stop them shaking.

A moment
later I hear a knock on my door.

‘Neve,
honey,’ Charlie says softly through the barrier I put up every night. ‘Are you
okay? I can stay home if you need me to.’

I bite my
lip and shake my head, annoyance at myself overriding the anger of the strange
boy who had not only saved my life, but also tried to run it over too.

‘Don’t be
ridiculous, Charlie,’ I reply through the wood in my lightest voice. ‘Go have
fun, I’ll be fine. You know what I’m like with the counsellor. It’s nothing,
honest.’

I hear
Charlie sigh from the other side of the door, torn over what to do.

‘Go,
Charlie.’ I roll my eyes and turn over onto my stomach, burying my head in my
pillow.

‘Okay.
There’s dinner in the fridge, or money-’

‘-on the
counter for take-out. I’ll call you if I need anything and you’ll be home
before eleven,’ I finish for him, recapping the very words that come out of his
mouth every time he goes out at night and leaves me alone. Charlie sighs again
and I can just imagine him rolling his own eyes.

I wait
until I hear his footsteps fade and the front door click shut before getting up
and plodding into the bathroom. I stand over the sink, gripping the basin so
tightly that my knuckles whiten as I stare at myself in the mirror.

I don’t
deal with depression like most girls in books or on TV do. I don’t take a blade
and slide it across my wrist. I don’t find the sight of the blood fascinating
or want to counteract the emotional pain with physical. Cutting myself won’t keep
me sane, it won’t make the pain go away or give me something else to focus on.

Mostly,
I’m too scared. I’m scared of the physical pain. If I can’t handle the
emotional side of it then I would simply end up drowning in it, unable to claw
my way out of that dark place.

But then
again I don’t even know if what this is, this thing that haunts me and clings
to my bones, even is depression. Maybe its just grief, or could it be that I’m
just lost? Lost to a world I was never meant to be in.

‘You
stupid little girl! You stupid little whore!’ I scream at myself, curling up a
fist and slamming it against the mirror, against myself.

I hate the
person looking so helplessly back at me. I hate her with every core of my
being. But I
am
her. And I hate that
even more.

‘Why did
this have to happen to us, Alex?’ I sob, my fist still clenched but throbbing
slightly as I lean my forehead against the cool glass in defeat. ‘
Why?

My mind
drifts back to Charlie. He’s in his early thirties, but despite this he always
makes sure he’s back by eleven at night. Because of me.

He hadn’t
chosen this life, but he’s my Dad’s younger brother so when he died, Charlie
was handed this toddler who came without a handbook but plenty of baggage
instead.

Not that I
hate Charlie. I love him and I know he’s trying the best he can. He just wasn’t
ready for parenthood at the age of twenty.

I take a
deep breath and unclench my fingers, wiping away my runny make-up and combing
through my messy hair with my fingers. Then I walk back into my room and stuff
my sketchbook and a few pencils from my drawer into my backpack before heading
out again, grabbing my bike.

I bike
everywhere. I don’t trust myself driving and I can’t be bothered to walk.

Heading
back into town, I pull up in front of my favourite coffee shop and head in,
smiling slightly. The local coffee shop always feels like home and sells some
of the best coffee money can buy.

‘Afternoon
Neve,’ the manager Albert calls as I enter, the rich smell of freshly ground
coffee reeling me into an affectionate hug. I force myself to wave cheerily.
‘Some couple tried to take the window seat a few minutes ago but I had a
feeling you would be popping over so I moved them off,’ he winks, speaking in a
low voice so that the couple can’t hear. ‘Can I get you the usual?’

‘Please,’
I smile, dropping my payment on the counter. I like Al. He’s a short, slightly
podgy man with dark black hair and friendly smile. Since I’d become a regular
he tries to make sure the comfy chair by one of the windows towards the back is
always free since it’s my favourite spot. I like it because it’s secluded and I
can draw peacefully without the hustle and bustle of people walking around and
having to squeeze past me.

I curl up
in the chair and crane my neck to the right to look out of the window, watching
people as they go past and wondering what their own story is. I turn to my sketchpad
and start on a new page. Sketching always helps me to calm down.

Creasing
my brows, I picture Alex in my mind; his golden, sandy hair sticking out at odd
angles because he never styled it, his strong jaw line and perfectly blue eyes.
Everything from the smoothness of his cheeks to the shape of his ears or the
way his lips set in that lopsided smile of his.

Then I put
pen to paper and try to draw him onto my page, focusing hard on every detail.
Yet nothing I seem to do gives him justice.

I can draw
anything else in the world, but I can’t draw Alex.

Albert
brings me my drink and after an hour or so of frustration I rip out the page
and scrunch it up.

‘Red?’

I jump at
the sound of that voice and drop my sketchbook. I look up to see
that
boy.

‘Seriously,
stop stalking me,’ I warn, scrambling to pick up my sketchbook and stuffing it
into my backpack.

‘Hey, I’m
not stalking you, I work here,’ he laughs. I stop at his words and then really
take him in. He’s wearing smart, black trousers and blue polo shirt with the
shop’s logo stitched onto it, a black apron around his waist and note pad in
hand.

‘Since
when?’ I ask in disbelief. I’m in here every day and I’ve never seen him around
here before.

‘I just
started. We only just moved into town. My uncle owns this place,’ he shrugs, a
smile playing on his lips.

My mouth
opens and closes again before I shake my head and walk out of the shop. The boy
follows though, jogging to stay in front of me.

‘Wait, I
just wanted to say sorry for shouting at you earlier. It’s just that it was my
Dad’s car and he would kill me if it has the slightest dent. What do you say we
just start over?’ he asks hopefully, green eyes shining, holding out a hand for
me to shake.

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