There’s a fine line between love and hate, so fine that you don’t know you’ve lost balance until it’s too late.
I’m not sure exactly when I lost my
balance, all I know is that he was to blame.
The boy who’d spent most of his life hating me for reasons I never understood.
** ** ** ** ** **
It was no secret that I hated her, but only I knew why.
She was off-limits.
And then our separate worlds collided with one tragedy.
It wasn’t her fault, I knew that, but I wanted her to hurt the way I did, and I needed someone to blame. She was an easy target.
The girl I’d picked on all our lives.
And the woman I barely tolerated.
Until the line between love and hate was no longer visible…
*New Adult Contemporary Romance*
*Due to mature content this book is not suitable for readers younger than 18*
(links to come when available)
I STOOD TO the side, watching it all unfold in the wings. Jason’s voice grew louder, and attracted the attention of the students passing in the hall. Kennedy looked around, her eyes growing frantic, her cheeks reddening in embarrassment. I played
Varsity football with Jason, he was the all-star quarterback, and while I thought the guy was a complete tool, what I disliked most about him was his interest in Kennedy Monroe. He was a senior; she was a sophomore like me, and he could have his pick of any girl in the school – why did it have to be her?
“Jason, please, can we go somewhere private and talk about why you’re freaking out?” Kennedy’s voice was soft, and filled with desperation.
“Is it true?” Asked Jason. He towered over Kennedy’s small frame, and if I hadn’t orchestrated this whole thing I would’ve told him to back the fuck off and leave her alone. But I couldn’t. Because she was the enemy.
For as long as I could remember, my father had warned me about the Monroe family. He told me to stay away from them, that their family had hated ours since our forefathers had founded this town. For a while, I listened, I stayed away, and I allowed my father’s apparent hatred for the Monroe family to become my own. It wasn’t until after we returned from this past summer that it all changed.
Kennedy had changed. In just three short months, she went from a gangly, dorky teenager to a gorgeous, stunning girl who intruded my every thought, both in sleep and consciousness. She’d started school a year earlier, making her younger than the rest of us, and what I thought she lacked in social graces she definitely made up for in smarts. She embodied everything I wanted, but couldn’t have. And that’s what had led me here.
“Is what true? I don’t know what’s gotten in to you, but we can’t do this in front of the entire school.”
Kennedy’s voice brought me back to the present, and I straightened, leaning against my locker on the opposite side of the hallway.
“Open your locker, Kennedy.”
I stiffened when Jason’s tone grew harder, but reminded myself that I had to watch rather than get involved and stop it.
Kennedy fiddled with the combination on her locker, and as soon as it popped open, the photos fell out. They consisted of pictures of Jason, close ups of his face, of him at practice, and I even managed to get a few of him at home in his room. It was all very stalker-ish.
I’d outdone myself, and couldn’t help the wicked grin on my face.
“What the hell?” Jason bellowed, picking up a few of the pictures scattered on the floor. “I can’t believe it, he was right.”
My grin fell slightly, and I hoped to God he didn’t mention my name.
“These aren’t mine,” Kennedy said quickly. “I swear, Jason, they aren’t.” She reached out to grab his arm, but he pulled away.
“I didn’t take these!” Kennedy held a few pictures in her hands, and looked up at Jason as if he’d believe her. I knew he wouldn’t. I’d made sure of it.
“Then why are they in your locker?”
“I-I don’t know,” Kennedy replied.
With a shake of his head, Jason looked between Kennedy and her locker on last time. “Dane was right,” – fuck – “You’re a freak.”
Students laughed, and Kennedy slammed her locker shut before running towards the girls’ bathrooms, tears glistening on her face.
It was a dick move, but that feeling of morbid satisfaction uncurled itself in my stomach. It was just too easy.
I looked to the side, and saw my best friend Reid standing next to me.
Reid sighed. “You are such an asshole.”
I pushed away from my locker, and slipped the strap of my bag over my shoulder before heading towards my next class.
THE SOUND OF laughter echoed behind me, and finally died down when the bathroom door closed. I slipped into a stall, and closed the toilet seat before sitting down and taking a breath. My heart was racing, and my face was hot. Humiliation warmed my skin, and spurred the tears that had started falling down my cheeks. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but Dane had been quiet for the past weeks and I’d assumed his need to embarrass me on a daily basis had finally been satisfied. Apparently he’d been busy planning his latest prank.
I wiped my eyes, and took my cellphone from my bag. We weren’t allowed to keep our phones in our bags, but I always kept it on silent, and on hand in case of emergencies. If anything happened at school, they’d have to call my father, and I had to avoid that at all costs. There was only person I could call when I needed help, only one person I knew who would drop everything to be there for me.
I pulled up Charlie’s number, and waited for him to answer. He was coming home from college for the weekend, and I hoped he was close. I still had four hours of school, but I needed to leavenow. I didn’t want to have to stay and deal with any more crap. I’d had my fill for the day.
My brother’s voice came through the phone, and I relaxed, if only a little. “Hello? Kenny?”
“C-Charlie…” My lip started trembling.
“Are you close?” I asked. “Can you come get me, please?”
“I’m ten minutes out, baby girl, you hang tight.”
My shoulders sagged in relief. “Okay, I’m at school. I’ll meet you in the parking lot next to the sports field.”
I ended the call, and after righting myself in the mirror, I checked the hallway to make sure everyone, including the teachers, were in class. When it was clear, I snuck out, and quietly made my way towards the back exit of the school. No one would see me, and I could cut class for the rest of the day without anyone knowing until the teachers took roll call. By then I’d be gone.
I never cut class, ever, but today I felt like I needed to. I needed to see Charlie, and waiting four more hours wasn’t going to happen. I hadn’t seen him in almost a month, and it had been unbearable without him.
As soon as his blue Ford F250 stopped in the lot, he was out of the door, and had his arms around me before I could say anything.
I hugged him close, and breathed in his familiar scent of leather, and pine. The girls always ate him up, but nothing compared to having him as my big brother. He was all I really had, and had been protecting me for most of my life.
“I’m here,” he breathed into my hair.
I pulled away, and wiped the fresh tears that had slipped down my eyes. “I’ve missed you.”
He gave me his boyish grin, his eyes bright and so alive. His hair, which was a darker shade of blond, had grown, and hung on his forehead. He was such a man now, but I still saw the little boy who always bandaged up my ‘booboo’s, and the teenager who stayed with me the first time I got my period because there was no one else who could do it.
“C’mon,” he tugged my hand, and helped me into his truck. “We can grab some ice-cream, hit our favorite spot, and you can tell me what has you looking like a hot mess.”
I giggled, and felt the weight of the last month drift away as Charlie drove us away from school and into town. He picked us up some ice-cream, and took me to the only spot he knew I loved more than any other place. The lake.
It was a ten-minute drive outside the town limits, and at this time of year it was beautiful. Warm, and sunny, and safe.
I laid out a blanket from Charlie’s truck on the deck, and took a seat, dipping my toes in the water. Charlie sat down next to me, his big arm around my shoulders, and pressed me against his side.
“Okay, kid. Tell me what Dane Winters did this time.”
I looked up at him in surprise.
“Jewel called me,” he explained.
Jewel was Dane’s twin sister, and while our families couldn’t stand each other, Jewel and I had managed to become close. We could never hang out like normal best friends did, but we made it work anyway.
Charlie said her name with reverence, and while I wanted to know what that was about, I didn’t want to pry. He would tell me if he’d wanted me to know, and I left it at that. I had more pressing issues that needed to be cleared up, and the only way I could do that was to lay it all out.
“Spill it,” Charlie said.
And so I did. I told him everything.
That day at the lake was one of my favorite days, and I hadn’t known until much later in my teen life that it would be one of the last memories I’d have with my brother.
THERE WAS SOMETHING truly somber about returning home after being gone for a year and a half. I’d thought about this moment more times in the last week than I’d cared to admit. I wondered if there would be someone here waiting for me, but I knew better than to wish for things like that.
The cobblestone driveway was dark, and the lights that normally illuminated the towering brick face house were off.
As I stopped my Jeep in front of the doors, I tried to squelch the disappointment and replace it with mock relief. I’d expected it, and yet I was naïve enough to hope that maybe, just maybe, it would be different this time.
I inhaled deeply, and tightened my vice grip on my steering wheel, both of which were feeble attempts at gathering enough courage to go inside.
It’s just for one night, I told myself.
I’d be spending one night here before heading off to college tomorrow. I would’ve been happier to spend it in Georgia, but our dorms opened tomorrow and I wouldn’t have made the fifteen-hour drive fast enough.
I climbed out, and made my way to the front doors. I was surprised to find that my key still opened the lock, and the sound echoed loudly through the dark, open space.
My voice traveled, and came back to me. I was alone.
I shut the door, and went about switching more lights on as I made my way from the kitchen to the living room, and then the dining room. After grabbing my small duffel bag from my car, I walked upstairs, ignoring the family photo’s splashed across the walls. They were all used to make outsiders think we were family, and maybe we could have been. But on the night of my high school graduation that had all changed, and I found myself more alone than ever.
My room was still left the same, much to my disbelief. I was sure my stepmother would have snatched up the opportunity to get rid of all my things as soon as my taillights disappeared. For the most part I’d taken the majority of my clothes, and small belongings with me when I moved, but the larger pieces of furniture had to stay. My large bed still stood against the right wall, with my desk, and dresser against the left. The floor still had the same soft carpeting, and the walls were still the light shade of pink I’d chosen when I was thirteen.
It felt strange being back here. I expected it to be harder, but I was oddly detached from it all. The few good memories I did have were all faded, like an aged photograph. I’d moved on. Or at least I’d tried to. There were still a few things that had the ability to set me back, but none of them were as daunting as seeing him again. My mood plummeted slightly when thoughts of him popped into my head uninvited.
My thoughts halted, and I turned at the sound of the voice. When I glanced at the small, elderly woman standing in my doorway I smiled wide, and ran to her.
I enveloped her in a hug and squeezed. I pulled away, and found her blue eyes watery. Her greyed hair was tied up in a bun, and her light blue robe hung off her thin frame. She was a tiny woman, and she’d aged so much since I’d last seen her.
“Kennedy,” she sighed, “it really is you.” Her voice cracked, and I felt my heart constrict. I never considered how my leaving had affected her – if I had, I probably would’ve stayed. I couldn’t have that.
Her hand shook as she cupped my cheek. “Oh sweet girl, you look so grown up. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too,” I replied honestly. It was impossible to lie to her. Lucy had been working for us since before I was born, and lived on the property in a small cottage with her husband, Frank. He’d tended to our gardens, and maintained the grounds before he passed away three years ago. Growing up, Lucy was the only constant source of love and affection I had. Well, her and my brother, Charlie.
“I saw the lights switch on,” said Lucy, walking into my room. “If I’d known you were coming home I would have gotten the house ready.”
“That’s okay, Luce. I’m only here for one night. I have to pack a few more things before I move into my dorm at Brighton tomorrow.”
“Can I make you something to eat? I have some left-over chicken soup, and fresh bread that I can warm up for you? I made too much since it’s just me here.”
“That would be great,” I replied. “I’m just going to shower, and then I’ll be down.”
“I’ll put ‘Dirty Dancing’ on and we can catch up, okay?” Lucy wiped a tear away from her cheek, and then disappeared downstairs.
I let out the breath I’d been holding. Turned out seeing Lucy was all it took for the feelings I’d worked hard to bury to resurface. I’d have to worry about them later though. I had some packing to do.
After a quick shower, I slipped into a black tank top and cotton shorts before heading downstairs to the kitchen. Lucy had just sliced some bread, and took a bowl of her chicken soup out of the microwave.
“Just in time,” she said with a smile. “Sit your butt down, and eat something. You’re too skinny.”
With a chuckle I pulled out a bar chair and sat down. “Still bossy, I see.”
Lucy swatted me with a dishtowel and then took a seat next to me. “I haven’t changed,” she said. “But I can see you have.”
I took a mouthful of soup, diverting my gaze, and groaned. It was delicious.
“We all have to grow up, Luce. I just had to take a different road to get there.”
She fiddled with the dishtowel, wringing it between her aged fingers before looking back at me. The look in her eyes spoke volumes, more than any real words could say. We both knew why I’d changed, and why I’d been forced to grow up faster than most people my age. I was only eighteen, but it felt like I was twice that age.
“I’m sure if your father knew you were coming he would have been here,” said Lucy. I rolled my eyes, and took a bite of bread before replying. “We both know that’s not true. He could barely tolerate being in the same room with me as a child, and I doubt he feels any different now. Where has he taken the wicked stepmonster anyway?”
Lucy pursed her lips, knowing that she couldn’t deny a single word I’d just spoken. She knew better than anyone what my dear ol’ daddy was like when I was younger.
“They’re in Spain. They’re coming back in three weeks, after your father has tended to some business in Dallas.”
I looked at the remainder of my food, and pushed it away, my appetite suddenly gone. Thinking about my father and his trophy wife had that effect on me.
“That was delicious,” I said, squeezing Lucy’s hand. “I’ve missed your food.”
She peered into my bowl, and tsk’ed. “You hardly ate anything. No wonder you’re just skin and bone.”
“I’m not that skinny,” I retorted. “I’ve just lost some weight.”
Lucy narrowed her eyes but said nothing more as she cleaned up. What more could she say? I was in fact thinner after my year in Georgia, but I didn’t worry. Grief affected people in a variety of ways, and with me, it had robbed me of my desire to eat. And sleep.
“You want some ice-cream?” Asked Lucy.
“Depends. Do you still keep my favorite?”
She scoffed. “Of course. Peanut Butter and Fudge.”
“Then yes. We’ll eat that while you swoon over Patrick Swayze.”
I giggled, and made my way to the living room. Lucy joined me on the sofa, and we started chatting about what I’d been up to over the last few months. We skirted around the harder topics, and I was grateful for that. There were some things I wasn’t ready to talk about yet. With anyone.
I’m 21 years old & the ultimate Book Brat 🙂 Coffee & Books are my drugs of choice, neither of which will be kicked to the curb any time soon! I go through a book a day & when I’m not reading I’m working on my debut novel, Beneath Your Beautiful :)I’m a sucker for New Adult Contemporary Romance with a whole lot of sexy thrown in & my number one rule is I won’t read a book unless it has a happy ending! I also have the unhealthiest obsession with the South,and I don’t mean my home country of South Africa – I mean cowboys, pick up trucks, sexy as sin Southern accents, cowboy boots and barefoot bluejean nights! One day, I will live in Alabama & I will have my own Indie publishing house – my philosophy is if your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough 🙂