Begin Again

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After a long year following Alexander's death, Aaryn decides that she wants to be happy again. She wants to put herself back on the market (though, she never was on it much before Alexander) and wants to drive again. Enter in: Noah- a straight shooter who cares for Aaryn at first sight, Max- a cute boy who has had a crush on Aaryn for forever, Abigail- Aaryn's new best friend who wants for her to be nothing but happy, and Aaryn's other new friends who all come together to help Aaryn relearn not only how to drive, but how to accept love into her life.

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1. Chapter One;

Jackson is a pretty small town. Everyone knows pretty much everyone else. Our high school has less than 400 kids in total, so news doesn't even have to be big or juicy for it to spread around. Our teachers who went to bigger schools always tell us stories about how they had graduated having never met most of the kids in their class, and that we're lucky to have such a tight knit community, and even tighter knit Buchanan High (named after the worst President ever. Seriously everyone agrees). Unfortunately- for me, anyways- nearly everyone knows the smallest details about everyone else.

If you threw up on the bus on the 7th grade field trip, you’d forever be the kid who threw up on the 7th grade field trip. If you once dated two people on the football team, you’d be known as the girl who dated two people on the football team. Nothing has to be important for a label to get pasted and stuck to you for the entirety of your high school career.

Everyone knows me as 'The Girl Whose Boyfriend Died'.

I hadn't always been known as that. Two years ago, I would have been the girl who never dates, but then Alexander Willis came around, defined who I was to my peers, and, even in death, he's still defining me. One year ago, today, my boyfriend, Alexander Willis, was hit by a car while trying to return my AP History book to me after his younger, autistic brother, Max, had a meltdown. He was held on life support for 15 days following the accident, before his mother, Mel, had no choice but to pull the plug- he probably wouldn’t have woken up anyways. Not too long after, he was buried in the local cemetery, with a beautiful ceremony financed by my incredibly wealthy parents. Only a few short weeks later, I went to visit Mel and Max, but they had vanished, without so much as a goodbye. They both blamed me, and not only did everyone else know this, but I know it, too. I don’t blame myself. Alexander’s mother had asked me to leave, and I did. Alexander could have returned my book the next day in class or I would have gone back for it after realizing that it had gone missing. But, neither of those things happened, and his family blames me for forgetting my book.

But, I suppose every situation has a silver lining. Sure, the only boy I had ever found remotely interesting had died, but he did teach me a lot about life in the short amount of time that we got to spend together. So, even though he died before making any actual friends, the kids that we had sat with on the first day of school still welcomed me into their group, which is something that has never happened to me. I hadn't ever had any friends but Michael (from my old school) and Alexander. 

A petite, tanned brunette named Abigail has since become my best friend. I had hardly even spoken to her that dreadful day because she had been so engrossed in her own boyfriend, Peter, at lunch. I later learned that this is because he had been away in Australia for the entirety of the summer, and she hadn't seen him in three months. In fact, it's her, and our two other best friends, Piper and Avalon, who sit beside me in the local bakery on the day before school begins.

"Are you doing anything today, Aaryn?" Piper asks me, using her book to fan her fair skin, instead of actually reading it, like the rest of us are. Of course, we all know that she's asking if I'll be commemorating Alexander in any sort of way. 

"Shh," Abigail warns, her eyes never moving from Fahrenheit 451, which I can clearly tell she's put off reading until today. She often puts Piper on tight restrictions of what she is and is not allowed to say. Out of the bunch of us, Piper is by far the most open. She not only spares no details from Avalon, who is pretty much her sister, but from basically the entire world. She's also the only one of us who doesn't really have a filter. Mix that with her default unimpressed mode, and she can seem blunt and uncaring at times. Surprisingly, her sister older sister Blair (who, at age 18 moved out of their parent's house, and Piper will likely follow) is the exact same way, which I can only tell from interviews that I've seen of her on TV. Blair and her three best friends are in a band touring with a punk pop band that Avalon loves and Piper despises.

"Abi, I just was ask-"

"Shh." 

I watch the battle happen between the two, taking a sip of my iced coffee, a summer must have, in my opinion. I never really drank coffee until after Alexander's death, but I had many rough nights and days that I’d found almost a solace in coming to Moira's Bakery and trying all of their coffee flavors. Plus, tea now gives me the undesirable urge to throw up. Today’s flavor is a mixture of hazelnut and vanilla. Never any sugar, always extra creamer. Unless it's s'mores flavored, because that's best with almond milk.

I decide to speak up in defense of Piper. "I'm not doing anything. Just sitting here reading with you guys." In all reality, I hadn't been to visit Alexander's grave for a long time. At first, I’d had a really hard time getting over him. It had seemed so unfair to me that he had been taken from me- just like that, he was gone. Then I stopped being sad and began being angry. When the anger subsided, guilt set in. Nearly any time that I was having a good time, I would stop and think about how much Alexander would have loved whatever it was that I’d been doing, and then my good mood would vanish and it would have no chance at coming back.

"I think we should go visit his grave," Piper continues, obviously not caring about the wrath that Abi will throw her way. "It might give us some peace of mind before the start of the school year."

I watch both Avalon and Abi's heads take sharp turns toward her. While I'm sure that Avalon and Piper have some sort of idea that I haven't been visiting Alexander's grave, Abi is the only person that I've actually told this to. And I don't want my parents to think that I'm having a hard time grieving, so they think that I've been going to his grave quite often. My therapist told me that it's a healthy way to grieve, but not the only way, so at the very least, my therapist doesn't think it's necessary or wrong for me to lie to everyone about it. Well, she didn't say that, but I took it that way because she knows that I'm lying to my parents and she doesn't judge me for it. Well, not aloud, anyways.

Fortunately, I'm saved from watching an all-out war happen right before my eyes because I spot Peter and Liam walk into the bakery. "Hey, girls," Peter waves, as he and Liam awkwardly half jog, half walk toward us. When they get here, Peter bends down and kisses Abi's cheek. 

She squeals slightly as his dark stubble scratches her face. "Eww, Peter. Shave your face." 

I turn my attention toward Liam, who sort of stands around uncomfortably. He and Avalon had spent pretty much the last year in an on-off relationship. Where, truthfully, they're never fully on or off. They've never officially been a couple, but even when they're off, one of us other girls will catch her texting him or Peter will mention it to Abi. "Where's Max?" I ask, noting the lack of the wiry blonde in our presence. 

"Oh, he's showing his cousin around. His mom died not too long ago, I guess. Max's family is his closest family left, so he moved here for his senior year," Liam explains, clearly glad to have something other than Avalon to look at. But, almost immediately, he goes back into a longing trance. Apparently, she had been the one to break off their romance most recently (honestly, I've lost track so many times that I just stopped trying to keep up). I rack my brain and remember Max briefly mentioning that his Aunt had died in some freak accident but I can’t recall him mentioning a cousin. 

"He'll be in AP Lit with us," Avalon mentions, speaking for the first time since we sat down, her eyes never showing any hint of leaving the book. Of the group, she's the one who puts the pro- in procrastinating. While nearly all of us put off our work until the last minute, she's the only one who is actually any bit decent at it. Mostly, we just copy her work. It was actually while I was doing this one night that Avalon became the person who told me to move on from Alexander. While Abi had told her that she was being harsh, Avalon did have a point. I had known Alexander for only four months, and at the time, he had been dead for eight. 

"Oh, so he's a nerd," Liam teases, earning him a smack on the arm from Abi. 

"Well, we better get used to him," Piper says. "Hopefully he's cool. We've been needing another member to the crew." 

Suddenly, everyone gets really quiet. Pages stop turning, Liam stops laughing, and when I look up from my book, everyone is staring at me, giving me the pity look, except for Abi, who is giving out glares that could kill to everyone else. Piper hadn't actually meant anything by this, and I know that, but this is something that people have been doing to me for a year. Any time the subject of death or love or friends, or simply just someone has not seen me in a while, they treat me like I'm a fragile piece of glass, who could break at any second. 

For the first two months, most people avoided talking to me. Honestly, I preferred that to the endless amounts of "I'm sorry’s" and "How are you's" and the worst thing of all, the look of pity that I've gotten ever since people stopped avoiding me. 

Normally when people bring up Alexander, I find myself not feeling anything. A numb sensation washes over me, and I find myself incapable of feeling anything. But, all of a sudden, my chest gets tight and I find that my breaths are getting shorter and it's becoming increasingly hard to breathe. "Shit," I hear Abi mutter. "Out of the way, Liam," she commands, pushing him lightly so that she can slide out of the booth and come around to the side I'm sitting at. "Come on, Aaryn. Stand up." Blindly, with Avalon helping to push me out, I follow her instructions as she begins to move me toward the door. I feel the hot tears begin to fall onto my cheeks, and I begin to choke on saliva, and Abi is pulling back my blonde hair to relieve some of the heat I'm feeling. 

I briefly hear Max's voice, asking, "What's wrong with Aaryn?" as Abi pushes me through the door that he was entering, but all he is told is to grab a paper bag for me, immediately. 

I slide down the wall, head dizzy, eyes blurry, and beginning to have a full-on breakdown in the middle of the street. "Not here," Abi says. "Please let me get you into the car." 

Violently, I shake my head no. I haven't been in any sort of vehicle since Alexander's accident. I've gained a phobia of transportation vehicles. Instead, I opt to walk everywhere. "Shit," she mutters again, sliding down beside me, and placing her gangly arm around my shoulders. "You'll be okay." We sit for only a few seconds before Max is outside, a paper bag in hand, and sitting down beside me, his breath heavy from running so quickly. He holds the bag to my mouth and I finally begin to breathe more evenly, the nauseated sensation passing. My chest is light again, and I finally come back to my senses. 

I see a tall boy with a mop of curly blonde hair standing above us, watching with a concerned look on his face. "Oh, uh, this is my cousin, Noah," Max says, awkwardly. "Noah, this is Abi and Aaryn."

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