I spent the rest of the school year drifting along, pulled into myself and let a distance grow between me and what friends I did have. They all tried to pull me back and get me back to normal but it never quite worked. There were times where I tried to let them do it but my heart was never really into it. I just didn't know what I wanted to do with myself. I couldn't just sit around hoping for James to call me or come back. It was becoming increasingly clear that that wasn't going to happen. Clearly he didn't feel that it was safe and thanks to Mark I knew he felt like I didn't want him back so away he stayed. Part of me really resented the fact that he was gone and was too afraid to try to deal with the issue. Then again, I could also understand why he didn't want to go to jail...I had no idea if the cops were actually looking for him or not. Shannon said they had still yet to go to the police though for all I knew, he was lying to try to get back on my good side. It was bad that I was even thinking that but my thought process was getting all screwed up.
The rumors at school were swirling like crazy and people were making all sorts of comments to me but I refused to engage them. They also bugged Annabelle about it too but she ramined mum on the subject like I did. I tried to talk her about James but she was withdrawn even from me. Evan had to tell me she broke up with Dave and after that I saw her around even less. She dropped out of school and focused on being a full time mother to Cooper. She had just turned eighteen and had complete access to Joseph and Caroline's money. James was apparently the owner of Joseph's porn enterprise though how he was running it on the run was beyond me.
Towards the end of the year I just stopped going to school and spent my days wandering around, thinking about what it was my life was coming to. I had no idea what I wanted or who I even was-I had no sense of identity for myself. For years I was defined by the victim that Matt and Adam made me to be. And then I had definied myself enitrely based on my relationship with James. It wasn't the way to live at all. Maybe it was easier in its way but it wasn't the way I could keep going on. I needed to find myself so if I ever chose to be in a relationship again I wouldn't be in this sad state of affairs if things didn't work out.
"Phil likes you," Evan told me yet again for the millionth time. We were sitting out on his porch, watching the kids across the street light off firecrackers. It wasn't anywhere near the fourth of July and they were totally going to get in trouble yet that was what we found so entertaining. They were such little brats that they completely deserved whatever it was they got. "He's been dying to be with you this whole time."
I just grunted and took a drink of my Coke. I was very aware of Phil's feelings for me. Problem was, I felt nowhere close to the same way back. I liked him yes but just as a friend. Even if I felt ready to date again I couldn't see myself being with him. Too bad everyone else could.
"He would be good for you I think." Evan just wasn't ready to stop. He meant well I knew that but it still didn't mean I wanted to hear it.
"I think I need to focus on ME first," I said in lieu of flat out saying I didn't ever want to date Phil. As much as I didn't want him I didn't want to come off that harsh. I was too nice like that.
"Yeah…I guess that's a good idea." Evan stretched his legs out before placing his right ankle over his knee and putting his hand over it. "I just thought maybe that um…you know, you needed someone to make this like…easier on you."
I shook my head. "I don't think jumping into another relationship is going to make it any easier. I think I'll just fuck them up with my shit."
"You wouldn't fuck anyone up…"
I just snorted in disbelief at that one. I was a fucked up mess whether anyone else wanted to admit it or not. We were all pretty fucked up in our way. Maybe that was what drew us together in the first place. "I still need to sort myself out before I even think about doing anything else. I know that."
"And how are you going to do that?"
I didn't give him an answer right then. I just shrugged my shoulders and we sat in silence for a couple of hours before going in and going to bed. I didn't go to sleep though. Instead I waited until everyone else was and then took a bag I had packed myself and snuck right out the window. Was it the right way to go? Most likely not but I didn't see how I had much of a choice in the matter. Leaving felt like the absolute best thing for me to do and I knew that everyone would just object if I told them about what I wanted to do. I had no plans on where I was going, not a whole lot of money...logically speaking, this was actually a dumb idea. It just felt right though. The moment I left the house a calm settled over me. When I bought the ticket for the first place I could (which was all the way to Santa Fe for whatever reason) and got on the bus, it felt even more right. The ride itself wasn't the greatest given that some of my fellow passengers looked suspect. But as the bus was leaving the city limits and I stared out at the landscape in front of me, my mouth twitched upwards and I smiled for the first time in ages.
I stepped into the ice cream shop, distracted by deleting text messages on my phone from Mark. He had been bugging me about coming home or just about my whereabouts in general yet I wasn't willing to do either. I didn't necessarily enjoy being all alone but at the same time I had a freedom that I hadn't had back at home. It felt like I could actually breathe. The shadow of Mom and the hell I had gone through growing up didn't hang over me here. While I still felt restless and crazy even after moving out of the house, I felt at peace here. Los Angeles was working for me, which was rather surprising. I always had figured I would hate a place like this.
I was just putting my phone away when I ran into a tiny girl who was messing with her phone as well. I tried to get around her at the last second but it was too late. We collided and her ice cream cone ended up on my shirt and she about went falling to the ground. I caught her at the last second and got her back on her own two feet, not even giving a shit about the mess on my shirt as I stared at her. "Whoa there..."
"Oh god I'm SO sorry!" She was ridiculously tiny compared to me (not even five feet tall easily) and she had a high pitched voice to boot. She had an accent of some sort though I couldn't tell what it was...it was horribly adorable though. She had the most gorgeous blue eyes that I had ever seen and her icy pale skin contrasted beautifully with her raven black hair. Her medium toned eyebrows revealed that it was dyed but I didn't care. She was absolutely gorgeous.
"It's okay," I tried to assure her. "It's fine really I-" I noticed her phone was on the floor so I bent down and picked it up for her. "I don't think it's broken..." I dusted it off. "Here you go-" I paused and smirked, noticing that she wasn't taking her eyes off me for a second. "I don't think I got your name."
"Miranda..." I took one of her hands in mine, which was completely tiny compared to mine. "I'm James." I kissed it, keeping my eyes locked on hers for a long moment before switching my gaze to her ruined ice cream cone. "I think you need a new one."
"Yeah," she agreed. Whatever hurry she had been in was gone now. "I do."
"I'll buy." I snagged some napkins off the nearest table and quickly wiped myself clean.
"You do not HAVE to..."
"I insist..." I led her back up to the counter, tossing the napkins in the trash along the way. "What kind did you have?"
"Birthday Cake Remix," she replied as she daintily pointed up to the menu.
"What a coincidence. I was gonna get the same thing."
She raised her eyebrows in disbelief. "Really?"
"Are you lying to be cute?"
"Of course not." To prove it to her, he ordered two cones of the Birthday Cake Remix and handed one to her and immediately licked his own. "See?" He grinned as she did and he held his arm out for her. "Wanna walk with me Baby Doll?" That name just came out but it immediately fit. She looked like a real life baby doll.
She nodded and he linked his arm with hers, leading her out of the place and already talking a mile a minute. He liked her already...he had known her for two seconds but he was completely smitten.