2nd APRIL 2015: EDIT
Sorry guys, this isn't another update. I just found a serious error in one of my chapters where I worded something in a way which is going to mess the storyline up in the next couple of upcoming chapters. I hope no one notices what I changed, and I'm again sorry if anyone thought this was an update. I'll try to write a new chapter ASAP though. :)
*PLEASE READ. I KNOW AUTHOR NOTES CAN BE ANNOYING, BUT THIS IS IMPORTANT*
Throughout the past couple of months, I have been working on rewriting every chapter of Voices so far. I would strongly advise re-reading this story because of this. Whilst I haven't made any major-major changes, there are still small things that may make the later story confusing if you don't read the rewritten parts. The rewrite also has a deeper insight on the character's relationships and development, so it's not as two-dimensional… I hope.
Much love, Sunni.
. . .
"I know what I saw, Lucas," I said stubbornly, briefly taking the phone away from my ear so I could glare at it.
"- sure they weren't just bears?" I managed to catch Lucas's disbelief when I returned the phone to my ear.
"I know the difference between a bear and a wolf," I scoffed, rolling my desk chair over to the window so I could look out at the woods. After a suspicious glance toward the trees, I yanked the blinds closed.
The first thing I had done when I'd gotten home was to barricade myself in my room and try to convince myself I hadn't gone completely crazy. When that hadn't worked, I'd rung Lucas hoping that he could be the one that would reassure me that I was still sane. He hadn't been living up to expectations so far.
"I'm just saying that if it all happened as fast as you said it did, there may be a chance you overlooked something," Lucas tried to explain reasonably.
I scoffed as my eyes flickered toward my desk that was currently pushed in front of my door. I wasn't taking any chances.
"I'll admit I did overlook some things," I admitted. "Like the colours of their fur, or which one had the sharpest teeth. But I sure as hell didn't mix up what type of animal they were. Just how stupid do you think I am?"
"I'm just saying wolves aren't that common around here," Lucas replied defensively. "I mean, sure, they're around and everything, but there's certainly more bears in the woods than there are wolves... especially if they were as big as you claim they were." Lucas was still trying to be logical, which I hated. "Which is why you may have gotten confusedand misidentified them."
"For the last time, it was not a bear. And obviously they're making up for their lesser numbers by morphing together to create giant super wolves." I informed him testily.
This isn't an episode of Teen Wolf, Aria.
"Call me back when you're going to take me seriously." I say, ready to hang up on Lucas despite his protests. "Oh, and I really have to talk to you soon… about stuff." I finished, pressing the end call button. Even though I didn't want to believe what Jared had said about Lucas, I knew I had to talk to him soon to sort everything out.
I jetted back to the window on the chair and slowly opened the blinds again. I was preparing to take another quick look, but dropped my phone when I saw a large, dark shape at the edge of the forest.
They were following me.
Oh yeah, totally. It's the Grim.
I was going to die.
You're so overdramatic.
I wasn't prepared for this.
Lexi wasn't either.
I bit my lip and squeezed my eyes closed. I had completely forgotten about my realisation whilst I was talking to Lucas. Now that I had remembered, the pain was back, along with the feeling that I couldn't breathe.
Sure, maybe it was a bear. But seeing those giant wolves was just too coincidental, and I had always had a sick feeling that the story hadn't added up.
And now they're after you, too.
Well, if I was going to be hunted down and killed by giant wolves, I had to make my last few days worthwhile.
Great idea. Where do we start?
. . .
Maybe it hadn't been a good idea for my last act on Earth to be stealing a number of bottles from my father's liquor cabinet, which I was slowly getting through whilst sitting in a bubble bath. Even though each sip burned my throat a little more than the last and I had to fight the urge to gag every time, I kept going. I was trying to escape what I saw and my sudden realisations concerning Lexi, and so far, it was working pretty well.
I guess it would be fair to say I was just a little bit tipsy.
'Just a little'. I wouldn't be surprised if you woke up with alcohol poisoning tomorrow.
I poured in even more bubble mix into the already soapy water, scooping up a handful of foam bubbles and putting them on my face in an attempt to make a beard. I giggled the whole time, unable to help myself.
You look like Santa Claus's long lost cousin.
When someone began knocking obnoxiously on the door, I tried to ignore it. I was having too much fun savouring my final moments before the wolf-monsters found me to care about if someone needed to use the bathroom or not.
However, when the knocking didn't stop and turned more urgent, I knew, even in my drunken state, that I couldn't ignore it any longer.
"Who's there?" I shouted out, slamming my hand down on the bath water in annoyance. I watched as it flooded the edge of the tub and spilled onto the floor.
The knocking finally ceased.
"Jared," the voice replied, sounding equally irritated.
"Jared who?" I sang back, eagerly awaiting the punch line.
"Uh, Jared, your brother?"
"That's a horrible joke," I complained, flicking bubbles across the bathroom as I waved my arms in annoyance. "It wasn't even funny."
Jared started to speak but I became distracted by my reflection in the glass screen of the shower. I giggled when I saw my bubble beard had started to disappear into a moustache. I tried to stroke it thoughtfully, but it disintegrated.
I was pouting and trying to reform my make-shift beard when Jared called through the door again.
"Uh, Aria? Can you please open the door? We're worried about you."
Indeed, his voice sure sounded concerned. But I was more concerned about the rapid disappearing foam from the bath. I reached for the bubble mix again.
"I'm a bit busy at the moment," I snapped back, emptying the rest of the bubble mix into the tub. I heard Jared start to complain loudly through the door but I was too focused on my task.
It was only after the liquid came out that I realised I had accidently grabbed the bottle of Bacardi instead of the bubble mix.
"Oh noooo," I said slowly, staring down at the bath water. After fully registering what had happened, I jumped out of the tub, but my reflexes definitely weren't up to scratch. I slipped over on the bath water I had splashed onto the floor earlier and ended up twisted in the bath mat.
"Damn," I mumbled, my face squished against the cool tiles. "I was not prepared for that."
I tuned back into the yelling outside the door to hear Jared calling out my name and another voice threatening to break down the door if I didn't open it.
"Excuse me, no door breaking will be necessary," I called back, pulling myself up and grabbing a towel. After wrapping it carelessly around me and almost slipping in the puddle again, I made it to the door and swung it open.
Jared and Paul's mouth fell open as I stood in the doorway, swaying slightly. My hair was dripping wet, the towel was twisted around me, and I still had some remaining bubble foam on my face.
Don't forget your breath smells stronger than a liquor store, too.
"Are you drunk?" Jared asked in disbelief. Paul stood silently behind him, his mouth still wide open.
"Pfft, no," I brushed off, holding on to the doorframe for balance. "I'm merely drinking socially, son."
"There's no one else here, Aria." Jared was looking at me like I was stupid.
"I'm here. My loofah is here. The shampoo. Heck, even the conditioner made an appearance for a second. Now you guys are here too. It's an official party," I grinned at him, as I tried to focus on keeping myself upright.
Jared ran a hand down his face, looking like he wanted to be anywhere than here. "Great," he mumbled. "You're absolutely wasted."
"Nuh-uh. You are so wrong, son." I shook my head at him, trying to communicate my soberness.
He frowned. "Stop calling me that."
"Sonny." I taunted, giggling.
"Look, Aria, we need to talk to you," Jared said, finally letting his hand fall.
"But I don't wanna talk to you," I glared, poking his chest with my finger.
This unfortunately, caused my towel to fall slightly. Luckily, Jared immediately caught it and pulled it back in place before anything disastrous could happen.
"Aria," he scowled, looking extremely uncomfortable as he held my towel up and glared over his shoulder in Paul's direction. "Don't look, you dick," he directed to Paul, who was indeed looking and took a full three mississippi's to finally avert his eyes - I counted.
"Well, I don't want to talk to you," I repeated, narrowing my eyes at him. "Just this morning you called me a crazy cat lady. What was that about, huh? I don't even like cats. I don't even like cats!" My voice rose to a screech and both the boys winced.
"Inside voice, please," Jared requested, talking like he would with Marley.
"Sorry," I apologised. "I don't even like cats." I said again, my voice now a whisper.
"Oh my God, just get dressed," Jared snapped, directing me from the bathroom toward my bedroom, Paul trailing behind the whole time like a lost puppy.
He proceeded to push me into the room and slam the door closed. Unfortunately, due to a combination of his strong force and my lack of coordination, I ended up on the floor again.
I slowly got dressed, not caring that my sweater was inside out and the socks I had picked out didn't match. Outside the door, I could hear Jared and Paul arguing in harsh tones.
Opening the door, I was met with Paul's face and Jared marching toward the bathroom.
"Where's he going?" I asked, unintentionally falling sideways into the doorframe.
Paul grabbed my arm to steady me. "He's cleaning up the bathroom and going to refill your dad's liquor cabinet before your parents get home. I doubt they would like to see a trashed bathroom with a floating Bacardi bottle in the bathtub," he said sarcastically.
I smiled, leaning into Paul's warmth. "Jared's a good brother. The best, even. I love him, you know? Hey, Jared! I love you! You are the best brother ever and ever!" I called out the last bit, so I knew he could hear.
"Thanks, Aria." Jared shouted back sarcastically. "Love you, too."
"Is it just me or did that sound ungrateful?" I asked Paul, frowning. "Why I oughta go show that boy whose boss." I started to march toward the bathroom, but Paul held tight to my arm.
"I think you need to lie down," he said firmly.
I was about to protest, but found myself yawning. "Maybe you're right," I told him mid-yawn. "I shouldn't have put on the socks. The socks always make me tired." I glared down at my feet.
Paul chuckled, pushing me toward my bed and taking a seat at my desk. "Get some rest, Aria."
"You get some rest," I say back pathetically, closing my eyes. Paul chuckled again.
I don't know how long I lay there, drifting in and out of sleep, but the next time I was coherent, I softly called out Paul's name.
To my surprise, he was still there. Sitting at my desk, attempting to solve my Rubiks Cube, not unlike what Lucas had been doing earlier.
"You promised me you'd tell me everything," I reminded Paul softly, now that I was able to think more clearly.
"And you promised me you'd stay in the house." Paul snapped, glaring down at the Rubiks Cube. "That was the only thing I asked of you, and you still ignored me."
I winced at his harsh tone. "I didn't technically promise. And I didn't leave by myself. My mom picked me up," I lied.
He just stared at me, one eyebrow raised.
"Fine." I snapped. "I went through the forest, ok? It was like a five second walk. I was fine. No danger at all. Nothing happened."
That was another lie. I wasn't sure why I didn't want to tell Paul about what I saw. Maybe it was because after telling Lucas and hearing his reaction, I didn't want Paul to have a similar one and think I was being stupid or hallucinating things.
Paul groaned. "Aria, you can't keep doing this to me. I don't know how much more I can take."
His voice sounded so sad that I immediately felt guilty, even though I could tell it wasn't his intent to do so.
"What am I doing to you, Paul? You're the one who hides things, even when you say you won't. Why don't you tell me anything? Are we not friends?" I asked him sadly, all my anger and fight gone.
He looked at me for a long moment before his gaze fell back to the Cube. "I'm scared of what you'll think of me if I tell you."
"You've already told me other things. Like why you were such an asshole to me, even though your reasons were so, so stupid. This couldn't possibly be worse than that."
"It is, though. This is so much worse, Aria," he whispered quietly. "And I know you won't forgive me."
I shrugged. "I've already forgiven you for what you used to do to me, and why you did it. If I forgave you for that, I'm sure if I can get over anything."
"Why are you even forgiving me for that so quickly?" Paul demanded. "You were so mad at me, back at my house."
I had forgiven him because suddenly nothing mattered anymore. All my problems seemed small after what I had witnessed, what I had realised happened to Lexi. Maybe it was only a small detail - that the bear had actually been a wolf - but I still felt like it changed everything. Like I had somehow been robbed by not knowing what had really happened to my friend.
Paul was still watching me carefully, and I stared right back into his light brown eyes.
People always say they've changed, and most of the time they're lying. The true test is through their actions, not their words.
Hadn't Paul proved over the past months that he had changed? That he hadn't just talked the talk, but he had walked as well? He had ditched all his old friends for our new oddball group, choosing to laugh with us instead of at someone. He ignores all the girls who attempt to flirt with him in the school hallway, just so he can hold my backpack for me when I change my books in my locker between different periods. He had dropped everything to come to my door when I called him in a moment of panic, despite me not revealing any details. These weren't things the 'Old Paul' would do.
"I was angry," I finally say. "Still am, a bit. But I think I've only just properly realised how much can change, people included. And it's not always a gradual change, sometimes it will happen overnight." Paul's lip quirked up like he was in on an inside joke, but I still continued. "Of course I won't ever condone what you did. What you did do was horrible and inexcusable really, but…" I trailed off, shrugging.
"So you really have forgiven me?" He asked again, a wide smile lighting up his face.
I couldn't help but smile back. "Yes, Paul, I have. But you still have to tell me what's going on, right now."
His smile faded and he squirmed for a moment. I eyed him closely; almost daring him to see what would happen if he said no.
"I'll tell you tomorrow," he finally resolved.
I frowned at him. "Paul," I say, my voice coming out as a warning.
He sighed. "I won't back out or anything. I promised you I'd tell you, and I will. But you're tired, Aria, and you're still not completely sober. When I tell you, I need you to have an open mind or this won't work."
"Why is it always tomorrow with you?" I mumbled before clearing my throat. "Fine. Tomorrow, then. You better be here at eight in the morning tomorrow because I am not waiting any longer than that. And you better be telling me everything, ok?"
"Eight A.M? Seriously?" Paul complained loudly, but his protests ceased when he saw the look I gave him. "Fine. Eight in the morning it is."
He crossed over to my door and looked back at me, his hand hovering over the light switch. "Night, Aria," he said softly, flicking off the light.
"Goodnight, Paul," I whispered back, turning over and grinning to myself.
Is anyone else feeling some déjà vu, here?
I had been drifting in and out of sleep when my phone chimed twice a few hours later. Blinking against the harsh light, I squinted at the screen to see a text from Lucas.
What did you mean early by 'having to talk'? Not breaking up with me, are you? - Lucas
That was a joke, by the way. But seriously. What's up? You got me worried here, A. -Lucas
Yup, definitely déjà vu.
I was seriously regretting my decision to meet Paul at eight A.M.
I groaned as I collapsed into one of the kitchen chairs, my head throbbing slightly. Jared had woken me only minutes before to inform me that I had overslept and Paul was already waiting patiently in the kitchen.
We sat silently across from each other until he broke the silence.
"So, let me get this straight. You were the one who picked such an outrageously early time for us to talk, and you weren't even awake in time?"
"Shut up," I grumbled, flicking a piece of hair out of my eyes while he snorted in amusement.
"I just find it funny. You should consider yourself special, though. I don't even get up this early on my birthday or anything," he grinned, causing my stomach to flip.
"When is your birthday?" I ask curiously. "I will make sure you get up at early. No one should waste a second on their eighteenth birthday."
Paul ran a hand through his hair. "Uh, it was actually a few weeks ago."
"Excuse me, what?" I said loudly, staring at him. "Paul! Why wouldn't you tell me?"
He looked taken back at how upset I was. "I just didn't think it was a big deal."
"You turned eighteen!" I cried out. "Of course it's a big deal."
Paul shrugged. "I didn't do much. I went out with Mom to a place in Forks the day before and we had dinner. I spent the day with the guys at Sam's and Emily's, and we had a barbeque. It was fine."
"Paul, you should have told me," I complained. "I would have gotten you a present. I would have come to the barbeque."
I was genuinely upset, but Paul just looked uncomfortable. I couldn't help but wonder if he hadn't told me because he didn't want me involved. The thought upset me more than it should have.
"Do you ever think that we know nothing about each other?" I say, sighing. "I didn't even know that about you, and that was such a big thing."
Paul looked at me for a long time, a frown across his face. He looked hurt and almost offended that I had said such a thing... and that's when the words came pouring out, almost like he couldn't stop them.
"I know that you have exactly nine freckles spread across your nose, and your eyes are the colour of the sky after a thunderstorm in the afternoon. Your hair is different each day, because it can never decide whether it's straight or curly or somewhere in between. You hate the beach but love the rain. You crave ice cream and can't make anything besides nachos and sandwiches, but you're fine with that.
You dislike Gym class, but hate Chemistry even more. You're family irritates you sometimes, but you always forgive them because you'd be lost without them. You root for the underdogs, all the God damn time. You want to travel more than anything in the world because you feel like you'll be stuck here forever if you don't. I know you think best when you're in the most unlikely places, like lying on your bedroom floor. And I know that you have conversations with yourself in your head and you think you're crazy because of that," his eyes carefully assessed mine, "and maybe you are, but I still like that about you. You could do anything, and I'd still like you."
My mouth had gradually dropped open during the time he spoke, and I found myself left speechless. I had no idea Paul could have deciphered me so well.
"Now tell me, does that sound like someone who knows nothing about you?" He finished, his eyes staring into mine.
"Well, Paul," I laughed, trying to ease the nervous tension I was feeling. "If you are expecting me to make a huge speech like that, you are seriously mistaken. Thanks for making me look like the bad friend here."
Paul frowned again, and my heart began beating faster. After a long moment, he let out a small smile.
"Well, Aria," he began, mimicking me, "if you are expecting that I'm going to let you off that easily, you are seriously mistaken. By the end of the day, you will be making a 'huge speech' and will have redeemed yourself as a good friend."
"What's that supposed to mean?" I demanded.
"It means we are going somewhere - right now - to learn more about each other," Paul said simply, already walking toward the door.
"Paul!" I protested. "The whole point of you coming over was so we can talk to each other about what you've been hiding, and now you're trying to distract me so you can put this off again!"
Paul sighed, turning around. "I will tell you, Aria. I promised you I would, and I don't break my promises... at least not to you." My stomach flipped at his words. "I just thought that if we're gonna talk, we might as well go somewhere private and get to know each other some more, since you don't seem to think we do."
"That sounds like a date," I said hesitantly. "This will not be a date. This will be two friends hanging out and trying to find out more about each other."
That's basically the definition of a date, stupid.
"Of course, not a date. Got it." Paul agreed, although he was smiling.
I frowned, getting the feeling he was laughing at me. "In fact, to make this even more non date-like - since this isn't one, as we both have agreed - we should avoid eating anything together or going to date-like places."
"I totally agree." Paul nodded, the smirk still in place. "Where would you suggest, Aria?"
Pursing my lips, I tried to think. Not the diner, obviously. Nearly 100% of dates happened there. Not the beach, since that was very date-like and I hated First Beach with a passion. Not a park, that was just picnic cliché. Where else could we go?
Nowhere. The area of an elephant is probably larger than La Push.
"School." I finally decided, happy with my decision.
"School?" Paul spluttered, his smug look gone. "It's a Sunday, you know."
I shrugged. "There is a field, you know. With bleachers." Cold, metal bleachers. Cold, metal bleachers that were so uncomfortable that I'd rather cliff-dive a hundred times than spend more than a minute on them.
But this was good. Because this made it even more non date-like.
"If you say so," Paul said slowly.
"It'll be great," I told him, trying to reassure myself as well as him.
"Uh-huh. Well, if you say so," he replied, looking doubtful.
"I say so," I said firmly.
There is no way that this can go that will avoid ending in a disaster, mark my words.
. . .
"This is great, isn't it?" I tried to force a grin as I attempted to get into a semi-comfortable position.
"Yeah, great," Paul repeated sarcastically, glancing at me from the corner of his eye.
The bleachers were freezing; the cold was seeping straight through my clothes and I resisted the urge to start shivering. They were also wet from the constant rain, which had made sitting down very unappealing, even though I was wearing an oversized waterproof jacket and rain boots. The view was also nothing great; just a dull, muddy field with rusted posts.
But this was good. Very non date-like. Even though we had both mutually agreed that this wasn't a date anyway.
"I brought chocolate," Paul broke the silence, pulling out a large bag of M&Ms from one of those pockets in his shorts that seemed to have an infinity capacity. As a girl, I knew nothing of this luxury. I couldn't even fit a hair clip into the pockets of my clothes.
Damn manufacturing companies.
"I thought we decided that we weren't eating," I protested, although my eyes had zeroed in on the packet in his hand. I had noticed both Paul and I shared a weakness for everything sugary and unhealthy, and I now realised why Paul had insisted stopping for gas on the way here, even though it was out of our way.
The traitor was buying chocolate-y goodness that he was planning on hogging all to himself!
"You decided that we weren't going to eat together because of your weird resistance to making this similar to a date in any way. So I bought my own food which I would eat alone. Does this meet your criteria for your non-date vendetta, or are we not even allowed to breathe the same air now?" He mocked, his sarcasm coming out harsher than usual.
I scowled and tore my eyes away from the food, angry and upset at his words. Maybe I was going over the top, but I was only doing what was best for us in the long run. Paul and I were friends - I didn't want to complicate anything.
"By the way," Paul started abruptly again. I reluctantly looked over at him whilst he munched aggressively on chocolate. "There's no point in you trying to avoid making this date-like because we technically have already been on one."
What?" I spluttered in shock, my anger gone. I racked my brain, but I couldn't find any memory of what he was talking about. "Please remind of this so-call date then."
"Ok, let me lay it out for you. Piggy back. Ice cream. Banter." He smirked at me. "Ringing any bells?"
"We were ditching school!" I protested, glaring at him. "So not a date." I couldn't help but grin, glad that we were back to our normal banter rather than the angry tension that had been there a few seconds before.
"I'm curious to what you consider to be a date then. I hope it's not something totally extravagant because that's just setting the bar ridiculously high for when I plan our 'first date'." Paul laughed, causing me to splutter in anger.
"We have not been on date. This is not a date. We will not be going on a date in the future. Clear?" I informed him, folding my arms.
"Crystal. But just so you know, when it does happen, I will be telling you 'I told you so', because that's the kind of person I am." Chuckling, he threw his head back and tossed an M&M in the air, catching it in his mouth. I glared at him, angry at his obnoxious self-confidence.
Once he was done, he pulled out a small packet of heart shape candy. My resolve immediately melted. I loved heart shaped candy.
I tried to stay strong, but I cracked after a few seconds.
"Can I have some?" I requested, my hand already edging toward the packet.
"Nope," Paul replied, moving the bag out of my reach.
I blinked, surprised. Paul usually always agreed with me. "Why not?"
"Because," Paul said, "when I was seven years old, I made a promise to never give you heart-shaped candy again."
"What did I ever do to seven-year-old you?" I joked, before the rest of his sentence registers. "Wait, what do you mean 'again'?"
"In second grade," he began dramatically, settling back as if he was going to tell a great story. "I saved up my pocket money for weeks, cleaning the bathroom and sweeping the floors and washing the dishes. I even did extra chores, just so I could buy the perfect gift for the girl I liked. It took me half an hour to pick out the perfect packet at the store, with all the right messages on the candies, and I only finally picked one because my mom threatened to leave without me if I took any longer. I left you heart shaped candies on Valentine's Day that year."
I guessed as much.
My forehead furrowed as I tried to recall Valentine's Day that year. Jared had given me sherbets. I remember receiving candy bracelets from Marcus Zirrini and Lorraine Anderson. A secret admirer left some gumballs in my backpack. Various classmates slipped handmade cards on my desk. Nathan Smith had gone as far to buy a fancy hallmark card. Even Kylie James gifted me snack-sized Mars Bars; we were on good terms, back then. But I couldn't remember receiving any heart shape candy, and my memory had always been strangely excellent at recalling pointless things such as this.
"I didn't get any heart shaped candies that day."
Paul nodded slowly, and his jaw clenches as he looks out onto the field. "That's because you gave them to Jared."
"Huh?" I said, bewildered.
Paul scoffed but I shook my head. "I honestly did not get the candies, Paul. Those are my favourite, why would I give them away?"
Paul just shrugged. "How am I supposed to know? All I know is that one minute I left them in your bag, and the next you're giving them to Jared and he's eating the lot."
I frowned in confusion as I tried to recall the event. "No, I gave Jared the heart-shaped candies my mom left in my bag as my gift for him. She always packed each other's gifts in our bags so we could give them to each other in the class exchange. He gave me sherbets and I gave him the heart shape candies."
Paul just shook his head. "They were the ones I bought you, Aria. I would know, I stood in that shop for 30 minutes trying to pick the perfect packet, remember?"
"But that doesn't make sense," I protested. "That means that my mom would have left me without to give to Jared."
When Paul just shrugged, I cast my mind back to the mental list of what I had gotten that day. Candy bracelets from Marcus and Lorraine. Cards, including a hallmark one. Mars bars from Kylie James. Gumballs from the secret admirer. The gumballs… which had been in my schoolbag.
"Paul!" I slapped his shoulder excitedly as his eyes shot to mine. "I think I know what happened! There were gumballs in my bag. I thought they were from a secret admirer, but they must have been Jared's gift. But there was a mix up and I gave Jared your gift to me instead of the gumballs. It all makes sense!"
I watched him mull it over for a few moments. "So you didn't give them away on purpose?" He slowly asked.
I lightly slapped his shoulder again. "No, you idiot. Didn't you listen? It was all a giant mix up, an accident. Oh, God," I mumbled, burying my head in my hands. "Gumballs were Jared's favourite treat, too. And I had wondered why Jared's gift was heart shape candy when that was my favourite."
Paul gently pulled my hands away from my face. "So you would have taken them? If you hadn't mixed them up?" He questioned, looking in my eyes intently.
I blinked. "Of course. I wouldn't pass up heart shape candy for anything." I grinned crookedly at him. "Did it have a tag on it?"
Paul bowed his head sheepishly. "No. I wanted to see if you liked them first before I told you they were from me. I didn't want to disappoint you if you didn't like them."
I laughed and couldn't help but let out a small 'aw' noise. "Paul!" I cooed, pinching his cheek. "You were so cute back then. All worried about impressing me and everything.
"What do you mean 'back then'?" He said indignantly, before his voice softened. "And who said I ever stopped trying to impress you?"
I felt my cheeks grown warm at his confession. Paul had been making more and more remarks similar to this one lately, and I wasn't sure if it was because he was finally getting comfortable around me or if he was insinuating something else. Despite whichever reason it was, my stomach still flipped every time.
"So you're still not going to give me a candy?" I say teasingly, changing the subject. "Even after we solved the decade-old mystery and found I wasn't to blame?"
Paul knew what I was doing but I was glad that he chose to let it go and shrug instead. "Hey, I made a promise to myself. What kind of man am I if I break a promise to 7-year-old Paul, especially after the heartbreak he went through?"
"You'd be a man who understands that times and people change, and misunderstanding happen, and that giving a starving girl a piece of her favourite candy is just a nice thing to do." I inform him, grinning
"Times and people change, hey?" Paul repeated, looking at me carefully.
I rolled my eyes. "Didn't we sort this out last night, Paul? I forgive you. And now," I begin meaningfully, "it's time to sort something else out."
Paul groaned, running his hand through his hair. "I was hoping to avoid this for a bit longer."
I knew it!
"I knew it!" I shrieked. "I knew you were trying to put this off. But not this time, pal."
Paul just groaned as I waited patiently. After a few minutes, he began to speak.
"Okay, I guess I'll just start at the beginning. I saw Lexi before she died," he said quietly. "Remember when we were working on the project, and I left early?"
I nodded. There was nothing about that day that I couldn't forget.
"Well," he gulped, looking down. "I saw her, just before it happened. And we had an argument. Lexi and I never got along, you know that. Things were said, horrible things. Some from her, some from me. I called her a bitch, among other things. I shouldn't have. If I had known what was going to happen, then I would have never said those things. I wouldn't have even talked to her at all. Aria, I -"
"Paul, stop." I said suddenly. "I think I know where this is going."
"No, Aria, I don't think you do-"
"Yes, I do," I interrupted again. "I think I can piece together what you're trying to say. You were the last one who spoke and saw Lexi before she died. You're feeling guilty that not only were your last words and actions toward her horrible, but also because they were the last words she ever heard before she died."
"Aria, I really don't -"
"Don't worry, Paul. I get it," I interrupted once more. "You guys never liked each other. You both could say mean things. I'm not upset with you, and I'm not angry with you. You just said some things that weren't the nicest, but that didn't kill her. You didn't make her go walking in those woods. You didn't make that... bear" I said through gritted teeth "attack her. It wasn't your fault. You shouldn't feel guilty.
I can understand why you think I'd be angry, Paul," I continued softly. "But I get it. I do. None of us knew that it was going to happen. Nobody knew that the last things they said or did to her would be the last. And if we could go back, of course we would say or do something different."
My eyebrows furrowed. "But how does this fit in with what happened at the diner that day? When you and Jacob freaked out?"
Paul shifted uncomfortably. "You know how Sam, uh, found Lexi that day? Well, uh, he was on a patrol for our security. I know Jared and I sort of led you to believe we just do general security, but we also do some stuff in the woods. You know, to see if there's anything or anyone dangerous in there."
His tone made me wonder if he had seen the wolves, too. What else could they be watching out for in the forest? I wanted to ask, but I didn't know how to bring it up.
"We've been trained to watch out for certain, uh, things," he continued. "Jake and I saw something that day which we believe was dangerous. We had to call Sam to let him know and gather everyone together to sort it out. That's why I had to get you home so fast, so I could get back to help out."
My lips pursed. "This all isn't too bad, though. Why were you scared of telling me?"
Paul shrugged, his eyes down. "I didn't want you to think any different of me."
"Of course I wouldn't, Paul," I said kindly. "Is that it? That's all you were afraid of telling me?"
He exhaled shakily, silent for a long time. "Yeah," he said softly. "That was it."
"Well, now you don't need to be so worried anymore. It's not even a problem." I shivered at the wind blew through my hair. "This was a bit of a stupid idea, wasn't it? I mean, the bleachers and the football field and just the school. What was I even thinking, hey?"
I grinned over at him, but Paul just gave me a weak smile, a stark contrast to the reaction I'd thought I'd get. I was expecting Paul to have been amused at me finally admitting I was wrong and would have mocked me relentlessly.
"Come on," I said, pulling myself out of the bleacher. "Let's get back home before the inevitable downpour starts and we die via drowning."
. . .
If she had only turned at that moment, she would have seen the guilt written all over my face.
. . .
I trudged toward my front door in high spirits. My main goal of today had been accomplished: to find out what Paul had been hiding from me. The upside was that his confession had also been something that hadn't made me hate him, which was a major plus.
Paul walked silently beside me, his forehead scrunched. I watched him out of the corner of my eye as we reached my doorstep, resisting the urge to smooth out the creases with my fingers.
"Are you ok, Paul?" I asked, concerned.
"Yeah, I am. Just a bit distracted," he forced a smile, before clearing his throat. "Remember what I said earlier today?" I immediately realised what he was talking about and what he was expecting. "Now it's your turn to step up to the plate, Cameron," he said, giving a half-smirk. "Tell me what you know about me."
"That's not fair!" I protested. "We didn't even talk about each other that much today."
"So?" Paul shrugged. "I didn't need an extra 'getting to know you session' to come up with one for you."
"Fine," I huffed. "Just give me a minute."
Paul's response was to fold his eyes and lean back on his heels, his smirk still present on his face. After a few long moments of thinking, I looked up at him.
"Okay, you really want to know what I know about you? Well, here it is. You eat enough in one day that could last a family a week. You run your hand through your hair when you're stressed or nervous or anxious or embarrassed or whenever you're standing too still. You have no freckles or moles or any skin imperfections per se, but you have a birthmark shaped like a triangle on your shoulder.
Your eyes might be the colour of warm caramel, but you can't stand the flavour of the food. You try to act like a badass, but you're really a giant softie. You root for the underdogs almost as much as I do. You are so protective about the ones you care about, and even with some of the ones you don't. You jump off cliffs with stupid teenager girls who are trying to win money from a bet just to make sure they won't get hurt. You drive like a maniac when you're by yourself but slow down to about ten miles an hour if anyone else gets in the car. You have more mood swings than a hormonal pregnant woman - I wouldn't be surprised if you were bipolar. But that's okay, because that's what makes you Paul. And I wouldn't change Paul for anything."
And then it was quiet, just Paul looking at me with such an indescribable look on his face. I stared at him, trying to work out what he was thinking while my stomach flipped over and over again.
"It really was stupid when you cliff jumped for Embry's twenty bucks, wasn't it?" He finally broke the silence, laughing.
"That was all you got from that? Are you kidding?" I demanded. I couldn't help it, I felt disappointed in his reaction. My stomach had stopped flipping and felt like it was falling instead.
"I'm joking, Aria," Paul said softly, slinging an arm around my shoulder. "It was great. Now it's me who looks like the bad friend."
I rolled my eyes, ducking out from under his arm and reaching toward the door handle. "You know yours was better, Paul. Anyway, I should really get going." My voice softened. "I had a nice time today, though."
"You sure this isn't a date?" Paul grinned. "I walked you to your door and everything and now this part really feels like it was a date."
"This wasn't a date," I reminded him, rolling my eyes. "Did I kiss you goodbye? No, I didn't think so. Not a date."
"Ouch. You're breaking my heart, Aria."
"Guess I'm a heartbreaker then," I pretended to buff my nails.
"Always were," he said bluntly, making me blush. "Come on, not even a hug goodbye? A kiss on the cheek? That's what friends do."
"Fine," I gritted my teeth, my resolve cracking. "I will kiss you on the cheek, and that's only out of polite etiquette and your obnoxious stubbornness."
Paul looks like he wants to laugh, but keeps a straight face. 'Yes Ma'am. Wouldn't want to be rude."
I roll my eyes, but reach forward to wrap my arms around him. I am immediately engulfed in his warmth, and am once again struck with his insane temperature. His arms wrap around my waist, resting lightly on my jacket. I lean up; he leans down, his head turned. I have only just briefly pressed my lips against his scorching cheek when he abruptly turns his head toward me, my lips catching the corner of his burning mouth.
"Paul!" I screeched, jerking back while he roars with laughter. I try to glare at him, but can't find it in myself to get angry when I see the amusement in his eyes.
He winked, slowly unwrapping his arms from around me and stepping back. "See you later, Aria." Paul says, heading back to his truck.
"This wasn't meant to be a date!" I shout, but he's already in his truck and peeling out of the driveway, a wide grin visible on his face.
My hand subconsciously touches the corner of my mouth and I begin to giggle.
It's only later when I'm in my room, flinging my jacket off and onto the floor, do I notice the small heart-shape candy roll out from the pocket.
I grin and pick up the candy, flicking it over to see the display message. You have my heart.
I began to giggle again.
. . .
"Paul explained everything," I informed her. "We're all good now."
"Wait," Kim says leaning forward. "He told you everything? Like, everything-everything?" Her eyes widen meaningfully.
I had called her less than a minute after discovering the heart candy, and now, less than an hour after the whole event, Kim had arrived at my house to talk.
When I made the call, I was giddy and wanted to tell her everything. But now that she was here, the most I could share was about how we had gotten over out past fight, and that was only because I had to tell her something so she wouldn't become suspicious that she had been invited over for nothing.
I didn't know exactly why I suddenly didn't want to tell Kim everything else. Like about all the things we said to each other, or the not-so-date date, or the almost kiss. For some reason I wanted to keep those moments private, something just between Paul and I for once, and not shared among our oddball group consisting of Jared and Kim and Paul and I, and sometimes Embry.
I wanted this to be a secret, even though Kim was one of my best friends and best friends were meant to talk about this kind of stuff with each other.
"Yup," I nodded, although I was a bit put off by the look on her face. "He finally told me everything when I asked what he was hiding for the millionth time. I was a bit shocked at first, but I actually understand now. It feels good to be in the know; especially considering it was about this."
"God, I was wondering when you'd find out," Kim says, laughing in relief. "It was a nightmare trying not to slip up around you."
"You knew?" I asked, wondering why everyone had thought I'd get so upset over Paul saying something mean to Lexi before she died. It was a bit sad to find out that was the last words spoken to her, but I couldn't hold it against him.
"Yeah," Kim hung her head slightly. "I would have told you, but it wasn't my place. Paul had to be the one to tell you."
Well, that made sense. I would have gotten more annoyed at the whole thing if someone else told me because then it would have seemed Paul was being a coward about the whole thing and avoiding any blame I might have had.
"Well, I'm cool with it, and that's that," I said, not sure what else to say on the matter.
"Did he need to actually show you?" Kim asked, sounding way too excited and her eyes shining.
"Um," was all I said, confused.
"'Cause when Jared told me, I didn't believe him for a second. I mean, it's just so out of this world. All I was thinking is how does this even happen? I was sure it was just a huge joke he was pulling on me, because of my, you know, crush." She begins to go red with embarrassment but I'm just bewildered. What was she talking about?
"I was so ready to leave. I was actually like, 'hey Jared, you're an asshole. What makes you think you could even pull off something as unbelievable as this?', but then he convinced me to stay for a few more minutes so he could show me, and… it was just unbelievable. I felt like I was dreaming, Aria. Did you feel like you were dreaming when you saw Paul?" She looks at me expectantly.
All that can escape my mouth is, "Dreaming? Paul?"
"Yeah, dreaming! I never thought in my wildest dreams that all these people on the Rez could be like that."
"Like that?" I exclaimed, feeling completely out of the loop.
"I know!" Kim laughed. "You would never expect our friends were werewolves by looking at them - although they can act like dogs sometimes, can't they?."
I blanched and stared at her, trying to decipher if she was making some kind of weird joke. One look at her and I could tell she wasn't kidding. You could tell by looking in her eyes - she truly believed our friends were werewolves.
And we always thought you were the only crazy one.
I pursed my lips. "One second, please." I got up and headed straight to the one place I knew he would be. After all, he always complained how tired he was.
I flung open his door and roughly shook his warm shoulders until he woke, wincing at the drool at the corner of his mouth.
"Wha? What are you doing, Aria?" He mumbled groggily, rubbing his eyes with his fist.
"Jared Issac Cameron," I began sternly. "Why are you telling Kim you're a werewolf? And why does she actually believe you?" My voice rose to a shriek.
"Wait, what?" Jared asked, looking slightly more awake but still confused. I sighed impatiently.
"Why the hell does Kim think you're a werewolf?"
So I've been gone for ages, haven't I? Like almost two years. Whoops. I keep trying to make up for it with super long chapters, but it's probably not working, is it?
As the first A/N said, I have spent the last few months rewriting Voices. Basically, I began this story when I was 14 and the writing back then was horrible. I had no idea what I was writing about because I hadn't experienced anything back then, which is so many scenes were just awkward and cliché and unrealistic and they just sucked and I was embarrassed by them. SO, I made the decision to rewrite them so they matched the same tone as the later chapters.
Thank you so much to the old readers and reviewers, who have stuck with me and Voices, through the bad writing, horrendous grammar, the clichés, everything. You guys are the reason I made it past the preface, and every chapter since. Your encouragements and messages make me smile more than you can ever imagine. I hope you don't mind the changes I have made to the story and still enjoy Voices the same as you did before. If you don't, I'm really sorry.
I promise I will complete Voices. It may be taking longer than I had ever expected, but I will finish this story and I promise I'm not giving up… even if I'm like 84 by the time it's done and my hands don't type like they used to before (I hope everyone got that reference otherwise that just sounds really weird).
Sorry that this was such a filler chapter, but it's helping set up some big stuff for the next chapter so whoop whoop.
QUESTION OF THE CHAPTER: What do you guys reckon the 'big stuff' is going to be (in reference to the sentence above)? AND what was your favourite moment of the chapter?
Sorry for the long A/N! Feel free to PM me if you ever have any questions about the story or updates, or even just about general stuff.
BTW we're almost at 500 reviews? What the frick? How even? That is amazing. I get speechless every time I look at that number. Thank you so much to anyone who takes the time to review, I appreciate every single one of you and love reading your thoughts and feedback.
REVIEWS ARE LIKE RAYS OF SUNSHINE!