I couldn't go back now. I didn't have a choice. I told Leo I wanted a look into his life, more out of curiosity than anything else. This was a part of him and I was missing out on it by not diving deeper. I really did like Leo and I wanted to understand him. Why did his moods change so fast and what caused it?
I glanced out my window, trying to figure out how I was going to sneak out. Mom said I couldn't leave and yet, without a second of a thought, I told Leo to come get me. In the pit of my stomach, guilt swarmed. I shouldn't have told him to come. I shouldn't have gotten upset with my mom. But these feelings were happening and I couldn't control myself.
She was my mom. She had to forgive me at some point. She wasn't going to be mad at me forever. I loved her. But I had to figure out Leo. I was considering having sex with him, yet I didn't even know about his family or his life outside of the school. I deserved to know more.
The window wasn't an option. I was on the second floor and at the front of the house so there was no roof for me to jump onto and no magical trellis like in movies for me to climb down. I really only had one option and truthfully, I didn't know if I had the guts to take it.
But I told myself I had no option.
I threw on my jacket since the sun was nearly setting and the weather was starting to chill. I switched from my lace up boots to my black converse. If I was going to be trekking in beer bottles, I wanted to at least wear comfortable shoes. I grabbed my backpack, using it as a last defense and then left my room, shutting the door behind me.
The smell of warm cheese assaulted me with familiarity. I loved it. Cheesy goodness always reminded me of home, no matter where I was. I mean, they owned a cheese shop so it was only natural. I crept down the stairs, peering my head around the corner at the bottom and saw both mom and dad in the kitchen, side by side, one cooking soup and the other with some sort of cheese display.
I took a step, my eyes glued to them and tried to gauge if they noticed me or not. Weirdly, they didn't. I took another step. No reaction. They'd know if I left though when they called me down for dinner and then panic, which I didn't want to happen. Sure, I was going against what my mom said, but I didn't want them to literally be in fear.
"I'm going out to take some pictures," I said, breaking my silence.
"Where are you going?" mom asked as she spun around, a whisk in one hand and a wad of cheese in the other. Her face was hurt, her eyes turned down and her mouth in a line. She was the most happy and bubbly person I knew. But not right now.
"I don't know. I'm just walking." I lifted up my foot to show her my ugly shoes that I really didn't care about. She nodded like that validated my reasoning.
"You're not going anywhere else?" she asked, quirking up her eyebrow. Maybe she was reading into me.
I shook my head. "Check it," I dared her, holding up my backpack which I knew only had my camera and a few memory cards, plus some binders for school that I didn't bother to take out.
She paused, like she didn't want to look. But after a moment, she walked toward me and took my bag. She peeked in, moved the binders around, and then handed it back to me, disappointed. Dad was standing beside her in the next second, his arm around her shoulder like they were a united front.
"If we find out you've gone somewhere else, there will be consequences," dad said, his eyes wide behind his black rimmed glasses.
"Got it," I said with attitude as I spun around. It hurt me not to run for the hills when they save me their approval. After I shut the front door, I speed walked around the corner and waited behind a tree that I knew was out of sight from my house.
Within a few minutes, Leo's car pulled up. I had to flag him down before he went down my street. That was the last thing I needed, them catching me in my lie and seeing it as Leo's fault, which it clearly isn't. I told him to come and get me.
I climbed in. "Hi," I said, putting my bag on the floor, careful with it since my camera was inside.
He smiled, but it was sad. "There's no going back," he said.
"What do you mean?" I asked, my stomach flipping and giving a little tingle.
"My life, it's complicated. Once I bring you to my house, that's it." He shrugged like there really wasn't an option. It was so black and white to him, while all I wanted to do was see the gray in between.
"I get it," I said, putting my hand on his thigh. "I want to know the real you. Not the person you show to everyone at school or me most of the time. I want to know you, Leo. I don't care what's happening around us. It's just you and me."
He leaned over and kissed me, swirling his tongue in my mouth. His hand dove into my hair and tugged it hard. It hurt a little. I grabbed his hand and squeezed it, pushing myself closer to him. Then in a second, he broke our contact.
"Then let's go," he said. He switched the car from park to drive and pulled a U-turn so we wouldn't have to go down my road. I pulled out my camera, and snapped a picture of Leo driving. It was his profile and the low lighting of the evening shadowed him in such a nice way. I couldn't help myself.
"You're weird," he said, laughing as I shut down the camera and put it back away.
We actually drove for nearly thirty minutes. I didn't even know our tiny town of Ridgebury was this big. Finally a few minutes later, Leo took a left and pulled into a little trailer park I'd only see one other time. My parents and I were going on a road trip to a tiny goat farm and we passed the park.
I remembered asking my parents what that place was and what all the cool cars were doing there. I must have been eleven or twelve. I wanted my parents to go buy us one so we could roadtrip all of the time. Then they explained that people actually live in the trailers and that it was for poor people who couldn't buy a house yet. I was so depressed because my dream of owning one crashed down upon me.
"You live here?" I asked, masking my instant judgement of them. The road switched from pavement to dirt and Leo slowed down to about ten miles an hour.
"I do," he said.
The place was like a maze, little roads weaving between trailers. The darkness had now settled so only porch lights were visible, illuminating each trailer. I wondered how he knew each trailer from the next since they appeared to be identical. He parked his car in front of a pale sunflower yellow trailer that was pitch black.
"Last chance to run away. No hard feelings," he said as he tucked his keys in his pocket.
"I'm not running, but the more you talk about it the more you're freaking me out," I said, laughing to hide my nervousness. Would his mom and dad be in there? I had no idea.
He lifted my hand and kissed it and then climbed out of his side of the car. I followed suit, leaving my bag in the car. I shut the door and ran around the front, grabbing his hand. This place felt dangerous, like I should keep looking over my shoulder. It felt like someone was lurking behind me, ready to attack when I was most vulnerable.
There was three steps to his front door. He pulled the screen and it made a screaming sound. He hip bumped the front door and wiggled the handle and then it opened. There wasn't a smell, which I was weirdly thankful for. He stepped in first and I followed him.
The entire place was before me and it felt bigger than I originally thought. There was a small kitchen to my left, with diner-like seats and a table. Beyond that was two doors. On the other side was a small TV, a loveseat, and the beer all over the floor and coffee table.
Now that I looked around, it really was a mess. The kitchen had two separate pots on the range, both dirty with brown caked on them. It seemed like a party house.
"So, here's the kitchen and the dining room. THat's my mom's room and the bathroom. And right there? That's my bed," he said as he pointed to the loveseat.
"You sleep on that?" I asked in horror.
"It's really not so bad."
"You're over six feet and that thing is probably four. You can't fit. My god, Leo."
He cocked his head to the side. "It's really fine," he assured me, taking my hand. He reached behind me and flicked on a switch. The overhead light came on and had a weird ringing noise to it. the fluorescence burned a bit.
"So, I have about an hour to clean all this shit," he said, waving his hands to show the magnitude.
"What do you need me to do?"
He took me by the shoulders and moved me to the seat in the dining area. I plopped down. "Sit here and talk to me while I clean."
"Seriously. That helps it go by faster."
"Okay..." What was I supposed to say? "How long have you lived here?" I asked, wanting to talk more about him and less about me.
"My entire life. Just me and my mom," he said as he took a huge black garbage bag and started throwing in bottles and dirty napkins.
"Where's your dad?"
"Hopefully dead, but I really don't know."
I genuinely didn't know what to do with that information. Hopefully dead. What could make Leo think that way? Despite getting into fights with my parents on the rare occasion like today, I would never wish one of them dead. I actually don't think I'd ever wish a person dead, no matter who they were or what they did.
"He was a dick," Leo said to break the silence.
"Did he hurt you?" I asked him.
Leo nodded. "Me, my mom, anyone he came into contact with."
I let it sink in. "What's your mom do?"
Leo laughed, a dark laugh that suggested more than just amusement. "I really don't know. If I had to guess, she might sell drugs. She might hook up with guys. I don't ask."
"That's horrible," I said, covering my mouth with my hands. How could someone do that? And how did Leo not even know? Maybe I didn't want to know more about his life. Maybe I should have stayed in my state of ignorant bliss. Leo was complicated, no doubt, but his roots were much more dark than I had expected. And yet, this amazing person was here. He was a good guy deep down, I knew that.
"This one time in fourth grade I had my birthday party at the cheese shop. It wasn't like about cheese or anything. My parents cleared out the main floor and set it up like Diagon Alley. It was kick ass. Anyway my entire family came. My Aunt Marie got so drunk that she threw up all over my broom shaped cake. Apparently she mixed her percocets with three glasses of wine and got seriously messed up.
"I just remember that it ruined the entire party and my parents were so pissed at her. My mom didn't talk to her for years and she never came to another birthday. I think she was so embarrassed. It ended up that she was addicted to the pills. She never could shake them and she OD'd in 2009. It broke my mom up a lot."
"That's really sad, Carley. I'm sorry about your Aunt." Leo came over and kissed my cheek.
"Sorry," I muttered. "I don't even know why I told you that."
"Because, you see that that's a daily thing in this place."
"People OD'ing?" I asked, settling back in the chair.
"Yeah. I mean all of it. That's life here. There's alcohol and drugs and really shitty people who take advantage of the weak. It's life."
"Yeah, it does." I shook my head. It was no wonder why Leo was such a hard guy to get to know. His life was shitty and he saw things, I was sure, that no body in their entire lifetime wanted to see. He was older than me in so many ways, but maturity wise, too. He wasn't some highschool douche looking for a decent scholarship to get fame. He needed an escape.
"Oh fuck," Leo muttered as white lights flashed across the room. "You need to hide somewhere. Now. I'm so sorry. Hide under there."
He grabbed my and made me crouched down in the bathroom. It smelled like vomit in here. I climbed into the shower/bath combo and Leo pulled the dark blue curtain cover. I wanted to cry. I didn't understand why I was hiding. Was I in danger?
I covered my mouth with my hand, trying to hide my breathing. I listened the hardest I think I ever had. I wanted a clue as to who was here and why I was hiding in this trailer bathroom. It was gross and not my idea of a fun time. But I wouldn't go against what he told me to do.
"Mom, you're home early."
I fell in love with Leo Daniels faster than you could say Leo Daniels. September 2016, I remember when it happened like it was yesterday. He was the seventeen-year-old, unattainable, lacrosse player who was way out of my league, but one day in the hall, he saw me.
I was fascinated with him, wanting to know why he pushed people away and why he acted so distant at certain times. He was strange and mysterious— and before long, he was mine.
Then we changed. Leo had a life that was foreign to me. In the town of Ridgebury, I was sheltered and accepted, and my family surrounded me with love. But Leo’s life was toxic. And his poison burned into me.
What was I supposed to do? Leave him to avoid what was sure to be a terrible ending, or stay by his side? I deserved better, but so did he. If I stayed, would we lose everything? What was the price of our love?
© Taylor Lavati 2017
What Readers Have to Say...
"An absolutely heart wrenching read that shows us that at times no matter how much we hope, darkness will find its way to win. "
-Blogger's From Down Under for A Reliant Love
"So this book is the ultimate love story. I like how two ordinary people who is so different and still so alike in so many ways can overcome everything together."
-Angelica Berglund for For The Love of Hockey
"I never thought I would read a "zombie book", much less love one. The Last Legacy really surprised me. Even with the whole people-eating-people thing, it was a fantastic book"
-Melannie S for The Last Legacy
"I could not wait to start book two. If this book was as good as book one, then I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. It wasn't as good as book one...it was better. "
-Keely Retchloff for Finding Sam
"The powers, the love, the excitement, the drama kept me so enthralled. If you are looking for a GREAT series about true love and mythology, look no further... I wish I could rate 10 stars! Definitely recommend this whole series to all my book loving friends!"
-The Book Blog for A Curse Books Trilogy
"For the Love of Ash" by Taylor Lavati was a rare 5-star read for me. I honestly find many typical romances rather dull and predictable. This was not the case at all here; there was nothing average about the romance, overall storyline, and the long list of supporting characters."
-Summer's Book Blog for For The Love of Ash
"Wingless isn't what I would normally pick up and read, but thought I'd try it out and I am so glad I did. The characters and "worlds" she creates are done so well that you can actually picture them and feel like you are there right along with the characters."
-JLH for Wingless
For The Love of Hockey | January 2016
The Price of Love | 2017