Grouped like a mob scene from Occupy Wallstreet, the entire school it felt like walked from downtown Ridgebury to the football field back at school. It was less than a mile, or maybe a mile exactly, I had never measured, away from Pluto Pizza and the herd of us walked altogether. It was starting to get a little chilly and instantly I wished I had a long sleeve shirt under mine. It was maybe fifty degrees but in short-sleeves and the promise of it only getting colder, I regretted my fashion choice.
Jessa was walking ahead of me, her arm linked with Jason and Cami beside her, linked up with Mike. I didn't know that Cami and Mike were together or even liked each other but they'd been attached all night long. Jason passed Jessa a water bottle and I knew there was vodka or some cheep alcohol inside. Yet another football tradition I wasn't a big fan of.
Jessa took a sip, passed it to Mike, who took a sip, then Cami, who took a sip and passed it back to Meghan beside me and took a sip. After six lips, I finally got the bottle which was less clear and more backwashy and took a little shot. I could hold my liquor, perk of being at every party and having to blend for the past two years.
I wasn't a huge fan of getting drunk, but I liked the tipsy feeling every now and then. It made following drama and Jessa around a bit more bearable. I passed the bottle to Jeremy beside me and it went back and back until someone finally threw the empty bottle in a metal trashcan on the side of the sidewalk.
The vodka actually made my throat warm up. I wished there was a bit more so I'd get the tingly feeling in my stomach and warm face. We all waiting in a line that went all the way to the senior parking lot until we paid the five dollars to get in and made our way through the food area and down to the stands.
The student section was all the way to the right, opposite of the band and parent area. The bleachers were already packed tight. A group of six of us squeezed into the middle row on the end and stood up just as the kick off was begining. The crowd was screaming chants of Tiger's Go and Defence. During a particularly loud boo, another bottle of clear liquid was passed and I took a swig, warming my insides.
Jessa must've remembered that I was alive because she kissed Jason on the cheek and stepped over the crowd below to sit beside me. Her face was bright red and her eyes a little unfocused. She looked much more affected by whatever alcohol she'd been drinking than I was.
"I'm totally going to have sex with Jason tonight," Jessa yelled, holding onto my shoulder for support.
"No, you're not." Oh god. This night was going to be much more work than I had originally anticipated.
"Yep. I'm losing it! Bye-bye, V-card!" She had completely lost her mind.
"Jessa, take a chill pill. Let's go for a walk." I grabbed her hand and dragged her into the aisle. I figured that the best path would be to put as much space between Jessa and Jason as possible. He was not getting within five feet of that girl.
Meghan and Cami tagged along, stating that they needed some air, which really meant that they wanted to follow the train-wreck that was Jessa and see what was going on where the real drama is, underneath the bleachers. To be fair, it was the only place where there was room to talk. The only other hang out area would be the fields but then you were in plain sight of every person who was at the games.
"Why are you trying to hook up with Jason?" Cami asked, leaning against the pillar in the back of the bleachers. We were underneath now where a few huddles of other kids who weren't interested in the game were hanging out. It smelled like pot and bitter alcohol down here, but better than the body odor and regrets up there.
"He's so hot and so amazing and he likes me."
"Jessa, who cares if he likes you. Every guy likes you. You don't like him," I said, trying to knock some much needed sense into her.
"But his kisses are just getting so much better." Jessa had begun to pace and was giggling to Cami who I could now see was pretty drunk herself. The two were linking arms and tripped over their feet and the rocky ground beneath them. I ran over to stabalize Jessa, which only led to Cami falling to her knees.
"Can you deal with Cami, I'll get Jessa?" I asked Meghan, getting exhausted having to heave Jessa around.
"She's too big," Meghan complained as she lifted Cami's arm over her shoulder.
We dragged the two bumbling, tripping idiots to the stone wall by the fieldhouse to take a breather. Meghan and I high-fived our efforts and took a seat. Unfortunately, Cami and Jessa were walking toward the group of guys who decided to join us. Jason just happened to be a part of it.
"She's going to make a huge msitake," I mumbled to Meghan, watching the scene play out. I was too tired to go intervene unless I saw Jessa walking off with Jason. I'd let them make out, but refused to let Jessa make what could be the biggest mistake of her teenage life.
"Why aren't you drunk, too?" Meghan asked me, leaning back on her hands and watching from afar, similar to how I was.
"I typically don't like to feed into it. Why aren't you?" I asked her, realziing in this moment that I didn't really know Meghan too well. Sure, she sat at the lunch table with us every single day, but she wasn't in my classses and at parties and stuff, I never talked to her one-on-one.
"I don't drink. My golden rule. Leads to way more problems than I want to deal with."
"I like that rule," I said, smiling at her. I pulled up my camera and snapped a few shots of the shadows that the feet made on the bottom of the bleachers. It led a creepy feel but looked really cool. Maybe it'd turn out bad on film, but still. I had the room for some edgy shots.
"You do that a lot," Meghan said in a plain sort of way.
"Do what?" I asked, lowering the lens.
"The picture thing. You have your camera all of the time. I noticed that." She pointed and twirled her finger toward my pretty camera in its purple strap.
"Oh, yeah." I chuckled to myself. "Sorry, I do, yeah."
"No, don't apologize," Meghan said, waving her hands in front of me. "Keep going. I was just saying you do it a lot. Not in a bad way or anything. It's just different."
"Yeah, I guess it is," I said.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you, Carley. Just making small talk."
"I'm not offended, don't worry." I smiled and looked around. Jessa and Cami were still huddled in the group of guys and more friends. Jessa's arms were territorially around Jason and she had one hand in his back pocket. It was very aggressive.
I pulled up my camera again and started snapping some pictures of Jessa, though not artistic in the least, I could use them to show her tomorrow when she highly regretted this night. Or maybe not. It could be pictures to the start of their relationship. Either way, it needed to be photographed.
"I don't want to interfere in your picture taking, but Leo Daniels is staring at you from across the way and he has been for the past two minutes. It's weirding me out." At the name Leo Daniels, I lowered my lens. Once again he'd caught me spying and photographing other people. He probably thought I was some stalker freak.
I glanced to my left where Meghan had said he was standing and sure enough, he was there, his eyes in my general direction though I wasn't completely convinced they were in one. That was until he smirked just a little and said something to Derek and then started to walk our way.
No way. No. I wasn't going to let him purposely walk over here, bump into me again and embarrass me by mentioning my picture taking. I was going to take control of this strange situation manifested by Leo Daniels. He was scary as hell, but I didn't want him to have control or some leg up over me.
"Come on," I told Meghan, taking her hand and walking in the opposite direction that we were in. I didn't want to be near Leo Daniels.
"What's going on?" Meghan asked, nearly breathless as we speedwalked toward the parking lot.
"I hate that guy and he turns me into an idiot all the freaking time." I stomped along with Meghan to the top of the hill near the food area and parking lot and still within eye shot of Jessa. She hadn't moved--shocker.
"You do realize that Leo Daniels is the hottest guy in the school, set to go to a D1 lacrosse school, and insanely dangerous. He's a mistake waiting to happen. And somehow he's interested in you?" Meghan asked.
"Trust me, I don't get it either."
"I've had more fun with you tonight than any other game," Meghan said, letting go of my hand now that we were at a safe vantage point.
"Surprisingly, same." I smiled.
"You think walking up a hill will protect you from me?"
Shit. I jumped backward and bumped into Meghan, scared half to death from the voice in my ear. Of course he followed. Why wouldn't he? Apparently in the past two days his one mission is to bring awkwardness to my life.
"Well?" he asked, tilting his head to the side. For the first time I think ever, Leo was alone. His hoarde of lacrosse hotties and adoring fans were absent. He seemed much less scary when alone.
"Well, what?" I asked back, finding my voice somwehere deep inside of me. Because the black eye did enfringe a tint of fear in me, plus the way he stood abnormally close to me. He had cigarette breath again with a hint of cinnamon, the spicy kind in Red gum.
"Oh, she does speak, huh?" Leo said to Meghan, who just muttered a quick "mhm". "Take a walk with me Carley," he said, holding out his hand to me. It was frozen between us, a dare almost, a threat more like it.
I looked over at Meghan, who nodded with her bright blue eyes wide and her eyebrows raised. I didn't know if I wanted to go with him. What did he have to say to me? Did he need pictures taken or something or was he going to tell me off for taking his photograph? Oh god. Was this some sort of hazing?
Regardless, I took his hand. My stomach somersalted as his fingers linked with mine. It was like dropping a hundred feet in a free fall. He turned and walked with me jogging behind him to catch up. His pace was much faster than mine. We went in the direction of the parking lot, which looked very vacant.
"Where are we--"
"Shh. You will find out in due time."
"Are you going to kill me?" I asked before I could tell my mouth to shut up.
He stopped dead in his tracks and turned me so I was facing him. He moved me however he liked and when he had both hands on my shoulders and we were face to face, he cocked his head to the side. "If you thought I was going to take you to the woods and kill you, why did you come with me?"
I was still adjusting to hearing him speak to me in a real tone and not a whisper. It was sultry and deep unlike most of the other guys at school. Even his voice was dark. "Pure curiousity," I said back in a squeak.
"Good answer." He took my right hand again and started dragging me between cars in the lot. Most were beat up Hondas and rusted old trucks. The area had its rich parts but most of it was average working class people.
"Sit," he said when we stopped in front of a black Civic. The headlight was broken and the back bumper was scratched. It looked like it would hardly stay on for one more drive. When I didn't move, he grabbed me by the waist and plopped me down on the hood of the car.
"Who are you?" he snipped out, pacing in front of the car. His poor eye looked to be changing colors from purple to green and the swelling grew a bit, now making his eye narrower. I looked him up and down and didn't notice any other ailments, though his leather jacket covered his upper body and his jeans covered his lower so there was no way of telling.
"My name's Carley," I said, looking at him like he was crazy.
"Not your name, who you are." He shook his head.
"I can honestly say I don't know how to answer that."
"Why do you take all those pictures all of the time?" he asked next, further confusing me.
"I like it." I shrugged. "I'm sorry, if that's what this is about. I won't take pictures of you anymore."
"Show me," he said, huffing like the Beast.
"Show you what?" My heart was racing from my chest and pounding into my ribcage. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack with him speed questioning me like this. My head was in a fog and I felt like he was asking me all of these questions to confuse me.
"The pictures of me."
"I-I don't have them," I said in a hurry.
"You don't have any on that thing," he said, pointing to the camera that was still hanging from my shoulder. I had forgot I still had it with me.
"Show me," he said as he sat beside me on the car, making it dip a little. His leg pressed against mine and he leaned into my space, intoxicating it with his erotic mixture of smells. He was so confusing and frantic.
I turned on my camera and flipped through pictures of Jessa groping Jason, feet on the bleachers, crowds on the street, friends getting dressed up for the game, and then came across the close up pictures of Leo's face. My own face erupted in sweat and heat, embarrassment from my stalker-ism. I was mortified.
He grabbed the camera from my hands which made me gasp. As if understanding my love for the camera, he held it carefully while I clutched the strap in case it were to fall. He flipped through the ten or so pictures of him from tonight, back and forth, back and forth. Then shut it off.
He was so quiet for what felt like a long time. My camera was in his hands on his lap but he was looking down at it. His eyes looked closed. I wanted to break the silence but I couldn't tell what he was feeling. Did he hate me?
"I'm sorry I took them. I can delete them, Leo." It was the first time I called him by his name to his face. It felt foreign and strange, but I liked it.
"Why are you taking my picture? Do you know something?" His voice was only a whisper and it was tinged with sadness.
"No, I swear, I don't." I shook my head. "You just looked sad and I thought I'd take a picture."
"I'm not sad," he said in a resigned tone.
"Okay," I said back.
He looked up and I swore there were tears in his electric green eyes. I wanted to reach toward his face and brush my hand across his bruise, but didn't. I didnt even know the guy but I felt like I had a private look into him from this one meeting. He seemed to be broken, and kicked down.
He faced me and our eyes met. My breath was coming fast because despite the sadness in his eyes I didn't know if he liked or hated me or what he thought of him. Taking the pictures of him could've been interpreted two ways: stalker or admirer and neither painted me in a good light.
Closing the space between us, he leaned toward me and planted his lips on mine. I gasped but it was consumed by his kiss. I shut my eyes fast and leaned into it, not knowing how to react. His hand trailed up my neck and his fingers clasped in my hair behind my ear.
His tongue pushed into my mouth and swirled with my own tongue in a way I'd never been kissed before. I was playing catch up to his fast movements and it was like being wrapped into a tornado and spun on your side. I couldn't catch my breath but didn't want the kiss to end.
He released me and tore his lips away from mine. I gasped and pressed my hand to my lips, feeling their instant swell. I felt tipsy, my stomach flipping and my heart racing and everything else throbbing with more want.
"Don't take pictures of me again," he said, as he hopped of the car. He reached for my hand and pulled me down. I was still swept a few minutes ago in the kiss, wanting to go back. I felt like I should cry because he was leaving. "No more," he said as he disappeared below the parking area.
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