Boy Meets Girl


Boy Meets Girl

How many kids have to plunge down Suicide Cliff before #sheriffclueless blocks access to it...? #Governmentfails whenever we really need them... Forest Hills, the place kids go to die. — Tweet from Raven_Eye.

No, I don’t know how I did it either. Call it an adrenaline rush or whatever — because I’m no track star — but it just happened. I literally leaped the distance between us and slid over to the edge to tackle him right before this gorgeous idiot jumped off the cliff. It was an honest-to-god miracle for both him and me.

And no, we didn’t fall to the ground in a heap like I imagined we might. He was pretty damn sturdy. Still, I managed to drag him back a few inches so it counted as a win.

I clung to him, my arms tightening around his waist, with words spilling from my mouth, “Are you crazy?!” and then, “Why would you do this?”

Yes, I was being a little hysterical but the gorgeous idiot had really given me a fright, and so I think I’m allowed to be both relieved and upset right now.

But the boy with the bright blue eyes wasn’t listening to me. He didn’t pull back like I’d asked him to, which meant this moment — him still standing dangerously close to the edge and me holding onto him — might have ended with more than one missing person’s case the next morning.

His face was even more annoying. It wasn’t relief showing there. It was guilt, like he’d been caught doing something stupid, which this really, really was. I mean, I figured he was a little emo, but suicide... really?!

“Let go,” he said in a voice that was barely a whisper. “You need to let me go...”

His eyes were pleading, almost like he was desperate to let it happen. What kind of crappy life had he lived to look at me like that... It was the kind of hollow stare that said there was nothing else he could do but give in to whatever this was.

“No!” I screamed.

And no, I didn’t really know why I was acting crazy either, or why I seemed so desperate to hold on to him, but I couldn’t let go. Not even when my body started inching forward too because he had moved toward the edge yet again. He was just too big for me to anchor him properly.

“Stop or we’ll both fall,” I snapped.

It might have been the anger in my voice that did it, or maybe he saw the desperation on my face too, but he stopped fighting me. As I wasn’t prepared for him to give up so suddenly, I kind of lost my balance and fell backward, dragging him down with me. Then, after what was a pretty awkward tumble, we lay there on the ground side by side with our breathing ragged and our faces caked in dirt and sweat.

“Don’t you dare scar me for life like this, asshole!” I snapped at him.

Somehow, screaming at him made my little snafu feel just a little less humiliating.

He gave me a bewildered look, as if to say it was my own fault for getting in his way, and I countered with my best impersonation of Dwayne Johnson’s smoldering glare.

I lost our first-ever staring contest, and with cheeks flushed, I turned away from his intense gaze to focus skyward. It was then that I noticed how the moon seemed a lot bigger out here in Forest Hills than it usually was in California. It was way brighter too, a soft kind of blue glow that, weirdly enough, seemed to reflect its light on to the gorgeous boy’s blue eyes.

Yes, I gazed at him long enough for him to catch me staring again, which was super embarrassing TBH, but I did just save his life so I think I’m allowed to stare.

As for him, he didn’t look happy that he got rescued. Boys can be ingrates like that.

“You shouldn’t have saved me,” he said in a voice that was low, soft, and all kinds of sad.

“Then you shouldn’t have jumped in front of me,” I reasoned. “I don’t need the therapy bills, thanks.”

“You shouldn’t have followed me then,” he countered.

“Then you shouldn’t have saved me first,” I fired back.

We glared at each other again with our faces barely a foot or two apart and neither one of us backing down from the other. Then, after what felt like an eternity — because I definitely wasn’t losing a second time — his face shifted into that puzzled look I usually get from boys’ right before they decide I wasn’t someone they wanted to get to know.

I won’t lie. That look stung a little.

But then he laughed and laughed and then laughed some more, and the hysterical way he sounded made me laugh, too. It was a weird, rom-com moment.

“You’re not like any girl I know, Jessica Day,” he said, sighing afterward.

“Is that... is that good or bad?” I asked.

I know, I sounded like an idiot, but I really wanted to know what he thought about the new girl. His opinion was weirdly important to me.

“I’m not sure yet,” he answered after a while.

He got up and then picked me up from the ground like I barely weighed anything. He was strong and not just football jock strong either. I guess those muscles in his arms weren’t just for show.

“Thanks,” I said.

Okay, I may have strained myself a little too much during the rescue because I suddenly felt lightheaded. Then I lost my balance and he had to catch me in his arms to keep me from falling over once more.

I pushed him off me quickly though, although I could tell from the way my cheeks burned that my face must have been as red as my hair.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

“Yeah, just a little tired from rescuing you,” I replied.  

I didn’t mean to sound snarky. It was a defensive thing.

“You’re staring,” I said.

“You stared first. Only fair I get to do the same,” he reasoned.

I blushed. He chuckled. It was exasperating.

After a while, that sad look he had while he was standing by the cliff came back.

“You really shouldn’t have saved me,” he said.

I watched him look up at the moon again, bathing in its strange light. And for just a second, I could almost swear his eyes were glowing again. But that was probably a trick of the light. Pretty boys don’t have glowing eyes, at least not in the real world.

“Why do it?” I asked.

There wasn’t any judgment in my voice. I didn’t have any right to be judgy. People had their own circumstances that not everyone will understand right away — but I wanted to.

I think he could hear it in my voice. Maybe even see it in my expression. How hard it was for me to watch the boy who’d saved my life try to throw his own away like that. It’s probably why he sighed so heavily before answering. “I told you, small towns have secrets.”

“What kind of secret would make you want to throw yourself off a cliff?” I challenged.

“The kind with huge consequences,” he said, shaking his head afterward.

“What... what does that mean?” I pressed.

“Nothing a ‘Day’ would understand,” he answered flatly.

I didn’t know why, but that stung. Like my family’s name mattered more than I did.

“Sorry,” he said quickly. “I can tell that you don’t know anything...”

Being called clueless kind of stung too, and to my great embarrassment, this was the moment my eyes began to water. Oh, God, I didn’t want to cry, but this was a seriously stressful situation, and I was reaching my daily quota of emotional anxiety.

“Look, I... I don’t mean you don’t know anything... I just mean you don’t know anything about your family’s history with Forest Hills,” he corrected.

“Enough of the cryptic crap...” I casually rubbed at my eyes with my jacket sleeve while hoping that he hadn’t noticed. “What do you even know about the Days?”

He shrugged. “Not for me to say... Like I said, this town—”

“—has secrets,” I finished for him. “You’re like a broken record, aren’t you?”

I couldn’t help sounding annoyed with him, but that only made his smug grin return. To be honest, I was okay with that. A smug grin was way better than the hollow expression that seemed to keep cropping up on his face whenever he grew quiet.

“What if,” he took a short pause before continuing almost like he was carefully choosing his words, “what if dying tonight meant you could save your family, this entire town even... would you do it?”

“I...” He sounded so serious that I couldn’t just dismiss the crazy idea he just let out. And I couldn’t help answering him honestly, too. “I don’t know... but... if it really meant saving dad and June... Um, I really don’t know if I could be that selfless...”

“Well, that’s what I was trying to do,” he replied in an infuriated tone. “I’m not trying to kill myself, Jessica Day... I’m trying to save my family.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “How does dying save your family?”

He sighed. “Because that’s what death promised me...”

It was the way he said death — like it was a name with a capital ‘D’ and not just the thing that happens to us when our lives end — that caused me to wonder if this gorgeous boy might not be all there in the brain department. “I... I don’t understand...”

“Maybe if you stick around town long enough,” he chuckled, and then shook his head like he immediately regretted saying it. “I hope you never have to learn about the dark side of Forest Hills... I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

A wolf howled somewhere close by. Then came a second howl, and a third, and a fourth, until a chorus of howling wolves was all I could hear. It was beyond frightening. And I was so caught up in it that I almost didn’t notice how his ears had perked up almost like he understood what the howls meant.

“Oh, God, what’s—”

He took my hand in his and began pulling me back the way we’d come. “Come on. Let’s get you home.”

 “Um...” I wasn’t the kind of girl who just let random dudes grab my hand like that, but I didn’t pull away from him like I had earlier. “What about the wolves?”

“Don’t worry... they’re not mad at you,” he replied.

“Are they... mad at you?” I asked.

It was a weird question, but I didn’t think he would suddenly tense up like he did. It was strange and a little unnerving to be honest.

“You’re not going to come back here after I’m gone and try again, will you?” I pressed.

He didn’t answer. He just kept pulling me along as he led the way through the pines.

“Seriously, if I find out tomorrow in the newspaper that you chucked yourself off the cliff, I’m going to—”

“—I won’t...” he cut me off. Then he glanced over his shoulder to add, “Wouldn’t want to scar you for life.”

He was joking and smiling again, leaving me to wonder if he might be a little bipolar. I mean, going from moody to happy and then back to moody wasn’t normal... was it?

I frowned. “You promise?”

I didn’t mean to sound like a schoolgirl with a crush, but I needed to know he wasn’t about to try and kill himself again.

He nodded.

“And, um, what about your family? Will they be okay?” I asked.

It’s not like I believed his death would save anyone, but I was curious about his plans now that I’d forced him out of harm’s way. 

“I don’t know...” he sighed. “I just hope there’s another way...”

He paused for a long moment.

“Before it’s too late,” he finished, and no amount of prodding or poking would get him to tell me what that meant.

We walked along tall pines and leaf-strewn ground for a long while in total silence before I found the courage to ask him another question, one I’d been dying to know since he first popped up.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

It would be an even longer while later — around the time we could see roofs peeking out over the tree line — before he would answer.

“Oliver King,” he said, glancing over his shoulder to look at me. “My friends call me Ollie.”

“Should I... call you that, too?” I asked. “I don’t mean we’re friends or anything, but—”

“You kind of saved my life even when I didn’t want you to, so you can call me whatever you want,” he replied.

I was really glad he had his back to me, otherwise he would have noticed the stupidly huge grin growing on my face and that would have been embarrassing. “I’ll call you Ollie then.”

We made it back near the end of Old River Drive before Ollie let go of my hand, and although I kept on telling him I knew the way from there, he insisted on walking me home. I didn’t hate that about him.

Ollie bugged out as soon as we noticed my dad sitting on the steps of the front porch, though. With only a whisper of, “See you in school, Jessica Day,” in my ear to remind me he had even been by my side at all.

I turned around to thank him, but he was gone. And there by the edge of the line of trees twenty yards away, I could almost swear I saw another wolf running back toward the woods.

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