• Chapter 1

    You ever get that nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something important? Like in those little kid cartoons, where the characters ask that very question and then they just move on and make a joke of it. Well, it’s funny until it actually happens to you personally.
    There’s a part of me that forgot an extremely critical person in my life. It’s like she was wiped from my mind. As if she never existed. As if she blew away in the wind. How horrible it is to nearly forget she was real. Everything about her was too good to be true. It wasn’t hard to figure out why I never remembered her again.
    After we spent the whole summer together by Ol’ Lake Royale in the cabins our parents dragged us to, we turned out to be the best of friends. I just wish I could remember, but it’s not my fault that this happened. Even though everything about her was fresh in my mind, it felt like I made her up. I wanted to forget once summer was over. But when I was successful, I craved to have flashing images and precious moments of her dance behind my eyelids. It was impossible. Now I regret it with every fiber of my being. At least her name was burned into my mind forever.
    Paige Wood.
    “I’m not going,” I said for the last time, crossing my arms to show how serious I was.
    Mom looked at me with her fierce, bright blue eyes--my eyes--and shook her head. “Even if you object, you’re still coming with us and that’s final!”
    I rolled my eyes and pushed away from the wall. Mom shoved a few suitcases into my arms.
    “You’re strong; go put these in the trunk.”
    A swear escaped my lips but luckily she didn’t hear. With all that blond hair covering her ears, it was impossible she could’ve picked it up to begin with. My feet dragged to the white Escalade that was parked in the driveway. The lower half of my dad’s body was peeking out of the back of the car.
    “Here,” my arms released the bags and I started to walk back to the house. Maybe if I ran to my room, locked the door and placed my dresser in front of it, they’d leave me alone. How dare they force me to return to that dreadful place on Ol’ Lake Royale? It was an old cabin that we visited every summer since I was six. I’m seventeen. I shouldn’t be going to some crappy house on a lake, whose water was sometimes murky and gross, and have it ruin my summer. Teenagers needed to hang out with friends, stay up late at parties, not have “family bonding time” as my parents called it. My friends were the ones who understood me unlike my family. No one really got me. Not entirely.
    I’m a 6’2’’ teen with my mom’s blue eyes and my dad’s straight brown hair that hangs half way over my eyes, a basketball captain and a cello player. That was what was on the outside, which was all people saw first and that was all they wanted to see. Not many adults had the nerve to peel my outer layer, to notice the real me. I was just another prodigy student to them.
    Sometimes I felt lost. Everyone was pulling my personality into different directions. An athlete, a musician, the ideal son: smart, active, everything. A silent, dark guy--not exactly emo or Goth, but not a “smiling like a moron” one either. Who was I really? Truthfully, I have no clue. Right now, I’m trying to please everyone with who I am. My parents, Coach, even my friends.
    But there was one person who didn’t require an act from me. Despite the fact my role was unclear. Timothy Anderson. He is my absolute best friend since pre-school, when he stood up to a bully for me. He is amazing! It was like we were destined to be best friends. To me, it felt like we were connected somehow. Maybe we could read each other’s minds. That would be cool. Our parents swear we’re brothers who were separated at birth.
    “Aiden Jones! Stop sulking, grab your cello and get in the car!”
    I winced at my name being shouted by Mom’s shrill voice. At a low volume, her voice was sweet and sugary, but when she cranked up the volume, it was almost like a crow’s screech.
    “Do I really need to?”
    “Yes! You are going to practice.”
    I moaned loudly in frustration.
    Playing the cello while being an athlete is practically the same as mixing oil with water. My parents forced the instrument on me in the seventh grade. At first, I dreaded the first lesson, but once I had the notes under my fingers, it sounded delightful. Beautiful even. But, just because I was good at the cello, didn’t mean the guys would accept my new after school activity. They called me a sissy and a girly girl when I broke the news to them. They laughed in my face. That all changed when they heard my solo in the spring concert. Ever since then, they’ve shut up about it and never made fun of me again.
    My hand grasped the blue handle my case. Gently, I set it inside the trunk. Mom and Dad were already in the car. I slammed the trunk hard, startling them. I didn’t want to go with them to our annual trip to the lake. My body stood frozen in front of the side door I was meant to enter, glaring at them through the sun filled windows.
    Mom glanced my way and looked annoyed at my small rebellion. “Stop being so dramatic, Aiden. Get in. Now.”
    I reluctantly obeyed. My parents started talking about work and all that boring adult crap as I shoved my headphones in and selected a song. When my ears still picked up their conversation, I cranked up the volume higher on my iPod. The music drowned them out. That’s better.
    After a few songs, and halfway across town, my phone vibrated in my jean pocket. My hand reached for it and brought it to my sight. “New Text from: Timothy”, it read. I pressed the view button and read his message: “hey, where r u?” A small laugh escaped my lips. He knew exactly where I was, as if it ever changed every summer.
    I slid out my full keyboard and replied: “on a three hour car ride to Lake Royale hell”. He answered within seconds, “Ha, good luck wink
    Yeah, I was going to need it.
    My eyes slowly opened from my nap. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, so they could focus on the world outside the car. How long was I out?
    The lush green grass, tall trees that twisted up into the sky and the ability to see a part of the water meant one thing. Actually two: one, I had passed out for a good two and a half hours and two, we arrived.
    Perfect. Day one of suffering, eighty eight more to go. My body was being supported by the car door. It flung open, me tumbling out of my seat.
    “Ah!” I screamed as my face landed painfully on the gravel.
    My eyes flickered upwards to see who had opened the damn door. Dad.
    “Oops, sorry.” His apology held some humor in it. As he walked away, I could see his lips curl into a smile.
    I got up and straightened everything out. My right hand shot up instinctively to my face to move the hair out of my eyes. Next, it rubbed the cheek that had fallen on the rock. Mom rounded the corner of the car, looked at me with a puzzled expression.
    “What happened to you?”
    “Dad opened the door and I fell out.”
    She giggled as a faint, booming laugh emerged from the house. Ha ha, very funny, I thought. We could all hoot about my pain later. Within minutes, Dad came back and unloaded the luggage. I angrily yanked my black suitcase and started to roll it towards the house. This was impossible because of the wheels bouncing on the uneven ground. All different types of swears escaped my mouth. It was a good thing that my parents didn’t pay attention to my . . . colorful vocabulary. How much worse could this day get?
    Mom must’ve seen my small brawl with the luggage. She shook her head. “If you have a nasty attitude, your day will get worse.”
    “Yeah, yeah, shut up.” The last part was inaudible to her ears.
    After a few minutes struggling with my suitcase, I made it inside. My feet dragged up the stairs to my bedroom. I let the door swing open.
    It was the same as it always was. Light baby blue walls that were covered in my recent band posters. A camouflage themed comforter was spread across the bed. The silver framed photo of me and Timothy sat on the side table, next to an old lamp. All that was left was a desk and closet. Nothing special. Not like those ridiculous, over the top rooms shown on MTv’s Teen Cribs. Stuck up rich kids.
    Sure, we weren’t in debt or anything but we also weren’t like those snobby LA families with mountains of cash. I was happy with what we had. Quickly, I arranged the contents of my bag in my room. From upstairs, my ears could pick up my parents rummaging around the house. Then their voices carried to my room. Footsteps sounded, they were coming up the stairs.
    What if one of them wanted to talk to me for how I acted earlier? That was a conversation I was unwilling to have. Grabbing my iPod, I bolted out of the door; leaving behind whatever parent was there. There was one place I knew where no one would find me. My secret hiding spot. Yeah, every kid has one sometime. I found mine the first time we settled in here. My feet knew the path well. All the twists and turns simply memorized.
    I jumped over a fallen tree. I was now in the forest that was beside the lake. My parents never knew I ventured our here by myself. As if they would care. Trees were tightly grown together, sunlight pouring in through the leaves. A big, fresh breath was taken. I could smell the flowers and dirt. This was one of the highlights of coming here. Actually, going to my spot was the only good thing.
    I approached a very old weeping willow. My hand swept away the dangling string of leaves. Happiness swelled through me at the sight of my spot. The tree hung over a side of the lake, a small piece of land where I used to sit up against the trunk and skip rocks was between the tree and water. It delighted me to see the water was a clear crystal blue.
    As I rounded the corner, I saw a pair of pink high tops followed by some nice looking legs. My eyes met two pretty brown ones. A girl.
    “What the--,” she began.
    “Who the hell are you?!”