I stared up at the celling as daylight slowly crept through the blinds and into the room. Everything about Mark Jefferson’s apartment breathed money, from the expensive furniture to the extravagant photography hung up on the walls, it was all in perfect condition… except for our clothes thrown all over the place. His breathing was so calming as he draped his arm over me, keeping me in place as he snuggled closer into my back. I couldn’t keep the smile from my face as I leaned into the pillow and breathed in his masculine smell, I could stay here forever and completely forget about the outside world.
The buzzing of my phone caused me to look round, the sound was persistent enough for Mark to stir in his sleep and roll onto his other side. I took the chance to ease myself out of the duvet and lean down to pick up my phone from my jeans pocket on the floor. Twelve missed calls from Chloe and six messages from Frank, causing a twinge of unease in my stomach. Chloe was clearly freaked because I bailed on her last night to go to the movies, but Frank… well, I had been deliberately avoiding him since that night.
I flicked through the messages, all of which said exactly the same thing – I’m sorry, PLASE TALK TO ME, I need to explain, RACHEL CALL ME! – and each I deleted as I read them quickly. He wouldn’t be able to talk his way out of this, he overstepped the mark and as much as I hated to admit it… I was a bit scared of him now.
“Such a rare beauty,” Mark’s breath tickled my neck as he kissed my neck lightly, erasing my thoughts of Frank and I leaned willingly into his touch, but there was someone else I needed to talk to…. Chloe.
“I have to go,” I attempted to say firmly, but it came out in a small gasp as his kisses became more aggressive and he hands moved to my waist “and you have a lecture.”
“You are an evil temptress,” Mark said, reluctantly releasing me and I felt his eyes on me as I moved across the room to pull on my clothed. When I pulled on my shirt, I felt his hands on my back and just pulling the shirt over my bare shoulder.
“Hold that pose,” he whispered in my ear, an air of excitement in his voice “the lighting looks perfect on your skin.”
I glanced behind me to see Mark grab his camera before throwing himself on the bed and propping himself up on his pillows with his camera at the ready, looking so sexy with his ruffled hair and wearing nothing but a pair of boxer-briefs. I cast my eyes down with a subtle smile as he took several photos and I fell into the modelling role – I loved the confidence that came from being in front of the camera and the attention of the camera’s focus on me.
“Perfection…” Mark sighed, as I turned and he slide himself down the bed, sitting at the edge and pulling me into his arms with a dangerously sexy grin. Our lips crushed against each other’s as Mark’s arms snaked around me and pulled me into a close embrace, losing track of time as his lips and hands on my body consumed my thoughts.
A few hours later, Mark parked his car up from the street and gave me a quick kiss before I grabbed my bag and stepped out the car and walked up the pavement to the front door. Chloe didn’t know about Mark yet and I wanted to keep it that way, he was doing incredible at Blackwell and our relationship could cause a storm not even Arcadia Bay could handle.
“Oh hello, Rachel.” Joyce said, my hand raised as she walked out the door with keys in her hand and rocking her waitress uniform “sorry, I got to run.”
“That’s fine,” I said, moving aside as she hurried to her car “Is Chloe in?”
“In bed,” Joyce answered with an exasperated sigh with her driver door held open “maybe you can drag her from her pit, join the world of the living and all.”
After waving Joyce off, I made my way into the house and upstairs – I gave David a brief smile as I saw him sitting at the kitchen table, but his narrowed gaze of disapproval made me feel uncomfortable like he knew something he shouldn’t or I was guilty of a crime I didn’t know about. The smell of pot reached my nose as I walked to Chloe’s room, opening the door and becoming almost engulf by the smoke. I quickly slammed the door, knowing David would freak if he knew Chloe was smoking up here.
“Oh, you’re alive then?” Chloe’s voice came from the fog in front of me, her blue hair just visible “thanks for bailing on me, you missed a great film by the way. At least Trevor and Justin were kind enough to show up as planned.”
I moved closer, flopping down on the bed beside Chloe, who was wearing her sweats with a joint held casually in her hand. I leaned my head against her shoulder, smiling as she took my hand and entwined our fingers together.
“Sorry,” I apologised, laughing as Chloe scoffed, even in her stoned state she gave some serious side eye “I really am, but something came up.”
“I bet it did,” Chloe smirked, taking a final smoke from her joint before putting it out in the ashtray on her nightstand “he better be worth it.”
“I think he just might be,” I grinned, turning on my side to really look at Chloe as she stared up at the celling with glazed eyes “are you okay?”
“I’m great, just step-douche being his usual controlling ass self,” Chloe grunted, giving me a half smile as she continued “but let’s face it, I’m baked, so I couldn’t give a crap right now.”
“You need to eat,” I told her, scooting off the bed and pulling the curtains open to let the bright daylight into the dingy room “We’re going out.”
“No. Daytime. Bad.” Chloe shielded her eyes from the sunlight, covering her head with the pillow “I freaking HATE summer!”
“It’s April,” I corrected her, but I had to quickly duck as she threw the pillow at my head.
The cool spring breeze was soothing on my face, but Chloe looked like she could throw up as we walked up the street and into Two Wales Dinner. Joyce was making her way up and down the isle of booths, taking orders and heading round the counter. Chloe scowled as we made our way to the counter, jumping up on the stools and waited for Joyce to take our order.
“Right,” Chloe said as she glanced at her phone, maybe to avoid her mum noticing that she was on a comedown “Just order two Belgian Waffles and whatever you’re having.”
“Funny,” I rolled my eyes at Chloe as she blew a kiss and drummed her fingers on the counter. My heart sank when I saw Nathan Prescott walk in and his creepy smile when he saw me made me want to run screaming “ah hell.”
“Rachel Amber,” Nathan purred, wrapping his arm around my shoulders and looking affronted when I shrugged him off “what’s the matter? Not happy to see me?”
“Not particularly,” I said, knowing he knew full well that I was so over his hard-core partying anymore “and I’m with a friend anyway.”
“Who?” Nathan demanded, looking so intense that I wondered for a scared moment if he was taking his meds. I glanced around quickly, the sight of Chloe getting to her feet and glaring at Nathan with complete dislike made me groan inwardly. I used to party with Nathan and Victoria back in my Blackwell days, but since Nathan got me kicked out for drugs that were his and not mine, I had kept my distance from him out of anger and betrayal.
“Me,” Chloe said firmly, squaring up to Nathan as if they were feuding cowboys in a Western movie “problem?”
“Just leave it.” I placed a hand on Chloe’s wrist to stop her, but out of the corner of my eye I noticed a group of girls from Blackwell staring at me from a booth nearby. Really staring and not even being discreet about it.
“That’s her,” Stella whispered loudly, pointing at me to her friend “Rachel Amber, she’s been sleeping with Mr Jefferson. No wonder she used to get great grades!”
My jaw dropped, the blood in my veins running cold as I turned to face the girls. They all looked flustered and quickly turned away from me, but there was no mistaking what I had heard. Everything else around me seemed to turn hazy as Joyce’s face swam in front of me, the sickness in my stomach was part nausea and part hysteria.
I had to get out of here! The stool crashed to the floor as I staggered to my feet, ignoring the stares from the other costumers as I ran out the door. My footsteps hit the pavement hard as I sprinted up the street, the clouds overhead blocking the sun and casting sinister shadows.
As Blackwell Academy came into view, rain began pouring overhead, soaking me as I ran through the courtyard, up the stone steps and into the main hall of the academy. The corridor was eerily deserted, which was lucky as I was soaking wet and shivering. I made my way to Mark’s classroom and barged into the room.
Mark looked up from the papers on his desk as I slammed the door behind me, his smile faltering when he saw the look of anger on my face.
“Why are those bitches you teach saying we’re screwing?” I demanded, his eyes widening as he moved to stand up “do they know?”
“Of course not,” Mark said, looking incredulous and frustration flickered across his face as he moved across the room to where I stood “do you honestly think I would risk my reputation?”
“What about my reputation?” I spat angrily, moving away from him as he tried to wrap his arms around me “I worked my ass off to get great grades, I have plans and a future I want. I don’t need stuck up privileged kids dragging my name through the mud.”
“They know nothing about us,” Mark said fiercely, anger rising in his voice “you belong to me, no one else.”
I took a step back, startled by the rage in his tone – he was actually being possessive. I had never seen this side of him.
“I don’t belong to anyone!” I said firmly, meeting his glare with one of my own.
Without warning, he grabbed my arms and pinned me against the wall, his breath on my neck as I struggled against his grip. Terror consumed me as his nails dug into my arms and there was pure malicious in his face.
“You’re my masterpiece,” Mark said through gritted teeth “no one will understand what a glorious piece of art you are! Not that stoner Frank or your little girlfriend Chloe, I can release your potential.”
I was lost for words, it was like seeing Mark in a completely new light and what I saw terrified me. My voice seemed trapped in my throat, the air in the room suddenly becoming suffocating as my heart began to beat frantically in my chest.
The door burst open and Mark’s hands instantly flew off me, his composed face immaculately calm as he turned a smile to the intruder. I looked at my saviour, surprised to see none other than Victoria Chase – my former Blackwell friend, her blonde hair now cut into a pixie hairstyle and her expensive camera hung around her neck on a strap.
“Oh, sorry Mr Jefferson,” Victoria said, a sceptical look on her face as she glanced between my shaken expression and Jefferson’s inquiring smile “I was just hoping to speak to you about the Everyday Hero’s Contest in October, but I can come back later.”
“No, we’re done here, Victoria.” Mark said breezily, ignoring my look of rage “aren’t we, Miss Amber?”
“Yeah, we are done!” I hissed, turning from him and marching out of the room. I sensed a pair of eyes following me and I turned to see Victoria, looking concerned.
The junkyard was a weird place to find sanctuary, but Chloe and I have made the ultimate hideout. After I dressed into a spare pair of dry clothes, I sunk onto the sofa and burst into tears – the tears coming out in loud sobs as I realised how stupid I had been. He used me, he never loved me….
I looked up and noticed some writing on the wall – Chloe was here.
God, Chloe must be freaking out. I moved over to the wall and wrote beneath Chloe’s handwriting – Rachel was here.
I took out my phone and noticed a text from Chloe.
Chloe: Frank has been blowing my phone up – he wants his money ASAP.
Me: I’ll sort it.
Chloe: R U OK?
I hesitated, now wasn’t the time.
Me: I’ll tell you later, promise x
Chloe: Just be careful, I love you.
Me: Always and I love you too.
The sea air blew my hair across my face as I stood face to face with Frank, the silhouette of a costumer behind the curtains in the trailer behind him – I did not want to know what deal was going down. Let’s just say the asking my ex to drop a high debt wasn’t going to end well, especially when said ex was Frank. It took some serious convincing, but I got him to agree to have us pay in monthly instalments for the next six months. I told him I was planning to move to Seattle, knowing that I needed to focus on myself – there was something final as we kissed goodbye.
As I drove back to Chloe’s, a text came through on my phone and I pulled up to read it.
Nathan: You and your girlfriend need money? Come to the Prescott Barn in an hour. Pose for a few pictures and you’ll have enough money to pay Frank and move to Seattle – Just a few pics.
Me: What’s the catch?
Nathan: No catch, I need a model that’s all.
I contemplated the situation, posing for a creep like Nathan wouldn’t be the end of the world and if I was only supposed to model to get serious cash – it’ll be worth it.
I agreed, turning from Chloe’s street and heading up the road. I had no idea what horrors awaited me when I arrived at the barn and lead into the underground basement, but a doe watched me mournfully from the trees – tears in her hazel eyes.