Table of Contents
By Natasha Preston
Copyright 2012 © Natasha Preston
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photo- copying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products, bands, and/or restaurants referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
I want to say a huge thank you to three amazing people that have made this book beautiful.
Mollie Wilson from MJ Wilson Design created a cover that is perfect for Oakley and this story.
Emma Mack, my fabulous editor from Tink’s Typos, thank you so much for taking my book baby and making it shine!
And Cassy Roop from Pink Ink Designs. Cassy, from my messages I think you know how much I love what you’ve done with the interior!
Thank you so much, ladies.
For my mum, Sharon.
SILENCE deals with a subject of sensitive nature. Reader discretion is advised.
Most people have heard the phrase ‘Silence is golden’ and many would agree with it. People with screaming children running wild around the house or working in a noisy office. For me, however, it meant something entirely different. Silence consumed my whole life. It suppressed things I could never express. My silence was responsible for my family’s happiness. Silence was my prison.
“Are you ready to leave, Oakley? Cole’s waiting outside,” Mum said in the soft tone she used for me. She leant against my doorframe and smiled. Through her smile I could see how tired she looked. Dark shadows were now a permanent feature under her eyes dulling blue eyes. Her smile used to be my favourite part of her.
Now it was as false as my own.
And it was all my fault.
Every single day I woke up wanting to tell her what happened. To have her hold me in her arms and promise me that everything would be fine, but reality stopped me every time. The fantasy I had in my head of how things would turn out was just that; a fantasy. I’d lose everything.
I knew that. He’d told me enough times. It wasn’t something I could risk. Not ever.
Placing my hairbrush on the dresser, I turned to Mum and nodded my head once. With a deep breath, I followed her downstairs.
It wasn’t until we reached the front door that she looked at me again. “Have a good day, okay?” Almost everything she said to me was turned into a question. As the words left her mouth, her eyes widened in the desperate hope that I would reply, and every time I responded with a brief nod, her shoulders would sag. She still tried all the time.
I grabbed my school bag by the door and swung it over my shoulder as I walked outside.
The morning sun beamed down on me as I turned into the street, making me squint at the brightness. It was July, and almost time for school to close for the summer holidays. I couldn’t wait.
Cole beeped his car horn even though he was parked right outside my house. Thanks, Cole, might have missed you without that. He grinned through the window as I made my way to his car. His blue eyes glistened in the early light, making them look as pale as ice.
Cole Benson and I had been friends since we were babies. Mum has pictures of Cole holding my hand as I learned to walk. He was two years older than me, but he certainly didn’t act like it. My mum, Sarah, and his mum, Jenna, met in high school and had been friends ever since.
“Good morning, sunshine,” he greeted with a wide grin. Unlike Mum’s, the smiles I received from Cole never changed. Grinning back was as natural as breathing. His happiness was infectious. Our friendship had always been fun, affectionate, loving, and carefree. He accepted me for who I am now.
It wasn’t always a bed of roses, though. There were times when Cole would beg and plead with me to tell him what was wrong, why I didn’t speak. I found it harder than when Mum did the same. He was the one person who I could still feel normal with.
I hated hurting him.
He flicked his messy hair out of his eyes and started the engine. His rusty old car roared to life. It hadn’t been long since he passed his driving test, but he was a good driver, and I trusted him with my life. Still, I gripped the seat as he sped off. I hated school with a passion and in just a few short minutes we’d be there.
Cole talked almost continuously on the drive, chatting away about his car and what we’d do later. Occasionally, I would nod or smile in response to something he said, but apart from that I just sat and listened to him speaking. His voice was smooth and calming. Not talking to him was hard. I desperately wanted to return his quick banter with something smart of my own. But I stayed tongue-tied.
As we pulled into the half-full car park, I started to feel sick. People whispered to each other whenever I was around. I was used to it, but I still bloody hated being the centre of the jokes and bitchy comments.
“Oakley?” I jumped and looked up at Cole. He smiled. “You gonna be okay today?”
I nodded, grimacing slightly. I hated when we had to go our separate ways, and I wished I were older so we would be in the same year. Most days I could ignore the attention I got. Today I was having an off day.
This should be interesting.
“Text me if you need anything,” he instructed, kissing me on the cheek, making my heart jump. Cole knew I wouldn’t text him, but he still said the same thing every morning. “See you later,” he called as he walked towards the Sixth Form block next to the high school.
Once he was out of view, I let the smile slip from my face. There was no one to pretend to now. It was almost a relief not to have to pretend I was fine today. Walking towards the entrance of school, I pulled my sleeves down over my hands and wrapped my arms around myself.
Just keep your head down. Not long until school is over for six weeks.
The bell rang to signal the start of the school day just as I got inside the old building. My form room was at the end of a corridor that seemed to stretch on for miles. I walked quickly to avoid being caught up with the people still loitering around. Som
e days, when it was crowded and people stared, it was like doing a bloody catwalk.
I got to the form room without incident and took my usual seat next to Hannah. Resting my arms on the desk, I took a deep breath. Mornings were rubbish as there was still so much of the day to get through. I couldn’t relax at school. I was constantly waiting for something to happen.
Hannah smiled, and I returned the gesture. We weren’t necessarily friends, but she was the closest thing I had here. She didn’t judge or treat me any differently. I just don’t think she knew how to act around me most of the time.
“School sucks,” she grumbled, tucking her dark black hair behind her ears.
Completely agreeing with you there.
“Oakley, what did you do last night?” One of the boys shouted from the back of the classroom. I recognised his voice as Luke Davis, one of the biggest idiots of the school.
“Sorry, I didn’t quite hear you.” The room erupted with sniggers, and I rolled my eyes.
“Ignore them,” Hannah whispered, squeezing my arm sympathetically. Oh, I do.
I smiled at her as Mrs Yates walked into the room. With a quick greeting, she flipped the register open and pulled the lid off her pen. Like everyone else, she called my name, but unlike everyone else, she looked up at the same time. There was never any pressure from the teachers to talk; they made sure everything was as normal as possible wherever it could be.
After the register was called everyone chatted, waiting for the bell to ring for the first lesson. “Ready for maths?” Hannah groaned as the bell chimed. Nope. My expression mirrored hers. Maths wasn’t my favourite subject, and today was a double lesson. “Do you think we’ll ever use anything we’ve learnt in maths in the real world?” She mused.
I had most lessons with Hannah. We sat together through them all, but she spoke to her two other friends more, unsurprisingly since they actually answered her. That was okay with me, though. I preferred to just do the work to pass the time.
“Good morning,” Mr Spice greeted. “Pass these around and get started.” He handed Georgie the stack of papers and went to sit down.
The class seemed to drag on forever. For the whole two hours, we all worked from the sheets. It was almost like doing a test.
Boredom is actually going to kill me.
I flipped the worksheet over, only to find another one.
Finally, the bell rang, and it was time for the first break of the day. Stuffing my pencil case into my bag, I mentally planned my route to the next class. Helen, Laura, and Tina peered over their shoulders as they walked towards the door, snickering. My heart dropped a little, but I tried not to let them get to me. It wouldn’t be long before we would leave school and I wouldn’t have to see them again.
Heading straight to my third lesson, I kept my head down, hoping to go unnoticed. I took the longer route to my next lesson because there were usually fewer people around.
The sun was even brighter than when I left home this morning, and as it shone in my face I cradled my hand over my eyes to create a little bit of shade. Suddenly I slammed into someone who was walking around the corner. Gasping, I stumbled back.
“Sorry,” a deep voice said. I looked up and stepped back again. I felt sick as Julian grinned back at me. His smile wasn’t a friendly one, more like one from a predator that had just caught its prey. “Oakley,” he said in what he probably thought was a playful tone.
No. Not now.
I gulped and straightened my back to try to look more confident than I was.
Look him in the eye!
“Miss me over the weekend?” Julian took one small, intimidating step towards me. I wanted to run. But running wouldn’t help me at all. I needed to be strong. Raising my head, I continued to stare him right in the eye while my heart went wild in the worst way.
The corner of Julian’s mouth curved in sinister smirk. There was definitely something very wrong with him. The way he acted around me when we were alone was psychotic.
“Miss Farrell, Mr Howard, get to class. Now!” Mr Simmons bellowed. I sagged in relief and scurried off to biology, refusing to look back at my number one tormentor.
I’d be happy if I could just make it through one day without something happening.