Anna covered her ears with her hands. She was sixteen but felt as helpless as a six-year-old. Her parents’ fighting filtered through her closed door, her hands. She closed her eyes and hummed, but she couldn’t block them out. She knew this could go on for hours and she couldn’t stand it, not for another night; they were becoming too frequent, these fights. She wished they’d just hurry up and get a stupid divorce.
Anna got up and went over to the window. She slid it opened and pushed the screen out. She had snuck out before and always left the screen sitting loosely so she could escape easily. She got up onto the sill and then jumped out – her house was only one storey so it wasn’t much of a drop to the ground. She walked around the side of the house and quietly opened the gate, not that she thought her parents would hear anyway.
Behind the next street was a pond, and behind that a wood. There was one particular spot in the wood she went to when she didn’t want to be found, a secret spot, a whole world of her own. She headed straight for it.
She crawled under the prickly bush (The opening was just big enough to fit through if you crawled on your belly like a snake) and stood up. The brambles were almost twice her height and formed a canopy overhead, sort of like a wooden cave. Anna brushed the dirt off her clothes, freezing when she looked up. There was a boy in her secret spot, and not just any boy, a startling good-looking boy with golden hair and sky blue eyes.
Anna gulped. “Hello,” she said nervously.
The boy smiled. “Hello.”
Anna didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t go home, that was for sure, but could she stay here, with him? His eyes hadn’t left her the whole time she’d been thinking and she squirmed under his gaze.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said, taking a step forward. “I’ve watched you come in here so many times. I was curious.”
Anna gulped again, a flicker of fear rising inside of her. He had been watching her? What the hell? She looked at the entrance out of the corner of her eye, realising how stuck she was. Her secret cave felt suddenly like a cage, the only way out through an opening the size of a rabbit hole.
“There is no need to be afraid,” he assured her, his voice sweet, almost musical. “I wish you no harm. Come, sit.” Anna felt her feet obeying before she had even made the decision to move. “I am known as Clove,” he told her.
“I’m Anna,” she mumbled softly.
Anna’s eyes grew wide as Clove pressed two of his fingers against her lips. “Shh, my lovely. Be careful who you give your name to. A name is a powerful thing.”
Anna glanced at the exit. This guy may have been ridiculously hot, but he was weird and he scared her. “I really can’t stay long. My parents are expecting me home,” she explained, hoping he got the hint that someone was waiting for her.
“You are sad,” Clove declared.
Anna was about to argue, but she couldn’t get the words out. She was sad, so sad sometimes she thought it would swallow her whole.
“I am here to make you happy, lovely girl.” He waved his hand and a picnic appeared before them. Anna gasped and Clove smiled at her reaction. “Eat,” he insisted. “You’ll be surprised at how good it can make you feel.”
Anna looked at the food warily. There was no way she was going to eat a single thing; something weird was going on, she needed to leave. But then her stomach growled ferociously and she realised she was starving. She didn’t remember being hungry when she left the house. Unable to resist, she picked up a strawberry thinking they’d have to be harmless.
The strawberry was the most delicious strawberry she had ever tasted. She grabbed an apple slice and took a bite — it was mouth-watering. She tried a cake that was melt in your mouth, and then some chocolate that was so good it made ordinary chocolate taste like broccoli. Clove slipped a cup into her hand and she drunk it without looking at it. It fizzed in her mouth, making her tongue tingle. The tingling spread, moving over her face and down her back, continuing until it was dancing over every inch of her skin. A giggle rose in her chest, up through her throat and out of her mouth. Suddenly she was laughing, head tilted back. It felt good to laugh, she couldn’t remember the last time she had laughed liked that.
Firefly’s appeared from nowhere, hovering near the canopy like twinkling stars. Music began to play, its source unseen. Anna jumped to her feet and started swaying. Clove smiled up at her from the ground, enjoying the way her body moved. He soon joined her, taking her in his arms and pulling her close. They spun around the small area, gliding as if on air. Anna felt as light as a spirit, giddy with happiness.
“Everything is amazing!” she exclaimed. “The food, the music, the dancing, you!” She felt exhilarated. “I never want to leave.” She moved away from him, throwing her hands in the air, swaying and twirling. She stumbled on a rock and Clove caught her before she could fall. She laughed at her clumsiness and he smiled at her, a twinkle in his eye. “You are the hottest boy I have ever seen.” She slapped her hand across her mouth, unable to believe she said that out loud, then she laughed and hiccuped.
“You are a beautiful girl, lovely.” His eyes fell to her lips and she stopped smiling, turning serious. She felt drawn to him, to his lips, by an undeniable force that made her lean in. She closed her eyes as their lips met, sinking into him. His kiss was gentle at first, soft and barely there, but it soon turned hungry. She returned his kiss with equal desperation, her hands travelling up to tangle in his hair, pulling him closer, but it didn’t feel close enough. She was on fire and it felt amazing. She thought she was going to burst from the pleasure and she swore she could see fireworks exploding overhead.
When his lips left hers she fell to her knees, feeling light headed. Clove sunk to the ground beside her, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. She snuggled into his chest, closing her eyes, smiling. “Thank you. Thank you for a night I’ll never forget.”
“I’m afraid you will,” he said solemnly, stroking her hair. But she hadn’t heard him, she was already asleep.
Anna woke in her bed, not remembering how she got there. Her head was pounding and she felt extremely sluggish, but deep inside it was like she was almost…tingling, and for the first time in a long time she felt happy. What had happened last night? She couldn’t remember. She felt like she had dreamt though, a dream she wanted to remember, but couldn’t. She was certain it had been a good dream, the best.
Anna got out of bed. She put her fingers to her lips; they felt strange. She looked in the mirror and saw they were redder than usual, and a little swollen. What was that all about? When she turned around she saw a bracelet on her pillow. She picked it up, looking at it curiously. It had a little green clover charm attached to it. Had one of her parents given it to her as a gift? She shrugged and put it on her wrist. Clover. Something about it tickled her memory. Clove. A name. How she knew it was a name she didn’t understand, but something deep inside her told her it was an important name and to hold onto it. She wrote it down in her diary so she wouldn’t forget, and then she steeled herself to go and eat breakfast, which always came these days with stony silence and bitterness hanging in the air.
A YA short by R.L.Sharpe.