Something was wrong with my island. Like, the more things I brought to make it better, the worse it got. I took some bug repellent to get rid of the beetles, but the next day there were more than ever. And then the mosquitoes came. I could hardly stay there after sunset anymore without getting eaten alive.
Things at home sucked. Mom and Dad stopped talking to each other, and Rachel hardly came home at all. She didn’t like it at home any more than I did. I knew that made Mom really sad. I caught her crying a lot more. They hardly paid any attention to me, other than to get mad at me when I got bad grades. I felt like a ghost at home. Nobody noticed if I was gone for hours anymore.
It was harder for me to say no to food now than ever. Now I could just walk into a store and disappear with whatever I wanted. And then it was so easy to get rid of all the food that was inside of me into the toilet… Drew would kill me if he found out.
Drew wouldn’t give up. He kept asking me about my secret and only backed off if I got really mad at him. And since Erin had abandoned me (or, I had abandoned her, whatever), he was the only friend I had, so I couldn’t stay mad at him for long.
I finally gave in during an especially crappy day. I got an F on my math quiz, which made my grade in the class a D+. I was dead if my parents found out. Of course, Rachel was coming to visit that weekend, so that would just make me look even more pathetic compared to her.
I was walking down the hall with my gloomy thoughts when I bumped into somebody.
“Watch it, loser.” It was Kaylee. Of course.
“Yeah,” one of Kaylee’s friends spoke up. “maybe if you kept puking up your food you would fit in the hall.”
They all laughed. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. How could they say something like that? Everyone in the hall was looking at me like I was a freak.
I had to get out of there. I pushed past people and heard someone calling my name. I knew it was Drew, but I didn’t want to talk to him. I just needed to get to a place where she could disappear without anyone seeing.
“Grace, wait up!” Drew caught up with me when I burst out of the school and walked toward the edge of the parking lot. He grabbed my arm. “Where are you going?”
“Let go of me!” I jerked my arm out of his grasp.
“I want to help!” Drew wouldn’t leave. “What are you doing?”
I stopped behind a tree at the edge of school property. “I’m leaving. Nobody can follow me.”
He looked at me like I was crazy. “Where?”
“To my island.” I knew I was making no sense to him at all.
“You sure you’re okay?” He backed up a step.
“Yes.” I was tired of people thinking I was sick. I was just as normal as everyone else, and I wanted him to know. I grabbed his hand. He tried to pull away, but I wouldn’t let go. “Please. Let me show you.”
“Okay…” his voice wavered, and he looked into my eyes, trying to read my mind.
“I want to disappear,” I whispered, and just like that, the world changed around us, and we were gone from hurtful world.
Before we even arrived on the island, something felt off. I panicked. I wondered if bringing Drew with me might screw things up. I’d seen some pretty messed up movies and had a vivid imagination- what if we got mixed up in the transition and we became each other, or melted into the same person? Maybe I was going crazy.
But when we got there, we were both okay. It wasn’t we who were different, it was our surroundings. A crash of thunder made us jump, and lighting tore open the sky. I was startled. It had never even rained on the island when I’d been there. My little hut looked like a pitiful lump in the darkness. It wasn’t raining yet, but the wind whipped past us and took my breath away.
“What the… Where are we?” Drew turned around slowly. His mouth was wide open.
“This is my other world,” I said.
“What?” He was still in utter shock.
“This is where I come when I want to escape.” I had to yell over the wind. The thunder was deafening.
“I don’t know, it just happened one day.”
“I don’t understand.” I saw that he would need a while to process this, so I took his hand and showed him around. There wasn’t much to show, just the forest and my beaten-down, rickety hut with the tools in it.
“Where did all this stuff come from?” Drew lifted the hammer. The wooden walls shook around us. I was going to have to find a way to strengthen them.
I dropped my gaze. I wasn’t sure how to tell him how I’d gotten all these things that weren’t actually mine. But he wasn’t really paying attention to me anyway. He moved on without waiting for an answer, going through my pile of tools.
“So how do we leave this place?” Drew asked me after a while of exploring.
I took his hand again. “I want to go back.”
A few seconds later we were back in the sunny parking lot.
I smiled at his confusion. I felt a lot better already.
Drew grilled me on everything about the island. I finally did have to admit how I’d gotten all the stuff, and he was not happy at all. He said it was stealing, and there was no excuse for it. I got mad at him and told him he could never come with me anymore. He didn’t understand my situation.
He finally stopped bringing it up, and we were friends again. I didn’t want to take him back though, because every time I went back, there was something wrong. After my Mom told me that she and Dad were getting a divorce, there was hardly a time when it wasn’t raining, and there was a perpetual gloom over the island. I didn’t get it. Was there a connection?
The wooden boards were slowly rotting from being wet all the time, but I didn’t want to give up. I spent so much time in the pouring rain, trying to build the walls, but it was so hard to work with the equipment being damp.
One day, Mom told me that she got transferred at work, and that we were moving out of the house by the end of the month. Dad was keeping this house.
“You’re kidding, right?” I asked her. I already knew she wasn’t.
“No, honey. It’s going to be a lot better for us. We can both have a new start.”
“I don’t need a new start,” I yelled. I didn’t have much here, but I didn’t want to lose the little I did have.
“I’m sorry. This isn’t how I’d planned it either,” Mom said. She started crying. That didn’t help at all.
“No. I don’t want to leave. I’ll stay with Dad.” It didn’t matter to me who I lived with. Neither of them cared about me.
Mom sighed. “We can’t do that. The agreement is that you come with me.”
I had to get out. The doorbell rang.
Mom wiped her eyes and motioned to me to get the door.
It was Drew. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Just stopping by. What’s up?”
I pushed past him out the door. “I need to get out of here.”
“What’s wrong?” He ran to catch up with me.
“I don’t want to be here,” I said out loud. Drew grabbed my arm before I disappeared.
We both opened our eyes on the island. The wind tore past us, and the sky was a weird purple-black color.
“Is it always stormy here?” Drew asked.
I looked into the swirling water far below us. I gust of wind almost blew me off the ledge. Drew jerked me back from the edge.
I turned and burst out in tears at the same time. It surprised me.
“Grace, what’s wrong?” Drew sat me down by the one standing wall of my shack. His hair flew in every direction.
“My parents are getting a divorce. My mom wants me to move with her.”
“Gosh, that sucks,” Drew patted me hesitantly on the back. He looked so genuinely sad that it made me cry even harder.
That was when the rain hit. It went from nothing to pouring in 30 seconds. The walls of the hut did nothing to protect us, and we were soaked in no time. Lightning streaked across the sky.
“Let’s get out of here,” Drew yelled over the thunder and wind.
“I don’t want to leave,” I yelled back. The wind picked up and the boards creaked even more. They weren’t going to last the storm.
“It’s getting dangerous, Grace. We have to go!”
“No! This is my life now. I’m not going back.” I said desperately. “You can’t make me. I have nothing back there.”
“This place is going to fall apart,” Drew said and tried to pull me off the ground.
“This place is all I have!” I yelled. The trees shook and bent in the hurricane-like wind. It wouldn’t be long before one snapped. “You don’t understand.” I tried to explain what this island meant to me. “It’s my only safe spot. I can’t leave.”
“Your safe spot is a death trap! You’re being stupid. I don’t want to die, Grace, and I don’t want you to either.”
A branch whipped past me and hit Drew on the shoulder. He grabbed it with a cry of pain. Thunder boomed louder than I’d ever heard.
“I don’t want to go,” I cried, more to myself than him. I could hardly see him through the sheet of rain between us.
“You can’t escape your problems forever. They won’t go away!”
There was a deafening crack behind us, and one of the big firs fell toward us. We both jumped up and ran as it crashed into the hut, smashing every remaining part of it. One of the big branches hit my leg, and I fell. My knee hit the ground with a sickening crack and hot pain shot through my entire leg.
I screamed in pain. I couldn’t get up. Drew ran back and grabbed my arm.
“Are you okay?” He yelled. He was petrified. He tried to pull me up, but my knee felt like it was being torn apart.
“Grace…” The look in Drew’s eyes was what broke me.
“I want to go back,” I whispered. Tears poured from my eyes as my beloved, treacherous island faded into darkness.
Read part 4 here.