GIRL LOST by Nazarea Andrews
Northern was supposed to be a fresh start—a place where people didn't know who I was or how I had spent years in and out of mental institutes. People didn't know about my parents death or the island no one heard of. But when Peter sits next to me in lit class, I can’t stop the memories, and I don’t want to. He looks too much like the boy from the island, and despite my best intentions, coaxes my secrets from me.
He’s gorgeous, irresistible, a little mad, and completely lost—we are a pair of broken cogs in a world neither of us truly fits into. And he listens when I talk, about the past and the terrifying future. He is somehow gentle and fierce, heartbreaking in his devotion and savage in his defense.
When Belle, his best friend, shows up, pale and lovely and sick, Peter pulls away from me, a startling withdrawal. It’s a relationship that scares and confuses me. She is at times warm and friendly, and other times is violent and unpredictable.
Peter says that he wants me, but refuses to let himself get close. And there are secrets, surrounding both of us, that border on nightmares. As the memories close in, as Belle gets sicker and more violent, I’m torn between what is true and what I believe, and what this magical boy knows about my mysterious past.
*Suitable for 17+. A romantic contemporary retelling of the boy who never grew up.
There are a few thing you should know about me, to start. I am Gwendolyn, the eldest daughter of Piers Barrie. I am a college freshman, and an heiress.
And, I am quite mad.
Freshman orientation is a joke. A mass of wannabe jocks and pretty boys waiting for fraternities to swoop in and give them a team to play for. Catty girls with perfectly styled tresses and designer handbags and a superior air of injured dignity. Gatherings of this sort are beneath girls like them.
I stand in the doorway, uncomfortable. Take a deep breath and paste a fake smile on.
This is my fresh start. Here, no one knows Gwen Barrie. They don't know about the Second Star or my parents.
They don't know about the time I spent in Pembrooke. That is the most important thing. I clench my fist, steadying my breath.
Someone bumps me from behind, and I shift a little as my younger brother steps up. He eyes me worriedly, and I smile, softlyI’m fine, Micah.”
“Darling, you are the furthest thing from fine I’ve ever seen. I’m still not sure why Grayson said this was a good idea.”
I flinch, furious that he would even mention that. “You promised,” I say stiffly.
I stalk away from him before he can respond, weaving through the crowd. Northern University is small, one of the reasons Grayson selected it. It’s perfect for me.
The dean is finally silent, and I drift through the crowd toward a group of girls who look friendly enough that I’m not ready to bolt. Micah gives me a little space, but I can feel him watching me from the corner of the room. He’s drawn into a conversation by a pretty blonde, and I release a sigh of relief.
Micah isn’t like me—he’s comfortable in groups like this. He would thrive at a larger school, but he wouldn’t leave me. After almost ten years of taking care of me, he wasn’t going to trust me alone at college.
“Excuse me,” a male voice says, and I twist. The speaker is a tall, slender young man in a white button down and black jeans, with dark hair, murky blue eyes, and a smile that makes me shiver.
I shove the memories down and force a polite smile. “Sorry.”
“No need to apologize. I didn’t want to startle you. Are you a transfer?”
I flush—this is a question I’ve been dreading. “No,” I mumble, looking down into my toes. “I deferred after high school.”
A smile tickles his lips, and for a moment, he looks less menacing. Less like a memory.
Across the room, a flash of movement catches my eyes, and I pale as I see the guy. He’s surrounded by other students, and I only see a glimpse—but I take a few stumbling steps in his direction, my heart pounding.
No. No. I can’t do this—I refuse to believe this. Not today, not here. I turn away and collide with Micah. “What’s wrong?” he asks, his voice low and worried.
“I need to go,” I whisper. His eyebrows inch up, that familiar worried look. My brother is too young to look that old.
“Come on, then,” he says immediately.
“Stay,” I order. “You were having fun—and I’m fine. I just need some air.”
His expression is one of disbelief, so I give him a smile, a real smile. “Promise.”
I squeeze his hand lightly and head to the exit. I don’t look back—I don’t know if that’s evidence I’m getting stronger or if I’m too scared to chance it.
I wander through campus until I’m at the Cliff. One of the reasons Grayson and I chose Northern was the seaside location. I need to be close to the water—as terrifying as it can be, I can’t imagine life without the steady throb of the ocean and the relentless whisper of waves. I stand on the Cliff and stare out at the wind swept sea, and I let the dangerous memories take me under.
I see him everywhere. In other patients, at Pembroke. At school, when Grayson thinks I’m sane enough for it. Laughing cat eyes and a shock of red hair, slanted, sly features. He isn’t the same as anyone else, and I can’t shake him.
They say I imagined it.
But they’re wrong. I saw him again, and it’s been six years. Micah is talking to Grayson and Aunt Jane. I know what they want to do. I’m so tired of years spent Pembroke.
A flash of red, a crooked smile from under the tilted cap. I shudder, and for the first time, I turn away.
I chose to not believe.
And ignore the flash of angry hurt that fills his eyes as I focus on my brother.
“What are you doing?”
I jerk around to face the unfriendly voice. A girl is standing a few feet away from me, her eyes narrowed. She looks annoyed, and I shrug helplessly. “Nothing. Just…um. Who are you?”
She huffs. “Orchid Lewis.”
The name tugs at my memory, and I frown. “Have we met?”
“No,” she says abruptly. “But if you’re Gwendolyn Barrie, I’m your roommate.”
I perk up. I’ve been looking forward to meeting the face on the other side of the email exchange. She seemed polite enough, then, if not incredibly warm. Now she’s staring at me like I’m crazy—I know those looks, because they’ve been directed at me for so long.
“You shouldn’t stand so close to the cliff, you know. It’s dangerous.”
Understanding sweeps me, and I flush. “Oh. I’m not—I wasn’t...” I trail off as her expression turns vaguely curious. “I wasn’t paying attention,” I finish lamely.
She stares at me for a long moment, and then, “Did you make it to orientation?”
I nod. “For a few minutes. Then I got out of there. It was too crowded.”
“Our class is only, like, two hundred people.”
I know that, and I’m annoyed that she feels the need to point it out. “I don’t like crowds,” I snap and turn away from the cliff, stalking toward the dorm hall. Orchid trails along behind me, a drifting presence.
“Was there anything we actually needed to pay attention to?”
I slide a glance at her, and she shrugs. “Hanging out with a bunch of over-eager jocks isn’t my idea of a good way to spend my last day before class.”
I laugh. “Nothing we haven’t been told in the admin packets. You came for a tour, right?” She nods, brushing a lock of straight black hair from her eyes. “Then you’ll be fine. We both already have our schedules.”
“Great.” She fidgets as I flash my key card and the door buzzes open. She follows me through the empty hall, pass the elegant, overdone commons room. She laughs a little. “What do they think we’re going to do in there, have high tea?”
I giggle, and her eyebrows wing up, like birds independent of the rest of her face. The rest of her expression remains immobile, but those thin dark eyebrows express a wide array of emotion.
I’m staring. I shouldn’t stare. This isn’t Pembrooke—staring gets noticed here.
Our room is on the third floor, with no elevator. The dorms of Northern are lovely, all cream brick and slate siding and soaring arches and columns. They claim to be original buildings, from when the university was founded in the mid-1800s. But they lack the basic amenities of modern structures. Like properly sealed windows and efficient heating. And elevators.
Orchid reaches our door first and lets it swing open. I’m a little embarrassed by how barren it is—I’ve seen the other girls’ rooms, half glimpses snatched through the open doors, and I haven’t done anything like them. There is nothing to say I’m here, aside from four large boxes and three suitcases. There are no pictures hanging, no personalized touches. I haven’t unpacked.
Part of me doesn’t believe that Grayson will let me stay. I’m an adult, and Aunt Jane can’t do anything to force me back into institutional care, but she controls Barrie Enterprises.
I grit my teeth and smile at Orchid. “You can have your pick,” I say, waving at the empty beds. She takes the bed to the right, and I move my stuff to the left, situating my desk to face the window. I push it open, and she gives me a curious look as the sound of the wind and the ocean seeps in. “I like the fresh air,” I say simply. She doesn’t comment, and I stare at my untouched boxes. Nod to myself, firmly.
I can’t screw this up. It’s my chance to prove to Micah and Grayson and Jane—to everyone who matters—that I’m not insane. I haven’t seen the Boy in months—not counting this afternoon, and I can dismiss that, because I didn’t see him. It was a boy, a normal student, a redhead, but not the Boy.
With that thought firmly in mind, I busy myself unpacking the boxes, working alongside Orchid in companionable silence.
Nazarea Andrews is an avid reader and tends to write the stories she wants to read. She loves chocolate and coffee almost as much as she loves books, but not quite as much as she loves her kids. She lives in south Georgia with her husband, daughters, and overgrown dog.
Twitter - https://twitter.com/NazareaAndrews