They were on a beach. The sand was golden yellow and the sea was as clear as it could be. The sun was setting in the bay and the light was glistening off the sea water, making it look magical. Stella had never seen a place so beautiful in her life. She looked around for a few minutes, taking it all in. in front of her she saw a picnic all set out. She looked at Lars and smiled. He smiled back and took her hand led her to the picnic.
‘This is why I was late today,’ Lars explained. ‘I was here sorting it all out for us but when I got there, you weren’t there. I came and looked for you and it was a good job I found you when I did.’
Stella smiled, her eyes still red and swollen. ‘I was about to lose it. I had to get out the hospital as fast as I could. I just ran. I couldn’t stand it anymore.’
Lars turned to face her. ‘Why were you at the hospital?’ he asked puzzled.
‘It’s a long story, it’s what happened over the summer. I never told you about what happened over the summer and I’m starting to regret it now.’ She made herself comfortable before telling Lars everything. Stella thought he had a right to know as he liked her so much. ‘It all began about 2 weeks into the summer holidays. We were going to Devon camping, which has never been nice weather but it was fun. My Dad was great. He always let me pack the roof box and the food. Anyway, we were all set to go when it happened. My brother was sitting in the living room listening to his I-pod and singing along. He’s quite a good singer actually.’ She gulped before continuing. ‘My Dad and brother had never fought up ‘til that moment. It was all over something stupid. Laurie sat there and my Dad asked if he was ready. Laurie said he wasn’t going, which is weird because he had never missed a camping trip before. I laughed and told Dad he was joking but he wasn’t. Dad told me that he might not be and to go and help Mum sort out what DVD’s to watch on the way there and back, as we have a portable DVD player. I slumped off to find Mum and I could hear shouting from the living room. I couldn’t catch what they were saying but it didn’t sound at all good. I found Mum and hugged her because I was scared as they had never shouted at each other like that before. All of a sudden we heard Dad scream and then it all went silent. Mum and I ran into the living room and found Dad lying on the floor not breathing and Laurie standing there with his wand out staring at Dad. Mum was so upset that she told Laurie never to come back. I was kneeling down beside Dad seeing if there was anything we could do to save him, but there was nothing we could do. Laurie disappeared after that and I didn’t see him until the night before I came back to school. Anyway, a week after Dad had died, we held a funeral, Laurie didn’t turn up but Mum said it was good he wasn’t there but I thought he would have wanted to say goodbye.’ Stella sniffed, she knew she was going to cry again. ‘A few days after the funeral Mum had a nervous breakdown and hit her head. She was rushed to St Denvers, where she has been in a coma ever since. I visit her everyday, well I try to. The school know where I am so it’s all okay with them. But nobody else knows, not even Xia.’ Tears started to fall down her cheeks. ‘And the doctors don’t know whether she’ll come through or not and I’m scared, Lars, I’m scared I’ll lose her as well.’ Stella leaned over and bawled into tears on Lars’ shoulder.
‘Oh, Stella, you won’t lose her okay,’ Lars told her. ‘I must not cry,’ he thought. He didn’t know what else to say. He was surprised that she had kept this to herself. Nobody should go through what Stella was going through. ’Shhh, it’s okay,’ was all he could say. Even though he knew how terrible it was to lose a family, he couldn’t imagine the pain the event had put into Stella. How he wished that he could take the pain away.
Stella sat up. ’I’m sorry, I have no idea what just came over me. I guess I just feel all wrong at the minute.’ She reached into her bag and brought out the magazine, then she remembered. ‘Was it really true?’
Lars looked puzzled. ‘Stella, what are you on about?’
‘This,’ she said as she flung the magazine in front of her.
‘Shit,’ Lars thought. ‘How the hell did she get that? I thought she didn’t read those type of magazine.’
‘Are you going to explain to me what the hell you were thinking when you did this? You do realise this is going to be all over the school by tonight.’ Stella wiped her eyes again.
‘Well, I was kind of hoping you wouldn’t see it. And I can’t help it if I love someone at the moment, even though they don’t seem to be taking it well.’ He stopped and sighed. ‘Look, Stella, I think that I’ve loved you for quite a while now and it’s driving me insane. Jem keeps telling me to stop it but I can’t. There’s a feeling in my stomach that I get every time I’m near you. I have always known that we can never kiss properly or anything but just knowing that you love me will make me the happiest guy on Earth.’
It was all leaking out now. Stella smiled. ’I am but a simple girl from Yorkshire. Before I came here, I had no friends and no life. In our third year there was a ball, no one asked me to go with them. I never thought anyone would love me in my entire being and yet here you are saying that you love me.’ All Stella could do was lean over and hug him. ’Thank you,’ she whispered in his ear.
He hugged her back. He had never felt such warmness in his veins. ‘Jem won’t be happy with me.’
‘Oh yeah, she doesn’t like me, does she?’
‘No, it’s not that. No one has ever been in our lives properly. I mean I’ve had loads of girlfriends but they all kind of betrayed our trust and Jem didn’t want you to do that.’
Stella let go of Lars. ‘I would never do that.’
‘I know that but Jem just feels that she can’t trust anyone after what happened.’ Lars looked behind Stella. ‘Speak of the devil.’
Sure enough, Jemony Whistler came storming over. She did not look happy. Jemony stopped a few hundred yards away from where they were and beckoned Lars over.
‘I better go. She’s in one of her moods,’ he said as he got up. Stella sat there and waited.
‘Jem, what are you doing here?’ Lars asked when he approached her.
‘I was about to ask you the same question and why is she here?’ Jem looked over at Stella, who was sitting there.
‘She has a name, Jem. I am spending time with a friend. Is that too much for you? I happen to like Stella, Jem. I’m in love with her, okay.’
‘What?’ Jemony exclaimed. ‘Does she know that you can’t be together? Does she know what’s going to happen to her?’
‘Stella knows that we can’t do things that normal couples do and of course I haven’t told her what’s going to happen to her. How do you think she’ll take it?! I’m not going to put her through that just yet.’
‘But Lars,’ Jem had calmed down now. ‘You’re going to have to put her through it when the time comes.’
‘I know,’ he whispered. ‘I don’t want to do it.’
‘But you have to, it’s our job.’