Honest to myself

Music blared into the still night ahead of me.

My breath blew out as a puff of smoke, while my hands desperately tried to rub warmth into my body.

Butterflies fluttered in my stomach with each step closer to his house.

A waft of smoke passed by my nose and I wrinkled up my face in disgust. Images of my grandad, frail and barely breathing, came alive with the smell.

A shudder ran through my limbs as I thought of the deadly effects such a small thing could have. I carried on though, pushed along by the thought that he would be waiting inside.

''Leigh-Anne, you made it!''

Zain slurred as he enclosed me tightly in his arms.

Heat flushed in my cheeks at the contact, causing me to hide my face in his broad chest. I pulled away and smiled nervously at his scruffy figure.

His jet black hair was ruffled, and his captivating indigo eyes were slightly out of focus.

I frowned as I finally took in my surroundings.

Empty bottles everywhere, unconscious bodies draped across the floor, couples clung together in dark corners.

I grasped the locket around my neck for comfort - my grandad had given it to me on my last birthday. He told me it was so I would remember who I was, and where I came from.

A queasy feeling was starting to seep through my body like mist, but I hurriedly rearranged my facial expression and crafted a smile.

Zain was the most important thing.

Zain grasped my clammy hand and led me into a less rowdy room. A group of people were sitting there in a circle, chatting and laughing.

I could feel myself shrink under their stare, my stomach dropping to my toes. I shifted my gaze down to my sneakers as Zain introduced the strangers as his friends.

I couldn't help but ogle slightly at the other girls as I sat down. Their impeccable bodies were all clad with skimpy party dresses, and their endless locks were a silky flowing river.

I pulled a hand jealously through my own deep red hair, my confidence slowly draining away along with my hopes of impressing Zain.

When I looked up again, I let out a silent gasp, not expecting to see Zain holding out to me something I had always despised - a pack of cigarettes.

''Have one,'' Zain demanded, pushing them into my trembling hands. Knots formed in my stomach as I stared at the small box anxiously.

''Uh, I don't smoke,'' I managed to stutter out, desperately trying to read Zain's facial expression.

''Why not?'' one of the girls sneered at me, her inky made-up eyes wide with false innocence.

My head dropped at the same time as my heart when I thought of the reason.

My grandad was a heavy smoker all his life, and now it was coming back to haunt him. He was frail and broken, lying in hospital, a step away from death.

I blinked back tears, studied the floor, not able to find the words to tell them.

''Well come on,'' Zain said as he opened the box for me.

I was torn. Smoking was the one thing I had promised myself never to do. I didn't want to go down the same road as my grandad.

Even having one would break that promise to myself. I gripped my locket as I thought, wanting to rip it from my throat. Its familiar cold surface was a comfort; it reminded me of who I was.

But then I looked up into Zain's deep eyes and felt another type of fear grasp me.

Zain was the only thing I wanted. He was everything I had always wanted, and this was my one chance with him.

My palms were slippery as I tried to clear my head.

Lose Zain or lose myself?

This time the blaring music was drifting further away from me as I walked along in the cold. Soft spits of rain caressed me while I tried to understand the sudden strength I felt in every pore of my body. I was different now.

When I tried to think of Zain, I could only feel numbness in my bones, and a sadness biting at my heart.

But there was something else I felt.

It was something that lifted my head up high and made me feel like I could do anything at all.

I ran my fingers over the locket in habit. It felt warmer now. It was not only a symbol of my strength.

I proudly smiled to myself as I sloshed home in the dark.

The next day, I lay on my bed, tears streaming down my face and the locket resting over my heart. My grandad had died.

Now I knew I had made the right decision. I would never go down the same path as my grandad.


• By Mia Taylor, Year 11, Taieri College


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