Title: Wrong Side Girl
Author: Julia Goda
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: January 17th, 2016
Lizzy and Cole have been best friends from the moment he found her crying in the woods two weeks before her tenth birthday. Growing up without a father, Lizzy was raised by her alcoholic and drug-addicted mother. Being branded as the town whore's daughter, she had one bright spot in her dark world: Cole. He was the one constant in her life, the only person she trusted would never let her down.
He’s her savior, her protector…and the secret love of her life.
Now, sixteen years later, they both live successful lives in Boston. But while Lizzy still harbors hope that one day Cole will come around and see what’s right in front of his eyes, Cole enjoys his bachelor lifestyle with no intentions of slowing down.
It’s time for Lizzy to move on.
Cole has been in love with Lizzy since he can remember. Those gorgeous but sad green eyes of hers have held him captive since he was twelve years old.
But she is too pure, too perfect, too innocent for him and his lustful and promiscuous thoughts.
He has promised himself he won’t touch her.
That is, until he doesn’t have a choice but to claim her as his or lose her forever.
Is it possible for them to have what both their hearts desire or will the cruelty of life keep them apart?
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Fifteen years ago.
Lizzy is nine. Cole is twelve.
I am hiding in my cave.
It’s not really a cave, more like a hole just big enough for me to sit in. It’s probably dangerous since it’s nothing but a hole I dug into the side of one of those ridges in the woods a few years ago when I needed to get away. It’s just big enough to hold my now almost ten-year-old body. I like that it’s close to the creek in the woods behind my house. I can hear the water running over the rocks.
It’s peaceful in my cave.
Nobody can find me.
The sand beneath my bare feet feels cool and I dig my toes in deeper. It relaxes me and lets me think of nothing but the sand on my skin. I've had lots of practice in how to not think about anything. To shut everything out and just sit here.
This is the only place where I can do that. It’s my favorite place in the whole wide world.
It’s my escape.
The place where I come to find peace and quiet.
I come here whenever things at home or school get too much. It’s like a cocoon that surrounds me and keeps everything else out.
I take my shoes and socks off and bury my hands and feet in the soft cool sand and let it run through my fingers and over my toes again and again.
Then I stare.
At the sand.
Or the creek.
Or the sky.
And I listen to the sounds of the woods, to the wind in the trees above me, the trickling of water in the creek to my right, the birds chirping, the leaves rustling.
To anything that will drown out their words in my head.
And I think of nothing.
Not of the screaming and shouting and name-calling.
Not of the smell of alcohol on my mother’s breath.
Not of the sound that man’s hand makes when it slaps my mother across the face.
Not of the struggle that follows.
And definitely not of the sounds that follow after.
My mind is completely blank.
And I am all alone.
Two weeks later.
It’s my birthday.
My special day.
I turned ten today.
I’ve been waiting for this day all month.
It’s July and it’s hot outside, so I picked my favorite skirt to wear this morning. It used to be a sleeveless dress that I wore when I was five or six. It has a stretchy top with little spaghetti straps. Now, the stretchy top sits on my hips and I tuck in the straps at the side. The fabric is worn and soft and I love the colors. Kinda like a soft rainbow from light pink through purple and blue to soft green. It’s the prettiest piece of clothing I own and I only wear it for special occasions.
And since today is special, I chose my favorite skirt to wear.
I was excited for my cake and present. I was sure that this year would be different; that this year surely I would get a cake and a present.
Turning ten is a big deal.
I was so very excited.
But when I bounced down the stairs and called out for my mom, I didn't get an answer. I checked the kitchen, but it was empty. And quiet. I went into the living room and there they were lying on the couch.
It looked like they were both sleeping.
The room was a mess: beer cans and cigarette butts everywhere. The smell was overwhelming and it made me scrunch my nose in disgust. My mom was only half-dressed. Her skirt had ridden up and sat around her hips and she was not wearing any panties. A man’s body was half on top of hers. He wasn't wearing a shirt and his pants were undone. His arm was slung around my mom and his hand was holding one of her boobs. Not a pleasant sight, but nothing I hadn’t seen before. I walked over to the couch and shook my mother’s arm.
I tried again and called out, “Mom, wake up!”
They were totally out of it.
I looked around then went back into the kitchen. I didn't see a cake anywhere. I even checked the fridge and the freezer but found nothing but beer, a jug of milk, and pop tarts.
Not even a card.
I couldn’t help but start crying. Silent tears of disappointment were running down my face. I swiped them away, but they kept coming. I couldn't keep up.
I felt alone.
So terribly alone.
With nowhere else to go, I ran outside to escape to the woods, to sit in my cave and forget.
To spend my special day in my special place by myself.
That’s where I am right now. I am still crying and it annoys me that I can’t stop. I should have known that she would forget.
That today wasn’t a special day at all.
That I am not special.
I hear it often enough. Every day to be exact. If not from my mother, then from someone in town.
I should have known better.
Lost in my sorrow, I jump when a boy appears beside me at the opening to my cave and looks down at me. He has curly, blond hair and big, blue eyes that search my face. I have no idea who he is, have never seen him before. Not in town, not in school, not anywhere. He looks like he is a year or two older than me, but still, I should know him because our town is really small.
“Are you crying?” he asks me in a weird voice.
Embarrassed at being caught, I turn my head away and shrug my shoulders. I’m hoping he will just go away. This is my place. Nobody ever comes here. I want to be alone. But instead of leaving, he sits down next to me, facing me.
“What’s your name?” he wants to know. I keep my face averted and shrug my shoulders again. “I’m Cole,” he says. I stay silent and watch as I let the sand run through my fingers over and over again. He still doesn't leave. Instead, he tells me about himself. He just moved to town a few days ago. Into one of those big, old houses I love so much on Old Hollow Street at the other end of the woods. He is twelve and going into grade six after the summer. He was exploring the woods behind his house when he saw me sitting here. He wishes he had a dog. He would name him Cash and he would be an Australian Shepherd. I’m not sure what that is, but I do love dogs. I keep listening to him, quietly watching the sand running through my fingers as he tells me about all the adventures he and Cash would have. It sounds like they would be best friends and have a lot of fun together.
I wish I had a dog to be my friend. That had been my birthday wish.
Thinking about that makes me cry again. I try to wipe my tears away without him noticing, but of course he notices and asks me in a sad voice, “Hey, did I say something wrong?” I shake my head and stay quiet. He stays quiet with me for a while until I stop crying, and it actually feels nice to have him sit with me.
When my tears dry, he repeats his earlier question, “What’s your name?”
This time I answer him. “Lizzy,” I whisper.
He smiles at me and holds out his hand to me. “Hi, Lizzy, I’m Cole. Pleasure to meet you.” That makes me giggle and I take his hand. He shakes it then lets it go and gets up. I realize he is going to leave and that makes me sad. Before he leaves, though, he looks down at me, still smiling, and asks, “Wanna meet here again same time tomorrow?” I think about it for a minute while I look up into his blue eyes and then nod. His smile grows wider. “See you then, Lizzy,” he says, then turns around and leaves me with a smile on my face.
From that day on we were inseparable.
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