The Force of Gravity

By: Kelly Stevenson

(The Force of Gravity, Book 1)


PREFACE

I GASP FOR AIR.

The white tiled floor is icy against my knees. My heart pounds erratically, my chest tightening around it like a boa constrictor. I clutch my stomach.

Just breathe.

The tiles sway, then rush toward me, and I slap my hands against the floor before it smacks my face. I hover over the floor as my lungs burn, wondering if this is what it feels like to drown.

Why can’t I get any air?

I collapse on my side, pressing my face against the cold stone, and close my eyes.

Maybe I am drowning.

I’ve been treading water for far too long, and I can’t do it anymore. I’m tired. Tired of hurting everyone around me. Tired of living a lie. Tired of staying afloat.

My body sinks into the unwelcoming tile, and I imagine being submersed in the frigid water as it swallows me whole. The harsh fluorescent light penetrates my eyelids, but soon fades as I sink even deeper into the darkened water.

My body goes limp as I let go.





CHAPTER ONE

I HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON for the countless time and squint at the numbers on the clock.

6:55 a.m.

Panic shoots through me. I rip off the covers and race to the bathroom, striking the corner of the wall with my hip.

“Ow!”

“Kaley?” my dad calls as he walks out of his bedroom. “You okay?”

“Yes,” I croak, hobbling into the bathroom.

“Are you just now getting up?”

“Yes! I have to hurry!”

I shove the door closed and frantically brush my teeth, catching a glance of my hideous reflection in the mirror. The whites of my eyes are bloodshot and invading on the blue. Oh, hell. I look like a walking ad for substance abuse. After washing my face, I force a comb through my tangled hair, but it’s near hopeless. Giving up, I decide on a ponytail. I sweep blush across my cheeks and throw on mascara in an attempt to look less like a zombie, but the dark circles under my eyes will only fade with sleep. Agitated, I hustle back into my bedroom to change.

7:10 a.m.

First period starts in ten minutes. Not good. Mr. Hanson not only detests tardiness, but uses humiliation tactics to ensure it’s never repeated. I snag a crumpled pair of jeans off the floor and throw them on before ripping a plain white T-shirt off a hanger and pulling it over my head. I slip on my sandals as I double-up on my deodorant, then snatch my bag and sprint down the stairs. The smell of coffee lingers throughout the house, and I hesitate for a split second.

No time.

I will have to endure first period precalculus—the worst subject in the entire universe—and grumpy old Hanson without my morning coffee.

On a Monday.

God help us all.

I dash out the front door and toss my bag into the backseat of my 1970 Chevelle and start the engine. Even in the mild March weather of Phoenix, Arizona, my car prefers to be warmed up before driven. But today won’t allow such a luxury, and my car groans as I slam on the gas.

The Chevelle and I have a love-hate relationship. I love finally having my own car, but I kind of loathe the beast. It runs okay—as long as it starts—and the chipped black paint is a dull shade of embarrassment. My boyfriend, Tommy, was able to hook my parents up with a great deal through his dad’s auto shop. And I really am grateful . . . for the most part.

Tommy is the reason I’m late this morning. We stayed up until two in the morning talking on the phone. There’s no excuse, really, since we just spent our entire spring break practically inseparable. Part of me was worried how he’d take the news about me moving to Los Angeles for college, but he’s been nothing but supportive. Even though he has no college aspirations, he’s surprisingly relaxed about us being in a long-distance relationship. I wish I could say I felt the same.

We’ve hung out in the same circle of friends since junior high, but it wasn’t until last summer that we finally started dating. We became exclusive on the last day of summer vacation and things have never been better. Well, except that he’s become a little restless about going all the way. I know he gets a lot of flak from his friends about the fact that he hasn’t scored with me yet—sometimes I overhear them asking him about it. Boys are so vile.

Tommy isn’t a virgin, but he’s only had sex once in his life. It was at the first party of the summer with some random girl about two weeks before we started dating. Classy, I know. But he isn’t a bad guy; he’s pretty great, actually. He’s just . . . well, a guy. I know any other girl in school would have slept with the dark-haired, blue-eyed hunk by now, but I’m not ready to lose my virginity just yet. I’m still waiting for the perfect moment.

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