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Sixteen year old Kellie Saunders was not one to shy away from mystery and danger. That’s why she was all for chasing after the mysterious boy that ran away from her. However, she did know exactly where the chase she was going on would lead her.
The young blond was running through the woods and Kellie’s first thought was to follow. After he fled, she followed him. She wasn’t used to running long distances, but this was exciting!
These woods were a new place to Kellie. She had never been here before. She was from warm, sunny Orlando, Florida and this was the first time she had ever been out of the state. Her cousin Brent had always come with his family to visit her several times, so this time Kellie’s family decided to visit them in Enola, Pennsylvania during the summer..
However, Kellie was bored. She and Brent had always had fun together, but he had changed in the past year. Now he was ignoring her, and going out with his friends but never inviting her along. It was summertime and only July. Kellie’s family planned to stay with Brent’s family until late August. Kellie had to find something to do or she’d go insane!
Luckily, Brent’s house was huge and had a great library. Though Brent’s parents told Brent to take Kellie with him wherever he went, Kellie knew Brent wouldn’t like that so she just always said she’d rather read and spent time in the library.
However that day, when she settled herself on the easy chair near a stack of books she picked out to read before the summer was over, she heard a crash from behind her. She whirled around to see a young, cute blond sprawled on the floor, a box of books spilled around him. Though Kellie should’ve asked if the boy was alright, her first question turned out to be, “Who the heck are you?”
The boy’s response was to look at her in terror, jump up, and run out of the huge open window next to Kellie’s table of books. Intrigued, Kellie decided to follow him, which is what led her into the woods.
“Hey! Wait! Wait!” she called to the boy, even though she was almost out of breath and she knew screaming was the best way to conserve energy.
The boy looked back at her and yelled, “Go away! Don’t follow me!”
“You know this means I’m going to have to follow you right?” she called back, laughing.
The boy looked back at her again and glared at her menacingly. “Don’t play games! I’m serious! Don’t follow me!”
“Watch out!” Kellie shouted, but it was too late. The boy tripped over a rock and tumbled on the ground. He sat there for a moment, as if he wasn’t sure what had happened. Kellie took this opportunity to catch up to him. Once she had, Kellie saw he was okay, but breathing hard. Kellie was panting herself.
“Don’t follow me,” the boy warned.
Kellie giggled a little. “It’s hard to take you seriously when you’re so weak.”
“Why are you following me?” the boy demanded angrily. It was obvious he didn’t care for Kellie’s humor.
“Why were you in my library?” Kellie shot back.
The boy looked surprised. “You live there?” he asked.
“My cousin does,” Kellie explained. “I’m visiting him for the summer.
The boy picked himself up. “Go back,” he said.
“Go back,” he repeated. “Don’t follow me.”
“Why not?” Kellie asked.
“You don’t want to go where I’m going,” he said.
“I think I do,” Kellie argued. “You were in my cousin’s house. The least you can do is show me where you’re going.”
“I can’t.” The boy was desperate now, pleading with her. Kellie wouldn’t sway.
“I want to come,” she insisted.
The boy opened his mouth to say something but stopped. They heard footsteps and boys’ voices.
“Who-” Kellie started but stopped when the boy clamped a hand over her mouth.
“Shhh,” he warned. He took his hand of her mouth, grabbed her arm, and led her to the thick bush. He crouched down and hid and motioned for Kellie to do the same. She did and they peeked above the bush to see the boys.
“That’s Brent,” she whispered to the boy, recognizing a familiar face. “My cousin. You can’t get to your community pool through here, can you?” she asked.
“No,” the boy whispered back.
“That’s what I thought,” Kellie sighed. “Brent said he was going to the pool with his friends. I wonder where they’re really going.”
“I think I know,” the boy said.
“Where?” Kellie asked loudly.
“Shhh!” the boy whisper cried, putting a finger to his lips.
“Right, sorry,” Kellie whispered.
The two stayed behind the bush for a few minutes. Once the boy was sure there were no more people coming through, he got up. Kellie followed suit. The boy looked extremely worried.
“What’s wrong?” Kellie asked, noticing his concerned look.
“Nothing,” the boy said quickly. “I’ve got to go. I’ve got to get home. Don’t follow me!”
Kellie was exasperated. “I get that you don’t want me to follow you. I do. But I can’t just let you get away. I want to know where you’re going and why, because I know you’re not going home. Not to a real one anyway. There aren’t any houses past these woods. That I know for sure.”
“You’re right,” the boy sighed. “I don’t have a real home. Or even real parents. But where I’m going is dangerous. So I can’t take you.”
“You’re…you’re worried about me?” Kellie asked, astonished.
“Yes, I am,” the boy answered simply.
“But…but why?” Kellie cried. “You just met me!”
“What can I say? You’ve grown on me in just twenty minutes.” The boy grinned for the first time. “Besides, protection is in my nature. I’ve had to protect people my entire life, no matter who they are, and no matter how long I’ve known them.”
“Wait, why?” Kellie asked.
“You’re very curious, aren’t you?
“You’re right about that,” Kellie agreed.
“So you want to see where I’m going, right?” the boy asked.
“That’s right,” Kellie said excitedly. Was he going to take her along with him?
“Okay, tell you what,” the boy said. “I’ve got to go now, and you can’t come along. But I’ll take you to where I’m going tomorrow.”
“Really? Promise?” Kellie asked excitedly.
“Yeah, I promise,” the boy replied earnestly. “So what’s your name anyway?”
I’m Kellie,” Kellie replied. “And don’t you have to get home…or wherever you’re going?”
“Yes,” the boy said. “See you tomorrow!” With that, he ran in the same direction Brent and his friends went in.
Kellie nodded and then remembered something. “Wait!” she called out. “I didn’t get your name!”
The boy turned around and started walking backward. Kellie just now noticed how cute he was! “Nate,” he said. “My name’s Nate.”
“Bye Nate,” Kellie called, turning around and heading back home.
The next day, Kellie could hardly contain her excitement. She couldn’t wait to see where Nate lived. Brent came home looking extremely beat up. She was tempted to ask Brent what happened to him and why he lied about going to the pool, but she didn’t since he wouldn’t tell her anyway. She did feel like there was more to the story than just getting in a fight, which is what Brent told his parents when they asked what happened.
Kellie went to the library after lunch, planning to sneak out the window and go into the woods. She realized that she didn’t really know where she was supposed to go. Would she have to wander around aimlessly? No. When Kellie got to the library, Nate was there waiting for her.
“Hey,” he said with a short wave.
Kellie was going to say when she noticed Nate was beat up pretty badly. He had bruises everywhere and a nasty black eye. “Wait…what happened to you?”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice,” Nate said.
“Are you okay?” Kellie asked, extremely concerned for her new friend.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about it,” Nate said, secretive as always. “Come on. We should go. After all, I promised.” He grinned and Kellie nodded, still worried. Nate climbed out the window and Kellie saw he winced with pain the whole time.
“Nate!” she cried. “You’re not okay! We have to get you help.”
“No!” Nate yelled harshly. Kellie instantly recoiled, surprised.
“Sorry,” Nate said. “I’m fine. Just trust me.”
Kellie nodded. Nate was just as stubborn as she was. He wasn’t going to let her help him. Kellie asked Nate exactly where they were going.
Nate knew she’d find out eventually and told her the story right away. Nate’s parents died in a car crash. He was in the car but still alive, discovered by a boy of fifteen, who decided to raise him and name him Nate. Nate lived in a small cult made up of orphaned kids. They were all very happy there for a while. But lately, group of boys had taken to attacking to their little cult and the leader was especially strong. The boys didn’t like having to deal with the cult’s strange traditions because some of the kids there went to their school, Nate included. They attacked the cult because of this.
“That’s horrible!” Kellie cried when Nate told her.
“Yeah, it is. For the cult. They’re my family,” Nate explained. “I get in a fight with that new guy every now and then. I usually win and he leaves us alone for a while, but he’s really strong and I get beat up like this.”
“Who are these boys?”
“No one,” Nate said, his clear blue eyes suddenly clouding over.
“Nate, what aren’t you telling me?” Kellie asked.
Nate sighed, knowing he couldn’t avoid telling Kellie. “They’re your cousin Brent’s friends, and Brent is the leader.
“No way!” Kellie cried. “Brent might’ve changed since I last saw him but he’d never do something as awful as attacking innocent people because he didn’t like their traditions.”
“It’s true,” Nate insisted. “That’s why I had to head home yesterday. I was worried they were headed to my cult.”
“And you were right,” Kellie said softly, realizing that’s why Brent was so beat up. “But I still can’t believe Brent would do this.”
Five minutes later, the two arrived. Kellie was amazed. There were dozens of green tents, all small and all alike set up around a big area. There were little around with an older child chasing after them.
“Wow,” Kellie breathed.
“It’s great, isn’t it?” Nate asked, smiling happily. “We don’t live like other people, but we like living a simple life. We make everything and help each other out. We’re just one big happy family.”
“It’s wonderful. I envy this closeness if it’s anything like you described.”
“It is. Now, I want you to meet somebody. Follow me.”
“Follow you? For real?” Kellie asked laughing. Nate laughed too and Kellie was happy that they already had a private joke.
Nate led her to a young man. “Grandpa,” Nate said.
“Nate? Back already?”
“Yes. Kellie, this is the person I told you about, Ivan. The one who found and raised me. Ivan, this is Kellie, the girl I told you about.”
“The one that discovered you in her library,” the man said nodding. He smiled and extended his hand to Kellie. “Nice to meet you,” he said warmly.
“Likewise,” Kellie said shaking his hand.
Everyone was skeptical of Kellie at first but got used to her slowly.
“If you keep coming around, they’ll like you. Will you keep coming around?” Ivan asked.
“Oh definitely,” Kellie said.
Kellie came every day, and soon she knew the way herself. She loved the cult. However, Nate always escorted her. Her family thought she was spending everyday in the library but she was really with the cult, mostly with Nate.
One day, Kellie led him to an empty tent and told him that she was leaving for home soon and he said he didn’t want her to go. She was the best friend her ever had. “I love you,” he said sadly.
Kellie was shocked and didn’t know what to say. “Nate, I- I’m only sixteen. I don’t know what love is,” she said nervously.
Nate shook his head sadly. “It’s okay,” he said softly. Suddenly, screams were heard They dashed out and saw a group of boys.
“Brent!” Kellie cried, seeing the boy at the front.
“Kellie?” Brent asked, shocked.
“You boys, go home now! We’ve had enough of you!” Ivan said, stepping up.
The boys ignored him
Brent stepped forward and looked at Nate. “We’re going to finish this once and for all. I’m not going to lose another fight.”
“Fine. You’ll lose and leave us alone,” Nate said.
Kellie hated watching this fight between her cousin and her friend. At first, there was just a lot of punching, shoving, and some kicking. Then Brent said he had secret weapon. When Nate was close enough, he pulled out a small knife and stabbed Nate in the stomach.
Nate fell to the ground and several people gasped. A few girls moved him out of the way and some yelled instructions to others.
“Brent, what have you done?!” Kellie cried.
Brent’s face was white and he looked as if he couldn’t believe what he just did. His friends looked happy.
‘Of course,’ Kellie thought. ‘Brent hasn’t changed. He’s just been doing all this because of peer pressure!’
The boys moved forward and pushed the girls away. The other boys fought the boys of the cult. Nate was left unattended.
“Brent! Finish him off!” one boy said.
“No! Brent, you’ve crossed the line. What do you think you’re doing?” Kellie cried, stepping in front of Nate. She realized what love is. Caring about someone. Wanting to protect someone. Feeling as if you’d die if they got hurt. Never wanting to leave their side.
“Kellie?” Nate gasped, his breath failing. “What…what are you doing?” he choked out.
“I’m protecting you,” Kellie said. “Because I love you too.”
Nate’s face lit up. That was the last memory Kellie had of Nate. Kellie convinced Brent to leave Nate and the entire cult alone. Then, Brent turned himself in, along with the other boys. They were sent to JDC. His parents and Kellie’s knew everything that happened once Brent came clean. Kellie couldn’t get over the unbelievable and melancholy summer she had.
Nate had lost too much blood. He didn’t make it. Kellie was devastated that she lost the first guy she ever loved. The sorrow would never go away. The only thing she could think of was Nate and how much she loved him.
Kellie knew what love meant now. At least, she knew what love mean to her. Love meant Nate. It would always mean Nate. But most of all, love meant the cult.