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How to love snakes (and betray them)

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Chapter 1
Nightmares of all sorts

I was standing on a sandy beach, in front of me the endless view of a deep blue ocean. Somehow I had no clue of how I got to this dreamy beach, the soft splashes of the waves cooling my toes, but it didn’t seem to matter at this moment. An incredible peace filled my heart and I started to smile, probably looking like an utter fool, but I didn’t care, because this place was mine and no one could take it from me.
Suddenly I felt a strong pull in my stomach, my vision blurred and all around me was darkness. “What-”, I tried complaining, my sunny paradise stolen from me, but as I was speaking water filled my mouth and realisation kicked in. I was floating in water, tons of it around me, with no way out. I started panicking, above and around me seemed to be nothing but water, I lost all sense of navigation and started randomly kicking the blue masses, my mouth pressed shut unwilling to give up just yet. My body felt like a statue as more and more water entered my mouth, my nose. This floating around felt like an eternity, I had no clue how long I’ve been under water. "I should be dead", something deep in me said, "nobody can survive swallowing that much water." In some way my body knew exactly what to do. I opened my mouth letting the water in, breathing it and it didn’t hurt a bit. My vision seemed to clear, I looked at my dark, now ashy fingers stroking through the water. "When it’s bad, it’s awful, I feel so ashamed", I suddenly heard.
I frowned, looking around me. "I’m tired of the games, I just want her back, I know I’m a liar." Loud and clear.
“What the he-”, I was preparing myself to say as suddenly a strong hand seized mine and jerked me forward.

“Aya? You okay?”, I heard someone say, seemingly miles away. My head jolted upwards and with burning lungs I coughed on the red picnic table in front of me. “Ayina? You’re starting to worry me babe.” The same voice. Malia. My friend. Everything came back to me. I looked up, taking in my surroundings. Together with three other people, Malia, Dylan and Zoey, my friends, I sat on one of the tables in the courtyard of my high school, eating lunch. All around us were people chattering and the dazzling sun made the stereotypical high school scene look freshly out of hollywood. “I’m sorry, I was… just out for a second”, I said, looking at my friend reassuringly. They all looked at me like they were incredibly worried, but I just shrugged them off. “Man, this has been happening a lot lately, hasn’t it?” This was Zoey. We’ve been friends since kindergarten, with her red flaming hair and her very alike personality she totally had me on the hook. Right now though, there wasn’t a bit to be seen of her natural confidence and ease, as she looked at me furiously. “You should probably go to a doctor.” This was Dylan. He totally reminded us of the actor with the same name, which was why we often just called him Stiles. “I told you, I’m fine”, I declared and tried smiling. They were right though. Since my sixteenth birthday a few months ago I started having these sort of nightmares - in bright daylight. And in each one of them I died a horrible, violent death. Except for this one today. Even though I should’ve drowned in the masses of water, I felt calm and very alive for that matter.
My thoughts were drowned by a loud voice. “Hi guys!”, a guy with long brown curly hair exclaimed, hurrying towards our table. I sighed, but a smile lay on my lips. That one was Stanley. He was a year above me, in tenth grade but seemed to show a sudden interest in me lately. And so did I. “What do you want?”, Dylan asked, clearly annoyed. He never really liked Stanley, unlike everybody else at this school. “Ahm, a friend of mine is throwing a party this evening and I was just wondering, if any of you wanted to come.” The question was directed at the whole group, but he created the impression as if he was only looking at me. His gaze felt like it burned through my chest, hastily I looked down as my cheeks reddened. He smirked and looked at us anticipatingly. “Yeah why not”, I pressed through my lips, before any of my friends could intervene. “Why not.”
Stanley’s smile was growing bigger. “Great! I’ll text you the where and when later”, he said. With that he disappeared into the crowd of students again. “Watch it, I think you’re drooling”, Malia said annoyed, the incident as good as forgotten. “Ah shut up”, I said, but a warm feeling was starting to fill my belly and I just couldn’t stop smiling.