Grant me the Serenity

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Eighteenth Chronicle: Salt and Holy Water

I never believed in second chances. They always led to third chances and fourth chances, because you only get second chances with someone you can take advantage of. I knew I couldn't take advantage of Keevan, so I wondered why he had given me a second chance at life. When I saw my mother's teary eyes staring right back into mine, I thought that it was just some sick joke. I wasn't laughing.

My mother called frantically for a nurse, letting go of my hand. That's when I felt lost. I felt like I had been abandoned. I didn't feel like I had a place. My hand lay there, numb, cold and alone. But when my mother came back, grabbing my hand once again, I felt this surge. This surge to signify that this wasn't some joke. This was my second chance.

I didn't know what was going on as an unfamiliar man came into the room to take my pulse. He squeezed my wrist and stared at his watch. He spoke, but I couldn't make out his words. A few seconds later, the bed I was in started to roll away. A nurse above my head was pushing me down the hallway, my mother staggering sideways to keep up with her.

Soon, though, my hand was abandoned again and I was lifted up and placed on a cold metal slab and rolled into a tube. I never minded being in tight spaces and I didn't panic, nor did a move. I had a feeling I wasn't supposed to move, so I didn't. I watched as light flashed and swiveled around me. I was pulled back out of the tube a few minutes later and brought back into the warm bed.

"Rowan, Rowan sweetheart." It was my mother. I looked around for her, not feeling her hand in mine. Finally, she grabbed onto me once I was back in that room. She looked down at me with the widest grin, her free hand dabbing a tissue underneath her eyes to catch her tears. She still looked the same.

"Mom . . .?" I questioned, finding my voice gritted and my throat dry.

"Shhh, honey." She told me, wiping her hand over my forehead.

"What happened?"

"There was an accident," she proceeded, not even questioning the fact that I was unaware. "A man broke in to Karen's house and tried to smother you . . ." She started to cry some. "Karen called the police . . .you've been in a coma for three months."

"When can I come home?"

Mother just shrugged her shoulders, looking at me with the deepest love I had ever seen. I was so lucky. "Your father and I will talk to the doctor as soon as he gets here."

My dad came a little while later, so relieved that I had finally awakened from my slumber. They went off to talk to the doctor and my brother, Luke, came in to talk to me. He sat down on the bed next to mine and looked at me. Luke was still the same. Still tall and thin, strong face, wide eyes.

"Feeling better?"

"Yeah." I squeaked. "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you that day."

"Pshhh," Luke waved his hand in the air. "Doesn't matter now. At least you know now that I'm always right."

"Yeah, whatever."

Luke stared at me for a few minutes and then looked away. "I had a dream about you last night." He still wasn't looking at me. I was so hungry. "I was out by the pool, and then you came in from the side and just stood there, staring at me for the longest time. You waved and said you'd see me soon . . .I thought I was going to die too, or something."

"I wasn't dead." I said, knowing that his dream wasn't a dream to me. I remembered being at the pool that day, staring at him as though I hadn't seen him in years. Keevan told me I had to go, so I waved good bye. I wanted to say that I remembered, but I couldn't. There didn't seem to be any point to it at all. Was there? Luke was there and I was there and we were fine. I was going to go home . . .

I stayed at the hospital for only a week longer. Karen and a whole heap of my friends came in to visit me, all bringing presents and flowers. I felt so rejuvenated and so alive that I just wanted to jump out of that bed and go do something. I wanted to go to the movies, go shopping, go jogging, go to school – anything! My mother came in every day to see me at eleven and didn't leave until seven. She came in with my schedule for school on the third day and that was so exciting because I had every class I had asked for. She came with homework to catch up on too, but it wasn't much considering school had only been in session for three weeks.

When I went home, it was like coming back from a long, long vacation. All I wanted to go was jump into my bed and inhale the sweet smell of fresh laundry. I just wanted to find my cat and squeeze the stuffings out of her and I wanted to jump in the pool and feel the shock of the cold water. Of course, though, I had to take things slow. It was so typical, but I had to wait for school.

Mom and I went shopping on that Saturday for new clothes. It was so nice to be able to talk to her again and I had a million things to talk to her about even though I supposedly had been sleeping for the past three months. It was ridiculous how many things were going through my head. We had a long discussion about heaven, and whether or not there was such a place. Mom believed there was a place for our souls to rest after we die, but that the soul never slept. She believed in reincarnation.

"So who were you in a past life?" I asked her over a burger and milkshake. Mom shrugged, thinking for a second, and chewing her grilled cheese.

"I think I was part of the Underground Railroad. You know how I am about equal rights."

"Oh, I know." I said, knowing that mother wouldn't stand for any man or woman to be treated less than. She was very strong and independent, and wanted every woman to feel that way, even though I knew she'd be lost without dad. "Who do you think I was?" I asked.

Mom paused, looking up behind me, obviously pondering. "Oh, I don't. You were probably an heir to a small country somewhere nobody knows about. You're a leader, always have been."

I just nodded slowly. But what about Heaven? Had it all really been a dream? Was Keevan just a dream? What about Phiona, and Erik, and Ryan? What about Ryan? It just didn't seem right. Was my mind allowed to play with me like that – toy with my emotions like that? I never wanted to be taken advantage of. Not by anyone. Not even myself.

"Ready to go?" Mom asked. I looked up and smiled, nodding my head. We hit every store in the mall that day. Mom was obviously ecstatic that I was awake again, and feeling fine. Apparently, they feared brain damage due to the lack of oxygen to my brain during the attack. They hadn't found that man, either.

When it was finally time for me to go back to school, I was so nervous. I wasn't really sure why I was nervous – it's not like I was new to the school or anything. I guess the anticipation had gotten the better of me. Mom and dad were nervous for me too, afraid that the person who tried to smother me actually had a motive and wanted me dead. My dad was on his toes at all hours, and I constantly saw him going to the window to glance outside. I never felt the need to be fearful for my life, but then again, I was naïve. Always have been, always will be.

Luke and I talked outside near the pool around seven Sunday night. The sun was getting ready to set in the sky, and the next day, I'd wake up at six and get ready for school.

"What if no one likes me anymore?" I asked, kicking my feet in the water mindlessly. Luke was lounging in a lawn chair, sunglasses up from his face, and book sitting open in his lap.

"You can't be serious."

"I am."

"Why would they not like you anymore? You haven't changed that much . . .have you?"

"I haven't changed at all."

"Then what's the problem?"

"When I was . . .asleep, or whatever, I had a dream. Karen got new friends, a new best friend, and she went on without me – everyone went on without me. I was just, left me behind, just "that girl", you know?"

"That's ridiculous, you know that?" Luke claimed.

"I know. I can't help it, though."

"It was just a stupid dream."

But I couldn't help thinking that it was real. I guess I was just paranoid. How could I imagine such things, feel such emotions? It didn't seem to make any sense, though I suppose the mind is capable of wondrous things, and what else would it do while I was unconscious? Luke assured me that there was nothing to worry about.

I went back into the house and told my parents I was going up to my room. I wanted to call Karen before school and make sure, for the hundredth time, that she was going to sit with me at lunch. But when I got to my room, Keevan was there.

There he was, just sitting on my bed in his immaculate white gown, looking around mindlessly as though he were some guest. I halted in my doorway upon seeing him there, but quickly recovered and shut the door. My heart rate when through the roof.

"What are you doing here?" I asked quietly, assuring myself this was some hallucination. Mom was right – there was no real heaven.

"I wanted to make sure you were coping well." He answered, looking idly at his fingernails. "You are fine, correct?"

"I'm fine." I said. "Um, thank you."

"Thank you." Keevan said. "You helped my grandson out – he's on the right path now."

"You mean Ryan?"

Keevan just nodded.

"He's your grandson?"

"Indeed he is. I died before he was born, so he really doesn't know of me. I just want to see him happy. He's happy now."

I smiled meekly and in a shy manner, though I wasn't embarrassed. "I'm glad he's doing better. I just wanted to help."

"So you take care of yourself, now." Keevan said to me, standing up. "You deserve this second chance at life, after what you did for Ryan. You're selfless."

"Thank you." I smiled again, still speaking in a hushed tone. "Will I ever see you again?"

"I suppose that once you pass on, again, I'll be there. But don't worry, it won't be any time soon." He paused, walking towards the window. "Your faith is wavering, I know, but believe in what you know, and what you don't. Just because you can't see Him, doesn't mean He's not there."

"I'll keep that in mind." I grinned. Keevan turned around and nodded his head to me.

"Take care." He tipped his head shallowly and soon, he vanished. I stared at the spot where he once stood, swearing I could still make out the outline of his frame. I wasn't sure if he was really there, and I wasn't sure of what really happened, but I didn't need to be sure. I knew what I had experienced and I knew what I had felt – I knew I'd never be able to deny those feelings . . .

**

"We're going to be late!"

"Just a minute, okay?"

"I'm leaving in thirty seconds whether you're ready or not!"

"Luke!" I yelled from the bathroom, over my hair dryer. "I'll kill you the second I see you if you leave without me, I swear!"

"Just hurry up." He grumbled.

I dried my hair as fast I possibly could, and double-tasked as I applied my eyeliner. I finished in record time, if I do say so myself, and ran downstairs to see Luke sitting at the kitchen table, eating an apple.

"Ready." I said, somewhat winded from running.

Luke nodded his head, taking another gigantic bite out of the juicy apple.

"What happened to us being late?"

"I started eating."

"Luke!"

He stood up and walked passed me. Butterflies were swimming inside my stomach and the drive to school only heightened my nervousness. What would people say? Did they know what had happened? Would I think I was a new girl? Did people forget about me? Luke's friend came over to the car seconds after Luke had shut off the engine and they started talking.

"Hey, Rowan." The guy said to me, nodding his head. I smiled briefly and walked towards the school. At least he remembered me. Luke probably told him I was coming back to school.

As I got to the cafeteria, all I could think about was my guardian and whether or not he or she was watching me. It was an eerie feeling – I had watched Ryan day in and day out for a little while so intensely. Was it the same way for me? I stopped at the school entrance and looked around, up at the sky, out to the road, anywhere but the school. I finally pushed the door open a few seconds later and entered the familiar building.

Karen found me before I found her and the bell rang. We had first period together, so she walked with me. Her locker was next to mine. I got some weird looks from a few people that I didn't know and who obviously didn't know me, but a few people recognized me and welcomed me back. Some guy even told me he thought I was dead. I laughed and said I was, but that I was back again for a while.

"See, I told you." Karen said, smiling to me as she pulled out her Lit book. "Nothing to worry about."

"Can you blame me though?" I asked, looking around. I figured out my locker combination a few minutes later and the warning bell rang, signalizing we had three minutes to get to class.

"Did you think I was going to ditch you? Some friend you are." She smiled somewhat, glaring playfully. I shrugged, not really sure what I thought, when I felt someone push up against me.

"Sorry." A voice muttered, brushing passed me. Karen gave a disgusted look at first, watching the boy walk away.

"That was rude!" She called to him. He turned around and my breath was caught in my throat.

"Said I was sorry." He called back, shrugging his shoulders.

"You okay?" Karen asked, but I wasn't listening.

"Ryan!" I yelled, running after him, zigzagging through the morons who weren't moving. Couldn't they see I was trying to catch up to him? "Ryan!"

He finally stopped, turning around just before a classroom door. "Hm?"

"You're here."

He looked at me skeptically. "That I am. Do I know you?"

I stopped, shaking my head. "Uh, no, but you will. You're the new guy, right?"

"That's what they tell me."

I smiled widely. "My name's Rowan." I stuck my hand out for him to shake.

"Ryan, though you seem to already know that."

I expected him to remember my name, to recall it from a dream or something. I had hoped he had dreamed about me, much like the dream Luke had about me at the pool in the backyard. Ryan didn't say anything.

"Well, look," he said, taking his hand away. "I suppose it wouldn't be smart of me to be tardy on my first day, so I'll see you later."

"Okay." I breathed in excitement. Ryan sort of smiled and turned into the classroom. I stood there and watched him go to the teacher's desk and hand the man a sheet of paper. The bell rang.

"Rowan!" Karen called, grabbing my arm. "It's your debut and you're going to be late to class?"

"Sorry." I muttered softly, trying to smile.

"Do you know him?"

"Yeah, I do . . . I had a dream about him while I was asleep."

"No way!" Karen laughed. "It must be destiny!"

"Let's just go." I started to walk. She walked beside me and we went into first period. The teacher, Mrs. Khane, smiled to me and welcomed me back. I took a seat, and tried my best to pay attention. All I could think about was Ryan. I completely forgot his uncle enrolled him in this school . . . I couldn't understand why he didn't remember me. Maybe he just didn't want to say.

Near the end of the period, I found myself staring out of the door, when he walked by. I jumped up out of my seat and asked Khane if I could go to my locker. She just smiled and told me to be quick. I walked out of the classroom swiftly and found Ryan, crouched down in front of an open locker down the hall. I walked down.

"Hey there." I said, waving as he looked up. He gave a puzzled look, but waved anyway. I crouched down much like he was when I got to his locker. "This may sound weird, but I had a dream about you."

"About me?"

"Yeah." I smiled. "I was in this coma thing for like, three months, and I had a dream that I helped you move here to live with your uncle, and you took your sister Trish, with you."

Ryan didn't say anything at first. "I don't have a sister."

"You don't?"

"No." He smiled briefly. "I do live with my uncle, though."

"Well, I guess what I'm saying is, wanna be friends, or something?"

"You have a very interesting tactic to make new friends, though I suppose I shouldn't be flattered if you've told this to all of your friends."

"You're happy now." I said, looking into his eyes finally. He had avoided my gaze for the longest time. "All I wanted to do in my dream was make you happy."

"You're a weirdo."

I smiled, standing up. "So are you going to avoid me for the rest of the year now?"

"With your persistence, I don't know if that's possible."

"Want to do something tonight?"

"Sure." He laughed. "You get right to the point, don't you?"

I bit my lip, trying to hold back my smile. It was too radiating. He was so happy. And I knew it was him. His sarcastic words, the way he stood, the way he avoided my eyes – that was my Ryan.

"I'll figure out what we can do and I'll catch up with you later today, okay? You can pick me up in that pretty new car your uncle bought for you."

"You stalking me?"

"You could say that." I smiled.

Ryan just nodded, still grinning as we walked back to class. I stopped before my class and had the urge to grab Ryan's wrist to whip him around and make him kiss me. He just kept walking though. I didn't look away. He turned around before he went into his class and waved. I laughed silently and waved back. I didn't care then that he didn't know who I was, or the fact that he didn't have a sister. None of that seemed relevant. I went back into class and didn't see him in that school again that day.

Walking through the parking lot to my brother's car after school, I kept my eyes peeled for Ryan, but of course, he was the last place I thought he would be. There Ryan was, talking to Luke, leaning against the car. I smiled and trotted over to them both.

"Fancy meeting you here." I smiled, looking up at Ryan.

"How was it?" Luke asked me. I shrugged my shoulders.

"Okay. About three people told me they thought I had died."

"Feel all right?"

"I'm fine." I pushed him lightly. "You two know each other?"

"He's new." Luke told me. Ryan grinned and so did I. "We're lab partners for chemistry."

"Unlucky you." I looked at Ryan.

"I was just trying to tell him where shit's at in this town. Or more importantly, what's outside of this shitty town."

"Oh, I see." I nodded my head. "So Ryan, what about tonight?"

"What about tonight?"

"Yeah," Luke interrupted, "what about tonight?"

"Ryan and I are hanging out." I smiled. "Right?"

"Sure." He shrugged.

"I can show you around town." I offered.

"Well, I'll be home all night," Ryan said, "so if you need to get ahold of me, that's where I'll be." He walked off and went to his car. I stared the entire time, unable to take my eyes off of his back, his ass, his hair.

"You know him?" Luke asked, opening the car door to get inside.

"Sort of." I said. "I had a dream about him."

Luke rolled his eyes and started up the car. "Hurry up, I've got places to go."

I got into the car and threw my books in the backseat. I rolled down the window and let the warm air fly into the car and tangle my hair. I felt so alive that day – more alive than I had ever felt before in my entire life. I wasn't sure what it was, but seeing Ryan's smile that day, seeing his painless, natural smile shine through made me feel so alive. So worth it. It was this feeling of accomplishment, like I had saved the world – his world. It didn't matter if Heaven was real or not. I knew that this was real, and I was loving it.

A/N: Finished. ^_^ About time, too. I tried to end this story a million times. So, please read my other stories and whatnot – I really appreciate the feedback! Thanks a bunch!