AN: Happy New Year, people! :]

Chapter Thirteen

                Lauryn watched out the window, as raindrops streaked the gloomy skies, dropping on the ash-black pavement like pins.  Ashes, she thought.  The ashes from a cigarette.  Chris's cigarette.  It was all she had on her mind the whole night before.  Tossing and turning, unable to go to sleep, yet not knowing what exactly was keeping her up.  There was just so much on her mind, but she didn't know what all of it was.

                There were times when she worried about Chris.  And there were times when she worried about herself, about what would happen if she got too close to him.  She knew all along that in the end, it wouldn't be her who would leave him, but rather he who would leave her and most likely break her heart.  There'd been no question about it.  So why was she still with him?  What exactly could whatever they had be called, anyway?  Going out?  Yet they weren't, not really, anyway.  Friends with benefits?  Yet they hadn't ever been friends before.  Whatever it was, she was happy with it.  For the time being.

                Biting her cheek, she scrutinized the weather outside with glaring eyes, hoping it would clear up before evening.  She needed the damned weather to clear up.

                Lowering one leg from the couch onto the ground, she turned away from the window.  Grabbing her keys from the table beside the couch, she set out the door, yelling a fleeting goodbye to her parents.  Without waiting for a reply, she jogged out the door, letting it slam behind her as she stopped before her car, thinking that it was a perfect day to run outside in the pouring rain.  She'd always wanted to do that–run around carelessly as rivulets of heaven's tears streamed down around her, enveloping her in a shield of water as she wandered around the streets barren of any denizens.

                Running down her driveway, she stuffed her keys into her jeans pocket that had already become soaked with water.  She headed off in the direction of Chris's house, allowing the rain to completely penetrate her cold skin, but she didn't care.  Looking up, Lauryn saw his house looming in the distance like an ancient castle full of mysteries and ghosts.  With an inward smile, she kept on jogging through the beating wind, lightly grazing her cheeks.

                Running up the steps to his porch, she arrived at his door, and rang the doorbell with a finger dripping of water, as was everywhere else on her.  A mere second later, Chris opened the door, and looked at Lauryn with raised eyebrows.  She must have been quite a sight, with her clothes plastered to her skin, revealing every contour of her body.  Suddenly self-conscious of herself, she crossed both arms over her chest.

                "Had fun?" he asked with an amused smile.

                "Definitely," she answered.

                With a light chuckle, she shook herself, drenched with water, and smiled as bead after bead of water landed on Chris.

                He pulled her to him and kissed her glassy, water-coated lips with such emotion that she felt something well up in her heart, telling her that she truly was lucky.  Lucky enough to have Chris.  Lucky enough to make him forget about being shallow for once.

                As they pulled apart, she raised a hand to her lips, touching them gingerly.

                "Nice greeting," she whispered.

                "I thought so," he proclaimed, looking quite happy with himself.

                She smiled, pushing him from her jokingly.  "Always wanted to kiss someone in the rain."

                "Was that good enough?"

                "It'll do for the moment in time," she muttered back, with a suggestive twinkle in her eye.

                "What'd you come here for?" he asked.

                "Can't I come just to talk to my boyfriend?"

                He raised his eyebrows at the title.  "Boyfriend, huh?"

                "Mmhmm," she answered.  "Got a problem with that?"

                "Nope.  None at all."

                "Good."

                She took hold of his wrist, and pulled him away from the shelters of the porch, and into the open air on the lawn before his house, stretching one arm out to catch the drops of rain.

                "You really are a free spirit, huh?" he observed.

                "Just someone who tries to enjoy life."

                "Yeah, I can tell."

                Pulling him to her, she kissed him deeply, melting into him as he grasped her other hand with his, entwining his fingers with hers.  Water poured down on them both, until their clothes were soaked, clinging together.  She gripped his hand tightly, feeling her knees grow weak beneath her.  It took all of his willpower to pull away from her, as he placed his forehead against hers and looked into her laughing eyes.

                "Lacy might see us," he muttered.

                "That won't matter.  I'm sure you've fucked quite a few girls on this lawn, while she's been able to see you two."

                He smiled, knowing it wasn't far from the truth.  "Some were in the backyard, too," he added.

                She laughed.

                "Hey, you know that band I took you to see that day?"

                He nodded.

                "What'd you think of them?" she asked.

                "Pretty good."

                "Yeah?"

                "Yeah."

                "They're doing another concert tonight.  Same place same time.  Interested?"

                "Sure.  I've got nothing better to do."

                "Great.  Meet me there," she replied, already walking down the front yard.

                "Wait, where are you going?" he yelled to her.

                "Nowhere.  Just meet me there," she replied without a look back.

                She dashed the few miles to where the concert was going to be located.

                "Lauryn.  Glad you could make it," Lauryn heard a voice scream from the stage.

                "For once.  Ever since lover boy appeared on the scene," another voice added.

                She laughed.  "Hey, I've made it to every rehearsal.  He hasn't been distracting me…"

                "Very much," someone added.

                 "Shut up, guys!  Come on, let's get started.  We've got a concert tonight," Lauryn said.

                "And I take it lover boy's coming?"

                "Yes…" she replied sheepishly.

                "Well, guys, hear that?  Lover boy's coming, so we better play a good concert tonight."

                Everyone laughed.

                Lauryn sighed.  "Oh, I wanted to sing that song I gave you guys to practice earlier this week for him."

                "But that's a slow song."

                "Please?  I know you guys don't usually do slow songs, but just this once."

                The others looked at each other, as an unspoken agreement passed among the eyes of all of them, and nodded.

                "Great.  That'll be our first song, okay?" she suggested.

                "Sure."

                The rain continued to beat on his windshield as Chris pulled onto the street where the concert was.  He wondered how in the world they were going to have a concert in such horrible weather.  Or great, carefree weather, as Lauryn would think, he thought to himself.  There was already a crowd forming around the platform where instruments had been set up, and a top over their makeshift stage was formed, as a roof.  A plethora of umbrellas dotted the air beneath them.  He walked over to join the crowd, and looked around for Lauryn, who was nowhere to be found.

                "Yo, Chris!" he heard a very familiar voice scream from behind him.

                He groaned, turning around to answer.  "Hey Adam."

                "What are you doing here?"

                "Uh… my girlfriend's meeting me here.  To listen to the band."

                "Cool.  Apparently this kind of music is the next new thing, and Kylie dragged me here."

                "Kylie?"

                "Yeah, you didn't know?  We're an item now," Adam answered.

                Surprisingly, Chris didn't feel a twinge of jealousy in his heart at all.  "Nope.  Didn't know."

                "Yeah.  Hey dude, you wanna come to a party after this gig?  We're going over to Kylie's house.  Lots of drinks and empty rooms," he said suggestively, grinning at Chris.  "You can bring your girlfriend."

                "I'll… uh… I'll think about it."

                "All right."

                Chris walked away, moving closer up to the stage.  As he passed a few more sluttish girls, he felt two hands close over his eyes.  Turning around, he smiled as he looked into Lauryn's eyes.

                "Hey.  Where were you this afternoon?"

                "Oh, nowhere," she smiled deviously.  "Come on, they're about to start."

                He turned his eyes to the stage, watching as someone introduced them.

                "I hope they have their lead…" he started, but realized Lauryn wasn't by his side.  "Where'd she go now?" he wondered aloud.

                "Hi guys!  I'm back!  I just wanted to start off with a song that's out of our style, but I hope you still like it.  This is dedicated to someone special," Lauryn's voice boomed out, before she gave Chris a smile.

                He looked at her curiously.  So she was the lead singer.

                Her mellifluous voice floated over the speakers, into their piqued ears.

                "Who would've ever thought we'd end up together/who would've believed we could/yet I just want you to know that/happiness has never come so easily…"

                He watched as she belted out every note, with such emotion in her eyes.  Smiling, he listened to the song intently, and the one after that, and the one after that one, and so forth.  Until the end of the concert, he was still smiling, as he watched Lauryn jump off the stage, heading towards him.

                He enveloped her in a hug, not even taking any note of Adam's disapproving glare staring straight at him.

                "Hey, Chris, you coming?" Adam screamed.

                "Uh…" he began hesitantly, as Lauryn stared at him apprehensively.  "Lauryn, do you want to go to a party at Kylie's house?"

                Before she had a chance to reply, Kylie interrupted, "Eww, her?  Why would you even think of bringing her, Chris?  You know I don't like her!"

                "Kylie, she's my—"

                "No, it's okay, Chris.  You go ahead.  I'll see you later," Lauryn reassured him.

                "But you walked here," he pointed out.

                "I'll walk home, then."

                "No, you can take my car.  I'll get a ride with Adam."

                She thought a moment, not really wanting to walk home so late at night, and agreed.  "Okay.  I've got to help clean up the stage.  Have fun," she said, giving him a forced smile.

                "You sure you're fine with this?"

                "Yeah, I'm fine."  She eyed Kylie warily, before walking away.

                She watched him follow Kylie and Adam, going without even a look back at her.  Once she'd finished with the band, Lauryn walked over to the ice cream parlor, thinking she'd spend some time there.  What else is there to do?, she thought.

                "Dude, that's a bunch of beer," Chris commented.

                "Yeeahh," Adam replied, stumbling around.  "Gotta fake ID an' bought tons of it.  Eh, you haven't had a lay in a while, have ya?  There're a lotta empty rooms here.  Find a ho, and get yaself laid."

                "Ehh, I don't think so dude.  Don't want to right now," Chris said, obviously showing he still had a sense of consciousness after his one can of beer, unlike Adam who had probably already had five or six.

                "Well I gotta go get some more beer."

                "Alright.  I'll be leaving soon.  Bye."

                "Bye dude.  Don't go too long without fucking someone.  Ain't normal," Adam said, chuckling.

                He watched his former friend walk out the door–or stumble out the door, more like–in his drunken state.  Outside, it was darkening, and Chris decided to leave.  Without his car, there was no choice but to walk.

                Squinting, he saw two cars in the distance.  With a sense of panic, he realized the car closer to him–Adam's car, he noticed–was going way too fast.  He watched as the other car skidded around the upcoming curve in an attempt to avoid its follower.  The rain on the ground from earlier that evening didn't help.  The first car tried to turn, but there was too much water, and the curve was too sharp.  Adam obviously couldn't control his car, as he crashed into the other car, forming an enormous dent in the driver's side.  Gasping, Chris stared wide-eyed at the collision, shocked that it had occurred right in front of his eyes, while he stood helplessly.

                "Holy shit," he whispered.

                Taking off swiftly, Chris ran towards the accident with his heart beating in his chest.

                That car, he thought.  Looked so much like mine.  Lauryn has mine.

                He shook the thought from his mind, calling 911 with his cell phone before crossing the street and examining the cars.

                Surprisingly, Adam didn't seem to be hurt too badly.  A shard of glass pierced his arm, but the blood flow wasn't very much.  It was mostly the passenger side of his car that was damaged, as that was the part with had created such a big indent in the other car's driver's side.

                Breathing heavily, Chris heard sirens in the distance, but he didn't care.  He had to see who the other person was.  Who was it?  Squeezing through the minute space between Adam's car and the other car, he looked through the shattered window at the figure sprawled across the two front seats, head on the other headrest and one arm sticking out the window.

                He stared at the teenage girl's hair.  Her hair marred with streaks of blood originating from one deep gash in the side of her head where a sharp, piercing piece of glass had been imbedded.  Her dead white eyes lost of their usual luster and rolled into the back of her head.  Her legs twisted in an awkward direction like a broken doll.  One arm out the window, with the jagged remains of the window drawing long lines in the direction of her veins on the underside of her arm.  A coppery stench of crimson blood streaked across her paled face.

                Her face.  Her face was what captured his attention.

                "No," he whispered.  "No, it's not her.  It can't be her," he muttered hoarsely, clutching his chest as a sudden pain seared through his heart.

                "Why?  Why the hell her?!  Fuck, tell me that!  Why the hell did it have to be her?  I should have driven her home.  I shouldn't have gone with Adam," he screamed at himself, his voice increasing in intensity with every spat word.

                His eyes turned to her chest.  A large shard of glass was stuck in her chest, driving into her heart.  It looked like some type of symbol, or an emblem.  Of her death.

                Still feeling completely shocked, he looked over at Adam, with bruises and cuts dotting his face.  Nothing too bad though.  Not like Lauryn, he thought angrily.  Turning back to his deceased girlfriend, he took hold of her frail hand, instantly taken aback from the ice-cold feeling that sent shivers down his spine.  It felt so void of any life.

                With a quivering sigh, he looked up to the heavens, gripping her empty hand tightly, and whispered, "God rest your soul."

                And then he slowly let his hand drop to his side and walked away, an expression of grief streaking his face of pallor as the provenance of sirens arrived at the scene.

                There was nothing he could do.

                Sometimes reality turns out like that.  The little pieces–the little shards, in a manner of speaking–just don't add up.  They don't make any sense, and everything happens so suddenly as if life suddenly met an unexpected cliff and then fell off it.  Sometimes things feel so unfair that there seems to be no tangible reason for it at all.

                Some people say there are reasons why everything happens.  A friend lost his job, only to find a better one.  A little girl is forced to give up some presents, to make someone else less fortunate than herself happy for once.  But then… there are things that really don't seem make sense, and there doesn't seem to be a logical reason for its happening.  And the world seems to have been turned upside down within a day, like everything had been flipped inside out.  But actually it hasn't.  Not everything has changed drastically, but things are different.  Sometimes change is good.

                One might say that people always stick to their roots.  At times, that can be true.  Chris thought it was, and in the end it actually hurt him, probably more than he realized.  He went along with his old ways.  Perhaps that's there to teach something–that breaking out of the old can be good.  At least he learned that.  There was never another cigarette in his possession after Lauryn's death.  Adam was still around, and they were still friends, but no one said one person could make such a big impact on his life.

                Sometimes life feels like there's a sudden drop, and there's no happy ending.  It feels like there's more to the story and it has been left unfinished in its telling.  Perhaps it was.  And it feels like so many loose ends are left untied.  But no one said life was a fairytale.  Yet for that chapter in a life, the story has ended, and a new chapter has begun.

                Perhaps broken hearts mend with simply a piece of tape.  But the scar will always be there.  Perhaps that's a good thing.

                Sometimes endings mean new beginnings.

                Or sometimes they are simply symbols of a loss.  Like a shard of glass.

                But reality will always be there, waiting to jump out.  And it'll be there to catch you when you fall off that unexpected drop in life.

~the end~


AN: Yes, that's the end.  Just wanted to thank everyone who's reviewed or read this story.  Thanks a bunch!

.: swt hugs :.

~julia 1.2.2004