A/N: I'm SOOO sorry this took so long. -_- And that's all I really have to say, except that I'm really unhappy with this chapter. But y'know, whatever.
As always, thanks to .score for betareading. Go and shower her with love because she deserves it.
And remember when I moved in you
The holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah… – Hallelujah, Rufus Wainwright
The first thing I thought as I regained consciousness was Oww.
My eye was throbbing, like some sort of living pulsating growth attached to the side of my face. I opened my eyes with a groan, shielding them from the morning light with my hand and hoping against all odds that I didn't have a concussion, that it was nothing worse than a swollen, bruised eye.
I remembered the events of the night before very clearly. It made me want to vomit, just thinking about it all. I sat up, rubbing my un-injured eye in an attempt to wake myself up.
"It's swollen. He hit you pretty hard."
I blinked. Aidan was there, sitting across the room from me on his bed, watching me closely.
He had saved me, I thought. He had gotten rid of Kevin, he had helped me and led me upstairs when all I wanted to do was lie down and die...
With a mumbled 'excuse me', I stood up – stumbling a bit from sudden dizziness – and left the room as fast as I could. I needed to see how bad the bruise was, whether I should do anything about it or just leave it alone. Luckily someone had left the door to the bathroom open; otherwise I probably would have walked into it on my way to the mirror, I was that out of it.
I looked hesitantly at my reflection and groaned. Aidan had been right, it was bad - insanely swollen and ugly shades of purple and yellow and green. Kevin apparently didn't know his own strength. Or maybe he did, but that made it all the worse. Just thinking about Kevin, about my train wreck of a birthday party, was enough to make me want to vomit. I closed my eyes and leaned against the sink, trying to clear my head... or just avoid puking.
I heard footsteps and looked up to see Aidan behind me, reflected in the mirror, leaning against the doorway. His face seemed calm, bored almost. I closed my eyes again so that I wouldn't have to look at him, but that didn't last long. As much as I wanted to, I somehow couldn't look away.
I should have been grateful to him, but I just felt angry, and I didn't even know why.
"What do you want?" I snapped when he didn't leave after a minute. He shrugged. "Then get out. I want to be alone."
"No." He said. I blinked, stared at him through the mirror.
"Who the hell do you think you are -" I started angrily, but he spoke again.
"You aren't angry at me." He said calmly. "You think you are, but you aren't."
I snorted. "No, I'd say I'm pretty pissed at you." Not that I actually had any right to be.
Aidan shook his head. "You're pissed at him. That boyfriend of yours."
"Kevin," I corrected automatically.
"But you don't want to be mad at him. You can't be. So I'm the next best thing." He shrugged, smirked a little. "It's normal. Don't worry about it."
"You have no idea what you're talking about," I snarled - but a part of me knew that he was right. It was easy to take my anger out on Aidan, because he could take it - he didn't care. Even when I all I really wanted was to find Kevin and make him suffer for hurting me so badly, I could hate Aidan instead.
It didn't make sense. It scared me that I could feel so much hatred for one person. I felt my hands shaking and looked down to see that I was gripping the sides of the sink so tightly that my knuckles were turning white. I didn't want to feel like this, but I couldn't help it.
"I know exactly what I'm talking about." He said softly. I couldn't see him now, but I knew that if I looked up into the mirror I would see him smirking, almost mocking me, but not quite. "I'd be more worried about you if you weren't looking for someone to hate. This isn't as big a deal as you might think."
"Why the hell do you care?" I finally yelled, spinning around to face him. He hadn't moved since he'd entered the room, still leaning against the door with that calm, bored expression on his face. "What do you want with me? To rub this is my face? To laugh at me? Screw you, Aidan."
He still didn't move. I couldn't affect him, I couldn't hurt him.
"Why did you help me?" I said after a long time of staring at him and trying to calm down enough so that when I spoke it wouldn't come out as incoherent screaming.
Finally, his expression changed - to one of confusion. Had I been able, I would have laughed.
"You were hurt," he said slowly. "You passed out. You needed help."
"Traci and Kayla were there. You could have ignored me and let them deal with it." I almost wished he had because, while it would have been a horrible thing to do even to someone he disliked, I wouldn't be so confused now. It seemed strange to me that he, someone who had been hurt so badly so many times, wouldn't understand the concept of not helping someone in need - and that I, someone who had never been hurt until now, understood completely.
There was definitely something wrong with that.
"Thank you," I finally said.
He nodded. We didn't speak for a long time, but when he did, it was sudden and rushed.
"You'll be okay," he said. I frowned. "You'll get over this and you'll stop caring about Kevin - if you stop dwelling on it. Trust me."
It didn't seem like the truth now, but I knew he was probably right. Maybe one day I'd get over it. Even now, the fact that I had loved Kevin - and I had, I knew I had - seemed far away, like it had all happened years ago. I was incapable of loving someone who had hurt me that way. The only good thing to be said about that was that I would probably never get caught in an abusive relationship, but that didn't make me feel any better.
"Okay," I whispered.
Our eyes met and for the longest time, we just stared at each other. I couldn't say what passed between us; could never look back and remember what I had been thinking during those moments, but after the silence ended, it didn't matter.
"Amber, Aidan!" I heard a voice call from downstairs - Traci's. I hadn't even considered the fact that she and Kayla might have stayed the night. "Pancakes for breakfast!"
Aidan turned and walked away down the stairs without another word, and I knew somehow that we would never speak of this again. I followed him out and shut the door behind me - shut the door on Kevin and my pain and that chapter of my life.
Traci, Kayla and I hung out until they had to leave in the late afternoon. Aidan, as soon as he had finished his breakfast, had locked himself in our room and refused to come out. He did this fairly often, so I was used to it, but still, I thought it was pretty rude, especially since he and my friends had hit it off pretty well.
Everyone was silent about Kevin the entire time, walking on eggshells. I didn't even know if Aunt Dianna knew – whether she did or not, she didn't mention the bruise on my eye. I almost wished that they would talk to me about it, even if it was painful. The only person who did mention it was Traci, and that was right when they were about to leave, standing out in the driveway and saying our 'tearful' goodbyes.
"Think of it this way," She said. "Now that the jock is out of the way you can focus on Mister Emo up there." She nodded toward the house and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. I giggled slightly, relieved that though she obviously found Aidan attractive, she hadn't been hitting on him at all – she was just trying to be his friend. He wouldn't have appreciated any flirting, and neither would I, much as I didn't want to have a crush on him. "Seems to me like you have a fairly good chance with him," she grinned. "I'd go for it."
She was right, but not in the way she had meant it. Now that I didn't have Kevin to distract me I could focus more on finding out more about Kathryn - and in turn, more about Aidan.
Of course I hadn't given up yet. If anything, I was even more determined to continue on my search now. It was a borderline obsession, I hadn't stopped thinking about it since Traci and Kayla had left the day before. I would stop at nothing until I unraveled the mysteries surrounding him. Asking Aidan about Kathryn again, however, was not an option. Even talking to him about any of this wasn't an option, at least not yet, though I didn't know what I planned on doing with the information once I had it.
There was nothing left to do but ask Aunt Dianna for help. She was the only one who could give me the information I needed to really start looking. I had it all planned out in my head, and now it was time to put my plan into action.
She was in the kitchen when I found her, drinking coffee and reading a book. She smiled up at me as I approached her and sat down.
"I need to ask you some questions," I said. "About Aidan."
She raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow. "What for?"
I shook my head. "I can't tell you. You just need to trust me… and please, don't tell Aidan I asked. Okay?" I begged.
She shrugged and set down her book and coffee mug. "Alright. Ask away."
I took a deep breath. "Where did Aidan live before he came here?"
Aunt Dianna bit her lip, thinking about it for what seemed like an agonizingly long time. "Springfield, I think. It's about five hours away from here. You could probably find it in one of the phone books if you wanted to. Might take a bit of searching, though."
"Okay. And...who did he live with in Springfield?"
This time she answered immediately. "Jacob and Lauren Blake. Really sweet family."
"You know them?" I hadn't even thought of that.
"Mmhmm. Talked to them once when Aidan first came here, and a few more times because I needed advice on how to deal with his...temper." She shrugged. "To be honest, they didn't know much more than I did. Things were very bad when he first came here. Very, very bad. They're very nice, the Blake's," she said quickly, changing the subject. She obviously wasn't too comfortable discussing Aidan with me anymore after our last fight. "So sad, though..." she mumbled, more to herself than to me.
She hesitated. "They had a daughter. Kathryn, I think her name was..." She looked at me suspiciously, and I knew she was thinking about the other day when I'd asked about her. "She passed away just a few months before Aidan came to live with me."
I stared at Aunt Dianna as her words slowly started to sink in. Passed away - a supposedly gentle way of saying that someone had died, but every time I heard the words it always hit me just as hard.
Dead. Kathryn was dead.
My head was spinning. On one hand, I couldn't believe it, but on another, it made perfect sense.
I had always just assumed that Aidan had despised Kathryn, and that was why he had torn out all of the pages in his diary that had mentioned her, screamed at anyone who said her name, nearly killed me because of it. But what if…
What if he hadn't hated her?
What if he had…?
Even in my head, I couldn't make myself finish the sentence. It was too much to think about, too suddenly. I couldn't believe I had been so stupid, hadn't even considered this.
I looked back at Aunt Dianna, realizing suddenly that she was waiting for me to speak. I cleared my throat and said, "That's so sad. It must have been hard on them."
"It was." She sighed. "Was there anything else you needed to ask me?"
If there was, it had been completely blown out of my mind after these most recent fact had been revealed. "Um…no. Thank you, Aunt Dianna." I gave her a half-hearted smiled and stood up, leaving the kitchen and running up the stairs to my room – but not without grabbing the phone first. Aidan was gone, taking a walk, and I knew exactly what I needed to do now.
My heart felt like it would burst out of my chest it was beating so hard, as I listened to the phone on the other end ringing. I took a deep breath to calm myself, rehearsing what I would say again and again in my head. I hated talking to people I didn't know on the phone.
It had been easy enough to find the Blake's number with the information Aunt Dianna had given me, though the operator was a bit suspicious of me when I said I didn't know their address. I could only hope that these were the right people. The phone stopped ringing and there was a small click from the other ends, and a deep male voice said "Hello?"
I took another deep breath and cleared my throat. "Hi," I said, surprised at how calm my voice was – truth be told, I was terrified. "Is this Jacob Blake?"
"It is." He sounded apprehensive. His voice was low and slightly rough, but…comforting. Fatherly. Just listening to it made me feel just a bit better.
"My name is Amber Harrison. You don't know me, and I'm really sorry to bother you, but I have something to ask you."
"What is it?"
"Last year, I think you took on a foster child named Aidan Mandell. Is that right?" He confirmed this, and I continued, "Well, he's living with my aunt now – Dianna Harrison – and I'm staying with her for the summer."
"Ah," his voice seemed to grow warmer, much to my relief. "Are you friends with Aidan, then?"
"Sort of." I bit my lip, fidgeted with the hem of my shirt.
Mr. Blake chuckled. "He's not exactly the easiest person to get along with, is he?"
I forced myself to laugh. "I guess not."
"Hmm. So, what did you want to ask me? It's something about Aidan, am I right?
"Sort of." I repeated. This was the part I was most nervous about. He'd been nice to me so far, but I had no idea how this man might react to me asking him questions about his dead daughter. "Um, it's kind of more about someone he knew. Someone I think he was pretty close to. Your daughter."
The silence from Mr. Blake's side was deafening. For a minute, I thought he had hung up the phone, but just before I spoke again, his voice came through, shaking a little. "How do you know about Kathryn?"
"Aidan mentioned her to me a few times." It wasn't exactly a lie, but he really didn't need to know the whole story. Best to keep it simple.
"Then you probably know by now that my daughter died just a few months before Aidan left us."
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"Why are you asking me about this?" he demanded. "What good will it do you?"
I had to think about that for a minute. "I'm…not really sure. I just... Aidan is such a mystery to me, you know? I don't understand him. But I want to. And I just thought that maybe knowing about her could help me understand Aidan. I think he needs someone to understand him." I wasn't sure where that last bit came from, but whether it was true or not, it hit the mark. Mr. Blake sighed.
"I'm sorry. It's just that Kathryn is a very sensitive subject for me, as I'm sure you can imagine… but if it will help Aidan, then I'll tell you about her." He hesitated. "But there's something you need to understand first – my wife and I did care about Aidan. He was like a son to us. We didn't want to send him away; we wanted to help him. He wouldn't let us in – but he let Kathryn in. She was a genuinely good person, and she had a way of bringing out everything good in another person, as well. She was…" He choked, took a deep breath, and then said, "She was one of those people who just… glowed. Do you know what I mean by that?"
My friend Kayla was that way, too - radiant, and not just in the way she looked – she brought light into every aspect of her life. "Yeah. I think I do."
"I think the short time she and Aidan were together made all the difference in the world. She saved him, she truly did. But even though she was a good person… that doesn't mean she always did the best things. She… made a lot of bad choices. She did a lot of drugs, especially near the end. She shoplifted. But she was always able to rise above it all. She had many problems, but she put everyone else's first, especially Aidan's. They adored each other."
A question nagged at my mind, something I was afraid to ask, but somehow had to. "Were they… in love?"
"They loved each other very much – but no, they were not in love, not in the way you mean. They were more like siblings, I guess. That's the most accurate way to describe it, but I think it ran even deeper than that. I've never believed in soul mates before, but this was the closest thing I've ever seen. It's hard to understand."
It was hard to understand. I couldn't imagine caring about one person that much.
"As I said, we cared about Aidan. But after Kathryn died, he became… different. I know that he was in a lot of pain, but so were we. We probably shouldn't have sent him away, but at the time we really couldn't think of what else to do. He had an… episode. A bad one, unlike anything that he'd had since he had come to live with us. Violent, even. In the end, he tried to burn our house down."
He sounded more sad than anything when he said this, not at all angry, and it occurred to me suddenly how deeply Aidan had changed these people's lives, and how they had changed his - only to be taken away, and so quickly. I wondered if he had cared for the Blake's in the same way, or any of his foster parents, for that matter. And if they had cared for him.
I hadn't really realized before, how hard it would be to have to go through what he had.
Mr. Blake started to speak again, and I forced myself to focus on him.
"She had a way of… consuming you," He said, softly, sadly. "And that wasn't a bad thing until she died. But a part of you dies along with someone like her."
I asked what I somehow knew would be my last question for him today. "Mr. Blake? If you don't mind me asking… how did she die? Kathryn, I mean." I held my breath, waiting for what seemed like forever.
"Suicide." He finally answered. "It was suicide. Technically, it was a drug overdose. Later, Aidan told us that it had been intentional. We never doubted him."
I didn't know what to say at all. 'I'm sorry' seemed stupid, inadequate, and pathetic. I didn't want to know why she had done it, even though it probably would have been useful information. So I simply said, "Thank you for talking to me, Mr. Blake."
"You're welcome – I hope I helped you. And Aidan." His voice sounded shaky, and I felt guilty for making him answer questions that were obviously painful. "You seem like a good girl. Maybe you can help him more than we could."
"Yeah," I said softly. "Maybe. Goodbye."
He hung up the phone without another word.
I sat there staring at the phone for – well, I don't know how long I stayed there on my bed, motionless, turning his words over in my head. Not really thinking about it that hard, just… meditating on it, I guess.
I knew more than I ever had before, but it didn't feel that good. I just felt sort of empty.
I was jolted out of my thoughts by the sound of Aidan walking through the door. He glanced from me to the telephone in my hand and raised his eyebrows.
"Who were you talking to?" He asked.
"None of your business."
Without another word, he snatched the phone from my hand and, ignoring my protests, hit the redial button. The last number I had called appeared on the little screen. It was obvious from his facial expression – or lack thereof – that he recognized the number.
He didn't get angry, though, just shook his head and handed the phone back to me. "You just can't leave it alone, can you?"
I forced a smile. "Guess not."
I didn't get any sleep at all that night, unable to stop thinking about Aidan and Kathryn. Eventually I glanced over at the alarm clock. The glowing red numbers read 2:30
"Aidan?" I called softly. I heard him roll over in his bed.
"Can you tell me about Kathryn?"
I still felt so confused about it all. Yes, Mr. Blake had cleared up a lot of things for me, yes, I knew a lot more than I did, but at the same time… I didn't quite feel like I understood Aidan yet. Maybe I never would, but I had to try.
He groaned. "It's two in the friggin' morning."
"Please?" I begged. He sighed.
"Fine Whatever." He sat up, grabbed something off the shelves over his bed – a flashlight and something I couldn't identify – and stood up. "Come on."
I followed him without question, not even bothering to pull some clothes on over my pajamas. The night air was warm and humid, anyway. He led me outside, where we barely even needed the flashlight because the moon was so bright. It cast us, the house, the entire world in an unearthly sort of glow. I snuck a look at Aidan's face. He looked strange, alien, (and beautiful, far too beautiful) all of the sudden. I looked away before he noticed me.
He led me into the woods, turning on the flashlight so that we could see. I don't know how long we walked, but it didn't matter. Somehow, I trusted him to know where he was going.
After what seemed like a very, very long time, he stopped. Everything was silent except for the sound of water running.
"Are we… at the creek?" I asked quietly, trying to disturb the peace as little as possible. I saw him nod.
"Here." He handed me the flashlight and the other object he had brought along. It felt like a piece of paper, but smoother, thicker. Maybe a photograph? I aimed the dim flashlight at it, squinting to see.
I was right. It was a photo, and in it was Aidan. He was a couple years younger, and smiling, and someone's arm was around his shoulders in a loose hug. That someone, at first glance, looked like she could have been my older sister.
Of course, once I looked closer I saw plenty of differences between us. Her hair was more auburn while mine was light brown, her eyes were blue but with flecks of green and brown. Her face and what I could see of her arms were totally covered in freckles. Her nose and lips were shaped differently.
I thought back to the diary. Of the entry where he had described me – he had seemed unhappy about how I looked – and the one where he introduced Kathryn. And of course, the one that read 'She is NOT Kathryn.'
"That's her," Aidan said, but of course, I already knew that.
I looked back at the photo. There was something about her that drew me in, enchanted me. It wasn't that she was particularly beautiful – pretty, maybe, but not gorgeous – but I understood, suddenly, what Mr. Blake had meant when he said that she glowed.
When I finally found my voice, it sounded high-pitched and strange. "Wow," I said. "Weird twist of fate, huh?"
"There's no such thing as fate," He said flatly, crossing his arms over his chest. "Everything is just a stupid coincidence."
I dare didn't argue. "Is that why you hate me so much? Because I look like her?"
"At first. Now… I don't know." He shook his head.
I took a long, deep breath and asked, "Who was she?"
Aidan shrugged. "What did her dad tell you?"
There was no point in lying. I told him everything about my conversation with Mr. Blake.
"Then you know it all."
"But…" I hesitated. "But I don't feel like I know anything."
He picked a rock up off the ground and threw it into the water. It hit with a soft splash. "There's nothing more to know. Look, she was my friend, okay?" He turned to me. "She was alive and she was the most amazing person I had ever met and I loved her –"
I forced myself not to wince when he said the word 'loved' even though I knew he didn't mean it in a romantic way. Mr. Blake had said that he loved her like a sister and I had no reason not to keep believing that, but it still hurt. It shouldn't have hurt, but it did.
"- and now she's dead and gone and she's nothing but memories that I want to forget, but I can't because of you, and I hate her. That's all there is to it now."
It seemed like it should have been far more complicated than that, after everything, but then again, maybe it didn't need to be.
"Is that what you wanted to hear?" He whispered. "Is that all you put me through this stupid shit for? Are you happy now?"
I couldn't answer that. I didn't know the answer. "I don't think you hate her," I said. "Maybe you hate how she's making you feel, but… I think you still… love her."
"Maybe. Doesn't really matter."
All was silent except for the water rushing by. I could feel time rushing past, too, every minute and second, every word I wanted to say, should have said, wouldn't ever be able to say again. I wanted to cry for some reason, but I didn't. It would have made me seem even stupider than I already did, anyway.
Neither of us said anything for a long time. I listened to him breath.
"Do you still hate me?" I asked softly.
"My life would be a lot easier without you. You're too nosy. I wish you had never read my diary. God, I wish you'd never come here." He crossed his arms over his chest and stared up at the sky. "Yeah. I hate you. A lot." He laughed a short, sharp sound that seemed to cut through me. "But that doesn't really matter either, does it?"
No, I thought, it didn't. A lot of things were ceasing to matter, really.
"I don't hate you," I whispered. He laughed again.
We stayed out there for a long time, listening to the water run past us. This was another one of those things, I knew, one of those nights that we would never speak of again.
Something told me it was better off that way, anyhow.