The next few weeks passed by seamlessly. The night after the bonfire everyone had gathered at my house, and it had been such a huge success that every other weekend we all had movie night, same place, same time. It was one of the greatest things about the week; one of the best parts was that we never watched sappy romances. Course, there was always some romance, but I just left the room for the scenes that would ruin me.
I'd begun to open up to my friends. I wasn't quite to the point of trusting them completely, but I was getting there. I realized after almost no time that Liela and Wes were great people, and they'd only showed up late on that first night, and since then they'd either been on time or early.
I still couldn't believe I had friends. It was an amazing thought that I could actually have one, and now I had four amazing ones…it was impossibly and terrifyingly wonderful all at the same time. I had begun to trust them, and though my subconscious didn't want that to happen, it was anyway, and I couldn't turn back now.
Everything was wonderful…until everything just went wrong.
Luna and I were sitting next to each other in Literature and our teacher, Mr. Roshak, was pacing behind his desk, tapping his marker on the whiteboard. He had written 'homework' in big capital letters on it, and was now contemplating. He drew in a couple breaths, stopped pacing and turned to face us. Then he let them out and started pacing again. He never knew how to say anything, so the first few minutes of class were always like this.
"Okay," he said finally, "For homework tonight, I would like you to write an essay on love."
My heart stopped.
"I would like you to describe it, in any way you can. Say what you think it is like, any experiences you might have had with it, such as an example of love from a mother to her child."
I'd been holding my breath since he'd first said what the assignment was, and Luna now looked over, concerned. I felt a burning start in the pit of my stomach, and didn't wait for Mr. Roshak to give me permission. I stood so quickly my head spun and my desk fell over, but I didn't stop to right it as I rushed for the door. I headed to a safe place; the girl's bathroom.
I lowered the toilet seat and sat on it, putting my head between my knees. My head was still turning wildly, my thoughts in utter chaos.
Images I'd been working to avoid flowed freely through my mind:
The soft sand beneath me, the waves making a half hearted attempt to get me wet. You looking gently at me, your eyes filled with laughter at the joke you'd just told…
You, leaning on the locker next to mine while I pull out my books, your blond hair falling messily over your eyes…
That day on the beach, when I'd last seen you. The look in your eyes, the words falling from your mouth: "I just can't do this to you."
I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.
My father, my most prominent memory of him; his hair black with rain, eyes gray with something I didn't know. He half turned back, as if almost wanting to come back, but not quite. "I'll see you soon."
I bit my lip to prevent myself from crying.
Mom, walking out the door with Benji; she seemed so sad. Maybe because she loved him more than she loved me. Her last words, the last time I'd seen her: "I just wish you'd give him a chance."
It was no use. The tears flowed freely now.
Amber, returning from the car after loading it with her luggage, ready for me to drive her to the airport so she could head off to college. The whole trip, her chattering about how excited she was to go. The walk to the terminal, so quiet compared to the car ride. Then her last words before she got on the plane: "I'll keep in touch. Don't get too distant. See you on Columbus Day."
My heart burned. What day was it?
With some shock, I realized someone else was in the bathroom now. I wiped off my face, pushing open the stall door.
Luna stood there uneasily. She had a wad of paper towels clasped in her hands tightly. She seemed only now to notice that she still held them, and offered them to me. I smiled weakly and took them from her.
She seemed uncomfortable, yet concerned. She stepped closer to me and put her arms around me in a hug. "What's wrong, Kyrie?" She asked softly after a few moments.
I became conscious of the fact that my breathing was still uneven, and that I was still crying, even if there were no more tears.
There was another pause for a minute or two. "Do you want to come over tonight?" I asked quietly. I couldn't believe I was doing this. Was I actually going to tell her anything? But I couldn't erase what I'd said, and maybe it would be good to tell someone about it. I could trust Luna.
"Yes," she said immediately. Then she hesitated. "Should I…?"
"I'll ask them, too." If I was going to tell that story, I guess I should tell all my friends. Get everyone's opinions on it.
She nodded against my shoulder. "We'll see you at six."
They didn't wait till six. Spike and Luna drove to school together, but Wes drove alone. Liela took the bus.
Today, Spike and Wes drove to my house to have their cars there. I drove Luna and Liela, and Wes came later, after soccer practice. I had a sudden thought as I got home, and as soon as I unlocked the door and let my friends in, I checked the calendar hanging on the refrigerator. Columbus Day had been last week. I hadn't heard from my sister.
I sighed inaudibly, pulling the calendar from the wall.
The boys got there half an hour later, and we all gathered in my room. Lie perched on the desk; Luna sat backwards in the chair; Wes sat in the bean bag chair in the corner of the room, and Spike sprawled on the bed. They all looked to me expectantly.
I sighed once again and took the window seat. Their gazes persisted, so I started talking. "Twelve years ago," I started, "My father left my mother." I looked down at my hands to avoid their gazes, keeping them there until my story was finished. I didn't spare any details when I told them of the nights he came home drunk, how he swung wildly at any of us close enough to him. He never hit, because we could get away faster than he could swing. But he tried. I told them how after he left, I heard my mother crying every night, alone, in her room, when she thought we were asleep, right after she came home drunk. How I always wanted to comfort her, but couldn't for fear she'd try to hit me too. How Amber and I always stuck together, no matter what, until she became the popular girl she was now. I skipped over the worst parts, and didn't tell them about the year of fear and hurt that had accompanied Amber and me when Mom had left. I didn't tell them that she'd left. I shortened it, skimping over your part in my story, telling them the barest details. I don't think I fooled them, though; I think they knew how much it hurt. I never said your name…I never could.
"Everyone close to me left," I concluded. "So when I thought of love…" I trailed off. Thankfully, I didn't have to say anything.
Liela leaped gracefully to her feet and crossed the room slowly. She wrapped her arms around me in a gentle hug, as if she thought I was so fragile I would break at the slightest pressure. I had a sudden, fierce urge to prove her wrong, that I was strong, and tightened my own arms around her.
"But it's okay," I told them. "I…I know what it feels like. I'm used to it. Impervious to it. It doesn't bother me anymore." I felt a sharp pain in my heart right then. This was a lie, and a very bad one at that. It hurt now more than ever. But I could deal. It wouldn't hurt for so long this time. It couldn't possibly remain this painful, even after so many years? I offered them a smile, and then looked down at my lap, trying to hide the sadness in my eyes. I realized I still had the calendar clenched in my hands. I found myself staring at the one day, last Monday, that Amber had written in. Amber's coming home! The words said in her neat handwriting. Later, after she'd left that night, I'd placed two dots and a smile inside, around her writing. Then I'd encircled the entire day as the rest of the smiley face. My vision blurred as I stared at it, and I blinked repeatedly to rid myself of the embarrassment of crying in front of everyone.
But there was something else they needed to see.
I shut the calendar firmly and placed it off to the side, standing. "Can we…" I asked, my voice catching in my throat once. Instead of speaking, I gestured for them to follow me. It was a mystery I wanted them to help me solve…but could I trust them with it? No, a dark corner of my mind whispered to me. The other side was arguing, loudly. Of course. And you're already in too far to back out. Just do it, it shouted. I decided to listen to the last one as I walked determinedly out to my car. I left the door ajar, but heard it shut before I'd even made it to the car. I was in too far already to back out, although I still had my doubts.
We all piled into the car. All four of them climbed in the back, even though they were all completely squished together that way. I buckled my seatbelt, and then let my head fall back against the headrest. I let out a long breath that I'd been holding since I'd heard the door close behind me. I closed my eyes, taking a moment to mentally prepare myself. I reached forward finally, letting my eyes open, and turned the key in the ignition.
I pressed down the pedal, shifting gears, turning the wheel. The small blue car turned smoothly, accelerating easily as I maneuvered it through the familiar streets.
One hand came away from the steering wheel as my mind registered where I was going. The heartthrob began and tears clumped in my throat as the woman who lived over the bakery on the street I was driving down recognized my car and me in the driver's seat. She waved, her face confused, and I pulled over.
"I haven't seen you since last year…" she said. "Why the sudden urge to come?"
My hands tightened on the wheel and I looked down. "I…" I paused for a moment to compose myself. When I spoke again, my voice was soft. "I wanted to see the place again."
She nodded. "It's okay. Kyrie…" She hesitated. "It'll…it'll really be okay." She touched my arm. "I know it will." I nodded and drove away. The sound of her voice was almost lost in the sound of the car, but I heard her last words. "Even if we don't believe it ourselves."
I sighed almost inaudibly. The other kids in the back hadn't said a word since we'd left my house. I knew they were completely alert, however, looking around for a clue as to where I was taking them.
I remembered that same woman, who'd always come out at the same time of day, two or three times a day. Seven in the morning, five at night, nine at night. Morning pickup, when we went for a run, five at night when I dropped you off, or if no one was home, nine at night, when I dropped you off. She'd come out every time and wave and smile knowingly at us. On my way back after leaving your house, sometimes I'd stop to talk to her.
I realized I was slowing dramatically, and forced myself to speed up. There could be no hesitation. I parked the car on the side of the road, right in front of the old building that had long since lost its coat of paint. I remembered when right after we'd painted my room, we'd decided to try to paint this building with the leftover. "You can always remember your room when you see my home." The words burned my mind as I thought them. The small amount we'd actually painted was starting to peel away, but it still clearly stood out.
Shoving open the door, I walked into the lobby of the apartment. The old carpet that showed only traces of its past redness had been replaced; the desk had been redone. The lights were now a much gentler yellow color; the whole place was about the opposite I remembered it.
A man looked up from the desk. His familiar brown eyes had taken on a saddened appearance. He smiled weakly when he saw me. I could tell already that it was a rare occurrence on him these days. This bothered me. He had been such a happy, constantly smiling man before. He shouldn't be so upset.
"It's good to see you, Kyrie," he said, his voice deeply comforting. "I'm glad you came by again." He came out from behind the desk, putting a hand on my shoulder. "I haven't let anyone touch anything," he admitted. "I miss him too. His disappearance has changed everyone in this apartment, and anyone who's met him."
As if that were comforting.
I nodded silently, and crossed to the elevator. Floor three was where I was headed now, and the others followed wordlessly. There was only one apartment per floor, and the place was old and small. There were five floors in all.
I let myself into the chain of rooms on this floor. The sight took my breath away, once again.
Luna turned away. Spike put his hand on her shoulder. Wes just looked around silently. Liela squeezed my hand.
I have to admit that the sight is enough to break someone. There are papers all over the floor, overturned furniture. There is blood on the walls, marks, even one hole right where the picture used to be. That picture was lying on the counter, next to a torn piece of paper that was wrinkled with dried tears. I crossed to them both.
I picked up the paper first. Liela shadowed me across the room, linked to me by my hand. She read the note over my shoulder, and I reread it again, taking in the rushed handwriting:
I'm sorry. I have to.
Please forgive me, Kyrie.
Liela gasped in surprise before she realized what she was doing. I handed her the note, which she passed along to Wes and the others. Then I picked up the picture.
It was a picture taken of us on the beach. I recalled randomly how so many of my most important memories took place on that beach. We had set up a camera to take the picture, but accidentally set the flash to go off in an hour instead of a minute. Minutes, hours…they all passed the same, anyway. Too quickly.
Luckily, we'd been in front of the camera when it was taken. We were looking at each other, not the camera. The sky was a golden red, the sun not quite beginning to set yet. Our foreheads were pressed together, blond hair meeting red. I was smiling. It seemed shy, but not in a fearful way. In a comfortable way. It was brilliantly beautiful that day. I had my eyes cast downward, looking towards our hands, intertwined so tenderly. Your eyes were locked on my face, as if unable to see anything else. Our bodies were close to each other, and I knew the next scene after this picture. You had kissed me, and that was the first night you'd told me you loved me. You'd said it before, but I never believed it. That was the first night that I actually, truly realized you meant it.
Now, the picture lying in the frame was torn at the top, its ragged edge running down between our faces. It didn't reach all the way, but the glass over the photograph was broken. The cracks snaked around both of us, and the backdrop of the gorgeous ocean and flaming sky. But mostly, the breaks were over me. There was a tiny fissure, almost completing the tear between the two of us.
The tears in my eyes swelled extremely at this sight, and I let the picture fall to the ground, suddenly so close as I dropped to my knees. I barely registered Liela picking up the photograph in its frame. My sobs made it hard to hear anything as I realized that the biggest fracture of all was the one breaking my from the inside, and all my pieces falling to the ground, shattering again and again until they were so tiny, they couldn't possibly be salvaged.
That's the next chapter. Sorry, it is a bit sad. And sorry it took so long to get up on here. I meant to make it longer, but it wasn't actually that long. School's been getting in the way mostly. I hadn't written in a while before I wrote this. The other three 'chapters' were actually written before I got up the courage to put it on here. Anyway, I'd like some reviews before I continue, because I don't want to take up space on FictionPress's files if no one's going to read this. Thanks all :D