Time seemed to pass faster while I was staying at Ethan's. Here, I didn't have time to lock myself up in a room and cry. Ethan was with me all day, everyday. Even while I slept. Which, ever since I'd last seemed Ian, I hadn't been doing much of lately.
I was starting to miss my bed. I missed being able to stare out the window at night and fall asleep to the distant Seattle skyline. There wasn't a window by Ethan's bed, nor a spectacular view. I carefully lifted Ethan's arm from around my waist and crawled out of bed.
Ethan's house was big. And even though I'd known Ethan for ten years, I still had yet to see all of his house. I walked out of his room and started touring. I tip-toed my way down the colossal winding staircase and into the east wing of the house, past the familiar room of his parent's, the living area, and the kitchen. There was one main hallway in this wing, and one hallway at the end that split off into opposite directions.
I made my way into my first room on the left and flicked on the light. I winced at the bright white light, but when my eyes finally adjusted I saw a small room (by this house's standards) with a large oak wood desk and couple matching shelves filled with books and expensive-looking figurines.
I ran my finger along a row of old books and blew off the dust that collected on my fingertips. It was obvious these books, or this room, hadn't been touched in a while. And I completely understood why. This house probably had half a dozen other rooms set up much like this, except bigger, with the most up to date electronics, and triple the books.
I left the lonely room and made my way to the room across the hall. I didn't bother turning on the light in this room. It was full of large white shelves, each had their own small light illuminating their contents. It wasn't much light, but just enough to dimly light the whole room and help me see. The shelves were filled with a bunch of Ethan's things and it all brought a smile to my face. Seeing the shelves filled with neatly arranged action figures, comic books, and football trophies brought me back to easier times and made me feel surprisingly warm inside.
I walked over to another shelf that was a bit separated from the other that held nothing but a single, large shoe box. I grabbed the box and sat cross legged on the floor. As I started to lift the lid I felt guilty, like I was intruding somehow, even though Ethan and I had never really had boundaries, especially not now. Still, I lifted the lid and looked inside.
It took me a whole minute to realize what I was seeing:dozens of old pictures of me and Ethan, ranging from us swinging on the swings in Kindergarten to Ethan and I at Homecoming last year. And with the pictures, an old key chain I'd made him three years ago, signs I'd drawn him this year during class, tons of notes we'd passed during Chemistry, along with a few other knick-naks I'd either made or given to him over the years.
It was like a secret crush box you'd see teenage girls have on television. Ethan had a secret crush box. Ethan had a secret crush. On me.
Except he didn't. Ethan didn't have a secret crush at all. He'd already made it perfectly clear how he felt about me, and I'd played along.
So why was this so shocking to me?
You're looking too far into this, I told my self. It's just a stupid box. With stupid, random junk thrown into it. That all just coincidentally relates to me.
I quickly jumped up from the floor, threw the box back on the shelf, and ran out of the room.
I slept on the couch the rest of the night.
I'd been trying to pick myself up the past couple weeks. At least, academically anyway. I'd actually done all my schoolwork and homework since I'd started staying with Ethan. And I hadn't fallen asleep in class once, which was the hardest task of all. Ethan said I was making a lot of progress. I didn't feel it.
Staying awake in my Lit. class today was proving to be extra challenging. It had taken me a long time to fall back asleep last night, and an equally long time waking up this morning. I was in the back of the class, sitting by myself. My teacher, Mr. Danes, had the lights off and was playing some slide show projections of his past trip to Spain. It was basically a free day, and I was not the only kid in class to be taking advantage of it.
I could feel my eyes closing more with every slide my teacher presented.
"And here, we were at the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial!" my teacher babbled on, in a dramatic voice.
The Monastery was an insanely large building, made of what to me looked like tan brick. It also looked a whole lot like the past eight buildings my teacher had shown us. I was way too tired for this... My head sunk down to the desk, my eyes slowly drifted close, and I fell asleep.
I already knew where I was. The beach, with the playground. I'd been here so many times now, I already knew I was dreaming. Was that normal? To know when you're dreaming. To be here, on this empty beach in almost every dream I had. Every dream with Ian....
He was here somewhere, I knew it. I just had to find him.
It was darker outside than I remember it ever being in any of my dreams. There was no moonlight to help me see. There was no moon at all.
I tried calling his name, but I couldn't do it. I was screaming his name in my head, but I couldn't make the words escape my lips. I felt trapped, and out of breath. It was like being held under water.
I started turning around frantically, gasping for every breath. It hurt. And that's when I realized that my pain itself was not reason for concern as much as the fact that I was feeling the pain. This was a dream, I knew this was a dream. I shouldn't be feeling anything.
I was past the point of panicking when I realized I wasn't dying. It wasn't that I couldn't breath, but that I was just hyperventilating now. And I remembered when my dad first left, when I was only fourteen, and I started bawling in my room, and shortly after I was feeling the same way I felt now, like I wasn't breathing. I'd thought I was having an asthma attack. At this point in time, my mother had yet to devote her life to drinking and only drinking, so she was sober enough to call an ambulance.
I still remember very clearly that day, and I had a flashback in my head. Of me lying down on the couch, crying and crying and crying. I remember choking out apologies to my mother in between each broken sob. When the paramedics had arrived, they'd very quickly realized what was happening. They told me it wasn't that I couldn't breath, but that I was breathing in more oxygen than I was exhaling carbon dioxide, I was having a panic attack. They'd simply put a plastic bag over my mouth, had me breath into for a while, and I was fine.
And that was what was wrong with me now. I tried to calm myself, but failed. And out of no where, I just started running. I was crying hard now. The tears falling to the the ground with an inaudible thud. I ran faster than I'd ever ran, until I suddenly slammed into something, hard, and halted to a stop. It was Ian.
Before I even knew what I was doing, I had my arms around him. I gripped him tight, and without any hesitation, he was holding me back. I didn't say a thing. I just breathed him in. His scent, too clean to be cologne, too crisp to be soap, was all his own. It was unlike anything I'd ever smelt before. It was simply him, and it was all I'd needed for a while now.
And for a minute, I wondered how I could have ever considered him a stranger. All those times I'd wondered how I could feel so drawn to him, without knowing him. Because now, it all seemed much more clear. He was never a stranger, I've always known him. Even if it was just this Ian in my dreams. That would always be enough.
When Ian finally pulled away, I noticed that the moon was out now. It shown down and reflected of his pale skin, as well as lighten the previously pitch black sky. And I could breath normally again. It was as if he fixed all my problems by just simply being.
"You're here," he whispered, and brushed some hair out of my face.
He was smiling his most beautiful smile. It made my heart physically ache to see him now, I was that happy. I hated that I couldn't say anything nice back.
"I'm here?" I asked bitterly. "I've been here, Ian. Where the hell have you been?"
His face dropped quickly and he took my hand. "Ryley, I have something to tell you. But we have to hurry. Where did you fall asleep at?" He asked quickly.
"Where did I fall asleep? What kind of question is that? Don't you think I'm going to just let you drop the subject."
"English class. Why?" I asked. Sensing the urgency in his voice, I cut the sarcasm.
"We don't have much time, I've got so much to tell you," he started dragging me away from the beach.
"Why are you acting like this?"
"Ryley, I need you to tell me if you trust me."
"Ian, I barely know..." I started to say quietly, before getting cut off.
"Cut the crap Ryley," he said, and stopped pulling me.
Looking up at him then, I did trust him. I had absolutely no idea what was going on anymore, I just knew it wasn't normal. But I trusted him, still.
"I trust you," I said, finally.
"Theres something about us, Ryley. I don't know what it is, it's like we're connected or something," he started to say, furrowing his brow.
"No shit,"I mumbled quietly under my breath.
And then he started laughing. Loud, long chuckles, that seemed to slightly echo there on the empty beach.
It seemed to me he was having some sort of mental break down. I just couldn't seem to find anything that was slightly as hilarious as he had. Especially when, just a minute ago, he was so serious and determined, as if the world were ending. Or maybe, just maybe I was having a mental breakdown. That was more probable. Definitely.
"Have. You. Lost. Your. Mind?" I asked, breaking each word up individually.
"Ryley, you are just... so... stubborn, and sarcastic, unreasonable, absurd, perplexing-"
"Wow, rip me a new one, why don't you?" I cut him off, defensively.
"You are the most ineffable woman I've ever met," he finished softly, not laughing now.
"Well, you forgot to add stupid to the list, because I have no idea what that word means," I uttered.
"You're perfect," he breathed.
I'd never thought it was literally possible for someone to actually take your breath away, without performing some kind of offensive assault on you. But in that moment, I couldn't breath.
"Oh," I managed to say after a minute.
Somehow, without me even realizing it, me and Ian had moved closer throughout the conversation. I was just close enough so that if I reached up a little, my lips would be directly on his. He was looking down at me, his eyes even more intense than usual.
I slowly reached up, when Ian suddenly moved his mouth to whisper in my ear, "This is still a dream, Ryley. I want the first time I kiss you to be more... real."
"Isn't this real?" I asked.
"I don't know what this is, Ryley. We're both here, somehow... but I don't know why or how."
"So, everything I've ever told you, showed you..."
"I know it all," he said, and my face flushed slightly.
"Ryley, if I knew," he continued, after seeing my embarrassment, "I never meant to invade your privacy, or anything."
"No, it's okay. Everything I ever told you, I chose to tell you. But Ian... what about what you showed me?" A chill went down my spine. And from the look on his face, he knew why.
I'd never seen a face twisted in such a way. Sadness, anger, and guilt all wrapped together, a contradiction to all his beautiful features.
"Ryley, theres so much about me you don't know. So much you'd run away from..."
"Ian, I'd never run away from you."
And all the sudden, I was gone.
I could hear the deep, heightened sound of the school bell ringing, the zipping and unzipping of bags, and the shuffling of books. I heard all of this, and knew immediately where I was, but I didn't lift my head up off the table. I kept my eyes closed tight, and wished I could be back there again. Back with Ian.
Eventually, I gave up. I lifted my head up, a tear making its way down my cheek, and made my way out of the classroom. Back to my reality.
Once again, sorry it took so long. It's just taking me longer to get chapters out, I don't know why. Not a lot of feedback, I guess. Thanks for everyone who commented last chapter, I appreciate it A LOT. And I hope you enjoy.