Chapter Five

Braiden opened his eyes blearily, and found himself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. He sat up in bed with a start, before he remembered he was staying with Belinda. He lowered himself down again and pulled his blanket up over his bare chest, suddenly acutely aware of the morning chill.

He hated Winter. He always had.

People usually put up the argument that it's easier to get warm than to cool down, but he pointed out that at least if you were too hot it wasn't unbearable to step aside from the air conditioner.

Getting out of bed on a Winter's morning, however, was agony. Every instinct he had was screaming at him to stay buried beneath the covers. Besides, it wasn't like he had any reason to move anyway. No one who wanted to talk to him, nothing to do, and nothing, not even in the long term, to look forward to.

He snuggled as far down as he could, until his head was entirely covered in the quilt. He stayed there in contentment for a few moments, until he found that he couldn't breathe properly.

He wondered what would happen if he simply stayed where he was. Would he lose consciousness? Or simply give in and breathe?

It only took a moment for him to decide that he couldn't be bothered testing, so he stuck his head above the blankets a tiny bit, exposing his nose but covering his mouth.

He waited.

His nose was cold.

Rubbing some warmth back into it, he wearily pulled himself up into a sitting position again, keeping the blanket tightly wrapped around his body. He blinked a few more times, and then managed to haul himself out of bed, taking the blanket with him.

He dragged himself over to the mirror, and ran his hands through his hair. He had washed it the night before, and it was almost annoyingly soft and straight.

He tried a few times to get it out of his eyes, and then gave up. He didn't really care all that much anyway.

He looked straight at himself, and almost jumped. It felt like looking at another person. The bags under his eyes just seemed to have grown worse since coming to Ebony Falls. His Mum had been wrong; it was far from the best thing for him.

But then, he had never for a second believed she had sent him away for his own benefit. She had sent him away because she couldn't take him anymore. In her own words, her grief was hard enough to come to terms with without having to deal with his breakdown as well.

Realistically, the best thing for Braiden would be to have his Dad and Grandpa back, but, of course, he had neither. To be more precise, he had no one.

He lightly touched his bottom lip, which was tingling slightly. He hoped he wasn't getting a cold sore.

Bracing himself, he dropped the blanket, and hastily pulled on a long sleeved shirt, a thing, light blue jacket, and dark jeans.

Slipping his shoes on, he slinked out of the room.

The house was still.

No lights were on, and the sun only seemed to be just rising.

Why was he up so early? He never used to rise any time before ten-thirty without an alarm clock.

He trotted down the stairs carelessly, and headed straight for the front door. He wouldn't bother leaving a note; Belinda only had him because his Mum had begged, not because Belinda particularly wanted him there. The more he stayed out of her way, the better.

And as for Casey, he knew she didn't want him there. He didn't know why, but she seemed to have taken an instant disliking to him. And that incident on the river yesterday had been just weird.

He probably didn't want her for company anyway.

He stooped down to pick up his skates from beside the front door, and continued on his way.

This path was familiar to him. When he was younger, his Dad used to walk up here with him. Sometimes, he would take off Braiden's shoes and carry him on his shoulders all the way to the river. That had used to be Braiden's favourite form of entertainment.

His Dad had taught him to skate well before he had even started school. They used to have races.

Braiden couldn't remember many occasions in which his Dad hadn't let him win.

Braiden reached up and absentmindedly snapped a twig from a tree he was passing under.

It made him feel strange to be back here. Under ordinary circumstances, he would have loved to return to a place so rich with memories of his childhood. But now, stripped as he was of what had once made him so happy, these reminders, which seemed to be thrown in his face at every turn, were painful.

He threw his skates down to the ground and sat down next to them. He pulled off his shoes without bothering to even untie the laces, and then quickly put on the skates.

Even after his Mum decided they weren't visiting Ebony Falls anymore, Braiden had continued skating. Outside during Winter, and rinks during the rest of the year, it was rare that a fortnight went by in which Braiden hadn't gone skating for at least a few hours. Usually, it was more.

He rose easily and made his way onto the ice of the river. It was always very thick this time of year; Ebony Falls was one of the coldest places he'd ever experienced. Though, when he had packed for this month, he had admittedly underestimated how cold it would be. He supposed he had just forgotten. Or maybe the cold hadn't affected him as sharply when he was younger.

Either way, he was determined not to let on how uncomfortable he was in his thin jackets and tops. It was a choice that he had made, and now he was going to live with it, no matter what the consequence. And realistically, the consequence wouldn't be that bad.

Braiden picked up speed quickly, and began to move along the river. Though it wasn't the endless expanse he remembered from his childhood, it really was awfully wide, and now that he was older he had a true grasp of exactly how wide it was.

He made his way to one side of the river, and then began to skate as fast as he could across to the other bank. He breathed heavily, using his arms as well as his legs to propel him along. It took him more than thirty seconds to reach the other side of the river.

He twisted his right leg on the side and scraped to a stop, surveying the space he had covered. It was quite impressive, really, for thirty seconds. Most people couldn't do it in such a short space of time.

His skates were covered in a light dust of shaved ice, which was already starting to melt. For some reason, that was his favourite part of skating. Being covered in all the ice and bits of snow, which eventually just turned into nothing more than water. It felt liberating.

Or maybe he was just crazy.

He set off again, this time going down the centre of the river, unaware that he was being watched. Jacob stood on the side of the river, passively watching him skate past.

He was fast. Jacob actually found himself wondering if he could possibly be better than him. He watched the boy skating for a few more moments, and then he smirked to himself. Probably not.

Jacob floated alongside him as Braiden raced forward, the wind blowing his hair back off of his forehead. It was strange, really, watching him. He felt a strange sense of rivalry towards him. But why?

Because… Jacob sighed to himself as Braiden took a flying leap, landing perfectly and swerved to the side, staring into nothing. Because Casey was Jacob's only friend. And because Braiden needed someone.

The night before, when Jacob had taken Casey back to her room, he had seen Braiden in his room. The strangest thing about not existing, to Jacob, was being able to see things he normally shouldn't. Sight wasn't the same as when he had been alive. Now, sight was more of a sense. Of a knowledge.

He had seen Braiden in his room, lying sleeplessly. He could feel how sad he was. It was actually a little disturbing. He'd never seen a person look that lost. But Jacob couldn't be bothered letting his heart bleed. He'd done enough of that when he was alive.

Braiden circled around again and began to skate in the opposite direction. Jacob sneered a little. He hoped that Braiden would stay alone.

But not because he had anything against him, of course. He had no need to be. But because… Well… Casey was Jacob's. He hadn't known her long, but she was the only person who was even aware that he was there. Braiden had the whole World. So he could go and take the whole World.

As long as he left Casey alone, Jacob decided, Braiden was fine to be left alone.

A movement to Jacob's left caused him to look up. There was a woman standing in amongst the trees, staring at Braiden.

Jacob cocked his head on the side curiously. She had greasy, blonde hair and dark brown eyes, and was wearing a plain dark blue dress. She looked somewhat familiar to him.

Braiden turned around, and found himself facing the woman. He let out a cry of surprise, slipping over on the ice. He landed hard on his left arm, causing him to cry out again in pain.

Jacob smirked, and watched as the woman backed slowly into the trees. How strange.

Braiden was staring at where she had been standing, looking confused. No doubt he thought she had disappeared. He pulled himself to his feet again slowly, brushing the ice off of his jacket and then cradling his arm gently.

"You'll live," Jacob said spitefully. Braiden, of course, didn't even look up.

Jacob shook his head, and Braiden shook his arm, trying to get the blood flowing properly again.

"Think that's bad, try dying," Jacob said, taking a few steps towards him. They were only a few metres apart. He was close enough to see Braiden's eyelashes. Braiden couldn't see him at all.

Jacob turned away from him and began to drift in the direction of the house. Maybe if he took his time, Casey would be awake by the time he reached her.

Suddenly, Jacob got a strange urge to turn around. Succumbing to it, he saw Braiden, who had lowered himself onto the ice. He rolled over until he was laying on his back, and he spread his arms out to the side so he was utterly vulnerable. Then he closed his eyes.

Jacob stared after him for a moment. The depressing sense of hopelessness drifting from Braiden's body was enough to stifle. Jacob shuddered, and turned his back on him, folding his arms. That guy seriously needed help.

But as long as I'm here, he thought to himself, running his hand through his hair in aggravation, he can find it elsewhere.

A/N - So, This is just a little chapter showing a bit more on Jacob and Braiden. As the story goes on, all three characters will become alot clearer :) Review Please! xoxo