We stood there for what seemed like an eternity. The frigid water was lapping at our lower legs, growing noticeably deeper every few moments.
Dylan pressed himself firmly against my body, blocking me from view. Time passed on, and still there was no cry of discovery. I refused to be too optimistic... but I had a feeling that we were being given the chance to get away.
"Dylan, we have to go," I said, quietly but urgently. Dylan tensed against me, looking panicked at just the thought. "Before he finds us. We have to try and run," I insisted. Dylan hesitated, and then nodded his head finally.
I gripped his right hand tightly, and then we began to creep out of the crevice. Any noise we made was muffled by the sound of waves crashing with continued force against the rocks. This was probably a good thing, as loos stones were constantly shifting beneath our feet, making it difficult to keep our balance.
And then we were exposed entirely. The only thing concealing us was the short drop from land to sea.
"I need to climb it first," I told him, taking a step towards the cliff.
"No, I will," Dylan argued with me commandingly, pulling me back in a protective manner. I shot him an exasperated look.
"How do you plan on doing that with one hand?" I asked.
"I have two hands," Dylan shot back defensively.
"Yeah, but you'll hurt yourself-" I started, but Dylan defiantly latched onto the cliff face and pulled himself up. He was only able to use two fingers on his left hand, but he stubbornly strained with difficulty, eventually pulling himself high enough to view the land.
"I can't see them..." he informed me cautiously, before yanking his body over the edge. Upon doing so, he promptly turned around and offered me his good hand, giving me a triumphant look. I rolled my eyes and accepted it.
The rocks beneath my stockinged feet were agonising, but I was full of such extreme trepidation that I barely noticed. The pain seemed to be somewhere in some distant, unimportant area of my brain.
As Dylan dragged me over the edge of the drop, I saw that he was right. The house was far to my right, and apart from that, the area was bare. The only movement was the wind blowing in the trees, which became more condensed the further away they were. They would offer cover. I fixed my eyes onto them. Dylan followed my gaze, and nodded quickly.
"Come on," he whispered, his eyes darting around nervously to ensure that the coast was clear. We joined hands again, for security more than anything, and began to sprint. He was faster than me, and I constantly felt the pull of his hand as he exceeded my speed. I didn't let it bother me, however. If anything, it forced me to run faster.
The entire time, I fully expected to be hit from behind by a bullet, or knife, or punch. I gripped Dylan with all the strength I could muster, ducking my head down. I was suddenly full of the childish belief that if I could see no one else, than they could not see me.
Suddenly, Dylan stopped me, and I snapped my head up, ready to yell at him for doing so. And then I realised... we were under the cover of the trees.
Dylan pulled my body into his immediately, panting. His eyes were as wide as I knew mine were, searching, cautious. The only sound that could be heard was our breathing. I fought to control my own, but found it near impossible. Were we breathing loud enough to give ourselves away?
A loud chirp from a bird above us caused us both to jump violently. My eyes snapped onto it; just an ordinary, small brown bird. It wasn't even directing its eyes at us. It probably hadn't even noticed us.
I gripped Dylan's right hand tightly and began to pull him very slowly forwards. Every step I made caused leaves to crush beneath my stockings, and I cringed with each sound. "We just need to find the road," Dylan whispered, his words haltering with his heavy breathing.
"What if there is no road?" I breathed, squeezing his hand. My heart was pounding relentlessly in my chest.
"They had to drive here on something," Dylan pointed out. I felt sick. I wanted to stop, to bend over, to bury myself beneath the leaves and dirt until I knew it was safe.
It was a short walk amongst the trees before a road did come in sight. Dylan had been right. The house wasn't as secluded as I'd always felt. We had been so close to a main road! How had no one found us?
Well, why would anyone have thought to check that house?
"We have to get someone's attention," Dylan said softly, peering through the trees at the winding stretch of grey.
"No," I protested, trying not to let panic creep into my voice.
"Anyone could be involved in this," I replied. "How do we know Ben and Rick were the only ones? What if they've called friends to help look for us?"
"That's a bit of a long shot," Dylan said gently. "We would have seen someone before today if there was anyone else."
"We're out," I said simply. "Do you want to be back in?"
Dylan blinked, understanding the gravity of the situation. His eyes flickered wistfully back to the road as he crouched down behind the cover of some bushes. "What are we supposed to do then?"
"I don't know," I replied honestly, dropping to his side.
God only knew how long we waited. Cars went past, so many. A variety of colours, models and shapes. A variety of passengers. Any, perhaps all, of those cars may have helped us. They could have taken us away, taken us home. But how could we take that risk?
Dylan had a look of agony on his face as each car passed, and his body language revealed a desire to sprint after each one. I placed my hand gently on his arm in an attempt to calm him, but it didn't achieve much.
I continually glanced behind me nervously, fully expecting to see Ben or Rick standing directly behind me each time. The urgency was building; it would only be a matter of time before they found us. We had to get away. We had to.
"A police car," Dylan whispered, his voice so disbelieving that at first I believed he was merely praying for one. Until I followed his gaze.
"The police wouldn't-"
"Of course not!" I replied excitedly, jumping up from where we'd been crouching. I almost doubled over again from the cramping behind my knees, but I pushed past it.
Dylan overtook me in a split second, throwing himself onto the road and waving his arms in the air desperately, calling out words I couldn't take in. Because suddenly nothing else seemed to exist, except for the fact that the police car was slowing down.
"Are you two alright?" the woman was asking. Her window was rolled down. I hadn't even seen her do it. She had blonde hair, and brown eyes, eyes that surveyed us warily.
For a moment I wondered how she knew something was wrong, and was immediately, ridiculously suspicious, until I caught sight of Dylan, dirty, dripping, bloody and eyes spilling over with emotional, relieved tears. I knew I looked the same. It wasn't really all that surprising she knew we weren't just out for a walk.
Before I could reply, the tears began to pour down my own face, and it was all I could do to lean my head against Dylan's shoulder and sob for all that had happened, for Dana, and for this beautiful, amazing woman who was going to take us away.
At that moment, she was nothing less than our guardian angel.
Our parents were waiting for us at the police station. They had obviously been waiting for an extended amount of time; the drive home had been long. I was almost delirious with happiness the whole way home, and switched easily between frenzied conversation and numb, astounded silence.
As soon as I walked through the door, I was tackled. Mum first, and then Dad. It was hard to breathe with my face pressed up against Mum's chest. All I could smell was her perfume, the one she wore every day. She'd worn it every day since I was a toddler. And that's what really made me understand that I was home.
I could hardly take in what my parents were saying to me; instead, I looked to see Dylan being mobbed by his parents in the same way. His mother was hugging him around the neck, his father around the chest. I'd never seen such an expression of pure contentment on his beautiful face.
He was safe. And it was worth everything that I'd been through.
Dylan turned his face up directly into the warm spray of water. The shampoo was stinging his eyes, running into his mouth and nose, but God he didn't care. He'd been in the shower for more than half an hour by that point; usually his parents would be knocking on the door, insisting he came down.
But not that day.
Sighing with happiness, he finally turned the tap. He really shouldn't be wasting water.
Though one could argue he was only replacing the many, many showers he'd missed in his time in that basement.
He stood on the bath mat completely naked, allowing the water to drip down his slick body. The mirror was fogged from the steam filling the bathroom. He reached out to wipe it. He was greeted with a slightly distorted image of his face. His old face, not the one that had developed in the last few weeks. His chin was now completely smooth; the dirt and blood was gone.
He allowed himself a small grin. It was funny. He was almost scared that if he let himself get too excited, he'd wake up to find that it was still sunrise that morning.
Had it only been that morning?
He dried off his body, and then set about applying deodorant, cologne, anything he could to rid himself of that disgusting, grimy feeling he'd been possessed with for so long by then.
Finally, he was satisfied. He wrapped the towel around his hips before leaving the bathroom and entering his room. There he picked out a hooded jacket and his favourite pair of jeans. He didn't think he ever wanted to see his school uniform again.
He left his socks off. He would put those on at the last minute. He still had half an hour before he had to leave.
He quickly considered whether he should head downstairs to see his parents, but decided against it. He knew he would have to discuss the whole thing with them eventually. But not just yet. He just needed some time to recover.
He walked over to his bed slowly and then collapsed on it, bringing his pillows towards his face, breathing in their familiar scent, and sighing slowly. He could barely believe he was here.
In half an hour school was going to be out. And he was going to be there, waiting out the front, ready to confront his old friends. The ones he hadn't talked to since before he was admitted to the hospital.
He'd asked Olivia to be there. Alright, he was scared... he didn't know how they would react. Thankfully, she'd said it would be fine. And her parents were likely to agree to anything... as long as they were there with her.
Dylan hardly minded.
He rolled over onto his side, fingering the soft material of his clean jacket, and smiled at his reflection in the mirror attached to his wardrobe. Only this morning, he'd thought he would never see himself again. Let alone see himself in that mirror again.
He glanced at his hand in the reflection. Both he and Olivia had been brought to the hospital for a routine check earlier that morning. There was not much that could be done for his finger, or for the poker burn. The wound had closed over too far for stitches, and so it was simply cleaned and bandaged. He'd actually been glad for the lack of needed operations. Apart from several trips to the police station scheduled over the next few weeks, he just wanted his life to get back to normal.
I waited until Dylan stepped out of his car before I got out of mine. Both of our parents had insisted on driving us, but they were content to stay inside the cars while we met up with his friends.
Conscious of them watching us, but only slightly resentful of the fact that we were being stripped of our privacy for this, I walked towards Dylan. My heart skipped a beat as he smiled at me. It was Dylan, but not Dylan. His hair was so clean and soft looking, and half a shade lighter than it had been in that house. His face was clean shaven, his eyes were bright, and his skin was shining.
As I drew closer to him, I distinctly smelt apples and cinnamon. I had to assume this was due to cologne.
I smiled back at him almost self consciously. I had done whatever I could with my hair and clothes in the time I'd been given between arriving home and now.
It had almost not been worth it to leave the shower; I felt as though I would need at least a week straight of bathing before I could even begin to feel clean again. I'd piled on soap and perfume, dried my hair as best as I could, and had to stop myself from applying too much makeup. It was tempting to, though. It was so good to have control over my appearance again.
Hey, I was only human.
"How are you?" I asked softly, taking his hand in mine, still conscious of our parents probably taking every second of this in. God, his skin was so soft.
"Fine," he replied, but his face betrayed him.
"Nervous?" I asked knowingly, and he screwed up his nose.
"Okay, a little," he admitted, smiling guiltily.
The bell rang out from the school, and Dylan jumped, squeezing my hand tightly as though for protection.
A small smattering of boys at first, and then a sea began to pour out of the school and through the heavy bricked gates we stood in front of. Dylan attracted more than a few curious looks from the very first person to leave the school.
Dylan held his head up and looked past them all confidently, though I noticed him chewing his cheek in agitation.
Groups of guys were talking urgently amongst themselves now. All eyes were on Dylan. But still no one said a word to him. I got the distinct impression most of them believed they were looking at a ghost.
A rather large was forming outside the school now, with guys pushing past each other to see what the commotion was about.
And then a single guy pushed ahead of the rest, standing by himself. Closely behind him, three more guys caught up. The first had dark brown eyes and hair, and was staring at Dylan with an unreadable expression, his mouth working. Dylan looked right back at him, and I could tell he was unsure of what to do.
The other guy reacted first, suddenly launching himself forward, crying, "DYLAN!"
The two wrapped their arms around each other, the one I didn't recognise crying out a range of statements such as, "Thank God, Thank fuck, I can't believe it, Dylan, shit!"
Another of the three guys suddenly rushed forward as well, throwing his arms around whatever part of Dylan he could reach. "I'm so sorry," he moaned, screwing his eyes up tightly. "God, I'm so sorry, you have no idea."
"What happened, man?" one of the other guys asked, moving forward. And that set everyone off. I suddenly found myself surrounded by what seemed to be hundreds of identically dressed guys, all closing in, trying to discover what had happened to their infamous class mate.
Dylan finally allowed himself to break away from the first two guys. He tried to explain as much as he could, but he had to repeat himself far too many times to get far in his story.
As he explained the loss of his finger for the fifth or so time, the first guy turned to look at me, his dark eyes warm. "You're that girl who went missing after Dylan, hey?" he asked, studying me closely.
"Yeah," I replied, crossing my arms over my chest.
"You got anything to do with him getting out of there?" he asked, glancing at Dylan with a look of such strong affection and protectiveness that I almost laughed. It was obvious what his name was.
"Yeah," I said again. "Jake?"
"Yeah," Jake replied, grinning with pleasure, presumably because Dylan had described him to me. I was a little sceptical. After the way Jake had treated Dylan...
"Thank you," Jake said emotionally, looking me directly in the eye. All at once I understood. He'd made a mistake. They all had. And they'd probably been going through hell from the second Dylan had gone into the hospital.
"If you care about him... why didn't you try to contact him in hospital?" I asked suddenly, needing to know the answer. If they hadn't cared about him then... why should they care now?"
"We did," Jake replied. "I need to talk to him about that as soon as I get him away from everyone."
"What do you mean?" I asked curiously, looking at Dylan quickly.
"His parents swapped his sim card without telling him. We weren't allowed to visit, either. Me and Kaine went over his house as soon as he was out of hospital... but he wasn't there. We were the ones to find him missing..."
I stared back at him, numbly. Dylan might have died thinking his friends didn't give a crap. I felt the urge to travel the few metres to his car and scream insults at his parents. But that could wait.
"They dragged the river..." Jake said, his voice breaking. "I'm sorry for this, it sounds so bad... but we were so relieved when you went missing. Because it meant that maybe Dylan didn't kill himself. It meant that maybe there was something else going on... and maybe he was alive..."
"That's okay," I said quickly. "Is that Kaine with him?" I was referring to the second guy, who was still standing immediately beside Dylan.
"Yeah," Jake replied. "Kaine took it worse than all of us. He reckons he treated him more badly than any of us."
I nodded, smiling at Dylan. He caught my eye, and walked over to me, grabbing my hand. He didn't say anything, but he didn't have to. He was surrounded by his friends. He was safe. He was happy. But most importantly, he was here with me.
I would face my own friends soon. Maybe I would go over Kate's that night. I would have a lot of explaining to do about Dana. Who knew. Maybe she would still show up...
But somehow... somehow I knew it wasn't true...
I would have to think about that later, though. Have to remind myself that it wasn't my fault.
I decided Kate was the only one who would know the full story. The story of the choice I'd had to make.
It would be better that way.
I tried to force myself not to think of Dana, but it was impossible. She may have been a bitch at times... but God, she didn't deserve to die.
Even saying that, though... looking at Dylan standing beside me, I knew that even if I had to make the choice a hundred more times, I would choose the same thing.
I had ruined so many lives that day.
I had taken a life, technically.
But I had saved a life. A life that had grown to mean more to me than any other.
Standing beside Dylan, I knew that it was going to be difficult to adjust to not having him by my side every minute of the day. But I would still see him as often as possible. We would both get used to being normal again. Eventually.
I knew one thing. After all that had happened, this was obvious. No matter what happened to us, no matter what tried to stand between us, I would never lose him.
For the first time in weeks, I felt entirely safe, and secure. It was time to get my old life back. But with one exception.
This time, I would have the bravest person I'd ever met by my side.
And that was all I could ever ask for in life.
A/N - It's finished! Finally!
I'm not even going to list the many reasons as to why it took that long
the important thing is, it's up :):)
Please review! And don't forget to read and review my new story, Jihad! I'm going to be working on it for a long time to come. The first 12 or so chapters are up already!!
I hope you enjoyed this