(Warnings - mentions of consensual sexuality, rape, and homicide.)
"What're we doing?"
I turn and face Stephany just enough to gesture for her to hurry up. She complies. I can hear her footsteps as she darts after me, almost tripping and falling several times on this steep hillside.
I lead her a space just a few feet from the car, the spot where the underbrush feels softest against my feet. I flop down onto the ground, face up, and a second later Stephany stumbles across me and lies down on my other side.
"What are we doing?" she asks again, and I smile.
"We're watching the sky," I tell her.
In the pitch-black of the night, I can barely make out her form as she cranes her neck upwards like someone looking for something.
"But there's no moon tonight," she points out.
"The stars are out," I respond evenly. I roll my head back so that I'm staring up at the pitch-black setting, too.
"Why are we here?" asks Stephany. Her voice is lighter, more mirthful, and I can tell that she knows I have a second reason for bringing her here. I imagine her smile of anticipation. Another birthday present, perhaps?
"Isn't this the best place?" I breathe, instead of answering her. "The perfect night, the perfect spot, the perfect girl."
I lean over on my side and wrap my arms around Stephany playfully. My heart swells in my chest at the feeling of her in my arms. So close, yet so far. She'll never know…
Stephany giggles in my arms, also playing. To her, it's just a brotherly embrace. She'll never know…
"And the perfect guy," she adds on to my statement, wrapping her arms around me. I can't help it; I melt. I'm sideways on the ground hugging her loosely with her arms across my back. I pull her a little closer, subtly, trying not to let on what I'm thinking.
"Ever wonder what it would be like… to kiss a close friend?" I ask. Normally I'd be too afraid to say something like that, but this night makes me brazen. Something about the dark sky empowers me; makes me feel invincible. I wrap my arms a little tighter around Stephany and wait for her response.
"No," she giggles, like I just told a joke. My lungs seem to drop in my chest. She pauses thoughtfully. "Well, I guess. But thought about it, or actually done it?"
"Would you?" I ask, trying to sound casual, but even to my own ears my voice has taken on an intimate note.
"I… I guess," Stephany says. "I've never really considered it."
"Let's try," I say, but before she has a chance to respond I've pressed my lips over hers. She responds without hesitation, pressing her lips back sensually and pulling me closer. She smells like lilacs and spring mornings, and I know that from now on that will be my favorite smell.
For a second the entire world is the small bubble around us, this soft patch of grass, the silky hair I'm running my fingers through, Stephany's body beneath mine. It's just us, and nothing else exists.
After what feels like an eternity of bliss she breaks away. She pants softly.
"Kiss me again," she says, but it's her that kisses me. I roll over so that I'm partially on top of her. All of a sudden I'm aware of her breasts pressing against my chest. Our kiss goes from chaste and emotional to passionate in what feels like only a second. I want her and she wants me - I can tell my the way her mouth starts roaming over mine, by the little sounds she makes in the back of her throat. I pull myself up for just a second, and my hands are already pulling off her shirt. Stephany wriggles out of it easily, and then it's just her naked torso and me. I place my hands over her breasts and start to experiment, moving my hands over them. She gasps and arches her back towards me.
It's the solid feeling of her ribs colliding with mine that brings me back to my senses. For the first time since this began I look at her, really look at her. Stephany's lying there, lips parted, breathing hard. Her eyes are rolled upwards, towards the car or the grass above her head, not towards me. As I look as closely into her eyes as I can, something inside me instantly seems to snap and die.
She doesn't love me. She's only doing this because she wants to. She has never loved me and she never will.
And that's all it takes.
I'm walking up towards the car. Everything's quiet behind me. For the first time I realize just how silent it is out here. No cicadas, no locusts, no nothing.
Perfect. I grin bitterly.
I pull the tire iron out of the back trunk and head back down-
Eliza forces herself up rapidly, breathing hard. For a second the world is unfamiliar, one giant blur of something she can't recognize. Then, all of a sudden, everything clicks in her mind, and she knows where she is.
Her room. Of course.
Eliza falls back onto her pillow and lays there, still breathing hard. As her mind continues to wake up, she becomes aware of the sheen of sweat covering her body.
She's had the same nightmare for what feels like forever. It came once or twice in the week before her move to Hillside Heights, but she'd just attributed that to stress and grief. It hadn't seemed like a big deal, even all those nights when she'd laid alone in the dark, scared out of her mind, convinced that if she looked down she would see a tire iron in her grasp.
Eliza shuts her eyes briefly and then forces them open again. She has to calm down. It was a dream, a nightmare, nothing more. Nothing happened. She was safe in her bed all night long.
After a few second of reassuring herself, Eliza feels her heart rate return to normal.
When she's confident that she's going to be okay she pushes herself back up and out of bed. The sunlight pours in through the window and bathes everything in a cheerful light. It's hard to believe that the nightmare has gotten worse since moving here. Her new room is white, with white carpet and a large clean window. Eliza's old room was much less cheerful, more like a tomb.
The rest of the house is quiet as she slips out of her room and into the bathroom. She figures she's probably the only one up. That would mean she's awake early again. Once upon a time, that thought would have bothered Eliza, but now she doesn't care. She hasn't slept as much since coming to Hillside Heights. She hasn't gotten tired as easily, either.
Once in the bathroom, Eliza shuts the door quietly and peels off her nightgown. Gross. She wrinkles her nose before tossing it into the corner and stepping over to turn on the shower.
Thoughts about the nightmare drift unbidden back into Eliza's mind. Last night's nightmare (This morning's nightmare?) was more vivid than some of the ones she's had.
The nightmare is never the same. Sometimes she sees different parts. Sometimes, she's out by a lake or some other water setting, following Stephany around. And then all of a sudden her mind flashes to that pitch-black night and the car on the old road on top of the hill and the body she knows is laying down that slope just a few feet, and the dream ends. Other times she's leaving, putting the tire iron (the bloody tire iron) back into the trunk and getting into the driver's side of the car. Other times she's outside of her body, watching two people, a girl and a boy, walk down that same hill slope.
It's weird, Eliza thinks, that she's always the boy. She's not sure how she knows that; she just does. Maybe it's how flat her chest feels compared to Stephany's, maybe it's the sound of her voice, maybe it's those times when she's not one of the people lying beneath the black sky, she's watching them, but she always knows that she's a boy.
'A psychologist would call that a 'repressed urge to be a man,'' Eliza thinks dryly as she steps under the flow of cold water. For a moment she shudders, but then her body adjusts and it actually feels nice.
Her mind flashes to that image, the one that never seems to leave her anymore. It's the image of the two people stumbling down the sheer side of the hill. Always, even when she's just watching them and not thinking any thoughts of her own, the sight fills Eliza with terror. She wants to scream, to call Stephany back, but she can't. She's like the narrator in a movie; she's powerless to actually stop the events from happening.
And oh, the events!
A wave of nausea hits Eliza's stomach from just thinking about it. She presses her arms into her sides like she's trying to hold herself together and takes a deep breath. The nausea passes.
'What could possibly inspire a person to do that?' Eliza wonders. She lets herself go back to the moment when she (he?) first realizes that Stephany doesn't love her. The despair is almost physical. More than that, it's final. He (she?) will never again hold out any hopes about a relationship. All those smiles, all those warm hugs, all those pats of the back suddenly mean nothing. No matter what Stephany feels, none of it can make up for that one truth.
'She does not love you.'
'It's not like I don't understand that,' Eliza reminds herself. She clenches her jaw at the memory that resurfaces. 'It was the same for you and him. Kyle.'
A wave of primal satisfaction sweeps over her when she realizes that it took her a minute to think of his name. She smirks to herself. Getting rid of that name, getting rid of that face will be like getting rid of an ugly stain she's carried around on her skin since he chose to forget she even existed.
'But who's fault was that?' She insists viciously. 'You're the one who screwed up, not him. You're always screwing up! You never could leave well enough alone. You had to be a glutton for punishment and wonder if even an ugly face like yours could win a guy over. And god, you were fat, too!'
Eliza pictures herself as she would have looked around the time of her memory. Large, poorly complexioned, and, as always, the ugly duckling of any group. Just thinking about it almost brings tears to her eyes, which only serves to aggravate Eliza. It was her own fault for being lazy and letting herself get fat. And her zits, well, that was the fault of genetics. And as for her face? That was (that is, she reminds herself) just proof that yes, there is a god, and yes, he hates her.
For a second Eliza lets the bitter rejection wash over her. Then she forces herself to focus on something else. Even her original question is more pleasant than those memories.
'What drives a person to do that?' She asks herself again.
Being treated like a tool hurts. Being thrown away hurts. Being mocked hurts.
'But since it's the same, does Kyle deserve to die?'
'It wasn't his fault,' the forgiving part of Eliza's mind replies. 'It was yours. You screwed up. You have to accept responsibility for that and not blame Kyle.'
'But he treated you like you were NOTHING,' spits back the angry part of Eliza's mind.
'But to kill him like that…,' a shudder goes down Eliza's spine.
Suddenly the age-old question pops into her mind.
'How do I know how he killed her?'
It's a perfectly logical question with no answer that's been bothering her since she first had the nightmare six months ago. She never actually witnesses the murder, a fact for which she is grateful. She never even gets a close look at the body, although she's seen some poorly lighted glimpses from a distance. So why is it that she knows exactly what happened to Stephany?
'Raped, murdered, and left at the top of the hill. She wouldn't have even been found if those passer-bys hadn't seen the vultures,' The words seem to pop into Eliza's mind out of nowhere. The last part she knows courtesy of Liam and Cole.
Eliza sighs and turns off the water. She pulls herself out of the shower carefully and wraps herself in her towel, shivering. The bathroom was always either too hot or to cold; there is no inbetween. But hell, there never is any inbetween with the Fuller family.
'Sometimes I just think they're out to make me miserable,' thinks Eliza moresely as she wipes her face off.
That seems to be a plausible theory. They couldn't make it any plainer that they dislike her but, at the same time, are apathetic to her existence. Sometimes that makes her grateful. At least they don't all hate her. And being all affectionate and welcoming would be just as bad. A freak like Eliza would be a total disappointment to them if they'd been expecting someone they could like. It's better to be left mostly alone. That basically described her life, and she'd long since stopped caring whether anyone noticed whether or not she ate or where she slept or even who she was. Ignorance is always better than cruelty.
Eliza kneels down by the cabinets beneath the sink and pulls out her hair dryer. She plugs it in and starts shaking her head to help get the air to her roots. Water sprays all over the walls and the foggy mirror. For a second she stops moving and stares at herself in the partially obscured surface. She is nothing more than a peach-and-pink blur (thanks to her towel). Her face is indiscernible.
'This is how I look best,' Eliza thinks. She turns to allow the blow dryer to get the other side, and in the process glances away from the mirror. She's long since accepted that she's ugly, but it's still hard to deal with. She used to be pretty, but she hadn't realized it. She believed at the time that she had to change in order to become beautiful.
Eliza recalls looking through the memory of her Mother's camera and stumbling across an old photograph of herself from over a year ago. The face staring back at her was awkward, imperfect, but it also had a youthful beauty and a strangely genuine quality about it.
'Where did that go?' The sadness that awakens with that thought surprises even Eliza. She refuses to allow that thought to go on any further and starts drying her thick hair with renewed vigor.
'Stephany was ugly,' she thinks suddenly. Instantly she regrets it. It's bad luck to speak ill of the dead! She bites the sides of her lower lip sharply as punishment.
'Poor Stephany,' Eliza decides with sincerity. A second later the wicked little voice that seems to torment her nonstop speaks up.
'Poor Stephany because she was ugly or because she's dead?'
Eliza bites her lip even harder, and the voice dies away immediately.
It's true that Stephany wasn't pretty. She had a flat face except for her long, angular nose. Her black black hair curled and frizzed in sections, like it had been divided and then rubbed with a balloon to create static that never left. But there was something about her that made the boy, the boy who Eliza always was in her nightmare, completely powerless. To him, she was perfect.
'What gives someone that?' Eliza wonders absently as she runs a brush through her hair. 'Is that love?'
It must be, but she doesn't understand it at all. Aren't looks a woman's most important gift?
Suddenly she realizes where her thoughts have drifted, yet again. A wave of frustrations washes over Eliza. Why is she always obsessing over Stephany? She's dead. She's been dead. She will be dead. She will always be dead. Even if people remember her, she'll still be dead. And her soul, or her consciousness, or whatever you want to call it, has moved on to the place where the dead go.
Eliza pulls her robe off the hook on the bathroom door and pulls it tightly around her, still upset. All this fixating can't be healthy. She's going to hurt herself.
'One day, you'll just bewalking along, caught up in Stephany's world, and you'll bump into something and knock yourself out,' she scolds herself as she pulls open the bathroom door and walks out, headed for her room. 'Seriously. It's just not healthy.'
But at the same time, it's hard for her to resist. After all, as much as she'd like to deny it, there is a reason Eliza's nightmares have gotten worse since she moved to Hillside Heights.
And the reason is that the hill – the hill the boy takes Stephany to, the hill where he rapes her and kills her and leaves her, the hill he drives away from, the hill she's had nightmares about for the past six months, before she'd ever heard of Hillside heights –
It's less than half a mile from her house.
Author's Notes: Yay! I'm on time with something I started for once in my life! (I will warn you, this may or may not be a sign of a rapidly-approaching apocalypse. So if you have some sort of shelter built and stocked in case of emergency, check it over to make sure it's still acceptable and start moving your things in.)
I had a nightmare like, a week or so ago today. I dreamt about the murder. Only the thing is that at the same time, I didn't. I dreamt I was reviewing old movies, and this was one of them. For some reason it disturbed me so horribly I can't even begin to put it down on paper. I was freaking out about it the next day when I started going over the details. It was like something out of my own personal hell.
In the nightmare I didn't actual see what happened; like with my character Eliza, it just popped into my head. I think Eliza is sort of like the 'me' of this scenario. But, at the same time, by the time I'm done I have this feeling she'll be totally different from me. Yeah, I wouldn't wanna be like me either, Eliza.
I'm hopefully gonna update this regularly. Or semi-regularly. Hell, sorta-semi-regularly would be good. But that will take a hell of a lot of motivation... motivation which could come from an encouraging review! Or even an angry, repulses review! I mean heck, to hate something you have to care that it sucks, and just knowing that someone out there cares that much is encouragement too.
Come on people, hit me!