"Joanie, it's me," Andrew yelled, trying to calm me down. Still in panic, I could hear his words, but they never sunk into my skin, so I fought my way out of his grasp and almost made it to the shore before I collapsed in the shallow water. My muscles were aching and sore, my hair was knotted, and my clothes and body were soaking wet and so cold that I lay shivering. He scooped me up and brought me to a fresh bed of illuminated clover where a thousand fireflies danced among the twinkling stars overhead. As soon as he set me down, I found that my clothes were warm and dry, and my hair fell in satin curls over my now tear-free face. With the snap of his fingers, everything was good again. He had the power to mend me back together on the outside. But on the inside, I was a complete mess. Before I could stop myself, I was crying again and didn't stop crying until there were no more tears left in me. I was completely exhausted, but I needed answers.

"Where were you?" I demanded angrily, "When I looked up, you had just disappeared and left me alone to be taken by…" I couldn't finish. He looked desperate for words, opening his mouth to speak, but then closing it again when no words came out.

"Tell me what's happening," I whispered desperately. He looked unsure, but then sat down next to me and stared at the horizon.

"To be completely honest, I don't know what's going on," he said, "None of this is supposed to be happening. This was a bad idea bringing you back here. I can't have my thoughts ruin you like they ruined me."

"But you aren't ruined," I protested. "How could you say that?"

"Certain things can never heal," he answered. "You don't understand."

"Stop saying that!" I yelled. I kept hearing that spoken to me over and over, but every time I was left without and explanation. "If I don't get it then why can't you just tell me what it is that I'm having trouble with?"

"Because," he stuttered, "Because I don't want to it to affect the way you think about…her."

"I loved you mother," I said comfortingly, "nothing you say can change that."

He closed his eyes and sat quietly for a period before meeting my gaze again. I saw fear, anger, and desolate sorrow in him, but behind all of that I saw a glimmer of something powerful. Perhaps it was relief that he was finally telling someone a secret that had been buried deep inside him.

"Joanie, my family hasn't always been what it is now. It used to be just my mom, Paul, and me.

"Wait, who's Paul?" I interrupted, "I thought your dad's name is Marc."

"Marc is my step dad," he explained, "so that means that Olive is only my half sister."

"Why didn't you ever tell me this?" I asked, hurt that he never cared to tell his best friend about this. He seemed to ignore my question, but the more he explained, the more I understood the reason why he wanted to keep it a secret.

"I don't remember him much, but what I do know is that Paul was a bad guy. He drank a lot, and sometimes hit my mom, but the worst was when he would call her names and scream at her. I would stay in my room and cry, trying anything to block out the noises coming from the kitchen, but nothing worked. One night, my mom came into my room with a black eye and held me in her arms and told me that I had the ability to escape without going anywhere. 'The world we live in is the one we create,' she said, 'Heaven exists in Hell, you just need to find it.'"

"A week after she told me that, she and Paul and a really big fight and my grandma came to get me. She only lived a few blocks away, and I could hear the police sirens from her living room. Mom never pressed charges against Paul, she just said that she fell down the stairs, and although the police still ran an investigation, they left and so did Paul. He walked down town to hit up his regular chair at his regular bar for the night. I watched him walk by my grandma's house and when he saw me looking at him through the window, he scowled at me, but I listened to Mom's advice, and instead of seeing him scowling, I imagined him smiling and waving at me. It worked, so from then on, I promised myself that I would never again see the reality that everyone else did. There was no use living through something that is only meant to hurt you."

Andrew couldn't look at me; he just stared at something in the distance with anger in his eyes. I followed his gaze and realized that while he had been telling me this story, it was being played out in front of us. It was like watching a movie, but instead of characters playing their parts, they were simply living their own lives, unaware that anyone was watching them. The scene before us kept morphing from a run-down house with battered siding to a sweet little home on the corner with baby blue shutters, and then back to the other house.

The story he had just told me kept playing like it was on a loop, and I saw Andrew, Anne, his grandmother, and Paul, who wore a crusty flannel shirt and ripped jeans. His hair was unruly and it seemed like he hadn't shaved in a long time. I watched him hit Anne across the face and I stood up, wanting to run to save her, but it was no use. The story that had come to life in front of us was just a memory that had been buried inside Andrew.

Then without even speaking, his story continued. A bright yellow school bus twisted down the road and stopped in front of the little house on the corner, which I assumed was his grandma's house. The door of the bus opened, and a five-year-old Andrew bounced down the steps and on to the sidewalk. Then he walked up to the porch and came through the front door of the house, where his grandma said 'hello' from the kitchen where she was making him a grilled cheese sandwich.

"Hey sweetie, are you hungry?" She called from the other room.

"Thanks Grandma," he said quietly, taking his plate to the backyard to eat it on the bench outside. She followed him out and sat down next to him.

"How was school?" she asked.

"Good," he murmured softly, taking a bite of the sandwich. She then began to ramble on about her day and what errands she needed to run later that night, trying to spark up a conversation. Andrew sat in silence until she paused to take a breath and he blurted out, "I miss my mom."

There was sadness in the old woman's eyes and she touched his cheek softly, pursing her lips and then whispered, "So do I."

She stood up and hurried into the house and as she was walking away, I could tell she was crying. As soon as the door closed behind her, Andrew set his plate down and ran out of his yard and down the street. At the corner, he took a right and ran into a different neighborhood with older, beaten down houses that seemed to be slumped in sad, tired messes. He stopped in front of his house and stood there glaring in hatred at the depressed little building. Then he walked up to the front door and found it unlocked, so he went inside.

"Mom," he called, "Dad?" But there was no answer. He searched in every room in the house and didn't see anyone until he entered into the bathroom, where from the door he could see a delicate hand draped over the bathtub. With scarred eyes, he stepped toward the tub where Anne, in a white sundress, lay in blood stained water. On the edge was the kitchen knife that had been used to cut her arms and legs. Her hair was matted against her forehead and she began to look very familiar. She was a beautiful monster, whose attacker was herself.

When he saw her, there was a look of confusion and fear on his face, but then he took a deep breath and closed his eyes, and he was no longer inside the bathroom, but instead, standing alone on the lakeshore in front of where we sat. Little Andrew was focused on a spot in the middle of the lake, and a moment later, there were ripples in the glassy water followed by Anne's head emerging from the surface. She walked toward the shore, to where her son stood, and as soon as she stepped onto the sand, her hair and clothes were dry and flowed behind her. She picked Andrew up in her arms and kissed him, and he clung to her tightly. "I'm so sorry," she whispered in his ear, and with that, the two figures faded from sight, and all was quiet. Everything was back to the way it had looked before his story and a great silence echoed off the entire land.

"When my grandma noticed that I was gone," he said, turning toward me again, "she suspected that I had run back home, and when she came in search for me, she walked into the bathroom and saw that saw me curled up with her in the bathtub. I remember her screaming and talking to and emergency operator between sobs. When she hung up the phone, she tried to pull me away from my mom, but I clung so tightly that she had to wait for the paramedics to get me out of the tub."

"And," I began, my voice cracking, "she lived."

"Yeah," he said, "she lost a lot of blood, but she made it."

The overwhelming power of his story sent me spinning, as I was just beginning to grasp the idea that there was really so much about my best friend that I didn't know, and I wondered what other secrets he was keeping from me. I tried not to think of that. I didn't know how much more of the truth I could handle in one day.

"But after the…incident," he continued, avoiding the words 'suicide attempt,' "She got treatment, Paul lost custody, and we moved into a new apartment, where my mom fell in love with the landlord, who's now my step dad, Marc. Then we moved in across the street and finally, everything was the way it should have been in the first place. We were all so happy."

At his last words, he broke from a cool and collected tone, into a quivering voice, diluted with heartbreak.

"And you know, the thing that just kills me," he continued through clenched teeth, "is that she apologized over and over again for being so selfish, and she promised that she would never take herself away from me…"

"But Andrew, she had no idea that-"

"She was a liar," he shouted, and thunderclouds spread across the sky in anger.

"No," I said calmly, "she's not. Listen, what you're doing to yourself and to her just isn't fair. It's not anyone's fault that she's gone. I- I think that you need to make peace, let her go, you know? If you can do that, you'll both be free."

Above us, the sky was clearing, and I knew that I had gotten through to him. He spoke with his head in his hands and looked at me with desperate, green eyes and said, "I don't know if I can."

"Are you kidding me?" I asked, "If anyone can do it, it's you. This is something you need to do…all these delusions-they're ridiculous."

Nodding his head in absent agreement, he murmured, "Okay." I couldn't tell if he was talking to me or himself, but as soon as he spoke, Anne appeared in front of us, kneeling on the soft grass. She looked as beautiful as she had when she walked on the shore earlier, with her white dress and pretty brown hair tucked behind her ear. I saw Andrew's eyes glitter behind her full black lashes and her cheeks were rosy and pink, as if her beating heart could still pump blood through her veins.

"My darling," she said, stroking her son's face and wiping a tear from his cheek.

"Mom," he whimpered, holding her hand against his face, "I- I-"

"Shh," she soothed, "I know love, I know."

"I have to let you go," he cried softly, "I have to forgive you."

"And you will," she answered softly.

"I just don't know how," he said, "I'm scared that I'll forget you."

"Andrew," she said with a surprised tone, "You don't need to be afraid of that. Just don't keep me in the front of your mind all the time. It will only ruin your thoughts. Keep me in your heart, because you're heart forgets nothing."

She took him in her arms and kissed his head. Stroking his back, she calmed his trembling sobs, and for the first time, looking up and me, she smiled, "Joanie, sweetie," and opened her free arm for me to crawl into her embrace.

"I miss you Anne," I whispered into her hair.

"I miss both of you so much," she answered. The three of us clutched each other in the clover for a long time, but every minute felt like a second, and I hoped that it would never end, and we could stay like this forever. I couldn't believe that this was happening. Anne felt alive in my arms; her warmth, her voice, her everything was just as I had remembered. When I felt Andrews's chest subside from the crying, he took a deep shaky breath, and said calmly, "Goodbye Mom."

"Goodbye Andrew," she answered, smiling through shimmering tears. I closed my eyes and held her tightly, almost as if I was changing my mind about letting her go. As soon as Andrew had said the words, I realized that I wasn't ready for a goodbye, but there was nothing I could do now. This was not my fight, and I couldn't let my weakness hinder his struggle. A flash of light exploded outside of my eyelids, and my ears were filled with a medley of familiar sounds—crickets chirping, the soft wind twirling through tree branches, and the unmistakable sound of an owl in the distance. When I opened my eyes, I could see rays of silver moon light through the cracks in the rotting roof of the shack. The door hung open and the dark woods waited for us like a predator waiting for its prey to simply walk into its hands. It was no longer Anne that I clutched, but Andrew, whose tears were still wet on my blouse.

"Are you gunna be okay?" I asked. He didn't say anything until he let go of me and sat beside me to stare out the doorway. I watched him closely as he smiled slightly and sighed contently, "Yes, I will be." Then he stood up and held his hand to help me up off the ground. He was smaller than me, so I almost pulled him down instead, but I managed to get up.

"We should probably head back," he said, "I wonder what time it is."

"Yeah, come on," I answered heading to the door.

"Wait a minute," he laughed before I made it outside. He reached in my hair and pulled out a clover that glowed in his hands.

"Impossible," I mused.

"Joanie," he scolded playfully, handing me the clover, "After all this time, how could you even say that?"

"I don't know," I replied, laughing. When we stepped outside, the clover shriveled into black dust just like the diamonds and pearl that I had taken the first time we had come to this place. I knew it would happen, but I couldn't help being shocked that these things from another world could just destroy themselves in my hands.

He just smiled knowingly and kept walking, in what seemed to be no particular direction, but I trusted that he knew where he was going, or perhaps he just trusted that the wind would take us home. I could imagine that he would believe the wind could push us in the right direction, but the portal for his mind was behind us, and now, I could only guess what he was feeling.

"Hey, you know, you never did tell me where you had disappeared to when I was taken into the lake," I suddenly realized. Again, he looked uncomfortable, but this time pushed through it to answer my question.

"This is kind of hard to explain," He trailed of, "but when she pulled you in, I seemed to- to disappear from myself, and I could see…through her eyes."

"You," I stammered, "saw through her eyes?"

"Yeah, I can't really put words to it, but its like I was locked inside her, and all I could do was watch her take you, and I couldn't do a thing about it."

"The second time you went under, I watched you run out of air, and it was, well, terrifying. Your body went limp, and you stopped struggling. All I wanted was to get you to the surface alive, but I was completely powerless-I felt like screaming."

"But then," he said with curiosity, "you smiled."

"I did?" I asked, unaware of my actions.

"Yeah, you did," he said, "And a second later, I found that instead of being confined inside another body, I was set free into my own, and that's how we escaped."

At first, this story was confusing to me, but then, little by little, my memory became clearer and I remembered what I had seen when I thought all was lost. A wedding- it had been a beautiful vision that came out of nowhere, and although I didn't know exactly what it meant, I knew that it had somehow saved me- saved us.

"Incredible," I whispered under my breath.

"I know," he said, sounding a bit baffled. Then he smiled. "In all dark places, there's a light. Somewhere inside you, you found a light, and then I found mine."

I shook my head in disbelief. Was it really so simple? And then I laughed because nothing in that boy's mind was ever simple.