"I'm driving, get in."
I watched from the steps that led into the garage as Oliver opened the door to the Stingray, looking up to watch me. There was a momentary flashback at the familiar sight, one that transported me to a cold winter day where the mirror image of Oliver had immerged from the car. The sublime ache in my chest grew as I pulled myself into reality, finding my gaze set steadily on the surviving twin. He was dressed in a navy V-neck and a pair of loose kaki shorts to combat the sticky summer humidity. He was stoic as ever, reserved and distant, eyes giving away no hint of emotion. "Maggie? You coming or not?"
"Yeah, sorry," I said. I slipped down the remaining stairs; past my car and into the passenger side door of the car I had been in once before. Oliver followed right after, and the engine of the old car roared to life and we slowly left the garage and turned from the driveway. "You can drive this thing?"
"Yeah," he replied. "Why wouldn't I be able to?"
"It's a manual, that's all, your dad said only he or Simon used this car," I explained uncomfortably.
"Just because I didn't use it doesn't mean I don't know how to drive it," he answered immediately, tone clipped. "That was a bit presumptuous of you."
Lavish houses with palm trees waving gently in their yards rolled by as we drove to an unknown destination. The interior of the car was just the same, black leather, clean and shining. What was slightly different was the music filtering softly from the speakers.
"Tragic eyes that I can't even recognize myself behind, so if the answer is no can I change your mind…?"
Everything was getting all too familiar. The car, the music, the appearance of the boy at my side. I took a deep breath, pushing the memories and the pain as far to the back of my mind as I could.
He's not Simon. He's not Simon.
I repeated those three words to myself over and over, unable to tune out the music. I had to try something, boiling in my own thoughts wasn't doing me any good or making this little day trip any easier.
"Which album did you like best?" I asked, staring at the road straight ahead.
"The Killers." I nodded towards the stereo.
"Oh." He shot me a glance from the corner of his eye. "Um, Hot Fuss I guess."
I scoffed, shaking my head; I guess those twins shared more than just identical looks. Funny how that conversation starter helped nothing.
He cleared his throat. "Where do you want to go shopping? Anywhere specific?"
"Where is there to choose from?"
"Depends, Mount Pleasant has Abercrombie, American Eagle, Hollister, stuff like that. If you'd like to go downtown there's an Urban Outfitters and a bunch of other stores," he explained.
"What's Mount Pleasant?" I queried, looking over in his direction.
"The island just past Sullivan's on our way back to the mainland. They've actually got a pretty good selection of places to choose from."
"That sounds fine."
"Mount Pleasant it is then," he confirmed, shifting gears. And off we went through the small, busy streets and towards the bridge that connected our residence to Sullivan's. Oliver let out a bitter chortle as we hit the bridge, eyes trained on the water flowing swiftly from the gap between the two islands. "Idiots, what don't they understand about the rip current there being deadly? Someone died there just last summer."
I looked past him, catching sight of the three people wading into the waters James and Oliver had both spoken against. They were as pale as I was; fairly heavy set and middle aged. They moved sluggishly further into the swiftly moving water, one in particular seeming unable to keep her balance. She seemed to be turning back towards the shore as we drove on out of range of them.
The strange, exotic houses of Sullivan's slipped by, as well as a quaint little place known as Poe's Tavern. The sign on the post outside depicted the famous author's face, hair skillfully designed in the shape of a raven. It caught my eye more easily than the other fascinating sights I'd witnessed had. Maybe it was my love of literature that still tugged at my heartstrings, even if it was broken.
"That seems interesting…" I trailed off as a couple made their way up the steps of the building.
"Oh, Poe's? It shouldn't be a problem to drop by there one day, it's a pretty nice place," Oliver said offhandedly. He yawned then, giving his head a little shake before refocusing on the road. The weariness from the day before was still there, though not as prominent. Beneath his eyes traces of the dark circles lingered, even his tanned flesh didn't have the ability to hide those. I still didn't know the reason for the hospital visit James and his son had taken the previous day; neither had mentioned it again, both opting for complete ignorance of the subject. I hadn't dared ask just what had happened, the only hint James had given me was that it had been for Oliver in the middle of their incessant bickering when I had returned home.
"You okay?" It came out just above a whisper, just loud enough to catch his attention. He glanced over momentarily, a slight trace of a frown pulling down at the corners of his lips. I remembered how he had snapped at me the day before when I had inquired as to his condition, mentally preparing myself for the same type of retaliation.
"As good as can be expected," he said. "Then again, I'm not the one who went out with Calvin Huffington yesterday. So let me inquire, are you okay?"
"Is there a reason I shouldn't be?" I asked defensively.
"Well he is known as Lady-Killer Cal for a reason."
"As if I'm in the right emotional state to be seduced by the Southern Casanova," I deadpanned. "Not happening. I mean he's sweet and all, but I've got a feeling he'd become annoying pretty quickly. He seems like one of those people that's only good in small doses."
Oliver let out a laugh, corners of his lips turning skywards. "Actually that sums him up pretty accurately. If he weren't such a damn good volleyball player I'd be less inclined to hang out with him. He's a pretty good guy and all… he's just…"
"A bit too much at times," I finished for him.
He nodded. "Yeah, he can be."
I smiled a little, pleased to find some common ground with Oliver—even if it was our views and tolerance levels for Cal. It was better than nothing; it was a start.
It was two in the afternoon by the time we returned to the Isle of Palms. Shopping had gone smoothly. I'd found what I needed and we had finished in time for an uneventful lunch at Coconut Joe's—a small restaurant overlooking the beach just down the strip from the Windjammer and directly across from a small shopping area. Down the stairs with their white chipped paint Oliver twirled his keys around his fingers.
"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling ice cream," he said, looking back at me with a ghost of a grin.
"It's definitely hot enough." I nodded. "Sounds good to me."
We crossed the street quickly, stopping only a moment at the deserted ice cream stand to grab two cups. Oliver ordered raspberry fudge, while I requested a cup of strawberry cheesecake. Following him to the shaded table I spooned a mouthful of the pink ice. The cool stone of the bench felt pleasant against my legs as I slid onto it. Oliver sat opposite, scrutinizing the lump of brown and red swirl he'd pulled out of his cup.
"That looks appetizing." I smirked.
"Actually it's not that bad, the raspberry just isn't as prominent as I like," he said, grin matching mine. "I'm surprised you didn't get a waffle cone."
"What, no Mr. Waffle menu?"
The past wouldn't stay buried for more than a few hours it seemed; the exact appearance of the twins did nothing to help it. Memories of Simon always seemed to rear their head, no matter what I was doing or where I was. It was getting harder and harder to keep the painful emotions that had been swelling in my chest over the past few days. The death of my father and the familiarity of the boy across the table did nothing to help. My heart seemed to sink in my chest, melting contents of the cup before me losing their appeal.
"Do you ever think about him?" I asked, toying with the spoon in my ice cream.
Oliver looked over, examining me momentarily. "Who?"
I sighed, shaking my head. "Never mind. Don't worry about it."
"No, you can't just drop a conversation like that. Don't do that. Now, who?" He pressed.
I scoffed, jerking my head up. "Stop acting like you don't know who. You know just as well as I do."
He didn't reply for a moment, taking a spoonful of the cold confection, and swallowing it as he stared past me, towards the little shops along the strip. The coastal breeze tugged at the gentle blonde curls, tousling them carelessly in the humid summer air. A slight trace of self-loathing slipped into my system while I watched him; I shouldn't have said anything, I really shouldn't have even brought it up. Why had I done that? Why had I pulled the past into the light?
"I thought you didn't want to talk about this."
"I did too, but..." But what? But I needed to talk about it? Five months and I'd never had anyone, anyone except a grave and a few brief, useless conversations with James Dreyton to discuss how I'd felt, or what I had felt for Simon and his loss. And then, the one person in the world who had possibly lost just as much as I had with his passing was sitting not three feet in front of me. But he could barely tolerate my presence, let alone a discussion of such emotional magnitude. I had been such a fool to even mention it, to even let those words slip from my lips. "Sorry, I just...sorry."
I stood up swiftly, scooping the mostly empty container of ice cream up as I went. Sweeping past the twin without a glance, my aim was simply the trashcan nearby. But once I got there and the cold container slipped from my fingers I just couldn't bring myself to go back. Surely that had brought up painful memories for him. That selfishness I never could escape had reared its head once again, striking pain into the hearts of those around me. No, I wasn't going back; I didn't even dare sneak a glance over my shoulder as my shoes moved forward along the concrete sidewalk, maneuvering between the tourists silently.
Up ahead was the crosswalk; if I could make it there, he wouldn't notice me intermingled with the crowds on the opposite side. We weren't far down from the Wind Jammer, and that would allow me easy access to the beach and a quick escape to the house we shared.
I managed to get to the beach bar without any issues, exiting through the back and onto the lower level deck where the volleyball lots were. My steps almost stalled, the sight of Cal just past the crowd partaking in the game at hand wasn't something I had wanted to see. I didn't want to deal with him, his persistent, prying happy demeanor as he tried to subtly get me to tell him just what was wrong.
It only took a moment though to realize it would be easiest to get past him while the ball was still in play, so I went with haste, trekking past the courts and spectators. I exhaled the breath I had been holding as I hit the rickety wooden walkway to the beach, dropping my pace a tad as I started down the stairs that led down into the bright white sand.
I froze on the spot, hands automatically balling into fists as I watched the beach goers pass without a care in the world. Dammit. I had just wanted to go on my way, and not have to deal with this. I turned slowly, frown prominent as I went to face Cal. But the frown melted to an expression of confusion as Oliver looked down at me from the top of the steps.
His brow was furrowed, lips slightly parted as he stood, hand upon the railing at his side. I didn't think he would have cared that I left him there with his cup of yogurt and bitter thoughts I had probably brought on; hell, I thought he might have appreciated it.
"You just left," he stated steadily.
"Yeah, I know." I nodded.
"You didn't say anything. I look over and you're on the opposite side of the street. No warning, nothing. Why?"
"Says the boy who leaves the room whenever I show up," I muttered with an eye-roll, turning away.
"What did you just say?" He queried, sounding almost offended.
"Come off it, Oliver, you're the king of 'just walking away,'" I deadpanned. "Why are you even here?"
"Why did you leave?" His voice was closer than I expected, and I jumped as he popped up at my side, his long legs making it easy to keep pace with me as we walked along the beach.
"Why do you think?"
"Well if I knew I wouldn't be asking you, would I?" He replied immediately.
That was it. I whirled on him without warning, hands in my hair as I pushed the flyaway strands out of my face in frustration. "Gah, why do you even do that? Why do you ask questions you already know the answers to? You knew I meant Simon, you knew I left because I made things uncomfortable for both of us. So why do you insist on fucking asking me when you already know?"
He looked startled by my outburst, a few passing people tossed us inquisitive glances. I ignored them as best I could, maintaining focus on the typically unreadable Dreyton in front of me.
I huffed, shaking my head as I looked away from him and towards the white crested waves. "You know what? Forget it."
Leaving him in the sand I stormed off in the direction of the house.
"Oh goddammit," Oliver hissed in exasperation. "Maggie, stop, seriously."
I felt warm fingers wrap around my arm, and I jerked it away without a second thought. I wasn't expecting a pair of wiry arms to circle my torso and lift me off the ground. I gasped in shock as I was flipped rapidly, slung over Oliver's shoulder in one fluid motion. The impact jolted me a little, a squeak falling out of me as I struggled to wrap my mind around just what had happened.
"Oliver, what the hell?" I asked once I finally recovered enough focus and form proper sentences. Below me the sand shift under his feet as he continued to walk; a group of girls walking by let out a collective giggle at the sight. "Put me down, now!"
"I'll put you down when you're willing to calm down and talk to me."
"No!" I shouted, pounding my fists against his back futilely.
"Well then, enjoy the ride until you do," he countered sharply. "Look. Just because I'm not willing to talk doesn't mean you shouldn't if something is eating away at you. That… isn't fair. So if you're ready to talk, then talk. I might not have a response, I might be ready to spill my guts, but that doesn't mean you need to hold back. Just… Say something, anything honest to me. You don't trust me, I get that. But that doesn't mean I can't lend an ear if you need someone to. Besides, who else do you have right now? Cal?"
"It's amazing how quickly you can go from avoiding me to 'spill your heart you poor little orphan girl,'" I spat, fighting the tears threatening to spill. "Suddenly you're so far up your dad's ass I'm surprised you're not asking him to hand the company over to you once he retires."
His steps stopped abruptly, hands gripping at my waist a second time as he pulled me off his shoulder and back onto the ground. The glare I had been preparing to give him faltered, a familiar flame of icy rage burning behind his glasses. There was only one other person who had ever fixed me with that look, and I had been positive I'd never witness it again. But there Oliver stood, giving me the same bitterly resentful look his brother had; eyes radiating negativity and something else, something I didn't want to understand.
"This has nothing to do with my father," he said in almost a whisper. "I'm trying here, I'm genuinely trying, whether you'll believe it or not. But goddammit, you're making this so difficult. Just fucking talk to me, talk to me like I was him if you were as close as my dad says you were, just fucking say something."
My sight blurred as I stared up at him, throat tightening against the wave of sadness and frustration that was threatening to consume me. I felt my nails digging into the tender flesh of his arms; he didn't flinch, hands clutching my shoulders with unwavering firmness.
"I... I miss him, okay?" I choked, words feeling like cement in my mouth. "And there's nothing I can do about it because it's my fault he's not here. It was because of me he… Fuck, sometimes I wish I could hate him, sometimes I think he deserves it. He left me here, by myself, because he just had to be a fucking hero. He fucking promised me he wouldn't do it again, he fucking promised. And he broke that promise. He left me here, Oliver, he left me here without him, with nowhere to turn and this god awful pain I haven't been able to shake no matter what I do since. Where was he when my dad died, when I needed him the most? Why couldn't he have just let your mother finish me that day? He left a broken heart with a broken promise. Do you have any idea how fucking awful that feels? He's still there, every day, I swear I can't get rid of him, but it's just the
pain he left behind and the echoes of memories that will never be anything more. All the while I'm left with one fucking nightmarish truth about the entire ordeal: it's my fault they're all I have left."
Composure had left me; the tears running down my face were hot trails against the flushed skin of my cheeks. Crying over my father would have been one thing; that would have been expected, even okay. Yet all of the anguish racing through me so freely was because of Simon, and the unresolved, unspoken emotions I had kept bottled away for so long. There was resentment, a newly freed bitterness, and the long chained grief all there at once, finally allowed to run their course after months of being caged deep inside my heart.
The silence answered me loud and clear as I looked up to see what type of reaction Oliver Dreyton would yield, if any at all. And he did to my surprise; a sublime horror pulled at his features, brow furrowed, and lips downturned while his bright eyes watched me with immeasurable amounts of pity. His grip had tightened, just as my nails had pressed deeper and deeper into his skin as I had let it all out. At the realization I quickly pulled away, hands, shaking as I stared at the rows of cutting crescents on both his arms. He didn't let go though; even as I tried to pull away he kept his hold. It took everything in me not to collapse to my knees right there amidst the crowds on the beach.
Finally, with a steady hand he pulled me in. My face pressed against his chest, the warmth of his skin radiating from beneath his shirt. I was frozen in shock, sobs momentarily stalled as my breath hitched in my throat. The unexpected gesture caught me off guard, thoughts derailed momentarily as I tried to understand just what had happened. His arms around me mirrored the familiar phantom embrace of his brother, except warmer, more human. Closing my eyes I did the unforgivable; I allowed myself to believe it was Simon—if only for a moment. I let the tears I had held in control for far too long flow, fingers grasping at his shirt as I clung to him like a life raft.
"Why did you do this, why did you have to go?" I asked, voice raspy. A gentle hand carefully ran its fingers through my hair.
"Shh, it's going to be okay, everything is going to be okay," Oliver said in a soft voice. "C'mon, let's get you home."
He pulled back slowly, my fingers almost unwilling to loosen their grip, but I let them slip away.
He's not Simon. He's not Simon.
Looking up into his all too familiar face it was hard not to believe otherwise. They were physically identical in every single way, with the exception of scars they had received. Oliver didn't bear the slight cut through his eyebrow Simon had; but he did have a light pink line that started on his temple and moved along the flesh into the soft, pale curls of his hair. A memento from the wreck, I imagined, one I hadn't paid attention long enough to notice before. I caught myself a moment before it happened, fingers poised to trace the marred skin. He said nothing as he stared down at me while I slowly recoiled my hand, turning away from him. I sluggishly trudged along the beach as his shadow loomed at my side. Silence fell again; I pushed a few tears back as the waves crashed to our left.
Nothing good could last, it seemed. Whether by my doing or someone else's, everything always slipped into chaos in the end. The day had gone bad as my thoughts had slipped heavily to the memories of Simon; the day before had turned out equally as unfortunate under the grip of James and his domineering nature. Darren had soured more than just a day; he had killed my father, and threatened my life. He had slipped away though, presence nowhere to be seen for a few days' time to my relief.
But as it were, as I did my best to avoid looking at the remaining Dreyton twin, the damage to the day had been done. All that was left was to go back, and sleep it off or maybe contact Katie again. I highly doubted Oliver was up for further discussion—or perhaps I had begun to pawn my own dislike of the idea off on him. Regardless, I imagined our word-exchange for the day was at its end.
The vibrating of my phone against my thigh seemed like nothing as I pulled it out, expecting to see Katie or maybe James lighting up the caller ID. But my steps fell to a halt as a different name danced across the small space of the screen. That name didn't make sense.
"Hello?" I answered cautiously. They had been at the funeral, they had paid their respects to my father already, as to why they were contacting me again was beyond me.
"Maggie, oh, Maggie," the female voice blubbered from the other end. Dread had a permanent residence instilled in my system at that point; it stirred to wake again, seeping and sizzling as it reached my stomach.
"Mrs. Foster?" My voice cracked. Oliver was still at my side, shifting himself to a position where I couldn't avoid his gaze.
"It's Chassie," she wailed. "Chassie's dead. My little girl, my only daughter…she's gone…"
The phone slipped through my fingers, falling into the sand at our feet without a sound. I felt the blood leave my face as a fresh wave of numbness seeped slowly across my mind. Just over Oliver's shoulder a dark figure loomed in the distance. A sick grin contorted his features as the people brush past him, no one seeming to notice he was there. It didn't take much to put two and two together, his lack of presence for the past few days clicked in a sickening way, echoes of his image after my father's passing floating to the surface.
I had been a fool to think the day couldn't possibly get worse, impossibly stupid to believe that Darren had just decided to slip away into nothing. He didn't have to speak for me to understand just what he was doing; he didn't have to say anything at all. I looked to Oliver, the horrifying realization washing over me with inexplicable fear. My life wasn't the only one in danger from his lingering, malicious existence.
**Hi guys! Here's an update while I actually have an internet connection! And feedback would be appreciated, I hope you enjoyed it!