It's as though taking another step is going to kill me. But I know it's not and I have this faint feeling of being in between the living world, and my own personal hell. It's as though I don't even notice the books in my hands slip from my arms, and crash to the ground in a heap of scribbled notes and pointless sketches. I move quickly, my aim to get as many without being seen, tripped on or pointed out. And I almost thought I had it, until I straightened up and lost them all again when I bumped face first into Leland. His dark eyes smiled as he bent down.
"Sorry Lena, didn't know you were so jumpy," He smiled as he gathered the notes quicker than I did. "What's this?" He asks holding up a completely scrawled on sheet. Lyrics from songs I related to would shape to make patterns and swirls. It wasn't all that private, I'm sure everyone had heard the newest top hit of the heartbreak top forty, but somehow it still felt wrong to have his eyes on the words I had scrawled in a vicious passion.
"Nothing." I said, gently tugging the paper from his long fingers. "Just homework, for music."
OK, so I don't actually participate in music, not that he didn't know that. He frowned at this, but nodded an 'OK' and he slowly stepped aside.
"So, I'll see you later then." He said frowning again and moving along. Leland had always been a friend of mine, though in my recent down-spiral I hadn't really been around as much as usual. I was always there, but never with the rest of the world. Now it was just me and the memories I kept secret. I didn't know who were my real friends, or if new people had come into my life. I only knew who left, and never came back.
'It's too late,' I keep telling myself. 'You shouldn't be out this late.' I keep thinking. And as the dark clouds that cover the night sky crackle and fizz above me on the sidewalk, I know a heavy storm is well on its way. I remain sitting in the old cement gutter, and I throw pebble after pebble down the drain across the street. The same drain my cat, Pop disappeared into when I was little. Into the sewer and never seen again. Funny how thinking of my disappearing cat reminded me of Dimitri. His disappearing act had left a larger hole in my heart than what Pop had ever done. But Pop was dead. Dimitri wasn't. I felt wrong for feeling more remorse over a living breathing person than a long dead childhood pet. I hated myself for hating Dimitri.
Late last night, oh I don't mean eleven, maybe twelve, I mean late-late last night I was the only one left awake. Though 'awake' is a funny way to say I was resting my eyes on my keyboard, when a soft almost unrecognizable knocking came on the door. All lights in the house were turned out, and the glow of my computer screen was far from bright and outstanding. I was too nervous to answer the door. Who came knocking at three am anyway? It was probably some sick prank.
But when the knocking came again, I had to get up. My heart raced a mile a minute and the 'horror' theme of booming thunder and slithers of silver lightning as the sky rained all but cats and dogs really seemed cliché. I didn't want to wake my parents, though it was likely to be our alcoholic neighbours, mistaking our house for theirs once again. But they only ever pounded the heavy wooden door. This was a quiet, mousy knock. Something innocent, and clearly not drunk.
When I peered through the glass by the window, I could barely make out the person behind the door, standing under the porch in nothing but shorts and a black t-shirt. But the brown cascading hair gave away that this late knocker was clearly female. She hugged herself as wind whipped, making a whistling noise through the gap in the door. I opened the door slowly and peered out into the darkness at this girl.
She was undoubtedly beautiful, but her makeup had run, her hair resembled wet dreadlocks and her clothes dripped. She wore neither shoes nor socks, and it was only then I had noticed the porch had started to flood, and she was standing in puddles of rain water before me.
She peered through the screen door at me.
"Leland?" She whispered, through chattered teeth. Though it was hard to make out, I knew what she had said. And just like that, I knew who this girl was.
"Lena?" I asked, flabbergasted though I already knew it was well and truly her. I can't believe that only moments ago I had thought she had looked beautiful standing before me. I opened the screen door, water starting to spit even through the gauze, wetting my long pants.
"Come in, quickly." I said, ushering her inside.
She stepped through the door and I quickly and quietly shut it behind her. I peered through the house as she did, wondering how she saw it. She'd been here before, a long time ago, and things hadn't really ever changed around here. But she'd always admired my family's choice in art. She dripped on the tiles, and her body still trembled ferociously.
"Wait; let me get you a towel or something, geez girl. What're you doing out at this time of night? Did you get locked out by accident?"
She shook her head, though it was already shaking pretty badly.
"Not by accident," She said, looking away from me. I looked back at her as I leaned into the hall cupboard, pulling a fresh, crisp towel from the rack and handing it to her. I didn't say anything.
She peered down at the floor where puddles had gathered around her feet. I didn't care; I could always fix that later. I reached for the heater in the living room and turned it up to a very warm, dry heat. Too warm for me, but I didn't let Lena know that.
I turned to see her face and head covered in the towel I had given her as she violently scrubbed at her hair, hoping to dry it. When she took the towel off of her head, she looked at me blankly for a moment, before realising how crazily her messy hair now stood out and she laughed quickly as I did.
"Here, take this." I said, pulling my too large for anyone hoodie off my back and handing it to her. "Take off your wet clothes and put this on. You'll stay warmer." She caught the jumper in her small, pale hands with chipped red nail polish.
Her cheeks turned a crimson red as she looked down at the hoodie, then back at me.
"Well turn around," She said quietly. "I don't want you to see anything."
I almost laughed. "Of course, sorry, right."
I turned around and covered my eyes like we were playing hide and seek like little kids. I could feel the heater burning at my legs, but it was better than having the heavy jumper on and a sweltering heater.
"Thanks," I heard her whisper.
I turned around and slowly uncovered my eyes, and when I didn't hear any girly shrieks, I took my hands away from my face almost completely.
"Leland," Lena said, standing closer to me than what I would've thought normal, had this been a normal night. Or morning, whatever tickles your fancy. "Can I, I was just wondering if-"
She had trouble saying what she wanted to, and I noticed as she bit her lip, tears welled up in her eyes and she looked away from me. Her hair resembled a fluffy bunny bomb. And the hoodie was something huge on her, if it was only big on me. Her wet clothes were folded into the towel which she nursed into her arms.
"Sh," I said, taking the wet bundle from her arms. "You can stay here tonight, you can take the couch, and I'll be with you." She looked at me surprised. I somehow just knew that's what she had been asking me. I pulled a pillow from a beanbag chair in the corner and tossed it onto the couch nearest her and a flannelette blanket.
"Those should keep you warm." I said having to usher her once again toward the lounge.
I left the lounge room hastily heading to the laundry before I heard Lena squeak my name briefly.
"Yeah?" I leaned into the room again to see her cuddled up under the blanket I had given her. I smiled at how small and fragile she seemed beneath it, though she was my height and could pack a punch if she wanted to. She didn't look at me as she spoke. Instead, she stared at the heater.
"Thank you. For letting me stay. For everything." She closed her eyes as she nestled into the pillow.
I smiled at how perfectly innocent this sixteen year old girl could seem.
"Welcome." I said grin still plastered my face.
Not all the preparation in the world could have prepared me the next morning to realise I was sleeping on Leland Watson's lounge. I was so used to waking up and leaving the house as the sun rose, in order to avoid my parents, that I automatically woke just before the break of daylight.
The living room was dark and felt tightly packed in. I pulled my blanket closer to my chin as an unfamiliarity washed over me. I wasn't used to waking up in a warm environment. Nor was I used to waking up somewhere safe, without being touched during the night. I was morally surprised, as I glanced over at Leland. He was still sleeping, his jaw draped to the side of his shoulder, huddled up on a recliner that matched the lounge I slept on. He breathed rather loudly, as he slept, a sound I was amazed hadn't kept me awake last night. I was so used to waking to the slightest sound. Sleepless nights must have made me let my usual façade and guard down.
Leland rolled over in his sleep, clucking his tongue once or twice before mumbling something incoherent and settling back into peacefulness. I had to muffle a snicker at the noises he made in his sleep. He wore no blanket, or a shirt for that matter, and if I had known better I'd say he was freezing. But unlike me, Leland always felt like a heater. His arms were folded above his head, and his legs crossed at his ankles. I was an air conditioner in the way that he was a heater. Somehow we were almost exact opposites.
It's as though watching Leland has made me realise I was in his house. I had slept on his lounge and it was simply out of his courtesy. As quietly as were possible I moved from the lounge, folding the flannelette blanket over seven times and resting it on the arm of the lounge. I settled the heater down and slowly, carefully removed his large jacket. It was white, and heavy. It hung way past my waist and wasn't something I could wear out in public without being laughed at. It almost reached my knees!
I padded my way through the tiled hall in nothing but my now damp, warm underwear. I realised a problem had arisen when I wondered where Leland had taken my clothes after I showed up on his doorstep sopping wet.
My first guess was the bathroom. It was small, and tightly compact, but after taking a quick glance at the yellow interior I knew that my clothes weren't in there. The floors were bare, with only a warm brown bathmat at the door. Not even a lone hamper sat in the room.
I headed further into the hall to Leland's room. His room was the most obvious of all of them. A huge warning sign was plastered on his bedroom door, in bright yellow and black. It was already open, and I figured I'd have to be super quiet if I wanted to get out of here without waking anyone or attracting attention. Leland's parents, Maria and Gary slept in the room beside his and they were the last people I needed to see. His parents were friendly, open and caring, though I wasn't in the right mind for hopeful conversing right at this minute.
Leland's room was nothing out of a teenage boy's ordinaire. Clothes were strung across the room, his bed unmade and the limited edition collectables he'd always had, even as a kid, still sat in dignified places around the room. Not one inch of his walls was left spare to posters, photos and sketches of his. Not even the closet mirror, which had so many maps on it, I didn't know which continent or country was which, or if they were even in the right places.
One thing I did notice though was that my clothes weren't in here. The room smelt strongly of Leland and bad deodorant. I had never smelt it on him, and I wasn't even sure I wanted to. I quickly left the room, without shutting the door behind me.
My last guess was the laundry. Wasn't that the usual place people put their clothes? Sitting beside a dryer were my clothes, wrapped in the towel I had managed to scarcely dry myself with. As I unravelled the clothes from the pile, the clothes dropped to the floor with a wet, soppy slapping noise. I glanced once over my shoulder as I picked up the dripping clothes. It was going to suck trying to get these on.
I tried wriggling the wet, rock hard denim up past my knees, but it was proving to be difficult. I huffed a sigh, breathing my hair off my face as I struggled to tug the shorts up.
And then I heard a noise, followed by a voice.
"Lena?" I turned to see Leland standing in the doorway with a puzzled look on his face, and as I whipped my head back around, realising I was still in nothing but my drab, grey and black underwear with denim shorts stuck on my knees, my footing lost its place and I slipped in a convenient puddle my clothes had left on the tiles.
Leland didn't hesitate to help me up.
"Geez Len, what're you even doing awake so early? The sun hasn't even risen, yet." He lifted me easily to my feet and though in 'normal' circumstances, it would've been weird, I didn't find it weird at all when he pulled my denim jeans back down my legs and handed me a folded towel from a high cupboard to cover myself with.
I didn't know what to say to him. I was going to thank him for his courtesies but that I had to leave early. I wanted to avoid saying goodbye at all, in real matter of fact. So the two of us standing here together was certainly something I wasn't prepared for.
"I'm an early riser." I murmured.
I don't think Leland bought it at all.
"Go to the bathroom, now." He said, heading back down the hall. "And don't move from there."
I'd had enough punishments in my life when disobeying orders to do as he said. Not that Leland had any authority over me to punish me for not obliging to something he said.
I trudged, a now wet, scathed mess down the hall and into the bathroom. Leland kept walking, and headed straight back into the kitchen. I settled down on the edge of the bath, and moved the towel away from my shoulders. I could see there, what I always saw. The cuts and abrasions from years of being the imperfect child with a reckless family. My brother was never punished in these manners.
I couldn't look into the mirror to check myself. To see what other monstrosities were decorating my face. I generally avoided anything reflective. Mirrors, windows, even sometimes water. This was no exception, and I stared straight ahead at the open door, as I patiently waited on Leland to return.
I sighed as I dabbed a warm facecloth on Lena's cheek. A cut under her right eye struck out deeply and was quite dominant on her delicate face. I looked at her as she closed her eyes. I hadn't heard much from her recently. She'd always been around, but we didn't hang out anymore. Her phone calls stopped coming in, and so texts stopped going out. I don't know when or why we'd drifted apart, or even why she'd come to me last night. All I knew was that it happened not long after Dimitri left. All I knew I was that I had to help her, no matter what the cost.
A/N: Harley here. I will be following this with more about Leland and Lena (Can't really 'Ship' that name, can you?) and what happens to both of them, from their POV. Stay tuned, and if you get too impatient with my not adding the latest chapter quicker, please feel free to get all over my case and annoy the absolute life out of me, until I've completed another chapter satisfactory to your standards. Have had this idea for quite a while, can't wait to unfold the big twist between the characters! (: