"Bring me something back!" Jasper called out to Steven, who was walking down the hall towards the front doors of the school. "I'd be happy with even a coffee! Or a donut, even a muffin! Anything!"
"Come with me then!" Steven shouted back, already knowing that his friend would say 'no'.
"I can't! I have a meeting with Mr. Feinstra at lunch! Still get me something!"
"Maybe!" Steven shook his head, leaving the school and strolling towards his car, which sat out on the parking lot. He took out his keys, and jogged the rest of the way there, eager to get to Tim Horton's and back.
Although he didn't want to leave his friends on the first day of school, he could ignore his rumbling stomach no more. He would've brought some of them, but reconsidered when he noticed how much time remained in their lunch hour. It would be easier to go there alone, pick up his lunch and be on his way.
Steven got into his car, started it up and drove out of the parking lot.
Then, as he was nearing Tim Horton's, he felt the phone in his pocket vibrate. Glancing down the long, vacant road, he decided it was safe enough to check his phone. Pulling it out, he stared at the screen and saw that Cerise had texted him.
His beating heart slowed, disappointed that it wasn't Julia.
"Can you please pick me up? Desmond left me at Olive Garden, and I need to get back to school." Her text read.
Raising an eyebrow, Steven asked why and said he would be on his way.
Why, Steven wondered, had Cerise asked him to pick her up? Surely she had other friends at school who could pick her up, so why did she ask him?
"Thanks so much, Steven." Cerise responded in a text, which Steven read before putting his phone away. He noticed that she hadn't answered his first question: why had Desmond left her at Olive Garden?
For the briefest of seconds, he wondered if Desmond had broken up with her and a small smile came to life on his face. He smiled, not because of the pain she was sure to endure, but oddly enough, because that meant she was single. Also, Desmond sounded like a huge jerk and he knew Cerise deserved much better.
Someone like him, perhaps?
Laughing mirthlessly, he pushed those kinds of thoughts out of his head. Why he was thinking them, was beyond him. He loved Julia, promising her that they would always be together. Now that they shared these odd, yet amazing dreams together, how could he even flirt with the idea of liking someone else?
It was absurd, awfully so.
However, he couldn't help think of those days that he had been in love with Cerise. No matter how young they both were, a connection had been built between them. They'd been one another's first kisses, first dates and the first time either of them had fallen in love. Back then, with what he knew about love, he'd promised to love her forever.
But promises, like rules, it seemed were made to be broken.
They had fallen out, gotten into fights, drifted apart. Silence had built in-between them, joined in by animosity, which turned into hatred, as neither of them were willing to mend the bond that had been broken. Years passed, new memories made, old ones forgotten.
Feelings had slowly ebbed away.
Not that anything was really changing now, he was just going to pick her up from Olive Garden.
And so he did.
Turning into the restaurant's parking lot, he pulled up to the front doors and was about to step out. However, Cerise was already waiting outside.
Her legs crossed, face blank, she gave Steven a brief nod. Standing up, purse in tow, she approached his vehicle and got into the passengers side. "Thanks so much, Steven." She put her purse on her lap, but didn't put on her seatbelt.
"It's no problem." He backed out, considered asking what happened, then thought better of it. "Are you in a hurry?"
She shook her head, exhaling noisily.
Tear-stains, with make-up in them, trailed down her face.
Her voice hoarse and breaking, she said, "Desmond left me."
"I'm sorry." Steven glanced over at her, unsure of what more to say or do. So, with his hands on the wheel, he kept driving. Staring straight ahead, he let the radio quietly play.
Cerise turned her head, so that she faced the window.
"Thanks again, Steven." Was all Cerise said to him that entire ride, as she stepped out of the car.
"You're welcome. Are you going to be okay?" But she'd already turned around, shutting the door behind her. Watching her go, he let out a sigh, shrugged and rushed over to Tim Horton's before class started.
Steven's eyes opened.
For the third time, when he awoke, he was not laying in his bed. No blankets surrounded him, nor was he in a dark room, with a fan lazily circling overhead. He could not hear his father coughing, the sounds of his agony echoing in the silent house.
He was dreaming, yet awake, just as he had in the brightly lit valley, and in the hot air balloon floating in space. Only, this time, Julia was not standing over him, watching him with expectant eyes.
Instead, laying on a cracked, worn out road, rain falling from dark, ominous clouds, Steven found himself drenched and confused. His pajama pants were wet as if they'd been dropped in a lake, pulled out and put on; along with his shirt and hair.
This was a dream, right? Steven slowly got up, glancing around for cars, but saw that there were none. There were no sounds either. Not even the pitter-patter of rain on the concrete road could be heard.
The wind, which was evidently there by the trees swaying back and forth, could not be heard rustling in the breeze.
"Hello!" He called out, but heard nothing come from his mouth. There was no low hum, ambient noises, or whistle that came with silence.
There was nothing to be heard, nothing, at all.
On the rain-covered street, hundreds of houses lined up on either side. Endlessly in one direction they stretched, while endlessly they stretched in the other.
So it was a dream, but was it a dream he could share with Julia? It certainly felt realistic like the two prior ones, but unlike those dreams, he could hear everything. In those dreams, it was as if every sense was amplified. As were his emotions, which would sky-rocket as he spent time with Julia.
This brought up another question: Where was she?
"Julia!" He screamed as loud as he could, straining his jaw, but not making a noise.
Frustrated, he stalked off the street, onto the grass and noticed something else-the grass was grey. Underfoot, the water was also grey, not brown and earthy. Everywhere he looked, he now noticed that no color was to be seen.
Yet the rain kept pouring.
The wind blowing.
Steven gave himself a shake, like a dog, trying to dry himself off. He pinched some of his shirt off his skin, then let go as it stuck to him like spandex.
"Steven…" In a world without noise, that small whisper sounded like a gunshot. Steven stopped, listened for the voice again, but couldn't hear anything. Scanning the houses nearby, he saw that one had its front door wide open. Unable to resist his curiosity, he approached the house, keeping an ear open for that voice to sound again.
Walking up the sidewalk, which went directly to the front door, splitting the lawn in half, he realized that something else was wrong.
There were no shadows.
What had caused such confusion and disorientation in him earlier, must've been the lack of shadows. Now that he stared around, he could clearly see that though there was certainly light coming through the dark, rain-filled clouds, no shadows were cast.
It was as if a clumsy artist had crafted the dream, forgetting to put in shadows.
He crossed the threshold, stepping into the house, an uneasiness growing inside. It wasn't familiar, not at all. Inside, the place was falling to pieces. There was nothing in the house, furniture, walls, carpets, ceiling, supports, braces, floor, that wasn't in complete disrepair.
It was such an ugly, dilapidated thing, seemingly ripped out of any cliché, generic haunted house movie.
However, it was not a mansion, but a quaint bungalow.
It was also occupied.