Her fingers danced slowly down the silky fabric, tracing the attractively colored pattern. On one of those fingers, a golden ring was wrapped firmly around it. Several jewels adorned one section of the golden band, glimmering lightly. She dropped the scarf to the ground, her throat constricting as the ring now brought to her heart new significance.
Cerise, her eyes watering, picked up the scarf, while her eyes remained locked on the ring.
The jewels kept shimmering, mocking her with blue and purple sparkle.
Sliding the ring off her finger, biting her lower lip, she stuck it in her jean short's pocket.
Desmond wouldn't care anymore.
Around her, in the crowded store known as Ardene's, customers swarmed the clothes rack, talking to their friends and critiquing or praising the clothes they found. One of them brushed up against her, almost knocking her off balance into the rack of scarves she'd been inspecting.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" The man that had bumped against her was actually not really a man at all, but a teenager around her age. His curly, long blonde hair was tucked under a familiar toque, while light stubble swarmed his tanned, firm jaw.
Their eyes met, hers a dark, plain brown, while his eyes were brilliantly blue.
Familiar, comforting, eyes that she had once stared at in admiration-perhaps love.
"Steven?" Cerise let out a surprised laugh, stepping towards her good friend. "What are you doing in Ardene's?"
Several people pushed gently past them, so Steven and Cerise both stepped out of the way, into a more secluded, narrow aisle devoted to jewelry and purses.
"My friend Leanne dragged me in here." He laughed, turning his head, so he could see more of the store and find his friend. "My other friend Jasper's here too, but he refused to go inside with us. I think he went to another store, Boathouse maybe." Again, his deep, rich laugh met her ears, causing her to involuntarily chuckle along.
"Jasper and Leanne? They don't go to your church, do they?" Cerise remembered when they were children, Steven had often invited her to attend church with him. Most Sundays she'd oblige, happily ready to spend time with her childhood friend, even if it was in an old, boring church.
As she'd grown older and made more friends then Steven, she began to dread those Sundays spent at church. No longer did she want to wake up early, only to be subjected to a sermon about a God she neither believed, nor cared for. Even if Steven was there, she began to make up excuses as to why she couldn't attend.
When they started to date for a short while, she'd began to go to church more frequently. Jasper and Leanne, the only other kids who went to the church, quickly befriended her and she slowly began to warm to the services.
She began to read the Bible that Steven had gifted her for her twelfth birthday.
She would even pray; though oftentimes her prayers would only bounce off the ceiling or float aimlessly into the air.
After her break up with Steven, she stopped praying all together, her Bible found a nook under her bed and all desire to attend church dried up.
"Oh right, you know them." He smiled as he also thought back on those times when Cerise had gone with him to church. "Weird, I completely forgot about that. Would it be alright, if I reintroduced you to them?" He turned his head around, his eyes finally landing on Leanne, who was at the far end of the store.
She hadn't even noticed he wasn't right behind her. Instead, she was studying a metal display, which was covered in shirts at a reduced price. Holding one in her hand, she looked at it, then met Steven's eyes and waved him over.
"Oh, I dunno. I was thinking of meeting one of my friends later on." Cerise said. Drake had suggested that they get together later in the afternoon at Kildonan Place. She'd decided to go early to the mall and spend some of her hard-earned cash on new clothes.
"Are you sure you don't just want to say, 'hi'?" He slowly began walking towards Leanne, keeping his eyes trained on Cerise, his lips sporting a half-grin. "C'mon, we wont keep you long."
Or so had been his intention, and hers when she finally agreed to say 'hi' to her old friends. She'd followed Steven towards Leanne, who was shocked to see her and wrapped her in a tight, warm hug. Surprised, Cerise returned the hug.
It wasn't long before the three of them were lost in a conversation about old times. Cerise slowly forgot, though temporarily, about Desmond and the heartbreak that he'd so ruthlessly caused. Instead, she talked and laughed openly with two people that she'd once called her closest and best friends.
The ring her pocket could no longer be felt.
For a good half hour, they walked around the mall, meeting up with Jasper and starting the introductions all over again. The four of them went to numerous stores, catching up, looking at merchandise, and quickly losing track of time.
When Steven suggested they all see a movie, Cerise automatically agreed with the idea. All thoughts about her misery, heartbreak and Desmond were washed away.
Yet, so was Drake.
She never thought once about her good friend, instead when the movie began to play, she turned off her phone and was unaware of her friend trying to reach her through texts.
Sitting in the rickety, hard theater chair, Cerise stared up at the screen and tried to let the movie envelope her. Slumping into her chair, she rested her head against her seat, letting the sounds, music and dialogue take her away.
No matter how hard she tried though, the movie could simply not draw her in.
Again, the ring in her pocket became a brick. She pulled it out of her pocket, fingering the smooth, yet smudgy golden surface. It may not have been the engagement ring that Desmond had promised to give her, but it had once meant the world to her.
Desmond had taken her up to his cabin for one hot, sunny summer weekend, a good year ago. After a day of swimming and fishing-per his request since Cerise thought nothing was worse then catching slimy fish, and he thought it was mankind's greatest pastime-and hiking, he'd taken her inside, where his parents had cooked up steak and potatoes.
His parents had gone outside to sit by the fire, while the two lovers had sat on opposite sides of a great, circular wooden table. They slowly ate their meal, which took over their conversation with deliciousness and good wine.
She'd only spoken when he gave her a ring, the one that she now held in her hand. Without an explanation, he slipped it on her fingers, a large and adorable smile on his face. "I love you," was all that he said, before kissing her fingers. Excusing himself from the table, he went to the CD player and put on their favorite song.
"Perfect" by Hedley.
He waited for in the living space, swaying rhythmically to the music. Holding out his hand, he waited for her to join in. Giggling, she came to him, dancing to the music as he held her lovingly.
In the large wooden cabin, for just a few minutes of the song's duration, Cerise melted into his arms. The ring sat tightly on her finger, reminding her of its presence and what it symbolized.
She wondered if breaking it now would complete the metaphor.
"Desmond?" Steven's soft, gentle voice startled her. Looking up at him, she put the ring back in her pocket, a forced smile on her face. "Did he give that to you?"
"Yeah." She gave a shrug as if their long relationship was a silly, two day fling.
He hesitated, then put his arm on her armrest, leaning in closer. "Is it over?"
Mint, his breath carried a strong, rather nice mint scent. "I don't know what I did wrong." Her brown eyes darted to his, while her lips shrunk into a bitter frown. "I keep asking myself what I could've done to stop the break up. So yes, it's over, but I don't know why."
"Why do you assume it's your fault?" He frowned.
"Because when you love someone, you don't leave them because you're having a bad day or having problems. You break up with someone because you don't love them. Simple."
"Or, he's a huge jerk who is too blind to see what an amazing girl you are. Trust me, nothing is wrong with you, Cerise."
"Comforting words coming from someone who treated me the same way." She folded her arms over her chest, trying not to sigh too loudly. Or cry. Instead, she closed her eyes, feeling guilt over her biting remark. "I'm sorry," she said after a long moment of silence, "I didn't mean that. We were young and stupid, I don't hold it against you."
Steven, who had shrank back into his seat only shook his head. "No, I'm sorry."
Cerise shut her eyes, angry that the tears were trying to escape their confines. "Don't be, I'm just not-" a sob erupted from her mouth, while a single tear ran down her cheek. "Ugh, I'm sorry." She got up, taking her purse off the floor. Hurriedly, she pushed past people's knees as she scurried down the aisle of occupied seats.
Steven also got up, while Jasper glanced at him curiously.
"Cerise," he pushed open the heavy, plastic doors to the doorway of the theatre and fast-walked over to her. "Hey, are you alright?"
She turned around, her face slightly hidden by her sleeve-covered arm. From what he could see, her face was bright red, while tears dampened her sleeve. Her brown eyes, red and swollen peeped out at him. "No.. I'm not."
She began to turn away from him, however, he called out to her again.
Another couple, ordering popcorn and drinks, glanced at them curiously. One of the theatre attendants walked past them, a disinterested expression on her thin, pretty face.
"Listen, I may have hurt you before, but you have to know I'm so sorry about that." He remembered telling her goodbye four years ago, his jaw set and eyes glued to the ground. They'd been outside, sitting together on the hammock.
"You're not the only one."
"Desmond was a jerk, Cerise, a monster. You should be glad to be free of him."
"Everyone's a monster, Steven. But you love them regardless, not for what you hate about them, but for what you love about them." Her voice chocked by tears, she closed her mouth and said nothing more.
"Not everyone's a monster… no one's perfect, but I can promise you that there are genuinely good, loving people in this world. Desmond wasn't the right guy, but some day, you'll meet someone who will love you, Cerise. Love you properly and selflessly." He took an uneasy step forward, hoping to break through to her.
She only shook her head, while her muffled sobs began to quiet.
Cerise just wanted to leave the theatre, find Desmond and beg him to take her back. Surely if she apologized enough he would take her back. She'd done the same thing to him, maybe he was just seeing how much she loved him.
"I have to go." She uncovered her face, turned away and walked through the centre of the theatre's lobby. Without looking back, she exited the theatre lobby, back into the mall and came face to face with Drake.
"Cerise?" Her friend, who'd been sitting on a bench outside of the theater, phone in hand, stood up. With a worried expression, he put away his phone and folded his arms over his chest.
"Drake!" She remembered telling him that she would meet him at the mall. Her heart, already battered by brutal emotions, was added to it a heavy layer of guilt. "I'm so sorry," her breaking voice did not adequately describe how horrible she felt.
Drake only frowned, studying her face with his narrow eyes. "I heard about Desmond." He came up to her, wrapping her in his arms. This time, his body odor was masked by a lovely, intoxicating body spray.
She returned the hug, wishing that he wouldn't let go of her.
However, as always, a hug ends and theirs was no different.
"I met up with old friends at the mall, Drake, I completely forgot about getting together. I feel like such a bitch." She hung her head, unsure if she should say anymore. He'd always been there for her, especially during the hard times. How could she be so inconsiderate in forgetting about him?
The only reason he was probably being so nice about it was because she was crying.
"It's fine. Just as long as you're okay." He was about to reach out for her face, but thought better of it, shoving his hand into his pocket instead. With a broken smile he said, "Take care, Cerise." Then walked down the long, crowded hall towards a set of eight doors leading to the outside world.
In her pocket, the ring weighed her down.
In her heart, she felt as if bricks had been tied around it.
Her mind, however, was left to comprehend the painful emotions swarming it. Feeling sick to her stomach, she briefly considered going back to the theatre with Steven. He'd been so kind to her, could she so easily abandon him just as she'd done to Drake?
With a miserable frown, feeling like an utter monster, she chose to leave.
Maybe Steve was right, perhaps everyone else were fine.
While she was the monster.
"I don't really want a relationship, I just want to be friends." Was all Steven had said one hot afternoon, sitting beside Cerise on the soft hammock. As it swung gently, her mouth opened a bit, while her eyes widened.
For a long, painful second, neither of them spoke a word.
Cerise ended the silence with a long, drawn out sigh. Although he could not remember what she had said in return, he did remember the tears.
His heart had burst, beating madly as he saw that he was the reason she was weeping.
It must've been contagious, for he soon felt similar pain as he realized what he was doing.
Staring at her red, puffy eyes and tear-stained face, he reached for her hand. He enjoyed holding her hand and it always made her smile.
However, she pushed him away, glaring at him before running away from the hammock.
Even as child on the cusp of teenagehood, Steven knew he had done something terribly wrong.
As he watched her go, running away from him, he was unaware it would be the last time he'd ever see her.
Years would go by before he'd ever see her deep brown eyes she called dull but he thought of as radiant. Chill-inducing, but in a good way, like when stepping into a hot, steaming bath.
Now that she was back in his life, old feelings and thoughts were slowly aroused. No matter how hard he tried to shush them, they would stubbornly fill his heart and mind.
He hadn't bumped into her accidentally that Saturday afternoon.
"Okay," Jasper who was sitting beside Steven as he drove his car, spoke up, "was I the only one who thought Cerise was freaking hot? I mean… Cerise? Wasn't she a chubby girl with braces just like four years ago?" He laughed, elbowing Steven. "And now look at her-a freaking babe."
Leanne, who was sitting behind Josh and Steven gave her eyes a roll. "Calm down, Jasper."
"No for real, Leanne! Freaking. Hot. Like I've seen hot girls before… but her? She's something else." He turned around, grinning wolfishly at Leanne.
"Jasper, do you ever forget that I'm a girl? And that you're telling this to a girl? Now seriously calm down before you get testosterone all over me." Again, she rolled her eyes.
"Oh give me a break, I've listened to you go on and on about how you're in love with Josh Hutcherson, and how hot he is-now it's my turn."
"Hey, if you want to talk about Josh Hutcherson and how hot he is, go for it." She smiled.
"Not what I meant."
"Just stop, okay? Talking about a hot celebrity is so different from talking about a hot person you actually know. Besides, she isn't interested in you. Steven, however, is a different story." She realized what she said, her face turning red, "I don't mean it like that Jasper, gosh, stop smiling! I mean, Cerise is interested in Steven. Isn't that right?"
Steven turned onto his street before answering, trying to subdue his smile. "That couldn't be farther from the truth. We're just friends, who also happen to be one another's ex-girlfriend/boyfriend. And she just broke up with Desmond."
"Single? Do I hear single? Oh I think I'm in love." Jasper laughed, clutching his hands to his heart.
Steven only laughed, pulled into his driveway and let the car idle as he stepped out of it. "I'll just let him know what's up, be right back." If not for his cell being dead, Steven would've just texted his father that he was going out for supper with his friends, and thus staying out longer then he'd originally planned on.
Also, he had to grab a gift card for Boston Pizza that he still hadn't used and would come in handy when he ate there for supper.
In his pocket, he felt his phone grow heavy.
Julia hadn't texted him since Tuesday. Since she was one of the few kids in the world that didn't have Facebook, he couldn't contact her through the internet. Her parents, she'd told him, had denied her using the social media site, since they thought it was unhealthy. Not to shelter her or protect her, but to keep her life from being one lived online.
Without Facebook, they had reasoned, she could relate with her friends in more tangible ways. Julia had explained that they only compromised on the cell phone because they needed a way to contact her if she was out of the house.
Taking out his cell phone, he stared at the screen wistfully and lifted a prayer that she would text him back. He needed to know if she was alright. That time in the dreams had only spurned horrible images and thoughts in his imagination about what had happened to Julia.
Just let me know you're alive…
He opened his front door, stepping inside before closing the door behind him. Not bothering to remove his shoes, which were dry and mostly clean, he checked the living room for his father.
The two leather, black couches were uninhabited just like his living room, except that the television was still on.
The reason that the couches grabbed his attention was because the imprint of his father's body was still visible on one of the black, leather sofas. A coffee table beside the couch held on it a plate with two pieces of pizza.
Neither of them had bite-marks on it, yet when he checked how warm they were, he found they were cool. Not cool, as in they'd been sitting in the fridge and recently taken out, but like they'd been sitting out for hours, taking on the temperature of the room.
More warm then cool.
"Shane!" One of the characters on the television raised a shotgun, firing into the body of a nearby zombie. Blood splattered everywhere and screams arose from another character who was busy fighting off the snapping jaw of a hungry zombie.
His father would never watch a show like this.
Turning off the television, he sauntered over to the kitchen and let out a shout.
His father lay face-first on the ground, broken glass near his left hand, which sprawled out next to a puddle of spilled water.
He checked for a pulse and froze.