"-the escalator wasn't even working! Can you believe that?" A teenager with long, dark hair sat on the beach, retelling a story to his girlfriend Quendra. His fingers dug into the dry, soft sand only a few centimeters away from where Steven lay.
Neither camper took noticed of Steven as he began to wake up.
"Julia!" Sitting up quickly, he started to rub his eyes but stopped when he felt sand all over them. Wiping his hands on his shorts, he brushed off the sand from his eyes with his forearms.
Glancing to his side, he let out a scream and bumped against another person behind him. Only a hands width from his face, Quendra continued talking to her boyfriend, her tanned legs curled up to her body.
"Quendra?" Steven got to his feet, staring at his old friends from camp. "Keith?" He took a step back, his feet sinking into the white, hot sand. Neither of his friends took notice of him, instead they continued to talk away.
He was dreaming again.
Earlier that night he'd gone home, still perplexed over why Cerise had kissed him. At first, he shrugged it off as just friendly, if not a little overtly so. Then she started texting him again, her words beginning to push away the idea that she just wanted to be friends.
Since he knew how bad he was at saying 'no', he told her goodnight and let his phone charge. How could this be happening, right now? Apart of him was excited at the prospect of falling for Cerise again, yet another part of him knew it was foolish.
He was probably just a rebound.
And he was already in love with Julia.
After watching How I Met Your Mother, he had tea with his grandparents who had just come home from visiting his father in the hospital. Again, they had no news, his father's situation had neither grown worse or better-all that they knew was that this was likely to be his last week.
Steven wished them goodnight, went into his room and lay on his bed for a good hour before sleep finally overtook him. Except, as was becoming more frequent, he wasn't given any rest when he slipped into unconsciousness.
"Look at those two out there," Quendra said to Keith, a sly smile on her face. She pointed out onto the lake behind Steven, where several canoes were being paddled away from the beach. Moderate waves crested and crashed on the shore where one canoe drifted onto the sand. The two teens onboard hopped off, dragging the canoe across the beach.
Laughing, Keith nodded his head. "I wonder if they're macking yet."
Steven studied his two friends, pretty sure that they couldn't possibly see him. To make sure, he spoke out loud. "You do know I'm right here, right Keith?" He stooped down to the ground, eyeing his old friend.
Keith only turned to Quendra and they continued talking.
"Hey!" He shouted this time, getting to his feet. "Are you deaf?" He smiled, strangely amused and distressed by not being seen. Kicking sand at them, he was sure he would get their attention.
The sand flew into the air, sprinkling them in sandy grains that neither of them took notice of. However, the sand quickly dribbled off them, rejoining the millions of others that covered the expansive beach.
He bent down again, wrapping his fingers around Quendra's leg. When he pressed his fingers against her smooth skin, he was horrified to feel them sink into them. As if she was made of jelly, his fingers went through them like mush.
Hastily withdrawing his hand, he stood back up.
Grimacing, he shivered in disgust, walking away from the two love birds. Down the beach he strolled, taking in all he saw with an awed expression. Nostalgia sent shivers down his spine as he walked past specific places.
He saw the tree he'd sat against, staring up at the beautiful girl that had walked up to him. With a sad smile, he recalled how Julia had first come up to him. All she had said was, "Hey you," before taking a seat beside him.
Hands in his pocket, he approached the tree. "Hey you," he said to no one in particular, a sorrowful smile on his face. Placing his hand on the tree, he felt the rough texture, his fingers tracing the deep lines running up and down it.
A leaf fell from above, green and filled with life-now on its way to die.
The dirt road running beside the tree was occupied by several other campers, all of whom were talking and laughing with one another. Derek was at the front of the group beside his girlfriend Haylee; the two of them kissed briefly, while he held her hand lightly.
Steven took his hand off the tree, going down the dirt road towards the boys cabins. Soaking in the memories that filled every nook and cranny of the camp, he passed the cabins and continued his way up a hill.
Beneath him, the road petered out to a grass-covered trail, which led up to Overlook Hill. On either side, the wide path gave way to ravines, which were filled with the foliage of oak and evergreen trees.
One of the branches hung a little over the path, where a bird landed on it, singing its song.
He remembered vividly how he'd strolled up this path for the first time with Julia. He'd been telling her a lame joke, which she laughed heartily at. She responded with a better joke, which he wished he could fully remember, but couldn't.
What he did remember was her hand reaching for his, holding it gently.
He'd tilted his head to the side, their eyes meeting. A smile grew on his face, spreading to hers as they held on tightly to one another. They didn't say anything about holding hands or what it meant-they didn't need to. In that first contact, Steven just knew this was the girl he was going to fall in love with.
He'd held hands before, but not like this.
It was hard to explain, but it felt like their hands were sized perfectly for one another. When their fingers curled around each other's, it was a wonderful fit.
That night, they had sat around the fire and sung camp songs, their hands still together. She'd leaned her head against his chest, while her hair brushed up against his face. Breathing in, he caught her floral, sweet scent.
"Oh what I wouldn't give to go back there." He said longingly when he reached the top of the hill. Overlook Hill stood atop a high, rocky cliff, which overlooked Shakesfire Lake. At the top of the hill, there was a fire pit in the centre, surrounded by several wooden bleachers where the campers gathered each night to sing camp songs.
On one of those bleachers, Julia sat with her head hung low. Her dark, brown hair covered her face. After he'd cleared his throat, he saw her swish her hair to the side, letting out a startled cry. "Steven!" She stood up and came to him.
"Hey, Julia." He wrapped her in his arms, holding her close. When his hands pressed against her back, he was relieved that they didn't sink into her skin. He could feel her cool skin, which was left bare thanks to her backless dress she'd been wearing since she entered the coma.
"I've missed you so much… especially since I've been here all day." Even though he'd let her go, she still clung to him securely. "At first I followed.. well, the memory of us around the camp… but then I couldn't do it. The way we laughed, the way we talked… it was just too much to listen to, knowing that we can never do that again."
"We're doing it right now." He frowned, "It's no different then being awake, really." He ran his hand down her hair and back, resisting the urge to kiss her. Right now, he was reminded of a question he needed to ask her.
"Okay." She took a step back, grabbing his hand and leading him over to the edge of the hill, where there was a sharp drop off guarded by a fence. Leaning against the railing, she stared out over the lake, pointing at those in the canoe. "We're in the one closest to the island, see it?"
Steven squinted, staring out at the canoes until he saw the one she was pointing at. "Yeah, I see it." With a frown he turned to Julia, grabbing her hand. "Hey, so something happened to me yesterday," he paused, unsure of how to word it, "I dreamed, I think. It was more like a hallucination though, I started floating up into the sky, even though I'd fallen on the ground."
"Wait." She let go of his hand, her face froze for a moment. "Hallucination? You meant you just slipped into a dream?"
"Yes, something like that. Except it came out nowhere and," he rethought telling her about the gunman, "I saw you up in the sky with me, but you weren't acting normal, you just kept saying the same thing before disappearing. Why did that happen?"
"That can't be…" she tapered off, staring back out at the lake. Silently, she shook her head, unable to meet his persistent stare. "Maybe you were just stressed out or something? Do you normally faint?"
"Never. And I wasn't stressed out; it was connected to this dreaming thing."
"No, Steven, that isn't possible. It has nothing to do with this 'dreaming thing'." Turning away from him, she sighed miserably. "Then you were tired, I dunno. But it doesn't have anything to do with our dreaming together."
Steven gave her a perplexed look, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Julia.." He chuckled nervously, worried about her strange reaction. "What's going on?" He spun her slowly around, getting a better look of her pale, drawn face.
"Nothing, I'm just… it's nothing." Again she tried to turn away, but he kept his gentle hold on her.
She shifted uncomfortably under his gaze, biting her lower lip. "Sometimes dreaming a lot can take a toll on you, alright? I just didn't want to worry you about it."
"Oh." He nodded his head, digesting what she said before forcing a smile upon his face. "I guess that makes sense, will it happen a lot?"
"Maybe, I mean I used to have times like that when I would hallucinate often. Just a side effect, perhaps with the added stress it's making the hallucinations worse." Julia looked like she wanted to say more, but kept her lips sealed shut.
"Are you sure?"
She nodded her head, inching backwards as she took his hand in hers. "Before you wake up, I want to go on a canoe with you."
"Like old times." He chuckled, feeling more then a little concerned over the shadow that had been cast over her face. Her eyes, usually wide, had narrowed just a tad.
Following her back down the path, he was reminded of the last time he'd done this with her.
Their final night together.
Steven had been lying on his bed in one of the cabins, every once in a while glancing at his cell phone. Though they weren't permitted for campers, Steven wasn't a camper, nor was he in a cabin with a bunch of other kids, at least for that night. His father had taken his medicine to help him sleep, so he was not awoken when Steven snuck out of his cabin at 1:50 AM.
Barefoot, he slinked down the steps of the old, log cabin, jogging silently down the dirt road. Passing by the tree where he first met the beautiful, turquoise-eyed girl, he put his hand on it, feeling the rough, cold texture.
Smiling, he resumed his jog across the soccer field, past the trampoline and onwards to the beach. When his bare-feet hit the cool, soft sand, he started running. With a long line of trees separating him from the rest of the camp, he was in no danger of being detected.
Earlier that day, he'd borrowed his father's keys and unlocked the canoe shed. When he'd found one, he'd dragged it out on the sand, then towards the trees where it was basically out of sight.
Instead of finding just a canoe, he found Julia sitting on the sand beside it. Donning a long shirt, which looked like all she was wearing, she stood up. Coming towards him, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Took you long enough."
"How did you get out of your cabin?" He wondered if he should just kiss her now. Oddly, something held him back from doing so.
"Through the front door, everyone was asleep." She giggled, pulling him along towards their canoe. "She's a beauty; did you make sure she was clear of spiders, this time?" She gave him a push, a teasing grin on her face.
"Yes, no spiders this time." He laughed, thinking back on the last time when he forgot to check for that. "Let's get her out on the water." They both slid the canoe through the sand, then into the lake, where they both hopped on. Pushing them off with his paddle, he handed her another and together they paddled the canoe towards the island.
Above them, a lonely bright moon watched them from its celestial abode. No clouds passed by in the sky, instead, the stars shone brilliantly without competition from city lights.
Steven let out a sigh, stretching out his feet so that they were tapping Julia's.
She smiled back at him, moving closer, while continuing to paddle. "You know, I was afraid to like you, Steven. I really was."
"It's the messy hair, isn't it? I totally left my toque at home, so embarrassed." He grinned.
"I actually love your hair," she stared at him, her eyes widening. "But I was afraid because of what always happens when I like someone-they don't. Then there's the distance and I knew that would only bring heartache in the end. But now, I don't even care."
"You should though, perhaps I'm a little scared as well, and maybe the distance will be too much." He moved closer to her, feeling sweat begin to build up on his skin. "I know it's been two weeks, and this is going to sound cheesy, but it feels much longer. Julia, I do care. I care about you, and I care about making this work. I know a lot of people would want this to just be a silly little fling. But I don't."
Julia nodded her head, biting her lower lip. "Could we handle more then a 'silly little fling'? I mean, we have separate lives and such, I don't want to like you just so I can lose you."
"Perhaps not," he saw that the island was close by and decided to let their momentum take care of the rest of the journey. "And perhaps yes. I don't know, but I do know that I like you… and that distance doesn't mean a thing to me. I may be crazy for saying this, but I want to make this work. Even if all our relationship becomes are letters and text messages."
"Good." Was all she said, before a cool breeze blew over them and the canoe hit the island. They both got out of the canoe, pulling it halfway onto the shore, leaving the paddles inside.
"Imagine if the canoe got loose and drifted away?" Steven asked with a grin.
They moved the canoe fully onto the shore.
Julia took Steven's hand, leading him further up the beach, to the other side where the camp couldn't be seen. Since the only inhabitants of the island weren't there this weekend, they had the place all to themselves.
They both lay down on the wet, rough sand, staring into one another's eyes. "I just need you to promise me something Steven." She pressed her body up to his, while he wrapped his arms around her.
"Never let me go." She got on top of him, lowering her face so that her mouth was above his.
Then she kissed him, wrapping her arms around his neck, while he kissed her back.
Steven found out that he was right.
She wore only that shirt.
"Here, I got one." Julia woke him from his reminiscing, her face still taut and pale. She handed him a paddle, which he took as they grabbed a canoe. "Remember the last time we did this?"
He smiled slyly. "Vaguely."
The got the canoe out on the water, both of them paddling through the pristine lake. However, unlike the last time, a huge wave was forming on the other end of the lake. Seemingly out of nowhere, neither provoked by wind nor earthquake, a massive wave rolled up towards them.
"Julia!" Steven paddled back fiercely, before realizing that it was all pointless. Their canoe was quickly engulfed by the wave, while Steven and Julia were tossed out of it. He felt himself tossed to the bottom of the lake and held down by the strong, relentless current.
Then he awoke.
Steven woke up, sputtering water from his mouth. He was in his bed, completely and thoroughly soaked. Retching, the rest of the water emptied from his lungs.
What was happening?
He heard a scream from downstairs.