Cerise shivered as she strapped herself into the frigid, leather chair. Cranking the thermostat to its highest temperature, she started her father's van and slowly pulled out of her driveway. Instead of driving her own car, she was told by her parents to use the van since it had better traction control.
Given that it'd been snowing all weekend and temperatures had plummeted below the zero mark, the roads were very slippery. If she hit ice, the van wouldn't slip and slide as much as the car would.
Reluctantly, she'd listened to her parents and drove to school on that early Monday morning in her father's van. As the snow fell, the local information station CJOB droned on about news and local events she wasn't interested in.
However, her distracted mind wasn't up for listening to music, so she let it play.
Steven hadn't kissed her back.
When she left that kiss, waiting for him to continue it, nothing more happened. He smiled at her, asking what that was for. She told him that she was falling for him, turned around and strode away. She couldn't bear to have him reject or reprimand her for kissing him like that.
Later, he'd texted her, asking why she left so soon.
Cerise's heart thrashed around in her chest as she read the rest of his text: "Sorry I didn't kiss you; I was just so taken aback. Can I see you soon?" Though she so badly wanted to tell him that he could, she put her phone away. Inside her pocket it went, used only to text a few of her friends who were telling her what happened at the party.
All day Sunday she ignored his occasional texts. How could she just text him back like that, as if he was the only person she could think of? If he truly liked her, he wouldn't be deterred by waiting a couple of days. She realized now that she'd been far too willing, embarrassingly so, when it came to her relationship with Steven.
She would now wait for him to make the next move.
Glancing in the rear-view mirror of her van, she put on the turning signal, veered into the next lane and went over an expansive sheet of ice. Her wheels rolled, slipping as no traction could be made between her tires and the road.
"No!" She spun the wheel hard, while slamming on the breaks, hoping to keep her vehicle from spinning out of control. The van, which was fishtailing along the road, finally lost all control as spinning the wheel did nothing to avail her situation. Several cars honked at her when she slid out of her lane onto the two lanes beside her, before there was no more road left to drive on.
Her wheels momentarily caught on the rough, gritty part of the street. The van slowed, but its momentum carried it past the grit, and down the embankment into the snowy ditch.
The van came to a jarring stop, its front buried in a mound of thick, heavy snow.
Cerise was thrown against the steering wheel, where her face hit the airbag.
Groaning, she put her hand on her neck, massaging it slightly. As the airbag slowly deflated, she sat up in her seat, her neck only a little sore. "Stupid, stupid ice." She swore loudly, knowing how angry her parents would be when they found out she'd hit the ditch.
Unless she could get out of the ditch without them knowing.
Taking in a deep breath, she put the vehicle in reverse and pushed the gas pedal. Glancing out the rearview mirror, she saw another vehicle pull to the side of the road. As the snow fell, she could barely make out who the Good Samaritan was.
While the man got out of his car, sauntering towards her; Cerise did her very best to reverse the vehicle out of the ditch. However, her tires only sunk deeper into the snow, unable to gain any traction.
Realizing how hopeless it was she put the van back into park.
Cerise put on her toque and scarf, which adequately hid her face from the frigid, biting wind. Opening her car door, she stepped out, meeting the man who had come to help her. He was incredibly familiar-she studied him, then lost her breath as she saw who it was.
"Hey! Are you alright?" Desmond came up to her, seemingly oblivious to who he was speaking to.
She nodded her head, hoping that he would just go away.
Again, she nodded her head, knowing that if she spoke, he would know who she was. Thank goodness she'd brought her parents van since Desmond was quite familiar with her car.
"Do you need to borrow my cell? I can call a tow truck if you need."
Cerise shook her head, yet when she did, her scarf that had been wrapped around her face came loose. It slipped down, leaving most of her face completely bare.
Desmond, who was about to walk away, stopped abruptly. Pausing, he crossed his arms over his chest before speaking. "Cerise?"
"Hi, Desmond." She put the scarf back up, her heart pounding in her chest. Despite the cold, frigid air, she was starting to sweat. "Thanks for trying to help."
He blinked, taking a step forward. "Wow, small world."
"Small city, actually." She smiled, then took out her own cell.
"I suppose." He glanced at her van, grimacing slightly. "Do you need me to drop you off at home? I can't imagine it'd be good if you waited out here."
"My dad can get me. I'll just wait in the van. Besides, I have school."
"School's closed for the day."
"Really? How do you know?"
"Radio." He smiled, taking yet another hesitant step forward. "It's really cold today, I don't think-"
"Desmond." Taking a step back, she put her hands around her waist, shivering from a mixture of fear and coldness. "I would rather freeze then get in a car with you. I don't trust you-not in the least bit."
Stiffening, he retreated a few steps. "It's just a ride."
"It's just a 'no', Desmond. I know you don't hear the word often, but listen to me: No. Thanks for the offer, but I'll have to pass."
"What are you talking about?"
"What am I talking about?" She made an exasperated noise, rolling her eyes. "I gave you everything, I always told you 'yes', I always did what you wanted! When you cheated on me with that bitch, I took you back. You manipulated and controlled me." Taking a step forward, she raised her hand, squeezing it into a fist. "But I'm done with that."
Desmond only sneered at her. "You made those decisions, Cerise. Don't blame me for your mistakes."
Cerise lost it. She struck him with her hand, slapping him across the face.
He retaliated with a strike of his own. Only his hand was closed into a fist, which he used to knock her back with. She stumbled backwards, tripping on the ice and falling into the ditch.
Shocked by the hit, she lay on her back as blood trickled from a cut on her forehead.
Desmond ran forward, staring at her with wide eyes. "I'm sorry." Was all he said before turning around, running away from the ditch.
Cerise just stared up at the sky, her heart blistering with hot, poignant rage.
With her phone still in her hand, she got back up, dialing her father.
In the distance, she saw Desmond's car fly down the road.
"Steven…" A voice, followed by a low hum sounded from behind Steven, causing him to turn around quickly. Glancing down the crowded, busy hallway he noticed no one familiar who would've called out his name.
"Steven!" This time the voice came from his side, near the entrance to Warehouse One. Only a few other people milled around that area, none of them familiar. "Steven! What is he doing? Steven, follow me!" A shadow passed overhead, which he caught out of the corner of his eyes before it disappeared.
"Hey, are you alright?" Jasper put an arm on Steven's shoulder, staring at him with a serious, concerned expression.
"Do you hear who's calling my name?" He turned completely around, studying the crowds of shoppers who were in the mall. None of them paid him any attention, instead, they went into stores, exited others, talked with friends, walked briskly, listened to music, but none of them were trying to get his attention.
"Dream with me, Steven…" The strange, sexless voice came from somewhere beneath him, as if it was uttered from below the floor. Staring down at the ground, he frowned.
"No one is," he paused to stare at the ground, seeing nothing unusual. With a concerned smile, he tapped his friend on the shoulder. "C'mon, we should go and get Leanne from Boathouse, our movie's starting soon."
Still staring at the ground, Steven gave his head a shake. "They're beneath me, can't you hear them?" Stooping down to the ground, he put his hand on the cool, tiled floor. He could hear more voices whispering from underneath. A light smile came to his lips. "We should follow them."
"Steven, this isn't funny. People are staring!" He nudged his friend with his shin, trying to cover his frustration with a laugh.
Taking his hand off the floor, he stared up at Jasper with a glazed, disinterested look. "What?"
"What? You're on the ground, feeling up the floor, and you're asking me 'what'" Jasper didn't bother smiling as he waited for his friend to stand back up. Glaring at him, he made a point of blocking Steven's path. "Are you trying to be funny?"
"I heard voices…" he whipped around, staring up at the ceiling. "You can't hear them?"
"Steven! Cut it out bro, I'm not in the mood. What is wrong with you?"
Wheeling around, an oddly composed expression on his face, he frowned. "Jasper?"
His friend blinked, then sighed. "We need to get you home, stay here, I'm getting Leanne."
"No. I'm fine." Steven, who could no longer hear the indistinct voices, walked after his friend. Forcing a smile, he took a deep breath and tried to clear his head. "I'm sorry about that, I've just been stressed lately."
Jasper grimaced, his eyes darkening. "No you're not fine. You need to get home and rest, this is way more then just stress." He put his hands in pocket, fishing for his cell-phone. "Let's just sit down on that bench," he motioned at a solid, empty bench positioned in the middle of the mall's central hallway. "I'll text Leanne."
Steven was about to object, but something caught his attention. A hooded man was walking down the hall, coming towards him at a brisk stride. In his hand was a pistol. "He's here. You have to let me get him!" He felt rage ignite inside him as he stared at his mother's killer.
"What the hell!" Jasper pushed Steven back with his hand, daring a glance at what Steven was so agitated by. All he could see were small pockets of people, interspersed with lone shoppers.
Steven's eyes widened, his breath quickening when he saw the hooded man begin to levitate high into the air. He stopped just short of the ceiling, his gun pointing at the ground.
"Let me stop him!"
"Stop who? What are you talking about?" Jasper followed Steven's gaze to the mall's high-up ceiling. All he could see was a light fixture, barely noticeable in the bright, well lit hall.
Steven gaped as the hooded man disappeared from view.
"Okay, we're going home now." His face reddening, he momentary looked at a group of girls who were watching Steven, one of them giggling. "Let's go."
Steven, whose mouth was still hanging open like an idiot's, nodded his head.
Jasper texted Leanne what was going on, while leading his friend back down the hall.
So much for a snow day, spent watching movies and hanging out at the mall.
Steven, who could once more hear the voices, saw Julia standing near a garbage can. She was on her phone, dressed in an elegant, black dress. Staring at him, she waved him over, her smile growing. "They woke me up! Steven, I'm awake! We can finally be together!" With a loud, joy-filled laugh, she took off running towards him.
"She's here." Steven, who'd been beside Jasper, ran past his friend.
"Damn it! Steven, what are you doing?" He saw his friend take several, long strides towards the garbage can. He let out an enthusiastic scream as he engulfed the air with his arms, as if embracing someone.
Leanne had just come up, her eyes wide when she saw what Steven was doing. "Jasper! What the heck is going on?"
Others in the mall were also intrigued and surprised by the prancing fool. Most were shaking their heads, voicing their opinions on the matter to those they were with. Only one person held out her cell phone, seemingly taking a video of the teenager hugging an armful of air.
"I'm going to get him," Leanne left Jasper standing in the hall, glaring at his friend as put his hands on his hips.
Steven, who thought he held Julia in his arms, let her go to kiss her on the forehead. "How did you find me? And why didn't you tell me you were coming?"
Julia tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, a teasing smile on her lips. "It was a surprise." Putting a hand on his chest, she reached in for a kiss.
However, when he went to kiss her, all he felt was empty air. Backing up, he let out a gasp when he noticed that his lover had disappeared. In her place, her face red and lips in a tight frown, was Leanne. "Steven? Hey, are you okay?"
"She was right there…" he pointed ahead of him, beginning to realize that once again he was having hallucinations. But they weren't just silly, fleeting glimpses anymore, he'd honestly felt Julia's warm skin against his. She'd been there, touching him, talking to him, loving him.
Now that the hallucination was gone, he realized how foolish it was to think she'd actually been there.
"Who was?" Leanne gulped nervously, searching Steven's darkening eyes.
He opened his mouth to answer, but instead found his eyes closing. He felt himself collapse, his head smacking hard against the tiled floor. His teeth sunk into his tongue, while warm, salty blood seeped into his mouth.
Then he was completely enveloped in unconsciousness' cold, unfeeling grip