Chapter Twenty Three
Steven was left suspended in the bright, warm waters of the ocean. His eyes closed, while bubbles came out of his mouth as his body filled with water. Several fish, multi colored and swimming quickly, darted past his drifting body.
The hands that had dragged him down began to recede into nothingness.
All that remained was a solitary figure, dressed in a ripped hoodie and jeans, standing in front of a glowing ball of light. The figure, his arms folded over his chest, glanced behind him at the light.
Its luminescence filled the ocean water with warm, delicious yellow light. Fish, attracted to the strange, peculiar glow, swam around it. One of them swam inside it, disappearing completely in a flash of radiance.
Steven, who was drifting to the sandy shore, opened his eyes. Slowly, his foot grazed the sandy ocean floor before he came to a stop.
The figure remained motionless as he watched Steven, grinning.
Steven stared at the hooded man, feeling a mixture of rage and disbelief. Certainly this man wasn't the same one who had gunned down his mother, was he? Whoever he or it was, Steven still felt anger for what it was or represented: his mother's killer.
Opening his mouth, he was surprised at how good it felt to breathe in the water. It was just like breathing air, only that the water could be felt coursing in and out of his body.
It tasted warm, sugary and sweet.
"Who are you?" Instead of his words coming out gurgled and warped, they sounded clear as day. From the flying trains, to the flying, hot air balloons in space, it was clear these dreams followed a law of physics quite different from reality.
He should be a water logged corpse.
Staring at the figure, his attention was momentarily taken away by the glowing, round ball of light. It lazily drifted up above the figure, basking them all in its radiance. He was drawn to it, smiling at its eerie, calming glow.
"Steven." The hooded man said while he sauntered over to the boy, "Who do you think I am?" He took out a gun from his pocket, fingering it with pale, sickly fingers. Instead of pointing it at Steven and firing, he slid it back into his pocket.
"I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. These dreams," he paused, wondering if he should share his thoughts with the mysterious person. As his rage and anger ebbed, a growing curiosity came to life inside him. "I'm being sucked into them. Are you the cause of that?"
He said nothing in reply, but continued walking over to Steven. When he was a few steps in front of him, he gestured at the ball of light. It was now coming close to the surface, its luminosity fading. "We are all slaves to what we give power."
The light above them expanded, its glow filling the ocean with warm, frighteningly bright light. Steven was thrown back, screaming as he tumbled head over heels away from the figure. He shut his eyes, trying to stop his fumbling course, but when he opened them again, he was back in the mall.
Sprawled out on the floor, surrounded by both Jasper and Leanne, he let out a short gasp. Bathed in sweat, he noticed that others were looking at him, most of them with concerned or frightened expressions on their faces.
Getting to his feet, he ignored his friend's worried, caring questions. He dusted off his jeans, staring around at the fading images of the figure and the ball of light. Blinking them away, he turned back to his friends.
"I need to get home." Though he wasn't going there to recuperate from the frightening dream-no, he needed to prepare for heading out to Alberta. Staggering towards the exiting doors, his friends came alongside him.
"We need to get you to a doctor, Steven." Jasper urged his usual light mannered tone traded in for one laced in fear. He put a hand on his shoulder, but could not get through to Steven.
"No. I need to get home."
"You need a doctor, Steven!" Leanne said an exasperated look on her face. "You didn't just faint out there, you practically went insane for a few moments. Hearing voices? Then convulsing when you passed out? Steven, that's not normal."
"No, it isn't. But I need you to trust me," he said with wide and pleading eyes, "this is beyond the doctors, I can't explain it all. Trust me though, that no doctor can help me now. I need to get home, get my head straight. Figure this out."
Jasper and Leanne exchanged glances.
Steven stopped short of leaving the mall, wondering if he should just tell them all what was going on. However, when he saw their confused and annoyed expressions, he decided that it would be a pointless endeavor. "I'm sorry that this doesn't make sense, I just need to get home and think this through."
"What is there to think through? Steven, you're not making sense." Leanne asked.
"I know. Hopefully I can tell you what is going on soon, but not now."
"We're your friends, Steven, why can't you tell us?"
He told them in a roundabout way that it wasn't even clear to him what was going on-he just needed time. Saying farewell, he left his friends standing at the mall's entrance with a hundred, unanswered questions.
Cerise stood in the bathroom, staring at the mirror fastened over the sink. With a damp cloth, she dabbed away some of the crusted blood on her forehead. A small, deep gash was starting to bruise where Desmond had hit her.
When her father had come to pick her up, she'd blamed going into the ditch for the cut. At first, she wanted to tell her father the truth. Desmond deserved the punishment he would receive for hitting her once more.
Instead, she decided that would probably land her in hot water too. Her parents had always disliked Desmond, especially after hearing how he'd cruelly cheated on her. Her mother had warned her against going out with him, saying that once trust was broken like that, it could never be recovered.
If they knew that Desmond had hit her again, her parents would likely go to the police. No matter how much she disliked her ex-boyfriend, she couldn't do that to him. She also didn't want her parents to distrust her, which they most certainly would if they found out she'd seen him again, even if it was accidentally.
Cerise washed off her cloth, wrung it out and hung it up to dry. Taking a tissue, she dried off the water and began to apply makeup. A few minutes later, her gash was hidden.
She left the washroom, pulled her cell out of her pocket and sat down in her living room. Her parents were in their room, taking advantage of the day off to spend some time together.
Steven's numerous messages were still left in her inbox, unread and calling out for her attention. Although she'd vowed not to reply too quickly, she thought that leaving him hanging for a few days was enough time.
Grinning, she sent him a message reading: "Miss me? We should get together soon, maybe at my place?" She added in a 'heart' emoticon.
Sitting on the couch, she expected that since he'd been texting her frequently, his response would be swift. No such luck, instead, minutes turned into hours and she had no response. While time ticked on by, she slipped her phone in her pocket and decided to spend her day off watching some television.
She made some tea, found Oreos and snacked as her television provided her with some light, distracting entertainment. Losing track of time, she was startled out of her watching by her cell-phone buzzing.
It'd been a long time since someone had actually called her on her phone; most just sent messages.
Pressing 'talk' on her screen, she put the phone to her ear. "Hello?"
"Hey, Cerise." Drake's deep, familiar voice sounded distorted and broken up through the connection.
"Drake! Hey, how's it going?" She was surprised, but happily so by the unexpected call. Taking a sip of her tea, she waited for him to answer.
"I'm really good. I was just stopping through the McDonald's drive-thru and was wondering if I could pick up something for you? I just got off work and need something to do, are you busy?"
"Not at all," she laughed, glancing at the television screen. "I actually wouldn't mind a McFlurry right now. Are you at the one on Regent?"
"Yep, is that an Oreo or Smarty McFlurry?"
"Do you have to ask?"
"Rolo it is." He laughed, while Cerise smiled. "I know, I know, it's Oreo. Be over there in a minute." He hung up; she broke the connection and placed the cell back in her pocket. Thinking of Drake made her feel a whole lot better after that terrible meeting with Desmond. He would never know how much his coming over meant to her.
She ran back to the bathroom, checking in the mirror to see if she looked alright. Aside from dark lines under her eyes and the smudged make-up, she was satisfied with her appearance. It was just Drake, he would love her if she looked like she'd just gotten out of bed.
When she walked past the front door, she heard someone knocking on it. Startled, she brushed her hair behind her ear and walked over to it. "You're really quick, Drake, wow." She began to say as she opened the door.
Instead of her friend greeting her, Desmond was waiting outside. In his hand was a bouquet of flowers. Smiling sheepishly, he waited for her to let him in. "Hey Cerise." He lifted the flowers to her, while snow fell and covered them.
"What do you want?" Cerise folded her arms over her chest. Keeping the screen door closed, she stared at the flowers in surprise. What was he expecting her to do with those? It was almost a joke to her now, being offered flowers like they could mend a severely broken bond.
"To say sorry."
"Go to hell." The only reason he'd hurt her was because she so often let him. She wasn't taking challenges or playing around this time.
Still, she couldn't close the door.
Wincing, he brought the flowers against the door. "I'm serious, Cerise, I really fucked up this time. I know that you don't believe me, but I want to make us better. Even if that means getting it all thrown in my face."
"You're full of it, Desmond. How many times do you think I'll fall for this? Honestly, go screw yourself, I can't keep playing this game with you. You need to know that I want nothing to do with you-I don't even want to be friends. Just get out of my life!" She was about to slam the door, but there was something in his eyes.
A glint, a speck of such bitter remorse. Of self-loathing, a gap in a set of armor he always made sure was unassailable.
Sighing, she stared deep into his eyes, realizing that the glint remained. It wasn't passing or hidden, there was something different in his stare. The usual cockiness had completely disappeared, replaced by a sorrow that she had never seen in him.
"Cerise, I know you hate me. You have every right to. I'm a monster, I hate myself. What I did to you, I did because something happened to me in Alberta. My cousin dying like that all of a sudden changed me. When I came back, I just felt so miserable."
"So you took it out like me, just as you always did." She was crushed at how selfish his remorse really was. He was still busy making excuses.
"I took it out on myself. I knew I didn't deserve you, Cerise. I don't even deserve to live. I don't want to. There's so much that I've done, Cerise, more then you know." He looked away, his eyes filling with tears.
She opened the door a little more.
"And that's why I can't let you in, Desmond. You haven't changed, even though you promised you would. You've hurt me more times then I can count and broken my heart. It's time we just said goodbye. Neither of us can live like this."
The door began to close once more.
Desmond shook his head, letting the flowers fall to her steps. "I don't want to, Cerise. I can't give you up, not ever."
"You already did, Desmond. It's too late."
"I can change, people do change."
"But you only change for the worse. Now please, go home, Desmond. I can't do this right now. We just have to leave one another alone, maybe…" she pressed her lips together, knowing that giving him hope was the wrong thing to do. "We just have to say goodbye."
"I don't want to."
"I want to. Desmond, what exactly do you want from me? Do you think that I can ever love you again? That we'll ever heal from this? Sometimes you do things that you just can't take back. I accept your apology, but I do not accept you."
Desmond opened his mouth to say more, but turned around when a car pulled into her driveway. It parked, then the front door opened, revealing Drake. He held her McFlurry and his coffee, which he carried with him as he came up slowly, hesitantly to her front door.
"What is he doing here?"
"Drake's my friend, Desmond-my best friend. Now please go home." She opened the door fully, then the screen door, which forced Desmond to take a step back. She stepped onto the bouquet of flowers, watching as Drake came up to her front door.
Desmond went down a step, glaring at Drake.
"Hey, Cerise." Drake glanced at Desmond, frowning. "Hey, Desmond. Is this a good time?"
"Desmond was just leaving." Cerise was about to reach for her McFlurry, when the tray it was on went flying into the air. The coffee and ice cream sailed into the air, spilling out on the sidewalk.
Desmond had tossed the tray out of Drake's hand, as he seethed with rage. "This is who you chose over me? Really?" He laughed bitterly, scowling at Cerise and her friend. "You seriously fell in love with him?" He made a nauseated face, turning around briskly.
Cerise glanced at her friend, who'd stooped down to pick up the coffee and ice cream.
"Well you know what? Screw you both," he said before heading back to his car. "I don't want your friendship, Cerise. I don't need it. If you want to fall in love with that asshole, it's fine by me."
Cerise ignored him, tears coming to her eyes. "I'm so sorry, Drake." She took the tray from him, which was now covered in coffee and spilt ice cream with chunks of Oreo.
"Don't be, are you okay?" He followed her inside, closing the door behind them.
With a sigh, she set the tray on a nearby table, nodding her head. "I'm just glad he's gone."
Well, that mostly true. Her heart, however, wasn't doing so well at all. How could someone who once loved her so much, turn into a monster? He said that he'd done things she didn't know about, what could those possibly be?
He'd always been hot tempered, but this was to an extreme she'd never before seen.
Staring at the ruined coffee and ice cream, Drake took it and threw it into the garbage. Grinning, he gave his friend a hug as she leaned against the couch, a miserable expression on her face. "C'mon, let's go for a walk. It's actually beautiful outside. Wind's died down and it's only lightly snowing now."
"Okay," she took his hand, holding it tightly. "Thanks for always being there for me. You're an incredible friend." Squeezing his hand, she let it go, not caring if he took that the wrong way. All she wanted was to spend time with the one person that had always been there for her.
Hopefully one day she could make it up to him.