Chapter Twenty Six
"People, who love the strongest, tend to have the most breakable of hearts." Drake had said once, his plain eyes strangely inviting. Taking her hand, he squeezed it tightly. "Just be careful about whom you trust to hold your heart-most will drop it. The trick is finding the one who doesn't know how."
He'd said that to her on the night she found out Desmond had cheated on her. Twice.
Cerise thought back on those words as she got into bed. Slipping under the covers, wearing pajamas and her hair loose, she turned off the light.
Staring up at the ceiling, moments before sleep took her, she could think of one person only.
He had kissed her back. Passionately, warmly, not out of an obligation, but because he truly liked her back. She'd only been kissed that way once in her lifetime.
This was one relationship she knew would stay strong-how could it not? They'd been friends for so long, completely compatible and comfortable with one another. She knew his secrets, he knew hers. They were both crazy about one another, at least if that lovelorn glint in his eye wasn't just born of her own imagination.
And he'd kissed her.
Granted, she'd been the initiator, but then he hadn't been regretful or embarrassed afterwards. In fact, he'd kissed her again. His hand had raced down her back, pulling her body closer to his own.
"Just be careful about who you trust to hold you heart." She mumbled Drake's words, a grin on her face. This time, unlike with Desmond, she was completely sure about giving her heart to Steven.
Closing her eyes, she faded away from consciousness.
Only seconds later, did she open them again.
"Where am I?" Cerise could feel loose, pointy pebbles and stone underneath her body. Sitting up, she brushed some of the dirt and stones from her pajamas.
Her mouth fell open as she realized that she wasn't on her bed or even in her room at all.
A gust of warm air hit her as she got to her feet, staring around at her new, strange surroundings. A couple of stray leaves rattled down the dirt path, bumping and tumbling in the strong gale.
The trail that she was on was surrounded on either side by tall, towering trees. Instead of how they should've been in the fall, these trees were alive and bursting with green, rich leaves. In-between the trees, she saw a few log cabins, most of them with porches surrounding the front doors, where towels and bathing suits were left to dry.
Though she couldn't see anyone, excited, loud voices carried through the wind from down the trail.
Then she saw two teenagers, probably around her age, walking towards her from way down the trail. One of them was a boy, the other a girl, though any other details were too hard to make out from such a distance.
"What is going on," she pondered aloud, cautiously stepping towards the oncoming teenagers. Her heart beat rapidly, she stole down the path, hoping to get some answers as to how she ended up here.
"Hey! Hey, can you help me!" She called out to the couple walking towards her, but neither of them even looked her way. Instead, as they came closer, she noticed that their hands were intertwined. The boy looked at the girl, smiling brightly; she met his smile with one of her own, teasingly bumping into him.
Squinting, she saw that the boy at least, was very familiar.
"No." Taking a step back, she felt a chill snap up her body, causing her head to tingle. Her mouth dry, heart beating rapidly, she willed herself to take another step forward. "No!" She put a hand to her mouth, seeing that the person was exactly who she thought it was.
"No, this is impossible!" She stared around her, noticing that there were others nearby. Teenagers and young adults alike were walking, talking, laughing, playing and taking absolutely no notice of her.
One of them, she noticed with wide eyes, was Steven's father.
Instead of lying in a hospital bed, his body ravaged by cancer, he was playing Frisbee with a couple of kids. He sent it flying over the path, down the field and towards a lake, where others were swimming, canoeing and sunbathing.
This was a camp.
But the last time she'd been to camp was at least several years ago. This place was one that she'd never been to before. Could she still be dreaming? Although everything felt so real, there could be no other explanation for why she was here.
Her eyes drifted back to Steven, who was now only a few meters away. His gorgeous blue eyes were admiring the girl's legs, then her chest and face as he talked with her, laughing and holding her hand.
"I'm sorry, I just don't like sushi," he chuckled, as she elbowed him playfully. "No really, I mean its rice, seaweed and raw fish! Yuck." His eyes momentarily landed on Cerise, before turning away to the trees.
"Steven?" Cerise had to be dreaming. Pinching her skin, as the movie cliché went, didn't wake her up from the dream. Still, she noticed that there was no sensation of pain when she squeezed her skin together.
Chasing after Steven, she reached out and pulled on his shoulder. Instead of feeling his soft, firm skin, his body felt like Jell-O. Her fingers dug deep into his skin, before she withdrew her hand in shock.
He kept walking down the path, holding the girl's hand and laughing with her.
Cerise decided to follow them, wondering if she could figure out from their conversation what was going on. Jogging down the path, she caught up with them, syncing her steps with their own as she stayed just one step behind.
Their conversation, at first, was irrelevant.
All she learned as they walked down the path was that her name was 'Julia'.
She racked her memory, but she couldn't recall Steven ever mentioning a girl named Julia. He'd only told her about going to camp and meeting someone there, but that the relationship was short-lived, as she was in Alberta and he in Winnipeg.
So why was she dreaming so vividly about someone else's memories?
The trail they were on began winding up a hill, while one side rose up as a sheer, jagged cliff wall. To her side, she was given a panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding, hilly countryside. The beauty of it nearly took her breath away.
Steven and Julia, who'd let go of one another, had reached the top of the hill. Several wooden and metal bleachers lay at the top of the hill, with a fire pit in the centre. There were already flames lit, which Steven and Julia sat close to.
He stirred the logs and flames with a poker, sending sparks flying into the air.
She laughed; he wrapped his arms around her.
Cerise ambled up to them both, staring at them with a mixture of intrigue and jealousy. The chemistry between them was tangible, she remembered acting the same way around Desmond during the early years of their relationship before it all went to hell.
Smiling sadly, she had to turn away when she began kissing his neck.
There was only so much she could stand, even in a bizarre dream such as this one.
Just as she was about to go back down the trail, she heard a voice call out to her from the base of the hill.
She jumped, startled by the severe, loud tone of the person's voice.
Turning around, she saw that it was the same girl who'd been with Steven. Only she could see her now and was walking up the hill. Her arms crossed over her chest, mouth agape, she shook her head. "Who are you?"
The girl, who'd been sitting beside the campfire with Steven, was now walking up the trail towards her. Instead of an infatuated expression on her face, all Cerise could see was suspicion, anger and hurt.
Although this second version of Julia seemed to be hiding it, there was an anguished way in which her eyes pleaded with Cerise for this to be a misunderstanding. Her turquoise eyes, incredibly beautiful and captivating, narrowed when Cerise said nothing.
She glanced behind her, seeing that Steven and Julia were still at the campfire, oblivious to what was going on just a few meters away.
"You can hear me, right?" She stopped a short distance from Cerise, her arms folded tightly over her chest. Her expression changed when Cerise took a step back.
Smiling sadly, she relaxed her arms and stood where she was.
Cerise nodded her head. "I can hear you, but I don't understand any of this. Where am I?"
"Do you know Steven?"
She hesitated, then said, "Yes. Now can you please tell me what's going on? Who are you? I was just sleeping a few minutes ago and now I wake up here… in this camp, and I just don't know what's going on."
Julia, whose expression was darkening once more, ignored her questions. "You know Steven?"
"Yes, I already said that."
"How? How do you know him?"
"We're friends," she was about to say more, but wasn't sure that news would go over well with this Julia person. Whoever she was, she obviously felt strongly towards Steven. Perhaps she was a jealous ex-girlfriend, or something like that, but Cerise couldn't be sure since none of this really made sense to her.
"No." She blushed, thinking of their kiss that morning. "I'm falling for him actually. I really like him. How do you know Steven?"
Julia's eyes lowered, while a sigh escaped her lips. For a long moment she said nothing, but stared at the ground, kicking at a loose clump of dirt. Finally, her eyes brimming with tears, she asked one more question. "Did he kiss you?"
Julia muttered something, then met Cerise's eyes with fierce intensity. "Did he ever tell you about what happens at night to him? When he goes to sleep? Did he tell you about the dreams?"
"Dreams? No, I mean, yes he told me about one peculiar dream, but nothing important."
"Then he's lied to us both. I'm so sorry. I should've known this would happen, I mean I always was afraid it would, but not with Steven-not like this." Her eyes locked back onto Cerise's. "What's your name?"
"I'm Julia." Walking up to her, she gestured that she follow her down the path. "I was the girl that Steven met at camp. We fell in love, and when he left for Winnipeg, he promised that he would love me forever. We decided that we'd see each other the next summer, when both of us were graduated."
"He told you that?"
"Yes, we both fell for one another, and though we knew distance would be a problem, neither of us wanted that to ruin the relationship. We promised one another that no matter what happened, we'd wait for each other." She frowned, glanced at Cerise and put her hands in her pocket. "Evidently, that didn't happen."
"I'm sorry." Cerise had felt that pain before, it wasn't new to her. Now that she was beginning to understand that Steven had lied to her, the pain was creeping back inside. "But what does that have to do with these dreams?"
So Julia told her everything. She spoke of how she always had this dreaming gift, and that whoever she fell for and kissed, would be given that same gift. Only, that after a short period of time, the person who received the dreaming gift wouldn't be able to handle it. Eventually, their mind would be taken over by the dreams; they'd slip into a coma and be forever stuck in oblivion.
That was what happened to Steven, though Julia omitted the part about Markus, her first boyfriend.
"So Steven's going to be sucked into these dreams? I'm sorry, but how could you do that to him? If you knew what was going to happen, why would you go through with it? Why not tell him the truth?" Cerise interrupted, her heart beginning to beat quickly inside of her. Her stomach, which had been upset before, was now tied in knots.
Julia stopped Cerise, a lost, miserable expression on her face. Her lower lip trembled, while her remorseful, heartbreaking tone connected with Cerise. "Because I made a mistake. I loved him so much, I thought I could somehow stop the dreams from taking over. Or that they wouldn't happen at all. I realize now what a horrible mistake it was, I mean, I'm taking away his life."
She paused to wipe tears from her cheek. "We all make horrible choices, Cerise. We do things we know we shouldn't, though most times we can reconcile with the person we hurt, or make right the wrongs we've committed. Just, this time I cannot. I thought I could, but I simply can't. Steven will be taken into these dreams, he will lose his life, and that sin will be forever laid on my conscience."
Cerise pondered her words. "There has to be something you can do. There's always a way out of something, a remedy, a cure! Anything, how can you just let Steven go into these dreams like that? Go into a coma…" she hesitated, understanding now why Steven was going to Alberta.
"He thinks that by finding me in Camrose, he can somehow save us both." Julia said with a whimsical smile. "But I know that it wont do anything to save us. Perhaps I deserve to be cheated on." Staring at Cerise, she began to walk away.
"But how am I now in these dreams?"
Julia paused, and before walking away for good, she gave her answer. "Because I gave him the dreaming gift, now he's passed it on to you. You both have it now. And both of you will fade away into these dreams. I don't know exactly how it works, but he's given you the gift as well. I'm so sorry, Cerise. I wish I could undo this, but I can't."
"There has to be a way!" Cerise shouted at her, but Julia didn't respond.
Instead, she walked down the path, off of it and into the trees.
Closing her eyes, she took a seat on the gravel path and began to weep. Hugging her knees close to her, she sobbed uncontrollably, knowing that there truly were no good people left in this world.
Desmond had cheated on her, hit her and abused her.
Steven had lied to her and now had cursed her.
When Cerise opened her eyes, tears falling down them, she found herself back in bed, her sheets and blankets wrapped tightly around her.