Steven slung his backpack over his shoulder, walking down his school's hallway for the very last time. Beside him, Jasper walked at his side. Together they strolled down the hallway, passing by unoccupied lockers and closed classroom doors. No one else followed them as Jasper walked ahead of Steven, holding the front door open for him.
Earlier, in class, all his classmates had thrown him a farewell party; bringing food, cake and drink. For an hour he'd partied, danced, laughed and talked in earnest for the first time since he'd left those dreams. Happiness had swelled inside him, while he felt genuine sorrow at saying goodbye to his classmates.
When it was two o'clock, Steven received a text from his grandparents, telling him it was time to leave.
"I'm going to miss you man," Jasper muttered, letting the door close behind them. "Are you sure you can't talk your grandparents into letting you stay another day? School is not going to be the same without you, hell, life isn't going to be the same." He smiled, putting an arm on his friend's shoulder.
"Why don't you two just kiss, already?" Leanne walked up to Jasper and Steven, a teasing grin on her face. Laughing, she wrapped her friend in a hug. He returned it, chuckling along with her.
"As much as I want to," he looked at Steven, a teasing grin on his face, "nah. I'll pass. What are you doing here anyways, I thought you had school."
"Fuck school." Leanne retorted, kicking snow at her friend. "How could I let him leave without saying goodbye?" She stood beside Jasper, giving him a playful shove, he returned it.
"Here, here! Fuck school!" Jasper raised his fist.
Steven joined in, but couldn't give it as much heart as it deserved. He would miss his two best friends so much. "Well, I better get going. They're waiting in the parking lot." He saw his grandparents van parked to the side, idling.
Jasper nodded his head; Leanne stared at Steven with wide, sad eyes.
"Don't forget to visit, Steven. I know British Columbia's a hell of a lot better then Winnipeg, but if I don't see you in a few months, I'm going to come there personally and drag your sorry ass back."
"Hey, you can come to B.C. anytime you want."
"I better," Leanne chimed in, "there are no good mountains here to snowboard on, just plains, plains and more plains."
"And it's bloody freezing." Jasper wrapped himself with his arms, shivering in an exaggerated fashion. "Seriously though, you have to come back sometime. Winnipeg's going to be boring without you. So much for graduating together, we had one good prank cooked up."
"I'll come back for that."
"Do it." The three teenagers, unsure of how to say goodbye once and for all, stood in the snow on that frigid, November day. Jasper kicked at a pile of snow, smiled at Steven and slowly turned away. "Take care of yourself, bro."
Steven nodded his head. They'd grown up together; he couldn't imagine leaving him behind like this. "Thanks. You too. Don't miss me too much."
"Goodbye Steven, see you later Leanne." Jasper walked back to the front doors of the school, opened them, and entered inside.
"Bye Jasper." He waved, waiting until his friend was back in the school, the doors closed behind him. Turning to Leanne, he was surprised by yet another hug from her.
"Bye Steven, have a freaking amazing time in British Columbia." She wiped a stray tear from her eyes, heading back to her car.
"Thanks, this isn't our final goodbye though; we'll see each other again!" Steven had said his final goodbyes, and while this hurt, it was nothing compared to those. He waved as she got into her car, started it and drove off.
It'd been nearly a month and a half since the day that he said his last, final goodbye to Julia. Watching her fade from existence, the memory still brought tears to his eyes, no matter how hard he tried to fight them off. "I still miss you." He said under his breath, feeling the old ache stir in his heart, before it rested again. No, he'd moved on since then, his heart no longer beat for her.
He would still remember her always. Just as he'd promised.
His father as well, would also be remembered, as would his mother. Although the pain he felt at losing them was sometimes tangible, he wasn't held down by that pain. It was a dull ache, reminding him, but not chaining him down to sorrow.
Now that he was leaving the city, he felt like the healing process would be that much quicker. Easier. The everyday reminders of those he lost wouldn't be there to haunt him.
His grandparents now had custody over him, until he turned eighteen next year in the spring. For now, he would be living in their home near Banff in British Columbia. The Rocky Mountains, he was truly excited to live in such a gorgeous, amazing place.
A place to start anew.
Steven began walking towards his grandparents van, trudging through the thick snow, a backpack strapped to his back. The rest of his luggage was in a moving van, most likely having already arrived in his new home.
A familiar car drove speedily into the parking lot, came to a stop near Steven, and the front door opened. To his surprise, Cerise stepped out of the vehicle. Her hair was beautiful, her eyes even more so, while she took crutches out with her, placing them under her armpits.
"Cerise!" He couldn't stop the large smile that overtook his face. He approached her, resisting the urge to wrap her in his arms. Instead, he stood a meter in front of her, glad to see a smile had spread to her face.
"Hey, Steven." She shut her car door, limping towards him.
The last time he'd gone to see her, was at the hospital. She was just recovering from a critical knife wound to her chest, which he was shocked to hear was from Desmond. She'd told him the story, saying how Desmond had attacked her, then Drake had saved her, and she'd returned the favor by stepping in-between him and Desmond's knife.
Desmond had been caught hours later, his body hanging from a rope he'd tied around the rafters on his roof. There'd been no note in his apartment, only broken bottles, a bloody knife and a picture of Cerise.
In the hospital, her parents and loved ones were told that she likely wasn't going to pull through. However, she'd proved them all wrong. Despite the massive injury she'd received, she was now on the road to recovery. After spending nearly three weeks in the hospital, she was now able to walk around, except she had to use crutches.
Thankfully, the injury had overshadowed what happened in the dreams and they never discussed it. Honestly, Steven was grateful for this, for he was eager to forget about the tragic events, move on. He wasn't sure what he could or should say to Cerise.
He decided, standing in front of her now, what to start with. "I've been meaning to say this, but haven't had the chance." He paused, took in a breath. "I'm so sorry about us, Cerise. I hurt and lied to you, and I was so wrong for that. I'm just so sorry for hurting you like that, you deserve better, and I'm sorry I couldn't. I actually didn't expect to see you here."
Cerise nodded her head, but the anger he'd expected to see in her eyes wasn't there. "I know you are. Actually, I'm sorry too." Smiling sheepishly, she moved closer to Steven. "I just wanted so badly to fall in love, after Desmond, I wasn't sure I could be alone. I used you, Steven, to be honest. I should be the one apologizing."
"Let's call it even then," Steven said. "I forgive you. Do you forgive me?"
"Yes, of course."
"Love's a confusing thing," Steven said with a laugh, shaking his head.
"No, feelings are confusing. People are more so. Love is anything but."
He smiled at that, "Poetic."
"I guess," she leaned her crutches against the hood of her car, limped towards Steven and embraced him. They held each other for a while, as the snow sprinkled on them. "I'm going to miss you, Steven."
"I'm going to miss you more."
"Sure you will."
"I will." He let her go, and was surprised by a quick kiss on his cheek. Then she turned around, grabbed her crutches and went back to her car door. She glanced behind her, giving him a knowing wink. "Au revoir, Steven."
"Bye," the warmth of her kiss was still on his cheek, "take care Cerise."
She got into her car, honked twice and drove away, back down the road, out of his life, but never out of his memories.
Steven watched her go, frowned, and continued walking to his grandparents van.
He got inside, closed the door behind him and apologized for taking so long.
Then they drove off.
Towards the airport.
Towards British Columbia.
Steven glanced one more time at his school, squinting as he saw a figure standing in the middle of the parking lot. He wore a ripped-tight hoodie, a black object in his hand. Behind him, a glowing ball of light floated near his head.
They were gone.
It's been a crazy ride. I started writing this manuscript on October 5th 2012, which was a rewrite of the first edition (which was horrid and will never see the light of day D:) And now I've finished it, briefly edited it for reading, reviewing, criticizing and hopefully enjoying! I hope that now you've finished reading this story, it was a worthy, momentary distraction-an escape-from reality. Perhaps it inspired you, provoked you, entertained you, let me know please! What are your thoughts now that it is done?
But about you, my faithful readers, or confused Booksie Members who clicked on the last chapter. You have my deepest gratitude and thanks for taking the time out of your busy lives to read this. Truly, you have been the fuel keeping me writing this, especially when inspiration fled and life got busy and wearisome. Thanks so much!
I don't know if this will be published, perhaps, maybe, most likely it won't. I'm a hopeful person, but not a dreamer, for I'm going to pursue publication until I've done everything I can. If this somehow gets printed, I'll be sure to dedicate it to each person who fully read the book. A silly promise perhaps, but if I do somehow get into the literary world, I'll make sure this is dedicated to you!
Best of luck on your own writing!
Matthew D. Hay
Also, if you're going to lie and say you finished the book when you didn't in actuality, please just go away :P It's disrepectful and rude, I can check individual word counts on chapters.. :P I hate to sound like a jerk, but I really don't appreciate false sincerity and congrations, as I'm sure none of you do either. Still, thanks so much to those who actually did read this all (: