"Steven!" He heard Julia's voice call out to him as his eyes snapped open. Wiping away eye sand, while trying to remember where he was, Steven let out a raspy cough. "You're back, Steven." She caressed the side of his face, her fingers trembling when they passed over his mouth. "I've missed you."
"I'm dreaming, right?" Steven slowly got up, ignoring her tender touch. Instead of reiterating his love for her, he studied the place that he had awoken in. From his first glance, he saw that he was in a basket. Made of strong, wooden fibers, woven together to form a comfortable, confining bin.
"Yes, we're dreaming again." Julia got to her feet as well, leaning against one of the basket's sides, staring out into space. "I've missed you, Steven." She said again, a whimsical smile on her face.
Steven only stared at her, trying to comprehend that he was back in the 'dream world' or whatever it was called. Finally, after a few moments, he smiled. Standing up, he approached her, "I've missed you more." He said, wrapping his arm around her waist.
Letting go of her, he went to her side, staring out of the hot air balloon.
As they stared out into the majestic vista, silence fell upon them. "This," he spoke with a smile, "is when we're supposed to argue over who misses the other more."
"Maybe I felt like letting you win." Julia returned his smile, leaning against him.
He nodded his head, staring out from the basket and soaking in the view. Suspended in the inky darkness of space, the dreamers were both in a hot air balloon. The only light that was provided them were the flames used to keep the hot air balloon flying upwards into space. The balloon itself was indecipherable in its color, since it seemed to sink into the darkness of space.
The only stars he could see were far away, barely visible as they twinkled in tiny clusters.
Then, just as Steven was growing bored of staring into the empty space, a glaring light lit up the entire area. Where there'd been dark, empty space, Steven now saw the radiant, striking rays of light coming off a bright, red star. And from that light he could see the glowing edges of a black, rocky planet that'd been obscuring most of their view.
Now that they were moving away from the planet, the light from the star enveloping them in red, warm beams.
"I still have no idea how this is all possible." Steven mused, turning his attention back onto Julia. He reached out a hand, gingerly brushing a strand of hair from her eyes. "I mean, none of this makes sense, right? Even this dream, a hot air balloon in space? It's impossible. But even more so, is that I'm dreaming it along with you."
"Is it such a bad thing, though?"
He paused, smiled, and then looked back out to the brilliant sun, shielding his eyes with his right hand. "No, of course it isn't. When I woke up after dreaming with you, it felt like everything had changed." He gulped nervously, as she moved closer to him. "Like there was a switch in what was important to me. All I could think about was to dream again. To see you."
"Me too. I think it's something to be thankful for. A gift."
"But who gave it to us? How did this all come to be-" When he turned to face her again, he was met by her soft, red lips. She kissed him gently, wrapping her arms around him, pulling him close. Her body, warm and frail, melted into his as he kissed her back.
The last time she'd kissed him so passionately was on his final morning at camp. In the early morning hours that Friday, he'd gotten out of bed early, his mind unable to find relaxation in sleeping. And when he dreamt, they were as vivid and intoxicating as reality, not letting him a moment's peace. So, leaving his cabin and friends to their slumber, he walked outside.
Bare-footed, clad only in pajamas, he strode along the path that ran through the centre of camp. With the only dull sunlight streaming through the trees around the path, darkness still afforded him some secrecy from others who were awake. One of them, also pajama-clad and barefooted, headed down to the beachfront.
Though her hair was a mess, and she surely didn't want to be seen by Steven, he quickly followed her down the trail towards the beach. Ignoring the painful rocks cutting and bruising the bottom of his feet, he made quick work of getting to the beach, his heart hammering in his chest when he saw her take a seat on the grainy, wet sand.
Rising above the blue-watered lake, the sun revealed her disheveled hair, pajamas and he could hear her soft, quiet cries.
Gingerly, he came up beside her, said good morning and asked what was wrong. Taking a seat in the sand, he cringed as the dampness soaked into his pajamas, chilling him to the bone.
"Nothing's wrong," she smiled, off-setting the large, obvious bags under her eyes and the tears staining her cheeks. "How did you sleep?"
"Not too bad," since she was lying, he supposed he would follow suite. "Last night though… wow, I just don't really know what to think about that."
"Me neither." Staring up at him, her fingers moved across the sand, coming over to where his hand rested. "But I loved it."
"Me too." Her fingers found his, wrapping easily around them.
"I just don't know what to do-you live so far away. I'm afraid that I'll never see you again." And this was true, all that night since Steven had kissed Julia under the starry, beautiful night sky, he'd known that his bliss would be short-lived. Eventually he would go back to Winnipeg, a good thousand kilometers away.
"Then," she brought her face close to his, whispering her words. "We should make the most of the time we have."
And so they did.
When their kiss ended, Steven let out a sigh, unsure of whether to kiss her again. Fortunately, she made the decision for him. "Come with me." Since they were weightless in the hot air balloon, Julia effortlessly leapt over the sides of the basket. Her body floating, she turned to Steven and beckoned him towards her.
"I can't…" He stared down, at the inky, dark blackness of space. The endless fall that would await him if he leapt out of the hot air balloon.
"It's space!" She laughed, floating lazily near the balloon. "Not only a place where no one can hear you scream, but also where you cannot fall. Trust me, just jump."
After some hesitation, Steven complied by leaping over the edge and joining her in the cold, emptiness of space. After getting over a massive sense of vertigo, he pumped his arms and legs, and like swimming, began to move away from the hot air balloon.
"Wow, this is incredible!" Steven exclaimed, floating towards Julia. Reaching out her arms, she pulled him close, and as they hovered in the vacuum, he kissed her this time. Pulling her close, they rested in one another's arms.
Steven took her hand, holding it tightly. "Let's go!" He drew them back to the balloon, and then instructed her to hang onto to the edge. "Just do as I do." He quickly got the hang of moving around in the vacuum, propelling himself upwards to the huge, now visible balloon.
He saw it was the color red.
"Like this!" He pushed against the balloon, collapsed it for a second and then was sprung outwards. As if it were a trampoline, he went flying into the darkness of space, increasing speed as he began to lose control of his flight.
"C'mon!" He shouted, trying to slow down, but failing to do so. He got one more glimpse behind him, watching the balloon shrink into the distance. His arms flailing, he felt himself begin to fall.
The huge, rocky planet, with the red star in the background, was drawing him in. Helplessly he drew closer and closer to the harsh, dark surface of the satellite.
And then, without warning, he was back in his bed.
Without warning he found himself no longer in space, but wrapped up in his blankets back in his room. Bathed in sweat, he pulled himself out of his sheets, falling onto the floor. With a grunt, he wiped his brow clear of sweat.
His heart still hammering away, his lungs desperate for air, he found refuge on his balcony. With the air hot, but much fresher then that in his room, he took in a deep breath.
Bringing himself to his feet, he gave his head a shake, trying to clear it from the intoxicating, enveloping dream.
Staring up at the bright, luminous moon, he knew that from this moment forward, everything in his life was set on a different course. Whatever dreams, plans, and relationships he'd been shaping up, were now temporarily on hold as he tried to sort out what meeting Julia had done to him.
Not that this was a bad thing, he just needed all the time he could afford to figure out what he was going to do. Since this was indeed real, he would now have to make room for it in a life that was already filled to the brim with problems, relationships and adventures.
Especially with school starting in a mere few days, his father struggling with cancer-he had a lot to consider.
Taking a seat on a lawn chair set up on the balcony, he decided that now was as good a time as ever.
"I love you." Desmond gently placed his hands on the side of Cerise's face, caressing her pale skin. His other hand ran up and down her jean-clad legs, sending chills throughout her body.
"Desmond, please stop."
"No!" With a vicious snarl, his soothing hand turned into one of anger as he struck her across the face. Getting to his feet, breathing heavily, he kicked over the chair he'd been sitting on. "Do not tell me what to do bitch!" Groaning, he stumbled away from her bedroom, leaving Cerise to sit on her bed, her face stinging.
As the front door was slammed shut, Cerise let herself fall to the ground and weep. Tears of anger, hurt, and betrayal ran down her face, as they so often seemed to do.
How could everything go so wrong, in such a short time? If Cerise recalled, he promised that would never happen again. Yet, it seemed that was only the prelude to more. Perhaps, if he would realize how strong his anger was, he could deal with it properly.
Instead he'd hide it away, pretend it wasn't there, and when it was too much to hide, let it come out for a short period of time. Except, when that anger was released, Cerise usually found herself the victim.
"You said you would never hit me, again." Cerise gathered herself together, breathing out her angst filled words. Wiping away her tears, she sprawled out on her bed, put on loud music and tried to empty herself of the emotions exploding in her heart.
However, many months later, Cerise realized that like Desmond, she could only hide what was going on inside. To this very day, whenever she thought of her boyfriend, all those emotions she thought were gone, would bubble to the surface.
Especially today, just a few days before school started: Monday.
Staring at her cell phone, she hopelessly waited for Desmond, who was still away in Alberta, to return her texts.
If not for the equal amounts of love she felt for him, their relationship would've fallen apart months ago. As it turned out, Desmond could be just as amazing, as he could be horrible. A good amount of their memories together weren't so bad at all-some of them were incredible.
She just wished they were easier to recall then the bad ones.
Glancing at the clock stationed on her living room wall, Cerise got off the couch and decided to go for a late night walk. She could go to the Tim Horton's just down the road, grab an Ice Capp and maybe see if Andrea wanted to meet her there. Although it was quite late at night, her friend wasn't usually busy, and they hadn't seen each other all summer.
Entering her number into her phone, she placed it to her ear and let it ring. A few seconds later she heard her friend's groggy voice. "Cerise?"
"Hey, you weren't sleeping, were you?"
"Kind of, but its okay. What's up? Haven't seen you all summer."
"Not much. Do you want to go out for coffee tonight? I've got nothing to do and can't sleep, we can go to the Timmies near my house." Cerise sat back down her couch, hoping her friend would be more agreeable then she sounded.
"Are you crazy? It's like one in the morning, and I look like crap. Tomorrow?" Andrea let out a tired laugh, which coming from anyone else would've been patronizing.
"Come on, I don't have anyone else, can you please?"
"Go with Desmond, I'm way too tired and wouldn't be caught dead outside looking like this."
"Fine, fine. But Desmond's in Alberta, I guess I'll go alone."
"Really? Well, why do you want to go to Timmies so bad anyways? Wait, this sounds like cravings. You're not prego, are you?"
Cerise laughed, "No. Not yet anyways."
"Good, your parents would be pissed." She paused to let out a loud, drawn out yawn. "Well see you at school, Cerise, I'm tired and need my sleep. Goodnight."
"Night." Hanging up, Cerise put her phone in her pocket, and walked to the bathroom. Looking in her mirror, she sighed at her limp, auburn hair. Although she certainly didn't look like a million bucks, she decided to go anyways.
Her parents were both sleeping, so Cerise quietly put on her shoes, zipped up her sweater and went out the door.
Outside the air was pleasantly warm and she unzipped her sweater, embracing the breeze that surrounded her. Strolling out into the dark night, lit only by streetlights and the moon above, Cerise was glad she could go alone.
There was something so peaceful about being up at night alone, while the world slept.
Well, mostly everyone.
For as she passed by one house in particular, she heard someone call out her name-and her heart stopped.