Author's Note: Toonies, Loonies, are Canadian currency; the Loonie equivalent to one American dollar, while the Toonie is equivalent to two American dollars. Also, for those who do not know, a toque is a type of headwear, while Tim Horton's is a famous restaurant/cafe in Canada. Hopefully you enjoy this next installment :D
"Hey, Cerise." Steven called out softly from his balcony, which still sounded like a gunshot in the late, silent night. Hoping his father didn't hear him, he shut the glass door behind him, before leaning against the balcony's railing.
"Steven!" Cerise laughed in surprise, holding a hand to her heart. "You scared me so badly," still chuckling she walked off the sidewalk and onto his front lawn. "What are you doing up there?"
"Couldn't sleep. Sorry for scaring you; what are you doing out so late?" He studied her in the dim light, struck by how much she'd changed in four years. Gone were her thick-rimmed glasses and from what he could see, her sparkling blue braces that once adorned her crooked teeth as well.
In place of that once awkwardly pretty girl, was a young woman that bore little resemblance to his old friend. Now her orangey-blonde hair was a darker auburn with a light red hue, which hung curly past her shoulders.
Then she was out of the streetlights reach and darkness came over her in a shroud, leaving the rest of her to his imagination.
Standing on his lawn, she crossed her arms over her chest, a smile on her lips. "Believe it or not, I was just going to grab some coffee."
"At two in the morning? You're crazy." Laughing, he climbed onto his railing and sat on the cool stone, a good ten feet above the grass below.
"So I've been told."
"You were going alone?"
"Let's change that. If you can give me a minute, I'll join you." Steven got off the railing, wondering if perhaps that was a bit too forward. Even though it'd been a good four years, he worried that she might not have forgiven him.
"Okay." He made out a smile on her face, and put up a finger to indicate he wouldn't be too long and scurried back into his room. Gently he moved through his room, hoping not to wake up his dad. Grabbing his jacket off the ground and spraying on deodorant to cover the heavy scent of body odor he reeked of, Steven ran to the bathroom adjacent to his room.
In the mirror, his face was still streaked by sweat, while his grungy clothes were wrinkled and sweat-stained. Frustrated by his appearance, he changed into new clothes, washed his face clean and covered his curly blonde hair with a toque.
Satisfied that he'd toned his ugly a few notches down, he went back out onto the balcony.
Cerise was sitting on his front lawn, staring up at him with a teasing grin. "Just a minute?"
"Hey, not everyone can look good at two in the morning." He was about to climb over the balcony's railing when he heard a noise from inside the house. His heart stopped as he whipped around, slid the door open a crack and heard footsteps coming closer to his bedroom.
Knowing he wouldn't have enough time to get back into bed, he climbed over the railing, dropped onto the grass, wincing as his ankles took the brunt of the fall. "Ouch!" He stumbled to his feet, offering Cerise a hand, but then saw that she was already standing.
"Smooth, are you okay?"
"I'm fine." He grunted, turning his head to see his father's form visible behind the glass door that opened up to the balcony.
Expecting it to open and his father's angry voice to call him back, Steven was surprised to instead see his father walk away from the door. He received no text from his father, nor a call telling him that he was in huge trouble. Hesitating, he stared at the glass, sliding door, covered by a thin sheet and still, no silhouette appeared of his father's.
"Do you normally jump out of the balcony like that? Or are you really Spiderman and you had to fake being clumsy so your cover wouldn't be blown?" Laughing, she brushed a piece of grass off his shoulder.
"It didn't look that far from up there." He saw her hand retreat back into her pocket, and for a moment, wished it was back on his shoulder. "You're going to the Tim Horton's down the road?"
"No, the one at the other end of the city."
Steven blinked, then a small smile formed on his face. "I don't recall you being so sarcastic last time we talked." He thrust his hands into his pockets, feeling his wallet in one-his phone in the other.
"Four years is a long time."
"Yes," he glanced over his shoulder one more time, studying his dark house with a relieved sigh. "I guess it is." Steven nodded his head, biting his lower lip. "So why are you going to Tim Horton's so late at night?"
"Couldn't sleep." They walked side by side on the dark, house-lined road, their pace slow and relaxed. Cerise kept a good distance between her and Steven, so her arms could swing back and forth without bumping into his. It was funny, four years and she was still thinking about what would happen if their fingers brushed against each other's ever so slightly.
Would he pull back?
Or perhaps, would he latch on?
She wasn't sure which option was better.
"I feel you, when I can't sleep, I like to walk down dark, lonely roads at the dead of night." He laughed, while she kept silent, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. "Only to grab a drink that will make me less tired."
"Good. I'm glad I'm not the only one."
"What were you doing though? Out all alone on the balcony, watching me like a creep?"
"Like I said before, couldn't sleep." Which was both true and untrue-he was sure, that with enough time, he would be able to slip back into a state of mind where his mind was at rest. However, he wasn't sure that he wanted to, not with Julia crowding his mind like an obese person in a tight elevator.
All he could do was think of her and try to figure out what he would do with this newfound gift.
"We're in the same boat. Lucky us."
"Mhmm." Unsure of what to say next, Steven stared off into the night sky, which was awash with bright, twinkling stars. A jet, hundreds of meters off the ground, thundered overhead to the Winnipeg International Airport. He'd been on a plane once-when his family used to travel together to visit his grandparents in British Columbia.
"Are you still going to that private school?"
"Yep. It's not so bad anymore though, kind of grows on you. You still attending Kildonan?"
"Sure am. The school's alright, but it wont be that great anymore now that my boyfriend graduated this summer." Cerise paid extra attention to Steven as she told him in a roundabout way she wasn't single anymore. Would he grimace, frown or show any sign of disapproval?
Oddly enough, there was only a light smile on his lips. "Well only one year until you're graduated yourself." There were no questions about her boyfriend, only an amused smile and quick glance aimed at her.
"Yeah, it's pretty crazy isn't it? One more year left." She cocked her head. "What are you going to do when school's out?"
"I don't really know-maybe become a doctor, or nurse… a scientist. Haven't figured it all out just yet." Steven had been wondering about his life occupation for such a long time-so had his father. When school finally ended, what in the world was he going to do with the rest of his life? Unlike most people it seemed, Steven held no real aspirations or dreams; just plausible occupations that made the most sense to take.
Life was too random to plan anyhow, why not just let it come about and see what happened?
"Well you have lots of time to figure it out. I've always known what I was going to be-a hair and makeup stylist, then, when I'm through with that, I always wanted to be an architect. Or a sculptor. Anything that involves creating with your hands."
"Yeah," she smiled, "maybe that as well."
"That's a tall order."
"I wont do everything on that list, but I'm going to do what makes me the happiest. Life is too short to waste on what makes you unhappy." Cerise grinned at him, her pace picking up as they neared the near-empty, brightly lit café.
"So would you say you're happy right now?"
"I would, yes." Cerise slipped her hands into her pockets. "I couldn't be happier. What about you?"
A hundred thoughts ran through his mind at once when she asked him that question. There was just so many things that made him happy and others that made him unhappy, all happening at once. Especially now.
"No and yes," he answered truthfully, hoping that she wouldn't press him for details. "It's just been a crazy end to the summer-so many things happened I wasn't expecting."
She raised an eyebrow. "Like what?"
Then, despite wanting to keep most of his problems to himself, Steven told her what was bothering him. Well, except for Julia and the Dreamscape, that he continued to keep a secret. What could he possibly tell her about that anyways, there was no way she'd believe him. He was still having a hard time believing it himself.
As they walked into the Tim Horton's, he poured out all that was weighing down on him. His heart, he laid bare. When he got to telling about his father's cancer, Steven could hardly remain composure.
He pulled in a deep breath, blinking back the tears.
Behind the counter, a tired, older woman awaited his order. She rubbed her eyes, took in his order of an apple fritter and café mocha, and then told him the cost of his purchase.
Taking out his wallet, he paid with the loonies and toonies clustered inside. When he got back his change, he shuffled over to Cerise, who was waiting for her muffin and coffee.
"Do you know if your dad's going to get any better?" She asked, her tone soft, while she stared up at him with round, plain brown eyes.
"I don't know," he looked away from her, unable to maintain eye contact. "I heard from his doctor that he might just have a month left."
"A month? I'm so sorry, Steven." She took a step closer, gingerly wrapping him in her arms, hugging him tightly.
He returned the hug, surprised by the kind gesture.
It'd been four years since she'd hugged him. The last time, he remembered, was on a warm, September afternoon. They were both entering their first year of junior high, making new friends and unaware that their lives were slowly splitting apart.
During the previous summer, 4 years ago, they'd spent almost every day together, walking around the neighborhood, going to one another's house and talking for hours on end. It was the time when their childhoods were traded in for the more complicated, hormone-induced stage of life called teenagehood.
However, they still retained most of their innocence for the duration of the summer, playing more like children then young adults. Well, until a spark was ignited between them.
Though neither can remember exactly when it happened, they both remembered a time when they were talking and their eyes met. Unlike any time before, there was a current of attraction that shocked both of them.
Steven had looked away, his face reddening with embarrassment.
Cerise, surprised by the feelings in her chest, held his gaze with a smile planted on her face. When he looked back up at her, the feelings had dissipated for the most part. He laughed nervously, getting off his couch and suggested that they play outside.
During the next few days, those feelings would come up every so often, surprising them both. When he pulled on her hand, it wasn't the same anymore-she hoped that he wouldn't let go. And for him, he just wanted to spend every minute with her, feeling a newfound sadness when she had to go home after a day of hanging out.
He'd run to his window, open the blinds and watch her walk down his driveway.
Wishing he could walk beside her.
Then, one day, as summer was taking its last breath, he finally told her how he felt.
"Thanks Cerise." Steven stepped out of the hug, a smile on his face.
"Anytime." There was a slight dip in her smile, a knowing look in her eyes. Pausing, he returned the look, grabbed his apple fritter and beverage off the counter and walked towards a table.
For nearly an hour, Cerise and Steven talked continuously. They reminisced about the numerous memories they had made together, laughing at stupid things he'd done and silly things she'd said. There conversation slowly took on a more serious note as she told him about her tumultuous relationship with Desmond.
The other girls, abuse and arguments were never given much detail, but Steven was beginning to understand that she'd given his heart to a monster. Gently and without being forward, he suggested that she drop the relationship.
Cerise only waved off the suggestion, saying that every relationship had it's ups and downs. If she stuck with him, eventually they would overcome their issues. Besides, even if their relationship wasn't perfect, she remembered plenty of times when they were so happy together.
"But what if it doesn't get better? I thought all you wanted was to be happy?" Steven drank the rest of his cool, sugary mocha, an eyebrow raised.
"Desmond makes me happy." Her tone lowered as she reached for her cell, wishing that he would finally text her back.
"Okay," he smiled slightly, his blue eyes searching hers for any hint of dishonesty. He remembered the days following their break up, how Cerise had quickly found herself a new boyfriend. Then another, after the relationship crashed and burned. When that one fizzled out, she'd found yet another guy, and so on and so forth.
She was in love, he supposed, with falling in love.
"Don't worry about me, Steven. Desmond and I are going to be fine." She smiled, ate the last of her muffin and checked her cell phone. "Well this was fun, but I'm going home." Standing up, she hesitantly put her cell back in her jean pocket; Steven joined her and they walked out of the quiet, still café.
This time, both of them weary from the late night and intense discussion, they strolled home in silence. Neither spoke a word until they came up to Steven's home.
"Goodnight Steven." Cerise smiled, opening her arms to hug her old friend.
"Take care, Cerise." He accepted and returned the hug, holding her close.
He forgot how amazing her hugs were.
She stepped out of the hug, a large smile on her face. "I hope we can do this again."
"Me too." He turned away, walking towards his house.
"Bye, Steven." Cerise watched him grab the ledge of a window to boost himself closer to the balcony, where he pulled himself onto by the railing. When he was safely on the balcony he gave her a short wave and entered his bedroom.
Her heart nearly stopped when she felt her cell vibrate in her pocket.
She nervously checked her phone, hoping against reason that her boyfriend had finally taken the time to respond. It was probably just Steven though, wishing her a goodnight and saying how much he'd enjoyed the evening.
However, she was wrong-it was Desmond.
Though it was a simple text, she felt as if the man had written her a love song. "Sorry Cerise," it read, "been busy, having a good trip. Hope you're doing good, love you babe." At the end there was a heart.
She quickly replied, her heart hammering in her chest. "Love you too! Have fun!" She put in more hearts and emoticons, waiting for another reply. She began walking home, holding her cell tightly in her palm.
When she got home, she put her cell back in her pocket, slipped inside and quietly went into the kitchen for a glass of milk. Her kitchen, cleaned and immaculate as always, was thankfully unoccupied. Right now, she only wanted to be alone, to think about Desmond.
Putting her phone on the wooden, round table, she thought back to her best memory of Desmond.
It was the time she'd gone on her first date with Desmond. Before then they'd hung out together constantly, flirting, laughing and joking with the ease of two best friends. They were simply compatible-liking the same music, food, activities and could relate very well on so many levels. Perfect for each other.
One day, as they were walking to Dairy Queen during their lunch break, everything changed between them. A cool spring breeze filled the air with the smell of dead leaves, rain and flowers. Cars drove by on the slushy, grimy roads as the two walked on the sidewalk.
Desmond had been telling her a story, she'd been laughing along, staring up at him with wide, brown eyes. He'd met her gaze, smiling gently as he finished his tale. Both of them laughed, she commented on something nearby, swinging her arms nonchalantly. He saw what she was pointing out, swinging his arms as well.
Their fingers brushed up against one another, a current of electricity shooting up her arm. Or so it felt like. Her heart stopped, their fingers brushed up against each other again, this time, stopping one another.
Neither of them paid their hands any attention, though that was all Cerise was thinking about as they walked. Her index finger curled over his, slowly intertwining into his. He squeezed her hand gently, staring down at her with a wide grin.
"Are you busy, next Friday?" Desmond had asked, his face glowing. Goodness, she couldn't get enough of how amazing he looked when he smiled.
"Not really," she gave his hand a gentle squeeze, "can you change that?"
"I think so. That is, if you're up to going out for supper, maybe come back to my place and watch a movie?" He didn't make it sound like a question and Cerise didn't take it as one.
"I think that could work."
Yes you are, Cerise had thought with a smile, her heart racing in her chest. She'd been falling in love with him for months as their friendship blossomed. Now, she was sure that he felt the same way, she couldn't describe how amazing that felt.
Their Friday night together had been just as fantastic as she'd hoped it would be. Dinner was tasty, he'd paid for it all at the local Olive Garden and had took her hand in his. His piercing, green eyes staring at her for most of the night.
Though not staring at her, but staring inside her, seeing how she truly felt, what she was really saying. She didn't think it was necessary to act a certain way around him, since they'd always been close friends. There was no awkwardness, or miscommunication. Instead it was a fabulous night-one that she would treasure.
Except, as she was finding out now, those nights would never last. Eventually you'd have to wake up from the dream, to find yourself facing dark, cold reality
Cerise checked her phone once more, a frown on her face as she saw that he hadn't replied.
All she got was one text.
For now, it would have to do.