If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say it is the 20th. I'm not sure though. Dates haven't been in my mind for the past while, nor have days when I come to think about it. Times though, yes they have always been in my mind. It's 12:02a.m.
I find myself feeling rather energetic for such a late time. It's not 12:02 PM, but AM; the next day. But I don't find myself tired, even after the day I've had. It was busy- I think.
It was summer; that much I know. The rest of it is a blur. It's now winter, several years after that summer but how many I'm uncertain. The days are short, the nights are long. But the days aren't any shorter than they were before. Because it's dark, does that mean it's night time? Night time is when the monsters come out, they say. They're never in for me, always with me no matter what.
I'd rather have physical monsters than mental ones. It wasn't my choice on whether or not I wanted them; they were given to me; like a Christmas gift consisting of a knitted jumper, they were given to me unwillingly.
It's dark now. Late at night or early in the morning, whichever way you look at it. I hear the wind and it's strange that I can't feel it. But tonight, this morning, I'm in the shelter of a building, inside not behind one. I don't feel any safer, but more wary.
Why am I here? The clock reads the 20th. I was right but the month I'm still unsure of. There's always something I'm unsure of, mostly dates and months. But there is also 'where'; where I'll be sleeping tonight, where I'll get money to buy food… things of that sort. But that's not what I find myself thinking about.
It was cold, very cold. The feeling of the wind on me was one I was used to. The presence of another human, however, was one I was not. The first word that struck me was familiar. The next was something that was new to me. They were emotions. Sure, I'm human and humans have emotions; so do I, but I've spent the past years locking them away. So, when they sprung out at me as though an ambush, I was not so much surprised as I was shocked.
I couldn't place her, but I didn't exactly try. If she was from my past, she was a nuisance, dangerous. Not physically dangerous as she was as small as they came, but to my mental health. Though those thoughts take up my every waking moment, I don't intentionally call them to me; they come.
That was several weeks ago when I first saw her. She came up to me with a shocked expression, one matching my own. I was feeding the ducks in the park with the bread I didn't eat. I love nature: the birds, wildlife, forests and anything else to do with it. I'm at home when I'm surrounded by nature, though it's not my real home.
Allie she said her name was, short for Allison. That's how she introduced herself to everyone. She was asking me something, but I was gone before I could hear it. That feeling was building up again. The one where it hurts to swallow, the one where tears are meant to come soon after- but they don't. They never do; crying's an emotion- I don't do emotions. Her voice faded away into nothingness as I ran as fast as I could from the bench. The bread was breaking into crumbs in my fisted hands.
It was snowing that night, or it could've been the day; all I know is that it was snowing. It had to have been snowing. If it wasn't, it wouldn't have happened. I was crossing the road to get to the bench. No one was going to keep me from my bench, not even my past. Though it's not my bench, I know that. But no one was going to keep me from it. The snow had frozen over and it was ice. It was snowing that day too. The day I had a passenger in the seat of my car; the last day I saw her.
I was crossing the road to get to my bench. I didn't see or hear the car coming. If I did, I would've jumped out of the way; no matter how bad my life gets, I'll never purposely harm myself. I have feelings as do I emotions. A knife to my skin or any other methods of self-harm will only prove me right.
One minute I was counting the bread slices I had for feeding the ducks, the next I was face down on the road in the snow, a sharp pain shooting through me. It was worst at my hip. I heard the sound of car tyres driving away in the snow, but had no idea why I didn't hear them before. The bread was scattered across the road in crumbs, too small for me to pick up. It took me two weeks to get that money for that stale bread loaf and after it all I couldn't even feed the ducks.
I got up from the ground, ignoring the pain in my side; it wasn't the worst pain I'd ever felt. It was the coldness seeping through my clothes that worried me. Those clothes were the only ones I had. How would I get them dry?
Being in a vulnerable state made me more aware of my surroundings; if someone were to have approached me, I'd have run, but running was out of the question as my hip hurt whenever I moved. But it was her, the familiar one I couldn't place. But she was just a 'someone' like everyone else, yet I wasn't too wary of her.
I don't remember much after seeing her but when I woke up I was wearing a blue coat, the hood over my head. A blanket was around me and there was a box beside me. I didn't open it; my years of isolation have taught me to never take anything suspicious. A box beside me? Yeah, that's somewhat suspicious.
My side was pounding and when I glanced down at it, I saw blood on the snow beneath me. There was bruising on my skin, a deep purple colour, and a cut in its centre. Though it was small and looked to be minor, it hurt like hell when I moved the slightest bit. The winter sun had gone down, but it was still day time. I didn't know the exact time.
12:05A.M and I feel no less energetic than I did three minutes ago. I sleep when I can, if I can, with no set time. I don't sleep unless I find a place that's safe yet tonight I have a place, but that's what stops me. Why do I have a place? How long have I been here? I remember the familiar girl catching up with me before it all went black. I'm now in a bed in a strange room I don't recognise.
The bed, although comfortable to a certain extent, is uncomfortable. It's cold and rather lumpy; how I can say that when I've been sleeping on benches and in alleyways for the past few years, I don't know, but that's how it feels.
12:06A.M now. One whole minute has passed since the last. I've been counting: sixty three seconds now. Counting is my way of being in control of things. I have no control of time, so why it makes me feel in control I have no idea. But it does.
It's dark; I'm unable to see anything around me. Pitch black. There's a narrow strip of light ahead of me, a vertical one but that's all I see. It illuminates nothing, not helping my sight in the slightest. There's a cover over me, a thick one. I take it off my body; I'm sweating profusely but I'm not warm at all. I close my eyes as my breathing accelerates rapidly.
My hands cover my eyes from the abrupt light. I wait several seconds- seven to be exact- for it to disappear. It doesn't and I lower my hands from my eyes, wincing from its brightness. The door is open and a figure is standing in it, a black outline of a person. One of their hands is leaning against the door, as though they're resting their weight solely on the one hand.
It's a woman if the figure's body tells me anything. She's wearing a robe, one that falls to her knees. It's tied at her small waist and I see the outline of the knotted bow by her side. Her hair, though the outline is all I see, is down her back, cascading over her shoulders in wavy locks. They're messy, as though she's just gotten out of bed without brushing it. 12:09A.M; she probably just has gotten out of bed.
'How are you feeling?' The first words I've heard since I've woken. It's the familiar girl's voice and I feel relieved it's her. Allison, she said was her name, Allie for short. My throat tightens with the feeling but I don't let myself cry; she died because of me- I don't deserve that emotion.
The seconds pass, eleven of them, and I haven't spoken a word. How am I feeling? I'm feeling… nothing. I don't feel good, I don't feel bad… nothing. The pain of my side is a dull throb, my throat is tight… nothing. I shouldn't be allowed to feel anything.
A sigh catches my attention and I look up to see the figure's shoulders slump in a defeated gesture. 'You don't remember me, do you?'
I don't speak. Remember her? I was right; she's part of my past- something I can't bear. She looks familiar but she's right, I don't remember her. I shake my head, knowing full well she can't see me in the dark. My silence is taken as an agreement to her question and her head falls against the door with a soft thud. Her stance looks weary, defeated… drained. She's always been so full of life when I've seen her around; this look doesn't go with her.
'I don't know what to do,' she says in a voice no more than a whisper, but I hear her perfectly. 'I've tried to talk to you but you ran away. I helped you when you were hit by that car but you were gone by the time I went back to see you. I need to talk to you. You left me the first time. I know I was ugly and a mess and that you were probably embarrassed to be seen with me, but you could've called. I missed you.'
Silence is what follows but how long of it, for once, I don't know. She missed me? I think she has the wrong person. No one missed me when I left- I had no one to miss me. No one but A.J, then she died at my hands. I deserve this life.
'You really don't remember me? We… we were best friends? Allie, Allison Jamison? We were best friends since birth, forever and always? That's what you used to tell me…'
I hear nothing. I feel nothing. I see, taste and smell nothing. The words she speaks are the only things in my head. That name. Her name. Allison Jamison, Allie Jamison- A.J, I called her.
Called- that's the key word in the sentence. The 'ed' part, as in past tense? Yes, that's because she's dead. She's dead! It's my fault she's dead and whoever this is pretending she's my A.J… her next words catch me off guard.
'What about 'until the end', Derren? What about it? That was your promise to me. Then the next day, the next day you were gone. Did I do something wrong? Please, say something, anything. Scream at me, shout- I don't care. I just need to hear your voice."
I couldn't count for the life of me. I said those words to her. Until the end. One of the last words I said to her before she died. 'You'll survive,' were the last. She didn't- I didn't touch wood. I didn't see the truck. I didn't stop the car. The car's airbags didn't come out in time. I didn't see her again. Because she died.
'She's dead'. The first words I've spoken in God-only-knows how long. She's dead.
'You. Her. A.J, my Allie, Allison Jamison is dead!' I scream at her. 'She's dead. She's dead and it's my fault.'
Something happens to me then. Whether it's because of the emotion I've been holding back for years or talking about my A.J, I don't know. But what I do know is that it happens. A droplet trickles down my cheek, another one following it. They stream, some fast, some slow, down my cheeks. They're from my eyes, my tear ducts to be exact. They pass my nose, flow over my lips as they leave their salty tanginess- a reminder of how selfish I am. I don't deserve these tears. They drip from my chin to my hands. They don't stop.
'She's not dead.' The voice is right beside me, to my left. Something wipes at the tears falling down my cheeks but I turn my head away from its touch. Whatever this girl wants, she can have it. I don't care about it anymore. I feel nothing but the tears that stream my cheeks, a strange feeling. I hear nothing but the sound of my uneven breaths and they try to calm my sobs. Nothing will ever be tasted but the saltiness of the tears I shed. I'm nothing.
The bed squeaks beside me and I'm tilted to my left slightly. Fingers brush my cheeks, thumbs wiping the tears I shed away. I let it happen- I'm nothing but the ghost of my past, the shell of a person.
'Derren, look at me.'
I can't. I won't. I can't look at her because I won't be able to bear it. I won't look at her because I can't bear it; two different words, the same outcome- both negative. So I don't look at her. She's lying. She has to be lying. My A.J is dead. She left the world, her life. She left me. She wipes the tears from my cheeks.
'She's not dead. She never died, she was in a coma. When I woke up, you were gone. I was devastated.'
'She was devastated. She's not you. She's dead!'
'She isn't.' Tears leak from her eyes. Her hazel eyes.
My stomach lurches and I spring up from the bed, resting my hands beneath my head. No. I was imagining that. She doesn't have my A.J's eyes. My A.J's eyes are unique, one of a kind. This girl doesn't have them, she doesn't. Allie jumps up from the bed with me, grabbing a bucket from underneath. I don't have the energy to ask what it's for. 12:14a.m, five minutes have passed. Twelve minutes ago I was full of energy. I'm drained, exhausted and wrecked. I need something, anything… I need my A.J.
But my A.J is dead. She's not coming back. She's not this person in front of me. But she has A.J's eyes, this girl in front of me. The hazel ones that only my A.J has, had. I'm becoming less unsure of which tense to use. My stomach drops and Allie jumps off the bed with me.
My stomach is empty, completely empty. Nothing resides inside it and I don't eat much so that's saying something. Allie has the bucket in her hands under my head as I empty my stomach into it. Tears and sweat are on my cheeks and face; I'm dry heaving. My hair is being pushed back from my sweat covered forehead by fingers, fingers with soft and smooth skin. I'm a mess but I don't push the hand away.
She's doing what my A.J would've done for me. She pushes the hair from my forehead, idly twirling a strand on her finger before continuing with her brushing. Her other hand is wiping the tears from my face with a cold, damp cloth. But she doesn't give up, even when the tears are soon replaced by more soon after they're wiped away. Her hand stops with its' brushing of my hair and drops to her lap where it stays.
I trace he outline of her hand, following its fingers and wrist until it disappears under the sleeve of her robe. I follow the shape of her nails, bitten and clean of varnish. Another tear falls. A.J bit her nails. A faded line from her thumb to the middle of her hand catches my attention, a scar. My stomach drops.
'No…' I whisper hoarsely. She wipes my forehead once more before pulling the cloth away from me. She follows my eyes to the hand and sees me looking at the scar. The scar she got when she was seven- when my A.J got when she was seven. The very same scar in the exact same place.
She raises her hand and takes mine with it, placing one of my fingers over the scar. 'Yes,' she whispers softly.
I shake my head frantically, not allowing it to be true. She's dead. My A.J, my Allie, Allison- she's dead. They said she was dead. I saw them come out of the room she was in with a body on a bed covered. Her parents were crying, distraught and in tears. Her mother was on the floor, barely supported by her weeping husband. I was gone. She was dead.
My head's stopped moving from side to side as something takes hold of my cheeks. The thumb brushes a tear away as it leaks out.
'I'm not dead,' she says. I'm looking at the scar, my thumb brushing over it lightly as her hand shakes. Or maybe it's my hand shaking. Maybe it's both our hands shaking. It's barely visible with the little light in the room, the door the only source. But now that I've seen it I can't forget it.
The scar she got when she was seven. The one she got from the broken window, shards of glass piercing her flesh as she fell. The shards of glass that caused her to scream that sharp, high pitched scream. The scream that I only ever heard from her on one other occasion- the night she died.
I'm not dead, she said. I'm not dead. She's not dead. A.J's not dead. She's lying. She's lying, a horrible lie that makes me angry. I'm full of rage, full of anger, full of annoyance… hope.
'I didn't die.' And that's when I lose it.
Letting out a growl of rage, I kick the bucket from her hands, splattering my vomit over the floor. But it's not enough. I storm across the room stumbling and kicking at anything my foot comes into contact with. My hands find a pole of some sort and I yank it up and over my head before throwing it across the room at a wall. I can't see it but it smashes into tiny shards. It's still not enough.
I kick at the shards with my bare feet, feeling the pain- welcoming it, anything to get my mind off her. But I still think about her. I kick at the wall, smearing the blood from my cut feet against its surface. It hurts, as does my side but I don't give in. I scream in frustration when it doesn't break, the wall doesn't cave in as I repeatedly kick at it with all my might. Why? Why?! I pound the wall, needing to break it. My arms are tiring, my head is pounding, my side aching and my feet throbbing. I punch the wall one last time before collapsing in a heap with my back to it.
Allie is sitting on the bed, silent tears streaming her cheeks as she watches me harm my body. She doesn't intervene. My forehead is lying on my knees, my back against the wall victim of my abuse and anger. I cry silent tears, letting it all out before it's to be bottled back up again for as long as I can. I don't feel the tears, can't feel them. The pain I have inflicted upon myself is numbing my body. But it does nothing for my mind.
Why did she have to die? Why did she leave me? Who is this girl? What does she want? Questions I can't answer course my mind but there's no answer unless I ask. What's the point? I'm alone. No one would miss me… I'd be better off gone. I know I couldn't do it, but the thoughts still plague me. Why shouldn't I? It's my life- no one could stop me.
But I would stop me. I don't deserve it. I deserve this life, this pain I have because I killed her. The girl I loved. Love actually. I always will, always have. That's something I'm sure of.
12:20a.m: eighteen minutes ago I was lost and confused. Twelve minutes later I'm even more lost and confused. A sharp pain jerks my head from my hands and I look down the find my knuckles bloody and cut. A drop of blood falls from my forehead but whether it's from a wound on my forehead or my knuckles, I don't know. I'm back to uncertainty; at least something hasn't changed.
I feel her presence beside me but I still start when she touches my hand. I pull it from her grasp and fist it in her direction, forgetting it's her and not someone else. Her eyes widen as she takes my fist. I lower my hand, disgusted with myself. How could I hit her? How could I even think about hitting her?
Her hand tentatively reaches out to mine but I don't pull away this time. I should, but I don't. I don't deserve her comfort or kindness. I was about to hit her. Physically hit her.
Something cold on my hand is felt and I glance down the find her dabbing a cloth across my swollen knuckles, erasing the blood I caused myself. I promised myself I would never self-harm myself. I add that to the list of self-disgust.
My fingers are clean of blood and the cloth is removed from my skin as she moves away from me. They all move away from me. I have a sudden urge to pull her back to me but I quash it before it's acted upon. I don't notice her get up and walk around me. She leaves the room through the door and it's silent. An overwhelming silence that has me wanting to scream to break its trance.
I hear the sound of running water before it stops. Allie arrives back in the room with a bucket and cloth in her hands. The bucket is dropped beside me as she makes her way through the door and to my side. Reaching inside it to get something I can't see, she grabs something I can't see- it's still dark and I'm startled when my shirt is lifted and something placed against my hip.
'It's okay,' she says to me. 'It's to clean your cut so it won't get infected.' Seconds later I feel an uncomfortable pain where she's holding the cloth. I don't move though, but sit still while she applies the disinfectant. It feels strange to sit here and let someone do something to me- for me. But I still don't move.
The cloth is soon removed and placed on my foot. She then gets up from her kneeling position, reaching for something outside the door. A mop in her hand, she crosses the room and starts mopping my stomach's contents off the floor. She doesn't complain, she doesn't say a word as she cleans. Nor do I as I sit and watch her, her golden mane swinging from side to side as she turns.
'There's mouthwash in the bucket.' After her motioning towards the bucket before getting back to work, I reach for it. I tentatively reach for its handle, moving it closer to me before slipping a hand inside. I find a bottle and take it out, twisting the lid and pouring some of the liquid into it. I swirl it around my mouth, the minty taste of it replacing the one of my vomit.
'Spit into the bucket.' I do as she tells me. Coming back towards me she reaches for the bucket with her hand; her hand with my A.J's scar. Willing myself not to break down again, I take a deep breath and hold it for a second. My head is throbbing as I lean back against the wall.
'Who are you?' I ask when I feel her sit next to me, her back also to the wall. I ask it in a soft voice, but I waver slightly on the last word.
'I'm Allison- Allie for short. And you're Derren. Or…'
'Dare,' I finish for her when she doesn't seem like she's going to. That's what my A.J used to call me. Though it sounded like my name, that wasn't the reason why she called me it. I never backed down from a dare- only she called me it.
'Yes.' Silence. I hear heavy breathing and glance over in its direction. Her eyes are closed as tears stream her cheeks. She doesn't wipe them away as they gather in pools before dropping off the edge of her chin onto her arm. I follow the tears track, tracing the lines and curves of her body until I'm back at her face.
Our eyes connect and I breathe in sharply when I see her hazel ones. My A.J's hazel ones, the ones I've never seen on anyone else before. A hand on her cheek catches my attention and I'm shocked to find it's my own. My thumb wipes the tears from her cheeks as my palm cups her face.
I stare into her hazel eyes, terrified that I'm dreaming this. It wouldn't be the first time that has happened but I don't think I can cope with it again. I then wake up disgusted at myself for dreaming dreams like this about the girl I killed… the girl I love.
'Why did you leave me?' she asks, more tears replacing the old ones I wiped away. Her voice falters on the words as hurt clouds her eyes.
'You left me.'
She shakes her head, her golden hair fanning her shoulders. 'I woke up to find you gone. The doctor said he saw you leave. You left.'
Flashes of that day blink through my mind: the car crashing, her screaming, blood everywhere, glass smashed, the ambulance, her being taken away from me… then the hospital. Her being rushed to surgery, alarms going off in the room she was in, her mother collapsing in a heap on the floor after the doctor spoke to them, a grave expression on her face…
'That wasn't me,' she whispers, holding a hand over mine on her cheek. 'Another girl was rushed in from a crash. She was put in the room I was in while I was waiting for surgery. It wasn't me… She didn't make it.'
A quick flash of light momentarily lights up the room. My gaze finds a light scar on her cheek, just below my thumb. It's faint, but I still see it. My thumb traces it, starting at her cheekbone and around her eye, ending above her eyebrow. I trace the shape of her face and brush the hair from her forehead as I gaze into her eyes, not once taking mine from hers. 'You didn't leave me.'
She shakes her head. 'You did.'
A wave of emotion so strong crashes over me as the truth sinks in. I left her. I left her. My A.J, she's not dead, she's here. She's alive. And I left her to wake up with me gone. 'I was ugly and a mess and you were probably embarrassed to be seen with me…' My gaze jerks back to hers as I remember some of the first words she said tonight. 'No. You're not- you could never be ugly. You were dead, they wheeled a body out of your room-'
'- the doctor said something to your mother- your mother cried… I couldn't stay. You were dead; your parents hated me… I had no one. I left you. I thought you were dead… I left you.' The words take their toll on me as I say them aloud, repeating them again and again. I'm hyperventilating but I don't notice this as I continue to repeat.
'Derren, stop. Please stop,' she begs me, tears on her cheeks. Tears on both our cheeks. I'm so emotional and I'm not meant to be. I can't be… won't be. 'When I woke up, you were gone. The doctor said you left when I asked for you but I didn't understand. Why would you leave? When you didn't come back at all, I thought I was having a nightmare. I was allowed out of the hospital but you still didn't come. I couldn't forget about you, it was impossible. I couldn't hate you… I loved you and knew I'd find you again. I had to Derren, I had to…'
'I'm so sorry,' I whisper, all my emotions pouring into those three little words. Though I'd rather it was three other little words, eight letters instead of nine. 'I-'
My words are cut off by her lips. My whole body goes into shock and I freeze, not believing that the girl I love has kissed me. I'm unable to move for the life of me as her lips move against mine, trying to draw a reaction. She doesn't get one and she starts to draw away. 'I'm sorry-'
But this time it's her who's cut off with my lips. Her apologies are forgotten as our lips crash together, my hands grasping her face as I cup her cheeks. Pulling her on top of me, I rest my hand on her hip and hold her. Her hair blocks my view of her face and I push it away, not wanting her to disappear for more than a second.
Our lips work against each-others, drawing the reactions we both want, need… crave. Arms circle my neck as I draw her closer, not wanting any space between us. She tastes of mint, probably from toothpaste and I get lost in her scent and taste.
Our kisses die down from the hot, passionate ones to slower, more drugging kisses. Reluctantly, I pull away from her mouth, trailing kisses all over her face, the scar on her cheek, making my way down her throat and neck. Her breathing hitches when I nip at her earlobe and I do it again, loving the sound. Her hands grasp my shoulders tighter as she moans slightly, nearly making me lose all sense. But I fight back the urge to do it again, trailing the kisses back up her neck to her lips, kissing them lightly before pulling away.
Her eyes pop open at the name, the name I call her. The most beautiful smile breaks across her face and I'm momentarily stunned by her beauty. She's beautiful. My A.J. She's my A.J.
'I-I love you. I always have, even when we were kids and I need to tell you-'
I stop breathing. She loves me. A.J loves me? I left her. She loves me. I love her. Oh God, do I love her. I love her more than anything.
I pull her face to mine, cutting her ramblings off as I kiss her with all I have. 'I love you,' I tell her in between kisses. 'I love you.' Our foreheads rest against each-others as our noses brush. One tears leaks from her eyes, a happy one, as a huge smile forms on her lips.
I've always thought there was something about the 20th of this month. I didn't know what, even if it was special, but there is something that doesn't happen every month. Everyone has one once a year, their day. Mine is even more special, I now realise. More special than everyone else's; I get to share it with the girl I love. Always have, always will- no matter what happens. It's a day I haven't thought of for a while, years actually, a day I almost forgot about. But my A.J's next words remind me of it.