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Chapter SIX

 

I woke up with a callous, unpleasant headache and a jabbing ache in my right side. Where was I? I wanted to open my eyes, desperate to answer my own unspoken question, but found them to unwillingly obey. I could see a red glow beneath my eyelids, announcing that it was sunny and effervescent wherever I was unknowingly being kept. I would have preferred the shadows.

I cleared my throat, the action sore and stiff as I worked to crack my eyes open and reveal my surroundings. I felt off balance, like the world around me was spinning and I was not in my own skin. I was an actor in my own life, going through the motions that weren’t my own and trying to piece everything together that should have naturally made sense to me. The tips of fingers were numb, but I found my legs to be working properly as I tested out each muscle and part on my body and stared up at the white ceiling. There was no sound in the room—just a tense, uncomfortable silence that hardly announced the life of another human being anywhere near me. I ached to hear something—anything—that would give me a clue as to where I was being kept in this in between state.

My round eyes moved leisurely and unhurriedly around the room, taking in the unfamiliar and quaint environment as I stared at each tan wall, lined with nothing but a simple calendar and old-fashioned black rimmed clock. It did not seem as if anyone was truly living here from the hint of scarce accessory and arrangement of the small living space. Where was I? Surely I had never been here before. My mind pushed for a familiar memory, something that would hint as to what had happened that had brought me here. The dream had all been too real. I clung onto the words of the man’s voice in my nightmare, trying to make sense of every little hint that he had spoken in my mind as I held on to the experience like a lifeline. I was not about to forget what had happened. I had to figure out what the nightmare had meant and what I was supposed to make of it.

“Ah. Sleeping Beauty is finally awake. You know, you talk in your sleep.”

I knew that voice. It took me a few seconds to search for a coherent name that went with the deep timbre of the tenor voice spoken in the quiet room, and once I found the name I had been looking for, memories flooded back in a wave of chaos as they hit my scattered brain one by one in chaotic notion. My birthday party…Alexa flirting with Aaron and my lack of petty, vile jealousy, when I recall—touching Aaron and the excruciating pain that had come from the trifling act…

I winced as the memory was recalled and skimmed my eyes in the direction of the voice, searching for his midnight eyes until I was granted with what I had desired. His smirk was set arrogantly on his face, giving his eyes a dim light in the dark shadows as he leaned towards me, propping his head on his elbows as he gave me the once over. Aaron seemed perfectly at ease, given my sullen state, and in no hurry to explain to me what had happened and where I was. Or the most important fact: how I had gotten here.

I narrowed my eyes, sending him a piercing look that demanded answers. Now. But I had yet to find my voice over the gravely sandpaper that was supposedly my throat. Aaron, sensing my state and that I would not be talking for a good minute or so, went on to kindheartedly and helpfully explain.

“You fainted. Luckily I was there to catch you, or you would have hit your head harder than you already did.” His lie was so calm—so smooth—that I almost believed it. I would have taken it to heart and assumed it to be correct, if I hadn’t already known what had happened and had been so sure of my knowledge and understanding of the tacit facts on the matter at hand.

I swallowed the lump in my throat, opening my mouth to speak before Aaron predictably cut me off with a remark of his own.

“You seemed restless in your sleep. Have a nightmare?” he mused softly, his smirk widening a little in to what could have been identified as far from a joyful leering grin. More of a grimace with a hint of self-preservation.

“You would know. Knowing you, you probably put it there,” I replied, staring deep into his eyes as I did so, searching for any shift in his movement or gaze. But he remained calm and steady, like he had already rehearsed this scene in his head several different ways and knew just what to say regarding anything I had to speak to him.

“And how would I do that?” he ask, tilting his head enquiringly to the side. “Really, I am curious. What is your theory this time? But you can’t say I messed with your mind again.”

“Dang,” I muttered under my breath, sarcasm coming naturally to me as I lightly looked up at the ceiling and pondered my options. I had not really come up with a theory to be exact. I had actually been hoping he would have been nice enough to tell me what the heck was going on before I would have to offer any guess of my own.

Pathetic mistake.

I looked over at him with a small grin, jokingly testing him as I asked, “Are you a superhero?” I paused and considered. “Superman—that’s my theory.”

Aaron chuckled darkly, his expression diverted and the least bit distracted as he shook his head. “That’s the best you could come up with? C’mon, Claire. I’m hardly a hero.”

“I don’t believe that,” I murmured, astounding myself at the honesty in my voice as I stared at his face. I swallowed hard and realized how much my words towards him—compliment, even—were true. Aaron was the only person I knew who could take whatever pain I was feeling away, but also inflict it upon me to the most extreme fatality. While it frightened me to be around him, I also felt like I couldn’t be without him and still feel whole. Something about the way his gaze met mine, shadowed over but yet so open and surreal, that left me speechless and begging for answers. He was different than anyone I had ever met in our small town of Hawthorne, Nevada, and I was hungry for answers he had yet to share and reveal to me. Answers I was not sure if I would ever discover, but knew that I must.

“What makes you so sure of me?” Aaron murmured, straightening up as he crossed his arms across his broad chest and looked sardonically at my face.

“I’ve seen what kind of a person you are in those small moments when you aren’t acting like a complete moron.” I smiled a small smile as Aaron quietly chuckled, hardly showing humor. “You’ve saved me from myself, although I don’t even know who me is or what is happening to me.” I was almost tempted to share my latest discovery of what I had seen of Jackie with him, but found myself hesitant. Aaron was right—how could I be so sure of him when I hardly knew anything about this boy who had perpetrated pain upon me, just because I touched him and played with his temper? I was sure it had been him, although I did not want to admit it to myself, for it upset me to believe that he would ever want to voluntarily hurt me in any way. What reason would he have to make me feel pain so unreal and nearly terminal?

And what reason did I have to trust him?

Aaron shook head, running a hand through his hair, an action I had already become so attuned to. “You’re honestly not going to ever let that go, are you? What do I have to say to you to get it through your head that I haven’t done anything to you? What you’re experiencing is all an act of your imagination. A virus, you could call it. We all have headaches, so whatever you believe I am doing to you, just drop it, because you’re just overreacting. This is the last time I’m going to explain it to you, and I don’t know how else I can put it into your head any simpler than that.” His voice held a dark edge I had never heard from him before, and it terrified me. Never had I been spoken to in such a way, and it angered me that he was lying to me in such a way that brought guilt upon myself and caused me to lie to my very being.

“I’m overreacting? If I’m overreacting, then how did I end up here, Aaron?” I demanded, the sensation of his name extraneous on my lips. “Why did I have a dream of some sinister creature coming after me and whispering words into my mind that were so foreign but yet felt so familiar? Does that sound crazy?” I blew out a breath. Even I had to admit it to myself that it sounded completely insane. I belonged in some sort of metal home from all of the bizarre chatter I was babbling on about and he knew it.

“Actually, yes it does,” Aaron said, a smirk once again taking

over his expression and he lightly kept down a chuckle at my rambling. My cheeks flushed an odd shade of red, two hot spots settling underneath my eyes as I preoccupied my gaze away from his insignificant mockery.

“You know what? Whatever. Where am I anyway?” I asked, looking around once more at the unadorned light tan walls.

“That’s for me to know and you to find out later. You have a curfew?” he questioned, raising an eyebrow as he stood up and walked over to the calendar.

I stared at him as he walked, the muscles in his back tightening as he flipped the calendar to the next month and scribbled something onto an unknown square of the week. I blew out a breath and straightened up on the bed, my head throbbing as I pinched the area between my eyebrows with my thumb and forefinger.

“If I did, I would have already vandalized it. But I do have a foster mother who will lose her mind when she finds out that one of my fellow classmates kidnapped me against my own free will at my birthday party and won’t tell me where he’s keeping me.” I crossed my arms across my chest, eyes tightening as Aaron turned back around with a sly grin. He reached for a glass of water on a wooden table in the right corner of the room, one I had not noticed earlier while my vision was spinning, and some Tylenol, bringing the medication to my rescue as he shrugged indifferently.

“It doesn’t necessarily count as kidnapping when you know the guy. Besides, I’m the superhero, remember? Just keeping my damsel in distress proper company while she recovers her sanity.” He winked and before I could even conjure up something to protest with, his face turned more serious as he sat back down in the chair beside my bed and he leaned towards me. “Anyway, I already settled it with your friend Jackie. Gwendolyn thinks you’re over at her house for the weekend celebrating your leftover “after-party excitement” with her while she’s at work.”

“Why are you doing this?” I demanded after I swallowed the Tylenol and downed some of the water, surprising myself on how thirsty I was. “And when did you ever meet Gwen? I never told you about her.”

Aaron shrugged and held my gaze gently, surprising me that his eyes could be so placid and tender as his voice lowered. “I know a lot more about you than you think.”

“Stalker,” I replied breathlessly, avoiding his gaze as I swallowed the imaginary lump in my throat.

He chuckled at my comment and reaction as he backed away, still keeping his warm, hot gaze on mine. “You said you wanted to know the answers to your…theories. I figured once you had me alone you would take the most instant opportunity you could to drive them out of me against my own free will.”

I glowered at the wall in front of me, regaining my breath and lucidity as I counted my heartbeats. He was right. Out of all of the rotten luck, Aaron always knew the right thing to say to keep me thinking and divert my attention away from the matter at hand. I turned to look at him fiercely, my own irritability and petulance surprising myself as I retorted his words.

“You tell me where we are right now and I’ll leave the whole matter behind. We’ll pretend this whole thing never happened and you can take me to Jackie’s house without another word spoken of it. Right now,” I reasoned, straightening up more to show him that I was in the proper condition to leave on my own if the matter came to it, just as long as I could get past him and on to the door, wherever it may be. His tall frame was blocking any visible exit behind his broad toned shoulders.

Aaron cocked his head to the side, measuring just how much I was lying as his dark eyebrows rose with contemplation. “You’re bluffing.”

I shrugged and tucked my feet beneath my legs, cocking my own head to the side to match his as I slowly smiled, repeating his earlier words in an exaggerated imitation of him. “That’s for me to know and you to find out later.”

Aaron laughed quietly and shook his head once, standing up and sitting next to me on the queen sized pale mattress, his body hazardously close to mine. I almost forgot how to breathe as he turned his head to the left and looked at me attentively and observantly. He leaned his head back so that he was at eye level with me and stared up at the ceiling, clearly frustrated and I knew I was winning.

I snickered.

“Beautiful, intelligent, and devious. What did I ever do to warrant this horrid curse?” he said more to himself as he ran his hands over his face in the most distracting and, to my consternation, attractive, motion I had ever seen.

I rolled my eyes and whacked a fluffy pillow at him. “Warrant this horrid curse? That’s a new one for you. Possibly even from anyone I know.” I laughed and looked at him thoughtfully, seemingly seeing him through new eyes as he seemed to loosen up a bit around me. It made me smile at the thought of what effect I would possibly have on this boy that I hardly knew. I hurried to shove the thought away and continued. “So, are you going to tell me where we are or do I have to be more devious to get you to actually fess up?”

The room was quiet except for the sound of his breathy sigh, anticipating whether or not he could truly trust to tell me. I did not understand any of it. Why would Aaron take me anywhere in the first place, and what was Jackie thinking of right now regarding my unexpected absence? I sighed in exasperation and aggravation. She was probably freaking out, calling every single person who had been at the party last night to find out where I went with Aaron. I was dead when I got home, with Jackie and Gwendolyn if she were to find out that I was not really over at Jackie’s house for the weekend. I really hoped Jackie wasn’t stupid or naïve enough to phone my foster mother in a panic enraged attack to find out where I was and if I had ever made it home safely after the party and my sudden personally unexpressed disappearance. Especially if she saw me leave with Aaron…

I groaned of the possibilities concerning the outcome.

 “You are in my bedroom,” Aaron said as a matter-of-fact, quietly and without meeting my gaze. My eyebrows rose automatically, fighting a self-betrayed blush down as I realized we were lying on his bed. Alone. I laughed at the straightforwardness of the situation and waited for him to continue, seeing if he would. What reason would he have to bring me home to his room?

“Your bedroom?” I contemplated, more of a statement than a question when he did not continue with the disconcerting proclamation. “You took me home to your room? Why would you do that?” I choked down a gasp. I was not sure I truly wanted to know the answers to my own guilt-ridden questions.

Aaron laughed abruptly, the first time I had ever really heard him laugh out loud so freely. It was like music, melodic and symphonic, singing a tune I automatically wanted to hear again as soon as it concluded. The sound reverberated throughout the room, bouncing along the walls and ceiling before resting directly on my heart. I softly smiled, catching myself off guard at the simple reaction. Aaron was starting to have a hold on me that both petrified me and filled my whole being with racing adrenaline.

“Don’t flatter yourself. It’s not the conclusion you’re thinking, I can assure you. Unless you want it to come to that…” he flirted, moving towards me and pushing the hair off my neck, avoiding contact with my skin.

“Don’t touch me.”

Aaron chuckled before his expression sobered up and he sighed. “I…made a mistake,” he admitted almost shamefully before composing himself and guarding his expression again with one of arrogance and haughtiness, eternally present on his appearance.

“A mistake?” I asked, the words twisting themselves into an uncanny formation in my mouth, leaving behind a bitter aftertaste that made me involuntarily scrunch my nose up. How could bringing me here have been a mistake? The words rubbed me in the strangest way. To lighten up the moment, I added, “Aaron Safford made a mistake?”

Aaron convincingly smirked at my efforts to alleviate the moment as he rolled his eyes. “Yes. I should have been more aware of my surroundings last night. I shouldn’t have let you touch me…”

“You never did tell me about what happened with that,” I reminded him, pulling my knees up and tucking them underneath my chin, like a child waiting for a bedtime story from their guardian or grandparent.

“Ah, I thought you said if I told you where you were being kept that you would never bring up the matter again. Am I not correct?” he grinned.

I smiled mischievously, averting my gaze before shrugging, “Congratulations, I told you that you would find out later. Now tell me,” I said, more a question than a mandatory and binding request.

“If I told you, I’d have to kill you?”

“Nice try,” I smiled softly, posture still expectant as he let out a frustrated sigh. I was getting good at this. And I could not even remember a time I had smiled so much in my life, even with Jackie. Aaron brought out the strangest sides and emotions in me, all tumbling free after years of endless waiting to find themselves on the center surface of my soul.

“The truth is…that I can’t tell you today. Not now. There are too many witnesses...”

I looked around with creased eyebrows, examining the room before turning back to him and giving him a crazy, incredulous look. Was he insane? “There’s nobody here. And you call me crazy,” I added with a murmur.

“That’s what they want you to think,” he said, getting up from the bed and jabbing his thumb towards the exit. “C’mon, I’ll take you to Jackie’s. I think I’ve talked to you and been around you far more than what is good for you.”

“What’s good for me?” I questioned, my eyebrows deepening with confusion in the center above of my green eyes.

“Good for us,” he concluded, opening the door and sweeping his hand for me to lead the way as I scrambled to my feet and awkwardly passed him through the exit of his bedroom.

Jackie was going to flip.

 


Submitted: September 09, 2015

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