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“La la la la la,” my mother and me sang out loud to the lyrics of “lovin you”. The windows were rolled all the way down, and the wind blew pleasantly on our faces, ruffling our hair. I was excited as we drove past the Shasta Mountains. I was spending the summer with my dad, Jordan, in my mother’s case. My parents were separated, and I saw my dad scarcely because of it. But that doesn’t mean we don't stay in contact, my parents are friends. Yeah, I know they’re separated but they somehow only just wanted to be friends after I was five. Perhaps it should bother me, but it really doesn’t. I’d rather have them close than not close at all. They talked on the phone like most friends do, and they even talk about whom they dated. I always thought I could get them back together, especially when I was nine. But as the years progressed I finally understood that a girl and a guy could just be friends. In fact, my best friend was a guy. His name is Jaylen and we’ve been best friends since we were like four. We’re both fifteen and that still hasn’t changed. Jaylen was always like a brother to me, and even though he lives in California, while I lived in southern Oregon, we’re still really close. It works though, because I go to my dads every other season. Summer and winter, and some holidays like thanksgiving. I was so excited to see him. It’s really easy to hang out with Jaylen because he’s so much like me. He likes to listen as much as he likes to talk, and so do I. Jaylen lives with his dad in California, his mom died when he was younger. Both of our dads are friends so it’s really cool, besides what my dad thinks. He thinks that our “friendship will blossom into something more” as he puts it. He’s not alone, either. My mom says the same thing, and even though I try to convince them as much as I can that him and me aren’t like that, it doesn’t work. And he’s the only boy I’m allowed to talk to on the phone, which is funny. But my mom is stubborn and believes what she wants, and no amount of convincing examples is going to change her mind.
I looked up at my mother then, or I think of her as my best girl friend. Even though we have a really close relationship, she’s still my mother. On occasions when I’d get sick, the mother mode would kick in. I do the same to her though. My mother gets really bad headaches some times and will lay in bed all day with gloves on, and it worries me. Not just because it’ll be hot when she wears them, but also because she gets the headaches so often, and it only started like 7 months ago. I tried to talk her into going to a doctor but she insists that it will pass. My mother hates the doctor for some reason; she doesn’t even go for physicals. But the next day the headaches would be gone and she’d return back to her happy bubbly self. “Lalalalala,” my mother and I have some similarities, but we don't look the same. I look more like my dad. My mother and I have the same hair, thick and long because she is half Samoan, and the same nose. This suits me fine, but I have my dads almond shaped eyes but my mom’s sienna eye color. I have a heart shaped face like my dad, while my mom has a round face. My mother is curvy while I have a very petite frame. My skin is the same beautiful auburn color though. I laughed as my mother tried to hit the high notes. She laughed too when I tried. My voice cut off, and she busted into loud guffaws. I looked out my windows as we passed the mountains curving around the hillside. I’d miss them, but I really wanted to see my dad. And Jaylen, just the same. I started singing the song again, “I got this, I got this,” my mother told me. I braced myself as she tried to hit the high note; she was sure to crack some windows. I pursed my lips. She put her head back on the headrest and closed her eyes, determined to hit the note. Her voice squeaked and I burst into loud guffaws. I kept laughing until my eyes opened. My laugh morphed in to a scream. “MOM! LOOK OUT!” her eyes opened suddenly as she saw the big white truck coming straight toward us. She jerked the wheel so hard that it caused us to swerve right in front of the truck only making its target much easier. Her mouth turned into a little ‘o’ of horror as the truck proceeded to come to the right side of
the car; my side. She froze for about a millisecond; it looked like she was trying to calculate something. It was all very quick then. She tried to turn the wheel but the car swerved in circles, throwing us to both sides of the car. It was hard to move when you’re up aside a window. But the next thing was so quick; I doubted if it really happened. “PULSE!” my mother screamed. There was a quick bright light, snicker of whiteness flashing all around. A siren sounded, too high pitched for my ears. It sounded like the sound you made when you circled the rim of a wine glass full of water. I threw my arms over my face as the truck slammed our little coupe of a car onto the ledge of the hillside.
It was dark. I couldn’t open my eyes or feel anything around me. But I could hear. And what I heard had nothing to do with have just happened. Despite the situation we had just been through, I heard my mother’s voice. I wanted to call her name, to ask if she was okay, but I wasn’t in any condition to ask. I didn’t even know if I was conscious. I heard glass crinkling all around me and I was pretty sure the car was flipped over, but I couldn’t feel my face. I tried to tune that out and listen to my mother’s voice. “I have to do it,” she cried. It had to be her voice, but I never heard my mother cry like that. It sounded like she was . . . . .Trying to persuade some one. Who was she talking to? I didn’t know, so I listened. “It’s too dangerous; you have to let her go.” It was a male’s voice. Someone indeed. Where the hell did he come from? Why wasn’t he helping us? Did he not see the car turned over on the side of the road?
“But it could live on, I wont let her go!” her tone shifted after a moment of deliberating and she sounded determined. I heard her sigh and then something moved closer to me. “Stella no, you don't know what you’re doing. She’s only fifteen, she wouldn’t be able to handle it!” he persuaded. Handle what? “I will not let her die! How could you consider that?!” “I only consider what’s right. Stella, be reasonable!” I wanted to open my eyes, to see what they were talking about, to tell them that I was alive. I heard the shuffling sound; it was so close. “PULSE!” she yelled. “STELLA, NO!” and then there was the sound again. It was louder than I remembered. I felt, for the first time, fingers pushing onto my head. It was then that the dreadful tugging started. It was tugging too hard on the edge of my conscious, threatening to put me in an endless sleep. Behind the rushing of my ears I heard a crunching sound. The pain rushed towards me at once and I cringed into what felt like glass fragments. I felt something wet and hot all around me, especially down the sides of my face. Blood? I also felt something stabbing – not an ache or pain, no those couldn’t be the words – but a searing ripping feel onto my sides, making it hard to breathe. And then the bright light came, and the tugging tugged even harder. It felt as if there was a tornado in my head and it was banging against the walls of my head, trying to escape. I found my voice and I screamed. Well, moaned actually because there was something sitting on my throat – or at least felt like it. Breathing hurt, I didn’t want to. I wanted to die to stop the pain. Ribs, I broke some ribs. But that’s as far as my thoughts went as to what I had broken. There was a new pain, superseding the others. It felt as if something was ripping my head in separate directions. I think my back arched, but I still could not move any farther than that because it seemed there wasn’t enough space. The tugging in my mind morphed in to tearing shock waves, like lightening. Every time I thought about the pain, shockwaves tingled all over my body. But I couldn’t not think
about it. What else was there to think about? My fingers, my head, my stomach; it was everywhere, sizzling me with dilution as if I were bacon on a skillet. I wanted to find my mothers face for comfort – for protection – but I could see nothing beyond the blinding white light. The tugging continued, and then my body went limp, giving up on its weak spasms that did nothing but hurt me further. I gave up and let the pain have me, hoping it would finish me off soon. “I love you.” It was my mother. Her voice sounded really hoarse, like she was gasping for air, or croaking. I could see her happy face in my mind – the way it should be – but the white light pushed away. Come back, I pleaded. “This is just the beginning.” The treacherous man whispered in my ear. “Go Stella, you’ve done enough damage.” No, no! Come back, I pleaded. And then the white light looked as if it were burning. White charred holes filled my vision, morphing the whiteness to black. I felt pressure on my throat, suffocating me, as if a frog was slowly climbing its way out of my throat but not being able to escape. The sound wailed again. And then I lost conscious.
Blackness, the kind where you seem to be asleep, was all I saw. But this was no dream, it couldn’t be. It was too . . . . . Real. My mind was not that creative to where I could think of that truck hitting us that hard, and the shrillness of that sound was much too high. I’ve never heard anything that high. “Open your eyes,” a soft voice told me. The voice sounded unfamiliar. Where was it coming from? I can’t, I complained. “Yes, you can. Try.” The mysterious voice urged. Ok, fine. But it won’t work. I tried to find my eyes. They were there; I felt them. But they felt as if they’d been sealed shut with sleep.
I found them. They opened slowly. It was way too bright, the bright morning sun could have made me blink, but I felt used to it. There was a little window to the right of me, covered with white curtains with dingy blue flowers. That was were the light was coming from. My back felt tight, as if I had been sleeping on a hospital bed. Wait a minute. I was lying on a hospital bed! There was something plastered to my face, bridging up to my nose. I wanted to reach my hand up to see what it was, when I noticed my fingers were covered with white gauge, both of them. The whole top of my right arm was in a thick cast and I assumed it was broken. Panic rushed through my head, my pounding head. Ouch. “Whoa, there,” a voice told me, taking my fingers. I looked over to see who it was. Maybe too quickly because my head throbbed. I winced. “Jaylen,” my voice croaked. His chocolate brown eyes looked red and puffy, and there was stubble on his chin, and he looked sheepishly surprised. His hair was not in its usual fade, but in nappy short curls. But I looked away from that to his eyes, but only for a second as my eyes brimmed with watery sadness falling down my swollen cheeks. “Oh, Jaylen,” I cried. He gave me a pitiful broken smile and opened his now muscular arms to hug me; I tried to hug him back. Tried, but my body was throbbing and it hurt to move my arm muscles, or any muscles. My body stiffened and he let go. “Oh, sorry,” he whispered before letting me go and softly laying me down. I blinked through the ocean that flooded my eyes while Jaylen brushed a hair from my face. Once the tears had subsided a bit, I looked at my best friend. He had tears running down his face. I’ve never seen him cry before and it broke my heart to watch. Even though his body shook with silent sobs, his hand wiped my tears. He looked at my face with a bewildered expression. I was about to give a weak smile when the door burst open. “Aiyana! Oh, Aiyana!” Jaylen’s hands dropped. My dad flew over to my bedside and hugged me so hard it was hard to breathe. But I didn't care; he was
here with me, alive and not strapped to a hospital bed. This made me think. I hugged him for a moment with my right aching arm, not wanting to let him go. I missed him and Jaylen so much. I didn’t like the fact that I was lying weak in my father’s arms with tubes, trying to keep me alive, surrounding us. But I didn’t care because he was with me. “Daddy, where’s mom?” I mumbled into the sleeve of his shirt. I hoped he heard me, my throat was stuck and I’d hate to repeat myself. But I’d keep asking to get my answer. My dad pulled away then, to look at me. His eyes filled with tears. A minute passed. “Aiyana . . . . .” he didn't have to go any farther. My head throbbed again, and my throat closed up from the pressure building up from my heart, which felt like it was going to burst. My lip quivered involuntarily. I couldn’t breathe. Or at least I didn’t want to. My mom was not dead. He couldn’t believe that; she was strong. She couldn’t be dead. She wouldn’t die; I wouldn’t let them think that she was dead. It was wrong. “No, dad,” I forced slowly from my lips. He just hung his head and began shaking it side to side before he buried his face in his palms. I reached for him, shaking my head. Why wasn’t he listening to me? “She was there. She was talking, an-and fine. S-s-she was there!” I became so frustrated he didn’t understand I was hyperventilating. A beeping was coming from the heart machine next to me, it was a frantic sound and soon it was so frenzied that there was barely a pause between its thumping. My dad was looking at me like he didn’t know what to do. Or what to say. I looked at his face with heavy pants bursting through my lips, trying to convince him. He didn’t believe me, at all. His face looked worn as if he was trying to convince himself the same thing for a while. How could he give up like that? My mother was alive! She was talking to that guy! He must have called the police, or taken us to the hospital. I was not the only survivor. I was not alive, while my mother was dead. They must have made a mistake; my mom was just sleeping. I shook my head refusing to believe the nonsense my dad wanted me to.
“Please daddy,” I pleaded with him, gripping his shirt, but my begs were choked and incoherent. His pained face wasn’t budging; it was just shaking slowly, left to right, as if it were a pendulum. My face felt wet. But I couldn’t be crying. I wouldn’t cry, because my mom was alive. There was nothing to cry for. So why was my face drenched in helpless tears? “She’s n-n-no-” I was pounding my fist on the hospital bed now, which hurt like hell; I was surprised I could function them. But they wouldn’t stop. I was trying to say something, to tell him that she was alive and she was just probably sleeping. But that was all I could say. My head was pounding so hard; it felt as if somebody was throwing bricks at it nonstop. It was making me dizzy, or maybe it was the fogginess of my tears that smoldered over my eyes. My dad was hugging me, but broke away as he heard the machine. “Aiyana calm down, Jaylen go get some help!” my dad was yelling at him. My mother couldn’t be dead. She was not dead. She was there, and alive! She was talking to that guy! She was breathing and okay. “No, daddy,” I cried weakly. I was trying to push him away, to look in his eyes. To tell him the truth so he’d believe me and stop crying over nothing. But it was getting harder and harder to breathe . . . . . Someone burst through the door, I think. I could hear nothing but the pounding coming from my ears and the frivolous machine next to me. My breathing accelerated so greatly, it was like I was being strangled. Combined with the sob, breathing felt impossible. I felt something poke my ruined arm, slicing through my consciousness. Whatever the sedative, it felt like it was taking its time. A long imaginary wire began to form in my head, like a rubber band almost but barbed and shiny. “Daddy, believe me,” my breath was barely a wisp of air so I couldn’t be sure he heard me. I couldn’t even really tell if he was there anymore, or if I was just imagining it. Oxygen was having a hard time finding its way to my lungs. Breathing began to hurt and I felt myself drifting I heard nothing but the faint shriek of the wine sound again. It grew and grew and soon the light came too. But again it burned into the bitter pieces of brown holes. Charring, until it was
all black, and then the sound stopped. I realized I was unconscious. Thank god, the pain was all gone. And then a flash, a bright flash, and I was sitting right side up on a gurney. The room was all white, there were no doors or windows, and I couldn’t even see walls, just whiteness. And then a high rectangle opened and out walked a woman. She was wearing all white and she had a hoodie on. She flipped it down to reveal thick brown hair that framed her round face. Her familiar eyes reminding me. “Mom!” I cried sinking of the gurney and onto my knees. I reached for her. She shifted her weight to one side, away from me, and smirked. “You wish,” she said in an unfamiliar voice. I felt confusion all over my face. She tossed her head back in evil laughter. I put my hands on my face, closing my eyes. Wake up, I told myself. My fingers drilled into my temples, and they trembled as if they had been shocked. When I opened my eyes again, my mother’s eyes were all white. No pupils, nothing. Whiteness, like the walls surrounding this open room. Then her white eyes started bleeding from the edges, blood flowing from her ears, mouth and nose. Everything was flowed of blood. The blood reached her white clothes and they turned violet red. “Yes, you do wish.” She replied to my scream, kneeling in front of me. Her white eyes, bled red tears, and she bent her head towards the floor. A single drop of blood touched the ground. She got up slowly and I noticed how out of place she looked in the white room. She backed away from me, a devilish grin on her stolen face. She disappeared and I was alone in the white room. I banged my fists on the ground and a tear fell from my face. A red tear. It fell from my cheek and onto the ground. I watched as it splattered. A sizzling sound came, and it burned through the hard floor. It was a tiny hole, but it expanded, and the ground shook under my feet. The gurney fell while I touched it jumping back, but it turned into burnt black pieces of sheet and metal, and my hand fell on the ashes. The floor was trembling, and breaking. I touched a still white space, and it reacted to my touch by burning. Everything I touched got destroyed. I held my hands to my face, unafraid of the disaster I caused around me. I waited for
something to happen, but nothing did. I didn’t burn, or crumple, I stayed as I was. A frustrated scream escaped from my throat and my hands fell to the white floor beside me. It shook and tumbled and finally it fell. And so did I. I screamed as I clawed for something to latch onto, there was nothing. So I fell into the darkness around me. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I jerked upright on the hospital bed, bemused by my meaningless dream. I looked around the room. No white walls, no bleeding woman, no screeching siren, and no burnt remains of what I had ruined. It was just me and the beeping machine next that stood to my left. I looked around the dark room to see my dad asleep in the recliner next to me, hunched over his knees in an uncomfortable position. I wondered if he were really awake. And then I remembered as if someone had flicked on a switch in my head. My mother was dead, and I was alive. I don’t know why I was finally realizing this, but I was. I didn’t deserve life. I wanted to be dead just like her. I wanted to be with my mother. But I couldn’t as the realization of my episode finally sunk in. I would never hear my mother laugh, or cry, or scream with excitement. I would never hear her or see her alive and in color ever again. With a subjugated sigh, I fell back onto the hard pillows of the hospital bed wincing a little. I stared at my father, fast asleep on the chair next to me and wondered. Did he hate me? I had taken away his friend, and his first love. I’d hate me. I turned to my left. There was nothing there except a tray of food and water, accompanied with some napkins. No way I was going to eat that. I also saw the heart machine, or rather heard it. My heart was beating. My heart was okay. Eyes erupting with warm salty tears falling over my cheeks, I couldn’t stop them, and it wasn’t because my hands were aching through the gauge. I was
glad I was crying; to show I had feelings, that I cared my mother was gone. You cry when you have emotions and I was glad mine were still intact if nothing else. But the was another reason. These tears were tears of defeat. Tears, I should be crying because like so many other things in my life, they were unpredictable. Like that truck and that siren. And my dream. So I enjoyed my tears as they fell powerlessly down the sides of my face. What do you do when everything goes wrong? I turned towards the ceiling and listened to the quietness around me, while I waited for myself to answer. I held still and thought, repeating the question over and over in my head. “You keep moving forward,” I whispered in the silence.
I’d kept moving forward, even if I didn’t want to. And I really didn’t want to. I didn’t want life, and I sure as hell didn’t deserve it. However my dad had lost my mother just as I had, I wouldn’t let him lose a daughter too. I couldn’t do that to my father even if I had tried. No matter what, I couldn’t make his life any arduous than it was. That was the only thing that kept me from giving in. If I were going to at least try to move forward, I’d have to stop crying. So I only cried when I was alone. I cried when I was in the hospital when he had to leave, in the bathroom; just anywhere I could find when I was solitary. I didn’t even have to make myself cry it just happened. I guess I’d been bottling it up too much, so as soon as I was alone I would escape into the bathroom with my IV thing trailing behind me and sob. But now I was crying in the black BMW while my mother was being buried because I couldn’t get out. My dad, Jaylen, his dad, and tons of other people I bet my mom never even knew were there. But I wasn’t, not emotionally. All those people were there together, huddled under their black
umbrellas wishing my mother farewell, seeing my mother one last time before she was ‘released’. I couldn’t watch that. So I just cried to myself silently, listening to the rain pour down on the tinted window shield. It was almost summer. Why does it always rain at funerals? I had thought. Because people are crying? I didn’t even go downstairs when the people were at my house; I stayed upstairs lying on my bed staring unseeingly at the wall above me. There was a light knock on my door. “It’s me,” Jaylen said. I knew his voice so well. “Come in.” I sat up on my bed, tracing the cast on my arm. I had broken a lot of bones including my arm, six ribs (which explained the breathing, three on each side. Ironic.); I had a fracture on my skull, scars and light bruises basically everywhere. I still had some minor scratches on my face, but the were fading. It had taken me some 7 weeks to heal. Literally, it seemed like days. Everything was passing by so fast. I just wasn’t ready to let go of some things yet. But not all of it was up to me. I was a little forced. And when I had my ribs and head recovering, two weeks later, we had my mother’s funeral thanks to the hospital’s morgue. So here we were. Jaylen came and sat at the edge of my bed. He was quiet for a moment. I looked up at Jaylen, he was so understanding. He didn’t complain when I was in a bad mood, which was often. He was always there. I mean, not just in the room, but actually there for you. Holding your hand, making you feel better, letting me blow boogers into his shirt, things like that. It was different crying around Jaylen because he didn’t seem to mind my blubbering at all, at least that’s what he told me when I tried to apologize. “It’s okay, I don’t mind. That’s what I’m here for. Besides, I have an extra shirt in the car.” He joke and then I laugh and try to stop the water works. I still felt bad when he was holding me together though because I was inflicting him with my problems and he really didn’t have to care, I would have understood. But he was always there for me for whatever I needed. I don’t think I could be making
it with out him. In fact, he had made me smile a month after the accident. I cringed. The accident was still a touchy subject, and it always would be. But at least I had Jaylen with me. “Thank you, Jaylen,” I told him wholeheartedly. His head snapped up. “For what?” he asked, truly curious. This had caught him by surprise. I half smiled about his unawareness of to what he’d been doing for me. “For everything. I don’t think I could have made it with out you and dad.” I pulled my knees up to my chest. He shoved my good arm lightly. “What are friends for?” he said, chuckling softly. “You would know,” I smirked. He grinned for a moment as if he was thinking, and then he looked at the floor before staring at my face. “How are you, Aiyana? Really?” I looked at the complicated swirls of my dark blue rug on the floor. It took me a while to answer, and when I did, I had to take a breath. “Fine,” I lied. I’d been covering up my feelings so much, that it almost sounded true. I would have believed me. But Jaylen wasn’t fooled. “Then why wont you look at me?” I took a deep breath. And gazed at his face. He had that worry line crease on his forehead. I wanted to smooth it out; his eyes were so intense I wanted to look back down. But his gaze wouldn’t let me. He waited for me to answer. “I am looking at you, Jaylen. And I am doing fine. I’m improving Jaylen, you see that.” “I know you’re improving, I just want my old friend back, that’s all. I don’t like seeing you cry. It hurts me too.” He shrugged, choking up a bit. “Jaylen, I’m trying so hard. I’m sorry, so sorry. I haven’t been as enthusiastic as I’m supposed to be, and I’m sorry for that. I don’t want to bring everyone down, that’s why I stay away. It’s just not easy.” My voice broke for the thousandth time. “Yani, no one expects you to be enthusiastic. We all know that it’s not easy; we all know that. We just don’t want you to be so distant. We miss you.” He looked at my eyes for a long time, and I just couldn’t look away. How could he be
so considerate? Through all of this, he seemed like he really felt for me, and it left me dumbfounded ¾ of the time. Duh, I thought. I wanted to slap myself. Jaylen lost his mother too. He understood what I was going through. We had both lost our mothers, but my selfish mind had blocked the thought of that out. While I was trying to forget, I forgot all about Jaylen. He had barely known his mother. He probably was hurting just as much as I was. My mother was like an auntie to him. “Oh, Jaylen, I miss you too,” he gathered me in his arms, and we were still hugging when my dad walked in. Jaylen dropped his arms instinctively. “Sorry,” my dad said. He looked at the both of us and sighed. “It was too claustrophobic down there,” he explained. His voice broke and he looked in pain. His eyes were wet, as were his eyelashes. My feet summoned me up and flew me into his arms. He hugged me just as tight, being cautious of my arm. I buried my face in my father’s chest. And it took me a moment to realize that he was crying again. “I’m sorry, daddy.” I cried in his arms for a while, and I really cried for the first time in a long time around him. Cried, because I realized that it was okay, because I was sorry, and because I love him. I was so sorry. Sorry beyond words. I didn’t realize that my episode in the hospital a couple months ago had mostly caused this. It had worried him so much to the point where he’d check on me every seven minutes. I figured this would happen, with the doctor’s orders and all, but I felt like this was more than just for the doctor’s precaution. He monitored me like a hawk and I couldn’t really decide if I liked it or not. I was still so edgy. I knew that it would still be hard for me to get over the accident, I probably never would. How could you get over loosing you mother and your best friend in the same day? To be confused when they tell you she’s dead? To never be the same person you were before then? I didn’t know, and I felt like this would never get better at this pace. My dad was hurting, my dad was breaking, my dad was crying just like I was. And I wasn’t being an easy person to live with when I was barricading myself away from him with my bedroom door. Maybe it would be okay if I stopped moving so fast. Trying to forget was only making the world harder for all of us.
“I’m sorry too baby, I’m sorry too,” he mumbled into my hair. He hugged me again before letting go. I wiped my face and looked at Jaylen. He was staring at the floor rocking on his heels. My eyebrows felt heavy, and a headache was starting to form. “Let’s try not to cry anymore.” I suggested, clearing my throat. My dad and Jaylen laughed. “Well, I guess I’ll just go back downstairs then,” my dad said rubbing his eyes in reluctance. “I’ll be down in a minute,” I reassured him and he left, closing the door silently behind him. I looked up at Jaylen and smiled. He smiled lopsidedly and put his hand over my shoulder, looking at me with an expression I couldn’t comprehend. “I’ll always be here for you, you know that right? I know that sounds kind of corny, but it’s true. I will always be here for you,” Jaylen said, hugging me. “I know,” I said. I walked down the hallway next to Jaylen, and as we descended down the stairs I asked, “What are best friends for?” Jaylen would know. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I was handling it. With Jaylen by my side, I was really handling it. I greeted people and thanked them in blurry eyes, but it was enough to get by. But I noticed something. After a while, different people started saying the same things. I heard the same things over and over again, “I’m sorry for your loss”, “is there anything I can do?” and “at least she’s in a better place.” I’d grown so sick of it, I had to sit down. I felt as if I were being tossed around in a crowd, thrown different ways, but always being caught in the same hands. I was sitting on the couch when Elias, Jaylen’s dad, sat down next to me. He had a box of tissue in his hands and he pushed them towards me. It was then I realized I was crying. I took them without hesitation and wiped my face. I crumpled the tissue in my hands and looked down. My head was starting to ache, I’d been crying too much.
“It’s a lot, ain’t it?” he finally said. I huffed and let out a hard chuckle, before agreeing. Damn straight, I thought. “I know you’ve probably heard this a million times, but I know how you feel. Both me and Jaylen do,” I stayed quiet and put my head in my hands. “I was feeling helpless when Shantell passed away, I didn’t know what to do. Jaylen was only four at the time, and I could barely support myself. If it wasn’t for your dad, I don’t know where we’d be right now. It helps if you have people there to be with you. I just want you to know that anytime you need me, you just call, okay kid?” “Okay,” I managed to choke. I hugged Elias and thanked him. I know I’d heard the same thing all day, but it felt real when it came from Elias’s mouth. Maybe it was because he’d actually been through it, maybe because he’d actually answer if I called without asking where he knew me. Elias was just one of the people you could count on. I see where Jaylen got it. Fortunately, the crowd started thinning out. Soon it was just Jaylen, Elias, my dad and me. Elias and my dad were somewhere upstairs, but I didn’t really pay any attention. My head was still pounding, but I thought it was just pass, like the other things in my life. But the pounding just got worse and worse, until finally I collapsed on the couch, closing my eyes. Jaylen sat down next to me. “You okay, Yani?” I didn’t open my eyes; I knew it would hurt if I did. He patted my hair. “Just need some aspirin,” I mumbled, trying to get up. Jaylen pushed me back down. I didn’t fight him. “I’ll get it,” he breezed by me, and I kept my eyes closed. I bunched up in fetal position on our small couch, and pressed my fingers to my temples. “Ugh,” I said. I could feel my pulse throbbing on the sides of my head. When Jaylen returned and saw my position, his voice became more than worried. “Aiyana, seriously, what’s wrong?” I opened my eyes a little and he handed me the cup of water and aspirin. I mentally rolled my eyes; it felt like he knew my house better than I did. After taking three, I answered him.
“It’ll pass, Jay. Chill.” I hoped it would pass. I’ve cried before and got headaches, but I’ve never had one this bad. Maybe it was all this stress piling up on me. I tried to consider that, but this was no ordinary headache or migraine. I cleared my throat and turned on my back, my eyes still shut. “So,” Jaylen started. We had been quiet for quite some time. I mean, what was there to talk about? There was nothing you could talk about in our situation, so I had got used to the awkward silences, but clearly Jaylen had not. That made me want to laugh; it was so Jaylen. “We handled it quite well, now didn’t we, Jay?” I mumbled. He laughed a little. “Yeah, we did,” he sighed heavily. And then in a quieter voice: “You look like shit Yani, girl. Maybe you should take a nap?” he suggested. A nap did sound good against my better judgment. Either way I was going to fall asleep without trying. “It’s rude to fall asleep on your company,” I teased sleepily. “Hey, whatever you say. When you get a neck cramp on that couch, don’t come crying to me.” I giggled for a moment and then yawned. I could feel the drowsiness closing in on me, and I just couldn’t restrain the yawn; it was involuntary. “Excuse me,” I said. My eyes felt droopy, even though they were still closed. I could really go for a good sleep; this headache was making me weary. But Jaylen always knows what’s best. “You know what? I don’t have to take this,” and before I could protest or even open my eyes, Jaylen had scooped me up in his masculine arms. He was cautious of my cast, but held me from under my knees and neck as he trudged toward the stairs. He swooped me up to fast, and I felt my head sway to opposite directions. I definitely didn’t need any abrupt movements right now. Did he want me to throw up too? “Ack, put me down,” I complained. I may be weak, but I wasn’t handicapped. He just laughed and jogged up the stairs like I weighed nothing, which in a way, was a little true. Adding on to my already skinny figure, I noticed I
hadn’t ate much food. I don’t know why, I just wasn’t that hungry anymore. How could I eat when my mother could no longer? Food just held no interest for me now. So Jaylen jogged up the stairs, holding me as if I were some five-year-old girl. I prayed our dads wouldn’t come out; spare me the embarrassment. Jaylen gently kicked the door open, probably thinking the same as me. My eyes were open in slits, but I could feel them unite with the bottom curve, I wasn’t going to object to that. He walked over to my bed that was to the right of my window, and laid me down and hesitantly sat me right on the top of my sheets. It was quiet for a moment, and I wondered if I had already fallen asleep. I felt as if I was cataleptic, and for the moment, I thought I was sleeping. But then I felt his breath close to my cheek, and he must have leaned down because he very softly kissed my cheek. It felt really weird. But it was weird in a good way. Jaylen and me never kissed, only hugged so this was different. We were just friends, best friends. I couldn’t really elucidate the feeling he left on my allconsuming cheek. I guess it kind of tickled a little and I didn’t know why but I felt as if I had just been jolted from the inside of my stomach. Those couldn’t be butterflies. I wouldn’t allow it. Not now. Not after everything we’ve just been through. Geez, I thought, cant a guy and a girl just be friends with out spontaneous feelings arising? He only kissed my cheek, big deal. I could laugh at myself for reacting like this, but the pounding in my head made me cringe instead. My fingers tensed. “Get some rest, I’ll be here later,” he promised, letting his fingers pat my forehead. I believed him. Jaylen was always here. I heard my door shut quietly; my cheek was still hot. Whether it was from the headache, the perplexing kiss or just the exhaustion from the day, I dozed off with hopes of a peaceful sleep that never came.
Jaylen: Understanding time
How could you not love Aiyana? I don’t know how you couldn’t, because I do. Maybe more than I should. I try telling myself that she just needs a best friend right now, and when I look into her eyes, I know she does. But that’s what we’ve always been: best friends. Since we were like 6, Aiyana and me used to be friends, camping out in my dad’s tent, throwing water balloons onto the air vents across the street, riding bikes, we did everything there was to do; if there was anything left. And we always would be best friends. But some things change. Or at least I wished they would. I wish none of this had ever happened. I wished her dad and I weren’t hurting this much. I wish I didn’t feel as strong as I was right now. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret feeling this way, the feeling was just so intense; it was all so new to me. I don’t even know what had made me start to like her! Aiyana’s just that person that you instantly love. Well love as a friend, but not in my case. Ever since that night in the hospital . . . . . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We sat there waiting for her to wake up. Waiting, hoping, and praying, nothing worked. She just lay there, unconscious, as she had been for the past few days. Her face was blank, and I wondered if her mind was too. Would she forget everything that had happened? That would make this situation a whole lot worse. I just didn’t know what to do. How do you cope? Its has been months since I’ve seen her, and this was not the reunion I had in mind at all. Her flaccid body, lying on the hospital bed, an IV bridging down her wrist, machines trying to keep her alive. No, this was not how I had seen her in my mind at all. Nor was it the way I wanted to see her. It was hard to look at Aiyana like this, but I just couldn’t look away. So here I was,
sitting in a chair next to her damaged body, looking at her closed eyelids waiting for them to open. I was mostly unaware that her dad wasn’t in the room, close as I was; red faced an unshaven like me. I never have seen Mr. Hale cry before. He was always so happy and confident, your average strong black man. But how could you be when your daughter is lying next to you crumpled and cadaver-like? When your first love just died? When your daughter has a machine trying to keep you alive? When all hope seems to be gone? What do you when everything goes wrong? What can you do? The door opened suddenly but I didn’t look up from Aiyana's face. I assumed it was the doctor; he’d been coming in a lot since Stella died. I could still remember the feeling when she died. What a horrible feeling, to feel nothing. Mr. Hale didn’t know where to go when they arrived from the collision. Should he go with his daughter or with Stella? It was a good thing we were together when the paramedics called us. Thankfully they had managed to run the license plate in the database, if they hadn’t, what would have happened? We would still be oblivious to the fact that Stella and Aiyana were inching closer to death by the second. They had to separate Aiyana and Stella once we were at the hospital, and it was painful to decide whom to go to first. The doctors made us stay in the waiting area. We were there, waiting, for any news that would relax our minds the slightest. But there was nothing. We were at Mr. Hales house when we had got the call and our knowledge had been murky. But when you’re in the waiting room, with tons of other people, you knew what was happening. Someone was dying. No, people were dying. Stella was dying. Aiyana was dying. My throat let out a cry of pain as I considered that. I had become lost behind the blurry tears that filled my eyes, and soon I was useless. I couldn’t help Mr. Hale; I couldn’t even alleviate myself. I had looked around the room, searching the faces of the strangers around me, looking to see if they had the same attitude as me. I was scared, not only for Aiyana and Stella, but also for Mr. Hale. Mr. Hale was such a good person; he didn’t deserve any of this.
Nobody did. It was exactly 9:05 when Stella had died. I would forever miss her. She was like an aunt to me, auntie Stella. Now she was gone, forever. I felt similar to what I had felt when my mother left: abandoned and deprived. Auntie Stella was that type of person who would find a way to make you laugh hysterically even if you had a sore throat. To her, laughter was the best medicine. But nothing was funny now. The doctor mumbled a sorry excuse for an apology and then walked away. Mr. Hale sank deeper in his seat and covered his eyes with his trembling hands. He cried. It’s a disturbing thing to watch someone as strong as Mr. Hale cry. To watch him break down and sob so hard, you’d be able to bet his eyes would burst. But could you really blame him? Stella and him may not have been together, but the were friends. And they were high school sweethearts, his first love. And I’d bet anything that he still loved her. How couldn’t you love a person like Stella? Aiyana personality traits must have taken after Stella. But for the moment, I didn’t even want to think about Aiyana. Maybe because it felt like there was no hope for her? Most likely. Not even thirty seconds later he bolted. “Shit!” he yelled, jumping out of his chair before throwing it across the room. It banged into the wall on the far side of the white wall and left a dent in it. It was a good thing no one was there. After that, he stormed out of the hospital doors with my dad chasing after him. Why couldn’t I do that? I was still standing, and I was looking at my trembling hands. I could feel people’s eyes on me, watching me, and that only made me tremble harder. So, trying to avoid their probing eyes, I started walking with unsteady feet. I kept walking until I got to the receptionist office. It took me like a millisecond to decide where I was going. But the words blurted out of my mouth with out a second on hesitation, I could have fooled myself. I asked where Aiyana Hale was located, and mumbled a thanks when I got the room number. I didn’t know if I were allowed to be there, but the lady had given me the number, so I
assumed it was okay. It wasn’t like I wasn’t going to go anyway. So I went up the elevator, and through the doors and into Aiyana’s room. I felt my lip tremble but I kept walking. I saw her fragile body lying there, and I couldn’t look away. Even as I pulled a chair close to her bedside, and held her bandaged fingers, my eyes never left her face. I stared into her sealed eyelids, bruised under the bottom, to her delicately chaffed lips. And then I cried. I cried and cried for what seemed to be forever. I couldn’t control myself. I didn’t think I had that much water in my body. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. And for an instant, I hated myself because I knew I didn’t cry this hard when my mother died. Even as the guilt coursed through me, that didn’t slow the tears at all. My sour tears fell onto Aiyana’s fingers and I kissed them. I was glad Aiyana was asleep for once. I didn’t want her to see any of this. So I kept on crying. I can’t even give an estimate on how long I cried. It could have been four hours. I wasn’t counting. I looked at Aiyana’s face, and a sob broke through my throat and lips. Her once beatific face was marked with bruises. I tried to convince myself it wouldn’t be like this always, but I swear if you had seen her, you wouldn’t have believed me either. Her innocuous face was bruised and red. She had multiple small cuts on the side her right face and a long complicated bruise going down her cheekbone along with a long scar from her ear that seemed to trail behind her neck. Her right side of her face was more damaged than her left because they car was turned on its right. Her head was wrapped with gauge; she had cracked her skull and it was spotted a little with red spots. I glanced away from that to her arms. They were battered too. Her fingers were all wrapped in white plaster-y stuff and I didn’t understand why. I held them softly in my hands, and looked closely. I had suddenly become very interested on this little discovery. The doctors hadn’t said she had broken her fingers . . . . . “Whoa,” I murmured, pulling back the gauge. I could see her veins through in her fingers a little too clearly. And the looked . . . . . enlarged. They were bigger
than they were supposed to be. I looked at my fingers, and I could only see some small veins in my palm and in my wrists. But shaping up the contours of the lines in her fingers, I could see blue streaks coursing from the bottom of her palm, to the top of her fingers. I didn’t want to pay too much attention to her injuries, but these winding lines were hard to look away from. It just didn’t fit. These veins looked violent and threatening, while Aiyana was nothing like that. Aiyana was compassionate and charming, not just on the inside but on the outside too. She had these twinkling brown eyes, like mocha almost, warm and comforting. She also had this smile, which showed a little dimple on the left side of her cheek. It was hard to notice, you had to look really hard to find it. The dimple was enough to hold you, but there was just something about her grin that made you grin too. I wished she’d grin now. But the mood was set, and it wasn’t becoming any better. There was nothing else better to do. I wanted to be here with Aiyana. I didn’t quite know why. I never really liked hospitals, people die her all the time, and I don’t know how you could enjoy being in a place like this. But whatever held me here was not loosening up its grasp. So I didn’t complain. I didn’t budge, I didn’t hightail it out of the room. I stayed right next to Aiyana, listening to the heart monitor beep evenly. It calmed me, the heart monitor. It reminded me that she is still alive. Unlike Stella. I looked away from Aiyana and wondered. I had lost two women that I loved a lot, even though I’d barely known my mother, she was still my mother. And Stella was still auntie Stella, the woman who snuck me cookies before dinner whenever they were over our house. But that wasn’t exactly what I was wondering about. I was wondering about Aiyana, how she would take it, if she even remembered whom she was, or if she ever woke up. I blinked multiple times trying to push that unwanted thought out of my head. Aiyana was going to live. She had to. Without Aiyana, there was nothing else to live for. I get that she lived like eight hours away from me, but we always kept in contact, emailing, calling, whatever we had to do. We’ve been friends for almost eleven years and that will never change, no matter where we
are. I just didn’t know what I’d do without her. I couldn’t loose two people in one day. It wasn’t fair. But I was being selfish. I was only thinking about what I needed and what I could or couldn’t take. What about Aiyana? She would be heartbroken. I don’t even think that would cover it. There are no words to explain how you feel when you lose your mother. Stella was Aiyana’s best friend besides me. They were so close all the time from what I knew. I couldn’t imagine how that bond could have grown over the years. How would she react? Would she feel nothing? Would she cry or would she deny it? We’d have to wait and see. But I didn’t want to wait for her reaction. Waiting took time. And time was the one thing that had failed us. Time had killed Stella. How could we depend on it? I wish she wouldn’t have to lose her mother. I wish she had stayed in Oregon. I wish . . . . . I wished she wasn’t lying here right now. I wish I were lying here instead of her. I wished I were dying instead of Aiyana. I wish she were holding my hand instead of me holding hers. Aiyana just didn’t deserve any of this. Aiyana was so sweet and brave. She stuck up for other people, too. I remember this one time in elementary school; it was like a week after school had started. Aiyana and me were walking up to school when we saw some kids pushing this tiny kid around, bullying him. Aiyana went right up to them and she made them stop. I was too chicken; I tried to hold her back. But she just walked right up to them and helped the little boy off the ground. And then it was funny because she started cussing them out. Can you imagine a little fifth grader cussing out some older eight-grade kids? She used words I never heard before, but whether the older kids had gotten bored, or found her amusing, they just . . . . . stopped. That was when I knew Aiyana was going to be my best friend for a very long time. I know it may sound awfully corny, but she was everything I’m not. While time’s indefinite future ticked ahead, I just wanted it all to stop. It just wasn’t right. A nurse walked in. she was surprised by my presence, I could tell. She checked her IV, catching a glimpse of my face as she passed. I prayed that she
wouldn’t say anything to me. And she didn’t. She just left. Maybe it was something about my face. Tear streaked and distressed. But I just ignored what my face might look like. I tried to think good thoughts, trying to make something out of nothing. I pretended that Aiyana and me weren’t here right now. I pretended that we were at the park, where time meant nothing. It was bright, and the summer sun was warm as we walked down the path, hand in hand. The park was vacant; it was just she and I. It feels like that often. We were silent, but we were grinning as if we’d just heard a good joke. Suddenly, she stops and she takes both of my hands, her face hesitant. She’s looking in my eyes as if she was looking for obvious permission. She smiles. Then she slowly takes my face in her hands, exaggerating the slowness, and then . . . . . Aiyana moved. Her confused eyes were looking at her fingers. I took them into mine, bemused by her awareness. “Whoa, there,” my voice was barely above a whisper. She must have heard it because her head snapped my way. Her eyes thoroughly swept my face with visible confusion, and I wondered if she remembered me. My heart dropped for a moment as I thought of that. That all faded away within seconds, as tears welled up and spilled over her cheeks. “Oh, Jaylen,” that was all she needed to say to make my day. I swept her up in a tight hug. She remembered me. She didn’t lose her memory. She was alive. She was going to be okay. Well, she’d be better than okay if I had anything to do with it. I hugged her securely to my chest, having no desire to let go. And just when I thought there no tears left in my body, they overflowed from my eyes. I continued to hug her until her body goes limp underneath mine. I let go instantly remembering she was injured. “Oh, sorry,” I apologized. I looked at her face for a moment and really looked at it. Beneath the damage that the accident had left behind, her face was lovely, if that gave the meaning at all. It was so stunning that my breath caught. I took my hands to her face and gently brushed the tears away with my fingertips. And then I was leaning toward her face ever so slowly, looking directly at her lips,
leaning with out thinking, realizing the feeling that I’d had when I first walked into this room. As if on cue, her father came bursting through the door, with tears still running down his face. My hands dropped to my lap. I was stunned. Of course I loved Aiyana, how could you not? But the love I felt was way deeper than that. I can’t explain it right yet, but I don’t think I ever could. Only thing I knew was that, this girl lying weak in her father’s arms, was the girl I wanted. It goes beyond the attraction her face had on me; it was her heart. She had a good kind of heart, modest and compassionate. She always had, and I felt like a fool for not realizing this feeling before. I taken away for a moment, of the unexpected feeling I had gained and the responsibility I felt to have her. I would make sure she was happy, that she was okay at least. I would do everything I could and I promised myself that. It all truly started when I heard the screams that came from her mouth. They were Sobs, frail but unbelieving. And it sounded like she was either choking or really hoarse. Was she breathing? Her dad had told her. Now she was pounding her bandaged fists on the bed, tears scrambling their way down her cheeks. Perfect timing, Mr. Hale. You just found out yourself, good idea to let Aiyana find out minutes before waking up, I thought. He yelled something at me, but I was already heading out of the door. Once they heard her screams, there would be no need to explain. Doctors came filing through the door. I somehow found myself inside just in time to see the needle go deep inside her arm, and for her body to go limp and her eyes to roll back to her head. Perfect timing, I thought to myself, sinking to floor. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I was angry with her dad after that for about six hours but it didn’t pass like time had. Time was passing so fast, but it always did that when I was with Aiyana. And I was with Aiyana a lot. Every second I had, I spent it with her. She needed aspirin, I gave it too her, she wanted a tissue; my shirt was always there. We’d
been over Aiyana’s house so much; it was like a second home for us. We decided to let them have one day to themselves, and it almost killed me. I just slouched around the house all day. My dad noticed it, too. He noticed stuff all the time. I was surprised he didn’t say anything. He’d just cocked an eyebrow and mutters something to himself. I wished I could control my emotions better. I wished, but I didn’t do such a good job. That kiss really messed me up. I know that I would never regret that I kissed her. I liked it. It was only her cheek though, and I’d have to at least try to control my emotions. Ugh, Especially around our parents. I wonder if Mr. Hale noticed anything. I hoped not. It was only a matter of time before Aiyana found out. But that could wait. I was just glad I didn’t have to wait any more. I had grown sick of waiting. Time was just so confusing when Aiyana was in the hospital, so unpredictable. If there was anything I understood better now, it was time. Time passes without our consent, but at least I had Aiyana with me. All the rest could wait just like we had. Yea, we had time.
It seemed to be the next sequel from my last dream. I was still falling into the darkness around me, doing somersaults into the air, twisting and turning. I passed by the darkness, seeing nothing. It seemed like I had been falling for hours. And I was sure I would be. I would fall all the way to the bottom, and break all my bones, and I would die. But dying didn’t seem so bad as I thought about it. I would be with my mother. At least, I would see her in heaven. And then I started laughing because this wasn’t a bad dream at all. I wanted to fall to my death. I wanted to be dead, now. So I kept falling, looking forward to the hard ground.
The ground came, and I closed my eyes, still giggling hysterically. I was wrong. This was a bad dream. My fingers broke my fall. I was kneeling on my knees when I fell, fingers spread out on the ground as if I hadn’t been falling as fast as I thought I was. The impact should have crunched my fingers. But it didn’t. I wasn’t hurt at all. All of me was where it was supposed to be. My giggling stopped, and I began to scream. Screaming at the top of my lungs. Pounding my hands in the ground, I started begging the darkness. “Why wont you just let me die?!” I asked. “Please, just kill me. I can’t take it! Just kill me. Please,” I cried as I pleaded to the darkness. There was no answer. Just laughter, familiar laughter. I could see the smile in this voice; I could see the finger pointing at me, taunting me. “Had enough?” the voice replied. It was a man’s voice. And suddenly I remembered that voice. How awful that voice was, that was the voice that had taken my mother away. As I remembered the voice I put my fingers to my temples and cried, screaming my mother’s name. My head fell and I cried more. I banged my fist on the ground furious at the man. The laughter was louder as the ground fell underneath me, and I spiraled some more into the darkness only to have the same outcome. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I woke up screaming. I sat upright, tears all over my clammy face. I saw my father’s face, him kneeling next to me. His face was distraught and pain was reflecting itself everywhere, even in the darkness. Once again his face looked like he didn’t know what to do. It was my fault he was looking like this. I was making this worse. “I’m sorry,” I apologized after a moment of looking at my dad’s face. He just held me to his chest. I cried for a while in his chest. He smoothed my hair as the tears continued to plummet onto his chest. We were like that for about five minutes. But I was sick of crying. Crying had given me a headache. And I didn’t want another one after just getting rid of one. So I cleared my throat and pulled
away. He wiped my tears and kissed my forehead. I lay back down on my bed, and he pulled the covers over me. “G’night daddy,” I said through the thickness of my throat. He got up and left, shutting the door behind him. I didn’t go back to sleep. I just thought of everything I had been through in the last two months. First I thought of the accident. It was clear in my mind. But the thing that had stood out the most was my mother. What did the word ‘pulse’ have to do with anything? Obviously something. What were weird were the sound, the whiteness, and that man. That word had made the sound and the whiteness come. When I saw the whiteness, I thought that I was dead. I mean, that’s what they say, when you die, you see a white light. But there was nothing said about a sound. A sound so high, your ears could bust. It was like those bells that rang when doctors were giving you a hearing test. And then there was that man. Not only had he taken away my mother, but he was also invading my dreams. My dreams were bad enough; I didn’t need some odious man making them any worse. Dreams were just making my life more inferior. When I wake up from my dreams, I’m either crying, or scared to death. Or both. Dreams, just like my life, were making absolutely no sense. I could not explain the woman in white, or why she looked like my mother. I couldn’t explain why I kept falling in all of my dreams. The first dream, or nightmare is a better word for it, was more frightening. Probably because it was my mother’s face that had scared me. My mother’s face was anything but frightening. It was angelic. That lady in the mirror was not angelic, she was eerie. Though there was something about her that was meant for me to learn. Something my dreams were trying to tell me. But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t understand what that was. So I would try now, as I sat up on my bed, my hands curled around my knees. What was wrong with me? These headaches were some part of the explanation; I could feel it. I just had to try hard to make sense of any of it . . . . .
Headaches, like my mother’s. My mother had had headaches like mine. She complained about a tugging in her mind, I have a tugging in my head. Though while she had headaches, she’d have her fingers wrapped up in those gloves. The funny thing about it was that they weren’t regular gloves. They were the stove gloves that they sold on TV. The ones that said you could lift up a hot pan from the oven without being burned. She wouldn’t touch anything either. She’d just lie in bed all day, curled up in a ball, while I sat by her side feeling completely helpless the whole time. My fingers weren’t wrapped up in any gloves; they were completely fine. Well they were most of the time. While I was in the hospital, they had my fingers all the way bandaged. The doctors said something about, inflamed veins. I could see my veins pretty clearly, which was kind of weird. If I had a microscope, I could probably see the blood flowing through them. While I could see the blue lines in my fingers, curving up in every direction, and I wondered why. What if something was happening to me, something like my mother? I thought of the accident and what my mother had said. “But it could live on, I wont let her go!” what would live on? This made no sense. I shuffled through the memories, trying to make the sense of any of them. It was clear that she didn’t want me to die, but still, what was she talking about? What about the word ‘pulse’ had made that light, sound and that man come? Why was it important? What was that man trying to tell her that was too dangerous? And why wouldn’t I be able to handle what ever was coming my way? It clicked Something was coming my way. And these dreams were part of it. But whatever it was - was dangerous. Something that my mom thought I could handle. Maybe I was strong enough to handle it, whatever it was. That scared me the most. I had no idea what it was. How would I find out? “This is just the beginning.” That was what he had said. But I could feel this man warning me. He thought I couldn’t handle it, and he was warning me that the tugging, the shockwaves from my fingers, everything, was just starting.
And it sort of sucked as I thought about it. More tugging, more pain, I was not looking forward to any of that. I just couldn’t make any sense of why he was laughing at me. What was humorous about my pain? And why did he ask me if I had had enough? Enough of him in my dreams? Hell yea, I had. Dreams were supposed to be peaceful, but they weren’t anymore. When I was in the hospital, I just dreamed I was falling. I kept Falling, and falling deeper into the darkness. There was a theory I had about these nightmares. It had just popped into my mind, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. These dreams were warnings. My conscious was trying to notify me that if I thought life was hard now; it was going to get a hell of a lot worse as time went on. It was something my mother had passes down to me on instinct. She thought I could handle it. It was either that or she just really didn’t want me to die. And for a moment I was hurt because she probably didn’t want me with her in heaven. I shook the thought out of my head. Of course my mother wanted me. Whether my life was making sense or not, I couldn’t ever consider that my mom didn’t want me. That she thought of heaven as an easy way out. I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to. I looked around me for a moment. I was still sitting in the darkness. I wished I hadn’t have screamed in my sleep like that. My dad was already freaking out, and my dreams just weren’t helping. Nothing was helping. Except for Jaylen. Jaylen helped a lot. He was always here, always right by my side. And I liked it a lot. Maybe more than I should. But I loved Jaylen being with me. He was my best friend, and I had missed him. I miss him all the time when he’s not here. I don’t know why but I found myself spending more time with Jaylen than I was with my dad. I know that was bad, but I just couldn’t help it. I love being with Jaylen, he understands me so well, and I don’t even have to explain myself to him because he already knows. And when he doesn’t, he’s always listening. I look forward to the day because he was going to be in it, but I still felt guilty. I mean my dad was trying. And I love my dad; don’t get me wrong, I just don’t want to see his face sometimes because he’s always so sad. I want to see him smile, and maybe he does, when I’m not
around. I don’t blame him though at all, he’s having it rough just like me. Even though we don’t cry as much anymore, he’s still sad. I don’t like it when he’s sad. It reminds me of what had happened. And sometimes I wished I could just forget the accident. I try to forget it sometimes, but I know that forgetting the accident is forgetting my mother. And I don’t want to forget my mother; I just want to forget how she died. And, sometimes I am successful. But one way or the other, something reminds me. Even in my dreams, but I try to hide it. Truth is, I’m still having trouble with the accident, I just shy away from the topic. And it was good sometimes, because my dad never really brought it up. I don’t think he will and that’s a relief. I’m really thankful for Elias, because he’s just helping him so much. Elias had lost his wife too, and he knows how hard it must be for my dad. I love Elias for that too. Elias is for my dad like what Jaylen is for me. I’m not sure how long they’ve been friends, but you could swear it would be all their lives. They’re always together, and it’s nice. I’ll admit, it is a little annoying being surrounded by guys all the time, but you grow used to it. To be honest, I didn’t really care as long as some one was with me. It was starting to get lighter outside. I glanced at my little alarm clock on my dresser, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. The time took me by surprise. It was five in the morning. Holy crap, that was early. I could go back to sleep and wake up later, but I just wasn’t tired, even though my mind wanted me to. So I climbed out of bed, and made it up awkwardly because I still had my cast on. I had a week left until it was removed, but that still seemed like forever. I wanted to get it off now, I could if I wanted to but my dad wouldn’t approve of me standing over the trashcan with me jabbing knives into my arm. I chuckled at the thought and went into the bathroom to do my morning routine. After that I went downstairs to get some grub. I could go for some eggs and sausage right now. My stomach growled in agreement. I tried to be quiet as I passed my dad’s door. I didn’t want him to think I couldn’t get any sleep. Which was technically true, because I couldn’t. I had no desire for dreams to come. Not after my conclusion I had just made. So I just slipped down the stairs in stealth mode, tiptoeing. I got to the bottom of the stairs
and I turned the TV on low. I flipped to vh1 and watched the morning videos. I hadn’t watched them in so long that I almost forgot that it aired. But they were on, and I knew some of the music so that pleased me. I wasn’t so out of touch as I thought I was. I walked slowly in the kitchen aware of how hard I stepped, not wanting to wake my dad. I opened the fridge with a sigh and looked inside. No eggs or sausage. I was pure out of luck. I groaned a little and looked around again. Cereal seemed nice. I grabbed the essentials for a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch, and sat on the couch in the living room. I savored the taste, eating it slowly, but mostly because I had some trouble grasping the spoon. It kept bending between my fingers, which mad it hard to put it in my mouth when it was turned sideways. I gave up soon and got a different spoon from inside the silverware drawer, one that was stronger. I flopped back down on the couch and picked up my cereal. As soon as I put it between my fingers, it bent. I grunted and held it tighter. I felt so handicapped. Why was it so hard for me to hold a frikin spoon? It was a mistake to hold it tighter because then it broke. A stainless steel spoon breaking when I gripped it a little tighter? This was irritating the hell out of me. And then my mind ran wild again. Is it Time for the gloves Aiyana? Since when were you so strong? It’s just like your dream! Everything you touch breaks. If that’s the case, don’t touch your dad. Or Jaylen. What would happen? Would they bend too? Scary, Aiyana, very scary. Maybe, just Maybe you should get your fingers checked . . . . . I stared down at the slightly deformed spoon in my hands. My mind was playing tricks on me. No, I was playing tricks on me. So I bent a spoon, big whoop. I’m sure lots of people bend spoons on accident. Yea, I thought, totally normal. Normal? Not likely. There was nothing completely normal about me now. There was nothing normal about the dreams I’ve been having. There was nothing normal about the accident I had been in. there was nothing normal about the welted spoon in my throbbing fingers. Ouch. I clenched my fingers into fists. It felt like there was a heart pounding its way through my fingers, trying to bust through my fingers. Clenching wasn’t a
good idea. I bit my lip and opened my fist. Blue defined veins were criss-crossing there way on my hands, from the palm up. “Gah!” I yelped. My hands did not look its usual tannish color; they looked blue. A shocking sort of blue, not dark but kind of like an electrifying type of blue with a hint of purple. On the brown lines of my palms, there was no blue at all, just the veins in my fingers and down. At the beginning of my wrist the veins cut off. Only two veins were on both of my wrists, perfectly normal. Nothing average about these lines, though. Aghast, I jumped of the couch, running to the freezer. I scanned the cold box for an ice pack and when I found one I very carefully picked it up, aware of the tingling it caused to do so. The beats in my fingers were like drums, and I winced a little. But that didn’t slow me down at all. I yanked the dishtowel off of the stove and wrapped the ice pack inside (which is very hard to do with a cast) thinking the pounding would stop. With my right wrist, I pressed the pack against my left hand and held it there with my right. I kept them together in a clapping movement, still panicking. Not caring if my dad woke up, I ran up the stairs and into his bedroom, hoping he had an icy-hot. The pounding in my fingers was drumming so fiercely, my hands shook. Its one thing to have this happens to one hand, but a wholly other thing when it happens to both. Plus this pulse just wouldn’t slow. I finally burst through my dad’s bedroom door and he sat up immediately. “Aiyana? What’s wrong?” he asked rubbing his eyes. But I couldn’t move. My knees buckled wildly. And before I knew it, my mind was running again. The Heartbeats in my fingers, felt like pulses. My mother had shouted that word at the accident. She had pressed her fingers to my head and shouted ‘pulse’, and then I felt the tugging in my head. Similar to what I was feeling now. Tugging, breaking, pulsing. Oh, shit, I thought. That was all I really thought for the moment that was a logical reaction. The only other thing I thought about was that word. My fingers tensed again.
Pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse. My head gave a surprising tug, and I thought, you’re so normal, before I felt my eyes roll to the back of my head. I met the carpet of my father’s floor with one hard thud.
The beginning of his warning
“I’m fine, dad, really,” I tried to convince my dad that I was just exhausted, that the fainting had nothing to do with the accident. It wasn’t entirely true. It had a lot to do with the accident. Maybe not all of it, but some of it. I put on my best believe-me-I’m-telling-the-truth face, but he still wasn’t buying it. I could tell; his eyes practically all but bulged out of his head when he answered. “Aiyana! You fainted and you had an ice pack in you hands! You’re very blue hands if I might add. Now how am I supposed to believe that you’re fine with blue hands? Because having blue hands is perfectly normal!” I waited for him to get it all out. I pursed my lips and looked down. He had gotten me there. I wasn’t fine, and I knew it. I never faint, and I never had blue hands before either. So, no I wasn’t fine. That part was a lie. The nurse didn’t believe me either. They told me that I was passed out for at least an hour, and ever since then; the swelling had gotten worse. That much was clear. I looked down at my bandaged fingers. My
cast had been removed. They weren’t exactly attractive. Rather than have just all my fingers being bandaged, they also did my palms and my wrist. I could still hold stuff if I tried to ignore the throbbing. But they looked better this way; it was better than the blue. I was about to say something when my dad’s phone rang. He put up one finger, and pulled his phone out. “Elias?” of course it was Elias. Not that I minded, it was kind of sweet of him to check up on me like this. “Oh, sorry Jaylen. I thought you were . . . . . yes, she’s fine.” He shot a look my way. “No, no . . . That’s okay; she just fainted . . . Yes Jaylen, I’m sure she wont mind. Could you put –? Um, sure.” He broke off mid sentence and handed me his phone. He rolled his eyes. “I’ll be outside,” he muttered, walking away. I was alone in the little hospital room. I held the phone to my face lightly, not wanting the pressure in my fingers to start again. “Hello?” I said after clearing my throat. “Aiyana? Are you okay? What happened? Are you sick?” he spit out quickly. I chuckled nervously. His words came rolling of his tongue like an avalanche. “I’m fine Jaylen, thanks for asking,” I said shakily. Why was my voice quivering? Must be the nerves. He let out a sigh of relief, but I continued. “No, I’m not sick, I just . . . . . had a complication. One of my veins . . . . .Split open, something along the lines of a serious blood clot. B-but I’m okay. You can relax.” I choked. Liar, liar, pants on fire, my mind sang. “Well, as long as you’re okay.” He said with a huff. His sigh sounded incredulously willing and relieved at the same time. It made me think. “Why are you so worried about me all the sudden?” asked, really wondering. He’d always been caring and interested, but I just wanted to know why exactly. What made him always want to be so close? Not that I didn’t like him being so close all the time. I liked it very, very much. And I think he liked it too, or else he wouldn’t be around so much. It made feel at ease when he was around. It saved me from trying to start a conversation with my dad. That
wouldn’t be easy. I bit my lip as the silence prolonged, regretting it a little. He paused for what seemed to be a minute. “B-b-b-because I-,” there was a swift knock on the door and I broke him off. Probably the doctor. It was rude to break him off like that when he had finally started to say something, but my fingers felt funny, and I didn’t want to shove away any help that could make them stop. Besides, I could always ask him later. I knew I would. “Sorry Jaylen! Gotta go! Talk to you later?” I didn’t give him a real chance to answer because I already knew it. I sat up straight and turned towards the door. “Come in,” kicking my feet off the bed of the hospital, I looked up to the eyes of the somewhat familiar looking stranger. Something about his gray eyes and hard face reminded me of something. It was weird because I knew I haven’t met him, but I felt like I knew who he was. Or I should. Like when you see somebody on the street, and you know you know him or her, yet you don’t. I don’t know - it was confusing. His face looked like he could use some sleep. Drooping over his angular cheek bones where dark circles under his eyes. I almost felt bad for him. But hey, maybe that just comes with late night shifts. Either it was sleep or just pure exhausted. The way he slumped when he walked made him look old. “Hello, I’m Dr. Jace. How are you doing today, Aiyana?” his voice was dull and lethargic, his speech almost slurred. The doctor walked in slowly, flipping the paper on top of his clipboard over. I mumbled something at him but he didn’t pay any attention. Some doctor. He just kept staring at his papers, squinting. He flipped the paper it back and forth, checking something. He took the glasses out of his front pocket of his white coat, and shoved them on with shaky fingers. He walked towards me slowly and then he gripped the counter, stumbling forward. His knuckles appeared white through his tannish fists. And his face looked blank. “Dr. Jace! Are you alright?” I asked scrambling off the bed, throwing my hands out looking for someway to help him. He steadied his balance and stood up straight, before I could help him up. He shifted his weight away from me, almost like a wince. My pounding hands dropped to my sides –why was
everyone doing that? –But I still remained standing. My eyes were ambiguous as he straightened his white coat. “I am fine,” he said his voice full of apprehension. Maybe he should be in the hospital. I didn’t believe him, and I could tell he knew that by the way he changed the subject before I could press him any farther. Clearing his throat and taking a small step back, he looked at my fingers. “But how are you doing?” I stepped back and hopped up on the hospital bed with out turning around. “I’ve been better,” I told him honestly. Which was true because between my mother’s death and my existence, I was still finding it hard to get up in the morning. And with a sigh, I looked down. I sucked my teeth. “I see,” he said glancing down at his sheet. “So I hear twenty veins in your hands popped? You are very lucky to have caught it in time, or rather you’re mind was. Do you know the outcome? We might’ve had to amputate your hand!” he chuckled to himself. He looked at me and said, “Kidding.” Why would you joke about amputating someone’s hands? How could he find that laughable? I felt my eyebrows send a crease to my forehead, and dr. Jace cleared his throat. “May I?” he asked holding out his hand. I put my left in his hand, hoping he would be able to stop the unwanted rhythm walloping inside my finger. He inspected them and found the left out twirl of the bandage. He slowly untwined it, and revealed my fingers. There was nothing there. Nothing except the obvious veins that showed in everyone’s arm. The doctor sucked in a sharp, but quiet breath. I wouldn’t have heard him swallow, either if it weren’t for the lifeless quiet in the room. I could feel my mouth open, and I didn’t try to close it. Surely, there had been blue lines on my fingers; I wasn’t crazy. I saw them, almost everyone did! But then why weren’t they there? “What -?” I started, “they were there! I-I swear I had these lines on my fingers; they were like two centimeters long! I don’t get it.” I gasped, as I looked at my hands again. If the nurses hadn’t seen them, and if he wouldn’t have known why I was here, I was sure he would’ve thought I was crazy. Hell, I would’ve thought I was crazy. Maybe I was crazy. I closed my eyes tightly for
about a second and when I opened them I looked down at my hand. Yup, they were gone. “It’s, um, just the sedative. The nurses injected it straight into your veins and in the IV. It stopped the blood from rushing so fast,” he mumbled eyeing my hands too. He cleared his throat but didn’t stop. “It usually takes a couple hours to stop. Because the blood is rushing so fast, and the analgesic needs to stop it. The faster the blood flowed, the larger your veins would grow, and eventually they would sever. The outcome wouldn’t look so good because eventually they’d all clot. But you’re very lucky to have caught it in time. Your veins were still expanding and they can only grow so much before they . . .” he shook his head for a moment as if he were trying to decipher something really difficult. “So, what then? Will I be okay?” the silence had lasted for almost a minute. I needed answers. “It would appear to be so, your veins are back to normal to my utter surprise. You had a very serious kind of blood clot that was starting to form inside your hands. What I don’t get it how your veins grew so large. But we preformed a lot tests and you seem to be fine. If it ever happens again, we strongly urge you to set up an appointment with a rheumatologist or a hematologist.” He said looking back at me. “But that doesn’t make any sense! What about the throbbing? I mean, don’t get me wrong, doc, I’m glad its over, but what happens next time?” I gapped at him. He looked at me for a moment and raised an eyebrow. He shifted his weight on the stool a leaned toward me. Hesitant. “What makes you think there will be a next time?” he narrowed his eyes. I dropped mine to my now ordinary hands, and let out a sigh. Something inside my head was warning me to keep my mouth shut. Aren’t you queer enough already? Do you want him to think you’re insane? He’ll probably recommend a mental hospital! He is a doctor after all. Go ahead and tell him about your bizarre dreams, and how you think you got your blue hands and about that broken spoon. And while you’re at it, why don’t you tell him about the time of the
accident with the voices? Sure he’d love to hear that. So go ahead . . . . . knock yourself out. I pursed my lips and jerked a shrug. I scratched me ear nervously and lied. “I don’t. Think. There will be a next time, I just um-,” I cleared my throat. “Want to be prepared?” the words sounded as if I was unsure, and I’d bet my face did to because he crossed his arms and said, “I see.” He laughed, but seriously. “It’s good to be prepared. You never know what might happen, because anything could. No matter how unnatural or idiosyncratic they are.” He stared at me. “Yea, well, uhm. That’s what doctors are for, right?” I chuckled nervously. What a turn this conversation had taken. Fortunately, my dad walked in. he half smiled at me and shook dr. Jace’s hand and sat next to me. The dr. filled in my dad on what he should do if it ever happened again. He was just finishing up when Jaylen walked in with his dad trailing behind. Elias looked annoyed and rolled his eyes as Jaylen rushed over to me. He had flowers in his hand and he held them out for me to take then thought better of it. I smiled warmly at him and he returned an even bigger smile. “Glad you’re feeling better,” he said still smiling. Dr. Jace looked over at us, I only saw from the corner of my eye. Jaylen was holding my gaze. “A whole family reunion in here,” he laughed. I wanted to punch him in the face suddenly but my dad and Elias chuckled with him. He continued on, while me and Jaylen talked. The small hospital room was becoming even more crowded. “Got these for you,” Jaylen said. “I remember how you used to like nature so much. Sorry but the hospital store didn’t have much of a variety.” He laughed. “No, no. Their beautiful.” I said smiling and reaching for them. He held them farther away from me and bit his lip. “Uhm, thank you?” I said still reaching.
“Yeah, how bout I hold on to these for you? Just until you’re hands are all better.” He insisted. I continued to reach but he still would give them to me. I sighed. “Jaylen, my hands are perfectly fine. See?” I held them up to his face. I wasn’t necessarily lying. They were barely throbbing. He looked closer and sat the flowers down on the bed. He took my hands in his and held them. He peered down at them and a hint of a smile stretched out on his lips. He smoothed circles around them. His hands were warm, as was his gaze as his eyes found mine. The throbbing stopped all together. I was lost in them for a minute. I tried to say something, tried to move my lips, but all I could do was gaze into those chocolate eyes of his. As corny and fake as it may seem, I just couldn’t look away from them, or rather I didn’t want to. He was looking at me too, but with an expression I just couldn’t comprehend. I was still lost in the depth of his Hershey-like eyes. I was in a daze; I mean, the way they shined from the fluorescents of the hospital lights made them twinkle like he had tears in them. They were beautiful . . . . . Someone cleared their throat and Jaylen dropped my hands softly and smiled. I was still gaping at him. He grinned at me and looked toward my father. And when he turned his head, there was nothing else worthy looking at, so I let my gaze drop down to my fingers and bit my lip. “We’re done.” My dad said staring at Jaylen. “Yeah? Does that mean I’m ‘fine’?” I used finger quotes and looked at my dad. He smirked. “For now,” he said helping me off the bed. He paused for a second. “You need to change.” He looked at my ensemble from last night. I looked down too, and saw that I still had on a spaghetti strap, and matching light blue short shorts. I grinded my teeth together. My dad took the flowers from Jaylen in a swift movement. It looked almost rude, the way he took the flowers. We were walking out of the door now, and I cast a look in dr. Jace’s way. He smiled bleakly and watched as I walked out. Weird, I thought to myself. I had almost forgotten Elias was here, and when I looked to ask him a question, he was gone.
“Where’d your dad go?” I nudged Jaylen. He nudged me back. “To get the car, or to find the car. I can’t remember where we parked myself. We were in a rush.” He explained. I turned to my dad; he had stopped. He gave me the flowers, and pushed to me a jacket. “I’ll be right back, I gotta go sign you out,” he looked at the waiting room desk. “It could be a while.” He said with a sigh. I took the flowers from him, but let him hold the jacket. He held it out for me to take again. “Take it,” he urged. I looked out the wall-sized window of the hallway to where the sun shone brightly. I looked back at my dad and pushed it back. “Dad, it looks like it’s pretty hot out--,” he didn’t let me finish because he pushed the jacket to me again with a look that made me reconsider arguing. “Take it.” He said glancing up at Jaylen who was looking down. And I did. I didn’t feel like arguing, so I rolled my eyes and slipped it on, rolling up the sleeves. My dad was going a little overboard. He turned his back and strode of toward the front desk line. I turned toward Jaylen. “Fathers’,” I said scoffing. “He thinks that every single boy he sees is so perverted, and “in that stage of his life”, ugh.” Jaylen laughed and put his arm around my shoulder and took my flowers. He raised his eyebrows and pulled me down a dimly lit hallway. A vacant hallway, if I might add. “Come on,” he said pulling me by my waist now. “Let’s explore.” I giggled from his sudden intrepid behavior. “Since when have you been so fearless?” I asked between giggles. He took a large step away from me and placed his hand over his heart with a faux affronted look. His mouth dropped open and his eyes bulged. “Oh, I’m offended!” he exclaimed. I laughed, and he laughed. He offered me his hand. “Shall we go exploring the premises madam?” he said bowing slightly. “We shall,” I agreed. And I took his warmhearted hand without a first thought.
Jaylen: warning: impulse may lead to heartbreak
Her hand felt delicate and warm. Perfectly normal, nothing unusual about it right now. Except that it was in my hand. And there are no words that can express how good it feels to have it in mine, how good it feels that she did it on a whim, no thinking, nothing. I could see it in her eyes; she really just did it on an impulse. So as we walked down the badly lit hallway, I swung our hands forward and back with a grin on my face as she giggled. Aiyana always did make my day. Even when she didn’t notice it, she did. I wonder if I make her day too. Well I would today. My head was high, my face was bright, and my level of confidence could not be overshadowed by anything right now. Because I was content holding Aiyana’s hand. We walked down the hallway, creeping. We were trying to be quiet in case wee got caught. But the hallway was already so tranquil, even if the dead were near, and we heard our foot steps crackle in the hallway. And that’s all we heard. Because Aiyana had stopped giggling a while ago. There were no lights except for the fluorescents, it was a little dim, and so that’s why I thought Aiyana was making that face.
“Scared Yani?” I asked squeezing her hand for a moment. She didn’t answer me. Instead she slowed us all the way down to a walk. “Maybe we should go back, jay.” She said, voice crackling in the effort. I raised an eyebrow. I opened my mouth to say something but her expression made me think again. She looked heart broken and sad . . . . . “Oh! Aiyana, I’m so sorry! I wasn’t thinking, I’m so sorry. God, I’m such a dumb ass,” She made an effort to smile, but she made a noise that sounded like a whimper so I pulled her to my chest and hugged her. Dammit Jaylen! Do you always have to ruin the moment? I scolded myself as she sniffled against my chest. Crap, now she’s crying! Great going jay, I sighed and patted her hair. “‘S okay,” she mumbled against me. I pulled her back to look at her tearstreaked face. I put my hands on either side and brushed them away looking into her eyes, preparing to get lost again. Her face was hot, and I smoothed her cheeks. She thought it was okay that I was so inconsiderate and brought her to a morgue right after her mother’s death. Sure, that’s so polite of me to do. Plus she was crying and she was comforting me. That was making me feel horrible. Neither her voice nor her face was convincing me. “No, Yani, it’s not,” she brought her eyes up to mine and gazed at me for the longest moment. I was feeling my composure slip away. Yet, I didn’t try to bring it back. I didn’t try to tell myself that I’m an insensitive jerk or that I shouldn’t be even thinking about kissing her even though we were alone and I was going to do it sooner or later. Nope, I didn’t listen to myself. I was already leaning in very slowly. Did she notice? Did she notice that her back was up against a wall and her best friend was trying to kiss her, because he loved no one like her? Did she? Or better yet, did I want her to? No, I didn’t. I don’t quite know why, I just wanted her to be taken by surprise. I wanted her to kiss me back though. I wanted her to . . . . . love me. She closed her eyes for a moment; she shook her head. When she opened them she was still gazing at me. I moved my hand to the back of her head very slowly, twisting my fingers in her hair. It was deathly silent and the only
sound was our ragged breathing and the thrumming of my heart which I could hear beating palpitate in my ears. I leaned my forehead against hers, noses touching. I was that much closer. I inhaled. “Jaylen, I –,”she murmured, voice as soft as a whisper. She would’ve finished, but I was already kissing her. Her soft lips curved up and I could feel her surprise by the way she gasped. Her body locked down for a moment, everything went stiff. But I clutched her to me; I was kissing Aiyana. But she wasn’t kissing me back. Not yet. But I wouldn’t let that get me down; I was still in my happy place. And pretty soon I was in a happier place because her hands wrapped around my neck and she kissed me back. Our bodies pressed together. Her hands framed my face now, and I felt my knees wobble. I think I stumbled. My mind went blank and suddenly I wasn’t moving any more. Gravity was increasing on me. It felt as if I had been totally disconnected from my body. I couldn’t move my arms, or even my lips. Did I even have lips? Didn’t feel like it. I couldn’t see anything but the darkness we see in nightmares. I couldn’t even hear anything; it was as if I wasn’t kissing Aiyana any more, like I was lifeless. I was nothing and I loathed it. And suddenly like an elastic band, my senses all snapped back to me with a sharp sound. And I was falling backward. When I regained my composure, I was on my back, fallen on my elbows to break my fall. For a split second I wondered if I had done that voluntarily. I found Aiyana, panting against the wall, face full of shock. Her eyes were open wide and they were staring down at her fingers, which were clawing up at the air. As she was staring at her shaky palms she let out a cry. Or a yelp. I was up then, right next to her face, looking into her eyes as if I could find out what was wrong from them, but she wouldn’t look at me. “Aiyana!” I said grabbing her wrists and looking down. There was nothing there. I felt my eyebrows pull together. She looked at me then with a look of terror and repugnance. But that shifted to remorse and Tears began to pool out of the corners of her eyes. She started to say something, but she just ended up
gasping from either shock or tears, or maybe both. Her pained expression filled me with dismay; I didn’t like it. “I’m –“she broke off again when I put my mouth on hers. On an impulse this time too. But this kiss was different. This time she didn’t kiss me back or pull me closer. She stayed there for a minute, just letting me kiss her. I had her wrists pinned to her sides, and I was trying to force a reaction out of her. I breathed for a second but then pushed my lips back to her. Her lips moved with mine, but not in a way that would mean she was kissing me back. Instead She turned her head to the side and made the kiss break off. She leaned against the wall, lurched away from me and she wouldn’t look at me either, her eyes were closed. She tried to get her wrists free and turned them every way until I noticed and let go. And when I did I took a step back and she slumped toward the floor. She wouldn’t look at me but I could see her tears fall from her eyes. “I’m sorry,” she whispered toward the ground. She sniffed and her fingers formed fists. She was still breathing heavily, but with a twisted feel of rage. “Aiyana, don’t be sorry, it was my fault.” I told her this against the wall opposite of her, still breathless. And when I could finally look her in the face, I inhaled. “Aiyana. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t even say it right now.” I squeaked. Her face whipped up to me. “Say what? That you hate me?” she growled at me. I scoffed lightly and shook my head. How could she think such a thing? “Hate you? Yani, if I hated you, do you think I would’ve . . . . . kissed you?” I took a deep breath and cleared my throat. “Aiyana,” I began, “I love you. I’m . . . . . in love with you.” I finished. My words ringed with absoluteness. I watched her take it in. how would she react? I didn’t get the reaction I had dreamed about. Instead I watched her face transform into so many emotions, I couldn’t even decipher what they were until they morphed again. I could understand the last one, though. Even with her eyes closed and her teeth clenched as tight as her fists. It was hate. Pure, livid hate. “Don’t.” she spit through her teeth, as she looked away. Why not?
“I already am.” I retorted. My love for her was nothing like my tone. I swallowed deeply. I lifted my chin and let my confidence climb until she started to talk again. I took a step forward and laid my hand on her cheek. “Aiyana I have been for a long time. I don’t feel like that’s gonna change.” She leaned her cheek on my hand for a second, and I thought she was giving in until she pushed my hands away. I retreated back a step, slowly. “Well, you shouldn’t because I’m not in love with you.” Her words started of strong, but I could feel them breaking. One by one, her voice broke and I could see it in her eyes that she really truly loved me. But was it enough? And if it was, why was she acting like this? Why was she refusing me? “What? After all of that you think I’m gonna believe you? Stop lying to yourself. Or better yet, stop lying to me.” I kneeled in front of her and laid my hand on her clenched fist. She bowed her head and inhaled. I wanted her to wrap her arms around me and tell me that she was really in love with me. But she moved her head away from side to side. Then she started crying silent tears. They wouldn’t stop, they just gushed from her eyes as if they were a Niagara Falls floodgate being opened. “Oh, Jaylen. I. Cant. Love. You.” Or maybe I was just imagining she loved me. Yes, maybe I was. Because she got up and stalked off out of the hallway, leaving me all alone in the dimly set lights. I let her go. I couldn’t move, but I could feel myself sinking down, crumpling on the floor, bit by bit until I was shattered. It was just me and a heart that had fallen off of my very vulnerable sleeve. How does it feel to loose both of the women you love, Jaylen? “Horrible,” and then I cried.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I had finally risen from the cold floor and made my way out of the morgue. Now I was sulking toward the elevator. I didn’t want to think about Aiyana. But my mind had pondered why she just left me hanging like that. I mean when I look at
it from my point of view, I think that I was in the right. I mean, then again I did drag her down to the morgue, then when she started crying I made a move on her, then she started crying again, and I made yet another move on her, in a rather forceful manner. And then she rejected me after leading me on AND made me cry. All the while we were in standing next to a morgue. Okay, so I was actually in the wrong for the most part. She was in the wrong too though; I am not taking the blame for it. I didn’t mind for the most part. Except the ending. If she didn’t love me, why did she kiss me back? Why didn’t she push me away? Why did she let me kiss her and hold her if she didn’t want me to? Or maybe she did want to, just not in the tense you wanted to. She played you man. No, I shouldn’t think about her like that, I was technically calling her a ho. But I was. I mean, how could she do that to me? How could she make me fall in love with her, and when I finally get the courage to tell her, shoot me down in the worst way possible? She played me. Played me bad. She made a damn fool out of me. And here I was crying like the little punk ass she made of me. But how could I let her? How could I let her go? I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. Does she know how it feels to loose a mother? Yes she did. But did she know that I only loved two women in my life (or three if you count Stella too.), both of which were gone? That would make the situation a whole lot worse if she did. Because that would mean that she didn’t give a fuck about my feelings. The elevator buzzed. I walked through the halls in a blur. I didn’t have any tears in my eyes, I had made sure of that. I think. My phone vibrated in my pocket. I took it out mechanically. “Yes?” I asked. It was my dad. My tone was soured with acidic animosity, and it wasn’t hard to tell. “What’s wrong with you, boy?” I started to deny my moodiness but he cut me off. “Well I’m outside, right by the lobby. And hurry up.” he hung up. “Whatever,” I said, shoving my phone into my pocket. I slumped, as I walked. I wasn’t seeing where I was walking; I was barley aware that I was
moving my feet. I was in no rush to get outside. I was in no rush to go anywhere. I didn’t even want to move. Huh, what was the point? Then it came to me. There wasn’t one. But I alas, made it outside. And as sure as he always was, my dad was waiting in his dark blue Toyota, the engine thundering into my thoughts. I made it there and opened up the door. Slumping in to be more precise, than sliding. It was bright outside, and I leaned my head back on the headrest. I didn’t want any light right now. I wanted darkness. Complete, utter darkness. Maybe I should turn Goth. “What on earth is wrong with you?” my dad asked as he started to drive. He glanced over at me, eyeing me suspiciously. “Don’t wanna talk about it,” my voice cracked. Shit! Damn you squeaky voice tones! My dad looked at me for a moment as he waited for the cars to pass so he could drive. “Holy shit, Jaylen are you crying? What happened?” he put his hand on my shoulder, but I shook it off rudely. “Nothing, dad.” Shit, if no one cared about my feelings, why should I care about theirs? I thought about it. My dad did care about my feelings. That’s why he was asking in the first place. Ugh, why was everything going wrong today? Everything had started off so . . . . . perfect. And now, it was defective. The one thing I prayed for had been taken –no it had been chosen to be taken away from me. “Jay, what’s going on? Talk to me.” Talk? What was I supposed to say? I had been brutally rejected by Aiyana, so therefore I had lost not only my best friend, but also the could-be love of my life. But no, I couldn’t tell him that. Because he wouldn’t understand, he’d say I was overreacting. But I wasn’t. I was so far gone for Aiyana. He wouldn’t understand that. Even if he had guessed right, I just couldn’t. So I kind of snapped. “Damnit, dad! I’m fine!” I screamed. I saw my dad’s face; it was a mix of a hurt but sympathy at the same time. There must have been something wrong with my face, dead wrong. There was no other reason he would let me talk to him
like that. He would’ve slapped the hell out of me, but he didn’t. He just nodded and said, “Okay, when you’re ready.” It was a quiet ride home. When we got to the door my dad didn’t get out. He stayed in, with the engine running. He turned towards me. “Uhm. Jordan and Aiyana were coming over for the Nets game. I was supposed to pick up the take out. I’ll be back.” I gasped. “Right now?!” he nodded. I groaned. Why was this happening to me? My dad looked at me. I scratched my head and kept my cool, or at least tried to. I shrugged. That doesn’t mean I had to talk to her. I would avoid her. Yea, I could do that. Right? Not right.
Aiyana: Jesus Christ, where’s the logic?
Something was wrong. Way wrong. I knew something was going to happen by the moment I started crying in the hospital. It really wasn’t his fault I had started crying. Not really, I mean I had wanted to go to the morgue just as much as he had. I wasn’t really thinking. Everything was happening on impulses. It seemed everything that was happening to me was involuntary. But that kiss . . . . . oh, that kiss, that kiss was a different kind of involuntary. It was more want than willing, if that makes sense. I remember how he held me. “No Yani, it’s not,” he told me, stroking my cheek. It wasn’t okay to him, and deep down inside I knew it was not okay that I was down in the morgue
disturbing the dead, when my mother, my own mother was dead. He understood that. So as I had looked up at Jaylen, I felt like I was – I don’t even know if this fits –I felt content. I was happy. I was happy he was holding me in his arms and that he understood me so well. All I could think about was that how good it felt, his breath warm against my cheeks, how well I felt. Jaylen always knew what I wanted, even if I didn’t have the nerve to ask for it. And he must have known that him holding me this way was the only thing I wanted at the moment. I closed my eyes. I felt utterly in love, and I’d have it no other way. Did he know? Did he know that as he held me, I was thinking about how good of a couple we could be? Did he know that I wanted this moment to last forever? Did he? No he didn’t. He couldn’t. Suddenly I was backed up against a wall, and my breathing sped up tremendously as he twirled his fingers in my frizzy hair. I knew what was happening. He leaned his forehead against mine. My mouth opened and I started to say something. Only, I didn’t know what I was going to say. I was only thinking one thing and I was definitely not going to tell him that. I was thinking, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, he’s going to kiss me! Ohmyfrikin god! Yes! Ohmyfrikin god! I’m in love with him. Yep, and there was no way I was going to tell him that. Partially because he was already kissing me. Something in me made me smile, I would have grinned, but Jaylen was kissing me. Oh my god, Jaylen was kissing me. Why couldn’t I move? Kiss him back! Kiss him back! He clutched me so close it was hard to breath. But soon enough, I had thrown my arms around his neck, and we were even closer. I didn’t think it was possible, but I was wrong. He sighed a laugh, and his warm lips continued. My back hurt, but I ignored it. I pressed my fingers to his temples to hold him closer. And then I made one of the worst mistakes in my whole life. I concentrated. I concentrated on kissing him, and telling him I loved him if I ever found a way, and holding him. My life was centered on mistakes and they just wouldn’t let up. But this pressure, this energy building up inside of me, it pushed it all away. It was as if I was being awarded Jaylen. And I was filled with this marvelous buzz.
It shot off of every cell of my body, from my feet to my wrists and finally to my fingers. My hands grew firmer and firmer on Jaylen’s face and I felt him quiver. He probably wanted me to stop, but I couldn’t. I didn’t quite know how. I was too happy. He was kissing me. Or at least he was. Now all of the sudden I was forcing a reaction out of him. Opening his lips, I felt no breath, I felt no air, I felt nothing except the force of energy coming from my fingers, extending it away, and I could almost fell the tiny waves reflecting. And then the vivid light came. It was strangely beautiful, the whiteness. I was blinded by it. I couldn’t see beyond the brilliant whiteness, but I knew I was still kissing Jaylen. Whoa, how long could I go on with out a breath? The whiteness frightened me because my senses felt extremely abnormal. Every blink made me feel stronger. Or to be precise, more out of control. I could feel everything. I could feel the tiny tremors shaking off of Jaylen; I could feel the minute wisps of air coming from his lips, and the faint shudders of his heartbeat. And I felt Jaylen’s legs bend back in a weirdest angle. “Aiyana! Stop! You are going to kill him! Stop it! Your pulsing, Aiyana! Channel it in! You are going to kill him!” some one was yelling straight in my ear. It was a man. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear. The man for ruining this perfect aberrant moment of mine instantly annoyed me. I wanted to block him out, hurt him if I could. Because this was all new to me. And I was enjoying it. Yet I was still curious. He seemed oddly familiar so I thought for a moment. A too long moment. As I pondered his identity, I felt some sort of push coming from the light. It felt like I was being impelled towards every wrong action that I knew wasn’t right. I felt the power but it felt wonderful so how could it possibly be bad? This light was slowly taking over my mind urging me to keep holding Jaylen. So I didn’t let go. A good cognizant part of my head was there, I could feel it. It was slow working and wasn’t winning against the white light. It was like two sides fighting against each other, one effortlessly the other arduous. The more I held on, the more I felt the intensity of the whiteness. It was going to take over my mind. Should I have cared? Jaylen’s heartbeat stuttered and stopped for a minute, and
then it continued with a slow thump. I felt as if every roll of energy that shot from me absorbed Jaylen’s. Suddenly, as if the smaller part of my conscience had been waiting for this recognition it started working. I tried to put it together quickly. For starters, I was feeling a spasm of uncontrolled power. The power was making me stronger as I held onto Jaylen with tenaciously locked fingers not letting go. It was making me stronger as I made Jaylen weaker. I was absorbing his power. And pretty soon . . . . . I remembered the man from my dreams. The one that had always seemed to want to torture me. But he was trying to tell me something now. I replayed his warning in my head, fighting the whiteness that seemed to want to cover up my thoughts. Oh, crap. I was killing Jaylen. I realized it with hurriedly put-together logic. The man’s warning echoed in my ears, strong with admonition. Somehow, someway, I must have stopped. I guess it was the realization that I was hurting Jaylen. But a shrill sound shot through my eardrums, and a band, a shocking blue colored band snapped my hands back. Like a crack of a whip, it broke through the whiteness. The whiteness disappeared, and my vision retuned. I watched Jaylen fall. “Too close, way too close.” The man said. I gasped and looked down at my hands. Empty and normal, but I hated them. What was wrong with me? What was going on? What did I just do that was too close? I scolded myself. How could you do this, Aiyana? You almost killed him! But how? How did I almost kill him? There was no exact way of knowing how. The man said I was pulsing. And pulsing must be dangerous. How could I trust this man already so much? Where was he? Who was he? I thought he hated me; he always did in my dreams. But then why was he warning me, telling me, that I would kill Jaylen? What was happening to me? I was becoming a monster. Jaylen was in my face. I didn’t see him get up, but he was already grabbing my wrists. He stared down at my palms. There was nothing there and it was a worthless effort. But I realized as he was staring at my face, that he was alive. Oh, god I was shaking. Shaking hard, too. My whole body trembled with the rage my fingers had caused me to force.
I tried to tell him I was sorry. I tried to say something, anything. But what was there to say? I couldn’t tell him anything. I couldn’t, or else he’d think I was crazy. But what then? Did he notice what had happened? Did he feel it too? Was he on to me? The words forced them selves out of my mouth again. He looked in my eyes and pressed against me, restricting my wrists to my sides. He continued to look at me as I cried. He shook his head sharply, and with more force than I thought he had, he pushed his mouth on mine. I fought as hard as I could to not kiss him back. But it was too hard. His lips were like morphine. Whether it was the force between us, or just the uncorrupted bliss that charged through me, I was intoxicated. Why couldn’t I kiss him back? But I remembered what I had done, and that I could still kill him now. I fought to keep myself in a stiff posture. But I was leaking . . . . . I could feel it. He pressed harder up against my chest, and the closeness just made it harder. Ugh! This whole pulse thing was ruining my life! I wanted to kiss Jaylen back, but I couldn’t because I could kill him. How lame was that? It was downright unfair. I wanted to hold him. I wanted to be with him. But once again, I couldn’t because of this whole ‘you’ll kill him’ thingy. This is so gay. So when his lips opened, so did mine. Then I tried staying perfectly still, because I wanted nothing more than Jaylen by my side. But I just couldn’t do it this way. I couldn’t. And it really hurt to realize that, Jaylen and me would and could never be together. One way or the other, I would hurt him. And I just couldn’t do that. I loved him. And if I really loved him, I’d have to stay away from him. It was absolutely astounding that all of this was happening to me and right now. And it was embarrassingly stupid to want to kiss him back. I was selfish and inconsiderate. I mean, why? Why cant I just be normal? With a last and final kiss I turned my head to the side. Jaylen leaned his forehead on mine until I tried to pull my wrists free from his grasp. He let go and I let the tears fall down silently down my cheeks. I slid down on the floor. He stepped away from me, still panting. That was the only sound I heard. Far as I knew, I was holding my breath, my hands formed tightly into fists. I didn’t let them touch the ground.
“I’m sorry.” I said. My head was pounding. I sniffed a gasp but didn’t look up. Jesus Christ, why was this happening? “Aiyana, don’t be sorry, it was my fault.” He reassured me from against the wall across from me. I could feel his eyes on me. I really could. But at the moment I just couldn’t look at him. What would he see anyway? He thought this was his fault. And I just couldn’t return his gaze, it made me feel worse to hear those words come out of his mouth. “Aiyana. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t even say it right now.” His voice cracked. There was something in his words that I couldn’t comprehend. It was a strong emotion; too bad I didn’t know what it was. I misconstrued it with my own feelings. I looked up at him. “Say what? That you hate me?” he just laughed. How could he laugh, what was so funny about me killing him, huh? I reminded myself that he didn’t know. It would be so much easier if he hated me. I mean easier for him. Nothing was going to be easy for me. Jesus. I wish there was some way that I could give this all up. But I barely knew what it was. Jaylen was a craving for me. I couldn’t just tell him to go away. And what would happen if I never found out? This whole thing would be irrelevant to my life. But what was killing me was that, I wanted it to go away for just a while, not forever. I mean my mom gave it to me for a reason right? What was the reason? There was no reason. Not yet. Jaylen’s eyes grew somber, and I rolled my eyes. Say you hate me and get it over with. “Hate you? Yani, if I hated you, do you think I would’ve . . . . . kissed you?” No, I thought. He had no reason to hate me. I don’t know why I was wishing for him to. I know I wanted him to love me. What if he did? “Aiyana,” my heart started pounding furiously in my chest. Oh god. I knew what was coming. I knew what he was going to say by the way he looked at me. I closed my eyes. “I love you. I’m . . . . . in love with you.” And yet, I didn’t grin, or say diddo or any of the other cutesy things they do in movies. I let it go. I let it pass by and break me. I tried my best to ignore it, but my heart was beating mighty fast and it hurt. I felt my throat thicken, and it burned and ached while I tried to prevent my tears from tumbling down my cheeks. I thought for a moment.
A normal person wouldn’t refuse Jaylen like I was. A normal person wouldn’t be crying their eyes out, slumped down on the floor right now. And Jaylen, Jaylen was normal. What did he think of me then? Did he think I was crazy for crying right now? What did Jaylen think? A voice in my head spoke out. Dude, you’re not normal. Grasp that. “Don’t,” I replied looking away from his chocolate eyes. He sighed, frustrated at me. “I already am.” He walked toward me and put his warm hand on my cheek, trying to make me look at him. But I couldn’t, or else I’d get lost again. Lost in his eyes, which I could look into for hours, it seemed, and never want to look away. Ever. His hand was warm. “Aiyana, I have been for a long time, and I don’t feel like that’s ever gonna change.” God, I could’ve died right there, and I wouldn’t have complained. All along, I’d been waiting for him to say those words. I wanted them so badly and half of the time I didn’t even know it. And at this moment, I had gotten what I had been longing for. And it sucked ass that I couldn’t say it back. Jesus, you know I wanted to so badly. But when you almost kill someone you love so dearly, you realize some things. Some of them good, like for instance, I knew that I loved Jaylen. And that he loved me back. But then you also grasp other concepts; like that I couldn’t have Jaylen. Not until I got whatever this was that was so ‘dangerous’ under control. And that right there gave me hope. That maybe I would be able to channel it in and get it under restraint. I knew I could. And the sooner I ended this –what ever you called me and Jaylen now –the sooner I ended it, the sooner I could get him back. I know my theory sounds illogic, but he that was the best I could do. I could hope. “Well, you shouldn’t because I’m not in love with you,” Geez, why did that have to sound so fake? I was proud of myself for saying it, though. I was proud no matter how fake they were. My mission was almost complete. It was useless to Jaylen because I heard him scoff. “What? After all of that you think I’m gonna believe you? Stop lying to yourself. Or better yet, stop lying to me.” He pleaded.
God, why were you making me do this? He loved me; I loved him. Bam, happy ending. If only it was that easy. But it wasn’t, and I knew that. In my mind I did. And I decided to ignore my heart because it was clear that my mind was the smarter cookie in this scenario. He held my fist, and I had forgotten it was still clamped together so hard, but I kept it this way. I looked down and took a deep breath. You can do it. Just let him go. Come on Aiyana, you can do this. Let him go. At this point, I felt the tears descending down my cheeks. How much tears were left over? “Oh, Jaylen. I. Cant. Love. You.” The words were broken by my cries, and my throat burned even more as I let the words out. Yes you can, yes you can, and yes you can. In time, I disagreed. In time, I really could, maybe. I didn’t look up as I said those words. I just looked down and pushed his hand off of mine. I got up in a rush and started walking unseeingly through the hallway. I just walked and walked until I was out of the dimly lit hallway. I passed the corner and the sign that read: MORGE. I walked faster. I didn’t know where I was going. Shoot, I wasn’t even looking up anymore. Or maybe I was. I don’t remember.
As I walked, I prayed Jaylen wouldn’t come running after me. People looked at me as I passed by them. I probably looked so bummish right then. It was hard to see and I bumped into a couple of people. Finally I stopped walking. I found a seat in a hallway and sat down. While I sat down, I glared at my hands. I glared until my eyes started burning, forcing me to blink and for more tears to collide down my cheek. My head was pounding harder than my heart was; I yearned for some aspirin. As my head pounded irately, I tried to use it as an excuse to forget everything that just happened. Just for a little while. Just to take some time off from my constant troubles. I wanted to forget absolutely
everything. Or maybe just part of it. I did want to remember the kiss. The first one, that is. Next thing I knew, my dad was in front of me. His eyes totally bugging out, he was saying something. I think he was asking me something. He shook my shoulder a bit, but I didn’t say anything. I just stared at him blankly. I looked past him and out of the window. It was hard to forget looking at him. You ever walk and walk even though you didn’t know where you were going? I wished I could start walking again. I wished that right at that moment my dad wasn’t there. I wished that I were at the park walking, just walking. Smiling as I went, not a worry in my head. Just me and my mother walking, the sun shining down on us. I almost laughed at that thought. That would never happen. My mother was dead. Dead, dead, dead. She wasn’t coming back. Ever. She was just a memory. My dad shook my shoulder again. Then after staring at me for a while, he grabbed me in a big hug. He whispered something to me. It was muffled by my preferred stupor. I had been trying to tune him out, but I listened more closely. “I miss her too, baby.” He cried and held me tighter.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I wiped my face on the tissue my dad had given me. I kept my head down as he talked on his phone with Elias. “Yea, sorry man. TIVO it for me.” My dad insisted. It was so quiet that I could hear Elias complaining through the phone. It was stifled, but I had a good guess of what he was grumpy about. My dad shook his head. “No, but maybe later? Like next week later.” He shot a look at me and walked out of the kitchen and into the living room easing out swiftly. I dropped the napkin on the table in disgust and buried my head in my hands. What a mess, I thought.
Didn’t my father notice how quiet it already was? Did he really think I wouldn’t be able to hear him? Because I could, loud and clear. Unlike some people when they walk out of a room and talk quietly, my dad spoke a little louder at the least. Or maybe I was listening to hard. “Jaylen too? I don’t know, she just wont talk. Every time I ask her she’s like, ‘oh I’m on my period’, or ‘it’s a chick thing’. Gah, I feel more helpless by the second . . . . . you think so? Huh, maybe . . .. But why would she be making up excuses like that? I mean, if it was a ‘mom’ thing, I could probably handle that, E . . . . .well yeah, she did . . . . . when she was crying. But then what would that have to do with Jaylen, then? What - what did he say?” there was an aggravated pause. What? What did Jaylen say?! I demanded silently. The silence prolonged and I grew more anxious by the second. Finally he answered. “Oh. Oh, oh. Do you think they . . . . . I guess so. I mean if their both not talking about it, then I guess something happened between them.” I exhaled in relief. So Jaylen didn’t say anything. That was a comforting. “I don’t know! I’m no good with this sort of stuff, Elias. Jesus . . . . . I bet they did though. Maybe you should ask him, then . . . oh, you did. Maybe we are just second guessing this whole thing, though. I mean, she bawling her eyes out right now. Maybe she is on her, uh, thing. I don’t know man, maybe later.” He laughed then. “Yea, enjoy the take out. Alright man, peace.” He hung up. I heard him sigh and walk back into the kitchen. I didn’t look up even as he slid out a chair. “Wanna tell me what’s goin’ on?” he asked calmly. “Period,” I lied wryly. I exaggerated a sniff. My dad groaned and slammed his hands on the table. My head snapped up as the vase of fake roses fell over. “Don’t feed me that crap, Aiyana! Did he hurt you?” he glared at me with an eyebrow raised contemptuously. I gaped at him for a moment, and then looked away, biting my lip. Say something, Aiyana! I held silent or a moment. “Did he?!” he demanded. “No, dad I hurt him! Now can you please drop it?” I pushed my chair away from the table scraping it against the floor. I was starting to get up, when my dad answered.
“The hell I am! If he hurt you I need to know. Now.” He demanded. I watched the vein pop out of his forehead and neck. I gasped and threw my head back in exasperation. To my dismay, the tears rolled down my cheek in a rush. I let them fall. I looked out of the sunny window, then back at my dad. He wanted to know what happened? Well here it was. I could catch a temper just as quick as he could. Anger trembled my hands as I kept them to my sides, tucked into fist. “He didn’t hurt me, dad! All he did was kiss me! That’s it! That’s all! I was the one who caused all of this! Everything! I hurt everybody, dad! I’m the one that should be dead, dad! Not mom! Me!” I pushed away angrily knocking over my chair, and stalked out of the kitchen and ran up the stairs and into my room. I slammed the door behind me and threw myself onto my pillow and cried until I fell asleep. When I woke, I felt uneasy. I had had a dreamless sleep, which suited me just fine. I did not need any more drama weighing me down. And I was grateful for a dreamless sleep. But still, something about sleep made me feel unusually anxious. I sat up in my bed, laying my head in my hands. My hands! I tore them away from my face and peered down at them. I sighed in relief; they looked the same as two years ago. No unwanted blue shit threatening to end some one’s life. I ran my fingers through my frizzy hair, catching some loose ones in my hand. Sliding out of bed and noticed that I was still in my clothes from last night. I went to my dresser and pulled some clean clothes out, nothing elegant. I glanced at my clock heading out to my bathroom. Eleven sharp. I quietly opened my bedroom door and tiptoed down the hallway, not wanting to be noticed by my dad. I longed for a peaceful morning but I knew that my dad would try to talk to me soon after last night’s blow up. Maybe the anxious feeling was warning me. Warning or not, somehow, my dad heard me going to the bathroom. He was standing at the top of the stairs now, and his face was unreadable until he opened his mouth. “Aiyana,” he started. In a split second his forehead had become creased with waves of worry and doubt. His eyes looked poignant as they searched my
face, and I looked down at once because I knew that I had started all of this. I shut my door behind me and walked across the hallway to my bathroom. “I stink dad.” I reported tonelessly passing him by. He nodded but started to say something. I knew what he was going to say, so I beat him to the punch. “Yea, I know we gotta talk, dad. I know. I already know what you are going to say. That what happened to mom had nothing to do with me, I don’t hurt everybody, and that I should not be dead. In fact, that your happy that I’m alive, and that I’m here with you. Oh, and that you love me and will always be here for me.” I didn’t have to add my part on how way off the mark it was. He didn’t need to know that. So I shrugged and stared at him like I was waiting for him to finish so I could go shower. His lips twitched into a smile position, but he didn’t let it show. “All of that is absolutely, 100% true, Yani. And I do love you. Good morning by the way. But uh, that’s not all of what I was gonna say.” he pursed his lips. I raised an eyebrow. He was hiding something; I could tell by the way his Adam’s apple bulged down his throat he was hiding something. “Oh?” I asked, truly curious. He leaned at the foot of the banister and thought. He bit his lip and held back a grin. “I was also going to say that you shouldn’t have kissed Jaylen. I mean especially if you guys aren’t talking right now. Him and Elias are coming over today. Elias TIVO’d the Nets game. And uh, we were supposed to watch it together. Now I know you don’t really like baseball that much, and I know you and Jaylen are best friends, so I thought he would keep you company. But that was yesterday. And things change.” He added with a smirk. “But you’re always welcome to watch TV with us.” He shrugged with a look of innocence on his face. I tried my complete best to keep my face clear, but it was difficult. Jaylen coming here?! Like today? Was he serious?! Talk about inconsiderate! “What time?” I blurted the words out. My dad smiled and looked down at his watch.
“Oh, about two thirty? I think.” He smirked again. Must he always make life harder for me?! “Maybe sooner.” He shrugged and walked back down the stairs. What kind of dad was he?! Did he not remember anything that had happened last night? Was this his idea of trying to make my life easier? Well if it was, it wasn’t a very good one. I turned around and opened the bathroom door. I turned on the water slowly, and got ready to take the longest shower ever. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It’s pretty hard to take a long shower when the water gets cold. Okay, exceedingly hard, but there was no way that I was coming doing stairs early. If anything, I was going to be as late as I could. I mean that would give the impression that I wanted to see him. And I really did, I just couldn’t have them knowing that. Ugh, what was their problem anyway? Why couldn’t Elias and my dad just leave us alone? Where they really so much interested in our relationship that they were willing to force us to be together? What was next? Arranged marriage? They had been over here a lot since the accident, and I never minded at all. But now I do. Now, since I was turning into some sort of lethal freak! Goosebumps started arising on my arms, it was then that I noticed that the water was so cold. Guess I had been concentrating to hard. Things happen when I focus like that. I shut the water off with my foot, and smoothed the hair back from my eyes. I waited for all of the water to empty from the tub and then shut the dark blue curtain behind me. Almost everything in my bathroom was blue. I didn’t really like the color, it made my bathroom seem old, the navy blue. I wanted a beige pink color. Something soft, but not anything a grandma would pick out. Well, I never had the courage to ask my dad that. He seemed to like the color. But then again, he was a guy. And guys like anything. I put on my underwear and bra, but wrapped a towel around me. I gathered my clothes in a bundle and quietly opened the door enough to peek out. I listened quietly, I expected for them to be here. But I was hoping they were downstairs. There was nothing to see up here; the HD TV was downstairs. So in a swift moment, I turned out the
light and hurried out the bathroom, closing the door behind me. And then out of the blue, Jaylen walks out of my dad’s room. I froze. I inhaled sharply as he turned to look at me. His eyes took in my ‘ensemble’ with a quick gaze. We must have been staring at each other for a while. Jaylen's hair was faded, and his eyes looked just as brilliant as they always did. It sounds corny, but he did have this look in his eyes that made time and death and any unwanted inquiry irrelevant. They were a lovely color, like freshly made Swiss hot chocolate. Warm and comforting, with an occasional sparkle that would brighten up your day with a blink of his eye. But it was more mesmerizing if you happened to be in love with him. And maybe it was just me that was dazzled. Perhaps Jaylen was really ugly on the outside. The inside really counts, but as I assessed his face and outfit he sure didn’t look ugly to me at all. He looked handsome. So here I stood, half naked with my mouth dropped to the floor, just gazing at him for the longest time. And he looked at me too, not the lower half but the upper. He stared at me for the longest time. Just searching for something in my eyes, that he seemed desperate to find. I had a fairly good guess of what it was he was searching for. And I was pretty sure that it would show soon, but I was in breach of my mental contract. I pleaded with myself to stop, begged really. Do you really want to hurt him again? I asked myself. No, I did not want to hurt him. Ever. I felt my head shaking side to side, and I wondered what he thought I was thinking. His face grew softly hopeful, I think because his eyes squinted the tiniest bit and he smiled. A little. I snapped out of it and walked towards my room, holding my towel tightly. The last thing I wanted was for it to fall down again. My bedroom seemed very far away. When I made it to my door, I stopped and turned around. I expected him to still be standing there, gawking at me with the same embarrassed face I was sure mine’s mimicked. But Jaylen wasn’t there. Reluctantly, I opened my door and closed it behind me softly. I dropped my clothes on the floor and walked over to my bed. When my legs hit the rail, I fell back onto the bed limply. I lay there for a moment, just staring at my ceiling.
When I was younger I used to try and find pictures out of the paint blobs on my wall. I used to make stories from them. There was one in particular I remembered now, about a rabbit on a boat. The rabbit was sitting in a boat, and all around him there were other little animals on boats too. Then it started raining down clouds, and all of the animals were turned into blobs. Except for the rabbit on the boat, it stayed the same. So it just floated along, bored and alone. Not much he could do about it, everything had been turned into blobs now. And you couldn’t talk to blobs because they were inanimate. However as the rabbit sailed along, he felt as if he was lifeless, too, apathetic. But there was nothing he could do. So he just sat all alone in his boat. The end. I should publish that. It would make a very good bedtime story. I laughed to myself as I deliberated that. And then I suddenly felt very cold so I curled up into a ball. I just laid there for what seemed to be an hour. And then there was a rapid knock on my door. I sat up immediately, and pulled my cover around me tightly. “Yes?” I asked quietly, but somehow I was still heard. Someone chuckled outside my door. I knew that laugh anywhere; it was my dad. “Hurry up girl, we got company.” He stated through my door. I groaned and threw my pillow at the door. “Why are you doing this to me dad?” I asked, anger brewing in my voice and moisture brimming in my eyes. I could almost see him shrug as if he was an innocent child. “Doing what?” he inquired. I heard him lean up against my door. I scratched my head, aggravated. “Nothing dad. I’ll be down in a sec.” I sighed. I heard him laugh and retreat down the steps noisily. I grunted again and pulled myself off of the bed. I slumped over to my closet and slammed it open with enough attitude that would make New York want to take notes. My eyes skimmed through my hangers. Not really caring, I pulled out some old jeans and a button up shirt. Simple and not elegant, it was a good option. The more I thought about it though, the more it made me want to change.
I ended up pulling out some of my purple skinny jeans and my button up plaid shirt. I was pleased that I had matched it off pretty well. The shirt was an elbowsleeved shirt with pockets on the front. It had black, blue and purple lines running all over it. I pulled my jeans on and slipped on my shirt. Behind my door was a mirror on the back, and I just couldn’t resist looking into it. My hair today was impossible, so I just pulled it into a sloppy ponytail. I turned to the side and assessed myself. I should add some earrings . . . . . I stopped myself then. I was just going downstairs, not to the movies. I looked down ashamed of myself. I was hopeless and I tried to focus on something else. The scars on my face were starting to disappear, but I had a long one that ran from the back of my ear to the back of my shoulder blade. If I added a little makeup, you probably couldn’t even notice. But I was just going downstairs. And I reminded myself that as I walked down the stairs. Just down the stairs, nothing special. Just try to forget yesterday. Forget everything and deal with it later. But as soon as I saw Jaylen’s face, my mantra vanished instantly. Everyone turned to look at me. I felt like a monkey on display. Their eyes made me self-conscious. My dad’s eyes were calculating the appropriateness of my outfit; Elias’s were a bit smug and eager, while his son’s eyes were clouded with emotions. I saw hurt, love, hope, but mostly hurt, and I just could not look at him when I knew he felt that way. But hey what should I have expected? “What?” I demanded, easing my way into the kitchen. And as soon as I was in, I heard my dad and Elias roar in excitement about the game. I could have detected Jaylen's voice, but I didn’t hear it. And it made me sigh; he really wasn’t enjoying himself. He didn’t want to be here. I was making him uncomfortable, Jesus I was a monster. I buried my head in my hands for a couple minutes and leaned onto the counter. Just forget. Someone walked in and my throat clogged. I was afraid to look up, because I knew it was Jaylen. I had no doubt that it was he, because nowadays, he was everywhere I was. There was caution in these steps, and they were quiet and subtle. I turned a little towards the sink gradually, so he wouldn’t
notice I was turning away from him. But I heard him walking toward me, and my heart started pounding in my chest like it was about to burst into a million pieces and my stomach started fluttering from the butterflies it was filled with. A cupboard door opened silently, and I think it was a cup that was set down on the counter. I thought it was. I peeked over at him agilely but still precautious of what I might be facing. He stood against the counter across from me, and yes it was a cup that he held in his hand. He gripped it tightly in his fist. I was afraid to look up at him. It was funny almost, because now we were facing each other, and I was looking at his cup, while he was staring at my face bravely, as if there was no danger. How was it that I was so scared? He should be the one that should be scared. Terrified really, I was a menace to society. That made me laugh aloud. Forget about it. Vigilantly, I looked at his face. He was frowning at me. “What is so funny?” he demanded softly. I stopped laughing, and stared past him, at the wall behind him. I just shook my head unable to speak. He wouldn’t get the joke, if you could consider it that much. He began to say something, but it became either a sigh or a very twisted laugh. I saw him take two very large strides toward me suddenly. I flinched back, and turned my face away from him. He was close to me now. His cup dropped into the sink behind me, and his right arm gripped the silver edging of it. His left hand reached to hold my face, and he turned it so I was looking at him now. His face was ashen with heartbreak. It made my chest hurt. “I don’t understand you,” he confessed to me. His mouth turned down into a sad grimace that made me want to look away. My eyes were scavenging his face for some safe guilt-free place to look at. From his eyes to his lips, and I kept my focus there. It was almost as bad as his eyes, because those lips of his are what had gotten us into trouble in the first place. Well, not exactly. It never happened. I felt cockeyed, the way I stared at them or very dizzy. But I spoke. “Nothing is making sense anymore, Jaylen. Nothing is.” I replied. He shook his head at me and leaned closer. My god, he was so close to me, I felt like I might faint.
“I know, Aiyana. But it could if you let it. We could find some clarity in something; I don’t know Yani. I just know I don’t want to lose you. Please.” My breath caught. Oh Jesus, now he was begging. What have I become? Monster! My head shouted. I closed my eyes and exhaled. I was way too young for this. “Please what, Jaylen? What do you want me to do?” I knew damn well what he wanted me to do, and I meant it as an emblematic question. “I want you to be with me, Aiyana. That’s what I want.” His voice quivered. “Well, I’m here Jaylen.” I answered, still staring awkwardly at his lips. He leaned closer, and my back felt uncomfortable against the linoleum. He bent with my body, and I blinked rapidly at his nearness. This felt like something out of a movie, minus the pulsing and death. There was some part of my head that was bugging me about how I was supposed to leave him alone. What could I say? I’m a sucker for Jaylen. And I was starting to fall for that ‘forget’ crap. “Forever?” I would have laughed at his words. It sounded amateur, but not in a childish way, just in the way that it reminded me of what a child might say. I think I smiled. “As long as I can be.” I chose my words carefully despite my stupor. I still had to sort all this crap out. It was funny how I’d risk his life just so he could be with me. It wasn’t fair that he was being put on the edge of danger because I was so selfish. He grinned at me then, and it was unexpected. I expected him to frown or say how that wasn’t good enough. I knew it wasn’t good enough for him. He leaned closer until our noses were touching. I could feel his breath on my lips as he seethed with happiness. His grin seemed to be permanently plastered on his face, and it made me happy that he was happy. “Splendid.” He said, and pressed his mouth on mine. All the while, my mind started functioning. My father and his father were still in the other room, and I felt a little fast kissing Jaylen. I wasn’t fast at all, my mother had taught me better than that. No boys until age sixteen. That was a little ways away, months away really. I didn’t really like being named as a fast person, but at the same time, I didn’t want to stop. I pulled my lips off of his, though. I was still a menace.
I tried to shake off the power and memory right then, because I didn’t want to ruin the moment. I’d deal with it later. He leaned his forehead on mine and kissed me once more, then grinned. I couldn’t help grinning back, I was happy and he was happy. He let go and leaned on the counter like I was. He put his head back and sighed. “You know,” he began grinning at me. “I never believed you for a second. In the hospital, I mean. I knew you loved me. It was pretty obvious.” He added casually. “Just thought I’d let you know, in case you were planning on becoming an actress any time soon.” We laughed together quietly. “Yes, Jaylen. You are way too alluring to be left alone.” He was making a joke out of it, but I was uncomfortable with the subject, so I decided to change it. I leaned my head on his shoulder, and he wrapped arms around me. He sat his chin on my head. Being with Jaylen like this made me feel safe. Very safe, only I was the one safe at the moment. There was a war going on in my head. One side argued that I was being shamelessly reckless, being with Jaylen and that I was wrong. But the other side disagreed. It thought that I would get everything under control, one way or the other. And that I deserved this, being happy. I decided to agree with this side. I haven’t been happy in a long time, and I think I deserved it. And maybe I was being selfish. Oh well. “Hey, so um, what are we gonna do about them?” I jerked my thumb towards the two men in the living room, who were both oblivious to the fact that we were in here. He chuckled and then stopped. “I can honestly say, that I have no idea. They’ll find out soon enough.” He shrugged. I scoffed. “That’s the problem. No boys until age sixteen. And the same for you, except with girls.” I whispered. He stiffened for a moment. I lifted my head to look up at him. He was biting his lip and he looked awkward. “What?” I demanded. He looked down at me, and pursed his lips. “I’m already sixteen, Aiyana. My birthday was like three weeks ago.” Oh, shit. He looked serious. I asked myself how to play this one off.
“Oh,” I started. I sucked my teeth. “Crap, Jaylen. I’m so sorry! Why didn’t you tell me before? Gah, I’m so unfocused these days.” That was a lie. I buried my head in his chest, though and he laughed. “It’s cool, Yani. It wasn’t much of a party, anyway. You didn’t miss anything.” He assured me. I wasn’t having it. “Jaylen! It was supposed to be a sweet sixteen party! Gosh, I’m so sorry. I am so sor-,” he cut me off, and put two fingers on my lips. “It’s fine, Aiyana, really.” He reassured me, grinning. No, it wasn’t. I was his best friend! I should have known that his birthday was so close. I raised my eyebrows. “Are you sure? We could throw you . . . another one?” I suggested. He nodded and moved his fingers. “Well, that doesn’t solve my problem though.” I rephrased. He held me against his chest and we were rocking side to side as if we were dancing. “I’ll handle it.” He said and I heard the grin in his voice. He released me suddenly and took my hand. He held it firmly and looked me in the eyes. He stared for about fifteen seconds, and it made me feel weird. “What?” I asked, a little nervous. He looked toward the door and then back at me. He grabbed my face, and kissed me again. “Trust me, okay?” he said. I was breathless and a bit dizzy, and it took me a while to respond. He waited patiently. “Of course,” I said, when my gasping slowed. I laughed. “You . . . need to learn to control your hormones, Jay.” I giggled. He sighed dramatically. “I can’t help it. You’re so alluringly irresistible.” He teased. I smirked at him. Grabbing my hand again, he started leading me to the living room. I wondered what he was doing, but mostly I wondered what our parents were going to say when they saw us holding hands and walking so closely. I started to ask him, but he just said, “Trust me.” And I did. I didn’t know what to expect. Jaylen hadn’t let go of my hand; he was swinging it, actually. I beamed up at him, and he smiled in return. When we got to the living room, a commercial was on. Oh no, bad timing. They were unfocused.
It was deadly silent, and our fathers turned to look at us. My smile became nervous as I saw my dad eyeing our intertwined hands. Jaylen began. “Mr. Hale, May I have your permission to be Aiyana’s boyfriend?” the way he said it, made him sound so brave, like he had no doubt in his one-track mind. It took me by surprise, how he just said it without dawdling. I would have stuttered my ass off. I could feel the shock on my face and I looked away from my dad and Elias. I didn’t know what I was looking at. I just couldn’t look at him. It was silent for a moment. Forget! He laughed, and looked at Elias. Still, I didn’t know what to expect. “Sure.” He said and he took a swig of his beer. He reached in his back pocket and took out a twenty from his wallet. He handed it to Elias. My mouth fell open with a gasp. Had they really just placed a bet on me? I shook my head in disgust and closed my mouth. I had absolutely nothing to say. It was over. Jaylen and me were a couple now, though we never really discussed it. Has it always been that easy? Or was it just because he knew Jaylen so well? In my head I pictured my dad and Jaylen in a dark room, only one bright lamp swinging above their heads. Where was the interrogation? Gosh, times have changed. “Thank you sir.” Jaylen smiled and towed me over to the middle couch. From the corner of my eye, I saw Elias snag the twenty off of the coffee table with a grunt. “Pleasure doing business with you.” He shoved it in his pocket. Not even twenty seconds later, the game came back on. They both became totally unaware of us again, and sat leaned toward the TV. I still felt the surprise on my face as we sat down. Jaylen pulled me to him and kissed me. “Hey, hey. None of that.” my dad warned, but still clearly into the game. Did Elias even care? I only heard my dad. I laid my head on Jaylen's chest. “You are amazing,” I whispered to him, staring blankly at the TV in front of me. “Ain’t I though?” he bragged, pretending to blow on his nails. I laughed, and my dad looked at me.
“Yes, you are.” I answered when my dad wasn’t looking. It was amazing how quick this had all happened. I didn’t even have whiplash, though I anticipated the shock to take its place. But already the stagger was wearing off, and my heartbeat was beginning to return to its normal pace. Once again I felt safe in his arms. And he didn’t seem to mind at all that we were under the half watchful eye of my father. Was it going to be like this all of the time, developed and easy? That would be awesome if it was, and I wouldn’t contest to it either. My parents had been right about our relationship. Maybe a guy and a girl just cant are friends. There would always be a line drawn between and sooner or later, the line would be crossed. Our line had, and it was nice. We had gone from lemonade stands and training wheels to this. We had been buddies forever. I was glad that I had known Jaylen for so long, too. It would help our relationship, I guess. I never did much dating, I mean, hello I wasn’t allowed to. But I wondered what was along the road for Jaylen and me. I didn’t really know what to expect. Would we be together forever, or just a short time because all in the end I ended up killing him? Jesus, I needed to stop thinking like that, it wasn’t helping. I had gotten what I wanted. I could hold Jaylen’s hand and tell him I love him now. I could have done it before, because he wouldn’t have objected to it. But now it was more definite. There were no questions about us now. We were together now. I sighed as I realized that. Jaylen rubbed my arm. I looked up at him. He looked down at me and smiled. Then something happened on TV and both of our dads jumped up and cheered. My head snapped to up to them curiously. I never really liked baseball that much; football was way more interesting to me, though I never really watched it. I smiled at them. I guess the game was over because the pressed a button, and some other show came on. They relaxed back into their seats and bickered about something. “Bet you Carolina state will . . ..” I tuned them out. It seemed like it was a bet, and I just didn’t want to hear about them making any bets. I shivered at the thought of them talking about our love life. Ugh. “Lets go somewhere.” Jaylen suggested. His chin was atop of my hair and his arm was still wrapped tightly around me. I didn’t really want to move because
I was so comfortable. But as I started to reject the offer, I realized that we could have some alone time together. And here under the vigilant eyes of my father, alone time started to sound like a good idea. “Ok,” I agreed and we both got up. My dad and Elias looked over at us. Elias shifted in his seat and cocked an eyebrow. “Where are ya’ll goin? He asked. My dad was still eyeing our hands interlocked together. I laughed to myself. His plan had been foiled. Smugness invaded my mood. Jaylen shifted his weight next to me and he sulked. “Just to the park around the corner.” He replied briskly. It made me feel anxious, like he didn’t want to be here. I looked down and then back up. My dad glanced at the TV and then to me. “Be back no later than five o’clock.” He said sternly but his tone had an edge of relief in it that he failed to hide. I smiled and nodded and Jaylen wrapped his arm around my waist. He led me to the door and opened it for me. I waited for him. He stretched his arms above his head. “Freedom!” he exclaimed letting out a deep breathe. I giggled and he grabbed me in a hug from behind. I laid my head on his chest and laugh quietly. He kissed me on my cheek and squeezed me so tight I coughed. He picked me up and spun in a circle, taking advantage of my small and undersized frame. He let me go and took my hand. With my free one I pulled down my shirt that had risen up a couple inches. “To the park madam?” he said in a faux French accent. He walked me down the driveway, not really caring if I answered or not. “Wi, wi monsieur.” I said squeezing his hand. He laughed. “So why all the sudden do you want to go to the park?” I wondered. He looked down at me chewing on his bottom lip. Jaylen was pretty tall. Maybe like 5’11 and I was only 5’4, so he was a giant to me. I squinted my eyes looking back at him; the sun was in the way. He smiled warmly at me. “Lets just say I had I had a vision.” He leered at me and I could hear the ellipsis in his words. I shrugged.
“What did you dream of us at the park or something?” I laughed. He didn’t chuckle with me; he just stared off ahead of us not speaking a word. I stopped. He had dreamed about us together? That was absolutely adorable. I beamed up at him after a few seconds. That was so cute! “You did? Aww Jaylen!” I shook him a little bit and he looked away embarrassed. “Sorta, I guess so yeah.” He gazed back down at me, and his expression was nervous. That might sound like a punk ass thing for a guy to do, but I thought that was sweet. And the fact that he actually told me, too. I rubbed his arm. “That’s really sweet, Jaylen.” I told him. His eyes shimmered a little bit as I said that. My stomach trembled inside of me and my cheeks warmed. I held both of his hands and I traced circles on the back. “Yeah, well don’t go thinking I’m all sensitive and stuff. I am 100% man.” He said letting go of one of my hands and thumping on his chest. I giggled. “Sure you are, Jay, sure you are.” He smirked as we turned the corner. The park looked strangely familiar, though I didn’t remember ever coming there. The long binding trail was farther along the road and the tree above the park bench. I looked further and it seemed a little empty. It was just a long trail and a yellow park a while away and kids were playing on the kiddie park ahead. I watched as a little girl in pigtails swung from the jungle bars and as another surfed the slide, only to fall down and get tanbark in his sandals. I blinked and my eyes refocused. That looked really far away. But there was something about this trail that made me feel welcome. Like I had been here time and time again and it was attuned to me so much. We were silent as we walked. I looked at him and he smiled at me. “Picturesque isn’t it?” he said gesturing ahead of us. I didn’t look but I grinned. “Very, very beautiful.” I agreed, though I was talking about both the park and Jaylen. He grinned back at me. I walked close to him as we approached the tree. The sun was bright and it warmed my face. In it, Jaylen's eyes twinkled.
Jaylen looked nervous, the way he bit his lip and fidgeted made it obvious. Though his reaction to this place confused me, I decided not to dwell on it. The park had a welcoming feel, all warm and pleasant. It felt like an ideal place and the sun shining brightly, reflecting itself in Jaylen's eyes made it all the better. There were no distractions here, just us in our own little world. I know it seemed silly to deem this public place as our own, but at the moment, it just felt like it was. I smile at him, realizing that and he beams back, sending a thousand butterflies rabid in my tummy. Time seems to move in slow motion as he steps closer and encloses the distance that’s left between us. I frame his face delicately in my hands- because that’s exactly what it feels like – delicate. His skin is soft and brown, silky and without stubble. Tenderly, I run one of my fingers over his jaw, trickling over where his ears end and then to his chin. I am marveling in his beauty, as I smooth the skin of his eyelids, nose and finally lips. So lightly, I move my index finger over the shape of his lips, smiling at the hum that comes between them. His eyes pop open and he looks at me in amazement and wonder. Little by little he slowly leans in – and I mean romantic movie slow. My senses become muddled and soon the birds chirping around us disappear and the reverberation of Jaylen’s breath is all I hear. And I no longer smell the pollen and flowers around me. Jaylen’s lovely aroma is all I smell. I can’t really pin point what it smells like; it’s almost impossible. But it resembles sunshine and man. It was brilliant. Jaylen was brilliant, and he was all I saw. His nose touches mine and then his lips finally do. It started off as just a sweet peck until he holds onto my waist tightly and I hold his neck. He kisses me again, longer this time. His lips move soft, but firm against mine. I open his mouth and inhale him; my knees give by the taste. He holds me tighter against him, hands wrapping around my waist and bending me to him. Suddenly he breaks it off, but doesn’t remove his lips from my skin. He kisses my nose, my cheeks, everything he can. And then the neck right below my ear. I feel like Jell-O, weak and vulnerable now and I don’t really like the feeling of it. I giggle uneasily trying to break his hold reluctantly. Jaylen then clasps his mouth to mine again, kissing me until I get dizzy. Confusion sets in as my senses return and I begin to feel uncomfortable.
I am bemused by what is going on. Kissing Jaylen is wonderful, and I didn’t want to end it with my heart and soul, but I felt too vulnerable at the moment. Like he was controlling me, holding me by strings and bending me where he wanted. And I loved that, a little too much than I should. I began pushing him away with shaky hands. This was undeniably hard to do because at the same time I wanted to hold him closer. He bit on my lip softly, and my resolve started to crumble a bit but somehow I found the strength to push a little harder. I sighed and pushed against him. He didn’t seem to notice, so I pushed a little rougher than necessary. I blinked, and when I opened them, Jaylen was on the ground. “Jay!” I gasped. I rushed over to him and extended my hand to help him up. His face is staggered as he tries to shake it off. He hesitates at the sight of my hand but takes it. When he gets up, he chuckles. “Damn, what the hell did I do to you? Ya big bully.” He seems a little dazed and he scratches his head with nervous laughter. “You’ve got quite a lot of power for a midget.” I laugh at his remark, rolling my eyes as he takes my hand. “Sorry, I guess I’ll just pick on people my own size.” I giggle, still embarrassed. “Please do, I don’t think my fragile little body can take it.” He jokes, pouting. I guffaw at that. “Fragile? Look at the size of you arms, dude! They’re . . .” I gesture at it with my finger, at a loss for words. “Massive. You grew up without me.” “What are you talking about? We grew up together.” He asks, eyebrows furrowing down in confusion. “Oh, you know what I mean. I leave for one season, and I come back and your all . . . ripped. Your different.” “That’s not true, I’m still me.” He says in a voice that makes me feel bad. “Well yeah . . . but, I mean physically. I look like a toothpick compared to you.” I say, frowning a bit. I never was really content with my size, and Jaylen’s
physique didn’t make me feel any more confident. Not saying that I wanted to be massive like him, I just felt so tiny and inadequate. “Yeah? Well I think you’re perfect just the way you are. Your beautiful,” he says, kissing my cheek. “Flawless . . . wonderful . . . smart . . . and mine.” He says in between pecks. I giggle, feeling a little better that he thinks these things. “Besides,” he adds. “ It would be a bit awkward if you were my size, don’t you think?” he grins at me, turning me to him. “That’s not what I –“ he interrupts me with a soft kiss to my lips. “Enough. Your beautiful just the way you are. And if you valued my opinion at all, you wouldn’t go changing yourself.” I nod into his chest, hiding my face. He picks up my chin and there’s just no way I can avoid his heartfelt gaze. “I love you. Only you.” He vows. He stares into my eyes to see if I’m grasping what he’s saying. “I love you too.” I promise, standing up on my tiptoes so I can steal a kiss. “So what are you doing tomorrow?” he asks and I smile at his willingness to drop the subject. “I dunno. Why?” “Well I heard it was going to be nice out tomorrow, and maybe you’d like to go see a movie or something?” I looked down. Going to the movies didn’t feel right at the moment. No matter how dangerous or safe being with me was, I had to think about it. Going to the park was a stretch. And I wasn’t sure if I was exactly ready to be out and about. I mean it was one thing to be out with Jaylen and have fun and another to go out with Jaylen to the movies. I don’t know, but it just seemed a little soon to be out like everything was okay. Disregard it all. “I don’t know Jaylen,” I stared ahead. We still had a while before we even entered the park entrance. The park seemed very large and I wonder if it had been here for long. I would’ve remembered seeing it, right? It was quiet for a moment. “Jaylen, it’s not that I don’t want to go out with you. I really do, but I just think that it isn’t the right time. Now, I mean. But maybe later?” I shrugged, not knowing how else to put it. I didn’t want to put him down, but I still wanted to get
my point across. Saying ‘later’ probably wouldn’t help. Later meant tomorrow or this coming week to Jaylen. I needed more time than a few weeks. I tried to look at both sides though. The first side: my side. I was not ready to go out yet. Despite my actions, I probably never would be. I wasn’t as stable as I might look. The second side: I was already out. He just wanted to take me to the movies that’s all. Just to the movies as a date. We were together after all. The first side was making a bit more sense. Was I even ready for a boyfriend yet? Should I even have a boyfriend yet? Probably not. Mainly because this whole supernatural crap was going on. It wasn’t the safest thing either. I should call everything off or at least put it on hold until I get it all figured out. I didn’t really have any help and doing it by myself would take a while. Being with Jaylen was making me feel selfishly careless, the more I thought about it. At one point it looked like I almost wanted to hurt him. Suddenly I felt exceptionally guilty. I felt very bad for putting Jaylen in harms way. But you don’t even know what it is yet! Don’t consider it life-threatening if you don’t even know what it is! The selfish part of my head argued my conscience and I found it hard to pick one right side. Like a crazy person, I listened. But it is severe! Remember the hospital incident? This side had a point. The hospital was so thin-iced; I barely wanted to think about it. “Aiyana?” Jaylen snapped me out of my contention. “Huh?” Jaylen chuckled softly. “You can be so out of it sometimes, Yani girl. I was asking if you were ready to go back.” He added the last part grudgingly. I made a face. “I don’t want to either. But,” he said taking out his phone. “It is 4:18. And maybe we should get back early or else they might never let us out again.” We laughed. “I doubt that Jaylen. Jeez, my dad has wanted me to get out forever. I think that’s why he let us out.” I smirked. We made a U-turn, our backs facing the park now. “Oh, I thought it was just because he liked me so much.” He hoped with sarcasm. I shrugged. “Maybe,” I considered biting my cheeks.
“If I were in his shoes, I’d do the same. Tss. I mean I wish you could see through my eyes. Of how you look, I mean. But I know it . . . .its not the same. But-“ his words choked off in the end. I replayed his tone in my head. What was in it? Revulsion or conformity? Even though I hadn’t been looking at him I knew how his expression would twist as he said that. And it hurt a bit. They played themselves over and over in my head until they became nothing more than an angry scowl. A little while later he added, “sorry.” I looked up at him then, eyes narrowed. “Am I really that bad Jaylen?” he kept looking forward, not wanting to answer my question. I sighed. “Huh. And I thought I was doing so well.” I mumbled. He squeezed my hand. “You’re improving,” he comforted me but his tone sounded more remorseful than earnest. Besides, I had heard that before. “Stop saying that. Because this isn’t a test jay. I’m not some failing third grader who's trying to get up his grades. So stop. Besides it’s not something you forget.” I retorted faintly. He scoffed. “Only if you remember.” His comeback was quick and I remembered that Jaylen could catch a case just as quick as I could. As it were a game, I thought. “Yeah? Well when I forget I’ll let you know.” I snickered. I scratched my arm, agitated. “Is that it Jaylen? Do you want me to forget?” he shrugged indifferently. “Whatever helps. I just . . . I want you to be happy again.” With a huff, I turned my face forward pouting. We endured the next two minutes in silence. I watched blankly as we passed the gate leading to the trail. The sun was still hot, but its light wasn’t as bright as before. I kept my eyes ahead, too timid to look at Jaylen. I knew his eyes would sparkle in the light and make me un-mad at him. Strange enough, I kind of wanted to be mad at him, just a little bit. It reminded me of our old friendship, when we would argue but be too obstinate to actually start a conversation afterwards. This was one of the reasons we were such good friends. We could keep up with each other. No mood was too thick for the other. We were always on the same page, no matter what we believed. Neither one of
us was a punk. No one was too much of a wuss to say something to the other. And it was nice to both wear the pants in our relationship. There was no ‘top dog’. A couple minutes later His phone rang in his pocket. “Yeah?” he answered. I didn’t hear any frustration in his voice; it was perfectly empty. We kept walking ahead. “Almost, we’re passing the park now.” There was a short reply from the phone, and then he hung up. He exhaled and slips the phone into his jean pocket. “My dad is anxious. Even though we’ll get there like ten till five. Dads.” He sighed. I felt as if he were talking to himself than to me. Whether that or I was too stubborn to talk back. He glanced over at me, but I still looked forward. “You know I didn’t mean it like that, Yani.” He elbowed my ribs after I shook his arm off. That was my only response. He elbowed me again, wiggling his elbow between my bones. It hurt a little. I rolled my eyes and dodged to the side before he could do it again. He let go and secured me in a hug from behind. His hands crossed mine over my stomach as if I was wearing a strait jacket. It was close though because no matter how hard I squirmed, I couldn’t get lose. “Jay,” I complained still struggling to get free. I think he could tell my resolve was vanishing because he laughed. In the same spot he’d kissed earlier, he blew a loud raspberry. It was kind of gross, but very cute in a really weird way. Either way it made me smile. “Eew, stop it!” I laughed. “Oh, come on. I didn’t mean it, you know that,” he whispered kissing my neck tenderly. “Do I?” I wasn’t struggling as hard now. It was almost useless, he hugged my hands around me and it was firm, but I still felt like I could get lose easily if I tried. “You do. Now say you forgive me.” It practically sounded like a plea. He continued to kiss my neck and tingles shot through my spine. I froze up and he stopped, but still held me. I sighed. “I forgive you.” I could feel him seething a grin. He kissed my neck and rested his head on my shoulder. “Thank you,” he said.
“Now you better control yourself.” I squirmed a bit and he let go laughing. I grabbed his hand and we strolled forward to my house where assumptions awaited us.
Jaylen: blah blah blah
Overall, today had been a good day. Aiyana was mine and our dads were okay with it. Thank god, her dad was fine with it. He must have been talking to my dad lately because he’s been giving me that ‘I have a glock under the refrigerator’ kind of look. Its been creeping me out for a while, too. And now that Yani girl and me are together, he can give me that look all he wants. Shoot, he can even pull it out if he feels the need. Suck on that Mr. Hale. Aiyana and I are happy. And it doesn’t feel as awkward as I expected it to be. Almost as if we combined both of our relationships together, old and new. I guess that would help. And I just couldn’t wait for the next two months to pass by, because I was looking forward so much to walking into school with Yani by my side. I just couldn’t wait to see all the guys’ faces when they see whom I’m with. Not that Aiyana’s a prize to be flaunted per se, I’m just more proud of myself that I actually had the guts. And I can show that off, right? Debatable. I know she’s happy too; this is what she wanted. No amount of bad lies or tears is going to change that. I had fought hard for her and now she was mine. And I was hers. I wondered how our faces would look as we stepped inside her house. What my dad would see in our expressions, or in mine. As we babbled about trivial things, occasionally she’d gaze up at me straight into my eyes and
my stomach would do a back flip. I would stare at the tiny dimple that everyone failed to notice except me. Silly, smitten, love sick me. “What?” she asked nervously making a face. I smiled at her. “Oh nothing,” I opened the front door for her and she stepped inside. It was cool in her house and as soon as I stepped inside I shut the door behind me to keep the coolness in. it was a little humid outside. “Feels good in here,” Aiyana said slipping off her shoes. I did the same. “Because love is in the air,” she giggled at that. I walked behind her into the living room. Mr. Hale and my dad were watching some sports rerun show. My dad turned around. “You guys back early,” he stated. I rolled my eyes and sat down next to Aiyana on the middle couch. Mr. Hale looked at me and I smirked but only to the point where he couldn’t see. The black leather couch was surprisingly cool despite the California heat. Yani leaned on my arm, personal but still appropriate and I put an arm around her. “How was the park?” she giggled. “Fine,” we answered in unison. Mr. Hale grimaced and swerved his head. “‘Haha, fine’. What does all that mean?” he mimicked. His head was pointed towards Aiyana, but he was looking at me. Technically we were both in the same range and maybe I was paranoid, but I felt like he was trying to put me in my place in some odd way. Before I could say anything Yani answered. “It means fine dad. Hot, long, but very pleasant.” She cocked an eyebrow as if she was waiting for him to argue further. And he mumbled something while taking a swig of his beer. “Whatchu guys do?” he questioned. “Stuff, dad, stuff. Nothing for you to be worried about.” She mumbled. She sounded annoyed and I felt her elbow push in to my abdomen. I bit back a smile and stared at the TV wondering what I was seeing. Then my dad got up and stretched. “Ready Jay?” he asked turning his back. I felt Aiyana sulk in my arms. I rolled my head and muttered, “no”. He didn’t hear me. He pointed at Mr. Hale. “Tomorrow. Giants.” Then he turned towards the door. I pulled Aiyana off the
couch with me. She walked behind me slowly and I chuckled to myself. I didn’t want to leave any more than she did. “Yeah, whatever man.” Mr. Hale said. He made no attempt to get up. It was fine with me. I followed behind my dad and slipped into my Nikes. Yani opened the door for us. “See you later, Elias.” She smiled and gave him a hug. “See ya later, jitterbug.” He laughed and walked towards the driveway. I stood on the doorstep and looked at my girlfriend. She stuck out her lip a little and looked down, with her arms crossed against her chest. I laughed and nudged her lip back in with my thumb. I took her chin and held it up so she’d look at me. “Don’t give me that. You just wait till I get a car. I’ll be over here so much, you'll get sick of me.” She rolled her eyes. “Hardly.” She stood on her tippy toes so she could kiss me. I smiled and held her face. A horn honked behind me. I laughed and Yani sank back down on her toes slowly. “See you Yani girl.” I said holding her hands. I looked in her eyes for a moment and then I smiled. “I love you.” She grinned at me. “I love you too, jay.” I froze and looked up at the sky, silently thanking god for letting me be this lucky. Two seconds later I looked back down. “I know.” I replied slowly. She laughed and I turned away slowly, catching a glance at her left cheek. I felt her eyes on my back as I got into the truck. She waved from the doorway as I got in and I waved back. As I buckled my seat belt I saw my dad gawking at me awkwardly. I raised an eyebrow. “What?” I asked. He just kept looking at me with inquisition. I stared back, feeling anxious under his stare. “Do I have something on my face?” he blinked and started up the car with a chuckle. “Just a shit-eating grin. You’re just really happy.” He pulled forward. I cut on the radio. “I guess so.” I shrugged even though it was much more than a guess. It was exact. So much so that my cheeks hurt a bit. My dad turned the volume
down and looked at me again. He tapped both of his fingers on top of the wheel like he was waiting for something. He raised his eyebrows. “Jeez! Dad, what?” I laughed. I glanced out the window as we turned the street. There was a line of kids walking behind two grown ups in bathing suits. The boys and girls club I guess. I used to hang there with Aiyana until she moved with her mom. When she left I still went with this kid named Dylan, but it was less and less until I finally stopped going. I still talk to Dylan and we’re real good friends, he just not like Aiyana though. I looked back at my dad. “You love her don’t you?” he smiled at me. I shrugged nonchalantly. “That doesn’t answer my question.” He shoved my shoulder. I smiled at him then looked forward. This was none of his business. Why was he so interested all of the sudden? It didn’t make any sense. I laughed to myself and looked down. I was suddenly feeling very timid. “She’s in love with me too.” I said in a quiet voice. He sighed deeply. He smacked his teeth together and glimpsed at me. “Oh, I know that. It ain't hard to tell. Ya’ll been together for bout what, four hours? It obvious, kid. A little too obvious, in fact . . . Did me and Jordan miss something?” he chuckled quietly. I bit my lip, and tapped my fingers against the door. “Sort of. Dad, are we really gonna talk about this?” it was a little uncomfortable. Just a little bit, because we never really talk about girls. “Uh, yeah. This is your first girlfriend! Aren’t you excited? I’m excited for you. We still have some guidelines we need to go over anyway.” I groaned. “Oh, you knew it was coming. Aiyana’s probably having the same talk with her dad. But besides the ‘it talk’. We’re going to have to talk about your girlfriend. She’s a sweet girl Jay. You be careful with her. She’s real fragile now.” I groaned again. I rolled my head and looked at him. “Come on dad. Do you really think I’d hurt her? Thought you were so observant. Tsk, tsk.” I looked at him as if he were the most obtuse person in the world. And I was trying to make a joke out of it, though the idea of ever hurting
Aiyana made me want to hurl up all of last year’s dinner. My dad smacked his teeth as if it were obvious. “Of course not. But still, just keep in mind that she’s not at her strongest point in her life.” I rolled my eyes at that. She was strong at the park when she had pushed me. Sheesh. But I knew that wasn’t what he was talking about. “Maybe you guys being together will help that.” “Is that why he said yes?” I asked. I listened to my dad’s hesitation to answer the question. It didn’t really bother me that Yani’s dad had said yes because of that. He had said yes, and I’d take that any day. I peered through my window, half interested. “Not exactly. But mostly yeah. We uh, talked about it.” He admitted. I just shrugged. “Hey, its better than a no right?” we laughed. “I hope I help. She’s getting better dad. But you know, sometimes you just have to understand that what happened, happened. And that it’s not gonna change. I’m still trying to grasp the fact that she wont be exactly the same as before.” I sighed. “She forgot my birthday, dad.” From the corner of my eye I saw his arm tighten around the wheel. “She usually remembers stuff like that. I mean I know things are happening fast, but still, ya know? I don’t hold it against her at all, I understand that she’s pretty messed up right now, it just . . .” my phone vibrated in my pocket but I ignored it and just gazed out my window as we turned onto our street. “Jordan knew it was your birthday.” He blurted. “And before you go pinning things on him, he had a good reason to not remind her. Do you think it would have done any good to tell her, jay? Honestly? She’d just feel like she had to be happy because it was your birthday. She wouldn’t want to ruin your day with her mood. That’s just how she is. Telling her would’ve made her feel worse.” “Yea well doctor Phil, she knows my birthday passed now. And she feels bad that she ‘forgot’. Mr. Hale isn’t that smart, dad sorry. His theory didn’t work that well.” He laughed as we pulled into our driveway. “Why don’t you like Jordan? He’s a good person.” He said unbuckling his seatbelt.
“I have my reasons,” Was all I said as I pushed my way out of the cluttered ford. I turned towards our one story dark blue house. It was more cluttered than the truck though we had lots of room. In our living room, we had light reddish walls which my dad refused to believe was pink even though it was. And we had a stereo set right against our red couches, which were arranged in the center of the room. The couches were my moms and we both rejected the thought of getting rid of them. We had a lot of old baubles that were my moms. It didn’t bother us much to have them around. It made the room homier and made us feel like she was near. It made us feel safe. I paid attention to that as we got inside. A picture of my mom was sitting atop of the TV and a family photo on the wall behind the couch and stereo. Of course I was to young to remember this one photo. In front of the smaller couch was a coffee table that had a bunch of junk mail on it. The TV stand was filled with pictures and next to it was an award case that was full of – you guessed it, awards. My father believed that every award should be honored, so I still have my perfect attendance awards from first grade. We didn’t really clean the house, as often as we were supposed to, and when it was time for a good cleaning, I was the main laborer. My mother would have a fit if she saw this. My dad said so himself. Well that’s what he always says when he makes me clean the house. Once I felt guilty because I had mumbled under my breath, “good thing she can’t.” But I never say that anymore. Because it was a very bad thing. A terrible thing to say about your own mother. I wondered if Aiyana ever said anything like that. If she ever did, I bet she felt worse afterwards. I’m not going to lie, as a child I was a bit jealous of Aiyana because she had a mother, and I did not. I don’t think she ever noticed, although it was evident to me. At the same time, it felt like I had got the smoother edge of the stick. Aiyana had more time with her mom so I bet it hurt worse whereas I didn’t know her as well. Back and forth it went; it was contentious and depended on the way you looked at it. Who got the prickly, jagged end? Maybe Aiyana. When I lost my mother it was almost like losing my favorite G.I. Joe. A very precious, valued G.I. Joe. I know it sounds iniquitous and inhuman to compare my own loving caring mother to an
expired, adolescent toy. But this is how it felt. Like I was being stripped away from my favorite thing in the whole wide world. You try to rob a child from their beloved possession and you see how they take it. Of course, you could always get a new toy, brand new and unscathed. But it would never be the same. It would never be ‘the one’. It would be second best that was light-years away from even being considered better than that. And a second best for me would be a stepmother. Enough to place, but not enough to beat. And life’s like that sometimes. “What’s for dinner?” my dad asked breaking my abstraction. I started opening the front windows. It had been hotter than usual the past few weeks, but luckily there happened to be a breeze so we’d best take advantage of it. “Uhm, I think we still got some hot links left over in the fridge.” I suggested. My dad murmured something in agreement and pulled them out. Seconds later I heard him pounding the frozen block of goodness onto the counter until half of it ricocheted into the sink. “Aha,” my dad said pleased. My phone vibrated again in my pocket but this time I pulled it out, not bothering to check the caller ID. “You’ve reached Jaylen,” I said. I often said stupid greetings instead of the regular ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. “Yo man. Wassup?” it was Dre’, my friend from school. We hadn’t spoken in a while because unlike me, he’d been able to go on a vacation to Mexico. His phone didn’t get any signal there. He left just a week after school ended so he hadn’t a clue about anything that had happened. Of course I had to fill him in on everything that happened. We were tight enough to where I could trust him not to run his mouth; he was pretty cool. Although we weren’t tight enough to outstand the relationship me and Aiyana had, we were close enough. I sighed a lot during our conversation. “Dang man, so much you wouldn’t believe. But hey how was Mexico? Did you find that I-Touch?” I asked. “Hell no,” he sounded disappointed. “But I found this real cheap nano one, though. But it was good. Some good lookin’ girls down there, breh. Fine ass
girls.” He muttered and I could tell by the way he said it that he was remembering something. “What happened down there?” I wasted no time telling him all about it. I skipped the parts about the blue hands and crying but told him about the hospital visits and our dads, barely conscious to the fact that he was just in the other room watching ESPN and chowing down on three hotlinks. I was talking so fast I was sure to leak out my true feelings about all this. “Damn, you really like this girl.” He said when I was through with my narrative. “It shows, huh?” I asked skeptically after a half a minute of silence. I heard him scoff on the other end of the line. “No shit man. She’ s a pretty girl, real pretty. I don’t blame you. That sucks about her mom though, I’m sorry about that. It’s good she has you, Jay. Just wait until school starts back up again! Ooo you goin’ have some competition! I’ve seen her and there ain't no way you gonna get away with that. Especially with Felix around.” I had actually forgotten all Felix ever since school ended – well ever since the accident. But now I was remembering the ever so smooth Felix. Yeah, the guy was good looking but a real pain in the ass for all the guys. He was what the girls called “dreamy” and almost every girl in the school had a crush on him, so obviously he was popular which made it a whole lot worse. Of course he wasn’t just the “hottest” guy in school, but also on the varsity soccer captain of the school. There was no doubt he wouldn’t get it again this year. I scowled at the thought. “Don’t remind me. I ain't worried about it though; we have a pretty sturdy relationship.” “That ain't goin’ stop Felix, man.” I knew he was right. If Aiyana was even ready to go to school I knew we’d have some problems. Our school, North Rennin’s High School, wasn’t as big as the other schools in our area and the guys and girls were always talking. It was a very intimate school so of course I was expecting some trouble. I wasn’t trying to be cocky or nothing, but not only was Aiyana beautiful; she was also new. And new was fresh, and fresh was bait.
I was known in school, and had a lot of friends but I wasn’t Felix popular. I had a feeling that Aiyana would draw a lot of attention. Dre and I babbled on for a while just talking about inconsequential things like TV or teachers. And when I hung up, I found that my food was still sitting on my plate untouched. While I ate, I got an idea of what Aiyana and me would do tomorrow. And then I went to the living room with my dad, watching ESPN recaps. “So,” my dad started. I lolled on the couch and looked at him unwillingly. “What?” I asked after a moment of no conversation. My dad shrugged. He looked at the ground then back at me. “Uhm.” I laughed at his apprehension. “Spit it out, dad.” He glanced down and I groaned, already knowing what we were going to talk about. “No, dad. We are not going to have sex. If that’s what your wondering about, the answer is no.” “I’d rather you tell me beforehand, jay. You might be saying that now. But it’s a powerful thing. And Aiyana’s a real beautiful girl,” he reasoned. I groaned again. “Dad, please. Are you really going to preach to me about the ethics of sex right now?” I inched away looking at the hallway yearning for my room suddenly. My dad shook his head a little. “No, not exactly. Just lettin’ you know.” I sighed. “But anyways, I meant what I said in the car. Now, I know you’d never intentionally hurt her. I’m just sayin’ to be more careful now than ever.” I rolled my eyes. I really wasn’t feeling talking about my love life with my dad. “Okay, dad.” I said slowly. He just nodded. After a while sitting there with my dad, it had gotten a little awkward because those stupid little love psychic commercials kept coming on. The tension was so thick; you could taste in the air. Finally I gave up and went to bed.
Aiyana: spare me the remorse
I’m not always happy. Sometimes when I remember, I want to die. I want to forget the whole accident, the pain, and the blood, the screeching. But these dreams make it harder and harder to forget. I guess I should have known it was coming, after the mistakes I made tonight. Mistakes I made to forget about stuff I was needed to remember. But they could only get better, right, the dreams? I was clueless. I’d find out soon enough, reluctantly or eagerly. A fore warning would have been nice instead of having to make a paranoid guess. The blood, the screeching, the pain. Sometimes when I remember, I want to die. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I stood there on the porch for an immeasurable amount of time. Until I heard my dad telling me to shut the door because the air was on, that is. I obeyed in haste and turned into the living room crossing my arms, a new rage bubbling in me. I leaned against the wall across from my father. I was angry with him and I knew he could tell from the set of my mouth. I glared at him, and he stared back emptily, but his eyes were tight. “What?” he asked looking up from the mail. My hands balled up into fists and my arms crossed tighter. I stared him down. “I cant believe you, dad.” I confirmed, incredulous. “I don’t know how you thought this would help, bringing Jaylen here. I honestly don’t. Yes, it did help. But I just cant seem to find your motive to why you think that it would be helpful to torture me after last night.” I cocked my head to the side and looked at him. He seemed uncomfortable and I was glad because now he could feel just a twinge of what I felt. He shrugged.
“Well, I didn’t really have a intention of getting you guys back together, exactly. It just kinda happened that way. I just wanted ya’ll to patch things up, ya know? You need a friend right now, instead of just pushing them away.” his hands moved nervously as he talked. “And you don’t think I could’ve done it on my own.” I guessed. He chuckled. “No. I don’t. You are the most intractable person I know. So I thought that you could use . . . some help.” I cant believe he considered what he had just done ‘help’. It wasn’t. In fact, if he had just said no, then I wouldn’t be risking Jaylen’s life right now. “This is not funny dad!” I fumed, serious. He stopped laughing at once and bit his lip. “Aren’t you happy?” he asked, perplexity leaking hard into his words. He spoke each word slowly, unsure and doubtful. I straightened up against the wall. “Immensely so.” I said staring into his eyes. He shook his head once and his forehead creased. He began to question me when I cut him off. “But that’s not the point.” “Then what exactly is the point?” he wondered. A long breathy sigh came from me; his idiocy was driving me insane. “The point is that I can handle things on my own, dad. I’m almost sixteen I’m mature enough to do that. And I certainly do not need both you and Elias butting in on me and Jaylen’s love life.” I spat the words through my teeth and they came out sharper than intended. It sounded like iambic pentameter almost. Opening my eyes, I noticed that his sienna face had turned rather pale. I thought his reaction was from my tone, not my words. His mouth dropped open for a second before he recovered. He blinked rapidly. “Love . . . life?” he repeated. His eyes were tight, and his neck strained with feeble composure. I blink and just stare at him for a moment. “Yes, daddy. Love life.” I concluded. Could he hear the delight in my voice? His eyes bugged out some more and he stares at me like he’s trying to burn my soul. I flinch back a bit at its intensity.
“You are in love with him?” he asks. I can tell that this is not really a subject he’d like to discuss by the way his words cut. But for the pure enjoyment of his chagrin, I smile and say, “yes.” He is frozen for a second. I smirk and stare at him, watching his emotions exhibit them on his face as if they were one of Michael Angelo’s paintings. Shock, disapproval, bewilderment, more shock . . . “See if you would’ve let me just handle my own problems this probably wouldn’t have happened so fast, now would it daddy?” I walked over behind him and gave him a peck on his motionless face. “Although it would have happened sooner or later; sooner than later-,” I corrected. “ You brought this on yourself.” I smiled and waved it off nonchalantly. He still didn’t break out of his posture. I walked in the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. “What’s for dinner?” I mumbled to myself. I picked through the leftovers we had in our fridge. I pulled out a bowl of baked chicken, corn and some rice. When I went to the cabinet I pulled out two plates, one for me, one for my dad. I put his plate in the microwave first, and then pulled out Carolina’s hot sauce and the other basic essentials, like forks. As soon as his was done I put it on the table and started mine. “Dinner has been served.” I announced, and a moment later I heard him heave himself off the couch. I brought the hot sauce and some freshly made lemonade, pouring it into ice- filled cups. He sat down at the table across from me. I sat down in my usual chair against the wall. I smiled. “Thanks,” he said pouring the hot sauce onto his chicken. I watched him curiously as I put some on mines too. He was biting his lip and picking through his food. “Is there something wrong with it?” I asked, tasting the chicken scrupulously. It tasted fine to me. I cocked an eyebrow at his hesitance. He took a deep breath and looked up at me warily, almost fearful. “I got a letter today. From Mayfield real estate.” He said slowly. He dropped his gaze from me to my plate. I listened. “I didn’t want to tell you this now, but the sooner the better, I guess,” he gulped. “They’re foreclosing the house, Aiyana. And we have to take a trip back to Oregon, to get things that we might want to keep. And your stuff too.” I nodded and stared at nothing. I
expected this to happen. We couldn’t keep the stuff there forever. “She gave the house to the bank in her . . . Will. And she has money saved up in an account for your college fund. You aren’t allowed to touch it, she said.” He half smiled. I felt his eyes on me, but I couldn’t even twitch my lips. I knew what it would look like if I tried to smile, I’d look like a gargoyle. So I just kept my mouth shut, my eyes down and took a deep breath. He sighed. “So when are we leaving?” I asked two minutes and forty-seven seconds later. He shifted in his chair and scraped his fork against his plate. I hated it when he did that. “This weekend. I think if we leave on Friday morning, we should be able to get back the following Friday. But there’s no rush.” He added quickly. I nodded. Today was Tuesday, which meant we’d have to leave in three days. And although it throbbed my heart to the thought of not seeing Jaylen for seven plus days, I knew this was something that needed to get done. “I was thinking about bringing a rental truck. Your mom had a lot of stuff and maybe some of the stuff we can’t take we could put in storage or something. I thought about asking Jaylen and Elias to come,” my heart stuttered and I looked at my dad, hope in my eyes. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “But I think this is something that we need to do on our own.” I disagreed completely. I could have Jaylen there and still do what I needed to do. “Do you really think we will be able to clean and move almost everything in one week by ourselves? We have – had a two story.” I said quietly. Averting my eyes from his face. His breaths were hesitant; it was so quiet I could hear the tiny wisps of air despite the clanging of construction next door. “Well, no.” he started. “And don’t you think it would be better if we had two trucks?” I suggested trying not to be obvious. I put something in my mouth. I wasn’t really paying attention to what it was; I was too interested in his response. It could have been a cockroach. As I thought that, I looked down just to be sure.
“I’ll think about it.” He grumbled. We ate for a while in silence when my dad out of nowhere said, “schools starting soon.” I looked up at him from my food and dropped my fork. I crossed my arms. “Yea, I know.” “Its okay if you don’t want to go yet. If . . . . . you’re not ready quite yet. I’m sure North Rennin’s would understand.” He reasoned. I looked down and then met his gaze after a moment of thinking. I shook my head. “I will be ready.” I said confidently. I was almost sure. Almost. “If your not, we could always wait.” I shook my head. That was it for our dinner conversation. Sometimes my dad could be really loud and outspoken; saying what he thought you needed to hear rather than what you need to. And then sometimes he would be the total opposite. Like last night when he was almost understanding, listening to me. And then this morning he was a totally different person. Some times it bothers me, then others it was all right. That’s just the way he is. After doing the dishes I went to my room, saying goodnight to my dad knowing I wouldn’t come back down. When I went to my room, I walked straight to my desk, to the calendar on the wall. It was still on December from last year so I flipped it to July 6, 2010. I had till September 2nd when school started. I could be ready. I had to be. I flipped the months back to April 25th and grabbed a pen off my desk. I scribbled the caption on the bottom: the beginning. Because I knew it was. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was absolutely horrible. I watched helplessly from the backseat as me and my mother drove past the hills to my father’s house. I was invisible. There was absolutely nothing I could do to warn us. When I tried to tap or shake my mothers shoulder, it was like touching air. This by far had to be the worst dream yet. It had to be. What could be worse than watching your mother die again in the most horrible way?
There was nothing worse. Moving was almost impossible. I was glued to the middle seat of the back. As if my ass was chained to the seat. I screamed and yelled at my mother. I shook the seat, I cursed. There was nothing I could do. But I couldn’t stop. I commanded myself to wake up. Somewhere between the yelling, I pressed my fingers to my temples and concentrated on waking up. I knew he had put me here for a reason. I just couldn’t understand why. Why would he do this to me? I didn’t exactly like him, but how cruel can you get? There had to be some reason, some meaning, some clue, something to why he would do this. He couldn’t be that cruel, could he? Horror was all I felt. Cutting Isolated horror. When I saw myself reach for the radio, thoughtlessly ending my mother’s life in the process. And when my mother began to sing and I saw the big white diesel coming straight at us I closed my eyes. And then it was over, thankfully. Or the crash was. I found myself standing in a murky overcast of smoke. Just standing, not knowing how I got there. To my left, yards away the truck was turned over on its side. I hoped and wondered if the driver was alright. And to my right was our car, turned over on the right side, my side. I could see through the back window, but all I saw was me. Broken, bleeding, unconscious me. I didn’t notice myself running to the accident. I didn’t really know that I was capable of doing so. Every part of my body felt stiff and frozen in to place and being this close frightened me. I didn’t want to be this close - I didn’t even want to be here - to see this. I rather fall a thousand times on to the cold black asphalt of my dreams. When I tried to step back I couldn’t. I was frozen again but not in a way that I had chosen. My body felt chained again, but to the ground this time. Was he doing this? How? My thoughts stopped when I saw my mother appear from the smoke. As much as I wanted to yell and scream her name, to run in her arms and convince myself that the whole accident had been a nightmare, I didn’t. I just watched because I knew that it was helpless to do so. Screaming was just going to tear me up further, and I was already hanging onto the seams of my sanity.
Why rip myself up more? Oh, and then I saw her with him and I felt a wave of disgust and anger smother my emotions. For the first time I really saw him with my own eyes, in flesh – or whatever it was. He was wearing all black; black hoodie, black jeans, black shoes everything was black. I could see that the only piece of skin that showed was a piece of hand that failed to be covered by his oversized hoodie. It was a rich tannish caramel color. His hood covered his face and it – wherever it was – was cast by the shadow of it. His back was to me, but I could see him quite clearly. He was standing over my mother, his hands clenched into tight fists. My mother, who kneeled beside my smashed face, smoothed the hair from my bloody cheek with trembling hands. She didn’t look hurt at all. In fact, I could only see tears in her clothes and my eyes seemed to be very observant lately. Her hair was still smoothed back in its ponytail like before, her rings all on her finger. She was crying as she smoothed my hair hesitantly, and it broke my heart again. I had always hated to see my mother cry, but this time it was different because I was seeing her cry over something like I felt I’d caused. And also because I was actually looking at her in person and because she didn’t know or notice. This was all a memory for me, I was seeing her but she wasn’t seeing me. She didn’t even know I was here. The man finally spoke. And when he did, is voice was smooth but it was filled with frustration, disapproval, shock and doubt. “It’s too dangerous; you have to let her go.” He insisted. “But it could live on, I wont let her go!” my mother shook her head and I saw tears swivel and plummet from her cheeks. I heard glass crinkle as she moved to hover over me with her hand raised over my head. I watched curiously but expectantly while it inched toward my forehead. “Stella no, you don't know what you’re doing. She’s only fifteen, she wouldn’t be able to handle it!” he lingered above her, his hands still clenched in fury. My mother’s head snapped up at him and she looked like she was trying to burn him with her eyes. Her words rapped themselves out of her mouth in a flurry.
“I will not let her die! How could you consider that?!” he shook his head. “I only consider what’s right. Stella, be reasonable!” her nostrils flared with intensity and I saw her fingers slap down on my forehead in less than a second. “PULSE!” she screamed and her body shook. “STELLA, NO!” he yelled, grabbing her arm, trying to yank it back. With her other arm, my mother grabbed his hand from her shoulder tightly and she flung him over the car – with such compelling force he flew like a rag doll - where he fell onto the ground, only to stand back up again. I caught a glimpse of her eyes; they were all white. The shrillness kind of white, the bottomless depth of prosaic that filled them made me flinch out of my stance and stumble back. She turned her head back at me - the me that was on the ground, laying half way out the window. I saw my body quiver and shake. My hand thrashed amongst the glass outside of the car as if it was trying to reach something. The glass cut into it and I watched them grow blue as my mother whispered her final promise in my ear. The man was by us then, and he was more rigid than before. I wondered if he was pissed off about being thrown that far and if he was hurt. But he arched over us and his fingers were spread out like he was stretching them. I saw myself thrashing and along with that, I heard heart cringing cracks escape from my body. I winced. He knelt over us, threatening promises to me. And I remembered how I felt when he had said that, because I could hear it and feel it now. They sounded more like guarantees than threats. And I had wondered about it, what he had meant. But I knew now. “Go Stella, you’ve done enough damage.” He spit. And I wanted to kill him. I wanted to throw a big gigantic earth sized boulder at him. I saw the disgusted posture he formed and I heard the repugnance in his voice. The feeling echoed in me as I watched him see my mother crawl to the other side of the car, not bothering to help her. Not even when she collapsed outside the car window, crunching the glass. She looked dead. She was on her stomach, her palms up, face tilted towards the western sun.
And then I was charging toward him, one hand into a solid fist, the other in a claw, ready to tear off his skin the first chance it got. But as I was running, I heard myself choke and saw me become still. That didn’t slow me down at all. I was so close . . . . . Whiteness happened again, the shrill noise sounded and suddenly I found my self in a white room. Exactly like the one in my first dream. And I screamed in exasperation. Why couldn’t I just have one good hit? How did he get away with disappearing so easily? Where was he? I looked around me. The room was blank, nothing there except a white desk and the ground. No doors like the last dream. I was alone. I began reassessing my last dream. A few key points stood out from it like to not touch the ground. But this was a load of bullshit, this was. Why put me in this blank empty room? What was the point? Was I supposed to touch some thing so I could fall? However, I remembered falling and it wasn’t all that great. I was confused. “Where are you?” I felt stupid for a second for I was talking to air. There was no one here. Yet. “Huh? Where the fuck are you?” I questioned again. There was no answer; I was still alone. The quiet just agitated me more, and I began to scream. “Come on! Come on out and face me!” I dared. Still no answer. I screamed and kicked the desk where it toppled over. I was suddenly feeling very evil as I seethed angrily at the invisible man. I glanced down at the chair ready to pick it up this time and actually throw it at the invisible wall. And when I began to pick it up, there was an answer. “Sit.” The voice commanded. I dropped the chair in astonishment. Looking around this time, I still saw nothing and I couldn’t figure out which way the voice came from. So he was brave enough to say something but not brave enough to show? I laughed evilly inside my head. There was no one to make me do anything around here, so why listen? I crossed my arms stubbornly and smirked. “No.” I stayed still. My jaw locked and my teeth clenched. Again, I heard the voice. “Sit. Last warning.”
Now he was threatening me? I laughed aloud. This was funny; he was giving me warnings as if I was still in kindergarten. I laughed some more. “Hell n-“ I didn’t get to finish, the impact of this ferocious force knocked the wind out of me and created its own. I was flying backwards. I expected to land on the floor so my hands were spread out to break my fall. But it was unnecessary because I was sitting in the chair I had knocked over and my hands were stiffly folded in front of me on the desk. It looked as if I was sitting on air because the transparency, and I thought I would have if it hadn’t been for the bar that connected to the chair and desk. I couldn’t move my hands. No, I just could not move. I was at locked again. I tried to get up but it was useless, I was absolutely glued to my seat, my hands glued to the desk. I felt the shock on my face I looked up to see him. He was different, but still the same. Different, because he was dressed in all white this time not black. The same because it was still him, not that I could actually see his face, it was still covered by his hood. I still saw the bare hints of caramel his sleeves failed to hide and his posture was still arched over like he was going to strike. Suddenly he flipped back his hood. I gasped. He looked appallingly young maybe one year older than me. He was Latino, I could tell by his skin, and he had beautiful green eyes. They were freshly mowed grass green and they looked awkward on his face but somehow still beautiful. This guy’s hair was cut into a fade like Jaylen's but except his was curly on the top. His face was masculine and it bared no softness to it. This dude was hot. I gawked at him for a moment but shook my head and looked away before I could blush. Then I quickly looked back, positive my face was no longer attracted. The anger sweltered back in an instant and I was glowering at this handsome sadist. His face was amused and he looked at his hands, turning them back and forth. “I never really used that one on anybody before. All the others do as their told.” He glanced at me. And took two steps forward until he was cowering above me, shaking his finger at me. I just looked up. “But you, you are different. You’re
young.” He stated. Had his tone always been this attractive? No it couldn’t have been, I would have noticed. But would it have made a difference? Would it have taken back all those times he threatened me? Or these dreams he’d put me through? Or the pain, the mocking, and the disgust I felt for myself? Was it making a difference now? I decided that I wouldn’t let it. I stared back at him, deep into those green eyes. I bickered and argued on what I would ask him, how I would ask him. His identity seemed to be a good start. If I could get the words out. I tried. “Who?” I choked. That was as far as I could go. He cocked an eyebrow at my awkward sentence. Then he sighed and clasped his hand together. He began to pace. “My name is Julius, though there are many other names for what I am. Deceiver of actions is one, uhm, paranormal - though I am quite alive, telekinetic, ooohhh, here’s a good one: demon. Yup, you could call me a demon.” Then he smiled a grim smile. He stopped pacing and looked down at me. “I assume you can think of more?” I nodded, I could think of a whole bunch of expletives that fit his description. He smirked as if he could hear some of the ones I was screaming in my head. “You are not so brave anymore-“ did I hear an accent? “Are you afraid?” he asked, tilting his head to the side. I threw mines back and snorted feeling very brave indeed. I hadn’t fainted yet. “Hah.” He laughed at my remark, then quirked another eyebrow. “Was I wrong?” I brought my eyes back to his and stared him dead in the eyes. He hadn’t realized but his question had opened up a floodgate. “My hands turn blue every once in a while. I break things without meaning to. I almost killed my boyfriend just by holding his face. I have terrible nightmares. I lost my mother in a car accident just by turning the radio station. I can hear things I’m not supposed to. I’m pretending to be something I’m not. I have to be careful when I’m around my family because I could hurt them. My dad is considering going to my mother’s house this weekend just the two of us. And I have some cruel, sadistic creature ruining my life in these crappy meaningless dreams I just cant escape! Claiming that I can kill people! And you think I’m
afraid! That doesn’t even cover it.” I spit through my teeth. He stepped back away from me, raising his hands. I realized I was standing. I looked down and up and smirked. “Your power does nothing.” He smiled at me warmly. “Oh yes it does, actually.” He looked down beside me at the chair and I followed his gaze hesitantly. With a twitch of his fingers, the chair slowly bent and twisted into a crooked piece of metal. I couldn’t hide my amazement. He looked at me. “I can do many things like that. I can kill you where you stand if I wanted. I can move you to different places. I can make you do anything I want you to do, just by twitching my fingers. And you know what? So can you.” I stepped back automatically. “That’s your job, to learn how. It will take lots of practice, but you managed to not kill your boyfriend, so maybe not as long.” I shook my head confused and incredulous. “You have questions. Ask.” I didn’t know where to start so I asked the first one that bubbled to my lips. “How can I –? I mean, maybe I don’t want to! Maybe I don’t want this job! Can’t I give it to some one else?” he shook his head. “Okay, what you are referring to is pulsing. I think it’s better if I start from the top, don’t you think?” I nodded. “Hmm. Where to begin?” he pondered. Then he snapped his fingers. “I know. Okay, I’m going to pulse, so don’t be alarmed. Please forgive me for doing this.” Before I could ask, we were suddenly somewhere else. A bright light flashed, it was white and almost hard to spot against the white room. I wouldn’t have noticed if it weren’t for the warning. We were at my house. Or should I say, old house. My head jerked in every direction, searching. But it was hard because it was nighttime. We were at the foot of the stairs and to my left were my mother’s room and across from that were mine. I took a step back. This was exactly like that one movie: A Christmas Carol. But instead of three ghosts, I only had one. This was supposed to be the beginning? At my house? This is where it had started? “Shall we?” Julius asked, gesturing to my mother’s room. I was locked in place this time only it was me who did it. I didn’t really want to move. I was afraid to see what else he wanted to show me. Maybe I shook my head, but I wasn’t
sure. He sighed. “I know this is hard. But trust me.” I glared at him then, my nostrils flaring and my hands balled into fists. “Why? Why should I trust you?” “Because I’m the only one that can help you, Aiyana.” How did he know my name? I had never told him. “Now, if you want to go at this alone and kill everyone you love, then go right on ahead. I’ll wake you up. But if you want to control it, then follow me. I haven’t all night. And my patience is wearing thin.” He strode to my mother’s room and opened the door, waiting for me to enter. I paused for a second and deliberated. Did I really have a choice? A good choice, I mean? No, so I found myself walking through the door. Stepping to the side so he could pass. I saw my mother sitting on the edge of her bed, back to me and saw that she was writing something. Her hair was down and she was wearing those fuzzy pink pajamas I had gotten her for her birthday. Tears dewed in my eyes but they didn’t fall. My heart was throbbing wildly as I saw her hands scribbling on a journal. Julius glanced at me as he saw my face. I wouldn’t look at him. I heard him sigh. He put his hand on my right shoulder, but I shook it off angrily. “Don’t ever touch me.” I warned through my teeth, walking slowly to where my mother sat. She didn’t even move. It was very strange to be here in the past, like time travel. I looked at her sadly, but afraid to touch her. I leaned against the wall. And Julius walked to my side. “This is the beginning. Or rather the end of the beginning,” I flinched at his words. “I’d met your mother by accident, you see. I was wondering around town, in present day form, when I’d bumped into her. Corny, I know.” I hoped that he wasn’t confessing that he was in love with her. “It was a years back. And she was walking with you in the park. Now, I’m not surprised you don’t remember me because you weren’t paying attention, and I’m glad. You had run off into the park, on the jungle gym. Your mother was watching you. I was passing beside her when my shoulder bumped her. I apologized a moment later after staring deep into her eyes.” He glanced at me. I was still looking at my mom. “She had such deep eyes, honest but there was something beyond that. They were strong. At
the moment they captivated me. I had spent many years searching for those eyes or something like it. My grandfather had pulsed my father, and my father had pulsed me. It was like passing on a family heirloom. When you no longer had a need for it, you passed it on. But you could only pass it on when you were absolutely done with it. You would grow old with it, and when you found no strength for it, you gave it up. And when my father had given it up to me – he was dying of cancer – there was something wrong. The pulsing changed somehow, it got stronger, and I assume it was because it had used up his energy for him to keep it. I don’t exactly know why. But it just did. I didn’t know at the time what he was doing. He was weak in his hospital bed, only minutes left when he reached for me. He held onto my face with all his strength and he pulsed. See, I didn’t really remember much after that because I had fainted. When I woke up, my father was dead. And that was oh, seventy years ago?” I stared at him uncomprehendingly. “What? How old are you now?” I asked. He smiled at me and then looked at my mother. “16. I know it makes no sense to me either. When you pulse, my theory is that you have to give it at a mature age. Now, if you’re not mature enough, I think you stay that age until whenever you’re done with it. But I learned that I was wrong. I am mature and I still haven’t changed so I suppose I will keep it forever. So I don’t know what will happen. For years I was alone. No family, I was afraid to turn to them as they saw my age and that I hadn’t changed. So I had disappeared two years later. There was no point on pretending. Soon, I was disgusted with myself. I believed I had killed my father because when I discovered my power, it was lethal. I didn’t know how to control it. I’d killed people.” He looked down, ashamed. Strangely, I felt some urge to comfort him, but I held it back. I was just as disgusted as he had been. He was a monster. “So I didn’t want it. I’d decided that I would give it up to some one else. Some one stronger than me. It took me a while to realize that there was no one stronger than me, so I figured I’d give it to someone that seemed like they had enough self-control. Then I saw your mother in the park, and just knew it had to be her. I
followed her around for a while and then one night – please forgive me – I snuck into your house and when she was asleep, I pulsed.” He looked to me warily. “I suppose you are angry with me, for following and ending your mother. I don’t blame you. Don’t you remember? That first night when you’d waken up to your mother with that terrible head ache?” I nodded somberly. And I did. “I remember you. You were so careful around her. I saw myself in you even, except way less stupid. When you’d leave for summer, I would teach your mother how to control it, but she would still get those awful head aches. I thought I’d did something wrong. Your mother was very polite and open, my god she was funny. And whenever I took her to the white room, she sat down when I asked her. Obediently.” “My mother is not a dog.” I said incensed by his words. “No, she was not. But with such a power, it helps to be docile. She was a friend to me. But sometimes she could be very irrational and obvious. Like when she wore those gloves. She complained that her hands got hot when she was ill. And I bet that got you wondering, didn’t it? I saw the wonder and curiosity in your eyes. And the more she complained, the more I worried. What had I done wrong?” he wondered. I knelt in front of my mother who was still scribbling away. I felt so broken, watching her write. I looked up into her eyes. They were full of tears and I wonder why they wouldn’t spill. “What is she writing?” “It a journal. She kept it to record what was happening. She told me so herself, but I never quite knew what was in it. She says it was for remembering the lessons.” He sighed deeply as he remembered something. “Oh.” Was all that was said for a couple of minutes. Then I thought of something to ask. “Why were you mad, when she pulsed me, I mean. Wasn’t that supposed to happen?” he turned toward me. His undecided expression made me wonder if he was going to tell me the truth. But finally he sighed and his face turned incredulous. “Because she wasn’t going to die. When you learn to get your wavelength under control, you become indestructible, or close to it. And she was fine; she
wasn’t going to die! But you? You were losing a lot of blood. She knew you would die, and I was instantly horrified at the thought of her giving herself up. Throwing up the flag and giving it all to you after everything we’d been through. She was disposing it all, like she didn’t care. Perhaps it is because I’d lost my father early and never completely understood what it felt to love some one as much as she loved you. And I hated you for it. I’m sorry but I did. I hadn’t talked to anybody in decades. Hadn’t had a friend for years, and she was giving herself up for you, I loathed her. I was losing it all. We had talked about it once, about what would happen if she had to give it up, what I would do. We agreed that I would teach you. And no matter how much I disagreed, I had promised to do so. So I am chained to you in a way. And when she lost conscious, I went with her. To talk to her a final time. She assured me that my anger was unnecessary, but I just couldn’t believe it. So I tortured you. I made you go through all those dreams just because I was angry. It was never your fault. And so I must say, that I am truly regrettably sorry, Aiyana. I hope that one day you will forgive me for my hideous behavior. I genuinely am.” He stared at me for a long while, probing my face hoping for forgiveness. Could I give it to him? “I know. Now that you explained it, I can see your point. It was horrible behavior.” I agreed. “Am I forgiven?” he asked. I looked at him and saw an abandoned teen that had no help at all. Some one who had been alone for so long, and who’d grown accustom to feeling selfish. He didn’t know better. I felt sorry for him, I almost understood him. And I knew that I’d know him for a long time, too. The sooner I forgave him, the better. I mean, I couldn’t not say yes. I’d stoop as low as he had. “Yeah, I guess.” I sighed. He grinned at me showing perfect straight white teeth. I cringed at the beauty. “Thanks.” I looked at my mom for a moment and then turned to walk out the room. I didn’t want to see anymore. I heard him shuffling after me. “I hope that one day we can be friends.” He admitted. I nodded and considered that. I don’t think I would mind; it might be nice to have more friends.
“How do I wake up?” I asked, curious. “Oh, uhm, well anytime you wish. I could do it for you if you’d like.” His voice dropped a little bit. Was he really that lonely? “Is there anything I should remember when I awake?” “Everyone is different but you seem stronger so no, just don’t concentrate so hard. Try not to get so angry. And remember that it’s okay to have a boyfriend, Aiyana. As long as you are careful.” He assured me. I nodded. “Will I see you?” “Yes, but uhm, I prefer to watch from a distance, just in case, you know? But yes you will see me.” He smiled. We were walking down the stairs unobtrusively and I wondered where we were going. “Are you sure it’s okay to be with Jaylen?” I wanted to be sure. I didn’t want to risk anything and I would love to stop having to chant the ‘forget’ thing every second I was with him. I wanted to be sure. “No, I’m not sure.” He admitted. I looked at him questionably. “But you love him, no?” “Yes.” “Then that should be enough for you to not kill – hurt him.” He half smiled. “If your ever unsure or angry, take a deep breathe and calm yourself. Rage triggers the heart rate, and your blood flows more quickly. That’s a bad thing. I’ll tell you about it someday.” He promised. “Tonight?” “Wouldn’t you like to sleep well tomorrow? I wont put you through those bad dreams, I promise. Well, except if it’s necessary.” He revised. I shook my head quickly. “No. I’ll be okay. I want to understand this as quickly as I can. School’s starting soon and I want to be prepared. I don’t want to hurt anyone.” I looked down wondering if my words reminded him of the people he’d hurt. Maybe one day I’d ask him. Maybe. He smiled and he didn’t seem to notice.
“Eagerness is good. Tomorrow I will teach you about the emotions that trigger it and the safe ones that don’t.” he nodded. We were at the foot of the stairs again. And I looked around. “You don’t want to go so soon, do you?” Julius asked. He was dead on. I nodded slowly. “Though its not soon, it’s been almost three months since the accident. I left in April but I'm sure you knew that. I just have to be ready. I gotta be.” He gazed at me for a moment. Staring at me so deeply that I felt uneasy and had to break his gaze. “You are very much like your mother. So head strong and determined. Which reminds me. I picked this time for a reason. That journal your mother was writing in? Find it and read it. I believe it’s in her closet, top shelf next to the tootsie roll canister filled with pennies.” I smiled as I remembered that. He looked out the window vacantly. “If I wake you up now, you will be able to catch the morning videos. I know how you liked those.” “How?” I asked. He grinned. “You didn’t know me, you couldn’t see me. Now you know me, now you see me. Think of me as an imaginary friend.” I laughed for the first time. The beginning of this dream had started off as a nightmare and now it wasn’t so bad. “Can other people see you?” I wondered. “If you’d like,” he shrugged. “But would your boyfriend?” I blanched at the thought. But then smiled. “That’s our business. Now wake me up, I’m missing Lady Gaga.” He laughed with me and held his hands up towards me, palms up. “Be careful.” And then the light flickered from the tips of his fingers, and then enveloped us in whiteness. Next thing I knew, I was in my room. Alone. I lay back on my covers, exhausted. The whole pulsing thing was going to take some getting used to. I pulled my sheet up to my neck and curled up into a ball, thinking. I thought about my mother first and how she managed to keep this away from me, at least the more important part. I wondered if Julius had known his
whole life about what would happen to him or maybe just the principles of it. Also, I wondered if seeing my mother this often in my dreams was good for me. Sometimes I really didn’t want to even think about her, I wanted to forget so that I wouldn’t hurt anymore. Still, sometimes I missed her so much that I get tired of looking at pictures of her. I want to see her in person. Remembering that I cant, well it just tears me up inside. So I couldn’t exactly settle on whether that seeing my mom in the past was a good or bad. It depended on what I was seeing. But I think I liked the trade very much. Oh, and the pointers he had given me. I was beyond relieved for those. His advice must have been good because he seemed very powerful. Hell, he even acted like it. I remember in particular the bit he said on the pulsing getting stronger. If I ever got myself under control, would I be even stronger than him? That would be interesting. But I guess it all depended on if I could handle it. He even said so himself that I was under control most of the time, or something like it. So I could be with Jaylen and be close with my father without hurting them and any one else who got in the way. That made me smile. I had a really good feeling that Julius and me would be great friends. I kicked back the covers and stretched. I went across the hall to brush my teeth. I bounded down the stairs, trying to be quiet as I passed my dad’s room. I flipped on the flat screen and turned to vh1, wondering when my dad would be heading back to work. In the kitchen, I opened the fridge and pulled out all the needs to make a big breakfast. French toast, sausage, waffles, potatoes, eggs, grits and bacon was all we had and it sounded wonderful. It would take me a couple hours, so I quickly filled the house with the wonderful aroma of French toast and sausage. We had no orange juice, but we had about ten packets of Kool-Aid and milk. I set the table and turned off all the ayes. I went back to the living room and turned up the TV, which had Drake rapping about a basketball team. Personally I thought it didn’t fit the song very well. He was talking about some beautiful girl and about how bomb she is but he had a whole bunch of girls wearing short shorts and low cut tanks playing basketball. I rolled my eyes, but bobbed my head to the beat. Just then, my dad came slumping down the stairs, still tired.
“What the hell are you listening to?” he asked stretching. I smiled. “Good morning! I cooked breakfast. The waffles are a little burnt and the bacon is a bit charred, but the sausage turned out quite well.” I assured leading him into the kitchen. There was pep in my step and he noticed. I couldn’t help myself. I could see Jaylen today and be almost positive that I wouldn’t hurt him. I would have to control my temper, but that shouldn’t be a problem because he made me so happy all of the time. My dad scratched his head and sat down like he was confused. He played with the edge of the blue tablecloth, tugging at it. I sat his food in front of him and poured him some milk. Then I sat across from him. “Didja’ sleep on it?” I asked after chewing and swallowing my semi burnt waffles. I swathed it with syrup, chewed for a while, and then looked up at him. He was porking down the sausages as if I hadn’t made extra. “Whoah dad, do you want to choke?” I laughed. He smiled and then swallowed, wiping his mouth with a paper towel. “Is this some way of trying to butter me up about the trip?” I blinked. “No! Of course not. I was just in a good mood this morning, and I wanted a big breakfast.” I shook my head. “Why? Is it working?” I asked hopefully. He shrugged. “I slept on it. And it does sound reasonable to have some extra help. But, at the same time, you know, I still feel uncomfortable with the fact that Jaylen will be there. Now, its not that I don’t trust you. I just don’t really like it. Although the help would be nice.” He muttered. I half smiled at his consideration; it was very sweet of him to do so. I just hoped that his trust for me and need to get the job done was enough. “Well, thank you for thinking about it. And dad I would never do anything I wasn’t supposed to. We’re staying at my mom’s house for crying out loud.” Aside from knowing how wrong it was, I had someone watching me now. I scowled at the thought of Julius watching. That would be horribly embarrassing. I quickly filled my mouth.
“Actually I was considering staying in a hotel if it ever got to be too much, ya' know?” I shook my head rapidly. “No, I’ll be fine. But you should ask them before we start making plans. They could be doing something.” My dad laughed. “Please! As if Jaylen would even let Elias consider saying no!” he scoffed. “Don’t laugh! You have just as less a life as him,” we laughed together at that. After eating and cleaning the kitchen it was almost one. I decided to go get dressed so I skipped upstairs, with my dad watching curiously. I flung myself into my closet. I could tell just by how light my room was, that it was going to be hot. I could see tiny heat lines on my walls where heat reflected. I pulled down some jean cut-off shorts and my ‘this is why I’m hot’ yellow tee shirt. It was one of my favorites because it had cartoon condiments on it; ketchup mustard and then in the middle was hot sauce. It was funny when I bought it, and even funnier now. I grabbed my towel and everything that I needed to get clean and headed into the shower, taking my time with the hot water. And when I was all dressed and everything, I ran down the stairs. Elias was already there. “Hey Elias!” I hugged him from behind because he was sitting down. He hugged me with an arm and laughed. “Hey, hey jitterbug,” I looked around the room and scratched my hair, which was loosely tied into its usual ponytail. “Where’s jay?” I asked looking at my dad. He was holding a jumbo purple bowl filled with popcorn and he shook it at me. It smelled delicious so I walked over and took a handful. Extra butter, just the way I liked mine. “Oh! He’s at the park waiting for you. I dropped him off. You should hurry.” He added, trying to hold back laughter. I smiled, confused. “Alritee then. I’ll call you, daddy.” I threw a popcorn kernel at him and walked off to get my shoes. After slipping on my converse, I opened up the door. It was so hot outside, so I shut the big black door and ran up to my room to get my 60’s glasses. I waved to my dad and Elias as I left. It was a little tricky trying to get to the park, but not so bad. It was right around the house so I walked down the path until I spotted Jaylen sitting on a red
and white-checkered picnic blanket with a big umbrella covering pretty much the whole blanket. He had a blue ice chest beside him, and he pulled out an orange soda and held it up as if he were toasting. I felt the grin on my face as I skipped to the blanket. “What’s all this?” I asked gesturing towards the umbrella and ice chest. He smiled up at me and patted the ground beside him. I sat down without a second thought. “I had an idea last night,” he murmured pulling me into his arms. I pulled his face to mine and grinned before kissing him. He rocked backwards. “Well, hello,” he greeted me afterwards. “That’s certainly better than a handshake.” I giggled at him and nodded. He cracked the soda open and handed it to me. His was grape and he held it up for a toast. “I’d like to make a toast. A toast to loooovvee.” He shook his head like a seal. The way he said it made it sound weird so we laughed. “Opa and then chug?” I suggested. He nodded wildly and held out his can. We clicked cans and shouted, “Opa!” and chugged. Now, it was really hard to force the soda down when you were laughing and it was really funny watching him chug. I saw how his Adam’s apple bulged as he drank and saw how his hand grew tight against the can. I was going to lose; I knew I was. I reached my hand over to poke him in the ribs. He dodged and his head tilted back as he finished his soda. I finished like two seconds later. “Opa!” he shouted, reaching his hands in the air. I rolled my eyes and shrugged, pretending not to care. Truthfully, I didn’t like losing but it wasn’t so bad losing to him. “Ohh, someone’s a sore loser.” He accused. I looked at him my mouth dropping open. “Am not!” I disagreed. He smiled and shrugged innocently, looking up at the clear blue sky. Then he lurched over and coughed, “denial.” I smacked his head, laughing. “That is so old,” I criticized. He stretched his arm out to the ice chest and pulled out two sandwiches. He held them up, one in each hand and shook them once. He smiled.
“Look what I made! Mmmm, sandwiches!” he tossed one at me and it landed in my lap. I looked down at it, not touching it, just looking at it. I was really hesitant to eat it because Jaylen was the worst cook in the world. I remember once he’d tried to cook noodles in the microwave and he didn’t even add water. We had to throw away the bowl. “Oh, come on! Its not like I could mess up on a sandwich! What’s the worst I could do?” he saw my apprehension. I actually laughed at that. “I don’t know. Forget to add water?” I snickered. He picked up his and opened the baggie. “Haha, very funny. But if you don’t want it, I’ll take it.” He said taking a bite. I watched him chew. He opened his mouth and moaned, showed me the unswallowed food. He ingested it quickly. “See? Food.” I stuck out my tongue and pulled out my sandwich, sniffing it. I was teasing him and he rolled his eyes. I pretended to gulp, and I closed my eyes and then quickly ate a bite. It was a turkey sandwich, with mayo and mustard, and Kraft American cheese. Most people think theirs no difference, but there is. American is thicker. It wasn’t half bad. “Pretty good Jay, pretty darn good. Maybe one of the best yet?” I watched as his face perked up and he sat up straight smiling at me happily. After that he stretched up and yawned placing his arm around my shoulder, imperceptibly as possible. What he was doing was as corny as it was on the movies. Nevertheless, I tucked my head under his chin and leaned into him and we fell back onto the blanket. I laid my head on his chest and he kept his arm wound firmly around my waist. I played with his fingers as he spoke. “Have you talked to your dad yet?” he wondered tracing patterns on the side of my shirt. I sighed. “Something’ like that.” I mumbled against his shirt softly. He was wearing a plain tan tee with some graphic design on the bottom. I had no idea what brand it was, but I was sure that it wouldn’t matter. Jaylen could rock anything. “What does that mean?” he asked. I groaned. Was he really going to make me say it out loud like he didn’t know? Oh well, might as well just admit it.
“Like you don’t know. It’s been one day and my dad already thinks I’m ready for sex. Blech.” He chuckled softly. “He’s a dad, and you’re his little girl. It’s reasonable.” He shrugged underneath me. I propped myself up so I could see his face. “What about your dad? Has he been playing abstinence and chastity card, too?” he looked up at the sky when he spoke and stared at nothing for a while. I drummed my fingers keenly, waiting. I wondered what he was trying to keep from me. Had it been that bad? What did his father think? What did he say? The longer he looked up the more impatient I got and the more it bothered me. “Well . . . . He did try getting . . . . Some stuff through to me. But it wasn’t anything I didn’t already know!” He looked down at me and his voice became incredibly soft, and his face became heart warming and tender. His big brown eyes held me and all I could do was stare back. They made me feel dizzy; he clouded my mind and I struggled to stay focused. “For instance,” he started. He shaped his hand around my cheek, and when I leaned my head into it, he smiled. “Like never hurting you. Which I would never, never do.” He hands framed both sides of my cheek now, and I stretched myself up enough to kiss his cheek. He held me to his chest and I laid my head down. I was getting better at this. At first I was wondering about how awkward it would be, being with him physically. But it was pretty easy. I opened my eyes and looked around, sighing with satisfaction. I decided that I liked this park. It was so open, but still private and maybe it was because Jaylen and me were pretty much the only people here. But it was very spacious and the trees were all spread out to the out side of the park beside the benches. There were a few trees dotted around the park providing shade for some. And the gray concrete trail stretched and stretched, like a jogging trail almost. It looked like a path you would see old couples walk upon, and that made it even better to me. I couldn’t explain it right; this park was just so beautiful and well put together. I rolled off of Jaylen's chest and snuggled into his arm. He smelled like cologne, but it definitely wasn’t axe. Axe was so strong it made me want to gag; I
don’t get how people found it attractive at all. This scent smelled like apples almost but it was manlier than that. I inhaled deeply. “You smell good. Like apples.” I declared exhaling. He chuckled softly. “Thanks. You don’t smell that bad either.” He teased. I smiled and rolled my eyes. “Its so nice outside, you picked a perfect day for a picnic.” I complimented. He laughed and continued to trace designs on my side, it tickled a bit. “It could have been raining outside and you still would’ve came,” I giggled at this because he was right. It wouldn’t have mattered to me. “Well then, it’s a good thing you brought an umbrella, huh?” he nodded. I tilted my head up so I could look at him. The umbrella shaded my face from the sun so at least I didn’t have to squint. He gazed at me, with a half smile on his face for a very long time. His hair was freshly cut and maybe he’d gotten that done before, but I didn’t care because I was noticing now. He bent his head down towards mine and slowly, but sweetly compressed his lips to mine. His arms locked around my back and waist while mines were limply curled in between us. My whole body was lifeless – still, my lips were secured tightly to his. I think he frowned; it would have made sense because he pulled one of my hands from the middle of us and moved it behind his neck. As if I was being snapped out of a thought I molded my body to him and threw my other arm around his neck, opening my lips. He moved his hand to the small of my back, and his fingers were pressing down, unyielding to my figure. It would’ve hurt if I had been paying attention. But I wasn’t. So here we were, practically making out on his picnic blanket, when I opened my eyes. At first I was looking at Jaylen, but then something else caught my eye. Or rather someone else. He wasn’t hard to notice because he was wearing all black and it was really light outside. I squinted harder to see who this was. It was Julius. He was glaring, his head shaking side to side, his eyes wide on mine. I was shocked for a moment seeing him there, then embarrassed and then
confused. I was about to ignore him, and just continue what I had been doing. I wanted to, and I guess he saw that in my annoyed expression. “Stop.” He mouthed at me. And then I got what he was trying to tell me, and my annoyance disappeared for a second. But then Jaylen softly bit my lip, and I had to try really hard, I mean really hard to stop. I was torn, but I groaned a sigh and rolled on my back. Before he disappeared I saw Julius's expression and then I felt bad. It was a mix between wonder and worry. I’d ask him about it later. “Jeez, Louise,” Jaylen panted. I giggled after catching my breath. I turned my head and he was propped up on his elbow, smiling at me. I propped myself up too. His brown eyes twinkle under the cast of his lashes and I smiled. I reached up to touch his lips, but I ended up tracing them instead. Jaylen was so perfect to me. If he had any flaws, I certainly didn’t notice them. He was so right for me and vice versa. He just made me completely at ease I felt that I didn’t have to hide anything from him, except for the obvious. I felt like one of the luckiest girls in history if not the luckiest girl. But I felt pretty darn close. I was just fortunate enough to have my boyfriend as a best friend too. He understood me, was on my level, could handle most of my crap, and most importantly, he loved me. Nothing can be better than that. I could’ve stayed here forever. Which reminded me . . . . . “I’m going to be gone for a whole week.” I said, unable to keep the sadness out of my voice. I felt him freeze up in my arms. “What? Why? When?” he held me tighter, he may not have noticed it but I did. I smiled a bit to where he couldn’t see. “This Friday. We have to go back up to Oregon because they’re foreclosing the house. It will take more than a week, I think. My mom had a lot of stuff. Unless . . . .” I felt extremely impish at the moment, tricky. “What?” he asked quickly. I couldn’t hold back this spasm of giggles this time. He looked at me like I was crazy. “I’m serious.” “I know you are. But my dad and me were talking and we were thinking that maybe you and your dad would join us up there for the trip. That way we’ll have two trucks and get twice the stuff done. But if you guys weren’t to come,
well it might take a while longer. And we might not see each other for two weeks.” I added glumly. His shoulders slouched a bit, he groaned softly. “I don’t know; my aunt is coming over to visit. I just found out, sorry.” “How long?” my shoulders hunched over like his. “About a week, she comes this Saturday. I wish we’d known ahead of time. But I’ll try to talk my dad into it.” He promised. I pouted. This was horrible as good plans went. I was going to be stuck in Oregon with my dad for two weeks. But that wasn’t so bad. The bad part was not seeing Jaylen for two weeks. Jaylen picked up my chin with his forefinger and kissed my nose. “Just try not to think about me, maybe that will pass the time quicker.” He suggested. “Pshh, so you want me to think about not thinking about you? Jaylen that wont work. I can never get you out of my head.” I admitted softly. He smiled at my words gently. “Neither can I.” He confessed glancing away from my face and looking behind me. For a moment, there was nothing much else to say so we just sat there in silence. I played with our fingers in the quiet. It felt so good – if that was the word – to be with Jaylen and I don’t think I would ever get used to it. I was purely filled with delight that it was possible for me to be with him, that I wouldn’t hurt him. Well, I wouldn’t with out the help of Julius. As if a slide show was being viewed in my mind, I remembered his expression and I felt a bit uneasy. What was it that had him so sad about seeing me? I pondered for a moment and came up with a good guess. I bet that he was lonely. I mean, even with me he probably missed my mom almost as much as I did. After being alone for so long, he probably forgot what it would be like to have someone for him like Jaylen was to me. He probably wanted some one like that, but he couldn’t. But I didn’t really understand why he couldn’t if he was able to go in and out of solid forms. I didn’t really get how the whole now-you-se-me-now-you-don’t thing worked, but if other people were capable of seeing him, why not take advantage of it. Perhaps he didn’t want to risk it. Or maybe he just wasn’t interested. Maybe. I maneuvered myself out of Jaylen's arms to grab a soda. I cracked it open, took a sip, then grabbed another and tossed it over at Jaylen.
“I hope your good at persuading people Jay. I don’t know about you, but two weeks is a long time.” I crossed my legs and leaned against his stomach. “You’re telling’ me. I’m gonna be stuck out here with Aunt Dally playin’ chess all week.” He grumbled, taking a sip of his soda. “And you wont be here.” I sniggered. “Wow. You need a life.” I teased. I wouldn’t have noticed him rolling his eyes if I wouldn’t have peeked over at him. And indeed, his beautiful glossy eyes had done a 360, effectively making my heart jump. “Please! I have more of a life than you do.” He laughed. “That’s probably true.” I shrugged. And maybe in this world; his world, it was true. But in my world, not so true. It depended on the topic. Social wise, he had more of a life, but occupation-wise, I did. It was a disputable point that neither of us could answer correctly. “But without me, you wouldn’t.” he laughed. “Straight up. Damn, we only have tomorrow and part of today. Are you already packed and stuff?” I shook my head. “Nah uh, but I’ll do it tonight. What are we doing tomorrow?” he straightened up. Shooting a glance my way but then looking down, he shrugged. “I dunno, what are you up to?” he asked. “Almost anything. Emphasis on the almost.” I smiled at him, a forewarning in my tone. He nodded. “Well, do you feel like going out, or relaxing?” I cocked my head to the side, considering. It really didn’t matter to me. As long as I was with him of course. I told him so. “Hm, I think it’s going to be hot tomorrow, so we could go swimming?” He suggested, a poorly hid expression flashed across his face, and he grinned cunningly. I knew that look. “Whatever you're thinking, you should stop. Besides, I don’t think my dad would like that idea much . . . . .” I trailed off, sure he would catch on. No matter how many times we’d gone swimming before, we both knew it would be different now. With us being together and all. Besides, I didn’t even think I had the courage to go swimming with Jaylen after last time. I blanched at the thought. He
grinned, remembering last time when my top of my bikini ‘mysteriously’ untied itself. I smacked his arm. “Just admit it was you Jaylen, and I wont hold it against you.” I halfpromised. He shook his head, laughing. Sure, it was funny to him. But it wasn’t to me. How can walking out from the dressing room, being shoved into a public pool with the public watching you come up nearly bare chested, be funny? It absolutely wasn’t. At least to me. “I swear to god! I didn’t even touch your suite! Just cus’ I pushed you off the diving board does not mean . . . that I uh, did that to you. Don’t you know me better than that?” he asked, false heartbreak in his voice. I rolled my eyes and my cheeks burned. That was one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. I didn’t even want to know if Jaylen saw anything. He brushed his fingers over my cheek. “You’re the only black girl I know that can blush, it’s so cute.” He murmured. I bit my lip and took another swig of orange soda, my throat burning from the sugary acid. His hand was still lingering on my cheek, but for no reason at all, I found myself taking it away from my face. I held it in my hand. “So?” I asked changing the subject. He sighed and sat up. “Well, there’s lots of stuff we could do. We could go to the zoo,” because of how unlikely that was, I laughed. I didn’t really like animals that much; I was more of a people person. “Ok, scratch that –“ he chuckled softly. “Or we could just hang, I mean there’s nothin’ wrong with that. We could chill at your house?” that sounded nice. We’d still be together but we wouldn’t be alone, which was very nice. I shrugged. “Sounds good to me.” “So it’s settled. And you better get all yo’ stuff packed tonight.” He added, serious. I nodded and yawned unexpectedly. I covered my mouth apologizing through my loutish. “Didn’t get any sleep? Or were you just up all night thinking ‘bout me?” “Boy, please,” I said when I was done. “Don’t go around thinking you the shiz just cus you got me under your trance.” I warned. He grinned at my confession, eyebrows shooting all the way up. Closing his eyes, he leaned back
onto his arms, which were posted behind him and turned his face toward the sky. He looked perfectly at ease, and I watched him intently as he smiled a smile that was as warm as the sun. It pleased me that he was comfortable with me, just as our preceding relationship had been. And our relationship was like that now, give or take a few emotions. Wait, no, give. Definitely give. I liked it better this way. If we were still just friends, I don’t think that could have lasted for long. And I guess I owe my dad for that. He did help – a bit. I just didn’t like the fact that he thought he needed to take matters into his own tenacious, pushy, know-it-all hands. Pshh, Dads. “So are you ready for school?” he wondered softly, glancing sideways at me from under his short curly lashes. “Yes.” “Are you sure?” his voice was almost unsure as I felt, though I fought really hard to keep that out of my voice. I sighed and nodded leisurely, making sure to not nod to fast. Sometimes when I say or do something to fast, it usually means that I’m either unsure or lying about something. And that would just ruin everything. I wonder if Jaylen ever noticed that, or just maybe my voice just wasn’t stable at all. “I mean, it’s ok if – “I cut him off suddenly. Although the real me wanted to scream and shout how I would never be ready, I’d buried her too deep to let her speak. She was still there, of course, but the more considerate side that told me just to grin and bear it silenced her. “I know, Jaylen. I know; I’ve heard it thousands of times before from you, my dad and everyone else in between. I know. Honestly, I do. Please, just don’t. I’ll be ready. I have to be.” It was hard to say to how I meant with a smile plastered on my face. I knew how my lip would quiver when I spoke through my teeth. I hoped he understood. Jaylen turned to me; a look of disapproval evading his features and took my face into his hands. As he held on to my face he stared into my eyes, looking for something. I knew what he was looking for in them, vulnerability. Oh, how deep I must have been hidden to not give myself away. I must have been absolutely obscured to not show it. But I knew how I was, how I am.
I was weak and afraid. Besides the whole Julius thing, I was afraid to be me. I was afraid that if I was the depressed, battered, languid, anodyne, insipid me that I fought so hard to cover, I would hurt everyone around me. How could I do that? I couldn’t do that to them, I couldn’t pull them to my despair and weaken them. I’d be more of a monster than ever. So I covered me up and formed a new fake me for when I had to hide. This was me now. I had to be this. I had to do this. Jaylen smoothed his thumbs under each of my eyelids. “You don’t have to be anything. All I need is for you to be you. That’s all I want you to do.” He murmured, his voice rough in exasperation but somehow still smooth. I smiled half-heartedly at his sureness. He was, for once, not so right about me. But then I shook my head and looked down wishing he knew. I wondered if it would be easier if he did. “Hey.” He said. His head bobbed down to my eyelevel so he could catch my gaze again. This time I didn’t look away, his stern voice held me. “Don’t you look away from me.” I laughed at him instead. He grinned too, but it melted away and he became serious again. “I love you, girl. It really is okay. I’ll miss ya like hell, but whatever works for you works for me, don’t do this for our benefit. I mean, even if-” “Jay,” my voice broke in the middle of his name. That usually happened before I started to cry. But I couldn’t do that. Not now, or that would just give myself away. I cleared my throat quickly. “Don’t. Please.” I shook my head begging him to stop before he provoked my tears to surge, but was also trying to get out of his hands. He nodded and dropped his hands. He stared off into space with an expression on his face that was so hard it made me clear my throat again. Quietly this time. I’d seen on TV how beauty queens would fan their eyes when they won something to keep from crying. I had always thought it was stupid to do so, because tears come one way or the other and fanning your eyeballs wont stop that from happening. But now I think I understood why they did that. Because the fierce burning that goaded the tears to fall was agonizing. In my eyes, whatever was happening, it felt like a thousand acerbic tiny pointed needles were being
jabbed into them. It burned, but I was afraid to blink because I knew what might leak out of them. Besides, no amount of fanning was going to stifle the smarting that prickled my eyes. I needed a wind tunnel. I felt exceedingly pathetic. It seemed that every time Jaylen and me were together I was always wreaking it with my problems. New or old me, I just couldn’t stop that from happening. The original me broke free and wrecked it. I considered permanently discharging her. I reached for Jaylen's hand and blinking rapidly coming back to the present, he unwillingly looked me in the eyes. I saw his and I tried to find a way to change the subject. I racked my brain over and over again, trying to forget. Forget! I commanded myself. I felt my lips move in strange ways as I tried to force something from them. I felt like a robot. Only, I was the evil creator. I was the one to blame for everything, my own sadness, my family’s despair, Julius's seclusion, and my mother’s death. To find that changing the radio station would ruin your life! I shook my head trying to get the words out, trying as hard as I could, my forehead creasing in the attempt to say something. Anything. Broken wisps of air was all I heard in the silence between us. Jaylen looked uncomfortable and he stared into my eyes, a deep frown carving onto his face. Now I wanted to shut up completely. But my lips started to tremble from the useless to say something. The tiny pool that formed against my eyes dimmed the burning that stung them. And I knew that with one blink, I would break again and the old crinkled me would set herself free. I clenched his hands in mine trying to communicate somehow, to breathe at the least because I was choking and sniffling all at once. I was going to hurt him again. I really didn’t mean to so the least I could do was apologize. “I’m s-so sorry.” And then I let the angry tears, the sad tears, the regretful tears and the entire rest blend into one and shatter onto the heat of my forearm one by one. He enveloped me into his arms and crushed me to his chest, rubbing my back and burying his face into my hair.
“It’s going to be ok, baby. It’s going to be alright.” He promised me. But I couldn’t believe his hopes knowing all that I knew, and that made me cry even harder. Monster! Monster! My head shouted at me. I clutched his tee shirt to my face and let him rock me back and forth. My head was pounding, and the rush of my pulse thudding in my ears made it hard for me to argue. So words just filled my head, making me sob so hard my whole frame trembled as if I was in a level seven earthquake. And then a word so excruciating sounded, spearing through my heart like a two-foot thick branch, making me shudder and wail. Killer! “I’m not a killer,” I cried pounding on Jaylen’s chest. He held me tighter and I saw tears spill onto his shirt, dampening it as if I just had sprayed him with a water hose. “I am not a killer,” I mumbled into the sleeve of his shirt. He had stopped rocking me now. As if he was a statue, his body became absolutely still. And even then, I just could not stop crying. After all the crying I’d done before, within the past few hidden months and at night I was still not sure if I would be able to produce tears. Yes, yes I could. “Am I?” I whispered to myself. My sub conscience seemed to think so. But until recently, I had noticed that my conscience and me were two very different people. Two totally different people. Even though we didn’t like each other much I continued to listen to it. I couldn’t argue with it no matter how hard I tried; its ego was too large. And since it was apart of me, what did that say about me? I was still being bombarded with backbiting truths when I heard Jaylen gasp. It wasn’t a gasp of pain; just a gasp of shock and that soothed me very little. Craning my head – which was throbbing maliciously – I looked warily at his face, to his eyes. The first thing I noticed was that they were clouded, distant. He wasn’t looking at me. He was looking behind me blankly as if I wasn’t there. I would’ve thought that he’d forgotten me if he hadn’t just been soothing me. He was still looking far off, his mind elsewhere, his eyes open but detached a bit less. He blinked suddenly and looked back at me wistfully his lip twitching a little. He scrutinized my face for a succinct moment and then pulled me back to his
chest where I broke back into my sobs as if I had never stopped. I whimpered a lot, I was sure he could hear it no matter how hard I tried to stop. And I couldn’t stop. Not just because the unabashed name calling or the throbbing from my head. But because there was just so much pain, and I couldn’t deal with it for the hour. So cried and cried until my eyes felt as hot as my cheeks and the tears went dry. I get like that sometimes. I just cant cry anymore, not that I cried all of them out necessarily, just that I cant get my self to let them out anymore. It was like anger, you know, when you get so angry and you want to scream but either you conscience or common sense tells you to hold them back. It was like that now, when I just couldn’t cry anymore, only sniffles and whimpers now. I felt like I’d gained all my self-control back. I felt pathetic as I tried weakly to push away from Jaylen. I was pushing almost as hard as I could. Still, Jaylen held me to his chest and smoothed my hair, murmuring ever so often how ‘the worst is over’. I could have laughed. I tried again to push my self away from his chest with more force, trying to lift my head. He dropped his hands from my back to my waist but lifted one to smooth my cheeks. I could read his unsettled expression well enough to know that he felt bad. I looked down for a moment, my eyelashes touching his thumb, trying to attain the correct way to patch things up to lift the mood. There were many ways I could go, but the only correct way to do that was to apologize. I peeked up at him biting my lip. I knew that he wouldn’t like me apologizing for crying, it just seemed like something I needed to do. His eyes caught mine and they didn’t twinkle under the cast of the umbrella shade. I felt more cautious than necessary in the dimness, and for a split second I rethought my plan. I opened my mouth to start, but a finger pressed against my lips, shushing me and he shook his head, guessing my objective. “Don’t apologize for crying, Aiyana. It’s stupid. Plus, you have nothing to apologize for.” His finger slipped from my lips. He picked up my hand. I looked down at it and shrugged.
“Yes, I do. I shouldn’t have – ” he cocked an eyebrow and smirked. “How many times do I have to tell you how silly it is? I’m here to make you feel better.” “That’s my point. You always make me feel better! So much so that I start feeling bad about it. I don’t like feeling helpless. And I hate dragging you down with me.” Jaylen chuckled and I glanced up at his baffled eyes. “You’re not-“ I cut him off. “Oh, yes I am. You can’t say that you like feeling like that too, Jaylen.” He frowned at that, calculating his answer. I nodded, knowing I was right. “No, I don’t. But if that’s the way you feel . . . I mean, I'm not going to . . .“ he trailed off, looking behind me. He sighed. “Basically, what I'm trying to say is that, I’d rather feel worse than you than feel above you. I want you to feel happy. Equality.” He half smiled but I shook my head. “But that’s not what I want for you. I don’t want you feeling that way. And I'm not helping any when I keep-“ I took a deep breath and gestured to his outfit to make my point. “Ruining your shirts.” He smiled and enveloped me firmly in his arms. I sighed happily as I fit in to them without effort. He kissed my hair. “Look, I know that you want me to be happy and vice versa. But you get more let off because of what you just went through. That’s all I’m saying.” “I don’t want to be let off.” I mumbled stubbornly against his chest. “Well, you’ve got it. So deal with it.” I sighed, allowing that for now. I understood what he was saying – sort of. That he wanted the real me, not the one that I created for show. Yet, it just didn’t feel right being this way. Lately my moods have been out of control. One second I feel happy and bubbly, next moment I’m crying my eyes out. It was annoying to me, so it must have been to him, even if he didn’t admit it. His phone buzzed in his pocket, which followed by a ring. He shifted me over to the left and pulled it out. He glanced down at it and grumbled something and opened it. “Hello.” It wasn’t even a greeting; it was a mandatory thing to say. His tone was even, but I could hear the annoyance brewing in his voice. I guessed that it
was my dad because he rolled his eyes. I leaned my head back on his shoulder. There was a buzzing from the other line and then with out a word he handed me the phone. “Hey dad.” I said smiling. Jaylen’s nose scrunched up and he made a face. “Aiyana, you were supposed to call me.” Oh, crap! I had totally forgotten. I grimaced. “Oh! My bad, I forgot!” I looked at the grass beside the blanket, nervous of what he had to sit. I heard my dad huff on the other end of the line. “Do you know what time it is?” he asked. I wondered what had him so aggravated and edgy all of the sudden. It was no big deal, it’s not like Id been out for more than a couple hours. “Uh . . . . .” I pulled Jaylen's phone from my ear to check the time. “4:37. Why?” I tilted my head back onto Jaylen's shoulder. He was interestedly playing with my hair twisting it around his finger. “Be back at 5:30.” He said before cheering erupted over the phone line. Then it went dead. “Okay . . . . .” I flipped Jaylen’s phone shut and leaned my head back again. “5:30 deadline.” I sighed, handing him the phone. He kissed my forehead. “Some time is better than no time.” I nodded and cuddled deeper into his arms. His eyes sparked for a brief second and then he bit his lip. “Hey you remember Dre’? Dre’ from last year?” he asked. His nose nuzzled into my hair almost as if he smelled it. I narrowed my eyes. “Yea, the one with the ox tail right?” I laughed and Jaylen rolled his eyes but smiled, too when he remembered his hairstyle gone wrong. He nodded. “What about him?” “I talked to him yesterday, he was wondering how you were. I told him about the accident, I hope you don’t mind.” I shook my head no. “So how's he doing anyway?” Jaylen grinned at me candidly. “He went to Mexico over the summer. Got a new I-pod shuffle for really low down there. You know how cheap Dre’ is.” He chuckled.
“Hmm,” I murmured, trying to remember. “He’s got a new girlfriend. You should meet her, she seems really nice.” “Oh, really now? And when did you meet this girl?” I inquired, letting a little skepticism leak into my voice. He shook his head rapidly side to side and his eyes widened. “No, no. It was before. Before you and me.” He stuttered. I cocked my head to the side, and let my mouth drop a bit. “Before you and me? You do realize – “ he shook his head again. “No! I mean, I know but this was before I made my move. Don’t be anxious.” “Whose anxious? I just wanted to know when this was so I don’t have to have a reason to kick her ass. No ones anxious. Why, should I be anxious?” I shrugged. His eyes tightened defensibly. “Kidding!” I snickered. His shoulders relaxed and he chuckled one nervous sound once then sighed. “You ready to get your permit this year?” changing the subject. I knew how ready he was. He already knew how to drive, his dad taught him two years ago. Of course, fourteen year olds aren’t supposed to be on the road. “Hells yeah! I’m gonna be driving everywhere. To the movies, to the store, to the gas station . . . . . .To your house,” his grin grew even wider. “Just don’t mention that to my dad.” I warned with a nervous laugh. He nodded, to either himself or to me. His jaw tightened suddenly and his eyes gazed ahead of us. He was lost in thought, I could tell by the way his eyes clouded. “Don’t plan on it.” He answered brusquely, and then he ducked his head to kiss my cheek.
Jaylen: Girl pleases!
She blinks and her eyes stay down, eyelashes curling over her cheekbones. I lean over and kiss her cheek suddenly, not thinking. She pushes my arm and throws me a demure look. I smile at her warmly. She just stares for a moment, deep into my eyes. Then she takes a deep breath and looks away. “I’m serious Jay. I want to know.” I groan silently and roll my head. “If I answer, will you tell me something?” I ask rolling my eyes. She nods. I breathe again. “It was very hard for me,” I clear my throat expecting my voice to crack. “Seeing you like that. After the . . . . . Loss, I just didn’t want to be away from you. Your dad bolted and my dad chased after him. But I just couldn’t think very clearly after the-“ I clear my throat again, but my pitch rose an octave. “News. I only knew where I was going until I stopped at the receptionist’s office. I couldn’t stand being in there. I walked numbly to your room and just collapsed at you bedside. I cried harder than ever, more than when I was a kid and I sort of hated myself for it. But I couldn’t help it. Seeing you crumpled like that . . . . . was just horrible. I wished we could trade places. I begged God to trade places with you. Your injuries . . . . .” I looked down at her hands, which were firmly twined in mine then looked into her eyes for a very long moment. She looked away first. “It dawned on me when our dad came in. I was looking into your eyes and I felt myself leaning in, did you notice? I would have kissed you right then and there if your dad hadn’t ruined the moment. Literally. And then he told you! I was so angry! I wanted to hurl something at him! And then you began to cry, and my chest hurt and my head ached. My heart dropped at the sounds of your shrieking and my eyes burned from your reaction you gave to the news. I vowed that I would make you smile. I wanted to make you happy. And that’s what friends do. I would be your friend until you had gotten better. I really tried but it got harder.” I smiled remembering the memory in the hospital. Only the good part. “And I did
make you smile. It made my day. A week after you laughed. And two days later you laughed for even longer. It warmed me, to see you smile. “I was battling against my selfish side hard, but I slipped.” I lifted our hands to trail my fingers against her warm cheek. “And when we were at your house, after the funeral, I wanted to tell you so bad. And then I slipped again later on in the day when I kissed your cheek. But I don’t ever regret it. It contributed to what we have now. And I’ll never regret anything. Never. “So I don’t regret anything at all, to answer your question.” I readjusted my grip on the ice chest and kicked a rock, which skittered diagonally into the black tar-based road. “Your turn.” She smiled a little and then sighed. “Ask away.” I thought for a moment of what I would ask her. One question stuck out of my mind the most. It was something that I knew I didn’t have to worry about, but it was still bugging me nonstop. I replayed how I would ask it in my head, trying to come up with the right way, a way I can still keep my tone light. “You remember when we were in the hospital? When we – you – uh, I kissed you?” her eyes widened, and she looked away, hiding her expression. Memories overflowed my mind sending me back into a blissful oblivion. I remembered how she kissed me back, how she held me too. “Yes.” “Well, I was wondering . . . what you were thinking? Why you would deny us like that. Now, I didn’t believe you but still ya know? It hurt.” I wasn’t afraid to look at her while I expressed my feelings without somehow seeming like a punk ass. She still wouldn’t return my gaze and it was hard to not know her expression. “I was thinking . . . . .” she sorted her words and sighed, looking ahead. “I was thinking that I didn’t want to hurt you. I didn’t want to inflict you with my problems. I was thinking that everything was happening so quickly. I didn’t know if this decision was in haste or what. How was I supposed to know if you actually meant that? It was happening way too quickly and I thought that if I said yes, it
would ruin our relationship. Both of them. Even if I wanted that to happen.” she bit her lip and peeked at me from the corner of her eyes. “Wait, what? You wanted to ruin our relationship? How- why?” I tried to keep the bewilderment out of my voice. And to an extent, maybe like for the first second it was. But my thoughts filtered on and it combusted. The point wasn’t to act like I didn’t care about us, just to seem like if it was too much I could drop the subject. “For a little while but just not that I – I didn’t want to let you go. Didn’t think that that would happen no matter how hard I tried.” I nodded to myself. I didn’t know what the other words meant but I knew that she didn’t want to let me go, and that was more than enough. It would do. Gazing at her I brushed my fingers against hers softly. A surge of relief shot through me as she wrapped her delicate fingers between mine. I squeezed them lightly. “I’m going to miss you. It’s going to be so boring up back here.” I changed the subject. She brought my fingers to her mouth and kissed them then threw her head back and laughed. “You’ll have Dre’ . . .” she’ comforted with a reassuring smile. “True,” I allowed, my thoughts taking a turn as I gazed into her eyes. I stopped and pulled her close to me. Her body tightened and her brows furrowed in willing surprise as I molded my lips to hers. When I broke away, her eyes were still closed and lips were open. It was an invitation I gladly would have taken. I chuckled on her lips and smoothed my thumb over her cheeks. “But I cant do that with Dre’.” I retorted with a smile. Her eyes opened slowly, and a grin styled her mouth. “Well, I guess you’ll just have to settle for your pillow.” She laughed as she pulled away. I rolled my eyes at her comeback. “Yeah? Well so do you.” I teased with a smile, taking her hand again. She shrugged and looked up at me with a scrunch in her nose, Her head tilted to the side in contemplation. “Eh, I can live.” I bowed my head and gave her the eyes.
“Oh, you can, can you? Oh, okay, I see how it is.” “See how what is?” she rolled her eyes. “My good-lovin’ isn’t enough for you.” I pretended to feel hurt. She sucked her teeth and blanched. “Eww don’t say that,” she pleaded. “What?” “’Good-lovin’. It sounds gross.” “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I quoted in a baritone voice. When she brought her head back up, she gave me a you’re-kidding-meright look, and a stray hair fell out of place. I reached my hand over to tuck it behind her ear with a smile. “You’re so corny, Jaylen. I suggest you come up with some better lines. But I love you so I guess I can put up with your good-lovin.” She smirked. I mimicked the face she’d presented earlier. “Eww don’t say thaaaatt.” I imitated in a poor impression of her voice. Instead of her lilac voice, I made mine’s high and valley-girl like, just to piss her off. Instead she laughed and tightened her grip on my hand as we made our way up her driveway. I held the door open for her as she strolled through the entryway. I took the bags she held with a wink of my eye and she cocked a brow but otherwise handed them over. I took them just before her dad rounded the corner, a popcorn bowl in his hands. I suppressed my feelings into a blank face that reeked politeness. I sat them down by the door, and slipped my shoes of along with Aiyana. “Hey kids, ya’ll have fun?” Mr. Hale asked looking at his daughter. “Mmhm,” I murmured, rolling my eyes as I turned to put my shoes on the rack. “Good. Good, that’s good.” He replied. When I veered toward him to pass the corner, he stuck his foot in the way and a hand on my chest to stop me. “Whoah, whoah. Slow down there, boy.” The first thought that I had was that I was going to break his wrist if he didn’t move it in a couple of seconds. Not to
mention the fact that he said, “boy”. I suddenly wanted to punch his face in. Then I recognized that Aiyana probably wouldn’t like that very much, so I just took a step back so we had distance. “What’s up?” I asked with an innocent look. Yani came over to try to get passed but he caught her by her shirt and she faltered a bit. He ignored me and peered at Aiyana with a brash face. He leaned in slowly towards Aiyana then took a great sniff on her shoulder. “Dad?” she said as he straightened up. His face was unreadable for a moment as he thought. Then his mouth turned into a smirk and he said, “huh.” And turned back into the living room. I shot a look at Aiyana to see if she was as confused as I was. She mouthed, “pain in my ass” and rolled her eyes. I had to cover my mouth to keep from laughing. As we bend around the corner Yani takes hold of my hand. I can’t suppress the smile as I look down at her beautiful face that’s set in a smug grin. She peeks up at me and winks her chocolate brown eyes mischievously. I pull her close. Sitting on the couch (which is to be expected) is my dad who is laughing boisterously at some comedy skit on the TV. I smile as he claps his hands together in effect. He turns toward us with a smile and greets us with, “hey love birds!” Yani’s dad scoffs, but cracks a smile just the same. We sit around with our parents for about an hour or so when Yani summons herself off the couch. “How about spaghetti for dinner?” she suggests to her dad with a smile. “Sounds good to me!” Mr. Hale says with a pat of his belly. My dad murmurs in agreement. “What? Aiyana’s famous spaghetti? Shit, then can we stay for dinner?” my dad asks with smile. It was just out of courtesy to ask, we were going to eat here anyway. We didn’t really need an answer. “Me casa you casa,” Mr. Hale replies with a wave of his hand.
“You want some help?” I ask Yani with a wink. She smirks at me then my dad and her burst into rounds of pealing laughter. I smack my teeth but smile along with them. “Uhh . . .how about you just watch instead? That sounds more safe.” She beams at that, showing off her pretty teeth. I roll my eyes, but otherwise shuffle myself to her side in an instant. “You never know Yani, I could burn the food with my eyes.” I tease. “Maybe you should just stay in the living room then?” she asks innocently. But we’re already in the kitchen pulling out supplies so she can’t object now. “We’ll get the sauce going first, then make the noodles. The noodles don’t take as long to cook. Hey, check and see if we have any left over French bread, will ya? “ She instructs. I smile to myself and follow her orders submissively. I check the inside of the refrigerator where they usually store their bread. There isn’t any. “Negative on the French bread. But you have the wheat wonder kind.” I suggest. She continues to pull out the ingredients for the sauce and nods her head. “We can work with that.” “Should I take it out now or . . .” she shakes her head at me so I put it back. She pulls open a drawer to get a can opener and just when I reach for it, she swats my hand. “Ouch! What was that for?” I feign a hurt look, which she laughs at. “Oh you’re fine, don’t be a sissy –“ I break her off, pointing at my hand. “Nah uh! Look, it’s bruising. Oh, Aiyana I’m bruising!” she laughs as I hop up and down in mock agony and takes my hand in hers. Her little hands smooth circles around the place where she swatted and I sigh. She brings it up to her lips and kisses it affectionately. Her lips linger my hands for a while and then she peeks up at me through her lashes with a smile. “All better?” she asks in her beautiful lilac and sunshine voice. I’m quiet for a moment, just gazing at her face in wonder. I’m baffled as to how something so flawlessly stunning could be mine. Even with scars along her face, she was still
brilliant. She was so intelligent and charming and passionate and humble and . . . mine. How on earth did I get so damn lucky all of the sudden? I blinked, bringing me back to my genuine fairytale that stood before me. “No. In fact, my lips hurt a little bit too. Can you help a brother out?” I teased. “I knew you were gonna say that. I’m always one step ahead of you.” She says with a dainty laugh. I take a few steps forward, enclosing her in my arms. I gaze into her coffee eyes and hold her tighter. “Not this time.” I whisper, embracing her lips with mine. Her lips are warm and willing, firm but soft. They were perfect. Unfortunately I had to pull away before our parents noticed the silence in the kitchen. She sighed and laid her head on my chest. Her arms wrapped around me in a tight hug, and just that gesture alone made me want to stay in that moment forever. She released her grip after a second and stood on her tippy toes to kiss the skin of my jaw before turning back to the can opener. “Will you at least let me open the cans?” I asked with chuckle. She laughed with me, but gave me the can opener with a smile. While the ground beef was cooking and I had chopped up the sausage – with the ever so watchful Aiyana – it was time to add the ingredients into the pot on the stove. As we worked, or rather she worked, we’d laugh and make small talk about inconsequential things. Ever so often I would question the things she’d do and she’d answer eagerly. “What’s the sugar for, sugar foot?” I asked leaning over her shoulder. She kissed my cheek and smiled. “‘Cause you so sweet,” she replied with a shrug of her shoulders. It went on like this, back and forth until I decided to make the noodles. “What the heck do you think your doing with that?” she eyed the noodles and pot in my hand. “Making the noodles, duh.” I raised my eyebrows, daring her to argue. She smirked at me for a second but then smiled. “Uh, Jaylen, I don’t think that’s such a good idea . . .” I rolled my eyes.
“Come on, what’s the worst that could happen? You’re standing right there! It’s not like I’m going to burn the house down. Besides, my dad’s a firefighter so he could put it out.” “Point, but – “ I kissed her on the lips, disrupting her argument. “Please?” I asked making sure my voice was honeying sweet. Recovering, she just shook her head with tight lips. I began to become a little annoyed. I mean I wasn’t that bad a cook was I? Why wouldn’t she let me just do this one little thing? “My dad lets me cook.” I retorted. It was childish, I know. “Well, I’m not your dad am I?” she said with a smirk. Her hand reached for the pot and noodles, knocking mines out of the way softly. “You know what I think?” I questioned while stalking toward her. She turned from the sink, and batted her eyelashes at me innocently. “Nope.” “I think, that if you really truly-“ “Oh god, do not try to pull this one on me.” Wagging her finger in my face, Aiyana tried to work her way around me to get to the stove. “ – Loved me, you would just let me do this one teensy weensy thing.” I said pinching my thumb and index finger to add effect. She spun around on her heels and frowned at me, placing her hands on her hips. “You know I love you.” She mumbled through her teeth and rolled her eyes. I almost felt like backing off – almost. But her distress intrigued me so I pressed forward eagerly, bouncing up and down on each foot. “Then please? Please? I won’t burn anything I promise!” she seemed to weaken at my begging, her resolve fading until it was gone. “Fine!” she shoved the objects at me and crossed her arms, leaning against the opposite counter. “Make the frigging noodles and burn the house down for all I care.” I grinned and turned to the stove. “Thanks beautiful.” I say. I place the pot on the stove, and open the noodle package, feeling Aiyana watch my every move. And then I begin to get confused. What do I do first? Did I put the noodles in the pot and cook it like that? I was
pretty sure water had to be put in at some point. Did I boil the water then add the noodles? Or maybe I put them both in at once? I began to pour the noodle in the pot when Aiyana made a buzzing noise with her mouth. I looked at her. “Ehh wrong! You have to boil the water first.” She says with a smirk. “Oh.” Hesitantly, I turn the pot over on the counter and all the noodles fall onto the counter, but some fall on the floor. Gathering the noodles into a pile and ignoring the ones on the floor, I put the pot under the faucet. I am still unsure of how much water actually goes in the pot, but I almost fill it to the top. Once the pot is on the stove I pick up the noodles. I’m about to put them in the water when Aiyana's small hand stops me. “You have to boil the water first, then add the noodles.” She says softly, keeping her hand on mine. Another hand turns the burner knob thing to ‘high’. Something in me subtly stunned by her proximity. I should be used to her contact by now, especially since I am usually the one bringing her closer to me. However I can never merely “get used” to having her around, its impossible. She was just too damn incredible. Just as I was about to wrap her in a hug, my dad walked in eyeing the little contact we already had. My fathers face was stretched in a wide grin, one of happiness and pride. I didn’t quite get why he looked so smug, but he did. Aiyana tried to pull her hand away from mine discreetly but I held onto it, refusing the connection to be broken. “Hey you love birds,” my dad beamed. He broke his eyes from our hands and to the noodles. “Uh oh, Jaylen’s making the noodles?” he teased. “Something like that,” Aiyana giggled. As much as the manly side of me wanted to deny the feeling, my stomach did a flip flop at the sound. “Pshh, yeah right. Girl I can cook.” I was lying through my teeth, but you couldn’t really call it a lie. Everyone knew I couldn’t cook for shit. “Right, and I’m – “ I kissed the top of her head and smiled. “The most beautiful girl in the world.” I whispered in her ear. She rolled her eyes like she didn’t believe me but the burgundy flow of her cheeks convinced me otherwise.
“Mm smells good though.” My dad said as he dips one of his pinkies into the sauce. “Tastes better. You should become a cook, or at least show the boys at the station how to cook like this.” He praises while licking his lips. “We might have to call them if Jaylen keeps tampering with the food. He’s gonna set something on fire, watch.” She jokes. “Am not, you barely let me boil the water!” she laughs, throwing her head back in amusement. “You almost forgot to add the water, I had to remind you.” She snickers. “Why you hatin’ on my skills Yani girl? I think you’re jealous.” “Have burnt noodles?” “They weren’t gonna burn!” “Were too,” she retorts with a grin. “Were not.” “Jay. Why don’t you just let me do the cooking? And you just watch.” “One of these days – “ “Or wait, not even that – you’ll burn it with your eyes, remember?” she scoffs. “Your gonna need me to cook something and I wont.” “Yeah, that’ll be the day. When I actually ask you to cook something for me. That’s like asking Sesame Street to promote drugs. It will never happen.” She adds with a beautiful self-righteous smirk. “Your analogies suck.” I pester. My dad cuts in to our bickering session with a laugh. “Take it his sandwiches sucked then, huh?” I sucked my teeth and rolled my eyes about to say something when Aiyana cut me off. “Ohh they were horrible! Too much mayo. Way to much.” Aiyana wrinkles her nose in disgust. “You said they were good!” I accused, throwing my arms up. “I lied.” She smiles and shrugs in one of those angelic ways. I can’t help but smile.
“Ohh gee thanks.” By then, the water has boiled and Yani shows me what to do with the noodles. She puts them in her graceful hands and shows me how to split them in half. When I ask her why she does that she says, “or else they’ll be really long noodles.” She smacks me when I laugh at the innuendo, but I cant control my perverted mind from taking over my thoughts. I’m only sixteen, what did she expect? In fact, I had been doing a damn good job keeping my thoughts to myself. At least until now. I take the remaining noodles in my hand and snap them like she did and place the two or three noodles in the pot like I really did something. She just shakes her head and smiles. Pretty soon, the entire dinner is ready – no help from me. With the bread removed from the oven, she tells me to set the table, which I do of course. After that’s done, I help her bring the food to the table. Once every thing is in its place, I look at the table and smile. It’s almost like thanksgiving but in the summer. The plates and forks are all lined up straight, and there were glasses filled with lemonade standing up on the table. I can’t explain the ambiance in the four chairs lining the table, but I can definitely say that it made me feel complete. Sure, our mothers were absent, leaving the table and hearts a bit empty. But at the minute, it didn’t make me feel empty at all. Aiyana was going to be right there with me making the void within me seal up with love, if only for a moment. But I’d take it gladly. I pulled her to me in a tight embrace and kissed her temple, right where a scar was. And then I kissed it again – I was thankful to it. As sick as that may seem, I was grateful that all she had were scars and that no other damage (except the obvious) was inflicted. I was thankful that she was still alive and had no disabilities or anything. And though it was unfortunate that she’d always have the scars to remind her of what had happened – what had been snatched away – I would take the scarred and dispirited Aiyana over no Aiyana at all. “I love you.” But those three words just couldn’t comprehend what I felt for her. They’d have to do until I found better ones.
She sighed and whispered the same thing to me in a murmur that was so strong it made me not want to let her go. I had to though if we were going to eat, so I untangled myself from her arms and went to fetch our fathers. “Dinner’s ready,” I mumble to them, trying to disguise the tenderness on my voice. I didn’t want to seem like a big old pansy, but that’s what Aiyana had unintentionally converted me into. I hated that so much, but couldn’t deny my feelings when she was around. They scampered into the kitchen so quick, you’d swear there Asses were on fire. As soon as they sat in their seats a chorus of “mm mm mm” ensued until they had loaded their plates. I couldn’t blame them though; it smelled delicious. Aiyana seemed pleased as she saw this and smiled, gladly scooping the spaghetti onto her plate. “This shit is good,” Mr. Hale complimented with a mouth full of chewed food. My dad agreed with jumbled words. “Why thank you, Jaylen helped make the noodles.” She threw a grin at me and winked pointedly to her father. I looked at Mr. Hales face, as he seemed to be having a hard time swallowing his noodles after that. I suppose I couldn’t blame him.
Aiyana: nervous much?
Dinner had been going nice for a change. There almost wasn’t any sorrow while we ate, the chorus of ‘yums’ and laughter pretty much muted the anguish. To a level. And I’d be lying if I said that Jaylen had no hand in that feel of completion, because he really did. It was very awkward at the same time. Here Jaylen sat next to me, giving me these doting gazes after every single bite, ignoring the fact that my dad was giving him the evil eye. And just because I was hopelessly in love with his every breath, I gave felt myself giving him affectionate gazes too. I just couldn’t help it. At one point, my dad had had enough and cleared his throat so loud it made me jump. “So,” my father started, helping himself to another plate. “Me and Elias spoke about what was going on in the next week or so.” His casual words drawled out of his mouth at the slowest pace, but as soon as he finished my excitement peaked. Since we couldn’t hold hands at the table, I felt Jaylen's foot brush against mine. He hooked his foot around my ankle so that his was intertwined between mine. It was a sweet yet very silly alternative to holding hands, but at the same time it was nice. “Oh?” I replied as I twirled the noodles around my fork. I was trying to seem aloof to the subject but I couldn’t quite keep the enthusiasm out of my voice. It had raised an octave, giving me away. “Yup,” my dad said. He took a bite out of his bread, chewing slowly as if he had never tasted bread before. “And?” I demanded. My dad looked at me with a fixed look and I lowered my eyes and tone. “Well, aunt dally – you remember aunt dally right?” Elias asked with a smile. I nodded. “Well she’s coming this Saturday and staying for a while. So we wont be able to help. But I’m sure this is for the best – “ “It is.” My dad interjected. Elias rolled his eyes and continued. “And I think that it would just be, let’s just say, it wouldn’t be our place to go impose in the closing of your mother’s passing.” What I wanted to say was
that they’d been imposing ever since the accident so why would it matter now? I mean, it was just two weeks, what could that hurt? That was the selfish side of me talking of course and I really just wanted to argue that we really needed the help. We really did. But then I thought that maybe it was for the best. A lot would be going on in Oregon; I was practically closing that childhood gap in my life. And not only that but Julius would be training me most of the time I would be there. And really? Did I really want to put them in any more danger? Of course not. There would be no telling what would go on when I returned to Medford. With all the packing and the tears and the friends? No way. As much as I was really bummed – and believe I was, I just couldn’t risk anything happening. It was one thing to be here and fuck everything up, but another to be in my mother’s house where she experienced the strength and then fuck everything up. It was disrespect on a whole other level. “Kind of expected that,” I said finally with a sigh. “I didn’t.” Jaylen whispered with a laugh. “Oh man up Jaylen, you’ll be fine without me. You survived when I was in a coma.” I snickered. My dad almost choked on a sausage. “Aiyana.” He reprimanded. “Well he did,” I mumbled. “Pshh barely,” Elias cut in. Jaylen groaned, throwing his head back. “Daaaaad,” he whined. It was really cute to watch Jaylen whine because his lip would jut out in the most adorable way. “Well it’s true.” “Oh my god,” my boyfriend rubbed a hand over his face in annoyance. “Everyone was having a hard time. Why do you always pick on my masculinity?” “What masculinity?” Elias asked with a laugh. “You call hosting a picnic and spending hours making sandwiches masculine? Very manly.” I couldn’t help laughing at Jaylen's face. I loved seeing him embarrassed. “I thought it was sweet. Even though you did go a bit overload on the mayonnaise, jay. It was a little too moist.” I teased. “Gee, thanks,” he stuck his tongue out at me. I grinned.
“Your welcome.” “Aww look at his face!” Elias exclaimed with a toothy grin. My dad rolled his eyes and took a bite out of his bread. “He’s in love.” “I am,” Jaylen admitted with a matter-of-factly smile. My heart swelled up at the sound of those two words, reminding me that it was still there. I looked at him in awe, suppressing the urge to just leap over and hug the crap out of him. He looked up from his fidgeting fingers to look me in the eye. I couldn’t tell which were brightest, his eyes or his smile. Or maybe mine. We broke out of our musing to my dad choking on his bread, spewing bits onto his plate. “Damn Jordan, you need a Heimlich?” Elias laughed. When my dads coughing.