The sun graced my skin with gentle touches as I thought about the fast approach of the summer months. I was never one to worry too much about the seasons or the weather. I did, however, appreciate the summer months a little more, because they offered my feeble immune system a break from the coughs and the sneezes. The winter had not been all bad. It had brought gifts to me that I could not have imagined ever receiving. I tried not to get too lost in thought as the skinny shadows from the tree above me danced lazily over my hands. I wondered for a moment about what that specific tree is called. I did not know much about nature, so I decided to let that thought go.
I looked up from my pale hands and focused on the real world. I was sitting at a table outside Café La Luna. The conversation was still going on, even though I had dropped out for a moment. Lawrence, Ash, and Tyler sat on the opposite side of me, driving the topic of discussion as they always did. We referred to them as the “Legal Trinity” in our group of friends. All three of them were law students, and they lived up to the idea by always being in the middle of some sort of debate or discussion. It amused me to listen in because they often expressed the wildest and most intriguing ideas about the world around us. It took me a moment to catch on to what was on the hot seat this time. It was something about thoughts. They were trying to find meaning in their origin, or something along those lines. My own thoughts were swimming in a kaleidoscope of emotions that I could not silence.
“Well, what about dreams?” Sandra interrupted. Sandra sat next to me. I turned to look at her. She had deep, determined eyes that were a beautiful hazel. Her dark locks were braided into an elegant pattern running down to her elbows. Her soft, brown skin was clear and smooth. Her endearingly tiny fingers traced the side of her cappuccino just lightly enough to avoid discomfort from the hot ceramic cup. She was a Business Management student, which was all the more fitting because she had a way of making people gravitate towards her. She had a strong social network presence, although she never let that interfere with her real life. She was a good listener, a good speaker, and a person who could engage with people effortlessly.
“What do you mean?” Tyler asked. My eyes flicked back towards the trio. As much as we often saw them as a unit, each of them was very different from the next. Tyler was a tall blond, with curly threads that hung just above his shoulders. He had a strong jaw and warm, blue eyes. His was the most sincere of smiles. He often wore a combination of plain white t-shirts under unbuttoned plaid shirts which he liked to roll up at the sleeves. The look was completed with a decent fitting of a pair of jeans. Tyler could be seen as the calm centre of the Legal Trinity.
“I mean, what do you think of them?” Sandra answered. “Do you think there’s more to them than just, you know, visions in your sleep? I mean, not visions, because that already adds more meaning than I intend. Shit, maybe I need to clarify.”
“Are you thinking of a specific dream that you had?” asked Lawrence. Lawrence had pale-blue eyes and hair with a subtle orange tinge. He was short and could be considered by most to be a little tubby. He wore loose-fitting shirts, shorts, and sandals as if every day were a day at the beach. His freckled face would not have fared well with those sunny conditions. His demeanour fitted his clownish look perfectly.
“Yeah. Well, it’s more than just a dream. It’s a recurring thing. I’ve been dreaming the same thing for a while, now. I usually don’t look too deeply into this sort of stuff. But you guys are talking about it and I couldn’t shake the thought. I mean, dreams and thoughts must be pretty closely linked, right?”
“I think they are,” Tyler responded. “But tell us about the dream, first. What’s bugging you?”
“The dream isn’t exactly the same. But there is a recurring theme, you know? One example should establish my problem. So, in this one dream, I’m in some stranger’s house. I’m in the kitchen with people who I assume are the mother, the father, and the child. The parents are arguing. I don’t know what they’re arguing about because I can’t quite make it out through all of the noise. I try to listen in, you know, to get an idea of what’s wrong. For some reason, I guess a dream reason, they’re indifferent to my presence. The child, a little girl who could be about eight years old, starts to cry in the confusion. All of a sudden, things get violent. The mother, unable to control her rage, hurls a plate at the father. It whizzes past a little over his forehead and shatters into a dozen pieces upon contact with the wall. The noise it makes causes the child to scream with fear. She’s crying uncontrollably now, and I can almost feel the room shake with fear. She cowers in the corner, pushing her back hard against the stove door. The father runs over to the daughter, pushing the mother out of the way aggressively and causing her to fall to the floor. He threatens to harm the poor girl if the mother does not stop whatever it is that she is guilty of doing. And this is where the recurring theme comes in: the part that I could play. The father has his back to me at this point. There’s a knife on the stovetop right next to me. I could do something. I could help the little girl. Regardless of everything that’s going on, I could at least get her out of this situation. It could be messy, but it is possible. And I feel an incredible urge to do so.”
“Jesus.” Tyler mumbled.
“Well?” Lawrence urged. “What happens next? I hate cliff-hangers.”
“I, I hesitate,” Sandra says, sounding as uncertain as I had been imagining her to be in the dream. “I hesitate because I’m thinking too much about why I’m there. Why am I in this scene, you know? Who are these people? Why are they fighting? Although, I guess, that’s not the thing that bothers me most.”
“What is?” I asked, knowing that Lawrence was dying to know. I had become just as involved.
“The thing that bothers me most is the thought of saving the little girl. I don’t know her. I’ve never seen her before. I shouldn’t care for her. But I do. I want to save her. I want to remove her from that harmful situation. I feel a duty to do so, you know? And it’s so heavy on my heart. Why is it my duty to save her? I hesitate. And that is the worst thing. Because, oftentimes, the dream ends before I can decide. It pours over into my waking life, though. I wake up feeling depressed. I wake up wishing I’d done more.”
“Would it be any different if you knew these people?” asked Lawrence.
“I’m pretty sure that it would. I would not take so long to decide what to do. I’d see someone I truly care about and act on it, you know? All that would matter would be saving them. Shit, even if it meant risking my own life.”
“I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing,” Bryce decided to say. Bryce had said nothing for a while. He had been more quiet and lost in thought than anyone else. Bryce was who I referred to as the gentle giant of the group. Of course, that was misleading because he was nowhere near the size of a giant. But he was the only guy in the group that worked out a lot. Lawrence jokingly nicknamed him “Chiselled Chocolate” a few months back. He was a little shorter than Tyler, but he did tower over the rest of us. He had black, curly hair that was neatly trimmed about a centimetre above its roots. His eyes were dark and secretive. He had dark skin, partly due to genetics, and also due to all of the time that he spent running in the sun. Despite his physical presence, he was the last person to get angry about anything, and he hated violence. He was a lover and a pacifist.
“Care to elaborate?” Sandra turned to look at him. He was sitting on her right side, next to the similarly-quiet Ash.
“It shouldn’t matter why you’re there. It shouldn’t matter that you don’t know who these people are. The identity of the little girl should be irrelevant. All that matters is the choice that you have.” His thumb circled the rim of his glass of orange juice. He did not look away from it as he spoke. “You are presented with a situation in which you could save someone’s life. Or, at least, prevent some level of harm from befalling them. Why should anything else matter? You save that life. You prevent that harm. The rest will come later. You would expect the same, I assume. You’d want even a stranger to save you. Superman does not only save Lois.”
I took a deep breath. His words were the most logical and caring conclusion. And I hated that fact. I hated that thought. I wanted so much to find fault in him. I wanted to find a way to dislike him. He was so easy-going and friendly. He was so quiet and reserved. He was so calm that he did not know that he and I had a point of contention. The very thing that had me slipping in and out of focus the whole day.
“I guess I see what you mean,” Sandra sighed. “It’s just that I sometimes fear for my own life, you know? And the situations change a lot. It’s not always a little girl. It’s not always a domestic setting. I feel as if my dreams are urging me to be a hero, and I’m not. What comes after I save the stranger’s life? Will I be brave enough to face it?”
“I read this thing about dreams, once,” Lawrence said. “It had to do with when you see faces in dreams that you don’t recognise. According to that article, you never see a face in your dreams that you’ve never seen in real life. Apparently, all of the unfamiliar faces that you see in dreams are faces that you have seen, most likely in passing, and forgotten about.”
“Have you seen any strangers that need saving, Sandra?” Tyler joked.
“No, I can’t say I have. But I have tweeted about it. I passively made it a topic but it didn’t seem to catch on. That’s why it’s been on my mind. I guess I should let it go.”
“Kayla!” Ash suddenly shouted. He broke his silence when he saw his cousin make her return from the bathroom with Elsa. Their return completed the motley crew that I was spending my warm afternoon with.
Elsa had accompanied Kayla to the bathroom after Kayla had complained about feeling a little ill. It was unusual for Kayla to complain about being under the weather because she was mostly very resilient. I turned around to see the two approaching from behind me. Bryce, looking concerned, got up to hug Kayla. She had gone to the bathroom a few minutes before he joined the table. She gave him a weak hug, as if it were only procedure. I turned back and did my best job at remaining calm because the point of contention had arrived.
“How are you doing, sis?” Ash inquired. They had grown up together, and had become very close friends over the years. They thought of each other as brother and sister, despite only being cousins. It was odd to see Ash being so soft and caring. Ash had modelled himself to be a ladies’ man. He had a soft, pretty face. His piercing grey eyes complemented his blushing cheeks. He had a sharp nose and full lips, and a head of jet-black hair that was gelled in place. He often donned a curious frown on his face, and engaged everyone with an involved but cold attitude. The one thing that we were all sure of is that he cared deeply for Kayla.
“I’m alright, Ash,” she answered softly.
She sounded tired. I stood up and offered to switch seats with Bryce so that they could sit next to each other, but she declined with a wave of her hand.
“I think I need to go home and lie down, babe,” she said to Bryce.
I sat back down and just listened. A light breeze blew past, and her sweet scent swept around me for a brief moment. She smelled so good. Her presence, even in such an impersonal way, evoked feelings in me that were growing more difficult to hide by the day. She and Bryce had been dating for almost a year now. They had been moderately happy for a majority of that period. But things had grown shaky over the past few weeks. Things had become complicated. Kayla was the gift that winter had brought me. And, despite my best efforts, I caught myself becoming a jealous creature.
“Do you want me to take you home?” Bryce offered. Always so caring.
“No, I need some time alone. I just want to walk back and get some rest.”
I knew that Bryce would not protest. Bryce was weak like that. He was so kind that it often worked against him. Most people could walk all over him, if they found reason to. I wondered how they had even come together. I knew the story, of course, but it made no sense to me. Kayla needed someone stronger. She needed someone more assertive. She needed someone more manly.
“Okay, babe,” Bryce said with a kiss to her forehead. “Maybe I’ll pay you a little visit if you find yourself feeling better later?”
“Yeah, whatever. Ash, I’ll talk to you later, alright?” She turned and hugged Elsa goodbye.
There was lingering silence in the air as she walked away. I gathered that everyone found Kayla’s behaviour uncharacteristic. She was usually high-spirited and care-free. She had actually been quite the wild one before Bryce got on the scene.
“Well, that’s one sure-fire way to make a whole group of people feel fucking grim,” Lawrence said, breaking through the silence.
“Don’t be an asshole,” Ash warned.
“Yeah, guys, just let it go,” said Elsa as she sat down. “Girls have their days off. She’ll be back to good in no time. She’ll definitely be joining us at the Thompson House.”
“The Thompson party!” Ash exclaimed in excitement. “You don’t understand how long I’ve waited for another one of those. The Thompson Brothers are the best.”
Sandra laughed as she looked at her phone attentively. “I was just about to mention that. A lot of people are raving about it on Twitter. It looks like it’s going to be another crazy one. I just hope it doesn’t get out of hand, if you know what I mean. I want to have a good time. But I don’t want to get arrested or anything.”
Dylan and Ian Thompson were brothers who had become extremely popular for their quarterly house parties. The Thompson Brothers, as most people referred them, lived in a spacious mansion atop Spoor Hill. The mansion, which overlooked a large part of the city, was owned by their father, Arthur Thompson. Arthur was a wealthy businessman who travelled the world for business. It was then, when he was away, that the Thompson Brothers hosted the wildest parties that I had been to in my life so far. They had always been planned around Arthur’s trips. Although, having met Arthur personally, I got the impression that he would not have been all too bothered about the deal. He was away, again. And, four weeks into the new semester, the brothers had decided that it was time for another great party. We had all agreed to go.
“It’d be quite a shame if someone got arrested again,” Sandra joked. “I mean, it does make the whole affair a lot more interesting, but the last time got pretty serious.”
Sandra was referring to the last party when some random drunk attempted to take a picture of his nude self sitting inside a police official’s vehicle. The car was parked outside as the policemen attempted to get the Thompson Brothers to shut the party down. The exhibitionist was caught moments before he could complete his daring act, but no one remembers how he evaded actual arrest.
“I wouldn’t mind getting naked and getting handled by a hot cop,” Elsa blurted out. She seemed to regret her statement almost immediately, as if it had been said involuntarily. Her face flushed with red as she giggled and looked away from the group.
We all laughed at her strange confession. Elsa was a quiet girl. She hid behind long, flowing platinum-blond hair that trailed down to her lower back. Her olive skin contrasted her hair beautifully. Her leafy-green eyes were as youthful and bright as her face. She looked like a high school pupil with her petite frame and delicate extremities. She came from a rich family but did not seem to care much for it. I hadn’t gotten to know her very well. All that I really did know was that she loved being with people, but, at the same time, she took time off to ride her bicycle into the woods, which had become a more frequent thing as of late.
My train of thought was interrupted by the two-tone buzz of my phone. A text message:
Come see me when you’re done there. I need it.
It was Kayla. Elsa looked at me suspiciously, as if she knew something. But that was impossible. No one knew anything.
“It’s my mom,” I lied. “I have to go, guys. The sun will be setting soon, anyway.”
We had been sitting at Café La Luna for almost four hours, so I was sure that we had all been set to go our separate ways soon. I just hoped that I would be the only one going where I was planning on going.
“Yeah.” Sandra stood up. “I need to be on my way. I have some stuff to finish putting together for my blog. I have to keep those readers happy, you know?”
There was a shaking of hands and giving of hugs as everyone decided to call it a day. We were not all going in different directions, but I could not give that any thought as I concentrated on where I was going.
The sun had fallen well below the horizon as I made my way up the flight of stairs to Kayla’s dorm room. On any other day, I would be taking in all kinds of information about my surroundings. This time was different. Everything melted past me as I made my way to room forty-six on the second floor and gave the door a brisk knock. It seemed to follow that everything else would take on a much faster pace from that moment on.
Kayla swung the door open and pulled me in aggressively by the elbow. She slammed the door shut with her foot and fell back against it as she wrapped her arms around my neck. I felt a burning excitement build up in my chest as her amber eyes pierced deep into my soul. I had never seen her like this before. A row of perfect teeth bit down tightly on her bottom lip as our chests heaved in anticipation. No words were spoken. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. I pushed her closer towards me with my hands on the small of her back. Our lips met gently, as if, for a moment, everything had slowed down. They pressed against each other innocently, barely moving. I lost myself in the comfort, drifting into the secret dream that I had been living for almost two months. Her tongue stole its way onto my wavering lips and caused them to part smoothly. I was about to reciprocate when she pulled away, teasing me with the wait. She stabbed her index finger hard against my chest and motioned for me to take my shirt off. I obliged, and fell backwards onto her bed. I wanted this. I wanted all of it. I was giving her everything that Bryce had failed to. But that could only be enough for so long. I wanted to be her whole. I wanted to be her everything.
She straddled me and rested her warm hands on my best chest and, for a short minute, everything made sense. But only for a minute. As she looked down at me, a sad frown cracked onto her beautiful face. Moisture built up in her eyes, deepening the yellow hue to that of a low sunset, almost orange and barely there. I raised my hand to thumb away a tear that had found its way down her soft cheek.
“Blaine,” she quivered. I waited. “You know, earlier, when I was acting all sick? I wasn’t sick. At least, not technically.”
I swallowed. I blinked hard, and hoped that I was wrong.
“Fuck,” I exhaled. I tried my best to keep it in, but I couldn’t. It was the circumstances. The circumstances were all wrong. The timing was all wrong.
We glared at each other in a silence that seemed to last a decade. A silence so heavy that the sudden, yet gentle, knock on her door made us both jump. My skin crawled as she got off of me and hopped over to the door. For a second, I was still in such deep shock that I could not hear a thing. But then, I did hear. I heard the last thing that I could have wished to hear. I heard Bryce’s voice.
“Fuck,” Kayla choked. I heard her voice croak and break into teary sniff as I tried to get up and put my shirt on. “Bryce, wait.”
Bryce pushed his way past her and saw me fumbling clumsily into my shirt. I froze as our eyes met. There were only two possible outcomes to this mess. I hoped and prayed for that I had assumed the right one.
“Kayla,” he said, unreasonably calm. “Why is Blaine shirtless in your bed?”
“Baby,” she said as tears meandered down her face, “I can explain. Let’s just talk about it later, okay?”
A cowardly courage grew over me in that moment. For reasons that I could not fathom, I drove myself to speak. I took it as now or never.
“No! Enough of the lies. We’ve been at this for almost two months now. We’ve been doing this behind your back.”
“Shut the fuck up, Blaine!” Kayla barked. “You don’t know what you’re doing.” She whipped her head back and forth between the two of us. “Baby, don’t listen to him.”
“No, listen to me, Bryce. You’re done. She’s through with you. You were never enough for her, and you never can be. I’m who she really needs. You failed her, and things have gotten too deep now.”
“Blaine,” she sobbed. “Stop it, please. Don’t do this.”
I had failed to read the situation accurately. Bryce stared at me with a steely cowl, his nose quaking and forcing his mouth into a threatening grimace. Bryce looked broken and angry. I could not tell if he was moments away from crying or breaking something. He could never break anything, though, because he was our gentle giant.
“Leave us alone. I’m not scared of you.” I pushed it. I had become desperate. My heart was racing.
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” he growled.
As a matter of principle, there are certain words and phrases that I had committed myself to never saying. I did not use them even for the sake of a joke. I had been steadfast in maintaining this principle. But then again, in moments of true desperation, even the most unwavering of people are flawed. The regrettable words slipped out of my mouth before I had even had a thought as to how much pain they would cause. Both literally and figuratively.
I pointed a finger straight at his face and spoke. “I am what she needs. I am a real man. And you’re nothing. You’re just a fucking faggot.”
I felt the world freeze between the three of us. In the icy pause, nothing was right with the world. Nothing was right with me. And that was not going to change as motion slowly began to settle back in. Bryce was moving towards me, his teeth bared, and his mammoth hands prepared to kill. I had never seen an anger so menacing before. And for the first time in a very, very long time, I was truly, deeply, and completely terrified of what was coming towards me.
To be continued…