Eventually the unease that my rebellion had caused faded. It was replaced by a sudden feeling of freedom, as though someone, or something, had removed the heavy weight from my heart, lifted a burden. Here we all were, escaping the academy and its vicinity. The city had become a glass tank filled with memories; they burned within us, the thin mist of our resolve clinging to its transparent walls, before the cold bite of reality turned our resolve to liquid, streaming down the edges of that tank and over our cheeks.
I closed my eyes and, although I was among my dearest friends, I was alone. Freya was lost in a world of her creation, a wonderland, far from reality and encircled with bliss. This childish place, where Chopin provided the soundtrack and all of my friends were in my company, would not last long. Kelsey was there, babbling away with a large smile. Odette and Liv had their arms intertwined in the way close friends often do. My dreamworld turned dark when I looked at Tony's face. He smiled, but there was something deeply painful in his eyes. He stood up and walked away; I followed him through the trees. I touched his shoulder. He turned, and I reached out for his face. It was cold, like plastic, or porcelain. Attempting to salvage the last of Tony's warmth, I held him close. Scarlet ribbons parted ways and Tony's face fell to the ground, smashing as it made contact. I looked into Tony's eyes.
"You've been wearing a mask." His true face, a painful composition to view, remained. Tony remained silent. Deathly silent.
I awoke from my dark reverie with a start as we pulled into the hotel complex, laughter erupting from Liv and Odette. Tony appeared calm as he drew the car to a halt and got out.
The hotel room was a good size, quite light and clean. Having found a bed near the window, I laid down and breathed deeply. I had become deeply afraid. I sat up slowly and scanned the room for Tony's presence. He was sat on the bed opposite, unpacking. I sighed in relief, before removing what I needed from my case and getting ready for bed. The clock on the wall told me it was past two in the morning, and I felt it.
Odette and Liv talked for a while quietly in the darkness, while I lay, listening for signs of life from the bed opposing mine. When their whispering came to a stop, and they fell asleep, my attention turned fully to Tony. He was erratic, pacing the floor with his headphones in, or simply wandering through the silence.
I am sure that he thought he was alone then, the only one awake, tortured by the soundlessness, while the others had found comparative bliss. He was not alone. I was there, eyes closed, but ears intent upon his safety. One friend had already slipped into lonely darkness. I was not going to let it happen when I was there.
A wave of lethargy washed over me, which I struggled against. The wave won and I tumbled into a deep sleep. I was haunted that night, my mind's eye full of the image of a broken mask, and my dream's ears filled with moaning. When, not so much later, light reached me, I sat up quickly. Tony smiled when he saw me awake. The others followed suit soon afterwards, and we made our way to the breakfast buffet. I ate little, but smiled, talking with all three of them. Yet, I had special watch over Tony, my gaze never leaving him for long.
Is this normal? I thought, as I had registered the tacit pain in Tony's eyes for the hundredth time. What should I do? Am I overreacting? All these questions pummelled me inwardly, until one, deeply searching question echoed through my head.
Has watching over Tony been induced by friendship, or is it something deeper?