Chapter 4: It was a Troublesome Question
Do in this life, what you couldn’t do in the last. That seems like the easiest thing to respond to when you’ve just come back from the dead; when you’re one of those rare people who get a second chance. Maybe this time you’ll be more adventurous when you chose a safe life last time. Or maybe this time you’ll be more of a romantic when last time, you were strictly business. If someone told you, or you told yourself that you would do in this life what you didn’t do in the last, you’d think it’d be as simple as doing the opposite of what you did before, but really, it doesn’t apply when you’re only thirteen years old. I didn’t have a life to lose in the first place. I had regrets though, regrets about things I’d never get to do like romance and stuff, but otherwise, those weren’t things I deliberately ignored, and so as I spent this last week in the hospital, these last few monotonous days that felt more like months, those weren’t things I thought about.
I pretty much gave into the monotony after the woman in black disappeared. My mom, dad, and sister visited me again after the first time of course, and did the best they could to keep me company, but I found it more interesting to think about the woman than to talk to them. When they would leave, I’d let myself get lost in thought. I wondered at first who she was. I wanted to know the name of the mysterious and mournful, purple eyed woman who faded in and out of my room and world like some sort of dream. I wanted to know why she mourned. It was clear that she lost a child I guess, but I wondered if they were as young as I was or younger, or maybe older. I wondered if she had to watch them die, helpless to do anything to save them, or if she had the strange arcane powers that she had now. Maybe she had tried her hardest to help them, standing by their side till their final moment. Maybe that was why she mourned, because she had the arcane powers to help them but couldn’t. Or maybe (and I was walking down the hall when this thought came to mind, and had frozen when it did) her arcane powers were the reason they died. It was an intriguing line of thought, and though the days still felt like months, they felt like months that were fleeting as I tried to put the pieces together.
Then it was finally time for me to leave the hospital, and the bandage was unwrapped from around my head. With one last light driven glance, Dr. Witt had assured my injury had healed, and I was off with my mom and dad, comfortably tucked in the back of our family’s blue Camry. Several swam seas of cars later, we arrived to the apartment building that bordered a street that bordered the woods where I died, and it was through there and the lobby that had a smell that was there when I first walked through it years ago, that we returned to our room. My mom and dad went to business, having taking the day off so that they could cook me a welcome home meal, and I returned quietly to my sanctum, where I lay on a bed covered with books both read and unread. There I propped my feet up and laid back, thinking about the stuff I had been thinking about in the hospital and trying to decide what I would do in this life. I had closed my eyes and imagined the woman again, then wished I could see more of the world she came from, and I think I might have fallen asleep because then I had a dream. In it, I was standing near two other people but I couldn’t tell if they were boys or girls. We were in the middle of a busy walkway where others walk by us and occasionally stopped to look at nondescript items on merchant stands. One of the figures said something to me, and although I didn’t hear what it was I nodded and led the way, showing him or her to a crystal like building, that I knew was beautiful, but couldn’t quite describe. There was a noise just then, something like an explosion and I realized there was panic as my friend tried to get me to run away. At that moment, I had opened my mouth, ready to tell him or her something, but then my mom shook me awake as she sat at the foot of my bed.
“Dinners ready.” She told me as I opened green eyes and rubbed them.
“I was sleep for that long?” I replied; having thought the dream was no more than a few minutes long.
“I guess you’re still tired. You can stay out of school tomorrow if you want.” She said, and I don’t know why I did what I did next, but I can tell you that I thought it was stupid, and I could tell you that even if you gave me the chance to go back and do it all over again, my answer would still be the same.
“No, I’ll go.” I said and my mom kissed my forehead as she left the room and gave me a chance to follow
School was a surprising atmosphere when I went to it the next day. I was the type of kid who generally got ignored by his peers when he walked through the hall or entered the class, but today I was greeted by curious stares in the halls, and a welcome back card when I entered the class. I still couldn’t tell you why I chose school over staying home, and I wasn’t happy that I chose it but it was an easier decision to bear when the teacher gave us free time. As per usual, I found my seat near the left wall (the one lined with three large windows) and unlike usual my classmates found me there and began to assault me with question.
“My mom said you died a lot in there.” A girl said and I thought about that, and how funny it would be if I could admit that I only died once. “She told me that a guardian angel must have been watching over you. Did you see one?” She asked and I wondered if she was the type of person, I could tell about my experience.
“Angels don’t exist!” A boy behind her yelled, and she turned to him with the most vicious glare.
“Yes they do, my mom said that I was one!” The girl roared and she and he birthed an argument from there that took some of the attention away from me.
I spent a good while answering questions asked about my position, like how I fell in the woods in the first place, and if I felt like I was in a coma. They asked how my injury had healed so fast, and if it was alright for me to still play sports (as if I did in the first place), and the more answers I gave the more the other students started to leave me alone, taking the information I gave them to new conversations. The class was only halfway over when I was left be, and I listened with a smile on my face as some of them talked about what I said. Over there, a boy said he wouldn’t have been knocked out at all, and over here, a girl talked about how I was lucky. It was a literal fifteen minutes of fame, but I didn’t care because I didn’t want the attention in the first place. Everyone had gone back to pretending I wasn’t there, and that went on till the end of the day, where the last teacher did not give us free time and we quietly did our work. For the last thirty minutes, I did my work, and felt a flame on my back, and then the day was over and I was ready to go.
I remembered being disappointed and wondering why I went to school in the first place, when a sudden tap on my shoulder made me jump and made me turn toward a face that was sort of familiar. A hazel skinned boy who was as about as tall as I was with, thin-rimmed glasses over his eyes. His hands with dug into the pockets of a green pull over, and he looked at me with brown eyes that suggested he was a little scared.
“Thank you for helping me out before.” He said, and I spent a good moment trying to remember who he was and how I helped. I remembered who he was first.
“You’re Jacque, right?” I replied and he nodded, and I continued to think again. I knew his name was Jacque because he was one of the kids in my class, and the reason he said I helped him out… The way I helped him out… It wasn’t coming to me.
“I’m surprised you got away from Neil though, you know he’s on the track team right?” He laughed, and then it came to me and made me say aloud.
“Oh right, I got Neil off of you!” I clapped and it seemed he was surprised that I just now realized. I wondered if I could say that that wasn’t my original intention. “No problem,” I chose otherwise and he laughed before going silent and again seeming a little scared as he looked into my eyes.
“Um,” He murmured. “Are you all right?” He asked and I thought about it before nodding my head.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“N-no reason.” And I suppose I should have questioned him more then but he caught sight of something behind me, and waved goodbye before I could say another word.
It seemed that a lot of taps would startle me today, but the new one I got wasn’t nearly as startling as the one who delivered it. It was a boy I definitely knew, and he was still very different from me. Still taller. Still more muscular. Still a kid with bobbed blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He was still very much the same person he was when he chased me through the woods with a couple of friends who weren’t there now, and launched the rock that was sort of the cause of my death. There was something different about him today though.
“I’m sorry.” He said and that was the thing about him that startled me.
“S-sorry?” I said it because I wasn’t sure I heard him, but I think he thought I was questioning his apology.
“I know that it’s my fault you fell and almost died.”Almost… right…“And saying sorry doesn’t make up for that but I really am.” He said, and though it seemed like this was the type of thing that happened because someone forced him, I could see tears in his eyes that suggested he really meant it.
“It’s alright.” I gave him a smile, and though he still seemed on the verge of crying, my smile left him taken aback.
Speechless was something else my smile left him, as he simply nodded and walked away. It was while Neil walked away and his apology was fresh in my mind, playing on a victorious repeat that I realized what I could do in this life that I couldn’t do in the last one.
“I’ll find out why he bullies people.” I whispered to myself, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a sort of sinister look on my somewhat girlish face…