[Petals Fall, Book Two]
Xander: At the end...
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must choose. Light or darkness. Heaven or Hell. Live or die. Love or pain. And the decision they make effects what awaits them from there on out. The entire future can be determined by a few simple words. I knew my time to choose had come, and I also knew I had not the slightest idea what to do. But there it was.
She was staring at me. Her eyes were wide as ever, made even more so by the thick black that ringed them. She always looked so damn broken. Once upon a time I’d thought I could heal her. Now, I was quite certain that was hopeless. One couldn’t very well save someone that didn’t want to be saved. She had chosen her sorrow and reveled in it too.
There was just enough wind to make me shiver. My arms were bare, and so were hers. Her pale skin almost seemed to glimmer in the sunlight that reflected off the snow banks. It was mid-February, but it felt as if it were still the dead of winter. That seldom changed here, and when it did, it was only long enough to tease us with a warm caress before it was fading into the chill again. That same chill had long since settled into my pathetic excuse of a heart.
As for the girl, the poor damned girl who wanted nothing more than to be loved… well, she had been the first to remind me what the sun felt like. She had been the first brush of warmth I’d felt in ages. The first stray drop of sunshine to ink its way across my darkness. And here she was now, risking the little bit she had left. For someone like me.
I dared to meet her eyes. They were the most precise shade of green, those eyes, and oh so piercing. She could have cut me straight to the soul with those eyes, had I had a soul to begin with. For the moment they were only locked with my own crystalline blue ones. Drowning in them, I thought. Or wishing she could.
I could choose to let her, if I wanted. I could be her demise, right here, right now. Or I could swallow my own afflictions and tell her exactly what she wanted to hear. What I wanted to say. The choice had yet to be made. But it would be mine, and only mine. My path to choose. The only question that remained was where I wanted to end up.
Alessa: At the beginning...
It was nearing three a.m., and I hadn’t even bothered to close my eyes. Sleep had been deluding me for months. I’d long since given up on chasing it when it so clearly wanted nothing to do with me. Instead I was bent far over my laptop, furiously typing out what would one day become my masterpiece. My thick black hair was falling around my face, persistently getting in my eyes. Every few seconds I had to pause and push it back again.
I was doing my best not to think too much, because I knew my thoughts would be the death of me. Especially these days. My lips hadn’t seen a real smile in weeks. My eyes hadn’t seen the light in even longer. The people I’d always trusted and loved were slowly slipping away, and I wasn’t doing anything to stop them. I wanted to be alone. At least that way no one could hurt me.
I typed out a few more words, a wave of exhaustion overcoming me. At least it’s Friday, I thought absently, saving and logging out. I doubted I could make it through another day at school. I was quite certain that everyone around me had noticed a visible change in the way I carried myself. It was blatantly obvious that the luster that had once governed my life was long gone. I had faded into a tragic nothingness. I wasn’t doing anything to stop that either.
The silence reverberated throughout my pathetic excuse of a bedroom. Upstairs, my parents and siblings slept soundly. Down below, I withered away. Crawling into my bed, I pulled the thick, royal purple comforter up to my chin, wrapping it tighter around my too-thin body. I closed my eyes, willing myself into an unconsciousness. I prayed to whatever cruel God there was that morning would help to erase the pain.
I never bothered to set an alarm clock. On any given Saturday, my house was so loud it wouldn’t have mattered. By eight my eyes were open, though I was very much in denial about the matter. Stretching out a bit, I rolled over to reach for my phone. I flipped it open to check for messages, just in case. They say miracles have been known to happen. I’d been waiting for him to text me everyday for a good two months. Nothing. Instead there was a wake-up texts from my best friend. My only friend, I thought. Ellie could be as annoying as she was sweet. While I knew her intentions were good, I just wasn’t in the mood.
I pushed the covers back and forced myself out of bed. The clock read 8:14. That gave me an hour to attempt to throw myself together before I had to leave. Ellie and I, for some stupid reason or another, had been bowling together every Saturday for the past two years. It used to be something I looked forward to. Now it was just another place for me to fake happiness. Not that it mattered. Ellie could see right through it all. She knew me well enough after fourteen years to tell when I was feeding her lines of bullshit. Which, lately, was more often than not.
I’m not going to lie. I’d been getting better. The whole ordeal had happened in late September, and already it was mid-November. October had been shit, but I was getting better. Late at night, maybe, it got hard. But during the day, around people who thought they were my friends, I managed to hold it together alright. Only when I saw him did my defenses crumble. I went out of my way to avoid him, but of course that was easier said than done.
My parents were at the table, eating their omelets, just like every Saturday. Some things just didn’t change. Sometimes I embraced that and others I cursed it. “Hi, honey,” my mom greeted cheerfully. She was dressed to kill for her high-and-mighty salon job in tight black slacks and a gray dress shirt. My dad was at the head of the table, wearing the traditional jeans and Harley tee. Ever the opposites, those two were. It amazed me how they could stand to be around each other. My sister was also there, her blonde ringlets all tangled in her face, her blue eyes drooped in exhaustion. My baby brother was in his high chair.
I gave them all a one-handed wave of sorts before passing straight through into the kitchen. Our kitchen had always been my pride and joy. Bleach white cabinets kept spotless by a combination of my mother’s OCD and my efforts, black marble countertops and light hardwood floors, all stainless steel appliances. I went directly to the coffee pot, pouring a cup. It was practically my life support since my insomnia had taken hold.
“You hungry?” My dad asked. I shook my head, not particularly caring if he could see or not. Obviously he had, because a moment later he replied. “You need to eat, Alessa.”
“I’m not hungry.” I swore we had the same conversation every day. And they just didn’t seem to get it. Whatever. I hardly had the time for parents who only wanted anything to do with me when I was getting straight A’s and earning them bragging rights. Otherwise I was nothing more than their twisted, depressed child who had to see a shrink because she so clearly couldn’t solve her own issues.
When my coffee was fixed, I went back into my room and turned Korn on high volume. The walls vibrated as Jonathan Davis shrieked out the painful words of Here to Stay. I could just imagine what my mom was thinking in the next room. Not that I cared. I set my cup down, turned up my hair straightener, and fumbled around in m makeup bag for my eyeliner. We all had our little coping mechanisms, I supposed. The dark makeup I hid behind was the least harmful of mine. I moved my mouth along to the song, not really singing, while I traced the rims of my green eyes.
I thought that maybe it was human nature to lock things up inside. Everyone had secrets; everyone had scars. Everyone had something to hide. In Black Hills, those secrets always seemed so much darker. I set down my eyeliner, my eyes trailing to the pale skin of my left wrist. It was a fleeting glance, though, and then I was looking into the mirror again. The girl reflected there had plenty of secrets, plenty of scars. We both knew she could only hide them for so long.