Where do I go? Where am I now? How did I get here?...And where is he? Where is the golden-eyed boy?
Warmth. I felt it as I slipped away and I feel it now. It's a different kind of warmth though. The warmth before was from someone else. The warmth now is from me. I finally feel whole again, as if half of me is returning from darkness. I open my eyes. The first thing I see is the night sky--the moon and the stars still twinkling above me. I sat up stiffly.
My clothes were stained red. My hands were covered in it. It pooled around me. Blood.
"That's right. I...died?"
Still confused, I stood up. Home. I need to go home. Mom's probably worried about me. I started walking to the end of the alley before I stopped.
"If I go home, how will I explain this?" I asked myself, pulling at my stained clothes. "Wait, the bookstore. There's a lost and found. I can borrow something from there."
Unlocking the door, I stepped inside and rummaged through the lost and found. Most of the clothes in here were left by avid readers who lost track of time and were in a hurry to leave. Unfortunately, the only thing I found that wasn't too small was a jacket that was two sizes too big. Still, I slipped it on and zipped it up. It hid the blood stains well and I put the box back when I heard bell on the front door ring. I froze instantly, trying to think of a way to explain myself.
"Hello? Is anyone in here? The door was unlocked," a male voice called.
I could hear his footsteps come closer to the counter. I couldn't move or speak. I didn't know what I could say or do that wouldn't seem strange. The last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself in my current condition. Closer the footsteps came until the man was standing above me. I was crouched down behind the counter still holding on to the lost and found box. I looked up at him as a horrid memory of a shadow-covered man flashed across my eyes. Frantic, I jumped up, pushed the man away and ran. I didn't take two steps before he grabbed my arm. His grim was firm but gentle. It was everything the shadow-man wasn't.
"Wait, I didn't mean to scare you....You're that girl from earlier, right? My name is Aaron. My brother Ashe comes in here every week to get a book. Do you remember him?"
"Ashe?...The guy with the golden eyes?" I asked timidly. It was the first thing I could think of to say.
"Um, yeah. That would be him....Listen, this is going to sound weird but just hear me out, okay? There was a 911 call about a girl who...died in an alley."
"Was that me?"
"I think so."
"Then, how? How am I alive?"
"You aren't. Not really. It's a lot to explain, but if we could go somewhere private to talk, I can help you."
"The last time that I was with someone anywhere privately, I died. No, thank you."
The sound of an ambulance rolling down the street caught both of us off guard.
"They're likely to search around when they realize there isn't a body. If they find you here and see that you're okay, they're going to be wondering how. Trust me when I say you don't want that. I promise, I won't hurt you. I just want to talk, but you have to make your choice now."
I glanced at the front door nervously before nodding to the guy named Aaron and following him to his truck. We drove away unnoticed. As soon as he turned the corner, I sighed in relief. Not coming home one night was better than telling my mom I had died and come back to life. Aaron and I sat in silence as he drove. I could tell he wanted to say something but wasn't sure what to say.
Eventually, we pulled down a long dirt, driveway and arrived at a broken-down two-story house. A dusty motorcycle was leaned against the front porch.
"Oh, great. It looks like Ashe is back. This might get a little bit...hostile."
Aaron cut the truck off and climbed out. He waited for me to follow, which I did, hesitantly. Why would it get hostile? The screen door groaned as Aaron opened it and we stepped inside. Contrary to the uninhabitable appearance of the outside, the inside looked new and well-kept.
"Ashe? I'm back," Aaron called casually.
I entered the kitchen behind Aaron. Seeing the golden-eyed boy--I mean, Ashe--outside of the bookstore felt strange. It was probably more strange seeing me in an oversized jacket with disheveled, blood-soaked hair. Upon noticing me, Ashe's casual expression turned to anger. I expected him to immediately begin shouting at his brother, but he remained silent. Aaron waited for his response. We both knew he was seething with rage. The tension was enough to tell us that.
"Why did you bring her here?"
The bitterness in Ashe's voice surprised me. He acted kind earlier that day. This was a completely different side from him I didn't expect. I didn't like it, mostly because he was mad that I was there.
"I told you I was going to help her."
"You didn't have to bring her here! To our home! What's going to happen to us if they come looking for her? Did you think about that? Well?" Ashe's voice roared in anger now.
I couldn't help but wince at the icy sharpness of it.
"You can be mad all you want, Ashe, but I'm going to help her. What we are...she shares the same fate as us now."
Aaron's voice remained calm throughout this confrontation. Ashe shook his head. The pained, denying face he bore made me more curious about him and what happened to me. Not saying anything, Ashe stormed out of the house. I heard the motorcycle rumble with life and fade away as Ashe left. I couldn't help but get the feeling Ashe was angry more for my sake than for his.