Authors: Olivia Stephens
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons--living or dead--is entirely coincidental.
A Dream of Summer copyright @ 2014 by Olivia Stephens. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.
How do you forgive someone that has betrayed you? Someone that you had made your everything. What happens when they’re not the person you thought they were?
Nothing makes sense without her. Here, in this windowless room, with the Bleeding Angels outside, I wonder why I don’t feel the sense of creeping dread that had always been present whenever I used to think about being patched. Without Aimee, it feels like I don’t have anything else to belong to.
Thinking about her with him—it’s too much. It’s almost more than I can stand. I pace around the tiny room, just to expend some of this energy that is driving me crazy and not letting me sleep.
Without even thinking twice about it, I punch the wall. I just want to feel something, but there’s nothing. It’s as if my whole body has gone numb. I don’t even notice any pain. A couple of drops of blood from my knuckles fall lazily onto the floor. I watch, but it’s like it’s happening to someone else. None of this feels quite real.
It’s like my insides have been pulled out and there’s just emptiness left behind. I miss her more than I thought it was possible to miss anyone. It’s as if I’ve lost an arm—that’s what she is to me. She’s a part of me. Or at least, she was. Now I don’t know what she is; I don’t know if I can ever think of her in the same way. I don’t know if I can ever think of her without thinking about her with him, and that’s too hard.
I throw myself onto the bed and stare up at the peeling ceiling, wishing that I could just get some damned sleep.
“Why don’t you try to get some sleep?” my mother asks as she strokes my hair like she did when I was a little girl.
“Sleep?” I say the word as if it’s something that I’ve never heard of before. “There’s no way that I can sleep, not when Jake’s out there with the Angels and they’re getting him to do God knows what!” I put my head in my hands, trying to get my thoughts back under control.
“It’s late, sweetheart. You’ll be able to think clearer when you’ve had some rest,” Sally encourages me, putting a brave smile on her face.
The events that have brought me here, to the Summers’ home keep playing and replaying in my mind. It all feels like it happened to someone else, like it’s something that I was watching on the television or reading in a book. But it wasn’t either of those things, it was real, it was my life.
“He hates me,” I shake my head, pressing my eyes shut to force back the tears. I can’t believe I even have any more tears to cry. I thought I’d cried myself dry.
“Why do you keep saying that? If he’s the same boy I used to know then there’s no way that he can hate you.” My mother twirls my hair around in ringlets, her voice calm and smooth, exactly the opposite of the deafening shrieking in my head that I recognize as Ryan’s voice.
“He’s in love with you,” Sally confirms, nodding her head in certainty.
I don’t correct her, partly because she’s been through enough today without needing any more drama and partly because I’m too ashamed to tell them what I did, or what I’d been prepared to do. It had all been for Jake. I knew that I would do anything for him, anything to keep him safe. But it turns out he would probably have been safer if I’d never interfered. I should have told him the truth, I know that now. But at the time it had seemed like going to Ryan was the only option. Everything had become so mixed up and confusing. Still, I wonder how I had managed to get it quite so wrong. I was supposed to be smart but I feel like the dumbest person on Earth.
“I don’t understand why he would have gone with them, just let himself be taken away,” Sally thinks out loud, looking like she’s about to burst into tears. Bea squeezes her hand comfortingly and I can’t help but think about how the tables have turned. My mother is the one providing support to us, the people that have been looking after her during the years she spent between this world and wherever the hell she was that was so much better than being with her daughter.
“I don’t know anymore, Sal. I just don’t know.” I can’t bring myself to look at them as I say the words. There’s a sound from upstairs and I jump off of the couch and race over to the stairs, still antsy from everything that’s happened. But instead of finding a brigade of Bleeding Angels here to take away the last shred of family that I have, I find Jonah.
“What are you doing up, little man?” I ask, my voice conspiratorially quiet.
“I heard what all of you were saying.” Jake’s little brother rubs his eyes as he looks like he’s well aware that it’s way past his bed-time.
I hear the low murmur of voices of Sally and my mother comforting each other, telling each other that everything will work out, that it’ll all be okay. I figure Jonah’s mom has bigger things to worry about than him being tired for school tomorrow.
“Come here,” I motion for him to sit down on the bottom step next to me.
He sits down heavily, like it’s taken all his strength and I wrap my arm around his narrow shoulders automatically. We sit there for a few minutes, in silence, both thinking our own thoughts, but it’s clear we’re both thinking about the same person.
“Where’s Jake?” Jonah asks eventually, fiddling with the cuff of his striped pajamas.
I take a deep breath, knowing that I need to keep things together, that I don’t want to worry him. “He’s had to go away for a little while.” I settle for something that sits precariously between the truth and a lie.
“I heard what you were saying. I’m not just some dumb kid, you know.” Jonah folds his arm, looking with a burning intensity at the floor. The anger in his voice is mixed with his feeling of being left out of the loop and I can’t blame him for that.
“None of us think that you’re a dumb kid,” I assure Jonah. I pull him in a little tighter towards me and he rests his head on my shoulder, letting himself be soothed. “We all know how smart you are. But we just don’t want to worry you. You’ve got a lot on your plate with school and everything. You don’t need to worry about this, we’ve got this.” My voice sounds stronger than I thought it could.
There’s something so comforting about sitting in the Summers house, holding Jonah’s skinny, wiry body next to mine. He doesn’t know that he’s holding me up as much as I’m supporting him. It’s almost enough to make me forgot why we’re both here, killing time at the bottom of the steps.
“The Angels have him, don’t they?” Jonah asks after a few minutes of companionable silence. It’s not an accusation, just a statement of fact and I wonder how this grown-up voice has come out of this little guy.
I realize there’s no point in lying to him. There have been too many secrets and lies floating around. That’s partly what got us into this mess. My mind wanders as I ask myself had I told Jake about what Ryan asked me to do, if things would have turned out differently or if the end result would have been the same - Jake choosing to go with the Angels. I figure that Jonah’s going to find out about what’s happened sooner or later, and I’d prefer him to hear it from me--someone he’s known his whole life rather than some mean kids on the playground at school. Word was going to get around town soon enough, news like this had a way of raging through Painted Rock like a wildfire. I guess sometimes delving into someone else’s misery made you forget your own, for a while at least.
So I take a deep breath and tell the truth. “Yes, Jonah. They have him, he’s with them now.” Jonah looks up at me and I know that I’m not imagining how his bottom lip has started to tremble. His eyes are wide as saucers and I want to kick myself for thinking that the ‘honesty is the best policy’ route was the way to go with a six-year-old. “But I’m going to get him back, Jonah. I promise you, I will.”
As we lock eyes I think that he’s seen something in mine that has given him some kind of comfort. He settles back, nestling against me and I start to wonder if he’s fallen asleep when he speaks up. “Why is your dress all dirty?” he rubs at the smears of dirt that have caked on the buttercup yellow uniform of the diner. “Did you fall down when you hurt your face?” he asks, reaching up with one small hand to touch my jaw gently.
The question sparks a memory of being in that dark room with Ryan. Him ordering me to undress, enjoying my humiliation, reveling in it almost.
Take your panties off and turn around.
The words echo in my head no matter how much I wish I could forget them. I remember the soft sound that the dress made when it hit the ground and the stickiness of the floor. The slap that made my head feel like it was about to explode, knocking me to the ground. I’m suddenly aware of how awful I must look to Jonah, sitting in a dirty dress with half the buttons missing, the side of my face swollen and probably developing an impressive bruise.
There are some truths that are just too much for ears as young as his. This isn’t something that he needs to know. “Yes, honey,” I tell him, keeping my voice as steady as I can. “I fell down and hurt my face and got my dress all dirty. But I’m fine,” I assure him, smiling although the expression hurts my cheek.
“What are you doing awake?” Sally has appeared, arms folded and foot tapping foot as she looks at us. Neither is a good sign.
Jonah sits bolt upright and his change of demeanor would almost be comical if the circumstances were different. “I heard you guys talking, I couldn’t sleep,” he protests half-heartedly. He knows as well as I do that this isn’t one that he’s going to win.
“Well you better get some sleep, mister. You have school in the morning,” Sally points out, unimpressed by Jonah’s excuse.
“When’s daddy coming home?” His voice is plaintive and not a little scared. Poor kid, I think to myself. As if he doesn’t have enough to deal with, he thinks something may have happened to his dad too.
“Daddy’s doing some work at the shop,” Sally doesn’t even miss a beat. “He has a lot of work to do so he’ll be home real late.” I say nothing. We both know that Bill is staying at the shop because he needs some time on his own, some time to get his head around what’s happened to Jake.
Instead of the tantrum that I was half-expecting Jonah to throw, he surprises us both. He gives me a quick kiss on the cheek and it’s so sweet I can almost feel my heart breaking into about a million tiny pieces.
“Will you tuck me in?” he holds his little hand out to his mother and I wonder who needs the comfort more, him or Sally.
I can see Sally fighting to keep control of her emotions as she nods silently, taking Jonah’s hand and walking up the stairs with him. I watch them make their way up and I don’t have to guess at the fact that Sally is thinking about how many times she did this with Jake as a child. All those nights that she read to him and tucked him up in bed. Now he was so far away from any protection that she could give him. Now the monsters weren’t under the bed anymore, they were out in the open and they had her son.
I think about the photograph that I keep going back to, the one of Scar at Jake’s birthday party. I keep coming back to the same conclusion over what it all means, but I need something more than my own suspicions. I need Sally to tell me what the truth is about Scar’s connection to Jake. It might not get Jake back to us, but it might help, and right now we need all the help that we can get.