Authors: Lisa de Jong
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College, #Sports, #Fiction
Copyright © 2014 by Lisa De Jong
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the above author of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Edited by Madison Seidler
Cover by Mae I Design
Interior Formatting by Kassis’s Kandids Formatting
June 3, 2013
I ATTEMPT TO OPEN
my eyes, but I can’t. It’s like that moment when you realize you’re stuck in some nightmare and can’t wake up. My arms and legs won’t budge … the weight of them is too much. No matter how much I try, nothing happens … and all I hear is that sound. The same tone repeats every couple seconds, making me even more anxious to escape the solitary insanity.
I wonder where the hell I am, and why that stupid noise won’t stop. I just want it replaced by silence or voices—something normal. Where’s Cory? I’d give anything to hear his voice right now, or even my parents’. And this bed, or whatever I’m on, isn’t very comfortable. My head feels like it was repeatedly slammed against cement. It throbs, and I hate it, but the pain is the only thing that gives me any hope I’m still here, and this isn’t some horrible afterlife state I’m living in.
This is frustrating. My life is about control. I always have to be in control. This isn’t working. I keep waking up like this. Unable to move. Unable to see. Unable to remember.
“Rachel. Everything’s fine, baby.” Mom. Has she been here this whole time?
I nod, or at least I think I do. It’s hard to tell in this weird half awake, half asleep state. My mind is functioning, but my body … that’s another story.
“You’ve been sleeping for a while. Be careful, baby.” Why can’t I see her? Why is she telling me to be careful? Nothing makes sense. Where the hell am I? I’d give anything just to ask one question.
Time passes, and the room is quiet again. Where did Mom go? Where’s Cory? Before I fell asleep, or whatever this is, I was studying with him on the couch. I remember that much … at least I think I do. I’m not sure what’s real anymore.
“Cory,” I mouth, but no sound comes out. I hear footsteps. Loud, heavy rubber against hard floors coming closer. My heart beats faster … I feel it all the way up to my ears.
The footsteps stop next to where I lay, and a cool hand wraps around my wrist. I have no idea what’s going on, and if I could, I’d pull my hand away. I’d escape from here and run straight toward normal. Hopefully, normal is a place that still exists.
“Get some rest,” a soothing, unfamiliar female voice says from above. The cool hand unwraps itself from my wrist. I attempt to curl my fingers, to quietly beg for her not to leave me, but just like everything else, it’s impossible. With every passing second, I hear less, feel less. “That’s it, you’ll feel better soon.”
When I wake again, my body is still frozen in place, but everything hurts a little less. It might be because I just woke up, or thanks to whatever the lady with the noisy shoes gives me when she comes in.
The annoying beeping sound still plays loudly, but other than that, the room is like church during prayer. Maybe that’s what I need to do in order to get out of this state, to fully wake up. Maybe God hasn’t heard me because I haven’t asked him the way I should. Maybe the only thing I have left is a prayer.
I want to beg God to let me wake up so I can see the world again. I want to tell him how sorry I am for whatever I did to deserve this and promise to never do it again. I’d do anything he asked me to just to get out of here, to see Cory and my mom. I want to hear their voices, see their familiar faces.
There’s nothing I want more than to open my eyes … for this all to end. Until then, I let myself get lost in the last thing I remember before I wound up here. It gives me something to look forward to, a time I want to go back to. A life I want to return to.
“What’s your last final?” Cory asks, tracing his finger along my bare thigh. After four years, I should know better than to study near him in short shorts, or any shorts really. I guess I keep wearing them because I like the attention he gives me. I like that after all this time he still touches me like he can’t get enough.
“Statistics,” I answer, batting his hand away. I don’t bother looking up; there’s no need because I have every inch of him memorized. He looks all California boy—light brown hair, naturally highlighted with a few streaks of blond—but he was born right here in Iowa. His clear blue eyes mesmerize me even when I’m not looking into them. Today, they shine even brighter than usual because of the green shirt he wears … not that I was staring earlier or anything.
His finger returns, inching up higher, so high all I can do is close my eyes. Screw statistics. Not like I’m going to use them later in life anyway. “Take a break for a few minutes,” he whispers, his lips not far from my ear. “You’ve had your nose buried in a book for weeks.”
What he’s proposing sounds so good, but I shouldn’t. Not really.
“I can’t.” My breath hitches when he traces the line of my panties. He’s a master manipulator, but in the best way. He goes up just a little higher, one finger slipping under the thin cotton.
“The test, Cory. I need to pass the test.”
He groans, but his hand continues to work at my delicate skin. “That’s all you seem to care about anymore. Just give me five minutes. Please.”
I want to give in. God knows having him inside me would release the tension that finals have left.
Looking at the clock on the DVD player, I realize I only have forty-five minutes before my last final. Cory is my greatest temptation, but he’ll have to wait until class is over. Then I’ll have a whole summer to be with him just like this or any other way he wants me.
“After class. I promise.”
His warm finger brushes against my center. He’s driving me so freaking crazy. “Are you sure? Because your wet panties are telling a different story.”
“As soon as this last test is done, I’m yours. Any way you want me,” I say, hearing the desire in my voice. I’ve never been good at hiding it. Not when it comes to Cory.
“I’m going to hold you to that,” he says, pulling his hand from under my shorts. He looks at me, eyes burning like fire, then kisses me in a way that’s decisive and possessive. Soft. Then firm. Then hard. There’s no doubt in my mind I’m going to finish my test quickly so I can run right back here. From the grin on his face, he knows it, too.
That’s where the memory ends … it’s the last thing I remember. How did I get from there to here?
My eyelids flutter just enough to break open to the light around me. Bright fluorescents shine from large rectangles in the ceiling. It’s too much to handle at once, so I choose darkness again while I attempt to move my fingers. It works this time—a little bit.
My body still aches all over. Like a powerful, unyielding wave crashing into it, the pain leaves no part of me untouched. It’s worse than the time I fell off my bike, colliding hard with the pavement. And the time I fell from the tree in the back yard while trying to free my kite from its branches. It’s worse than anything I’ve ever experienced.
With every second that goes by, the darkness becomes lonelier. My mind is a fucking mess, like a five hundred piece jigsaw puzzle spread across the floor. I wish I could go back in time, to when everything was normal. It’s easy to forget the miracle behind normal because we’re so used to living in it. I will never take it for granted again.
I’m going to get back there. I’m going to see Cory again and spend the rest of the summer swimming in the lake. This has to be temporary. I need everything to be okay.