Clinically insane, crazy, emotionally challenged.
That’s what I had to have been.
I stretched out on the bottom of my bed, stroking the frame of the picture with my thumb. The smiles on the faces of the people behind the glass filled my mind; they seemed so happy, so carefree and full of life. It had been awhile since I’d felt like that, felt like I belonged somewhere…except when I was with her. Since the day we first met, I knew I loved Emery Rogers unlike anyone I had ever loved before. And the first time she said my name…it was like I had just heard it for the very first time.
But then shortly after her fifteenth birthday she stopped talking, she just…stopped. It felt like my entire world stopped spinning that day. No one knows why Emery stopped talking; her parents think it’s just a petty game she’s been playing for the past four and a half years, but Em is my best friend, I know it’s more than that.
There was a faint knock at the door and my roommate walked in. “Hey bro, Emery’s upstairs. It looks like she’s had another rough night, and I can’t really tell, but I think she’s been crying too.”
I sat up and shook my head. “Are you sure?” I asked looking at Ben. He nodded and I rushed from my room. Ben had a knack for over exaggerating a lot of things but Emery wasn’t one of them.
She was sitting on the couch looking through an old photo album from when we were kids. She was always so happy whenever we sat and talked about the old times and how much fun we used to have.
“Hey Em, is everything ok? Ben said you’ve been crying. What’s wrong?” I stood in front of the coffee table and waited for her to look up. I knew she probably wouldn’t tell me, she hated me worrying about her. But I couldn’t just ignore the fact that my friend was hurting and no one else seemed to care enough to try and figure out why. “Look Em, I know you don’t want to worry me, but whenever you’re ready, I’m always willing to listen. You know that, don’t you?”
Finally Emery looked up at me, her brown eyes shimmering as she smiled. I loved seeing her smile, I really wish she would smile more often and not just when she was with me, not that I minded at all. She patted the couch cushion next to her and smiled again. When I played at leaving the room she stuck her bottom lip out and patted the cushion again.
I laughed and sat down next to her. “Okay, okay. No need to get impatient.” She rolled her eyes and I braced for a punch. Surprisingly she scooted closer and laid her head on my shoulder, something she often did when she’d had a rough time the night before. Instead of prodding, I slipped my around her; although I longed to know why she wouldn’t talk to anyone, I wasn’t going to push her for answers. It wasn’t long before she’d fallen asleep and I decided I would let it go until later.
About two hours later Emery woke up, we were still in the same spot we’d been in when she fell asleep; partly because she needed to sleep and moving would mean that I’d run the risk of waking her up, and partly because I knew she felt safer when I was there.
“Ah, look who’s finally awake. Feel better?” I asked as she sat up, I knew she probably didn’t, but I had to ask anyway.
Emery smiled, nodding she pointed to the photo album that now lay on the table in front of us. Grabbing it I flipped open to Emery’s favorite page; it was filled with pictures of us on an all-day trip to Wild Waves.
“You got so angry with me when I pushed you down the slide, I thought it was hilarious.” At that, Emery scowled which made me laugh and I knew exactly what was coming next. Emery reached over and punched my shoulder. “What? You didn’t get hurt and actually went on the same ride about ten more times. So if you think about it, I was only speeding up the process.”
She stuck her tongue out at me but ended up smiling back. That usually meant she knew I was right but didn’t want to admit it. This was the side of Emery that I loved to see, she didn’t stick around long, but I always enjoyed it so much more when she visited. I was sure Emery would be happier if she could put everything behind her, but her parents wouldn’t just forget that their perfect daughter hadn’t spoken a word in almost five years.
Emery nudged me with her elbow, when I looked over at her she raised her eyebrows.
“I’m good Em, just thinking. So, you wanna go for a walk? We could go get some ice cream.” I said putting the photo album down. I waited patiently as she made her decision. Her forehead wrinkling slightly as she furrowed and unfurrowed her eyebrows in thought. After awhile she smiled and nodded her head.
We left my house and started walking towards the park, about halfway there Emery stopped. When I turned to face her, she raised her hands and cocked her head to one side asking why we were headed toward the park instead of to the ice cream parlor in town.
I laughed, “I thought you wanted ice cream? Those sidewalk ice cream venders are out again, I figured we could sit in the park and eat.”
Once we got our ice cream we went and sat on the swings. I wanted so much to ask Emery what had gone on the night before, but I knew it would cause her more pain than relief so I left it alone. She would tell me when she was ready to. It was rather warm for a fall day, orange, brown, yellow, and red leaves swayed in the wind; it looked to me as if they were dancing. After a few minutes of silence, I looked over at Emery.
“Em, are you sure you’re ok? It’s not like you to sit this still for so long…and so quiet too?” I added that last part hoping to get a smile out of her, but she just rolled her eyes and sighed. “Oh come on, that was funny…or at least it was supposed to be. But seriously though, you never show up at my house and sleep like that unless something went wrong the night before. You can’t push it aside forever, Emery. Sooner or later you’ll just have to face your problems.” I was no doubt being a little too hard on her, but like everyone else, I was starting to wonder if Emery really was playing a game.
As if she had read my mind, Emery scowled. We had been friends for nearly six years, why should I doubt her even for a moment when she’d never lied to me before? Suddenly I began to feel guilty. Emery had stuck by my side when most of my so-called friends had judged me based on what they saw on the outside instead of what was in my heart. She had given me countless chances when it was quite clear that I didn’t even deserve one, and she had been so forgiving of the mistakes I’d made in the past.
We sat there in utter silence for quite some time, if she had made any indication at wanting to explain what had happened the night before, I couldn’t tell. So far she’d mostly kicked the leaves at her feet and shook her head when I’d finally asked her if she wanted another ice cream cone. Sitting this way for so long was new to me; we were usually laughing or chasing each other through the park, I was beginning to worry that I’d actually hurt her this time. Emery’s heart was fragile and once it had so much as a tiny crack in it, fixing something so near shattering seemed almost impossible.
I contemplated pressing further for information, but decided against it since I hadn’t really redeemed myself from my earlier comments. I knew I’d have to apologize some time, but I figured it’d be better to let her cool off first. “Hey, it’s getting late, we should head back.”
Emery would much rather have stayed in the park, but deep down we both knew what her parents would say to breaking curfew, even if she had been with me the whole time….especially her dad. In all truth, he really wasn’t that bad of a guy. But at times he held on to Emery a little too tight, it seemed like he was trying to make sure she stayed his perfect little girl. I wondered if he paid any real attention to her at all. Both of her parents tried their best to understand her, although with both of them working the crazy hours that they do, Emery was lucky if she even saw them on the weekends.
We started walking back to my house where her mom was sure to be waiting, nothing but silence passing between us for what seemed like ages. We were just about to cross the street in front of my house when Emery sprinted off in the other direction. I didn’t even have a moment to think before I was running after her, stumbling along the way as I struggled to keep up the pace. What was she thinking? Dashing off like that without warning. This was a whole new side to Emery that I’d never seen before, she was defying everything that she’d been taught.
I watched somewhat in awe as Emery sped down the street, never slowing down, much less looking back to see if I or anyone else were in pursuit of her. It was like she was answering some far away call that only she heard. Gaining mile after mile, she continued to slip further and further away from me until she was nothing more than a distant blur against the street lights of Vancouver. My legs ached, burning with every stride that I took. But I kept going, kept running; wherever Emery was going, I would go too. Even if it meant that when and if we were found, I was told to stay away from her. I would risk it all just to spend one more moment with her.
Finally after two hours of searching to no avail, I headed home to face the chilling reality that sat like a paperweight on my shoulders. How do you explain a person’s sudden urge to run away to their parents who have trusted you with their daughter’s life? How do you go about looking for someone who obviously has no intention of being found any time soon (or at all, for that matter)? Everything I knew my life to be was about to change as soon as I stepped through the front door.
I took a deep breath and turned the handle. “Well, now is as good a time as any. Let’s get this over with.”I said to myself, stepping inside the door. Almost instantly my ears were met with five angry voices as Emery’s brother, her parents, and mine all came rushing from the living room in a single line. Christ! She sure picked the perfect day to lose her mind. Considering that it was well passed curfew and I was showing up alone, I had a feeling it was going to be a very long night, and not to mention next couple of days as well. Like a cruise ship headed for an iceberg, I braced myself for the impact of angry words and shot the truth from my lips like a cannonball. “Yes, I know it’s after curfew. Yes, I know what kind of trouble I’m in. Emery isn’t with me. She ran off. Yes, I ran after her. No, I didn’t find her. Yes, I accept that I am grounded until further notice. And yes, I know this means you don’t want me to see her anymore.”
I blew passed the group of shocked faces and went straight downstairs. Once they’d had time to process all that just happened, hell was going to break open, freeze over, and break open once again. I needed to sort through all of the emotions surging through my body if I was going to be level-headed enough to actually face the angry mob upstairs. All I could do now was listen as mine and Emery’s parents made calls to people they knew in the area, asking of anyone had seen her. I wanted to run up and yell at them all to quit acting like they were so worried about her, when really they just wanted to know where she was so they could get back to controlling her life, our life. Although it wasn’t like Emery to just up and run off on her own, I was glad she did, maybe now people will start to see that she isn’t at all happy about living to please them every waking moment of every single day. I only hoped that where she ended up tonight, she was at least safe and not alone.
The pain in my arms, legs and chest was cruel and unusual. I had never, in my entire life, run off at such great speeds like I had just then, and every mile was torture. Pure. Torture.
Everything was moving by at a ridiculously fast pace; I’d been running for what felt like ages, but I couldn’t stop. I’ve been waiting for almost five years to break down the walls that were holding me captive inside my own mind, to revive the part of me that had died and let her truly feel everything I’ve been suppressing for so long. The fear, the anger, the guilt; all of my emotions had been bottled up, and now if I didn’t do something soon, I feared everything would boil over all at once.
I know that Xander would be taking a lot of heat for breaking curfew, as well as my untimely disappearance. I would owe him my life when I returned home; we were always bailing each other out of trouble, so what made me feel so guilty about leaving my best friend to fend for himself against our parents…and my brother? Oh God, my brother! If Jason had his way, I’d never see Xander again. But I couldn’t turn back now, I needed to get away and clear my head. I would deal with my family after they’d had time to cool down; I just hoped they wouldn’t be too hard on Xander. After all, it wasn’t his fault that I’d suddenly lost my marbles and decided to ‘skip town’.
Finally stopping, I settled down in the shadows of an abandoned church building. Years ago , before it had been burned down, this church had been a safe haven, a place I could come to whenever I needed to clear my head. I hoped the same could be said of it now even though it stood in ruins. What did I even need? I had no idea, all I knew was that long ago my heart was broken in to a million tiny pieces and somehow I needed to find a way to reinvent myself. I’d lost who I was and I needed to find her again, I needed to forgive myself and move on from the pain. The only problem is that I don’t know how. I’ve contemplated spilling all of my secrets, finally telling my parents why I’ve changed so much, but that would mean speaking again. But I’m not so sure I’m ready for that yet, I’m not so sure anyone’s ready for that yet.
Except maybe Xander. We used to sit for hours and talk about nothing at all. When I was with Xander nothing else mattered; I always knew that no matter what I did, no matter how bad I’d messed up, Xander would always be there to pick up the pieces that remained and try to put me back together. For six years, he’d been my one constant friend, my secret weapon in dealing with the past that haunted me day in and day out. Whenever I couldn’t sleep, Xander had been there to talk to me until the sun rose the next morning. And when I’d stopped talking, I watched as Xander’s world had tumbled down on top of him. I didn’t know if his Emery was even still in existence in this life, much less if she wanted to be found.
I lay back against the remainder of one of the walls and closed my eyes, memories of Xander filled my mind and soon I was in a deep sleep, a dream playing through my subconscious.
There I was, sitting on a bench in the park, I was meeting Xander for our usual afternoon escapade of ice cream and terrible jokes about school, the only way I could experience true high school drama was to listen to Xander go on and on about the kids in his classes. I was particularly excited for today because it had been a few days since I’d been able to see him; what with my homework and extracurricular activities, it was a miracle that I was seeing him now.
He was unusually late, but I wasn’t too worried seeing as how his high school was on the other side of town. The sun was out but it was far from being warm, the wind had picked up and suddenly I regretted tossing my jacket on my bed before I left. I was used to the cold, but something about this afternoon made the lack of warmth rather unbearable. As I looked at the people around me I wondered how many of them were in shorts and a t-shirt, and none of them appeared phased by the sudden drop in temperature, yet here I was shivering as if this was the Antarctic instead of Canada. Something was seriously. Wrong. With. Me.
First seconds passed by, then minutes, and finally hours; still no Xander. It was unlike him to just drop out of our plans without at least texting me first. Where was he? I was beginning to get anxious. I’d been waiting for three hours. Why hadn’t he shown up? What if he was hurt and needed help? There was no way I could get to him, and even if I could, how would I even know where to look? At the thought, my anxiety turned to outright fear for Xander’s life.
I looked up and noticed that most of the people in the park had left; I was virtually alone, except for the sketchy guy a few feet away. He sat staring in my direction, but I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me or passed me. He wore a slightly tattered trench coat and his hair blew about his face in the breeze. He stood up and I realized that he was a lot taller than I had anticipated; he no doubt would tower above me. It wasn’t until he started walking towards me that I noticed his face held an urgent expression.
“Emery Rogers, we are in dire need of your assistance. Please, come with me. Quickly.” The man spoke in a hurried tone, looking over his shoulders as he extended his hand for me to take.
Not really sure what I should do, I took his hand. In an instant the entire world whizzed by and I knew I wasn’t in Vancouver anymore…
I awoke with a start the next morning. That dream seemed so real that I thought I was back in that strange land. I hadn’t thought about that day in so many years, but I remembered how sick I’d felt knowing I had turned my back on people who had done nothing to me. But how could they expect me to just leave the life I'd always known to run a world I'd never even heard of before? As a Faerie. I turned my back on a dying race, and hadn't spoken a word to anyone since then. Was it guilt that kept me silent? Or fear?
I still wasn't ready to return home, not yet. I felt there was something I needed to do, something I needed to find within myself before I could go back. Part of me wanted to be unrecognizable when I went home, then maybe they might start seeing me as more than a troubled teen with an attitude problem. Not just my parents, but Xander too. He was beginning to treat me the same way everyone else - except Ben - had, as if I were some kind of mental case.
If only they could put themselves in my shoes... They would see that some things simply can't be explained. But even that seemed like a long shot. If they hadn't tried to understand before, how could I be so sure that they would now? It seems to me that we're going around in circles all the time; I don't talk, therefore their solution is to control me. Every day it seems like it just gets worse. It had finally gotten so far out of hand in fact, that I took off! As if there were nothing to it at all, I had, in my mind, fallen completely off the face of the earth with no promise of returning.
Where the hell was she?!
It had been three days since Emery had taken off, three days since I had abandoned my search for her, three days since I’d agreed to stay away from her. I haven’t the slightest idea why I gave my word to leave her alone, was I angry at her for leaving and not telling me where she went? Was I afraid of what would happen to us when she returned? Oddly enough, the only one seemingly not fazed by all of this was Ben.
Come to think of it he had seemed rather calm when I told him that she’d randomly disappeared, in fact, he seemed unusually delighted about the whole thing. He’d been acting like it was the most natural thing in the world, as if there was some secret she hadn’t told me yet. But why would Ben know anything about Emery that I didn’t already know? I was beginning to wonder if he knew or had anything to do with why she’d stopped talking years ago. I would definitely have to ask him about that later, but right now I was going to catch some sleep.
I hadn’t been asleep for more than an hour, when Ben burst through the door; I sat up rubbing the sleep from my eyes and watched as he rummaged through the closet. “Oh, for Christ’s sake! Ben, what the hell are you looking for?”
Ben stopped and quickly turned around. “It's nothing, never mind. Just go back to sleep, man.” He went back to searching through the closet, becoming more and more frantic as time went on. I tried not to let his sudden panic affect my rest, but the longer he was there, the more I began to worry about him. Against my better judgment to just leave well enough alone, I got up and walked over to the closet.
“Here, let me help you. You’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for faster.”I took the pile of clothing that Ben had in his hand and shook each item out before I laid it out on the floor, then turned back and waited for him to hand me the rest. “If what you’re looking for is a relatively small item, it’ll fall when the things are shaken out.”
Ben stared at me stunned for a few minutes, the look on his face a cross between pure confusion and gratitude. Although he seemed a bit cautious of my presence in the room, I was sure he needed my help and would appreciate it in the end. Ben wasn’t the kind of person to just up and ask for help, not like Emery. He was independent, and unless he was hanging out with Emery and I you never would have known that he could be pretty outgoing. But even then, he was quieter than usual when it came to Emery. There was something about the way he looked at her, they way he talked about her, that made me wonder if he saw her as more than a friend. But then, why would he? She hadn’t ever showed any interest in Ben before, but even I know that doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not he has feelings for her. But he should know how I feel about Emery, that I’ve loved her since we first met; if this is true then he wouldn’t even dream of betraying me like that.
Publication Date: 10-13-2011
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