Blind Sided: Chapter 24

Once Saturday rolls around, which by the way, seems to take more than a year, I thankfully have comprised a plan, and I hope to berry it will work. Getting myself ready, there is a lump in my throat the size of a golf ball which I’m constantly trying to dislodge. My heart races with excitement as I head out the door, towards my car. Now or never…you got this Fair.

You got this…

The next two hours play out like a movie I’ve already seen, and as the night progresses, I begin to worry more and more, that my ability to change the coming events are just a figment of my imagination. Turq is really nice and our conversations are comfortable, but my eyes keep drifting between the two across the table. I smile once in a while when I catch their eye, but they quickly turn their heads, pretending to look somewhere else.

Finally after our food arrives, Lo downs his drink and pushes from the table.

“Are you alright?” Lacey asks, as he heads for the stairs.

“Fine,” he tells her with a smile, “I’ll be right back.”

Once he is gone, I wipe my mouth with a napkin and stand up from the table, “Umm where is bathroom?”

Turq points to the stairs, “Down and to the left.”

“Okay, thank you.”

Walking to the bathroom door, fills me with dread and that isn’t what I was hoping for. There were many different courses of action I could take, but no, this seems right. I have to trust my instincts here and this, this has to be the moment where the fates shift. Stepping up to the door, I place my hand on it first, before gathering the nerve to push it open.

Merlot turns around when he hears the door and I swear my heart stops.

I step further in, “I’m sorry, but I need to talk to you. It’s important.”:

He shakes his head, “No, I can’t. You gotta get out of here. I need to go.”

“NO MERLOT WAIT.”

A man walks in and Merlot bolts for the door, “No I’m sorry. I need to get back to Lacey and you should go back to Turq.”

“But you don’t understand, Merlot- No wait! Please!” NO this happening just as before, think Fair, think think think!

“It’s about Lacey!” I call out frantically.

Standing in the open doorway, Lo stops mid step  but doesn’t turn around, “What about Lacey?” he asks warily.

This is a slightly different from before and I’m more than happy to work with it. Placing my hand on his shoulder, I try my best to explain without sounding crazy, “Look and please don’t ask me how I know this, but you can’t let her go to that protest tomorrow.”

“What protest?” 

“Tomorrow morning in Sugar Valley. If she goes, something really bad is going to happen to her. You can’t let her go. You have to talk her out of it.”

“What if I can’t? I don’t think you know Lacey very well,” he says.

I can’t help but smile, he does have a point, “Just try. I’m not going to leave town just yet, so if anything happens, call me.”

“Okay,” cautiously he pulls out his phone and hands it over, so I can input my number. “It’s gonna be okay,” I tell him.

He tries to smile, but I can see the worry in his eyes, “I should probably get back out there.”

“Yeah me too…”

After dinner as Lo and Lacey say their goodbyes. Lo gives me a nervous glance when walking out out. I try to give him a “you can do this” thumbs up without getting caught by Turq or Lacey. He nods and they descend the steps together. 

Left in the company of Turq, turns out to be quite an adventure, but after a few awkward hours, I begin to feel relief anyways. Ten more minutes pass however and my phone yelps from my purse. Pulling out the phone, it’s a number I don’t recognize, so I hold out my hand, and step a few feet away to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Fairy?!” Lo blurts over the line.

“This is she,” I say looking back over my shoulder, winking at Turq. “Just a second,” I mouth to him and he nods.

“She’s still going. She thinks I’m being paranoid. It’s so bad. What’s going to happen to her!! How can you be so sure! What do I do now?!”

“You gotta calm down,” I tell him. “Where are you?”

“Back at my dorm…”

“Okay, stay there, I will come to you.”

“Wait! Don’t you need directions?”

“I’ve got you covered. Be there soon.”

“Okay.”

After making a horribly lame excuse to Turq, I make my to the dorm, praying this won’t be one of the nights Turq decides to go home. When I get there Lo is pacing back and forth, panic exuding from every pore, ” I tried to warn her, but she got so defensive. She started saying things, really mean things. I don’t understand it.”

As I settle onto the bed, the closest seat from the door, the room seems all too familiar, which is an eerie feeling, “She doesn’t mean it,” I tell him softly. “She’s just having a hard time accepting it. Accepting what you two have.” As the words leave my lips, I can’t help but feel a little heart broken, I vowed this was the man I’d marry one day, and now here I am helping him into the arms of another.

Lo stops his pacing to look at me, “Can I ask you something?”

“Yes.”

“Do you remember me?”

I nod.

“You saw it didn’t you? What happens to Lacey.”

I nod again.

Despair quickly washes over his face,”How can we save her now?” he asks, swallowing back a sob, “I can’t lose her. I can’t.”
“I know,” I tell him. “I know.”

“We’ll just have to go and make sure nothing happens to her,” I explain matter of factly.

“Right,” he says, “Right. I’m sorry this has been a horrible confusing night. I… I just want you to know I really appreciate that you’re doing this.”

I force a smile as I stand up, moving for the door, “It’s fine. Can you meet me at Spitfire at 7?”

“Yes,” he nods. “I’ll be there.”

“Okay, then I will see you soon. Goodnight Merlot.”

“Goodnight Fair…”

The next morning we meet, bright and early at Spitfire and then walk down the road to city hall. There are people everywhere and I can easily see why it is a powder keg just waiting to explode. Lo seems to be calm and ready, but I’m pretty sure hidden under that smile is about a pound of unsettled nerves.

“Do you see her?” he asks.

“No, not yet.”

Just then we catch her in the crowd, shouting and screaming along with a couple hundred other people, “Be ready to move,” I tell him.

“Okay.”

We barely wait any time at all for the trouble to start and soon he and I ( why I feel the need to go I’ll never know), charge out of our hiding spot after her. The scene is absolute mayhem and once I’m in it, I am praying that I will find my way out again unharmed. Speaking a little too soon, something, I’m not sure what, flies through the air and zings me in the side of the head, momentarily bringing me to my knees.

Lo stops to come after me but I wave him on, “Go get her! I’ll be fine!” Nervously he obeys, diving into the crowd, and a few seconds later emerges with Lacey in his arms. Running as fast as he can to other side of the building, I get to my feet to trail after them. Stopping at the corner I turn back to see the absolute chaos before us and shutter to think what poor Lacey would have gone through. It’s like a car wreck and I can’t look away, “Come on! We need to get out of sight!” he yells.

“Yeah. Okay.”

Once around back and after he puts her down, Lacey throws herself into Lo’s arms, “I’m sorry!” she cries. “I should have listened to you! How did you know!”

“It’s alright,” he says to her. “You’re safe now.”

A little twinge in my heart has a hard time letting go of my years of ideals, but watching them together eases it all just a little. Lo looks to me as if to say thank you and I softly nod in reply. Now that the panic has died down, I am reacquainted with the ache in my temple, so I rub at it tenderly. Yeeouch that is going to leave a serious mark.

“Excuse me?” comes a voice from behind me. “Excuse me miss?”

Spinning around I find an unfamiliar face smiling nervously back at me, “Hi, this gonna sound weird, but my name is Jack and well, I saw you get beamed in the head back there. Are you alright? It looked pretty bad.”

Rubbing at my temple again, I pull away sharply from the pain it brings, “I should be fine. Thank you.”

“Oh okay, good,” he says with sense of relief  ” Umm, one more silly question… Would you maybe like to get a coffee or something?”

Looking back over my shoulder to check on Lo and Lacey, I find them in deep kiss, so I turn my head back and smile, “Yeah. Yeah I’d like that.”

– End

Blind Sided: Chapter 23

The next few days are the worst. Now that I’ve seen her, I miss her even more and to make it all worse, my intern, my informant, has completely disappeared. Sitting in my chair, I wait for something, anything to happen. Bud and Roze don’t come around much anymore. It seems pointless to sit in a chair waiting for what, I don’t know, but here I am.

Another week passes and the pain is progressively getting worse. I find myself constantly pulling at the center of my shirt, trying my best to keep it from invading my lungs.

Out of the nowhere my intern appears and I smile so widely, my eyes sting with tears, “Man, am I happy to see you. How is she?”

The intern rushes close, taking hold of my shoulder. “I’m so sorry man, I’ve been at Wild Berry general for days now. That’s the life of an intern… anyways, she isn’t here anymore. Her mother took her home last week.”

“So she’s okay then!”

“She’s better…” he says. “Her mother had to bring home a ton of equipment, a nurse… she must be loaded, because this doesn’t happen very often.”

“Thank you!” I don’t even wait for his reply before I’m running out the door.

Driving like an absolute maniac, I rush back to Fondant Fields. I don’t remember her address, but I know it’s on the top of the hill, at the far end of town. So I go there, running yellow lights and maybe, possibly, a few reds.

Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.

I get to the house, run up the steps, and bang on the door louder than expected. Dialing it back I finish it up with a few smaller raps for safe and courteous measures. A minute or so passes, before a woman that looks exactly like Lacey (except much older) answers the door.

“Yes?” she says with a snobbish air, making me slightly nervous. Chances of getting in the door, are decreasing with each second and I haven’t even said anything yet.

“Uh, hi, Ma’am, my name is Merlot. I’m a friend of Lacey’s. I heard she was here now, I was hoping maybe I could see her?”

Vanilla sneers and narrows her eyes, “I’m sorry. That isn’t possible. She isn’t here…”

“Oh did she go out? Or…”

“No, I think don’t you are quite understanding me here. She isn’t with us anymore…”

WAM, just like that, I am knocked backwards off my berry butt, “What?! No!” I whine. “No that can’t be. She was fine, the doctors-”

“The doctors had no business telling you anything,” Vanilla interrupts, completely unfazed by my outburst of broken sobs.

“No! NO! NO!” I whimper, I can barely stay on my feet. “When?!”

“Two nights ago,” she says.

“NO,” I shake my head, “NO NO NO!!”

Sighing with deep seeded annoyance, Vanilla crosses her arms over her chest, “Where were you when she could have used you, huh? I’m assuming you knew where she was going.”

“Yes, but-”

“But nothing, now she’s gone, and we have no one to thank but you,” she hisses.

My knees buckle and I fall to the porch, “No… I didn’t know. How could I know.”

Vanilla opens the door, stepping inside. I would like you off my property now, you’re leaking on my porch. *SLAM*

It take a few seconds for me to collect myself, and I end up running back to my car, like the heartbroken fool I am. Once inside I let loose with the worse sobs I have ever experienced. It hurts so much.

“Mother? Is someone here? I thought I heard voices.”

“No dear. No one. Back to bed with you. Go on.”

As creepy as it sounds, I spend the first night in Lacey’s room. I can’t seem to stomach sleeping alone at my place and it somehow brings me comfort, being near her, in some crazy messed up way that only makes sense to me. Her room mate doesn’t even question it, so I am thankful for that.

Night after night, I sleep, wake up, cry, sleep some more. I barely eat and my coursework is in no other words but non existent. Turq stops by from time to time, but I hardly acknowledge his presence. I am in a spiraling pit of despair, and the only one who could get me out it, can’t, because she isn’t here anymore.

The pain in my chest is my constant companion now. He and I are one, though that doesn’t make him any easier to take. I wish the pain would stop, I wish I could move on, like Turq assures me I will. It isn’t happening though and at this point, I’m not sure it ever will.

On the one week anniversary, I find myself waking up just before 1 am with the worst pains yet. Clutching my chest, I roll out of bed, dragging myself to the bathroom. I splash cold water around my face and neck, trying relieve the horrible awful feeling surging through me. It’s not until I look up that I notice how pale I am. The lack of food is also starting to takes it toll and I almost throw up when I notice how much my cheeks have sunken in.

I should be scared, I know that, but somehow I’m not. Maybe I’ll finally be relieved of all this pain. The others around me however, are much less optimistic. My and Aunt and Turq both press upon me I need to go to a doctor, but I don’t. In an effort to ease their worry, I do try to eat better, but it doesn’t seem to help.

Finally after a huge blowout with Turq, he forces me into the passenger seat of his car, which doesn’t really take all that much effort. Driving toward the FF general, I shake my head, “No, if I’m going, I want to see Dr. M.”

Turq stares straight ahead, making a quick adjustment that will lead us back to Sugar Valley, “I don’t care where I have to take you, as long as you go.”

After preforming every test he can think of, Dr. M sends me to a small room to wait. He says some results usually take a few days, but something about my appearance makes him feel the need to rush everything.

Quietly I wait for that medical courtesy knock, before he enters. Scratching the back of his head, he sits at the computer with a handful of files, “Well your results are in, but I am more than a little puzzled by their findings.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, according to all these tests, you’re fine, better than fine. A man at his healthiest peak. You’re a little underweight, but that by itself isn’t what concerns me. It’s your heart.”

“My heart?” I ask, rubbing the ache in my chest.

“Now, I’m not going to get all cliche here and say your suffering from a broken heart, because that just doesn’t happen. Not to this extent anyways, but in my professional opinion, there is something at work here, something I can’t explain.”

I sit there for a moment, “What does that mean?” I laugh.

“I don’t know. I have no idea what’s happening. How long has this been happening? Were there other signs? Heart palpitations  or pains, stabbing sensations, shortness of breath?”

Sinking lower in my chair, I feel waves of nausea and dread wash over me, “What about all of the above?” I ask solemnly.

He shakes his head with confusion, “Still doesn’t add up. There should be physical signs in your body, but there’s not. It’s like your heart is just giving up and I’m not sure what can be done about it.”

“So what do I do?” I ask.

Dr. M lowers his gaze, staring over the rim of his glasses, “Well we have a couple options. Seeing, there is no way to really know, when it will happen. We can either set you up here, or I can send you home with pain medication, which should help a little, but if this is the cause of your weight loss, and you continue to lose, it could complicate things. Are you eating?”

“I’m trying to now,” I tell him.

“Good, you need to do that. It will help, but seeing this has no real medical basis, it is hard to prescribe anything, other than to help with pain. I’m so sorry.”

I nod, since most of this I already knew, but thinking it, and knowing it’s true, are two totally different things. I think seeing Turq and the others’ faces, is what upsets me most as I stand up on shaky legs. Shaking the doctors hand, I take my leave, “Uh thanks, I really appreciate all you have done.”

“Please take care of yourself, and call me if things change.”

The very next afternoon Turq drives me, my car, and all my things back to Fondant Fields. Auntie welcomes me inside with a hug, but doesn’t seem all that worse for the wear. Taking my things upstairs, I fall into bed for another nap. I am under strict orders to get as much rest as possible, but there is something that must be done. A couple days after the move, I request to have my room painted. Aunt Claret doesn’t quite understand, but she tentatively agrees. I refuse to die surrounded by all that hideous wallpaper and in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t all that big of a request.

It takes me about a day with her help to strip the walls and throw on a nice coat of paint. The pain meds are helping immensely, which is good, it means I can actually go out now and again, though, most of the time I don’t.”

It’s a Thursday after lunch, when I receive a frantic call from Turq. I barely have the phone to my ear when I hear him screaming into it, “DUDE, OH MY BERRY DUDE, Okay you’re not gonna believe this. OH MAN. OH MAN.”

“What?” I ask, not really caring about the answer.

“Okay. Okay. Um, I was out today, you see and there was this couple and they stopped me on the street to ask how you were doing. I don’t even know how they knew, I knew you, but then they explained that they were Lacey’s adoptive parents or something.”

“Bud and Roze…”

“YES! Well anyways, I told them you took a turn for the worse after Lacey died, and you know that they said?!”

I sigh, “What?” again, I really don’t care to hear the answer.

“She ain’t dead man.”

“What? No, her mother said-

“Yeah I told them that and they totally lost it right then and there. The guy, Bud, was it, his face turned red like a turnip and he started cussing her out. It was insane!”

Tears cloud my eyes as I grip the phone tighter, “So she’s alive? She’s okay?”

“Yeah, man she’s fine.”

I hang up the phone without another word, falling into bed. Feelings of relief battle with all the hurt and confusion rolling inside of me. She’s okay. She’s okay.

Unfortunately, now I’m not…

After wrestling with all the thoughts ravaging my mind, something strikes me and I roll out of bed. Dialing my phone, I call Turq back.

“Yo, man, what it is?”

“When you talked to Bud and Roze, you didn’t actually them I was dying did you?”

“Why was I not supposed to?”

Slowly my phone falls to my side, before I pick up again, after hearing Turq mutely chattering on the line, “Dude! Why wasn’t I supposed to tell them?!” he shouts.

I squeeze the bridge of my nose, “It’s just if they know, they will probably tell her and I don’t want her to see me like this.”

“You lost me…”

“You wouldn’t under-

“Merlot…?”

Turning around slowly, I find Lacey standing just inches away from me. Everything inside me sings and screams in unison, but something holds us where we stand, cautiously watching the other.

I’m the first to speak, “Hello.”

“Hi,” she says, through broken sniffles. “I um, heard today that…” she bites her lip, “Is it true?”

I nod.

Lacey falls to the floor in a sobbing mess, causing me to race after her, “OH BERRY, MERLOT! What have I done!?”

Pulling Lacey next to the bed, I draw her into my arms. It’s safe to say we are both crying by this point, though her sobs are much louder and harder for me take, “I’m sorry!!” she wails. “I’ve been so selfish!”

I try pulling her closer, but can’t, “It’s okay.” I tell her quietly, doing my best to sound soothing.

“Noooo,” she whimpers, “I’ve messed up everything! All I ever worried about was me. If I was going to get hurt, if I fell too hard, what would happen. I pushed you away and said the most awful things to do it! I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean any of it! I love you! I have from the moment I saw you coming across the grass that day. I put my hand down there! I made you step on it! But then… once I had you, I got scared. I swore after Bubbie died, I would never fall in love again, but then you came along and I never stood a chance! I tormented and teased and I’m an awful person for it!”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, yes I am! I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle it, if something happened to you, that I pushed you away, never considering how you felt! After the accident, I could hardly breathe without you, but I managed to convince myself you were better off! You can’t leave me! I have to make this right! PLEASE!”

“Baby, I wish I could…”

“NOOOOOO!”

Stroking her hair, it’s much coarser than I remember, and it’s either grown out a lot, very quickly, or it’s a wig, “I’m here now. You’re here now. That’s all that matters anymore.”

“What can I do. Please tell me what you need from me?”

With her cheek resting close to my chest, I kiss the top of her head, “I just want to go home.”

Lacey get’s to her feet, helps me to mine, and then throws her arms over my shoulders, squeezing so tightly, that I feel muscles tensing through her shirt, “Okay,” she says softly. “Okay.”

“I love you, Lace.”

“I love you, so, so much.”

Packing up a few of my things, I figure I won’t be needing much, Lacey and I drive across town to her house on the hill. We could have just as easily moved her in with me, but she and I both agreed it will be way more fun to torment her mother during the short time I have left.

Up in her room, Lacey shuts the door, before pulling me into another hug. I can hear her beginning to cry again, so I lift her chin, peering directly into those eyes I’ve missed so much, “No tears, not yet.” I say quietly.

Lacey wipes a stray tear from her cheek and tries to smile, “Yup,” she says with a sniff.

I look to the walls currently surrounding us in a beautiful soft purple, “Love what you’ve done with the place. Purple walls, I’m sure your mother just loved that.”

“Hahah! Yeah, I’ve done a lot of things in the past few days that she isn’t too crazy about.”

“Is this one of them?” I ask, pushing a strand of hair over her ear.

“Yeah,” she nods.

“May I?” I ask.

She nods again.

Carefully Lacey takes a few pins from her hair, and then nods to give me the go ahead. Slowly I remove the blue, dropping it to the floor. Left in it’s place is short, snow white fuzz. She clutches at the back of her head, “It’s awful,” she says sticking out her tongue.

I shake my head with a smile, “Still perfect.” I tell her.

Lacey smiles and I pull her in for a kiss. It’s the first since the horrible night, that now seems so long ago. I’ve been craving this moment since we parted and now that we’re here, I can’t bring her close enough.

As our kissing continues, hunger replaces the sweetness as we inch closer to the bed, losing articles of clothing, one by one. Once we’re beside the bed, Lacey pulls away abruptly, “Maybe we shouldn’t,” she says breathlessly. “What if…”

I kiss her neck and feel her knees buckle as she hangs on for stability, “I promise I won’t leave you yet,” I whisper. “I’m okay.”

“Okay,” she breathes.

Love, fear and sadness fuel each move we make, kissing every inch of skin as if it might be our last chance. It’s over far too quickly, though no amount of time would ever be enough… we hold on, refusing to untangle our arms. Resting my head on her shoulder, I tell her everything. How much I love her, how much I’m going to miss her, how I wish we had all the time in the world to be just like this. She tries her best to smile, but I can see the tears she fights in her eyes, “You have to promise me something,” I tell her.

“What?” she sniffs.

“You have to be strong for the both of us. I could never live without you, but you gotta live without me. You’re so much stronger than I ever was.”

Lacey closes her eyes and takes a deep breath as the tears start to roll,”I will… For you.”

It’s a warm Sunday morning when the young woman and child, walk along the cement. Bare feet and tinier bare feet make their way to the grass. This has been a weekly ritual since his passing. Not much is said but the woman likes to tell stories about their daughter, things that would only matter to a father. They laugh and sometimes even play games together.

It gets easier as time passes, but the longing never subsides. He had warned her that one day he might not be there, she never realized how true his words actually were.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” My body jolts me forward, crying out in pain! Cold sweat covers my entire back as my body racks with sobs. Oh it hurts so much. My breathing is so labored, I have to check my pulse to make sure, I’m not having heart attack. It was awful, so awful… I can hardly see through all the tears in my eyes.

Just as I think I’ve gathered myself my phone rings out and I fall out of bed with a thud. WAAHHHHOOOF…

Crawling to the table,I reach my hand up, feeling for my phone. Once I have it I answer, getting to my feet, “H-hello?”

“Hey Fair. It’s me.”

“Hey,” I say with a sniff.

“GEEZE are you alright? It’s sounds like you’ve been crying. What’s wrong?”

I look around the room, I’m back surrounded by familiar pink and I exhale deeply, “Just a really bad dream.”

“Oh, do you want me to call back or…”

“No. I think I’m gonna be okay. What’s up?”

“Well, alright okay…before you say no. I have this cousin, and I think you guys would be super cute together-”

“TURQ!” I blurt out.

“Yeah how’d you guess?”

“Yes, I’ll go.”

“Hahaha wow that was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Alright then, how’s next Saturday?”

“Um yes! Good.”

“Alright hahaha, I’m gonna let you go. You take it easy you hear?”

“Uhh yeah, I’ll try.”

Hanging up the phone, I feel almost sea sick. This is way too much stress for one soul to handle. Is this a vision of the inevitable, or this somehow something I can change? Should I call him… sugar, I don’t have his number. I could get Turq’s number and call him that way. No, there must me another way. Ughh I think I’m going to be sick. Folding my legs beneath me, I fall to the floor with a thud. Leaning against the wall I welcome the cool sensation it provides. I look to the ceiling for answers, think Fair, you gotta do this just right, or else… a hiccuping sob erupts from my throat.

No. No I won’t let that happen.

Blind Sided: Chapter 22

I don’t sleep at all that night, and when I finally do, the dreams I suffer through are almost too much to take. With a jolt I wake in the early hours of the morning, roll out of bed and find my way to the coffee shop. I have every intention of buying something, but my legs make it as far as the first table, before dropping me like a stone into it.

I’ve never been much for emotions, Lacey seems to pull it out of me, but before her, I hardly ever strayed from my playful funny self. I wish I could cry, it would probably hurt less. Lower and lower my head sinks to the table before it makes a quiet thud. The scene plays over and over and I’m pleading with my mind to turn off the film. I know how bad it was, I don’t want to see it again. A foolish part of me is hopeful, that after she thinks, she will realize, just how silly this all has been. Maybe she will see how happy we could be. The last few months, even with our slight hiccups, were amazing.

Suddenly a couple of students walk through the door, passing just over my shoulder, “Did you hear what happened this morning?” asks the ones.

“No what?” asks the other.

“Huge mess at SV City hall. Cop cars, ambulances everywhere.”

“What?!”

“Yeah I don’t know. Some protest I guess. Way too many people showed up and then it all just hit the fan. Took a few away, few others didn’t make it all.”

“Dude that’s nuts.”

I jump up from the table with a surge of adrenaline.  Running under the entryway I practically tackle the two at the counter, “What happened?!” I asked frantically.

Both stare at me with wide eyes as I clutch the one guy’s shoulder, “I don’t really know. The Green Line is over at the stadium right now, broadcasting about it. I heard it from him.”

Without another word, I bolt out the door, running as fast I can to the stadium. The campus isn’t that big, but it seems to go on for miles as I tear across. When I see The Green Line, I manage to pick up more speed, not stopping until I’m right in front of him. “What happened at the protest?!” I sputter, barely able to breathe.

“Oh it was awful. There was close to 500 people there!”

“But what happened?!”

“A fight broke out, then more got involved. It turned into a mad house. A stage collapsed it just went south man, I don’t know what to tell you.”

I took a deep breath for my next question, “They said some didn’t make it. Who were they?”

“I don’t know. A couple of guys near where the trouble started.”

I’m almost hysterical when I hear the word guys, “Guys, so no girls?”

“No, just two guys. Jack something and I don’t know the other guys name yet. My reports are still coming in.”

Relief floods as me as I take out my phone, “Okay thank you.”

“Yeah no prob man. Stay tuned, I’ll have more info through out the day. Plug in my station. AM 321.”

I nod, as I dial, “Okay I will,” I tell him.

The phone rings once, goes to her voice mail, and just like that the worry is reignited in my gut, “Uh hi Lace it’s me,” my voice begins to shake, “I heard some stuff went down at city hall… I just…. please if you’re okay. Please call me. I’m going out of my head with worry. I love you… bye.”

Trying to cultivate a false sense of calm, I slowly walk to Lacey’s dorm. I’ll just wait there and eventually she will come home, she’s fine. She’s fine, I tell myself. I wait for several hours, but there is no sign of Lacey. Her room mate happens by but she hasn’t seen her either. Sitting on the edge of Lacey’s bed, I take out my phone, dialing into the mini radio. The station crackles and spits until I land directly on 321 AM.

“Uhhh hello hello, this is Green Line reporting live. You’re all day coverage of what’s important to you. Not much information has been given, but from the few eye witness I have spoken too, the entire community of Sugar Valley is at a loss. There hasn’t been this big of an uproar since the Bitters scandal. I do have reports coming in that several unidentified persons have been taken to Wildberry Hospital. So if you were looking to send condolences or flowers, that is where they are. Alright the weather today is look-

I flip off the radio again, shaking my head with a disappointment. What if she is one of them? What if she isn’t? She’d probably think I was a paranoid weirdo, but if something really is wrong, how can I just leave her there? I push from the bed, there is only one way to know for sure.

When I get to the hospital downtown, I’m quickly informed that I’m at the wrong one, “They are at the new hospital, across town, ” says a woman behind the computer.

“Okay, thank you!” I take off like a shot, trying to find the new hospital. It doesn’t take me long thank sweetness, a giant building in the middle of nowhere is pretty hard to miss. Rushing up to the desk, I am greeted a by a couple of nurses, that I quickly unload on, “Hi yes, I’m here about the people, from the accident. I heard they came here.”

The man in front of me nods solemnly, “Yes, sir.”

“Was there, is there a Lacey Licious?”

The man scans his computer, “Normally we can’t give out this information, but this is a bit of a special case. No, Lacey Licious.”

I exhale out in relief, but something hits me in the very next second, “What about Chiffon? Chantilly Lace Chiffon?”

The man scans the computer, silent for a moment, “Yes, she’s on the third floor.”

“Okay thank you!” I say, running for the elevator.

A woman shouts, calling me back “Oh hang on!” she says. “You can’t go up there. Authorized personnel and family only. My insides are slowly making a mangled mess of my emotions, to me she is like family, but I guess that isn’t good enough.

I stop, “Is she? Is she goin to make it?”

“We are hopeful,” says the woman with the clipboard. “I’m sorry I can’t say much else.”

Angrily gritting my teeth, the tears I’ve been fighting with, start to roll. The woman with the clipboard directs me to a waiting room at the end of the hall. There are few others in waiting, all of which are my age or younger. This must be the fallout, I tell myself, as the nurse guides me. You can wait here,” she says.

Nodding in a sniffled breath I thank the woman, before finding an empty seat. Near a table in the corner, I spy one, so I walk up to the girl sitting beside it, “Is this taken?” I ask.

The girl looks up to me with red puffy eyes and shakes her head, “No.”

“Okay,” I take the seat, as the girl keeps her watch on me, “Are you here with someone she asks with sniff? “From the…” her voice breaks off as if she just jumped into a cavernous pit.

I nod, “You?”

The girl looks straight ahead, “My girlfriend,” she says. “They aren’t sure she’s gonna make it. Berry, why did she have to go?! I told her it was dangerous!”

I wanna reach out because I feel this girls pain, but I don’t feel it’s my place, so I grip my knees instead, “I’m sorry,” is all I manage to say.

After a couple hours of crying and napping, I see a couple of familiar faces rush in the door. My lip refuses to stop it’s trembling as I close the gap between us.

“Oh sweetie,” Roze whimpers, “Come here.”

My feet lead directly to her, before my body collapses in her arms, “How is she?” I ask worriedly.

“We don’t know,” she replies sadly. “We aren’t allowed in. Only her mother goes in to see her.”

“It isn’t fair!” I croak.

“I know, I know,” Her voice tries to shield me from her brokenhearted disappointment, but there’s too much there to ignore.

“She just an evil old witch, who care about no one but herself,” Bud spouts in an explosion of anger. I pull away, just as Roze gives Bud the look, “Bud, don’t be mean.”

“Well it’s true,” he huffs. “We’re more her family than she ever was.”

“Well, legally we’re not and this is her way of proving that, I’m afraid.”

“Selfish old bat.”

“BUD!”

Roze clicks her tongue at Bud, “Don’t be unkind, Nilla’s fear is real and perhaps even more so, because she’s…” Looking around, she checks to see if anyone is listening, before whispering to me, “One bushel short of a full berry basket.”

Normally that would be just the kind of thing to get a laugh out of me, but nothing is funny that day.

“Bat sugar insane, like I said,” says Bud in agreement.

Roze shakes her head and then gently takes hold of my shoulders, “How you holding up sweetheart?”

“It hurts,” I tell her.

“I know it does,” she says comfortingly, “but she needs you to be strong right now. Are you eating? You better be taking care of yourself.”

My gaze lowers, as I shake my head.

“Well you march yourself up to the cafeteria this instant. Here,” she starts to hand me a 5$, but I decline. “I’ve got it. Thank you though,” I tell her politely.

“Alright, well you take care of yourself, we have to take off.”

I wave to them both, before heading up stairs, “I’ll try.”

Even though I go upstairs, I have no intention of buying anything, but by the time I reach the cafeteria, my stomach is growling louder than I can ignore. Saddling up to one of the vending machines with actual food, I pour over way more options than someone in my state can handle.

Well, as I’m standing there, a man, actually the man from the front desk, walks up to the machine beside me. Punching in an order of numbers, he begins to speak, his attention never strays from straight ahead, “You’re here for patient Chiffon,”  he says.

My ears perk, “Um yes, how is she?”

“You did not hear this from me, do you understand?”

“Yes,” I lean down in the machine to grab my food. Preparing to buy something else if need be, I study the numbers before me.

“She came in unconscious, hasn’t woken up yet. It’s really touch and go right now. It could be weeks, if it all,” he says gravely.

I feel myself slipping off the planet and I swallow hard, “Thank you. So much. Thank you.”

“No reason to thank me, I didn’t do anything.”

“Oh right,” I take my food and sit at a table near the wall, tears follow soon after. Oh Lacey baby. Why is this happening?”

Seven days pass and I’ve taken up permanent residence in a waiting room chair. Only going home when I’m forced, I come back a few hours later, waiting for tiny bits of information from the rebellious intern, who seems to have taken a shine to me. Lacey is not doing any better, but she isn’t doing any worse either. The intern calls it, “promising.”

I call it, debilitating.

It’s late on a Saturday night when the intern slips into the chair beside me. I am completely passed out when I hear his familiar voice in my ear, “Hey, in one hour, come up to the third floor and bring this,” He slips a pass into my hand, then stands up quickly. I look over the pass, it says one day visitor and has an authentic looking stamp in the corner with today’s date. I grip it tightly to my chest. A single hour never felt so long.

When I get up to her room, the intern swiftly let’s me inside, “You have twenty minutes and then I have to come get you,” he says quietly. “I’m sorry, I wish I could give you longer, but…”

“It’s fine,” I tell him. “I can’t explain how much this means to me.”

“I think I have an idea,” he says, closing the door.

Left in the room alone, I can see Lacey in the bed. My rib cage and the heart contained inside it, sting with fierce stabbing pains. I rub my chest nervously approaching the bed, “Lace? Baby, it’s me.”

She doesn’t move, and I can barely see her breathing. If it weren’t for the noises from the machines around her, it would be hard to tell, one way or the other. Her hair is short, like a outgrown out shave. The world crashes down around my feet. She looks so ghostly pale, and the sight of her paralyzes me with crippling sadness, “Oh Lace.”

Grabbing a chair, I slide it close to her bedside, before checking my watch, five minutes have already been wasted. I have to make the next fifteen count.

“Lace, I’m not sure if you can hear this, but I’m gonna say it anyways. I don’t really know what happened with us, but I do know, since you’ve been gone, I’ve never been lonelier.  I thought I had already hit the bottom of that barrel, but I was wrong. I miss you so much angel. So if you can come back to us… you should do that. We aren’t allowed to come and visit, I’m not really supposed to be here. So, while I am, let me say, meeting you was the greatest moment of my life and nothing will ever top it. You’ve taught me to be a loving, and caring person and now it seems I’ll never be able thank you enough for it. Please, please if you can, please come back to us. We need you. All of us. Bud, Roze, me… I don’t think I can do this without you….

And if this is goodbye, I want you to know, I’ll never forget you, I couldn’t if I tried.”

Blind Sided: Chapter 21

‘Looks like the snow is beginning to thaw. I don’t think you’ll need your shoes much longer. Would you believe someone made an igloo out here! Text me later. K?’

‘Broke my glasses at class tonight. Lost my spare lenses. Flying blind. Gonna stop by after my appointment in the AM. Miss you. P.S. Turq’s fish died. RIP Lil guy.’

‘Guess I missed you. Your piece is looking amazing! Hope we can talk soon.’

‘Going to bed now, hope you don’t think I’m mad at you, or maybe you’re mad at me? Please call soon okay? Goodnight Lace.’

By the end of night five, my sense of dread is overwhelming. It would seem our argument isn’t as over as I thought it was. I try not send her more than a text or two a day, but the need to hear back from her is killing me. It’s a bit frighting to me that I feel actual pain in her absence, and nothing I do seems to help. So I go to bed, when all else fails, sleep. That’s been my motto for a very long time.

Couple hours in, and my phone rings. Yanking the phone off my shelf, I answer it at neck break speed, “Hello!?”

“HEY! Bud,” Turq, shouts, after a loud clatter, that I can only assume comes from him dropping the phone.

“Oh, hey,” I reply flatly.

Turq’s words are coming out in slurred shreds and it takes me less than a second to figure out he’s juiced, “You know if you, if you, keep answering the phone like, well… I’m just gonna stop callin!”

“Where are you?” I ask worriedly.

“My cousins!” he blurts out. “Listen buddy, guess what. I’ve got a date, this Saturday. My cousin finally convinced me to go with her friend. She says she’s really pretty, super funny, and I want, I want, you and Lacey to come.”

“Yeah, I don’t see that happening,” I answer dryly.

“You have to! I need support! You owe me!”

“Look I would! But Lacey isn’t-

“Just ask her! Send a text right now and say. ‘Turq is desperate. Needs our help. Hot Date. Moral Support. You in?’

“Yeah…”

“Did you get that?!”

“Yeah, I got it.”

“Alright. Message me back.”

“Yup.”

Hanging up the phone, I stare at it for a full minute, while I decide if I’m really going to do it. I’m not sure if my heart can take another rejection, but it can’t hurt to try, right? Typing up exactly what Turq dictated, I take a deep breath and send.

A few minutes later, I get a reply back.

‘I’m in.’

“Is she here?” Turq asks nervously. “I don’t think she’s here. Is she here?”

Lacey giggles and I playfully pull her in a little closer, “He’s a bit jumpy,” she tells me into my ear. I nod, holding my index finger and thumb close together. Lacey giggles again, “It’s adorable,” she says.

From the time I picked her up, to now, Lacey is back to her normal amazing self. I have no idea what happened during those five days, but even as pathetic as I know it is, I don’t care. We’re here and she’s all smiles, so I’m happy.

“Don’t worry!” I call out to Turq’s tense shoulders. “No one has come through that door. I’m sure if a “funny, pretty girl walks in, we’ll see her.”

“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Turq murmurs. “Wait! Is that her!”

My eyes almost bug out of my head when I see her. Quickly I try to reel it back in, unfortunately I’m not quick enough. Lacey catches it all and soon her eyes are bigger than mine. It’s her, Turq’s date is my dream girl. The pink princess. This can’t be real, I tell myself. Lacey looks up at me with the most shocked expression I’ve ever seen. “Is that?” she whispers.

With wide eyes, I nod.

Walking up, the girl in pink, smiles and waves to me and Lacey before approaching Turq. “You must be Turq,” she says sweetly.

Turq jumps forward throwing out his hand, “Yes! That’s me!” he replies, shaking her hand. “And you’re Fairy.” 

Fairy nods.

She has a name and that name is Fairy.

“Oh and these are my friends, “Merlot and his girlfriend Lacey.”

“Hello,” says Fairy.

Lacey waves nervously, “Hello.”

“Uh, hi.”

Being in the same room with Fairy seems surreal and I can’t help but watch her with egregious curiosity. Lacey catches me now and again and I feel guilty each time it happens. She sounds different than I expected, but looks exactly how I remember. A funny feeling jumps around in my stomach and it’s hard to tell what it actually means. I have a thousand thoughts running through my mind and no one is safe.

After 20 minutes, Lacey places her hand on the table. Reaching out with mine, I give her hand a squeeze. A rush of warmth surges up my arm and a second later Fairy laughs from across the table. The room is suddenly stuffy and I can hardly breathe. This too much to process. Pressing myself from the table, I excuse myself to the bathroom. I need a moment…

“Are you alright?” Lacey asks, as I head for the stairs.

“Fine,” I tell her with a smile, “I’ll be right back.”

Stumbling into the bathroom, I lean against the sink. Turning on the cold water, I let it run before splashing some on my face. I have got to get a grip. I just smoothed things over with Lacey, if she gets the wrong idea, it could ruin-

“Merlot?”

Spinning around, I find Fairy standing near the door and I swear my stomach tries to jump out my throat, “What are you doing in here!?” I ask her in a hushed whisper.

Fairy steps away from the door, “I’m sorry, but I need to talk to you. It’s important.”

I shake my head, “No, I can’t. You gotta get out of here. I need to go.”

“NO MERLOT WAIT.”

A random patron walks in the door and my worst fears are being recognized, ” I have to go.”

“No wait! Please!”

“No I’m sorry. I need to get back to Lacey and you should go back to Turq.”

“But you don’t understand, Merlot-

Opening the door I step into the hallway, trotting back upstairs. This is bad. This is so bad. If Lacey thinks… I don’t even want to think about what Lacey would think.

When I get back, I throw a 20$ on the table, before turning to Turq. “I’m sorry man, I gotta go. Good luck with your date.”

“Merlot?” Lacey stands up from the table, “What’s wrong?”

“I need to go,” I tell her.

“Okay, I’m coming.”

I nod and she gathers her things.

Fairy is rushing back to the table as we head down the stairs. Once outside, Lacey pulls me by the arm, “What are you doing?” she asks.

“I need to go.” I tell her.

“But we can’t leave now,” she says urgently. “You have to talk to her.”

“Why would I want to do that?” I ask her incredulously. 

“How can you not be curious. This is the girl you dreamed about all your life.”

My body flinches. I hate the words and how they sound on her lips. They aren’t fair to her, how can one compete with a dream girl? She isn’t saying this directly, but I can sense it in her tone.

“What if she dreamed about you too. Like the park. You dreamed about that and it was real. Now she is real too. Aren’t you the least bit curious? What if you were right, what if she’s the one.”

I stop, looking up to the sky. With a lick of my lips, I shake my head, “She isn’t the one…. YOU ARE. Berry, Lace, how can you not get that!? Everything I do, is for you. I practically grovel at your feet on a daily basis and now, now your just going to push me off on someone else?! Why I am not good enough for you! What it’s gonna take! HUH!”

“Merlot, it’s not like that,” she says softly.

“Well what is it like then?!” I’m trying so hard to keep my cool, but I don’t think I have ever felt so heartbroken in my life. “You like me, then you don’t. We make love and then you ignore me for days! I can’t do this anymore, Lace! I have never wanted anything in my life more than you, but I can’t handle this! It hurts too much!” I croak.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “You’re right. Maybe, maybe we should stop. Maybe we should end it.”

Fear rips through me, no, please, this isn’t happening, “I don’t want to end it.” I tell her frantically. “I want you to love me, the way I love you! Why is that so hard? I know you feel it, I see you trying to get through, but then something pulls it all back in. Are you scared? Is that what this is? Is this because of Bubbie?”

“Stop it!” she screams.

“Nothing is going to happen! I’m not going to die in some horrible accident. We’d be fine. You just gotta trust me!”

Lacey covers her ears, “NO!”

“No one is asking you to be a martyr!”

“I don’t have to listen to this,” she growls. Turning on her heels, she heads for the road.

“Where are you going?!” I call after her.

“I have to go.”

“Please don’t! Please! Lace, please come back!”

“I need to sleep. I’m going to the protest.”

I jog after her, grabbing her arm, “What protest?”

“Sweetness, Merlot, do you have to know everything!? There’s a protest tomorrow, a big one. There is a bill passing and it is going to directly siphon funds from Sugar Valley. They’re planning on closing the pier. Is that enough info for you!?”

“Why are you being like this? What happened to you? What aren’t you telling me?!” My words are getting desperate and I can hear it, but I continue pushing anyways.

Lacey stops, “You want to know?”

“Yes… please.”

“I’ll tell you then,” she takes a steadying breath, “I know more about your pink princess than you think I do. I know about your dreams, I know about your vow to find her. How no other girl but her ever mattered to you.”

“How…?”

“Victoria told me. She said you practically live and breathed for her. Kinda like now, so I can’t help but wonder, am I just a replacement? Second best? Your silver medal?”

Pain stabs into my chest, causing me to cough,”That was a long time ago! All of that changed when I met you. She WAS what I wanted! But now I want, no, I need you! Lacey please!”

She shakes her head, “There’ll always be that doubt, did you make the right decision.”

“There isn’t any doubt! I love you! Please don’t do this,” I beg. “We can work this out.”

“You’d be better off with her, she would treat you better. I just make a mess of things.”

“Love doesn’t work that way,” I reply sadly.

“I just need some time to think,” she says walking away again.

The tears are threatening to fall, but I manage to keep them at bay,”One of these times, you’re gonna walk away, and I won’t be there when you get back.”

Lacey stops, pauses for a fraction of a second and then pushes on.

“Enjoy your stupid protest!”

 

Blind Sided: Chapter 20

It takes over a week for me to kick the deadlies, which means I’m well and on my feet, just in time for Valentines day. Lacey arrives bright and early with a hand full of stuff including a blanket and a basket. Holding out her hand, she waits for me to give over the car keys. We load the car quickly and then we are off. It doesn’t take me long to figure out where we are going. I know my directions pretty well, but I pretend like I’m being blindly lead to points unknown.

When we drive under the Sugar Valley welcome arch, she tells me to close my eyes, which I do. Sending the seat back to its reclining position, I rest my arm over my face. When the car comes to its final stop, Lacey jumps out, runs to the trunk and grabs the basket and blanket, “Stay here! and don’t look!”

“Alright,” I chuckle.

As soon as her back is turned, I sit up and watch as she jogs down the hill. Stopping when she hits the sand, Lacey waits a few seconds before pressing on slower and a little more deliberate, “She’s scared.” I tell myself. I unbuckle my belt to go after her, but she is already heading back, so quickly I slide back down below the window level.

Lacey comes to my door to retrieve me, and throws her hands over my eyes. “What have you got planned missy?”

“I can’t tell you,” she says eagerly. “You’ll see! Just keep walkin.”

“Well this is a surprise,” I tell her as we take a seat on the blanket. There are a few items spread out near the basket, but the one that catches my eye is the cake, “What’s this?”

Lacey grins, sliding the rainbow cake closer to us, “I told you, I was going to make you a cake. There will be no missed birthdays on my watch!” Diggin through the basket, she finds two candles and sets them in the center and holds up the dish, I laugh. “Aren’t you forgetting something.”

She shakes her head, “Allas no, I packed everything and still forgot the matches. You’re gonna have to pretend… so make a wish and none of that cheesy ‘it all already came true’ junk, I wanna see a real wish in those eyes!”

I think for a moment, make my wish and blow out the pretend candles. Lacey sets down the platter and claps, “Yay! That was a good one, I can tell.”

“Oh you think so?” I ask jokingly.

“Oh I know so. You see, I am a professional wish foreseer and mind reader.”

In one sweeping motion, I push the basket out of the way and playfully pin Lacey down to the blanket, “What am I thinking now?”

Lacey’s breath hitches in her throat, “I uh, well, let’s see here,” she pauses and then grins devilishly, “Why Merlot that is so inappropriate for a public beach.”

Both laughing, we pull together for a kiss, and slowly it turns into something much more sensual. It’s a good thing we have the umbrella, because the kind of kissing going on, is not something I would want to see when I’m out and about. Every single time our lips meet, I have to remind myself it’s real. We’re really here together and for those few moments, the people, the crashing waves, everything disappears. When the kiss ends, I find myself unable to pull back, so I stay there for a few moments, “So the beach huh.”

Lacey nods her head, “Didn’t expect that did you?”

“Not really no. I thought you were terrified of the water.”

She looks back over her shoulder toward the waves, “Oh I’m scared alright, but this is all part of the process, I’m trying to work past things that scare me,” with deliberate intention, her eyes lock with mine and I get the feeling, her statement has a double meaning. “

“And how’s that process going?” I ask, swallowing nervously.

She pecks a kiss on my cheek, “Slow, but I think I’m moving in the right direction.”

After finishing our cake, Lacey slips our plates and other utensils back in the basket, before playfully hopping into my lap, “How are you enjoying your ValentinBirthdayday… wait I think I said day too many times,” she says, shaking her head.

With my hands rested on her hips, I look up into those crazy sparkles, she calls eyes. Each day we spend together, causes me to spiral further into cheesy expressions of adoration and I find it all strangely satisfying, “Greatest ValentinBirthdayday ever,” I answer.

Lacey grins, extremely pleased with my answer, “You know, you’re pretty amazing.”

“Not really.”

“Yes really. You give me this incredible sense of empowerment, like I could take on the world. How do you do that?”

“Wish I knew,” I tell her thoughtfully, “But if I had to guess, I would say it’s already inside, you just need help finding it.”

Satisfied with that answer as well, she starts to stand, “We should go swimming. I think I’m ready.”

Like an electrical shock to the system, a wave of panic, fires through my entire body and without thinking, causes my hands to fly up, gripping her wrists. I pull her gently back into my lap, “Whoa whoa, let’s slow down here. I think being this close to the ocean is enough for one trip.”

Lacey looks to the water, “Yeah, maybe you’re right. I don’t think even empowered Lacey it quite ready for that big of a step. Maybe next time old friend!” she calls out to the crashing waves.

“So what’d ya wish for?”

“I can’t tell you that, you of all people should know it won’t come true.”

“Oh I know that, I was just testing to make sure you knew that.”

“Uh huh, suuuure.”

“Come on, we have a couple more stops to make.”

Our next stop is Lacey’s favorite restaurant, which by extension, has quickly become mine too. I chuckle a bit when we get out of the car, because out of the all surprises of the day, this definitely isn’t one of them, “Spitfire. How did I guess?”

“You had to have seen this coming,” she says playfully.

I nod, “I think I would have been more surprised if we hadn’t come.”

Skipping up to the window, Lacey puts in her ridiculous long order followed my super simple one. It’s best to get the hard stuff out of the way first, which we have learned over the countless times we’ve eaten here.

Once we have our food, Lacey tears in as if she hasn’t eaten all day. Which besides the cake and the few snacks she had packed, she really hasn’t.

“It’s so beautiful here,” she says, taking another bite. “It never snows, it’s always comfortable, how does that work? We’re not that far from Fondant Fields, you know.”

“Just the way the climate works here, I guess,” Quickly I stuff my face with food, as I mentioned before, science was never my strong suit, so her guess is as good as mine.

“I’ve always wanted to live here, seems like the perfect place to grow old.”

“Would be pretty awesome,”

“I hear it’s pretty expensive though,” she informs me with a disappointed pout. “Don’t see it ever happening unless I became a world famous artist.”

“We could do it together,” the words come out and I am instantly regretting them. Shut your mouth Lo, please for the love of berry, keep it closed.

Lacey smiles nervously, “Maybe,” she says. “Maybe some day.”

Lacey seems in a hurry to get to our third destination, so we eat quickly and get back to the car. Nervously, she eyes me over the hood while fumbling with the keys. She smiles, so I smile back. Once we start driving, I realize I recognize this route a little too well, and as we head up the hill, I feel a gigantic lump forming in the back of my throat, “Lace…” I start slowly, “where are we going?”

“Please, don’t be mad,” she says.

Gripping the door handle, I consider for a moment how fast we are going and how much injury I might suffer if I just opened the door, tuck and rolled, “Why are we going there?” I ask, in a strained squeak.

“Please. don’t be mad, but I called her, last week.”

“You what!?”

Lacey bites her lip so hard, I’m certain she might just puncture a hole right through, “Truth is, I wasn’t at my folks, when you were sick. I went to see her.”

I drop my head in my hands, as my stomach spirals out of control, “Please tell me this isn’t happening.” If there is one person that can strike fear into my heart, it’s her.

Lacey places her hand on my knee sending a sensation of warmth surging through my body at the very worst possible time, “There’s no reason to be upset, she wants to see you.”

“Yeah right.”

For wanting to see me, her face sure doesn’t show it. Victoria answers the door and Lacey tries to push me forward, unfortunately my legs have turned to jelly and my feet seemed to be glued to the porch. “It’s alright,” Lacey whispers in my ear. “This will be good, I promise.”

Completely unconvinced I take a step forward, Victoria watches me the whole time, with that hateful gaze I’ve earned and now call my own. “Hey, Vic,” I stammer. “H-how are you?”

Standing with her hand rested on her hip, Victoria glowers at Lacey and then me, “I heard you have something you needed to talk to me about.”

Throwing a gaze over my shoulder, I can see Lacey’s expression sour from hopeful, to MAYDAY MAYDAY! ABORT MISSION! “I uh, well, maybe.”

“Well what is it?” she hisses.

How do you tell the one person you never should have hurt, you’re sorry, without it sounding pathetic? I think about the awful things I said in those final hours, the way her face dropped all expression. The blank stare as she set me out on the porch, with eerily calm movements. The desperate pounding on the door, as I begged for her to let me back in, crying and pleading, knowing full well, I didn’t deserve another chance.

“Look, I’m not going to stand here all night.”

“Okay, Victoria,” Lacey’s hand slides into mine and she gives it a squeeze, “I’m so sorry, for everything. I was young and stupid and I hurt the only person who ever really cared about me, and I’m sorry.You took care of me and you were…” I shake my head, “are my family. I’m so, so, sorry.”

“Sorry,” she laughs. “You’re sorry. Merlot you couldn’t even begin to understand the definition of sorry. You were a selfish child, who grew into a selfish teenager and I doubt anything has changed,” Victoria scowls at Lacey with narrowed eyes, “So you finally gave up on your pink princess…”

My heart stops in my chest, and the chances of me throwing up are steadily increasing. This is a nightmare. WHY DID SHE BRING ME HERE!?

“Word of advice ‘darlin’,” Vic is speaking directly to Lacey now, “I wouldn’t get too comfortable, if I were you. Now take him and get off my porch.”

Victoria storms in the house without another word, the door slams behind her, and we are left standing there with slacked jaws. As we walk back to the car defeated, i can feel my shame and embarrassment slowly turning to anger.

Once I get down the stairs, I storm for the car, realizing I don’t have the keys I make a jagged turn heading around to the passenger door.

“Merlot,” Lacey’s voice is strangled and broken. “I’m sorry.”

“Why would you bring me here?” I growl.

“I’m sorry, she seemed fine when I came to visit. She was looking forward to seeing you. I don’t…she just… Merlot please, I’m sorry. I thought I could help.”

“We need to go.”

Sadly Lacey nods, “Should I drive, or?”

“I don’t really care,” I tell her shortly. I’m pleading with myself for the anger to stop, but it just keeps seething. I don’t want to say anything I will regret, so I stop talking altogether. Just need to cool down, and this will all be fine. We’ll get off Vic’s porch and then we can forget any of this ever happened.

Driving back to campus, Lacey can barely keep her eyes on the road. Looking over to me in the passenger seat, she starts to come over the center line, “Watch the road, please.” I say shortly.

“Sorry,” she turns to the front again.

We drive in silence for several miles, and I can feel the anger subsiding. Lacey though, is beginning to sniffle and before long she’s crying. “Please talk to me,” she whimpers. “I’m sorry. Please, I’m so sorry.”

“Lacey, pull over.”

She sniffs in a hitched breath, pulling to the side of the road. As soon as we’re stopped, her crying erupts into loud painful sobs and I feel like the hugest idiot ever, “Lacey, baby, please don’t cry,” I tell her softly.

“I’m sorry!” she says. “I had no idea she was planning that! She seemed so sincere! I thought! I thought!”

Unbuckling my belt, I pull her close to me, burying my face in the top of her head. I can recall the last time we had to pull the car over and I can’t believe how much has changed since then, “It’s okay, I’m over it. Please don’t cry. It’s not worth it. I’m not worth it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too.”

“Sure I can’t talk you into staying over at my place.”

“Not tonight. I think I need a little time to… think about things.”

“Oh um, sure, yeah. It’s been a long night. That’s probably for the best.”

“Goodnight Merlot.”

“Goodnight Lace.”

“…… Love you.”

“Love you too.”

 

Blind Sided: Chapter 19

“Shut your face!” Turq shouts out. The room is practically empty, but he ducks his head anyways when looking to the barista. Sorry he mouths, the girl behind the counter shakes her head, then goes back to stocking. Leaning into the table, with a voice much quieter, he continues with disbelief, “She did not.” 

“She did,” I tell him proudly.

Turq shakes his head, “So you’re telling me that Lacey, our Lacey, asked you out for V day.”

I took a sip of mud and swallowed it down in a satisfying ah, berry this stuff is good, “Yup,” I answer, “But I don’t think I would consider her OUR Lacey…”

“You sure you didn’t imagine it.”

Silently recalling all the details I’ve withheld, I nod, “Pretty sure, yeah.”

“Man this is like… revolutionary. Who would have thought the ice box had a defrost button.” Turq scowls at my cup. “You know those things are bad for you. They call them mud, for a reason. Do you even realize how many shots of espresso are in that? One day you’re just gonna keel over from a heart attack.”

“I’m fully aware of what’s in here and lay of Lacey alright. She’s been through a lot.”

“Well maybe if you told me, I could better understand and then I could leave her alone.”

“Nope.”

“Awww come on man!”

“Oh don’t look now, but the ice queen commeth,” Turq says jokingly with a head nod directed to someone behind me. Joke or no joke, my heart begins beating erratically and the smile on my face is hard to conceal, not that I would want to. Before I have a chance to turn around Lacey is rounding my shoulder and as cheesy as it sounds, looking more beautiful than when I left her.

“Hey,” she says leaning in for a kiss.

“Hey,” I say back.

Looking over her shoulder, I catch Turq making the most ridiculous, “get some” face, so I close my eyes. A rush of intense memories, cause my legs to jelly-fy and it feels like I might just slip off my chair. Grateful to be sitting, I push a little deeper into the kiss before we release.

“How was class?” I ask, as she takes a seat, Turq continues to watch her, thankfully with a less creepy expression.

“Boring,” she says with a groan. “This art class is such a joke, but I need it. Even though I’m like way past where we are. Ughh… oh well,” she looks to my cup on the table. “How’s the mud today?”

“Slowly eating his insides.” Turq replies interrupting our moment.

Turning her toward Turq, Lacey smiles brightly, “Hello Turq.”

“Afternoon Miss Lacey,” he says politely. So politely my eyebrows lift in astonishment, “How are you today?”

“Fine, thank you,” she says. “How are you?”

“Great great,” Turq stands up and grabs his bag, “But I am late for class, so I better run.” I look to the clock, and there is almost forty minutes until his class, but I get it. “Take it easy man,” I tell him with wave.

“Yup. Catch you two later.”

Once we’re alone, Lacey sets her elbows on the table with hands clasped, like a boss about to let loose with a firing speech, “So I’ve been thinking,” she says slowly.

I swallow nervously, “Yes. What about?”

“This valentine thing,” she confesses with a frown. “I mean, I have no idea what we should do.”

Exhaling deeply, I release all the tension I’ve been holding on to. It’s going to take me a while to get past this separation anxiety I seem to have with her, “What ever you want darlin. I’m easy.”

“It just feels weird,” she says. “Like I’m commandeering this ship, without orders. Do you want to make the plans? I mean isn’t that the guys job?”

“It doesn’t have to be the guys job,” I tell her. “I think it’s sexy.”

Lacey grins, “Well I do have a couple ideas. Since I’ve been feeling adventurous and all, maybe…” she trails off and her eyes follow to the wall behind me. “Okay I’ve got it,” she says. “Yes! This is will be awesome!”

“Great! What is it?”

“I can’t tell you,” she says playfully, sticking out her tongue, “But dress for warm weather.”

I laugh again with growing excitement, “Alright. Is it the 14th yet?”

“Not yet!”

Talking for a few more minutes, I watch Lacey’s eyelids drooping further and further. She stands up, and I follow right behind, “I think I’ve my hit my limit today,” she says sleepily.

Pulling us into a hug, my arms draw her against my chest, “You should go rest then,” I tell her.

Still holding on, I feel her head resting into my shoulder, her body has relaxed a bit and I can tell she is taking a little break before gathering her strength to walk back across the campus. Since I have her there and we are basically alone, I whisper in her ear, “Love you.” 

My words evaporate in the space between us, as Lacey pulls back. She smiles softly and then kisses me, “I’ll see you later, okay?” she says to my chest.

“Alright,” I answer awkwardly, “Sleep well, Lace.”

Three days pass before I feel that scratchy feeling in the back of my throat. I kinda knew it was coming, but now that it’s here, I find I’m still not ready for it. A runny nose, sinus headache and the worst sore throat of my life, keep me from my classes. I swear I’ve gone through an entire roll of toilet paper and my nose can vouch for it as well.

Realizing this is what poor Lacey went through, I somehow feel worse. Heading to the bathroom just down from my door, I search out another roll of paper to steal. As I blow my nose for three hundredth time, my phone goes off.

‘Hey you. Everything alright?’

‘I think I’m dying.’ I type back.

‘Oh no you’re sick. I’ll be right over.’

‘No. I don’t want you to catch this again.’

‘Pshhh, not possible. I’m already on my way. See you soon :] ♥”

Barely making it back to my room, I fall into bed and with glasses still on, slipping into an exhausted sleep. My rest, if you can call it that, is tumultuous and uncomfortable, anxieties bubble to the surface leaving me constantly tossing and turning, trying to escape them. It’s hot, It’s cold, I’m under the covers and then back out again. A knock at the door wakes me, but I’m not conscious enough to answer.

“Merlot?” Lacey calls out softly from the end of the bed. “How are you feeling.”

“Murghhhhh,” I reply. “It feelb like my throab is on fire and my tonselb are trying to escabe.”

“Awww you poor thing,” she says sitting next to me. Reaching out her hand, she touches my forehead, “You’re really warm,” she informs me getting up again. “I’m going to get you a wet washcloth.”

Nodding slowly, I hear her motions still for a moment, before she heads back into the hallway. My body shivers violently as I roll up into a ball in the center of my bed. I feel like I’ve been run over and am now slowly dying. This is where they will find me, this will be my final resting place, I think to myself, before nodding off again.

A cool sensation on my forehead, causes me to jolt. Lacey pulls her hand away, “Sorry,” she say. “Is it too cold?”

I shake my head. The room is much darker now, Lacey must have switched off the lamp when coming back in. Carefully dabbing the washcloth, she tries to acclimate me to the cold before leaving it there. The wash cloth and I hang for maybe 10 minutes before my teeth start to chatter. “That’s enough of that,” she says, taking it away. Leaning over she sets the rag on the dresser, before slipping down beside me on the bed. My eyes open and close randomly, because I can’t see to keep control of them. Pale fingertips are softly running through my hair, and though it feels amazing, doesn’t seem to help me in the eye control department.

“You’re alright,” she tells me softly.

Alright is definitely not one of my words today. Sad, scared, uncomfortable, would be more accurate to explain just how not alright I am. With Lacey’s forehead resting close to mine, I can feel the cool air she’s brought in on her bangs. “I’m glab you’re here,” I tell her.

“Me too,” she says.

My mind is running on auto pilot now, I’m not even sure if I am still awake, but once it’s asked, I realize I am, “How cobe you won’t say it.”

“Say what?”

“How cobe you won’t say that you lobe me, you said it once, but now-“

“That’s not important right now. Just rest. Okay?”

“It’s not something to be ashamed of,” I tell her.

Apparently I’m still talking on auto pilot, because my head is screaming for me to shut up as my jaws keep on flappin. “If you feel it, you shouldn’t be afraid to-

“Baby-” The moment the word leaves her lips, her crystal eyes widen with fear, as if she’s just said the most awful curse word imaginable. She then bites her lip and lowers her gaze, staying there for a moment before pulling me in, to kiss my forehead. “I do love you, please stop worrying. You need to rest. That means no more upsetting yourself. You hear?”

“Okay,” I answer.

With heavy eyelids that refuse to stay open, I can feel myself slipping away again. “Just sleep,” she says, sounding further way than she really is. “I’ll still be here when you wake, I promise.”

 

 

“How long was I out?”

“Well, let’s see, it’s almost 11 now, so 14 hours?”

“Holy…and you’ve been here the whole time?”

“Yeah, I snuck out once for food, but that was like a 5 minute trip to your kitchen  Oh, by the way, I ate your last ramen cup.”

“Man, I’m so sorry. You must have been bored out of your mind.”

“I found ways to keep busy.”

 

I spend far too many hours in bed that day, Lacey stays with me for most of it, but I make sure to send her out for a real dinner around 7. A little cup of ramen can only go so far, and the sounds of her stomach, make it obvious they hit their limit a long time ago. Admittedly, I am feeling better, but still pretty cruddy. I’m not going to die anymore, so that’s a plus, but the thought of getting out of bed seems like a nearly impossible task. So we stay there, spending another night together.

Her presence seems to be helping me, but something is weighing heavy on her mind and I can the see worry lines, wrinkling into her forehead, “What’s the matter.” I ask.

“Thinking about tomorrow,” she says. “And the fact we have been in the same clothes for almost two days.”

I laugh, though not loudly, my throat is still angrier than my Aunt when she misses her favorite Tuesday night drama, “I should probably shower.” I try to sit up, but can’t seem to find the strength, so back to the mattress I fall “Maybe later.” 

“I won’t be here tomorrow,” she says out of nowhere. “Will you be alright?”

“I think so. Just leave a bag a chips and bottle of water, I’ll be fine.”

Lacey shakes her head with amusement, “You are not going to get better just eating chips. I’ll make you a little something before I go. If you need me, call me. I’ll be at my folks.”

“Okaaaaay,” a yawn interrupts my words and I’m feeling sleepy again.

“I’m gonna go shower and change, and then I’ll bring you some soup, but rest until then.”

I nod, already heading there, and within seconds I’m asleep. I never even hear her leave.

 

 

Blind Sided: Chapter 18

Caution Racy chapter ahead!

Everything seemed to move at a snails pace. Lacey and I would hang out from time to time, but never as comfortably as before. It was more than disappointing for me, to say the least. I desperately wanted to be the friend she needed, but my heart kept getting in the way. In short, I took what I could get and was thankful for it when I got it.

That all changed however, after an ordinary, not so ordinary phone call.

Friday afternoon and Lacey’s been gone for three school days. This is usually my cue to ring her up. Most of the time we corresponded through texts, but once in a while I call, just so I can hear her voice.

“Missed you today,” I say into the receiver.

The tiny voice on the other end sniffles a reply, “Yeah, I’b missing way too much school.”

“Wait, are you sick? You sound sick.”

“A libble,” she says. “Can you cumb over, I need help.”

“Uh yeah, sure I’ll be right there.”

When I get to Lacey’s dorm, I find her on the sofa in the front room. She’s wrapped in a blanket and her nose and cheeks are flushed something fierce. “Berry, Lace, are you sure you’re alright?”

Lacey throws her blanket on the floor, “It’s too hot, but then I get too cold.” she sniffs again, “I hate being sick,” she tells me in a nasally whine.

“Awww you poor thing,” Sitting down on the couch beside her, Lacey leans in, resting her head on my shoulder. I lift my head enough to make room for hers and then nestle my chin in her hair. Less than five minutes pass and I can feel her breath slow in pace. Trying not to disturb, I have a look. Sure enough, she’s fast asleep, her button nose scrunched in discomfort and her mouth slacked open to allow for air. Reaching for the remote I flip through the channels, until I find a movie that isn’t too horrible to watch. If I have to stay with her all night, I will and secretly I pray for the opprotunity.

One really bad movie later…

As uncomfortable as the couch is, we manage to sleep there all night. I don’t actually remember falling asleep, but I’ll never forget waking up. Lacey’s head is in my lap, with my arm draped over her shoulder, the instant my grogginess clears, I freeze realizing this. Gently my arm follows the movement of her breath, rising and falling as she takes them. Perfectly still, I decide what to do next. If I move I wake her, if I stay she’s going to wake up and who knows what will happen.

It kills me to see how perfectly we fit together, the bend in my elbow rests, in just right spot and everything else falls in line, like we were built that way. So badly I to want shake her awake and say, “See! See how perfect we are! Why can’t you see it!” Accidentally I let out a sigh, that’s just loud enough. Lacey begins to stir, so I pull back my arm, before she notices. Sleepily she sits up and yawns while I watch nervously.

“Whub time is it?” she asks, stretching out her arms.

“Almost 8,” I tell her after glancing quickly at the clock.

Her illness seems to have lowered that wall she is constantly building, because she smiles and pokes at the frames on my face, “You’rb wearing your glasses,” she points out dreamily. “I like yourb glasses.”

Looking around the room, she tries to clear the sleep from her head, but the head cold holds it there for an extended engagement. Lacey rubs her eyes and yawns again, “Did you just get here?” she asks.

“Huh, no,” I clear my throat. “I uh fell asleep.”

“Yeah, that’s whub I thought,” she says. “Sorry to keep youb out of yourb bed. This couch is horrible.”

(I would sleep in a cardboard box, if it meant I could lie next to you), I say to myself, “How are you feeling?” I ask after an awkward pause.

“Crubby,” she says, “And Hungry.”

I jump from the couch and head for the dorm kitchen, “Don’t move, I’ll make you something.”

There isn’t much food to begin with and even less without names scribbled on the top. I do manage to find a can of unmarked soup that is still within it’s expiration date, so I quickly heat it up. “It’s really hot, so be careful,” I say as she takes it from my hands.

“Thank you,” she says with a sniff.

Sitting on the couch again, I let my attention fall back to the television screen. A couple are arguing animatedly back and forth of on the set of some talk show, while the host is trying to keep the flames fanned. The TV is muted however, so I have no idea what is actually being said.

“Kinda glad I am getting this out of the way,” she says, with a little more stability to her voice. “I usually get sick around my birthday.”

“When’s that?” I ask, the man on screen jumps up and storms off the stage.

“May,” she says, “May 9th.”

“May baby and a sugar taurus, no wonder you’re so stubborn.”

Lacey takes another sip of soup and smirks playfully,” It might have a bit to do with it. What about you? When did you join this great sweet world?”

“Uhhh,” I pause, “December,” I say it quickly as if answering fast will lessen the fact we just recently passed it.

“I’m going to make you a cake!” Lacey announces, jumping up from the couch, a moment later she teeters backwards, almost losing her footing. Apparently her strength is not running at full capacity and sitting on the couch all night hasn’t helped matters. “Whoa!” I call out, scrambling to catch her. “Not right now you’re not.”

Holding onto my shoulders, Lacey steadies herself and the groans, “Stupid body! I command you to stop this at once! I must make a cake, huhhhh oh boy,” Thump, she falls back into the couch with an, ” Ughhhhh.”

“You must rest is what you must do. I don’t need a cake.”

“But your birthday,” she whines. “You’re too special not to have a birthday!” Lacey’s head starts to sway gently, as her words make less and less sense. “Birthdays are like fossils. If you don’t celebrate them you find them buried in the dirt.”

“What?” I say with a chuckle,” You sure you’re alr-” I look down to find her head dipping back against the couch in an unnatural tilt, with cheeks redder than before. “Lace? Are you alright?” Reaching out I touch her forehead with the back of my hand. I’m no expert on body temperatures, but the difference between her forehead and mine, when I check them, is startling. “You’re burning up,” I tell her. “Should we call a doctor?”

“No doctors!” she mumbles loudly, before her eyes flutter closed again.

“But you’re barely conscious. Ughh what do I do?”

“Do. Like the doo doo bird. No, wait that’s dodo.”

The feeling in the pit of stomach has flipped over and everything is rushing back up for air. I pull out my phone with every intention of calling emergency, but dial my aunt instead. Maybe, I’m just over reacting. Maybe she just really sick. My aunt will know for sure.

“Hello?”

“Hi Auntie, it’s Lo.”

“Ohhh hello dear! How are you?”

“I’m fine, but Lacey is real sick. I don’t know if I should call someone or just ride it out. She’s got a fever and she’s talking funny, like saying weird things.”

“Hmmm, sounds like a nasty flu bug. Oh, I remember one time you thought your teddy bear was talking to you. Hahaha.”

“Yeah that’s great, but seriously what should I do? Should I take her to the doctor? I think she’s hallucinating.”

“Fevers can do that, she needs to cool down is all. Have her take a cool bath, that will help. A cool bath, not an ice bath though, there is a big difference.”

“But I can barely keep her conscious.”

“Well help her then.”

“What?!”

“Oh it’s not like you haven’t seen a nude girl before. Just start her a cool bath and help her get in it.”

“Oh berry…”

“Good luck dear! I must go, my show is starting. Call me back if that doesn’t help!”

Okay, so it seemed like a sound idea until I hang up the phone. That’s when I remember we live in dorms, dorms only have showers. This is going to take a little strategy. Helping Lacey up from the couch I guide her upstairs, her head wobbles aimlessly, but she is strong enough to make it to the second floor, “Where we going?” she asks as I lock the bathroom door. We aren’t supposed to lock any of the doors, but almost everyone is at class, so I might just get away with it.

“You need to cool down,” I tell her nervously, “If I start a shower, can you stand in it?”

Lacey thinks for a moment before nodding so widely, that she falls into the arm I have around her. “I think so?” she answers, almost in the form of a question.

“Okay,” Starting the shower, I let the cold water run for a moment before trying to find a cool medium. Lacey shivers loudly and I make the mistake of looking back. She’s already half undressed, so I whip my head around to the front again.

“It’s freezing,” she says through chattering teeth.

“I know, but you gotta get in there, because you have a really bad fever. If you don’t, I’m going to have to call the doctors.”

“No doctors!” she says again, this time fully nude. My attention goes to every place she isn’t, as I help her through the door, “If you feel like you’re going to fall, just sit down, okay? I put a towel in there so you can sit on it, if you need to.”

“Okay,” she says shivering again.

Apprehensively, I close the door.

Once she is in, I sit on the floor near the door, first facing away, then facing toward her. I can’t make out any actual body parts, so I don’t really need to look away. Now I can tell if she is alright in there and she isn’t in for long before her form slumps to the floor. Preparing to jump if I need to, I talk through the door, over the running water. “Lace are you alright in there?”

“Yeah,” she replies back. “It’s just easier to sit.”

“Okay,” Less uneasy, I settle back down on the cold tiles.

“Have I ever told you water scares me?” she says.

“Once or twice.”

“My momma says it started after Daddy died, but I’m pretty sure I had it before then. I can remember the water, sounding like an angry monster. RAWR RAWR and then crash! It sucked me under. I’d never been so scared in my life. It seemed like hours before he got to me. I went in and he never came out…”

Speechless, I sit unsure of how to respond.

“Now most water scares me. I’m pretty scared right now actually. I usually cry after I get out. Pathetic huh?”

“It’s not pathetic at all,” I answer back truthfully. “It was a traumatic thing for a little girl to go through. I think you’re being really strong right now.”

“You really believe that?” I can see her head turn and even though I can’t make out her eyes, I sense her trying to look at me through the textured glass .

“Sure I do. If I ever had to describe you to someone, pathetic would be at the very bottom of the list. In fact I would just drop it off the paper, because you are anything but pathetic.”

“I think I’m in love with you,” she says through the glass.

SLAM! My heart ping pongs around my chest the instant her words make it to my ears, and every muscle in my body tenses, “Now I know you’re hallucinating ” I answer jokingly. Desperately trying to keep my heart from getting trampled again, isn’t working so well for me.

“No,” she says dreamily. “Sure there are rainbows currently shooting out of the shower head and I feel like I’m melting into the towel here, but loving you is not one of those imaginary things. Not sure when it happened, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere around the time you stepped on my hand… yeah.”

All the words I’ve waited to hear, but now they seem out of place. What’s worse a juiced confession or a delirious one. My mind takes me back to our kiss and how I royally messed things up. Against my better judgement, I hold my hand up to the glass, “I love you too,” I tell her softly.

“I’d like to get out now,” Lacey tells me after another twenty minutes.

“Are you sure?” I ask, pushing myself to standing.

“I feel a little better now,” she assures me, turning off the water. I grab a towel from the rack, hand it to her and then step into the main part of bathroom, giving her space to maneuver. Wrapped up in her towel, she waits for me by the door as I gather up her things.

With her clothes under one arm and her self under the other, I lead us to the bedroom. She’s walking a bit better now and the fever seems to have come down, but hasn’t gone entirely. Standing at the door, I try to move past, so I can set down her things, but before I can, Lacey pins me to the door with a thud. Soft pink lips crash into mine, as the clothes I’m carrying fall to the floor. Pulling her in closer, I take in the sweetness. ‘This is a bad idea,’ I inform to myself, kissing her harder. A really *kiss* really *kiss* bad idea.”

Indescribable urgency leads us closer to the bed, as uncertainty fuels my kisses on her lips, neck, collarbone, and any other bare skin I can get to. Her soft moaning sends me further into a crazed frenzy and I like it all a bit too much. Dropping down to the bed, Lacey straddles my lap. The kissing is intense, more intense than I have ever experienced. “Stay with me tonight,” she says into my ear.

My brain has devolved into absolute goo and I’m holding onto her for dear life, “What about your room mate?” I ask stupidly.

“She’s not here, won’t be back till next week,” Lips reveal their secrets, brushing against my ear, leading a trail down my neck. A shiver of excitement shakes me to the core as I breathlessly seek out her lips again, “Are you sure you want to do this?”  I ask.

Nodding first, she pushes me back into the covers, “I want you,” she whispers.

Joining me a moment later, Lacey comes to rest beside me on the bed. Those enigmatic eyes paralyze me momentarily, before I’m able to draw her in. Our lips meet once more as a euphoric state enters my system like it’s been injected directly into my veins. She is my addiction and I know I’ll never find a cure.

Running my hands over smooth shoulders, I kiss the curve of her neck and her back arches in reply, sending me further off the edge. I can hardly believe it’s really happening, like I’ve survived in the world, just to experience this moment. A nagging hateful voice constantly reminds me this could be our one and only time, so take it slow, as the other part itches to throw that towel on the floor.

“I’m sorry,” she says before kissing me again. “You are so good to me and-

Quieting her with my lips, I follow it up with kiss on the end of her nose. Heavy lidded lashes fall closed and I can see them crinkle at the corners as she smiles. “I’ve never felt quite like this,” she says airily.

“Me either,” I confess.

There is a spot just above her collarbone that seems more sensitive than other places, so I bring all my attention there, nipping at it playfully, “That… can’t… be true,” she moans.

“Do you want me to prove it?”  I ask dangerously.

Oh, but I won’t be proving anything this night. Slowly Lacey takes the lead and eagerly I follow. This is a first for me and I find it overwhelmingly intoxicating. She plants kisses in all the right places and I swear there must be a map or cheat sheet tattooed on her arm, directing exactly where to go. You are here, kiss here and watch what, “OH SWEET BERRY!” I cry out much louder than anticipated. Lacey holds her hand over my mouth, whispering in my ear, “Shhhhh, you have to be quiet,” she says before biting playfully at my earlobe. All senses are running at maximum capacity and I know this isn’t going to take long, but desperately I try to hang on for as long as I can.

Everything feels deliciously evil, like a secret no one is ever meant to know but us, and maybe in a way it is. Each move she makes is more mind-blowing than the last and I wonder if she can feel it too, “Why does it feel like this?” she moans.

“I don’t know,” and the truth is, I really don’t. I’ve regrettably been with too many girls over the years, but this, it was never like this.

“I don’t think I can-” she says.

“It’s alright,” I tell her.

Lacey’s body tenses, before she collapses into me, her cheek pressed close to mine, as she coos into my ear, “Oh, Merlot.” My name on her lips is just too much for me, I can’t hold out any longer. Intertwined we cling on to the last few seconds, before falling back against the mattress.

Finding Lacey asleep in my arms the next morning is the greatest feeling in the world. I’m not sure where she would go, it is her bed after all, but this fact delights me, none the less.

“Hey,” she says, as her eyes flutter open.

“Hey,” I reply back. “How are you feeling?”

“Better,” she says with a yawn. “Still feel icky, but I think I will at least function today.” Lacey rolls out of bed and searches through our pile of clothes, grabs my sweatshirt and throws it on. “How do I look?” she asks.

Scanning over her sweatshirt and panties ensemble, I answer truthfully,”Like a beautiful sick angel in a raggedy old sweatshirt.”

Lacey smirks as she walks close to the bed. I’m slipping into my pants, when reaches me. I can’t get over how normal everything is, she isn’t freaking out all, like maybe, just maybe she’s fine and what happened last night, is cool. We’re cool. Everything is cool. This is probably where I should have left it, but ‘let it be Lo’, just isn’t in my vocabulary. “Man, I might be wrong here, but I think my definition of taking it slow is a little different than yours.”

Crystal eyes roll in playful annoyance, “I couldn’t help myself,” she teases. “You’re just too irresistible. I was at your mercy.”

“Hey that’s my line.”

Lacey slides into my lap and my hand comes to rest on her thigh, “I kinda need to apologize,” she says.

Lifting my head to meet her, she leans in a for a kiss, “For what?” I ask.

Lacey bites her lip and squinches her eyes closed, “I sort of just took over there. I don’t really know what came over me. I’ve never done that before, like ever,” her cheeks begin to pinken, completely different from the feverish flush I’ve seen in the last day or so.

“I liked it,” I confess with a wink. “You can have the reins anytime you want… if you, if we…” I clear my throat, “if we ever, you know.”

“I think it might, you know,” she says playfully using my awkward phrasing. “But in the meantime, I have a question.”

“Oh? What is it?” I ask, tracing lines in the tattoo on her thigh. This is first time I’ve studied it. I honestly had no idea it was there until last night.

“Well,” she says, “Valentines day is coming up and I was hoping that maybe, you might want to… be my Valentine?”

I laugh at the worst possible time, but the question has made me ridiculously giddy, “Did something knock loose in that fever?” I ask with a chuckle.

Lacey quirks an eyebrow, “So, is that a yes?”

“Of course it is you goof,” I say, falling back on the bed. We both topple backward and I can’t help but just hold her there for a while. She let’s me for a while, then wiggles out of my grasp, getting to her feet. “As much as I want to stay here, I cannot miss another day of class. Will I see you after?”

“I don’t think you’ll ever get rid of me now.”

Blind Sided: Chapter 17

As those little canvas shoes ran away, I felt a stabbing, searing pain in my chest. A pain so intense it actually brought me to my knees. Turq happened around the corner just as I went down and helped me to my feet, so I thankfully spent no more than a few seconds face down in the snow. It was all too much to take and it seemed my body had hit it’s breaking point. Turq assured me, it would be better in the morning, but I wasn’t convinced.

Now that I’m back in my room, the pain has subsided, but I still feel sick to my stomach. Wallowing in my bed, I curl up and wait for something to happen. A phone call, a text message, a quick blow to the head, any option would be sufficient, but I get none. Just me, my room and far too much time to think about what went wrong.

6 hours later, still in my clothes I bury my face into a pillow, trying to block out the invading sun. Turq had sent out a text an hour beforehand, asking how things were going, to which I replied, “Not going to class. Don’t come by.”

He never replied back, so I figured he was following my request for once. Another hour passes and I find myself in that not so pleasant groggy state. Not quite asleep, but definitely not awake, I drift in an out, listening to the unsettling jagged breaths trying to escape me. Then out of no where I hear voices coming up the stairs.

“Stop pushing!” says the first voice in a soft cool hiss.

“Get in there!” Turq growls back. I can tell by the faltering in his voice, he’s either pushing or dragging someone. “I’m not going to watch him do this again. Now get!”

The door opens and someone steps in. My eyes are focused on my pillow and the hand gripping it, so I cannot confirm or deny who is standing at the end of my bed, but the rapid rhythm my heart has taken up since their entry, gives me a pretty good indication.

“Hey,” she says, walking close to the bed.

Muttering into my pillow, I refuse to scan the far end of the room, “Hey,” I say to the wall.

“So I heard you’re not doing so well,” A hand grabs hold of my shoe and my first instinct is to pull away, but in the very next second, decide it isn’t such a bad thing.

“I’m fine,” I answer with a bit of annoyance.

“Oh, okay good.”

I shuffle a bit on the mattress and then try to sneak a peak when she isn’t looking. Her gaze seems to be fixed on the poster above my bed, so I’m able to see her briefly before, turning my eyes back to the floor boards  The blue in her hair looks nice and I want to tell her, but I don’t.

“Will you please talk to me,” she says in a broken whisper. I look over my shoulder, to see those sparkling eyes, electric as ever, staring me down. The disappointment on her face, mirrors how I’ve felt for the past several hours and it kills me inside to watch.

“What?” I ask with fake indifference.

“I owe you an apology,” she answers softly, “A big one.” Lacey goes to sit near my feet, but stops a few inches above the blankets, “May I,” she asks, I nod and then she takes a seat.

Sitting up, I make sure to leave a little space between us. Lacey fidgets with a crease in her skirt, nodding once in a while, but doesn’t say anything, “I feel horrible about leaving you like that,” she says after an excruciatingly long pause.

Waiting for an answer, she watches me through a side ways glance, when I don’t reply, she continues, “The truth is, I like you… a lot, but I’m just not ready for another relationship, not yet. Then I kissed you, when I shouldn’t have and that was a huge mistake,” she shakes her head and winces, “Not a mistake, just too soon. This is all too confusing and I have so much to work out. I’ve realized getting you involved in that, isn’t fair. I panicked. I’m sorry,” her chin dips to her chest and she exhales out a big sigh.

“So what do we do now?” I ask with far too much hope behind it.

“Well,” she says, “I’ve been thinking. We still have a bet going right? I mean, I kissed you, so you haven’t broken your part of the deal,” she trails off, “Maybe when the school year ends, maybe I will be ready, and we could try…” Her words are vague, but I get the idea. “If you still want to,” she adds.

“I’d like that,” I answer with zero hesitation.

Lacey smiles and the last few hours evaporate into thin air, “You’re too good to me,” she says.

“Not possible.”

“Still friends?” she asks.

Putting an arm around her shoulders, I give them a squeeze,”Still friends.”

Slowly we eased back into our friendship, like a foot not quite ready for hot bath water. It would have been easy for me to jump right back into the fold, but Lacey was more timid, so with new years eve around the corner, I considered inviting her out, but ultimately decided not to. Maybe, just for a little while it would be best to skip the outings, until she felt comfortable again. Which truthfully was fine by me, my mind was busy, constantly drifting to the last day of school and all the plans I had for it.

New years eve arrives and after turning down Turq’s late night party invite, I stroll down to the dorm kitchen for an evening snack. The clock over the stove says 11:37 and I can hear the chatter of a few of my dorm mates in the den. Digging through the fridge foraging for food, my phone receives a text.

‘Hey you’

‘Hey.’

‘How’s the party?’

‘Didn’t go, felt like stickin around here.’

‘Oh’

‘What are you up to?’

‘School project… Painting this hideous piece… You should see… It’s awful’

‘Maybe you can show me.’

“Maybe when I’m done.”

Before I can answer back, she sends another text. ‘One minute to go!’

The count down begins, as more people gather in the living room, huddling around a small TV. Everyone is dressed in silly paper hats and holding half glasses of nectar. The final 5 count begins, as I head up to my room with a semi warm cheese pocket.

5!!

4 !!

3 !!

2 !!

1!!

I’m not even upstairs when my phone goes off again. Once in my room, I set down my plate to answer it. There’s a text with attachment this time, so I open it. Sitting on the bed with my phone in one hand and cheese pocket in the other, a photo pops up on the screen.

‘Happy New Year to the greatest guy I know.’

‘Happy New Year, sweet Darlin.’

Blind Sided: Chapter 16

“You sure you’re not cold?” I ask Lacey as we near the house.

“I’m great!” she exclaims with a clap of her hands. “Now let’s party.”

Lacey heads for the house, but I stop her with a hand on the shoulder. Pausing to see what I need, she looks like a horse corralled against its will. “These guys can be a bit obnoxious,” I explain to her, “so if they give you any trouble, just let me know and I’ll handle it, alright?”

She nods and the purple bow in her hair bounces slightly. I still can’t get over how fast she threw an outfit together, using the fabric I gave her. “I will,” she says. “Don’t worry.”

Easy for her to say. When it comes to this girl I worry about everything. Throwing her into the mix with a bunch of juiced up frat boys, seems more and more like a bad idea, “Alright, just stay close to me,” I say apprehensively.

“I’ll be right here,” she says pressing the end of my nose. “Now lets go!”

“WELL!! You finally made it!” Turq shouts out over the blasting music. Lacey and I step through the front door and the party is buzzing all around us. It’s not quite as crazy as Turq made it sound, but it’s busy. People are wandering through the halls, shouting, cheering and laughter ring out through the main floor. Turq is standing near the juice keg with the most ridiculous 80’s style glasses I’ve ever seen on him. “Welcome,” he says. “Welcome to the par-tay Lace-ay!”

“Thank you!” Lacey says excitedly as a naked co-ed streaks behind us. “Oh my sweet berries!” she giggles.

Turq laughs, “He’s been up on the stand too many times if you know what I mean.” Then he gives me a knowing grin and I shake my head. “Lacey,” he says still watching me, “would you like to get up here? I am the resident stand representative tonight. I would not be fulfilling my duties if I didn’t offer.”

“I don’t know. I’ve never had juice before.” Lacey says.

“Well, perfect time to try then! Get over here. Merlot can help you. Come on.”

“We don’t have to,” I tell her nervously, “Just say pass.”

I start to lead her away, but Lacey steps up to bat, “All right, lets do it,” she says confidently.

Turq cheers and a small group starts to gather. I’m fidgeting nervously as someone pushes me forward to help. “Get up there Romeo,” Turq teases, “Your Juliet awaits.”

Standing next to the keg, I can’t hide my concern, “You don’t have to do this,” I tell her under my breath, but I’m not sure hears over the party around us. “He’s just being stupid,” I say a bit louder.

The crowd starts to cheer, “Chug chug chug chug!”

“We’re doing this!” she says grinning, “now help me.”

Apprehensively, I help her up and the crowd gets bigger. “LACEY! LACEY! LACEY! they shout. Lacey drinks in way more than I would recommend, before she signals me to bring her down. Bouncing and giggling she throws  triumphant hands above her head, “WOOOOOO!!!”

“WOOOOOO!!!” The crowd cheers back!

Now that she is back on the ground, I feel a little better. Turq walks up beside Lacey and throws his hand up. “YEAH!! Just like a pro!” he shouts.

The crowd cheers and Lacey opens her mouth sticking out her tongue, “YEAH!” she shouts, but a burp comes out instead, the crowd cheers louder. Turning around Lacey grabs a cup and fills it to the top with juice. “You won’t need that in a few minutes,” I say trying to take her cup. She pulls it back and little splashes over the edge, “Mine,” she teases playfully, before taking a sip.

“One cup,” I tell her, “take it easy.”

“I’m fine!” she shouts, “right guys!!”

“OOOOOOOW!!!!!” the crowd replies.

Lacey takes her cup, holding it above her head, and then starts to wander the house, “Lace come back!” I call out running after her.

When I finally catch up, Lacey is watching a juice pong game, and she awws every time someone takes a drink. I walk up next to her,”Ohhh this looks like fun!” she squeaks, her voice a little bit different than usual. “Let’s play! You and me! You’ve played before right?”

“Yes, but I’m not sure if that it’s a good idea,” I’m trying to explain how quickly it can get out of hand, but she isn’t really paying attention. “PLEASE! Teach me! Teach me!” Grabbing my hands, she leads me further into the room. I search the walls, but there is no one around willing to help me talk her out of it. “You got to take it easy Lace.” I tell her, “If you drink too much, you’re going to get sick. You don’t want to spend the whole night hugging the toilet.”

“Maybe I do!” she laughs, “This is the best night ever!”

 

 

 

Stumbling through the kitchen I find a pair of white jean legs dangling from the fridge, “Lace?” I ask with a giggle. “What are you doing up there?”

“Shhhh,” I’m hiding from Merlot,” she explains.

“I’m Merlooooot,” I tell her

“Oh yeah,” she taps her shoes against the fridge door, “You should see what it’s like up here. A whole new perspective on life.”

Still giggling I lean against the door, that last round of juice pong is kicking my butt, “Get down you goof!”

Lacey throws out her arms like she’s flying, “I can show you the world!” she sings.

“All right,” I say tugging on her leg, “You’re juiced, time to get down.”

“You’re juiced, time to get up,” she mocks back.

“HEY!!!” A voice booms from the hallway, “Off the fridge weirdo!!”

“Come on,” I say again, “I’ll help.”

She sighs, “FIIIIINE.”

Lacey hops down from the fridge with a little inebriated help from me. Falling into my arms, I try and catch her before her knees buckle and we somehow make it without crumbling to ground, “Whoooops!” she swoons woozily.

“Caught you!” I say louder than expected. The kitchen is strangely empty and the large quantities of juice only makes it more apparent as we try to get our bearings  “Echo!” I shout into the cupboards.

“Echo!” Lacey mimics back and then laughs, “I love juice. Juice is fun. Almost as fun as you,” she pauses momentarily, “But not quite. You’re still more fun. Fun. Fun. Fun. OH!!!! You know what else is fun?” she asks taking out her phone.

“Juiced photos?” I reply.

“Juiced photos!” she exclaims in a sing song voice.

Lacey slides her arm over my shoulder, bringing me in close, the aroma and of Vanilla and juice swirl around us like an intoxicating scented cocktail, “Smile and say Berryboobles!”

Before I have a chance to say anything, the camera flashes. A second later vanilla berrysmacker lip gloss makes contact with my lips and the camera flashes again. Out of instinct I close my eyes, just as Lacey pulls back. “OH! That doesn’t count!” she blurts out in a laugh. She could have just easily stabbed a knife in my heart, her words are excruciating. Doesn’t count…

The room is unusually warm now and Lacey is flapping the fabric of her top, “Whoo I wish I had worn something under this, it’s hot.”

Disappointed, I take her by the arm, leading for the back door of the kitchen, “Let’s go out then. That will cool you down.”

Lacey skips and bobs her head as we head out back into cold winter air.

 

 

Sitting on the porch, Lacey clutches her arms, but when I ask if she needs a coat, shakes her head no, “It feels good.” she says.

“If you say so.” My words are still slightly slurred and now and again I feel like I’m going to spin right off the planet. Lacey is watching the brilliant Berrymas night sky, her button nose crinkles as she counts the stars. After a while she loses interest and looks my direction, “What time is it?” she asks with a hiccup.

Pulling back my sleeve I look at my watch, “11:42″ I tell her.

Still incredibly juiced, Lacey smiles sleepily, leans in close, and whispers in my ear, “Sweet Berrymas Merlot.” My body tries to melt in the floors boards of the porch, and my eyes drift close, “Sweet Berrymas Lace.”

“I do have one present for you,” she says softly, her bottom lips brushes up against my ear and if it weren’t for the fact my eyes are closed, they would be rolling back in my head. “What is it?” I ask dreamily.

“Close your… oh,” Lacey giggles, “Keep em closed.”

“Okay,” I say with a grin, “Still closed.” Holding out my hands, I wait for something to be placed in them. With an overly strong force, Lacey presses her lips to mine, only this time she doesn’t pull back. Without thinking my hand cups her face and the kiss continues. It’s crazy, it’s exhilarating, her lips are the only warmth in the cold winter air around us and I cling on for dear life. Playfully she bites my lip and I kiss her harder. “Oh Lo,” she whispers. A shiver of excitement runs through me and I pull her closer. Our kiss turns desperate, like we know it has to end, but neither wants to release. Her taste is enough to intoxicate me all over again, like the sweetest honey and… juice.

Juice, all I can taste now is juice. My head is screaming for me to stop, but my heart is completely content to keep going. I love her, there is no doubt in my mind, but this is not the way it should happen. This isn’t fair to her or me. Abruptly I pull back, my lips refusing to obey, but I manage to put space between us, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this,” I tell her breathlessly.

Lacey blinks with confusion, her lip trembling slightly and I can actually hear my heart shattering underneath my shirt. A cough escapes me and I cover my mouth. “But,” she says sadly.

“You’re juiced,” I explain as if she doesn’t know. “I’m not going to sit here and take advantage of you. I’m won’t do it.”

“You’re not,” Lacey drops her head and I’m afraid to look at her directly. If she’s crying, I’m going to lose it.

Covering my face with cold hands, “I’m sorry,” is all I can think to say. “Maybe if we wait, until tomorrow just to see how we-” Too late she is already up and rushing back inside. “Lace! Wait!” The door slams loudly and I’m left out in the cold. Alone wouldn’t even begin to express how I feel in this moment. The world tilts on it’s axis and I welcome the thought of slipping off. I had her and I let her go, but what good would it have done? She’d probably wake in the morning so betrayed, that we’d never talk again. The way things are going though, that might be the case anyways.

“Arghhhh,” I shout into the empty backyard. Thankfully it is way too cold for anyone to venture outside, so I can nurse my wounds in private. Well this is a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into now Lo.

The door slams over and over again in my head as Lacey’s disappointed face etches itself in my mind. Then the door shuts for real and footsteps follow, stopping beside me, “Lady troubles?” Turq asks, playfully bumping my side with his sneaker. I’m in no mood to joke and am currently holding my head in place to keep myself from falling off the porch, or crumbling into tears… maybe both. “Lady disaster,” I explain brokenly.

“Awww,” Turq plops into Lacey’s spot on the porch and I miss her more. I should go talk to her. I start to get up, but Turq pulls me back down. “Hold on there, man. She seems really upset, I wouldn’t bother her just yet.”

“I need to talk to her, I need to explain why I did,” I let out a disappointed sigh, “what I did.”

Turq claps my shoulder, “Dude I’m going to be completely straight with you. If you go in there right now, she is just going to be more angry. You need to let her cool down. I don’t know what happened, but she needs some time. Talk to me instead dude. What happened?”

My voice along with the rest of my body has run cold and anger fuels my shortness, “You don’t even like her, what do you care?”

“Because you look like death right now and I’ll admit it, I don’t like the frost box, but I hate seeing you like this. Tell me what happened man.”

“I think you did the right thing,” Turq replies after I give a short rundown of what happened.

Lifting my head I turn to look at him in those ridiculous glasses, “You do?” 

“Yeah. First time drinking juice, jumpin on the fridge, she’s not thinking straight and if you’re as close as you say you are, she is going to resent it.”

“What if she does mean it, she just couldn’t do it without the juice?”

“Well in that scenario, you screwed up big time.” 

Rolling my eyes, I drop my head, gripping my hair so tightly I can feel it in my scalp. “I’ve just ruined my life,” a sob leaps from throat and bite my lip to stop it even though it’s too late.

“Little over dramatic don’t you think?” Turq laughs. “Dude talk to her tomorrow. It’s going to be fine. It’s obvious emotions are running high on both sides of the arena here. So untwist your undies and chill out. Go have another drink.”

I lift my head and glare, “Or not,” he says. “Sheesh.”

Suddenly the sound of breaking glass rings out, followed by a dozen voices shouting “FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!”

I hear Lacey scream and in less than a second I am up to my feet running inside, Turq isn’t far behind.

“You take it back!” Lacey screeches out as Turq and I enter the room. Jubee, a girl I dated for an embarrassingly brief amount of time and Lacey are going at it, Lacey is pulling hair and just before I get to her, she hauls off and punches Jubee in the nose. The crowd around gasps in horror, while others cheer.

“Lacey!” I shout, pulling her back, “Lace lets get out of here.”

“YOU TAKE IT BACK!” Lacey screams even louder, ignoring the hold I have around her waist.

A group of girls form a security ring about Jubee and she continues holding her nose. “Like a baby,” she smirks from behind her hand. “Boo hoo!”

Lacey roars and lurches forward, but I’ve got a hold on her this time. “Your an awful person!” Lacey yowls as I drag her out of the room.

“Mommy, mommy, I miss my mommy boo, hoo!!!” Jubee persists with her taunting until we are out of the room. Something in her words hit a nerve and suddenly I feel sick to my stomach. “Come on Lace.”She’s not worth it.”

 

Once we are outside, I try to walk Lacey home, but all the excitement and warmth from the party and juice has evaporated and she shivers so hard I can hear her teeth chatter. Detouring and leading her around back, I stop directly in front of the vacant fire pit. She sure knows how to clear a room.

“Are you okay?” I ask as she warms her hands over the flames.

She nods and the flicker of firelight dances over her face. The silence, that awful silence we share, is enough to make my blood run cold, “I’m sorry about earlier.” I confess into her shoulder. It’s a chilling metaphor that I would rather not experience again.

With one flick of the wrist, Lacey waves my thoughts from the air like smoke, “It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine. Lacey I-

“Who’s the pink princess?”

The words in my mouth, skitter and careen, but fail make much sense, “I uh, well, you see, the-

“Jubee said you were waiting for the pink princess. That’s why you always run. What does that mean? Is that true? Or was she lying?”

My mouth feels glued shut at the jaw bone, but I manage to shake my head. I would never lie to her, so what else can I do? My gaze turns to the dancing flames and I can feel her eyes burning into my temple. “It was a long time ago.” I start slowly, because I know I’m on a slippery slope, one false move and down I go. “There was a girl. A girl with no name. Pink hair and skin to match. I was just a kid when we…” Clearing my throat I start again. “I had just heard a story about a princess and then when I went to sleep-

“You dreamt about her.”

I nod my head, “But that was a long time ago.”

“Like the park,” Lacey adds.

“Yes, but I-

“So she could be real too.”

“Maybe, Lacey listen to me.” Turning quickly I lock my eyes with hers and my tongue turns to mush.

“You said once you gave up on ‘the one’ and that’s why you became bitter,” she repeats our conversation, putting emphasis on certain words that seem to fall on my head like a ton of bricks. I can’t help but reel over her amazing powers of memory recall.

“I did say that,” I agree regrettably.

“Do you think she dreams about you?”

“I have no idea. It was a very long time ago,” I say again, trying what I can to get that point through to her, but it seems to bounce off each time.

“You miss her don’t you,” Lacey says after a long pause.

The desperation inside me begins to rise, “I don’t even know her,” I snap back with frustration. “We’ve never even met. I was a kid. Kids have silly dreams. They don’t always mean something.”

“Dreams are never silly,” she says and then shakes her head, “But I meant your mother.”

“Oh,” Back again at the one conversation I’ve tried to avoid. I can talk about my mother just fine under normal circumstances, but add Lacey to the mix and I want to curl up at her feet and cry.

“She knows a lot about you, that Jubee girl.”

“Yeah, unfortunately. It’s part of the reason she can’t stand me.”

“What happened?”

Looking skyward I try to swallow the shameful embarrassment meddling with my vocal cords. “Just a generic sob story,” I tell her, “We met at a club, I had a little bit too much juice, and well, an evening encounter turned into confession hour of the worst kind. I spilled everything. Everything. She thought we had a real connection, that I was sharing my inner most secrets, because there was something between us. Truth is I don’t remember half of it.”

“She says you cried,” Lacey mutters softly.

I don’t really remember, but the cringe currently running through my body is pretty a good indication, “I probably did.”

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, you know. I miss my dad too.”

“You should never be ashamed of how you feel,” she says into my ear. The closer she gets the more emotions I feel, closing my eyes I let it all out. “When you’re in my arms, I never want to let go,” my voice no louder than a whisper. “It’s like I’m losing something I know I’ll never get back. That’s how I feel right now. Lace I lo-“

“Don’t. Please don’t.” Lacey pulls back, her face even paler than usual.

“But you just said I shouldn’t be ashamed of how I feel. Lacey I love you.”

“Why are you doing this?” Lacey shakes her head with a disappointed sigh.

“I’m not trying to do anything. That’s just how I feel and if I don’t get it out, well I might just explode.”

“You ask for too much,” she says softly through the space between us, each syllable more heartbroken than the last, “You want something I can’t give. Something I’m not meant to give.”

“I’m not asking for anything.”

“And now you said it, and I can’t say it back. Now what do we do?” she sniffs in a hitched breath, “Merlot, what am I supposed to do now?” 

“Nothing,” I answer. “You don’t have to say or do anything.”

“Berry, Merlot! This is just too fast. I told you that! Why would you-” she can’t even finish the words. “It’s just too much for me. Why can’t you understand that!”

“I’m sorry. It’s not something, I’m trying to hold over your head. Love is a great thing,” she shakes her head harder, “Lace I love you as my friend and all the in between,” I try to hold her by the shoulders, but she squirms away, “but you don’t have to. Maybe it will happen. Maybe it won’t.”

“Stop. Just stop. Please I’m begging you.”

Her final words on the matter, knock the wind out of me so I nod. “You promised me,” she says. “That we could be just friends.”

“I know.”

“And I told you, over and over again. I’m not ready.”

Rubbing the aching in my chest, my head slowly nods again.

“I don’t think this is working,” she replies, walking away from the pit.

“What’s not working?” I call out after her.

“You’re waiting for me, waiting for something I’m not sure will ever happen. That’s not fair to you.”

Practically jumping over the fire to get to her, I grab Lacey by the arm, “Whoa what are you saying?” I ask hurriedly, my voice beginning to panic.

“I’m just stringing you along and that’s not fair.”

“I don’t mind! You can string me along as much as you like.”

Lacey slips from my grasp in a quick, accurate jerk, and I feel the world slipping through my fingers. “No,” she says, “I can’t make you wait. It’s not right.”

“It’s right. It is! Things are great! I’m fine!”

She starts to walk away again and I trip almost the instant I get to her, my knees hit the snow hard, but instead of standing, I drop my head against her stomach. I know begging will only push her farther away, but I can’t seem help myself. “You can’t leave.” I sputter into the ruffles of her top, “Okay, so maybe we can’t be… what I want us to be. But we are friends, great friends, best friends… If you take away the friendship too, I wouldn’t survive, it’s all I’ve got. I won’t ever say it again, I promise. Just please, don’t leave me. Please.”

Lacey voice cracks like shattered glass, “How many times must we do this?”

“Never again. I promise. I promise.”

“Everything is just a huge mess! Why do you keep putting yourself through it?!” I start to answer but her hand and my mouth stop me. “I don’t want to lose our friendship either, I swear I don’t, but things keep happening, some my own fault and I’m finding it hard… it’s so hard to fight it.”

“Then don’t fight it,” I tell her earnestly, “If you feel it, don’t fight it. You should never be ashamed of how you feel.”

“You shouldn’t,” she replies, “but I don’t have that luxury.”

“I don’t understand that.”

“I know,” Lacey sniffs again, “There’s no way you could. It barely makes sense in my mind, you couldn’t possibly…” She trails off and I can tell those white canvas shoes are about to make a run for it.

“Please,” I call out with more composure than before. “Don’t let this be the end. We can be friends, just friends. Please give me one more chance, please.”

Lacey stops with her back turned, I can see her shoulders rise and fall as she contemplates my words, then out of nowhere, takes off toward the front of the house. I want so badly to follow, but I’ve said all I can say, there is nothing left for me to do, all I can do is wait.

 

 
 

Blind Sided: Chapter 15

As promised, I arrive promptly at 10 and we are on the road fifteen minutes later. Lacey is dressed in all white and looks like an angel surrounded by all the snowfall. Constantly I remind my eyes not to wander as I drive, but it’s hard.

When we get to my Aunts house I stop her on the little walk half way. She stops and stares at me with confusion, “Am I going the wrong way?” she asks with giant eyes that never fail to stop me in my tracks.

“No,” I tell her, “It’s just you should know, my Aunt really likes purple. Like a lot.”

“Okaaaaaay.” 

“No, like I cannot stress this enough, the house is bright, real bright. The outside is mild compared to the inside. So be prepared.”

Lacey giggles, looking to the window, trying to peek at the god awful purple inside, “No need to be embarrassed. I get it.” she says, “Our whole house was white.”

“Yeah, I’m sure it’s not like this.”

Lacey scoops my arm up with hers and leads us to the door. It doesn’t happen often, so I savor the moment whenever she blesses me with it, “Come on. I’ll be fine.”

“Just wait until you can’t sleep tonight.”

Opening the door, Lacey steps in before me and chuckles softly to herself. The hideous purple is overwhelming even for me and I lived the house for years. “Wow,” she whispers, “This place is amazing.”

“You’re joking right?” I ask quietly, I never get a response however, because Aunt Claret is heading right for us.

“Hellooo!” Aunt Claret trots across the living room, a bit slower than the last time I saw her, “Merlot! Oh I am so glad you made it! Oh and my this must be Lacey. Hello dear.”

Aunt Claret hugs Lacey and then me, the familiar scent of gingerbread greets us almost as warmly. “You have a beautiful home.” Lacey says sweetly, so sweetly I think she might actually mean it.

“Thank you dear! Welcome welcome! Please come in and make yourself comfortable.”

Aunt Claret guides us to the couch, but before we can sit, Lacey is darting across the room toward a tree set up in the corner. It’s a standard tree, white with purple trimming, but Lacey is completely fascinated with it. “OOOO!” she exclaims excitedly, “What a beautiful tree!”

“Thank you dear,” Aunt Claret calls back from the sofa. “It looks real, but it’s actually artificial.” Lacey throws me a knowing smile as she continues her conversation with my Aunt, “Well it does look very real,” she says leaning in for a sniff, “It smells real too.”

“I bought it the year Merlot came to live with me.”

“Well then it a very special tree indeed,” Lacey grins.

“Lots of memories in these branches,” I say trying to sway the conversation. Pointing to a branch just above our heads, an orange paper tree sits amongst the purple and white, “I made that the first year I came to live here.”

“Orange!” Lacey reaches out for it, but the paper tree a bit out of her reach,so I bring it down for her. She studies it carefully between her pale fingers. “Yeah,” I tell her, “I was the last one to pick my construction paper. Orange was the only one left.

“Orange is a fine color,” Lacey says handing back the tree. I place the ornament back in it’s spot, and it seems a bit more special now that it’s been blessed by an angel.

Hanging on the hours, I try stretching them as far as they will go. Unfortunately it only seems to have the opposite effect. The sun begins to set on our first night and I am missing the day already. Lacey and I spend the majority of the afternoon and early evening sitting with my aunt listening to stories of my childhood, some embarrassing, some not. Lacey enjoys both equally, but seems to light up each time I duck my head with flushed cheek. If it weren’t for the amazing smile that spreads across her face, I would ask my aunt to let up. Oh, but the smile is incredible, so she doesn’t let up, not during dinner or our evening tea, in fact the stories only get worse or as Lacey refers to them, “I’m dying, from the adorable!!”

Later after Lacey and I offer to clean up the dishes, so she doesn’t have to, my Aunt Claret drags her large chair close to the tree. My hands are damp from the wet dishes, so she is halfway there before I get to her, “I’m fine,” she tells me confidently, batting away my offer with her free hand,  “I’m not that old, I can still manage my own furniture for berry’s sake.”

Retracting I allow her to finish, “Now,” she says sitting in her chair, “Lacey dear it is tradition in this house to open one gift on berrymas eve.”

Lacey who is near the sink, sets the last plate in the drying rack, “Oh but I only brought one gift for you guys.”

Aunt Claret leans over her knees grabbing two brightly wrapped presents and then places them into her lap, “Not to worry dear. I have ones I would you like you to open. Now, come sit dear. Sit sit. You too Merlot.”

Aunt Claret hands out the presents and Lacey shakes hers the minute it’s in her hands. It doesn’t rattle or make much noise, so she looks at it slightly puzzled before setting the unopened present into her lap. The packages look about the same size and I figure they are probably the same thing, though I have no idea what that same thing might be.

“Well open em up!” Aunt Claret says eagerly, “Go on then.”

“Alright,” I tear through the paper and open the box inside. There is a bit of tissue paper obstructing my view, but I can see a flash of purple and white. “OHHHH!” Lacey squeaks from my side, “Berrymas sweater!” she holds the knitted top to her chest, smoothing the sleeve down her arm, “Did you make this!? It’s so pretty!”

“I did dear,” Claret nods proudly, “I do hope it fits.”

“Oh, It will!” Lacey grins, as I pull an identical sweater out of the box in my lap. “Oh you got one too!” Lacey chirps excitedly, “Ooo we will have to wear these tomorrow! Yes, yes I think so!”

I watch the knitted dancing reindeer currently in my hands, “Oh I was hoping you would say that!” Aunt Claret says, beaming brighter than the berrymas tree, “Sweet berrymas to you both. Tis such a blessed occasion.”

“Sweet Berrymas to you too!”

“Yeah, Sweet Berrymas Auntie.”

Before you start thinking I am an ungrateful nephew, let me explain. I really liked the sweater and had no problem wearing it. I was actually looking forward to it. The connotation coming along with it however, had me marginally bummed. I know my Aunt well, so I know the sweater is a token of a non existent relationship. To be fair, I never actually explained our status, but going off the fact I’ve yet to bring a girl home to meet the family, it would be easy to get the wrong idea.

When it comes time for bed, I show Lacey to my room. There are two single beds there, so we can share, while staying safely inside in our comfort bubbles, “So this is where we’ll be sleeping,” I explain, flipping on the light switch. Lacey surveys the two beds, but remains quiet. “Unless you would be more comfortable in the other room,” I point to the door adjoining the other bedroom.

“No,” she says, “No, this is fine.”

Lacey walks to my bed and sits on the mattress, “Oh, but that’s…” Lacey looks up at me, “Huh?” she asks.

“Nothing,” I tell her, “That door over there is the bathroom, so you can change.”

Lacey hops up and goes to her bag to rummage, “Thanks!” After finding her pj’s she skips off to the bathroom. Once she is in, I fall backwards on the spare bed, covering my eyes with my arm. I can hear Lacey humming over running water, while Turq’s voice rings out in my head, “You’re sad man…”

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“… Merlot are you okay?”

“Huh? Yeah sure, I am.”

“Okay….”

“…”

“I know I can be difficult… I’m real sorry for that. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate you, I do. I’ve never had a friend like you.”

“Same here.”

“I really mean it though. Most people give up on me, but you don’t.You’re still here… or I guess, I am.”

“They obviously had no clue what was in front of them.”

“You make it really difficult, you know.”

“I make what difficult?”

“Not falling in love with you.”

“…”

“Goodnight Merlot, Sweet Berrymas.”

“Sweet Berrymas… Lace.”

Like a shot of a adrenaline, her words inject through my veins. My entire body buzzes with fuzzies of the warmest kind. Did she really say what I think she did? I ran through our conversation so many times, the words began to distort. Maybe she meant, it was hard falling. No she said I made it difficult not to fall, so she is falling? Or is she still trying not to? Tossing and turning, I flip on my mattress, like a flapjack on a hot plate. There is no way I am going to sleep. I roll to my back, bare arms hanging outside the comforter, surrendering fully to the chilled air. Lacey is asleep beside me. She isn’t snoring, but the room is quiet enough I can tune in with her breaths; smooth and almost double the length. After a few attempts I am able to sync her breath with two of mine. The sound is calming and finally sleep closes in, attempting to remove me from reality.

The darkness is waiting. Again I find myself in a movie with no pictures. Only the fear from before has been replaced with anger. My jaw clenches so tightly it begins to ache. A sensation I feel in the sleeping world as well as the awake one. The voice is back, speaking in broken dialogue, “I know it was her!” I shout. “She is trying everything she can to keep you away from me… I don’t care… She needs to know, I will not stand for this… I’ll be fine. I will take care of this. Please, stay here…”

The anger rages on as the voice becomes more hostile, “Stay away from us! If you touch one hair on her head, it will be the last thing you ever do!”

With a violent jolt my body shudders, thrusting me back. I throw myself forward in the bed. Heart racing as the tightness pulls. Frantically searching the room until I find Lacey asleep beside me. Relief fills me as I push back the covers and roll out of bed.

I don’t like these dreams. Not one bit…

The wave of relief, is soon overcome by an intense ocean of worry that rolls over, leaving me gasping for air. Stumbling through to the dark room, I make way downstairs to get a drink of water. The floor is cold underneath my feet, but I’m far too lazy to find my slippers, so I move to the stairs, where I sleepily and still slightly uneasy, find myself down in the kitchen, rummaging through the fridge. I grab the jug of water from the third shelf, make sure no one is looking and then take a big swig. It’s a cool refreshing splash to the senses and realize I much thirstier than I initially thought. I drink down the rest of the water in a few large gulps.

After refilling the jug, I head back upstairs. Lacey is undisturbed, her arm above her head, mouth open wide. Soft breath streams in out, but somehow manage to lack the snoring qualities you would expect from such an intense sleeping face. I can’t help but grin at how adorable she looks, and then in the very next second I find the disappointment stabbing sharply into my chest. I wish I could wake up to that sweet face every night. 

 

 

The next morning I roll out of the covers to find the my bed empty. Immediately I tune into the sound of running water and smooth lyrics of Florentine and the Machine in that squeaky little voice I have grown to adore.

“Here I am, a rabbit hearted girl…Frozen in the headlights…It seems I made the final sacrifice,” the unintentional serenade continues as I rummage through the box with my berrymas sweater. Gathering the rest of clothes, I head to the downstairs bathroom to change, all while praying Lacey hasn’t forgotten about our gaudy sweater plans.

Aunt Claret is at her computer when I plop into the couch with a loud thud, “Sweet Berrymas Auntie.”

“Sweet Berrymas to you,” she says with her back turned. With a shak of her head she pours over her desk, like she’s searching for something, “I will never figure this confounded thing out.”

Over the arm I lean, trying to diagnose the problem, “Press that button there on the screen,” I tell her with a pointed finger. She does as instructed and the monitor comes to life. “Ah thank you dear. What would I do without you?”

“Never get your email?” I tease.

“Among other things. OH! Look how handsome you are!” Aunt Claret finally turns around and clasps her hands together when she sees me donning her handy work. “Oh yes. You two are going to look so sweet.” 

“Yeah about that Auntie. We’re not together… “I explain glumly, “She’s just a friend.”

“How can that be?” she asks. “You two seem so happy together.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to. She just not interested.”

“Oh now that is the biggest load of wash… I’ve seen the way she looks at you.”

“Huh?” I ask.

Aunt Claret’s answer is cut short by the sounds of foot steps coming down the stairs, “Alright? How do I look?” 

She looks as if she’s floated down from the berryside layer. Her snow white hair is tied up with a bow and the tips carry just the slightest bit of purple. I’m pretty sure I have a new favorite color combination. With a mouth still slacked open I fail to give her a reply, so my Aunt answers for us, “You look beautiful my dear.”

Lacey grins widely and hops onto the couch beside me, “There is nothing better than home made gifts. You can feel the love in each stitch. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“I uhhh, yeah it’s great,” Looking at Lacey, I stumble over my words like a failed hurdler. “You do great work Auntie.”

Aunt Claret gets up from her desk and moves to the opposite corner of the room,”Thank you dear, you are both very sweet to humor an old lady, like you have. Now I have just one more request.”

“Sure! Lacey says brightly, “Anything for the bringer of the best Berrymas ever!”

Aunt Claret turns around with a camera, “Wonderful! I must take a photo of my work. It is a tradition of mine.”

“You don’t really need that do you Auntie?” I ask with disappointment.

Aunt Claret frowns, “Yes I do. Now get your berry bottoms outside.”

Before I can argue, Lacey is tugging on my sleeve. “Come on! Pictures are fun!”

Pictures are fun, most of the time. Pictures with Lacey however, are more like permanent reminder of a life I’ll never have, but can dangle inches from my nose, always out of reach.

“Alright just stand over there,” Aunt Claret instructs, while Lacey and I negotiate through the snow. Lacey’s canvas shoes are completely covered with the freezing slushy white stuff, but she never complains once about it.

“Over here?” Lacey asks.

“Yes,” Aunt Claret replies with a nod, “but I need you to move in a little closer. Merlot hunny, step in.”

Lacey looks to me and I look at Lacey, “I’m not going to bite,” she says with a giggle moving in closer. “You act like we’ve never taken a picture together.”

“Just one,” I say, trying to seem as disinterested in the idea as possible. “Make it quick.”

 

 

When it comes time to open presents, I snag Lacey’s gift from under the tree, standing nervously I wait for her to join me. Aunt Claret ducks out of the room for some reason, which I’m grateful for. I’m more than nervous about this gift exchange. Lacey comes a moment later with empty hands.

“Sweet Berrymas Lace,” I say holding out her present. Lacey takes it from my hands, grinning sweetly. Giving it a shake first, she opens it second. I can see her eyes, trying to decipher the colorful content. “I know I was instructed not to spend much, so I bought you some fabric.” Lacey digs through the multi colors. Pink, peach, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple fabric, “Merlot this is amazing.”

“I know you like to make things and you love colorful stuff.”

She nods her head with a delighted laugh, “I love this!” Pulling out the different fabrics, a mini wrapped tissue present falls from the purple, landing at her feet. Lacey kneels down to pick it up, “What’s this?” she asks.

“Open it.”

“Alright,” she rips back to the paper to find three of those really inexpensive rubber bracelets. One pink, one white, on purple. Holding them up to the light, she is still smiling, “Neato!” she exclaims.

“I thought it would be a nice to stay in touch with your friends.” I explain, rubbing the back of my neck. Lacey’s smile fades, “Me, you and Bubbie,” she says softly.

Suddenly I regret this addition to her present, ” I hope that doesn’t… errr…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to up-” Lacey throws her arms around my shoulders, hanging on tightly, her body is warm against my chest, and my heart starts racing like it always does when she’s in my arms, “Thank you,” she whispers. “They are perfect. Thank you.”

Lacey pulls away, but doesn’t let go. I can feel her fingers on the back of my neck and I’m trying to keep my cool. Complete and undivided attention locks with the sadness in her eyes, “What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I don’t have a present for you,” Lacey shakes her head, letting out a disappointed sigh, “I tried to think of something, but I couldn’t. Everything seemed stupid.” Pale hands cover her face, “And after you get me this perfect, perfectness. Nothing would ever measure up.”

“Hey,” I pull her hands from her face, “It’s okay. I don’t need anything. I’m just happy to have you here. Please don’t be upset. I’m fine.”

Lacey’s chin sinks to her chest, so I kneel down to find her eyes, “Your presence in my present.”

That get’s a little laugh our of her. Lacey rubs her nose with a sniff, “Such a cheeser.”

Almost on cue, Aunt Claret emerges a few moments later, “Now where were we? Ah yes, let’s make some hot chocolate  You haven’t had hot chocolate until you’ve tried mine, Lacey dear.”

Lacey and I follow Auntie to the kitchen and I lean in to whisper in her ear, “It’s just a packet mix, but she puts her own marshmallows.”

Lacey giggles, “Well I bet it’s delicious anyways.”

“What was that dear?” Aunt Claret asks over her shoulder.

“I said I bet it’s delicious!” Lacey calls back.

“Ah yes,” Aunt Claret nods with her back to us and Lacey throws me a look. “You’re so bad,” she mouths.

I shrug my shoulders and she shoves me playfully. We’re both in midst of a laugh when my phone goes off, the obnoxious ringtone I set for Turq sings out. Excusing myself to the other corner of the room, I go to answer it.

“What do you want Turq?”

“Wow. Not even a hello. Or Sweet Berrymas. I see where I stand in this relationship…”

“What do you want Turq.”

“How’s Lacey? Frigid as ever?”

“Dude.”

“Alright alright. I’m done. All joking aside, you gotta come back to campus.”

“What? Why?”

“Juicer tonight. Everyone is going to be there.”

“But it’s Berrymas.”

That’s why everyone is free! Nothing is going on. Who really does anything Berrymas night, come on!”

“But Lacey and I-

“Bring her along! I’m sure you’re both bored stiff there. Dude I need you here. This party. Man you gotta get here. PLEAAAAASE.”

“….”

“Man you owe me.”

“For what?!”

“Just get over here!!”

“I’ll ask Lacey. If she doesn’t want to, you’re just going to have to party without us.”

“Lame.”

“That’s my deal.”

“Fine. Bye.” *click*