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Our Secret

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I laughed and started to slow down. He ran just beside me, form perfect, breathing unlabored while mine was coming out in an embarrassing, disjointed wheezing. I was sure that I had sweat stains in that humiliating oval on my back and I had stepped on at least a dozen unidentifiable objects, half of which feeling like they were still lodged in my foot.
***

Since I had been taken from my home and brought here, he had been the one thing that I tried to avoid most. I had friends and enemies and high school drama and heartbreak like everyone else in the world. So many good things had just come to me, along with some bad things that were coming less and less, but to call this place home had always sounded like an insult and a betrayal to the memory of my old life. I had always known that he was the one person who could make me sink into soft waves of this place. He could make me stop clinging to the edge and just let go…just drift away.

And I couldn’t let that happen.

My resistance was the control that I maintained in a place that almost everything was a decision that is not your own, whether you know it or not. It was my safety belt, my life jacket. It wouldn’t necessarily pull me back, but it would at least keep me from going any farther under.

He was the one because he was the one who could see. He was the one who could see that the thought of staying here forever made me sick, that whenever I thought that I was alone my happy façade would drop and I would look around in disgust as if I had just realized where I was. He was the only one who would realize that sometimes when someone would talk to me I would have no idea what they were saying.
He called me out on it, whenever he could get me alone, and it had always made me feel stripped bare. That feeling wasn’t one I liked, and lately, after the last time, I had stopped going nearly anywhere alone just so I would the assurance that I would never have to feel like that again. That was the key to his mystery, I had learned. The line that he would not cross wasn’t present if we were alone.

But tonight, after what seemed like years even though it had only been weeks, the cold night air and the promise of my own personal space in the world was like a physical need, like an addiction that could never be broken.

And so I wandered, mind and body. I went out the doors and explored a world that seemed only to appear at night, one that I had never seen before. I walked through the gardens with flowers that opened especially for the moon and came upon fountains that seemed to have a mischievous glow in their eyes that was only dead and cold stone in the daytime.

He had startled me. By that time, panic was just starting to set in. The garden was like a labyrinth that I had laid no breadcrumbs to lead me back to where I was safe. The statue’s eyes had gone from mischievous to sinister and I was sure that the beast that waited within would soon find me. In the back of my mind, I knew that there was no beast, and that the statues were just stone, but this place held no room for reason. So I ran.

It felt like I had ran for an eternity and this maze held time still so my torment would never end. And then, in all the silence except for my dangerously beating heart and breathing that hinted at hysteria, he called out to me, and I was tempted to just keep running.

But another presence, the knowledge that I was not so completely alone slowly brought my reason back, and I knew that he could lead me out of this place.

And so I turned, hands on hips, and faced him. He had approached me silently and so he was much closer than his voice portrayed. Close enough to touch. Again, the thought of running passed through my mind, but it went as quickly as it came. Instead, suspicion started to creep into the empty space.

It was all too perfect. He would have known I would get lost. He would have known that I would have to trust him or wander blindly around in the dark. He gave me really no choice at all. I would have to trust him.

Did he follow me?

Did he plan all of this?

And then, reason once again re-entered my mind. He couldn’t have made me decide to get out of bed and wander around at night.

Or could he?

Slowly, I started to back away, and I knew by the changing expression on his face, melting from smug and his signature arrogance to concerned and wary, that he read the fear in my eyes.

He matched each of my steps backward with a step of his own forwards until I was backed up against a hedge. My heart was hammering and I looked not at him but at possible ways that I could escape, eyes darting like a cornered animal.

“Lost?” He said.

And that was all it took. One word and the fear that was building like a storm cloud evaporated. It was like that word was my life line, pulling me out of darkness and back into reality where everything was softer and less harsh.

I nodded, finally meeting his eye. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” I said, a little embarrassed now at my over-reaction. “I just felt like I needed to be alone and it turned into an expedition.”

He gave me an amused smile, and then I asked the question that was nagging at me.


“So, what are you doing out here? And don’t tell me you just decided to go for a midnight stroll, because you aren’t in your pj’s.” I said, trying not to sound as suspicious as I felt by making a joke, gesturing down at my ensemble which consisted of a tank top that had various holes and my grungiest pair of checkered bottoms.

He laughed, his white teeth practically glowing in all the dreariness. “No.” He said. “No, there’s this thing tonight. I tried all day to find you, but it feels like you’ve been avoiding me lately.” His voice trailed off, making me feel guilty. “Anyways, apparently you’ve already heard?”

It was open ended, and I knew it required a response. But the words “you’ve been avoiding me lately” and the way his voice sounded when the words passed through his lips, so disappointed, just kept playing in my mind like a broken record. I did feel guilty, but at the same time I had a good reason to be avoiding him. Though, at that moment I wasn’t particularly sure what that reason was, and I was not multitalented enough to sort through all my emotions that were demanding attention and speak at the same time.

Finally, I got myself together, realizing that I had no idea what he was talking about as far as the event he mentioned.

“No, I didn’t hear about anything.” I said, shrugging.

He smiled like he had a secret. “I didn’t think so.” He said, still grinning. When I raised one eyebrow at him in question he continued. “It happens that I am the only one, as far as I know anyway, that is in on this little secret.”

“And you’re going to share your secret with me?” I said, smiling now too. More exited than I should’ve been but too exited to care.

He nodded, a mischievous gleam in his eye that wasn’t unlike the eyes on the statues, but one I was almost certain wouldn’t turn sinister. “And then it’ll be our secret.”






***
I laughed and started to slow down. He ran just beside me, form perfect, breathing unlabored while mine was coming out in an embarrassing, disjointed wheezing. I was sure that I had sweat stains in that humiliating oval on my back and I had stepped on at least a dozen unidentifiable objects, half of which feeling like they were still lodged in my foot. And yet I was utterly in a state of bliss.
He led me through the labyrinth, taking each turn as if he had taken them a million times before. And now we came to an entrance, walking through a low iron arch that was caressed by a vine with flowers that opened just for the moon.
He took my hand and I didn’t pull away.
“It’s just around the corner.” He said in almost a whisper, his voice melting in with the other sounds of nature all around us.
I nodded, smiling, struggling to keep my excitement at bay.
When we rounded that bend of sodden earth, my breath flew from my lips and I froze. He looked at me with a gleam in his eye that was so full of emotions waiting to be sorted out I had no more hope of reading it than I had of reading the stars.
“Why are you showing me your secret?” I asked, still breathless from the sight before me that my eyes were still struggling to take in.
“Our secret.” He insisted gently.

“Why?”

“Because I thought it might make you happier.” He said, staring at me intently, making sure that I was listening. “Now, I’m the only one who knows your secret, and you’re the only one who knows mine.”

I tore my gaze away from an image that I didn’t think I would ever be able to stop looking at and glared up at him.
“And what secret do you know of mine?” I asked, a challenge in my voice.
He leaned down and whispered in my ear, like we were in a room full of people instead of in the middle of an empty maze.
“I know,” He said. “That you hate it here, and that you’re sad all the time.”



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