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I hated the clock. 3:07 am. Not again. I was tired of waking up in the middle of the night. All I wanted to do was sleep. I wanted to be peacefully asleep with no worries and no cares. No one could bother me when I was sleeping. I could be in my own world, safe. I spent the rest of my night thinking about how much I wanted to sleep, and not actually doing it. My alarm rang, but I didn’t need it to. I was wide awake. I forced myself out of bed and started walking to the bathroom. I stopped at the end of the hallway and looked to my right. His room. Still messy. His hockey bag still dumped out in the middle of the floor. His trophies still shining. His posters of Crosby still hung on the wall. Just the way he would have kept it. Except his bed. Nothing was different about it. It was just gone. A big empty rectangle in the middle of the room. A big empty space surrounded by his life.
School was the same. Everyday it’s the same. Nothing ever changes. I kind of like it. Stability is good. After school, I didn’t feel like going home. I rarely do. So, I went to the library. I didn’t go to read. I went there because it was quiet and peaceful. I was aimlessly wandering up and down the aisles of books when I ran into someone. I literally ran into them. The book I had in my hand flew across the aisle and I stumbled a few steps backwards. I looked up, ready to apologize awkwardly. Our eyes met. For a reason I still do not understand, I could not look away. His eyes trapped me.
“I’m sorry,” he said. I had absolutely no idea what to say in response. All I knew was that I wanted to say something. Anything.
“It’s okay,” I stuttered. Smooth. He smiled, bent down, and picked up the book that I had dropped. When he handed it to me, our hands slightly touched. I tried to hide the excitement.
“Criminal Minds, huh?” he questioned as he read the title of my book.
“Yeah,” I said, “That kind of stuff interests me.”
“I know what you mean,” he said with intense eyes.
For the next hour, we talked. We talked about everything and anything. I don’t do that. I don’t open up to people. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. This time was different. I loved the way it felt to just talk for no specific reason. He cared about what I had to say and I was intrigued by every word he said. In that hour, I discovered many things about this guy. His name was Chase. He goes to East High School. (I go to West.) He lives with his brother, his sister, and his mom. He wants to attend New York University and study psychology. I was surprised that I even took in all the things he was saying because I was too focused on his dark blue eyes and deep brown hair that lay perfectly on his forehead.
At the end of this conversation, he nervously looked at me and said, “What are you doing tomorrow night?”
Without thinking, I said, “Anything with you.”
He smiled, laughed a little, and said, “Okay, good.” We exchanged numbers and he walked away. I didn’t want him to leave. Everyone walks away.
The next day dragged on forever. Every minute literally felt like an hour. I finally got home and immediately started getting ready. The doorbell rang the second I was done. No extra time to prepare myself. No extra time to plan what I was going to say. My feet pounded on each stair as I ran down them. The hinge on the door squeaked as I opened it. I felt my cheeks tighten as I smiled when I saw him standing on the doorstep.
He stood there so relaxed. So sure of himself. I was jealous. We both stood there smiling for awhile when, finally, he spoke.
“Bella, you look beautiful.” My cheeks were hurting from smiling so much, and we hadn’t even walked out the door. He gently took my hand and we walked down the driveway. His hand felt so right in mine. It just fit, like a missing puzzle piece. We got in his car and he said he was going to surprise me about where we were going. On that car ride, nothing else was going through my mind. All I cared about in that moment was him and the night ahead of us.
We drove up to an open grassy area. He stopped the car and we got out. He took my hand once again and we walked until we arrived at a tiny pond. He sat down near the edge by the water and motioned for me to sit next to him.
“So, what’s your story, Bella?” he asked with curiosity in his eyes.
“I don’t really know. But when I find out, I’ll let you know,” I said with a smile.
Almost interrupting me, he started talking very quickly. “Tell me more. Tell me anything. Tell me everything. I want to know everything about you, Bella. You interest me, and I want to
listen.” The way he worded it, the way he said it, made me feel completely safe. I had never felt that safe.
“My younger brother was murdered a year ago,” I blurted without thinking. His eyes focused in on mine. I knew he wanted to hear more from me.
“Tell me more, Bella.”
“We were all sleeping. All of us. My mom and dad were in their room. I was in my room. And Blake was in his. All I remember is waking up to the loudest sound I had ever heard. It was so unbelievably loud, Chase. I sat in my bed. I just sat there. I could have done something. But, I couldn’t move. I heard my parents run down the hallway to Blake’s room. I remember the sound of my mom crying. I will never forget it. I ran toward his room. My dad ran downstairs to call 911. My mom was panicking, hovering over him. I walked close. I saw blood. Blood everywhere. I remember looking at my brother; he looked as if he was still asleep. I heard my dad from downstairs. I could never forget the words he said. ‘Someone came into our house. My son has been shot!’ He was so innocent. He was sleeping. Just sleeping. And he was killed.”
I told him that story like I had known him forever. He had no idea what to say. He put his arms around me and hugged me. He held me for a long time. He didn’t need to say anything. I could feel him close to me. That closeness made me relax and fall deeply into him.
I slept like a baby that night. I woke up and it was Saturday morning. I walked downstairs, stopping at my brother’s room like I always do. I sat on the couch when I heard a knock at the door. I opened it to see Chase standing there. Stiff. White-faced. Hands at his sides. He looked scared. His eyes were darting back and forth and he couldn’t look at me.
“Is something wrong?” I asked nervously, hugging him around the neck.
He pushed me away and said, “My older brother Rowen is in prison. He’s in prison for murder.”
“Chase, you can talk to me. I’m here for you.”
“My brother is in prison for murdering Blake.”
I pushed the door shut and sat down. In the middle of the floor. I didn’t know what else to do. My parents had chosen to not find out the name of Blake’s murderer. After a whole year, I now knew. I sat there without moving for at least an hour. The whole world stopped. Everything was silent. I was frozen in the moment. My mind wouldn’t let my heart believe it, and my heart wouldn’t let my mind believe it.
Only because I didn’t know what else to do, I stood up and opened the door. There he was, still there. He was sitting facing away from me on the doorstep. He turned around, his eyes red from tears. He stood up, faced me, and began talking.
“I don’t want to lose you, Bella. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. After Rowen was taken away, I lost hope in a lot of things. But not this, I won’t let this go. I want you, Bella. I want you.”
I hugged him and let myself get wrapped in his arms.
“I need you.”