Sweet oblivion (sweet se.., p.10
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       Sweet Oblivion (Sweet Series #1), p.10

           Bailey Ardisone

  I smiled and bit my bottom lip as I stood on this hill for the billionth time and stared out at the beautiful scene before me.

  My best friend—Rydan—was in the exact same position he was in when I first met him seven years ago and humming that exact oh-so-familiar tune I had come to love, just like back then. There he was, lying under our Weeping Willow tree. Our secret escape.

  As I made my way down toward him, just knowing I was on my way to see him gave me comfort and lifted my spirits. He was the only one I could truly talk to, the only person who was ever there for me, and the only person I could actually trust. I didn’t have any siblings or family that I could call my own, and although I’d like to think of Teddy as being a friend, he was just a stuffed bear. So yeah, he didn’t exactly count. I had never been close to anyone other than my mom and Rydan. He was my family now. He was my rock. I didn’t know what I would do without him.

  As I walked up to Rydan, I couldn’t help smirking as I lightly kicked him in his side. I knew he heard me coming, but he always chose to ignore my presence at first until I pestered him, making him finally avert his constant daydreaming and look me in the eyes. As always, he hummed his tune but stopped to quickly reach out and grab my ankle before I could make contact again.

  Once he slowly lifted his other arm from covering his face, he reluctantly turned his head and bore his silver eyes into mine.

  “Are you ever going to finish that piece? I would like to hear the end product at least some time before I shrivel up and die of old age,” I joked, referring to the melody he was humming. From the beginning, he’d always say it was still a work in progress.

  “You can’t rush these things. Sometimes it takes experiencing just the right encounter or moment in order to birth a masterpiece,” he drawled. “It’s not ready because I’m still waiting for that moment.”

  Turning back, he let go of my ankle and closed his eyes as he resumed his previous position with his arm over his face and continued to hum.

  I zipped up my sweater halfway and got down to lie beside him. I stared up at the ever moving, rustling branches in the wind of the grand and beautiful tree that I loved so much. This was my favorite place in the whole world. If I could somehow stop time and capture this perfect scene before me, I would give anything to do so. The branches were full of leaves and extremely long, almost touching the ground, giving the appearance of a secret forest room that we were enclosed in, just for us.

  Beyond us was a serene pond that almost seemed to glow in the sun, surrounded by tall birches and other magnificent trees. I was pretty sure this place could be described as heaven during autumn when all the leaves changed to different colors.

  I glanced at Rydan and saw he hadn’t moved. He was lying right under a branch that looked like it covered him like a loving arm and wanted to embrace him. His left knee was up, and his right arm covered his eyes. As I lay there beside him and studied him, it reminded me of the time we first met. It felt so safe and comfortable while lying there; I couldn’t help closing my eyes, and I began to drift away with Rydan’s entrancing humming vibrating next to my ear, lulling me to sleep. As I was thinking about the day we first met, my dreams took me back there as soon as I fell asleep.

  Back to the day that gave me hope.

  I had been ten years old. Instead of going straight home from school, I took a different route. There was no path, but after about halfway in a cluster of trees, you could see weeping willows far in the distance up the hill. I had always loved those. When I first heard the name, my first thought was why was it weeping? It sounded sad. I decided to go find one.

  It seemed to take a while to get there, but I was awestruck by the beauty surrounding me. It seemed like a picture, like a painting, like a dream.

  There was a small pond over to my left nestled in front of a forest of trees. But it was the Weeping Willow that was breathtaking as it hung over the pond. The branches just touched the surface of the water, creating small ripples that got larger and larger.

  As I got closer, I saw a boy lying under the branches. He had his arm over his eyes, and I didn’t think he heard me approach. I felt a twinge of anger that he had found this place first and I couldn’t be alone. The branches swayed in the wind as I watched the boy who looked my age.

  I didn’t want to destroy his peace, so I thought about turning toward home when he suddenly moved. I held my breath, thinking maybe he heard me, but as he settled back to his original position, I slowly exhaled and decided to walk closer. Maybe he would share this little bit of peace with me. I longed for someone to talk to. It had been a while since I’d had a friend.

  There was no leaving it now. I was drawn to this place, I was drawn to this beauty, and I suddenly realized, I was drawn to this boy.

  “Hey, I’m Nari. I don’t mean to bother you, but can I sit here too?” I asked the boy lying on his back in the grass. He was humming such a pretty tune. I had never it heard before, and I wondered what it was.

  Without looking up or moving, he said, “I didn’t ask you what your name was.”

  “I know, but I don’t have anyone else to talk to. I lost my only friend a few years ago, and I really don’t want to be home right now,” I told him, referring to Teddy. “I really want to stay here.”

  “Do what you want. I don’t care that much either way,” he said softly. There was gentleness to his voice that kept me from feeling afraid or awkward. I sat down next to him and pulled my thin dress over my knees. It felt safe here, sitting next to this stranger. It was nice and comforting, even as we sat in silence.

  We stayed like that for a long time. The boy continued to hum ever so lightly, and I stared out in front of me, smiling at the beautiful white swan and her babies splashing and playing in the water of the mirrored pond.

  The breeze blew through my hair and the long slender branches of the enormous Weeping Willow tree, just softly agitating the surface of the water, setting off small waves of rings each time they fell back down into place after the wind had blown.

  After some time, I realized it was dusk, and my chest tightened at the thought of having to go back home. At that same moment, the boy’s hum caught, and he slightly stiffened. I looked over at him, but he immediately resumed humming. Did he notice my sudden reaction?

  I needed to learn to hide my feelings better. But I dreaded going to Ray's house—I didn’t want this moment to end. I had to force myself to stand up, with the glimmer of hope and anxiousness to come back tomorrow. Any place was better than at that scary house, sure, but there was just something about the atmosphere here. It was special. And calming. I felt happier, like this was where I belonged. Like it was home.

  I wondered if this boy would be here again. There was something calming about his presence, too. Perhaps it wasn’t just this spot but this mysterious boy that made it feel so special. Oh no...what if he thought I was intruding? He might not want to come back if he thought I’d be here from now on. He probably wanted to keep this amazing secret hiding place to himself.

  I looked down and sighed, realizing there was nothing I could do about it either way. It wouldn’t be anything new. I was used to kids avoiding me. I tried to push those thoughts aside as I started walking away.

  I turned back to look at the boy one last time, just in case I’d never see him again, and then I began my walk back home.

  A few steps later, I heard him say, “My name is Rydan. See you tomorrow.”

  With a grin and without even turning around, I ran back to the house, forgetting my fears and dread that awaited me, only thinking that I couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come.

  I awoke to Rydan’s voice and pressure on my shoulder as he squeezed it. “Yo, sleepyhead, the sun is setting. You should get home before it gets dark.”

  “Yeah, because that would be scarier than actually being home,” I said sarcastically and groggily while sitting up. He knew the last place I wanted to be was home. With him. I’d rather be anywhere else in the world. But Rydan w
as right. I needed to get home before fueling another drunken, angry outburst. I had already cleaned up one mess today; I didn’t need to do it again.

  “You know if I could, I’d take you away from there. One day we’ll both be getting out of here, trust me,” he said while gazing his bright silver eyes intently into mine. I believed him at that moment. And I trusted him. But as he said that, I noticed a hint of some other emotion. I couldn’t quite catch what it was before he quickly went back to his usual expressionless demeanor. Rydan was always so hard to read – constantly guarded, rarely showing emotion. I knew there was a lot more deep inside him, just waiting to break free, if he ever let it.

  “What’s wrong?” I asked, even though I knew he wouldn’t tell me.

  “What do you mean?” He raised one eyebrow at me, like I was crazy. Hmmm...shocker. I mentally rolled my eyes.

  “Forget it.” I sighed, deciding it was best not to get in a debate when I was already running late.

  “Okay,” he replied skeptically. Again, like I was the crazy one.

  While rubbing my eyes, I forced myself to get up. “Hey, where do you think we’d go?” His statement piqued my curiosity, so I just had to ask. “I mean, if we could get away from here right now, where would we go?” I felt I needed to clarify my question.

  “Anywhere you’d want,” he answered softly.

  “Japan?” He loved Anime and Manga; what better place than its home country?

  “If you want,” he laughed.

  “Wait, New Zealand!” I could literally list every and any country on this planet and I would be the happiest person alive to go there.

  “Sure. Or we could check out all the states here, like drive cross-country, that sort of thing. Then after we’ve seen all that there is to offer from our home country, we can visit others.” Was he mocking me? I couldn’t tell...I narrowed my eyes at him.

  “Right. But you know, that’s actually not a bad idea...we could make an informed decision on where to stay that way. Great idea!” I exclaimed with joy, realizing that I didn’t care if he was messing with me or not. It completely made sense!

  He only smiled, and I took it as my cue to get going.

  “See you later, Ry,” I murmured, hating that I had to leave and tried hard to produce at least a small smile. I turned around and unwillingly walked back to my ever not-so glamorous life.

  Chapter Six

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