Sweet oblivion (sweet se.., p.46
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       Sweet Oblivion (Sweet Series #1), p.46

           Bailey Ardisone


  I stayed in bed Friday morning just staring at the ceiling. The bumps and ridges of the popcorn texture were interesting to look at. I would imagine they looked like—I jumped at the sound of my cell ringing. Seeing that it was Zaylie, I answered immediately.


  “Hey, it’s me. Since we only had a half-day of school today, some of us were going to hang out before the football game and then we’ll just all go to it together. Are you sick again? Please tell me you’re not. I really want you to be there,” she whined since I wasn’t at school this morning.

  “Ugh, yes. I’m really not feeling good. I think I just need a little more time to get over it. And I wasn’t planning on going to the football game, I’m sorry. But I’ll definitely be at the carnival tomorrow.” I actually didn’t feel like going to that either but didn’t want to disappoint my new friend twice.

  The truth was, I didn’t feel up to pretending like I didn’t just get abducted and tortured a few days ago, not to mention almost strangled to death by my foster father, then healed by a mysterious boy I was developing unexplainable "feelings" for, who caused the abduction and rescued me from it. I didn’t know what I was thinking by going back to school so soon yesterday. I had tried to ignore everything, not wanting to be thought of as weak, and for a second I almost believed none of it even happened. But this morning I woke up sobbing, and as Mycah held me from behind, I knew I hadn’t fully recovered yet. I was an emotional wreck.

  “Um, and the Homecoming Dance too, I hope,” she said with worry.

  “Oh right, yes, of course. I’ll be there.” I almost forgot...again. I ground my teeth and held back a sigh, regretting my decision to go. I get to have a whole night surrounded by lovesick couples without a date...yay me.

  “Okay, I can’t complain then. It’s just a dumb football game. I understand. What’s most important is you get better! Get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow and tell you all about tonight.” I could hear the disappointment in her voice but also the concern.

  “Thanks, Zales. See you tomorrow.” I truly was grateful for her friendship. I hated disappointing her. I hung up, tossed my phone across the room, then threw my arm over my eyes and sighed. Life sucked.

  “You’re going to break the thing if you do that,” Mycah quipped as he walked in carrying food.

  “I don’t care,” I mumbled.

  “You will later when you go to use it. Here, eat.” He handed me a tray of food that smelled awfully good. He spoiled me already, explaining earlier I needed to build my strength. I looked down at the tray—Belgium waffle, eggs, and bacon. Seriously? I didn’t even know we had a waffle iron.

  “Are you a magician? There’s no way you made all this.” I refused to believe he could do everything.

  “That hurts.” He grabbed his heart. “Of course I made it. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it.” He looked down like a puppy dog, and I knew that couldn’t be further from the truth. But after taking a bite, he didn’t have to worry. It was absolutely delicious.

  “It’s delicious! Mmmm.” I didn’t want to stop. I was famished. I looked up as I chewed and found the sexy smirk he usually wore. He was proud of himself and didn’t dare hide it. Any anger I felt last night was completely forgotten the instant I looked into his piercing blue eyes. Plus him holding me while I cried might have helped a bit.

  “I didn’t know we had a waffle iron.” Was this another one of his tricks?

  “You didn’t, but you do now. I went to the supermarket. There wasn’t much in the refrigerator, so I had no other choice,” he explained plainly as he walked over to my window, something I noticed he did a lot.

  “Well, thank you very much. I’ve never had anyone cook for me before. Except…” I thought of my mother before she died. She would cook all the time, every meal.

  “Except?” he urged me to continue when I stayed silent. I cleared my throat.

  “Except my mother. Before she died. Actually she was my foster mother. I don’t know who my real parents are. They could be dead too for all I know.” I set my fork down, suddenly losing my appetite.

  “I’m very sorry to hear that. How did you end up here, exactly?” He walked over and sat down on the end of my bed.

  “I don’t remember much. I was told I had been given to the state by my parents who loved me but couldn’t take care of me, and then the Millers chose to foster me with the intent of adoption. All I remember is Elizabeth, my foster mother, always being there. Nothing before that. She never got to adopt me before she died. Now she’s gone, and for the longest time the only person I’ve had is Rydan. I miss her every day, so much.” My throat burned from unshed tears, but I refused to cry again.

  “May I ask what happened to her?” His voice was delicate, cautious.

  “I killed her.” I put my head in my hands, not wanting to see his expression.

  “I’m sure that’s not true. I can’t honestly believe that, not even for a second.” He gently touched my hands, urging me to look at him.

  “I may as well have! It was my fault she died. It should have been me instead. It’s the reason Ray hates me so much in the first place!” I looked away, afraid of his reaction.

  “I can look at your memories instead if you’d like.” He said the words so naturally, like it was the most normal thing in the world to say.

  “What! No! Are you crazy? You stay out of my head!” I grabbed my pillow and pulled it around my head like a helmet, as if to shield myself. The last thing I wanted was for him to know all the thoughts I had plaguing my mind.

  “Nari, you’re ridiculous. That would never work,” he laughed, fully amused. “I would only look at those memories, nothing else. And only so that you won’t actually have to sit there and explain what happened. I was just trying to make it easier on you is all, love.” He looked down, chuckling.

  “No, I think I’d rather just explain, thank you.” There was no way I'd take that chance. I would die of embarrassment if he ever knew how enthralled I could be by him. Or how frightened I had been by him. No, nothing in my head would be a good idea for him to see.

  “I don’t need your permission. I can read any mind I want at any time I want, as long as they are within my vicinity,” he teased. I threw my pillow at him, horrified.

  “You wouldn’t dare!” I yelped. Oh god… "Please tell me you have not read my thoughts?! Wait, can you hear them all the time?” I could practically feel the blood drain from my face.

  “I haven’t, actually. And no, I can choose whether to read someone’s mind or not. I don’t like to invade people’s privacy. I am not like that. There are very few people I’ve needed to do it to. I give you my word.” He closed his eyes and dipped his head for a second. I smiled at the way he said "privacy." In his accent, the vowel "i" was short instead of long like the way Americans pronounced it. I had no other choice but to believe him.

  “Okay, I guess. But pinky promise me you will never read my mind, ever! Please.” I held my pinky out, waiting. He took my pinky with his.

  “I pinky swear, you silly girl,” he said, chuckling. “However…there is one thing I can’t help. I can feel people’s emotions, if they are strong enough.” He looked down, shifting uncomfortably. Just great…

  I tried to ignore the new shed of light on Mycah’s life that seemed to increase with each passing second, since there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. And if I dwelled on what it really meant, then I’d just be overcome with embarrassment at the thought of him always had been able to feel my emotions from the start.

  “So what happened?” he asked again after a few moments of silence. My chest tightened with the idea of talking about how my mother died. I had only recalled the story aloud once and that was to Rydan seven years ago and with only a few details. And last night I had decided I wasn’t going to let Mycah in. But now that I sat here and he waited for me to start, it felt like the words were dying to get out.

  Tears brimmed
in my eyes as the memories came flooding back. I closed them, willing for myself to stay strong. I had cried so much in the last several weeks, and I hated being so emotional. It was unusual for me.

  Mycah moved closer and gently caressed my back. The sympathetic gesture made to comfort me only brought on more tears, and in an effort to mask the now open floodgates I covered my face with my hands and collapsed my head onto Mycah’s lap. He let me stay there as I tried to explain what happened through cries of pain.

  “It was my fault. I begged her to take me with her, to not make me go to school. She was running late for work, but I missed the bus so she had to drop me off. We were parked right in front, and I only had to get out like a good girl and go to school just like everyone else. But I didn’t. I cried and cried, begged her not to make me go. 'Please mommy, please I want to stay with you, please don’t make me go, I hate it here!' There were so many kids and parents outside the car going into the school, watching us as they passed. I don’t know why, but I was terrified to get out of the car. I was scared to leave her. All I wanted was to be with her. She looked at me and I could see the pain in her eyes, the tears she tried so hard to hold back as I continued to beg her not to make me go. 'Alright,' she said. 'You don’t have to go. Of course you don’t have to go.' The relief and gratitude I felt when she said those words were so overwhelming I laughed and cried at the same time, putting my arms around her as we sat in the car.”

  Mycah rubbed my back as I sobbed; the very feelings of that day were just as strong as if no time had passed at all. As if it wasn’t ten years ago. I tried to go on, to keep telling the story.

  “As we drove away from the school, she called into work and requested a personal day. She didn’t have very many to begin with, and already she had used most of them up because of me—because of me not able to be without her. I hated being left with anyone else that wasn’t her. She drove us to Mason’s Bakery for breakfast. As we ate, she told me stories and jokes to cheer me up. It was the last time I heard her laugh. The last time I got to see her smile.”

  I hugged my body and squeezed my eyes closed tight, dreading what I was about to say next. Mycah stroked my hair away from my face and tucked it behind my ear, waiting for me to continue. My throat hurt from crying and trying to talk simultaneously, making my voice thick and heavy with tears.

  “When we walked out of the bakery, I was so stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking! But at the time, I was young and innocent, easily distracted. This bright golden leaf caught my eye—it was shaped like a heart, and I remember thinking how much my mom would love it if I gave it to her. I bent down to pick it up, but the wind caught it. It blew away in front of me, so I chased it. I was so stupid. She called out to me to wait for her, but I didn’t listen. I thought just one second, I only need one more second to catch it, and I’ll come right back. I had tunnel vision. All I could see, all that mattered was catching that leaf. It didn’t even register what I was doing as it blew into the street. I automatically kept chasing it, not seeing anything else. But at the sound of my mother’s gut-wrenching screams and tires screeching, I looked up into her terror-stricken eyes just as she pushed me to the ground out of the way of an oncoming truck. I don’t think I have ever been that scared as I was in that very moment. As I cried, I looked back ready to run to my mother’s arms, ready to apologize for running out into the street. But what I saw instead is an image I would give anything to forget.” I sat up and wrapped my arms around Mycah’s neck.

  “The truck hit her instead, Mycah. It should have been me. It should have been me.” The tears streamed down my face as the memory played over and over in my head. “Her body was mangled and bloody. Her spine had snapped in two, and later I heard the doctors say she died from internal bleeding. Which means she didn’t die instantly. She suffered first.” I could barely contain my sobs with the thought of her feeling pain and suddenly felt nauseated. I let go of Mycah and ran to the bathroom.

  I never let myself go through that day again. I never let my thoughts return me to that spot where I sat as I watched in horror people running to my mother and shouting to call 911. I had run to her broken body, screaming, holding on to her, gripping her with all my strength as someone tried to pull me away. I never thought of that day since.

  Not because I didn’t care or because I wanted to forget the sacrifice my mother made for me. It was because I simply could not handle it. I couldn’t handle the memories or the feelings that followed, and as I explained what happened to Mycah, it had been so long since I remembered the details, it washed through me like it only happened moments ago. It was too much.

  I emptied the contents of my stomach into the toilet with eyes closed tight and quickly flushed before the sight made me sick again. When I had told Rydan, it had been five years after it happened and I had only said she died from getting hit by a truck and that it should have been me. I never went into any details with him because my brain wouldn’t take me there at the time.

  Now that I betrayed my carefully built defense mechanism, I felt my heart crumble to pieces. I would never forgive myself for that day. If it weren’t for me, my mother would still be alive. If I hadn’t been such a chicken and had gone to school that day, she would still be alive. I hated myself. I understood completely why Ray blamed me and hated me too. I deserved his hatred. I deserved every bit of torture he conjured up for me.

  I stepped over to the mirror above the sink and stared into my abnormal violet eyes. Why wasn’t I the one who died? It should have been me. I had no reason to be here. She was better than I was; she enjoyed life and had so many people that loved her. I was a freak—a nobody—and had nothing going for me.

  Already I trembled, but it quickly escalated to uncontrollable shaking as I stood there staring at myself. I could feel myself losing it as I gripped the sides of the sink. As I started to collapse, Mycah was suddenly there, putting an arm behind my back and one behind my knees, easily picking me up off the floor and holding me to his chest.

  I buried my head in his neck and clasped my hands around his head, knotting my fingers through his hair. His woodsy smell washed over me and filled my lungs, instantly calming my trembling heart.

  He quietly carried me back into my room and sat down on the edge of the bed. He held me as tightly as he could without hurting me. He moved his arm from under my legs and hugged it around my body, reaching up to rub the back of my head.

  I kept my face in his neck, feeling safe and warm, never wanting to move as my cries eventually slowed to a stop. That tiny kindled flame that had been burning in the abyss of my soul flashed up brighter, but I tried, very hard, to squash it. Or at least pretended it didn’t exist.

  “I’m sorry,” I groaned, grimacing.

  “You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for.” His voice was soft and kind as he wiped the wet trails my tears left behind with his thumb. My heart was like a kick drum—his touch igniting a frenzy of butterflies within. He was so close…I could feel his pulse underneath my fingertips that stayed against his neck.

  “But I hate being so emotional. You must think I’m insane,” I replied sheepishly.

  “How can you even say that? Nariella, you’re beautiful,” he breathed next to my ear. I lifted my head up, surprised.

  “Maybe you’re the one who's insane,” I said, rubbing my nose. He chuckled softly.

  “And compassionate. You loved your mother. I would think you were insane if you didn’t react the way you did telling your story. You went through something no child should.” His voice was tender, making me blush. I was suddenly embarrassed by the closeness and quickly scrambled out of his hold. I wasn’t used to this kind of affection.

  “Can we change the subject now? I’m sick of crying,” I exclaimed, trying to cover my weirdness. I bent down to pick up my mother’s picture that had fallen during Mycah and Rydan’s confrontation. I didn’t know why I left it like that. I looked into her eyes for a few seconds before setting it down in its place on top of
my bookcase.

  I felt better now that I got what happened out in the open. Not talking about it for so long made it fester inside me. I didn’t even realize how much I needed to get it off my chest. It was as if this huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Even though I still felt the pain of it all, sharing the details with another person was therapeutic.

  “Alright,” he agreed with amusement in his voice.

  “I’m going to the Homecoming Carnival tomorrow with my friends. And Rydan will be there too. So it might be best if…if I go alone.” I cleared my throat, not liking the way my insides hurt at the thought of being away from him. But Rydan didn’t want me hanging around Mycah, and the last thing I wanted to do was give another reason for Rydan to be mad at me again. Besides, I had been spending too much time around Mycah as it was. If I was going to successfully return my resolve against males back to its rightful state, then this was the way to do it. But the Homecoming Dance...

  “I’ve probably stayed too long as it is. I really should get a move on,” Mycah informed me casually, breaking off my dangerously tempting thought. His words hit me in the gut, and I felt like doubling over. I walked over to my closet and pulled out a long-sleeved shirt and grabbed my jeans, masking my attrition.

  “I need to see Rydan. I’m going to get ready in the bathroom.” I couldn’t hide the aversion from my voice, and I hoped Mycah didn’t catch on. I quickly left to get ready and sent a text to Rydan to meet me at our spot. I felt like I was going to be sick again. I drew in deep breaths and counted to ten.

  I didn’t care if I had to wait hours for him to get there. I had to see him. And get away from Mycah. If Mycah was leaving, I couldn’t feel this way about it. I couldn’t hate it. I needed to get over it. I pulled my hair over my shoulder and tied it into a fishtail braid.

  I walked back into my room to grab my coat, boots, and Rydan’s gift. Mycah stood up, silent and expressionless, not losing his sly demeanor for a second. I fidgeted for a moment, not knowing what else to say. My phone buzzed, startling me. It was Rydan, who replied with ‘I’m already here. See you in a few.’ I exhaled with relief. I turned to Mycah, dreading what was next.

  “Will you say goodbye before you leave?” I inquired. My voice was shaky, anxiety blooming in my stomach. I could handle this, right? So why did it feel like I was about to lose it if I didn’t get far far away from here in the next second?

  “I’ll try to, if that’s what you want,” he replied unassumingly. Was he nervous? Probably not. I was the nervous one.

  “I do. After what we’ve been through together; it’s only right,” I explained more confidently, feeling the need to give a reason and pushed any ache down to the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t feel this way. I refused to acknowledge it, or especially show it.

  “I’ll see you later then,” he replied.

  “Later,” I mumbled, wanting to run out of the house. It was the strangest sensation. I loathed leaving Mycah in that moment and hated even more the thought of him leaving for good, but at the same time all I wanted to do was get the heck away from him.

  I just needed distance to get past these overwhelming feelings of despair before I could officially say goodbye. As I practically ran to the Weeping Willow, I didn’t want to admit it, but it faintly registered that I was actually running away from the pain Mycah was about to cause, not from him. I was delusional if I believed I could run from it.

  I arrived at the Willow but could hardly see Rydan through the long branches. There was no wind, so they hung down in one place creating a secret room. I walked through the curtain of branches feeling utterly at peace, like I was finally home.

  Rydan was sitting up against the trunk playing his guitar. He didn’t stop when I walked through; something I was used to.

  “What’s wrong?” he questioned discerningly once he looked at me.

  “I just really missed you.” As I said the words, I felt how true they really were. I could always rely on Rydan. He would never leave me. I pushed Mycah and the pain it caused out of my mind.

  Rydan set his guitar down then, surprising me, and stood up. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me tightly. His muscles were hard and pressed against my bones, making it almost painful. I didn’t care, not in the slightest. I buried my face in his chest, taking in his smoky scent. I leaned his gift against the back of my legs and gripped his black shirt, not ever wanting to let go. I felt so safe, so calm. His touch and smell were like balm on my damaged nerves.

  “I missed you too,” he gently whispered in my ear.

  I eventually pulled away, not wanting to cry. “I have a surprise for you.”

  “Oh yeah?” He kissed the top of my head and went back to sitting against the tree trunk playing his guitar.

  “To say thank you for everything you do for me. I wouldn’t have anything if it weren’t for you. So thank you for all the rides, lunches, dinners, cell phone, camera…” As I listed all the things Rydan had done, I began to feel overwhelmed at how much he actually took care of me. I relied on him so much—needed him so much.

  “Nari, all that is nothing. I don’t want you to thank me. You don’t need to.” His silver eyes met mine with assuredness.

  “I do need to thank you because I truly do appreciate every single thing. You’re my best friend, and I love you so much. So thank you, Rydan.” I handed him my painting of the white fox we saw in the woods, trying to ignore the embarrassment I felt at my declaration. I didn’t have anything to wrap it in, so his eyes met it immediately as I pulled it out from behind my legs. He stopped playing his guitar, and his eyes widened as he stared completely silent. Anxiety began to sprout in my stomach, wondering what he was thinking.

  I went to say something but waited, noticing he was deep in thought. He had a bewildered expression on his face, like he tried to solve a great mystery.

  “Penny for your thoughts,” I said softly. He was making me extremely nervous.

  The look I couldn’t quite understand disappeared from his face and was replaced with his usual casual expression.

  “I’ll give you this one for free,” he answered. “I’ve been dreaming.”

  I sat there looking into his face thinking he was going to tell me about them. What did it have to do with his gift? When he said nothing for about two minutes, I began to wonder how horrible they must be, and that maybe painting this was a bad idea.

  “I don’t dream, Nari. I never have. Not once.”

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

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