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Chapter two: Purple Much?
Before entering through the double glass-paneled doors of the clinic, I peeked in to check if they had the Instant scanners planted on the inside. They didn't. Good. I entered, relieved. Those babies were a real successful invention; they could scan easily the persons entering a hospital to see what care they needed. I had a bad history with walking carelessly inside one and getting all the alarms off. Given I was kinda sick then, but I just wanted to visit a friend. The staff of nurses and doctors had paid no heed to my protests and had belted me down on some stupid bed. Buzzing around with wires of scary machines while staring at me, the expressions of pure shock on their faces. Their eyes giving away the unmistakable questions, 'How is she still alive?' My father had to make up some darn far-fetched excuses for them to let me go. We had to flee the town after.
Shuddering at the memory, I walked warily inside the halls, going straight to the toilets to wash the blood off my neck that had been irking me since I woke up. Looking in the mirrors, I realized what a mess I was. My face was paler than the guy who just lost most of his blood in my car. My eyes were the darkest shade of gray-almost coal, rimmed with the red from lack of sleep. And huge bags were under them, eyelids reddening. My chocolate brown hair was sticking up at all the wrong places. The water was warm so I washed the blood off and clipped the wet locks in a half bun. I used my index finger to brush my teeth. At least I got the satisfaction. My lips were bluer than Tulip would have liked. Thinking of, I needed to see her soon.
I left the bathroom and reluctantly went over to the receptionist. She was a stout woman of about forty years of age. Her plump cheeks were pink with the chilly breeze floating in the atmosphere. The lenses in her round framed glasses were reflecting the florescent glow of the monitors in front of her.
Clearing my throat to find my voice, I greeted her. "Hey, um- how are you?" She didn't reply, didn't even look at me. "Okay, so uh- my… friend just walked in here a minute ago and I lost him in the crowd." Still no response. "I think he'll be in the ICU-'cuz he's very much injured."
She turned her head to look at me with a blank expression, "What do you expect me to do about that, hon?"
"Ah," What did I expect her to do about it? My head was still very numb. I want coffee. And that's what I'll have! "Where is the coffee machine?" I chirped.
She pointed to her right, glaring at me before turning back to her work. Her work, I could tell from the reflection in the glasses, was online shopping.
I walked over to fill myself a Styrofoam cup of steaming black coffee. Yeah, I know. I was willingly getting food from a hospital. THAT was how strongly I needed it. And the fact that my taste buds were numbskulls, also helped. Serious, I could distinguish the four principal flavors-sweet, sour, bitter and spice- but that's it. All thanks to me of course. I had once accidently entered my father's research lab and had sipped on an unstable vial when I was nine- just 'cuz it was glittery. And lo and behold, I lost the ability to taste. On the brighter side, I learned how to whistle. Besides, it was getting better with age.
I chose a vacant blue bench on the corner of the waiting room to quietly enjoy my breakfast. Just one swallow and I realized what glorious appetite I had for it. The official start of the day, even though it was ten-ish on the cat faced pendulum, winking at me from the pastel colored wall.
A lady came and sat next to me, she had a beautiful baby girl in her arms, wrapped in a pale blue blanket. Her eyes were soundly close in sleep.
"Hi, there." I caressed the baby's rosy cheek. She was so tiny.
"Her name's Robyn." The mother said, smiling at me. "Will you hold her for me?"
"Yes, of course." I was not expecting that. I tossed the empty cup away to the dustbin and took the tiny bundle. Most women I know are rather obsessive about their babies. No one ever lets me hold their one. I told her that, gently cuddling Robyn to my chest.
"Hah, I am too. Just- you seemed outstandingly serene, sipping your drink." She laughed making the wrinkles beside her eyes deepen. "I'm Hannah, by the way."
"Paige. Nice to meet you, Hannah."
"Same." She started fussing with her purse, looking for some medicine while I held the baby. Finding it, she popped a pill in her mouth and dry swallowed it, tapping her throat.
The baby started shifting so I hummed a rhyme that came naturally to my memory. Even if it was a long time since I had heard it last. But I couldn't remember the lyrics.
"On a Saturday night,
I lost my wife.
And where d'ya think I found her?"
Hannah sang along my humming, taking the baby gently from my arms. I could get used to that voice. I smiled at the words, closing my eyes and resting my head against the wall.
"Up the moon,
Singing a tune.
And all the stars around her!"
My mouth was dry. Too dry.
The salty air was nipping at my face, tightening around my throat as it blew across the ocean. There was a cold, white marble slate under my bare feet. I stood in a dark compartment, the dome-shaped window in front of me overlooking the glistening blue expanse of the ocean. Rippling waves reflected the golden sun as they embraced the shore.
My eyes caught on something red. Far into the water, on a murky green rock was someone. Her golden blonde, waist-length hair was flowing behind her like a velvety cape. Her blue-black, watery eyes stared into the abyss. She wore a magnificent evening gown, red like the blood of an open wound. Glittering in the sun. She stood still, looking far into the sea.
I kept gazing at her for minutes, maybe hours. Who knew? I was mesmerized by her beauty, couldn't look away. She suddenly turned, catching my gaze. She was so beautiful. Her lips matched the shade of the robe, full and delicate. Her eyes bore deep into mine, those midnight blues sparkled with emotions I didn't understand. Only one was unmistakable, Hope.
I recognized that hope. Come to think of it, I recognized those eyes. Those lips. Those curls. "Daphne."
A jolt of electricity pulsed through my veins, pulling me out of the enchantment. Suddenly the sea turned a shade of vicious violet. The sky darkened to a stormy red. I screamed. Grabbing the metallic bars on the window, I pulled, trying to break free. She smiled at me, knowing what was going to happen. I couldn't let it. I sprinted out of the room. Running as fast as my legs allowed, through the empty corridors, the dim hallway. Hours and hours went by. My sprained, bare legs finally took me down a vast, tiled staircase, ending to reveal a giant black gate. I hauled at it but there was no bolt, no lock. It was just standing there. I screamed till my voice croaked, pulling at my hair. My eyes stung with the endless tears. I could see her looming figure through the parallel rods. She took a step forward.
"NO! DAPHNE, STOP!" I screamed her name over and over. She couldn't hear me. Furious, I hoisted myself up, climbing the tar-painted lead. The sun glared fiercely over the sandy beach. The sand granules became broken glass shards, powdered all over the land. My hands burned crimson at the scorching metal but the adrenaline had made my nerves numb. I climbed till I reached the top, grasping the blades that lined the edge. I was so high, ten feet, twenty? I shifted to cross over. My bleeding hands slipped then, and one of the blades went gashing along my stomach.
I snapped open my eyes. Adjusting them to the bright lights of the room. I was sweating insanely. But I forgot the dream I was having in a jiffy-like all the other times. Only the sprains in my legs and the abnormal beating of my heart were left proving that I had been running again. I tried to remember, scrunching my eyes shut. Nothing.
I was still in the waiting area. Apparently, I had fallen asleep. I looked around; there was no sign of the lady. But her seat was occupied by someone who was wearing my old sweater. He was asleep.
I yawned, stretching my arms over across my head. I remembered taking my lace-up ankle boots off and putting them under my seat before pulling my legs up and hugging them to sleep. I grabbed and wore them over my pink-socked feet. My backbone hurt because I had been sleeping at an odd angle. Standing up, I rubbed the back of my neck. It was afternoon. 1:45 on the winking cat clock.
"Oh, good. You're up." The guy blinked his eyes open. He had a proper dressing over his head. It didn't even show in the mess of his hair. And his face looked better than it was when I last saw him. Almost all evidence of the bruises was gone. He must've gotten a generous doctor. "The lady with the baby told me you were here."
"Oh." Hannah had told me about her husband who was here due to an OD. I was baffled but she said it was fine because he was all good to go now. I told her about last night and the morning that followed. She had laughed about it, telling me that I needn't fear him anymore since his gun was still in my living room. Point.
I had fallen asleep to her lullaby soon after. Maybe she had recognized the purple sweater from my story and directed him to me before she left.
I tightened the white paisley scarf around my neck, digging my hands in the pockets of my brown trench coat. I was still wearing the clothes I had on the time I was with Mr. McMurdo. A red ruffle-wrap lace dress that reached my bare knees. It was wrinkly now because I had slept twice in it. I really needed to stop sleeping like this. And change.
"So, you hungry?" The guy stood up, stretching his long limbs. The sweater rode up his waist when he lifted his arms. Now, he definitely needed to change.
"Good." He looked pointedly at me. "Because you're paying." He strolled off towards the exit. Hah, right.
"Not for you, I'm not." I followed him, taking longer steps to catch up.
"Oh, yeah? Why else are you here then?" he halted once outside. Looking expectantly at Sheryl.
"I said, why are you still here?" He turned to look at me, "Why did you stay?"
"Who says I was here for you?"
"You weren't?" He sounded cynical.
I snorted, smug much? Taking my keys out I walked ahead. Leaving the no-name stranger to quiz about following me or not. "I was here for Hannah and her husband." I stated, the lie flowing smoothly off my tongue.
"You're an awful liar." He followed.
"Whatever. You're not coming with me." I beeped at the car just to check the forlorn expression cross his features. Only it didn't. He leapt in front of me and jumped over the roofless car, setting himself firmly into the seat. "Hey! What d'ya think you're doing?"
"I am getting myself a much deserved ride."
"And what, may I ask; did you do to deserve it?" This would be fun. I crossed my arms, tapping my feet at the cemented parking lot.
"I watched over you while you were snoring like a bear- in the middle of a deserted hallway." He said like it was the most authentic excuse there could be.
"Well. Firstly, I didn't ask you to." I rounded the front of the car, nicely opened my door and got into my own seat. "And secondly, I don't snore."
"Well, I definitely deserve a ride for being your savior for-" He took my hand from me and checked my Hello Kitty wristwatch, "a whole one hour and twenty-two minutes." He let go, raised one eyebrow at the cartoon and leaned back in the seat, buckling in the seatbelt.
"You were watching over me?" He nodded. "Let me rephrase that, you were watching over me while you slept?" I turned the keys into ignition, snorting.
"I wasn't asleep. Besides, it's the gesture that counts." He said with confidence degrees higher than mine.
"You wouldn't understand. It's a guy thing."
"Oh, yeah? Well we were in a hospital. A busy one-mind you. Whatever were you saving me from by sleeping next to me?"
"Lots of stuff."
"Just drive, woman."
"I'm not driving you."
"Yes, you are."
"No. I'm not. Step out of the vehicle, please!" Hah, I love authority.
"You can't do that."
"And why not?"
"Don't you want your clothes back?" He tilted his head at me, lifting his arms and crossing them behind his head, getting more comfortable.
"Oh, yes I do."
"How kind of you to remind me! Take off the shirt and leave the car."
"You can't make me take my-your clothes off in the middle of a driveway." He stated, and then looked at me funny. Gave me a sly smile and turned his face to say quietly. "Unless you can charm them off me-which will be quite difficult given your choice of makeup."
"What does that even mea- I'm not wearing any makeup." I glanced in the review mirror. I wasn't.
"Then what's with the lipstick- everything has to be purple with you, huh?"
"Lipstick?" I paused-midway scanning my face in the reflection. Then catching a proper view of my lips, I closed my eyes, mouth slightly ajar. "I'm not-" Lipstick? I combed back the hair still sticking to my forehead. Some people would have the decency to not judge. He was not those people, it appeared. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I gave him a tight smile. "Lipstick! Right, silly me!" I gripped my hands over the steering wheel. Taking in a deep breath, I roared the engines, telling myself to calm down. Clenching my jaw I spat, "Hope you like burgers!"
Then I drove. Speed escalating the one before.
"Alright, what?" He asked me, getting out of the parked car in front of Bill the Burger.
"What?" I got out too, making sure to slam the door shut. Sorry Sheryl.
"What's wrong?" He followed me as I ran inside the café.
"What's wrong? Nothing's wrong!"
"Well something is. You're definitely seething!"
"Stop repeating what I say!" He threw his arms around him in the air.
"Fine!" Jackass. I shut my mouth. Fine. I entered the restaurant, letting the smell of fast food engulf my senses. My mouth instantly watered. Still a little grumpy, I picked the table on the farthest corner of the area.
Jack-as I dubbed the guy, sat across from me. I grabbed the menu, more like snatched it up before he could, and absorbed myself into the names I knew by heart.
I had always loved this café. I used to come here all the time with my sister ever since I was a kid. And I kept coming here even after she was gone. All the old employees knew me-some were Daphne's high-school friends. And they all treated me like family. It was a nice place downtown. The exact location was a little twisted so only good old customer came.
It was a pleasant atmosphere. The walls were painted in deep, warm colors. The floor was paneled with polished wood. They had even gotten a chandelier. The tables were heavy mahogany, covered with satin covers. Rich burgundy curtains were always draped across all the big windows- they had been pulled to a side today-to let the scarce winter sunlight in.
I hid myself behind the menu I had now read many times over. Trying to distract myself from the glares I was receiving. It seemed that the card would melt if he stared a little harder.
"Alright, repeat what I say! Just say something!"
"What do you want me to say?" I maintained a straight face, smacking the card down and matching his glare. I think I was seething too. Just didn't know why. Alright I knew why, I had been chanting a chorus of 'I'm not mad' in my head during the whole ride. It hadn't worked.
"Well for starters, why are you mad at me?"
"I'm not mad at you!" Saying it aloud only nerved me more.
"Then why do I see fumes coming out your ears?"
I instinctively touched a hand to my ear. "I'm not mad at you, alright?!"
"Then why do I see fangs coming out your gums?"
"Okay, I don't!" He spluttered, "N-no. No, no please. Don't start all over!"
"What's wrong with my teeth?" I whimpered.
"Nothing! Your teeth are fine! They're great- gorgeous." He brushed his hair back with a hand. "Look, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't peg you to be this self-conscious about your looks."
"And well why would you be anyway?" He was rambling. "I mean, you're good-looking. So what if you like purple lipstick? Everybody has a taste. It's not like I'm judging-or anything, right?"
I face palmed. "You're an idiot! But you know what? Forget it! Let's eat." I broke our eye contact and turned my head to see a familiar face of the waitress who was just coming over.
"Paige! It is you! I didn't see you come in! How are you?!" She literally shouted from where she was standing.
"Right now? I'm starving, Karin!" I shouted back.
"Haha, the usual then?" She said, coming over. I nodded. "And who is the handsome young fella' over here?" She whispered to me with a wink. I rolled my eyes. "I'll get you both something a little extra juicy!" She hurried away a little too excited, obviously getting the wrong idea. Huff, women.
Jack looked like he wanted to say something. But he wasn't opening his mouth. It made me feel a lot better. Didn't last too long.
"So, Paige. huh?" Darn, he knows my name and I still call him Jack.
"That's not my name." I stated, breezily.
"And that lady only screamed it all the way across the room, just for the heck of it." He gestured his arm to exaggerate the distance he was referring to.
"Perhaps she did." I deadpanned.
He raised his eyebrows at me. "Okay… but in case you're wondering-my name's Grey. Lucas Grey." He held out a hand.
I didn't take it. "Paige."
"Good to see we're on the same page, Paige." He grinned, taking the hand and sweeping it through his wild, overgrown mane.
"Ha-ha-ha. I've heard that one a million times."
"Alright then. Someone's still snappy."
"Oh, bite me."
"I'd rather keep my appetite. As much as I appreciate the offer." He smirked easily, peeving me more.
"Stop talking, will ya?"
"On a condition."
"Hey, hey, hey! Here's your lunch." Karin came, making me close my mouth off the profanities I was about to utter. "Extra juicy, like I promised. Gosh, you guys look hungry." She set the two trays on the table, loaded with precious junk. "Enjoy!"
"Oh, I will." Jac-Grey said, shooting her a dazzling smile. Apparently forgetting the argument-like myself.
"Oh, Kare. You're the best!"
We dug in.
All the eventful past hours had made me forget the very serious matter at hand. The beating of my heart. It was erratic. I realized it when I took the first bite of the big cheesy burger. My heart started thudding in my ribcage, like it was fighting a sudden storm. My breath caught in my lungs, I couldn't breathe. A migraine pulsed to life in my head. I weakly drained the glass of iced soda down my throat to calm the tension in my chest. I felt like it was gonna explode.
"Hey, you okay? You're sweating."
"Fine." I looked up to see the guy eying me cautiously, mouth filled with a huge bite. I shot him a strained smile, put my hands on the table and pushed myself up. My knees shook. "Fine."
"You don't look it. Sit down." He swallowed and stood up himself, concerned.
"Hey, look. It was nice… nice meeting you and all," I heaved a breath. I was sweating too much. "-but I… I need to go now." I pulled out my wallet with shaking fingers and grabbed a fistful of bills, putting them on the table without checking the amount. "Get yourself a cab, 'Kay? …Bye."
He said something I didn't hear because I was busy concentrating on staying conscious. I needed to reach home right now. I needed my meds. I stumbled to exit the café, balancing on the tables to move ahead. Just a few steps out of the door, someone grabbed my shoulder and turned me around.
"What?" I let out a weak breath. My vision was blurred but I recognized the fiery mauve set of eyes staring into me. "Let me go, boy."
"You're not well. At all! You can't just drive off now. You can't even walk."
"I'm fine, I told you." I needed to get away. I needed to get home. "Now, please let me go!" I jerked his grip off with the little strength I had left and stomped towards the Mustang.
I didn't give him the chance to follow. He shouted something after me that I didn't register because I had fallen into the car, my legs jelly.
I climbed clumsily onto the drivers' seat. Breathing heavily like I had just come running from a marathon. Buckling in the seatbelt I pressed the autopilot button, it instantly scanned my fingerprint and the engines came to life. "Home, Sh-Sheryl. T-take me home."
I closed my eyes, leaning my head heavily on the headrest as the car rocketed off. I trusted Sheryl to carry me better than I trusted myself to. I let my face be exposed to the freezing air as it whipped past me, cooling my nerves just a little.
It felt like flying in space, when the gravity pulls your skin apart and the vacuum destroys every living tissue in your lungs.
The abrupt break of the car jolted me conscious.. We were parked on the front of my building. I got out the car, testing my legs to take small quivery steps into the empty elevator. I pressed the button to floor 18th and waited, bending over to stay in balance. My shoulders felt fatigued.
The rusty doors slid open a few minutes later, their scratching sound biting my eardrums. I dragged my feet across the hall, relaxing against the door of my apartment while I fished my keys with lifeless fingers.
I finally opened the door, pushing myself inside and locking it again behind me.
Just a little more.
I staggered all the way to my room before my legs gave out of exhaustion and I fell limp at the carpeted floor. My mind started going blank. I stayed there, trying to catch the breath that had been whooshed out of me. My heartbeat was suddenly soft, like an ignited match dies down after a few seconds of blazing at its peak. My eyelids fluttered shut. It was so peaceful. The blood was slowly losing motion. I sighed in the carpet. So peaceful.
The thoughts in my head dulled, the sounds all around me became faded murmurs. There were ants going up my feet. Everything went numb, except a singular voice at the back of my head.
It was screaming.
I tried to listen but it was too far away. I forced all the remaining of my senses to gather and listen. It was screaming for me to- Gasping a mouthful of air, I rapidly jerked myself up. I cracked my bloodshot eyes open. That was close. Panting, I willed myself to get up.
I crawled over to the corner, getting my elbows and my knees a harsh rug burn. I pulled at the pale green carpet, tearing it off the floor to reveal a hardwood panel.
The depression of a handprint caught my blurry eye; I fit my palm onto it and pushed. An incandescent blue light immediately filled the area, sending warm sizzles up my arm and making my eyes hurt.
This is it.
The floor evaporated from under me, revealing an endless pit. It engulfed the whole of my body and the little that remained of my brain.
"Need help." I managed to whisper before my mind blacked out completely, losing itself into the oblivion of the glow. "Tulip."