Chapter 6:

Concealed in nothing

I watched Life Spring into my eyes

We reached the shop after walking for about half an hour. To say the journey was grueling was an understatement. The whole walk could have taken about 15 minutes at a decent pace but because of my severe condition and clear lack of oxygen from my run here, we had to stop every five minutes or so for a break.
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“Finally we made it,” says Ariana, breaking the silence as we inch towards the corner where the store was located. Bookmark here

“Uuuuh huhhhh,” I respond with some weird exaggerated hybrid of an uhuh and groan--trying my best to not collapse in her presence a second time.Bookmark here

I stopped for a moment to wipe the sweat from my face and gather all the strength I had. My mind feverishly thinking of that homeostasis heaven that rested so close I could almost taste it. But fate of course had other plans. Once I had gathered the bit of strength left in me and used it to get to the front of the store, I leaned the top half of my body on some wooden fencing just around the perimeter. After a brief look around, I came to realize the clamor and nauseating amount of people scattered in front of the ice cream shop. Bookmark here

*huff* *huff* Bookmark here

“Sorry, my breathing is really lou-” I looked over to Ariana but before I could finish my sentence the vacancy that clouded her eyes and the rigidness of her stance sent a cold shiver down my spine. The sight of her stance was akin to that of a person encountering a bear on a morning jog through the woods; S**t.Bookmark here

“Hey, are you ok?” She didn’t respondBookmark here

“Hey Ariana, are you ok?” Again, no response.Bookmark here

I was about to ask her again but from the corner of my eye, I could see the clamoring crowd shifting in their positions, their necks craning from their phone to us. Inaudible conversations sprouting in the mess. Were they taking notice of who she was, who she really was? Bookmark here

The sound of teeth clattering from where Ariana stood was the final indicator--about time!--for us to leave as quickly as possible.Bookmark here

And so, just as I did at home, but this time with an actual girl and not sneakers. I grabbed Ariana's arm, the closest to me, and ran. I ran until the clattering of her teeth became uneven breaths and my chopstick legs eventually passed their physical threshold.Bookmark here

My mind wanted to continue running and running but my body literally couldn't and so I stopped running and fell to my knees still holding onto her. The sidewalk was cruel to my bare knees and caused some minor scratches and scrapes. the rocks underneath digging deeper into my knees with each minor movement.Bookmark here

“Oh my god, I-I’m so sorry Theo.” She said with a shaky voice while crouching beside me. She sounded as though she had just awoken from some shockBookmark here

“I-It’s fine, just need some water.” the words barely escaping my dried-out throat.Bookmark here

I heard the slush of the sediment then the quick tapping of her white sneakers against the dilapidated sidewalk. Bookmark here

I could only focus on my breathing and the flurry of thoughts crossing my mind, the most prominent being the way she reacted to that group of people and the way that group of people reacted to us. Bookmark here

No, not us.Bookmark here

Her.Bookmark here

Small drops of blood began to beat against the ground before me. I needed to sit down. Bookmark here

I think this is the most I ever ran. I chuckled at the thought as I tried to crawl my way to a grassy side of the sidewalk where a rusted railing stood, luckily we had just stopped outside of an apartment where a slab of concrete protruded from the front of the place and allowed some cool shade to belong.Bookmark here

“Hey hey hey” A voice exclaimed from behind, then hurried footsteps, and finally a tantalizing wet-cold feeling brushing my lower back. Bookmark here

“Don’t move,” Ariana said. Her voice was still crystal clear even though it rattled with sadness.Bookmark here

“Here.” She unwrapped something from a bag and then held before me what seemed to be a bottle, her hand drawing it to my lips. Bookmark here

“Tilt your head back so you can drink some. And-” she paused. I could hear the worry radiating, morphing into something I know much too well. Bookmark here

Her eyes might have wandered to the small trail of blood tainting the floor. Causing the self-blame to drown her. I didn’t want her to blame herself nor for her to see me as some sort of pitiful cretin. Bookmark here

“I’m so sorry” she wept as I tilted my head back and took small sips.Bookmark here

Each sip of water bringing back sensation to my numbed limbs, starting from my brittle legs to my twig-like fingers.Bookmark here

Then that strange itching in the ear. Bookmark here

I jerked forward trying to signify I was done drinking. Bookmark here

“She sniffled and removed the bottle from my lips”Bookmark here

I tilted my head forward slowly making sure that the nosebleed wasn’t still around. To my surprise, it was gone. I stealthily wiped my nose and nipped that worry’s bud. Bookmark here

*huff* *huff* “best workout of…my life” *huff* *huff* Bookmark here

She sniffled loudly trying her best to hold in her giggle, but the façade wasn’t strong enough and my charm in the face of these kinds of situations seems to peak.Bookmark here

I chuckled along with her.Bookmark here

"Don’t worry about it Ariana, I’m used to this and it’s my fault for oversleeping earlier." Instinctually I hid it. I hid the reason why we ran and wanted to avoid it because the way she froze up at the shop and the self-blame that started to possess her told me that this was something lingering in the back of her mind--something I knew once too. Waiting for each moment to attack and leech life and hope from your eyes. Just like a terminal illness.Bookmark here

I turned to face her, each of her eyes closed as a small kerchief bounced in her porcelain-like hand, elegantly tracing the ends of her eyelashes--blotting tears. Her shoulder-length hair was now tied up into a single ponytail with small tear-streaks riddling her cheeks. Even though it seems like she had felt such great despair in those moments, I could almost feel calm with each majestic action she made. It didn’t even seem like Ariana could be lowered to the state she had been in just a few minutes ago.Bookmark here

Maybe this was just a face she needed to build for these brief moments of breakdowns. The colors of her previous world slowly slipping into full view really left an impact on me. Bookmark here

For eternity, and forevermore. I want to remember that smile. I whispered to myself hoping that Ariana didn’t hear me, but she managed to hear some sort of murmur and asked about it.Bookmark here

*sniffle* “Huh, did you say something, Theo? I’m really sorry about that. I...I don’t know why I got like that...I don’t know. But I’m ok.” Bookmark here

The words shooting out from her sakura lips haphazardly hammered in the fact that she really wasn’t ok and that this had happened more than once.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about it, as I said earlier this served as a great workout for me. I do need these once in a while too, heh.” My breathing now slowing and becoming rhythmic with each word. “I was almost at the point of fainting again but I think you came in the nick of time with that water.” Bookmark here

I lied, a headache with the intent to kill was ripping into my skull and the anxiety from her inquiring further about the murmur didn't help.Bookmark here

She nodded, “Oh, well I’m still sorry. I think you should go home and rest though. Do you want me to walk you?”Bookmark here

I gave her a toothy grin as I tried to get up.Bookmark here

I would love that madame! I thought. A part of me hoped that in an alternate universe those words were uttered.Bookmark here

“No it’s alright you seem exhausted and I’ll just call my mom. She's probably on her way home now so it's fine. If anything, I'm about twenty minutes from home.” Bookmark here

She grabbed onto my hand without any warning and carefully helped me up. “Well alright, I’ll wait with you here until she comes.”Bookmark here

The sensation of her soft hand gripping mine tightly, sent a rush of dopamine through the folds of my brain.Bookmark here

“Th-thanks.” was all I could muster to say as I reached into my pocket for my phone and dialed up my mom.Bookmark here

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Upon arrival, my mom did the same charade as before. Jumping out of the car before it even stopped and running over to me to see if I was ok. This time I let her inspect me. To no surprise, she realized my nose had bled and instantly started her memorized questionnaire just like the pamphlets they gave her at the doctor's office.Bookmark here

“It’s fine mom!” I exclaimed and took a step back to get away from her. In my peripheral vision, I could see Ariana giving a small wave and turning to walk away. She seemed to be making herself small; she was still blaming herself.Bookmark here

My mom noticed and turned to her, paused, then looked at me. “Ohhhh you’re the girl from yesterday! Come Come!” She said as she motioned towards Ariana--who now turned back to look.Bookmark here

“O-oh,” Ariana walked towards us. “Sorry for making him come out and letting him get injured in my presence.”Bookmark here

My mom rested her hand on Arianas' arm and nodded “It’s alright, It’s alright. You seem like a nice girl.” She pointed to the bag in Ariana's hand and my eyes followed. Napkins and water I think even a box of bandages and alcohol wipes were in there. “With all that stuff I know you tried to help him and didn't mean any harm.”Bookmark here

Ariana did a slight nod, indicating a bow.Bookmark here

“Hey, mom. If you and Ariana don’t mind, we could drop her off at home!” I Intervened before either could speak.Bookmark here

“Oh n-'' Ariana tried to refuse but my mom interjected “That sounds good. Can’t have a cute high schooler like yourself walking out at this hour!”Bookmark here

Ariana's face began to flush red as the words resounded in her head.Bookmark here

“Mom it’s only fi-” for the first time ever, mom was now ignoring me and walking towards the car first.Bookmark here

I looked over to Ariana and grinned awkwardly “sorry about that. I just want to return all the help you’ve done for me!”Bookmark here

She seemed to be blushing a bit more and for a moment her eyes seemed to be sparkling. In an attempt to mask it she scurried over to the car and sat in the back. I blushed and followed behind. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Bookmark here

Ariana typed in her address into mom’s phone and tied herself in. The phone blared in a mechanical voice “Beginning route to 16 Aubery Street. Twenty minutes away.”Bookmark here

“Oh wow, you live 3 blocks behind us!” Mom exclaimed happily. Bookmark here

“Really? Where do you guys live?” Ariana responded with a clear voice, just enough to fill the atmosphere of the car with delight. Bookmark here

“On uh, Cane street.” Mom replied. “Did your family just move here?”Bookmark here

“Yeah! We moved here a couple of months ago from the city.” Ariana interlaced her fingers and lightly tapped them against her knuckles.Bookmark here

“Oh, I see. I have heard some stuff about the stuff getting extremely expensive like my friends tell me all the time.” Mom says as she giggles softly and makes a sharp turn. “So your name is Ariana? How old are you?” she continued.Bookmark here

“Yes, Ariana Servanta. I’m 17.The words from Arianas lips caking the air. Bookmark here

What a beautiful name. My name is Abigail Argond but you can call me Abby or just mom.Bookmark here

“Moooom” I wined and turned my head to face the window, hoping neither of them would see the deep blush that lay on my cheeks. Bookmark here

Both of them giggled in response, their laughs flowing into me and making me feel peace and ecstasy. Even for a brief moment, this felt like the happiest place in the world.Bookmark here

For some reason, this felt like a feeling that could only be attained at birth, even if my senses weren't as complex as they are now I still get the feeling that that's why we cry at birth. Bookmark here

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We pulled up to the front of Ariana's house, it was an almost exact replica of ours except that the colonial house she lived in was dressed in white with gray borders around each of the 4 windows surrounding the face of the house. My mom said her goodbyes to her and I decided to be a gentleman and walk her to the front door but Ariana refused profusely, it made me question why but maybe she just didn’t want her family to see something as pitiful as me. Speaking of her family, When I looked out the car window on her side and at her house, all the windows in her house had what seemed to be very thick and dark blinds. The blinds made the house emanate an eerie feeling, unlike any of the ones in our neighborhood. Most of the neighbors didn't mind having their blinds up or not having them at all.Bookmark here

Between the folds, between the neurons, and between the all started to churn and slowly make sense. Just like always, a sort of picture-esque puzzle began to form and show its pattern.Bookmark here

“Hey, Theo,” Ariana called out to me, but the words were lost on me. Bookmark here

Maybe that's happened. What was it again? What was her alias' name? What was it? Think...think...think. My head started to rattle with a brain-splitting headache again.Bookmark here

“Theo,” Ariana said a bit louder.Bookmark here

This time the words came through like the drizzle of light in my dreams.Bookmark here

“Hu-huh? Yeah, what's up Ariana?” I began to massage my temple and try to soothe the waking headache.Bookmark here

“I was just saying bye and that I would text you later.” She repliedBookmark here

“Oh ok, see you” And with that, she opened the car door, closed it, and made her way into her house. I watched as the ominous palace seemed to swallow her into its belly with one fell inhalation, she seemed to have disappeared from the world. No lights even escaped through the many blinds plastered against the windows. Bookmark here

Once my mom realized the door was closed and Ariana was safely inside, mom took off and within the blink of an eye, we were pulling into our driveway.Bookmark here

“We really do live that close huh,” I said to myself as mom jumped out of the car excitedly walked over to my door in the rear, and opened it. Bookmark here

“I think she would be a great wife” is the first thing she said to me as her eyes bloomed with a kidlike joy.Bookmark here

I stared at her and tried to respond but the words became crammed and jumbled on my tongue, my lips became heavy and cold while my headache began to rip through the skin on my forehead. Bookmark here

“Come on sport!” She said as she patted my leg. Bookmark here

Her head began to spin and spin and spin her expressions shifting from joy to chaos. How isn’t your head falling off, I thought to myself as my eyes seemed to placidly shift up to a sliver of the sky then the roof of the car, then a lightless world.Bookmark here

She might’ve patted my leg again but the numbness in my limbs suddenly overcame everything and anything. All I could feel was myself breathing, my heart thumping, and slight murmurs that resembled screams.Bookmark here

“Theo!? THEO!!!!!!!!” Mom screamed out as I closed my eyes...Bookmark here

Real Aire
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