A Perfect Stranger

When Lara meets a mysterious stranger in the park, they get to talking and she feels drawn to him. What happens when she finds out who he really is?

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17. Old Times

 

“But lately, I’ve been going crazy”

 

A slip of paper, with one word written in bittersweet handwriting. A silent goodbye. A less silent scream. A never ending pain.

The stillness that made my joints ache.

A constant stream of wet down my face.

Nothing but darkness for hours that stretched into days. Days that filled a week.

The hollow pain in my belly that complemented the agony in every other cell of my being.

The quiet murmur of voices, a doctor come to see what was wrong before vanishing again like smoke on the breeze.

The unendurable wait for the pain to fade. Its never ending build and growth.

An unfamiliar rasp that was my voice.

That terrible, terrifying first day back at school. Too many faces and too many people asking where I’d been and what was wrong and was I okay. The answer was no, it was always no.

At home that afternoon, a shaking hand bringing relief in the form of blood. Blood that became my ritual, my sanity.

All the months of pain, the nightmares. Every horror relived over and over, inescapable. Losing and finding, loving and hating. Hurting and hurting and hurting.

 I fought and panicked, trying to flee. I tore and clawed, pleaded and cried.

A slip of paper, with one word written in bittersweet handwriting. A silent goodbye. A less silent scream. A never ending pain.

 

Finally, I managed to break free of the unconscious horror that held me. I woke up thrashing and screaming, sobbing and struggling against hands that restrained me. Some dim, muffled part of me realised I was not properly awake or in control of myself, but it was like being a fish in a bowl next to the remote to the television. Try as I might, there was nothing I could do. I was partly conscious of other hurrying into the room, woken by the commotion that was me. Someone held onto me, murmuring soothing nothings into my ear. But I could not comprehend them and they did nothing to calm me. “You left me, why did you leave me?” my body sobbed in a broken voice, clinging to the person I faintly recognised as Louis. My arms held onto him, gripping him tightly as I wept brokenly, “I love you.” Suddenly my body rebelled and instead of clinging it was pushing, fighting with probably unnatural strength. “No, no!” it screeched, pushing away even as it was held closer, “NO! You left me. No, no, NO! GET AWAY!” My hands worked of their own accord, joining my voice in its malicious, all destroying rampage of dangerous words and hurtful actions. They pounded hard against Louis’ chest until my body broke free and scrambled away, tumbling off the bed with a thump and onto the floor. Arms helped me up as my legs fled the room, discarding their assistance.

 

I was curled in a dark corner, still unable to control my shaking, crying body, still not really escaped from the realm where my nightmares reigned.  An unintelligible stream of noise poured from my rogue mouth, the burble punctuated by the occasional intelligible broken word. Sometimes it was “No!” and, “You left me!” and sometimes, quietly, “Why?”. My body  flinched violently and curled in on itself when arms wrapped around me. My eyes looked cautiously at who had come. Not Louis. Good. No, bad. Bad or good? Good-bad. I cried some more, tired and scared and confused and so not in control. Not in control of my thoughts or my body, a silent tortured spectator unable to turn away or shut off. More words came spilling out of my mouth. “I don’t know Niall,” my voice appealed, “I’m alone, he left me alone. I don’t want to be alone!” Even to my half muted ears and numbed mind, my voice sounded desperate. “Don’t leave me, why isn’t he here? Why is he here? I’m scared Ni, don’t wanna. Not anymore. Don’t wanna hurt anymore. No, no, no, no, no,” I rambled, clutching desperately at Niall and trembling. He comforted me with soothing whispers of encouragement and reassuring explanations that only registered in my subconscious, on hand rubbing gentle circles on my back. After a while he began to sing, the first music I had heard for so long. A soft lullaby, nothing I could recognise, repeated over and over again. The sweet melody finally soothed me back into a dreamless sleep.

 

I woke up alone in an unfamiliar bed. It smelled familiar, of Niall. I blinked and frowned, confused. Sitting up, I looked around, recognising a few items of Niall’s clothing on the floor. Niall’s room. Why was I in Niall’s room? Pulling the covers aside and swinging my legs out of the bed, I padded out of the room and into the main area of the apartment. The sight that greeted my eyes offered no explanation, only serving to confuse me further. Four boys sat together in silence, Louis and Jayne missing. I cleared my throat, making my presence known. Heads snapped in my direction with grim, tortured looks. My heart beat faster as my anxiety built. “Um guys?” I prompted, “What’s going on? Where’re Louis and Jayne and why did I wake up in Niall’s room? I’m pretty sure that’s not where I fell asleep.”

Liam, ever tactile, motioned for me to sit down next to him on one of the couches. I did so hesitantly, looking around at the serious faced boys. “You don’t remember then?” Liam asked.

I frowned and shook my head, worried as to where this was going. Harry spoke next. “You kinda flipped out early this morning, like four in the morning early. You were screaming and thrashing and, well yeah,” he trailed off. “It was like some kind of fit.”

I groaned, “Not fit, night terror.”

Zayn frowned, “Like a bad dream.”

“Like a really, really bad dream. It’s a nightmare where you lose control of your body, like you’re awake but not really there,” I looked desperately around at my friends, “What did I do?” Everyone fell silent. “Guys!” I begged.

Niall tentatively began retelling the events of last night. “Well you’ll have to, um, talk to Louis about the first bit, but when we came in he was holding you and trying to calm you down and you were asking him, ah, stuff and crying. And then all of a sudden you started screaming at him and tried to get away. He tried to hold you still but you kept hitting him,” Niall winced and I shared his pain, “You managed to get free and you ran out of the room. Louis tried to follow but we,” he gestured around at Zayn, Liam and Harry, “Didn’t think it was the best idea. I went after you and I found you in a corner and you were really hysterical. I calmed you down a bit and you fell asleep pretty quickly.”

As he spoke, the blank space began to fill with snippets of what had happened, the screaming and the hitting. Flashes of the dream. The dull pain, hitting the floor after falling from the bed. I nodded, “Is Lou?” A simple shake of the head was enough to send me hurriedly towards his room.

 

The door was ajar and I peeked in hesitantly to see Louis lying face down on the bed, arms folded over his head. I stepped inside and pulled the door shut behind me. Louis looked up at the noise, gazing at my with dull, bloodshot eyes before burying his face back in the covers. I felt a stab in my heart at the lifeless depression in his eyes and walked carefully over to the bed, crawling to kneel beside him. “Louis?” I murmured, placing a careful hand on his back. No response. Again, “Lou?” He tensed momentarily at the sound of his nickname but still didn’t look up. I lay down beside him, pulling his arm down away from his face and draping it over me. I burrowed as close as I could, looking at the side of Louis’ face. I whispered his name, over and over and over until, minutes later, he finally turned to look at me. Eyes ringed with red and lacking their usually spark looked at me. I fought back tears, now was not the time. I struggled to form some semblance of an explanation in my mind but failed miserably, the words fleeing from me when I needed them most. So I did the only thing that came to mind. I pulled myself impossibly close to him and tried to get him to break his silence. “Louis, please talk to me. They boys told me what happened last night and I’m sorry, I’m so terribly sorry. I didn’t mean it, I can’t even remember it. It was a night terror Lou, a bad, bad dream. I wasn’t in control of myself. I love you Lou, I truly do. More than anything. I want you to know that. I’ll always love you, no matter what,” I said, voice cracking. I leaned back slightly, looking into Louis’ face. There was pain written clearly over his face and in that moment, studying his knitted brow and the crushed look in his eyes, I felt an intense burst of self-loathing, an acute hatred directed at no one, no one but myself. I had ruined everything, every second of progress made over the last two days, slaughtered in minutes by a moment I couldn’t even remember. My voice cracked as I rasped over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” I could feel him shaking with silent sobs under my touch and I thought I would die right then and there as the pain blossomed in my chest, my heart crumpling in on itself, trying hard to pull the rest of me in after it. An inhuman noise escaped me with no warning, a sound of despair and a crushed soul. A sound of self-hatred and self-despisement. A sound that was completely inadequate to describe what I felt, but far more effective than any million words ever could have been. Tears began to form in my eyes and dribbled pathetically out of my eyes. That’s what I was, I thought venomously. Pathetic, completely and utterly pathetic. I wanted to scream and kick and cry. I wanted to explode form all the emotion, but I couldn’t, because it would only prove to myself how pathetic I really was. Instead the brine rolled in silent shame down my cheek.

 

And then suddenly he was there again, back with me. He held me and suffocated my lips with a kiss and everything became that much easier to handle. The cliffs I had to scale suddenly had handholds, the rivers I had to swim lost their rapids and the air I had to breath became sweet once again. I breathed in deep shuddering breaths and try to calm myself; I have no right to be upset. I am in the wrong. So we stay, until both of us can control ourselves again and Louis speaks, “Would you look at the two of us. We’re such a mess.” The only thing I can do is nod, because never before has anyone been so right about anything. We were a mess, a big, complicated, god awful mess of bad memories and beautiful love.

 

 I sat cross legged next to Louis explaining to the others, including a tired Jayne, what exactly last night’s episode. I mumbled awkwardly on about night terrors and in a roundabout way came out with the same basic explanation a doctor had given me months ago. I sighed when I finished my lame excuse and we sat in silence for a moment before the sudden shrill of Jayne’s phone startled us all. She hurriedly fished it out of her pocket and answered it, muttering quickly into it before sighing and hanging up. She looked around at us regretfully. “Sorry guys, I have to go. My little sister’s sick and mum needs help looking after her,” she explained. I pouted jokingly at her and stood as she gathered up her belongings from around the breakfast bar. Harry, Liam, Niall, Zayn and Louis stood, following Jayne and I to the door. As she pulled it open I gave her a tight hug. “Thank you,” I whispered fervently into her ear before letting her go. She nodded and smiled brightly. Louder, I said, “I hope your sister gets better soon Jayjay.”

“Oh she’ll bounce back soon enough,” she agreed. As she bent down to pick her bag back up off the floor I took a step back and elbowed Harry in the side, looking pointedly at my friend. He took a step forward and as she straightened, engulfed her in a friendly hug. It took her moment to respond before she hugged him back, but when she left minutes later she was all smiles. She had only been out the door a few seconds before my phone buzzed on the arm of the couch. I laughed and stepped over to it, guessing who it would be. Sure enough I had one new message from Jayne. I laughed even harder when I opened it.

Jayne: AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I quickly blacked out the screen, deciding to save the small amount of dignity Jayne still had, as curious faces pooped over trying to see what the funny thing was. A sudden urge took me and I looked at the five people closest to my heart, alone with them for the first time in so long. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

 

We splashed and swam until we were exhausted and the sun had passed its zenith and was beginning to descend. When we finally dragged ourselves out of the pool, fingers and toes resembling bleached prunes, we wrapped each other in towels and headed back to the room. I hung back briefly, catching Niall and holding him till the others were just out of earshot. He smiled at me, now only fractionally taller than me, “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to say thank you for before, this morning I mean. Having someone attack your best friend and then going out to sympathise with them, that’s a big thing to do, so thanks,” I said sincerely, looking into his warm blue eyes.

He smiled gently and pulled me into a wet hug. “You know I love you just as much as I love him.”

I breathed  deep, resting my head on his shoulder for a moment. “Love you to Ni.”

 

We lay in a big pile, two mattresses pushed together to form one communal bed, just like old times. Everyone was fed and showered and if we were honest, knackered. I had happily traded my PJs for a shirt, the very same I had slept in on those first nights. Yawning, I snuggled comfortably in my spot between Zayn and Louis, the warmth of our bodies removing the need for all but the lightest of blankets. I turned my face into Lou’s chest, muttering a sleepy good night to the others as he wrapped an almost possessive arm around my waist. The steady sound of breathing soon filled my ears, a familiar lullaby.  Just like old times.

 

E voila! One times a new chapter, just like the doctor ordered. Now that I finally get around to it, for the person who asked, yes I do have my own horse but I don’t compete (yet!). Hope you guys enjoyed, thanks for all the reviews and follows and favourites, I LOVE YOU ALL! Especially my lovely Fanfiction.net reader, who has been there from the start, ashleyblack97! And of course all my other new, old or silent readers! Remember to leave a comment etc. I have exams in a week or two, but summer holidays are coming up so I hope to get LOTS of writing done then. <3 and xxx’s

 

                -Serendipity

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