Burning Ashes (Sequel to Willow House)

Cassie Brooks has a heart rendering decision to make, between Ash and Liam. Who will she choose?

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2. Everything's Different.

 

Ash's P.O.V Cont-

CHAPTER ONE: EVERYTHINGS DIFFERENT.

It was inevitable. By the time I arrived at her door, she was too fast for me to stop. I saw her look at me as I cried for her to stop. Her raven hair following like a dress around her face as she swirled. I saw the tear stains on her face and the whisper of ‘I’m sorry’ on her lips. Then she ran, and I was not fast enough. As I followed her, ran to catch her, she didn’t stop. The light seemed to blind me as the window became closer and closer. But she didn’t hesitate. I’d told her before to not do it. So why must she do it now? I had swung my arms to catch her feeble body but she didn’t seem to notice my efforts. She just… Jumped. I remember the fragile glass shattering as her weight burst through it. The shards that followed her weightless body looked like diamonds, but they reminded me more like beautiful daggers. I almost followed her but my hands stopped me from throwing myself over the edge. However, this meant I had to watch. Had to be haunted by that gruesome image. I heard myself screaming at her, screaming for her to live. Screaming things I couldn’t understand anymore. It wouldn’t do anything to help, but I just had to hope. I watch her seem to rush down to the pebbled drive of Willow House. There was a car in the driveway and she hit that before she hit the ground. I was still screaming. I tried to hoist myself over the smashed glass that dug into my palms, causing me to bleed. I couldn’t see her face; it was hidden by her hair. I could see though, her wrist twisted in an awkward position. It must be broken. She must be alive, she must live! I was almost over the edge, ignoring the shooting pain that erupted from my sore hands, when I was hauled back over again. “No! Ash! No!” The words reminded me of how Cassie had told me to stop, to stop when I was so far in showing her I was right for her. But these words were shouted at me, not murmured to me as I cradled her body close. Her body I may never see again. 

I escaped the grasp of who ever held me and ran through the house, down the stairs, every painful step brought memories. Memories that made me miss her even more. No! Don’t give up yet! I listened to myself and carried on running, barging the doors to Willow wide open. The driver, Carl, ironically Cassie’s social worker, was stood his face hard, showing no care for the body that lay strewn on the floor before him. Liam sat on his knees, his back to me, and his arms dangling helplessly at his sides. He looked utterly defeated. But I wasn’t. Yet. I dived to the floor beside her head, my feet sending pebbles scattered everywhere. I looked up at Liam’s face as I clutched her face in my hands. I rested it on my lap and found that Liam didn’t move. Didn’t speak. Just stared at her face. Someone had called the ambulance. I heard its sirens approaching in the distance. Someone was thinking straight, someone was making the real effort to save her. I couldn’t stop the tears that began rolling down my cheeks. One dripped on her face, I rubbed it gently, removing it without hurting her anymore. I rubbed more painfully at my own eyes. The blood from my palms followed as I rubbed, diluting the red liquid as it dripped over my face. Great, now I looked like I was crying blood. 

I tried to wipe away the mess on my face as the ambulance sped into the drive. The driver slammed on the brakes and just missed us cradled on the drive. The paramedics ran out to collect the body. Wait, I can’t talk like that! No! They won’t take her away from me! I was being selfish and stupid as I clutched to her body. Her limp, lifeless body. It was Liam who forced me to let go as he took her into his arms and loaded her onto the ambulance with the paramedics. I realized it was the best thing I could have possible done, let go, she wasn’t going to miraculously survive in my arms. I jumped into the back as they tried to lock me out. I couldn’t leave her. Liam held her hand and it seemed like that he was about to break. The agonizingly long journey from Willow to the hospital was enough to kill me. Not able to touch her, not able to comfort her, yet watch him hold what I wished so badly was mine. All my brain could do was re-watch the horrifying image of Cassie jumping, falling and… Well, only time will tell if I would lose everything I cared about. It was all too familiar, like I had seen it before… But then, I had. The memories became one, mixed images of Cassie and my mother merged together. The recent and the old, a mix of all I held dear, I couldn’t lose her the same way I lost mum. No way was I going to let that happen.

The hospital reeked of disinfectant and it just brought more and more memories as we rushed through the emergency hallways, past patients, some watching us zip by, some not caring. I cared. Lots. Cassie lay there, on the stretcher, not moving. I prayed she was breathing, listening to me as I silently hoped for her to live. Many excruciating hours passed in the waiting room. I paced the floor, and I felt like my every step, however small, was wearing the carpet to its very bones. Bones. Had Cassie broken bones? Was she even alive? I felt the tear stains on my face drying and I bowed my head as I thought of how pathetic I was. Crying like a baby, when I needed to be strong. Now I’m not a religious kind of guy, but I was still praying, silently, up to who knows who, that she would be alright. That I’d be able to hold her in my arms once again. No more pain, no more anger, no more lust to prove something I knew I could do. No. If I could only have her back again, I would give it all up, if I knew she was happy. I wouldn’t care. I’m such a selfish, self-centered dick. If only I had thought of her, and not myself, we wouldn’t be in this mess. But it wasn’t just my fault! Liam had sparked any doubts within her, not me. Oh look at me, blaming the other guy for my own mistakes. I’m a lowly mess. Liam sat across from me, sat obscurely on one of the vandalized waiting chairs. His face in his hands. He still didn’t move. As much anger and hatred I felt for Liam, I could understand the sort of black hole he was surrounded by right now. The same hole I was soon to fall into. I was clinging to the edge of a gaping abyss, one that was trying its hardest to pull me into. “Pull yourself together.” I stepped closer to Liam and he moved ever slightly. I knew my voice was harsh, but I had to cut into him. He wouldn’t notice me over wise. “D’you think this is helping? No. Because when she comes out of there, you need to be strong for her. You hear me?” He looked up; sorrow and doubt flooded his eyes. He nodded anyway, but I knew he didn’t think Cassie would come bounding through the double doors to embrace us. “Because she will.” I looked away and folded my arms tightly over my chest. My heart leapt as the doors squealed open, but only a shallow doctor strode through the waiting room and out through some other door. The weight of my heart sinking was like an anchor in my chest. I checked the cracked screen of my cheap cop out phone. It was getting late, and some part of me knew we weren’t going home any time soon. If that’s what you can call it. Home. Willow House, care home, shit hole, hells den. Whatever. The story behind Willow’s residents is one only the owner can tell.  

The stern look of the nurse that sauntered out of the double doors was one I knew brought bad news. Liam and I were on our feet, in the earliest hours of the morning, the minute the one personnel we recognized entered. Carl followed. She opened a file, and I fiddled with the hem of my shirt. “Cassie Brooks, does anyone know what happened?” She scanned the room. Guilt must have been easily seen on my face, as she continued; “It would only benefit the effects of healing the ill.”                                     “So she’s alive?” I had to ask. To have the words confirmed in my head. The nurse looked me up and down and made a slight face at my enthusiasm. “Just.” The pain in my heart lessened slightly, only slightly, but that single word could allow me to keep up the wait for days. Just knowing, she hasn’t been taken from me. “Can I see her?” The nurse gave me a look. Then her frown softened. 

“I’ll check with the doctor.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem. Only have to ask the most flustered doctor on the ward at two in the morning!” She smiled even though her words seemed to cut through me. 2 am. Was it really that early? Man. I rubbed at my eyes subconsciously as Mark appeared, a tray in his hands, balancing four steaming cups of coffee. I took one in both hands eagerly, sending the cup to my lips the minute I had it in my grasp. Liam’s hands seemed to shake as he reached for the cup, slightly weak. But then, he had seen a lot of painful things lately. What with Molly, (now safely locked up in a junior detention unit) and with Cassie being the victim of it all. But he could at least man up a bit. The guy is basically crumbling where he stands. I downed the burning contents of the cup, not enjoying the bitter taste of cheap vending machine coffee, yet appreciating the caffeine boost I was getting. I wasn’t going to risk missing a chance to see Cassie again. To prove to my doubtful brain she was still alive… And maybe, maybe... Mine. 

 

I sat down and rested my head in my palm, arm propped up by my jiggling knee. My legs incapable of ceasing to move. The caffeine from the coffee had helped, but not much, I had to keep myself awake. I could see Liam drifting off. In one of the chairs not too far away from me. “Lightweight.” I mumbled. But he heard me and straightened himself. Not asleep after all. The nurse came back through; I collared her as she passed. “Now?” I pleaded with my eyes. I needed to see Cassie.

“Just give her a little longer, the anesthetics beginning to wear off.”

“But-”

“No buts. She needs her rest. And so do you.” Her eyes included Liam also. He nodded over at her. She shimmied away, back through the doors, obviously forgetting what she had come through in the first place for. “Not long now Ash. Cool it will yah? Nurse says rest. You need to rest.” First time Liam had spoke since the accident. ‘Accident.’ Really. Dare I use that word? When I had seen myself what Cassie had done? She was attempting suicide. It dawned on me, that she had wanted to die… But why? It then dawned on me that Liam was only trying to get me to sleep, in hopes of me missing my meeting with Cassie. “Forget it.” I spoke my thoughts aloud. The nurse popped her head around the door and I got to my feet. She rolled her eyes as Liam followed suit. “Yes, yes. Come on then.” I basically ran to the doors, she held it open and directed me to the room. I couldn’t bear another second away.

 

CASSIE’S P.O.V-

 

Bleary eyed and confused, I food the sterile smell f disinfectant hit me instantly. Oh god. Why couldn’t I have died? When I flung myself through the glass that was my intention. Right?  To end my choosing, make it easier for everyone else. I scrunched my eyes and hoped to god that they weren’t stood there.  The blinding lights of the hospital shone down on my body, taped to machines and full of wires. I shivered inside. The horrifying beep of the heart monitor reminded me of those sad endings to films, when the actor supposedly dies. I shivered again, this time for real, jostling my wires. The doctor started fussing over me as I tried to sit up. I was back in real life, and hating every moment of it. I had one of those distasteful hospital gowns on over my clothes. I had been cleaned, but there was dried blood, deep and red, all over my hospital bed. Hospital. I despise the very word.

 

I decided to remove some of the freaky looking tubes that were in my arm. I guessed most of them where just to access my blood or something. When the doctor wasn’t looking, I quickly snagged one from my arm. “Ow!” I gritted my teeth at the pain. Unfortunately the doctor noticed, gave me a stern look and removed the tube. Result. I was smiling to myself when my very hindrances’ appeared at my door. I felt my smile falter, but I kept up a fake, relaxed expression to hide my sorrow. And my guilt. Liam looked utterly defeated. His face shallow and pale, dark under his eyes from lack of sleep, and his body looked like he was going to crumble. His face lit up when he saw me sat up. Ash was the total opposite. Beaming and literally skipping over to me, to sit on my bedside. He looked like he had some sort of caffeine shot or something. But even he couldn’t hide the pain. And the guilt. He had guilt too. Had he told anyone? He had seen me jump. I knew he had. If he told them, I may be moved homes. But wait. Such a bad idea? I could get away from hurting them. My guys. Urgh that sounded whorish. But I could. Maybe that should be my new goal in life.

 

I was aware I looked a mess. Total mess. From head to toe. But it still haunted me; I had both these guys, each meaning so much to me, so much so, that I had been willing to die to save them any pain that I would cause. It was too hard to choose one, so I had jumped to get rid of a choice. But I lived, and the choice must be made. I cannot live life leading them along like stray pups. I always knew Willow House would be the end of me. “What are you doing here?” My eyes jittered from Ash to Liam. My face obviously not showing any respect for the most likely many hours they had spent hoping on me. I wanted to be nice, I really did, they deserve it, but I was too annoyed at the fact I was still breathing. “Well. Considering you just jump-ah, I mean fell out of a window, and were on the brink of death, we were just, y’know coming to see beautiful you.” I let my eyes fall into a sarcastic eye roll. My mind registered the change of ‘jumped’ so they were covering for me. Urgh. My mission may just end up impossible.

 

Liam nudged Ash aside to come closer to me. I felt more guilt that before pile in my stomach. He leaned close to me and cradled my face in one of his hands. I looked away to prevent a kiss, and he seemed upset at first. “Better?” He smiled, but it was forced.

“I haven’t had the chance to get ‘better’ yet.”

“Well, but-”

“No.”

“Cassie.”

“What?” He looked at me. Cold and heartless. His eyes holding mine, and kissed me gently on my lips. I pulled out quickly; aware Ash was lingering behind Liam. Ash mustered in and barged Liam away. “My turn!” He took me into a tight hug. One I returned. Hugs were different right? It felt warm and safe in Ash’s embrace. Felt right. He pulled me back to inspect me. “Finally. Waited all night for that.” A smile spread on his face and my realization of what time it was hit. “Wait. What time is it?” Ash pulled out his cheap cop out phone. A large crack running down his screen. “Just a little after 3. In the morning.”  I grimaced. “Too early.” Ash chuckled like he always did. Made everything a little homier. 

“When can she come home doctor?” Liam piped up from a way back where I couldn’t see him. The doctor flipped through some files and then came over to my left side. He reached for my arm and I looked down to find my wrist in a brace. Oh.

 

“Well, she should be able to come home today. You’re lucky little missy, only a broken wrist. Any higher and you may have been even worse off. You have a few deep cuts on your arms and your palms from the glass, but you should be fine. I’ve stitched anything too wide and with the brace on, you should be able to work as normal. But your body has taken a tumble. You need to get yourself back on track. I’ll have the nurse prescript you some medication for any pains and I expect you to try and be a little healthier.” Oh great. Doc wants me on meds and ‘healthier’. That’s just what I need. 

“How do I do that?”

“Jogging.” Liam answered for the doctor.

“What?! No. I can’t. Ash tell em’!”  I protested but it was no use. Ash shook his head sarcastically.

“Sorry baby, no can do.” Urgh, he’s back to that again. Liam seemed to flame up slightly from a distance. He didn’t like it. How close me and Ash were. And Ash wasn’t helping with our situation. I just prayed Liam never found out about the betrayal I’d done. The betrayal I’ll carry forever. Ash was good at secrets… Wasn’t he? I’ll have to hope. 

 

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