Looking For Now[l.h]

in which a lost boy tries to fix a broken girl.

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8. Deal

 

"Cora, you should really try to talk to someone here, that's kind of the purpose you know," Ashton whispers to me from our spot in the corner I refuse to leave. Most of the workers and patients are intermingling and talking, surprisingly enough. I didn't expect for most of the patients to be able to carry on a conversation. Of course there are at least six other patients like me who are keeping to themselves on the outskirts of the crowd.

"I'd really rather not. You can go though; I don't want to keep you from all of the fun," I reply in a monotone voice as I see Michael and Calum talking to another boy, who I assume is a patient because he isn't wearing a worker's badge. I have yet to spot Luke among the faces here.

"It's okay, no worries really. I'll hang back here with you," he assures me, but I can tell he wants to go and talk to his friends. I quickly come up with a plan so he can leave while I find another corner to sulk in.

"How about you go get a piece of cake, and bring me back one too?" I suggest.

"Yeah, sure. Be right back," he nods his head eagerly. I wait for his curls to disappear behind a couple talking before I walk along the edges of the room we are in. It's bigger than the cafeteria, but not huge. There are about sixty people here; workers and patients combined.

The closer I move to the mass of people, the more my mind spins. There are so many voices, and conversations, and I can't keep up with all that is going on, nor do I really want to. My head begins to ache and I can't take it anymore. Being here reminds me of all the parties I've had to drive Elias home from, sometimes dragging him as he protested and made a scene. I shudder trying to ignore the memories, but I can't. Everything reminds me of him; everything reminds me of what he did to me.

I come across a door and sweep the room for Walter. He is immersed in conversation with another guard, and doesn't take any notice as I quietly slip through the door.

I'm surprised no one paid attention to me leaving. I remember Leigh Anne's warning about not acting out, but I have a feeling if I had stayed in there for much longer, things would have gotten worse. I would've had a panic attack or something. All of the commotion made my heart race, and my palms sweat. I had never been one for parties. I push her warnings to the back of my mind as I take in my surroundings.

The door led me to a cold stairwell with a stench similar to my father's old basement. I take a deep breath and press my ear to the door of the room I just left listening to see if anyone has noticed my absence. Everything sounds just as it did before I left, so I quietly scale the cement staircase, not sure where it will lead.

I count the steps as I go up. Traveling up a total of sixty-four before I come to another door. I press my head against this one too, hearing no voices, but a gush of wind instead. Curious I turn the handle and it pops open.

A blast of cool air hits me in the face, and I smile to myself as I breathe in the fresh air. I haven't been outside since I've been here, and it feels so good. I feel free as the cold chills me through my sweatshirt sending shivers down my spine and goose bumps down my neck.

I look out and discover I am on the roof. It's a flat concrete roof with a two foot barrier on all sides. The door opens up on the left side of the roof and towards the right there is another door identical to the one I came out of.
 

I glance around the concrete expanse, and discover I am not alone. There is a figure to the right sitting on the ground. All feelings of freedom disappear as I go into a state of utter panic. I'm not supposed to be up here, if Leigh Anne finds out I will be in so much trouble. Then again, I'm already stuck here, how much worse can it get?

I am about to just turn back around, but the figure's voice causes me to freeze in my tracks, "Cora?"

My heart races, and my pulse quickens as the figure stands up, and moves towards me. He is very tall, but I can't see him in the dark. My first instinct is to expect the worse and I assume it's Elias. How did he find me? Why is he here?

My vision blurs with the adrenaline that courses through me from fear. The figure is coming closer, and is only feet away. I stumble backwards and nearly fall flat on my back, but someone quickly grabs my arm before I can.

"Luke?" I whisper, and relief floods over me as I realize who it is, or more importantly that it's not Elias.

"What are you doing up here? You need to be downstairs," he releases my arm once I have regained my balance.

"I, um, I couldn't handle all of the noise, so I opened a door and it lead up here," I explain in a rushed voice.

"Damn, I forgot to lock it; Leigh Anne will kill me," he mutters to himself rubbing the back of his neck, "and no one noticed you left?"

"No."

"I'll text Ashton, I guess," he says pulling out his phone.

"Please don't tell him I left. Can we just say I had to go to the bathroom so you walked me there or something?" I plead, "then Leigh Anne won't know you left the door open," I add knowing he doesn't want to get in trouble.

"Fine," he quickly types up a message then locks his phone and shoves it back in the back pocket of his black skinny jeans.

"Why aren't you at the party?" I ask curiously.

"I didn't want to be there," he replies shortly.

"Are you going to make me go back down?"

"Do you want to?"

"Obviously not," I remark, and he chuckles lightly.

"Fine. I guess we'll just sit up here, I'll make up something to tell Ashton. Like you got sick or something, okay?" He suggests raising an eyebrow to see if I'll play along with the plan.

"Got it."

"Um, do you want to sit down?" He asks awkwardly.

"Where?"

"I brought a blanket up to sit on," he says gesturing to where I saw his figure earlier.

"Okay." I accept his offer, and follow him to sit down, "do you come up here a lot?" I ask after a couple minutes of silence.

"Yeah. It's nice," he replies staring off into the sky. He's right, it is beautiful up here, and calming. There isn't a lot of city light around, so natural light is the only source of illumination. The stars seem to shine brighter than I've seen before. It's only about 6:30, but with daylight savings, it gets darker out earlier.

"Aren't you supposed to be at the party?" I question.

"Yeah," he shrugs his shoulders.

"Why aren't you?"

"I didn't want to be there. You sure ask a lot of questions for a patient," he speaks softly, and turns to look at me and I meet his bright blue eyes.

"I'm just trying to figure things out I guess."

"It's not a bad thing, just unusual," he says looking away again.

"Oh."

"How did you end up here, anyways?" Luke surprises me by asking. He doesn't seem to be the type of person to ask something like that, but I suppose he is a worker here after all, so it would make sense.

"It's a long story," I sigh.

"We've got time."

"Why should I tell you?"

"I don't have a good reason really. But I don't have a good reason for you not to either," he remarks.

"Because that makes sense," I laugh sarcastically.

"So are you going to tell me?"

"Why are you so short with people?" I answer his question with a question trying to stall.

"If you answer my question, I'll answer yours, deal?"

"That's kind of a lot to ask, you know?"

"Who am I even going to tell? I work here this is technically doctor-patient confidentiality," he points out.

"I guess."

"So, do we have a deal?"

"Fine," I agree hesitantly. Maybe I can talk my way around the real reason I'm here, "I'm here because I tried to kill myself."

"I already knew that. I meant why."

"I was running away."

"From what?"

"From my life."

"Why?" He presses and I take a deep breath before continuing.

"I couldn't handle it."

"Handle what?"

"Him. Okay? I couldn't do it anymore, and that's all I'm saying," I snap annoyed with his persistence, "now, why are you so short with people?" I repeat my question in case he forgot our deal.

"You didn't give me your full story so I'm not giving you mine."

"Fine."

"There was a young girl here once. Younger than both of us by a few years. She came from horrible circumstances, and during her stay here I was assigned to mentor her. She started off broken, and confused." He says, and closes his mouth like he's done talking. What kind of explanation is that?

"That's it?" I turn to him, perplexed and agitated with what little information he gave me.

"Yep. Well, there's more to the story, but I'm not telling you."

"I at least gave you a little more information than that," I argue.

"Not really." He replies, pulling out his phone, "Ashton says he hopes you feel better. I guess he believes it. That means we're going to have to take the other way down, so no one sees us come in."

"Okay. Are we leaving now?"

"Yeah, we probably should," he stands up, and offers a hand to help me up, which I ignore.

"Do you think I could come back up here? It's refreshing," I ask.

"Leigh Anne wouldn't let you," he points out, walking towards the door opposite the one I came in.

"I know."

"However, I might be able to figure something out," he suggests, and holds the door open as I walk through it.

"Thanks."

We walk I'm silence down the sixty-four stairs, and neither of us say a word until we reach the bottom.

"This entrance will open up to Calum and Michael's wing so it'll take a few minutes to get back to your room. I hope Ashton told Walter," he informs me and I nod my head.

***

I lay awake staring at the white ceiling, whose corners were chipping away with spider-webbed cracks sprawled across. I'm trying desperately to keep my heavy eyelids open scared that if I fall asleep I'll have a bad dream again. I don't know if I'm more afraid of the dreams or the effect they have on me. I check my watch and it's 1:39 AM.

My eyelids start to droop and I force them back open, and sit up leaning my back against the wall. When all else fails, I usually count. I don't know why, I think it has something to do with the fact that despite all of the unstable and changing aspects of my life, numbers never changed. They will always go one, two, three, four, five, etc. It's one constant in my life that I know for sure about the world, and it's simple yes, but it's something. I begin to count to keep my drowsy mind working rather than settle into sleep.

It works for quite a while, but once I get to two-hundred and eighty-seven, a blaring alarm goes off right outside of my door.

"Code 9961 everyone in a room and lock it!"

 

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