Looking For Now[l.h]

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

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6. Just A Smile

 

I descend the stairs two at a time down from my dorm on the third floor. I can't help the smile on my face as I approach the door to Starbucks. I can see the back of Elias's head as he looks at the menu. I already know he is going to get a tall medium roast with two Splenda, since he gets it every time, but each time he stills seems to want to look the menu over before ordering.

I decide I'll sneak up behind him, and surprise him. He doesn't know I'm here yet, and I haven't seen him in two weeks. I'm sure he'll be overjoyed to see me again. I know I cannot wait to see him. To hold him close and embrace him. To hear his deep voice in person.

I open the door, and try to keep my footsteps quiet as I near him. The Starbucks is very busy, so I doubt he'll notice that I'm coming towards him.

I am right behind him and I reach to lightly tap his shoulder.

He grabs my wrist before I touch him and holds it tightly. My heart races, and my breath hitches. He whirls around, and his eyes are... they are black. Pitch black. All of the normal crystal blue has disappeared.

"Hello, love. Have you missed me?" He whispers in a voice that does not belong to the Elias I know. He chuckles darkly before raising his free arm.

I stand frozen as his fist flies towards me. I'm helpless, there is nothing to do. None of my body is listening as my mind screams at me to move, to run, to fight back, to do anything.

I jolt straight up in my bed and clasp my hand over my mouth, so I don't lead out a scream. I wait for my breathing to slow down at least a little bit and let my hand drop don't to my side. My chest heaves as my irregular breathing continues.

Of course that isn't what really happened that morning when we met to get coffee. We had a great time actually. This is the first time one of my dreams has distorted a memory. Normally, I dream in vibrant colors of how we were before he started abusing me. This time it mixed one of those times with another. It felt too real, and I can feel the pain that would have come if it had been reality.

I take a deep breath and hold it for forty-seven seconds before breathing again. Now my breaths come normally, and my heart race has slowed ever so slightly. I begin to tremble as I try to clear the scene from my mind.

I can't do it. All I can see are those unfamiliar pitch black eyes staring at me, as I stand there and wait for the pain that never comes.

I slip off of my bed and my feet tingle as they pad across a patch of floor where the carpet has worn out and cold cement is exposed. I peel off the t-shirt I wore to bed, and throw my sweat shirt on.

Every where I look in the small room I see his face. I cannot escape him. I tip-toe over to my door and tap as lightly on it. No one answers. Where is Walter?

I turn around and lean my back against the door wishing I could get out of the room. I close my eyes and count my breaths.

"Hello, love. Have you missed me? Have you missed me? Have you missed me?"

The raspy voice from my dream invades my mind and begins to echo in my head. My eyes snap open, and it stops. I am loosing it. I really am.

I push off of the door and try desperate to twist the knob. I nearly topple to the ground when I am completely surprised by the door flying open. Walter forgot to lock me in, why didn't I try this earlier? I make sure to shut the door behind me, so maybe Walter won't realize I snuck out.

Dim light illuminates the grey hallways and I blink a few times before looking left and right to see if there is anyone else in the hallway. I don't see anyone, but then again, the hallway I stay in is fairly short and I do not think there are any other rooms in it. I decide to take a right; the way I would normally take to get to the cafeteria. I take a few turns that I have never taken before, and I come across a sign that says "Do not enter." Of course, I do.

I slowly twist the know and discover it leads to another hallway. I read another sign that says "Workers Rooms." I didn't know the workers actually lived here. They must be crazy to want this job. I glance at numerous tags on doors that say the name of the person who stays there, when I come across Ashton's. I had no idea he stayed here all the time, maybe they take over night shifts or something? I debate whether I should go in or not when I here a sound coming from the room next door.

The door is cracked slightly and I can see an ever so small ray of light shining through it. The name reads "Luke." I tip toe as quietly as I can towards it, and I recognize a faint humming. I try to peer I through the crack, and accidentally lean forward and cause it to creak open a little more. Shit.

I turn on my heel and speed walk towards the door I came in from, but it's too late. A hand gently grabs my arm, and I bite my tongue to contain my squeal. I slowly turn to face him, and as soon as he looks at me, his hand falls.

"Cora? How did you get here? Where's Walter?" He looks at me dumbfounded, and in the little light I have I can see his blue eyes shimmering with confusion.

"I don't know. I-I tried to leave my room, because I had to get out of there. I knocked for him to let me out, but he didn't answer, and my door was unlocked so I j-just left," I stutter, and my heart rate speeds up drastically. What will he do with me? I've been caught wandering a forbidden hallway when I should be locked up in my room.

"Walter probably forgot to lock your door. I guess he went to the bathroom or something, and don't think you'd be up," he mumbles more to himself than me, so I keep silent as he rubs the back of his neck, "why are you up anyways, it's 4:30 in the morning?" He turns to look at me.

"Bad dream. I'm really sorry, I shouldn't have left. The door was just open so I walked out," I try to explain myself and wait a few seconds for him to respond. When he doesn't reply, I slowly turn around and walk myself back to my room, already ashamed that I was caught out in the first place. I get the vibes from Luke that he thinks I'm a suicidal freak. I guess that's the reaction I should've expected after I tried something like that. I didn't really think they're would be anything to expect after though, I thought I would be gone.

I hear quick footsteps, and soon Luke is walking beside me. He doesn't say anything, and I don't know what to say either, so I ask him the first thing that comes to kind, "why were you up at this hour?"

"Couldn't sleep," he shrugs, and we come up to the door that says "do not enter" on the other side.

I stop before hesitantly reaching for the door, "I can find my way back from here, thanks."

"I should probably walk you back so you don't, erm, get lost," he says as I push open the heavy door. We both walk through and I become annoyed that he won't let me go back alone.

"I can find it just fine, I promise."

"I don't think Leigh Anne would be happy to know you were wandering the halls alone."

"Okay," I give in hoping maybe he won't tell Leigh Anne if I walk with him, "I thought heard you singing. Do you sing?" I ask curiously after a minute of uncomfortable silence.

"A little," he replies shortly.

"So do you guys live here?" I try to keep a conversation, mainly to avoid the awkward looming silence.

"Most of us. We need to keep an eye on patients at night anyways, so we just stay here for a few weeks then we get a whole week off, and it starts over again," he explains and pauses before continuing, "Calum and Michael don't have homes really so they stay here all of the time, and since Ashton's mom works here they stay here most of the time."

"Oh. So do you leave every few weeks?"

"Yeah, sometimes. My mom comes and visits here too," he says as we turn down the hallway that will lead to my short hallway.

"That's nice. So why do you work here of all places? Doesn't seem like a fun job," I keep my eyes one the ground ahead of me and follow the path towards my room that is becoming all too familiar.

"Ashton and I were childhood friends, so his mom got me a job here," he replies and his tone has more of an edge than his normal careless tone. I get a feeling that there is more of a reason behind it, but I am not about to push him about it.

"Well, this is my hallway," I say as we turn and I see Walter standing outside. He's standing guard like nothing happened. He turns and sees us and in the little light there is I can see his face distort with confusion.

"You? I thought... I thought you were in there?" He gasps and scratches his head, obviously perplexed. I fight the urge to grin at his confusion, and try to act innocent. I'm about to explain myself, when Luke speaks up.

"I was walking by, and I heard her knocking, so I walked her to the restroom," Luke explains for me and I give him a curious look, but quickly catch on.

"Yeah, I didn't know where you went," I add and watch as Walter's face flushes with embarrassment.

"Sorry, miss, and Luke. I went to make a call and didn't think she'd be up since it is 4:30 AM," he shoots me a glare and I shrug my shoulders.

"Well thanks for taking me, but I'm going to bed now," I go around Walter to get into my room, and shut the door behind me, leaving them to sort it out.

I grab my notebook and pen from earlier. I shudder at the thought of who I drew earlier, but I pad over to my cot and crawl under the thin knit blanket. I stare at the blank page for a few minutes before finally pressing the tip of the pen to the paper.

I begin to sketch and lean back against the wall behind my bed and pull my knees to my chest with the notebook resting on them. Black swirls form together, but my mind is elsewhere as various patterns form on the page. Drowsiness settles in and my mind slows. Eventually the drawing slips from my lap and to the floor and my heavy eye lids finally shut.

***

"Cora, are you ready?" I recognize Walters voice booming in from the other side of the door. Shit. What time is it? Is it already time for lunch?

I jump out of bed to grab my watch from the desk, when I almost slip on the drawing from last night. I bend down to pick it up, and when I turn it over there are two vaguely familiar eyes drawn on it. They are definitely not Elias's, but I can't quite put my finger on whose they are. I must have been really tired when I drew them.

"Cora!" His voice calls once more and I pick up my watch. It's 12:13 which means I have seventeen minutes until lunch.

"I still have time!" I shout back at him, and dig through my bag for the sweat pants and my toiletries to take a shower. I'll admit, I should have been up earlier, but Walter shouldn't be giving me a heart attack when I have nearly twenty minutes left.

After a rushed shower, I head to the cafeteria, and the lunch lady fills my plate with barbecue and beans. Ashton gets my attention, so I walk over to the table he and Luke are at, and end up sitting next to Ashton.

"How was your night?" Ashton asks and I shoot Luke a brief questioning look before replying. He avoids eye contact, so I assume he didn't tell Ashton that I snuck out last night.

"It was alright I guess, you?" I take a bite of the beans which taste like cardboard, and decide not to have anymore of those.

"Not bad. Hey after lunch, do you want to go out to the rec room? It might be nice to get out of your room a bit," he says around a mouthful of barbecue.

"Yeah sure, maybe I'll come before dinner. Where is it again?" I try to sound interested when really I don't actually intend to go, I would much rather stay alone in my room.

"I'll stop by your room and show you where it is," so much for my other plan. I nod my head and look in Walter's direction to see him waiting with his back against the wall. His eyes are trained on me and it causes a shiver to run down my back knowing that I'm stuck in this place under his watchful gaze like a caged bird.

I push my food around to make it look like I are more than I really did. Luke is glancing down in his lap at his phone and Ashton is lightly tapping a best on the side of the table as he states off into the distance, "I'm going to head back now. I guess I'll see you later," I tell him and slide out of my chair.

"I'll be by around 4:45," he says as I walk off and I nod my head in reply.

***

"Theses sessions are getting us no where. You're going to be stuck here forever," Leigh Anne sighs as I give her the same answer for the seventh time in a row; "I don't know".

"Maybe if you asked more reasonable questions rather than jumping straight in and expecting me to tell you about the darkest moment in my life, then maybe we would go somewhere," I counter matching her glare with my own.

"Fine. It's going to take much longer that way, Cora, but if that's what you want," she taps her fingers on the edge of her chair before continuing, "what was your family like, before the erm, incident." I know she's implying the car accident that I lied about, so I continue to keep up with the lie.

"I mean it happened only a year ago. We were a normal family I guess; just me, my mom, and my dad. She stayed at home and he was a lawyer, and we all got a long. I was definitely closer to my dad though," I decide to tell some truth. I was in fact closer to my dad, but that has a lot to do with the fact I didn't have a mom.

"Did you have any siblings?" She says and jots down a few notes.

"Nope."

"How was your childhood?"

"It was good I guess, pretty normal if that's what you're asking. I went to school, played sports, hung out, just like any other kid," I pick at my sheets as our conversation continues. I don't mind talking about anything before him. It's just the during and after part I'm not to fond of. I'm embarrassed to talk about it; to admit I was stupid enough to fall for it.

The conversation continues on about other pointless information about myself, but it does make me feel a little more comfortable about talking to her. I suppose she isn't completely horrible. She even talks about herself a little bit which makes me feel better. She mentions Ashton, and apparently he has a younger brother and sister.

Once she leaves, I have just enough time for Walter to walk me to the bathroom and back before Ashton shows up.

"Hey, Walter!" He greets with his signature dimpled grin, "I was just going to show Cora to the rec room. I'll keep an eye on her, I promise." Walter gives him and uneasy look, but I get the feeling that Ashton holds some kind of authority in the place since his mom has a high position.

"Okay. I'll meet you guys in the cafeteria for dinner, 5:15 sharp," he gives us both a stern look and we nod our heads.

"What do you do all day anyways? I mean when you're not eating, since that's the only time I see you," I joke.

"Well, some days I have to keep an eye on specific patients, but not like Walter where I am assigned one person for a while. I just watch for a day at he longest. Most of the time I monitor the commons areas; like the cafeteria, rec room, hallways, and study room. Sometimes I help at the front desk, it all depends really," he shrugs, and leads me down the hallways.

"Do you like it?"

"Yeah, it's really a great job, and the pay is great, but if don't think it's for me permanently. I know my mom wants me to stay here, and keep moving up, but I don't see myself working here the rest of my life."

"Yeah, that's understandable. Definitely not a job I would want."

"Not many people would," he laughs as we walk through the cafeteria and into the hallway that Calum and Michael went into yesterday. It's very short, and opens up into a room the size of the cafeteria with a few tables out, and a TV, some board games, and a small book shelf full of books in the corner, "well this is the rec room. It's not much, but I'm sure it beats your room after a while."

"It's pretty nice actually," I say and follow his gaze towards the other three boys sitting at a table.

"Do you want to go sit with the boys?" Ashton asks, raising an eyebrow, and I nod my head then follow him over.

"Ashton, who is the better FIFA player, me or Michael?" Calum demands as soon as we sit down across from them. Luke, and Michael laugh at worked up he is over the matter.

"Is that even a question?" Ashton remarks sarcastically.

"See, Michael, I told you it was-"

"Obviously, Michael is. I mean he's beat you how many times now?" Ashton interrupts him, and they all begin to laugh; I even find myself laughing. It's hard not to around them. They aren't half bad, in fact they're quite entertaining.

"Well at least I'm the better guitar player," he retorts.

"Sure you are," Michael rolls his eyes, and they get into a heated debate about it, which Ashton decides to randomly add into. He seems to be the mediator, not really favoring one or the other, but giving his input on both of their skill levels.

At some point, they go to sit in front of the TV to watch some soccer match that is on. I glance over at Luke, who is still sitting across from me. I take a quick look around to make sure no one is listening to us before speaking up, "did you go back to sleep?"

"Yeah. You?" He looks up and I meet his crystal blue gaze.

"Eventually. Do you stay up a lot?" I ask not really sure what else to say.

"Yeah, kind of. It's kind of nice since it's so quiet, ya know?" Luke asks and shifts his gaze to the table briefly.

"Definitely. It would be nice if he forgot to lock the door more often, though," I laugh, trying to lighten the mood, and he does too.

"You can always leave when you want to, if you have Ash, or someone go with you," he points out and I nod my head.

"Good point. I might have to do that, the room gets kind of boring after a while."

"Yeah. Maybe you'll get out soon," he gives me a half smile, before looking down at his phone again, "it's almost time for dinner, should we go get the boys?"

"Sure," I try to smile, and for the first time, he genuinely smiles back. Maybe this place won't be hell after all. I won't go completely insane if I've got Ashton here, and Luke too. They're not insane, maybe they can keep me from losing it. I can only hope.

 

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