Just to Hold You Close and Tight

I Hate This


Since my friends were still asleep, I went to the bathroom to call Ray. When he answered, his voice was not as composed as it had been the night before.

“Amber,” he said with a sigh. “Good morning.”

I was very concerned again. “Good morning. Seriously, Ray, are you alright?” The dread of my dream was erased by my compassion for him.

“No,” he admitted. “I had a horrible dream.”

“Me, too,” I said. “Tell me about yours first.”

“Fine, but only if you tell me about yours afterward,” he said. Without waiting for me to answer, he continued, “We were both falling and falling into nothingness, and I couldn’t move. Even though I knew I couldn’t save you, I wanted to reach out to you… but I couldn’t.”

“You’re not kidding me?” I asked, amazed at the similarities of out dreams.

“No…” he said slowly, confused.

“Oh. Because in my dream, we were both drowning. I wanted to save you, but I was frozen,” I replied.

“Whoa,” he said, “That’s freaky.”

“Yeah, it is.” And then I didn’t know what to say, because there was nothing to say.

“Amber…” he whispered. “I miss you. It’s much worse than I thought it would be.”

“I know,” I replied softly. “It’s the same for me.”

“I can’t do this much longer, he said, although I didn’t know what he meant. “It’s killing me. I won’t be able to hide it from Ben’s mom.”

I waited quietly for him to continue.

Finally, he got to the point. “So I’ll be coming next Monday, instead of the Monday after.”

I bit my lip. This was good news, but was it a good idea? “What about your casts?” I asked, trying to sound indifferent, but I know my excitement found its way into my voice.

“They’re taking them off next weekend,” he said. “I healed abnormally fast. I think if I had healed any faster, they would think I was some sort of mutant.”

I smiled. “Then I have no objection. The sooner you get here, the better.”

“I’m on the same page,” he said.

Then I heard the ruffling of a sleeping bag coming from Gabby’s room. “Chelsea’s awake,” I whispered.

“Oh, okay,” he said, sighing. “Bye.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll call you later,” I promised. “Bye.” I stuffed my phone into my sleeve so that Chelsea wouldn’t see it. Before leaving the bathroom, I glanced in the mirror.

I knew why my friends were worried. My hair was a mess, there were dark shadows under my eyes, and my face was pale. However, I think the worst part was the frantic, broken look in my eyes. I tried to brighten them up, but there was still something missing from them.

When Chelsea saw me come out of the bathroom, she scowled. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Nightmares,” I mumbled.

Her face became gentle. “Do you want to talk?”

“No,” I replied, a little harsher than I intended to.

She nodded and left me alone. She helped me pack my things while we waited for Gabby to wake up. I wanted to be in my apartment as soon as possible. By the time Gabby crawled out of her sleeping bag, we had all my stuff in her car.

Mel drove us the short way there. Gabby hadn’t been exaggerating… it really was only a few minutes away. The building looked a little run down, but I hadn’t been expecting anything extravagant. We all grabbed a few bags, and Mel led us up three flights of stairs.

“Here you go, Amber,” she said, holding out a key. Before I could grab it, though, she snatched it away.

She lowered herself to my eye level and stared back at me. I groaned, knowing she was about to launch into a motherly lecture.

“Now,” she said, ignoring my distaste. “I expect you to be very responsible. I’ll come by and check on you every once and a while.” This was more of a warning than a friendly gesture.

“I know,” I grumbled. “I’ll be good.”

She smiled and tossed me the key. Giving me one last glance, she said, “Your parents trust you, and so do I. Don’t take advantage of that.”

I rolled my eyes and opened the door. I walked into a decent sized sitting room and kicked off my shoes. There was a small TV across from a dark wooden coffee table and a light blue couch. The carpet was also blue, and the walls were grey.

“What do you think?” Mel asked hopefully.

I smiled. “Great so far. Can I see the kitchen and bedroom?”

She nodded, and led me to a door. The room was pretty small, but it had a bed and a white dresser, so I was content. The walls and the carpet were tan. We set my bags down and went to the small kitchen.

There was a square table with four chairs, an antique-looking refrigerator, a short counter, a microwave, a few cabinets, and an old stove. It looked perfect for me.

Gabby, Chelsea, and Mel looked at me expectantly.

I let a grin spread across my face, and I jumped into Mel, hugging her. “Thank you!” I exclaimed.

She hugged me back and said, “You’re welcome.”

I hugged Chelsea and Gabby each in turn, also thanking them. After making a few trips to get the rest of my bags into my room, we all stood in the hallway.

“Well, that’s everything,” Mel said.

“Thanks so much for everything,” I told her gratefully.

“Do you want us to help you unpack?” Chelsea asked.

“No, thanks. I got it,” I dismissed.

“Okay,” Gabby said. “See you at school tomorrow.”

I grimaced. “I guess you will.”

Then they left, and I was all alone. That was when it hit me: I was completely alone, and I wouldn’t have anything to do except unpack for the next twenty or so hours. Then I would have to go to school.

I sat on the couch and let the loneliness sweep through me and hollow me out for a few minutes. Then I flipped open my phone.

Ray answered almost before the first ring, as if he had been holding his phone and waiting for my call.

“I’m alone now,” I said quietly. I knew he would be confused by the mix of relief and distress in my voice. I was glad I could be alone to call him, but I felt even lonelier.

“So am I,” he said.

I frowned. I had been alone for five minutes. How long had he been alone?

“I hate this,” he spat suddenly. “I hate being stuck in these casts. Screw what everyone else thinks. If I wasn’t trapped here, I’d get on a plane right now, I swear.”

I was surprised by his burst of feeling. He was always so rational… I couldn’t imagine how much he must have been hurting to make him think like that. “I believe you,” I said. “I hate this just as much as you do, and I’m at the point where I don’t care about what anyone else thinks either.”

I could feel the intensity when he said,” It’s absolutely killing me. It’s not just that I can’t see you. The worst part is that I know I’m supposed to be keeping you from being alone, but all I can do is sit here.”

“I… I know. I know exactly what you mean. I feel just as helpless, useless.”

“Yes,” he said. “Like I’m good for nothing.”

“But that’s not true,” I disagreed. “You’re talking to me right now. It’d good for something.”

He grunted. “It’s not quite enough.”

I sighed in agreement, and I slid into a more comfortable position on the couch. “So…” I said. “Exactly when will you be here?”

“A week from Monday morning,” he replied. “I’ll go to school that day; it’ll probably be the first place I see you.”

“Hm,” I said. “And how are you looking? I mean, your voice sounds a lot more like yours.”

“I know.” I could tell he was smirking. “Actually, I think people will start to wonder about me soon. That’s another reason I’m leaving early, although it’s not nearly as important.

“I can’t wait to see,” I said, grinning excitedly. “What color are your eyes now? They must be almost the color they should be.”

He laughed at my eagerness and obvious fascination with his eyes. “Wait,” he said. “I’ll send you a picture.”

I waited impatiently until my phone beeped, signaling a picture message. I stared at the picture of his eye for a second before it could fully register. It was a perfect shade of brownish-hazel. It was the perfect shade, the only one that belonged to him. I was at a loss for words.

This was a moment so important that he should have been right next to me. Then I could have hugged him, maybe even kissed him. I couldn’t put my feelings into words.

He acknowledged my silence smugly. “I’ll take that as a ‘yay.’”

“I’m thinking a lot more than ‘yay,’” I retorted indignantly. Okay, so I’ll admit it was a little weird. My boyfriend sent me a picture of his eye, and I stared at it for minutes. But we weren’t your average couple, that was for sure.

I talked to Ray all day. I even put him on speaker phone when I was unpacking. Then I ate soup that Mel had given me for lunch and dinner, realizing I would have to make a trip to the grocery store.

The only time I hung up was when I went to take a shower. I would have talked to him through the night, but he was apparently still rational enough to insist that I try to sleep.

Even after we hung up, I looked at the picture of his eye, trying to memorize it. Even though I couldn’t see his face, I saw the reflection of a million emotions in his eye. It was mostly empty and mysterious, but I did pick out a hint of agony that sent a wave of pain through me. I also saw a dash of impatience.
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I'm serious... there's only one chapter left. If you refuse to comment on this chapter, could you at least tell me what you think of the ending after the next one?