Author: SideKick55 PM
Companion to Canon - Aubree's story. Doesn't really make much sense unless you've read that first. You're welcome to anyhow, if you like. Or you can read Canon first!Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - & Seth - Chapters: 15 - Words: 59,334 - Reviews: 161 - Favs: 59 - Follows: 51 - Updated: 03-08-11 - Published: 03-26-09 - id: 4950406
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
a/n: Okay, I know I should be working on Chapter 10. And I am. But this was stuck in my head for a couple days and I had to put it out there or I would go insane.
Thanks to my beta, AZBella... did wonders for me in record time. :)
Thanks also to Project Team Beta for beta'ing my second draft!
This is a companion to Canon. Starts way before Ethan came to town... (If you haven't gotten past Chapter 7 in Canon, I strongly recommend you read that first.)
Won't be the whole story, just the highlights. Four or five parts. Enjoy!
The Music Box
I was born on October 23, 2132. Ten little pink toes, ten little pink fingers. Such a perfect little ball of love and affection that the universe decided it wanted an encore only seconds later. And so my sister was born.
Ava and I were not identical twins, though we had a lot of similarities. Same long, straw-blonde hair. Same high cheekbones. She tended to be a little quieter than I was, a little more reserved, shyer. But she was the smarter of the two of us; I'll definitely give her that.
We hung on each other. Growing up, we depended on each other to fulfill the empty places in our own personalities. Our whole lives we lived this way – separate, balanced, equal, unfinished.
Until the day I was reborn.
It was January 15, 2149.
Will had dragged us all to First Beach on a day that was less than ideal beach weather. The clouds were broken but still around. It was probably something like forty degrees out. It wasn't raining at least, and for that I was grateful.
The boys took off immediately for the shore. They had been talking all day about who would win their stone game. Will swore he could make a tower that was as tall as he was. We all knew he was talking out of his ass, but we nodded along anyway. They pulled off their shoes as they reached the beach, and their socks went flying too. They were running down to the water as fast as they could; little sprays of sand flicked up behind them the whole way.
Charlotte and Ava started the fire. It wasn't a big bonfire like we usually do, just a little campfire to keep warm around while we talked. The girls sat down on one of the weather-worn logs that lay scattered across the beach. They were talking about spring vacation and what little we would make of the time off. It was same conversation we had been having all month long at the lunch table. Charlotte would suggest shopping, Ava would agree and ask where, Charlotte would reply, "Same places we went last year," and Ava would say it was a good idea. I kept quiet, though I could have mouthed the words along with them.
"I'm going for a walk," I announced.
"Okay," Charlotte said. "You'll be back soon?"
I shrugged. "Don't know. Don't wait for me to do the food. I'm not really all that hungry."
"Okay. Have fun," Ava said.
I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my jacket. I heard the conversation picking up again, "Well, where do you think we should go?"
I shuffled up the beach. The wind was blowing past me, burning my ears and nose. I could still hear Will's echoing taunts bouncing off the rocks. The sky was gray and the water matched, save for the white caps that peaked out in the distance. I was wearing four layers: underwear, tee shirt, heavy sweater, and coat.
It wasn't like I could have known that those layers would nearly kill me. Or maybe it was the walk that did it. Or the rocks. Or the rain that had hit that morning. Or the tide or…or…
Truth is, it was not one of these things, but all of them. Still to this day I wonder how my life would be now if I had just one tiny element different. Dry instead of wet. No coat. South instead of north.
I walked for a half mile before I couldn't hear anyone anymore, only the scratch of my shoes in the wet sand and the waves crashing to my left. The sun had started to set, though it was hard to see it. The gray darkened slowly – the only evidence there was a sun at all.
I wondered what it would be like to spend the holidays in a place that snowed. We rarely got snow; Forks was always too busy raining to pay attention to the seasons.
I bet it would be nice…
A cabin on a frozen lake.
The hush of the woods, covered in white.
Silence. Cold, perhaps, but very quiet. I could just…think. No distractions.
An outcropping of rock sat in front of me, reaching out towards the waves. The little spit of sand in front of it was already covered in two feet of water. High tide. So I sighed and leaned against the rocks, telling myself to turn around and go back to the camp.
But Will would be shouting about his rocks right about now or goading everyone into a contest of who could stand knee-deep in the freezing water the longest.
Don't get me wrong; Will Yorkie is my best friend, but some days…I just hate that kid.
No, I didn't head back to camp.
Out on the distant water, there was a pair of blinking lights, one red, one white, heading north. I squinted to see what it was – a shipping freighter headed for Port Angeles most likely. But the guess wasn't enough; I wanted to know.
Why did I care? I have no idea.
I climbed the up the rocks. Going up was always the easy part. I was a little winded when I reached the top; it was steeper than it looked from below.
And then, after all the effort, the boat was only five feet closer to me. I don't know why I thought the height would help at all. I still couldn't read the words on the side of the boat. The red and white lights blinked a steady rhythm, growing dimmer with distance and weather. It faded off, northbound.
It had been somewhere else; it was headed somewhere else. It had purpose.
And then it was gone. The sky was endless gray again. The horizon was an unbroken line. My face was starting to get wet in the spray of the ocean.
What a ridiculous waste of time.
I sat down on the flattest rock of the pile, letting my legs dangle.
Ava and I had recently started talking about colleges. Every time I suggested a school, she agreed it would be a good place to go. She never mentioned any dreams of going somewhere else or even gave the impression that we would part ways after high school. I was growing annoyed at the idea of her tagging along for the rest of my life. At the same time, whenever I had the thought of going off by myself, I couldn't imagine being able to survive without her. She was my buffer, my filter, my interpreter.
The sky was nearly black when I started back down the rocks. There wasn't anything out here for me. I knew it was time to go. I didn't want to be gone too long after dark; I didn't want to worry Ava.
The rocks were slippery, and climbing down made things difficult. I couldn't see how far I had gone or where the next spot for my foot was. I craned my neck to the right and I could see the water below. I looked to my left and best place to step seemed too far to reach.
My left toe felt out a notch, but as I shifted my weight to rest on that foot, it slipped. I tried to regain my balance by pulling back up to where I was before. The sudden strain on the rock I had been holding caused it to break. Little bits of gravel trickled their way down the ledge. The dust went into my eyes.
I was going to fall.
No. I was already falling.
My hands reached out, clawing at whatever I could reach, but I was sliding downward quickly. Everything was too slick for purchase.
The impact of my body on the surface of the water knocked the wind out of me, and the cold made it difficult to regain my breath. It burned.
My coat swam around me, evolving a life of its own. I struggled against it. I tried to pull the clinging wool off my arms, but it swirled around my arms and my legs, tangling me. I couldn't kick properly, and I found myself going under a few times. My breaths were urgent, desperate whenever my face felt air. I swallowed more salt water than is probably healthy.
What I didn't realize in my battle with the damn coat: I was drifting away from shore, caught in a rip tide.
When I finally broke free, I struggled to stay afloat. I was sputtering, coughing up the salt water I had been breathing in. My limbs were growing numb.
Aubree, get your act together. Find the shore. Get help.
When you are caught in a rip tide, you should swim parallel to the shoreline until you are free.
I know this now.
But I didn't know that then, so the moment I spotted the beach, I started kicking towards it. I thought it was an illusion at first, how I didn't seem to be getting any closer. I just figured I was so far out that it would take some time before the beach grew bigger, before the sand appeared under my feet again. But neither of these things happened.
The sweater was a lead weight whenever my arms breached the surface. My muscles strained against the pull. Where was all my adrenaline? Spent on the coat, perhaps. Or maybe it was there, but not enough to save me.
I couldn't feel anything below my knees. I couldn't get a full breath. My teeth were rattling so hard I thought they were going to break for sure.
I was losing the war.
I could see the shoreline still distant as a dream, mocking me.
I am going to die.
The thought had no emotion attached. It was merely a statement of fact.
I was so cold, but the pain was subsiding. So that was good. It would be peaceful then. My vision blurred, dimmed. I was sinking.
Thus ended the life of one Aubree Parson.
When I was seven, Grandma June gave me a music box for my birthday.
Goodbye, Ava. Be happy.
It was pink, square, with a silver design on the top – a violin. It was precious; it was beautiful.
Hey, Will, I win. I definitely stayed in the water the longest.
But when Ava opened her presents, I saw that Grandma had given her one, too. Pink, with the violin. The same damn one.
Mom, Dad, thanks for everything. Even the names that both start with "A." I've grown to accept it.
I cried about it. No one knew why I was crying. They tried to get me excited about the cake that was coming, but I wouldn't listen. I grabbed the music boxes and ran upstairs. I was going to throw them out the window.
Nate, be good to Charlotte. Charlotte, be nice to Nate. I wish I was as lucky as you guys are.
Grandma June followed me. I was sobbing and trying to get the stupid window to open. I dropped the boxes on the floor beside me and pushed a little harder. It wouldn't budge.
To the students of Forks High, I will miss you. All of you. Even the weird ones.
"Aubree," she said. "What's wrong?"
I only cried louder. The window was locked and I couldn't reach the latch.
To the town of Forks, you tried to be a nice place to live, and sometimes you succeeded. Thanks for the effort.
"Is it about your present?" she asked. She sat on the bed and picked the boxes up off the floor. She had my attention.
I don't deserve this.
"You gave us both the same thing," I said. I wiped my nose on the sleeve of my sweater.
She shook her head. "They look that way, don't they?" She turned the key on the bottom of one. "This is Ava's."
"How do you know?" I asked. The tears started to subside.
I don't want to die.
"Listen." The plinking music started as she opened the box. Soft, slow, beautiful. Years later I would know the song by name – Pachelbel's Canon.
I want to…
"And this is yours." She opened the other box. The music was faster, more lively. "'The Entertainer,'" she said, and chuckled.
In the here and now, I was smiling along with Grandma June. Even as I sank further, I smiled…until I couldn't feel my face anymore.
The music went on in my head, plink plink plink plink, plink plink, plink plink…
And everything went dark.
It was a good thing.
There were things I had done…I had a minor worry that perhaps I was going to be sent down instead. But I guess the verdict was in my favor because the sensation was definitely up.
I couldn't see anything. "The Entertainer" kept up a loop in the background.
Grandma June, I'm coming. Can you hear me?
There was effort in the sensation, which some distant part of me thought was wrong somehow. Could the dead feel? Whatever was the afterlife equivalent to equilibrium told me that my motion wasn't steady, wasn't fluid. It had drag to it.
And then the feeling was gone. But there was no bright light, no loved ones were waiting.
Saint Peter, where are you?
There was pain. There was movement. Inside and out – like knives and tiny needles. And heat beyond measure. It was too much. Delusion or dream, I don't know, but I was starting to burn. Maybe the verdict wasn't up after all.
I'm sorry! Whatever I did…
Someone was pushing on me. My world was enveloped in two beats, coordinated, expanding and contracting. And someone was counting.
"One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six…" The voice was low, rough, strained. "C'mon!"
Knives rushing in, knives rushing out.
And then the counting stopped. The knives continued, but at a slower, less painful rhythm. If it was hell, it wasn't so bad anymore. It still hurt but…
The knives faded. I slipped away. I escaped.
It was more peaceful after that. Not too hot. Pin pricks every once in a while, but even they were growing duller.
I was warm again. There was a languid softness all around me. There wasn't even the hint of a dream. Just blackness. But I didn't mind; I was comfortable. After the exhaustion of death, I was finally at peace. And this piece smelled like the forest after a rain, like the air and earth and sea all rolled into one. It was home. And I was safe.
Until I was ripped away by a heart-wrenching scream. There was a sudden brightness. Jostling. A loud voice behind me.
Everything happened very quickly then.
"Sorry! You must be…I'm…" It was a man's voice.
My eyes were blinking, adjusting themselves to the light. I was just starting to realize that I even had eyes.
I was alive.
I was lying on a bed in a small room. The walls were a soft green. There was a dresser against the far wall with a standing lamp beside it. The bed was moving.
The screaming that woke me up turned to words. "Oh God! Are you okay?" Ava's voice, closer. She was a blurry shape coming at me, but even with my eyesight as it was, I could recognize the color of her hair, the height of her.
"I don't know," I replied. The bed quieted.
"C'mon. Let's go. Mom and Dad…" She lifted my arm and I sat up. The room spun for a minute. My legs didn't really want to move.
"Maybe I should carry her," the man's voice said, low and gentle.
"No," Ava replied. "She can walk." And then quieter, to me, "You can walk, right?"
"Yes." I wasn't sure if it was the truth or not. I leaned against her and she helped pull me to a standing position. I winced; everything was sore, but we took a step forward. And then another. The muscles protested, but they were doing their job anyway.
Behind us, the voice said, "I'm sorry if I…I'm just sorry I…"
We didn't stop. We wove our way through the little house. Two children were sitting on a couch in the living room, watching us with wide eyes. There was a tall guy standing by the doorway, staring at us. He was a long hazy shape, gangly, and as we grew closer I could see his knees were knobby.
"Hey," he said. "Are you okay?" He put up his hand to stop us. I flinched away.
"Let her go," the more familiar man's voice said. I turned to look at him once before I left, but my eyes still weren't working very well. He was just a blur.
We walked out into the night air. There were headlights up at the edge of the road.
"Mom is…scared," Ava whispered. Our footsteps crunched against the pine needles and sticks. Our breath clouded up in front of us. "Please try to shrug this off, at least in front of her. She'll keep you inside for the next three months if—"
"Got it," I replied. I picked up my pace despite my screaming muscles.
I heard a car door slam. Mom was rushing at me. Her hair caught the light from the car and looked like a halo. An avenging angel.
"Did they hurt you?" she asked. There was a frantic edge to her voice. Her eyes ran over me, checking for damage. "Are you okay? What happened?" Her fingers caught hold of my shoulders and gave a testing squeeze.
"I'm fine," I said.
She reached up to my forehead and ran her fingers lightly over the skin there. I winced.
"Oh, Aubree," she said, a broken sob cutting through my name. She pulled me into a hug, and I managed not to groan. "Where have you been? I was so worried."
"I'm fine, Mom," I said.
"Get in the car, okay?" she said. "I'll be right back."
"What are you doing?" I asked. She was already walking down the hill towards the house. She didn't reply. I turned to Ava. "What is she doing?"
"I'm sure it's okay. She'll be right back."
"I just want to go home."
Ava opened the back door for me and I cringed my way into the car. I finally had a moment to look myself over. My skin was red. My hands were raw. I was wearing an old, baggy gray sweater and black sweat pants. Warm, dry, and definitely not mine.
I watched out the window as Mom reached the house. There was a tall figure taking up the front doorway, silhouetted in the yellow light from the living room. He ran a hand through his hair and hung his head. Mom was gesturing to the car with one hand; the other was balled into a fist. I couldn't hear what they were saying.
My own fists were protesting. I had them clenched around my…the sweater. I was leaning forward on the seat.
And yet, I was still so tired. My eyelids drooped despite my best efforts to keep them open.
The man was talking. After a moment, Mom relaxed. Her fists went slack, her shoulders slumped. She must have been saying something, because the man was utterly still. She reached her right hand forward and…
The man nodded at her. He backed into the house and shut the door.
She stood on the porch for a couple seconds, staring at the door, and then started back up the hill.
"You're really okay…right, Aubree?" Ava asked from the front seat.
"I think so."
The driver's door opened and Mom got inside. She sighed.
"We should probably take you down to the hospital before we go home," she said. "Just to be safe."
"Okay," I replied.
Mom backed up and pulled out onto the road. I looked down at the little house. In the light of the window there was a silhouette watching us drive away.
My heart was beating quickly, but it was beating. The air in my lungs picked up pace and scraped against my raw windpipe. But I was breathing.
But, all things considered, I wasn't sure I could live it down.