Chapter nine was up pretty quick, I guess. Quicker than the last one, at least. This chapter is actually pretty boring, so sorry, but I needed to explain some things. Next chapter is when there's some action. :D Read now.
A Neverending Story
Chapter Nine-First Aid and Finally Answers
The next morning was near chaos in the de Silva household. His sisters hollered, laughed, and howled, yet Jesse slept on. Because it was a weekend, many people came and went to the house, but still Jesse lay in his bed, solid as a rock, save for a few tosses and turns. Once or twice, he looked so still that I had to double-check to see if he was breathing.
I was downstairs, just watching all of the excitement unravel around me, when I heard Mrs. De Silva yell from the dining room, "Savannah, could you check on Jesse for me? I'm a little busy in here. It's already 12 o'clock, and I know how you teenagers like to sleep, but really, this is getting ridiculous."
"Mo-om," Savannah called back, rolling her eyes. She said the word like it was two syllables. On this particular morning, she was sitting at the kitchen table with one of her friends her age, which was about sixteen, reading something called 'Teen People'. "I have a friend over!" she whined, and looked over at this friend across the table, who looked pleadingly back at her.
"Well, I wouldn't mind waking him up!" her friend whispered to her, "If you haven't noticed, Sav, your brother is totally hot." Savannah stuck her tongue out and made a strange face, one that suggested mild disgust.
"Can you make Josefina do it?" she asked, despite her friends request. I could hear Mrs. De Silva let out a gusty sigh
Josefina, who was no doubt at the opposite end of the house, somehow managed to hear her name mentioned. She was an energetic young girl at age six, always running around the house to stir up some sort of trouble.
"Mooooommy! I'll do it! Can I jump on Jesse's bed, can I?" Josefina said, practically bobbing up and down on the spot.
"Now Josefina, you know that Jesse, or anyone, really, doesn't like to wake up to a little girl jumping on their bed. You can wake him up, yes, but do it gently, please," Mrs. De Silva said, but Josefina was already halfway up the stairs. Apparently, waking up Jesse was a fun activity for her.
I followed her up the stairs, knowing that I could do nothing to prevent Jesse's wounds, and eventually, story, from being exposed. I had tried to help Jesse as best I could, but now what he needed was a little compassion and a lot of rest. Last night I had bandaged up his most threatening wounds, but I hoped that none of them were too serious for even my extensive first aid to handle.
At the moment, the only trouble was finding a good enough explanation for his injuries without telling the actual truth to his family. For some reason, I seriously doubted that Mrs. De Silva or any of Jesse's sisters would believe that he had been beaten up by a crazy man, Paul Slater, while roaming around in what we mediators refer to as Shadowland. No, I don't think that would go over too well with good old Mrs. D.S.
Josefina reached the top of the stairs and skipped down the hall towards Jesse's bedroom, a grin wide on her face. As she stepped into Jesse's bedroom, her face changed from delight to absolute shock. Apparently, Jesse's bandages made him look ever more frightening than he had without them. Seeing her brother in such a damaged state made tears pour down the poor little girl's face.
At first, she was silent. She backed away from Jesse's bed cautiously, but then something seemed to make her change her mind. Carefully, Josefina approached her brother's bed and took his hand.
"Jesse?" she said, her voice in a whisper. Her hand looked small and frail against Jesse's larger one.
I didn't think Jesse would open his eyes, but he did. At first he didn't seem to recognize his younger sister, but soon his eyesight slid into focus. He tried to smile, but his grin quickly turned into a grimace.
"What happened, brudder?" Josefina asked, tears welling up in her eyes.
"I…I just had an accident," Jesse said, trying to calm down his sister. With the hand that wasn't scraped and bruised, he wiped away her tears. "Could you get mom for me?"
Josefina nodded and hopped off the bed, still running, but for a different purpose now. I chose that time to step out of the shadows.
"You're awake," I said to Jesse quietly.
Jesse attempted to nod, but only could manage a slight shake of his head.
"And you need some better first aid," I said, rushing over to his side. He looked pained, and it hurt me to see him in that condition.
"No, I don't," Jesse said, "You did a great job on it." For some reason, I blushed. Even in his weakened condition, he was still the sweetest guy I knew.
"Do you need anything? I could get you something to drink, or--"
Jesse shook his head. "No, I think that my mother would find it a bit suspicious to have a drink floating up the stairs. Thank you, but I'm fine." Seeing that I wasn't satisfied with this answer, Jesse tried to convince me of it. "Really, I'm fine," he said, "It looks a lot worse than it actually is."
"But what are you going to tell your family?" I asked, concerned.
"Oh, I'll think of something. It's not that unusual for me to be beaten up, you know. Ghosts can get pretty wild," he added, but looked like he regretted saying that last part. After all, I was a ghost.
I chose not to acknowledge his comment, but it still made an impression on me.
Mrs. De Silva chose that moment to come into Jesse's room, carrying a basket full of laundry in one arm and a pile of magazines in another. Upon seeing Jesse, she nearly dropped her newly washed clothes.
"Jesse! Good heavens, what did you do to yourself! Not another fight, I hope!" she came over to his bedside and started to examine his wounds.
"Mom, I'm ok, I swear. Just an accident," he said, flinching from her touch.
"You are not okay! Look at yourself! When will you learn that fighting isn't the answer?" her words were harsh, but really, she was just looking out for his best interests.
"It wasn't a fight…it was…" Jesse appeared to be at a loss for words.
"Yes?" Mrs. De Silva pressed, but without waiting for an answer, said, "Well, at least the bandaging is done well. Do you need anything?" It seemed as though this was all familiar to her: the injuries, the bandages, the lies. Jesse shook his head no.
"I'm ok," he said, and she seemed to accept this answer, "I just need some rest. Good thing it's a Sunday." Mrs. De Silva nodded, pulled the covers up around Jesse's shoulders like he was a young child, and left him to rest.
Upon hearing the door click shut, I got up off the window seat and sat down on Jesse's bed.
"That was easy," I commented. He didn't say anything right away, but just stared at me.
I wondered what he was thinking, but chose that time to let him get some rest. I voiced my thoughts, but he just kept looking at me.
"Aren't you going to ask me anything?" he asked suspiciously.
"Er…well, no. Um, what did you have in mind?" I wondered, worried that I had forgotten something important.
"Oh, never mind," he said settling back into his pillows. He turned away from me and pretended to try to sleep. I materialized on the other side of him, so that he was facing me once more.
"You're not getting off that easy!" I said. Too late, I realized that my face was extremely close to his. I quickly drew back.
In close to a whisper, Jesse said, "I was just wondering why you weren't immediately asking me questions. I mean usually, you're completely nosy." I made a face to let him know that I took that comment as a joke, but I wasn't sure if that was what he was originally going to say. Even so, I let it slide.
"Of course I have questions," I said defiantly, "I just didn't want to ask them because you're hurt."
"Oh, isn't that just so kind of you," he said, smiling now. I got the feeling that he was mocking me.
"Ok, you asked for it. First of all, what exactly is your connection to Paul Slater? What were you talking about, how he disappeared? And his mother? I just don't understand. How do I even fit into all of this? What does he want with me?" The questions all tumbled out in a shower of words.
"Whoa, no fair. First I'm going to ask you a question…what…how much of our conversation did you hear?" Jesse looked a little nervous for a second.
"Um…let's see…I remember you yelling at him for something, but you were doing that the whole time. You said, 'You can't just show up after four years!'" After hearing this, Jesse looked visibly relieved.
I looked at him cynically. "What, did you say something you didn't want me to hear before that?"
"Oh, no, not at all. So…anyway, about Paul. You see, he used to be my…friend, you could say. Yeah, we were really good friends from the time we started third grade to just about four years ago, when he suddenly left, leaving a giant mess behind him."
"Why?" I said, "What did he do to you?"
"Oh, not to me, specifically. To everyone. I say this casually, but it was suspected that he killed his own mother, though I don't believe that theory. I didn't know his mother; she wasn't around enough for me to get to know her well. But she wasn't a bad woman, just bad mother. Paul's family was very rich, and his father worked constantly, the president of a giant company, that sort of thing.
"His mother was out with her country club friends partying day and night, so his home life wasn't what I'd call a paradise. It was really hard for him, but he didn't let on. No, he wasn't like that. He would just keep it bottled up inside him and act cool around all the other kids, never letting them know what a screwed up life he had at home." Jesse paused to catch his breath. He looked sad; almost as thought it hurt him to reminisce over his former friend.
"So then what happened? With his mother, I mean," I said, eager to hear more.
"Well, one night I got a call from the police, wanting to know if I had seen Paul anywhere. See, they knew I was his friend. Everyone did. But I hadn't seen him, and that's when they told me they had found Mrs. Slater murdered in her own house, and Paul was missing. I still don't think that Paul would do that, but the evidence pointed directly towards him. And I haven't seen him since. Well, until tonight, that is." He stopped talking and looked at me, letting the words sink in.
"Wow. That's some story…" I said, awed, "but why do you think he's back?"
"Well, you heard him last night."
"What exactly did he say?" I asked, forgetting the details.
"He said that he was back for..for you." Jesse tore his gaze from mine, desperate to look anywhere but at me.
"I don't understand why, though," I said, frustrated.
"Neither do I, querida," Jesse said. That word again. I briefly wondered what it meant yet again, but decided to stay on topic.
"So…what do we do now?" I asked after a minute of two.
"Now, we wait," Jesse said.
I sighed. "I'm sick of waiting. I've been waiting for 150 years too long. Now, I just want answers." I put my head in my hands.
What Jesse did next both surprised and shocked me. I couldn't be sure, but I thought that I felt his hand come down to my head and start to stroke my hair. I froze, not sure if what was happening was real, and if it was, how I should react to it.
"Don't worry. You won't wait forever, and you won't wait alone," he whispered into my ear. At this point, my heart rate was nearly double its usual speed.
"Now I have a question for you, querida." I remained silent. I didn't dare speak for fear that he would reconsider his next words.
"What," he started, playing with a strand of my hair, "caused you to leave for such a long time?" Now I was really in a bind. If I didn't answer, he would know that I loved him. If I answered, he would know that I loved him. There was no way out.
So I used the good ol' play dumb approach. "What…what do you mean?"
Jesse gave a small laugh which reverberated through my body. "You know what I mean."
Finally, I looked up at him. He dropped his hand back to his side and stared back at me, those piercing brown eyes of his filled with an emotion I couldn't identify. I could see now that though he had sounded playful, he actually was bothered by my response. I didn't know what to say.
"That…that kiss," Jesse finally said, pulling both of our thoughts right into the open. He sounded as though he had wanted to ask that for a long time, but never had the occasion to do so. Now that he had identified that the kiss had actually happened, it seemed to bridge a gap between us that had been open for a long time.
I paused, still not sure of what to say. Then, without meaning to, I blurted out, "It…it was a mistake." I was lying. It hadn't been a mistake at all, not for me.
"A…mistake," Jesse repeated. It was a statement, not a question. His eyes were blank and unreadable.
I nodded. "Yes," I said, hating myself more and more every minute, "a mistake." I wished that I could bite back my words, but I knew I had to say them for Jesse's sake, for my sake. Not saying them told Jesse that it had all been my intentions, that I had meant to kiss him the way I did. Of course, I had meant everything about it, but I couldn't let Jesse know that. If he knew, he would only reject me. It all boiled down to one thing: he was alive, and I was dead. It could never work out. However, repeating this to myself had yet to convince me of that fact.
Since he was Jesse, he would let my down easy, but it wouldn't shield all the pain I had yet to feel from a broken heart. If I just kept going on as I was now, pretending that I didn't love him, then my heart just might remain whole. In my opinion, lying to myself was better than rejection.
I thought I saw disappointment flicker in Jesse's eyes, but I couldn't be sure. Yes, I knew that he liked me, maybe even more than a friend, but by now, I had made it clear that we couldn't be together. He had to understand.
"Ok," Jesse said simply, "If that's what you want." I wanted to shout at him, to tell him that that wasn't what I wanted; it was what we both needed. Instead I only nodded.
I realized that by now, he was aware that I had feelings for him, a fact that I had been trying to hide for so long. However, he would never directly ask me if it was true. This caused me to believe that he didn't love me the way I loved him. He was scared that he would hurt me when the time came to tell me that my love was sadly unrequited. Familiar tears welled up in the corner of my eyes, and I hung my head to conceal my sadness.
Jesse lay back on the many pillows I had placed out for him the night before, looking distressed and defeated. I walked over to him again, not being able to let him feel so upset.
"Would you like me to…to read to you?" I asked, not sure of where that suggestion had come from.
Jesse also looked slightly surprised to hear it, but nodded. "Yes, Susannah, that would be nice."
I picked up one of the many books placed neatly on his bookshelf, not caring much which one it was, and began reading. It was an upbeat book, hardly seeming to fit the mood that I had mistakenly created by bringing up topics that had once been deemed taboo.
If love has to be so painful, I thought, why love at all?
Hm...well that ended ona sad note. I hope you don't hate me too much for making Suze say that kissing Jesse was a mistake. You know they'll end up together in the end :D
Next chapter! Suze meets Father Dom. Things get twisted.