Sorry this took so long. I had to go through a bout of discouragement after the first copy of this got deleted. I had to write everything all over again. PS, thanks you guys! You're reviews are what keep me going.
Lying alone in the hotel room, I couldn't help but remember the worlds cardboard boxes would take me to as a child.
The worlds would be unlike any other. In those worlds, everything was perfect. The sun was always shining and I never saw a cloud in the sky. Each world was distinct. Some of my worlds had mythical creatures. Others were normal and my brother wasn't severely autistic. I would be lying if I said I didn't miss those worlds.
Now my world was in chaos and all I was left with was my family, my unborn child and pain. Pain for the lost love of my life, pain for the tribulation I was putting my family through and pain for those still dealing with haunting memories of the FAYZ.
The images still haunted me. I still saw the dead children, I still heard their screams. Even full, I still felt so hungry. Like it would never disappear. I was stuck with an everlasting emptiness and there was no filling it.
Was Sam still empty? Was he in pain, too? Thinking this compelled me to grab the phone and call the love of my life. Ever since I accidentally almost blurted out another boys name while heaving over the toilet, Sam was full force on my mind.
After just a few rings, his smooth voice was on the other end.
"Hello?" he answered. I was stuck in the silence as his face appeared in my mind. "…Hello?"
"Sam?" I said quietly.
"Astrid," he said. "Hi."
"Hi," I said, tears springing in my eyes.
"Uhm, this really isn't a good time. Can I call you back?" he asked suspiciously.
"Sure," I frowned.
Almost immediately, the line went dead and I was left confused. Sam had so mysteriously gotten off the phone, as if he was doing something he wasn't supposed to.
My Sam would never do something wrong? Would he?
"We have the house!" My mother exclaimed, busting into the hotel room. From then on, my thoughts of Sam were maximized.
Within a week or two, I was standing in the immaculate foyer of our new home as brand new furniture was brought in. I had never seen something so beautiful. The wooden floors were spotless with not a scratch to be seen. The walls a sea foam green. My dream home. The only thing missing was Sam.
"Astrid, come out here!" my mother called from our back yard that faced the water. As soon as I saw his face, my heart fell into my stomach. His beautiful eyes were staring directly into mine.
It was Brent. Like a dream, he just appeared.
"Brent," I barely whispered.
"Astrid, meet our new neighbors. This is Mr. and Mrs. Malone and their son Brent. He's about your age, darling."
I wanted to say something. Anything. But, what? What could I possibly say? We were neighbors now. No changing that. There was absolutely nothing to say.
"I do hope you get to know them. They seem very kind," my mother smiled.
"Glad to have you guys in the neighborhood," Mrs. Malone smiled. "We would love it if you and your family would join us for dinner."
"My Laney sure is a mean cook," Mr. Malone smiled, pulling Mrs. Malone into his chest. She blushed and pulled away.
"Yes," she laughed, wiping the invisible dust from her flowing skirt. "Any who, dinner is around five o clock. I hope you guys like chicken."
I watched Brent and his family until they were in the house and out of sight. I was paralyzed by shock and apprehension. I had only seen this boy once and I spilled out my life story to him. He knew everything about me. It was like we had been best friends since birth.
He just didn't know about the FAYZ. Nobody could ever fully know about that night mare without that experience. I was doing a great job of blocking out the images of it all.
I stood in my bedroom as I watched furniture being brought in for what seemed like hours. In just a matter of time, it all seemed to come together and I finally had a room of my own again. There was no destruction at all. It was all in one piece. No gaping holes in the walls or torn off roofs. Now where would I put the crib and everything else?
"Astrid," my mother called from downstairs. "Were about to leave. Come downstairs, darling."
"Coming," I called, hurrying downstairs. Silently, I prayed that morning sickness wouldn't come up during our dinner. They stood anxiously by the door and smiled as we walked over to our neighbor's home.
"Welcome," Mrs. Malone exclaimed as we stood at the door. There house was as beautiful as ours. If not more. "So glad you could make it."
"Thank you so much for inviting us." My mother smiled.
"Please, make yourselves at home. Dinner is cooking," Mrs. Malone said, "Let me get my son."
She walked over to the stairs.
"Brent, darling, come down. The neighbors are here!" she called.
In a moment, Brent stood at the bottom of the steps, staring at me as if we had never met.
To him, we were complete strangers.
The rest of the night was awkward to say the least. Brent didn't speak one word to me as I just attempted to keep dinner inside me. The smell came at me like bricks and things were…difficult. Brent's parents obviously had no idea I was pregnant, as I was asked if I cared for a taste of wine. My mother just looked at me and chuckled quietly. I think we all breathed a long sigh of relief when the night was over and we were able to go home.
The furniture was still being placed when we had left so when we got back home, everything was good. Like we had lived in the house my entire life.
"I'm going to put him to bed. It's late, my darling, I suggest you sleep," my mother said, placing her hand gently on my stomach. "Somebody is starting to show."
"Yeah," I sighed. "Goodnight, mom."
"Goodnight, dear," she kissed me on the forehead and I walked slowly into my room.
It then occurred to me that I had a balcony which faced the water. All the lights from the other side of town shone brightly upon the water and lively boats rested gently upon the sleeping surface. Maybe I could just live on the balcony.
I grabbed a blanket, laid in on the balcony and watched the stars for what seemed like hours. I was completely at peace with myself until I heard a familiar somebody whispering my name.
"Astrid," Brent whispered loudly from below the balcony.
"Brent?" I asked, looking at him strangely. "It's like 3 in the morning. What are you doing here?"
"I had to talk to you," he said. "Can I come up?"
"How are you going to do that? Fly?" I laughed.
"No," he smiled. "I know this house."
Somehow, he found a ladder and was up the side of my house in no time. I stood in amazement as he climbed so flawlessly.
"Why did you act like you didn't even know me?" I blurted. I clapped my hands over my mouth, as that was not something I was intending to ask. "Sorry. I wasn't supposed to ask that."
"I don't know," he muttered, kicking his foot around, "I guess I've just missed you, that's all. We haven't talked in weeks."
"Yeah," I said quietly. "Anyway, what are you doing here, Brent?"
"I've just been awake thinking and I just thought," he paused, "I want to know more about you…if you're willing to tell me."
I sighed, didn't speak and took him down on the blanket with me. His eyes went almost immediately to the small bulge beneath my tight shirt.
"You're starting to show," he pointed out.
"Unfortunately," I frowned. "I'm not ready to be a mother."
"Can I touch it?" he smiled brightly, lifting his hand. "My parents never gave me a sibling so I've never actually seen a pregnant woman in person. At least not one that I know."
I could easily tell he was nervous, thus leading me to smile. He reminded me so much of Sam when he was nervous. His nervous eyes, his nervous smile, his nervous laugh. It was all so adorable.
"If you want."
He placed his hand on my stomach and smiled. He showed his pearly whites as his blue eyes lit up with excitement.
"I think you'll be a great mother," he said, smiling, "When do you go to the doctor again?"
"Next week," I said, perplexed by the fact that my next appointment was coming up so quickly. I wondered what would happen. Would I get to see my baby, finally? Would I get to hear its tiny little heartbeat? "I'm kind of nervous. I know this isn't my first one but still."
"So are you going to Vero Beach High School?" he asked, ignoring the doctor's appointment explanation.
"Yeah. Just look for a pregnant sophomore," I smiled reluctantly.
"It'll be okay," he smiled lovingly, keeping his hand on my stomach. "Trust me."