It was weird. The strange dreams had started not long ago, and even now they continued. In them, he always saw the same girl, long lavender hair flowing behind her, a somewhat dingy dress blowing in the wind, and a cold look in her eyes.
I swear I know her, but I just can't remember. Well, maybe I just saw her passing by or a character like her on TV or something.
He sighed and shook his head as he arose from bed. "Ethan, breakfast!"
"Coming!" he called back, shoving the covers back and making Sox dash out the cracked doorway.
The sound of rain splashing against the windowpanes and the rooftop made it hard to stay awake, but Ethan made his way down the stairs regardless. With Mondays being dreary anyway, the rain didn't help.
His parents both sat in their typical places around the table, his father reading the newspaper and his mother sipping at a cup of steaming coffee. He sat down to a bowl of corn cereal, a bottle of milk, and a cup of coffee. Great, another standard morning. The time without typical mornings was enough to drive him crazy, so now he couldn't picture his life without them.
"Ethan, you seem distracted," his father mused from across the table. Ethan looked up from his food and shook his head.
"Dad, I'm fine. Just, you know, a little tired still. I did just wake up."
His father shrugged it off and went back to reading his paper. His mother sat prim and proper as she always did. Nothing ever seemed to faze her.
Ethan finished up and grabbed his school bag and umbrella, gave a 'see you later' to his parents, and raced out the door. In his hurry, however, he failed to pay complete attention to where he was going. As he went to turn around from closing the door, he ran into someone and stumbled.
"Oh, sorry about that. You okay?" His eyes widened when he got a good look at her. The eyes, the hair, the face; everything about this girl standing in front of him now perfectly matched the girl he'd been dreaming about.
She brushed her hair back and hoisted the umbrella back to its original position. Without a sound or movement, she narrowed her eyes and examined his face closely as if searching for something. Turning on her heels, she made her way a bit down the road, but suddenly stopped and cocked her head to look at him.
"Long time, no see," she said softly, turning her head back and heading on down the sidewalk.
Her whole demeanor puzzled Ethan, but he sighed and made his way towards the school in a hurry. The tardy bell had to be ringing by now; somehow, he'd stood there, looking at her, for a good ten minutes and the school was even further away.
The entirety of Mr. Twombly's class, Ethan found himself staring off into space more than listening to the lectures. He couldn't decide if it had anything to do with the striking similarity, or the overall feeling of déjà vu in knowing her, somewhere.
"Mr. Kairos, want to pay attention?"
"Huh? Oh, sorry!" Ethan rubbed the back of his head nervously.
Mr. Twombly sighed and shook his head, turning his attention back to the textbook in his hand. "Make certain you stick to that and pay attention. Now, a poem."
Again, the teacher's voice trailed off and Ethan was once again left with his thoughts. There were more important and strange things going on around him than school lectures could ever hope to compare to. He hadn't really taken much time to reflect though since everything with the pen and Irving and the time holes, but now seemed to be a good time. Which was funny to him; he hadn't really thought about any of it, almost like he'd forgotten about it, but he hadn't quite forgotten.
His thoughts became disrupted with the sound of the bell. Great, classes were over for the day. He made his way past his friends, gave a slight wave to Ashley and Emily on the way, and stopped to pop open his locker. Inside, he found a slip of paper taped to the back of it, folded neatly like a pressed handkerchief or something.
He took it down and unfolded it with care. Inside, the words were written neatly, each the same size and perfectly in line. "Meet me where the treehouse once was. You'll understand once you arrive."
What an odd little note. He stuffed it into his pocket, but he didn't have an intention of ignoring it. Considering everything that had happened up to this point, it would have been unwise to disregard it, so why not? He got everything he needed and made his way out the door.
The street leading up to where the treehouse had once been held an influx of memories, ones that he'd almost forgotten, but he couldn't forget Shiloh, especially after helping him and Ben. The thoughts made him smile, but he also couldn't help but feel a tinge of sadness at it all, too.
Then he saw the tree stump, but it wasn't alone. There sat the girl from earlier, but without the umbrella. She must have planned the meetup around the rain subsiding. But surely her seat was wet from earlier. Regardless, she didn't appear to mind, not that he could notice anyway.
She must have noticed him; she turned and faced Ethan with a weak smile on her face. "It's good to see you again, Ethan."
He looked at her strangely. How does she know my name? She patted a spot beside her and motioned for him to sit down, or to at least approach. He did so with slow, light steps and settled in beside her.
He took a deep breath and looked at her. She sat poised and proper, hands folded in her lap, eyes focused on him for a while, then seemingly on the ground and sky. Honestly, he couldn't tell exactly where she was looking or if she even had her eyes on anything at all.
"Do I... know you?" She looked at him strangely for a moment, but a smile soon formed on her lips of a tender sort, and she seemed to have resolved something in her mind.
"You do. Think back. Does the name Kori mean anything to you?"
His eyes narrowed and what he could only describe as a flash of light came through his mind and he groaned, leaning forward. His head hurt, but memories came back to him. He knew her. And he cared for her.
She patted his back lightly and giggled softly. "At least you remember me, even if that's only now. But, listen, I need to tell you something."
He cocked a brow and waited. She shifted her weight before finally settling to stand up, tugging him up with her. She moved her lithe frame to lean against him. Her warmth and closeness made him blush and served to get a laugh out of her.
"Just as I remember you being," she whispered, positioning herself to place a kiss upon his cheek. He squirmed as her arms curled around his shoulders, her eyes moving to meet his.
Ethan felt a strange sort of discomfort, but that wasn't really the word for it. "Isn't this wrong?" he asked suddenly, catching Kori off guard. She took a step back and laced her fingers behind her back, kicking the toe of her shoe into the dirt. "I mean, what about Uncle Derek?"
She let out a long and somber sigh. "I just couldn't do it," she muttered, closing her eyes and dipping her head down. "Actually, it worked out."
Ethan placed a hand beneath her chin to lift her face. Whatever she had to say, he wanted to hear it, but with her facing him head on. "What does that mean? Dad, Uncle Derek, you and I... We all worked hard to put things right, and you were supposed to forget, so how and why?"
She looked deep into his eyes. "Listen to me, Ethan. It's long and complex but trust me. I took care of it. You have a new aunt and everything."
"Assuming I accept that," Ethan stated simply, looking at her with a scrutinizing gaze, "you still haven't told me why."
She blushed in silence. It didn't occur to her that he would be upfront, or maybe it did; either way, Ethan waited for a response. "Well, see... It's just that I figured something out after everything we went through." She took a deep breath. "I found out... I love you, Ethan!"
His heart skipped a beat. "But, listen, Uncle Derek killed himself for you. Irving erases my parents because of it. So much happens, and there's only so much the Hollow Pen can change. I just don't understand."
"Are you not happy to see me?"
A pain stabbed at his heart. She looked saddened, and he couldn't deal with that.
"It's not that. It's just the realm of possibilities and-"
"Listen, you have seen more strange things happen than most ever would. So, can you accept it?"
Ethan sighed heavily, but he soon replaced the heavy thoughts and worries and sighs with a smile for her. "Of course, I'm happy to see you." He wrapped his arms around her and a grunt of happiness radiated from her chest. "If everything you say is true, Kori, would you give me a chance? Just make me a promise to explain everything later, okay?"
She nodded, her cheeks reddened with joy, and she nuzzled into his chest. "Yes, of course. Silly boy, you really haven't changed. Still... I love you, Ethan."