Chapter 13: Separation
I gasped as Ian’s finger caressed my cheek, thrusting me into a memory of my dad wiping a tear from my face. His warm arms had held me in a comforting embrace as he assured me he’d return in a couple of days. We’d just gotten back from a supply run that morning and he’d taken me to a movie the night before like we did every year to celebrate my birthday. But something had happened to my dad’s friend, Jonathan, and Joseph was intent on going right back out for another supply run for some reason.
Dad kissed me on the forehead then vanished out the door. It was the last time I saw him.
I’d purposely blocked it out years ago, not wanting to think about it anymore, but now it’d come back with a vengeance.
The memory wasn’t what had caused the gasp, though. It was the feeling of flesh and bone tearing from me without any pain at all. It sent a shudder through me. It was like I’d burst from the confines of my body and become weightless.
Darkness crouched at the outskirts of my soul, peering in, waiting to overtake me. I shrugged away the feeling, far too enthralled by the other sensations coursing through me. What was frightening a moment before had become an adrenaline rush of excitement.
Shock left me speechless, but I managed to find my voice again. “Yeah?”
Ian’s tone grew stronger with fearful intensity. “Abby?”
“I’m right here.” What was he freaking out about?
That’s when it hit me. I wasn’t sitting on the bed like I had been before…I was standing a few feet from it. When I turned to see the situation, everything went cold inside. A body lay on the bed, lifeless…
…and it looked just like me.
No…it was me!
Ian arched over my body and shook my shoulders, a subtle dark haze outlining his figure.
“Abby,” he shouted, holding my head in his hands.
I stumbled backward at the sight, then fell. Mid-fall, everything went black for a split second, then a stone wall appeared in front of me. I scurried backward in shock, looking all around me, trying to figure out where I’d ended up.
The familiarity of the room set in. It was Reilly and Jesse’s quarters next door. I heard them breathing nearby, fast asleep. Had I just fallen through their wall?
Ian’s voice quieted, but I still heard it, not from the other room, but in my head. “Abby! Wake up!”
Grasping at sanity, I picked myself up off the floor. My gaze traveled from my legs to the stone wall, then jerked back to my legs again. They did not look right. I held my hand in front of my face. The wall was faintly visible through it. My body was translucent.
I had to be dreaming. That was the only explanation.
A light pressure pulsed against my chest. Ian’s soft but distraught voice sounded in my head again. “Come on, Abby.”
Mustering courage, I put my hand against the wall, then pushed through. It disappeared into the stone. I pulled it back through and looked it over.
The pulsating on my chest turned to light thumps. Ian’s voice sounded more panicked.
I stepped to the wall, closed my eyes, and pushed through without resistance. My vision went black, then my loft appeared.
Looking down, I saw my desk where my legs should be. I shrieked and nearly jumped to the ceiling.
If this really were a dream, it was the craziest dream I’d ever had.
A dull pounding sounded in the room, then a wonderful, moist sensation played at my lips. I touched them. Without taking a breath, air gently pushed its way into my lungs. It was then I realized I hadn’t taken a breath since the beginning of the incident. But did I need to breathe if this were just a dream? Regardless, I took a breath, if for no other reason than to feel some sense of normalcy.
Something yanked at me, pulling me into my motionless body on the bed. It was like a roller coaster on steroids. Darkness overcame me until my eyes shot open, staring at Ian’s face, his mouth locked on to mine.
My wide eyes became wider as a creaking sound came from my chamber door followed by Mom’s voice. “Abby, are you—”
Ian broke connection with my lips and flung himself up, narrowly avoiding me crashing into him as I sat bolt-up-right on the bed. Mom had barged into the room unannounced. Had she seen Ian lip-locked with me? She did her best to play it off by turning right around and leaving like nothing happened.
I yelled in her direction. “That’s what you get for not knocking.”
“Whoops!” came Mom’s voice from the hall.
“It’s not what you think,” I shouted.
“Sure, child. Sure.” Her voice was fading.
I shot a piercing glance at Ian. “Stay here.”
I leapt from the bed and rushed down the stairs, into the hall. My stomach churned. I covered the distance between myself and my mother with ungodly speed and collided with her. We tumbled to the ground.
Frightened, I scrambled backward, looking around, wondering how exactly I’d moved so quickly.
“What has gotten into you, child?” Mom looked as if I’d just tackled her. And I guess I had.
“That wasn’t what it looked like.”
“It’s none of my business.” Her eyes said otherwise. “You’re practically an adult now. You’ve had your own place for two months now. You can do as you please.”
“Mom!” My volume increased, then dropped sharply as I realized where I was.
She was right, it was none of her business. Apparently, letting go wasn’t conducive to her controlling nature.
I leaned in closer, balancing on my palms, the cold stone sending tiny chills up my forearms. “Look, you don’t understand,” I whispered. “Something serious just happened and it has absolutely nothing to do with Ian or those thoughts running through your head.”
Mom’s brow twisted. “Alright, I believe you. What’s this all about?”
“I’m not sure, yet. Please, just don’t say anything about this.”
“My lips are sealed…” She trailed off in thought. “…on one condition.”
One condition? Was she blackmailing me? I knew she had control issues, but this was a new low.
I raised an eyebrow, awaiting the terms.
“When you figure all of this out,” she said, “I want to be the first to know about it.”
She was just being a protective mother, but that did little to calm my irritation.
I gritted my teeth. “Fine.” I raised a finger, eying her. “Not a word.” The last thing I needed was a bunch of rumors floating around about me and Ian.
Mother nodded her assurance and we picked ourselves up off the ground.
“Why’d you come to my room?” I said.
“To check on you.” Her gaze went down and to the left. “I thought I heard something.”
I narrowed my eyes. No way she heard what was going on all the way down the hall from her quarters. She’d been eavesdropping.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” she said.
I nodded, then quietly headed back to my quarters.
As I walked through the door, the sight of Ian staring me in the face about three inches away gave me a start. Mom wasn’t the only eavesdropper tonight.
“You scared me half to death,” I whispered, slapping his arm. “I told you to stay in the loft.”
“I— Uh—” he stammered, probably sorting through excuses in his head. “I heard something in the hall. I was just coming to see if you were okay.”
“Uh-huh.” There were more important things at hand than giving him a hard time right now. “About that…” I hesitated. “I think I just ran faster than normal.”
Ian’s eyes grew wide and he pointed at me, disenfranchised. “You just used an ability. You said you didn’t have powers.”
“I don’t. Or at least…I didn’t.” My memories raced but stopped firmly on the image of Ian with his mouth pressed against mine. “Hey! What were you doing to me on the bed?” I slapped his arm again.
He recoiled. “Whoa! Easy there. I was giving you CPR.”
“What are you talking about?”
He raised his eyebrows insistently. “You were dead.”
“I wasn’t dead, you nerfherder!” I pulled back as a tightness clenched my chest. “Or was I?” Had I died?
“Did you just use a Star Wars term?” Ian snickered at me, but he wasn’t about to lighten the mood after what just happened.
“This is serious. What made you think I was dead?” The adrenaline must have burned off about that time because my sternum suddenly throbbed. I winced, jaw dropping at the pain, as my hand found my tender chest. “And why does my chest feel like a gorilla just jumped on it?”
“You went limp. I couldn’t wake you.” Ian looked worried. “You weren’t breathing. I couldn’t hear your heartbeat, so I started chest compressions.”
That must have been the thumping I felt on my chest earlier. Goosebumps crawled up my spine.
“I checked your heart again. Nothing.” He looked away for a second, the edges of his eyes wilting. “I might have gotten a little carried away when I started pounding your chest. But then I realized I hadn’t given you mouth-to-mouth yet.”
The thumps on my chest had gotten stronger at one point.
Wait. Did he say mouth-to-mouth?
The moist sensation on my lips earlier made sense now.
“I was half way through the second breath when you came to.” His brow furrowed with confusion. “What happened to you?”
“I was—” I grasped for words to describe what had happened. “I think I left my body.”
I took him through everything that happened, step by step.
He went pale. “You were dead, Abby.”
“No, there are tens of thousands of cases where people die and come out of their body. Same thing always happens to them—they end up with God in some heaven-like place for a while. Then their body gets resuscitated by EMTs or someone and they come back.” I sighed. “Well…most of the time that happens. A rare few end up in really scary scenarios. But none of that happened to me. I was just out walking around, falling through walls.”
Ian still had the same pale look.
I turned and headed up the stairs, back to my bed. “I have to do it again.”
“Are you nuts?” Ian was right on my heels. “You can’t do that again. What part of ‘you were dead’ didn’t you understand?”
“I don’t think I was dead, but I need to know for sure.” I turned back to him as I reached my bed.
“Look, I don’t want to lose you, okay?” He almost looked surprised at what he’d said.
My heart physically hurt as I stared into his eyes. Poor thing.
All of the distraction had carried me away from my previous dilemma—keeping my cool around Ian. I wanted him here. That’s why I’d wagered laundry duty with him, even if I told myself it wasn’t. And the laundry could’ve waited until morning. But no. Some part of me insisted on tonight…and dressed like this. The same part of me that was playing some game with Ian—a game I kept trying to resist playing. A game that would get me hurt…again.
I took his hands in mine. “I need you to trust me.”
He squeezed my hands and gave a half-smile. It’d have to do for now.
The memory of the rushing sensation when I separated from my body washed back through my mind, beckoning for me to do it again. “When I separate this time, check my heartbeat more carefully.”
“I can’t talk you out of this, can I?” His tone was resigned. It was more of a statement than a question.
My stomach knotted. If I chose to stop, he wouldn’t be worried about me anymore. He’d be fine. But I wasn’t stopping, and it was torturing him. That was my fault. I was causing him pain. And keeping up this façade weighed on me too, but that was a wall that would stay firmly in place.
I shook my head.
He still wore a worried look. “Just promise you’ll come back.”
We both knew the promise was hollow. I didn’t know whether I’d come back or not.
But I had to try.