Letting In and Axel
Axel first drove to a McDonald’s drive through and got us enough food for a whole crowd. Then, we ended up right at the cliff again, in the bed of his truck. He still had those blankets from before and we used them.
I had called Dad earlier while picking up our dinner and told him I won’t be back for dinner. He was concerned, specially when I said I was with Axel but I assured him that I’d be fine. He finally let me but not before telling me to be back by 11:00 pm.
As i stepped out of the truck, I took in a deep breath, letting in the fresh and cool air from up hair calm my insides. I wasn’t nervous, not in a bad way, at least, but it was a strange feeling being here with him, specially knowing that it’s a date.
I’m on a date with Axel.
It still feels weird knowing that we aren’t just hanging out as friends and my brain can’t help but keep shouting, “Too soon, too soon. Abort, abort.”
I walk back towards the open bed of the truck that is facing the cliff and instead of helping out Axel spread the blankets, I march to the edge of the rocky cliff that overlooks the small city I live in. Instead of being boundary-less like in that graffiti art I saw earlier, the cliff has wired fence to keep anyone from going too close to the edge and end up falling.
As I remember that, I ache to feel the freedom that girl in the mural was feeling. How relaxed she felt, how her eyes didn’t hold any chains. I walk as close to the edge as it allows and as close as I have the courage to and let my eyes close in an attempt to feel what the girl in the mural was feeling.
“What are you doing?” Axel’s voice sounded closer and I opened my eyes and turned my head around a little to see him standing him behind me.
He wasn’t too close, a good few inches between us but he wasn’t too far out of reach either. I could feel his body heat on mine but it still left me cold. It was like a metaphor between us which didn’t even make a sense to me and at the same time, it did.
I let out a sigh, breathing in fresh air. “Nothing. I just saw a graffiti when I was walking to the cafe and it has been on my mind ever since.”
“Hmm.” He mumbles, looking over the city. “What was it?”
I go to explain it to him but mentally slap my head. I took the pictures so why not show it to him. I grab my phone from the back pocket of my jeans and type in the password, not caring if he sees and open the gallery, handing him the phone after the picture is opened. “This.”
Axel takes my phone from my hand and focuses on the painting, a frown marring his features. “Well, this looks interesting.” He hands me my phone back. “What were you thinking about it?” He asks, securing his hands in the pocket of his jeans.
I shrug. “Just the feeling of this picture. It says freedom. The way this girl’s arms are spread wide and this look in her eyes, even though most of it is hidden by her flowing golden locks, this look is so content. I wonder how it feels like to be free from the clutches of everything that’s holding you back.”
Axel sighs. “I’d like to know about it too.” I turn around and he meets my eye, giving me a small smile. “We should probably eat before the taste evaporates away.
I chuckle and nod and follow him back to the truck. He helps me up and then follows me. We sit across from each other, leaning our backs to the side of the vehicle and our legs spread out in front of us, side by side. He hands me a burger and takes a bite out of his own.
After a few minutes of silence, he speaks. “Do you believe in ghosts?”
“Ghosts?” I frown, not knowing where it was coming from. I shrug. “I don’t know. I like horror movies though. I’m fascinated by the idea of them. It’s weird, I can’t explain it.”
He shakes his head. “No, I’m not talking about liking fictional horror movies. I asked if you believed in them.”
I pause, thinking about his question for a while. “Maybe.” I say finally. “I just believe that if you believe in God, you ought to believe in Ghosts and Devils too. For if there is good, then there is bad and dangerous too.”
Axel thinks about my answer and nods. He looks away to the city below us. “You know,” He starts, “I personally think that ghosts are not just invisible supernatural creatures meant to scare you. Sometimes, they’re closer to you than you think, always around you in one way or the other, never leaving you alone. They can be things or people that were once a part of your life or you used to know but those who escaped you without you even realizing it. They just vanish without you knowing how and why, you don’t even see it coming, and then when they’re no longer there, they still continue to haunt you in everything you do, everywhere you go. Their memory almost destroys you.” He turns to look at me with a solemn look on his face and smiles sadly. “Sometimes, ghosts are nothing but memories of past that never leave you alone.”
Silence settles over us, leave for the blowing wind that tousles our hair. I let it sink in, what he said about ghosts and his words almost hit home. When I compare his analogy to my life, I can not point one flaw to argue upon. True, sometimes, ghosts are just memories that haunt you forever.
“My family is everything to me, you know?” I speak before even realizing that I was about to say anything. His eyes snap towards me but my eyes are averted towards the view. “It’s just me, Grant, Mom and Dad in my family and it’s just everything. But I didn’t realize it until recently.”
I glance over at him to see his frown of confusion disappearing into a look of understanding as he realizes that I’m keeping my promise of telling him my story. I look away again as keeps silent, not disturbing the mood we’ve set around us.
“I was always a happy kid. Dad’s princess, Mommy’s little girl, Grant’s kid sister - I got so much love from everyone. They adored me and I felt that I had the world. I felt powerful, like a real princess.” I take a deep breath, stepping into another dimension of the story, the one I don’t think I’ll ever forget, the one that has so many happy memories, mistakes, friendships and regrets all mixed together. “I was four when I met Veronica - my very first friend aside from my family and cousins. My first and only best friend I ever had.”
“She was a quiet and shy kid while I was a wild child. We complimented each other, fit together perfectly like a puzzle. She understood me when no one else could and I found myself at peace with her when I couldn’t calm myself down. We were always together, either at her place or mine and at school too. Our parents literally had to drag us away to keep us apart every night.” I chuckle at the old memories, the one I still cherish and always will, the ones that make my heart ache.
“When I was eleven, things changed as a new character entered my life.” I hop into another part that is full of memories too - both good and bad, silly mistakes and most importantly, love. “Sean and I met at a cruise excursion which was related to Dad’s worked and we clicked together immediately. For that whole week we spent on the ship above the ocean, we were attached to each other every second. And when it was finally time to go home, I didn’t want to leave. But we had to.”
I pause to blink the tears away as I look up at the now darkening sky, the sun already been set and take a deep breath to compose myself. “The next few months without him were terrible. I didn’t even understand it, I still don’t, that how could I get attached with a boy I had barely known for a week. But the truth is that I was a mess. I had stopped eating, I was mostly ill and even my best friend Ronnie, the girl who could make everything in my life just by her presence, couldn’t help me out.”
I meet Axel’s eyes that are focused solely on me, as if he doesn’t want to miss a single detail of the story as well as my emotions as I tell it. “Five months later, on my twelfth birthday, I saw him again, in the hallway of my school and when he hugged me, I didn’t even feel that we had ever parted ways. He had remembered me telling him about the city I lived in and he came to find me. Apparently, he was just as much of a mess without me as I was without him. That day, we spent the whole day in the school library, holding onto each other and crying out our miseries. He told me his secrets and I told him mine. Since then, he became my one and only person.”
I averted my gaze fro Axel’s, knowing the guilt would soon set in. “Sean became the center of my attention, the center of my world. I was always with him and we grew closer than ever, best of best friends, two bodies one soul and everything like that. He knew me better than I knew me and I knew him better than anyone ever could. His presence in my life decreased that of others, including my family and Ronnie’s.”
I take another shaking breath but the stinging in my eyes finally causes the release of those treacherous tears. “I grew apart from everyone and Sean became the only one I saw, heard, felt about. He was the only freshman to be a part of the Junior basketball team of our school and after the first winning match that year, he kissed me in front of the whole school and asked me out. I couldn’t have been happier. After all, I had always been in love with him. I was so gone.”
I shake my head at the silliness. Silly, sick, same old love. I let out a bitter chuckle. “We were so good together, Axel. We were the ‘it’ couple. Everyone loved us. He was the golden boy, loved my all the teachers and students alike. Even my family had always been fond of him. And I was the school’s princess with the whole school being friendly to me and the teachers loving me and all that.” I met his eyes again and tried to lessen the mood by a crappy joke. “I’m not bragging, I swear.”
He give me a small, sad smile, no judgement in his eyes.
“You know what the worst part of it all was?” I asked and he raised an eyebrow in question. I sighed. “I noticed myself drifting away from the people I loved but I was far too gone in loving Sean that I ignored it or simply didn’t care. It was Ronnie’s birthday when I realized that it had been months since we talked. Still, I bought a gift for her and went to her place but I didn’t have the courage to see her face to face. I don’t know why it felt awkward wishing my own best friend a happy birthday. So I handed it to her mother and rushed back home. She didn’t contact me back to say a ‘thank you’ and I didn’t bother myself in rekindling what I knew was almost dead friendship.”
I look away again. “She got new friends and I got mine. Tracy had moved to our school just that year and she approached me first. I guess that is why we are even friends for I know I wouldn’t have talked to her first, being so lost in a certain blonde haired - blue eyed boy. She was always there for me as a friend and partner, giving me her shoulder to lean on when I felt alone. Things with Sean were perfect you know? I always believed that we’d be together forever with a cute little family like my own and all that fairytale crap. But things changed like the always do.”
I shift my position and lie down on the spread blanket, my legs thrown over Axel’s without any care. He didn’t even move. “When Senior year started last September, Veronica had changed a lot and so had Sean. I should have noticed the mini details that I missed, not even thinking that they were ever important.” I gulped, swallowing away the pain that clutched my heart in a tight grip. “It was my birthday and I was more than happy that day. I was turning eighteen, after all. I kept waiting all night for one single text from the boy I loved so much. It didn’t come and I brushed it off thinking maybe he was planning a surprise like he did two years ago. I was excited for it and boy was I surprised.”
Axel shifts and lies beside me, resting his head on his palm, still giving all his attention to me, making me slightly conscious. “When I got to school that day, what I saw will haunt me forever. My boyfriend, whose single ‘Happy Birthday’ text I had been waiting for all night was there, kissing the best friend I didn’t know anymore.”
I meet his eyes, vulnerability swimming in them along with the tears that flowed out continuously. “The two people I loved the most in this world betrayed me, hurt me, broke me and left me alone to rot and wreck. They ruined me, Axel.” He immediately wraps his arms around me, making up sit and I accept his embrace, sobbing. “And it gets even worse. Veronica - the girl I always considered my best friend betrayed me and Tracy - the girl who was closest to me and who considered me as her best friend while I just saw her as another one of my friend was there to give me her shoulder again to cry on. What makes me guilty the most is that I never gave Tracy the friendship she deserved when she gave me all of it.”
I pull away and wipe my tears. “I was miserable after that and I ran away. I locked myself away from the world in the dark corner s of my mind and pushed everyone who approached me. The two months after that were horrible. I cried myself to fall asleep while trying to keep myself from falling apart. I hurt everyone around me because of what I was becoming and I didn’t even realize it. Maggie, a new student who Tracy had taken up as a friend and Kevin, my long time neighbor and the boy I used to be friends as kids along with Tracy held me together when I was falling apart along with my family.”
I meet Axel’s eyes again, a small smile gracing my lips. “I’m so thankful for them, Axel. I had given up all of me in loving one boy and in promising my friendship with one girl that I didn’t have anything left for me when they left me alone to fend for myself. And that was when my fiends and family stepped in to fill the void in my with their love and support and presence.”
I wipe away all of my tears and look back to the city below, twinkling with lights, Axel following my gaze. “It was around Christmas that things slowly started getting better. I was still hurting, but seeing my family fall apart because of me and seeing my friends suffer because of me was the worst thing ever, after the brutality Sean and Ronnie cause me, of course. So I allowed myself to open the doors and let in light and people who were stretching their hands towards me. I am not strong enough to leave the safety of this darkness, Axel, but I swear I’m trying.”
“Meeting you and Emmy wasn’t anything I planned on. All I wanted was to find a good coffee house to spend my days away from the painful thoughts and lose myself in me for once. But honestly, meeting you guys was the best thing that has happened to me last year. You both were like my Christmas gifts and without knowing, you guys helped me through toughest things.”
A small smile plays on my lips as I look at Axel again and he turns to look at me too. “It’s been four months since that awful birthday and I’m still hurting, still finding comfort in the darkness of my mind, still crying myself to sleep. But you know what has changed from then to now? This time, I’m trying. I’m letting in the light conquer my darkness if I’m not courageous enough to step out myself and I’m learning to embrace it. I might cry myself to sleep every night but I always wake up with a smile to face the day. And I might be still hurting but unlike before, I’m giving myself a chance to heal.”