1. The calm before the storm
No one’s listening to me again, they never listen. “You need to see a psychologist Olivia,” -she urged – “you’re just an emotional volcano waiting to erupt! You need someone to talk to about this”, my aunt Mae was a very persistent woman, she always believed she knew what was best, and sometimes she did...but...
I held the phone away from my ear, not wanting to hear the seventeenth reason why I needed guidance through my time of grief, yes I was grieving, but no one could help. How could re-living the night my mother died and the pain I was feeling help me through this?
In the end, I would still be the one heartbroken and feeling lost, and I would have to go through the cold nights, alone in my bed crying, myself to sleep.
I put the phone back up to my ear, “I’ll be ok, trust me.” I replied as calmly as possible, and I smiled even though she could not see my face “I’ll talk to you later”, then hung up.
I had been on my way to class, instead I turned around heading back to ‘Spirits Blowing West’, that was the name of my flat at Compass college, Massachusetts, ‘We’ll guide you through life’ was their motto. I could admit that all the lecturers seemed to genuinely want that for their students.
I didn’t feel like going to class today and this wasn’t a first, not that it was a habit either...well not really. I hadn’t made it far from my flat anyway and once I arrived at my door I kicked my shoes off and headed straight for the bed, deciding that getting lost in a good book would help to take my mind off the conversation my aunt and I just had.
I just needed a break from everyone telling me what to do and assuming how I was feeling. Sighing in frustration, I pushed the book aside along with the rest of the mess on my bed, unable to see past the first few words. I no longer felt like reading.
Instead, I let my mind wander off to where it always went guided first by guilt, knowing that I should be in class but wasn’t, making things unintentionally difficult for my Aunt with my crappy grades and attendance. Then embarrassment, I felt like the only student who didn’t have things figured out. Others knew what lay in store for them after college and there were those who even knew how to finish it while I didn’t know where to begin or what I wanted from this place.
I thought of myself as free-spirited and not wanting to be weighed down by the everyday norm and just wanted to live life to the full. That was something I couldn’t do by going to college and so my mind ended up wandering to only one conclusion, I just wasn’t cut out for it. But what else was there?
Regardless of this truth, I had no other choice and I certainly was not a quitter, I wanted to find something I could be passionate about and this resolve is what got me out of bed and halfway to classes.
The thought ’something worth trying for′ stuck with me when I was like this... My phone rang suddenly, pulling me back from my thoughts and I reluctantly got up crossing the room to rummage through my backpack. I whispered a short prayer in my head hoping it wasn’t my aunt, it wasn’t.
“Hey Leah”, she was my best friend since my first teenage year and even now. Sometimes, I didn’t feel as if I was such a good friend anymore, we spoke maybe once or twice a week at least, which was mostly my fault for pulling out of every occasion to meet up.
I could hear her breathing heavily on the other end I assumed she was at practice. Leah was the most athletic person I had ever met and I wouldn’t have survived volleyball and fencing if it weren’t for her, putting in the extra time to help me get better and pass my Physical Education classes in high school.
“Hey Oli”, Oli was Leah’s nickname for me, it was strange because most people would call me Liv or Livy but Leah called me Oli and I didn’t mind it in the least.
“I was wondering... would like me to help you picking out something to wear to my block party tomorrow night?” –She sounded quite hopeful, I wondered how she managed this everytime we spoke-“I just want to see you and talk, if you like, we don’t have to party really, just a place to meet”, she wasn’t really asking and she had all right not to, I owed her that much.
I took a deep breath “Sure, should I bring anything?” I asked hoping that I didn’t have to.
“Nah, I know you don’t have anything to bring anyway”. She answered knowingly.
I chuckled, she knew me too well, “ok, I’ll see you tomorrow”.
“See ya!” she replied happily, then hung up. By this time I had finished shoving off my pants and I made my way back to my untidy bunk wondering if it was too late to catch the class I had been going to earlier.
One look at the time from my cell and I knew it was no use. “I’ll just catch up online,” I said to no one in particular, reaching and finding my laptop under the pile then proceeded in propping it up on my knees. I knew I would fall asleep soon enough, but I had to start somewhere.
I was jolted out of my sleep by the sudden knocking on my door. I groaned not expecting anyone, not even Leah. I kept quiet hoping that whoever it was would go away and then I heard the rustling of paper and realized that it may have been Leah’s flatmates shoving flyers to announce their party under the door, which made me quite annoyed not understanding why they had to knock if they were going to shove a flyer under the door anyway.
This continued for a couple seconds and no matter how far away they got, the thumping seemed like a taunt which made me give up on sleeping so I decided to take a walk knowing that by the time I came back this madness would be over.
I rolled out of bed searching for my pants when I realized that they were already on. The knocking had died down by the time I got my shoes on but I knew they would be thumping their way down on the other side of the hallway any moment now.
Suddenly the thought of seeing who was causing all the commotion urged me to hurry out of my room to give them a dirty look, but there was no one. I looked up and down the hallways confused, it was deathly quiet.
Compass University was a beautiful place it had everything, like a small island and it seemed so different from the town beyond it like a whole different world.
It was filled with beautiful Sugar Maple trees which were now the color of yellow, red and orange. The scent of pine cones always seemed to fill the air no matter the season. The flat structures were circular like huge huts and the stepping stones that lead to each flat, formed arrows leading to the center of the school, where all classes were kept.
My most favorite place was the bridge which was just outside of the campus. I would sit on the top of the wooden baluster, losing myself in the beauty of sunsets, sunrises or just the beautiful moonlight.
I was always drawn to this place, it gave me the feeling of being taken away and was the only site which gave me a complete sense of calm. The dark still water promised something I could never explain.
I walked towards the boulders at first entranced by the darkness of the lake and then a strange feeling crept up my body. It was as if something was luring me beyond the bridge.
Reaching out I grabbed the copper baluster, trying to steady myself because I no longer felt like I was in control of my movements. It grew darker by the minute and I now realized I hadn’t taken notice of the time, but I could have sworn it was light out moments ago.
I looked up, there were no stars present so I knew it hadn’t been that late, it was as if a storm was about to hit making me uneasy by the sudden shift in the atmosphere.
It started to rain, softly at first and then it picked up suddenly bringing the wind and stirring the leaves around me. I whipped my head to the side trying to get my hair out of my eyes, all the while holding tightly to the baluster afraid to let go.
I felt as though the yearning I had to be taken away, to escape my heartache had suddenly become too real.
Deep down I knew, this storm had come for me and I wasn’t ready.
I would be flung over the side of the bridge at any moment now and I panicked dreading that I would drown in the unknown. My heart pounded away in my chest matching the ferocity of the wind and I clung harder closing my eyes, as if not seeing it would make it stop.
Behind my closed lids, I saw bright white and from it, colors grew distracting me from the storm raging around me, I must be dreaming, I thought. My grip on the baluster relaxed. Shadows loomed out of the color and I struggled to see them.
I soon forgot the wind and the rain and so it became calm. The white light soon faded but the colors remained, making it hard to see anything but shadows. I opened my eyes giving up on seeing more, not expecting to see the storm that had threatened to throw me over lingering some distance away over the lake.
It was then I realized that the shadows were a memory and before I could focus close enough on the faces looking back at me, I looked away tears clouding my vision. I felt torn between wanting to go and knowing it didn’t matter now.
I looked up slowly, the storm had disappeared and I was once again filled with emptiness. I wished I had gone.
Looking out into the water that flowed beneath the bridge, I pushed back the memory of that night, I wanted to force it beneath the lake which was as still as a lake could be and as dark as the night, reflecting everything above it like a mirror. And even in the midst of the soft rain and the wind the water kept its mirror-like form.
My reflection caught my eyes, clearly mirroring my chocolate toned skin and shoulder length dark brown hair which now looked black, curled because of the rain.
It was all me, expect that my usually dark brown eyes, were now silver. I stared at my reflection tears flowing steadily from the unnatural grey eyes that were fixed on me.
A new wind grew as I despaired, the memory was locked away but I already knew what happened. I wanted to leave, even if it wasn’t in the same storm that had taken my mother away.
I no longer fought against the wind, welcoming the lure of the river and the strong wind that propelled me upon the baluster, I balanced myself with ease.
The storm and I became one, it no longer fought against me, but everything else. I became the eye of the storm.
I took a deep breath and lifted my face to the downpour of the rain, the pain had numbed and my heart slowed steadily, and then, I let myself fall. I didn’t worry about the fall, I knew I would be ok.
As I was about to come into contact with the surface, a loud sound startled me shattering the still river beneath me like glass and then it was all gone. My cellular blared nosily on the floor beside my bed, jarring me from my sleep, it was my alarm.
I had been having the same strange dream more often than usual, ever since I had first visited the bridge.
I sat up recovering my laptop, which lay in an awkward position and hanging dangerously close to the edge of my bed, its battery now dead. It would be too strange telling someone about something like this, I knew they were dreams but they always felt like more.
I switched off the alarm feeling some of the residual sadness from my dream settling in my chest. Guilt joined in with my sadness because I knew that the alarm that had woken me up was to remind me of my class time. I promised myself that I would go next time, finding reasons to stay in bed, letting my mind wander along its normal route.
“No, I don’t need a drink. I have a horrible headache, remember.“, this was the third time I had refused a drink from Leah and I began to feel frustrated. I was usually good at events like these but tonight I would rather be back on campus in my room.
The party that we had originally planned to attend was moved since the school did not permit outsiders to enter the grounds after a certain hour. I should have guessed that this would happen, seeing as how they ensured that everyone knew about it on campus, I could imagine how strongly they distributed flyers off the campus.
Leah and I had met up at the auditorium after getting dressed in my room and had only conveniently remembered that it was not just a student party anymore, which of course, I was sure Leah was fully aware of.
We had gotten a ride from Mark her current ‘sweetheart’, who I had gathered was way too old for her, but that was the Leah way. We were currently at his parent’s boathouse about five blocks away from the bridge and it was jam-packed with university students from Compass and elsewhere.
I couldn’t understand him being rich and living with his parents at his age and then I remembered Leah filling me in on how much attention he gave her which I assumed was because he didn’t have a job, seeing as how he had the time to plan a party and match the schedule of a college student.
I was having the worst headache and the night air had gotten too crisp for my attire and I became even more eager to leave. I sighed looking at my phone trying to keep up with Leah 1:43, it read.
Before I could look back up my cell was knocked from my hands. “Look where you’re going, idiot!” I yelled at the moppy brown-haired boy who scowled at me, narrowing his dirty green eyes, branding me with his glare as if he had finally found what he was looking for, then disappearing into the crowd.
I turned away feeling somewhat violated by this angry looking boy and then bending down to retrieve my cell, which was now had specks of dirt and smelled of vodka.
“Ugh, come on.” I groaned, looking down at my cell and hoping it was still ok. I pushed the home button but nothing happened, annoyed I threw my hands up, looking at the sky feeling defeated.
It even seemed as if it was going to rain. Everything so far had been driving me to leave and the last shred of energy in keeping up this sham of wanting to be here for the party vanished. I needed an excuse out of here.
“Seems like, tonight’s rain will be just as bad as last night’s thunderstorm”, Leah commented shivering as she took another swig of what was in her cup, “but it’s fine, water parties are the best.”
She put her cup against my lips once again, I pushed it away not bothering to scold her for her actions, the comment instead grabbing my attention.
“There was a thunderstorm last night?“- I must have been dead in my sleep not to notice-“Are there any, storm warnings out?” I asked her, trying not to get drunk off her liquored breath.
“Not that I know of but Mark said that the weather is so weird here, that nobody really cares anymore”, she leaned forward as if to tell me something more, instead her drink spilled onto my new grey polka dot chiffon blouse, I sighed.
“I think you’ve had enough,” I said dully, swiping her drink and her pizza napkin to dab uselessly at the wet spot on my blouse “I’m going to the bathroom, and then I’m going home”. I informed Leah, already making my way past her.
“I’m coming! I’m sorry”, she hollered loudly and hurried after me.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the spot on my shirt because the scent wouldn’t go away. The stain seemed to disappear, but the scent of liquor clung to it so much so that no one would’ve believed that I hadn’t been drinking.
Leah noticed my frustration.I was happy to see her but this just was too much chaos for me I turned to her “I’m leaving now... and no thanks, I’ll walk”, I said, before she could offer to take me home with her overly touchy ‘sweetheart’ Mark, she seemed to be enjoying the party more than I was anyway.
I hugged her not wanting to feel as if I didn’t appreciate her trying to distract me, from the sourpuss I had become. “Please don’t stain that beautiful green dress” I added and she smiled understanding that I really wanted to leave.
I walked away struggling through the crowd, wanting to get out as quickly as possible, I wouldn’t mind if it rained, so the cool refreshing feel of the droplets would douse the smell of cigarettes and liquor, burning my nostrils.
My mind wandered to the dream I had last night and I wondered if I was becoming suicidal, I shuddered slightly banishing the thought, leaving Leah to fend for herself, no way, I mused.
I decided to stop at the bridge and as I came close to my special place, I saw a figure standing on top of the wooden baluster with arms outstretched and face upturned to the sky, just like in my dream, I thought.
I tried to quiet my steps as I made my way cautiously towards the figure, hoping it was not what I had suddenly assumed it was.
I became worried, should I try and call someone or try talking to them myself? I had a feeling that this person was intent on jumping, as he or she seemed so deep in thought I was sure I wasn’t heard as I neared the balusters.
Not wanting to get too close in case I was in over my head I stopped about to call out to the figure standing before me. Suddenly they twisted slightly looking over their shoulder. A boy. He smiled at me as if he knew what I was thinking. He turned now his back facing the river and I felt a bit of relief, hoping that he had come to his senses.
His eyes held mine, his gaze approving. Looking away uncomfortably from the compelling gaze, I tried to understand what sane part of me was encouraged to boldly approach a stranger, alone and why I wasn’t already on my way.
I took in his dark jacket which zipped up halfway exposing a grey shirt he had beneath and his dark jeans and boots. I hoped my face hadn’t embarrassingly given away the approving smile that wanted to creep across my lips as I looked back up at his face deciding to say something.
“Uh-“, I began but soon felt breathless, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and the air vibrated, making my heart flutter restlessly in my chest. If that wasn’t enough, he was suddenly falling, his eyes now closed as he fell back and into the water.
I stood frozen in place, the strange fluttering and breathlessness left me, replaced by outright shock and disbelief. Was it two...five... ten seconds that passed? Before I mentally shook myself and ran towards the baluster.
I became even more troubled when I got closer. The black water stood still, like a mirror and I wonder if I had been frozen in shock, longer than I had expected.