The Imaginary (LakeView Series, Book Two)

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I’m fine, right? I cannot tell if I am or not, every time I think I have a grasp on reality I find my feet slipping once again into a quixotic reality. People around me speak perturbed, Salem has a hand behind my back and Grayson cradles both sides of my face with his warm hands. Everything feels hazy, my eyes struggle to focus on anything and their voices are a dull throb in my eardrums.

“What?” I say, the dull vibrating background voices snapping clearly into focus. Grayson’s face suddenly comes clear, his eyes overwrought.

“Sage? Can you hear me?” Salem rubs my back a bit roughly, her hand shockingly cold against the insensible perspiration on my back.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m good.” I insist, trying to shift my body away from them. Taking my eyes from Grayson, I finally notice Theo who stands nervously by my bookshelf. Not only am I embarrassing myself in front of Grayson and my sister, but now Theo gets a front-row seat to the freak show.

“Another nightmare?” Salem asks in a cognizant tone, her eyebrows drawn with her concern for me. I wave her off, avoiding looking at Theo. Grayson looks at me suddenly, his eyes accusing. I wince, caught.

“I thought you said your nightmares went away?” I feel a sting of guilt for being dishonest to the people who care, but I’m also suffocating in a feeling of embarrassment. I don’t know what I did while I was asleep, but clearly, it was enough to concern the people around me.

“I didn’t want you to worry--” My tone sheepish, I try to stand, hiding my red face. The room spins as I try to stand, and I find myself plopping back down onto my bed.

“I’ll go get water,” Theo says, his voice low. My sister nods, I’m relieved to not have his anxious energy near me anymore.

“Sage,” his tone is strict with me, but I can see his eyes are soft with love. “You don’t have to be concerned with how I feel, I want to help you--” I shake my head hard. “Sage, don’t push us away.” My eyes burn, I don’t want to lose the people around me but I can feel myself losing my sense of reality. They would be safer without me flailing around. I notice now the small scratches on Gray’s neck, tiny droplets of blood appearing.

“Did I do that to your neck?” Had I hurt him? I don’t know what I’ll do with myself if I hurt him.

“It was an accident, you were dreaming.” His tone is soothing, but it does nothing to calm my nerves. I hurt him. My grasp on what’s real and what’s fake is so unstable that I’ve hurt Gray.

“I’m so sorry,” I say urgently, reaching for his neck but he grabs my hand and holds it tightly. “Gray-” What do I say?

“We want to help, Sage.” My sister’s voice is warm, so comforting that I feel the walls I’ve put around myself for these months crumble. Everything breaks and I find myself breaking into an uncontrollable sob. Grayson pulls me to his chest and Salem’s hand rhythmically rubs circles on my back.

“It’s so bad, Gray.” I sob, my voice is hoarse from wailing. Every nerve of my being is weak, I cry out my pain until I grow so tired that it’s hard to even hold my head up. “It’s gotten so bad. I think I’m losing it, I’m losing my mind, Grey.” I inhale sharply, the burst of air almost painful in my trembling body.

“Shhh.” He holds me tight, and I find myself unafraid of the creatures in my head if only for a moment.

“I talked to Becca about it, but she could only recommend…” I trail off, unable to continue my sentence. I shiver at the mere idea of going to that horrid building, even if it was all in my head.

“What did she recommend, Sage? If Becca is recommending a form of treatment we should follow it--” No, no. My sister is trying to be helpful and I can hear that in her tone, but the idea of that form of ‘treatment’ is appalling.

“I have you, no matter what we do.” His voice is warm, and I believe him.

“She...she wants me to go to that place. The place from my dream. Becca thinks if I go there and see it’s not dangerous then it will make me feel better. But I’m scared to go, I don’t think I’m ready to go.” We sit in silence, my words weigh heavy in the air. My people, my sister, and Grey continue to soothe me to the very best of their ability.

“We should go, then,” Theo says, I flinch at the shock of his voice. I hadn’t even known he was there, that he had come back. There he stands, silently in the room, holding a glass of water for me. I don’t know when he got back, but I feel a glowing irritation rising in the pit of my stomach at his comment. Theo doesn’t know me, doesn’t know my story, and doesn’t have the right to comment.

“Don’t tell me what to do-” I snap but Gray’s calming voice speaks over mine.

“I think we should do this, hon. We can all go, we can be your comfort.” I don’t want them there, it will be too hard. The idea of them being killed again, it’s too much. “Sage, I promise we will all be safe. We can do this, to help you heal and move forward.” He pulls me from his body, holding me away so he can look into my eyes.

“I’m afraid.” Big words, spoken plainly into the room. I’m so unbelievably afraid, but of what? My mind, it seems. Nothing is real, everything I’ve seen has been my brain.

Maybe there is nothing at this place, and everything I dreamed was just a cocktail of too many late-night horror books and my sister giving me life updates while I was under. I’ve created my fears, leading to my traumas. Now, I hold my future in my hands. Do I let fear keep me from a healthy future? A life I could have with Grayson, and my friends. Or am I going to woman up and take action?

“I don’t want to go alone,” I state, and Grayson nods intently. “I want you there and...and whoever else wants to come I guess.” For whatever reason, I know my sister will want to go, and she’ll probably bring Theo. Avery will probably want to come too because she loves me enough to spend time at a creepy place like that.

“We will go together,” Salem says, and I feel the weight lift off my chest. I feel loved and supported, enough that I almost don’t feel afraid to go to the asylum. Almost.

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