Chapter 1: I Really Admire You.
I was standing in the middle of the forest – confused and panicked. How did I get here? I gazed down at my golden dress that ended just below my knee. It was torn from the bottom – looked like it got into something and torn. I traced my hands over the dress and looked around the darkness. What is happening to me? Why am I here? How did I get here? I looked down at my bare feet – it had small cuts over it. Where are my shoes? Why am I bare feet? I touched my tangled hair – it had few leaves and wood chips stuck in it. My lip was throbbing and my head was aching. The cold wind gust through my dress causing me to shiver – I wrapped my arms around myself and rubbed my bared arms. “Julia!” I heard a voice and then I heard footsteps coming towards me. I twirled around and gasped – who was it? I never heard that voice before. “Julia!” I heard again – this time it was a little closer. I panicked – I didn’t recognize the voice – who can it be? What if this person wants to hurts me? I felt knots in my stomach and I did what my instinct said to me – I ran. I kept running forward when I could hear the footsteps following me. I felt my arm’s skin cut open as the branch of a tree dug in my arm. I groaned but didn’t stop – the footsteps were getting nearer and nearer. Something warm oozed from my arm – blood. “Stop!” I heard, but I didn’t stop. Fallen leaves, branches and stones came under my bare feet – I flinched as I felt a sting on my left foot. Something bored into my skin. Tears freely flowing down my cheeks – I was scared, hurt and tired. I looked behind – I couldn’t see anyone, but I can hear them running towards me. I stopped – I was panting. I gulped down the prickles I felt in my throat and gazed behind me – they were coming – they were going to get me. No, I shouldn’t be stopping – I have to run. My feet were aching, my wounds were throbbing and my head was spinning, but I run. I was moving forward when all of the sudden my feet fell over the wet mud and before I could steady myself – I was falling. I was falling into the dark black hole. My own scream pierced my ear.
I gasped and sprang. This dream again – I have been having the same dream for the past few days. After few minutes, my breathing started to get normal and I sighed. I glanced towards the wall-clock – 3:06 am. I blew out my cheeks and fell over the bed. I didn’t have a single nightmare since I moved in with Garrett, my brother. I don’t know why the nightmares were back. Just like a couple of past days – I stayed awake till the dawn.
I hardly slept for an hour before the shrilling tone of my alarm woke me up again. I groaned and switched it off and lay on the bed lazily. I blew my cheeks out – it was Monday again. I will have to go to the school for five more dreadful days before I could have a peace of mind for two days. I don’t like going to school. I don’t have friends nor do I talk to anyone at school. My past has tainted my ability to socialize. There was a time when I wanted to make friends – when I had the desire to socialize and meet new people and now – now I am only afraid – afraid of people. I am afraid to meet strangers. I am even afraid of the people I know because I have learned that the people you know can hurt you the most. I didn’t want to think more about my past, so I got up and made my bed before I went to the bathroom to take shower.
I changed into a plain grey t-shirt and black jeans. I dried my brunette hair and tied them in a ponytail before I picked up my bag from the bean couch and walked out of the room. I could smell Ashley cooking something – I smiled and walked directly into the kitchen where Ashley was busy flipping the pancake. She must have sensed me enter in as she twirled around to look at me and smiled, “Good morning, Julia. I am making pancakes – you want some?” she asked.
“I would love to,” I said and sat on the counter stool.
Ashley is my elder brother, Garrett’s, fiancé. They are engaged to get married next year. Ashley is a preschool teacher while Garrett is a marketing manager at a multinational company. I moved in with them after my mother passed away two years ago. She and Garrett have been in a relationship for past five years. There is nothing I don’t like about Ashley. She is like an elder sister to me. When I first moved in with my brother – I was a complete mess. I wouldn’t speak, I wouldn’t sleep – I had nightmares after a nightmare. I was scared – scared of my own shadow. At my worst time, my brother and Ashley supported me, helped me move on. They did everything that my mother should have done. They tried everything to heal my mental wounds, but I still have the scars – I don’t know if I will ever be able to get rid of them.
“Something smells delicious.” I heard my brother’s voice. I twirled around to see him walking towards us. He kissed my head, “Good morning, Julia.” He greeted me before he walked to Ashley and kissed her on her lips. I smiled and downcast my head – I don’t know why, but I get really weird when people show affection to each other – maybe I am not used to of it.
Garrett is the only person I fully trust. He is my half-brother. My mother was married to his father, but when he was only four – his father passed away and that is when my mother met my father. They were in a relationship for three years, but when he found out about my mother’s pregnancy – he ran away. He wanted nothing to do with me. When I was born – my brother was the first person that held me. We were a great family then. It was just my mother, me and Garrett – but we were happy before my mother started to drink excessively. Every night she would bring a man at home. They used to be loud. I remember how foul they all used to speak. I even witnessed one man slapping my mother one night. I used to get scared by the strangers, so I mostly used to stay in Garrett’s room till those men were gone. He was my protector. I was okay with it too, but when Garrett went to college in Denver – everything changed. I was only ten and I had no one to save me from those nasty men my mother used to bring home. Each night I would hide under my bed and lock my door shut, so that they wouldn’t come in and hurt me. I remember that night like it was yesterday. That dreadful night is still plastered in my mind.
“Open the door!” I heard him in my head. I tightly closed my eye. No – I don’t want to think about it. It has been so long. Forget about it, Julia! Don’t think about it.
“Julia!” I heard a voice from distance. “Julia, breathe! Please breathe!” I heard the same voice again. I gasped – my lungs were burning. It was happening again. For weeks I haven’t thought about that night, but since that nightmare, I haven’t been able to control my thoughts. “Julia, it’s okay.” I heard Ashley’s soft voice before she put her hand on my shoulder and light pressed it. I only nodded my head to assure them that I was okay. I don’t want them to worry about me anymore. Right now I needed a distraction and there is no better distraction than the school – where I have to worry able my bullies rather than thinking about my past. I glanced at my brother who was kneeling beside me with a glass of water in his hand. The worried expression he had on his face made my heart twist.
I faked a small smile and took the glass from his hand. “I am okay,” I said softly. The crease on his forehead diminished and he sighed. “You scared me.” He whispered and stood up.
Garrett might be the best brother anyone can ever have. When I first moved in with him – I was scared of him as well. I was scared because he was a man. I knew that he would be the only man that will never hurt me, but still, I was scared. I would yell at him, throw things at him – I even once tried to throw a knife at him, but thankfully Ashley stopped me before I could hurt him. If he wanted, he could have sent me away to some mental asylum, but no – he didn’t. In fact, he took me to the therapist. He worked hard to gain my trust back and it worked. I got better and I can’t thank him enough for that. I smiled through the tears, “I am okay, Garrett. Just some thoughts came up in my mind. I am okay now.” I assured him and drank the water he gave me.
“How about we both take off for a day, so we could go out somewhere, just the three of us?” he questioned me while glancing at Ashley that was standing beside me. I glanced at her as well to see her smiling at him as well. “Sounds great, I will call at school and tell them that I won’t be able to come today.” Ashley seconded him. That’s the best thing about these two. They are always ready to make me feel better. I know how difficult it is to take off for them, but they are willing to do it just for me. Where I feel loved – I also feel guilty. I don’t want them to risk their jobs for me or I don’t want to intrude in their lives, so I shook my head. “No, don’t do that.” I stopped her. “I can’t take off from school today. I have exams coming and I can’t miss any of my class right now.” I lied. I smiled and got up from the stool before picking up my bag from the counter.
“Thank you anyways, but I am feeling much better,” I told them. They didn’t look much convinced though. I hang my bag on my shoulder and kissed Garrett’s cheek before hugging Ashley. “I love you both. I have to go now.” I told them.
“Wait, what about breakfast?” Ashley asked.
I shrugged, “I will eat something at school.” I told her. “I am not really hungry now,” I added.
“At least, let me drop you off at school,” Garrett said.
I shook my head, “No, the weather’s beautiful today and I would like to walk to school – just to clear off few things from my mind.” I answered honestly. Garrett didn’t argue – he knows what would be better for me. After I said bye to them I walked towards the door and walked out of the house, but not before I heard Ashley speaking to Garrett, “I heard her screaming last night.” She tried to keep her voice low, but I heard her anyway. I didn’t wait for Garrett’s reply – I just took a deep breath and lightly closed the door behind me.
I looked around the neighborhood. There wasn’t anyone around except for Mrs. Wings walking her dog. My school isn’t far away from where I live – it is just fifteen to twenty minutes’ walk away. I stepped forward but halted as I felt something under my feet. I frowned and looked down to see a pink envelope. I picked it up to see a capital ‘A’ written over it. I looked around to see if anyone was around who could have left it here, but there was no one. I didn’t get it – why would anyone leave the letter on the porch when there is a mail-box in front of your house? Nevertheless, I opened the envelope to find a folded paper in it. I unfolded it and started to read. Whoever wrote this letter had a horrible handwriting.
I really admire you. I like you a lot. You are perfect.
I chuckled and fold it back before putting it back in the envelope. I found it amusing to know that Garrett had a secret admirer. I mashed my lips together and turned around and went back to the house to see Garrett and Ashley busy kissing each other. Once again the unsettling feeling kicked in me. I have always been like this – I don’t feel comfortable at all when people make out in front of me. It makes me sick. Ashley noticed me and parted away from Garrett. They both were a little out of breathing. “Oh, Julia I thought you already went to school,” Ashley said embarrassingly. Her cheeks were flushed out.
I cleared my throat, “Uh – yeah. I was going when I found this on our porch.” I waved the envelope with a grin on my face.
Garrett and Ashley both frowned. Ashley moved forward and took the envelope from my hand, “What is this?” she asked.
I chuckled, “Well, it turns out that my brother here as a secret admirer.” I told them. Garrett knitted his brow and looked at the letter that Ashley was reading. She chuckled, “Wow, I am jealous.” Ashley jokingly narrowed her eye and glanced at her fiancée, who took it from her hand and read it himself. “What the hell is this?” he chuckled, “It looks like a five-year-old kid wrote this.” He joked causing both of us to chuckle. He rolled his eyes, “Someone must have joked with us.” He added.
Ashley laughed and held his tie, “Looks like a teenager might have a crush on my man, but jokes on her. You are mine.” She winked at him.
I chuckled and rolled my eyes, “I am out of here. Bye.” I said to them and walked out of the house before they could start making out in front of me again.