There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
I tossed on my bed a couple of times before finally getting up in exasperation. What did my stomach want now?
The need to fulfill my hunger made me get right off my bed and walk towards the kitchen at three in the morning. Everything was perfectly fine.
I mean, there was food in front of me. How could anything go wrong when there was food in front of me? But it was like the gods gave me an answer to that soon enough.
There were I heard sniffling. Perhaps it was someone else who was hungry and decided to wake up at this ungodly hour like me. That was just what I had assumed.
There was little anyone could do to keep my feet from making their way towards the sound. Curiosity, as always, had gotten the best of me. My hand shot out and I opened the door to Seb’s door.
“Seb?” I called out. I rushed over to him as I saw him shivering under the blankets, sweat running off his forehead and crying. I quickly sat on his bed and took his hand in mine. “Hey, Seb. . . Seb, it’s alright. Seb. . .what’s going on?!”
I checked his forehead only to find it burning hot. “Sh*t. . . you have a fever too. Shhh. . .does it hurt? Seb, why are you crying? Seb, get up!” Desperation filled me up and I shook him hard to try to get him up. Never had I ever seen him like this, so it was, needless to say, a scary experience for me.
And mom and dad were on one of their business trips. . .again. It left me with no other option but to call Gabby. Her mother was a doctor-- she could help me with this. Grabbing my phone, I called her. Several times. But all in vain.
She must’ve kept her phone on silent and gone to sleep. I ran into the kitchen and brought some water back to him. He was half-conscious. “Seb, drink some.” I brought the glass to his lips but he did not accept even a little bit of the water. I got him some towels that I had soaked with cold water to cool his temperature off a little bit and placed it on his forehead.
In the meanwhile, I quickly put my slippers on and ran to my neighbor’s house. I had no other source of contact, with most of my other friends living on the other side of the city; they wouldn’t have been of any help. Besides, I hadn’t met the legal age of driving and didn’t have a driving license. I rang the doorbell many times impatiently.
The door opened to reveal a woman in her early forties--Ms. Froster I think was her name. We may have been neighbors for ages now, but that certainly didn’t mean that we were very close. They were kind and we had a friendly relationship, but that was about it.
“Samantha, darling, what brings you here at this time?” She rubbed her tired eyes, the action clearly showing that she had just been awoken from her sleep. Her husband came in from behind shortly after her.
“Kelly, who is it?” he asked.
I glanced at him and gave him a nod in greeting to which he responded with a confused one of his own. “I’m sorry to drop by so late, but I really need a favor.”
I looked up at them and they urged me to continue. “Do you think you can give us a ride to the hospital?”
With a racing heartbeat, I shot out of bed. My nightmares were getting worse and I couldn’t do anything about it. I started getting fewer hours of slumber just like before I had gotten my sleeping pills. With them not working anymore, it was getting harder and harder to enjoy my life anymore.
I was afraid that one day, instead of these small, scary scenes, I would end up seeing my brother die in front of my eyes yet again. And I was afraid that it would be then when I would completely lose it.
That being said, I had made up my mind. I was going to go to the nurse’s office one more time and ask for any suggestions as to this matter--the only problem being that it might affect my scholarship here. It might affect the way they think about me.
And the thought of that was killing me.
2:35, the clock showed.
Great. I’m getting up earlier than usual too. Next thing you know I’ll be asleep for only five minutes rather than an hour. I just fell asleep! At around 1:30!
I laid on my bed and didn’t move, hoping to fall asleep again, but because the universe hates me, I didn’t fall asleep. I stayed still on my bed for around an hour and just thought about everything. About the nightmares. About this nightmare. About Seb. About mom and dad. About this University. About Gabby. The boys. Diane. So many things to think about and think I did.
Stop with the Yoda fetish, Sam.
After a while, I got bored. Lucky, Ceci. At least she can sleep and have fun . . .sleeping. And me. . ? I’m stuck with this boredom.
I took out my phone and installed some games so I could play them. I don’t know why but I have this habit of deleting a game once I’m done with it. Not a good habit because I actually want to play these games again later, but whatever.
A while later I got bored and after deciding that I’ve nothing better to do, I took out that card Coach had given me earlier. Honestly speaking, I wasn’t planning on using it so quick, but I suppose you can’t do anything about that when you wake up at half past two in the morning. As I was heading out, I also grabbed a bottle of water that was closed and, as though waiting for me to take it, standing upright on the table.
I slipped out as always, avoiding the cameras and making my way through the corridor towards the field. It was currently around 4:00 a.m, so it wasn’t that early for me to be out. From the corner of my eye, I spotted a guard. It seemed to me that he spotted me exactly when I did him and he walked quickly towards me telling me to stop where I was.
“What are you doing here?” he asked in a harsh tone. “You’re not supposed to be here.”
“I’ve got permission to use the field. Here,” I showed him the ID and he took it from my hands lightly and examined it.
“How do you have Ian’s card?” he narrowed his eyes down at me.
“Coach gave it to me.”
“How can I confirm this?”
“He told me it shouldn’t be a problem, but I can sign up my name somewhere?” I suggested. “And then you can check with him tomorrow and it shouldn’t be a problem since you have my name and all the information I need, so if you think I’m trying to deceive you by any chance, you can show the officials and I can be in trouble.” I sent him a small smile because I knew that he couldn’t say no to that. I did, in fact, have the ID.
He pressed his lips into a thin line and agreed. “Okay.”
“Great. Do you have paper?”
“Yeah.” He brought out a small piece of a flyer that was stuffed in his pocket along with a pen and handed it to me. I took it from him and wrote all the necessities down.
“There you go,” I smiled at him. After he examined it, he nodded and let me go and took out his two-way radio and told the other guards about me and how I was granted permission to proceed as well giving them a couple of details about me to make sure that only I was allowed in at this time.
On the way, I had met a couple more of security guards but none of them stopped me after realizing that they had been informed about me and I was allowed at this time.
It felt so different-- so peaceful.
Once I entered the field, I just sat down for a couple of minutes and placed my water bottle down on the benches enjoying the silence and the sounds of crickets chirping. Finally, I began running. If I wasn’t so into football, I’d definitely be on the track. Running just makes me feel alive. It makes me feel such a sense of freedom and happiness. Because that’s what I do.
Run from the world. Run away from myself. Run from my problems. Run for my family. For my life.
You see? I got to do a lot of running.
And the burn in your muscles after pushing yourself to the limit. Nothing like it. I don’t run to win races, nor do I run to get places. I run to feel stronger. Because believe it or not, I feel so weak at times. So powerless. Running helps me with that. It helps me feel like I’m on top of the world.
It had been about twelve laps when I finally sat down on the grass for some odd reason instead of the benches. I needed water but I was too tired to walk up and get it. I tried to swallow my own spit down as my throat was way too dry for my own good.
And there was that.
It felt good. Back at home, I used to go for a run every morning. Think about it; that time even my pills used to work, so the run was there not only to pass some time but also to clear my head. Mainly the latter one. My pills don’t even work now. It’s become a much more needed activity now.
Before I knew it, I was walking back to my dorm passing by the guard that allowed me in and gave him a small nod in acknowledgment. He responded with a nod of his own. A couple of minutes later, I got into my dorm. The first thing I did was take a look at my phone to check the time. It was then when I found out that it was already half past five in the morning.
The first thing I did was go and take a quick shower so I would be done with that. After that, Ceci would be up anyway, so it shouldn’t be too boring. And once I would be ready, Ceci can have those long showers she always complains about not getting. I’ll wake her up early. Yes, she will complain. But I have a feeling she’ll be thanking me later.
Deciding not to waste any more time once the clock ticked and it turned six, I shook Ceci trying to get her awake. She frowned a little, grumbled and turned the other side while pulling her blanket closer to herself. And I thought I was the grumpy one who did not get up if someone tried to wake me up.
“Ceci, wake up. It’s already six in the morning. We only have an hour to go.”
“Go away,” she shooed with that adorable frown of hers and tried to swat me blindly as her eyes remained closed.
“Fine, but just remember that I’m not going to be coming back to wake you up again. Oh, and that cheerleader practice you were talking about in the hallway yesterday? Hmm. . . let me see. . .did you mention something about it being during your free lesson which is, needless to mention, the first period and starting in approximately forty-five minutes? Yeah? No? I don’t know. You decide for yourself.”
She stirred in her sleep, the frown even more visible now than before. Before I knew it, her eyes were wide open and she shot me a death glare and stuck her tongue out at me.
“I hate you,” she grumbled.
I pinched her cheeks and she slapped the back of my hand away. “Aww, I love you too.” I winked at her and threw her a flying kiss to mock her. All she did was roll her eyes and grabbed her clothes so she could change inside the bathroom as soon as she was done with her bath.
When she was out, I grabbed the keys to our dorm and we both went out. Before leaving, I made sure to lock the door and give the keys to Ceci as she was going to be back earlier than I was due to my practice. My amazingly, awesome practice. Please, for god’s sake, note the sarcasm.
“Just keep swimming...just keep swimming...” Ceci started chanting in a low voice, moving her head from side to side and skipping. I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with her. I mean who starts doing this in the middle of nowhere? A couple of people passing by heard her and gave her an amused look while I just distanced myself from her and shrugged my shoulders telling them that I didn’t know her. They shook their head, smiled to themselves, and carried on with their lives-- which was a good thing because this was what we called utter humiliation.
I bumped my shoulder against hers and brought my lips close to her ear. ”Ceci,” I whispered. ”What in god’s name are you doing?”
She rolled her eyes and sent an annoyed look in my direction.“Hey! You can’t blame me. I watched Finding Dory on my laptop last night!”
“Wait. . .where was I when this happened?”
“How do I know?!”
“Right. Good question.” I flicked my finger towards her to make a note of that. “But that still does not mean that you get to sing that and embarrass me.”
She gave me a smile. “Say what you want, but I’m not shutting up.”
“Pwease?” I gave her my puppy-eyed look.
“As cute as that is, my answer’s the same. You can find a new friend for all I care.”
I huffed. “Fine, then. I will.” I flipped my hair back dramatically and stormed off to find Brad. Yes, Brad. The devil of all devils. That Brad. The stupid one? Umm. . .yeah. I suppose you get the point. Ceci just continued walking as if nothing happened and wore a smug expression. I pouted and continued stomping my feet like a five-year-old to search for Brad.
Once I found him-- talking to a bunch of guys about something and flailing his hands over in all directions to explain something-- I took him by the ear and pulled him away. “Sorry guys, I need to borrow him for a moment!” I told the guys that just looked puzzled as I pulled him with an even larger force.
“Ow! Ow! Ow! Geez, Sam! Sh*t, that hurts! SAM!” Brad roared as his face contorted into one of pain. Once I let him go, he rubbed the area I let go of and mumbled a string of curse words I’d rather not mention. “Great! You women. . . all you do is torture us men! What is wrong with you at such an ungodly hour?! It’s morning, Sam! Morning. You hear me? M-O-R-N-I-N-G.”
I pouted yet again, jutting my bottom lip out. “Ceci is mean.”
“I thought you knew that,” he spat out, still bitter about the fact that I held him by his ear in front of his ‘friends’. “You know who else I think is mean?” He pointed his finger to my chest. “You. Always hell bent on destroying my ego, my pride, and my life.”
A visible frown made its way onto my face. “You cousins are really mean in the morning.”
“Hey! Don’t put the blame on me! You started this!”
“She said something like this too.” I pulled a long face.
“No, Sam. No. N-O. You don’t get to compare to that evil witch.”
“Must you spell everything out?” I narrowed my eyes at him, my jaw ticking. “I got it the first time. And it wasn’t me who started this! Ceci did! She started saying all these weird ‘Finding Dory’ quotes or something repeatedly! And then. . .” my frown got deeper and I wiped off an imaginary tear while forcing my voice to drop down a pitch and making it lower, “and then she told me to find a new friend. . .”
His face broke out into a grin and soon enough he was smiling from ear to ear, beaming as if the sun had shone on him all of a sudden and made him so bright that it started hurting my eyes even. “So you came to me?” he wiggled his eyebrows.
“I just told you the story of my life and your smiling? Shame on you, Brad! Shame on you!”
He raised his hands up in defense. “Dude, chill out. I was just stating out the fact that you came to me. . . do you get what that means. . ?” he wiggled his eyes out creepily until I whacked him on the shoulder with the back of my hand and he winced and scowled at me. “Geez, woman. Calm down!”
“Just tell me and stop doing that weird thing with your face!”
“That means you consider me your best, best friend! To hell with Cecilia!” he hugged me tightly.
“Brad, let go.” When he didn’t budge, I repeated, emphasizing every word, “Brad, let go." When I was sure I was going to be dead within a couple of seconds if he didn’t let go due to the lack of oxygen in my system, I hit his back repeatedly. “BRAD, LET GO!”
“Okay, okay! God darn it! Do you have to turn to violence every time?”
“When I have to deal with people like you?” I pretended to think before giving him a forced, tight-lipped smile. “Yes.”
“So. . .is that all you wanted to say? That I’ve got to be your new BFF?”
“Hmm. . .pretty much. Wait. . . did you just say BFF?”
“Yes, I did. And no, it won’t hurt my manly pride. You see-- sometimes you’ve just gotta embrace who you are.” He patted my head as though I were a dog and pulled my arm. “Come on, I’ve got an ongoing story to complete.” He gave me a pointed look. “A story someone very, very rudely disturbed me from telling.”
I sighed. “Fine, lead the way,” I used my fingers to make air quotes, “‘so-called prince.’”
“Gladly, princess,” he winked and pulled me by my arm towards his friends.
I rolled my eyes. Some people are never gonna change and you know what? They shouldn’t because that’s who they are. And that’s a good thing because people start loving them for who they are. Brad’s one of those people. He can make anyone just see the light in life. He makes others laugh. It’s one of his best qualities for sure.
It was only a matter of time when Ceci found me and laughed. I glared at her. How dare she? She approached me and whispered in my ear, “Really? Out of all people. . .Brad? Is that really how much you love me? I mean if I have to get replaced by Brad. . .I must be a disappointment to you,” she teased.
Brad-- who was still telling his stupid story about how he trashed an old woman’s place and placed toilet paper all over her house and draped them over the trees so they hung like curtains just because she took the last chocolate bar in the shop and told him to grow up-- stopped for a second and dropped his jaw, looking accusingly at Ceci who just returned a sheepish smile.
“Shut up. Brad’s better than you. At least he’s loyal and doesn’t throw friends away like they’re garbage,” I gave her a mock glare to make my act convincing because we both knew that it was all for show and that we weren’t really mad at each other.
“Aww. . .Fine. I’m sorry. Happy? I won’t sing anymore. Okay?” she told me.
“Just accept it and go back to wherever you guys came from. My story’s been interrupted twice already since you guys came,” Brad grumbled, shooting us a dirty look and crossing his hands over his chest.
“Dude, let them stay. We’ve heard your story over fifteen times. Change it a bit or tell us about something else, idiot. Or like, Ceci, even better. . .take him away. Just get him out of our sights. He talks too much in the morning.”
She let out a burst of laughter and gave the guy a sympathetic look. “What makes you think that I’ll be taking him away? Deal with him. I’m just here for Sam because I got bored without her. Speaking of, Sam can we just go back to being normal quickly because I don’t want to be late for practice,” she whined.
“I still hate you, but anything’s better than listening to how Brad threw up in an old woman’s house. Let’s go.”
“Hey! That was because I saw her cat eating a rat!” he exclaimed in defense.
“Yeah sure, bro. Whatever you say. . . Bye!”
She took my hand and we sped away. As we went off laughing, I couldn’t help but eye the nurse’s office as we passed by. She knew about my sleeping problem as I came in the other day right before bumping into Alex but she didn’t know the severity of the situation. I made a plan to come in some time soon to talk to her about the sleeping pills. The last time I just ran away like a coward instead of telling her. I only got to the point to which I told her that I had trouble sleeping before I just gave up like the weakling I am and made some excuse as to how I was sick and came in need of medicine.
I was going to have to approach her before my nightmares got any worse than they already are. The last time that happened, it got way too ugly. I couldn’t let that happen again. I couldn’t see Seb die again. He was my twin, my other half. With him, a little part of me died too. Seeing that moment again is just going to make me lose the only part of me he left me with.
As I took a deep breath and looked at Ceci, I thought about how lucky I was to have her and Brad in my life. Without them, my time here would’ve been unbearable. I wouldn’t have been able to cope with all the drama in my life in spite of being away from home. But they were here through all of that. And even if they didn’t know what was going on. . .they helped me in their own way.
And sometimes I felt so useless because I couldn’t give them all the love they gave me back. Because that’s just how I am. And some people never change.