“He’s dead?” My voice pitched.
“Yeah.” Abel nodded.
For the first time, he had visited my apartment. Gabriel and Alejandro were out, bowling. David had also gone for work, which meant that it was only the two of us on a Saturday.
“What happened to him?”
“He was found selling again, but…he rebelled and the cops shot him.”
“Of course he rebelled.” My eyes rolled. And of course he didn’t. That is the excuse of racist policemen who feel threatened by black ‘criminals’ holding brushes. Undeniably, Mike was a criminal, who didn’t deserve to die. “I didn’t really want him to die…” I spoke absentmindedly.
“What?” His eyes widened. “You wanted him dead?”
“No. I was mad that he sold to kids, particularly Jeremiah, and thought that I could find a way to stop him.” I sighed. “I grew up around Mike…”
I trailed off, feeling a pang of guilt and a river of tears.
Abel embraced me, stroking my hair. He released a sigh too before holding me even closer to him.
Him and I have been painfully awkward to each other. By this I mean that he has been there for me since the entire mess that took place in Blue Sun to the court instance with Dr Langford. He was exactly what I needed…serenity. He takes care of things that bother me or make me panic. He gives me a look that he shares with no one else.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He whispered.
I shook my head as I broke the hug. “I just want to find out a lot of things. Like how Sophia actually died…like how much time I still have with Sebastian…where is Mia, you know? The mystery is killing me.”
“But you know you can talk to me, right?”
He held my hands into his. I felt myself being contaminated by his affection. “Yes. Of course. Thank you, man.”
He nodded. “You know…when you ran off during Sophia’s funeral…with everything going on…I kinda felt nervous that something was going to happen to you.”
I looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“It sounds weird, but…” His hands began trembling as he fidgeted with them. “...I feel very protective of you.”
I don’t want to lie, that stole my breath.
“...and I can’t stop thinking about you. I imagine the temperature of your hand every time we touch. You give me a look you don’t give anyone else. You trust me…even though that puts your life on the line. I feel…happy around you. Sad when you’re mad at me only because I care too much about how you feel.”
“Abel…what are you saying?” The tears hidden behind my watermark stung.
“I guess…what I’m trying to say is…I love you. So much. And I want you to be mine. To hold you. To whisper too closely to your ear…”
I laughed a bit, now tears falling ceaselessly.
“...I think I can be a complicated creature around other people, probably trying to distract them from the fact that I need validation from them but you…you don’t give a shit about all of that. You’re the simplest version of what I’ve seen in everyone so far.”
“But you don’t love him, do you?” Benjamin’s apparition sat next to him with a smile.
I suddenly frowned. Of course Benjamin’s apparition would come disturb this moment. I felt guilt and regret as I looked at Benjamin’s healed forehead, which was a scatter of blood and tissue the day Alejandro shot him dead in the living room.
This is because I wanted to touch him. I wanted to hold him and tell him I was sorry. I wanted to actually communicate with Benjamin.
I know it seems crazy that I had seen more than three apparitions already and I wasn’t, at all, fazed. However, I believed there were apparitions, and not necessarily apparitions. They were like ‘visual voices’ that responded like how my subconsciousness would respond. So, I’m not crazy.
“Nate Sells wants you dead, Craig and Plumegg are on your tail…do you really want to drag him in that world? A world where you are an unidentifiable murderer that walks amongst concerned innocents. Do you think Charles doesn’t think of Niall? His mysterious suicide?” Benjamin’s legs crossed, mocking.
“Don’t forget that Sam, Ben and Cain mysteriously disappeared and because Niall is dead, the cops are probably trying to figure out what happened. They will probably think it’s you, Adrian. They will find out who killed Niall, they’ll find out about Benjamin and how he died in this house. Your father, your friends…everyone will be gone. You will be stuck in jail where the likes of Nate Sells will torture you for eternity.” Calvin joined in the conversation.
“Adrian…I need an answer.” Abel was looking directly into my eyes.
You’re going to mess this up! He needs answers!
Of course you can date. apparitions are apparitions. They don’t exist.
“If that’s what you think, then you must be insane!” Benjamin laughed.
“I can’t date you, Abel.” I whispered my words in shame.
His face dropped. “…I…why?”
“Because…I don’t deserve you.”
“Really!? That’s the fucking lame excuse you’re giving me? That you think we’re not good for each other because…YOU DON’T DESERVE ME?!”
“ABEL, I AM TRYING TO PROTECT YOU!”
“I DON’T WANT TO BE FUCKING PROTECTED, ADRIAN!” He roared. “YOU KEEP PUSHING AWAY PEOPLE FOR THESE VERY ILLOGICAL REASONS! YOU’RE NOT EVEN LETTING ME UNDERSTAND!”
I paused for a while, rage circulating in my veins. “Okay! You want to see why?! You want to FUCKING SEE WHY!?”
I dragged him by his hand as we sprinted further downstairs to the underground basement, where David forbade anyone from entering. I opened furiously before dragging Abel in too. I flicked on the lights and it was my first time in the room as well. It smelled like iron and burnt manganese and it was all in all disgusting.
“OH FUCK! What is this smell!?” Abel cried under his folded arm.
I unveiled the furnace that was covered with an old cloth. I could see the terror in Abel’s eyes as he walked closer in silence to the steel furnace. When he opened to look inside, there was an anticlimactic normally chopped wood. He sighed and looked at me, not in relief, but in anticipation for an explanation.
“Why are we here, Adrian?”
“See this? This is where Benjamin died. He was shot in the living room. His body was dragged to this room, where they burnt him in here.”
His breathing, unanticipatedly, became slower.
“Were you there?” He walked closer to me.
I nodded. “ I was having an episode. A breakdown.”
“He was working with the police to bring evidence proving that I was responsible for some crimes.”
“Like Niall’s murder?”
My heart paused. His face showed certainty. It looked useless to lie to him at that point. He had every right to have me arrested.
I nodded to his question.
“And the five jocks? Sam, Cain and Ben?”
I shook my head. “Someone else shot them dead by Lake Smith. Me and the boys had to cover it up. Someone else killed Sam, Ben and Cain…”
“Someone? People you know?”
I nodded again.
“And what…this is the reason why we couldn’t date?” He held both my hands.
Mine trembled in his. “I mean, is there a sane reason why?”
“I mean…other than what I mentioned earlier, I don’t mind your mess. In fact, I already hold incriminating witness to what happened to Craig at the Blue Sun. I get it…it’s terrifying to open up like this. But I trust you too. Sam, Cain and Ben were your bullies, correct?”
“Who didn’t deserve to die.”
“But they’re dead. So is Benjamin. So is Daniel. You can’t carry this alone, Adrian. It’s not something to talk about on a daily basis, but…I don’t want you to think this is reason enough for us not to date…or take things to the following level.”
“What?” I was in utter disbelief.
“Adrian…we can go upstairs and talk this properly if you want to, but this doesn’t change how I feel about you. It certainly doesn’t change the fact that you…killed people who did bad not only to you but others. Niall would have been in jail with his brother after victimizing more women. Benjamin didn’t love you if he was okay with you drowning. Craig was in the restrooms with me…you had an understandable reaction. You always do.”
He took my hand as he took me upstairs. We silently sat at the living room again. “But…listen…I don’t want to pressurize you into dating me.”
I shook my head. “I certainly do. But Abel… I see…apparitions. Possibly apparitions.”
“What do you mean?”
“Benjamin, Josh, Calvin, Niall, Daniel…recently Sophia. It’s like I’m going insane, man.”
“Do you see them now?”
I looked around him. No, I didn’t. They were gone! “No.”
“Maybe you extinguished them?”
“What?” I looked at him.
“Things like apparitions don’t exist, Adrian. Everything is either a hallucination, which also isn’t technically real…and fears. You could see them at the mall, right? Because you were with Craig and feared that you may say the wrong thing?”
“Uhm…yes. But how would you…”
“You’re not the only one, man. Which is why I’m already under treatment. I realized that it’s a constant sharpening of the blade to finally face and conquer your fear. Your fear, all along, was that someone is out there to attack you and you have no one to rely on.”
I felt vacant, vulnerable and open. It scared me, a tiny bit. But mostly, it came with relief. I thought NO ONE understood what was going on with me…in my head. I thought telling another truth would lend like a lie. Most of all…I expected him to be mad. Doubtful. But he understood EVERYTHING. He was patient, interested in everything I wanted to say and share.
Importantly…I didn’t feel sympathized upon or judged.
I looked at him. I was still in disbelief. I was tempted to kill him, to be honest. That would trap the truth from coming out. In fact, I had to. After everything I had told him, if he would ever snitch, not only would I be a murderer in the public’s eye…but also a psychopath.
“I guess you’re right.” I whispered.
“You have nothing to worry about. I will protect you, Adrian. I’ll coerce everyone to do the same if I have to.”
“You don’t have to do anything, Abel. For once, I just need silence.”
He snorted. “People like us never actually get rest.”
“And you told him everything?” Dr Wells, my psychologist, was seated a seat opposite me.
He knew how much I hated him taking notes. He, before Abel, understands how my mind operates differently from others. He has been my mental assistant from elementary school. This was because of my constant breakdowns and irrational thinking.
He was a mid-age father figure with growing white hair and a lean body. He had an adventurous spirit that always saw brightness in the world. And it wasn’t because of his job, he genuinely did seem as a person who found indulgence in life. Very dramatic and witty too.
“I mean, he doesn’t know about who did what. Only superficials.”
“And you trust him?” He looked down his spectacles.
“I don’t have a reason not to.”
“Oh, but you do. You admitted to being a witness and ‘alleged’ murderer of identifiable people.”
“Sure. But I could also snitch about him helping me cover…allegedly...Craig’s Blue Sun attack.” My eyes narrowed while ruminating. “…And how come you’ve never, at all, broken confidentiality? I just told you about murder.”
“That’s because I work for your father.”
My eyes widened, but then realizing how capable my father was of this, I just sighed. “Of course. All these years?”
“Not exactly. He found out that my qualifications are fake.”
I shot up. “WHAT?! So all this time…you’ve been…fake? You’re a fake psychologist?”
“Well…I’ve been able to help you and many other clients before that. I did study psychology, for about six years. I committed a crime…and all that went away.”
“How do I…” I could feel a panic attack approaching. “How do I trust you?”
“Well…if I ever even think of snitching, I lose my wife and children, my income and…I die. Your father would never let me walk free.” He smirked.
“So…are you happy? With your job?”
“I’ve always wanted to help people, illegitimate or not, so…yes.” He shrugged. “But this is not about me, Adrian. You’ve been dodging my question.”
“I don’t feel like talking about Langford.”
“And what would you rather we talk about?”
“I don’t know, Dr Wells…something alleviating.” I sighed.
“Adrian…I can’t remind you of why you’re here. You know you have a very severe mental condition that we haven’t spoken about again in years.”
Words failed to utter. “I know, I know. He…isn’t the worst monster I’ve ever seen.”
He nodded patiently. “But the experience must have been very…traumatic. With Sophia’s death, Sebastian dying of Leukemia…to Abel agreeing to being your boyfriend regardless of the side you’ve shown him.”
“Yeah, it was.” Tears burnt my face as each droplet paced down my face.
“You mentioned that you see…apparitions. Or projections. But you haven’t seen Langford’s. Why do you think is that?”
“Maybe I wasn’t afraid of him. Of the experience.”
“Why? Why weren’t you?”
“Because I felt powerful. I felt as if I wouldn’t have ever let him do that to me…again.”
“And hearing about his death…how did you react?”
“I was calm…” I paused, thinking about how psychopathic that sounded. “Is there something wrong with that?”
“No…” He shook his head. “And that is a good mindset. Seeing your perpetrator as harmless. At least, mentally. To me, it shows progress. It shows that you completely understood the circumstance you were under, regardless of the possibilities of them occurring anyway.”
“So you’re saying…it’s normal that I haven’t seen his apparition?”
“Normally, yes. But in this instance, it’s not mentally healthy to ‘see’ apparitions. But they are cowards stuck in your subconscious mind.”
“...That you can tell them to go away. Mean it.”
“I don’t mean to offend your work Dr Wells…”
“Then don’t!” His voice thickened and echoed. “All I want you to do is picture all of them. In this room.”
Right after, like transitions, they ‘flashed’ into existence. Sophia, Calvin, Josh, Niall, Benjamin and Daniel.
“Daniel?” My eyes filled with tears again.
“Adrian…they’re not real.” Dr Wells held my hands. “I can’t see them. Which means they’re only in your head.”
“Hey man.” Daniel responded.
“Why are you here?” I wiped my tears that were starting to drown me.
“Because…you didn’t bury me.” He shrugged.
“He’s saying I didn’t bury him.” I looked at Dr Wells with concern.
“He’s the least of your concerns, Adrian. Who have you felt most guilt to?”
“Benjamin.” My voice disappeared into a whisper.
“Why is that?” Benjamin seemed more calm this time.
“Why?” Dr Wells asked as well.
“I don’t know. Alejandro killed him right in front of my eyes. I was angry at him for what he did, from kicking me out to snitching. But I wasn’t sure that I wanted him dead.” My voice trembled.
“You killed. How was I supposed to love you afterwards?” Benjamin’s apparition cried.
“You supported someone else to kill. You’re not innocent, Benjamin. If you had killed Niall, I would have never done such a thing to you! You above many could testify how strong my loyalty to my friends is!”
Benjamin’s apparition sighed, not because it was taking a break, but because of actual tiredness. He looked weak and dying, all of a sudden.
“Why are you quiet? What is he saying to you?” Dr Wells asked.
“He’s getting weak?”
“Now…tell him his shit !” Dr Wells whisper-yelled.
I was quite used to Dr Wells using inappropriate language for his age.
“Benjamin…you have no power over me. You were as equally as terrible as a partner to me!” I yelled at him.
His apparition, in an instant, disappeared. I felt my brain resetting and my heart jumping.
“He’s…gone?” I whispered.
“He is, son.” Dr Wells smiled. “Do you have anything to say to the others?”
Now I felt more confident. “Calvin…”
“How many of your rapists do you see?” Dr Wells asked.
“Three. Niall, Josh and Calvin.”
“Why are Josh and Calvin there? And not the other two?”
“Because…” I wept again, but now with more fury. “Josh thought I deserved it and…Calvin…as much as I hated him, at some point, I felt sympathy.” I walked to Calvin’s side. “Calvin…I am so sorry for what Niall did to you. Truly. But you were a dog! You didn’t deserve to die, but hell would have to freeze if I am to spend the rest of my life grieving rapists.”
“You must feel really invincible, huh? You know we come back every time you have a panic attack right? All it takes, in your instance, is a reminder.” Josh laughed.
“But I’m not afraid of you, Josh. You were a coward. You were a jerk because you didn’t want to face the fact that you are a miserable piece of shit, just like Jasper and Sam, who were constantly afraid of being outed.”
Josh disappeared as well.
I looked at Niall’s apparition. As ironic as it was for an apparition to look pale, it was also strange. But I didn’t have even a sting, or hint, of fear in me. They were not real, that I knew.
“What? You’ll kill me again?” Niall frowned.
“Technically, that’s impossible Niall. I forgive myself for the days I thought there was something wrong with my body, the days I rejected love and acted frantic in constant fear and anxiety. No more, Niall. You are dead! And nothing equates to the fact that you were a terrible human being!”
“My brother will be coming for you.” Niall whispered lamely.
I smirked. “At least he’s not you!”
Niall’s apparition disappeared. Something. Left. Me.
And it felt therapeutic. I felt amazing. I felt free.
“Have you fallen in love before?” Sophia sat down next to Dr Wells.
“Sophia’s next to you, Dr Wells.” This made me scared a bit.
“Remember…she’s not real.” He relaxed on his futon. He also looked unresponsive, as if this was all a dream. A half-lucid dream.
I nodded. “I have.”
“And didn’t it feel as if you would do just about anything to make him happy? Didn’t you feel that way around Alan? Around Benjamin?”
“I did feel that way. But I didn’t, Sophia!”
“Because everything has been done for you. You kill, your friends cover up. You do just about anything that is incriminating, they are there to cover up your mess. Abel too. I had never thought that people would ever admire me romantically. Ryan tried. Matthew did…”
I snorted. “Matthew never loved you, Sophia. His intent was to use and manipulate you.”
“And what makes you think Abel isn’t doing the same thing!?”
“Because we trust each other.”
“Or maybe you trust him? I mean, after all, you are a dependent child. Always had daddy behind your back. You crucified yourself, thought you were unworthy, when men like Jeremiah and Sebastian begged on their knees to kiss your ass. Neither of them ever had such a fantasy about me. Your letters get leaked and you’re the prince of the school.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? I was a rape victim at that school!”
“Yet you remained a magnet. Daniel…Craig…Jeremiah…Sebastian, who was two grades apart from you and the most beautiful boy in school…dated no one else but…you. Do you see why people do things for you?”
“Because I’m attractive?” I rested on the couch as I laughed at that ridiculousness.
“What do you think? They haven’t bothered to look up who killed me, that’s if I was killed. After my funeral, there have been no updates. Because I’m not beautiful with waist-long hair. In fact, I’m the disgusting hog everyone makes fun of.”
“Sophia…I am so sorry that you felt that way. But even if I was attractive, I don’t think that’d be why. People care about me, only because I cared about them too. You, on the other hand, didn’t. You were selfish for dick!”
“Oomph!” Dr Wells giggled.
“I’m done with you pity-partying your way into explaining why you did what you did! You’re a horrible human being for that and I’m letting you go. I love you.”
“I love you too, Adrian. You still haven’t opened my present.” She smiled.
I irrevocably smiled as well before she completely vanished. Tears continued falling, now condescending into a full-blown sob.
There was one left.
“Why is he last, Adrian?” Dr Wells held my hands again.
“Because I didn’t know what to say to him. His funeral. I was so busy trying to figure out ways to avenge him. I didn’t even know…that I was causing pain and trouble for others to cover.”
“What would you say to me now?” Daniel grinned warmly.
“I…” I was drowning too much in my tears. “I don’t know.”
“Okay…give me your first thought.”
“That I’m sorry…”
“For not grieving you. For holding on to you as motive to being destructive and enraged. Sophia thought you liked me…I mean, after we all went to Lake Smith that day…us talking about the moon and stars…”
“I think we were talking about existentialism and afterlife.” He laughed.
“Whatever…but…that day, you held me so close. It felt right, but at the wrong time. Sebastian was there. He noticed too. I just…wish that we had spent more time together. Openly.”
“I did…love you, Adrian. You were an amazing spirit. And I have been there all the time, with you, as you went through different tribulations. I sympathized. And…maybe I did like you like that. It’s just that…now you’ll never certainly know. You only know what you know, you know?”
I giggled. “Yes, totally.”
Dr Wells gave me a stare. One that said ‘bitch, you’re crazy laughing with apparitions like that’.
Daniel laughed as well. “Well, to him, you probably do look crazy.” He sighed before speaking again. “But on a serious note, don’t be afraid of loving someone else out there who doesn’t identify. You just gatta learn how to trust, which is what I see between you and Abel.”
I nodded with a smile.
“Oh well. I gotta go, man. I’d say stuff like ‘see you on the other side’ if I was actually a ghost, but…nevermind. Goodbye, Adrian.”
“Goodbye Daniel.” I giggle-cried.
My eyes closed. When they opened again, I was against a couch with my back resting comfortably. I sat up as my head pounded inexorably.
I looked around. Yes, I was still in Dr Wells office. But how did I sleep?
“How was it?” Dr Wells smiled behind me.
“Wh…” I turned towards him, perplexed. “What? How did you do that?”
“You were under hypnosis.”
“You’re still an illegitimate psychologist, right?”
His eyes rolled dramatically. “Yes, Adrian. I am. I started when you saw the apparitions.”
I nodded, distorted, “Okay.”
“Well…how was it?”
Late that night, almost midnight, Mrs Jolie was still held custody at the police station. It has been impossible to schedule a nearer date for her trial, however her bail was denied. She had to spend more than 48 hours in a cell. Mr Crescent, on the other hand, had to be transported to the Maycomb police station because of space.
But that night, Mrs Jolie wasn’t asleep. She was on the edge of her bed, with a look that seemed to be ruminating about life. The room was dark, with only the moonlight beaming over the walls
“Mrs Jolie…it has come to this.”
Her head turned. She acknowledged the voice and face immediately. “Ho…how did you get in here?”
“Everyone has their price, Mrs Jolie. But there’s no price big enough to stop me from what I’m about to do.”
He took out a pistol, with a silencer. Her eyes widened.
“Sssh! Survivors say it feels like a pinch before the paralyzing pain comes. But you’ll be dead by then. Sorry, Mrs Jolie. I have no use for you anymore.”
The gun fired, the bullet splitting her forehead into a revolting scatter.