The week drags on, and I end up burying myself underneath my studies. I’m usually the one who aims for average, but this week I’m acing all my assignments. It’s amazing what a little dedication can do. I’ve even had time to finish an entire book, and write a new violin piece that I plan on introducing to Merv as soon as I get a chance to visit him—I’m not sure why I always feel the need to name inanimate objects. It makes my world seem less lonely I guess.
It’s Thursday and I’ve just stepped out of my psychology class. It was our last class as partners, and Trevor wasn’t even there. My inner child slinks off into a vacant corner of my mind to pout. It’s silly how badly I just want him here with me. We’re friends, and yet I’m so attached to him. I need his stability in my life. My past is to blame for crippling me. I need my support, which happens to be Trevor. It’s embarrassing how much I’ve come to depend on him. He is my crutch. He holds me up when all I want to do is crumble. He’s like the support beams that prevent Merv from collapsing into a mess of powdery decay.
With this thought, I decide it’s time to pay Merv a visit. I hurry back to my dorm to grab my violin and make the five minute trip out into the middle of nowhere. I park just in front of the large entrance, and swing open my door. The brittle leaves tickle my ears with pleasure as they crunch like potato chips beneath my weighted steps. With violin in hand, I make the awkward climb into the loft—the very heart of the barn.
My fingers are already numb, and my conscience is warning me that a normal person would never venture out in this weather. But my soul needs it. I spend several minutes blowing into my cupped hands, trying to ward off the chill. I need my fingers to be fully functional if I’m hoping to create anything earth shattering from these strings.
I do a series of exercises—jumping jacks, squats, even some cartwheels—before finally feeling like my blood is doing a proper job of warming my extremities. Imagine a marshmallow doing a cartwheel—that’s probably what I resemble with my five layers of apparel swallowing me up.
I waddle back to my seat of hay and yank off my left glove. I sniffle slightly as the cold somehow turns on the snot-producing glands inside my nostrils—one of the unfortunate side-effects of winter.
I settle into my seat and pull out my violin. I caress the strings slightly as I work to rosin and tune the instrument. The deep hum of ‘G’ wobbles through the air, followed moments later by the sleek whistle of a delicate ‘E’ as my fingers glide flawlessly from note to note and chord to chord. Once she’s tuned to perfection, I pull the evenly-folded piece of music from my coat pocket and smooth out the wrinkles. I lay the music down next to me as I scan over it momentarily, creating an entire orchestra in my mind.
The melody begins to flow. It starts off fragile and tender before tiptoeing its way up into a deep rumble, like a lion stalking its prey. It’s slow and hushed with heavy pauses dancing throughout. With careful vigilance it begins to build momentum, the fuller notes blending with the soprano and transforming the once gentle tune into a suspenseful boiling grumble—the same way the large cat might growl to himself when he senses that his target has just lost the fight for its life. It’s over. With one final, abrupt strum the song erupts into a roaring fight between life and death, joy and despair, hope and misery.
The floor joins into the melodious war as it creaks beneath my tempo-driven foot. My body rocks back and forth, careening with bliss; the kind of bliss that only one accustomed to the alluring pull of harmoniously, interwoven sound has ever experienced. It’s tranquility and danger, passion and fury, torment and yearning. A beautiful, flowing masterpiece. It shimmies its way through my ear canal to whirl and sway with my soul.
This is what I needed.
This one melody captures the essence of my entire being. It’s the soft, careful disappointment I felt the day my father distanced himself from me, the hungry regret I felt the day I realized why, and the angry fervor of guilt when I placed all the blame on my own feeble shoulders. And then the song slows, a gentle release. The tumbling pieces of a shattered heart quieting to a still.
I feel the tears as they kiss the contours of my face, leaving wet trails in their wake like snails. This is it. The healing. I can feel it. I’m letting go. The grip I’ve had on my guilt, the festering disease-like infection eating away my happiness, is finally being freed. I take quivery breaths as the song comes to an end. The still silence going unnoticed as my mind tries to grasp what has just taken place.
I’m free. Completely free.
I lay my violin in its case as I rest back against the straw. Closing my eyes, I allow my chest to expand with relief. Now that the shame has been lifted from my chest, there’s so much more room for life.
My eyes snap open when I hear a car door shut. I pop up from where I’ve been resting and step over to the window. Peeking out, I notice Trevor making his way towards the barn. His shoulders are stiff and his steps deliberate. He’s on a mission, and I don’t think I’m gonna like why.
I watch as his head comes into view from the square hole in the loft floor, where the step ladder is located. He doesn’t meet my gaze until he’s standing a few feet from me. I can still sense that something is wrong. It’s not just the set of his shoulders that gives it away though, it’s the flare in his eyes and the fact that he hasn’t smiled or even greeted me yet.
I remain glued to the floor, common sense telling me not to make any sudden movements. Even if I breathe too loudly, he might pounce. I continue to watch him cautiously as he runs a jerky hand through his tousled hair. Apparently, he’s done that a few times already since the strands are not in their usual, perfectly styled, mess. We eye each other for a moment. I try to smile, but find that I’m too tense at the moment to even blink. This is a side of Trevor that I’ve never witnessed before, and it scares me.
“Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been?” he finally hisses between clenched teeth.
I can almost hear the grinding of his jaw as he bites out each word.
“I drove all the way to freaking Colorado because you wouldn’t pick up your blasted phone,” he says, his words clipped with tension.
“I’m sorry, Trevor,” I murmur, feeling like a child being scolded by her father. “I had one thing on my mind, and I just forgot.”
“You use that excuse far too much,” he retorts as he takes slow steps towards me. “I shouldn’t even care. You can do what you want. I shouldn’t even be a part of your life. I can’t be.”
I stare at him in shock and confusion.“Did your sister not tell you?” I ask cautiously, so as not to rile the beast.
“Tell me what?” he spits, flinging his arms out to his side as if inviting me in for a hug. But I know better. Stepping into that dangerous embrace right now would leave me crushed—literally.
“That it’s okay,” I tell him gently. “She wants you to be happy. She forgave me,” I explain, still feeling high on disbelief from her kindness. “We can be together.” I smile.
“Be together?” He laughs as if it’s the most absurd idea he’s ever heard.
My smile vanishes.
“Are you really that naive?” he questions. “You destroyed my family.” He turns away briefly, running a hand down his face before abruptly turning back to me, disgust morphing his face into that of a stranger. “You destroyed my family!” he yells.
Shocked by his outburst, I’m forced to take a step back. “I know,” I agree. “And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Do you know how stupid you sound? Pleading for forgiveness for something that can never be undone.” His words sound foreign to my ears. Even when he claimed to ‘hate’ me his words never held this much venom.
And then it hits me. My eyes open wide as I search his face for any clues before asking the question I’m dreading the answer to.
“What did Trinity say to you?” I whisper as my heart thuds loudly in my ears.
All the blood is draining from my brain and into my swirling stomach. I thought I could trust her. She had seemed so genuine when she’d forgiven me and invited me to stay the weekend. How could I have read her so wrong? Either she lied to me, or Trevor has been lying this whole time.
But I trust Trevor.
“I don’t care what Trinity said,” Trevor shouts between clenched teeth. “It doesn’t change anything.” He takes a few more steps my way until he’s standing inches from me. His eyes are hard and hateful. “I can’t be with you because I choose not to be. These past few days have confirmed that decision.” He smiles and my lip turns up in disgust when I see the evil hidden behind it.
“Trevor,” I whisper, too wounded to say more. His words have punctured my lungs, and I can’t breathe. I clutch my chest as my eyes scan over his hard face in panic. “I love you...,” I whisper softly, glancing down. I can’t take the rejection that I know is shining from his steel cold green eyes.
I feel him shift closer, and then bend slightly to meet my gaze. Something gentle, like concern, has softened his features and hope springs to life in a wild stampede beneath my rib cage.
“Sorry.” He shakes his head in disappointment. Disappointment in himself, or me, I’m not sure. And then he raises a finger towards me, stabbing it into the bony center of my chest. “I” He pokes. “Don’t.” Another poke. “Want.”
I’m forced to take a step back with each sharp jab.
“You,” he snarls with one last painful stab.
And then I realize what’s happened as my foot searches for solid ground and finds none. Before either of us can respond, I’m falling. The wind brushes past me, not caring that my destination could end me. I watch as Trevor stumbles forward to reach for me, but his fingers only close around the fabric of my sleeve, horror not hiding itself from his expression. He knows he’s lost as the distance between us grows. His hand stays outstretched, but the hope has died in his eyes, only to be replaced by regret and shock.
My descent is in slow motion, my hair floating gently around me until I finally hit bottom.
Darkness welcomes me.
I blink my eyes several times as I try to bring everything into focus. I’m surrounded by white ceilings, white walls—I glance down—and white sheets.
My body feels stiff as I push myself into a sitting position. I feel like an old, rusty swing that’s in desperate need of a good oiling.
My movements startle someone awake next to me, and I glance over to find Lindsey rubbing her eyes tiredly. When she sees me sitting up, she jumps from the old chair beside my bed and leans over to pull me into a hug.
“I was so worried about you,” she gushes. “When Trevor called me this evening, telling me what happened, I nearly died.”
“W-what do you mean? What did he tell you?” I hurry to say, but before she can answer there’s a soft tap on the door. It swings open to reveal Trevor Nixon. I shoot Lindsey a panicked look before hissing urgently under my breath for her to get him out.
“What?” Confusion knits her brows together.
“Get him out,” I repeat softly.
“Emma,” I hear Trevor say, and I want to vomit at the sweetness disguising the malice in his tone.
“Lindsey... please,” I beg.
“I—Emma, I don’t understand,” she says. Her words sound panicked as if she wants to help me, but doesn’t know how.
“Get out,” I finally say, turning towards Trevor, my heart fighting a race against itself.
Trevor takes a step forward, confused.
“This is just a dream, this is just a dream, this is just a dream...” I hear myself muttering over and over quietly. When I feel Trevor grab for my hand, I have a full blown meltdown. “Get out!” I scream. “You did this to me,” I yell, pulling my bandaged hands from his grasp.
Shocked, he moves away from me and closer to the door.
Trevor shoots Lindsey a look of disbelief and concern. His acting skills are superb, which just makes my gut twist more. He’s lied to me this entire time and I never knew.
“Emma,” Lindsey says as she gently takes my wounded hands in her own. “This isn’t a dream.” She captures my gaze with her own and waits until she has my full attention. “This is real.”