Chapter 17: Nightmare
1. a scary and unpleasant dream; sometimes relates to trauma.
*Chloe’s Point of View*
Prim and Asher were both in my bedroom with me, as they had been for hours, scoping and exploring it as I was trying to clean. They didn’t seem to care that I was busy, simply advancing to talk about the things they’d find or thought were interesting. Amy had gone on an overnight business trip, leaving Asher and me to watch over his little sister for the night, and I had chosen today to deep clean my room, which had gotten a little out of control recently.
“Asher, what is this?” Prim’s meek voice spoke up behind me. Deciding to let Asher answer the small girl’s curiosity-filled question, I didn’t bother turning around from the books I was restacking.
A disoriented pitch exited my roommate and an unmistakable crinkling sound reverberated the room when he grabbed the item from Prim. Dropping a book to the shelf and flipping around hastily, I watched Asher tear open the packaging. Eyes wide, I dashed over to him and snatched the pad out of his hand.
“Where did you get this?” I asked an interested Prim. She pointed into a drawer in my vanity, the one where I kept all my Time of the Month necessities. Slamming the drawer shut, I shook my head.
Prim vocalized a new, equally uncomfortable question. “Is it a band-aid?”
Asher grabbed the open pad from my grasp, his full, hearty laugh resonating the room. “It looks like it’s a band-aid for a bullet wound. Or a samurai sword catastrophe” He held it up to his chest as if it was an actual bandage.
Shoving his shoulder back, I retook the pad from his amused fingers before opening the drawer, launching it in, and slamming the dresser once more. I felt like I was radiating heat like a stovetop.
Asher merely shook his head. “Why are you so embarrassed?”
I veered towards my pile of clothes, annoyed that I had to fold and put them away. I glanced over my shoulder only to mutter the words, “I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.” Asher’s answer didn’t surprise me.
My ears singling in on the sound of that damn drawer opening a third time, I flipped around, zeroing in on the sight of Asher handing Prim a tampon. Giggling, the oblivious girl grabbed it, pushing on the applicator, and the tampon popped out. Taking it from her, I tried to push the wad of cotton back into its applicator.
“No, I really do. Stop going through the drawer!” After a few more seconds of trying to attach the two items, I gave up and tossed them in the drawer, shutting it a third, and hopefully last time. “And stop opening things! They’re not cheap.”
Asher chuckled, entertained by how untamed I was. While usually an immaculate, clear-minded person, my room and brain had gotten out of control and I was slowly but surely scraping things back together. The first step — a clean living space.
Though the two siblings were supposed to be helping, more than anything, they were bothering me. As I folded another five pieces of clothing, and the children — Asher and Prim — tossed bundles of clean socks at each other, I heard my phone go off.
I grabbed the device, answering it when I saw my brother’s name and face pop onto the caller ID. “Hey, Tate. What’s up?”
“Hey, Mom called and told me to remind you about that application thing you wanted. She said if you heard it from her, you’d put it off again and she really thinks you’d be good for it.”
Thinking back on the loads of things my mother urged me to do over the phone every day, I couldn’t quite put a finger on what he was referring to. “What application?”
“I don’t know. For some Law and Order shit or something. That program you wanted to sign up for.” He sounded annoyed that I hadn’t known what he was talking about straight off the bat, but suddenly, everything he was rambling about made lots of sense.
Though not particularly known for my people skills, there was no doubt I wanted to go into the career of law. I was more than eager to enter the intimidating world of emotional turmoil causing pricks that took part in the legal profession. The “Law and Order shit” my brother was referring to was actually called Intensive Law and Trial, an online course I was persistent in taking.
Unfortunately, the inconvenient organ some called a brain lacked in remembering that information for me, and because of that, my hand ungently came into contact with my cheek. I pried my laptop beside me open, searching my files for the application. “Oh shit, I forgot! I have to fill out that form.”
My brother’s unkind laugh filled my speaker. “Yeah you do, or you’re in troubleeeee.”
The mock was the last thing I needed to hear after acknowledging the fact that I was potentially facing two different dilemmas.
One - My traitor of a brain was going to cause me to miss out on an online course I was really interested in.
Two - My mother would have my head if she knew I’d forgotten about it. I really wanted to keep my head.
My tone dropped into a growl. “And you’re going to get my fist down your throat if you don’t shut up.”
“Harsh.” Tate chuckled. “I’ve got class, good luck with your form debacle.” And with that, he hung up.
Slamming the top of my laptop closed, I let out a noise that sounded distressed and crashed my face into a pillow. Feeling the bed dip from an unexpected weight, I tore my irritated self from the feather-filled-comfort and turned to whatever was causing the pressure on my bed.
Asher’s eyes locked on me in shock. “What happened?”
I peeled myself back into a seated position, noting Prim across the room admiring my shelf of trinkets, then turned to Asher and tried to explain my issue without sounding like an upset child. “I wanted to do this Intensive Law and Trial online thingy, but I lost the application.”
Asher hesitantly took my laptop from the spot it laid inches in front of us, opening it and scrolling into a browser. After a few magically typed words and a quick search, that beautiful form I needed popped onto my screen. Chuckling, he handed me the laptop back. “Most legit clubs have copies of forms on their websites. Idiot.”
Not sure what I wanted to hug more, I chose my screen, locking the device to my body like it had grown arms and embraced me back. “I don’t know if I want to kiss you or punch you, Ash.”
My roommate’s smile was broad as he responded, “Can I pick?” The computer still clasped tight to my chest, I drove my hand onto Asher’s bicep, forcing him off of my bed. He obliged, light laughter lifting his shoulders as his arms crossed over his chest. He hovered over my bed, pleating an eyebrow towards me. “So law, huh? That’s what you want to do?”
Considering I’d never openly expressed the profession to him before, and Asher knew almost as well as I did I had a few communication issues, I wasn’t surprised by his reaction. A lot of people couldn’t imagine me out of my jeans and into a suit, most unable to fathom the idea of me arguing anyone out of a predicament.
A cheesy grin plucked the corner of my lips. “Friendly neighborhood lawyer.”
He opened his mouth to answer, but Prim spoke up from behind us. “Guys, I’m hungry.”
Asher was instantly eager to get his sister something to eat. As I realized I too was hungry, my stomach growled unnecessarily loudly. Asher and Prim both stared over at me, heavy laughter escaping the both of them.
Hauling the small girl into his arms, Asher tossed his smug smile in my direction. “It looks like Noisy over there is hungry too.”
He exited the room soon after that, Prim in his arms. I let out a solid breath, looking around at the clothes strewn left and right on my bed, and followed them down.
“Can we order a pizza?”
Relaxing on the couch, Asher gave his little sister’s idea an agreeable head nod, craning his neck to view me in the kitchen. “Can you grab my wallet on the counter? It’s got the number for the pizza place.”
Dipping my head at his question, I picked the wallet up, making my way towards the couch. I drew it open, trying to help in searching for the pizza card he had spoken of. As soon as the leather flapped open, small packets spilled out of it, causing a short sigh of displeasure to escape my mouth. I bent over to pick up the mess I’d made, curious as to what the little blue squares were, cringing when I had one in my hand.
“Ew, Asher!” I tossed the condom I was holding at the back of his head, watching him stand as his hand came up into his hair, rubbing the spot I had targeted. Glancing down at the lifetime supply of condoms on the ground, he tossed on a proud expression.
“What?” He knew what.
I threw his wallet into his hands so fast he barely had time to catch it. “Do you run a health center?” I glimpsed down at the pile on the floor again. “Did you steal from a tenth-grade sexuality class? Who needs this many condoms?”
Leaning down to pluck them from the floor, and getting no offer from me to help, he shook his head. The dimple on his face, the one I’d long ago claimed was adorable, was visible as he watched me cringe. “Better safe than sorry, right?”
My spine seemed to tighten at the thought of Asher using the plastic so often he needed that many in his wallet, but I shook my displeasure away and mumbled, “Do you know what’s even better protection than condoms?”
“Abstinence.” A smirk dusted my lip and I strolled back into the kitchen as Asher tucked his obscene amount of condoms back into his wallet.
He stood, wallet in hand, chuckling. “Where’s the fun in that?”
Shaking my head, I headed upstairs. “Order the pizza. I’m going to shower.”
Eager to get the condom incident off my mind, I hurriedly shuffled into the bathroom in nothing but a towel and turned to secure the door. After struggling with the janky lock for a few seconds, I forgot about it and stepped into the shower, toes flinching as they touched the chilled ceramic floor. I turned the dial, new and metallic, releasing thousands of lukewarm drops that were darkening my hair and trickling down my back. My eyes fell closed as I let the water fall onto my face and warm me.
As the moments in the warming water passed, I realized I had forgotten my phone downstairs. In the majority of showers I took, there was some type of music playing during the fifteen minutes, and I felt quite isolated without it.
I began debating going downstairs to grab it, but my thoughts were interrupted as I heard the bathroom door open. Wrapping my arms self-consciously around myself, I wondered who in the hell was intruding on my shower and stuck my head around the curtain.
“Asher! Get out!” Relinquishing my arms from the parts of myself I wanted to cover, I instead attempted to wrap the light blue shower curtain around my body.
A smirk curling on his lips, he held up a bundle of items. “I have your phone. And some clothes.”
My eyes scanned the tiny room subconsciously as I realized that all I had brought with me was a scanty towel. “Thank you. But close your eyes.”
Sighing, he did as I asked and sauntered blindly into the bathroom. “You’ve changed in front of me. Twice.”
“I am naked!”
“Nothing I haven’t seen before, Dol.” Trying to set a few clothing items onto the bathroom counter, his temporary blindness caused him to drop them into the thankfully dry sink instead.
In an attempt to deliver me my phone, he unexpectedly shoved his hand against the bathroom wall, dropping the device in the process. His eyes shot open from the jarring pain and with a humorous, but pained laugh, he shook his wrist swiftly as if whipping his hand through the air would rid the pain. “Fuckin-A, that hurt.”
“Close your eyes!” I shouted, not at all sympathetic of his hand.
Finally doing what I needed him to, he gave me the phone and left the bathroom. When I got out of the shower, I grabbed at the clothes Asher had gotten me, realizing when I put on the white shirt, along with some of my own black shorts, that it was his.
If the unfamiliar text it had on it hadn’t revealed it to me, the fact it reached all the way to my thigh and practically ate me alive was a dead giveaway. Stomping my way down the stairs, each carpet-covered board thumping under my feet had brought the attention of Asher on the couch.
“Nice shirt,” Asher said, noting the blank white shirt that had the words Rock God spread across the back.
I collapsed to the right of him, chuckling as I rested the side of my head against the couch backing. “Let me get this straight: you walked into your room to get me one of your shirts, then walked into my room to grab my shorts.”
Asher shrugged casually. “Well, you wouldn’t fit into my shorts.” I shook my head and smiled, eagerly listening to his playful tone as he stated, “Plus, you already have one of my jackets. You’re basically taking over my wardrobe.”
Minutes later, I was in the kitchen pouring a two-liter of soda into three different glasses when Asher rushed to answer the door. Despite its weight, I was doing fine in distributing the large bottle of the fizzy drink into the glasses, until I heard the pizza man, or woman I should say, purring at Asher.
“Wow, you have a great house,” the girl trifled. Hearing the words escape the clearly young woman’s mouth, I forgot about the two-liter and peeked my head around the entry room door. Her dark hair was hanging loosely at her shoulders, her pizza shirt tied in the back, revealing her navel.
I was more than aware of the beaming smile on Asher’s face as he looked her up and down, his tone as flirtatious as hers. “Yeah, if you think the entrance room is cool, you should see my bedroom.”
She giggled rather loudly and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Like some kind of wing woman, Prim drove past me in the kitchen and sped to the front door. She tugged impatiently on Asher’s sleeve, staring down the flirty pizza deliverer.
“He has a girlfriend and he doesn’t want you.” Her tone left zero room for dispute.
I gaped at the little girl before laughing at the troubled expression on both Asher and the pizza girl’s faces. Asher, his eyes drifting to his little sister, chuckled nervously. “Oh yeah? Who?”
Mrs. Wing Woman gave her brother an incredulous look. “Chloe!”
Asher cast her an equally incredulous expression, flicking his eyes up to the doorway I was in. Pizza Girl followed his gaze as well, both pairs of eyes landing on me. I froze, unable to move from my standing position between the doorjamb, watching Asher bring his eyes back to Prim’s.
“Dol’s not my girlfriend, Primrose,” he said defeatedly.
With an eye roll as sassy as its predecessor, Prim spun to the poor girl who was unlucky enough to deliver our dinner. “He has a girlfriend,” she shared again, exasperated.
After doing a once-over on me, the pizza girl grinned bitterly over at Asher. “I hope you and your girlfriend are happy.” Dipping her brow in annoyance at Prim, she twirled away from the front door.
Prim exited the room when the door shut, the curious monkey and man with the yellow hat on the TV snagging her attention again. After shutting the front door, Asher slammed the pizza onto the counter, shoving his concentration onto his sister. “Weasel, that was a perfectly good number going to waste.”
She didn’t give him the time of day, that same curious monkey all she could keep her eyes on. “Good. I didn’t like her.”
He turned away from her, resting his elbows on the counter, watching me open the box to reveal the beautiful cheesy dinner that was worth every awkward second I had dealt with moments prior.
Asher threw me a glance, his voice a notch lower, only meant for my ears. “Not to mention a perfectly good condom going to waste too.”
Gasping at him, I laughed aloud, throwing a pepperoni at his face. “You’re gross.”
Four pieces of pizza, six cups of soda, and one movie later, I was relaxing in comfort, Asher by my side. The tear-jerker of a Pixar movie Prim had picked out had gotten to me, bringing me to tears and Asher, to laughter.
“Stop being such a jackass, Ash.” I set my plate on the coffee table and subtly wiped the moisture from under my eye.
“It was a sweet ending. Why are you crying?” The upward kink of his mouth told me he was stifling a laugh, but I couldn’t deny that his smirk made his jaw look like it had been chiseled out of the most expensive and attractive granite on earth.
After a loud declaration of how inconsiderate Asher was acting towards my feelings, I was shushed, my roommate concurrently nodding over at the sleeping child on the chair near us.
Asher’s voice was hushed, far quieter than mine had been. “I’m going to take Prim up to bed. I’ll be right back. Is it that time of the month? Do you need me to grab you a tampon on the way back down?”
“Have you ever heard that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit?” I kicked him gently in the side as he stood and he inhaled sharply out of faux pain.
Picking Prim up gently, he carefully walked up the stairs to put her in bed. I glanced at the clock as I scrolled through Netflix to find another movie, selecting a scary one out of the hundreds to choose from. I snuggled farther into the comforter that was splayed across the couch and smiled as the creepy intro music made its way from the speakers.
Asher came down a few minutes later and collapsed in his spot to the left of me. Narrowing his eyes at the TV, he made an expert observation from the introduction clip. “This is a scary movie.”
“Good eye, Sherlock,” I deadpanned.
Shaking his head, he winced at the screen. “I hate scary movies.”
I scooted closer to him and patted his knee, speaking deliberately in a mocking tone like he was a child in need of a babysitter.
“Awe, don’t worry! I’ll protect you.” I glanced over at his plate on the coffee table, a cringe making its way onto my expression. “The scariest part about tonight is that you didn’t eat your crust.”
I reached down, yanking the bread from the plate to finish it for him.
He chuckled as he watched me gnaw on the best part of the pizza. “No, the scariest part of tonight was watching you devour four pieces.”
I shrugged. “What can I say? The pizza really was amazing.”
“I wouldn’t know.” He nodded at my empty plate. “You basically ate the whole thing.”
“I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.”
As the opening credits came to an end, the sound of my phone blasted beside me on the couch and Asher jumped ten feet in the air from the noise. I laughed at his expense and I lifted my phone to see if the call was worth answering. When Hayden’s caller ID came into view, I pulled it to my ear, taking the remote and pausing the film.
“Hello?” I said, my tone of voice passing giddy and reaching ecstatic to hear from him.
Who is it? Asher mouthed at me, scowling irritably when he heard the voice on the other end of the call.
“Hey, Beautiful. How are you?” Hayden asked, his tone sounding similar to mine.
I couldn’t hold back my smile, but I did manage to minimize the size of it for Asher’s benefit as I answered him.
“I was up thinking about you and I wanted to hear your voice,” he shared, which instantly projected an even bigger smile on my face, alongside much redness, I was sure. Asher merely rolled his eyes at the delightful comment.
He chuckled on the other line. “Well, truthfully, I was up thinking about your harsh opinions on Edvard Munch’s paintings, but you nonetheless.”
I giggled along with him as Asher began mocking his voice beside me. I gave him one gentle nudge and his face melted back into a scowl.
“It was only his one painting of the dog; the rest were okay,” I said into the speaker.
“Regardless, I actually had another reason I wanted to call,” he replied with one last chuckle. “I was wondering if you were free tomorrow night.”
I couldn’t help but sigh. “I’m actually going to a concert tomorrow.”
“Oh.” He sounded down for a moment, but his tone pepped back up. “With Jamie, I assume?”
I smiled. I found joy in the fact he was already beginning to recognize my friends from stories I’d shared. “Yeah! I’m really excited. I’m also equally as excited to hang out with you at the New Years Party.”
“Yes! Of course, I’ll see you then. I can’t wait.” He sounded much less dejected after the reminder we’d be seeing each other soon. I shared that I too couldn’t wait for the party, and he responded in a hushed tone, “Goodnight Beautiful.”
“Goodnight Hayden,” I replied before clicking off the call.
“Beautiful?” Asher scoffed as the phone call ceased, letting out a ridiculing sound at the compliment Hayden had repeatedly given me.
“Dolphin?” I joked.
His scoff halted and a frown took over his expression. “You like Dolphin,” he mumbled unhappily.
“Yes, and I like Hayden too,” I shared honestly, faking my most genuine pouted lip. “And you didn’t even ask me how our date went the other day.”
Shifting uncomfortably beside me, he grumbled, “Because I don’t give a shit.”
My fake pout became an authentic frown from his unneeded rudeness. “Don’t ruin this for me, Asher,” I warned, becoming fed up with his relentlessly bad attitude, and quickly.
His eyes fastened to my displeased features, ticking over each one before his lips released a sigh. “Fine, how was it?” he tried, suddenly desperate to please me.
My sigh was a lot less miserable than his. “It was incredible. We went to an art museum. He-”
Asher cut me off with a groan. “Let me guess, he said you were even more beautiful than all the art combined.”
I giggled. “Now that you mention it, it did come up.”
With a small head shake, Asher mumbled, “At least he was honest,” in a barely audible whisper. I sent him a smile, which he finally returned. “I’m glad you had fun, Dol.”
I snuggled in closer to him, laying my head on his shoulder and feeling him quickly reciprocate my warm gesture, tossing an arm around my waist. “Thank you.”
“I still fuckin’ hate that guy though,” he grunted.
I chuckled, pressing play on the long-paused movie. The film continued as usual, every second reminding me how much I loved scary movies. By the end of it, I was cuddled close to Asher, my legs hovering over his lap and my head claiming a resting place in the crook of his neck. Asher was frightened the entire movie, holding me to my word in protecting him. I couldn’t count the number of times he jumped, nor the number of times I laughed at him jumping.
I glanced at the digital clock on the DVD player, noting it wasn’t extremely late, but still wanting to get some sleep due to the concert I had the next night. Jamie had gifted me with the tickets for Christmas and I didn’t want my fatigue to cause me to miss it. Drawing myself away from Asher, I laid comfortably down on the couch.
“Ready for bed?” Asher asked, watching me shut my eyes and ready myself for sleep.
“I’m sleeping on the couch,” I mumbled tiredly.
His eyebrows knitted. “Why?”
“Because I never cleaned my room and there are clothes everywhere.”
Turning to face the TV, I let my eyes flutter close as drowsiness called out for me. I had been particularly comfortable in Asher’s arms during the film, but I felt the couch crinkle as he stood from it and struggled to open my eyes, wishing he’d stay. “You- you don’t have to leave yet... if you don’t want to.”
A coy smile spreading across his lips, he brought his eyes to mine. “You’re asking me to stay here and lay with you?” I didn’t answer, sealing my eyes and shrugging my exhausted shoulders. “Are you drunk?” he questioned above me.
I cracked a smile at his inquisition, unable to hold my chuckle as I muttered, “Fuck you.”
Resting back on the leather couch, he swatted my foot softly. “I’m not going to fuck you. You have to stop begging.”
Wanting to respond, whatever smart-ass comment I was going to make split from my train of thought as Asher laid down behind me, cozying up in the limited amount of space the couch offered the two of us. Similar to me, he laid on his side behind me.
The pizza from earlier clearly taking over my brain control, I slid backward, my back pressing against his chest as he let out a soft, breathy laugh directly next to my ear. “You’re totally drunk.”
I scowled. “Shut up, I am not.”
A few minutes of silence passed before Asher’s arm wrapped around my almost sleeping body. Though usually not one who’s up for cuddling, Asher was the single exception. If I weren’t on the cusp of sleeping, I would have stayed up just to hear his light breathing behind me, to feel his arms tighten around my waist. I tried for a few seconds to stay awake, but the comfort I felt from him only pushed me farther into a comfortable sleep. It didn’t last as long as I’d hoped.
I was in the car. There was some type of music playing. Jazz? Maybe. That was all I could hear. The lyrics were so loud. After I was done focusing on that inconsequential detail, I took a look around the car. The soft seats, the old stereo. I looked in the front seat and saw him. He looked the same as he always did, the yellow plaid shirt, the jeans, the unshaven stubble.
I smiled. I glanced over to my left as I saw her frowning at me. What was she mad about this time? Her brown hair fell into her face, her bright eyes narrowed, proving her anger. I couldn’t hear what she was complaining about, but he leaned forward in the front seat to turn up the already loud music, ignoring us. She screamed, but it was silent. All I could hear was the music. I realized suddenly I wasn’t in the car. I was back in my own personal hell.
He turned suddenly, telling us something I was sure was along the lines of ridicule towards our argument. He looked cruel. His angry tone was lost in the sound of music, but before I could blink, the car hydro-planed into something. Another car? A wall? I didn’t have the time to see.
The car rolled, lights swiveled, and the metal bashed over the concrete and earth harshly. It would have been a horrendous sound if I could hear anything except that damn music. The seatbelt tugged on my skin with every lurch. When we stopped rolling, the music was much softer, and I could hear the rain on the underbelly of the car. Then sirens. Before, I couldn’t hear anything except the music, now I could hear everything. The scream. I could hear a scream...
I jolted up from the couch as I realized the deafening scream I was hearing was actually my own. I covered my eyes as the remnants of the nightmare still clung to my mind. Before I knew it, all I could feel were the tears down my face and his arms around me, both reminding me where I was.
Asher, his arms coiling me, asked in a panic, “Are you okay!?”
I rapidly shook my head, managing to hiccup, “I’m so s-sorry.” It was unclear to me as to if I was apologizing to him or to myself.
Calmer than before, he sighed, his arms around me loosening. “What happened?”
I ran a shaky hand through my tangled hair, my heart still racing. One would think after I woke and realized it was only a dream, I would have calmed down. That was rarely the case.
Remembering I had been asked a question, I took a deep, hopefully, cleansing breath. “I... I had a nightmare.”
He hesitated. “Do you want to... talk about it?”
I shook my head no, hoping this wouldn’t end in those situations where Asher pushed an answer out of me. Luckily, he didn’t say anything. Not speaking, he moved closer, wrapping his arms farther around my trembling body.
Unlike the first time, I enclosed my arms around him too, letting his warmth surround me in a way no conversation could. We laid down, still in each other’s arms, and I was grateful he didn’t insist on discussing anything. I fell asleep repeating the same information to myself over and over.
It was only a nightmare.
It was only a nightmare.
It was only a nightmare.
But how could I call it a nightmare when the anxiety didn’t leave when I was awake?