Chapter 1: Our New Mission
After a day of getting everything prepared for our new mission, the four of us stand in Calvin’s living room with our luggages by our side and the plastic container and metal jar by our feet. We brought Dennis’s heart and blood to Calvin’s the other day as we were afraid to leave it in that house. We have no clue where Sharri’s friend went and didn’t want her to take our only way of forming a portal, all that was left of Dennis.
Calvin offers to throw the heart as he feels it’s all he can do for the mission.
“No! Don’t touch it!” I say emotionally.
Last night I didn’t get any sleep. We all slept over at Calvin’s. Tracey and I shared the spare bedroom and Rielly and Nate shared Rielly’s bedroom. I almost forgot that the spare bedroom became Dennis’s room when I shared an apartment with Tracey temporarily. His shelves full of science experiments and textbooks just lied there mocking me. His blue bedspread with comic books on top and his frog just stood there taunting me. Telling me it’s all my fault he’s dead.
As much as I tried to put my guilt, sadness, and grief aside, I couldn’t. We planned to go to Paradise the next morning to fulfill Dennis’s last wish, a thought which should’ve helped my emotions. A thought which should’ve taken up all my brain capacity, leaving no room for dwelling on pain, only room to focus on our mission. But the same thought reoccurs to me, I killed Dennis.
If I wasn’t so weak, this outcome would be different. If I was strong and held myself together the day I went through the portal to the real world then Dennis wouldn’t have been dragged into this Paradise killer mess. Dennis wouldn’t be dead! Even if he still accompanied me to the real world and I didn’t fall for Rielly then he’d be alive. I don’t regret a second loving Rielly as he has truly made me happy but I can’t help but feel guilty as well as responsible for everything that happened to Dennis.
Rielly and Nate thankfully traded rooms with us even though it was difficult for Rielly to sleep in the same room as the guy who was in love with me, the guy who hated him at first, the guy who sacrificed his life for him, for our happiness.
That brings us to this moment. We’re about to open a portal to Paradise or what used to be Paradise according to Dennis. But how can I witness the heart of a close friend of mine drop to the ground to open a portal to Paradise? How can I rub his blood on my stomach to preserve the life of my child? Dennis’s heart and blood are all that remains of my close friend and I just can’t let it go.
“August, it’s okay. It’s difficult but it’s what he would’ve wanted,” Rielly says as he comforts me by gently rubbing my shoulder.
“I know it’s what he wanted, but it’s all I have left of him! He touched us all in one way or another, it’s all we have left of him!” I exclaim as my cheeks are drenched in tears.
Rielly embraces me with a hug as he has somewhat of an idea of what I’m feeling, after all, Dennis did die to save him.
“I barely knew the guy, but he seemed nice. This was his last wish and you still do have his letter!” Nate exclaims.
“Shut up, you don’t know how insensitive you’re being! He was a close friend of hers and may have irritated me at times, but always made me laugh and was a sweet guy!” Tracey yells at Nate as she defends how I’m feeling.
“Yeah, he reminded me of a younger version of myself and was nothing but kind! If August needs some time to dwell on his death, so be it! I think we all need some time to reflect on it and let it sink in a little bit!” Calvin shouts in response.
Rielly breaks away from our hug and is telling Nate off for his comment.
As all this chaos is unfolding, I turn the lid of the metal jar quickly. I don’t bother spreading the blood with my fingers, instead, I just lift my shirt up as I pour his blood on my bare stomach. I use the whole jar as I need it to guarantee that my child will survive the portal.
Nobody has noticed that I opened the jar as they are all yelling at Nate, so I open the plastic container. I throw the lid onto the floor and pick up Dennis’s gross, moist, squishy, bloody, heart and throw it on the floor with all my strength.
A portal full of spirals of shapes, colours, and designs is formed. Nobody takes notice of it as they’re all still bickering like a bunch of wild animals.
“Do I have to do this alone or are you all coming?” I ask in a loud voice so that they’ll hear me over their arguing.
They all look astonished as several minutes ago, all I wanted was to not throw all that was left of Dennis. I wouldn’t have thrown it if it wasn’t for Nate. Yes, Nate. That self-absorbed, obnoxious guy, who actually has good ideas and a kind heart if you get to know him. He brought up that Dennis’s heart and blood aren’t all that remains of him. Yes, there’s the letter. I’ll forever treasure his sacrifice, but there’s more.
Dennis is still with me in my heart even though he might not physically be present. His last wish along with my happiness was to save Paradise and I’m willing to put my emotions aside for that as it feels like he’s also a huge part of this mission.
They each grab their luggage and I do the same before entering the portal. We wave goodbye to Calvin and he wishes us luck.
“You sure about this?” Rielly whispers in my ear.
“Yes, it’s what Dennis would’ve wanted,” I whisper back.
He gives me a slight smile, “And you put the blood on your stomach? Our baby should be fine?” he asks.
“Yes I did and I hope so. It feels so right to hear the words our baby. I never thought I’d hear those words come out of your mouth because of the whole Paradise killer nonsense. And when I finally did hear those words come out of your mouth, I thought I was going to lose you,” I reply.
“I feel the same way. Once this new mission is over, we’ll get to raise our son and show him the beauty in the world or what’s left of it,” Rielly says.
“What’s left of it? You mean you’d want to raise our son in Paradise?” I ask curiously.
“I don’t know, I’ve never been. Just the place itself sounds nice and magical, a place full of hope and second chances. It’s just something to think about. I’m really good either way as long as I’m with you. I just know that you’re really close to your parents, siblings, aunts, and uncles. They’re all there,” he says sweetly.
That’s so sweet and thoughtful of him to want to live in Paradise for me. The thought of raising a son in Paradise hasn’t occurred to me as I’m becoming quite fond of the real world and our friends, as well as Calvin, are here.
The real world comes along with more stress and responsibilities due to the concept of money, having to work to make a living and your decisions having greater consequences. However, the real world allows you to learn from your mistakes and to truly see the beauty in nature, the beauty in moments which later become memories, the inner beauty in yourself and others as well as the beauty of surprises. The real world allows you to escape from that bubble that you’ve been dying to pop, that bubble that’s been preventing you from learning stuff outside of books. The bubble that is now gone which forces you out of your comfort zone. You can now see the world for what it truly is and would want to go through all of the stress and responsibilities it offers just to get to its beauty. I want our son to have that.
“That’s a sweet thought but we’ll find a way for my family to visit here. I want to raise our son in the real world. I want him to see the beauty of this world,” I explain to Rielly honestly.
He gazes into my eyes, “I think I’d like that too,” he says.
I gaze back into his beautiful brown eyes and am about to go in for a kiss.
“Sorry to break this up, but we don’t know how much longer this portal will stay open for!” Tracey exclaims.
“Sorry!” Rielly and I both say in response.
I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot we weren’t the only two people in the room.
“Don’t apologize! Tracey, you should’ve let them have that moment!” Nate exclaims.
“Everybody shut up! The portal is starting to shrink!” Calvin yells.
We immediately grab our luggages and hop through the portal in a hurry, unsure of what to expect.
30 seconds of dizziness, shapes, spirals, and colours fly by until we’re back in the real world, back in Calvin’s house. Wait what?
I barf as soon as we exit the portal.
“Are you okay?” everyone asks me at once.
Rielly gently rests one hand on my shoulder and rubs the other on my stomach which is no longer covered in blood for some reason, the blood which seeped through my shirt also vanished.
“The baby’s okay, right?” he asks.
“Yeah, the portal just didn’t make me feel the best, that’s all,” I reply honestly as I feel no different.
“Well I’m just glad that you and our son are okay,” Rielly says with a faint smile and everyone agrees.
“Am I hallucinating or did Calvin’s decor change? All that is left in his house is a small burgundy chair which wasn’t there before and the cream coloured walls are a light brown!” I exclaim in confusion.
“Nope, I see the same exact things that you are,” Nate replies.
Tracey nods in response and the worry in Rielly’s eyes is beyond noticeable.
“What’s wrong, Rielly?” I ask curiously.
Rielly looks so worried to the point that he ignores my question. This puts an unsettling feeling in my stomach, a feeling that has nothing to do with the baby. A feeling of worry that can’t help me think what does Rielly know that I don’t?
Nate doesn’t even take notice of Rielly’s worry. He’s caught up in his own world and is looking at his phone screen as he fixes the few hairs that came out of his bun when we went through the portal.
A little girl with light skin and long dark brown hair appeared behind Nate. “What’s that?” she asks pointing to his cellphone.
“The iPhone 11! Are you Amish or something?” Nate asks the girl quite rudely as he gives her attitude.
“What’s Amish?” the girl asks him in response.
“Well, you because you don’t know what an iPhone is. You probably have a simple lifestyle of prayer and non-internet related things. But you don’t dress very Amish,” he explains as he gestures to her pink long-sleeved top and jeans.
“What’s your name?” Rielly asks the girl.
“Who cares what her name is, she shouldn’t even be in Calvin’s house! How did she even get in here?” Nate explains harshly.
Rielly rolls his eyes and repeats his question again. This time Tracey asks the girl the same question at the same time.
“I don’t tell strangers my name! Especially strangers that barf on my floor and are in my house uninvited! I knew I wasn’t ready to stay home alone, but my parents wouldn’t listen!” the girl exclaims sounding angry and confident at first but then breaks down into tears and starts crying.
“Keep crying, you little baby! You’re hysterical to think we broke into your house!” Nate exclaims cruelly.
“I’m not sure what’s going on, but shut up, Nate! You can’t talk to a child like that,” I say defending the poor girl.
“Fine, sorry. I’ll be fixing my best feature over there and I guess you can deal with the girl,” Nate replies.
Nate combs his hair with a brush he has in his pocket and fixes his bun as we’re trying our best to calm the girl down.
“It’s okay, ignore the man with the bun. He has a bun in his hair because he thinks he’s a girl and is just jealous that you’re more pretty than he is,” Tracey says as she calms the girl and is making fun of Nate at the same time.
Nate is so focused on his hair that he doesn’t even hear Tracey’s insult, he’s just smiling at his reflection.
The girl’s tears slowly begin to vanish as she’s filled with laughter.
“I have an idea, do you want to braid the rude man’s hair? I think I have some elastics in my luggage,” I say to the girl.
“Yeah, I’d like that! What colour elastics do you have?” she asks excitedly.
“All sorts of colours! Any colour, you name it!” I reply matching her excitement.
“You should do every shade of pink!” Rielly adds.
“Yes!” she replies happily.
“Rielly, maybe you could help her braid his hair since you’re really good with hair,” I tease him thinking back to when he styled my hair nicely that day when I cried over the mistake I made when kissing Dennis.
That was a sweet moment for us as it was the day I realized Rielly was the one for me. It was also the day that I had to break Dennis’s heart but at least he was still alive then. It caused me so much pain to hurt him like that, but I’d do it all over again to keep him alive.
“I would’ve been a hairdresser if I didn’t have a love for motorcycles,” he explains.
“Really?” Tracey and I say at the same time.
“Yeah, I don’t mind doing hair and I’ve always been decent at it. I remember some boys with longer hair in the foster home paying me to style it, mostly because it was cheaper than going to a barber but I still pictured them as my clients,” Rielly explains honestly.
“Now to think about it, I think I could picture you as a hairdresser. Not one for who does adult’s hair but one who cuts and styles children’s hair as they sit in those chairs that resemble animals,” I reply.
“I can barely picture him holding scissors for the right purpose, let alone cut hair!” Tracey exclaims.
“You had to be there,” I respond.
“Is this your way of trying to tell me that I’m good with children? That I’ll be a good dad?” Rielly asks.
“Maybe,” I say as I gently smile.
Rielly smiles back in response, “But I’ll be nothing compared to how great of a mom you’ll be,” he says sweetly.
“Why are you two having a baby, you look too young to be having one?” the girl asks as she ruins our moment.
“Because they didn’t use protection when they had sex!” Nate shouts aloud with no filter as a response to her question and Rielly looks as if he wants to strangle Nate.
Nate’s assumption is correct about that but he didn’t have to tell the young girl that. The girl looks to be no older than ten, so she stares at Nate in confusion. I’m still confused as to why this girl is in Calvin’s house but Nate is only making matters worse. He’s talking to her as if she’s an adult and clearly isn’t good with children.
“Ignore him, let’s braid his hair, alright,” I say to the girl in my attempt to casually change the subject.
“Okay, but quick. I’m not supposed to be talking to strangers, I don’t even know how you got into my house. My mum and dad will be home soon and I don’t want to get in trouble,” she explains.
“Are you Nicole Lopka? Are your parents Victoria and Peter Lopka?” Rielly asks the girl curiously.
“Yep, how come?” Nicole asks.
“Because I’m your new neighbour across the street from you and just wanted to pay you a visit and say hi. We all have to go now, nice meeting you,” Rielly lies to Nicole and gestures for us to grab our luggages and leave with him.
We wave goodbye to Nicole, who looks to be a little disappointed that she’s not braiding Nate’s hair. I feel bad, but trust Rielly’s judgment of the situation and follow him as well as the others outside of Nicole’s house in a hurry.
“What was that all about? What’s going on?” I ask Rielly as we’re standing on the doorstep of what we thought was Calvin’s house.
“I was going to ask the same thing,” Tracey adds.
“Yeah, why did you lie to the Amish girl about being her neighbour?” Nate asks.
“Look at the mat on the doorstep!” Rielly says as he points to it.
The three of us turn around to face the door and look down to see a yellow mat which says, “The Lopka Family.”
“Are these people calling Calvin’s house their own or something? But wait how did you know their names?” I ask Rielly in utter confusion.
“No, it’s their house. Calvin mentioned that before he married Sharri and moved into this house, a family lived in this house. That family was the Lopka family with their ugly burgundy chair. I remember Calvin mentioning that chair and how they let him and Sharri keep it when they moved in. As soon as that family left, they put the chair on the curb and thankfully someone took that piece of garbage. But the Lopka family hasn’t lived in this house for a little over 19 years, I wasn’t even born yet when they still lived here,” Rielly explains.
“This sounds like a horror story! Why are they still living in this house?” Tracey asks and Nate nods in agreement.
“Because there’s a sold sign on their lawn! Rielly, please don’t tell me this is around 19ish years in the past before Calvin and Sharri bought this place together!” I exclaim.
“I’m afraid so, August. I guess this is what Dennis meant by Paradise isn’t Paradise,” says Rielly honestly.