‘Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.’ ~ J.K.Rowling
Astrid raised her hand to knock at the door only for it to fall back to her side again as doubt swarmed in her head like bees buzzing around their comb. She wondered if she did the right thing even when she knew it was already too late to go back now. She took in a deep breath to fill her lungs with air and her mind with determination. She raised her fist and rapped it against the door three times. A few seconds passed and the door opened to reveal a tall and bony woman in her late forties, her chocolate brown eyes so familiar yet foreign, her smile filled with warmth which widened at the sight of her.
Her aunt, Tina pulled her into a bone-crushing hug which almost lasted for an eternity as that was what it felt like to Astrid. Her father’s side of the family was always known to be huggers, Astrid remembered that suddenly. A sense of familiarity filled her as she slowly relaxed into her aunt’s embrace. They both pulled back and Tina quickly ushered her inside.
This was the new, fresh start that Astrid had been craving for and now that she had finally gotten what she wanted, she felt terrified yet excited. She prepared herself to face whatever life was planning to throw at her. Or that was what she thought. Little did she realise how wrong she had been.
(A/N: Just a quick warning. There will be a lot of time lapses in the story as I skip all the unnecessary things that happen in between. If it becomes confusing, just let me know.)
The evening sky was painted with streaks of orange and red as Astrid watched the cars and buses zoom past the busy streets. Her window had the perfect city skyline view and she was enjoying every minute of it. She still had not met her uncle and cousin as they had to run some errands but Tina had given her the liberty to choose either the guestroom or the basement which had been modified into something like a den or it was sharing Natalia’s room. She did not mind. But as Astrid did not know what kind of person she was, she made a wise decision with the guestroom.
It was almost an hour later, she heard the doorbell, which she had failed to notice somehow, ring. She did not bother to move from her bed as she listened to someone running up the stairs, the noise of their feet against the hardwood too loud to not notice making her slightly snicker. This should be interesting.
Her face morphed into a mask, making it void of any emotion as her bedroom door was thrown open and she was greeted with the sight of the girl about her age, her chocolate strands falling past her shoulders, pink painted lips pulled back into a wide smile, her eyes brimming with something close excitement. Astrid had to admit she was pretty but she was not the type of person who would throw around compliments. If anything, she was a master in doing the exact opposite thing.
“Hey, cus. It has been a while.”
Astrid was quick in analysing the Smiths. Though Natalia or Talia, which she preferred, inherited her father’s hazel eyes and sharp features, her personality did not match with his quiet and observant one. She, like her mother, was a huge ball of energy. The questions thrown in Astrid’s way were endless but thankfully, were not about her parents or the life she had left behind. It was mostly about her journey and normal things like that. About her interests, what she wanted to become and all. Most importantly she did not mind answering. It felt nice to have someone genuinely care about her and she rather felt happy and wanted.
Dinner was uneventful as they ate in silence which was rather comfortable than awkward. After catching Astrid yawning for the fourth time, Tina shooed her off to bed when she offered to clean the dishes. She quickly said good night and retired to bed after swallowing a couple of sleeping pills. That was the only way for her to sleep.
Her mind was at peace as she snuggled under the covers. She felt herself succumbing into the arms of sleep as the effects of the pills kicked in. If only she was able to escape these nightmares. But she was not so lucky.
She was on fire.
Everything around her was on fire.
She tried to move, to breathe but it felt as if her limbs were frozen. Her chest constricted in pain and fear as huge breaths of smoke entered her lungs. Faint screams rang in her ears as flames were threatening to engulf her. In her bubble of fear, she took too long to realise the screams were hers and that she was not alone.
A faint outline of someone was the only thing she could make out as she watched the flames dancing and submerging whoever it was. Her screams were accompanied by someone else’s too, a male.
Suddenly it stopped.
He stopped screaming.
He was dead.
And she was next.
She knew it. She felt it.
Suddenly someone grabbed her. They were pulling her. She did not know if they were trying to save her from the fire or drown her in it. She could only hope. Hope was all that she had left in her. Completely drained, though she tried to fight it, she felt herself losing consciousness as black dots appeared in the corners of her vision.
Then, she closed her eyes.
Her eyes snapped open. She quickly sat up, beads of sweat forming on her forehead. She shook off the remnants for her sleep as she recalled what had happened.
Another nightmare. More like a memory.
She tried not to think about it as she stood up on shaky legs and stumbled into the bathroom. She turned on the tap in the sink and splashed her face with cold water again and again as if it would wash away all the horrible memories that had been engraved in her memory.
If only it was that easy.
Astrid walked out of the bathroom, steadier and glanced at the bottle of pills on the table that was supposed to free her from all this torture and the fact that they became useless made her uneasy. She made a quick note in her mind to get a stronger dose from her doctor as she walked over to the window.
The sky was clear with thousands of stars scattered as if it was glitter. The moon was shining brightly and she noticed the time was three hours past midnight. The night was quiet with a few buses and occasionally a car or bike as most people were still in the arms of sleep.
With a sigh, she realised it was yet another sleepless night for her.
She had wrongly assumed that everything would be alright if she simply moved to a different place. But there were things that would always be with her, that would always follow her even if she took refuge in the remote corners of the world.
And her nightmares were only one of them.