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“You seem chirpier today,” Nurse Caitlyn remarked, staring at me suspiciously. She flickered her eyes down to her clipboard, no doubt checking to see if they upped or changed my medication.
I had a two-hour session with Nurse Caitlyn every week. Normally, she would do most of the talking.
After Lazarus’s visit last night, I had time to think about his words in bed. I should try to get better for my friends and family. They didn’t deserve to go through this.
Bates had ruined so much of my life. I couldn’t let him ruin my future or Lazarus.
When I woke up and entered the dining room, I knew I looked different. Brighter.
My talk with Lazarus helped me so much and opened my eyes. However, there was still one thing that was holding me back. I just hadn’t figured it out yet.
Now that it was just myself and Nurse Caitlyn, I knew she was itching to ask me what happened.
“What’s has got you into this move? Does it have anything to do with Elaine?” She fired questions, shuffling to the edge of her seat.
“I guess you could call it an epiphany,” I answered, the corners of my lips threatening to quirk upwards. “I realized that I was being selfish. I should at least try therapy.”
Even though it hadn’t worked in the past, this time was different. I had Lazarus’s support. He was going to by my side throughout the entire process. He wasn’t going anywhere.
She was pleased. Beyond pleased. “That’s brilliant, Celeste. I know you can get through this.”
Ever the optimist.
“So, what would you like to do in this session?” She queried whilst brushing a strand of her vivid hair behind her ear. It was in a messy ponytail today.
My eyes floated around the empty activity room. Mornings were usually extremely busy; it was the only time you didn’t have time to think.
They stopped at a large, shiny piano.
Seeing it transported me to the music room at school. Lazarus was sat beside me, delicately pressing his fingers into the piano keys, playing a soft and warm tune. My eyes were closed as I allowed the beautiful music to flow into me.
He was an amazing pianist. He could enchant me with his playing.
When he played, I would be taken to another place. A place where it was just me and him. Celeste and Lazarus.
Nurse Caitlyn followed my line of sight. “Do you play?”
“Sort of,” I replied, keeping my eyes on it. “A friend—my boyfriend—was teaching me how to play.”
She hummed and rose to her feet. “I want you to play me a song.”
I snapped my eyes back to her and shook my head, vigorously. “I haven’t played it in a while. I don’t think I should.”
“I want to hear you play,” She retorted, refusing to back down. “It’s only me and you in the room so if you get it wrong, nobody else will know.”
I wasn’t scared I would humiliate myself. I was scared of something else.
My eyes drifted back to the piano. Memories of our song danced in my mind.
Swallowing nervously, I forced my legs to walk over to the piano. It was quite old—scratches marred the edges of it. I lowered myself onto the stool and hesitantly placed my fingers on the piano keys.
Since I didn’t have the music sheet in front of me, I would have to do it from memory.
It was like instinct overcame me. As soon as I played the first note, I went into autopilot.
The music poured out of the piano, encasing the room in the soft melody. My eyes fluttered closed and I let myself get absorbed in the beautiful song.
It was like an out of body experience. I was physically there but mentally and emotionally; I was somewhere else. Somewhere happier.
Applause bounced off the walls when I finished. I snapped my eyes open and spotted Nurse Caitlyn standing at the other end of the piano, staring at me in awe. Her eyes were filled with unshed tears.
“That was beautiful,” She complimented, honestly.
I tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Thanks.”
She moved closer to me so that she was leaning on the side of the piano. “When you were playing, you looked at peace. Does playing the piano help you?”
I nodded my head.
“Why were you so hesitant to play then?” She questioned, curiously.
“I—I don’t know.” I stammered, frowning at the piano keys. “I thought I wasn’t good enough.”
She squinted her eyes at me. I felt like I could see the wheels in her head-turning, pondering.
“Celeste, the first time I met you, I asked you if you wanted to get better,” She recalled. “Do you remember what you said?”
“I didn’t say anything,” I told her, locking eyes with her.
“Exactly,” She replied. “But today, you seem raring to get better which I am happy about. However, when I first asked you to play the piano—something you clearly cherish—you didn’t want to even though you knew it would help you.”
Where was she going with this?
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying you are still afraid of getting better. You are worried you won’t like the same things anymore.” She answered, confidently. “Or you don’t want to like these things anymore because you feel guilty about liking them.”
She had hit the nail right on the head. I knew she had.
I swallowed the thick lump in my throat and released a long sigh. The thing that was still holding me back was my guilt. I wanted to get better for Lazarus and my family and I felt ready to but I couldn’t let go of the guilt. It was like a collar around my neck that got tighter every time I imagined being happy.
Forgiveness was what I needed to do. Everyone else seemed to believe I did nothing wrong; they didn’t think I deserved to feel like this.
I, on the other hand, believed I should feel like this.
I didn’t even know what to say.
“It’s okay, these things can take time,” She assured me, smiling softly. “I just want to you remember what I said. It might come in handy one day.”
Time. That was what I needed.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Lazarus asked me, his green eyes swirling with concern and worry. His fingers, which were beside him, twitched in anticipation.
I pinched my lips together, keeping my eyes forward. “I am.”
He loosened a tense breath and moved closer to me, grabbing onto my hand. Sparks ignited my skin and filled my stomach with warmth.
With Lazarus beside me, I knew I could do this.
It had been six months since I had left the psychiatric hospital. It had been six months of me getting back into the swing of things.
It was not an easy road; I could tell you that. Every day was tough. I would wake up most mornings, miserable and unmotivated. Most of the time, all I wanted to do was to curl into a ball and stay hidden from the world. I became depressed—the doctors were worried I had lost the motivation I once had and thought I would never get better.
It was a long and difficult journey.
But I did get better. And when I was discharged, I was confident I could go back into society hopeful.
I barely had nightmares anymore. I was happy on most days.
There were still periods when all I wanted to do was hide in my room. There were moments I was disgusted with myself for being happy, knowing I had killed someone.
Usually, Lazarus would cheer me up. He always knew what to say. After all, he had been in this situation once. He knew how I felt.
When my therapist—who I saw once a week—suggested I return to where it happened, I shot her down instantly.
Over time, she would bring it up. She was convinced going back to where I killed Bates would help me get over it.
I eventually caved.
So, with Lazarus beside me, we were going to venture into the underground facility had escaped from.
“I’m going to be by your side, no matter what,” Lazarus whispered into my ear, squeezing my hand. “We’ll do this together.”
I had eventually told him about Bates. His facial expression as I told him would always be plastered in my brain. His face was pale, his eyes were filled with so much horror and guilt. He apologized profusely for starting it.
It took some time to convince him I didn’t blame him. He had already suffered so much.
We were two people who had been broken. We had baggage. Together, we helped each other. We supported each other on our worst days.
My foot stepped forward, crunching on the fallen snow. The clearing was covered in white snow. Snowflakes fell onto my form, sticking to my hair and fluffy coat.
The police had given us permission to enter after my therapist contacted them.
It had been cleaned up considerably.
I found the room where it happened straight away. Its location was still fresh in my mind. I would always remember what it looked like.
There was no furniture in the room. It had all been cleared out. The blood that had splattered the floor had been washed away. There was no evidence of the atrocity that happened here.
Lazarus examined the room, imagining what went down in this room. His expression was hard and his eyes were cold and distant.
“This is where it happened,” I stated, pointing at the spot where I shot him. Flashes of his animalistic face charging at me appeared in my mind. It was then followed by me raising the gun and pulling the trigger.
The memories were as clear as day.
My least favorite part then came. The second time I shot him. The killer shot.
Before I could comprehend what was happening, my knees gave out. I went crumbling to the floor.
Lazarus rushed to my side and caught me just before I smacked onto the ground. His arms wrapped around my body, in a comforting manner.
“I’m trying so hard,” I started, forcing myself to speak. Tears were threatening to fall down my flushed face. “To not let myself go backward.”
He kissed my hair, understanding where I was going with this. I didn’t want to lose all of the progress I had made.
“Bates was an evil man and what happened to him was coming. He tormented me for so long.” I continued, shakily. “I will always feel sad about what caused him to become that but I will no longer feel guilty about pulling the trigger. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here with you.”
Lazarus tightened his hold on me. “I wouldn’t be able to cope with a life without you.”
I knew he was telling the truth. I twisted my body in his arms so that I was facing him.
He gazed at me with so much love and adoration, I felt my heart hammer in my chest.
“Have I ever told you I love you?” I murmured, slowly moving closer to him.
His lips quirked upwards. “I’d like to hear it one more time.”
“I love you,” I declared.
“Believe me, mi amore, I love you more.” He countered. He pressed his lips against mine, making my heart dance.
I knew I would never be in love with anybody else like I was with Lazarus. He completed me. We were inseparable.
“I highly doubt that,” I almost snorted. My love for him was greater, I was certain.
His lips stretched into a breath-taking smile. I forgot about where I was—it was all a blur. I could only focus on him and that smile.
We left after that. I had to admit, I felt so much lighter. I had overcome something I never thought I could.
We were staying in a hotel not too far away.
That night, we cozied up together by the fire and watched a romantic movie.
I let him mark me that evening, tying myself to him. We would be able to talk together, through our own private mind link. I would also be able to feel his emotions.
I knew I hadn’t made a bad call. I had made the right decision.
Lazarus was the man I wanted.
So after this chapter, there's only one left. We are so close to the end, I can't believe it. On Patreon, I'm holding a poll for readers to decide who they want the bonus chapter to be about. I will post the bonus chapter on Patreon. If you want to know more, use the link at the top of the chapter to find out. You can also read two chapters of Saving Amber.
I hope you all have a lovely Christmas. My final update will be on Sunday.