Chapter 9: Empty
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Song; (Steve Jablonsky- Tessa) & (Ben Cocks, Nikisha Reyes Piles- So Cold)
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Navigating my way through the city came naturally to me.
I’ve lived here for almost three years now, I should have expected this, why did I think differently?
Just because the fire was controlled two days ago, didn’t mean New York hadn’t gotten back to its usual pace.
People are still walking around, they’re conversing, they’re moving on with their lives, chalking up the fire as a terrible incident that shouldn’t have happened.
It shouldn’t have happened.
For some reason, I find myself back at Mazereen, staring up at the blackened remains of my home and the ashes that are left in its wake.
The faint smell of smoke still remained in the air and if I closed my eyes, I could still feel the lingering heat.
Caution tape has been wrapped around all areas of the Apartment, preventing anybody from going it, but that was something the authorities have nothing to worry about.
After all, there was nothing left here.
Only the skeleton of an empty building.
What was I doing here?
There was nothing to see.
I couldn’t bring myself to leave.
Taking a deep breath, I glance around the street for anybody that might be looking before crossing the cautionary tape and entering the building.
I’m instantly greeted with ash and dust. It littered through every surface leaving nothing untouched. The remaining furniture that had been abandoned are all still in their places.
Some damaged whilst some are not.
The lobby was practically unrecognizable with the dim lighting from the moon outside illuminating a portion of the area.
It looks almost whimsical.
People died here... I should respect the dead.
Peering through the cloudiness, I made my way to the emergency stairs and have to brace my body against the door.
It only gave way after several long minutes of me slamming it open.
I coughed upon swallowing a mouthful of ash and bent my knees, in an attempt to keep myself steady. The air was too thick.
Shaking my head, I begin my ascent up the stairs, knowing the journey would be longer the more I tried to avoid it.
Was this dangerous? Yes. Did I know what I was doing? Probably not.
Did that stop me? No.
The more I climbed up, the louder the silence grew until only my footsteps can be heard as I went higher and higher.
Eventually, I reached the final door.
Before I could hesitate anymore, I’ve already pushed the door open and left it wide.
I wasn’t going to stay long.
I just... needed to see it.
What’s left of it at least.
The hallway towards my apartment door is familiar yet wasn’t.
The fire had done the most damage to this floor and the walls were practically melting with blackened soot and ash. When I stepped forward, the floor squeaked.
It felt unsteady and might give way yet I pushed on regardless, determined not to give up now.
I was worried I may not be able to enter my apartment but I realized that was nonsensical upon seeing the state of it.
As the fire started here, the door had longed burnt down, the remains of the room have been diminished to nothing but ashes, and soot, and nothing.
Stepping into the archway, I stopped.
Is this... is this what’s left of my home?
The kitchen, the living room, the glass doors, the furniture, everything. It was just gone. There was nothing left.
Blackened materials of what was once decorations in my home, the countertop where I always cooked has been reduced to its bare skeleton.
There was nothing here I could recognize much less claim was my home.
Something boiled up my abdomen from the sight of everything in front of me.
It felt like sadness.
It felt like pain.
Slowly, I entered the room and kicked up clinks of leftover glass and rubble in the process.
Why could I see all the memories that have happened here?
Hailey and I arriving at the Apartment for the first time, finding out I was the second Chosen for the Annually, Ethan’s letter, Thomas helping me get home to Hailey after Travis broke in, The incident with Karen, Veronica’s momentary visit, the good the bad-
Many things happened here.
But it was still memories.
It was still home.
I lifted my fingers and run them down the burnt shelves, searching for something I can take as a keepsake.
Only grits of embers stained my palm.
Why did this hurt so much?
Marlen’s betrayal is a dull throb compared to the fire eating away at my heart. I am so overwhelmed that I have to squat on the floor and wrap my arms around my knees.
Cold wind billow in and out of the room from the broken windows, as I remained there, still and silent, not moving because I didn’t want to.
In my mindless trance, my eyes spot something sticking up at the bottom of my shoe. I had stepped on it.
Frowning, I fished it out from the broken frame upon realizing it was a picture.
How on earth did it survive?
I had to rub the edges to clear out the burnt pieces and squint.
I know where this picture was from.
It was from last New Year’s Eve, on my birthday when Hailey surprised me with the men’s return and we had gone to a bar to celebrate.
As I recalled Matthew had bought the bar because we dared him too.
We’ve taken the party back home to continue where we left off and that’s when it happened, right there at the balcony.
My eyes stared straight ahead at what’s left of it.
Mason had been out there thinking by himself when I came and told him I was going to kill Travis.
That was the start of it all,
I find myself staring down at the picture, with no goal in mind. I just stared and stared and continued staring until I feel my legs complain from squatting too long.
Had time passed so simply like that?
Had it only been a year and a half ago?
A loud creak interrupted my thoughts.
Instincts kick in.
I’m about to argue my defense against a policeman should they have caught me but promptly cut myself off, when I realized it wasn’t them.
“Why did I know you’d be here...?”
The heir of Graymoore had arrived.
He slides the ground with his foot, pushing pieces of rubble and glass to the side in order to clear a path. “Of course you’d go running back to danger, it never crossed your mind did it?”
He’s wearing a new suit but it hadn’t managed to escape the dirt and dust from what’s happened here.
It makes me inwardly smile.
I believe that’s the second suit he’s ruining.
It must be expensive.
Thomas stops in his tracks when he realizes I’m staring at him from my position on the floor. “What are you doing there?”
“Thinking,” Came my brief answer.
Standing up, I let the picture hang by my fingers and ventured deeper into what was once my living room.
I hear his footsteps, light and steady, slowly following after me from behind with considerable distance.
He’s probably worried I might breakdown and is waiting for it.
I think I’ve cried enough.
I have no more tears left to give.
“You found me...” I asked because I was curious. “How?”
“Intuition?” Thomas shakes his head, sarcastic. “Imagine going to the hospital only to find out you had left-and not only that, you didn’t say where you were going.”
It worried him.
“Sorry, I honestly didn’t know either...” I shrugged in response, walking a wide circle around the center of the room that had a huge hole down the middle from the chandelier crashing through.
Thomas openly frowns at my lackluster response, clearly sensing something is amiss.
He walks on the opposite side of the room, keeping our distance parallel. “Why are you here, Ginger? There’s nothing to see.”
“I suppose I just wanted to make sure.” My reasons didn’t have to be logical, it just needed to make sense.
To me, at least.
Stopping at the threshold by the windows, I lean against it, feeling my heart, throb erratically with spasms.
It feels hard to breathe not because of the air in the room but because my lungs are struggling to keep up with my emotions. “Ow-”
“What’s wrong?” Thomas is instantly at my side. “Are you hurt? Do you need a doctor?”
For some reason, I laugh and glance up at him, huffing. “I don’t think a doctor is able to give me a proper diagnosis.”
No, this pain wasn’t physical.
It was emotional, mentally, it was something you can’t heal in a couple of week’s time, this was something that will stay with you forever.
Sighing, I turn on my back and rest my figure against the broken remains.
Everything seems so dull, doesn’t it?
I don’t realize Thomas is staring at me, his blue-green eyes flashing with undiluted concern. I haven’t seen him in a few days and the fact that he’s here now, makes me smile.
“I’m okay, you know,” I tell him, my tone light. “Just going through a rough patch right now.”
Thomas turns on his back and mirrors my actions so the both of us are standing, at the far corner of the room, watching the ash and dust as it floats around us.
He doesn’t look satisfied.
“What is it?” I tilt my head at him, watching a scowl form on his features.
“I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner,” He answered with clear anger as he slicks back the strands of his sandy blond hair. It didn’t do anything as the fohawk fell leisurely across his right eyebrow.
Is he blaming himself?
For not being there for me?
“Well you’re here now aren’t you? Honestly, I’m just surprised your Dad let you go.” I scratch the back of my neck, feeling an itch.
The itch had been climbing up my spine for quite some time now. I fear it’s all in my head.
“Did you escape?”
“Something like that.” Thomas is absolutely smug about it.
His smirk only lasts for a second as the atmosphere darkened and a whirlwind of unspoken things tettered between us.
What can we say?
Nothing we do will make things better and the string between us is pulled so tautly it could break at any moment.
“I heard you got slapped,” He begins, already looking at my cheek for an imprint.
Ah, my men must have told him. “Hailey’s mom needed an outlet, I was more than willing to be one for her-”
Thomas grasps my cheeks at that, and caresses the side of my face as though if he stared long enough, he’d be able to see the mark she left.
It wasn’t that hard of a slap.
It just surprised me that’s all.
“I’m okay, I’m not hurt.” Taking his hand, I squeezed it reassuringly before letting go. “Come on Moore, I’m not made of glass.”
He can’t seem to find a way to respond to that so he simply kept quiet, blue-green eyes going to narrow at the floor.
I don’t know what else to say either.
Standing side by side like this, our shoulders barely touching, it feels like we’re a million miles apart even though he was right here.
Exhaling loudly, I slid down to the floor, uncaring that I’m sitting on ashes. It’s exhausting having to stand for so long.
Thomas remains standing beside me, his shadow blocking the moonlight from hitting my face.
It’s the little things.
At the back of my mind, I know there are some things we need to talk about, some things we need to clear up, yet I can’t put my mind to focus on it because it no longer seems important.
These past few days have aged me a couple of years older and the burden on my shoulders weighed heavily.
I’m rubbing my eyes to clear the dull ache when I ask Thomas a question. “You called David... to pick me up didn’t you?”
The thought had been bugging me for a while. It didn’t make sense as to why David was suddenly there.
“I wasn’t sure if he would make it,” He sighs heavily. “I knew Hailey needed help right away, there was no time.”
So he knew how close she was.
A mix of frustration and disappointment boiled in me but I kept it locked away.
This was no time to blame him or the others for choosing Elios. What was anyone supposed to do in that situation?
But I can't help the resentment from flowing out, I can't help the fear from seeping through.
“I almost lost her,” I’ve blurted out the words before I can stop them.
The others hadn’t known the fear at that moment, the finality of Hailey’s heartbeat as it momentarily flattened. “She was so close, her heart stopped and I thought that was it, she was gone-”
Thomas has to hold my hand because I was using it to gesture so frantically.
I fell quiet, feeling his warmth encompass me even though our hands were the only ones that touched.
A flood of exhaustion has befallen me. I’m so tired, so exhausted, so frustrated that nothing made sense anymore.
“Why didn’t I see it sooner? I knew something was wrong the moment that guy said Marlen’s name, why was I so slow in noticing it?”
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“I want to believe that, Thomas.” Glancing up at him, I am unable to stop the desperation on my features. “But the fire was meant for me, it was supposed to be me, not Hailey.”
“You didn’t know what was going to happen,” He’s trying to convince me otherwise and this tension between us that’s building and building... I don’t know if it will consume us both.
“This wasn’t your fault, this was Marlen’s. He didn’t tell you she was alive.”
He didn't tell you she was alive.
How did he compose himself as though it didn’t affect him? Had he been acting in front of me?
“I know,” He nods, solemnly, watching my expression closely. “Marlen told me everything."
My Sponsor was trying to own up to his mistakes after leaving me in the hospital by myself, apparently. Well, I won’t forgive him this easily, he owes me too much.
He owes us all.
“Fuck, it’s so funny to me, because I never would have expected this.” Thomas chuckles sardonically. "What a goddamn joke."
I could only imagine the look on his face when Marlen told him.
Was he happy? Was he confused? Did he feel the former spark he once had with Rose?
Will he leave?
I'm grateful the darkness secluded my features because with the way I'm feeling right now, there was no way I'd be able to hide it.
"It seems your exes are pretty crazy Moore," I have to clench my fists to stop them from shaking.
He shakes his head, eyes blank and just continued staring and staring at me. "It was never official."
"Well, she's still pining after you, unfortunately-"
“Ginger,” The heir of Graymoore’s abrupt sincerity halts my rambling thoughts.
He’s staring at me with those eyes, those eyes that held so much. In one move, he's bent down to my position, so we're both eye level and I cannot look away.
“I won’t pretend to know what you must feel right now, words cannot describe it... but I won’t leave you to fight this alone.”
I stare at him as long as I could, watching for any waver but there was none. I realize he hadn't acted in front of me.
He wasn’t hiding his emotions, he was revealing them fully, allowing me to see that he had nothing to hide and that I could trust him.
God knows I needed that.
I needed someone to trust.
Now, more than ever.
“Were you worried I’d go off the deep end?”
“I was worried you might have lost your faith in us, in me.” He answers honestly.
“Well,” Swallowing a gulp, I feel it pinball down my throat. “Can you blame me...?”
“No, I can’t.” He shakes his head and falls silent, letting the emptiness fill in the space. “But this doesn’t change the fact that the others care for you, they still do and nothing can take that away.”
“You don’t know that-”
“You know us, Ginger.” Thomas’s urgency to get me to see the bigger picture is consuming the entirety of my focus. “You spent so much time with them, you know their habits, their tricks, they were with you when I wasn’t.”
I was with them, just as they were with me.
I’ve been doubting them because of Marlen’s actions, but it shouldn’t have reflected on them in the first place.
“And... you let Elios go first,” He mutters so lowly, I feel and hear the strain in his voice. “You have no idea... what you’ve given us.”
The urge to cry resurfaced and I have grit my teeth to keep them at bay.
It would have been better if he hadn’t said anything.
That way I wouldn’t have to remember the fear and absolution of what happened during that time.
It was too traumatic to remember.
I didn’t want to remember.
“Please... don't say anymore," I mumble brokenly beneath my breath. "I can't bear it."
Maybe I am made of glass.
I’m that stupid vase that no matter how many times you knock over it’ll never break until that one fateful day when seemingly nothing happens... it just shatters all at once.
“I don’t know what to do,” Sniffling, I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand just in case tears appeared. “I don’t know where to go.”
The heir of Graymoore pushes himself off the wall and squats across from me. He holds out a hand and offers it.
“Then, come with me.”
I don’t move from my position. I’m watching that hand like it's a deadly snake ready to strike.
I don’t know what to do.
“If you want to cry, you can, there’s no one here to judge you, you can let it all out. You can be strong in front of the others but you don’t have to be strong in front of me.”
I can’t cry. I just feel... empty.
There was nothing inside me, there was nothing more, I could give.
“It’s okay, Ginger.” It must have shown on my face because Thomas leans forward so we’re only inches apart and he’s looking at me so intensely, I feel a sob build at the back of my throat. “Just take my hand.”
Gently, so gently, his lips touch my forehead. “I’ll nurse you until you know how to love again.”
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Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to the final installment of the Unravel Series.
You guys have been waiting so long and I’m so grateful, thank you for being patient with me and allowing me to study for finals, I’ll have you know I did pretty well!
Because of all of your support, you guys have continued giving me the motivation to write about our two favorite characters and their vulnerableness to each other.
I hope you all are staying safe and enjoyed the updates -even though it was sad- I cannot begin to express how much I love you guys, thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.