I held Porter that night as he cried. It was strange how we cried when we are told someone we know personally or cared about is dying and how we can speculate how someone we don’t know (like Alice or our favorite character on a TV show) is going to die with barely any emotion.
Even though her death probably wasn’t any time soon judging by the loudness he was still saddened that she was probably going to die before him and he knew it. I ran my fingers through his hair trying to calm him hoping his parents wouldn’t come in and ask what was wrong because I highly doubt they’d take anything I’d say seriously.
“Just because it’s louder doesn’t mean she can’t have a full life,” I murmur.
She could just die at seventy instead of the standard eighty years women normally live.
“You said you didn’t know if you could have saved your mother, I’m just thinking when the time comes I might not be around to save her either, and not necessarily in the sense that I won’t alive but that I’ll be busy or I’ll forget,” he replies quietly.
For the next three days, Porter attempts to avoid Hilana and talking to her. I don’t know if he’s trying to distance himself from her or what. But he tells me to text her back whenever she does and go to the door and tell her that’s he’s sick. It’s hard to look her in the face and lie for him when I know he’s hurting and probably needs her now more than ever. But I do lie for him, partially for my own sake because I don’t want to be thought of as crazy by Porter’s family and best friend.
On Christmas eve, the night we’re supposed to have dinner at Hilana’s, I manage to get Porter up.
“You’re wasting the time you do have left,” I exclaim. “I know it hurts, but you don’t want to feel you’ve wasted the time you do have, do you?”
“Dying is part of life Porter, we’re all going to die someday. What matters is how we live it. You weren’t willing to hide in the shadows about who you were or that you liked me, don’t hide from Hilana either. She cares about you and is worried,” I reason.
He sat on the edge of his bed looking up at me. His dark eyes reflecting the light in the room back out.
“I know,” he replies.
He comes but we hang in the living room where the piano is and where everyone else who was invited is. I avoid wearing my earplugs even though it’s a little loud I don’t want to seem rude or have to explain myself. I can see Hilana on the fringes watching us, I excuse myself and go to the washroom she grabs me and pulls me aside.
“Did I do something?” she asks. “Did I offend somebody?”
“No, he’s just going through a rough patch,” I explain without too much detail.
“Is he talking to you at least?” she asks.
I was pretty sure I was the reason he was in this boat in the first place.
“Yes, you should go talk to him, too, though. He needs you as much as he needs me,” I reply.
She glances over at Porter who is watching people go back and forth.
“Are you sure I won’t make it worse?” she asks.
That was a possibility but Porter had to talk and spend time with her or he’d regret it later for sure.
“I highly doubt it,” I reply sending her on her way.
I go to the bathroom and when I come back I’m pulled off by Porter’s mother to play the piano.
“Play for us,” she encourages.
I look around nervously, a little stage fright. I was hoping the songs wouldn’t mess up my playing. I was used to having very little noise, none or having earplugs, and a conductor to follow. I highly doubt they’d let me get away without playing tonight though.
I take a seat at the piano nervously and contemplate the song I’m going to play. I looked Porter’s way and he glances at me as Hilana is attempting to talk to him. He takes a sip from his coke. I started the rhythm to “Need You Now” by Plumb. More so for Hilana than God. The song crescendos and I play the chorus.
Oh, I walk, oh I walk through the shadows, and I, I am so afraid. Please stay, please stay right beside me, with every single step I take. How many times have you heard me cry out? And how many times have you given me strength?
Porter and Hilana come closer to the piano to listen. I see Porter’s dark eyes glisten on the verge of tears. After I’m done playing Porter drags me and Hilana outside away from all the action, it’s both a concerning action by him and a relief for my ears. Me playing was drawing a crowd and with it, songs and noise. We stand out on Hilana’s back deck in the cold. With our sweaters, it’s not that cold but Hilana is in a dress obviously not made for winter so Porter takes his sweater off and drapes it over her shoulders.
“Thanks,” she replies quietly.
He glances at her and steps away to lean over the railing of the deck. I don’t know if he wants to tell her. I don’t know if it will help or hinder her in the end either. Hilana struck me as a genuinely happy person, and telling someone they are going to die early was always hit or miss with their reaction. They were either devastated, (which was understandable), or my case, they thought you were crazy.
Porter might have been conflicted between warning her and keeping my secret so I didn’t seem crazy. How do you warn someone they’re going to die when you have no details?
Porter took a seat on the bench that ran around under the railing despite it being covered in snow. It didn’t seem to bother him or matter. He put his head in his hands. I didn’t know how to help him in this instance because I didn’t know what he wanted to do.
I wasn’t sure Hilana knew what to do either. She finally stepped closer to Porter and knelt down in front of him and touched his hand.
“What’s going on, Porter?” she asked honestly.
One of the hands covering his face moved to grasp her hand and so he could see her. He glanced up slowly to the house though, I don’t know if we had an audience or his parents were watching but he stood up still holding her hand.
“Let’s go somewhere else,” he replied.
I follow them looking back at the house to see if anyone is going to come out to ask where we’re going.
We start walking in the direction of Porter’s house, we arrive about fifteen minutes later and Porter unlocks the door and lets us into the warm air inside. Porter takes his sweater off of Hilana and hangs it on a hook, I remove mine as well.
We go up to his room and he moves around the air mattress that I haven’t used much in the past days to sleep on, to sit on his bed. Hilana stays standing.
He glances at me as if expecting me to object. I just shrug, I couldn’t let him not attempt to warn her. Even if we didn’t have any specific details.
“This is going to sound crazy,” he starts running his hand through his hair, clearly stressed. “But we swear it’s true.”
As true as my ears could hear and he wanted to believe. I was surprised he didn’t hate me after I told him.
“Okay,” Hilana replies waiting for him to continue.
“So, Ryker hears songs coming from people, everyone has two. A life song and a death song. The life song is the loudest at birth and will have a stabilized loudness until you reach about thirty, normally. After this, your death song gets increasingly louder. But if you are supposed to die earlier your death song will be loud before thirty,” he explains.
I lean against a wall looking at the floor. I’ve never had someone else attempt to explain my power to anyone else. Mainly, because they’ve never taken me seriously.
Hilana glances at me. I think she thinks that Porter’s death song is loud. It’s a good assumption but it is incorrect.
“Whose death song is loud? There would be no reason for you to tell me if someone’s death song wasn’t loud,” she asks.
I mean, I could have trusted Porter to trust her to think I wasn’t crazy.
“Yours,” Porter replies quietly resting his head against his clasped hands.
“Is there a prediction system? Do we know how much time I have?” she questions.
I shake my head, “I just know it’s louder than most people our age,” I answer quietly glancing up.
“So, average life for a normal person is what? Seventy-five? So, if it’s louder I could be dying like five years early?” she questions.
My mother’s death was unexpected and her death song just got louder leading up to the week of her death. I didn’t notice the growing sound until the day she died though. I also didn’t know what it meant then.
“My mother’s song got louder leading up to the week she died but I wasn’t keeping track of how loud it was or the speed it was rising because I didn’t know what it meant back then either,” I answer.
She didn’t know my mother was dead, but it was the only example I really had. It wasn’t like it wasn’t reliable either, I was with her for most of the days and the hours leading up to her death.
“Is there a reason or any scientific research done on this? Do we know anything about this?” she asks.
“I’ve been to doctors, they can’t explain it. I was actually medically diagnosed with a learning disability, but everyone pretty much thinks I’m crazy,” I attempt. “They know it’s not mental but they don’t have an explanation for it either.”
I’m scared that if she doesn’t believe me she’ll kick me out of Porter’s house and tell his parents to call the police that I’m a mad person running around convincing people they’re dying.
I hang my head in shame, awaiting my fate. Not everyone could be as nice as Porter or maybe some would consider him naïve. Falling in love and believing something like that. I sit down on the carpeted floor of his bedroom.
“Was that why you didn’t come out of the house for the past three days to see me?” she asked Porter.
I know this would be a pretty cruel joke to play on someone but people have beat me up for less all my life.
Hilana gets up and walks over to me.
“And this isn’t cruel manipulation by you?” she asks quietly.
“No,” I answer quietly my voice almost breaking.
Saying my mother was dead to convince her if she actually wasn’t would have been even sicker. But she was and I had to live with what I heard as she died every day. Survivor’s Guilt, kind of thing. Maybe I was slated to die that day too and missed the mark, I would never know because I couldn’t hear my own song.
She crouched down in front of me as if to examine me, as if she was an expert in lying and could pick out a liar in a crowd. I had no idea how truthful I sounded or looked after being told I was lying and crazy for the past seventeen years of my life.
“Have you ever warned anyone before? Has it changed anything?” she asked.
I shake my head, “No.”
“Up until I met Porter most people just thought I was crazy,” I murmur. “My parents, even after my mother died. All the kids at school, the teachers, the doctors, everyone. It was lonely.”
“I didn’t want to tell him but he insisted because he saw my reaction when I met you the day we got here,” I continue.
“So, what about him? Is he going to have a normal life span?” she asks.
I glance at Porter. He shrugs. She didn’t seem to be calling us crazy, yet.
“He has no songs, he’s silent,” I answer honestly.
“What does that mean?” she asks.
“Normally, I’d think I’m standing over someone who is already dead, but obviously he has a heartbeat and is alive so he’s an anomaly for me,” I reply.
“So, we don’t know when he’s going to die?” she replies.
“He can’t hear his own song either so we don’t know when he’s going to die either,” Porter adds.
“I think it would be scarier to walk the line every day not knowing if you’re going to die or not,” she answers quietly.
“Do you believe us?” Porter asks quietly.
She whips around and goes back to him.
“Why wouldn’t I?” she questions sitting next to him.
“There’s no proof,” I answer.
“I asked you if you were manipulating him, you said no, so I trust that you’re not,” she replies. “And I trust Porter that he trusts you. So, if you say it’s real, I’m inclined to believe you because of him.”
“Everyone else thinks I’m crazy, why wouldn’t you?” I counter, meeting her eyes.
“Porter doesn’t believe you're crazy,” she replies.
“He’s bias, he likes me, but almost everyone aside from him, my brother, and Mr. Yaw thinks I’m crazy, and it is insane,” I continue.
“But you’re the one experiencing it and who has to live with being an outcast every day. No one would do that willingly,” she insists.
“So, you believe me?” I repeat. For clarification.
“Yes,” she replies.
She gets up and comes back over to me, she offers me a hand up. I glance at it before taking it. She helps me up.
“Another thing I didn’t thank you for,” she starts. “Loving Porter despite everything he’s had to go through and is,” she hugs me.
I hug her back surprised looking over at Porter.
She lets me go, “We’re in this together now.”