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I sit in the car for quite a while, knowing that the moment I get out is the moment that IТll be admitting the truth. That Ryland is nothing but a ghost. A memory of Evan Ryan Wellings, the boy I lost a while ago and who I canТt let go. The boy I counted buttons with, who told me to be someone else, who I left to burn in this very cabin after he kept me sane all those years. IТm slowly remembering, yet forgetting at the same time, memories so distant, slipping away like pieces of sand in the wind.
ItТs not raining yet it feels like itТs raining as I get out of the car. Hours feel like they pass as I walk through the field toward the cabin I burned down so many years ago. And when I approach it, it somehow looks faded, more nonexistent, as if itТs just a shadow of a memory sitting out in the middle of nowhere hidden by the grass and the trees.
I enter without saying a word and walk around the place that used to be my solitude. I can remember now, how he kept us here, chained up in the basement below, hidden beneath the floorboards. Lily, Evan, and I, the things they did to us for years until Lily got a hold of a match, struck it, and the whole place started to burn.
УI was so happy when I first saw the fire,Ф Ryland says from behind me, close but so far away. УAll I could think was either I was going to get away or burn to death and I was happy with either way, because I knew IТd be free.Ф
I swallow the lump in my throat, staring at what was once the trap door that led to where he kept us hidden. УI let you burnЕ You told me to run and I didЕ I just left you.Ф
I donТt hear him step up, but I feel him right behind me, the coldness that brings me warmth. УThere was no way for you to get me out.Ф I swear I feel him touch me, trace a finger up my back, but it might just be me remembering another place and another time that doesnТt exist anymore, even though IТm trying to hold onto it. УI was locked up with chains. All you could do was run and get help.Ф
УIf I wouldnТt have tried to shoot him.Ф I struggle for air as I recollect pulling the trigger, missing the shot, the man coming at me, but Lily stepped in the way and took the gun from my hand. After that, there were only flames and the feeling of melting. УThen maybe I would have had enough time to get help before the place burnt down.Ф
УYou know thatТs not true,Ф he says. УYou knew the moment the place started on fire, that I wasnТt going to make it out.Ф
I shut my eyes, remembering how he kept Evan chained up, wanting nothing to do with him, but wanted everything to do with me and Lily. УIТm sorry.Ф
УYou donТt need to be sorry,Ф he says quietly. УWhatТs done is done. You need to stop blaming yourself and let me go.Ф
I shake my head. УI donТt want toЕ youТre the only person that makes me feel like everything is going to be okay when clearly itТs not.Ф
УEverything is going to be okay,Ф he promises as I open my eyes and face him. His hair is in his eyes that look brighter, not as sad as they usually do, like he can sense that heТs about to be free from the place. Free. УOnce you admit the truth, itТll all get better from there. You just need to accept what is.Ф
УI donТt even know what is or what was,Ф I say, reaching for him, wanting to touch him just one time. Just once.
УThatТs life Maddie,Ф he says, my hand moves toward him, so close, just a little more and I finally feel him. Just once. УNo one knows much of anything, whether they have amnesia or not. But they keep on living, just like you need to. It would be a tragedy if the fire ended up destroying all three of us.Ф
I stand on my tiptoes and lean in toward him, our lips so close. УAnd what about you?Ф My hand hovers right beside his cheek, a sliver of space between us, just another inch and IТll touch him.
УThatТs up to you,Ф he says, his eyes drifting to my mouth. УI already told you that as long as you wanted me here, IТd always be here.Ф
УBut you donТt want to be here?Ф
УI just want you to be happy. ThatТs all IТve ever wanted for you.Ф
I want to ask him what will make him happy, but I think I already know. Being trapped is something no one wants. IТm the thing keeping RylandЕ Evan a prisoner here, simply because IТm selfish. And itТs not Lily whoТs doing it. This is solely me. Maddie Asherford. IТm selfish and itТs time to stop.
УThank you for everything,Ф I say, tears stinging my eyes. УAnd IТm so sorry, for what happened to you.Ф Then before I can back out, I move my mouth toward his quickly, bringing my hand against his cheek. The contact sends a surge of heat through my body, so sweltering I feel like IТm back in the cabin again when it was on fire.
And then the heat goes coldЧI go cold. And I know heТs gone.
I stand there for a while, unmoving with my eyes shut, knowing the second I lift my eyelids, itТll all officially be over. ItТll all be gone. If I could, IТd probably stay that way forever, holding on for just another second, another moment, just one more. But eventually I have to move forward and open my eyes.
And when I do, IТm not standing in a cabin, just a field that once held one.
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