Monthly Archives: September 2011

1.07 – Mistakes

A/N: In case the warning on the side bar isn’t enough, there will be adult content in this chapter.

Also, woah… this chapter was supposed to be out a week ago. Stupid Internet troubles. Sorry, guys!

I’ve been sleeping a lot lately. Dreamless. A welcome change from the nightmares, perhaps, but it has put me on edge. My sleep is restless, disturbed by twinges of pain. Phantom screams. I wake sometimes with the frantic urge to run, but my body is as heavy as lead. It doesn’t respond. All I can do is cry out and it brings them running, bleary-eyed and stumbling. I wake with tears hot on my cheeks, with the sheets soaked through with sweat. The nightmares have become invisible, evasive, and even I don’t know why I’m so afraid.

On nights like these, I beg them to let me die.

I went outside today, walking gingerly. Tentatively. My tomatoes had rotted on the vine and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. So much potential, withered away in its prime. I wish I could have saved them. The doctor says that, although any danger to my life has passed, I still have to be careful. Any strenuous activity could reopen my wound and I could bleed out, or get infected, or…

I’m getting ahead of myself again, aren’t I? I’m sorry; the pain and the sleepless nights are most vivid in my mind. The memories of what came before are hazy now at best, but I’ll try to make sense. You need to understand.

Let’s go back to where I left off.

***


Susie pulled on the shirt I had worn that day for our wedding, hugging the thin fabric around herself like a shield. Though it was warm, she was shivering violently. At a loss, I tugged on a spare t-shirt to buy myself some time, listening to Susie’s shuddering breaths as she tried to hold back sobs.

“Susie?” I ventured after a moment.

My hand reached out to touch her shoulder but she flinched away. I let it drop back to my side, heart sinking.

I flopped down on the bed beside her, not so close as to be able to touch her but close enough to lend what little support I could. Susie hugged her knees, her knuckles white where she had clenched her hands into fists.

“I was so stupid,” she whispered. The words seemed so fragile that they could break.

I turned my head so I could see her, but – though every part of me ached to do so – I didn’t reach out to touch her. Susie swallowed, psyching herself up to speak; I heard her take a steadying breath.

“My first boyfriend –” Susie broke off and laughed, a short humourless laugh. “My only boyfriend apart from you, Gabe. It wasn’t working. He didn’t treat me right, though it took me a, well, stupidly long time to realise it.”

“If he didn’t treat you right, he didn’t deserve you,” I said. The words sounded lame even as I said them, just a rather pathetic attempt to salve the wounds I didn’t yet know existed.

Susie shook her head, fiddling nervously with the top button of the shirt.

“I got him to meet with me, so I could break up with him. He told me – he told me that only he could decide when he was done with me.”

I moved and sat up, a knot in my stomach.

“What happened?” I asked, though I had the horrible feeling I already knew.

“He –” Susie broke off again, took a breath and then tried once more to speak. “He forced himself on me. Then… then, when he was done, he told me that now he was done with me.”

“He left me there, and I had – I had to make my own way home. M-my sister, Mia – she heard me crying in my room and that – that was the first time we’d properly bonded.”

Susie started to sob in earnest as her voice failed and died. Trembling more violently, she curled up on her side and hugged herself, trying desperately to hold herself together.

“Susie…”

I moved and rested my hand on her hip, stroking her side gently through the fabric of my shirt as she continued to cry. She didn’t, thankfully, flinch from my touch.

“And then – and then –” Susie pressed a hand over her mouth, putting a stop to the violent tumble of words. “I’m sorry, Gabe. I’m sorry I just – I can’t do this tonight.”

I had a feeling there was more that she wanted to tell me, that she was struggling to come to terms with, but I didn’t want to push her. Not tonight, when she was already so upset. Instead, I leant over and pressed a kiss to her hair, breathing in her clean, safe scent.

For a moment, I believed that everything would be okay.

“I’ll wait for you as long as it takes for you to be ready, Susie. Even if it takes years.” She peeked up at me from behind her arm, and I brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. “We can take this as slow as you want. Okay?”

Susie rolled over, winding her arms around one of mine as I shifted back on the bed. Her head rested against my chest as she pressed close to my side.

“I love you, Gabe,” she whispered tearfully. “Th-thank you for being so – so understanding.”

Her arms tightened almost uncomfortably around mine. I reached over to stroke her tense fingers.

“There’s nothing to thank me for.”

Susie sniffed, wiping her eyes on the back of her hand.

“I – I wish we’d met s-sooner. I wish – I wish -“

Her voice stuttered and died, and my hand tightened impulsively over hers.

“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said shakily. “I know that sounds really cheesy, but…”

I said nothing, just sat up and pulled Susie into a gentle kiss. As she wound her arms tightly around me, I felt hot tears sting my eyes and slide unhindered down my cheeks. I could see – could feel – Susie’s pain. I could feel her love and her trust for me.

I didn’t deserve to be the best thing in her life. Not whilst I was still lying to her.

After a moment, I pulled away. I shivered as her breath skimmed my lips.

“I have… I have something I need to tell you,” I murmured, though every part of me wanted to stay silent and keep gently kissing her.

“You can tell me anything,” Susie said softly.

I pulled away then, needing to focus. I didn’t know where to begin.

“My name,” I managed after a moment. “My name is Lucas Carter.”

Shock blossomed on Susie’s face, staining her cheeks a deep red.

“What? But -“

“Don’t. Let me finish or I’ll never say all this. Please.”

Though I could see that she was brimming with questions and perhaps a little anger, Susie fell silent.

“I’m Gabriel Nesaren now. Legally and everything.”

Elena Holmes, of Doo Peas, had inevitably discovered that I was lying about my name. Far from being angry or asking a lot of questions, Elena had helped me legally change my name, using the same contacts and channels she had used to help me adopt Jamie. A part of me wondered at her kindness, but another, more cynical part had the faint uneasy sensation of a noose being pulled forever tighter around my throat. Doo Peas owned me and, now I was married, the contract promising one of my children to them seemed ever more likely to be fulfilled.

“But, my name used to be Lucas Carter. I grew up in Bridgeport, like I told you before. My mother… she’s currently married to Matthew Hamming, if you can believe that.”

Susie’s eyes widened, but she didn’t speak.

“My father was heartbroken when she left, as you know. The orphanage, my friendship with Kami… all that is the truth.”

After a moment of silent, Susie cottoned on to where I was headed.

“And… the prostitution?” she said softly.

I looked away.

“That’s true, partly. I mean, I lived with a guy in return for sexual favours. We never actually had sex. I mean, he wanted to and… if I’d stayed any longer he’d have probably just taken what he wanted.”

“Oh, Gabe…”

Susie made as though to wrap her arms around me, but I shook my head. Having her sympathy right then, when she only knew half the truth, could shatter me.

“Please, don’t.” My voice was weak. “I can’t… I mean, I haven’t finished.”

Susie nodded, crossing her arms over her chest and watching me intently. I took a deep, shuddering breath.

“The guy… his name was -” I broke off, closing my eyes for a moment. This was the moment of truth, the moment that could make or break our relationship. The moment I had been dreading. “It was James Frank.”

Susie was silent. She moved and sat on the edge of the bed, pressing her hands shakily against her mouth as she put together all the things I’d left unsaid.

“You… you killed James Frank?”

I bowed my head, feeling as though a weight was crushing my chest. I couldn’t speak. I could barely even breathe.

Susie stood up, seemingly unable to decide between anger, sympathy and God knows how many other emotions swirling around in her head. After a moment of heavy silence, anger won.

“You mean to tell me you murdered him? And you didn’t think it a good idea to tell me before you married me?”

“I wanted to,” I told her, standing up myself. “Really, I did. B-but I didn’t want you lying for me. I didn’t want you to have that on your conscience too.” I paused to wipe my eyes on my hand, and then told her my real fear. “I didn’t want you going to the police.”

“Oh my God,” Susie moaned, holding her head in her hands. “I need to go to the police. I can’t just – I can’t just not tell them. B-but -” She broke off, and looked up at me, her expression frightened. “How could you kill someone?”

“I didn’t mean to, I swear. I just – I just pushed him away. And he fell down the stairs.” I shook my head, my voice pleading. “It was an accident, Susie. An accident.”

“Then why didn’t you just go to the police and tell them.” Susie was attempting to keep her voice strong, but it trembled. “Why did you just run away?”

“Do you really think anyone would have believed me? I was less than human in the city, and James Frank was… he was a celebrity. Even if the police believed it was an accident, the public would have been baying for my blood. You saw the papers, Susie. You saw what people were saying.”

Susie was silent again. I couldn’t even begin to tell what she was thinking.

“I just…” I swallowed. “I’d take it all back if I could, Susie. I’d have let him take what he wanted. I’d have stayed with him, and eventually he’d have got tired of me and moved on to some prettier, younger thing. Maybe he’d have let me stay and clean or, if he’d thrown me out, I could have – I could have done something.” I tried to keep control of my voice and, although the words were falling out faster than I could think, it remained miraculously steady. “Being free from him isn’t worth the nightmares. And – and it’s definitely not worth losing you.”

“G-get out,” Susie croaked, tears sliding unchecked down her cheeks. “Please. Just – just go.”

“Susie, I -“

“Leave me alone!”

I didn’t know what else to do. Talking would do no good, and begging, screaming or crying would probably just do even more damage. Perhaps Susie only needed some time to think about what I’d dumped on her that night, or perhaps she wanted me out of her life forever. At that moment, I didn’t know.

All I knew was that she wanted me gone and, loving her as I did, I couldn’t deny her that.

I pulled on some trousers and ran. I didn’t stop in the living room, even when Jamie appeared from his room and shouted after me. I didn’t stop in the garden. I kept running and running, heading to where the stars touched the horizon. I knew that, if I stopped, I would just break down and cry.

As I ran down the road, I heard Susie calling after me. But I didn’t stop, though I couldn’t make out the words. I didn’t even look back.

I just ran.

***

I stopped running when I reached the gazebo, out of breath and out of motivation to keep going. The wedding arch from earlier that day was still set up, but the flowers and leaves that had been so vibrant were drooping sadly now. It made my heart hurt to look at it. The happy memories from that afternoon seemed faded now, as though they had happened a lifetime ago.

Had I ruined my relationship with Susannah forever?

I turned away from the wedding arch and looked out over the town. The raw pain that had swamped me when I had begun to run had numbed now. I just felt cold, and that had more to do with the night breeze than with any emotion within me.

“Lucas… what are you doing here?”

My stomach turned over at the sound of Kami’s voice. This was exactly what I didn’t need.

“I’m just… thinking,” I mumbled, without turning around.

Kami came up beside me, quirking an eyebrow.

“On your wedding night?”

“… Yes.”

Kami jumped down off the steps.

“You don’t want to talk to me, I get it.”

When I didn’t reply, Kami turned and faced me.

“But you at least need somewhere to stay that’s out of the cold. There’s a spare room in my house that you could use until whenever your tiff with your wife has ended.” I opened my mouth to protest, but Kami cut across me. “And don’t try to say you’re not having a tiff, Lucas. No self-respecting man would be out here alone on their wedding night if nothing had happened.”

I felt uncomfortable accepting Kami’s offer of shelter, but where else did I have to go? If I’m entirely truthful, there was a part of me that was just waiting for Seeley Moss to descend on me like a vengeful tornado.

“All right,” I said reluctantly after a moment. “Just for one night, though. I’ll go home and try and patch things up in the morning.”

I knew that, the longer I left it, the more likely it was that Susie would never forgive me. And what would I do then?

Kami lived with her coworker in a modest detached house in the middle of the town. It was definitely a step up from when she had been living with me and I knew, once again, that our separation had been for the best.

We had walked in silence here from the gazebo, both of us wrapped in our own thoughts. I was dwelling on Susie, trying to compose an apology (or at least some sort of grovelling) in my mind. I don’t know what Kami was thinking, but, as she unlocked the front door, I couldn’t help but feel a tingling unease.

What if Kami was so angry and hurt by my rejection of her that she decided to trap me in her house forever? Or killed me and buried my body under the floorboards? Or did that sort of thing only happen in horror films?

My fears seemed largely unfounded, however. Kami led me up to the spare bedroom and then left me alone to stew in my own misery. She seemed to have realised that I was in no mood for talking and had decided the best thing to do was to leave me be.

Of course, once she had gone, I felt incredibly lonely and wanted nothing more than someone to talk to. I wanted Jamie. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but I knew that I’d been waiting for Jamie at the gazebo. I’d been waiting to him to come and persuade me to come back, to reassure me that Susie just needed to think things through. I shouldn’t rely on him like that so much – what kind of father was I that I expected him to come and make everything right again? When he was still obviously hurting over Jenna?

But even so, I needed him.

I don’t know how long I sat there, staring into space. I didn’t cry; right then, I was past tears. The numbness from earlier had returned with a vengeance.

I thought I would feel relieved and perhaps a little healed once I’d told Susie the truth, but I felt nothing. Empty. The secret I’d been guarding for so long had become such a part of me that it had left a gaping hole in my chest. Though maybe it was the potential loss of Susie that had me feeling so… so apathetic. I don’t really know how I’d been expecting her to react. Perhaps stupidly, naively, I’d been hoping she would say that she understood. That it didn’t matter.

But of course it mattered. You can’t just shrug off something like murder.

***

A knock at the door dragged me out of my depressed wallowing enough that I looked up. Though I wanted to continue licking my wounds in peace, I tried to shake myself into a more sociable mood. A distraction would be good, particularly as my thoughts were spiralling darker and darker.

“Come in,” I called. My voice sounded weak and pathetic and, at that moment, I hated myself.

Be a man, Gabe. Deal with this. Hasn’t life taught you anything?

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been shocked or surprised when the door opened to reveal Kami, clad only in a bathroom towel.

But I was very surprised.

Awkwardly, I looked away.

“Uh, Kami… hi.” My voice was hard to hear over the pounding of my heart against my ribcage. “Look, I’m flattered, but… this really isn’t why I came here. I just… I want to be left alone.”

When I chanced a glance back at her, she was smiling slightly.

“You’ve always been rather clueless, Lucas. You know I want you and, judging from that bulge in your trousers, you want me too.”

I felt heat flood my face, feeling angry at myself for my body’s reaction to her presence. Her practically naked presence.

“I think I should just leave,” I said firmly, trying to move past her to the door.

She blocked my path and I stopped dead, startled.

“Come on, Lucas… don’t be like this,” she said softly, her voice practically a purr. “Your wife doesn’t have to know.”

As she leant close to me, taking my hand with her own, I caught a hint of the alcohol on her breath.

I pulled away from her, holding my hands up as a flimsy shield between us.

“Jeez, Kami, you’ve been drinking. You’re not yourself. And even if you hadn’t been drinking, I’m not going to sleep with you!”

“I haven’t drunk that much,” she protested, her chin jerking up stubbornly. “You try and watch the man you love get married to another woman, then see if you don’t drink.”

“I have a wife. I’m not going to betray her.”

Kami’s eyes flashed.

“A wife that kicked you out on your wedding night? What kind of a bitch does that?”

A pulse of anger shot through me then, hot and red.

“Don’t talk about Susie like that. I deserve everything she’s said to me tonight – she’s not the one to blame here.”

“You’re so frustrating, Lucas! Why can’t you just forget her for one night?”

“Because I love her! Because I love her and she hates me!”

Even now, I’m not sure how it happened. Kami’s lips were suddenly crashing against mine, her hands at my waist. Her body was crushing desperately against mine. The taste of alcohol on her lips only served to heighten the danger of the kiss.

And I kissed her back.

All my pain and anger and hatred of myself was suddenly channeled into kissing Kami, into losing myself in her touch and forgetting everything else. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t want to dwell.

I wanted oblivion and Kami was my ticket.

Of course, the more sensible side of me rebelled at this sudden reckless abandon. Guilt made me pull back and turn away, but Kami wrapped her arms around me from behind, pressing up against me.

“See?” she murmured, trailing hot kisses down the side of my neck. “You do want me.”

“I can’t do this,” I whispered. “Susie…”

But then Kami’s hand slid down into my trousers and wrapped around me, and my wife’s name died on my lips.

After that, my mind shut off.

I wanted Kami, I really did, but I wasn’t engaged. To start with, it was like I was with James Frank back in his apartment, switching off whilst he made use of me. It was almost like I was watching us from above, like I wasn’t really part of what was happening.

For a little while, at least.

Soon, all the emotions I’d been feeling earlier that evening came rushing back, like colour pouring into a previously grey world. It was as though Kami had flipped a switch in me.

I pushed her over onto her back, moving above her and staring down at her face, breathing hard. She looked back at me, her gaze calm, and my last resolve snapped. I kissed her then, roughly. There was anger in that kiss, boiling rage and hatred and pain. I hated Kami. I hated Susie. But most of all right then, I hated myself. The kiss was tainted with salt from tears I hadn’t even noticed, but Kami didn’t care. Instead, she tangled her fingers tightly in my hair and kissed me back with equal vigour.

Soon, I had nothing to think about but gasping breaths, tangled bodies and rushing pleasure.

I had found my oblivion.

***

Afterwards, Kami retrieved some pyjamas from under one of the pillows (she had evidentally been prepared) and slipped them on, sliding out of bed.

At the door, she turned and looked back at me, a satisfied smile playing around her lips.

“I’ll go make some coffee or something, okay? Stay here.”

Oblivion had long since passed.

I felt sick, dirty and ashamed of myself. Any chance of Susie forgiving me felt like it had slid out of reach. How could she forgive me now, after I had cheated on her? On our wedding night, no less. No amount of anger or hurt or anything could excuse me, and I knew it. I had wanted to forget, but all I had done was make things worse.

But I knew one thing for certain. This time, this time I wasn’t going to lie to her. I was going to go straight back home and tell her the truth. I was going to home and beg her to forgive me, beg her to let us start again.

And if she wanted to call the police or – worse – her father, I was going to let her.

No more running away.

It was with that thought that I tugged my clothes on and sneaked quietly out of Kami’s house. The cold night air washed over me as I walked quickly through the streets and on the path towards home, sobering me up from the intoxicating depression I had been under. Knowing that I was about to do the right thing, after months of doing the wrong thing, had filled me with a new sense of purpose. Even though I could lose everything, I knew that telling the truth was what I had to do.

As I walked up the hill towards my house, my pace quickened. My heart was beating fast. I felt as though I was teetering on the brink and, after tonight, my life would change one way or another. Susie would either be willing to forgive me (though I admit it would take her some time) or she wouldn’t. I would either keep her or lose her forever. I deserved the latter, but hoped, wished, prayed for the former.

I noticed the lights on in the living area and gritted my teeth, steeling myself for the conversation I knew would come. I hoped that Jamie would let me be alone with Susie for a while. I couldn’t bear for them both to turn against me at the exact same moment.

Determined, I started across the lawn towards the house.

It was then that the gunshots shattered the silence of the night.

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No Internet! =[

Hi, guys!

Just to let you know, we have no Internet in the new house yet, so I’ll be MIA for a while until we get the landlord to fix it. I hope to be back online soon!! I’m working on a chapter for Splintered Sun in Microsoft Word, so hopefully as soon as I get Internet back I’ll be able to post that up. :) Thanks for your patience!

Emy xxx

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Help me decide! D:

Edit: I won’t really put a story on ‘hiatus’, per se. It’ll be more like… one will be updated a bit more often than the other and neither of them will be updated like, every week or something. Just to make things clearer. I can’t give up on either of my stories! D: /panic

Hey, guys!

Well, I’m off back to university in two days (aaaarghhh D: ) and I find myself with a bit of a dilemma. This is my last year on my course, and I’m aiming for a First, so I actually have quite a bit of work ahead of me if I want to actually get that. In an ideal world, I’d be able to do all my work AND update my blogs regularly, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen.

So I thought I’d put up a poll to see what you guys would prefer I do. Do I continue to update my blogs, but a lot less regularly, or do I… well. You’ll see the poll. :)

 

Don’t worry, whatever I end up doing, when I finish university all blogs will start being updated again more regularly! Including the Lancasters, which have been sadly neglected for a while. XD

Thanks, guys!!

Emy xxx

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1.06 – Until Death Do Us Part

A/N: This post contains mild horror and brief nudity/adult scenes.

I’m sorry. It’s been a while since I’ve written in here, hasn’t it? Weeks, in fact. I just got so busy with the wedding and all, and then… everything else that happened after that. It’s only now that I’ve had the strength and presence of mind to pick up a pen.

But… I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? I should start where I left off.

Susie’s parents appeared outside our house early one morning, about a week after we sent out the invitations to our wedding.

Well… technically they appeared inside our house. Susie’s father, Seeley (though I’m not particularly comfortable calling him that), was too impatient to wait for one of us to answer the door, so… he picked the lock. I had the fright of my life when I came out of the bedroom to find the two of them standing there, looking around with a mixture of curiosity and ill-disguised disappointment. Susie’s mother, Molly, apologised discreetly (once I’d calmed down enough to listen to her) for her husband’s lock-picking, explaining that he was a little stubborn and tended to get over-excited.

“I heard that,” Mr Moss grumbled, but he gave his wife a tender smile.

Looking at them together, I wondered if I was peering into my future.

For once, I was not afraid.

Now that the introductions were over with, I felt like some kind of animal locked up in a zoo. Mr and Mrs Moss looked me up and down, and I had the unnerving feeling that Mr Moss was trying to decide the best way in which to gut me. I suddenly wished that I hadn’t put on my hat that morning – I probably looked like a shady lowlife, or something.

I wondered if I could excuse myself long enough to take off the hat and brush my hair into some sort of order, but then they would know that was exactly what I was doing. Besides, they’d already seen me in the hat and it might have looked kind of strange if I came out suddenly not wearing it.

Maybe it wasn’t even the hat they disapproved of, but my clothes. Or my hair. Maybe I should have dyed my hair black or brown or even red.

Maybe they just didn’t like my face. Should I have worn a mask?

Thankfully, I didn’t have to squirm uncomfortably for too long, as Susie appeared from the bedroom and drew her parents’ attention away from me.

For a moment.

As Mrs Moss pulled her daughter into a tight hug, Mr Moss turned his sharp gaze back to me.

“So, what do you do for a living?”

For a long moment, I forgot how to talk as I quailed under his appraisal. Finding my voice after a brief struggle, I managed to stutter out, “I – I’m a farmer.”

Mr Moss raised a single eyebrow as he looked me over again.

“You don’t look much like a farmer.”

“Well, I… uh… I haven’t sold anything yet…”

As soon as the words had left my mouth, I could have kicked myself. Like selling vegetables had anything to do with looking like a farmer. I sounded so stupid.

Plus, I’d just admitted to my future father-in-law what a failure I was.

“Daddy,” Susie admonished. “Stop interrogating the poor guy – he’s not a criminal or anything, and I’m not one of your clients. So behave.”

I looked away at her words, but didn’t speak. Though I was looking intently at the floorboards, I could feel the searching gaze of Seeley Moss burn into me, like the laser on a sniper’s gun.

Could he see my guilt?

The moment passed as Jamie unwittingly ventured out of his room, diverting Mr Moss’s attention away from me. Mrs Moss, seeing him and (presumably) how skinny he was, gathered him into a tight embrace.

“Oh, you poor boy,” she said loudly. “You need feeding up.”

“Um…” Jamie awkwardly hugged her back. “It’s nice to meet you too?”

Everyone laughed, except me.

I was still feeling highly awkward and uncomfortable. Even my ‘preparations’ with Jamie had nowhere near made me feel ready to meet Susie’s parents, as nice as they seemed. This whole situation was far, far out of my comfort range.

“Er, would any of you like something to eat or drink?” I asked hesitantly. “Mr Moss? Mrs Moss?”

“Actually,” Mr Moss said, his attention turning back to me. “Actually, I’d like to hear more about you, Gabriel.”

“Er…”

“You can save that gormless expression for the really tough questions.” A smile flickered across his face. “Now, tell me about your family. I want to know how I should greet them.”

This time, it was Mrs Moss (rather than Susie) who stepped in to rescue me.

“Seeley, we’ve only been here five minutes. You can save the interrogation for later.”

“But, Molly…”

“I mean it, Seeley.”

At Susie’s suggestion, we sat in a half-circle. Jamie and I rescued dining chairs from the table in order to have somewhere to sit, whilst Mr and Mrs Moss perched nervously on the battered sofa. In response to Mr Moss’s earlier question (at a loss as to what else to talk about), I told Mr and Mrs Moss of my childhood in the orphanage and my dead father, saying merely that my mother had left. I felt no need to reveal her identity as the current wife of a certain Matthew Hamming. After all, I didn’t need the rest of my past dredged up.

After finding out I was basically an orphan, Mrs Moss’s attitude towards me seemed to soften a little. As for Mr Moss, his expression was indecipherable, but he seemed to decide against questioning me more. Perhaps only because of the Look (capital ‘l’ and all) his wife gave him, but I wasn’t complaining.

Mr Moss had an intense gaze, as though he could look at you and read your innermost secrets, the ones that were seared into your very soul. I know that was impossible (at least, I hoped it was), but I was still unnerved every time he looked at me.

What if he looked at me and saw me for what I was?

What if he knew what I had done?

Looking at Mrs Moss, I could tell where Susie had got her beauty from. She took after her mother a lot more than she took after her father, though she had not inherited Mrs Moss’s fiery red hair. I wondered briefly if it would pass down to any of our children.

If we had any children, that is.

I must have been staring at Mrs Moss for longer than I meant to, as she suddenly turned to look at me.

“Tell me something, Gabriel. I’ve been wondering… why don’t you own an oven?”

I blinked in surprise, but swallowed the first answer that came to my mind. For some reason, I didn’t think that Mrs Moss would appreciate being told the oven would explode and kill us all.

“Um, I… I didn’t think we needed one.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You need to get some hot meals into you. No wonder you and Jamie look like you’re wasting away.”

I held my hands up in surrender.

“Um… I’m sorry?”

“I’ll tell you what,” Mrs Moss said, suddenly smiling. “We’ll get you an oven as a wedding gift. That’ll kill two birds with one stone.”

“That’d be great,” I said, trying to smile and look enthusiastic, but inside I was screaming.

Didn’t she know how dangerous ovens were?!

But… Mrs Moss was true to her word, and the very next day a brand new oven was delivered to the door. I watched as the men set it up, feeling uneasy, but trying to tell myself to look on the bright side. At least this oven was new and shiny and white, not the horrifying rusty monstrosity that had been here when I moved in.

Besides, I had other things to worry about. The wedding was creeping up fast and, with every day that went by, I felt less and less ready.

***

James Frank.

James Frank was here, in my house.

James Frank was here, in the place I had felt safe and free from his toxic influence.

“Good evening, Lucas.”

“You’re not real,” I whispered, though the words died as they left my lips. “You’re dead.”

James Frank smiled and I took a stumbling step back. Icy fog had begun to rise, swirling around James Frank’s feet and clinging to my bare legs. I shivered and hugged myself, as though my bare arms could offer me protection.

“There’s no such thing as ghosts,” I told myself in what I hoped was a strong voice, feeling cold sweat slipping down the back of my neck. “This is just a dream. He can’t hurt you.”

James Frank began to moan and snarl, as though he was a beast in pain. His body flickered a few times, disappearing and appearing in rapid succession. I watched in a kind of rapt horror as he clutched at his head, grappling with it as it bent backwards until the bones in his neck cracked and screamed.

“Let me go,” he snarled, though there was no one else in the room. “Let me go, damn you!”

I watched, my heart pounding hard against my ribcage, as James Frank began to moan again.

“Look what you’ve done to me, Lucas.” Every word was spat out with considerable effort. “The pain I’m in…”

“I’m sorry, I -“

To my surprise, James Frank began to laugh. It wasn’t laughter brought forth by humour, laughter that could have lit up the room and chased away the fog. It was mad, bubbling laughter that spilled out of him as his body shook and his fingers contorted in agony.

He started to moan again, and then wrenched his head forward. My stomach turned over at the loud crack that resonated through the room. I wanted to run, but my feet seemed frozen to the floorboards.

Look at me.”

And then James Frank looked up.

His eyes were dripping with blood.

My feet were frozen no longer. Screaming in terror, I turned to run, scrabbling at the door handle. It wouldn’t turn, the door wouldn’t budge and, and –

Abandoning my efforts, I started to bang on the bedroom door, screaming for Susie to help me, to let me in. Screaming for anyone to help me.

But no one could hear.

James Frank was coming.

All of the air rushed out of me as he slammed me back against the door, gripping one of my wrists hard enough to hurt. His touch was ice cold. I tried to pull away, but he held me easily, brushing his thumb along my jawline.

“I’m going to destroy you, little Lucas,” he murmured, his voice the coaxing gentle tone he had often used when he spoke to me. “Just you wait and see.”

“You can’t hurt me,” I whispered, though I could barely hear myself over the hammering in my chest. “This is just a nightmare.”

James Frank’s eyes glittered.

“Believe what you wish.”

“Fuck you,” I said with false bravado. The tremor in my voice betrayed me.

James Frank smiled and then, slowly, his lips pressed against mine in a frozen, strangely tender kiss. My body wouldn’t respond to my attempts to turn my face away and all I could do was close my eyes as he forced his tongue into my mouth.

And then, suddenly, he was gone.

I slumped to the floor, trembling. My limbs could no longer hold my weight.

I will destroy you.

The fog clung to me like a second skin, coating me in a thin sheen of moisture. My teeth chattered in my skull, but I couldn’t bring myself to move as James Frank’s words and voice echoed around the empty room.

I will destroy you and all you hold dear.

Little Lucas.

***

Waking suddenly, I stumbled out of bed and onto all fours, vomiting violently onto the floor. Bile burned my throat and frightened, frustrated tears stung my eyes.

When my stomach was empty, I stayed where I was, breathing heavily. My shirt was soaked through with sweat and every inch of my body shook as the nightmare started to drain away in the brightness of my bedroom. I half-expected Susie to wake up and ask me what was wrong, but then I remembered she was gone. She had decided to stay in the house her parents had rented in town.

It was the night before our wedding.

I sagged on the floor, my heart constricting in my chest as I thought of the celebrations that were to happen the next day. I still hadn’t told Susie the truth of what had happened with James Frank. Was that the meaning of the dream? My guilt at not telling her?

I felt sick and shaky and, although I tried, I couldn’t ignore the stale, bitter smell of vomit.

I couldn’t do this any more.

Getting shakily, weakly to my feet, I pulled on my clothes and ran.

***

I got as far as Lost Willow Park before I stopped running. My lungs burned as I struggled to breathe, gulping in air that felt as if it was on fire. I collapsed on the ground by the pond, breathless sobs tumbling from my body. Everything ached, but even the tightness of my chest was nothing compared to the sickness in my heart.

I didn’t deserve Susie. Who was I kidding? She would be much better off with someone like that Isaac Dream than someone like me. She would be much better off with someone whose entire existence wasn’t a lie.

“I thought I’d find you here.”

I hadn’t even heard Jamie approach, but he was here now, bathed in the half light of the breaking dawn. Burying my face further in my arm, I shook my head.

“I’m not coming back. I’m going away.”

“Gabriel -“

“My name is not Gabriel!”

The words were harsh, raw, tearing themselves from my throat and fueled by fear and anger. Fresh tears, hot like pain, splashed their way down my cheeks and I rubbed my face frustratedly on my sleeve.

“I just, I can’t -” I shook my head again, choking on another sob. “I can’t do this any more, Jamie. I can’t.”

Jamie was silent for a long time after my outburst and I wondered if I’d hurt his feelings. The thought made me cry even more. The dream of James Frank had shaken me to my core and, finding myself unable to take the hit, I had crumbled.

Just like he would have wanted.

“You don’t mean that,” Jamie said eventually, though his wavering voice made the statement sound more like a question. “You can’t leave. I need you.”

The words were like a slap in the face. Not trusting myself to speak, I took a deep, shuddering breath and tried to calm down. Jamie was right. I was being pathetic.

Frustrated at myself, I wiped my eyes on my sleeve again and stumbled weakly to my feet. Jamie rushed forward to grab my arm, clearly worried that I was either going to pass out or bolt again.

“Come and sit down, Gabe,” he said gently. “It will be okay.”

Still gripping me by the arm, Jamie led me over to the bench to sit down. I didn’t resist.

“Did you have another nightmare?” he asked as he sat down beside me. His voice was cautious, as though he was worried a single word might set me off running again. “Is that what this is about?”

I nodded, but didn’t speak.

“You know you need to tell her, right?” He looked at me, his eyes anxious. “I mean, it’s a miracle she hasn’t found out before now. You talk a lot in your sleep, you know.”

In the cool night air, sitting beside Jamie, my nightmare seemed silly. I began to feel braver again.

“Susie keeps the nightmares away,” I mumbled, kneading at my sore eyes with my knuckles. “I don’t dream when she’s there.”

“You’re marrying her,” Jamie said, rather bluntly. “It’s only a matter of time before she finds out, and it’d be a lot better if she heard it when you’re awake enough to explain yourself.”

“If she doesn’t know, she doesn’t have to lie for me,” I told him, using the excuse I had used on myself so many times before. “If the police come for me, she won’t have to hide me. She won’t get in trouble.”

Thought it had worked many times to soothe my own guilty conscience in the dark of the night, Jamie wasn’t convinced.

“That may be true, Gabe… but it would destroy your relationship. You need to let her make her own choice whether to stick by your side or not.”

Not for the first time, I was struck by the remarkable maturity Jamie showed in a crisis. He was one of those people who always seemed to know the right thing to say, whether you wanted to hear it or not.

“Maybe I should call off the wedding. I can’t… I can’t tell her the truth before then. There’s no time, and – and I don’t know.” I groaned and buried my face in my hands. “She’s going to hate me for lying to her.”

“You can’t call off the wedding. Do you know how much that would hurt her? Mr Moss would hunt you down and rip off your testicles.”

Despite everything, I smiled weakly.

“Thank you for that lovely mental image, Jamie.”

“I’m serious!”

I looked away, thinking. After a moment, I came to a decision, though my stomach churned at the thought.

“I’ll tell her the first opportunity I get. I mean, if we’re married… I have to be honest with her. I can’t hide who I am any more.”

“And… if she hates you?”

I swallowed and closed my eyes.

“If she hates me, well… I deserve it. And if she wants to turn me into the police, that’s her decision.”

Even as I said it a cold thrill of fear ran through me. Jamie must have noticed because he reached over and took my hand.

“No matter what happens, you’ll still have me. You know that, right?”

“I know,” I said softly, knowing that I didn’t deserve him. “Thanks, Jamie.”

Jamie looked at me and grinned.

“Now come on, let’s go back. We have a wedding to get ready for.”

***

By the time Susie and I were to get married, I was feeling a lot better. In the light of the day, I had almost forgotten about my nightmare and, with the promise I had made myself about telling Susie the truth, the guilt I felt had somewhat alleviated.

I was still nervous about saying my vows right and promising forever to Susie, but I knew I loved her. That was all that mattered.

We had decided to get married at the gazebo, the place where we had first met. It held special significance for both of us.

As well as Susie’s parents and her bandmates, her sister, Mia, and her brother, Jake, had managed to make it to the wedding. Mia, though she was finishing up a tough term in medical school, had informed Susie over the phone that she wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Jamie (my best man, of course) had begged to be allowed to invite Jenna, the object of his affections. He was so nervous when he asked me if she could come that it took him almost five minutes to get the words out. I don’t even know why he thought I would say no. As far as I was concerned, the more the merrier.

But we did have one uninvited guest, in the form of Kami Starr. Though she was my best friend throughout my teenage years, after the incident preceding her leaving my house, I had decided it would be best to not invite her. To save her feelings more than anything else.

Seeing her there, standing in the crowd at my wedding, conjured up all sorts of emotions in me. Her outfit, too, drew my eye, though I’m ashamed to admit it. It seemed as though it would simply fall off if you tugged at the sash around her waist.

That, and the lacy garter high up on her thigh made it clear that her motives were anything other than wishing us well.

Catching me looking at her, Kami caught my gaze and smiled, but I looked resolutely away instead of smiling back. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was responding to her seductive overtures, though there was one part of my anatomy that definitely wanted to.

Kami Starr had always and always would have that effect on me, no matter how much I loved Susannah Moss. And Kami knew that.

When I next chanced a glance her way, Kami had gone. I breathed a sigh of relief, though there was a faint twinge of sadness in my chest at the pain she must have been feeling right then.

I turned my attention back to the beautiful woman standing beside me and all thoughts of Kami Starr and her lacey garter fled from my head.

“You look amazing,” I whispered, so that no one else could hear me. “I didn’t think it was possible for you to get more stunning, but it’s happened.”

Susie flushed a deep red.

“Thank you,” she whispered, equally quiet. She tilted her head. “Are you ready?”

Looking at her, I knew that this was what I wanted. She was what I wanted, for far longer than forever.

“Always,” I murmured, and Susie smiled.

“Susannah Moss,” I said, my voice loud enough now for everyone to hear. “From the moment I met you I knew that you were special. You were the first person in this town to really give me the time of day, even if it was only because you’d lost your handbag.” A ripple of laughter went through the watching crowd, and I flushed. “What I mean to say is, well… Susie, I didn’t think I’d ever want to get married. But you’ve changed my mind and now I can’t think of anything better than the prospect of spending forever with you.”

“I love you, Susannah Moss.”

“I love you too, Gabriel Nesaren.”

“You’re the strangest man I’ve ever met, and that’s including my father.” Mr Moss laughed louder than anyone else. “You tried to help me that first day we met even though you had no idea what you were doing and, after a time, I decided that I would rather eat salads forever than be without you, though I think my mother would disapprove.”

There was yet another ripple of laughter at that, and Mrs Moss said, “Damn right, I would.”

It was to the sound of cheerful laughter that we officially became Mr and Mrs Gabriel Nesaren.

At that moment, there was nowhere I would rather be.

From the amount of rice that was thrown, I believe that we had gained everyone’s blessing. Either that or it was being hinted (again) that we needed to eat more hot meals.

But I like to think it was the former.

“I can’t believe we’re married!” Susie gasped when people had stopped showering us with rice. She grinned, admiring the ring that sparkled on her finger. “Can you, Gabe?”

“You know what married couples are allowed to do?” I said, smirking.

“Don’t you even think about it.”

“Stop! Stop it, you horrible man!” Susie laughed despite her words. “Stop or I’ll set my father on you!”

I broke away, laughing, even as Susie batted me away with her hand.

“All right, all right, I’ll stop! Help, Jamie, save me!”

“Oh, no,” Susie laughed. “No calling for back up. You got yourself into this mess, you can get yourself out.”

For future reference, sweeping your bride off her feet and kissing her is a good way of getting out of the metaphorical doghouse.

***

Whilst everyone else was talking and laughing and generally partying, I was taken aside by a rather grim-looking Mr Moss. My heart raced as he looked me up and down, and I wondered what he could have possibly found out about me that had him looking so grave.

“I just wanted to welcome you to the family, son.”

Wait, what?

“Um, thank you, Mr Moss.”

“Don’t thank me yet.” Mr Moss’s expression was serious. “I just wanted to warn you, Gabriel, that if you harm one hair on my little girl’s head, I will hunt you down.”

“Er…”

“Trust me, by the time I’m finished with you, Vincent Valentine Mason will look like a harmless puppy. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir. Perfectly clear.”

Mr Seeley Moss flashed me a grin.

“Then let’s get back to the party.”

***

Chronologically (though there’s one more event I would like to document that occured during our wedding party), it is only fitting that the copies of the wedding photos I printed out for this journal go here.

Susannah, my beautiful bride. I love this photo the most out of all the ones we took that day. She looks so happy and carefree, as though nothing in the world could bring her mood down.

It makes my heart swell with happiness just to look at it.

This is another one of my favourites. We look as though we don’t have a care in the world and, at that moment, it was probably true.

Yes, that is a look of terror on Susie’s face. I think that she was worried I would drop her. In fact, I kind of did the moment after this picture was taken. I picked her back up again though and, from the way she was laughing, I think she forgave me.

Me and my best man. We clean up rather well, don’t we?

Our little family. Susie was rather embarrassed whilst we were taking this photo. I think it shows on her face.

I must admit, I prefer this photo of our family. I love seeing them both smiling like that.

Susie and her parents. She really does take after them, doesn’t she?

Susie and her siblings. This photo is Susie’s favourite, I think. She printed out a small copy to stick in her purse.

Jamie and Jenna. Jamie looks so nervous in this one, doesn’t he? I know for a fact that he keeps a copy of this photo under his pillow. I think it’s adorable, but don’t tell him I said that.

Susie and her band, Sienna Dreams. They used this as a promotional image on the website Isaac set up for them.

Of course, what are wedding photos without a picture of the entire wedding party? If you hadn’t noticed by now, we went with a green theme. Susie mentioned something about green being a rather important colour in her family and, well, who am I to argue with tradition?

***

Now that the wedding photos are finished with, I said there was one more event that I wanted to write about that happened that day. Once again, Jamie, you probably shouldn’t be reading my diary if you come across things you’d rather not read about yourself.

As it happened, Jamie decided to use our wedding day as an opportunity to confess his feelings to Jenna. I had to hand it to him. A wedding was as perfect a romantic setting as you were going to get, short of a sunset on a sandy beach somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, being preoccupied with a rather drunk Sugar, I couldn’t hear everything that they were saying.

I must admit, however, that I was surprised when Jamie produced a bouquet of yellow roses from behind his back and offered them to Jenna. Her gasp of shock was audible to everyone, but we all hurriedly pretended to be deep in conversation. Whilst we were pretending not to listen, Jenna hesitantly took the flowers and Jamie turned a brilliant shade of red.

Again, I couldn’t hear the words that were exchanged between them, but Jamie told me afterwards that he had then taken Jenna by the hands and asked her to be his girlfriend.

When she didn’t reply, Jamie said (shame-faced) that he had assumed a positive response and moved to kiss her. He told me that she had even responded for a few blissful moments, before…

Well, what happened next was witnessed by everyone.

Jenna shoved Jamie back away from her with all her might. He stumbled back a few paces, but, luckily for his dignity, remained standing.

“I just can’t do this!” Jenna burst out, her voice threatening tears.

With that, she turned and fled, looking back only once.

Jamie was heartbroken, and remained inconsolable for the rest of the afternoon.

Even Isaac taking a guitar and jokingly serenading him conjured nothing more than a weak smile. Isaac had refused to give up, however, and, by the time evening fell, Jamie was more or less the boy we all knew and loved. Obviously, he was still hurting, but Isaac had helped him take his mind of it, at least for a little while.

My respect for him rose greatly that day.

***

Though it was slightly tainted by Jamie’s rejection, the fact remained that the day was the most amazing of my life.

At least, until night fell.

***

To begin with, the evening looked like it was going to be even better than the day that had passed before it. Jamie, understanding that Susie and I needed some alone time, had shut himself in his room with the headphones of his mp3 player (Mr and Mrs Moss had insisted on spoiling him, much to his embarrassment) firmly in place.

I had gone to the bathroom to freshen up a little and, when I got back, Susie was lying on the bed wearing the sexiest underwear I had ever seen. I couldn’t help but wonder if she had been wearing it under her wedding dress and my boxers became a little, er, tight, if you know what I mean.

Susie smiled up at me.

“Are you just going to stand there staring at me, husband?”

I blinked, suddenly realising that I hadn’t moved.

“Um, no… sorry.” I swallowed, attempting to recall moisture into my suddenly dry mouth. “It’s just, you look… wow.”

I moved and sat down on the bed, leaning back against the headstand. Breath left me in a rush as the cold metal pressed into the skin of my back, but I soon forgot all about it as Susie moved and straddled my lap. Warmth pooled irresistably between my legs and I looked up at her, my mind foggy with desire.

“You look like your brain’s just fallen out,” Susie murmured, shivering as my fingers cautiously stroked the bare skin of her back.

“It has,” I replied softly, not caring that my response didn’t make sense.

All I could focus on was the hot, soft skin of her thighs shifting against my hips, and the way my skin caught on fire wherever her body touched mine. She leant down to kiss me and I lost myself in the feel of her lips and the taste of sunshine I could never get enough of. My hands slid up her back under her… whatever it was, and she pressed closer to me. For some reason I couldn’t understand, I felt her trembling.

As doubt clawed its way into my desire-addled mind, I made myself pull back, though my body definitely did not want to.

“Do you want me to stop?” I whispered breathlessly.

Susie shook her head, pressing little kisses to the skin of my neck.

“No, don’t stop,” she murmured. “Please don’t stop.”

It seemed like no time at all before we were both naked. I had lost myself so entirely in kissing and touching her that anything from minutes to hours could have passed since that first kiss. I didn’t care. All that mattered was Susie, me and Susie, Susie and I. Us together.

Pulling back a little, I combed my fingers through Susie’s hair, taking in her flushed and beautiful face. Her lips were swollen with kisses.

“You’re amazing, Susie. I love you.”

And then, wanting the moment to last forever, I slowly stroked my hand down her ribs and over her stomach to slide between her legs. As soon as I touched her, Susie drew in a sharp breath and stiffened.

“Stop!” Her voice was panicked, breathless, and I froze. “I can’t do this, Gabe, please…”

Shocked, I drew my hand away. All the heat of the moment drained away from around us, leaving my beautiful wife cold and shivering.

“Susie?” I whispered, feeling more than a little alarmed. “Are you okay? What’s wrong? Did I hurt you? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

She shook her head a little, using shaking fingers to brush the hair back out of my eyes. Her cheeks glistened with tears.

“Gabe, there’s – there’s something I need to tell you…”

***

Though that’s a horrible place to stop, that’s all I can write, for now. The doctors have told me that I must rest if I’m to regain my strength, and it is already past midnight. Unfortunately, I’ve barely scraped the surface of the events I mean to tell, but… these things must be told in their proper order, mustn’t they?

I will write more soon.

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