2.18: His Empty Reality

Parental Advisory Explicit ContentGeneration 2 is Not Safe For Work and Not Suitable For Children.

 

600nts

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“You’re my aunt? That’s–that’s ridiculous.” Chance took a step back. His legs backed against the window seat behind him, so he sat clumsily and ran a hand over his face. “That’s just bullshit, where are you getting that from?”

Carrick. That bloody fucking hypocrite! Annika fumed inwardly. Her oh so noble brother sent her away for having sex, and here was living, breathing, walking proof that Carrick himself had done the same–when he was younger than her, no less!  She laughed again as Chance’s brows drew together, deepening into a scowl. That look had been patented by Carrick. How had she not seen it before?

“Your face,” she said. “I’m getting that from your face. Gods, but you look just like him. There’s been something about you all this time, I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was that bothered me. Now, I’m not sure how I missed it!”

“I bothered you? I thought–well, nevermind what I thought. I can’t believe I just–” He ran a hand over his face again, then shook his head and looked up at her. “I don’t believe this. I don’t believe you.”

But she saw the doubt in his eyes. 

“Chance, I’m certain. Why else would your mom get so uptight when I brought up who your dad was? Why do you think she acted weird just now, when I was putting two and two together about your age compared to the age of her youngest brothers? The timing is right. She had to have been pregnant when she left the island if you were born here, but are barely younger than Drake and Archer. Carrick and her are near the same age, and she was friends with my older sister, so they would have known each other. And you look just like him!”

She was bouncing on her heels now. “If not him, someone in our family. The resemblance is too strong.”

She held out a lock of her hair as proof. “See? We even have the same hair color. Carrick’s hair color. The same hair color some of my sisters have. We got it from our dad. It can’t be Jace…no, it’s not him. He looks totally different. Like Mother, they say. No, it’s Carrick. I’m positive. Positive.”

 

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“Positive about what?”

They hadn’t heard the door swing open. Both teens’ heads swiveled toward the doorway, where Natalia leaned into the room, her expression curious.

“Nothing Mom,” Chance said quickly. “We were just talking about…history.”

“Well, you should be talking about homework. Don’t you have a paper to finish?”

“I was just bouncing some ideas off him,” Annika put in, following Chance’s lead. It wasn’t exactly a lie, and Chance obviously needed a moment to process this. They nodded and smiled, and made the appropriate responses to a few more inane questions and comments, until Natalia disappeared back down the stairs.

Annika turned to Chance, nodding her head toward the empty doorway. “If you don’t believe me, you could always ask your mom, you know,” she pointed out.

Chance shook his head, but it seemed that he was responding to some thought of his own. “Maybe. It never really mattered to me. She said a long time ago that if I wanted to talk about it, to just ask, but Seth’s always been there for as long as I can remember. I didn’t feel I needed another dad. But now you say my dad is your brother. I just…I don’t know.”

 

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The weeks passed. Annika had been gone 2 months. Two hellish, empty, cold, lonely months. He’d sunk even deeper into depression. Graduation somehow felt farther away than the day Annika had left the shores of Ouroboros. 

Misery was too kind of a word for his state of mind. Hell, his state of existence. Somehow he dragged himself to school each day. Bending his mind to finish his classwork was about the only thing he could handle. If it weren’t for the fact that his heart was fixed on the knowledge that somewhere, oceans away, Annika was also working toward the end of her own education, he wouldn’t bother. His heart was counting down to finishing school, because then Annika would also be finishing school. Assuming, of course, that education in the world beyond Ouroboros ran on a similar time frame. And then, Twallan willing, Annika would be coming home.

She’ll return to you.

 

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Unofficially, he’d started sleeping at the old Meadows camp. He still ghosted his mother’s cook fire, where Bronwyn faithfully left food set aside for him. But he made every attempt to avoid his family. It annoyed him that his mother knew him well enough that he’d come looking for food. He didn’t even know himself anymore; how the hell could she?

After being pent up all morning, Jessie ran. He ran as if his life depended on it; he ran from his demons. After he ran, he swam until his arms and legs pleaded for respite, and his lungs burned. And then, he ran again. He pushed himself to physical exhaustion every single day. It was the only way he could sleep, though Annika still featured prominently in his dreams. He wondered what she was doing. Who she was doing it with. Did she miss Ouroboros, or was she seduced by the modern world? Did she miss her friends? Did she miss him?

 

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He hunted. Hunting was encouraged around the village in order to discourage wild animals from venturing too near. The stealth, fitness, and sharp focus required for hunting gave Jessie another means of escape.

 

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Weekends, he ran all the way across the island, making camp in the shadow of the sleeping volcano. There was something about the volcano that he understood. It seethed, it rumbled, it had the power to burn and destroy everything—but somehow it held itself in check. 

These weekends were the closest approximation to sanity that he had thus far achieved. He was truly alone. Somehow the freedom to be lonely without the pity, or even the understanding of others, made it easier to bear. He drank from his pilfered supply of liquor from Joel’s bar, and smoked his herb, and tried not to think about Annika.

But, he thought about her anyway. He thought about playing with her when they were children. He remembered how she’d lashed out at anyone who talked about her dad dying, and how he’d stayed by her side anyway. He remembered quiet moments on the beach, when all that was needed was a look to gauge each other’s moods. He remembered her dancing to his guitar at bonfire parties.

He remembered—oh yes, he remembered that, too.

And there was that niggling little guilt over the fact that he’d not even kissed her that last time they were together. He hadn’t been able to, not with the scent of Aimee on her. But damn, now that didn’t seem like a good reason to not have kissed her. Now instead he was left with the memory of having merely fucked Annie, and the knowledge that that fuck was the reason she was sent away.

If she came back, he knew he would never take a moment with her for granted, ever again, no matter the circumstances.

 

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Today was a gray day, like all the rest. Never mind that the sun was shining.

Jessie padded down the weathered steps, having stowed some liquor from Joel’s bar into his knapsack in preparation for his weekend trek to the volcano. Rather than veering up the path away from the village, he struck out down to the beach and followed the dock to its end in the harbor. He’d come out here almost every day, rain or shine, his eyes always scanning for a returning ship. Why, he didn’t know. She wouldn’t be back anytime soon.

If she came back at all.

Sliding the knapsack off his shoulder, Jessie seated himself on the edge of the dock, his feet dangling above the sun-dappled water. Reaching into the pack for his smokes and fire kit, he lit a blunt off the coal. After stowing the coal away, he leaned back and gazed at the empty horizon. Taking a heavy drag of the herbaceous smoke, he felt himself relax slightly. This was his ritual before his hikes out to the volcano. Then he’d get shit-faced drunk for two days until it was time to return to the village and his empty reality.

He stiffened again at the sound of footsteps pattering along the dock behind him. Fuck.

 

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“Jessie.”

The footsteps came to a halt behind him. Flopping his hair out of his eyes, Jessie glanced over his shoulder in brief acknowledgement of Aimee’s presence. “Hey,” he grunted, exhaling a plume of smoke.

“Hey stranger.”

“I was just leaving,” he said as she dropped to the planks next to him.

“Subtle,” Aimee said wryly, but she smiled. She reached for the blunt and helped herself to a puff. “I just wanted to touch base. You’ve been keeping to yourself a lot lately.”

“That’s probably best,” was his short reply.

“Is it?” She passed the blunt back to him. 

Jessie said nothing, smoking in silence.

 

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Beside him, Aimee sighed. “Jess, you need to snap out of it. This isn’t healthy, what you’re doing. You need to get back to the business of life. I know you cared about her but–“

“Shut up Aimee. Just. Shut. Up. You think I don’t know all this? You think I want to be like this? You think I want to be stuck on some girl that might not ever come back? You think I want to love her? Of all people, her. My life is one big fucking irony, for Twallan’s sake. Don’t tell me how to fucking deal with it. Please.” He huffed. “I’m sorry. I’m trying. And right now, this is how I’m dealing.”

“Try harder,” she replied bluntly. “You basically just told me how pointless and hopeless this is. We’ve all been friends since forever. I just want you to be happy, Jessie. It’s time for you to move on and you know it. How do you even know you really love her? You’ve never had a girlfriend. Have you ever even been with anyone but her?”

Jessie grit his teeth and said nothing.

“That’s what I thought.” Aimee pulled herself up and dusted off the back of her shorts as she regarded his stubbornly bowed head. “Come hang out sometime. I made my own camp, in case you didn’t know. Drake’s there with me. He could probably use some guy company sometimes. “

Aimee started to turn away, then paused. “Oh, and get a hair cut and take a bath, for fuck’s sake, will ya?”

Jessie waited until her footsteps faded back down the dock, smoke wreathing his head. After several more minutes had passed, he hopped up and re-shouldered his pack. His eyes lifted to the distant volcano as his steps quickened. As soon as he hit the shore, he broke into his customary run past the village, past the bonfire pit, long strides carrying him toward his solitude.

 

600nts

I’m sooo happy to get back to Jessie <3 He has his own journey to make while Annika is away, just as his mother told Jaiyana.

Oh yes, and now that the cat’s out of the bag about Chance, there is a family tree for the entire village on the top navigation bar, for those who are bored and/or interested.