Chapter 2: La Vérité

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This post is part of a 3-chapter story contributed by Leliana. Click here to read Chapter 1. And check out Bekhsoos next week for the third and final chapter.

May 5, 2005. It’s all a blur at this point as if it had all meshed together into some strange convoluted yet somehow expressive painting. She can’t even recall where she heard the news. A phone call? CNN? All she can remember was running. She can remember oh so clearly the heavy confused irregular beating of her steps across the pavement, the wind screaming in her ears, and how wet her face was. She kept wondering why her face was wet, always looking up to check if it was raining but the sky was clear turning bluish-purple with the sunset.

It was only later that she realized she had been crying.

She can barely remember what the tubes coming out of Grace looked like. She can’t clearly recall the grim doctors who kept saying “I’m sorry” but smiled to another patient’s family a few feet away from where she sat. She found it hard to bring to mind how they took Grace off life support, and she could scarcely remember how her soft—puppy soft—hair felt between her fingers as she watched the monitor flat-line.

She does remember expecting Grace’s hair to be coarse before she touched it, as if that comes hand-in-hand with death.

She remembers how she collapsed crying when she realized it didn’t.

As she ran away from the hospital, the feel of Grace’s hair in her fingers, she almost stumbled over a street prostitute who stood in her way, shouting obscenities at her as she passed. She recalled how the neon lights made it harder to see, especially through all those fucking tears; how she couldn’t find her way back home so she fell asleep on a park bench; how salty the dried up tears tasted and how rough it made her cheeks feel like; how she couldn’t wash them off anyway.

It’s almost disappeared from her memory—her recollection of this is more like a faint recollection of a dream—but she somewhat remembers visiting that tall-grass field again and crying and screaming there. Even now however, something puzzled her about that place: its stillness almost seemed to swallow up her screams and her cries—and even her tears, as if the wind blew them off her—until she herself could barely hear what she was saying. At one point, she found herself lying on her back in the grass, in that barrier the grass made around her. She was probably crying but she couldn’t hear herself anymore and couldn’t truly be sure. All she could see was the sky turning orange before turning purple above her as the sun set.

She resigned to telling herself that the altitude caused her ears to block, explaining why she couldn’t hear anything. But even she didn’t believe that.

Result of Grace’s death: balance tipping. Again.

Symptoms (or treatments) include: drugs (preferably pot), sex (preferably women), alcohol (preferably vodka), more sex (preferably anyone).

You sleep. You wake up. Smoke, naked bodies, smoke enveloping naked bodies, lots of bottles empty bottles, lots of aspirin. You sleep. You wake up and it’s all a copy.

Sleep never came easily again. Not after Grace. If it wasn’t the nightmares of Grace’s searing flesh, it was avoiding the nightmares of Grace’s searing flesh. If it wasn’t that, it was the scotch she’d have after another nightmare. It stopped the trembling at least.

One night, a few years after that, Valerie had her first dream in a very long time. Dream. Not nightmare. She did not remember everything. She did remember—too vividly—Grace being in a black 1920’s dress.

At least her skin was intact.

Her back was to Valerie. She was standing at the edge of a grass field, the edge of it being a sharp drop to the ocean beneath. Her sandy hair was blowing to the left along with the bottom of her dress. Valerie ran towards her. It seemed a short enough distance, but she remembered running for too long.

The second she was inches away, Grace turned to face her. Again this simple act seemed to take hours to come to a close. As their gazes met, Grace lit into a smile. In slow motion. Valerie watched—almost soaked in—as the little wrinkles around her eyes multiplied and her dimples grew deeper.

Valerie also remembered how those dimples appeared when Grace cried. Almost to collect her tears.

Valerie raised a hand and traced Grace’s jaw to her chin with her fingers.

Must be dreaming, Valerie said.

Probably, Grace chuckled.

In an attempt to make the dream as real as possible, Valerie concentrated as hard as she could on the face she was stroking. She slowly began to feel the soft skin. She slid her fingers through Grace’s hair and soon enough felt how puppy-soft it is. How puppy soft it was. And soon enough after that she was able to feel her hair as it fell through her fingers.

Grace just kept looking at her, that smile fluid and vibrant, never the same at two moments.

Valerie vividly felt Grace’s hand on her neck, pulling her in. Slowly, like life’s rubber shirt got caught in a snare while life was slowly achingly stretching it out to get where it wanted to be.

They seemed suspended like that for hours, lips inches away but not quite there. All Valerie could see were Grace’s green eyes, half open, the laugh-lines around them totally exposed. Fatally exposed. Valerie was 4800% sure that the longer she kept that gaze the sooner she would reach her end.

But she didn’t have to worry about that because that’s when her blaring alarm woke her up, while she was suspended inches from life. Or death. She’d never know.

And you’d think that her first dream—not nightmare—she’d had in months would cheer her up, make her wake up feeling rejuvenated, like waking up on the right side of the bed for the first time in ages.

She didn’t. She would’ve rather stayed in bed and gotten devoured by the covers than walk into daylight that day. But she did just that. Walked into the slightly-duller daylight, walked over the slightly-duller grass. Kept moving.

- Contributed by Leliana

Guest Contributor

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