Oliver hung his coat on a rack near the closet and dropped three textbooks almost the sizes of telephone directories on the couch, next to where Dallas was seated. He glanced at her as she yawned and rested her legs on the coffee table.
"You're okay?" He asked her, sitting down across from her.
Dallas rubbed her forehead. "Yeah, I'm fine thanks. It's just that..." She began to hesitate.
Even though Oliver was not related to her biologically, he made an outstanding brother. He was the only one she had talked to about her dreams. But that was a few months ago. Wasn't it?
This was not the first time the mysterious woman had paid her a visit. She had been having these dreams for a long time, and halfway, they had supposedly taken a hiatus. She hadn't dreamed about her or any other petrifying things for almost two months. But now why so sudden? Why now out of all the other days? When Dallas was finally making new friends after losing old ones, why did this have to happen?
She felt a little shake. It was Oliver; he gripped her shoulder gently and shook it. "Dallas? Dallas? Are you fine?" He asked her over and over again.
Feeling so vulnerable, she nestled up to Oliver. A wave of realization hit him as he maintained to remain poker-faced. Staring at the blank TV, he asked her, his voice shaky, "The dreams are back, aren't they?"
He felt a slight nod beside his chest. He exhaled slowly and looked at her when she parted from him. "Why do you think so?"
"I don't know. I went to sleep, and I dreamed about her..."
"Did she say anything?"
Dallas struggled. Ever since she had become conscious, she couldn't remember most parts of the dream. The only thing that had popped up was the woman and that Dallas was afraid of her. Nothing else. She figured out she had pieced out other information she remembered, but nothing crossed her mind.
She felt as if the more she wrestled her thoughts, the less the chances of remembering were.
But who could resist the urge to remember their dreams? But the better question was who wouldn't?
Oliver noticed her apprehension and said quickly, "Dal, it's okay. Rest for now."
After a second of contemplation, she stood up and picked up her cell phone. "Hey, where are you going?" He asked her observing her actions. Dallas shook her head, and replied, "I'm going to the library. I want to finish this book and keep my mind off of certain things."
She picked up her sweater from the table, and walked towards the door. "I'll be back in half an hour."
Oliver laughed and forced her to stop. He picked up the book she had been holding and held it up high for her to see. She sighed and hung her head. "I just want to clear my head."
He walked to her and handed her the book. "I saw a man outside; he kept looking here." Dallas raised an eyebrow as he continued, "Are you sure you want to go? I can leave you alone if you want." He flailed his arms in the air and Dallas punched him.
"It's not that, Oliver."
He pulled her into a tight hug and tousled her hair. "I need you back before Mom and Dad get back, okay?" She pulled away, and moved towards the door. "When is that by the way?"
Dallas straightened her halter neck and jeans, and replied, "They'll be back after two hours." She knew she had lied to Oliver but she couldn't help it. She knew she had to unclutter her mind and sort out things. If she did not, she knew she had to do something about it.
These dreams had already made her a hallmark for a freak show at her school, so she had nothing else to lose. She was named the freak of the school for life. She had nothing to lose...
Oliver followed her till the front door, and hugged her. "Please do me a favor and come back early," he pleaded, not letting go off her. Dallas released the bear hug, and smiled in an assuring way, "I'll be back before you know it." She opened the door and looked back at him again. "Watch out for that man, Dallas," he called out, gesturing at the barely visible minivan.
"Ignorance is bliss Oliver," she replied nodding; she stepped out of the house and walked away.
Dallas Fletcher had no idea as to what was ahead of her.
The flavored slushy began to melt away in his hands.
The man woke up with the startling sound of increasing footsteps. The ice of the slushy had melted along his hands and the cold sensation seemed to numb him. This seemed to be the only feeling he had sensed in a long time. At least Jeanette and I have something in common, he thought to himself. He looked at the source of the footsteps and carefully positioned himself further down his seat. After the footsteps grew louder and started to dwindle away, he ascended slightly and got a decent view of the person.
"Ah! It's milady Jeanette," he declared quite loudly.
He had instantaneously noticed that Dallas had glimpsed into the van and had walked past it quickly. He leered and changed the channel in the little TV. The number twenty appeared in digital form on the screen and when the man grinned and snapped his fingers, the number began counting down.
The man intertwined his fingers together, as anticipation flooded his thoughts. Seventeen, sixteen...
Dallas rushed through the pavement and into a little garden. This garden was beside a very old children's playground that was rarely used. Dallas often used this as a sanctuary to unveil her thoughts and seek mental asylum. She hadn't been here for about two months; but destiny had separate plans for her.
She pulled her hoodie tighter as the wind blew her brunette hair all over her face. "Stupid wind," she muttered to herself, and tucked a lock of it behind her ear. She grunted again and slowed down when she saw the familiar swings across her.
The to-and-fro motion of the swings seemed to do the trick to sort of alleviate the tension she always carried around, and brought a sense of solace and security. The rocking of the swings also conjured the only memory she had of her real parents as a small girl. Her real mother would rock her back and forth to prevent her from crying and for Dallas to fall asleep. The swings seemed like the only source of consolation at this point.
She traced the wooden engraving on one of the swings, and sat on it gently. She gave herself a push using her feet and soon the swing began to sway. Dallas smiled, and closed her eyes. She was so happy; for that moment, she had forgotten all about the reason she had come there in the first place, and the tantalizing woman in her dreams.
She felt so lightened as the swing began to sway faster as she reached the highest point. She waved her arms around following the wind's patterns. She opened her eyes and knew that all contentment had to come to an end.
Three, two, one...
An alarm went off and he tossed the empty cup. He threw on a baseball cap, and stepped out of the minivan. Checking to see if the coast was clear, he scurried with the agility of a predator and the intellect of its prey. This was his move, just as Parker had mentioned.
Parker seemed to know everything, the man pondered, but momentarily snapped out of it. He had to do what he was told, and then he could clarify some of his doubts.
Nobody was certain that she had the answers to their questions and the capability to pull off something as huge as the Plan. But in Parker's words it was "worth a shot".
With these skepticism dominating his mind, he walked; his jet black rubber boots clunking against the pavement. Sweat formed at the creases of his toes, and it reacted with the soles of his rubber boots. He knew he wouldn't be happy the next morning when he woke up finding swollen inflamed feet, but it was all worth it...
In a minute, the man stood near the huge arch which was the entrance to the garden. He hid behind a thicket and watched Dallas intently. From a reasonable distance, he had seen her swinging freely earlier. But now she seemed to be lost in deep thought.
She is at her weakest, noted the man; he fearlessly emerged from the thicket and sauntered nonchalantly towards Dallas, who now had her brunette head buried in her hands.
At a decent proximity, he leaned toward her and placed his hand on her shoulder.
Dallas jumped a few feet in the air, and stepped back. Her mouth agape in terror, and her hands in front of her as a form of self-defense. The man glanced at her hands, and cocked his head, "Really? That's what those people taught you!" He laughed and sat on a bench near the swings. The technique was to be presentable and friendly, then hit her with the tough ones.
Dallas gasped and realizing the letdown of her methods, managed to break out a slight chuckle. Suddenly something hit her. "You were the guy in the minivan, right?"
"Yup, but please call me Eli."
Dallas was shocked. She knew Eli. He was one of them.
Eli comprehended her surprise, and looked at her. He gently lowered his shades to allow her to take a glance into his eyes. They were blackish and had a slight hue of gray. She knew those eyes. In fact she knew those eyes a little too much.
Eli removed his sunglasses, and allowed her to take a good look at his face. He had improved his hair: before it was a very short (almost a crew cut) hairdo, but now he had transformed it into something much more deceiving. His blonde hair was now a little bit more chaotic, and so was he. However she was not too overwhelmed with his makeover; it had been a few years since she had seen him. And they were almost the same age - he was about a year older.
Dallas felt like bashing him; for all the things he had said to her back when she was clueless. He had tortured her - telling her atrocious stories of her real parents, and how they were not alive and how people had murdered them. But no, she didn't believe him.
He was one of them: a group of rich aristocrats that practically ruled a place on the furthest side of Olive Grove. Ashford.
She had been there, mingling with the rich aristocratic people. She knew all of them. Obviously through Eli, of course who was her classmate.
Eli had taken her to them, but Dallas had immensely regretted that.
They had made up horrid stories about her real parents and spread it to the whole of Ashford; they had made her believe that her real parents didn't want her; and they had tormented her. What they did not know was that the scars were still spanking fresh.
Dallas fought her tear glands, and cried out at him, "What are you doing here?"
Eli chuckled and crossed his arms. "Chill, Jeanette. I was just visiting and I had to see you."
"Listen Eli, I'm not Jeanette!"
"Your denial is not going to change the fact that your real name is Jeanette," he retorted pointing a fair finger at her.
Dallas sighed angrily and asked him, "How'd you know I was here?"
He smiled mockingly and tapped his head. "I followed my instincts." Eli bent his head, and wondered how to approach her. He gritted his teeth at the thought of the fact that Dallas had become more durable than she was a few years ago. But it wouldn't be hard, if she wanted to come to Ashford. Parker didn't mention anything like that. Who was he kidding; it was worth a shot.
"So how are you?"
Dallas smirked, "Why the sudden concern? Back when I came to Ashford, it seemed to die out," she stressed on 'die out'. This evidently referenced a fight Eli and Dallas had gotten into when Dallas had finally plucked up the courage to stand up to all those who had spread all those rumors. Dallas didn't know that Eli was in it too. When she had finally found out with the help of his sister, Verity - who happened to be one of those spreading the rumors - she was enraged and confronted Eli, who at that moment showed no signs of worry or concern.
This scared Dallas, and the only person who was in touch with her feelings was gone.
So with not many options left, she had returned to her "fake" family in Olive Grove. But the people back in Ashford must've been worse than Susan and Jared, right? Or wrong?
"I have always cared about you," Eli snapped back, his voice grim.
Dallas shook her head and asked without any preamble, "Why are you here Eli?" She wanted to get rid of him. But she knew she couldn't.
Eli grinned, "Ah... I know why you're here."
Suddenly, Dallas looked up at him, and they were braced in an intense stare. Eli was the first to break it and said standing up smirking, "The dreams are back, aren't they?"