His hand is on my wrist, dragging me deeper into the maze. My body feels heavy and I can’t seem to move on my own. It’s only his tight grasp on my arm, the force of his nails biting in my skin that has me following him. I can’t see a thing. It’s dark, so incredibly dark and each step is making it harder to breathe. I can’t figure out who’s leading me down here, until we come to an abrupt stop. He spins me around a few times and I’m so horribly dizzy when we stop. I can’t focus on anything, and then there’s laughter. Laughter that I recognize and my heart stops. And then I see his face. His leering smile that’s somehow passes as charming until you know him, his dark eyes, a face so recognizable that he stands out in any crowd. Tyler. I open my mouth and try to scream but nothing comes out, which makes the fear so much stronger. My legs feel like cement as I try to turn and run and then I’m falling.
I sit up, gasping for breath. There’s a fumbling movement beside me and I scramble sideways trying to get away and then he’s saying my name. "Brookie, babe, what is it?" The scream that’s threatening to leave my lips dies when my brain recognizes and places his voice. It’s not Tyler. It’s Jeremy.
"Jeremy?" My voice sounds hoarse. I hear more fumbling and then the light switches on. His eyes are squinting against the bright light and he comes back over slowly, like I’m some kind of scared animal. He glances from me to his phone, checking the time and then he runs his hands over his face, rubbing at his eyes. He rolls his shoulders and I can hear a faint crack in his back.
"What’s going on?" He asks when he finally reaches the edge of the bed. He reaches a hand out towards me, cautiously like he thinks I might bite it off. I latch onto his hand and then crawl to him, letting him engulf me in a hug. His arms feel like home, as cheesy as it sounds. They’re strong and he holds me tightly, like he knows I need his support right now.
I whimper softly, unintentionally and then shake my head, like I can rid myself of the dream. "Just a dream. It was just a dream." I mumble, and he starts to rub my back softly. I focus on the movement of his hand, up and down, up and down.
"Do you want to talk about it?" He asks, his voice, gentle and smooth, breaks my trance on his hand and I hiccup slightly. I didn’t realize I was crying silently until now. I reach up and wipe my cheeks and then I slip my arms around him, my silent plea that he won’t let me go. Not yet.
I shake my head again. "Maybe tomorrow." I say quietly. I can’t explain this all to him now. I feel his lips press against the top of my head once. "Can we just lay back down?" I ask after a few more moments pass in silence.
He leaves me for a moment, to turn off the light and then he comes back over, cuddling me up. My face is pressed against Jeremy’s chest and feeling him so close to me soothes away the dream somewhat. I can’t help but feel that the dream is a bad omen. He starts playing with my hair, and the feeling makes me drowsy. My heart is still racing from the vividness of my dream. "Can’t sleep yet?" Jeremy asks after a few minutes pass. I glance up at him and realize he’s looking down at me.
"Not yet." I whisper. "It was so real."
He’s accepted that I don’t want to talk about it just yet and I’m grateful when he doesn’t ask what it was about. He coughs a little, clearing his throat. "When I was growing up my parents raised chickens. We kept the chickens in a chicken coop, which is basically just a shed to keep the chickens in when it rains or storms. We had a large fenced in area around the coop, so the chickens could roam about in the grass when they weren’t in the coop, and it kept them out of the garden and the driveway, anywhere they weren’t wanted. When I was about three or four years old, my older brothers found out I was scared of chickens, and so, being the wonderful brothers that they are, they locked me into the chicken coop."
I gasp slightly, and its almost a bit of a laugh too. I can imagine a young Jeremy, head full of blonde hair, locked into a chicken coop by his three brothers. I can’t envision his brothers as children, only tinier versions of the way they look now. Jeremy shudders slightly. "I swear those chickens wanted to eat me. I cried and cried and pounded on the coop door for what felt like hours before they finally let me out."
"That’s so awful! What did your mom do to your brothers?" I ask.
He shrugs. "I don’t know. I never told her."
I laugh, incredulously. "Why not?"
Jeremy shrugs again, this time with a bit of a smile. "I’d like to say it’s because I wasn’t a tattle-tale. But it was actually because Jack threatened to tie me up and throw me back in if I told on them."
I’m unsuccessful at holding back my laughter at Jeremy’s story. I giggle and he scowls. "Oh you poor thing." I say, with another bout of laughter.
He shifts a bit and looks at me. "It’s not funny." He whines slightly, pouting in the most adorable way. "I was terrified."
"I’m so sorry, that does sound like a very terrifying experience."
He chuckles a bit. "It was very traumatic. I still can’t stand chickens. And I still have crazy nightmares about that day."
"Were your brothers always so horrible to you?" I ask, full of curiosity about his childhood now. I know so little about him and each new piece of him that I find out only makes me like him even more.
Jeremy shrugs. "I’m not really sure. That’s one of the memories I have of them being too awful. But I guess they must have been pretty terrible because mom didn’t let me play with them until I got older. I had to hang around Marlie until I was about ten."
I giggle again. "I remember this! Marlie, Alyssa and Jetta told me stories about you back then! Did Marlie actually make you play with dolls or was she just saying that?"
He scoffs a bit and in the faint light, it looks like he might be blushing. "No. I didn’t play with dolls."
I raise an eyebrow and I guess he hears the skepticism in my silence because he sighs. "Fine, sometimes we played with her dolls." I start giggling and he talks over my laughter. "But we mostly played outside on our bikes. And when we got a bit older, we got a swimming pool, so that took up the days during summer."
"And during the winter?"
He smiles, fondly. "We had a hill out back that we could sled down, and the front yard had a pond that would freeze up and we could ice skate on it."
"That sounds fun."
Jeremy nods. "Yeah, it was. Summer nights we’d have smores and roasted hot dogs over the fire pit and then we’d play games like kickball or kick the can in the front yard until the fire flies would come out and we’d catch them."
"Sounds like you had a movie-type childhood."
He nods and then his face darkens slightly. "Yeah, we did. But things like that don’t last."
"The memories do." I say quietly. "And I think those are the important things. Childhood can’t last forever."
He sighs and shrugs. "I know that. That’s not what I meant. I meant that the feeling of such blissful happiness never really lasts. There’s always something awful that comes along and ruins the happiness. No matter how happy you are or how you think nothing can break that good feeling of joy and peace, or whatever wonderful thing you’re feeling, something will destroy it. It’s the way the world works. There will always be something horrendous to come along and ruin your moment of happiness."
I frown, and my heart aches for his outlook. "That’s a sad attitude to have about life. You know, Jer, I always kind of assumed you were a bit more of a positive person."
"It’s not being negative." He shifts again so he looks at me better. "It's not. It’s being realistic, staying away from false hope." He says.
I shake my head. "I disagree. I know that there are always going to be bumps in life, but you don’t have to let it ruin your happiness. You learn from the bad times and grow from it all. You become a stronger, better person from all the trials that you face. And what would the good times be without the bad times?"
"You’re talking about that old saying that’s like you can’t appreciate the good if you haven’t experienced the bad?" He asks, fidgeting a little.
I nod my head. "Yeah, exactly. Like, Tyler came along and he seemed perfect and I was happy and then he ruined that. But I don’t have to stay bitter about it. If I gave up relationships and trust in humanity after that one bad time, I wouldn’t be here with you, right now, feeling like this."
"Brookie, you’ve lost your mom over me. And you think it’s a good thing?"
I sigh. "I haven’t lost my mom. I’ve only placed my family on a back burner for now. I love them, and I know that she’s upset with me, but I know that deep down she still loves me. And to me, love is all that matters in the end."
Jeremy scoffs a bit. "Love. What does that get you? My mom kicked me out and now she tells me that she loves me."
I’m quiet for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts. "Do you think she doesn’t love you?"
He shrugs. "She chose her husband over me and my siblings. What kind of mother does that? Mothers aren’t supposed to do things like that. They’re supposed to love their children unconditionally and do anything for them. She didn’t do either of those for me. How can I believe her when she tells me she loves me?"
I don’t know what to say, so I don’t say anything at all.
Jeremy stays silent for a few minutes and I’m about to try to think of something else to add on, when he mumbles, "Let’s not talk about this right now. It’s the middle of the night. Let’s just go back to sleep."
He dips his head to a brush a chaste kiss to my lips before he pulls me up against him, cuddling me. Just when I think I can’t get any more comfortable, he starts rubbing my back again. Just before I slip into sleep, I hear him whisper something that I can’t quite make out, but I’m too tired now to find out what it was. "Go to sleep, Brookie." He says, just a bit louder. "I’m here, I won’t let anything hurt you." And with those words ringing in my ears, I finally fall to sleep.
Thinkerbelle77 - I hate Carla too! Haha I hope you enjoy this chapter! I can't wait to hear from you again!
Miha - Thank you! I try hard to give all the chapters their moments! Cheesy Jeremy is my favorite to write(: Thank you so much for being so understanding when chapters take longer to write! I appreciate it soo much! I hope to hear from you soon!
Emma - Thank you so much! I appreciate how understanding you always are! It means so much! And I'm glad you loved the chapter! I hope you enjoy this one as well!! Can't wait to hear from you again!
Scars And A Daisy - Chapter Thirty FiveLate night talks! Delving into Jeremy's past!
By Em Bishop