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Finding Eden(4)

By:Mia Sheridan



The street ten stories down swayed below me, the promise of a hard smack of concrete and then blessed oblivion calling to me so sweetly. I didn't want to resist. I hoped I'd register at least a few seconds of unfathomable pain before I floated away. I deserved it. I didn't want a death that didn't include misery. Had she suffered? Had she called my name in the dark as the water covered her and then filled her lungs with burning, suffocating terror? A sob, a loud gulp of tortured breath, escaped my throat and I took another swig from the half empty bottle in my hand. It slid down my throat in a slow slide of fire. Fire.

"Calder." I heard Xander's voice behind me, low and full of fear. "Brother, give me your hand."

I shook my head back and forth swiftly and swayed precariously on the ledge where I sat. Just a small tilt forward, even the intention of a tilt, and I'd plunge to my death below. To her.

"No, Xander," I said, my words slurring slightly. I was drunk, but not too drunk that I couldn't think clearly enough. Or I thought so anyway.

"What are you doing, Calder?" Xander asked, sitting on the ledge a little ways down from where I was. I glanced over at him and squinted. His voice was even, but his eyes were filled with panic.

"I hate to do this to you, brother. But it hurts too damn much. It was my fault. I don't deserve to live," I said.

"Then why are you alive?" Xander asked, his voice smooth and gentle, like a lullaby. My mom used to sing me lullabies when I was a little kid and couldn't sleep. Of course, my mom had also stood by while my dad tried to set me on fire. But I wouldn't think of that. I couldn't. My shoulders sagged and I felt the wetness on my face as a breeze blew by.

"You know what I think? I think you're alive because you're meant to be alive. For some reason, you're meant to be here. You're the only person who made it out of Acadia that day. The only one. And I, for one, refuse to believe there's not some purpose to that. I refuse to believe you didn't reach your hand up through that god-awful wreck of water-covered destruction so I could pull you out of there. And I want to help you discover what that reason is, Calder. Take my hand again. Take my hand and let me help you."

I looked over at him, grief sweeping through me even more swiftly. I took another fiery sip of alcohol.

"You carried me for twenty miles on your back once," he said, his voice breaking at the end. "Twenty miles. And if you hadn't, I would have been at Acadia that horrific day, too. I would probably be dead now. Would you have left me that day? Did you leave me that day?"

I frowned at him. "No," I said. "Never."

"Then take my hand. Let me carry you. It's my turn. Don't deny me that. Whatever I have . . ."

"I know," I choked out. I bent my head forward and gave in to the anguish, my shoulders shaking in the silent sobs that wracked my body. When some of it had passed, I whispered miserably, "Fuck." I wiped my sleeve across my face and threw the bottle to the side. I should have gotten myself more drunk, but I didn't have a taste for the shit. "This life feels so damn long," I said after a minute.

"That's because you're hurting, and it seems like it won't ever get better."

"It doesn't get better. It never gets better."

"It will. You have to try. Calder, you have to try."

"I've been trying! For four months, I've been trying."

"It's going to take longer than four months. It just is."

I let out a deep breath and stared out at the sky beyond. It was full of fury, dark, rolling storm clouds moving closer. Soon the whole sky would break open just like me and the rain would fall.

We were both silent for a few minutes, my head swimming. "Any news on the identification of the other bodies?"

"No," Xander said. "You know I'll let you know if there is." Xander watched the news, listened to the reports about Acadia. I couldn't bring myself to.

I nodded my head.

"They still haven't mentioned anyone who made it out?" My voice cracked on the last word.

Xander shook his head, his expression filled with sympathy.

"The footsteps you saw in the mud . . ."

"No, brother. And that could have been . . . just, I don't know. Please, Calder. Take my hand."

I turned away, looking back out to the sky.

Xander watched me for a few minutes and then glanced back at the now-broken bottle of whiskey I'd thrown. "You can't keep numbing things if you want to move forward."

I straightened my spine slowly. "I don't drink to numb things," I said, meeting his eyes. I knew mine were half-lidded and swollen. "I drink because it makes me feel everything more deeply. I drink for the suffering."