I’m still thinking about the freakout Chris had at the cemetery. He thought I wasn’t real. It saddens me, he still not well. His mom thanked me for bringing him home. It’s the first time I have ever seen her. She’s so young, doesn’t look a day over 40.
Still, I shouldn’t have come back to Darkwood. I thought it would be okay just to say hi to Dad but I ended up visiting Elizabeth after. I just wondered if she’s still remembered. She’s slowly being forgotten, but I’m glad there’s still a fresh new rose.
I’m staying in Capitol Hill at an AirBnB apartment next to Miller’s Park. Soran and I are only here until 4 days and I would rather not stay in Darkwood. My cousin, Sam is getting married and seeing I’m one of her bridesmaids, I don’t have a choice. It’s not that I didn’t want to come back, but there’s nothing good in Darkwood for me anymore. My old friends, Sara, Grace, and Isaac, might be worth it but it’ll only bring me harm. Ever since I left everything behind, ever since I left Cody behind, it’s been better. Now that I’m back in Washington, the wound near my heart starts to ache.
I was just a centimeter away from dying, a centimeter.
Soran holds my hand to calm me down. It’s been three years since the last panic attack. Every time I even come close to getting one, Soran is there to calm me down like he is now. “We should buy a bit a food so we don’t have to eat out all the time,” he says getting up from the couch.
I nod and turn off the TV. There was a news report that there might be a revival of the Seattle drug trafficking that ended three years ago. There are signs but nothing is concrete. It makes sense, Lyle was never caught. He’s partly why I’m afraid of being back.
“There’s a Safeway down the street, wanna go there?”
“Yeah,” Soran answers putting on his coat. “Don’t forget yours, it might rain.”
I get up from the Sofa, grab my purse and coat and follow Soran out the door. The walk to Safeway isn’t long. Between the two of us, getting a few bags of groceries wouldn't be a problem. Soran and I hold hands and I look up at him. He looks down and gives me that winner’s smile. His lips taste of Manakeesh, tasteful.
The sunset is beautiful but hidden by the heavy clouds rolling in. The news is predicting a three-day rainstorm.
On the corner of Madison and Denny Way, the Safeway becomes visible. “Cool, they have a Starbucks,” Soran comments. There’s something off when we enter the store. I can’t quite place my finger on it but we carry on. “Do you want to get started? I’m gonna order a drink, you want anything?”
I shake my head, smile and let his hand go. I watch him walk over to the Starbucks that's inside. I’m so damn lucky to have him. Who knows where I would be if he wasn’t there waiting for me in New York when I almost died. I might have given up, and died. But no, I fought it.
I grab a gallon of milk and a carton of a dozen eggs before my ears start to ring.
All I remember was trying so hard to cling on to my own body. I swear my soul was trying to leave but I wouldn’t let it. It’s a similar feeling I had when I almost died of sickness when I was ten. Back then, Cody was the one who helped me cling on. This time, there were two. I could have easily stayed in Darkwood, but I made a choice. When I woke up, my mind was set on leaving. It was Soran’s voice that ultimately reached me.
I grab a bag of hashbrowns and push the cart down the dairy aisle. That’s when I see him. Cody, he’s in the pasta aisle. Cody. He’s here. Why is he here? Is this fate? A mere coincidence? Out of all the places and time, did the world bring us back together like this? Does he know I’m here? This is insane. Do I ignore him? Do I talk to him? I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do.
Cody is staring intensely at a blue box. He puts it back and walks down the aisle without noticing me. Cody turns the corner and disappears. I unfreeze and find him staring again at bread. He’s in deep thought like he always seems to be. It’s about me, I just know it is. There isn’t a way where I can get out of here without being seen. I have to face my demons.
I walk up behind him and, “Bread makes you fat.”
My words shook his spine and he freezes. He turns around slowly and says, “Excuse me?” unsure if it’s is me. His eyes light up the second he realizes I’m actually here. He glances up and down real quick and meets my eyes. My heart is pounding.
I don’t know what to do, I’m too nervous. I grab a loaf of whole wheat and replace the ones he has in his cart. “Bread makes you fat.”
It’s awkward. Awkward like an embarrassing secret came out that shouldn’t.
“What are you doing here?” He finally breaks the silence.
“I’m here for Sam’s wedding.”
“Oh right, I heard she’s getting married. I got invited but I’m not going, wouldn’t be right.”
Of course, Sam would invite him. He’s her favorite. “Yeah…I heard you're making it as a rapper, I’m proud.” I always knew he has it in him but it seriously came out of nowhere. He’s signed to this big label that houses Emmah Melody Ryan yet Cody plays for small venues almost exclusively. He’s never been one to chase fame.
“Yeah, Yeah, it’s good,” Cody pauses to gulp down. He’s nervous too. This was a mistake, I should have just taken my chances and try to avoid him. “I’m playing a show tomorrow night.”
“Yeah I know,” I laugh nervously. “Jerrica is going with Soran. They’re trying to get me to go.”
“You should go.”
“Do you think it’s a good idea?”
Of course, it isn’t. We’re not friends anymore. I haven’t talked to him since the moment I got shot. I broke up our friendship. Cody just isn’t healthy for me anymore, I had to getaway. Yet I’m here with him now.
“Of course not,” he laughs.
“Did you ever ended dating Grace? You two were cute together.” Part of the cleanse was deleting all of my social media and starting over again. I don’t know a thing about what's been going on.
“No. I mean, she tried but I had to let her know I just wasn’t into it, y’ know? We’re still friends though.”
“Oh,” I pause. I wonder if he moved on. He hasn’t rapped about me or anything. It’s like I don’t exist in his songs. “How is everyone.”
“Do you care?” He says a bit irritated. He’s mad that I'm here, isn’t he?
I force myself to laugh, I think it comes outright. “I guess I don’t have a right to know anymore,” I look down and Cody is fidgeting with his cart’s handle. “It’s just...being here brings up the past too much.”
“So why come back?”
“Emily, this is where you been,” Soran says behind me. Oh, thank God I’m saved. “Who’s your friend?”
I turn around and greet him with a smile. “Oh, Soran! This is Cody, you know about him.”
Oh! It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Soran extends his hand. “I’m Soran Sergeyevich, Emily told me great things about you.”
“No, the pleasure’s all mine,” Cody takes his hand and smiles. “Soran, is this your first time in Seattle? How’s the weather treating you?
“Not so different from New York so far, thank you.”
Man, this small talk is killing me. “How long are you guys staying?”
“It’s just this weekend. We leave on Monday,” I say as Soran takes hold of my hand. I’m safe here, I can get through this. “I was hoping I could see everyone at least once before I left. That’s why I asked how was everyone. Is Sara still living at Grace’s?”
“Actually, Andrew lived with them for a while but left after a year. Who knows what he's doing. Sara goes to college in LA now, but she’s back for the summer.”
Oh, Andrew, I almost forgot. “Did you know-”
“Listen, Emily, it’s been great and all but I have to go. I have to go prepare for my show,” Cody cuts me off. He’s so irritated, this was a mistake for sure, but I knew I had to do this at one point. “It was nice meeting you, Soran,” Cody says before he takes his leave.
I sigh and turn to Soran. “Come on, we still have to pick up a few more things.
Soran laughs, “What was that?”
“You practically was stuttering the whole time. Was it that bad? He seems like a nice fellow.”
Did I really? I didn’t notice. “Well, it’s over now.”
I watch as the drizzle slowly begins to dance on against the window of this one-bedroom studio apartment. All I can think of now is Cody. Why did he have to be there out of all places? At least it’s done and over. We don’t have to be friends anymore, once this weekend is over I never have to come back.
“Ems Sweets, the food’s ready,” Soran snaps me out of it. He has a plate of delicious shawarma. He knows it’s my favorite and only cooks it when I’m in a mood. It calms me down.
I grab it off his hands. “Thanks, Moi Horoshiy”
Soran smiles and giggles. He loves whenever I tell him that. It’s been a weird and wonderful three years of getting to learn the Persian Russian culture. Soran has only taught me a bit of Russian and tried to teach me Farsi but it’s too complicated. “Eat up, Khroska, you haven’t been eating again.”
“Right, right,” I giggle, taking a bite of the shawarma.”
“How are you feeling? Have you gotten better?”
I look at my beautiful boy and smile. I still don’t feel the best, by I can move. It’s a struggle to get things done and move around but I’ve lived with CFS my entire life to power through it. I look down at my body and feel bad. I’ve lost most of the weight I’ve gained over the past three years. I’m now back to being borderline underweight. “It’s been getting better,” I tell him.
“That’s excellent,” He says as soon as my phone starts ringing. It’s Jerrica, she said she would call when she’s twenty minutes away from landing. “May I?” Soran asks and I nod. “Jerrica, I take it you’re close to landing?” he asks. I can hear my sister on the other line, she sounds annoyed. “Ah, that figures. He can be like that. We got a rental car, we can come pick you guys up.” I take another bite of the shawarma and my appetite disappears. “Right, see you soon,” Soran hangs up and turns to me. “Feeling up to go pick them up?”
I shake my head, “I see her enough already,” I giggle. “Drive safe,” I kiss him before he gets up.
“I’ll be back soon.”
Once Soran leaves, I take another bite and throw away the shawarma. I take the trash bag and take it to toss it outside in the dumpster. The light rain feels nice on my skin. I look above to the sky. The clouds haven’t fully engulfed the world in darkness and I can see the moon. It’s almost a full moon.
Why does it feel like the world is going to end?
Why does it feel like something other than a wedding is bringing me here? There was all this talk of destiny and fate. If I’m here by my own free will, why does it feel like it’s just an illusion? Chris kept talking about how life is just an illusion and we have no say. He freaked out, saying he’s just a fish, a fish like the rest of humanity. I wonder if he’s doing okay now.
Lyle words keep coming back to me. I swear I have seen him before. He’s the shadow that looms over all of us. “Destiny isn’t finished with us yet, there will be a day where we will all understand each other.” Those were his last words I can remember before passing out.
My heart jumps and I’m immediately on the floor. My heart is pounding. There’s a gunshot and I feel that dread, that panic, and that hopelessness coming back. I look up, struggling to breathe and realize it came for an old motorcycle that’s muffler popped. My heart is trying to rip itself out of my body. I’m panicking. Where’s Soran? Where’s Soran?
I’m scared to be back here.