tagNon-EroticLevel Ground Bk. 01 Ch. 07

Level Ground Bk. 01 Ch. 07


The next morning I was awoken by a loud banging on the front door.

"Alright I'm coming, I'm coming," I called groggily before stomping down the hallway. The smell of freshly brewed coffee hit me in the face and I was tempted to ignore whoever it was that was so rudely banging on my door.

But instead, I fumbled with the lock on the door and finally got it open, only to see my friends standing on my porch. "It's seven in the morning. What are you guys doing here?" I moaned, obviously annoyed at being woken so early.

Billy just stared at me. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he demanded. "You ditch us Saturday night and then again last night. What gives?"

I sighed and opened the door. "Come in," I said. "At least let me get some coffee before you start yelling at me."

They followed me into the kitchen, where I fixed myself a cup of coffee.

"Help yourselves to some coffee," I told them, sitting down at the kitchen table. I took a sip of the coffee, letting it's warmth warm my blood, and then I rested my head in my hands for a moment. My head was hurting, due to last night's lack of sleep.

"What's that?" I heard Dalton asked.

I looked up and saw him looking at my arm. I started to panic, remembering that I was wearing a t-shirt. I put my arms down, quickly, before anyone else saw what he say. "Nothing," I said, warning him with my eyes not to say anything.

There were concern in his eyes, but he didn't say anything.

"You look like hell," Ronnie stated.

"Yeah," I said. "Rough night."

"Another nightmare?" Devon asked me.

I looked at him for a moment and nodded.

Billy sat down at the table, across from me. "So?" he asked.

I looked at him for a moment. "So, what?"

"What happened?" he asked, obviously getting impatient. "Saturday, I mean. I thought you were ready."

I looked at him for a moment. "I was," I said. "I mean, I thought I was. I don't know. I panicked, so I went outside for some air. Then I ran into Maranda. One thing led to another and then..." my voice trailed off. "Last night I fell asleep. I'm sorry. I know I'm not getting off to the best start with the band."

"You couldn't call?" he asked.

I suppose I could have," I said. "but I wasn't exactly thinking about a phone call, Billy." I took another drink of my coffee. "I'm going through something right now. Maranda helped me. A lot," I added.

He scoffed "I'll bet."

I glared at him for a moment. "You have no idea what she's done for me, do you?" I asked him, my voice firm.

"I have an idea," he said.

"No," I said, getting angry. "You don't." My heart was beginning to pound and I could feel the panic building up. I put my coffee down and closed my eyes, trying to steady my breathing.

"Lance?" I heard Devon say. "You okay?"

I didn't respond. Instead I got up and went outside on the front porch. I leaned on the railing, breathing in the fresh air. I few seconds later, I heard footsteps behind me and turned to face my friends, crossing my arms over my chest to hide my scars.

"What is wrong with you?" Billy demanded. "And don't tell me nothing."

"since when do you hide stuff from us?" Dalton followed.

"Since I know there's nothing you can do to help," I replied, my voice shaking. "Why bother you with my problems when there's nothing that can be done?"

"We're your friends, Lance," Devon reminded me. "Hell, we're family."

"I know, Devon. I'm sorry. I just..." my voice trailed off again, not knowing what to say.

I turned and sat down on the porch swing, wishing they would leave. I didn't want them to know I had a weakness. I didn't want anyone to know.

"We're not going anywhere," Dalton said, reading my mind. He sat down in the lawn chair across from me. "So spill."

I glanced at the others and then looked at him for a moment, and then, slowly, I held out my arm, revealing my scars. Billy, Devon, & Ronnie moved closer, staring in disbelief.

"Lance," Billy gasped. "What the hell?"

"Cutting?" Dalton asked, surprising me by knowing what it was. My silence was my answer.

"Why?" Billy asked.

I shrugged. "I don't know," I replied, suddenly feeling ashamed of my nasty habit. "The nightmares... They did something to me. The nightmares themselves didn't seem that bad, but waking up, I was terrified, out of breath, feeling like I was having a heart attack."

"Why didn't you tell us this?" Ronnie demanded, clearly angry at me.

I shrugged. "I don't know," I told him. "It's a weakness. The day I'd first cut myself, a switch in my head had been flicked. Instead of feeling horror, I felt nothing. I became addicted to it. It was the only way to release the pressure that was feeling."

"Damn it, Lance," Billy growled.

"Look," I said. "I'm sorry, but at first, I didn't think there was anything wrong with what I was doing. It felt normal to me."

"Are you stupid?" Ronnie demanded. "How could you possibly think that self mutilation is normal?"

"I'm sorry," I said again, "But I felt I had to deal with this on my own."

"So what does Maranda say about all this?" Dalton asked, curious.

"She busted me. Saturday, at the Teen Center. She made me walk with her. She's very persuasive; made me tell her everything. I had another nightmare last night."

"Same one?" Devon asked.

I nodded. "Yeah," I said. "But... I think the girl in my dream is Maranda."

His eyes widened. "Really?"

I nodded again. "Her eyes... They are the same as the girl's in the dream. But I'm not sure it's her."


"Maranda told me that whenever I felt the need to... to cut," I said, my voice hesitating. "She told me to call her. She'd help me. Last night I remembered what she told me and just remembering that, I was able to breathe through it, without hurting myself."

"Good," Dalton said. "I've heard about cutting, but I've never known anyone to do it."

"First time for everything," I said, with a chuckle. "I just wish I knew why I was having these dreams. I keep feeling like they're trying to tell me something, to warn me."

"Warn you?" Billy said. "About what?"

I shrugged. "I don't know, Billy."

We heard a car pulling into the driveway and I looked up to see my parent's Cadillac. With all the events that happened over the weekend, Monday arrived quickly.

I looked at my friends, pleading with my eyes not to say anything to my parents. I hurried inside and put on my hoodie and then went back outside to greet my parents.

When I saw it was only my father, I felt my blood turn to ice. Something was wrong. I walked down the sidewalk to meet my father.

"Dad?" I said, hesitating a bit. "Where's Mom?"

He looked at me for a moment. "She's gone, Son," he said, his voice firm and emotionless.

My heart stopped. "Gone?"

He nodded and closed the car door and came toward me. "You should sit down," he said, motioning for the porch.

"I don't want to sit down," I snapped. "Tell me now."

"She's dead. The doctors at the hospital said it was a stroke."

I gasped, as if trying to bring air to my lungs, but none came. Tears burned my eyes and my heart was pounding so loud that I couldn't hear anything but the hammering.

"Where is she?" I demanded.

"Tennessee," he replied. "I have to get a few things and then I've got to head back to make arrangements to have the body sent home."

"The body!?" I exclaimed. "Is that all she is to you? A body?"

"No, Lance," he said. "Of course not. I was just saying..."

I help my hand up to shut him up. I was either angry or upset. I couldn't differentiate between the two. My friends were at my side, watching me, unsure of what to do. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't focus. My vision was suddenly blurry, from my own tears. I was gasping for air and then the world around me faded into darkness.

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