tagNon-EroticLevel Ground Bk. 01 Ch. 05

Level Ground Bk. 01 Ch. 05


The next few days were spent with Billy helping me learn the songs. Most of them were cover songs, favorite songs of ours. But there were a few originals, which Dalton had written. I may have been a good writer when it came to fiction, but Dalton knew how to pinpoint feels in just about anyone he met. One of the few things he and I had in common; we felt things.

Once I felt comfortable with the songs, Billy decided to advertise the band, offering services such as weddings, birthday parties, and school dances. Our first gig was at the teen center. It was built in the 70s, parents raised the money. I guess it was their attempt to keep teenagers out of trouble.

We arrived at the teen center a few minutes before it opened so that we could set up our equipment. I was helping Devon set up his keyboard when Billy tapped my shoulder.

"Lance, look who's here," he said to me in a low voice.

"Who?" I asked him, without even looking up.

"Maranda," he said and I felt my heart speed up. "Over there," he said and pointed her out.

I looked up and saw her standing by the pool table with her lifelong friend, Raven Jenkins.

"Wow," Devon said, under his breath. "She really filled out, didn't she?"

That day in the old cabin with her hadn't crossed my mind until now. I recalled her scent... sage. She was the only person I knew who wore that fragrance. It was unique to her.

I couldn't deny that she was beautiful. She was more beautiful than ever. Her thick hair hung down her back, once again making me want to run my fingers through it.

The outfit she wore left little to the imagination. The black jeans she wore hugged her hip well and she wore a white tank top that had SIN written in big black letters across her breasts, causing my mind to take a turn. I felt my heart speed up as I continued to check her out.

"Lance..." I heard from behind me, but I ignored it. "Lance," Devon said, again. "You're staring."

"I'm not," I said, snapping out of the spell I seemed to be under.

"You were," he said.

I sighed. "Okay. I was. Shut up about it."

"You like her, huh?" he asked.

I looked at him. "Like her? I don't even know her anymore."

"You don't have to know someone to like them, Lance," Billy spoke up.

"I know that," I said. "But I don't."

They exchanged glances and said it unison," "Uh huh."

I rolled my eyes and risked another look in Maranda's direction. She was looking at me, with a small smile on her lips, causing my heart to skip a beat and then it started to pound, causing me to gasp. Suddenly, I was finding it hard to breathe as the panic set in and the stabbing pain in my chest began.

Oh, no. Not you, again, I thought as I silently urged it to back off. It had been over a week since my last attack and I was starting to feel like a normal teenager again.

Before anyone could notice, I excused myself and ran out the back door of the teen center. I leaned against the building, taking short, deep breaths, urging myself to calm down.

It had been so long, since I dared. But I had already made my decision. I pulled up the sleeve on my jacket, reached into my back pocket and then, glancing around to be sure I was alone, flipped the blade open and made a swift slice on my right forearm.

I gasped at the slight sting of the blade, but once I saw the blood run down my arm, I felt my heart slow down, slower and slower until it was back to its normal pace.

After putting my knife away, I took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

I went back inside and found the bathroom and cleaned up my wound. It was bleeding more than it should have, but I assumed it was because I hadn't cut it a while. I wadded up some toilet paper and stuck it in my sleeve. Taking another deep breath, I exited the bathroom and headed back out to join my friends.

Just as I exited the long hallway, I bumped into Maranda. The jolt caused the wad of toilet paper to fall out of my sleeve.

"What the..." her eyes met with mine for a brief moment, before she bent to pick it up with a look of confusion. I took a step back from her; I had to get out of here. "What the hell, Lance, are you bleeding?"

"I um... must've scratched my arm on something," I fumbled with the lie lamely.

She looked into my eyes for a moment and then reached out and took my arm. "Let me see," she said, pulling up my sleep.

She gasped as we both stared at the marred flesh on my arm. There were six, nearly healed cuts, plus the angry one from a few minutes ago. Her eyes shot up to my face and her eyes locked with mine for a moment, looking sad for a moment and then pissed. I shuddered and pulled my sleeve down roughly.

We just stared at each other, neither one of us knowing what to say.

"Promise you won't tell anyone. Please," I begged.

"Lance," she said, shaking her head, "I can't do that."

I cowered like an eight year old boy who just got caught looking at his father's adult magazines. "Maranda," I pleaded. "Please."

She ran her fingers through her hair and looked at me. "Damn it, Lance." She took my hand into hers. "Come on," she said. "Let's walk."

I glanced over at my friends, who hadn't realized that I was still missing, and then I nodded. "Okay."

We left the Teen Center and walked up the driveway, toward the main road. Across the road from the Teen Center was the elementary school. Maranda and I walked toward the playground. She let go of my hand and sat down on the merry-go-round. She looked at her shoes for a moment, as if trying to think of what to say.

I just stood there, dumbly looking down at her, as if I was waiting for a verdict. The night air was warm, but there was a breeze. I closed my eyes for a moment, breathing in slowly. I let out the breath I was holding and sat down beside Maranda.

"Maranda," I began, not really sure what I was going to say."

"I knew you were hiding something," she said. "I just didn't know..."

"I know," I said. "I'm sorry. I was afraid."

She nodded. "I know," she said. "It's okay. But... I want you to talk to me. No more secrets."

I just stared into her eyes. I started to shake my head, in protest, but she turned toward me, bringing her lips to mine. I felt something when her lips touched mine. I don't know what it was, but I suddenly felt as if I could trust her, with my life, with my secrets, everything.

I pulled away from her and, looking in her eyes, asked, "Why do you care so much?"

Her smile faded. I looked down at her hands for a moment and then, after a moment's hesitation, pulled up the sleeve on her jacket. I swallowed a gasp and I saw the scars. Her right forearm was covered in what looked like a hundred separate scars. I just stared for a moment, not knowing what to say.

When I looked up and my eyes met her, I saw the pain there. "You?" I asked her. She nodded. "How come?"

She pulled her sleeve back down and then looked at me. "Do you remember the Halloween party last year?"

I nodded. "Yeah. I missed it."

"I didn't," she stated. "It was the first time I ever drank alcohol and my last. There were come college guys there. Raven kept flirting with them," she said with a small laugh. "But... there was this one guy, he seemed interested in me. So of course I flirted and when he offered me a beer, I didn't hesitate."

I nodded. "Got to love peer pressure."

"Yeah. Well, I had a few too many. Raven had disappeared and when he offered to take me home, I just thought he was being generous..." she began to cry.

"Maranda," I said, finally realizing where this was going. "You never told anyone?"

She shook her head. "I tried to fight him off," she said. "I tried to push him away, but..."

"Shh," I said, putting my arm around her and pulling her toward me. She rested her head on my shoulder and cried softly.

A few minutes passed and she lifted her head and looked at me. "I had nightmares," she said. "Every night they got worse. I couldn't tell anyone. I was so scared. Then one night, I took a kitchen knife... it was my plan to kill myself, but instead ended up with just a small cut. I wasn't strong enough to do it."

"Thank God for that," I said.

She just smiled. "Yeah. But doing that, it was the only way to make myself feel human again. It went on for months."

"What happened?"

"Raven busted me," she confessed. "I told her everything. She was like my buddy in AA or something. Whenever I felt the need I would go to her."

I just looked at her. I didn't know what to say.

"So," she said. "When you feel the need, call me."


"Shh," she said, placing her finger on my lips. She looked into my eyes, smiled. "I love you, Lance," she confessed.

I'm sure I gasped. "What?"

Holding her smile, she nodded. "I love you," she repeated. "I believe I always have. It's okay if you don't love me back. Just know that I love you and I'll be here for you. I just... I don't want you to be alone right now," she said and brought her lips back to mine.

I brought my hand to her neck, just beneath her hairline, and pulled her close to me, kissing her, deeply. From somewhere inside me, passion took over, making me forget for a moment that we were in a public school playground. My heart was racing, but it wasn't panic. I don't know what it was, but it was like a drug and I wanted more of it.

She pulled away from me, took my hand and stood up. "Come on," she said.

I stood up and looked at her. "Where are we going?"

She grinned. "Our place."

"Um..." I glanced across the street at the Teen Center, thinking that I should probably get back, but instead I just smiled at her for a moment and then nodded. "Okay."

Hand in hand, we walked the two blocks to the high school. She led me behind the building and to the old abandoned cabin in the woods.

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