Ruin

By: Rachel Van Dyken


Prologue


“Can you hear me? Kiersten?” His voice was so close, maybe if I closed my eyes it would feel more real. I reached up to touch him but all I could feel was air. He wasn’t there. He was gone.

So it really happened.

I blinked a few times and tried to focus on what was in front of me. It looked like him, but he was standing too far away. Why was I lying on the ground?

“Come back to me.” His mouth moved as he spoke softly. “Not like this, Kiersten. Not like this, baby.” His light blue eyes flared with need. “Everything is going to be just fine. I promise.”

But it wasn’t fine. I knew it. He knew it.

He was gone — and I was hallucinating.

I’d lost the love of my life — my best friend. How many times could people experience loss before they died too? Before heartache consumed them? Memories flooded my brain, memories of my parents, memories of him playing football, memories of all the notes he gave me.

Our first kiss.

Our final time together.

And then the hospital.

We hadn’t been given enough time — and I hated God for taking everyone from me. I hated that in the end, I would always be alone to mourn the loss of those I loved.

I reached for his face one last time. This time my fingers came into contact with warm skin. It was all a dream. Well, if it was a dream, I was going to enjoy the way his smile lit up the room. His lips touched my forehead. I closed my eyes and prayed for God to take me too.

Because I knew the moment I woke up, I’d have to say goodbye all over again, and this time I wasn’t sure I’d ever heal from the experience of that one word leaving my lips. Goodbye — whoever invented that word should burn in Hell.





Chapter One





Weakness is just pain leaving the body





Three months previous



Kiersten

I repeated the same mantra over and over again until I thought I was going to lose my mind. It wasn’t real. I was having the nightmare again. It wasn’t real.

Never a good sign when you wake yourself up because you’re screaming so loud. Footsteps neared the door and then it burst open, revealing my roommate, you know, the one I just met a few hours ago.

“Are you okay?” She took a tentative step through the door and crossed her arms. “I heard screaming.”

Right. I was a freak. I wanted a fresh start, and what did I get? A gold star for traumatizing my roommate, the only friendly face I’d met since arriving at the University of Washington.

“Um, yeah.” I managed to keep my voice from shaking. “I know it’s weird but I still have night terrors.” At the look of disbelief on her face, I added quickly, “But only when I’m really stressed out.” And when I’m on heavy medication, but I left that part out.

“Oh.” She licked her lips and looked back out into the hallway. “Do you want me to sleep on the floor or something? I mean, I will if you’re scared.”

Bless her southern hospitality-filled heart. “No.” I smiled. “I’m good. I hope I didn’t scare you.”

“Yeah, well…” Lisa waved me off. “I didn’t really like that lamp in my room anyways.”

“My screaming broke a lamp?” I cringed.

“No.” She shook her head. “My fall broke the lamp. Seems jumping out of your bunk bed at one in the morning’s a contact sport. My lamp being the main target. No worries.” She sighed. “It didn’t suffer. It shattered on contact with the floor. And then again after I slipped on the teddy bear that also fell. And that’s great since it broke my fall onto the floor, making it so I escape with two faint bruises.”


I covered my face with my hands. “Holy crap! I’m so sorry!”

“Nah, it’s fine. I’m a walking accident.” She laughed. “But if you plan on screaming all night, I’m taking the floor. My lamp killing days are behind me.”

Smiling, I nodded. “Sure. I just… I don’t want you to—”

“Stop apologizing.” Lisa’s smile was warm and inviting “Oh, and I sleepwalk so if you wake up to me standing over you, try not to punch me in the face.”

“Wow, we’re sure a fun pair.”

She grabbed a blanket from my bed and threw it onto the floor. “You know those little comment sections in the housing part of registration?”

“Yeah?”

“I swear it’s a setup to put all of us weirdos together.”

I yawned.

“I need a pillow,” Lisa announced. “I’ll be right back. No more screaming. Close your eyes, and in the morning we’ll go boy-hunting. Dream about that.”

“Boys?”

“Uh…” Lisa tucked her brown hair behind her ear. “That is, unless you’re interested in girls. I mean, that’s cool if you bat for the other team, I was just sayin’—”

“No, no, no.” A weak laugh squeezed past my lips. Did I look like I batted for the other team? “No, nothing like that. I’ve just never had a boyfriend.”

“You poor soul!” Was she serious? “How did you survive?”

“Netflix, Johnny Depp, books. I powered through.” I shrugged. “Trust me, if you grew up in the town I did, you wouldn’t have dated either.”

“Oh yeah? Why?” She held up her hand really quick and ran out of the room. When she came back she had her pillow in hand. Throwing it onto the floor she sat with her legs crossed and yawned. “Okay, you may continue.”

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