I stared in abstract horror at the scene before me. It wasn't the fact that I could see my mangled body, twisted and deformed in an ugly heap of blood and excrement, that was sending me into near hysteria. After all, I had felt every slice into my skin, every slow drag of the knife that had been used to butcher me. So seeing a visual of everything I had felt as my life slipped away, was not surprising in the least. No, it was the man that had me cradled in his arms that was truly frightening.
Despite all the gore, all the mess that was spilling from my stomach, he clutched me hard against his chest. Rocking back and forth, whispering sweet reassurances and kind nothings from his mouth as tears streamed down his face, continuing on to drop and splash against my forehead. It was clear that I was dead. Nobody could have survived the amount of trauma my body had been put through. But still he denied it, swearing to me and himself that he would get me back safely.
It was a heart wrenching scene. Here was a man who I had never glimpsed any emotion from unless he had wanted me to. He was a man who hid behind a poker face of teasing and mischief and any emotion stronger than such never existed on his face. To see him broken, stripped down to his core, sobs wracking his body and to be able to see so much emotion, emotion that he had kept so well hidden, strewn plainly across his face, was beyond anything that I had ever wanted to witness.
It was terrifying and horrible. The raw force of his suffering was literally pressing down on me, weighing me down until I collapsed beneath the sheer force of it. Transfixed, I continued to watch as a dark mist started leaking from the pores of his body. Painfully it coiled out from underneath his skin, manifesting itself in waves of contrasting black and gray smoke, so thick that it seemed to engulf everything it touched and sluggishly, agonizingly sluggishly, it was making it's way towards me.
I couldn't take my eyes off it, I couldn't move one muscle. It's entire presence captivated my whole being and I was left defenseless as it devoured me and sunk into my very soul. It was like being possessed by a ghost, which is quite ironic, seeing as I am now one myself. But nothing else seems to come closer to what was happening to me. I was no longer Lestine Craner, in the sense that I was in control of myself. No, I was a side passenger who was forced to sit back and watch.
And as I watched, I saw the life which I had lived. Whoever said that your life flashed before your eyes as you died, lied or simply got it wrong. Because I never saw my life played back to me as my blood had ran away from my body. It was only now that I was dead, that I was seeing my memoirs, recollections, displayed unmistakeably before my eyes. However, they were all different.
Instead of seeing it as I had seen it, experiencing it as I had experienced it, I was watching it from a spectators view, feeling it from a spectators view and this spectator just so happened to be the man who still held my monstrosity of a body in his arms.
To say it was interesting is an understatement. No, it was fascinating and more. All of the things that had made me, me, were gone. Having been replaced with everything that had made him, him. In every sense of the word, I had become Jean Matthews. So as I was taken back to my fourteenth year, I didn't even recognise that the girl sitting across from me in art class, who I so happened to be staring at, was me. No she was just a young, quiet, pretty girl who I didn't happen to know the name of.
So I continued to watch her, I had been at this school for half a year already and thought that I knew everyone there was worth knowing so how was it, that I had missed her? As the week progressed on I began to understand, she was a loner and by the looks of it, tried hard to keep it that way. She wasn't snobby but she wasn't accommodating either. She was polite and straight to the point and a real hard worker. She knew what she wanted and was happy to try her hardest to get it. The thing I found most intriguing about her though, was how shy she actually was. Not being able to resist, I got up and sat down by her. I could tell that she was surprised but I didn't take notice of it and breezed through as though we had been long lost friends. After awhile, she opened up to me and in no time I had her laughing.
Sixteen years now and Lestine Craner is a far cry from the girl who I first met in art class. Gone is the quiet girl who nobody talked to, I guess that is my fault. After I meet her I found out how much of a naive, innocent thing she was and couldn't help teasing her for it. Though I guess teasing her is too much of a light word. No, I ridiculed her, threw blows at her that I knew would hurt and knowing that she liked me only made it easier. Still I must say that I never saw her smile break, she just continued laughing everything off, taking it good naturedly, which only made me want to crack her even more.
It didn't take long for it to become a game to me. Because I was teasing her, she soon became noticed, people started to flock to her, never the less she was still alone. No matter what kind of friends she made, they would always join me when trashing her, always gang up on her with me, but still she just smiled. So I became even dirtier, I stared flirting with all her girlfriends, flaunting it in front of her, trying to get a rise but always it would be the same. She would just smile at me, laugh it off and still look at me with those trusting, starstruck eyes as though I was the best thing in the world. It was really starting to make me sick. At first I had thought that she had just liked me because I was the only guy to have taken notice of her but that wasn't the case now, so why did she still follow me around like a lost lamb? At this point I really got dirty, forget the flirting, I started making out with them in front of her and when one would ask 'What about Lestine?' I would mockingly laugh and reply, 'Who wants an ugly girl like that'?
Despite the smile that never seemed to falter, I could tell that all my harassing was taking its toll. She started to wear make up, started taking notice of what she was wearing and how her hair looked. No longer would she hang out in the library studying. Now she was hanging out with the other girls gossiping, talking loud and basically just trying to get attention. It was sad, she had started to loose the innocence that I had liked about her but in the process, I had finally started to win and that's all that really mattered.
Seventeen now and the girl that I meet in that art classroom is gone. She is now as gorgeous and popular as any girl I've ever seen but she has lost that glow, that sweet innocence that separated her from the rest and by the looks of it, it all started from when I asked her out. Truth be told I had never seen her happier, her smile beamed up at me with such sincerity that it gave me quite a shock. Come on, I had been nothing but mean to this girl and just a couple of words from me and she looks like she could fly off to the moon. I don't understand her, how could she want to be with me? It all seems too fake.
The next day I dump her when she comes to find me at lunch, scoffing at her and telling everyone that I can't believe she actually thought I was serious. It's a rule of mine to never date so what makes her think that I would break that for someone like her, you've got to be kidding me! This time, I thought I really had her, I could see her breaking down before all those judging faces but she just laughed, smiled and handed me the lunch that she had planned to share with me. You don't know how much I've come to detest that laugh.
Next month, she's dating a mate of mine that I had always known to have a thing for her. It surprised me, but just proved that she had never really liked me in the first place. This time, I'm not so harsh to her, frankly now I just can't be bothered. She's already broken and now another man's toy, so I couldn't care less. She's just one of the many girls out there who happen to have a nice ass.
The following fortnight, I find that she's been dropped. Turned out that she was too frigid to do anything and the guy just didn't want to waste his time on a virgin who wasn't going to put out. This is where I see her starting to decline. It wasn't anything major but soon, she started showing up late to classes, stopped going to her sport practices and stopped hanging out with her friends. The next three weeks she doesn't turn up to school at all but when she does I'm almost blown off my feet. The image that she had slowly been creating is now perfected and the finishing result is absolutely stunning. She can only be described as beautiful, but it seems hollow and cheap. The glow and vitality that seemed to attract her to me is gone and she truly is just another one of those many pretty girls. Still, she has kept that smile of hers.
Nineteen's just around the corner and know I can say I finally saw her smile shatter and disintegrate before my very eyes. But to tell you the truth it didn't make me feel any good at all. In fact you can say its the thing that I regret the most. After she had returned to school, I got to know her a lot more intimately because she had started to hang out in the circles that I moved between. It wasn't long before we became inseparable, it was a well known fact that if you wanted to find Lestine, all you had to do was find Jean because she would always be close by.
I came to value her as a really good friend and just as the year was coming to an end, she confessed to me, seriously confessed. She had been acting off all night and when I finally asked her what was up, it all just kind of poured out of her. I didn't say anything for awhile, in fact I didn't do anything for while. I just sat there stupidly looking at this girl who was wringing her hands together and looking up at me underneath hooded lashes uncertainly. In that moment, she was every bit the girl I had first seen in that art room. All shy, naive and..................innocent. Quietly I told her that I was sorry and that I didn't like her that way. Chuckling to herself she replied that she already knew but still, she had to try. With that, she got up, gave me a big smile and walked out the door. But it was the most horrible smile I had ever seen. For the little time that it took for her to finish speaking to me, it quivered and twitched, and I could visibly see the effort she was putting forth to prevent herself from crying.
I haven't seen her since then and frankly I'm starting to believe that I never will. It's steadily becoming two years since the incident occurred and like I said, nineteen is just around the corner. At first I was angry, how could she leave without saying good bye? I was her friend for crying out loud, the same friend who had encouraged her to take the foreign exchange in the first place! The very least she could do was say goodbye! Sure I had rejected her but we were still friends, weren't we? I stayed stuck in a range for a long time, snapping at anything and everything and just being a down right ass. But then I just started to miss her and once I started, I couldn't stop.
I began to see all the things she had done for me that I had taken for granted. I never really realised it but thinking back now, she had never said no to me. She would grumble but in the end she always let me have my way, even if it meant she suffered from it. I just didn't see it, didn't see it at all and that wasn't the only thing that I hadn't seen. Why do we appreciate the importance of something, only when it's gone?
Twenty-six, and I'm only getting older. I finally meet Lestine again. She's become some kind of big actress over in Japan. She's just come home for a break, from what her parents have been saying, she's had some rather frightening stalker incidents and her manager thought it best that she left the country for awhile. Though by the way it seems to not bother her, it can't be that serious. Then again, she could just be putting on a brave face for her mother. With her, I can never really tell.
Slowly, we have started to regain the friendship which we once had. When she had first come back and I happened to run into her at the supermarket, I didn't know what to say and I'm pretty sure I had just stood there gawking at her for a good ten seconds. This made her smile and awkwardly, a conversation was born. She's a lot more beautiful than I remember, cliche I know but it's the truth. She seems a lot more sure of herself than she had ever been before, although I have to admit that the timidness she always had about her is still there.
It's been four months since she returned and the awkwardness that once engulfed us is now gone. She's started staying over my house again, just hanging out like we always used to. It's fun and it's often what I look forward to during the day, but call me greedy, it just isn't enough. I want her, all of her and I can't seem to wait. She hasn't noticed and I'm sure she doesn't love me anymore but I can't not try. I don't want to regret anything any longer.
I've bought the ring and I'm going to tell her tonight, win or loose, I'm going to give it everything I have. Even so, I've noticed that she's been behaving a little weirdly lately, I just can't seem to shake the feeling that she's keeping something from me. She assures me that I'm thinking too much but still, I can't let the feeling go.
I get off work early and head off to her apartment with the ring box firmly clutched in my hand. A feeling of dread starts to set into my skin and I know it is more than just nerves. Speeding up my footsteps, I come to the alley way where her apartment opens out onto. My blood runs cold, she may be the only one that lives down this alley but it's always lit up with music coming from her window and light spilling from her security lamps. Tonight, however, it's deathly still. I break into a sprint, eyes fixed so heavily on her front door that I end up tripping over something and falling to the ground. When I turn around to see what it is, my heart stops.
I jolt back into reality and as fast as Jean's characteristics had overcome me, they're gone. I can't believe it, I never knew, I, I never knew! I thought that he had always detested me. Even when he started being nice to me, I thought it had just been out of a sense of guilt, that he was only trying to make amends, only trying to redeem himself. Even so I didn't mind, because after everything, I never got over him. To tell the truth, I was just happy that I could still talk to him. The discovery that I had been wrong, so, so wrong, left me shaking uncontrollably.
Gathering my wits about me, I look back at that horror scene and see that Jean is still there. He seems to have calmed down and the cold acceptance that is on his face brings tears to my eyes. I watch as he pulls the ring from the box that he is still clutching and slips it onto my finger. Bringing my head up to his, he kisses my lips so tenderly as if he's afraid that I'll turn to dust in his hands. Tears are still running down his face as he whispers “I was too late, too late.”
“No” I whisper, “We were both too late.” And with that last choked reply, I start to disappear...