A pounding and throbbing filled my head as I attempted to lift it from the pillow. Groaning I quickly grabbed it before it decided to explode. Taking great care and cursing my now ex-friend Strawberry Daiquiri I rolled over. Lying there, eyes closed, I let the warmth of sun on my face soothe the pain.
Slowly the ticking bomb on my shoulders began to unwind and as it did I became aware of my surroundings. It wasn't anything I could put my finger on but something wasn't quite right. Cautiously, in case it triggered the ignition of another blast, I opened my eyes. The sun was bright, too bright, and it momentarily blinded me as it reflected off the white surfaces.
It was the colour, or lack of it, that stirred my befuddled brain into action. I leapt to my feet staring in shock at my surrounding, my own state forgotten for the moment. How…..? When…..? Where……? Questions flashed through my mind so quickly that they never even fully formed before they were pushed out by the next one. I knew this room, I'd been here before, but waking up in Ice's hotel room was something I never thought I would be doing. Movement caught my eye and fearing a confrontation I scuttled behind a screen.
Not hearing anything I peered out from behind my hiding place. There was indeed a confrontation waiting for me, just not the one I had been dreading. Staring back at me, accusing in her state of undress, was my worst nightmare. This couldn't be happening to me! I knew I moved fast with boys, faster than my sister approved of, but I had never, ever cheated on someone. Frantically I span around searching for my clothes and the force of my motion caught up with me.
Groaning i resisted the urge to crawl back into bed and die. I didn't know where Ice had gone but there was no way I was going to be here when he returned. Moving as quickly as I dared I gathered my things and slunk back home, now knowing the true meaning of the walk of shame. When I got there I hid in my darkened room nearly wishing for the hangover to just kill me and get over it. I spent the next two days recovering, hiding. If I knew what was to come when I emerged I would have never got out of bed again.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Something was going on with Mint but whatever it was Moon wasn't saying.
No matter how irritated I got with her she refused to speak with me, even going so far as to plug her ears and turn away. Thank Berry that Nilla was there. She kept me calm and prevented me from doing things I later would regret. With her by my side I felt centred and complete.
"I want to stay like this forever." I said basking in the glow of her moon lit face. She smiled and looked away avoiding the statement like she always did when I talked about the future. "I'm serious," I pushed. "My life is no longer mine without you. I want the rest of my life to be like this moment, quietly siding by your side." "Per," her voice faltered and she wouldn't meet my eyes. "I won't be here in Sunset Valley forever you know. We've already been here longer than we should have. We're only here right now because of...." her cheeks reddened and she looked quickly at me and then, catching me watching her, at the house.
Thinking she was implying she wanted to go inside I stood and helped her to her feet. "And why can't you stay forever. Just because Ice has to leave doesn't mean you do." She pulled here hands out of mine as if she had been stung. "What? No! Where Ice goes I go." "But it doesn't always have to be like that. Some day you're going to have to leave and look after yourself for once."
"It's not like that. You don't understand." "Well then help me to!" I said getting a little bit frustrated. I never pushed her for details on her relationship with Ice but if it was going to stop us from being together then I was going to find out. "I can't tell you ok!"
I pulled back, surprised at her tone. It was the first time I had heard anything more than the quietest of whispers escape her lips. My expression must have been suitably stunned because she soften a bit. "I love you Per, more than I ever thought possible, more than I ever knew I had in me to love another. But this isn't something I can't tell you." "Nilla..." I trailed off. I wanted to say I never kept things from her but that wasn't true. I had honoured Mint's confidences in me and never discussed her case with Nilla. It tore me up to do so but I knew Mint suspected Ice of poisoning Flax just as I knew without a doubt that Nilla told Ice everything. Not knowing what to say I decided to speak from the heart. "I don't want to loose you."
"It was inevitable that you would. I belong with Ice and you belong with your family. I can't stay here Per." She took a deep and shuddering breath as she pulled my face close to hers. Lips nearly touching she said, "I can't stay here, so I should go." Gently she pressed her mouth to mine and then was gone. I could feel my heart pulling away from me with every second that passed and I knew I could not survive this. So I resolved to do the one thing I knew would prove to her that she could stay here.
I turned my phone on for the first time in two days and saw a flood of missed calls and messages. The ones from Maize made me smile as I scrolled through them but the thought if facing him after what I had done made me instantly nauseated. There was a messages from one person I could face though. You ignoring me? Come on give an invalid some love. F Shaking my head at his childlike antics I headed out to the hospital.
As I pushed my way through the doors I was assaulted by the strong odours that are ever present in a hospital. Instantly another wave of nausea hit. Surrounded by doctors I was sorely temped to grab one and find out what was wrong with me. It may have been the worst hang over I've ever had but surely I shouldn't still be sick. When the feeling past I made my way to Flax's room, breathing shallowly to avoid another bout. I was nearly there when I saw them, the ghosts of past and present.
Thankfully Malt turned the other way but Maize headed straight towards me. There was no avoiding him, not in this tight hallway, so I put on a smile as he approached. "Well if it isn't miss playing hard to get. You should know you can't get rid of me that easily." I could tell he was teasing me and to reinforce the smile in his tone he reached out and stroked my cheek. I couldn't help myself, I blushed. "Sorry about that. I wasn't feeling well."
"Are you ok?" His voice was suddenly full of concern as he tried to meet my eye. I bluffed and went with the only explanation I could give him right now. "I think so. Some sort of stomach bug I think. I was in no fit state for the world and so I hid." His eyes flashed over my face searching for clues that I wasn't telling the whole truth. I stared back trying my best to seem innocent of anything else. I knew I had to tell him about Ice but this wasn't the time.
"Well I wouldn't want to stress your fragile stomach but do you think you could handle some cafeteria Jello? I'm headed down there to get His Highness some." He jerked his head back to the room rolling his eyes in the process.
I laughed at his face relieved to find I still could. "Alright then, maybe some lemon would be nice." I smiled coyly at him turning it into a bit of a suggestion. Always alert he picked up my meaning right away. "Coming right up," he said winking as he walked away.
"Well it's about time," said the petulant Flax the second I walked in. "Weeks I've been languishing here, weeks, and you never come by to see me." His tone grated on my nerves a bit but I realised how frustrating it must be having to be cooped up like this. Especially for someone like Flax who was used to doing what he wanted when he wanted. "It's only been a few days since I was last here silly."
"Exactly! I thought you were different from the rest of them. I thought with you here we could be friends again, like we used to be. But you don't even bother to take five minutes out of your day to come see me." I did feel guilty then it was the least a friend could do. I sighed, "You're right and I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you. We can be friends like we were." He pouted for a second and then brightened hopping on the bed and patting the space next to him. "Well come over here then and let's make the most of it while I figure out what you can do to make it up to me," he said the playfulness back in his voice.
We chatted for a few minutes about inconsequential things while he built up to whatever plan he had in mind. I was careful to avoid mention of my activities over the last few days and it wasn't hard, Flax always was a better talker than a listener.
I was surprised, no shocked, when Flax finally dropped his pretences and scooted close putting his arms around me. "So I hear it didn't take you long to get over Malt. I have to admit I was a little mad at you. I mean here I am, lonely and alone and all you had to do was come over to see me." I sat there frozen not believing what I was hearing. "There is really only one thing you can do to make it up to me you know, especially after you gave in to the competition."
At the mention of the word competition I pulled back instantly on edge. He couldn't possibly know about my big mistake, could he? "How did you know?" I choked out when I could get the words past the rapidly forming lump in my throat.
"Please," he said scoffing at my words. "I may be stuck in here but I keep track of anything that might affect my business. And this qualifies, in a big way." "You can't tell anyone you hear! Not a soul!" I began to panic now. It was if my worst nightmare was coming to life. "I won't," he said eyes narrowing slightly. "Just as long as you share the sugar." He leered this time, actually leered, and I began to realise that he wasn't kidding about this. "Flax!" I said appalled. "No! It was a mistake, a drunken mistake. I never would have slept with Ice if I'd known what was happening. Please you can't tell Maize." Frantic now I couldn't hold back the tears that had been threatening.
"Ice?!? You slept with HIM! You SLEPT with him." He was nearly incandescent with rage. "I could forgive you my manager, I could even forgive you my brother but there is no way I can forgive you sleeping with Toffee." The name drew my out of my sobbing. "Toffee? I haven't slept with anyone called Toffee. In fact the only Toffee I know is the one you and I grew up with." "Ya huh! Toffee Crisp, come on Mint don't tell me that you didn't recognise him in his new guise. Just 'cause he died his hair blue doesn't change his looks. I know there isn't much in that pretty little head of yours but you can't be that dense."
"No, no it's not possible." The sickness I had been keeping at bay reared up and would not be contained. I ran from the room searching for the nearest toilet hearing Flax shouting behind me but not understanding the words.
The cool tile in the bathroom and a splash of water on my face helped the feeling pass. How could I have not seen it. Toffee, the boy I grew up with, my best friend and confidant was masquerading as Ice! I felt betrayed and I sank to the floor completely drained.
Why didn't he tell me the first time I saw him? I ran over every meeting with him in my mind trying to see him as my friend. As each scene flashed before me I failed to find the boy I once loved as a brother. What had happened to him to make him so cold? And how was I going to face him now? I felt the minutes ticking by but I could not find the strength to get up and face the world. So I sat there, drifting in and out of my daze until a shrill alarm woke me from my reverie.
Sirens filled the hall with ear piercing intensity but that was only a fraction of the chaos in front of me. The entire hospital seemed to be descending on Flax's room. Overwhelmed I latched on to the one sight I could make some sense of Ice, no not Ice but Toffee, running to the hospital doors phone in hand. Dodging crash carts and doctors I edged my way forward hoping to catch a glimpse of what was happening. A glimpse was all I needed.
I could tell in an instant what was wrong. Flax was dead.