10:32 p.m. | Gus’s Room
“Cailean?!” Aislyn exclaims. As if on cue, Gus turns on the shower and the sound of the running water fills the silence. “I should go.” Cailean says, and to his credit he doesn’t take his eyes off of Aislyn’s as he turns to leave.
“Wait!” Aislyn calls after him, but Cailean appears to have no intention of stopping. Remembering that she’s holding her clothes in her hand, Aislyn begins dressing at lightning speed and rushes after him.
“Cailean.” She says again after nearly catching up to him. “I just had something work related I wanted to ask Gus about, but it’s not important.” Cailean says over his shoulder.
“Stop!” Aislyn says while grabbing his arm and turning him to face her. Cailean looks quite surprised when their eyes meet; he didn’t appear to have expected her to do that, which made two of them as Aislyn was surprised at herself as well. Her body had acted before she had time to really think through what she was doing, and the moment her hand closed around his arm, her heart began to race.
Technically it wasn’t any of Cailean’s business as to what she did or didn’t do with Gus, but even so, Aislyn found herself overcome with an intense desire to clear things up, which only made her wonder yet again why she cared so much what Cailean thought of her. “Sorry…” Aislyn says while releasing the rather tight grip she had on him.
The brief look of surprise Cailean had on his face disappears, and an expression of suspicion takes its place. He crosses his arms and looks at Aislyn expecting her to say something more… only she doesn’t know what exactly to say as she hadn’t thought ahead to what she’d do once she actually managed to stop Cailean. And so, she begins fiddling with her fingers nervously.
Wait a minute… Why am I acting like some sort of criminal? I didn’t do anything wrong. Aislyn thinks. Despite the awkward scenario they were in at the moment, and the fact that she was upset at the way Cailean had spoken to her the last time they had seen each other, a part of her was happy to see him again. “You weren’t interrupting anything… I was already on my way out.” She says, before making her way towards the door.
She didn’t want their conversation to turn south so she figured she’d leave before it would have a chance to. Cailean makes no move to speak or stop her as she walks out which only adds to the hurt she was feeling…
8:49 p.m. | Bayville Graveyard
“You’re late.” M says as J.D. approaches. Aside from the bits of time he devoted to searching for any pieces of his past, he had been spending most of his time with her.
“Sue me.” He teases.
– FLASHBACK –
When M had helped J.D. search for Aislyn a few weeks back, they had made a wager depending on whether they’d be able to find her or not.
“Hey now… How do I know you didn’t make this whole thing up to get a free tour of the town?”
“That’s definitely not what happened; we probably missed her and she’s already left.”
“According to you.”
“I’ll tell you what… if I head back to Ais… Clarissa’s place and find her there, I’ll still come back and help you do whatever it is you wanted since I technically might’ve sent you on a wild goose chase.”
“I’ll hold you to your word…”
As J.D. found Aislyn at home, with her boyfriend no less, he decided to come back to keep his promise to M. The only problem was, that one visit turned into several, and each time he came back they continued to talk about unimportant things and explored other parts of the infinitely large city without M ever bringing up her mysterious favor.
J.D. always joked with Aislyn that he’d hang out with lady ghosts downtown without ever actually doing so, and now that he was, he found himself enjoying it. M was funny, witty, and smart and being around her made J.D. realize how lonely his existence had become aside from when he was with Aislyn, which never really bothered him until now…
Each time he came back to Bayville, he nearly forgot he wasn’t alive anymore and part of that was because he and M had never discussed anything related to their prior lives… not that J.D. could share anything even if he wanted to…
As he comes back from his reverie, J.D. figures he needs to put an end to these escapades he’s been having with M, for the longer they went on, the weaker his resolve to moving on would become, and it’s not like they could live some sort of happy undead life together…
“You’ve let your hair down.” J.D. observes as he looks at her. “It suits you.”
“Thanks.” M says with a bit of laughter as she tucks some hair behind her ear. J.D. notices a ring on her finger as she does so and feels a pang of jealously that she probably remembered who her counterpart was and he didn’t. “So, do you plan on ever telling me what your favor is?” He asks.
“Oh, about that…”
“I’ve quite enjoyed hanging out with you, so I’ve gotten a bit side tracked…” M says. “Me too.” J.D. says honestly. M smiles, “There was this girl that I knew a really long time ago… she lived in this town, and… you’re going to think I’m crazy…”
“Try me.” J.D. says.
“She could see me… except she was alive. I’ve been trying to find her…”
J.D’s mind flashes back to when Aislyn was sharing the story of her teenage years with him. “Wait a minute… Are you Maddie?” He asks.
“How… how on earth do you know that?” She asks.
J.D. couldn’t believe his spontaneous hunch was right. “It’s a long story… but you’re probably going to want to come with me.”
11:20 p.m. | Aislyn’s House
J.D. still wasn’t around when Aislyn returned, but she has gotten used to it. She didn’t really want to recount her disastrous evening at Gus’s to him, so she especially didn’t mind that he was gone.
As she opens the fridge, she’s greeted by a warm breeze as opposed to a chill, letting her know he’s back.
“Where have you–” “Kind of a long story, but I brought a guest…” J.D. says, cutting her off.
Before Aislyn has time to process what he says, another figure materializes behind him.
“Like I said, it’s a long story, but it turns out the person I’ve been hanging with happens to know and was looking for you. Pretty wild, huh?” J.D. says as they walk closer.
“I had my doubts it could really be you…” Maddie says.
“… but looking at you now there is no mistaking it, you’re Aislyn Persefoni. You don’t know how long I’ve been trying to find you again.”
“I guess we have a lot to catch up on.” Aislyn says. “That sounds like an understatement.” J.D. says with a chuckle.
“Like I said, you shouldn’t have blamed yourself back then.” Aislyn says after filling Maddie in on what she’s been up to for the past few years. Seeing Maddie again reminded her of the pain she felt when she had lost her around the same time she had lost everyone else in her life in high school. Aislyn never would’ve imagined she’d see her again, and talking to her now seemed to get rid of that ache. “I know… I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t even know you were married.” Aislyn says. “Technically we were only ever engaged.” Maddie says. She had now told Aislyn all the things she didn’t back when they had first met. Maddie had been in a car accident a few weeks after getting engaged to her longtime boyfriend who was also in the car. They had both passed away.
J.D. was listening in the background silently as Maddie and Aislyn talked, and though he appeared to be his normal, cool, self, from time to time Aislyn noticed he’d flinch or shift uncomfortably when Maddie spoke, and she figured it was out of some sort of jealously.
“So will you do me this last favor then?” Maddie asks. “Of course.” Aislyn replies. She now knew that unfinished business Maddie had said she had planned to tell her when the ‘time was right.’
Maddie’s only sibling, a younger sister named Mackenzie, was only seven at the time of the accident, and was turning eighteen soon. Maddie had a safety deposit box she put several valuable things into that she wanted to pass on to her now that she would soon be turning into an adult and graduating high school. Apparently, their parents were negligent and Maddie and Mackenzie grew up in foster care. As Maddie was a decade older than her sister, she was able to start working and planned on getting them their own home when she had earned enough, she’d even managed to get engaged at a young age to a man, Rodrick, who came from a similar background, but she had passed on too soon before being able to begin that next chapter.
When Aislyn had met her all those years ago, Maddie had preferred to talk with her as opposed to watching over her sister since she felt helpless when she saw her struggling and knew there was nothing she could do. But now that she was approaching adulthood, Maddie wanted to help Mackenzie and see her begin the new life she never could and only then would she be able to move on in peace.
“It shouldn’t be a problem… My father and his wife will be coming for the holidays, I’ll tag a ride with them back to Bayville and make sure your sister gets what she needs.”
“I can’t thank you enough… It has been a while since I’ve checked in on her, so I’ll be taking my leave. The fact that you can still see me is as remarkable as ever. I hope to see you both again soon.” Maddie says as she disappears.
“Well, I unexpectedly managed to tie some loose ends today…” Aislyn says. “Who would’ve guessed that she was the lady from your past?” J.D. says with a solemn expression. “You don’t sound that happy about that.” Aislyn says.
“Do you like her?” Aislyn asks, noting the way Maddie had emphasized the word ‘both’. “Does it matter?” J.D. counters, shutting down any questions Aislyn had about their relationship before she could attempt to ask them.
“What about you? What’s the deal with your boyfriend?” J.D. asks, and just like that, Aislyn offense was switched into defense. “Nothing worth mentioning…” She says as she turns to re-enter the kitchen and make something to eat.
“I figured as much…” J.D. says with a slight smile.
12:51 a.m. | Mai and Chad’s Apartment
“We’re out of milk, if I don’t have my morning coffee I will bite your head off.” Mai says.
12:51 a.m. | Oldmerrow Bridge
“You’re saying that like I don’t already know it.” Chad says. “I’ll pick it up on my way back.”
“Alright, love you.”
“Love you, too. Bye.” Chad says, hanging up the phone. He was on his way home after an overly long work day, when he hears a familiar laugh echoing behind him.
He squints across the bridge and makes out two familiar silhouettes.
They are unaware of him standing off in the distance and continue to converse while they walk along. As their voices ring over the water into the otherwise silent night, Chad becomes certain they are Kimberly and Gus.
Interesting. Chad thinks to himself, he knew Gus and Kim had known each other for years, but neither went out of their way to hang out outside of the group dynamic, especially this late at night. With a smirk, Chad continues to the market, wondering what this could mean…
– FIVE DAYS LATER –
7:01 a.m. | Downtown Oldmerrow
“Wow, I love how you left all of your holiday shopping essentially to the last minute.” J.D. says, as they make their way across the street.
“Thank you for reminding me, as if I wasn’t painfully aware that I’ve lost track of time.” Aislyn says. Christmas was a week away, and though her house was pretty much ready for Nicole and her father’s visit, she hadn’t picked up any presents for them or her relatively newfound friends.
She hadn’t spoken to Gus since their bedside chat, but the silence between them this time wasn’t uncomfortable. They both appeared to be doing some thinking. Instead, she spent most of the week wondering if Cailean was going to reach out to her… “It seems you aren’t the only one in a last minute pinch.” J.D. says as a car filled with gift-wrap and shopping bags drives by.
Since Maddie had come over, J.D. hasn’t left the house as often as he had been for the past few weeks, and Aislyn finally filled him in on all of the awkwardness surrounding her love life and he did the same regarding where he had been going and what he has been doing.
Aislyn didn’t realize the weight she had on her until it lifted while talking to J.D. He really had become a special confidant to her, and she didn’t realize how irreplaceable he was until she refrained from speaking to him these past few weeks. “You probably did the same when you were alive.” Aislyn says. “I may not remember much, but I know myself well enough to know I probably didn’t procrastinate like you.” J.D. says with a grin.
7:06 a.m. | City Hall
As the holidays were approaching and most places would be closing, Cailean figured he’d wake up early and get some paperwork he needed turned in while he could.
He spent most of the week regretting how he’d handled talking to Aislyn last. Seeing her like that had made him incredibly flustered, and he attempted to make a hasty escape because he knew that if she had lingered, he probably would’ve given away the fact that he had feelings for her which he’d done a good job of hiding so far.
When Aislyn had pulled him from the door, he was afraid she’d be able to feel his erratic heartbeat through his shirt or see the millions of thoughts swimming in his eyes, but thankfully that hadn’t been the case.
He still hadn’t managed to apologize for how he had treated her before that encounter when they were in his room, and now he had this unpleasant incident to add to the list of things to be sorry for. As he makes his way out, he sees a figure in the distance that looks an awful lot like Aislyn and assumes his eyes are playing tricks on him as she was already on his mind.
A closer look makes him realize that it is in fact Aislyn, and he figures now will be a good a time as ever to make things right…
J.D. glances back at City Hall and steps in front of Aislyn, bringing her to a stop. “What is it?” She asks. “I have a feeling you won’t be getting your shopping done, at least not this morning.” He says with a smug expression. “What? Why not? We’re nearly at the stores.” “You’ll see.” J.D. says, and with that, he disappears.
Aislyn is completely confused at his sudden declaration, but doesn’t remain puzzled for long as she hears a voice call her name behind her; when she turns, she sees it’s Cailean.
“Morning.” Cailean says. “Good morning.” Aislyn says in return, her expression was apprehensive which indicated to Cailean that his apology was definitely long overdue. “Can we talk?” He asks, and she nods.
He leads her to a bench a little ways away from the kids making snowmen and cars driving by. He didn’t think beating around the bush would do him any good and decides to just cut to the chase. “Look, I had been meaning to say this for a while, but I didn’t really speak to you properly the last few times we saw one another, and for that I’m sorry. I probably didn’t seem like myself…”
He waits to see how she’ll take to this, but her expression doesn’t change and she sits in silence. Say something. He pleads silently as he wonders what thoughts were going through her mind.
She eventually gives a small smile after a few seconds that feel like an eternity for Cailean, and he’s afraid she’ll hear the increase in his heartbeat when she speaks. “Why?” She asks.
“I did notice that you didn’t seem like yourself… why was that?”
Because I like you. Cailean thinks. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. And it’s wrong because you’re dating my closest friend, so I wanted to put some distance between us but went about it the wrong way because you make me so flustered… even at this very moment… But I can’t tell you that… “Oh, I was stressed out with some work–related things and kind of pushed it onto you.” Cailean lies, hoping she’ll buy it.
“Oh…” Aislyn says. “Well, that’s understandable…”
“I really am sorry… When I get flust– stressed, I don’t really know how to handle yo– it.” Cailean says. Great job, Cailean, you almost slipped up that you are losing your cool around her even now.
“How about now?” Aislyn asks. “What?” Cailean says, worried he might’ve accidentally said his thoughts aloud.
“Whatever you were stressed about, did you manage to put it behind you?”
Cailean almost laughs at the irony of those words coming out of Aislyn’s mouth, he figures he’ll answer honestly since she won’t possibly manage to piece together the double meaning behind his words. “No I haven’t… and I think it’s something that’s going to take some time to get over…”
8:17 a.m. | Downtown Art Gallery
Mai had managed to get tickets to an art exhibition Chad had mentioned he’d wanted to see a few weeks ago when they’d seen an ad for it on TV. She knew he wasn’t aware it would be in town on Christmas Day, or that she’d managed to snag them some tickets and couldn’t wait to surprise him.
I can’t wait to see the look on your face. Mai thinks; Chad was working despite it being a Saturday as the holidays were approaching and his clientele piled up around this time of year. The plus side was this gave her some free time to do her holiday shopping in peace since they tended to have differing opinions on what to buy.
As Mai steps out to take a shortcut to the mall, she notices Aislyn and Cailean sitting on a bench in the distance.
Well… well… well, what could this mean? Mai thinks. Aislyn had let it slip during work this week that she and Cailean weren’t exactly speaking to one another. And though Aislyn tried her best not to say it, Mai could tell this definitely bothered her.
Mai had planned on asking Cailean what exactly went down when she got the chance, but from the looks of it now, it appeared the two of them had patched up whatever it was.
They appeared to be in a deep conversation, and Mai was glad they were seemingly on better terms. She didn’t want to interrupt them, so she carefully retraces her steps and decides she’ll take the long way to the mall…
Aislyn hadn’t realized how cold she was until she attempted to brush off some fallen snow from her cheek and felt her fingers were like ice. Her own hand makes her flinch and Cailean notices. “We’ve been out here a while.” He says and Aislyn can tell from his tone that he plans on ending their rather pleasant conversation.
“We should probably go. You mentioned you had holiday shopping you needed to tend to.” Cailean says. “Yeah…” Aislyn replies, wondering if her disappointment at the end to their conversation was evident in her voice. Even when they were talking about the most random things, she quite liked speaking with Cailean.
“So are we good now?” Aislyn asks after they rise, just to make sure whatever awkwardness between them was gone for good. The amount of time her thoughts went to Cailean while they weren’t speaking was slightly worrisome. She constantly wondered why on earth she cared so much at how he viewed her, and the longer they spoke Aislyn was beginning to develop an uneasy feeling as to why that was… “Yeah, we’re good.” Cailean says with a grin.
“Well, then, I’ll let you be on your way.” Aislyn says. Again, just like at Gus’s house, her body acts of its own accord and she reaches to hug Cailean.
If Cailean was caught off guard by her gesture, he didn’t show it, and returned her embrace. This is ok… Friends hug all the time… Aislyn thinks, attempting to bury that growing feeling of uneasiness. If that’s the case… then why do I feel… so… wrong. Aislyn thinks. That lack of fervor she felt with Gus was definitely not the case with her now as she felt Cailean wrap his arms around her. It was the first time they’ve been this close to one another, and even though their hug didn’t last a minute, it gave Aislyn enough time to confirm what she was attempting to bury, which only made her feel a mix of anxiousness and guilt… a whole lot of guilt…
“Are you alright?” Cailean asks with a grin when he pulls back. Aislyn didn’t have enough time to hide the expression brought about by her sudden realization. “You look like you’re dreading going to the mall.”
“Yeah… All this shopping will be a chore…” Aislyn says with what she hopes is a convincing laugh. That’s not it at all… She thinks. I’m dreading the fact that I think I’m falling… no, I know that I’ve already fallen for you, Cailean…
Thanks for reading! In hindsight, not a lot of big events happened this chapter, but quite a few subtle things that shall again come into play later have. To make up for that though, next chapter is pretty wild, haha. It’ll be the curse-breaker 19 :’) *throws confetti* so I plan to make it quite special plot-wise, hehe. It’ll be called Blood On Your Hands, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. Feel free to let me know what you thought~ Take care!