I looked over at her. She was half-asleep, her eyelids wanting to close under the weight of al the news she had received today, but just couldn’t seem to let them fall.
“Alena?” I asked. She only mumbled a reply. “Do you want to go get something to eat?”
“Only if you want to,” she answered.
“Well, you look pretty tired.”
I just kept driving. “We can go home.”
There were a few minutes of silence before she spoke again. “Brendon, I am dying.”
I nodded my head. “I know, baby.”
“Yet you still love me?” she cried. The tears started, coming out of her eyes and running down her pale face.
I looked over at her. She looked awful and distressed and tired. Her blue green eyes were somber and filled with tragedy. “Yes, I do.”
She rested her head on my shoulder and I put my arm around her and held her close against me. “How long?” I asked, the words barely finding their way out of my throat.
“Four years,” she answered. But something in her voice scared me, made me skeptical of what she said. Four years? Really? I thought it was to be far less than that, but I didn’t say anything. I knew she was lying to me. I knew she was prolonging the inevitable, trying to defy fate in anyway possible. But I knew and she knew that this wasn’t going to be that easy.
“I’ll make them the best four years of your life,” I whispered. Her tears soaked through my shirt, sinking into my skin. “I promise you.”
But she never said anything in reply.
They printed out the Pretty. Odd. album cover today. We’re on our way to Panic’s agent’s house to see it. Brendon has only bragged about it since we got out of the car. I’m not sure why, I was pretty sure it would look like crap. I had done it while confused and heart sick on the way home on the plane from the UK. I hadn’t seen what finishing touches Greg had done, and the art was way over due, but no one thought it mattered that much anymore. They were all only concerned about my health. I don’t think Brendon cared if the album was ever released. But I would never let that happen. Music was to always come before me. Always, no matter what.
“It looks so great baby,” he told me.
“I doubt it…”
“Why must you cut yourself down baby?” he asked me. “Why do you do that? You have such talent and such great ideas…”
“In a month, all that talent and those great ideas will be wasted.”
Brendon shook his head and just returned his eyes to the road. Yesterday had been the worst day of my life, and the worst part was was that I had had to lie to him. It hurt to look up into those concerned brown eyes, so filled with hurt, and tell him that you had four years, when really, you only had a year. Just the thought made me ache all over again and I could feel the same old hurt rising up again.
“Why did you not go through with the surgery?” he asked, not removing his eyes from the road.
“The doctor said if I went in, I might have never come out. And I promised you I would come back.”
“Why would you do that?” he asked. I could hear the pain in his voice.
“Because I love you,” was my only answer.
“The design is amazing, Alena,” Spencer said, flipping through the pages.
“I love the font,” Jon said.
“Yeah,” Brendon agreed. “Even Ryan looks good!”
I faked a laugh. Ryan looked up at me but quickly removed his eyes. We haven’t spoken since that night, and it has been a week.
“You did a fantastic job baby,” Brendon said, leaning over to give me a kiss. I felt Ryan watching us. When I glanced over at him, his eyes were full of ferocity and anger. I felt terrible. Not even the shower of compliments the room was delivering could hold me back from this pit of anguish I felt myself falling into.
“So you’re straight from high school?” the editor asked.
Before I could even answer, Brendon chimed in. “Yeah. Isn’t she amazing? She was in this really prestigious art club since she was a freshman in high school. And they only let college kids in.”
“We are glad we found her,” Greg agreed. “There was no one better suited for the job.”
All this turmoil began with a photo shoot, I thought. All this tragedy and mix-up. I’ve ruined this entire place, made it evil, just with my presence.
“Get up, Alena.”
Someone was talking to me. I recognized Brendon’s voice. “Hon,” he repeated. “You have to get up.”
“Why?” I asked, pulling the covers over my head.
“Please, I have a surprise for you. But you have to hurry if we’re going to make it there in time.”
“What time is it?” I asked, sitting up.
“It’s 5:30, and we have to get out there by 6:30.”
“Why?” I asked, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
“Just please, hurry. I don’t want you to miss this. I’ve packed us some breakfast and some blankets and it’s all out in the car. But you have to get up so we don’t miss it.”
“What is it?” I asked again, standing up and making my way to our bathroom.
“I told you,” he said, putting a giant grin on his face. “It’s a surprise.”
We are tearing out of Las Vegas, leaving all those big city lights behind to quickly fade away. I had no idea where we were going, but I didn’t care. In the pre-dawn light, the desert seemed scary and blank. Then I would remember I was with my Brendon, and I didn’t care anymore. Nothing would ever be scary again.
He’s been driving for almost half an hour now, and I was curious as to how far out we were going. I asked him.
“We’re going until I stop,” he answered, putting a sly grin on his face. I only shook my head.
“What else do you have up your sleeve?” I asked. But he didn’t answer me. Whatever he had planned, it was for him to know and for me to find out.
I only looked back once to see the Sin City lights. They were far behind us now, but still glowed brightly.
“Where are we going?” I pried one last time.
He smiled, revealing two rows of beautiful straight white teeth. “Have you ever seen the sunrise?” he asked.
“Yes, of course I have.” I thought it was an awfully stupid question. Who seriously hadn’t seen the sunrise at least once in their life?
His smile grew a great deal larger. “Have you ever seen the sunrise on the desert?”
I shook my head. “No, I never have.”
“Good,” he stated. “We’re almost there.”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“You’ll see baby.” He then slowed the car, preparing to turn right off of the highway. We turned onto this old, abandoned looking road. I looked past the dash, trying to see in the way of the headlights, but only the ragged dirt road continued. It was so rough, it practically blended into the desert. After a few minutes, we came to a large metal gate.
“Brendon, how do we—“
“Don’t worry about it babe,” he said, opening his door and getting out, causing a rush of cool morning air to enter the car. I watched him stumble around some rocks; he was still pretty sleepy but I could also tell how excited he was to share this with me. He undid the chain that held the gate shut and pushed the gate open before running back to the car. He left his door open as he pulled the car slightly forward, just past the gate a little ways. He then ran back out, put the chain back on the gate and returned to the car.
“It’s a tad chilly outside,” he said, laughing. “But that’s okay. Once the sun rises, it will be God awfully hot out. So we should enjoy the chill while it lasts.”
He kept going forward, until after about a minute or so, he took the car up a slope. I could tell we were headed up a plateau of some kind. We took the road up and around, until we were on flat land again. Brendon looked at the clock. It was 6:23.
“We have seven minutes to get out there and to get set up.” I only smiled at him. “Are you ready?” he asked.
“Super ready,” I said.
“On the count of three, we are going to run out of the car, get the stuff out of the back seat, set up breakfast and sit down all in six minutes.”
“I thought we had seven minutes?”
“We only have six now.”
“You’re very right.”
“I’m aware,” he answered. I rolled my eyes. “Okay, so… one… two… three!”
We both ran out of the car and made a mad dash around the side of the car. We tore open the back seat doors, took out the blanket and lunch box we had brought. We laid the blanket out right in front of the car and sat the lunchbox that contained our breakfast on it. I sat down while he returned to the car to turn off the headlights.
“How in the world did you discover this place?” I asked as he sat next to me.
“My dad and I used to fight a lot. We fought about music. He told me that I should stop focusing on things like choir and band and the piano lessons I took from the old lady who lived next door. He said I should become more involved in sports, like my older brothers. I actually found this place Junior year. My dad and I fought so much that year. I had just joined Panic and that’s all I ever spent my time doing. Sometimes, I would skip school to hang out with Ryan just so we could play guitar together. My dad found out that my grades were slipping and he got super pissed. He got so mad that one day he just told me to go away for a while to figure my shit out. I ran away for a few days. I took my old truck up here to this ridge late one night. When I woke up, it was real early morning, before sunrise. I couldn’t go to sleep again, so I just sat in my pick up bed, playing guitar and watching the sunrise. It was the most magnificent thing I had ever seen. That morning I actually wrote some of the guitar part to ‘Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks’, the acoustic version at least. I came here all the time, just to play and to think. But I haven’t been up here in almost four years.”
“So has anyone else ever been up here?” I asked.
“No,” he answered, putting his arm around me. “This is only ours.”
I laid my head against his shoulder right as the pink started to appear along the horizon. I watched as the sun began to poke over the mountains, way off in the distance. It burned a pale orange, causing the layered clouds to turn pink, orange, purple and a faded blue. The light stretched at a magnificent speed, taking to the desert land quickly and with ease, filling up all the dark and haunting places caused by the night. The world around us became painted with all the colors of the natural world, wrapping us in baize, blossom blue and pastel pink. I warmed my heart as the red spilled over the crevices on the cracked desert earth, eating up literally every inch of the desert.
“I know, baby,” he said, kissing me gently. “That’s why I wanted to share it with you. It is the only thing in the entire world that comes even close to your beauty.”
“That’s a lie.”
He shook his head. “No, not hardly."
I know this will be our last sunrise like this. He thinks there will be thousands more just like it. He is so very wrong. But sitting here, holding his hand, my head resting on his firm shoulder, I know that I don't have the heart to really tell him the truth. Instead, I scooted closer to him.
"I love you Alena," he says to me.
"I love you too," I answer, almost mechanically. I can't help but to feel remorse each and everytime I utter those words.
I looked and watched the deep scarlett, born from the midnight blue, span the horizon.
"Why the blue sky?" he asked.
"You said you wanted to capture the blue sky, but why not this sunrise?" he asked.
"Blue is the most beautiful color in the world."
"Yes," he whispered. "Yes it is."