His eyes shot open and the light pierced through his already pained head. His hands flew up trying to suppress the sharpness striking through him.
“Hey, hey slow down…” Emma’s voice sounded both soothing and strained.
Jared blinked his eyes several times, rubbed at them weakly before the images around him began to take form again. Emma was sitting beside him on the bed, her blonde hair loose and the sweater she wore a size too big. Shannon was standing next to the bed, looking down at him with worried eyes. He had his hands in his pockets and a wrecked look about him.
“What the hell happened?” Jared asked, letting himself just lie there as he tried to adjust to his surroundings again.
“I found you on the ground in here, you were screaming.” Shannon said. If Jared hadn’t known him so well it would seem as if he spoke monotonously but Jared could hear the strain echoing beneath every word he spoke.
“Where did these come from?” Emma’s hand gingerly touched to his forearm.
Jared hissed and then looked down. There were slashes along his skin, they seemed healed and not at all the bleeding mess they had been before he had blacked out. “I don’t know.” His voice was weaker than he had ever heard it. The way every word ached in his chest before they finally came out made him scared about what all this was doing to him physically.
Emma sighed and withdrew her hand. She looked up at Shannon silently. Jared saw something pass unspoken between them, something that he had no idea about. Jared wondered if it was romantic or if they were truly keeping something from him and strictly to themselves. They hadn’t always been this way, hell they hadn’t even been close but now it seemed like the world they lived in could only house them and whatever they were keeping secret.
“Where’s the locket?” Jared asked, turning his head to where he had fallen. The two boxes were still there but the locket was missing. A panic rose up inside of him. There had been something inside of that locket, something that he had needed to see.
“What locket?” Shannon’s brows knitted together and curiosity struck his features.
“It was in the box with all those clothes…the locket.” Jared slowly sat up, waving away Emma’s cautious hands. He ignored the dizziness that clouded his head and brushed aside the way he wavered when he stood up.
“There wasn’t a locket.” Shannon said, simply watching Jared go about what he was doing. He didn’t make a move to stop him even though Emma stared at the scene with worry.
Jared dragged himself to the boxes, kneeling down on his trembling knees and peered into the opened flaps. The box of his own things was still there but when he looked down into the second box nothing inside of it was the same. The clothes weren’t there. No silks, no lace, no delicate scent, no folded handkerchief. The dizziness came heavier and he sat back, letting his legs stretch out in front of him.
“There were clothes in here.” Jared whispered, his voice trailing off.
Shannon came to him then, lifting him up gently from under his arms. Jared leaned against him, his hand clutched onto his shoulder. “There weren’t any clothes, Jared. No locket either.” He said softly as he led him back to the couch.
Jared let out a heaved breath as he laid back and let his eyes slide shut. “There was.” He insisted, his voice wavering, his breath becoming uneven.
“You need to rest.” Emma said, her warm hand pushing back the strands of his hair that were sticking to his forehead. “Just rest.”
Her words eased him into a kind of comfort as he tried to let his body relax. Her fingers delicately caressed through his hair before they again touched to the cuts on his arms. He heard her sigh and then her touch was gone altogether. He let his eyes open slightly as he watched her. Her head was in her hands and her shoulders very lightly shook. Shannon knelt down beside the couch, taking her hand in his. He was silent the entire time but his presence was obviously calming to her because eventually she stopped and looked up at him. He gently pressed her head to him and placed a kiss to her forehead. Jared closed his eyes again then and tried to tell himself to just let go, fall asleep. Rest as Emma had said.
The word came easier to mind than it actually came to him. He couldn’t keep his eyes closed for a long period of time or the images he continuously saw in his dreams would come back. He constantly tried to piece together what was happening. And now his mind was at work at trying to figure out what was going on between Emma and Shannon.
Emma once more touched her hand to his forehead before she stood up and quietly slipped out of the room. Shannon stayed for a moment, his burdened presence making the atmosphere thick. He stayed knelt down beside the couch and gently squeezed Jared’s shoulders. “I’m sorry…” He whispered before he stood up and left the room as well.
Once they were both gone Jared let his eyes open. The daylight poured in through the curtains over the window and washed across his skin. The bedroom door was slightly opened and he could hear talking from where he was laying on the couch. It was like the entire world was alive around him and he was the only one left lifeless. He was gone, so out reach that he was almost non-existent. It was painful to realize but it was the only thing he was sure of now. If he didn’t do something about all of this, he wasn’t sure how much longer he would have left.
“Those cuts on his arm, Shannon…” Emma pushed her hand back through her hair and tried to tell herself to just remain calm. “…Where did they come from?”
“I don’t know…They weren’t there before…”
“And you said he had blood on him?” She was keeping her voice down. It didn’t matter if they were alone in the studio, she was unable to trust anything now.
“Smears of it all over his arm…” Shannon tried to get the image of the night before out of his mind. The shrill sound of Jared’s scream, the panic that had risen in the blue of his eyes. He had never seen Jared seem so helpless before. He usually took care of everything on his own, never wanting somebody else’s help. It was the satisfaction of coming out of something on his own, Shannon had always figured. But last night had been different. Jared had been nearly paralyzed in his pain and when Shannon had lifted him off the floor he had clung to him desperately, muttering incoherent words before he had eventually passed out. “Can we really let this go on?”
“What can we do, Shannon? We can’t let him go through all of this and now let it all out. He’ll know that we knew this whole time and just stood by. We can’t, Shannon.” She shook her head, silently pleading with him not to make her go through this exhaustive argument again that always landed them in the same place.
It was quiet for a moment, the silence of the studio building a dark atmosphere around them.
“What did he mean by a locket?” She asked, breaking the silence and bringing Shannon’s eyes to her.
“Right.” Shannon reached into his pocket and drew out the locket. He held it out to her in the palm of his hand, the gold glinting in the quiet light above.
Emma’s brows furrowed with confusion as he she reached out and took it out of his hands. She turned the locket between her fingers and lightly traced over the rose. “Was this hers?” She asked.
Shannon shrugged. “I guess it was.”
“And all the clothes?”
“They’re in your room.”
She nodded. Her fingers made to open the locket but a knock sounded on the studio door. Shannon remembered that he had locked it and made his way towards it. With surprise he saw that Audrey was standing on the other side. Emma came up beside him and immediately the air became stifled and everyone seemed to feel discomfort floating around.
“What are you doing here?” Shannon asked, trying to sound as normal as he could.
“Jared called me.” She replied, her brilliant smile slowly fading as she looked over the drawn looks on both their faces. “Is he here?”
“He shouldn’t see anyone right now.” Emma quickly answered, tucking the locket away into the pocket of her sweater.
“But he called me.” Audrey reminded her. Her attitude suddenly becoming defensive. She didn’t like being told what to do, that much was obvious.
“I’m sorry but-“
“Em, if he called her he should see her.” Shannon said, looking down at her with a glare that spoke more than Audrey could discern.
“Who says he did call?” Emma questioned, folding her arms across her chest.
Audrey laughed. “He’s probably upstairs.” And with that she turned on her heels and walked up the staircase.
Emma went to go after her but Shannon stopped her. “What are you doing?” She demanded.
“Let it be. He called her. What are we going to do, shelter him away like he’s a child? A prisoner?”
Emma sighed and moved away from him and back into the studio. He followed her inside, closing the door behind him.
“What if she brings something back to him?” She was in a panic and her protectiveness over Jared suddenly made Shannon feel a little jealous. She didn’t seem to care about the damage everything was doing to him, all she cared about was what was going on with Jared.
“Like what? She doesn’t even know any of us.” Shannon said, detached from the moment.
Emma sighed and sat down on the desk chair. “She just…she looks just like her.” She whispered, taking the locket from her pocket.
“Nothing’s going to happen, Em. Trust me.” Shannon came around to where she was sitting and looked down at the locket she was holding.
Emma carefully opened it. They both seemed as if they weren’t breathing and a weight seemed to fall heavier upon them. Emma glanced up at Shannon before both their gazes fell on the picture sized inside.
Jared was in the picture. His smile was brilliant, alive, something the both of them hadn’t seen in a long time. He had his arms around a woman, her own smile happy, warm, in love it seemed. Her face was nearly identical to Audrey’s. There was an engraving on the other side of the locket. It was a date. August 15th 2012. Four months ago to the date. The Summer that had changed everyone’s lives.