The ward of castoria, p.22
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.22

           Robin Silverglate
 

  Chapter 8

  Unpleasant Discoveries

  Bryn’s grip on her book slipped and she stared, wide-eyed, at the unlikely pair. She wanted to brush it off as a coincidence that they were standing next to each other but the mysterious man was actually talking to Dane about something. And what was more perplexing, was that Dane was talking back to him. He appeared perfectly comfortable around the brooding stranger. Bryn sensed they must know each other. After a minute’s conversation, the scarred man bowed and then left in the opposite direction of her. Bryn let out a sigh of relief as she watched him round the corner at the end of the block. She was glad he apparently did not seem to be after her again, yet she was now thoroughly confused about Dane’s relationship with him.

  She continued to watch Dane out of the corner of her eye. She found his actions strange because he just seemed to be standing in the same place. If he was here to see a movie, why was he not in line? Dane often changed his position as if he was looking for someone and she thought she saw him periodically glance in her direction, but she wasn’t sure.

  Nicole soon arrived at the theater and Bryn walked over to meet her in line. She thought about pointing Dane out to Nicole, but when she tried to find him, he had moved from his spot. Bryn decided not to worry about it anymore. It was not worth her time to concern herself with the motives of a strange boy. She would much rather enjoy her time with Nicole, so she literally banished all thoughts of Dane from her mind.

  The two girls bought their tickets and some popcorn. The movie was starting soon, so they did not have much time to chat. They found a seat as close to the middle of the theater as they could get. Even though Bryn preferred seats toward the back, she acquiesced to Nicole’s wishes. When they were both situated, Bryn asked Nicole, “Any news yet?”

  She could see the worried tightening of Nicole’s eyes even in the dim lights of the theater. “No,” she said. “But, no news is good news, right?”

  “Right,” agreed Bryn. She wanted to say more, but the previews started and they were very loud. The first trailer was a generic announcement reminding the audience to buy snacks from the concession stand and to silence their cell phones. Bryn realized she had not done that yet, so she reached in her pocket so she could get her phone. It was not there, so she reached into her other pocket. She only felt her house keys. She had no idea where her cell phone was.

  Nicole could sense her panic and whispered, “What’s wrong?”

  “I can’t find my phone,” Bryn whispered back.

  Nicole bent over to search the floor while Bryn twisted around in order to see if it had fallen out of her pocket and onto the seat. She smiled when she felt her cell phone in the crevice of her chair. Just before turning back, she saw Dane sneaking quietly into the back of the theater. Even though the place was dark, she still recognized his tall frame and the way he practically glided up the stairs.

  “Did you find it?” asked Nicole.

  Bryn realized she had never finished turning around. Thank goodness it was dark in the theater because she was staring right at Dane. She was glad he couldn’t see her watching him. She turned the ringer off on her phone and held it up for Nicole to see. Bryn noticed Nicole did not do the same with her phone. In fact, she held hers in her hand the whole time. She realized Nicole probably did not want to miss a call from home.

  During the movie, Bryn could tell Nicole was having a hard time concentrating. While they watched the balcony scene, she moved her phone from hand to hand. In the scene where Romeo killed Tybalt, Nicole actually checked her phone in order to see if she had gotten a text. Bryn wondered if seeing a movie to help distract Nicole had been a good idea. Maybe it would have been better to just find a quiet room to sit down in and listen to her friend’s fears with a sympathetic ear.

  Then, just after Romeo and Juliet were secretly married, Nicole’s phone loudly announced it had a text. Nicole and Bryn both drew in their breath and a woman in the seat behind her actually hissed at them.

  Nicole showed Bryn the text from her mother with a trembling hand. It simply said, “CALL ME NOW.”

  Bryn could see the worry on Nicole’s face in the glow of the phone’s screen. She grabbed Nicole’s hand and led her out of the theater. When they walked near Dane’s seat, Bryn could see he was not watching the movie. His whole body had turned to watch them. Even though she never motioned to him, Bryn somehow knew he would follow.

  Bryn led Nicole to a secluded corner of the lobby. Nicole turned to Bryn and said in a trembling voice, “I don’t know if I can call. What if the news is bad? I don’t think that I can take it.”

  “Think of your mother and Ryan,” said Bryn. “Don’t keep them waiting any longer than necessary. Be brave for them.”

  Nicole nodded in agreement.

  “Do you want some privacy?” When Nicole nodded again, Bryn said, “I’ll go stand over there until you are done.”

  When she moved further away from her friend, she saw Dane standing by the theater doors. “What are you doing here?” she asked a little more harshly than she meant to. She blamed it on her nerves.

  “I wanted to see Romeo and Juliet since you said it’s so famous.” He seemed perplexed by what was going on.

  Bryn heard a loud sob from Nicole. Bryn knew the test results had come back and the news was not good. She ran over to her friend and held her hand as she promised her mother she was coming home right now.

  When she hung up, Bryn hugged Nicole as hard as she could. Nicole was crying convulsively, and the only word Bryn could understand was “leukemia.” It broke Bryn’s heart as well to think of poor little Ryan. His body was in for a tough road ahead and she hoped he was strong enough to fight it off.

  Eventually, Nicole’s voice became slightly more audible and she said “I need to go home now.”

  There was no way Bryn was letting her walk home by herself in this condition. She looked over her shoulder to Dane and said, “Can you walk us over to her house? It’s not far.”

  “Of course I can.” Dane immediately ran to the door of the theater and opened it. Bryn placed her arm over Nicole’s shoulders and led her through it. Even though Nicole’s house was only a short distance away, Bryn felt as if time was deliberately slowing down. The news was the worst possible and there was nothing that could change it. Bryn knew exactly how Nicole felt, because she had gone through the same event just seven short years ago. She couldn’t make any false promises, because she knew from experience that not everyone has a happy ending. So on the way home, Nicole cried silent tears and Bryn offered silent comfort.

  When they got to Nicole’s house, Bryn gave Nicole one last hug and whispered, “Do you want me to stay?”

  “No,” said Nicole. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

  Bryn knew Nicole needed to be with just her family. Outsiders were unwelcome at times like this. Dane and Bryn watched Nicole go inside and then began the long walk back to her house.

  They walked for several minutes before saying anything. Finally, Dane asked in a kind voice, “May I ask what’s wrong?”

  “Her brother has been sick for a long time. Ryan constantly has fevers and has no energy. They’ve gone to several doctors, but no one knew for sure what was wrong. A few days ago, they had some tests done and while I am unsure of the details at this point, I’m pretty sure Ryan has leukemia.”

  Dane was quiet for a moment and said, “I’m sorry he is sick, but I don’t know what leukemia is. Is it a fatal illness?”

  Bryn stopped in her tracks and looked at him, once again surprised by his, what could only be described as, ignorance. But she was in no mood to argue with him now, so she answered his question truthfully. “Leukemia is a pretty tough illness. There is something wrong with the marrow in his bones. And, yes, it can kill him, but I am hoping that the doctors are able to cure him. I’m not giving up hope.”

  “Are doctors usually able to cure leukemia?”<
br />
  “Sometimes. I hear the survival rate is much higher than it used to be. Although, it’s not high enough for me to be certain he’ll get better.”

  “Will it be painful for the boy?” Dane asked with true concern in his voice.

  A sudden flashback of her mother lying in the fetal position on her hospital bed consumed Bryn’s mind. She could still hear her moans during a particularly bad day of treatments. Her voice trembled a little as she answered, “Probably.”

  Dane sighed and said, “I am sorry to hear that.”

  They had once again passed the movie theater. The area on the street was much less busy than it had been earlier in the evening. Only a few people stood outside the theater now. Bryn and Dane continued on toward her house. He appeared to be lost in thoughts of his own and did not ask any more questions. Bryn was also distracted by her own thoughts. Ryan’s illness had brought back haunting memories of her mother’s sickness. She kept picturing her mom in the hospital during her final days when it was obvious the cancer had won. She was so pale and breakable. Bryn remembered how she cried when her mother told her in a weak voice, “Always listen to your father and be a good girl.” The fact that her mother never knew her as a teenager hurt her. Bryn hoped her mom would have been proud of her. Especially of the fact that she had gotten into Johns Hopkins.

  By the time they reached the edges of Fletcher Park, Bryn was quietly shedding tears. She tried to wipe them away without Dane noticing, but by his slowing pace, she was sure he knew something was wrong. He gently touched her shoulder in order to halt her movement and asked, “Are you all right?”

  Bryn sniffed as she said, “No. Not really. I can’t stop thinking about my mom right now. She died a long time ago.”

  “Did she have leukemia as well?”

  “Not leukemia. She had breast cancer. The doctors told us that those who get her type of cancer have a high survival rate. I guess she was one of the unlucky ones because she didn’t live much past my eleventh birthday.”

  Suddenly, she felt Dane’s arms wrap around her as he drew her to him. She accepted his comforting arms and leaned her head on his chest. Bryn liked the feel of his head resting on top of hers and began to calm down. He made her feel safe and warm. But those pleasant feelings ended when he quietly said, “I wish I could take away all of your sadness.”

  Bryn stiffened in his arms. She felt he had become too intimate so she pulled away and said, “Dane, you shouldn’t say things like that to me.”

  “Why not?” he asked.

  “Because you barely know me.”

  “I know we just met, but—” he stopped abruptly. Dane suddenly seemed unsure of himself.

  “But what?” Bryn would later come to regret asking.

  Dane looked uncertain, swallowed hard, and slowly said, “But, I know I have never felt this way about anyone before.”

  What way was that? Annoyance? Indifference? Certainly not… well, that was not possible. She peered into his unnaturally dark eyes and asked, “How exactly do you feel?”

  Dane returned her gaze and with determination and said, “I love you, Bryn.”

  Bryn stepped further away from Dane and shook her head in disbelief. Maybe she heard him wrong. “What did you say?” she asked breathlessly.

  “I love you,” he said quieter this time, but she could still hear the catch in his voice.

  Even though there was now no doubt what he had said, she could not believe it. How could he be in love with her? Dane had known her for less than a week. He’d never once hinted of his affections. This whole situation was absurd. They’ve never even had a normal conversation before.

  She shook her head and said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  Dane grabbed her hands, held them to his heart, and said, “I’ve never been more certain of my feelings before. I know that I love you.”

  She observed the long, slender fingers which held her hands and said, “But I don’t even like you.”

  She heard Dane catch his breath at her harsh statement. He released her hands and turned to face away from her. Staring at the dejected way he hung his shoulders, she couldn’t help but feel bad for him. She tried to explain herself, so he would understand. “I’m truly sorry if I’ve upset you, but I don’t see how you would expect me to feel differently. Half the time we are together, you barely talk to me.”

  “I’ve wanted to talk to you more, but I forced myself not to,” he said while staring at the ground.

  “Why?”

  He looked at the dark sky now and said, “I never thought I would fall in love with anyone like you. I didn’t know if I should.”

  What did he mean by he shouldn’t fall in love with someone like her? Was there something inherently wrong with her? This statement hurt more than anything he had ever said before.

  “I’m sorry I am not good enough for you,” she said in a tone dripping with sarcasm.

  “No, it’s not that” said Dane spinning back to face her. He rung his hands through his hair in frustration. “You’re seeing this all wrong.”

  “How else am I supposed to see it then?” Bryn demanded. “When you say things like that, I can’t help but feel like you’re deliberately trying to provoke me. Almost all of our conversations are either too strange to be worth remembering or they end in arguments. You always seem frustrated with whatever I’m saying.”

  Dane took a step closer to Bryn as he pleaded for her to understand. “I’m frustrated with myself, but never with you. In fact, I enjoyed our conversations. I might not have agreed with you in some things, but it did not mean I found your ideas to be unworthy.”

  “There is where we disagree again. I find your ideas to be old-fashioned and ignorant.” Bryn was upset she was in the midst of another one of their fiery arguments. Why was he forcing her to say such cruel things to him? She knew she should be more considerate of his feelings, but she felt compelled to continue with more reasons. “There is something about you I find disconcerting. I could never be with someone I didn’t trust.”

  She saw him start at her last statement. Dane looked at her incredulously while saying, “You don’t trust me? I’ve done nothing but help you. I was the one who interceded in the hallway when Kayla was talking to you and I was the one who helped you when you were being followed yesterday.”

  She could not deny his help with the incident with Kayla, but she had evidence to refute the second charge. “I saw you with him.”

  “Who?” he asked in confusion.

  “The man who was following me yesterday. I saw you with him just before the movie.”

  Dane’s eyes widened at her statement. He did not respond. Then he drew in his breath as if he wanted to say something, but didn’t. An eerie silence hung over them in direct contrast to their heated words just seconds before.

  Bryn continued, “You aren’t going to deny it?”

  “No.”

  “Are you going to tell me why he was following me?”

  “I can’t.”

  “And you wonder why I don’t trust you,” Bryn said sarcastically.

  Dane shook his head and said, “You can trust me. I would do anything to protect you. You’re seeing everything incorrectly and you don’t understand me.”

  Bryn could not find the desire to say anything else. She had said enough and would only cause him more pain if she continued. Unfortunately, the silence that settled between them was worse than their arguing. She watched Dane as he stared at the ground. He seemed so dejected and she wished she had never known about his feelings. She wished he had just walked her home and none of this ever happened. Finally, Dane gazed into her eyes. She felt guilty when she saw that his eyes were filled with pain.

  Dane took a deep breath to control himself and said, “I know you don’t feel the same way about me, but I’m not ashamed of my feelings. I will always love you.”

  “Dane, you don’t hav
e to say that,” Bryn said sadly. She could not return his affection and she felt horrible.

  “No, I want to say it,” he said a little breathlessly. “Never forget it.”

  The ache that Bryn heard in his voice made her feel pity for him. She placed her hand on his arm and said, “I’m sorry I have caused you pain. Please know that I—”

  Dane’s head abruptly turned and he grabbed her arm with a firm grip. She was surprised to see his dark eyes had shifted from a saddened look to what she thought was panic.

  “What are you doing?” Bryn demanded. “Let go of me.”

  Dane continued to push Bryn behind him. Dane glanced around in the darkness of the park and said, “It’s too late. It is coming for you.”

 
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