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Taylor's Time!

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Okay, okay, important stuff coming at you!

Next chapter of Taylor's WIP - this is the #spoilers borderline horror story she's working on. It's taking a very Stephen King turn so far - lots of slow build. And yes, I know who Stephen King is - his books are classics and still sell almost as well as Agatha Christie in my time!

-- Kendra

Chapter Two: 

Long Night 

I fell asleep almost instantly, only to be awakened by someone entering the room. 

“It's me,” the voice behind the dark figure assured. “Don't be scared. It's just me.” Keegan slid the door closed, leaving us both in darkness. I felt the mattress shift under his weight as he sat on the edge of the bed. 

“Can't sleep?” I whispered, hoping not to wake Sarah. 

“Something like that.” I heard the quiet laughter in his words. 

For as long as I'd known him, Keegan always had trouble sleeping through the night. While falling asleep came as easy to him as taking a breath, staying asleep was a battle he struggled to win his whole life. 

“Warm milk helps.” I sat up. “I can get you some.” 

He laughed quietly again. The bed creaked as he adjusted his position, scooting closer. My stomach was a bundle of nerves. 

“Do you mind if I -” 

The bed creaked again. 

“Sure,” I said. 

My heart hammered. I edged over until I was pinned against the wall, and he laid down beside me, not even bothering to get under the blanket. He wasn't planning on staying long. Still, our actions, this rebellion against his mother's wishes, and her beliefs, felt wrong. 

It felt so right, too. I wished I knew what we were supposed to be feeling. 

Keegan swallowed, then sighed. Something was weighing on him. Everything I felt about him being here, laying so close to me, didn't matter now. 

“What's on your mind?” I asked, finally. 

He inhaled as if to speak, then stayed quiet again. I lay there, wanting to speak for him, wondering what he was thinking. 

“She was supposed to come home tonight.” 

It took a moment, but then I remembered. I hadn't seen Vanessa anywhere. Keegan had told me about her weeks before I came, said she'd changed, snuck out of the house, became rebellious. He was angry with her, afraid for her as the older brother, wanting what was best for her. From what I'd seen in recent years, I guessed their mother disowned her. Their mother used their religion against her, forbidding Vanessa from having boyfriends, and more. She robbed Vanessa of the freedom to experience life the way any normal teenage girl would. 

What was the best thing for the black sheep of the family?

As far as I was concerned, Vanessa was her own person. She had a right to make her own choices, no matter how they seemed the rest of the family. She was of her own free will just as much as I was. Had I not run away from a toxic household in search of something better? Was I not the rebel to my own parents? Did I not make reckless choices in search of asylum? The more I compared Vanessa to myself, the more I felt for her. 

Why couldn't Keegan do the same? 

How was it that he'd have less compassion for his sister than he did for me? I wanted so badly to ask him, but knowing Keegan was the type of person who held fast to his own opinion, I held my tongue for several moments. 

“I'm sure she's fine, Keegan, “ I said, sympathetically. “She'll turn up.” 

He swallowed hard, eyes downward as if his hands were fascinating to him. “I hope so.” His body warmth reached out to me with outstretched hands, begging me to edge closer. I swallowed and changed the subject instead. We talked until we fell asleep  

I awoke to the sound of ragged breathing. Keegan stirred beside me, trapped in a nightmare. I touched his arm. 

“Hey,” I said, my voice barely audible. He didn't awake. His breathing grew choppier, more intense as the seconds dragged on. “Keegan, wake up. It's okay. You're having a nightmare.” 

He shot up, hitting his head on the bottom board of the top bunk. 

“Shhh!” I ordered, more to keep him from waking Sarah than to try to calm him down. 

He rubbed his forehead. There was a bit of light in the room, the early morning sun streaming through the thin curtains, allowing me to see his face. He was terrified. I looked at his hand, trembling on the blanket, waiting so desperately to take it with my own. I shoved down my desire as Keegan sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Sorry I woke you up.” 

I shook my head. “Don't be.” 

It took several seconds for his shaking to cease, then he spoke. “It was about Vanessa.” 

I stayed quiet. I knew his nightmare could've been about anything, but it made sense for it to be about his little sister. No matter how much I empathized with her search for freedom, I had to empathize with Keegan's fears too. 

“She was in trouble and I couldn't-” His fingers rose to his mouth, just for a second, before he spoke again. “I couldn't save her.” For a moment, I thought he was going to cry, but he held his composure and continued. “I don't wanna lose her, Lil. I'm supposed to protect her.“ 

I couldn't listen to this anymore. I took him into my arms and held him tight. He squeezed me tighter, so tight that his arm pressed against the bruise on mine. I flinched. He released me, startled, and found the bruise immediately. 

“Is that what they did to you?” 

I covered my arm with the blanket, ashamed, but not knowing why. By they he meant my parents. A swarm of violent memories prevented me from answering.  

“Crap,” Keegan whispered,  looking at the sunlit curtains. “I better go.” 

I nodded, grateful for his short attention span. “Yeah, you probably should.” My lips curled into a forced smile. 

He smiled back. As I watched him leave the room, sneaking out as quietly as he could, I felt a weird, misplaced sense of loss. I shoved it down and snuggled back into the blankets, yearning for sleep. Just as I drifted off again, there was a thud near my head. 

“Wakie, wakie, sleepy head!” Sarah said, smiling down at me. 

I forced myself to smile, sitting up sluggishly. My hair was frizzed on one side, flat on the other, and I knew there were bags beneath my eyes. Sarah’s gaze took it all in, and she laughed. “Looks like you've had a long night.” 

I mirrored her laugh, short and fond. “You don't know the half of it.”

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