TWO YEARS BEFORE:
Brushing away the sweat on his forehead, Jasper shuffled awkwardly across the yard. He hadn't expected that mowing a lawn would be so damn challenging, but then again, he also lacked muscle. Prom was in seven days. If he was going to ask Emma, then he was going to have to raise enough money to buy her flowers - or fireworks - or something intricate. Something beautiful. Something that would make her look at him as someone other than the freshman who occasionally got shoved into the bottom locker.
Jasper had it all planned out. He could picture her auburn hair perfectly in his mind, the way that her freckled cheeks always blushed when he smiled, and how she could talk endlessly about books that he now had a new appreciation for. One of his hands would grab hers. Gently - only if she let him-
"You!" somebody shouted, knocking Jasper out of his lovestruck daze. He spun around. A group of other teenagers stood only inches away from him - one of those people being Emma. His eyes went instantly to hers.
"Looks like it's about to rain. Think we'll see him cry again?" Thomas, known for being the one to actually push Jasper into the locker, started to laugh. Everyone else echoed. The boy had been through this one too many times - but with Emma standing there, looking sympathetically at him, anger boiled through his veins. Thomas lit a cigarette. He was nothing but cool and collected - and Jasper was warm with embarrassment.
"Could you guys just stop being assholes for once?" Emma questioned, her voice sounding louder than the laughter. Thomas instantly grew annoyed. He put his hand on Emma's shoulder, probably in some sort of scolding manner, but Jasper was already swinging his fists. An impulsive idea considering he boy was easily outnumbered. He screamed defensively - he screamed protectively towards her, but it was no use. Thomas took a hold of Jasper's shirt, first sending a kick to his stomach, and then pressing the tip of his lit cigarette to Jasper's cheek--
The mirror inside of the strange apartment looked like it was about to crack. Jasper brushed his finger lightly over the scar on his cheek, noticing it every time that he saw his reflection, but he practiced pretending that it didn't bother him. Not like he could get rid of it. There wasn't much time to sit around staring, as an odd looking woman soon appeared to his right.
"What the hell is going on here? Who are you?" Jasper questioned, intensity in his eyes. The woman reminded him of how the two had met. Hours ago. The restaurant -- he didn't remember leaving--"Restaurant? I -- Oh. You know, paying for my food isn’t exactly an invitation to kidnap me, also."
"You and I both know that you have nowhere to go, hon. I figure it’s better for you to be somewhere safe and with food."
Jasper rolled his eyes. "I don’t know what you think you know about me, hon. But your assumptions are wrong."
She was stubborn. Asked a few times if there was anything else that he needed - but his attention only fell on her rather large collection of books. The memories of the scar had to be triggering this. He couldn't help but wonder where she was, right now. The boy put his hands around a tattered looking novel. "So... the Catcher in the Rye?" Jasper questioned, wondering if she'd allow him to keep it.
"Yeah, I think I have a copy of that somewhere. Never a favorite of mine, Holden was too whiny for me."
"I find him to be rather interesting," Jasper continued, "You’ve got a copy of the Bible?
"I’m afraid not, Evette never liked Christianity and she threw away my copy of it when we moved here. I’ve never gotten around to buying another one."
This lady was quite confusing - but he wasn't shy to ask questions. "Who’s Evette? And who are you, exactly?
"I lived with her when I was young, she died when I was 15. My name is Marryam. What’s yours?"
A smirk curled the corners of his lips, "Thought that you were supposed to know everything about me."
"I’ve apologized for that, and as I said, I am sincerely sorry. You’re welcome to leave."
Jasper only nodded and let his eyes search the rest of the house. He supposed that he should probably thank this woman for putting a roof above his head, but he wasn't exactly decent with expressing gratitude. He simply snatched a pack of matches that sat near her candles. Her fault for suggesting that he take anything that he needed.
"In exchange for the free dinner- I’ll try not to burn down your apartment with these," Jasper announced, taking one final look before exiting the house. He figured that it probably wasn't a good idea to stay in one place for two long. The outside world gave plenty more opportunities to hide. Busy streets. Moving people. Easy to blend in.
Maybe he was growing delusional - or maybe that was his natural state - but only after a few minutes of walking, his eyes fell upon the back of a girl with auburn, almost blonde hair. The same exact color as Emma's. Curiosity instantly plagued him, and he couldn't help but follow her. It had to be her. Memories only resurfaced when something big was about to happen, right? -- He payed no attention to where he was, or really, where he'd ended up, but when he blinked, there was a broom in his hand.
"Better get workin', Joe. Doing nothin' won't pay you anythin'."
He'd somehow ended up inside of a beauty shop. Clearly, by the hair on the ground and the distinct smell of shampoo. The girl was somewhere in the corner of the store; her face still turned away from him. He definitely wasn't Joe - and he definitely never intended to work at a beauty shop, but this looked a little less like he was stalking her. A fake, friendly smile painted his lips.
The boy swept his way over to where the mysterious girl was sitting. It didn't make much sense for Emma to be here, considering Southbend was a good few hours away, but hope was a disease. Always able to manifest and so easy to distract him. Whoever had handed him the broom went over to talk to the girl, and after a few seconds, he could see her face.
And it wasn't a face that he recognized.
It was her - Emma - but the side of her cheek-- She hadn't been at school that day. He'd made sure of it. He'd checked every single attendance list and asked her friends - he'd done everything to make sure that she wasn't there before he lit the flame, yet-- The boy stumbled backwards. More like fell backwards, really, considering he made a loud crash...
"Well look who it is! Do you have my matches? I wasn’t able to light my stove all day because of you. Could I have them back?" The woman asked - her eyes barely visible from the other side of the peephole. Jasper was panting. He could hardly keep his breath under control, but that was probably more because of the painful feeling in his lungs.
"Your piece of shit matches don’t work!" he screamed, throwing his fists against the wall. A loud echo floated down the hallways of Collingwood Heights.
"Well that’s news to me. Did you throw them away?"
The moments before this were all just a blur. He could remember the look of recognition on her face. The anger and hatred in her eyes. The fear. Don't let her be afraid of you, don't let her be afraid... The one person, apart from his sister, who he'd tried so hard not to hurt. He could remember trying to spark a match inside of the beauty shop. Anything to get out his frustration with himself. Burn himself, burn another person, ruin something, follow habit-
"Throwing them away is an understatement. But they’re definitely gone now. Why keep something around that doesn’t work, anyways? Sorta’ like how you don’t own a goddamn Bible. My aunt used to keep that thing in the house all the time. She told me that it’d give me all the answers, but guess what? Things still don’t make sense! It doesn’t work!"
His words were hardly making sense anymore. He didn't even know what he was doing here, apart from the fact that he knew he needed help. He needed help.
"And you were wondering why I didn’t keep a Bible. ...Would you like to come in, or are you going to continue threatening to burn my house down?"