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   Chapter 8 Write Me an Ancient Artifact

Cuddle Application By Anna Rae Characters: 20521

Updated: 2018-01-09 13:31


"dear today, I spend all of you pretending i'm okay when i'm not, pretending i'm happy when i'm not, pretending about everything to everyone."

~Nina LaCour, Hold Still

~~~

A few days before I turned sixteen, roughly a year and a half ago, my little sister Molly was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night.

She'd been acting strange the past few weeks, less upbeat than usual. She'd been barely three at the time, small, clever, a lover of pink.

Everyone was concerned, James and I huddled around our mom as two doctors spoke in soft voices to my father. Molly spent five hours somewhere in the depths of the hospital before anyone came to give us any news. No one asked questions, or talked to us about the condition of our littlest family member, just whisked her away in a bed on wheels.

The five hours we sat in the waiting room were the hardest ones of my life. One day, we thought Molly was fine, the next, we were informed of the brain tumor.

It was like twirling the handle on a jack in the box, the news erupting from the box like a monster with pigtails.

It destroyed my mom that night.

The doctors had more news, though. Not only did Molly have a brain tumor, but the cancer was in her brain stem too, and if they didn't act fast my little baby sister would die.

So suddenly the monster with pigtails grew worts and fangs and smelled like ammonia.

Molly was in surgery for fourteen hours.

I didn't know anything. I had no knowledge of anatomy or really any previous encounter with cancer. Sitting in the waiting room for what felt like a large portion of my childhood, I didn't know whether I was going to see my Molly Bear ever again.

And then the fourteen hours were over, and my fingernails were chewed down to the nail beds.

And Molly was okay.

And the tumors were almost all gone.

And the monster was dead, save for a few necessary treatments of chemo.

My world was alive again. I could breath in a world without monsters.

And I turned sixteen, then seventeen, and the monster never returned.

I lived my life, hugged Molly a little harder every day, appreciated the little moments more. My family's battle with cancer lasted a short six months, and could have been a lot worse. Her tumors had been small and accessible, not sneakily wrapped around nerves and arteries, but out in the open, almost waiting to be found.

I thanked God every day that it hadn't been worse. I thanked him that I still had my Mol.

But monsters don't lay in the open. They wear masks, and hide and wait.

And one day one of them returned to my life. But he looked different. He had brown eyes and black hair and his name was Josh, only he didn't seem like a monster.

He said mean things, and touched me without asking, and even got a little too aggressive - but he wasn't a monster. He couldn't be. He was too nice - too charming. He didn't have boils or warts.

Only monsters had those.

My little sister had monsters, not me.

My little sister fought her monsters, not me. I ignored them, and kept them around, and pretended the masks they wore were their real faces.

Monsters didn't exist, life wasn't that mean.

Or maybe monsters did exist, and I was just that naive.

Either way, like Molly's, my monster was gone too. I opened my eyes and saw the warts, saw the fangs and saw the boils. My monster was a monster, and I pushed him back into his box.

I burned the mask, I erased the memories.

I shook myself for letting myself be deceived, and I moved on.

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"What a night, " Oliver said. My brain seemed to be emotionally overloaded, so I couldn't form a response. "I mean, this kind of stuff doesn't usually happen in Helaci, " he continued. I nodded.

Crimes were usually drugs or alcohol, not often aggression. Not to say that it didn't happen, but beating someone until they were unconscious - landing them most likely in the hospital - just wasn't the usual.

I knew more about laws than the average Joe because of my parents. I learned to obey the rules because of the cop and lawyer I lived with, instead from experience. I may not have followed all of the rules, but I knew enough to understand that Josh was in for something bad.

"I don't know, " I whispered, tugging my legs to my chest, wrapping my arms around them. The car rumbled beneath me, almost lulling me to sleep.

I shivered - not from cold but almost from shock. Oliver turned, keeping one hand on the wheel, and grabbed something from the back seat. He moved it towards me, laying the oversized sweatshirt over my tangled limbs.

My breath hitched.

Oliver showing up at the same time as I was seeing my monster as such seemed just too convenient.

I don't like Oliver, I reminded myself.

I didn't and I wouldn't.

I couldn't.

Oliver turned on the radio. The car filled with a soft base and lyrical piano.

I turned it off.

"O-kay, " he said slowly.

"I don't like that song, " I replied, turning my head to look out the window. We were passing through the stretch of forest that led from the rich neighborhoods of the west side to Main Street and beyond.

"Okay, " he repeated, softer this time.

The car was warm and smelled like pine needles. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back on the headrest, pulling the sweatshirt up under my chin. It reminded me that I still didn't know where my flannel was. I was still clad in only the small, tight crop top.

I felt like I'd lost something else at the party, but couldn't think of what it was.

Cora, Lina, Park, Josh. Of all the names going through my head, I knew nothing of what was happening with each. I could only assume Josh was in the back of a cop car, but I couldn't begin to guess the whereabouts of my other friends.

A shrill ringing filled the space of the car. It startled me until I looked at my phone and realized it was ringing.

"Hello?" I asked, lifting it to my ear.

"Oh my god, Skylar!" Lina screamed into the receiver. "That was cra-aaaazy!"

Another voice screamed into my ear.

"Ha!" laughed Cora loudly. "I knew J

fortable. We hadn't talked much in the past few weeks, him spending most of his time with his girlfriend and all.

"I'm just saying, " he started, hesitant, "I wouldn't be against it if you, you know, liked him."

I almost laughed. My brother and I were close, but not this close. It was almost like he was trying to be a good, guiding older brother, but didn't quite know what to say.

"James, " I started, "I don't like him like that. We're just friends, and only sort of friends at that."

He looked a mix of relieved and tense. The sound of my mom chopping up something for dinner distracted me so I didn't see James put a envelope down on the coffee table next to my book.

When I turned back to him he was already getting off the couch. "Wow, " I said. "Nice, extensive talk we had there."

He laughed, stepped towards me, and ruffled my hair with his hands.

"Stop!" I laughed as he pushed the locks down to cover my eyes. "Go bother someone else!"

"Yeah, I'm going to Ashley's anyway, " he replied.

I looked outside through the windows of the room. The sky was darkening, the sun already split in half by the horizon. The half circle sat on the ground, spilling it's orangey hues all over the sky around it.

"It's kinda late, isn't it?" I asked.

He kicked off his cleats, slid on another pair of shoes, and reached for the door. "Well, we only have a few weeks left together. Gotta make the most of it."

"Hey, I miss you, " I said quietly. James's face turned guilty.

"I know, Skylo, I promise we'll do something together asap, okay? The new Star Trek movie is coming out soon..."

I nodded in confirmation. "Yeah, see you later, skater."

He saluted me and exited the house. The open door, though only being ajar for a few seconds, let in a gust of wind, ruffling the pages of my book where it laid on the coffee table.

Something blew away from next to it, a piece of white paper sailing off the table and floating down to the ground.

Confusion bubbled in my skull.

Now where'd that come from?

I stood up and walked to it, snatching the paper up in greedy fingers. It was an envelope. On the back, in hastily scrawled letters, were the words, "Give to Sky."

The handwriting wasn't Lina's or Cora's, the only two people who would ever write me letters.

No, scratch that, they wouldn't write me letters. Anyone who wanted to reach me had my phone number; letters were ancient artifacts.

I slid my finger under the seal and broke it open. The paper inside was generic lined notebook paper, but as I unfolded it, the thin material felt like opening a Christmas present.

The letter read:

Dearest Sorry, I feel the need to apologize for the events of our first date. I know it wasn't the traditional "restaurant with candle-light" mushy gushy whatever, but I think the night was an overall success. Mostly because it freed you from your (fake) relationship with your (fake) (Canadian) boyfriend.

I consider that a win, personally.

Anyway, I had my pigeon deliver this message to you (and if he's reading it, I'm going to kill him) because I wanted to ask you (I mean it, James. If you're reading, put the damn letter down) because I wanted to ask you if you would be interested in attending the County Fair with me next Saturday.

Remember how we met? Through a Cuddle website. I feel particularly robbed that we haven't, say, "built cute forts, " or had "junk food and random food fights." Good Gandhi, Sorry, stick to the dang script.

I will not take no for an answer, so if you say no, expect to be kidnapped.

As always, you are utterly unbearable and I look forward to our next date.

Sincerely, Mr. Babe Magnet

AKA Sexy Boi

AKA Oliver Manning

I scoffed. How could one person be so cocky?

I folded the paper, shoved it back in the envelope, and settled down to continue reading my book. I tried to ignore the letter, but as I flipped through page after page, I couldn't stop the smile that stretched itself across my face.

Oliver James Manning was insufferable, but my momma didn't raise no quitter.

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