Home > Unmasked Dreams

Unmasked Dreams
Author: L.J. Evans

 Performed by Taylor Swift

 Written by Dessner / Swift

 

 As I ground the gears in Jersey’s ancient Civic for the hundredth time since starting out on this adventure, I tried not to cringe. I also tried not to think about how much she was going to kill me when she found out I’d taken the car without her okay…without a license. Instead, I focused on the one thing making my heart sing.

 He’d called me for help.

 I’d burst into dance for all of thirty seconds after I’d hung up with him. My heart was still dancing, and the smile that had taken over my face hadn’t disappeared since then. My body was literally quivering with joy.

 “Maybe you should let me drive?” His deep voice hit me in my core, all the way down to my teenage, hyperactive, hormone-driven regions. Even when it was sarcastic and teasing, like now, it still had my entire body reacting.

 Like it had ever since he’d first walked into Mandy and Leena’s with his broody, bad-boy attitude and chip on his shoulder.

 “It’s good practice,” I said because I’d never admit I couldn’t do something in front of him. Not now, maybe never.

 “If you drop the transmission, Jersey won’t forgive me. She’s already going to chew us both out. Why didn’t you just wake her?” he asked.

 Why hadn’t I? Or Jada, for that matter? While both of them would have been disgruntled to be torn from their sleep, neither would have denied me. Denied him.

 You wanted to be the one to save him, my conscience rang out.

 Stupid.

 Ridiculous.

 My brain knew better, but my soul was still leaping for joy because I’d been the one he’d dialed. True, he and Truck were fighting, but he could have called a CarShare. I’m not sure they would have picked him up in the middle of nowhere, but he hadn’t even tried. He’d called me.

 I’d been the first person he thought of.

 The lights on Jersey’s car flickered before coming back on, and I lost my stomach for a moment. It felt darker than normal. The clouds had settled down right on top of the pavement, making it hard to see anything in the dim reach of the Honda’s headlights. If the lights went away completely, I’d be screwed. I’d never get home before Jersey realized the car was missing.

 I squinted as I rounded the corner. What was that on the road?

 “Violet, look out!” he shouted.

 I swerved at the last minute to avoid the deer that was already sprinting away, but the jerk of the wheel had the car careening, slipping along the wet roads. My body was trying to respond with a foot on the brakes that only seemed to make the back end of the car slide worse, as if it were going in one direction while my body headed in another.

 Suddenly, the cliff was there, and the brakes weren’t responding. Dawson grabbed the steering wheel, flipping it in the opposite direction of how I was turning, but the dual motion did nothing to keep the car from diving off.

 A scream ripped through my chest, echoing through the tiny compartment. My heart was in my throat, and my entire body was shaking as the car headed toward the rocks and the depths of the sea.

 We were going to die. I thought I’d saved him, but I was going to kill us both.

 We hit the water, and my limbs went flying, hitting metal and glass. My head whipped backward and then was thrust forward again before I slammed into the airbag as it exploded. Pain ratcheted through me.

 Then, there was darkness…

 A brutal stabbing sensation in my wrist and my head washed over me as I was jostled awake. Warm, strong arms surrounded me. The scent of Dawson filled my senses, spicy like pine and sea blending together, but there was another smell surrounding us as well. That metallic scent of blood. Was it mine or his or both?

 “Vi,” his deep voice called to me with torment and regret searing through it.

 I strained to open my eyes, struggled to see if we were in heaven, hell, or some in-between place.

 It didn’t matter.

 One mistake and I’d ruined everything.

 

 

 Violet – Five Years Later

 

 LOST

 “Life gets heavy,

 Your heart's like stone.

 No, I won't let you disappear,

 You'll never be alone.”

 

 Performed by The Goo Goo Dolls

 Written by Kim / Kim / Ro / Park

 

 Microscopes and music. What could be better than that?

 Watery Reflection was singing about making dreams come true in my ears as I danced around the lab, putting things away. My feet were silent in my protective gear, adding a smooth, Michael Jackson-ish glide to my motions that brought a much-needed smile to my lips. Lab work always cheered me up. It was the very best kind of scientific activity. Theories trying to be proven. So much hope.

 The tinge of heartache plaguing me since receiving the latest rejection from the nanoparticle committee was easing away. If I couldn’t work on my own experiment, helping one of my best friends with hers was the next best thing.

 I pushed the button for the exit doors, walking through the first set of them into the gowning room. I waited for the hiss of the seal behind me before removing the white Gore-Tex suit. I threw it in the laundry hamper before pulling off the initial layer of disposable masks and shoe coverings. Then, I walked out the final set of doors to the office area, tossing the last layer of gear away.

 The explosion of color and personality in the office area was a stark contrast to the metal and tile sterility of the lab itself. Proof of life. The desks were littered with coffee mugs containing nerdy science puns, and the walls were plastered with vibrant posters. It had become a joke to see how many stickers the lockers could fit even as the Stanford administration continued sending notes about it being against the rules.

 Raisa walked in as I moved to the computer I’d claimed as mine. My beautiful friend could easily be on a runway. Blonde hair with dark undertones that hairstylists everywhere killed to replicate, flawless white skin, and beautiful brown eyes surrounded in the darkest lashes I’d ever seen—even when she didn’t have makeup on.

 “Have you already checked the numbers?” she asked. Her excitement allowed her Russian accent to pop up when her English was usually more perfect than mine.

 “I did! You’re going to be happy with them. Come see,” I responded, pulling up the stats I’d just keyed in.

 Her smile grew wide, her face lighting up as she reviewed them.

 Raisa was two semesters into her bioengineering doctorate, and her photovoltaic nano cells were a hair away from being viable. Changing the world one cell at a time.

 My heart twisted with longing and anticipation. I wanted to be in her shoes―close to finishing my project. She was a year ahead of me, but at the pace I was going, it was likely she’d be done before I even got the okay to start.

 “The committee rejected my thesis submission,” I breathed out, playing with the ends of my braid.

 “Oh, Vi, I’m so sorry,” she said, meaning it.

 “I knew it was a stretch,” I said with a shrug. Hadn’t Silas told me that enough times?

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