Chapter Twenty

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Someone was screaming, and I was blinded by a deep shade of crimson red. I could feel one blow after another knocking the breath out of my lungs, my stomach muscles constricting and a bile rising in my sore throat. I couldn't make it stop. The screaming continued, and cold fingers wrapped around my upper arms and shook me in my place. The pain wouldn't stop. A quivering palm caressed my cheek, and a faint voice repeatedly calling out for me began to become clearer by each call.

A sharp intake of breath had me shooting up from my seat, my eyes searched my dark surrounding frantically as I backed away from the figure hovering over me.

"Nora! It's just me!" A female voice yelled. I reached out to my bedside table with trembling fingers and switched on the lamp. The bright orange light illuminated my bedroom, and I found that the figure standing over me belonged to Ariel. She was staring down at me with glassy eyes, her hands clutched at her chest, and her lower lip trembling in fear.

I sighed and pushed back the hair strands glued to my sweating forehead, fighting against my ragged breathing to regain composure. "I'm sorry," I apologized to Ariel. "Did I wake you up?"

She shook her head, her long strawberry-blonde locks bouncing over her stiff shoulders. "I couldn't sleep." I scooted over on my bed, offering a place for her to sit down beside me. She crawled over to my side and sat with her back straight against the bed-frame. "I thought you stopped having those dreams."

I gulped down a lump in my throat, trying to compose myself to avoid having another breakdown. Waking up from my disturbing dreams always left me feeling so relieved for it being just a fragment of my imagination, that I'd instantly break down in tears of joy.

"I did," I replied to her statement.

Ariel glanced at me but I avoided her eyes, knowing well enough that they must be filled with her own concerned tears. She always told me that it pained her to see me like this, and I hated having her see me so.

"When did they start again?"

I closed my eyes, inhaling sharply. That's the thing, they didn't. Tonight was the first night in years that I'd had to go back to those incessant memories.

"Just tonight," I answered. Ariel nodded slowly, her eyes moving to her fiddling thumbs set on her lap. It was only then that I noticed she was in a pair of new jeans and a white blouse. "Why are you wearing that?"

Her eyes shot to me in confusion, and then moved to inspect her outfit. "Oh!" She exclaimed, shifting over to the edge of the bed and standing up. "I almost forgot. I came to wake you up, we need to get ready. Noah is on his way."

I frowned at her words, my brain still half-asleep and unable to come up with any reason as to why Noah would be coming over at this time. I glanced at my bedside table to check the clock. "But it's 6:47."

Ariel nodded, "and our flight's at nine, we need to be there on time for check-in."

Flight. Last night's memories suddenly came crashing through and my blood instantly ran cold. Ariel's eyes trailed over my bedroom, and her eyebrows narrowed in confusion. She strode over to my closet and yanked the doors open. I groaned, sliding down on my bed-frame and lying flat on my bed, while reaching out for the sides of my pillow and folding them in to cover my ears.

Still, I could hear her sharp gasp as she swirled on her heels and stared at me with wide enraged eyes. "Oh my God!" She exclaimed. I groaned in disapproval at her tone.

She rushed towards my bed and fell down to her knees, reaching out under my bed and shuffling among the mess. I rolled over to my side at the same moment that she backed away and pulled out my black suitcase.

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