THE ROAD SO FAR: http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/collection?id=2313849
After a disastrous almost-exorcism by Wes (who, by the way, f-cked up the Latin, so it wouldn’t have worked anyways), we manage to get a conscious Ruby for just long enough to make a plan. It’s a bad plan. A really, really dumb plan.
I already feel like she’s slipping away from me. Keeping secrets. Lucifer’s telling her things, and I don’t know what she keeps hearing from him, but it’s written on her face – the sense that something is just…wrong.
As far as we can tell, the plan goes like this: Ruby says yes, we kill her (and, ostensibly, Lucifer), and then we bring Ruby (but not Lucifer) back to life. We haven’t quite worked out the details yet, and I’m really f-cking stressed out. I can’t f-ck this up, or once again, I will be the family failure. Killed my sister once, but it didn’t take, so I killed her again for good measure.
“Three days,” Wes says. “Meet back here in three days. We gotta figure something out – how to save Ruby. I’ll come with you.” Reluctantly, he turns to Az. “You stay here with her. Rent a motel room – it’s on us.” He tosses his wallet to Az. “Just get two beds, okay?”
I wake up in a bed with sheets that have a higher thread count than any I’ve slept on in recent memory. Groaning, I roll over. I must have had a lot to drink last night. I don’t remember anything.
Then, I remember Ruby. I sit up quickly. But there’s someone else in the bed with me.
“Mmmph,” he groans, his face buried in the pillows. “Jess, go back to sleep.” He has a Texas drawl.
“Who are you?”
The man rolls over, and I see Az’s face. He’s shirtless. I am suddenly very conscious of the fact that I’m not wearing any clothes either. I yank a blanket up to my neck.
“Jess, it’s me,” he says, trying to slip his hand into mine.
“I’m not kidding!” I screech, pulling the blankets closer to me. “Az, this isn’t funny. What happened?”
He pushes himself up on his elbows. “’Az?’ What are you talking about, Jess? I’m Jake. Your boyfriend?” He laughs. “Oh, did you have one of those weird dreams again?”
Twenty minutes later, after I’ve showered and gotten dressed in a closet that appears to be mine (and for some reason, contains actual blazers, and soft silky clothing…like I shop at Ann Taylor Loft or something). I pull my hair back into a ponytail and walk downstairs, greeted by the smell of half-burnt eggs.
“Morning, sunshine!” Jake says, depositing a plate of breakfast food in front of me.
I slide onto one of the stools and survey the kitchen. It’s surprisingly nice, with a pale color scheme and marble counters. There are tiled backsplashes. Why do I even have backsplashes? I don’t give a sh-t.
We have a house together. This is a house. It’s mine. And…Jake’s.
So we’re serious, then. I don’t get how we met. I don’t remember anything about this, but I remember my other life so clearly.
A dream. It was a dream? I don’t believe that. I remember so clearly holding Ruby in my arms, watching as she died. That can’t be a dream.
“So, when are we gonna see Ruby?” I say, swallowing the eggs before they’re cool. Hey – might as well take advantage of the situation, right?
Jake turns around, hands on his hips. “Jess, babe, have you considered seeing a therapist?”
I raise an eyebrow. “What for?” I can’t keep the harshness out of my voice, and Jake seems to notice.
“Jess, your dreams are seriously f-cking you up. It’s weird. I’m worried about you.” It’s hard to take the not-angel seriously when he’s holding a spatula and standing in a kitchen with only his underwear on.
“What do you mean? Can’t I see Ruby?” She’ll know what’s going on. She’ll know why this is happening. Maybe if I can find her, we can figure out what’s going on…maybe we can hunt it.
“You haven’t spoken to Ruby in almost five years, Jess. You’re not even on Christmas card terms with her. Ever since you went to school.”
“I went to school?”
“I’m calling the hospital,” Jake says, picking up the phone. “What the hell’s wrong with you?” He comes up and shakes me by the arms. “Jess, you’ve been acting weird for months! What’s wrong with you?”
“This isn’t real,” I say. “Jake, you’re not real.”
“I’m real,” he says.
Well, there’s no reasoning with this weird hallucination. So I have to play along. “I’m just…I’m really tired, okay? I’m really stressed out.”
“I know that.” He wraps his arms around me. I’m really not used to all this physical contact, and I automatically shy away from it. “Look, so we’re having dinner with your family tonight.”
“You mean…my entire family? Like, Ruby too?” I’m completely failing at “pretending I know what’s going on when I’m really extremely confused.”
“Yeah. Ruby and Mike.”
I decide not to push my luck on that one by asking who Mike is. Somehow, I don’t think it’d go over too well with “Jake” if I asked him whether he was talking about Mike’s Hard Lem or Michael the archangel.
At five PM, I’m instructed to “look nice,” so I put on earrings that are apparently mine (I have my ears pierced?) and fix my hair and put on what I somehow just…know…is my favorite dress. I remember buying it in New York City when Jake and I were there on holiday over winter break.
Except I don’t remember that, because it’s not real. It’s not real, is it? Did it happen?
I keep telling myself that it’s not real, that reality is back where I’m miserable and where I let Ruby die in my arms…but the longer I’m here, the further away it gets.
I can’t tell anymore. If I had no memories of this world, it’d be simpler. But I remember this. I remember the first time I met Jake. And I start to forget things about Wes and Az and the other Ruby.
We’re at a really nice Japanese restaurant. Apparently Mom’s favorite type of food is Japanese. I probably would have known that if I’d stuck around past fifteen. I guess a lot of things would’ve been different.
The restaurant has a quiet harp musical thing going for it, and it looks like a glass of wine probably costs more than I usually spend on an entire meal. I seat myself in a soft black chair and rub my feet across the worn red carpets.
Jake scoots in next to me, and I lift my head just in time to see Ruby and her date (Alex? No, wait – his name’s Mike. That, I think I can remember). Ruby still looks like the awkward college-bound girl I remember who never came out of her shell, who never learned how to shoot a gun. Right. Because here, she didn’t.
“Hi, Mom,” she says brightly, hugging our mother. Mike – Mike? That’s not Mike; it’s Wes! – stands awkwardly on the side, hands tucked in his pockets.
“Hey, sweetie,” our mom says warmly. “Jess is here too.”
Ruby looks across the table and gives me what I’m eighty percent sure is her patented Librarian Stare of Death. Then, she turns back to Mom. “I noticed.”
“Aren’t you going to greet your sister?”
Ruby yanks the chair out more violently than needed and seats herself next to Mom. Mike ends up acting as a buffer between me and her.
“Darling, I was kind of hoping you and your sister could sit together. For old time’s sake?” My mom sounds nervous. I flash through a hundred memories of Ruby and I together – some from one world, some from the other – and I can’t think of any reason she’d hate me.
“Mom,” Ruby hisses from between gritted teeth, “I’m not sitting with her.”
“Hey,” WesMike whispers to me. “What’s up?”
Unfolding a napkin and half-throwing it in my lap, I say, “Nothing. Not a huge fan of formal dinners.”
He laughs. “I feel you.”
“Mike!” Ruby whisper-screeches. D-mn. I forgot how uptight my sister is.
“Nice to see you,” I say to her, smiling fakely. Something about her just inherently gets on my nerves.
She rolls her eyes. “Look, Jess,” she says, leaning past Mike, “I will literally never forgive you, so you can stop trying now.”
I sleep badly, but I have no dreams about angels. Or demons. Or hunters.
“So, did you have the dreams last night?”
I’m sitting in an office with a sympathetic woman peering at me from over a pair of glasses. Her name, as the plaque on the desk indicates, is Mrs. Beale. “No,” I say. “But I don’t think they’re dreams.”
Mrs. Beale sighs and leans back in her chair. “Jessica, have you been stressed recently?”
“Well, Jake’s taken on the late shift at the hospital, and I can’t find a job right now, and the bills are due at the end of the month.”
I sigh. “Well, my sister hates me because…I can’t remember why.”
“Jess, you’re letting this hallucinations get to you. These dreams, this world? They’re not real. Here and now is very real. Do you understand the difference?”
Maybe I don’t like the real world. “My sister doesn’t hate me in the other world.”
“It’s not another world, Jess.” She keeps repeating my name like it’s going to calm me down.
I lean back in the chair, pretending to relax. “It’s something.”
“Tell me about it again. We can figure this out together. Piece by piece.”
“Az is an angel, but he’s really Jake.”
“And Jake is your boyfriend, right?” she confirms, checking her notes.
“Who works at the hospital? Saving people?”
I nod. “He’s a doctor. And there’s Michael…the archangel.”
“Like your sister’s boyfriend?” she interrupts.
“Yeah,” I say. “And Mike, her boyfriend? He’s really this d-ouchebag named Wes. He trained us both, but he likes Ruby better.”
“So how could this have any basis in reality?”
“Are therapy sessions, like, open records, or is anything I tell you taken as private?”
“Everything here is private. This is a safe zone, Jessica.” She peers at me, intrigued.
“Well, see, I…I slept with Mike. But he still chose Ruby over me. So I guess that explains Wes.” I pause, trying to calm myself. I never told anyone that. Especially not Ruby. And definitely not Jake. “And in the other…in the dream, I killed Ruby. A long time ago,” I add, before the therapist can ask if it’s a crime of passion or something. “I don’t know. It just…it seemed so real. And Ruby was going insane or something.” I stop. “You know, I’m not exactly sure why…”
“Well, maybe she was going insane in your dream because you haven’t seen each other in so long. Your perception of her is failing you, and so she’s falling apart.”
“How was it?” Jake asks when he picks me up.
“Fine. You wanna go get pizza?”
Half an hour later, we’re sitting in Antonio’s. I’m drinking a diet coke and eating a slice of cheese because I’m vegetarian. I almost cave and get pepperoni after remembering how good hamburgers were in my dream, but Jake reminds me that it’s been ten years since I ate meat – why start now?
That night, I have no strange dreams. I sleep.
When I wake up in the morning, the other side of the bed is cold. “Jake?” I mumble. In what seems like only a few days (but has really been a lifetime – I have to remember that), he’s gotten to seem so familiar. I miss him. But he’s out – he left a note on the pillow. I don’t bother reading it.
On my way to look for a job, I almost spill my coffee on my lap when a guy darts across the street. “Sh-t!” I say. The man runs into a boarded-up building. Narrowing my eyes, I try to focus. There’s a weird symbol on the door.
I should keep driving.
But I pull over and get out of my car. I don’t have a flashlight or anything, and I’m not planning on going in. I’m wearing pumps, for goodness sake. I’m just going to peek my head in, and then I’ll be on my way.
When I get closer, I see that the symbol is really complex – it tickles a part of my memory, and I assume it’s from the dream world. I’ve driven past this place a million times before – this must be where I imagined the symbol from.
So if that’s true, then why aren’t I getting back in the car?
With power I thought I only had in dreams, I lift my leg and manage to kick down the boards in one go. Slowly, I step inside. “Hello?”
No answer. Okay, Jess. Time to get out.
I head upstairs. It seems to be an old office building, but it only has two floors. Maybe a converted set of apartments?
I end up in an extremely creepy long hallway on the second floor, and I’m about to leave, but then I hear a low sort of rumble-growl. I open my mouth to call out, but then think better of it.
Instead, I walk down the hallway and find myself in front of room 207. Slowly, I push the door open.
Inside, it’s dank and disgusting. This room seems more decayed than the entire rest of the building put together. There’s less light in here, too, because all the windows are boarded up with rotting wood. I step inside. The floor is frighteningly moist, and I think it’s covered in dirt.
On the other side of the room, I see something hanging. Walking over carefully (and trying not to trip over anything), I suddenly wish I’d never gotten out of the car.
I think there’s a body hanging from the ceiling. I’m about to scream, but then I see it twitch.
“Sh-t,” I hiss.
There’s a creak from the other side of the room, and almost instantly, I shove myself behind a pillar, trying to make myself invisible. The body keeps twitching.
Slowly, I see a silhouette of a man come up. He gets closer and closer to the twitching body until he puts his hand out. I duck down and try to make myself even smaller, praying that he won’t see me.
Something about this is very familiar.
After a few more minutes, I hear his shuffling footsteps leave the room, and I jump up nervously, peering around the room to make sure he’s not coming back. Of course I walked right into a kidnapper’s lair.
I fumble through my purse to find my cell phone. Before I can think about what I’m doing, I find myself calling Ruby.
“What the f-ck do you want?” she spits.
“Ruby?” I hiss. “Ruby, you gotta help me.”
“Jess, this isn’t funny. I hate prank calls.” She’s about to hang up.
“No, Ruby! I swear I’m not pranking you. I’m trapped in an abandoned office building on sixth – there’s some crazy guy here.”
She must hear the fear in my voice, but then she says, “Look, Jess. Just because you got a part in that horror movie remake doesn’t mean you’re a good actress. I. Don’t. Believe you.” I can almost hear the pain break through in her voice. “And besides, you’re the one who killed Danny.”
“It was an accident!” I say, not really realizing what’s going on.
It was five years ago. And it was our younger brother.
And it was my fault. Always my fault. I shouldn’t have let him cross that street. But I was on the phone with some guy or another – I never remembered who – and I turned my back for a minute. Just one minute.
“Jess, I’m not listening,” Ruby says. Then she really does hang up on me.
Sh-t. Well, I have to help this person, don’t I? I approach the body again, trying to discern some features from underneath a mop of tangled brown hair. Slowly, I reach out and push back the long hair to see…
My face. My own d-mn face.
“What the f-ck?”
And then it comes back to me.
I look at the other me. Scouring the room, I search around for something – anything – to help me. Finally, I come back in front of Other Jess.
She’s got her gun the same place I always store mine. She is me, after all. So I pull the gun out very slowly, and I look at her.
But what if I’m wrong?
I put the gun in my purse and drive home in a daze.
Jake’s there, reading the newspaper. “Jess?” he says, standing almost immediately. “What’s wrong?” He can see it in my eyes, see it in the way I’m staggering.
Instead of explaining, I drop my purse on the counter and pull out the gun.
“Jess, what the f-ck? What are you doing?” At this point, he’s yelling, but I barely notice. I hold the gun to my head. I’m shaking, but my hand’s on the trigger.
“You’re not real,” I whisper. “Don’t come closer or I’ll shoot right now.”
He takes one step forward, but my grip tightens on the trigger. He stops. “D-mmit, Jess! You’re in therapy! You’re getting better! Jess, I promise you – I am real. I am so real.” When I show no signs of moving, his face breaks. I can see the hurt written all over his face. In his eyes. His heart is breaking.
But I’m right. I have to be.
“Jess, please. Please. I love you.”
And then I pull the trigger.
My wrists are sore. My entire body is throbbing, in fact, and I think my mouth is gagged. Blearily, I blink, trying to gain a sense of my surroundings.
A warehouse somewhere, I think. I vaguely remember…no, it’s not clear yet.
Then, I hear a voice. “Jess? Jess?”
It’s Wes. “Mmm,” I say. I know he’ll follow the sound of my voice.
He ungags me and cuts me down from the ceiling. “Can you walk?”
I shake my head and lean on him. “Where’s it? Where’s the djinn?” Because that’s what it was – what it always was. I wished I had never gone into that house five years ago, and then I had a life given to me – what my life would have been like at twenty-five.
But it wasn’t real. It was never real.
My head throbs, and an image of Jake – of Az – and that broken expression on his face hits me. “Ungh,” I groan.
Usually, we wouldn’t leave a djinn alive like that, but it’s not going to help us. And besides, I need medical care too badly to care. Wes loads me into the car and drives us to the hospital, where he jacks the basic medical equipment that we’ll need.
“I didn’t find anything either,” he says. It’s about our plan to un-kill Ruby. I grunt noncommittally. “And when you didn’t return my calls…well, we got worried.”
In this world, I didn’t sleep with Wes. Would never have even wanted to. Something about him – despite that tough exterior – it’s just too needy. Not the kind of thing I need. But Ruby? Maybe.
We end up back at the motel, where Wes and Az set up a makeshift hospital bed for me. Ruby’s in the bathroom, spewing nonsense and rolling on the ground as she does so. I don’t ask how long she’s been like that. I just assume – too long.
“So did you get anything?” Wes asks gruffly, looking at Az.
“I’ve got an idea. I think I know of a way to bring her back.”
“It’s…” he pauses. “It’s…an angel thing.” But the way he says it, it almost sounds like a question.