It is a warm August afternoon in California, so Candace and I are hanging out together. My hands are behind me, and my legs are hanging over the edge of the somewhat clean wooden boards that I call the floor. Candace's curly blond hair is on my shoulder, and her little hand is enclosed in mine. We're staring at the sky together, and since our parents aren't home, we've planned to stay up until at least two in the morning.
Candace turns her head to glance at me, her eyes, as blue as a cloudless sky, crinkle up around the bottom, and she giggles as a butterfly flutters around my head. "This is the best. So peaceful." She tells me, her hands now clasped on her lap.
I nod. "Yeah, you're right. Thank God we didn't have that much homework." I murmur, staring at the orange splatters in the salmon pink blanket that we call the sky.
"Kylar, can I tell you something?" Candace asks me, smoothing the hidden wrinkles in her white halter dress.
"Sure... Candace," I say hesitantly, holding my breath as she cups my face with her hands.
Candace smiles at me, her legs swinging off of the floor. "You're one of the best friends I've ever had." She exclaims, hugging me.
"Yeah, well... Candace... I like you." I tell her, avoiding her eyes. I know she won't be there when I wake up, and my eyes begin to water involuntarily.
I can't believe I've fallen in love with a girl who isn't even real.
I stand up, nearly tripping, and falling off of our treehouse.
Candace's eyes are wide too, and not a muscle in her body moves. Even her curls are still, which is surprising because they're like kangaroos every time Candace walks.
"I..." She murmurs, turning to face me.
I sigh, still avoiding those beautiful blue eyes of hers. "I know, we can't be in love since I won't be here for long. I have to wake up soon." I remind Candace, trying to smile through the tears I'm attempting not to show.
Candace stares at me, her eyes wet with tears. She starts to fumble with something in her dress. "I thought you would say that." She exclaims solemnly, tears streaming down her face and making her cheeks damp. "I don't understand... do you not love me? You said you did!"
"Candace, you know I do. I just can't keep living in a fake reality anymore. You and I, we can't be together. But I will always love you" I tell her, rubbing her shoulder. Candace rips her shoulder out of my grasp, her eyes narrowed at me. She glares at me with her arms crossed, looking like a five-year-old who didn't get their ice cream after they asked. Her bottom lip is out and the tears in her eyes make her look almost pitiful.
“Then why don’t you stay with me?!” Her tone is hysterical, and the beautiful blond curls are bouncing faster than kangaroos. The smell of vanilla trails from her, into my nose, and I sigh. “Stay with me! Don’t leave, this can become your reality.” She exclaims, a tender smile on her face. She looks cheery, but this feels sus, especially because she’s been striving to make me stay with her forevermore.
I stare at Candace, biting the inside of my cheek. "I'm sorry, but I'm not staying here," I tell her, my arms crossed.
A feral grin grows on Candace's face as she slowly begins to circle me, revealing the item that she had hidden in her dress. My heart sinks as I spot a butterfly knife in her pale hand. I want to ask her why, but no words form when I open my mouth.
"Guess this is the way it has to happen then, huh?" Candace asks me, shaking her head. "I thought you were different. But you..." Candace snickers. "You used me as a toy. And I let you. I can't believe I let you." She exclaims, her face twisted into a scowl.
"Candace, I never used you. I loved you with all my heart." I tell her, still biting the inside of my cheek.
As Candace starts to stomp towards me in her black ballet flats, the treehouse falls apart right in front of my eyes, and Candace plummets off of the treehouse, still screaming at me. Suddenly, everything is quiet as she hits the ground.
"Goodbye forever, Candace," I say, waiting for myself to wake up from this terrible nightmare...
My eyes open, and my vision is blurry, but for a second I see blond curls fly past me. I close my eyes, hoping for the best, and open my eyes again.
Either I'm in heaven, or this room actually is the brightest, whitest, thing I've ever seen. I'm in some kind of cot, and when I sit up, the back of my head starts to throb. I see a girl sitting in the navy blue chair next to me - finally, something of color - next to me, and I almost faint when I notice that this girl has silky blond curls up to her broad shoulders, and the clearest blue eyes, like a cloudless sky.
When she notices me sitting up, she smiles, the same warm smile.
But… how?! I made Candace up!
"You're awake!" She exclaims, giggling the same giggle that Candace did in my dreams. As she begins to walk towards me, I flinch and shrink into the wall. This fake Candace looks confused, biting on her bottom lip. "Kylar, what's wrong?" She asks.
I hesitate. "Yo-you tried to kill me!" I cry out, my voice cracking.
Candace stares at me, her eyes wide. "What are you talking about?! Are you okay? Your mother has been worried sick about you!" Candace exclaims, sitting next to me.
"What happened?" I ask, rubbing my temples with my fingers. I don't remember anything, except that crazy dream.
Candace avoids my eyes, her breathing getting shaky. "You were in a coma for a week. They put you in this hospital, but the doctor said you probably wouldn't live. You hit your head pretty hard." She tells me, tears streaming down her face. She quickly wraps her arms around me, her head on my chest. "After I told you that I liked you. We were in the treehouse, remember?" She asks, staring at me.
My eyes widen, and I kiss her gently on the forehead. "I remember everything. I like you too, Candace."