You woke with a start.
Sitting up, you rested your face in your hands, trying to block out the nightmares that plagued your dreams ever since you were a child. Despite the therapy and strong medication you were force fed in your youth, you still suffered from the memories of your childhood.
Of your first best friend.
Of your first crush.
Jeffrey Woods had grown up as your neighbour. Well, he was four doors down from you, but being a year younger than him and the only other child around meant the two of you were either going to be best friends or the worst enemies. Thankfully, it wasn’t the latter.
Perhaps it helped that both yours and Jeffreys dad worked for the same company, so after hour meetings saw you and Jeffrey amusing yourselves.
He was your first real friend, and Jeffrey considered you his best friend tied with Liu but sometimes brother can get on each others nerves.
He taught you to fight, and protect yourself.
“I’ll always be with you, but lets say im preoccupied with 5 burly big guys and you got someone coming at you.” He had joked, puffing out his chest and making you laugh. The little fight sessions always ended in laugher.
After Jeffrey turned 9, he started sneaking out to come see you every other night. He would throw small stones at your window. Some night, you would be awake and sometimes he would wake you up.
You would always throw open your window to climb down to him and scold him, but you laughed the entire time.
As you both turned pre-teens, you started to look at Jeffrey a little differently. A childhood crush you were so sure was love. Even today, you laughed at the notion of a 11 year old thinking they had found their soul mate. But you couldn’t deny you had had a crush on him.
And yet, when you turned 12, you found out Jeffrey was moving.
Jeffrey had snuck out the night he found out, throwing small stones at your window till you climbed out.
The second he told you, you felt your heart sink. Thankfully, he wasn’t moving to a different country or state. His dad was being transferred to the head office in the next town. He promised to call you, and even offered to write to you, but the grimace of his face told you otherwise.
As moving day rolled around, Jeffrey came to see you every night. On the final night, you still remembered it.
----flash back ---
“At least I know no one will be breaking my window.” You try to laugh off as you both climb the back fence to hid in the alley behind your house, but Jeffrey only gave a half-hearted chuckle.
You knew why.
Tomorrow he was moving.
Jeffrey walked, shuffling his feet with his hands buried in his pocket as you followed beside him. You didn’t know what to say, and nether did he.
You wanted to tell him you liked him, you really did. But the idea of ruining your friendship was too valuable.
Instead, you dug your hand into your pocket, bringing out the friendship bracelets.
“I made you this. So you don’t forget me.” You held out the blue and black thread as you cursed yourself for sounding like a child.
“Cool.” Jeffrey genuinely sounded excited as he took it and pulled it on his wrist, admiring it and making you laugh. “You made one for yourself, right?”
“Of course.” You show him the colours twirled around your wrist. “So we can always be friends.”
“Promise?” He raises an eyebrow at you.
“Promise.” You nodded and he beamed at you.
---- end of flash back -----
That was the last time you saw Jeffrey genuinely smile. You parted ways not long after that, and you had went to say goodbye to him and Liu but there was no smiles.
You kept in contact and, at first, things seemed to be going well. They settled in, Liu had some more kids his age around. Jeffrey admitted he had been feeling a little strange recently, but didn’t go into detail.
Then one day, your parents stopped you from going near the phone.
They rushed to the phone, and they had dropped you to a family friend while they both went somewhere in a hurry, but you never knew where.
You tried to call Jeffrey, but when ever his mom answered, she would rush you off the phone, apologising and hang up.
Then, one day, your parents had sat you down. They told you that the Woods were all dead.
It wasn’t until adulthood that you found out the whole story. About the mugging and the bullies, and the burning, and Jeffreys.. insanity. It made sense why they sent you to see a phycologist, since you and Jeffrey had spent so much time together growing up and loosing a friend like you had.
But something always felt off. You looked into it, finding that the bodies of Jeffrey and Liu were never found. Blood was found, but never bodies. The state tried to sweep it under the rug since the neighbourhood was a wealthy one and it would cause more financial damage than they wanted.
But you never got the closure you wanted. You never got the answers.
Rubbing your forehead, you groaned as the image was burned into your skull. Fire engulfing someone as they fell down some stairs. Screaming, his screaming. Jeffrey’s screaming. You saw the melted flesh in gory detail as your friend screamed.
Even after all these years, you still thought about him. You were grown up, with your own home. The house was on the end of a cul-de-sac and behind it was a beautiful woodland area. Something had drawn you to this house, something kept you there. You couldn’t explain what it was. The woods were dangerous, and you had seen the reports of people going in and never coming out. Yet, after years of living here, you had never had any issues, nor had your neighbours who were a little strange to say the least. Some would leave out fresh meat in their back gardens, some would leave offerings of dolls or food while others simply stayed silent. You stayed silent. For whatever reason, you were all in this strange boat together.
Swinging your feet off the bed, you decided on a glass of water. You chuckled to yourself, finding amusement in the idea of helping your fiery nightmare with water.
You didn’t head back to your bedroom straight away, instead going to your study and grabbing the picture off your desk.
The last picture that had been taken of you and Jeffrey together, at your 12th birthday. Neither of you knew his mom had grabbed the camera and snapped the photo as you both sat on the swing in his old garden. Neither of you were really swinging, just gently swaying backwards and forwards. Jeff had been telling you about a practical joke he had played on Liu involving flour while you were laughing. He looked so animated in the photo, his face full off expression as you laughed. You remembered laughing so hard your sides hurt while Jeff joined in. He had ended up losing his footing on the floor and fell backwards off the swing, making you double over in tears if laughter.
A far different person from the person in your dreams.
You didn’t want that picture in your head. You wanted to remember this Jeffrey. Walking back into your bedroom, you didn’t notice the open window, or the figure lurking in the shadows beside your wardrobe. Instead, you sat on your bed, propping the framed picture up and digging in your chest of drawers till you find a little box. It was one you held dearly. Inside was your old, a little tattered, friendship bracelet. Your adult wrists no longer fit into the child size hole, but you kept it close, nonetheless.
Tears welled in your eyes as you took out the token.
Closing your eyes, you scold yourself.
Hes been dead for years, but your childhood crush on him still hurt.
putting the box on your bedside beside the picture, you curled up under the covers, crying yourself back to sleep.
When you awoke next, you expected it to be morning. Normally, you would managed to fall back asleep till morning. Things always felt a bit better in the light.
but as you opened your eyes, you could only see the moonlight. Your cheeks were still wet from tears as was your pillow.
And you felt a wight at the end of your bed.
Sitting up, you nearly fainted.
Someone was sitting on the metal frame with their feet on your bed.
His skin was a pale white and, apart from the deep red scarring around his mouth that mimicked a smile. The skin looked as though it had been burned years ago as the inconsistent texture covered his face. A white hoodie had red splatters on it, and you didn’t want to think what that was from. Jet black hair framed his face as he looked down at something in his hand.
You looked to the side, seeing he had taken the frame from your bedside, and the bracelet tttwas gone from the box.
“Give that back.” You sat bolt up right, scrambling out of your covers but pushing yourself back against your headboard. You were terrified beyond belief, but still in a daze from just waking up.
The man didn’t answer, his eyes trained on the photo as he seemed to sway slightly from side to side.
“I said give it back!” You raised your voice, but it didn’t carry authority. Your voice was more high pitched that you would have liked and your hand was trembling as you held it out.
You managed to pull the man from his thoughts as his gaze shifted up to you. Piercing eyes glared at you, making a shiver run through your spin.
Painfully slowly, he held out the picture, his eyes never leaving your own.
“Take. It.” He hissed, his voice low and dangerous.
You paused, weighing your options before inching forward to gingerly take the frame. You recoiled quickly, holding the picture against your chest as you press yourself hard against the bedframe. His hand stayed outstretched for a few moment before retracting. Both hands buried into his hoodie before pulling out a blade.
Your heart sank and you made an audible whimper as the moonlight bounced off the metal. He twisted the knife in his hands, looking at it in contemplation before stuffing it back into his hoodie.
A howl from somewhere in the woods made you jump, cutting the tension as the man looked towards the window. He apparently knew what it mean.
“Go to sleep.” He tried to sound scary, and like it was a threat, but it sounded almost like he was begging as he moved off your bed and towards the open window.
You looked down at the picture, something feeling uncomfortably familiar about the man. And yet you were drawn to him.
As you went to place the picture back on your night stand, your eyes fell on the empty box.
“Wait, you took my bracelet.” You scramble out of bed, cautiously following him to the window but keep enough of a distance.
“I’m keeping it.” He snapped over his shoulder as he began to climb out of the window.
“why?” you breathed, more tears running down your cheeks as you stood there shaking from head to toe. He paused, his eyes flitting back to you then away as if in pain.
“Mine burned in the fire.” The moment the words fell from his lips, you froze.
Before you could question, he had climbed out the window. But you had already connected the dots.
“Jeffrey?” you breathed, taking a small step forward as you watched the man wince at the name.
It was him. It had to be.
Emotions flood through your veins as you tried to comprehend what was happening, and how it was possible. But before you could, he started to move out the window. You just wanted to keep him here for a moment more, to spend a moment more with your lost friend.
Racing forward, you grab a hold of the arm he was using to keep himself balance on the ledge.
His head snapped back to your own, a snarl on his lips but you were quicker.
Pressing your lips to his own, you finally kissed the boy you had fallen in love with as a child. Your heart nearly burst as his lips moved against your own, a growl leaving his throat as you answered with your own mewl.
You wished you could have stayed like that for ever, but the knife was still a prominent feature in your mind so you quickly pulled back, blushing as you bit your lip.
He seemed dazed by your actions, swaying a little on your windowsill, and only pulled from his thoughts by another howl.
“Its Jeff now.” He spoke quickly before leaving through the window.
You race back, leaning out the window to see him running through your garden and hopping the fence with ease.
As he went into the woods, you noticed a few more shadows were moving and you quickly closed over your window and locked it. Backing away, you held your hands over your lips as you tried to process what had just happened and thousands of questions flooded your mind.
You wondered if you would ever see him again to ask him.
But you didn’t have to wait long for your answer, because the next night, you awoke to an inconsistent tapping noise coming from your window.
Like small stones were being thrown at it.