In this excerpt from PS, Jon has invited Elyse and her friends to his latest show — so Elyse has extended the invitation to Brendon. Although he is obliging her, Brendon accepted reluctantly and his attendance comes with a price. In return, he wants Elyse to accompany him somewhere she may not be prepared to go. This scene itself isn’t particularly dramatic, but it does set up two story lines — one that’s revealed in the next chapter, and another that isn’t revealed until the next book. For tonight… Elyse is simply enjoying spending time in Brendon’s company.
EXCERPT FROM: “PS, BOOK 1”
CH. 21, INS & OUTS
Brendon had insisted I pick him up at his front door for tonight’s outing. Why, oh, why this was truly necessary, I couldn’t fathom, but I played along with it because it allowed me to spend more time with him. Still, I approached his front door with a tinge of apprehension that I feared would never fully leave me, no matter how much time went by. I found myself always half-expecting Lucie to be the one who answered when I pushed the button to ring the bell.
But tonight, Jeph threw open the door before I reached the top step. He jetted past me in a blur of winterwear, simultaneously fitting a striped knit hat to his head, entangling a scarf around his neck and calling after me over his shoulder, “Have a good night.”
Brendon, who had walked with Jeph as far as the door, stood smiling at me as I turned around to face him. “You’re early,” he noted, stretching out his arms and legs to physically block the way into his home.
“I know. I was restless and ready, so I figured I’d—”
“Yeah, I guess you’re pretty excited about seeing your friend’s band, huh? I imagine it’s been a while. At least, since the holidays.” His voice seemed a bit off.
“I guess so,” I told him, but what I really couldn’t wait for any longer was seeing you. I shrugged and dodged under the obstacle course of his outstretched arms to step inside the room that promised to be much warmer than the street. He closed the door behind me and we stood quietly together in the darkness of the foyer listening to each other breathe before he gestured for us to continue into the main room.
“What… no music this time?” I inquired, echoing into the vast space before us.
“We’ll get enough of that tonight, I’m sure. Did you want anything to drink before we go? Are you hungry?”
“No, thanks. I ate something at home.”
“Well, it’s nine-forty now. Should we be there by ten?” Brendon was always so formal and timely. It made me smile to think how dedicated he was to getting me to the event on time tonight.
“Maybe,” I told him unhurried, scanning the room, realizing something was unnerving me. Something was different. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then, “Has that door always been there?” I’d remembered the far wall being occupied by a row of shelves instead.
The look on Brendon’s face stated the obvious: Of course the door has always been there. Neither I nor Jeph are in the habit of cutting through stonework to build things. But his actual audible reply was not as harsh as the one I told myself in my head. He simply remarked that it was a useless door leading to nowhere, ever since the fire had destroyed certain parts of the house.
“Since the renovation, it’s remained locked. We had put bookcases in front of it to give the wall some vague purpose,” he explained.
Perhaps it was because of the mystery surrounding Brendon’s family or the house itself being a romantically historic relic amongst the newer buildings that now surrounded it, but whenever Brendon spoke of the fire that had taken place there, I couldn’t help envisioning him as Mr. Rochester spinning out a tale about the deranged wife who had set it. I laughed lightly to myself, pretending for a moment that I was Jane Eyre.
“Well, where did you move the bookcase then?” I snapped myself out of the thought.
“Jeph’s room,” he stated, looking sideways at me as he gathered his short leather coat, a wool scarf and gloves from the closet.
“Hmm. How’d you get it up the stairs?”
“Uhh… Well, we took the books off first — moved them into the library instead. You know, it’s actually a fairly cheap bookcase, so it wasn’t very heavy. Why all the questions, Elyse?” Brendon’s voice altered into a tone that suggested I was completely out of bounds for being naturally curious.
“I just wondered. The room looked a little different to me. And then I was picturing you straining yourself hoisting a giant bookcase up the stairs.”
“Oh,” he said, relaxing. “No. It was very easy. Promise. I’m unharmed.”
“Okay. Good,” I finished, letting him off the hook for a few seconds as we made our way back toward the front door, “So where did the door used to go?”
Brendon rolled his eyes, “Elyse, you’re impossible.”
I frowned as he turned his key in the lock and we began making our way down the street.
“Your coat’s not buttoned,” he observed, and reached out to button it for me from the bottom up. Our eyes met when he reached the top. He pulled away from me and took a few steps down the sidewalk without me.
“Thanks,” I said, completely dismantled after having his hands anywhere near my body. I let out a deep breath and watched it evaporate into the night air before willing myself to walk forward again. I smiled up at him when I reached his side, “So do you not know where the door used to lead? Or are you just not telling me?”
Brendon groaned and started laughing, “It’s a secret and I’m not going to tell you.”
I crossed my arms over my chest and pouted.
“Well,” he pointed out, “You never tell me anything either.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, perplexed by a revelation about me that he’d apparently been working on for a while.
“Half the questions I ask you go unanswered.”
“That’s not true.” Is it? “Like what?”
“You’re always talking about these dreams you have, but you never actually share them with me.”
Well, that’s because they’d pretty much tell you that I’m in love with you… and I can’t take the risk of telling you that, for what I hope are obvious reasons….
“Well,” I consented, “if I tell you one of them,” leaving out all the romantic details, “will you tell me about the secret door?”
He laughed at me again, “It’s not really a secret door, Elyse. If it were a secret one, why would I have exposed it by taking away the bookcase?”
Hmm. He had a point. “So, you don’t want to hear my dream?”
“Yes. I do want to hear your dream,” he confirmed, struggling to conceal his growing frustration with me. “And yes, I’ll tell you about the door, but then I want the subject dropped, okay?”
I beamed in the moonlight, “Yes! Okay, so… here’s one of my dreams. We’re sitting in a room together—”
“Wait. So I’m in this dream?”
“Yes. But it’s not what you think.” Yes, it is, but let’s just ignore that fact for now. “So, anyway, I’m dancing in this room—”
“I thought you just said we were sitting.”
“Oh, yeah. Well, we were sitting, but then I got up to dance.”
“So far, this sounds a little unimaginative.”
I glared at him.
“Do go on,” he prompted, bowing down to my glare.
“Suddenly, a large door appears before me, but I can’t get into it because it’s blocked by a bookcase.”
Brendon gripped his head in his hands and let out a guttural scream. I thought he might pull his hair out. “Now you will never know anything about that damned door, Elyse.”
“Oh, come on!”
“Tell me a real dream.”
I pouted some more, not wanting to relinquish my dream world to someone who could unknowingly and unintentionally destroy it. But Brendon’s interest seemed genuine and hopeful. Perhaps he wanted to know me better, and I was denying him that opportunity. He looked to be on the verge of giving up on me. Maybe sharing one little benign dream with him would be okay.
I took a deep breath. Brendon relaxed and waited.
Here goes nothing: “It’s a dark, wet, cold day — sometime in the past. I know this because I’m wearing a long woolen dress, like ladies used to wear back in the 1700s or so. I’m by myself, walking along the ridges of a cliff that overlooks the sea. It seems like I’m somewhere far away, like Scotland maybe. There is a small flock of blackbirds crossing the sky, but they disappear when they realize there’s no prey for them to hunt. I feel like I’ve just escaped from something, from someone, but I’m not making any effort to leave or get away or hide. I’m not afraid. I’m just out there, wandering around, waiting to be found, or waiting to find something.”
I looked up to Brendon for a response. He appeared to be mulling it all over, rather intensely, as I continued. “Then I hear someone approaching on a horse. I don’t turn around. I don’t need to. I know who it is. He calls out to me, but I don’t answer. I feel like there’s no reason for me to say anything because all the words have already been spoken between us. Still, he calls out to me and we ride together back to his home, his fortress really… where he’s been keeping me locked up. I don’t know why. We don’t even get along with each other. I’m not sure why he doesn’t just release me. But then…”
“Yes?” Brendon finally inquired.
“I don’t know. That’s the end. He brings me to his home but leaves me there alone again. So… what do you think?”
“Wow.” Brendon paused for a moment, “Who was the guy?”
“I don’t know.”
“What did he look like?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see his face. He never even looked at me.”
“Well, there is much to be read into such things.”
Yes, there are. But I didn’t want to get too deep into my emotions, so I informed Brendon of the simplest explanation I’d come up with, “I think it was about how I need to pay more attention to things and not let others influence me too much.” But part of me knew the dream had felt too real for that. It felt like a vision from the past. It felt like I had actually experienced it all before—
“Well, all dreams are open to interpretation, so you don’t necessarily know what it was about any more than I do. You know what happened perhaps, but I know what it’s really about.” Brendon’s response was very matter-of-fact, as though he was certain he held the magical key of insight into my dream’s actual meaning.
“So, what’s it really about, then?” I challenged.
“A place you don’t want to be,” he stated under his breath, pushing open the door to J. O’Malley’s and pulling me inside with him. We crashed into the crowd together and edged our way through the sea of bodies until we reached the stage.