Fallen, chapter 6

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"Yeah? Hey, Mr. Wang," Isis greeted her director over the phone, "I'm really sorry about not being there for rehearsal; it's just that something came up."

"Isis," Tom sighed, "You can't just quit coming when you have a problem. I want a reason. A good one." Isis glanced around for a moment, trying to think of a reason. What was she going to say? That she didn't want to come to rehearsal because she just lost the will to do anything after the man she'd loved for years wordlessly told her that he had no feelings for her? "Isis," Tom said in a warning tone, "I want your excuse. Something's wrong and I can tell. Talk to me."

"I can't, Mr. Wang. It's, well, I don't really know if anyone would understand.

"I'm not that much older than you. Actually, I'm only five, maybe six years older than you," the director paused a moment to clear his head, "Now, why don't you just tell me what's wrong?"

"Because it's not that simple. It's just really hard to deal with and I don't know if I even want to deal with it. My friendship is on the line and," she wiped away a few tears that started to well up in her eyes, "my heart is broken."

"Who is he?"

"I really can't tell you, Mr. Wang."

"I think you should, because he must have been something real special if he kept your from coming to rehearsals for the last two weeks."

"He was, and he still is. I just can't, you know, talk about it," more tears came but she ignored them.

Tom sighed again, "Alright, if you really don't want to talk to me, there's nothing I can do about it. I'll let you off for now, but I want you back by next week. Oh, and if you ask me, nothing heals a broken heart like a good distraction."

Isis just hung up, unable to take it anymore. What could she possibly do now? She had a week to get over herself, to get over Mike. Was it even possible to do that? She thought back to the day she'd first met him.

It was her first day of college, and she'd seen him through a crowd of students, fear and anxiety coursing through her. She remembered clutching her silver cross and praying for the Lord to give her strength and the calmness she needed to navigate through her new situation. And then, there he was. A tall, lean boy with a head full of blonde hair. Isis smiled as she remembered what she first thought when she saw him. She thought that he couldn't possibly be a freshman; he was too tall and way too cute.

And she was right. That boy wasn't a freshman. He was a junior and his name was Michael Pritchard. She remembered smiling at him, trying stupidly to catch his eye, and then desperately deciding to talk to him. They'd been friends ever since. And eventually, she'd fallen in love. Isis' smile faltered as she thought of the current situation. They were best friends until a fortnight ago, all because she had to be an idiot and blurt out the feelings she'd harbored inside her since day one. Keeping them inside a little longer wouldn't have killed her. But now, she wanted nothing more than to die, or just fade away.

Isis gazed at the phone from the corner of her eye and considered Mr. Wang's advice. He was right. She needed a distraction and she needed one now. Acting was her distraction; it was her pull away from the real world and into another one. But today, she didn't feel up to it. She didn't really feel up to anything at all. She let out a heavy breath and took in her surroundings.

The wall was filled with old posters. Her apartment was small and furnished strangely, but it was home to her. The ceiling was as boring as ever. Music came wafting from the apartment above. Music! Of course! Music would be her distraction. And while it wouldn't permanently heal her, hanging around La Musicale would most definitely make her feel better. After all, Frank did ask her to come back soon. Well, it was just something her probably said to his customers, but it didn't really matter. Isis had made up her mind to go there and lose herself in that world.

She rummaged through the mess to find her purse and keys and left, locking the door behind her.

As she walked slowly through the automatic doors of the building, the out-of-place feeling came back to Isis all at once. But she wasn't doing anything wrong. She was just here to look through the store and get her mind off of some... stuff. That was all.

Isis walked past the guitars without a second thought; it would hurt too much to even glance at one. A drum kit caught her eye. Hesitantly, she picked up a drumstick and tapped lightly. It was pleasant. Yes, this was a good distraction. She tapped it again. And another time. And again, harder and harder until she was banging it.

The cymbal in the corner caught her eye and she tapped that too. Isis continued to play with the drum kit forgetting her hesitance entirely. Smiling, she began to make up her own little rhythm when a shadow fell by her shoulder. She put the drumsticks away hastily and turned around.

"I didn't break it!" she said quickly, raising her hands.

"Hey, hold on, I didn't even say anything," Frank laughed.

"Oh, Frank," Isis breathed a sigh of relief, "I thought I was going to get thrown out."

"Don't worry, I wouldn't throw a customer out of my store." With a small smile he added, "Especially not one as pretty as you." Isis blushed as she remembered Mike's words, and then her expression turned to stone as she remembered Mike. Frank seemed to have sensed the change in her mood and instantly asked what was wrong. She replied with a silent stare and walked away. Why did this have to haunt her? All she wanted was a reprieve from the pain of her own stupidity but he invaded her thoughts even in her sanctuary.

From the corner of her eye, Isis noticed that Frank seemed to be following her. Slowly, she turned around and saw that he was. Part of her willed her to talk to him, but the other part was coaxing her to leave and thus, she stood still, unable to move. Half of her mind stood on Mr. Wang's words yet her entire heart was reserved for nothing but Mike. All Isis wanted was to forget, yet the more she tried, the more her heart shattered. There was the door: light, outside, air and freedom. There was Frank: a kind man, her role model, and the owner of the shop that was heaven to her. And then, there was overwhelming suffocation, surrounding her, coiling around her and growing from inside of her. Suddenly, she was numb.

"Yes, that's—no, never mind. She's waking up. Okay, thank you." Isis heard a distant voice as a slightly familiar room came into view. That boy, Jim, was beside her. She realized that her head was on his knee and that she was on the floor of La Musicale. Mortified, she jerked her eyes open and sat up straight. Frank turned around and hastily hung up the phone to give Isis his full attention.

"Hey, are you alright now?" he asked her gently. She blushed a few shades deeper before replying.

"Yeah," she stuttered, "I'm fine now. My head's spinning a little, but I'm okay."

"That's good to hear," Frank smoothed his hand across her hair and like a bolt from the blue, Isis remembered Mike and felt faint again. She held out her hand and Jim helped her to her feet, unsure of whether her legs would hold her. "Listen," Frank helped her steady herself, "Isis, would you like some coffee or something? I can run across the street and get you something from Starbucks."

Starbucks. Mike had always said that they would be the death of his shop. A sudden spite seized Isis and a few short minutes later, she found herself inside the business chain that her best friend had always feebly competed with.

She stared at Frank's face as she sipped her mocha, wondering how this was even possible. Everything seemed so unreal, so fantastic, and yet, something was missing. Someone was missing. Mike.

"Isis?" Frank asked, "Are you okay? You seem... disturbed."

"Yeah, I'm fine," she lied through her teeth for a second time. She most certainly was not fine.

"That's good to know. So, uh, how did your friend like the guitar?"

"He loved it." Isis couldn't even speak properly, she couldn't look anyone in the face, and she just couldn't do anything. Frank opened his mouth to say something and suddenly, the words came pouring out of Isis' mouth, "He hates me, though."

Frank's eyes dropped and he leaned closer to her. "Shh... " he whispered, caressing her hair again. Isis closed her eyes and imagined that it was Mike's hand, and that she was in The Stimulant, she imagined that he loved her. "Shh... " the eerie comfort of a known stranger's voice washed over her.

Isis opened her eyes and came back to reality. Frank was now next to her, holding her hand and gazing at her... was it... ? She looked at him and bit back a gasp. His lips came closer to hers and she closed her eyes again, pretending it was Mike.

No! It wasn't Mike! There was no substitute!

Opening her eyes, she wrenched her hand from Frank's and rushed out of Starbucks, not realizing that Frank was following her.

"Isis, wait! Wait! Where are you going?" he panted as he finally caught up to her.

"Away," came the answer and it was true. All she wanted now was to go away. To Mike.

"Listen, you're not alright. You really, really need to tell me what's wrong. I—I know you don't know me very well, but you have to trust me. Please. Just tell me."

Isis continued to walk, ignoring him entirely. He wasn't Mike. He was charming and sweet and handsome, but he wasn't Mike. She stopped in front of La Musicale and threw her coat on the ground.

Mike, Mike, Mike! Everything was Mike! Why couldn't he just leave her alone already? She looked towards heaven for answer and held the silver cross in her fist. Nothing. No strength. No guidance. All she had was an empty prayer.

Bubbling from within her, a choked sob escaped and she collapsed on the sidewalk, barely acknowledging Frank as her ran to her, lifting her effortlessly to carry her inside.

As lay on the floor of his office, dazed and lost, she saw Frank staring at her. Staring.

"Isis, please. Tell me," he all but commanded. Isis stared back at him; he wasn't Mike, but he cared. And so, she spoke. The night of Michael's birthday and the weeks that followed, she told him everything.

"I love him," she ended her tale with a whimper. If she had looked up, she would have seen that Frank was crushed, that suddenly, his eyes lost their fervor. She would have known right then that someone loved her. But she didn't it wouldn't have mattered, because he wasn't Mike.

Isis took a deep breath, trying to control the tears that were threatening to burst through again. Frank gently put his hand on her shoulder and slid it down her arm. His hand was warm.

"Isis," he spoke softly, "I know—now more than ever—about broken love. But you have to hold on. Just keep holding on."

Taking her cross into her palm once more, she accepted Frank's words with a solemn nod.
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