Chapter 1: Derry I: The Familiar Faces of Old Ghosts
“It suits you,” he says, cautiously. “Like royalty.”
Put your white tennis shoes on and follow me
Why work so hard when you could just be free?
- Lana Del Rey, "Swan Song"
August 5th, 2017
Rolling thunder rouses you from darkness.
You roll over your on your side, letting out a heavy sigh as your eyes shift through the darkness. Your hand reaches past the covers that wrap around your body, reaching for your phone—that you always left on your nightstand—to check the time. The brightness prompts you to squint, your eyes adjusting to the light. The time read 8:43 a.m., which was your sign to roll back into bed to catch a few more winks of rest.
Outside, the rain continues to pour; lightning provides brief comfort.
And then, someone’s knocking on your front door.
Letting out another groan, you shrug out of your tight blanket cocoon—slipping on shorts and a shirt. Sure, it was raining and freezing as hell outside, but you preferred the comfort in sleeping in a sports bra and underwear. Besides, the blankets made up for whatever contact you lacked. Running a hand over your face, your eyes briefly glanced over at the glass enclosure near your desk, before turning away with disinterest.
One by one, you flick on the lights of your two-story, feeling slight annoyance when you hear frantic knocks on the door again. It’s a Saturday, nearly nine in the morning, and someone’s knocking on my door...but who? you questioned; though, you already had your answer.
Past the closed shutters beside the door, you watch as a small silhouette bounds happily on the balls of their feet. Despite your annoyance and exhaustion, you can’t help but smile and feel comfort rise in your chest. Upon opening the door, your suspicions are confirmed and you’re met with a boy wearing a bright yellow rain slicker, and a wide smile. You cross your arms, furrowing your brows despite the fact that you were grinning.
This boy was none other than George Denbrough, Georgie to his friends.
You, being his parents’ newest neighbor, were given that sentiment. Since he was seven and had plenty of free-time, you often saw him outside with his friends (though, sadly, he didn’t have much except for three other boys and his elder brother) when you were taking care of your garden.
Being friendly with Mr. and Mrs. Denbrough had led you to becoming Georgie’s pseudo-caretaker.
Since both parents worked long hours, and their son was often out with his friends, you were given the opportunity to watch over him. It wasn’t so bad though, considering the fact that you worked at home, and Georgie was always the best company there could be. To top it off, the Denbroughs did pay you (bi-weekly in large amounts) for your work. Being twenty-two (turning twenty-three in December), and fresh out of UNI, you took any chance at earning cash.
“Georgie?” you ask, tilting your head. “Why are you here?”
“I’m sorry!” he apologizes profusely, fiddling with his fingers. “I was just...wondering if you can,” He paused when the tell-tale rumble of thunder startles him, leaving him caught off mid-sentence. He doesn’t need to finish though, because you already know what he wants.
“...make you a paper boat?” you finish for him.
“Yes, please! Billy says he’s sick, and didn’t want to make one.”
Feeling bad that he came to your house just for a paper boat made you feel bad, so you allowed him to enter your home, stepping aside. “Come in,” you order softly. “It’s cold outside and I don’t want you getting sick from waiting in the rain. You can wait in the living room while I get the things. You can help yourself in the kitchen for some cookies I made yesterday. They’re in the fridge.”
Georgie’s reply is quick with a cheerful, “Okay!”
And with that, you’re passing the kitchen and down the hallway, stopping in front of a table—pulling the drawers open. Old pens and markers inside rolled from the sudden movement, an old drawing notebook collecting dust catches your eye. Making sure that nothing important was in it, you tear a page from the back and grab a tin of paraffin wax from one of the pantries near the stairs. You would’ve gone down to the basement to get your stored art supplies (which haven’t been touched in years), but you didn’t bother.
The basement had always terrified you, even if it was near spotless and organized, the broken light down there and the wetness of the room...you were more than adamant on avoiding the basement at all costs. Funny, out of all of the things that you had been through in your life, a basement scared you more than the things you’ve endured.
You didn’t linger on the subject any longer, plopping next to Georgie on the couch while you set down your things on the table. The wax you had heated up was still hot, but it wouldn’t be long until it cooled off—so you had to make the boat as soon as possible. As expected, Georgie was munching on some chocolate chip cookies and downed a glass of milk—having been watched over by you, he remembered where everything was in your home.
Putting on a smile on your face, feeling the muscles ache and strain from doing it so much, you avert your gaze to Georgie; holding the TV remote to him. “Did you want to watch cartoons?” you ask, already knowing what his answer was. Still, you liked asking Georgie for what he wanted, and taking his wants and needs into consideration taught him to do the same.
He nods, his voice muffled by the cookies in his mouth and takes the remote from with in his hands, turning on the TV with the simple press of a button. Since you didn’t use your television much (Truth be told, you never wanted a TV, but it was a gift from your uncle, so you couldn’t object.), it was automatically saved to the children’s channel that Georgie always loved. While he watched the morning Saturday cartoons, you quickly went back to your task at hand: making a paper boat. While you were doing this, Georgie began to happily talk about his day; even though you had a good sense of what his daily routine was.
“School’s soooo boring!”
“Really, now? Can’t say I disagree, buddy.”
“—but at least I have Billy, Ava, Eddie! Oh! Do you remember Eddie? He’s Dorsey Corcoran’s brother.”
“Mhm. I remember him. You said that he plays baseball, right?"
Georgie nods eagerly. “Yeah! Yes! That’s him! We play hide and seek a lot at school at recess.”
“So, school’s not all that bad.”
“No, I guess not...but the classrooms smell like piss sometimes—”
“Georgie!” you scold, eyes bulging at his word use.
Where the hell did he get that from? you wondered, horrified.
You never swore around him, you’d never allow yourself to do that, so hearing him say that was like a slap in the face. Said boy turned to you sheepishly, tilting his head with wide puppy dog eyes. Oh hell, you groaned internally.
He doesn’t even know that it’s a bad word.
“Did I do something wrong?” he asks, his tone fearful.
“No—” you cut yourself off, letting out a sigh. “Well...Georgie, piss isn’t a word you should use.”
“Wait, it isn’t? But Billy and his friends use it all the time!”
Of course he picked it up from his big brother.
Bill Denbrough, in the few times you had met him, was a quiet boy with a stutter but a heart of gold. Even though he was in eighth grade and turning thirteen soon, he had more leadership skills than the assholes you met at UNI. Other than what you had seen for yourself, you had to use everything you heard from Georgie to build Bill’s character. Still, you might have to talk to the brothers’ parents on how Bill watched his mouth, especially around Georgie.
“No, it’s not,” you explain. “But...I can’t stop you from using it, but please, don’t say it around your parents.”
Georgie frowns. “Will you get in trouble for it?”
“Yeah,” you snort, biting down a humorless giggle. “Really big trouble.”
“Then I won’t say anything!” Georgie claims, holding out his pinky to you. “I pinky promise!”
Indulging in his childish antics, you bring out your own hand to link your pinky with his—reaffirming his ‘promise’. You wouldn’t doubt him now, because Georgie was always so set on keeping all promises that he made. Satisfied, you return back to making the paper boat, using your index finger to coat the paper boat with wax. Georgie, as always, watches curiously as you don’t flinch whenever you dip your finger into the wax—which was still seething hot.
“Doesn’t that kinda hurt?”
“No,” you shake your head. “It doesn’t...I have a high heat threshold.”
“What’s a thresh...threshold?”
“It’s basically how much, my limits, that I can handle something,” you say. “So I can handle a lot of heat.”
“That’s so cool!” Georgie fawned. “You’re like...a superhero!”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” you laugh.
You were more of an oddity than a superhero in simpler terms.
You finished the boat and quickly scrawled “S. S. Georgie” in cursive penmanship. You handed it to him with a smile, ruffling his hair. “There you go,” you say, laughing. “Don’t be out for too long. You know your mother doesn’t like it when you’re out in the rain for too long.”
Hopping off the couch to slide on his yellow slicker back on, Georgie slides his green galoshes on and makes way for the front door without a second to spare. The cold draft that comes into your home doesn’t bother as much as the worry at the bottom of your heart. Georgie was a smart kid, but for him to always be out and about on his own...it left an uneasy feeling in your gut. He knew to not talk to strangers, but still—Derry, Maine was not a good place. Before he can shut the door, you call out.
“Don’t talk to strangers Georgie!”
“I won’t!” Georgie replies. “Thank you Miss King!”
The rest of your day is uneventful, and rolls by smoothly.
Georgie drops by every now and then—since the Denbroughs are off of work for the day, they spent their time together in the house—and told you about his day. There was a big of sadness in his eyes that made you frown and question about his behavior. “The boat fell in the sewer drain,” you remembered Georgie explaining to you with a frown.
“I couldn’t keep up with her.”
“That’s alright,” you replied, ruffling his hair. “We can always make more.”
And that’s how found yourself folding an ungodly amount of paper boats with Georgie.
Bill had also tagged along, but since he was “sick”—you could tell that he was faking it; you had done it yourself when you were a kid too—he simply sat on the couch, messing with his phone with headphones in his ears. You wish that he was more open when he was around you, but you couldn’t complain: he was a good kid, judging by what Georgie and his parents had said about him.
You were on the...twentieth(?) boat when Bill said that he and Georgie had to go home. Nodding, you gathered what you and Georgie had made, and neatly packed it in Georgie’s backpack so that he could take it home—since it was still raining, and you didn’t want the boats to be soaked. Having baked more cookies (it was a specialty and hobby of yours), you offered some to the boys. Georgie always accepted them, while Bill was the shyer one, surprisingly, out of the two.
“T-Thanks,” he stammers out, smiling. “I’m really h-h-happy that y-you’re here to watch o-o-over m-my brother.”
“It’s no problem,” you reply. “It’s the least I can do for you guys. If anything, I should thank your parents...getting by in Derry is easy, but when you’re an adult like me—it does get kinda hard,” You shuffle on your feet, watching as rain continued to downpour outside the window. “Tell your parents that I’m grateful that they’re giving me the opportunity to make a living by watching over you guys.”
Bill nods. “I-I-I will...” Just as he’s about to leave with Georgie in hand, he pauses in his step, turning around to look at you curiously. “Y-You lived in the N-N-Neibolt House...right?” he asks, making sure that he didn’t step on a nerve.
You couldn’t blame him, after-all, that’s where your parents had passed...murdered, was the word you tried to avoid as much as possible. It was the classic breaking-and-entering crime that ruined your life, as well as the suspect’s (not that you cared for him anyway). Your parents just so happened to be downstairs when it happened. The suspect didn’t get far in the house because the neighbors had called the cops.
You were oblivious to the whole thing, having been asleep upstairs the entire time that it happened. It was a devastating blow in your mind, and even though it happened when you were young—at six-years-old, a year after you moved to Derry—you still found it hard to accept the reality of it all. Thankfully, your uncle Howard had been gracious enough to take care of you, where you moved back with him to Maryland with his wife and two children; your cousins.
Moving back to Derry was both a breath of fresh air, and a stale memory gone cold.
Reigning in yourself from your thoughts you nodded, a grim expression taking hold of your features. “I did,” you confirm, leaning against the door-frame. In the corner of your eye, you watched in amusement as Georgie messed with Bill’s umbrella outside, jumping in puddles. Averting your gaze to meet Bill’s, you continued. “Why...? Did you want to know something?”
“N-No,” he pauses, a cautious look in his eyes. “Did you h-hear th-th-that someone’s m-moving in th-th-there now?”
“Wait, really?” you ask, eyes widening. “Who is it? Do you know?”
“Some r-r-r—rich guy?” Bill says helpfully, though his tone is unsure. “He used to l-l-live on W-West B-Broadway...a R-Robert Gray, I think?”
Robert Gray, you mused thoughtfully.
You have heard the name before, but you’ve never met him in person. He, just as Bill had described, was a “rich boy” who was given the chance to go to Harvard University at fourteen (Jesus Christ! You were still in fifth grade and learning about onomatopoeias!). From what you heard from people in Derry, he was described as a really smart and nice; knew what to say and how to act. But then again, just as perfect people were, there was something...off about him.
You only heard from rumors, in the brief time that you were in Derry as a child (and now; having lived here for nearly a year)—that Robert Gray was a bit of a “crazy”...that he was arrogant and spoke highly of himself like he was God, but hey, you couldn’t judge. You’ve never met him, and it was wrong to judge a person off of rumors alone. If he really was good enough to be a Harvard student, then how bad could he be?
“Thank you for telling me this,” you say to Bill, waving him off. “I’ll check out the place when I can.”
Social media search, here we go.
...It turns out that Robert Gray didn’t use social media.
Which to you—being an owner of several electronics, and being extremely active on one social media platform—was absolutely shocking. He was only what? Four years older than you? And he didn’t even have a Facebook account!
He either had old fashioned beliefs, probably from his parents (whom were both known by the town, even though they passed a few years ago), or just lived under a rock from studying too much. You hoped that it was just the former, because there was no way someone could live today’s age without technology or media. At least, that’s what you thought.
Maybe you were being weird by searching him up, but anyone who dared to move into your childhood home (which was dubbed the “murder house” by a lot of kids and teenagers in Derry), was someone listed as “strange” on your nonexistent list of people you were suspicious of. The Neibolt House, which was refurbished by your parents when they moved here, was beautiful; painted with a shade of French Gray—how ironic, given the new owner’s surname—and had an overgrown garden that gave the Victorian house a vintage vibe.
Once you had fallen too deep in your thoughts, you closed your laptop and distracted yourself with the glass enclosure nearby, a smile reaching your features. With careful hands, you slide the glass lid off and carefully lift the spider out of it, eyes softening. This is Holland, your pet Desert Blonde Tarantula of sixteen years, and you loved her with all of your heart.
She was a rarity to you, with her light legs and body contrasting heavily to her dark abdomen: she was a perfect balance between light and dark. Holland was always docile and compliant whenever you handled her, and her company was great compared to the awful people of Derry (minus the Denbroughs and a handful of other families). You indulge in allowing Holland to wander your bed, snapping a few pictures of her to save as your phone wallpaper before putting her back in, and feeding her.
You found her to be your best friend and companion since childhood.
When the rain gave in, you showered and dressed into a pumpkin brown turtleneck and blue jeans, slipping on sneakers on your feet. Just in case the rain would come back, you threw a hoodie on, and give yourself a once over in the mirror. Although having long hair was a hassle, you enjoyed styling it in different ways—and a simple middle part always did the trick. You glossed over your eyes, which were comparable to dull red diamonds, and grabbed your essentials; leaving the house.
“Morning!” Mrs. Denbrough, Sharon, called your name from her porch, flashing a smile at you.
“Good morning,” you reply. “I’m heading out for the day, but if you need me to watch over the kids, just call me.”
“Alright,” Sharon nods. She looks like she’s ready to head back in the house and call it a day, even though it’s noon and the day—despite the rain—was still young. She continues with an apologetic smile, seeing as though she was taking up your time. “Thank you, by the way. I know you’re young and busy, but Zack and I are always out of the house, and I’m really thankful that you’re putting the time and effort to take care of them. I know Bill can take care of Georgie on his own, but still, sometimes the two alone are...”
“A disaster?” you add helpfully.
“You could say that. Kids are such a hassle to take care of.”
“Can’t say I disagree...I’ve never had any of my own, and Georgie’s a great kid.”
“I think you’d be a great mom,” Sharon comments, nodding.
You take her compliment gingerly, entering your vehicle without another word.
You’d just do a drive-by your old home and continue the rest of your day, nothing special—or maybe, you’d actually meet Robert Gray in person. For someone so successful (you had found only one article about him, regarding his success as a young, aspiring man with “dreams”), it was a strange decision for him to move to the shittiest town in the world...sans Castle Rock, which you had visited from time to time.
Passing through West Broadway and then down Kansas Street, you could feel your hands grow clammy in anticipation—over a million thoughts running through your mind at that moment. None of your thoughts could ease your curiosity, and was a relief to see that the house on 29 Neibolt Street was still standing.
There were several things you noticed as well.
Unsurprisingly, there was a brand new car parked on the side of the road (given that the house was old, there was no garage) and the lawn was given a rework. In addition to the sunflowers that covered the expanse of the lawn, there were some birch trees planted in both the front and backyard. The vines that had overgrown on the side of the house were still though to give the home the sensually ancient appearance, alluring everyone to enter even though it had a grim history. Much to your chagrin, the tire swing that your father tied to the oak tree in the front was no longer there.
Parking your car across from the house, you walked towards the front entrance, pushing the gate out of your way. A heavy breath passed your lips, and you could only do everything but calm down when you rang the newly-installed door-bell. If the new owner of the home wasn’t here, then you would’ve felt like an idiot driving all the way here—but you were hopeful.
After an agonizing five minutes the door opens: revealing the owner.
You try not to stare, but it’s hard to—especially when he towers over you, lowering his frame so that his head doesn’t hit the doorway. He’s casually dressed in a black t-shirt that’s tucked into his jeans: revealing a lean frame. The new watch and designer brands aren’t what surprises you the most. It’s his eyes that do the trick. His eyes are dark brown, so dark that his eyes almost look like wide black holes that take in your appearance—and more. His hair is soft, un-gelled, and casually parted away from his face.
Holy shit he’s gorgeous, you think in awe. Really, what the hell is a guy like him doing in Derry, Maine?
You give him an apologetic smile, trying your best to look like you know what you’re doing. In the presence of this man, you suddenly lose all of your thoughts, and it’s hard to focus when he stares at you in a way that makes you feel so small and important at the same time. “Hi,” you greet softly. “I—Uhm...I used to live here, and I was just uh—...I wanted t-to uh, I wanted to say welcome back to Derry!”
God, you felt like an idiot but at least you got your words out.
Robert looks, more or less, like a statue: with wide eyes and a slightly parted mouth. There’s a lingering doubt that fills the back of your mind, that you said something wrong, and that the new owner of your childhood home thinks that you’re the crazy one here. Robert looks nothing like someone people would spread rumors about, in fact, he looks like he’s well off on his own. When Robert doesn’t reply, still stuck in his silence, you try to fill it in with your voice.
“Are you alright, sir?” Why the fuck am I calling him sir? We’re nearly the same age.
...Fuck me, and my manners.
Your question gets him to finally break through whatever thoughts he had been thinking about. A calm, neutral expression passes his features as his reply comes out cool but with a trembling voice. He almost sounds...nervous?
“It’s you,” he whispers.
“It’s...me?” you question, confused.
“It’s you,” Robert nods slowly.
The way he looks at you is full of longing and something else that you can’t pinpoint down, and the way he inches just a tad bit towards you prompts you to shut off your mannerisms and stay quiet. It’s intimidating and scary in the way that he stares at you—and you now understand why some people had sprouted rumors about him. Before things can grow anymore awkward, you smile again, this time out of nervousness, and tell him that you’ll be on your way now.
You feel uncomfortable in his presence.
“Wait,” he chokes out.
To your surprise, followed by that he also says your first name—which you hadn’t told him yet—which immediately grabs your attention. You turn your head to catch his gaze, a step away from the porch. Robert exits his house, his eyes briefly analyzing the weather before returning his gaze back to you.
If looks could kill, his would kill you out of intensity.
“I just moved here recently,” he explains, “...from Castle Rock after staying there for a year. Do you mind if you can give me a ground tour of Derry? I-I mean...I have lived here before, but I think it’s nice to have someone to guide the way.”
You’re still on edge, but his request sends a rush throughout you.
You’d only known him for a good six minutes and fifty-five seconds, but he’s already asking you on the equivalent of a...meeting? Date? Something else? Still going by the notion that this man might’ve been a bit odd, judging by what you have seen yourself and his choice of housing, you reconsider. Couldn’t he just drive around himself around town? He’s smart, evidently from his educational career, and smartly dressed—obviously, he doesn’t need your help.
Still, you’re too nice for your own good and give in.
“Sure,” you reply nonchalantly, shrugging. “I’m a bit busy though,” you lie, holding up your phone. You want nothing more than to sleep and watch movies, but the way that Robert holds himself makes you want to forget everything and just talk. You trailed off in a happy, optimistic voice—to lift the mood. “...but tomorrow I’m free to do whatever. We can exchange numbers, if you want.”
“Please,” he interjects quickly, bringing out his phone as soon as possible.
Just as expected, his phone is new and you wonder what he did for a living—maybe he just lived off of whatever money his parents had granted him before their deaths. From what you could tell, he survived Harvard via grants and scholarships. You couldn’t relate to that part, sadly (having your uncle help with payments, as well as federal aid), but such things were the way of life. You and Robert exchange numbers, and before you go—you ask for his name just to be polite.
“Robert Gray,” he says with a laugh, taking your hand in his for a hand-shake.
Jesus, his hands are large.
You reply with your name, and it seems as though Robert never noticed that he slipped your name earlier; he nods idly. “King?” he repeats your surname curiously, tilting his head. For some reason, he’s staring directly into your eyes as if he found something extraordinary (or horrifying; the two facial expressions were always interchangeable to you).
“Yeah,” you huffed, “my parents had weird naming habits.”
“It suits you,” he says, cautiously. “Like royalty.”
“So I’ve been told,” you trail off, checking your phone for the time.
Just as you do this, you get a text from Sharon.
I’m so sorry! Can you watch the kids tomorrow? Zack and I have a family emergency, and we’ll be heading out of Derry for a couple of days! No later than next Saturday. Please? I’ll even pay you double! Thank you! - Shar.
...Well shit. Sorry Robert, but you can wait.
“What’s wrong?” Robert asks, prompting you to look back at him.
“Shit,” you apologize. “I can’t go with you tomorrow...I have to watch my neighbor’s kids for the week. Maybe, next time?”
A blank look crosses his face before it fades into one of understanding.
He nods without another word, deep in thought.
Thanking him, you share a few more words before you’re heading towards your car, and driving back home. The remainder of your day is spent watching as the Denbroughs pack their things (though you can’t help but feel that the two adults are preparing for a vacation rather than an emergency), before they’re off.
You grab a few of your things, in addition to Holland, and settle them in the living room of the Denbrough home. You don’t have to worry much about Bill, since he’s often out with his friends, so you leave yourself to amuse and humor Georgie: baking cookies for the rest of the day. Every now and then, you can’t help but think about the man you met earlier in the day.
He’s interesting, you conclude. Weird...but interesting.
The rest of the week goes by in a blur.
You receive no word from Robert (and you don’t intend to initiate any texts, barely knowing him), which only confirms the notion that he rarely uses his electronic devices—or he’s busy doing other things. Driving to and from Derry Elementary to drop off, and pick up, Georgie is a mundane routine that feels normal, calming, even. Maybe, when you’re older, you’ll even have your own kids and live happy with whomever you found love with one day.
...Nah, screw the pregnancy part.
It wasn’t that you didn’t want children, it was just that you didn’t want to be pregnant; if that made sense. Donors were a thing, but the dissatisfaction of calling another’s child yours was odd, and adoption was great but draining. Georgie and Holland (even if she was a spider) were the closest things you’ll ever have to having kids.
It’s the following Saturday, the 12th, and you’re eagerly awaiting for the Denbroughs to return home. Truth be told, Bill and Georgie were easy to take care of but you were getting tired. Some time to yourself would be nice, and you were starting to feel back sores from sleeping on the couch. True, the Denbroughs did say that you could sleep in the master bedroom (Sharon and her husband’s room), but you didn’t want to intrude too much.
Your attention is grabbed when the front door unlocks and opens—tension rising. Georgie was upstairs and Bill was out with his friends (who called themselves the “Losers Club”), so there wasn’t so much unease as there was surprise. It soon fades when you hear several voices resonate throughout the house, namely that of Derry’s local trashmouth: Richie Tozier. The kid had a mouth on him, but his jokes were funny, and he seemed caring enough for you to tolerate him.
Followed by Bill and Richie are the other two members of the Losers Club: Stanley Uris and Eddie Kaspbrak. You didn’t know much about them so you simply greeted them and offered cookies, being the nice nanny that you were. After that, you return to watching Georgie upstairs, playing “circus” with him.
Georgie had a series of figurines and mini-props that created a small circus, and you found that it made Georgie happy to play with them. He always picked the more athletic and strength-based figurines, like the strongman or the acrobats; while you (unironically) picked the fortune teller and tarot card readers. Every now and then, you could change it up and pick the clown figurine—happily chatting with Georgie.
The kid was so energetic and happy that it nearly made your heart melt.
“I always love playing with you, Miss King!”
“I’m glad that you do...You’re not too bad yourself, Georgie.”
“Hey! What does that mean?”
You giggle, shaking your head. “Nothing, kid. Now, what am I doing?”
“Okay, you’re the clown,” Georgie says with a straight face, guiding your hand towards the opened big-top. He hands you the tiniest circus props, three balls with holes in them—presumably where you connect the clown to. He continues his explanation, his eyes focused. “So, you connect the clown into there, and pretend that you’re juggling.”
“I can juggle,” you trail off. “Like, in real life. I can juggle.”
“Really?! You can?!”
Christ, there’s practically stars in his eyes.
You’re gonna be the death of me kid, you think humorously.
You nod, getting up on your feet and head towards his toy box, shuffling inside to bring out three plastic balls. “Are you ready?” you ask, a smiling reaching your face. When Georgie nods, you’re about to begin your juggling “act” when one of the boys, Eddie enters the room, a frantic look on his face.
“What is it?” you question.
“It’s uhm, it’s—like a...like there’s a—”
“Slow down,” you chuckle nervously, holding your arms out to calm him down. “What is it?”
“Uh,” Eddie pauses, inhaler in hand. “Me and the others were just playing outside, right? A-And I don’t know what was going on, because Richie’s an ass and always tells me to tell the adultseventhoughhecandoithimself—”
“Breathe,” you coax patiently. “Let’s just...calm down and—”
More footsteps bound up and Richie enters the room, smacking Eddie’s arm playfully. To your surprise, the two enter and endless banter between each other. When the profanity comes out, you drop the plastic balls and cover Georgie’s ears and try to dull his senses with your thoughts—discreetly though, to not raise suspicion in the young boy.
“Hey, did you tell them yet?”
“Wait, well. I was going to but...”
“Ugh, you’re worse than Bill, Eds.”
“Shut the fuck up asshole...and don’t call me Eds!”
“I can do whatever the fuck I want—”
Holy shit, you gape at the two teens.
Do they always do this?
Not even you and your friends were as vocal and foul-mouthed as them, maybe on some occasions, but not as the two boys in front of you. You rarely saw the entirety of the Losers Club, so seeing them interact so...boldly, in front of you was a big surprise to see. Thankfully, Georgie seems unaware of what you’re doing and you have to break the conversation before your head starts pounding. Unfortunately, the movies made having powers look so much easier than it was in real life—and you had to deal with the tiredness from using them. It was one of the reasons why you rarely used your powers, to be honest.
“Please stop!” you yell.
That gets them to shut up, and finally you uncover Georgie’s ears and stop blocking his mind. You give the two teenagers a stern look, crossing your arms while trying to make yourself taller. Given your height, that’s easily possible. “Alright,” you start off slowly. “No yelling. Just tell me, straight to the point...What happened?”
Richie’s the one to answer first, practically blurting it out.
“A man tried breaking into your house!”
“What?!” you exclaimed.
Not giving a second thought to spare, you’re already leaving the room and out of the house. Bill and Stan are outside, much to your horror (Weren’t they afraid of being kidnapped?), with their phones—ready to call. You glance at your house, seeing nothing broken; and the alarm hadn’t gone off. You turn to Bill for an explanation, arms crossed once more.
“W-W-We saw a man,” Bill stammers, “a-at your h-house...He tried removing your front w-w-window to g-get inside.”
“Fuck,” you mutter under your breath.
Running towards your home and giving it a once over, nothing looks out of the ordinary and you’re left to wonder where the intruder was. “Did he get inside?” you ask, searching the entire perimeter of the outside. “What did he look like? Where did he go?”
“He was wearing all black, and his face was covered,” Stanley states. “He was tall...when he saw us, he ran down the street and towards West Broadway. I’m sorry that we didn’t notice sooner.”
“It’s alright,” you comfort Stan. “You didn’t know.”
“Sh-Should we call the police?” Bill asks.
“Leave that to me,” you mutter, running a hand through your hair.
A quick police call and brief interrogation from the boys and yourself (though, you hadn’t witnessed the event, it was still your house) leaves you drained and left to clean up the mess. In actuality there was no mess, the intruder left no clues, which left you paranoid for the remainder of the day. This was not how I was expecting my week to go, you think bitterly.
What kind of shit luck do I have?
Thankfully, the boys were forgiving enough to not tell their parents, and when the Denbroughs came home—you merely put on your go-to smile, and told them everything was alright. As always, they believe you and you’re allowed to return back to your home. Hey, at least you got double the pay, and met an attractive man the week prior (who still hadn’t texted you yet).
That night, you slept with all your doors locked and your mind alert.
Chapter 2: Derry I: Speed Dating 101, with Robert Gray
“Do you always try to pick up girls this way?”
Do you think we'll be in love forever?
Do you think we'll be in love?
- Lana Del Rey, “Diet Mountain Dew”
In a strange turn of events, you bumped into Robert at the grocery store.
He didn’t seem to have a lot in his cart, except for two slabs of steak and fresh vegetables. Compared to you (doing your monthly shopping spree), you felt almost embarrassed to have a lot in your cart. Thankfully, it was mostly just baking supplies and perishable items. You knew how to cook, and you loved doing it, but buying the ingredients took a lot of time.
“I almost thought that you died on me,” you joke to Robert playfully.
Robert laughs, but his laugh (as always) sounds nervous.
He shrugs when the laughter dies down, pushing his cart besides yours—even though he’s not grabbing as many items as you. In fact, he looks like he doesn’t even need a cart with how much he has placed in his cart. In the back of your mind, you joked that he only had a cart so that he could walk beside you. That was unlikely though, given that he was idly browsing the aisles for more to grab.
“Sorry,” Robert apologizes. “I just got...busy.”
“Same,” you say, then add, “Someone almost broke into my house.”
“Really?” he asks with wide eyes. “Did...did they catch the guy?”
“No, unfortunately not.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“It’s fine. At least, no one got hurt.”
“Are you free?” he blurts out. “I mean—Are you still up for...?”
“I’m not, sorry,” you give him a sheepish smile. “I’m busy tonight.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m speed dating.”
Robert stops in his tracks suddenly, nearly bumping his cart into the barrel of apples: staring at you dead in the eye. He almost looks offended at your words, his knuckles nearly bone-white with how tight he’s clenching the handles of the cart. You take his reaction more of shock, and let out a laugh—covering your mouth.
“What?” you ask.
“You’re not serious,” he claims.
When you stop giggling to put on a solemn face, you can almost see the point where he lowers his shoulders; slumping in defeat. “You are serious,” he restates, almost...pouting? You don’t linger on his reaction any longer, not wanting to waste anymore time at the store. Like you said, you had plans tonight (albeit they were done on a whim), and had to get ready.
To avoid creating any cart traffic—people in Derry were pure road-ragers in that aspect—you continue pushing on, and allow Robert to recover from his initial shock. He doesn’t pry any longer, and you’re thankful for that. Still, he doesn’t leave your side and his actions bring back that unsettling feeling inside of you. He’s like a puppy stuck to your hip, and you’ve only met him twice.
Attractive or not, you were still cautious of him.
Besides, the ring on his ring finger was enough to tell you to back off. It was a beautiful ring: with a yellow (almost amber) gem in the center. To be honest you were quite envious of whoever this man is married to, but didn’t act on it. You were twenty-two—pushing twenty-three soon—and he was twenty-seven, which was a pretty big gap...in your opinion, at least.
“Tell the missus I said hi,” you joke playfully.
Robert has a confused look on his face before it’s replaced with one of pure denial. Instantly, you can see the shock in his eyes at your suggestion. “Wait, do you think I’m—?” he trails off, raising his hand. “I’m not married...This ring is more of a luck ring, and it keeps people away.”
“Oh,” you say, surprised.
So he wasn’t married. That’s...neat.
“Not interested in marriage?” you ask out of curiosity.
Robert shrugs, eyeing you. “Only if it’s with the one I love the most.”
You hum at his response and head to the check-out aisle, noticing that Robert (who still had the same amount of items as when you bumped into him) did the same. Not many words are exchanged after checking-out, since his car was parked far from—but still relatively close to—yours. The rest of the day is routine, as always, and you’re left to get ready for tonight.
The rainy weather had gone, and you felt like wearing a dress. Snagging a floral sundress from your closet you put it in front of you, making sure that the towel wrapped around your body didn’t wet the dress. How forward did you want to be with this? You had never dated anyone. You’ve never been with anyone like that.
Heck, you haven’t even had your first kiss.
To say that you were going in this blind was an understatement.
You were practically going into this blindfolded while stepping hot coals; to you, that’s how clueless you were in dating. “God, I’m miserable,” you mutter to yourself, letting the towel fall so you can change. It was hot to wear lacy stuff, right? you questioned internally. Why should it matter? It’s not like anyone’s going to see...
You pondered over whether or not you wanted comfort over what else was presented to you. You were a bit shy in that aspect, only having three pairs of lace undergarments—but it was cold outside, and you didn’t want to spend the night sitting in practically see-through underwear.
You shoved the lace articles into the drawer and slip on regular ones, the dress following after. Heading to the bathroom, you spent the remainder of time styling your hair into a half-up, half-down halo braid; curling the ends. Looking fine without it, you didn’t bother putting on make-up—natural looks always mattered to you. Finally, after an agonizing two hours, you were done and ready to leave.
“Okay, you got this...” you say to yourself. “How hard can it be?”
Alright, so speed dating was a bust, but at least you got the gist of it.
You found it hard to feel a connection for the people you talked to, so most of you time was spent just asking about the weather and other things like that. There was the occasional person who was swayed by your looks—you weren’t a model or actress, but you had been told time and time again that you were “pleasant” to look at—and you quickly shut them down.
You weren’t there to find a hook-up, you were there to find someone you could understand...Movies and your own observations, mainly of the Denbroughs, made relationships seem dreamy and happy. Naturally, you longed for someone who could make you happy; able to live a life-time with you.
It wasn’t on your priority list, but the idea of it was nice.
Since the night was still young, you decided to drive by the Morning Diner, a place where you often loved to go eat. They had the best burgers, in your opinion, and the most refreshing peppermint milkshakes there. Sure, your friends joked about how you were practically eating the taste of toothpaste—but you liked the cool feeling it left in your mouth. That’s how you found yourself, eating alone in a bustling diner, scrolling on your phone without a care in the world.
An old-fashioned jukebox in the corner of the diner plays tunes from the 80s, reminding you of a time where you weren’t alive for. You enjoyed being in the comfort of people, hearing conversations and the way people interacted with each other. As an undergraduate with a Bachelor’s in Psychology; watching people was fun, and filled the void in your life.
“Speed dating didn’t work out?”
Startled, you gasp and shuffle in your seat, meeting Robert’s playful gaze. You had been so focused on your phone, and your thoughts, that you didn’t even notice him. Letting out a nervous chuckle, you nod and put your phone in your bag, giving him your full attention. “No,” you admit with a sad sigh, “It didn’t.”
“Ouch,” he flashes you a sympathetic smile. “So, what brings you here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” you reply.
“Just came here for a quick bite. I’m too lazy to cook at home.”
“How convenient that you came here at the same time I did,” you joke cheekily. “It was getting so lonely in here.”
“You don’t have to be lonely,” Robert says confidently. “You’ll never be lonely when you’re with me.”
His words are both charming and cheesy—and you love it. You wondered what good deed you had done to be blessed in his presence, especially with how nice he’s being to you. He was the best company you had in awhile, and to be honest, you were starting to warm up to him. The implication of his words does make your cheeks flush slightly.
Was he flirting with me?
Unsure how to respond, you timidly nod and return your attention back to your food. Talk about awkward, you huffed internally. I can’t even hold a conversation. Robert’s going to be dust by the time I come up with a response.
Thankfully, Robert helps you in that department.
“How long have you lived here? I haven’t seen you around before.”
“Moved to Derry from New Hampshire when I was five...moved with my uncle a year later,” you paused, taking in his reaction. “I came back a year ago after I graduated.”
“Why did you move from Derry?” he questions, “...we could’ve been friends if you didn’t.”
“My parents were murdered,” is the reply that shuts him up completely.
Robert doesn’t pry any longer, to your relief, calling a waiter to order. He’s simple, ordering the plainest burger—rare; “To the point where it was pink,” you heard him say—with water, and a side of fries. Feeling bad that the subject of your parents dulled the mood, you try to ask him about his life before moving back to Derry.
“What’s it like? In Castle Rock...? I’ve only been there a couple of times.”
He hums at your question, as if he was deep in thought.
“It’s...not bad,” he continued, “not good either. The people are nice, it’s just...”
“They don’t like outsiders, but the town is full of them.”
You snort, rolling your eyes. “So, just a slightly better Derry?”
“A slightly better Derry,” he agrees, giving you another once over.
If he wasn’t doing that on purpose before, then he was surely doing it now, because when your cheeks grow redder he only responds with a smirk that makes your heart melt. Robert spins on the bar stool to bring his full attention to you, and you have to hold back the jump when his knee brushes against yours; purposefully.
Alright, he’s definitely flirting with me.
You don’t mind it, to be honest.
Once things are set into motion, and you feel more comfortable around him, the atmosphere grows funner, friendlier. You and him talk here and there, talking about your interests and educational career. Robert was highly interested in people, like you, but had a more scientific approach to his field of study.
Since he had followed a strict schedule at Harvard, he was able to obtain three degrees: two for his major (Anthropology; Archaeology), and one for his minor (Mind, Brain, Behavior). You were impressed and intimidated by his knowledge, compared to your undergraduate degree.
“So, what do you do for a living?” you ask.
“As of right now?” he laughs. “I’m...unemployed.”
That surprises you, considering the fact that he had a lot of assets—the man screamed wealth after-all—and had a high-level education. Someone like him, for sure, would’ve easily gotten a job at a museum, or some other institution. Your eyes shift to his half-eaten burger, wincing at the pinkness of it. In the back of your mind, you can’t help but think of Gordon Ramsey saying that it’s, “Bleeding raw!”
The meat was really was the rarest of rare.
“What about you?”
You raise a brow. “Hm?”
“What do you do for a living?” he continues. “You strike me as...a dancer.”
“I used to dance,” you nod. “...but not anymore. Now, I guess I’m a nanny of some kind.”
“Why did you stop doing ballet?” Robert questions suddenly.
You’re about to give him an explanation. That the reason was that dancing reminded you too much of your parents; that you finally realized how hard it was to get into the dance industry. But the answer is replaced with a single question that strikes your mind heavily.
“How do you know I used to do ballet?”
Robert had asked that, as if he knew for sure that you danced ballet, and it unnerved you greatly. If he did a social media search, he would’ve found nothing; you never posted anything about ballet (despite loving it, you could never have the courage to perform again). You take in Robert’s reaction with careful eyes, feeling suspicious and more confused than anything else. Robert looks like he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar, raising your suspicion further.
Finally, after a few seconds have passed, he recovers—though, you can see nervousness in his eyes. “Your phone case,” he says, pointing to the object on the counter. “You put ballet stickers on it...Naturally, I assumed that you liked ballet.”
Well, he wasn’t wrong there. Your phone was facing downwards (which you always did so no one looked at your screen if notifications came up), and the stickers—clearly seen on your floral-print case—were indeed, ballet-related stickers. It was a sound assumption to make, and you believed it to be logical. You made a noise of agreement, nodding.
“You’re right,” you say, with an edge in your voice. “And to answer your question: dancing brings back some memories I don’t want.”
“I can relate to that,” Robert replies. “I know what it’s like...”
Hope bubbles your chest at that moment, the familiarity of someone sharing your ailments fills you with joy. Your eyes find themselves back staring into his, and you can almost see your reflection in them. Again, that feeling of being small but important returns—sending a rush throughout your body. You ask in a quiet voice, “You do?”
“Yeah,” he trails off. “That feeling of wanting to run from your past, I know it too well.”
Alright then, you muse. He’s mysterious too...
“Family?” you ask curiously. “Or is it something else? I won’t push too much.”
“No, no. You’re fine,” Robert shakes his head. “It’s...something else.”
There’s a sadness in his eyes as he says this, taking hold a somber tone that makes you wonder what’s got him so...melancholic. Once more, he looks as if he’s longing for something—something that he’s searching for; the death of a loved one, perhaps? You were naturally curious, but felt that it wasn’t your place to ask, even if Robert didn’t do the same for you.
You weren’t going to comment on his mannerisms, albeit he really did strike you as odd (more like eerie, to be honest), you were going to be respectful. To pass the time, you tried to pry into his mind, and for some reason; you couldn’t. That in itself only made you more suspicious of him, but you didn’t think on it much—some people were harder to read than others.
“Well, I should get going now,” you explain.
You call the waiter to pay for your food, and after packing your things in your bag, you’re about to leave—when a hand wraps around your arm. Your heart frantically beats, not out of giddiness, but out of fear; startled once more by Robert. His hand is wrapped around the base of your bicep, stopping you from leaving. Surprisingly, you’re able to form a response.
“U-Uhm—Did you need something?”
Robert’s eyes trail from yours to his hand and an apologetic look crosses his face. “Sorry,” he muttered, letting go of you. While you gather your thoughts, trying to piece together in your mind who this guy was—Robert runs a hand along the nape of his neck. “I just—” he stammers, embarrassed by his behavior. He should be; that was extremely uncalled for.
You’re not sure whether to trust him, or be scared of him.
“Do you always try to pick up girls this way?” you joke in a trembling voice.
Robert shakes his head. “Only the one,” he answers honestly.
It takes you a moment to catch his meaning, and when you do, you’re left feeling flustered once more. You were growing antsy though, and muttered an apology to him before brushing away and out of the diner—your arm slightly sore from his grip.
For someone so thin, he’s pretty strong, you thought with a frown.
After leaving so quickly, you felt embarrassed for the remainder of the night. It was rude of you to just leave like that, but you were too timid to bother telling him that you were uncomfortable. Now you were back home, upstairs, and regretting your life decisions.
“What do you think Holland? Do you think I should trust him?” you ask quietly, staring at your companion.
You brought her out of her enclosure to just rest on your bed, given that she was docile around you (not so much around others); you allowed her to stay like that. Of course, the tarantula didn’t respond and had only inched closer to your face for warmth. The rain had returned, so your options of going out again were gone. You didn’t go out much, evidently, and in the times that you did go out—you were left clueless and unsure what to do.
You always liked staying at home.
It’s not until your phone buzzes, do you finally break from your thoughts. Rolling on your side, you brought out your phone and checked your messages; delight following your mute mood. Robert had texted you, finally, after two weeks without notice—and after leaving him an hour prior tonight.
“I’m sorry about my behavior,” he messaged. “It was rude, and I wasn’t thinking.”
You were about to respond with a snarky text, still bothered by his actions, but you did otherwise.
“It’s okay,” you text back. “You just scared me, is all,” a pause, “But you can make it up to me.”
Oh jeez, you were really asking for it, weren’t you?
You did act in the moment, so you decided that it would be best to just settle things over a cup of coffee—maybe even go to the park? You enjoyed typically “romantic” settings around friends, so it was definitely going to affect how you had to act around Robert. You didn’t want to give him the wrong idea, yes he was probably the most attractive man you’ve seen; but you barely knew him.
“How so?” he replied, followed by a wink.
...he really liked flirting, didn’t he?
“We can grab coffee tomorrow. And, I didn’t mean it like that...” You added, “I barely know you.”
Robert fell silent at that, and you could practically imagine his reaction right now. You wondered what he was doing; if he was still at the diner, or at his house. Now that you thought about it, you wondered what he was like when you weren’t around—he seemed friendly enough. When he didn’t come up with a response (after leaving you on read for an hour), you brought Holland back into her enclosure and called it a day.
“I didn’t pose you as the type to drink cold drinks on a cold day.”
“Really?” Robert smiled. “I guess you can say that I’m a cool guy, then.”
That left you in a fit of giggles, your hands wrapped around a steaming cup of your favorite brew. Thankfully, Robert had replied to your texts early in the morning, and accepted your request—paying for the both of you. Your current discussion was on what he ordered, iced coffee with extra ice. In this rainy weather? Where it was near the low forties?
You found that both amusing, and admiring.
While you were casually dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and jeans (plus your hoodie), Robert was sharply-dressed as always with his tucked in shirt, and—Wait, is he wearing...cologne?
You could smell it as soon as you were within a few feet from him, and you could easily guess that it was a high-brand cologne brand that did make your head spin from nausea—but you didn’t tell him that. He looked like he was dressed to impress; for you. Despite the fact that he was trying really hard for you, you couldn’t muster up the motivation to ask him if he was interested in you (evidently, he was, but you wanted to make sure, nonetheless).
“What did you want to do after this?” Robert asks, pulling you from your thoughts.
“I was going to suggest walking in the park,” you motioned to the window with a smile, pointing out the rain.
“...but, that looks like it’s not possible.”
“We could always go to the movies if you want.”
“Are you asking me on a date, Robert?”
Robert smiles. “I am.”
You set down your cup, making a noise of surprise at his directness. The cafe is nearly empty, save for the workers and a customer or two; leaving you to ponder in the soft jazz that plays from the speakers. Well, it looks like he knows what he wants, you muse. But do I know what I want? I don’t want to make him feel bad by saying no but...
Once more, you’re interrupted with a text from Sharon—telling you that you had a job to do.
“I-I mean,” you stammer out, “we can go if you want, but...I need to go right now.”
“You have to watch those kids again?” he groans in disappointment. “I wish you didn’t have to.”
“A job’s a job,” you shrug. “Besides, Georgie’s a great kid.”
“I can come with,” Robert trails off shyly. “...if you want, I mean.”
You consider his suggestion thoughtfully.
On one hand, you could get to know him better—and maybe he can help out with watching Georgie. On the other hand, you don’t feel so comfortable having him so close to your house (even if Derry was a relatively small town, and everyone knew who everyone was). In the end, you decided that there was no harm in letting him go.
You nod, smiling. “You can come with me. C’mon, follow me.”
The drive back was long, more so when Robert’s car was trailing behind you. The brief thought of whether or not he was playing on the radio came to mind, but you brushed it off. He seemed like a classical music-type of guy, but you didn’t know for sure. You parked your car in the driveway while Robert parked his near the sidewalk, exiting the car. To avoid getting caught in the rain, Robert jogs over to your porch.
“I’m going to go get Georgie real quick,” you explain, walking to the Denbroughs’ house. “You can wait right here for me.”
“Leaving me out in the cold?” Robert pouts. “How rude.”
You sent a smile his way, though as soon as you turned around—it slowly faded. Yes, it was rude to leave him waiting at the porch, but you didn’t feel comfortable letting him in the house without you seeing what he was doing. You could nearly feel his eyes track you as you headed up to the Denbroughs’ house, ringing the door-bell.
Bill opened it, and upon seeing you he called out Georgie’s name. You smiled when you could hear Georgie yell back, before his tiny steps were heard throughout the house. “H-He’ll be down soon,” Bill says.
“Alright,” you nod. “Thanks for telling me.”
Bill returns to his phone without another word, heading to the dining room where you’re left to wait for Georgie to get his things. You cross your arms, and turn your head—wondering if Robert was still waiting at your front door. Your gaze shifted to the right, and you weren’t surprised to see that he was. As always, he looked deep in thought, hands shoved in the front pockets of his jeans; staring at a sewer drain with the most intense stare you’ve ever seen someone have.
Robert likes to stare a lot, you noticed.
“I’m sorry you had to wait so long!” Georgie apologizes, bounding past you. “My tablet was still charging!”
“It’s no problem,” you say, ruffling his hair. “You know, you can always charge them at my house?”
“I know. I just wanted to be ready for you.”
You laugh. “That’s understandable. Let’s go before the rain gets worse.”
“How was your day Miss Gray?”
“It was fine...I had coffee earlier.”
“Ewww,” Georgie cringes. “Mommy says that makes you stop growing...and, it smells weird.”
“I have a refined taste,” you reply cheekily. “You’ll understand when you’re older.”
Grabbing your keys from the single pocket of your hoodie, you head up to your house, holding Georgie’s hand. “Gerogie,” you start, pointing to Robert; who had noticed that you were returning. “This is Robert, he’s my new friend.”
“Hi Robert!” Georgie chirps, smiling.
Robert, however, looks like he’s seen a ghost.
He turns away quickly, muttering out a quiet, “Hello.”
Huh, you wonder what’s got him so quiet all of a sudden. While you’re unlocking the door, you give Robert a pointed look, raising a brow. “You alright?” you ask in a hushed whisper, tilting your head. “You don’t look so well.”
“Yeah,” he chokes out, glancing at Georgie again. “I’ve never been around kids, that’s all.”
“You’re in for a hell of a ride then,” you say, trying to lift the mood.
Having left the heater on, you’re met with a comforting gust of air upon opening the door. Robert lets out a sigh of relief—the poor guy was practically freezing to death in his nice clothes—and stands in the entrance, unsure what to do. Kicking off your shoes you turn around to face Robert. “You can go with Georgie to the living room.” you direct, heading upstairs. “I’m going to change really quick. I won’t be long.”
“Alright,” Robert says, nodding. He gives the interior of your a once-over; and you can’t help but feel self-conscious as he does this. “It’s a nice house,” he comments with a smile. “It’s very welcoming.” His words bring a genuine smile to your face—a type of happiness that tells you that you’ve successfully created a pleasant atmosphere in your home.
“Thanks,” you reply softly.
Robert’s eyes light up at your response, and he nods without another word.
Not wanting to leave Georgie alone with Robert, you quickly bound up the stairs and into your room, swinging it shut (but not actually closing it). You throw your hoodie and shirt over your head, you shuffle through your drawers—bringing out a fitted beige sweater. Brushing your hair over your shoulders, glance at Holland’s cage for a moment out of interest. Just as you’re about to pull the sweater over your head, a faint noise prompts you to turn around faster than the speed of light.
The creaking of your door.
Fixing the sweater over your body, you head to the door; peering out curiously. To your surprise—there’s no one there, except for the sounds of Georgie’s tablet playing downstairs, and the TV playing a thriller-drama show (presumably being watched by Robert).
Letting out a heavy sigh, and running a hand over your face, you grabbed your laptop and phone before returning downstairs. Nearly having your house being broken into really made you paranoid these past few weeks Oddly enough, Georgie was the only one downstairs, leaving you to wonder where Robert was at.
...Was he snooping through your house?
“Where’s Robert?” you ask
“I went to the bathroom,” Robert’s voice calls from behind. You turn around, raising a brow as he dries his hands against his shirt, giving you an apologetic smile. He motioned his head to one of the rooms down the hall: the downstairs bathroom.
“Oh,” you exclaim softly, nodding.
You headed over to the living room, plopping down on the couch with Robert following after.
He sat next to you, hands resting on his knees as the TV show playing (one of the Black Mirror episodes) captivated him. Sitting with your legs folded underneath you, you turned on your laptop and began to type an e-mail to your uncle—which you did every month. Thankfully, Howard was surprisingly a tech savvy guy; and always hated doing things, as he put it, the “old-fashioned way.” That contrasted heavily to his step-father (your grandpa), who was extremely old-fashioned.
“What are you doing?” Robert asks curiously, breaking your train of thought.
“Stuff,” you clarify. “Just sending an e-mail to my uncle.”
“Are you close with him?”
“Yeah, he’s my only direct family member,” you trail off. “But his wife and kids are nice too.”
“He’s married?” Robert asks with wide eyes.
You wonder why he’s so surprised in the first place. You wonder what kind of image Robert had saw your uncle in upon you mentioning him; did he think that your uncle lived alone like you? “Mhm,” you nod with a smile. “Howard—my uncle—he loves his wife and kids a lot.”
“Well...” Robert shuffles in his seat. “I’m glad that he’s found happiness.”
“You say that as if you know him,” you joke. “But yeah...he's doing really well.”
“That’s good, that’s...good.”
“How about you Robert?” you ask.
“Wh-What about me?” he replies, confused.
“Are you close with your family?” you continue. “I-I mean, I know about your parents, too, but...”
“No. It’s fine,” Robert trails off. “My parents they...they were good people. They taught me a lot of things I needed to know about huma—people, well, I knew about a lot already, I was a smart kid, but...I appreciate them.”
Here we go again with the weird word use, you thought. Pausing in your typing, you closed your laptop to face yourself with Robert, suddenly interested in what he had to say. “No brothers?” you pry. “Sisters? Cousins?”
“Well—” he paused, intimidated by your sudden attention to him, “I do have a pet at home. He’s...Well, I guess you can consider him a brother. I trust him a lot, and I’m thankful that he’s there for me.” Robert paused to lower the volume on the television, eyes flickering to Georgie again before they’re back to you. He continues, “I...don’t talk much to others, aside from him,” another pause, “...and you, of course.”
“You must care a lot for your pet,” you comment, a bit flustered by the last part of his comment. “What kind of pet do you have?”
“He’s a turtle,” Robert nods. “And, it’s almost ironic, in a way.”
“I used to hate turtles,” he confesses. “Don’t ask why, just—I’ve...come to appreciate them now.”
“I have a pet too,” you say, not wanting to pry in his business. He made it sound as if he had some sort of personal vendetta against turtles, judging by his reaction. A brief humorous image of Robert yelling at an innocent turtle crosses your mind for a moment. When Robert waits for you to continue, you ask him, “Do you want to see her?”
“Is she a spider?”
How the hell did he know that?
You tilt your head, putting on a perplexed smile. “How’d you know that?” Once more, he surprised you with how he seemed to know things that only you, or your friends (or Georgie, of course), knew.
“Just a hunch,” Robert shrugs nonchalantly. “You look like the type of person to have exotic pets.”
“Well, I was considering buying a bird instead,” you laugh. “Or a dog.”
Setting your laptop to the side, you hop off the couch and head out of the living room. “I’ll go get my spider,” you say, meeting eyes with Robert for a brief moment.
You quickly make you way back upstairs, making sure that Holland was compliant before you brought her out. As much as you did handle her out of her enclosure, you didn’t want to do it too much—even if she did seem to enjoy being out—and wanted to give her rest. Cupping your hands, you allowed her onto them before making a slow trek back downstairs; running was never good when you had a spider in your hands.
When you returned, Robert was still sitting the same spot, his attention returned back to the television. Georgie was doing homework while his cartoons played on his tablet, happily doing his own thing. Much to your chagrin (and hope, since you were still a bit uncomfortable with Robert), the man of question didn’t initiate any conversations with Georgie. He almost seemed to avoid looking at Georige.
He really was awkward with kids, wasn’t he?
“I’m back!” you announce, grabbing Georgie’s attention for a moment.
“Oh! You brought your spider!” Georige exclaims, bounding up to you. “Can I pet her?”
“Gently,” you coax. “On her abdomen only, right—Yeah, right there. Make sure you wash your hands now.”
“Okay!” And with that, your “kid” is off and about to the restroom.
“Here she is,” you say to Robert, sitting beside him. “Her name’s Holland.”
“May I...?” he asks, holding his hands out.
“Sure,” you shrug. “Warning, she might be a bit agitated around strangers.”
Before you could place Holland in Robert’s hands, to your surprise—she brings her front legs out and bares her teeth; in defense. Sure, she was rarely compliant around strangers, but she never bared her fangs at someone. Robert looks, more or less, unsurprised and even disappointed. Giving Robert an apologetic smile, you bring Holland back to your chest.
“I don’t think she likes you,” you say with a somber tone. “Sorry...”
“Not the first time,” Robert grumbles.
You let out a snort, giggling. “Don’t worry, she’ll come around.”
Shifting in your seat, you placed Holland on the arm-rest of the couch, trusting her enough to crawl away. As always, she was docile and calm in your presence (Did it have to do with your...powers?). Robert brings out his phone, but from the corner of your eye, you notice that he barely has any apps—only the given essentials when buying a new phone. He doesn’t even have Youtube, nor does he have any apps regarding credit cards. Maybe he had—
“Do you have two phones?” you ask, raising a brow. “I...noticed that you don’t have much on there.”
“No, this is my only phone,” Robert answers honestly. “I prefer doing everything the old-fashioned way.”
“I don’t know how you survived in the world,” you laugh. “Everything’s digital these days.”
“I know my way around the world. My dad was a smart man.”
“Beer company, right?” you question. “The Gray name is popular here in Derry for that.”
“Yes,” Robert nods. “My...great-grandfather created it himself. He had another job before that.”
“What did he do?”
Robert hesitates for a moment. “He was apart of a cir—”
The door-bell ringing interrupts Robert before he can finish his sentence. Giving him another apologetic smile, you get up from your seat and head from the door. To your surprise, Sharon’s at the door—did she come home already? Checking your phone confirms that only two hours had passed, but you don’t question it.
“Sharon,” you greet, opening the door. “Are you here to pick up Georgie?”
“Mhm,” she smiles. “I was able to come home early, so I thought I’d drop by.”
“Alright,” you turn away to call out Georgie’s name.
“Coming!” Georgie replies back.
“Was he being good?” Sharon asks. “I know he can be a bit of trouble.”
“Oh, Georgie’s never a bother. He always listens to me.”
“Good,” Sharon nods.
Soon enough, Georgie’s making his way past you and jumps into his mother’s arms, greeting her. She responds by picking him up and placing kisses along his head, smiling. You smile too, albeit yours is a bit sad—you wished that you could remember your mother, Sarah, and the way she used to hold you; or your father’s presence, even.
Seventeen years of them being gone made you forget a lot about them. You shut the door without another word, turning around and letting out a soft sigh. Remembering that Robert was still in the house, you returned to the living room, and sat next to him. Allowing Holland to crawl into your lap, you met eyes with Robert—and was unsure what to say, or bring up at that moment.
An awkward silence passed between you two.
“So,” he starts off quietly.
“So,” you repeat.
“I should get going now,” he says, rising from his seat. “Should I just come back here tomorrow?”
You bite your lip, considering your choices. Then finally, you come to the conclusion that there’s no harm in letting him come. Robert was very open with you, and the more you got to talk to him—the more you realized that he was a genuinely nice guy—you felt comfortable in his presence. With a smile you nodded. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
At that moment, you’ve never seen so much hope in someone’s eyes.
You can't help but feel a bit hopeful, yourself.
Chapter 3: Derry I: The Well, The Gang, and The Dream
“You’re not telling me the truth...are you?”
Singing like it's a full moon
Careless now that he has you
- Zella Day, “Sweet Ophelia”
Upon your next meeting, Robert brought you flowers.
It was a bouquet with a variety of flowers ranging from harsh reds, to soft yellows. It was an “apology gift,” as he called it, and you didn’t object to his gift. You sauntered to your kitchen to put it in a temporary glass, leaving it on your dining table. He was waiting in the living room, patiently (as always) and you found yourself falling into a deep conversation after that.
“I know you probably think I’m weird,” Robert started softly. “But I—I just can’t help it y’know?” he paused for a moment to take in your reaction; inhaling sharply. “I’m just so used to analyzing people; wanting to see what’s important to them. I...have a knack for knowing people,” another pause, “...and I just have this habit of finding out a lot about a person...” He continues. “I hope you can forgive me for this,” Robert laughed nervously, rubbing the nape of his neck. “...It’s just the way I am, y’know?”
Your eyes scrutinize him heavily, taking in every word with consideration. True, he did major (and minor) in people—and the history of people—so it did make sense that he was used to this sort of thing; finding a person’s character. And maybe, you have been harsh to him these past couple of days, but was it a bad thing?
You used to being cautious, suspicious of strangers, especially with Robert—since you couldn’t read him from the moment you met him. However, he did mention that he found it easy to read people. Maybe...was he like you?
You bit the question back, nodding in response with a soft smile gracing your features. “That’s perfectly fine,” you replied. “I completely understand...I’ll try to keep that in mind next time.”
Robert let out a sigh of relief. “Good.”
Things went back to normal, after that day.
You went back to watching Georgie, and Bill (on some occasions), and the only “new” thing in your life: was Robert Gray. He often visited your home, since you had still felt uncomfortable visiting your childhood home—though, you considered Howard’s place in Maryland to be your actual childhood home—and usually came with flowers and gifts.
Robert loved to shower you with all sorts of stuff.
Now, you didn’t oppose the gifts, but you always told him that you weren’t interested (at the time). He seemed to be taking things at a very fast pace, including your friendship with him. You preferred to know him for a couple more months before giving him a chance; you weren’t shutting him off, you just needed time to yourself.
Despite your close age-ranges, his interests seemed to be entirely different from yours. You were still seeking a better job (well, the Denbroughs had paid nicely, but you couldn’t watch Georgie forever), and you had considered leaving Derry from time to time. Robert, however, was already done with his educational career but seemed dead-set on staying in Derry; and he seemed very interested in a partner.
You were just two different people, with different interests.
It wasn’t a bad thing (nobody was perfect) but it did tend to get in the way of how you saw Robert. You even encouraged him to download a dating app of sorts, or go see other people; but he always replied with the same thing.
“There’s no one else like you,” he always said.
Days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into a month.
You had learned a lot about Robert Gray, and he did the same with you—though, there were a lot of times where Robert seemed to know more about you than you do about yourself. You found Robert to be great company, and a great friend (and one day, you’d hope that he would be more). There were even some occasions where you went to his house, on 29 Neibolt Street—your old home—and hung out with him; of course, when you weren’t watching Georgie.
He was also a very profound cook, you found that out on your sixth meeting with him, and he even knew how to bake. Jokingly, you mentioned the idea of you being his teacher—and for some reason, he seemed to freeze at that...He froze a lot about things you told him, and you wondered if you reminded him of someone, or something; in his past. He always brushed it off as just something he experienced in the past, which he did a lot. But just as he did freeze up at a lot of times, he had a tendency to lean into your touch...a lot.
The poor guy was practically touch starved, and you wondered why.
He probably had relationship problems, you concluded.
But then again, he rarely talked about previous relationships. Which lead you to the conclusion that he did have a bad past with people—friends, maybe? As much information you had on Robert, he was still a complete mystery to you...but it wasn’t so bad. In the end, you grew to appreciate his presence. Now you were here, in his house, sharing a couch: talking to him as if you knew him your entire life.
“I still can’t believe you did that to your professor!” you exclaim with wide eyes.
“Well,” Robert laughs. “He refused to see any other theory but his own, so, I did what any good man would do.”
“Write a full report in the night explaining why his theory didn’t work? That’s...incredible.”
“I aim to make things right,” he says with a smile. “It’s...nice, to do that.”
“You must’ve been popular with the ladies,” you joke playfully. “I-I mean—you already have the looks.”
“I was,” Robert says, a bit embarrassed. “But...none of them were as interesting as you.”
“I—” you choke on your words, cheeks turning pink.
Robert leaned forward suddenly, resting a hand along your cheek. Startled, you press back into the couch with wide eyes—inhaling sharply. Robert’s face is close enough where you can see a bit of yellow in the brown of his eyes: mesmerizing you instantly. He smells like peppermint and a mix of earthly scents—different from the cologne that he put on the first few times of him meeting you. His face is so close that you can feel the warmth of his own cheeks radiating against you.
Neither of you move, and you—not knowing what to do—can only ask a simple question. “What am I to you, Robert?” you ask. Your voice comes out hushed and soft, a tiny whisper that goes unheard by anyone else but Robert.
“You,” he trails off, eyes flickering to your lips. He looks like he so desperately wants to kiss you, he was never shy about his actions nor what he wanted from you, but the look in your eyes tells him to stop; before anything else can happen. His thumb brushes along the apple of your cheek, your foreheads touch.
“You are...very dear to me,” he answers. “You’re my world.”
Was he seriously confessing his...love? To you? And you’ve only known him for what—a month?
Taking your silence as approval, he leans even closer...and is stopped by your hand: pressed against his chest. “Wait,” you mutter softly, turning your head away, “I...I’m not ready for that...not yet Robert.”
It hurt you to see the pained look in his eyes, that longing want that he always had when looking at you. But, you two weren’t dating—and admittedly, you weren’t ready to, even if the two of you were interested in one another—and you wanted it to stay like that for a while. You wanted to think things through before it was too late, you wanted to figure yourself out before Robert could.
You just weren’t ready for that.
“I understand,” he says quietly. “I don’t want to pressure you into anything you don’t want.”
“Thank you,” you sigh.
“Did you want to go grab something to eat?” Robert asks, getting up from his seat. He gives you a reassuring smile to ease the mood, holding out his hand. “N-Nothing romantic about it, or anything, I’m just hungry.”
“Yeah,” you laugh, taking his hand. “I’d like that.”
Things go back to normal after that, and he leads you out of the house and towards his car—which Robert had started to drive you in starting a week prior. You take the passenger’s seat while he drives, playing classical music to fill in the silence. You noticed that he was a textbook driver, and in everything in general—he liked doing things the “right way.”
“Tomorrow’s Georgie’s birthday,” you say with a smile.
“He’s turning seven, right?”
“Mhm,” you beam. “I’ve been working on his cake this entire week.”
“The fondant one right? It was what—cars themed?”
“Circus themed, actually,” you trail off. “He likes the circus a lot.”
Robert, once more, had fallen into silence at your words; his replies replaced by the soft music that poured from the radio. Not wanting to spend much (you also found out that Robert was really conservative with his money), he just stopped by at the nearest fast-food chain restaurant—entering the drive thru.
“Do you celebrate Halloween?” you ask curiously.
“I used to,” Robert says, “as a child. I’m not a fan of holidays, but I—”
“—love the candy,” you finish with a laugh, crossing your arms. The drive thru line was long, so you figured that you two would be stuck here for a while. You continue, “I’m just saying...October’s right around the corner, and I think your house—given its current status and its interior features—would be perfect for it.”
“My house isn’t that scary,” Robert finishes, saying your name after. “It just has a bad history.”
“What about the well in the basement?” you question. “Did you remove it?”
Robert froze, his hands locked on the steering wheel. Taking in his reaction, which was one full of mild fear and confusion, he turned to you with wide eyes. “What well?” he repeats back. You can’t help but notice the tremble in his voice as he says this. “I’ve...I’ve been down there, and I’ve never seen a well.”
It takes you a moment for you to realize that you’ve slipped, remembering something important: only you could see the well. The house on 29 Neibolt Street used to occupy the “well house,” which was an important landmark in Derry’s history. The previous occupants—before your family and Robert—just so happened to build their house with it. The well was a terrifying structure, destroyed with time, and it seemed to never end...
“Throw something down there!” your friend ordered, handing you a rock.
You took the rock with timid hands, fear pounding in your heart as your eyes adjusted to the darkness. The light was busted, the only thing illuminating the basement with flashlights and your friend’s flip-phone. You took slow steps towards the well, scrunching your face up at the smell that came from it. It smelled like a sewer drain; full of sewage.
“Well,” your friend said impatiently. “Throw it!”
And you did.
You tossed the rock over the well, your friend holding the flashlight to watch it fall. The light had died down the well, and you and your friend had listened patiently for the sound of the rock meeting the ground—or water, since it was a well. Minutes passed and your friends shared a look. Frightened, you quickly ran up the steps to the basement, and into the kitchen; your friend angrily shouting behind you.
God, basements were absolutely terrifying.
Your parents couldn’t see the well—Howard could (but that was only because he was like you, in a way)—and the only other person who had also seen the well: were your childhood friends in Derry. You realized, adults (given if they weren’t like you) couldn’t see it. And Robert had just told you that he’s never seen the well.
You turn to him, anxiously. “I’ve...it’s nothing, Robert,” you say, trying to avoid the topic.
“It’s just something that used to be—”
“No,” Robert interrupts. “You saw a well, right? Do you see...other things too?”
That grabs your attention, the subject of your “powers” coming to light. Raising a suspicious brow at him, you shut off the music for a moment, thinking of a reply. Was he suggesting what you were thinking about? Was he like you? You weren’t able to form a response, because as soon as you opened your mouth, Robert drove up to the next window; and your food was ready.
“Let’s talk about this at another time,” you mutter. “After we eat.”
Robert looks doubtful but nods nonetheless. Once more, he’s trained on your eyes—seeing something in them that you don’t see yourself. “Okay,” he replies back. “But promise me, as soon as we’re done, you’ll tell me everything.”
How do you even know what “everything” is in the first place?
The two of you ate in silence.
To lift the mood, you turned on the radio to a “Top Hits” channel, recent songs playing through the radio. Robert, having a certain distaste for today’s music, changes the channel back to classical hits. Neither of you say a word to each other, as if saying something would immediately sour the mood.
Once the two of you are done, he throws away the trash and begins the journey back to his house. Your hands are folded in your lap, your gaze directed to the houses that you passed by. You try to think of something to talk about, but it’s soon drowned out by your overpowering thoughts—mainly, about the subject of Robert and his knowledge.
“I’ll try to tell you everything,” you confess. “But lately, I’ve been forgetting a lot of things.”
“What do you mean?” he replies back.
“I’ve been misplacing a lot of stuff lately,” you say with a dry laugh. “I thought I was going crazy.”
As of late, you noticed that a lot of your things had started to go missing. It was just small items, maybe a necklace or a stick of chapstick—but then it escalated to clothes and other items. You couldn’t find your favorite dress, one of your lace articles, and you couldn’t even find your hair brush. This usually happened when you were away from home, or when you did laundry, and you simply reasoned this by saying that you misplaced your items (even if you didn’t get it back).
You briefly thought back to the man who tried to break into your house, wondering if he was the cause of it. You did feel like you were being watched from time to time, and it didn’t ease your nerves in the slightest—especially with the possibility that this person knew that you babysat kids. Thankfully, you took extra measures to up your security, and had installed cameras around your house.
After you upped the security, things had gone back to normal.
“Really?” Robert questions. “...Well, I hope you find your stuff, eventually.”
“Yeah, me too...”
Your words died as soon as you neared Robert’s house.
Robert didn’t waste any time in wanting to talk to you, parking the car and unlocking the front door as soon as possible. You watched as his frame entered the house before you gather your thoughts, and followed Robert. How much did you want to tell him? How much information could you trust Robert with? “Psychics” (as they called them) were never taken lightly—especially after the instance in Chamberlain, Maine thirty years ago—and you wondered if Robert was okay with you: being you.
Then again, Robert was a bit odd himself, so maybe he’d be nice about it—understanding, even. You follow him into the basement and found surprise when the light came on. “You fixed the light,” you comment idly, trying to hide your uneasiness. The basement was pristine, except for the obvious thing lying in the center of the room. The thing that sprouted your fear of basements...
“Do you see it?” Robert asks suddenly. “The well, I mean?”
“Yes. It’s...still there.”
Robert walks around the basement as if he can sense that the well is there, but he can’t actually see it. You hold back a choked noise when he walks through the well as if it was nothing—to him, it probably was nothing. Robert’s attention is brought to your reaction, taking in everything with a mute look in his eyes. It’s as if he wants to say something, but he can’t.
“What happened?” he questions.
“You walked through the well,” you whisper. “I... Why do you believe me in the first place?” His question leaves you in silence once more, causing you to frown. “Robert,” you repeat in a cold tone.
“You’re not telling me the truth...are you?”
The question sends Robert into a state of insecurity and caution.
He can feel the moment his heart skips a beat, the breath in his lungs leaving for a moment. He stands there, mid-step, in the mostly empty basement (and now that he knew that the well was still there; he didn’t feel so calm knowing that it was there)—feeling their gaze burning into the back of his head. He swallows a knot in his throat, his hands growing cold and panic settling in.
The well shouldn’t be there, Robert thinks to himself. The Turtle promised that things would be in my favor...
He finds himself meeting the judgmental stares of his “friend,” his lover—though, they didn’t know that yet (and Robert wasn’t sure if he’d ever tell them that)—and can feel himself shrink back at it. Their arms are crossed, their eyes are a dark russet under the harsh light; red undertones gleaming with each step they took towards him.
Robert feels the words die in his throat, an explanation unable to come to mind. Shit, how was he supposed to explain this? How was he supposed to tell them that he knew that they had powers; he knew the moment that he saw their red eyes, that he was in trouble.
The Crimson King was dead, but his child still lived on.
Robert suddenly regrets taking up The Turtle’s offer—the Other could go screw it for all he cared. Had he known that he was going into this, with knowledge but lacking any true abilities, then he would’ve rather stayed dead (then again, he would do anything to be with them). What was the point in having knowledge if he couldn’t apply it?
Sure, he had gotten far as to entering their home—albeit that ended as soon as they installed security cameras, and upgraded their security—but now he was stuck. He was powerless and unable to fight back. There were so many things in his favor, from the fact that his darling was older, lived alone (but next to Bill Denbrough’s home; oh how Robert hated him, not as much as Victor Criss, but still)—and they seemed to be interested in him.
Interested, but, as they put it: “not ready.”
It was hard enough to spend twenty-seven long years aware of his previous existence, more so now that a manifestation of The Turtle was always watching him (although he truly did thank The Turtle, Robert was still sour enough that The Turtle never provided help beforehand). But now that he knew for a fact that the well was there. Shines never lied, and his darling’s shine—Did they still have lights, or did the King’s death prevent this from happening?—was no exception.
Finally, Robert comes up with a response: but even he knew that this was a half-assed one. “Remember what I said about Castle Rock?” he continues, scolding himself for allowing himself to sound so weak. “...about the people?”
“Yes,” they say slowly. “I remember.”
“Well, the people aren’t the only thing that’s wrong,” Robert trails off. “The town...has a bad history.” Thankfully, there was truth to this (Castle Rock was eerily similar to Derry), and Robert found himself growing more confident by the second. “There’s something evil in Castle Rock, something that makes people do bad things...Something wrong. And I think Derry is the same.”
Thankfully, they were forgiving enough to believe him.
“I know what you mean,” they reply. “Sometimes, I see bad things happen here. You know about the bullies here in Derry? The one led by Henry Bowers, son of the sheriff?” A pause, “I see them do the most awful things to people, younger kids. And you know what happens when adults see them do those things? They—”
“—ignore them,” Robert comments, nodding. Just for good measure to build his alibi and character, he adds, “I’ve seen the same thing happen in Castle Rock...I figured, if you could see it, then I’m not so crazy after-all.”
Their shoulders relax, but Robert can tell that they’re still thinking of another question to ask. However, they shake their head and let out a sigh, running a hand over their face. “This is too much for me,” they say quietly. “I’m...going home now. I need to finish Georgie’s cake. I’ll text you later.”
They leave before Robert can say anything back, his throat going dry. Once he hears the sound of his door closing, his shoulders slump and the panic returns. He leaves the basement, locking the door for good measure, before trudging up the stairs and into his room (which just so happened to be their old room)—hands turning into tight fists.
Robert’s eyes glower at the glass tank, the faint buzz of a filter and water rushing fills his ears. His gaze soon falls on the turtle that stares back at him with beady black eyes, full of a knowing look that only he could see.
“Stupid turtle,” he mutters to himself. “You didn’t tell me that this would happen.”
Once more, he’s left with silence; and it takes everything in his power to bite back the rage that bubbles up. Letting out a heavy sigh through his nose, he heads over to the closet, shuffling through his clothes before he finds a small bag in the corner. Opening it, his hands shuffle through several articles of clothing; his hands reach for the tulle dress stuffed inside—holding onto it for comfort. It still smells like them, and it eases his nerves instantly.
He wished that they were back in his arms: like old times.
...before the Losers Club.
“Hey, Sharon, did you get the plates yet?”
“No, dear!” Sharon says from the living room. “Can you get them for me, please?”
“No problem!” you reply with a smile.
Today was Georgie’s birthday and you and Sharon had planned something amazing for him. His father, Zack, was usually out of the house more, so you ended up planning the party with Sharon (with some help from Bill, here and there). While Sharon worked on the decorations (i.e. filling balloons and setting up the popcorn machine), you went to work on the cake and the other baked goods—ranging from cake pops, to marshmallow-filled cookies.
All of them were circus-themed, as requested by Georgie.
It was a good way to pass the time, especially after your mind was so frazzled after your “talk” with Robert. Thankfully, some of your questions were answered, but you were left with more. Although he didn’t explicitly say that he was like you, he at least answered the reason why he had a tendency to know so much—he’s seen this before, in Castle Rock.
How much he could see, you had yet to find out.
Your hands grasped the tray of cookies from the oven, unbothered by the heat. They were balloon-shaped, the red frosting set up on the counter already. You were humming to yourself, a big smile on your face as you imagined Georgie’s reaction to all of this. He was currently with Bill (plus the Losers Club, as always) at McCarron Park.
When you were done with everything, setting everything up in the living room, you and Sharon watched the scene with proud eyes. “You’re like the sister Georgie never had,” Sharon compliments. “Do you mind getting Georgie for me?”
“I don’t mind at all,” you reply. “The park’s not too far away.”
“Thank you,” she says. “You have your gift, right?”
“Mhm,” you nod. “It’s in the kitchen!”
Watching Sharon walk away, you left the house with your keys in hand, a smile still on your face. To your surprise, upon walking back to your house, you noticed that a certain someone was waiting at your front door and—was he looking through your windows?
“Hey stranger,” you call out.
Robert turns around, startled. “O-Oh hey,” he stammers out, hands in his pockets.
“What are you doing here?” you ask.
“I just wanted to drop by...after yesterday.”
“Oh...” you trail off. “Can we talk about it tomorrow? Please?”
“Why can’t we talk today?”
“Georgie’s birthday, remember?” you reply, pointing to the Denbroughs’ house.
Robert follows your gaze, and you can’t help but notice the way he flinches upon seeing the red balloons strewn about. You brush past him to head to your car, entering the vehicle. “Wait!” he calls out.
“Where are you going?”
“To pick up Georgie,” you continue. You already know that he wants to go with you (Did he ever hang out with anyone besides yourself?), but you ask the question anyway. “Did you want to go?”
Like an eager puppy, he nods and enters the vehicle without another word. Much to your chagrin, he begins to talk to you, but you don’t really say anything in response—not wanting to talk to him. Still, Robert never takes the hint and continues to barrage you with several questions and comments that are left unanswered.
“I was thinking of going to the movies today.”
“Do you enjoy watching Georgie?”
“You’re really pretty today.”
Alright that one merits bashfulness to come up, your cheeks growing warm at his compliment. Still, you don’t give in and tap your fingers against the steering wheel, trying to relax a little. The smile on your face soon fades when you near the park, dread filling your heart.
“What is it?” Robert asks, trying to find your point of interest.
And he does. You can see him freeze up beside you, both of you staring at the group of teenagers that were bothering the Losers Club (plus Georgie). The Bowers Gang, you think to yourself. You could tell from the seven boys who towered over the four smaller ones; and the longer you stared, the more you wanted to help. You stop the car immediately, exiting the vehicle even though Robert shouts out protests at you—but you don’t care. You can only focus on the things happening in front of you, and the rage in your heart.
Hands turned into fists and you found yourself trying to stop yourself from doing anything more.
“Hey!” you yell out. “What the hell are you kids doing?”
“Oh thank fuck!” one of the Losers, presumably Richie, says. “These guys were—”
“This isn’t any of your fucking business,” the notorious Henry Bowers grits out, stepping forward. “Leave before it gets ugly.”
“Threatening an adult won’t do you any good,” you reply, crossing your arms.
Even though you were a good few inches taller than Henry, he was still intimidating—especially with what you had heard about him. You heard that he liked to beat up kids “for fun,” and that was just the start of it: considering the fact that you heard him to carry a switchblade on him. You put on a brave face, not wanting to do anything to his mind yet. You always tried to solve a problem without using unnecessary forces (i.e. your powers), but quite frankly—you wanted to do whatever you could to get away from Henry.
“Henry we should go,” the buffest one says—he was wearing a cap on his head. “Before they call the cops.”
“Yeah, Henry,” the one with platinum hair (Why do you feel like you’ve seen him before?) adds on.
“Shut. Up,” Henry grits back. “The bitch is asking for it.”
Alright, that’s enough—
You’re about to pry into Henry’s mind when a figure, Robert, brushes past you and towards the group. Afraid for him, even though Robert was tall he was as thin as a twig and looked more book-smart than street smart. You call out his name out of fear, motioning to the kids to go behind you. Georgie clings to your hip, wrapping his legs around your waist with fear in his eyes.
“Robert!” you hiss out. “What are you doing?!”
Robert ignores you, having a staring contest with Henry Bowers.
You’re worried because of said teenager, along with the lanky one with a moppy mess of black hair—in addition to that, the one with the square jaw (who struck you as a jock-type of kid)—made you fear for Robert’s life. Not wanting him to get into any trouble you cast your gaze to the side, shielding your eyes with your hair as you get to work.
Henry, despite his harsh glare and strong exterior, was easier to read than a child. It was as if he wanted to be heard; wanted to be seen. Exhaustion burns with your pumping heart, but you push forward into the inner reaches of his mind. You take a discrete step forward when the grass underneath you dies, trying to hide the withering flower underneath your shoe. Leave us alone, you order—feeling a headache come forward. Go cool off back home, or leave.
And thankfully, it works.
Maybe it was mixed in with Henry’s intelligence—Henry wasn’t a stupid teenager, you realized—that made your abilities easier to use on him, or maybe it was the fact that he was intimidated by Robert. For whatever reason swayed his decision, his jaw clenched and his hands unclenched; turning around briskly.
“C’mon fellas,” he says in a blank tone. “These fairies are not worth it.”
You hear the blonde one mutter out a “sorry,” (heard only by you) before the seven-membered gang follows Henry Bowers to God-knows-where. Robert turns around meeting eyes with you, to which you respond by turning away to pat Georgie’s head reassuringly. “You’re okay kid,” you whisper. “You’re safe with me.”
“They were saying really bad things,” Georgie mutters back. “...about Billy and his friends.”
“He won’t do anything to you guys,” you say with confidence. “As long as I’m here.” Seeing that everyone else was a sour mood, you turned to the younger teens with a questioning gaze. “Will you guys be alright biking home?” you ask with a raised brow.
They nod timidly, and you send them on their way—with Bill following your car back to the house. Robert was still in the passenger’s seat, probably mulling over what just happened. Although you never explicitly stated that you had powers, you had a feeling that Robert was suspicious about how easily Henry managed to back off.
I’m not going to tell him, you think. Not yet, at least.
“Are you excited for your party?” you ask Georgie, looking in the rear view mirror. “Your mother and I did a lot for it.”
“Yeah!” Georgie exclaims, his mood lifted. “I hope the cake is good!”
“It should be. I made it.”
“Oh, then it’ll be super good! You’re so good at baking!”
“Well, I aim to please Georgie. Besides, you’re turning seven!” you reply with a smile. Turning to Robert you gave him a questioning glance. “Do you want me to drop you off at your place after?” you continue.
“Yeah,” he mutters. “Please.”
Georgie’s birthday was a success. With you taking care of the sweets and food, everyone—consisting of Georgie’s family plus some of his friends—was in a good mood. Georgie was in an even bigger mood with all of the gifts that were given to him. You had given him something you found while browsing Amazon.
Being a big fan of jewelry and accessories, you bought him a turtle bracelet (having been inspired by Robert to do so). You told Georgie that it would be his “good luck” charm, given with how much faith Robert put into his own pet. Georgie, of course, loved it—along with a couple of bucks that you gave him—having a blast.
After cleaning up and bidding the Denbroughs a “good night,” you returned back home to rest. You shrugged out of the dress you were wearing, still feeling bitter that you couldn’t find your long tulle one, and took a shower. Things were really turning up for you, especially with how Howard said that he and his wife going to visit (since his kids were going to visit their mother’s family) sometime around the winter.
You were even thinking of going back to school to earn a certification in dance (plus a degree in education). Maybe you could move on and get back into ballet, if you were feeling up to it. If not, then you were satisfied with what you had.
You let out a heavy sigh, brushing the remains of your hair once it was dry. You changed into a bralette and underwear, pulling a silk kimono-robe over your body. The rain had held up pretty well these past couple of weeks, though, you were sure that they would return around October. And then once November came by, the snow would come and the holidays would arrive. This would be your fifth Christmas here in Derry, and you were feeling hopeful for the future.
“G’night Holl,” you mutter, dimming the lights on her tank.
Running a hand along your neck you paused in your actions, frowning when you saw that your window was open. Did I open that earlier? you ponder curiously. You shut the window with a flick of your hand, resting on the bed as the window closed on its own—a satisfied smile on your face.
You were starting to get the hang of using your powers, even if you’ve had them for a while. Even if you acknowledged that you had them, it still bothered you nonetheless to know that you were...different from everyone else. You shut off the fairy lights in your room, pulling the covers over your body before falling into a dreamless sleep...
Or so you thought.
You were in the basement, the one in the Neibolt House.
Your hands were trembling, gripping the grimy and mossy rocks that held the well together, peering down into the darkness. An ominous pit had filled your gut, bringing a type of dread to your heart—one that you haven’t felt in a long time. You hadn’t had visions in a while, not since you first moved to Derry when you were five.
You could hear your breath grow shallower, your eyes searching throughout the darkness. And then, you heard a faint noise, echoing far below the well...a giggle. Your hands gripped the rocks tighter, shoulders tensing as the air around you became cold. The hairs on the back of your neck stood on end, apprehension growing thick.
You held your breath—
...and a hand found itself on the small of your back. You turned around, and felt the hand push you back: down into the well. Letting out a strangled scream, you fell down into the well—the last thing you could see being a bone-white face, the sounds of bells ringing in your ears, and your screams.
The further you fell, the darker it became.
The moment your “body” made impact with the ground, you startled awake in bed: clutching your heart. It was beating at an unnatural rate, your fear evident and the panic settling in. You let out choked breaths, sweat pooling at your brow. You threw the blankets off of you, you headed to your bathroom as soon as possible to douse your face in hold water—throwing up in the sink soon after.
When you finally recovered, your hands were gripping the corners of the sink, your tired eyes fixed on your fearful form. You could feel the air around you grow tense, feeling claustrophobic in the darkness. You were unable to sleep after that, with it being around four in the morning, and for the remainder of time: you sat alone in bed, wringing your hands together.
What the hell did I just see?
Chapter 4: Derry I: Luckiest Man in the World
“Whatever you say, darling.”
With all I've done and all I say
I've been loving you in a different way
- Tender, “Nadir”
You haven’t had nightmares since you first moved to Derry.
You remembered screaming as a child, crying to your parents about the “spiders”—the terrifying visage that terrorized your mind; long forgotten until now. You could remember clearly, the abominations that fought and danced in the darkness. The darkness turned into a beautiful blue, illuminated by lights, and then it was plunged into a deep red (crimson)—as if everything was bleeding. You remembered your father telling you that you should’ve never bought Holland, that spiders scared you.
But it wasn’t the spiders that scared you, it was the things that you heard in your dreams.
The sounds were warped at first, as if something was trying to stop you from listening: from hearing. And then, on the fifth night of having that awful dream—you heard it. Your voice...but it wasn’t your voice, at least, that’s what you thought. It, the one bathed in black and red, sounded like you, but at the same time it sounded older; wiser, deadlier. At the age of five, you had witnessed the carnage of a being larger than life—at the hands of a monster that sounded like you.
It took the entire duration of the end of elementary school, to the end of high school, for you to convince yourself that everything you had seen was just your mind creating sick images. (But no five-to-six-year-old dreamt of that.) Just to make things “easier” on your uncle, your psychiatrist and psychologist suggested that you took pills to ease the nightmares. They did help you sleep better, but it didn’t stop the dreams from coming; especially after you were soon traumatized after the deaths of your parents.
However, things had changed. You learned to push back the dreams, and as soon as you left Derry, you stopped dreaming of awful things. Instead, you were just trying to push back the grief and loss, finding success as soon as high school was over. You found happiness in the four years at the university you went to—finding strength amongst your friends.
But you were dreaming again, but it was different.
It had been two hours since you had woken up from your nightmare. Your hand trembles against your phone, staring at the caller ID—wondering if you should call him. Howard, despite his uniqueness, was more set than you on burying that part of himself; deep. You haven’t talked to him about your dreams, or the “ghosts” he’s seen back in his hometown (in Virginia).
You were about to press the call button but thought against it, turning off your phone and tossed it beside you. Alright, I change my mind, you think to yourself. It looks like my life’s still a shit-hole, after-all. Instead of calling Robert, who seemed to be the only other person who seemed to understand your suspicion of Derry, you trudge out of bed and grab your laptop.
You fill your search bar with two words: Castle Rock.
After booking your room at the hotel, you quickly went to packing your things (even though you were leaving tomorrow morning, you still wanted to be prepared). This was the only way you knew how to deal with the dreams: by leaving Derry. It worked before, and it would work again—at least, you hope that it would. Castle Rock, from the way Robert had described it, made it sound as if it was just as bad as Derry (and you had to admit that it was), but you never had a problem with dreams or sights there.
Maybe it was because you weren’t as “tied” to Castle Rock as you were with Derry, but you were willing to take the risk. There were too many “maybe’s” in your life, and you wanted to change that. You needed answers, but first—you needed a break. Castle Rock was your second option, your first one being to head to your uncle’s place in Maryland: but you didn’t want to worry him too much. At least, in Castle Rock, your business was no one’s until you intruded on another’s.
Besides, Castle Rock was always beautiful when summer ended, and fall began. You could take a few pictures there and relax, have a vacation before things could get too hectic in your life. After taking a scalding shower (literally) and changed into more comfortable attire, you texted Sharon a quick message; telling her of your plans for the rest of September.
Hey, Sharon, I’m just letting you know that I’ll be out of town starting tomorrow to the 30th. I’m going to take a break and relax, I hope you’re fine with that, and you can halt the payments until I get back.
Returning your attention to your packing, you decided to bring a lot of dresses instead of turtlenecks—as cold as it was down there (Derry was colder), the remains of summer were still apparent. After that, you packed your essentials and made sure to charge your electronics. Once you were done, your attention was brought to the subject of Holland.
Removing her from her enclosure, you perched her in her temporary holding case, taking her permanent enclosure outside with you. Opening the garage door, you set the enclosure down, and grabbed a few cleaning supplies. You had cleaned it a couple of months ago, but you always liked to re-do and change up the habitat a bit.
Before you could start, your phone buzzed, prompting you to take a look at it. It was Sharon, and thankfully, she understood your need for a break (even though she didn’t know what prompted you to have one in the first place).
I completely understand! Take all the time you need! - Shar.
God, she’s the best, you thought with a smile.
Your routine was the same after that, with a few questioning texts from Robert here and there, and finally—you were left to tell him your plans for the rest of September. “Hey,” you called, dialing his number (unsurprisingly, he picked up immediately). “Can you come and check out my house for the rest of the month?”
“Don’t I already do that?” he jokes, knowing that he visited you all of the time.
“Not like that,” you mutter. “I’m going to be out of town for two weeks.”
Dead silence, and then, “...what do you mean by that?”
“I mean what I said Robert,” you continue. “I’m leaving Derry to take a break.”
“To where? How long?” he pries.
“Castle Rock,” you say, “—just until the 30th. Nothing much.”
“You’re leaving Derry?” he continues, “W-Why? Did something happen?”
You can’t help but notice at how panicked he sounds.
“That’s what I said,” you reply, resting your phone in the crux of your neck and shoulder to fix Holland’s tank. In the background on Robert’s end, you can hear him muttering something—wait, was he talking to his turtle? To try and ease his nerves, you finished off with a simple, “Don’t worry, I won’t be gone long it’s just two weeks. It’s just a simple vacation.”
“Two weeks is too long,” he grumbles.
You frown at his statement, but don’t say anything else, muttering a quiet “see you later” to him. After that, you return to your monthly choices, bringing back Holland’s tank into your room and allowing her to make a new nest from it. You gathered your suitcase into the trunk of your car before zipping up your laptop backpack and settling it in the passenger seat.
Admiring your handiwork, you were about to return back into your house—if you weren’t interrupted by a rumbling engine approaching your house. Turning around, raising a brow; you could literally feel your shoulders slump when you realized that Robert’s car was getting close.
Holy shit, this guy never gives up, you think. What is he going to do next: kiss me?
Feeling slightly on edge, you watched as Robert exited his car to jog up to you—visibly out of breath and frantic. “You can’t leave,” he pants out. “What about what you saw in the basement? Why are you leaving?”
“Why are you questioning everything I do?” you retort, sizing him up. “You’re not—”
“ —the boss of me,” they grit out angrily.
Robert froze, not because of what they said; but the memory that came with it. That was exactly what they had said to him, back in November of 1988, when they were recovering from “the clown’s” attack. But that fear is soon replaced by the panic that takes ahold of his body. They’re leaving? he questions internally.
They can’t. I just got them back. They can’t leave—
“Like I said,” they sigh, “...it’s only going to be for two weeks. I’m sure you can handle yourself.”
Say something you idiot, Robert berates himself. Keep this going and they’ll be suspicious of me even more.
“Okay,” he chokes out, hands trembling. “I...I understand.”
Even though he doesn’t understand, and he wants so badly to just grab them and capture their lips with his—to tell them that they’ll be safe with him as long as they stay with him, in Derry—he stops himself. I’m just a man, Robert reminds himself. And they’re...the Breaker of Beams? Just a regular woman in Derry?
...A bit of both, perhaps?
“Thank you,” they say with a forgiving smile, reigning Robert from his thoughts. “I promise to bring you a souvenir.”
Sensing the unease in their form, Robert nods and returns to his car, driving in silence. The rage bubbles up once more, this time directed at his unfortunate situation, and it takes all the willpower in the world (and more) to stop himself from punching a wall. He so desperately wished that he could will his hands into claws; hunt something just for the fun of it. But once more, Robert’s faced with the grim reality that he’s just a man.
A man in the wrong time, wrong reality; for the right reasons.
The most that he could do: was go in his room, and scream into his pillow until his throat was raw. It had only been a month since he found them, and now they were leaving him again. They always left him, whether it was because of their friends, or (in the other world), for that insolent boy—and now, they left because of something that wasn’t his fault, again.
Were you not the one who caused all of this to happen? The Turtle’s voice resonates in Robert’s mind, prompting him to angrily slam a fist against the headboard of his bed. Was this not the reason why you’re here? To right the wrongs you have caused?
“Not my fault,” Robert denies, growling. “It was always someone else getting in the way.”
The Turtle doesn’t respond after that, a wave of disappointment washing from him to Robert. After thirty minutes have passed, Robert wraps his hand in a cold towel, trying to ease the burning of his hand—battered from punching the headboard too much. He considers following them to Castle Rock, but he’s already ruined his chances of them believing him. He’s thankful that they can’t read him, because if they did: everything would be ruined.
This isn’t the end, Robert repeats in his mind. It’s just two weeks, like they said.
He tries to understand their motives, but once more, he’s unable to.
He distracts himself with his room, a comfy little spot with the intention of impressing them (once he got them here; for Robert, it was a matter of when, not if). There was the king-sized bed, a desk with a computer—that he rarely used, except to browse through their social media—a bookshelf along the wall. It was full of books that Robert did read, having a mild interest in his former prey, but mainly there to build his intelligent image.
There was a sapphire blue rug on the floor, contrasting against the dark wooden floorboards, with a recliner in the corner. Then, of course, was his closet—full of expensive clothes with the intention to impress...Everything he did, he did to impress them. It was working, so far, but it just wasn’t enough, Robert realized.
Thankfully, he got the basics down.
The blankets and sheets on his bed were similar to theirs. Once he realized that their second floor window was easily accessible—he usually came in the night to just watch, because damn, they were beautiful when they slept in barely anything—he did everything to research more about them. Their electronics, unfortunately, were password locked so the most he could do was read and just watch them.
Then came the fact that he had to force himself to learn how to drive (previously, he just made the car move), and the other harder things, like paying damn taxes—they were inescapable and a drag to Robert; who was truly unemployed. He did everything and everything to prepare for their reunion, but now that they were together again; Robert realized that things weren’t so clear.
After yesterday, Robert had finally confirmed the existence of Victor Criss.
When The Turtle told him that Robert would have to promise to “protect everyone,” Robert didn’t anticipate literally everyone. Sure, he was fine with watching over Georgie—at most, since the boy had been his first victim in 1988—but to make sure that everyone was safe?
What if Criss had dared to ruin things again? Then again, the age difference brought Robert a great service, and he was thankful that this was different. (Still, it wouldn’t have stopped him from seeking their hand, but it was a big bonus nonetheless.)
But now, he was faced with uncertainty.
Why is the well still there? Have the Other and The Turtle given them memories that they haven’t lived through? Why have they given them powers, but not me? If anything, I should have powers—to protect them. Unless...Robert frowned, unable to form a response.
Why have you done this? What are your plans?
...Is there something you’re not telling me? Instead of expecting a reply from The Turtle (or the Other, if he was lucky enough), or his “pet” Maturin, he saunters out of the house to watch his darling for the remainder of the day.
Then again, he already did that everyday.
You decided to bring Robert to the Morning Diner at the end of the day.
Having a feeling that he was going to be in a sour mood while you were gone, you wanted to calm him down before you finally left. Like a child, you think to yourself. I always need to pamper him. But Robert, despite his strange behavior, was still your friend—and you were going to treat him like one.
He was in a relatively good mood when you found him at his house, more so when you asked him to grab something to eat. Despite the fact that he was adamant on holding your hand, you kept things between you and him strict—modest. Again, you knew him for a month (despite him pouring his entire heart to you), and wanted to get to know him better.
He’s nice, you muster up quietly, but he’s still got a really long way to go.
“I can come with you,” Robert says quietly, munching on his food. “...if you want.”
You looked at him incredulously, with wide eyes and the cogs in your brain churning with too many thoughts. Before you could form a response, you held back your tongue—considering the possibility. Yes, you were a bit withdrawn from him, but you were really forgiving and believed that Robert just had an attachment (albeit a strange one) to you.
“I can give you a tour of Castle Rock,” he adds, “and I’ll show you everything you need to know about the place. You can even cancel your hotel, because I have a house there.”
He just wants to get closer to me, you think for a moment. Instead of responding with a question or a simple “no,” you smile and shrug your shoulders. “If you want to, I mean,” you stammer out with flushed cheeks—Jesus Christ, Robert was strange but he really does make me feel like I’m worth the trouble.
If he was really willing to allow you to stay in his home in Castle Rock, and guide you; maybe he wasn’t so bad after-all. You’re not sure if you regret, or accept your decision, because Robert’s eyes light up with the brightest stars at that moment—and he looks truly adorable when that happens.
His arms engulf you in a tight hug, his face buried into your neck as he mutters out “thank yous” over and over. The feeling of his breath against your skin makes your cheeks grow warmer, the PDA being too overwhelming for you (someone who was always over-friendly with people, sans Robert, of course) to handle. Awkwardly, you accept the hug but also relish the warmth shared; your chin resting along his shoulder. You bite back the urge to run your fingers through his hair, reminding yourself that you’re still in public.
You pull away from the hug first.
You hide your mild surprise when Robert makes a noise of protest at the loss of contact, and give him a reassuring smile. “We should go back to your place after we’re done eating,” you continue. “I’ll help you pack, y’know, because you’re going out of your way to help me...and I appreciate everything you’re going for me.”
For some reason, your words stir even more excitement inside of him: and you wonder what’s going on in his mind at that moment. Knowing him, he probably thought that he was the luckiest man in the world.
Luck was on Robert’s side once more.
Not only did they allow him to go with them to Castle Rock (And was going to stay at his house there!), but they were going to help him pack. To say that he was happy was an understatement. He was more than thrilled, and could not find the exact words to voice his success.
Before they could enter his home, he told them to wait outside while he settled things in his room. First and foremost, he needed to hide the bag of their clothes somewhere else in the house. Next, he needed to clear his browser history on his computer—which took him a good thirty minutes just to search a video tutorial (which brought them,who was still outside, a lot of concern and suspicion on what he was doing).
He took their brush and chapstick, and hid it somewhere in a closet in the other rooms. Then came the headboard, which was practically ruined in one corner from his punching. He remedied it by throwing pillows over the spot in an auspicious manner.
He already did that with the hole he made in the living room: hiding the spot with a painting he bought from the store. He was used to hiding his “outbursts,” not wanting to call anyone to fix them. Finally, when he was done rearranging his room, ignoring Maturin’s judgemental gaze, he allowed his darling to enter the house.
“Took you long enough,” they joke with a laugh.
Oh how I’d do anything to hear that laugh forever, Robert thinks to himself. Or, other sounds—
“Your room is clean,” they comment, giving it a once over. “Nice.”
Robert feels pride bubble in his chest, feeling accomplished and proud of himself. It wouldn’t be long until they’d want to live here themselves, and then wish to spend the rest of their life with him. Oh, he could imagine it now; he thought of the future everyday. Before he could fall deeper into his daydreams, he carried out a suitcase from underneath his bed—pocketing a stray photo of them sleeping (that he had forgotten to hide) in his pocket—and threw it on the bed.
“You don’t have to do anything,” Robert explains. “You can have a seat over there.”
“Are you sure? I-I mean...You’re the one going out of your way to—”
“Don’t worry about it. I got this,” he continues proudly. “You can even take a look around the room.”
Nodding, his eyes followed their form while they checked out the room. He enjoyed the way their hips swayed, a gentle movement that he found himself watching often when they thought they were alone at their own house. He enjoyed their focused form: taking in everything. He enjoyed the approval in their eyes—and Robert knew that he did something right in setting the room up the way he did.
Reigning himself out of his thoughts, he begins packing to pack his things into the suitcase. In the back of his mind, he wondered what they were going to wear over at Castle Rock. Maybe that one dress stored in their closet? Wanting to hear their voice again, he initiates another conversation to fill the silence (sans the buzzing of Maturin’s tank filter).
“So, what do you do in your free-time?” He already knew the answer, but it was always good to ask.
“Watch movies,” they continue, “...and scroll on my phone, y’know. To pass the time?”
“What kind of movies?”
“Horror slash thriller movies. Y’know, like Get Out and other stuff?”
“...I’ve never seen them myself, before.”
They turned around to gape at him, eyes wide. “You’ve never watched Get Out before?!” they question, staring at Robert as if he had grown a second head.
If I had my powers, he thought, I could.
They sit down on his bed, crossing their arms.
“We definitely need to change that when we come back,” they joke. “You act like you’ve been living under a rock.”
To be fair, Robert was just not interested in typical human things—though, he did have to admit that humans made great TV shows—but he was willing to indulge if it meant making them happy. Robert nods, zipping up his suitcase and letting to roll to the door. Remembering their comment, Robert replies.
“I’m just not interested in that stuff.”
“Jeez,” they giggle. “You should at least download Insta, or something.”
He did, but he only used it for the sole purpose of watching over them. Everything else about the “app,” wasn’t interesting to him. Robert forces a smile on his face and shrugs, sitting beside them—meeting eyes with them. By the stars, it was hard to hold back the urge to kiss them. His hand twitched, wanting to hold theirs; his heart raced.
He was so close to kissing them yesterday, and if he could just...He leans forward, and is stopped by their hand again. Frustration builds up and he has to stop himself from grabbing them then and there, and just ravish—
“W-Wait,” they stammer out. “What are you doing?”
“I...” Robert trails off, unable to form a reply.
“I already told you,” they sigh. “I’m not ready for that. I-I mean...You’re a great guy, and all...”
“I understand,” he mutters.
I don’t understand at all, to be honest.
“But—” they trail off.
Robert can feel himself inhale sharply when their hand moves from his chest to his cheek, their other hand resting along his neck. This gesture was all-too-familiar, and Robert—having his hopes crushed before—prepares himself when they lean forward.
To his surprise, they turn away and leave a kiss on his cheek.
Well, he mused. It’s a start, at least.
Still, it doesn’t calm the fluttering of his heart, nor the fact that he can feel the definite rush of warmth to his cheeks. His eyes close, relishing the contact while his arms find themselves wrapped around their body in a pseudo-hug. He could imagine a phantom tingle from the mark on his chest (the one they had given him in the other world), even though he no longer had it. He finds himself wanting more once they pull away, their own cheeks flush with pink.
“...But I like you Robert,” they confess with a sheepish smile. “You’re a good friend,” a pause, “...and I’m willing to give you a chance.” Robert leans again to steal another kiss, but they stop him again.
“Wait,” they laugh. “It’s still too early for that, you haven’t even taken me on a first date yet.”
Ugh, human customs, Robert thought to himself (which was ironic, considering the fact that he was one himself; he still had the mentality of the Eater of Worlds). Such a drag, but if it makes them happy...
“Fine with me,” he replies smoothly. “Are you ready to go to Castle Rock now? The lake there is perfect for dates.”
Now that things were somewhat “official” between you and Robert (starting just an hour ago), you had to admit: you did enjoy the feeling of kissing his cheek. Feelings of adoration filled your heart, butterflies swarming in your gut. You were a bit doubtful about yourself and him together, but you were willing to give it a go. Now that you finally got to see Robert, and his room, you were able to piece a better picture about him. He was, indeed, a sound person.
There was still the lingering question about his knowledge, or why you couldn’t read him, but you would hold off those questions for later. Now you were just set on leaving Derry to have a nice trip in Castle Rock—and this time, you wouldn’t have to be alone there. Robert had taken you to your home to gather your things and place it in his car; since he was going to be the one to drive.
“Tomorrow morning,” you explained. “That’s when we’ll go.”
And then, because you were just naturally nice and a good person, you offered him to stay the night at your place (just to avoid the inconvenience of him having to go back and forth from his house to yours). As expected, Robert didn’t hesitate to take up that offer, and you allowed him access to the guest room downstairs.
To your surprise, after showering and dressing into more comfortable attire, you found Robert in the kitchen: making dinner. The smell was amazing, you had to admit that, and you could practically imagine what it would be to wake up to that everyday—Hold on, you restrain yourself.
Don’t get ahead of yourself just yet.
“What are you making?” you ask, tilting your head.
Robert turns around, started at your sudden presence. The sleeves of his turtleneck are rolled up to his elbows, revealing his pale arms, and funny enough—he was wearing one of your aprons. Robert relaxed soon after, grabbing the pan to reveal the meal to you.
“I hope you don’t mind that I used your lamb,” he continues, “in the fridge. I’m searing it with some sauteéd brussels sprouts and...” Robert paused, checking the label from the opened pack of— “...Portabella mushrooms.”
“It smells amazing,” you compliment, brushing past him. “I’ll get the plates.”
After setting up the table, you watched Robert finish cooking, amazed by his cooking abilities. While he plated the food you returned to the dining table with a bottle of wine in hand. Although you weren’t a drinker, it was a 21st birthday gift from Howard and you haven’t used it yet, and you assumed that Robert would like it—going by the belief that older people liked wine.
“Do you want a glass?” you question, holding up the bottle by its neck.
“You drink?” he retorts, shocked.
“No,” you laugh. “It’s just a birthday gift.”
“Water’s fine with me then,” he answers.
Nodding, you return the bottle back into its spot in the kitchen and spend the rest of your night chatting and laughing with Robert. In a way, this was kind of like a date, more so when it was in your home, and you felt yourself enjoying the atmosphere when talking to him. What he lacked in understanding social norms, he made up with wanting to learn—wanting to be better. You liked that in a person; a willingness to change.
Robert seemed like he didn’t do much with his life before, but you could possibly change that. After cleaning up dinner and having a lengthy discussion in the history of movies and TV shows, it was time for bed (after-all, Robert had to prepare for the two-hour drive to Castle Rock). Feeling brave, you kissed him on the cheek again, wanting to feel that warmth in your chest—and bid him goodnight.
You woke up to the smell of French toast.
The rich, cinnamon smell had roused you from sleep—hunger nagging at your senses. It took you a moment to remember that Robert was probably making something, having forgotten that you allowed him to stay the night, and you relaxed soon after. You went through your morning routine, putting on a blue, knee-length floral sundress, and sauntered into the kitchen.
“Morning,” you greet softly.
“Good morning—” Robert paused, taking in your appearance. “You look beautiful.”
“Oh, I-I—Thanks,” you stammer, blushing.
Doing the same for him, you took in Robert’s appearance. He was wearing a fitted black t-shirt and jeans, his hair swept back and slightly damp from a shower. He moved to and fro around the kitchen, his focus heavily brought on the food he was making.
“Here,” you say, taking the pan from him. “You can go set up the table this time, while I’ll finish the rest.”
“Alright,” Robert nods. “How’d you sleep?”
“Good. And you?”
“Amazing. Your beds are really comfortable.”
You let a fit of giggles, covering your mouth with your hand, which was holding a fork. “What can I say? I’m a girl who likes comfort,” you reply, turning the bread over. Wanting to add more to the mix, you decided to scramble some eggs on the side, setting everything on the counter.
Robert hums. “Have you ever had anyone else stay over before?”
“Just my uncle and his family. I’ve never—uhm,” you pause, embarrassed.
“You’ve never what?”
“Never had anyone else over,” you continue, “in a relationship, I mean...You’re my first.”
Out of all the words I could’ve used, you groan internally.
Well, it wasn’t a lie: Robert was the first person you’ve ever been in a “true” relationship with, even if you had just started it yesterday. After a month of getting to know him, and the fact that the two of you shared knowledge of the unknown, you were treading into relatively new territory by becoming his girlfriend.
Robert’s eyes widen, and you can see...relief in his eyes?
“I am?” he asks, surprised. “You’ve never been with anyone else before?”
“Nope,” you let out a miserable laugh. “It’s sad, right?”
“No, no, no,” he shakes his head. “It’s nice...I’m really happy that I get to be your first.” Robert stopped for a moment to help you bring the food to the table, resting his hands on your shoulders to look at you; a serious look in his eyes.
“Wait,” he blurts out. “Does this mean that you’ve never had your first kiss?”
“Y-Yeah...?” A hot flush of embarrassment rose to your cheeks. “Why are you asking me this?”
“Because I’ve never had my own before,” he confesses.
“Really? Surely there was another—”
“I told you,” Robert says. “You’re the only one that matters to me.”
Before you could retort, he leans forward (for a brief moment, you thought he was going to steal your first kiss) and kisses your cheek: his plump lips resting there for a moment. You let out a gasp of surprise, giddiness and warmth spreading all over. He presses another kiss, this one along your jawline; meriting a shudder from you. It was as if he knew exactly what you liked, even if you didn’t know these things about yourself.
...You could definitely get used to this.
“We sh-should eat,” you mutter, “b-b...before the food gets cold.”
Robert pulls away, a smug smirk on his lips. “Whatever you say, darling.”
He heads over to the dining room, leaving you flustered and shocked—your face probably red from all of the blushing. Darling, you tested the endearment in your head. It’s simple. I like it.
With a smile you followed Robert into the dining room, and went through the morning pretty quickly. You dropped some cookies off at the Denbroughs’ house, making sure to feed Holland, and met with Robert outside: who was leaning against the hood of his car.
“Ready?” he asks with a smile.
“Mhm,” you nod. “Thank you, by the way. I know you just left Castle Rock a month ago but—”
“Like I said,” he interrupts. “It’s no problem. You’re worth it.”
“Oh shut up,” you mutter with a smile, slapping his shoulder playfully.
Hearing him let out a series of laughs in response, you entered his car, feeling better than you did this past week—heck, this past year. Maybe, letting Robert into your life was for the best. Maybe his strangeness was exactly the normal you needed in your life; a good distraction from everything.
You watched as everything seemed to blur past you as Robert drove, taking in everything around you as if you were going to see it for the last time. It was almost surreal, to unlatch yourself from this town—but things felt better when you were with Robert. From the corner of your eye, you could see Robert smiling: a genuine expression that made your heart warm up with joy.
To elevate the mood even more, you decided to put on some of your favorite music, relishing the moments when Robert enjoyed some of them as well (though, he was still adamant on his classical music). Finally, after twenty minutes of driving, your eyes trailed to the town sign, reading it with happy eyes.
NOW LEAVING DERRY, MAINE
Chapter 5: Castle Rock I: Home Territory I
You were in the woods, running.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
We both know that it's not fashionable to love me
But you don't go 'cause truly there's nobody for you but me
- Lana Del Rey, “Honeymoon”
Apparently, Robert had taken the scenic route to Castle Rock.
He drove through the winding road that passed through the mountain, trees whizzing by as he drove by a steady rate. You had fallen in and out of sleep, having Robert nudge you awake when he stopped by a small town to grab some gas. “You want anything?” he asked you in a soft voice. “I won’t be long, but I’m going to head into the gas station real quick.”
“Don’t need anything,” you muttered. “...’m tired...”
“Yeah, sure. I got it. Sleep tight, darling.”
You felt Robert’s hand caress your cheek (and admittedly, you were shocked that he did that; since your eyes were closed) before he exited the car without a second word. Shuffling in your seat, you rubbed your eyes and groaned, unbuckling your seat-belt to stretch your arms and legs. Your tired eyes tracked Robert, who sauntered into the gas station.
You glanced at your surroundings, feeling relieved to see tall trees tower around the rest stop. Exhaustion wracked your body, but somehow you still found the motivation to get up and out of the car. The smell of spruce and morning dew filled your lungs, a smile forming on your face. You snapped a few photos of your surroundings, capturing the moment.
“Enjoying yourself?” Robert asks from behind.
“Yeah. It feels nice to be out of Derry.”
“I can agree,” he nods. “Derry’s been apart of my life for so long, that I’m not used to this.”
“I mean, you have been out of Derry for what—thirteen years?”
“Still,” Robert laughs. “Derry is my life.”
“I’ve never heard someone love Derry so much,” you joke.
“Well, I’m not like other people.”
“I know,” you reply, lacing his hand with yours. “...that’s what I like about you.”
Robert’s eyes lit up at your comment, his hand squeezing yours. The two of you stay like that for a moment, staring into each others’ eyes with your hands linked together. Now, you realize why he loved it whenever you held his hand— It felt nice. The longer you gazed at him, the more you wanted to not let go. But eventually, your phone buzzed, distracting you from the moment. You looked away sheepishly, reaching for your phone.
“Sorry,” you apologize. “I need to—?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Robert nods, letting go of your hand. “Go ahead.”
Checking your phone, you frowned when you realized that it was a chime from your security camera (the one placed at your front door). Opening the app, you relaxed when you saw Georgie waiting in front of the camera. You held onto the “microphone” button and spoke into it. “Hey Georgie,” you call from the app. “What are you doing right now?”
“Hi Miss King!” Georgie gushed, waving profusely at you.
You giggled in response, finding his mannerisms to be adorable.
“Where are you going again?” he asks.
“Out of town,” you continue. “Castle Rock, to be exact.”
“Awww! I wish you didn’t have to go so long! I miss you!”
“I miss you too, kid.”
“Bill says that he misses you too!”
“Does he now?” you question, raising a brow—even though Georgie couldn’t see it. Again, you barely knew Bill enough to say with confidence that he was one of your closest friends; so to hear Georgie (who rarely spoke any lies) say that was a bit surprising.
“Mhm! Mr. Gray is with you, right?”
“Yup,” you glance at Robert, who was putting the gas in. “He’s here.”
“Is he your boyfriend?” Georgie asks curiously. “I saw you holding hands with him.”
“Yeah, he—” you pause, blushing. “Yeah, he’s my b-boyfriend.”
“Aw! Do you love him?!”
“Kinda early for that, kiddo,” you laughed. “Only time will tell.”
“Well, I gotta now. See you later, bye!”
“Bye Georgie,” you reply, exiting the app.
While you were waiting in the car for Robert, you decided to connect your phone to the car to play a movie that you had downloaded. Robert struck you as the type to enjoy horror movies, or ones that messed with your mind—psychological thrillers. It made sense, considering what majors and minors he chose at Harvard, but nonetheless, when he finished pumping the gas; he wasn’t too interested in the movie.
I’m going back to sleep,” you mutter, grabbing a pillow from the back. “Wake me up if you want me to drive.”
“No need darling,” Robert replies. “I’ll take care of you.”
After another hour of sleep, Robert finally wakes you up again.
Letting out a quiet groan, you shuffle in your seat, eyes trailing over to meet Robert’s soft gaze. It’s around eleven thirty in the morning now, and you feel a bit groggy after sitting in the car for a while. “We’re here,” Robert says.
Nodding, you rub your eyes and allow them to adjust to the light. You’re met with the sight of a lovely little town across the bridge, people going about their day. You sit straighter to get a better look, rolling down the window to breathe in fresh hair. Castle Rock was nothing like Derry (on the outside, at least), in fact, older and bigger than the small town.
Many of the buildings had a colonial feel to it, as opposed to Derry; which was made around the beginning of the twentieth century. But what it lacked in modernism, it made up for with beauty in nature. Robert drove through the main streets of Castle Rock, showing you all of the buildings from the Town Square—to the white chapel that everyone went to on Sunday. Castle Rock was more religious than Derry, surprisingly, and there weren’t many other religious establishments aside from the chapel.
On the outskirts of the city, there were factories and old mills from when Castle Rock was first founded. Of course, there were the suburban areas—which was where Robert was driving you to now. “My house is down the street,” he explains, pointing to one of the two-stories; all of the houses were spread out, but his was near the woods.
“That’s where we’ll be staying.”
“I can’t believe you have two houses and a car,” you utter, amazed. “Where do you get your money from, Mr. Unemployed?”
“I have what my parents left for me,” Robert smiles. “They made savings accounts that built up interest for me. Once I graduated, I took everything out and saved it for my own use. It was more than enough, especially since my education was paid through state grants and scholarships. As for the car, it’s used, surprisingly. And well—my houses, they’re old, for the most part, and have a...bad reputation.”
“What’s with you and haunted houses?”
“They’re the cheapest,” Robert shrugs. “...and I don’t think ghosts can harm me.”
“But you believe in them?” you question, raising a brow.
“Hey, there’s no harm in having a little faith in the mysterious.”
He pulled into the driveway, and you quickly went to the trunk to gather your things (as well as Robert’s), while he unlocked the door. To your surprise, he brought Maturin with him—which he explained by saying that he had a tank already in Castle Rock. You were met with a comfortable atmosphere once more, like in his room back in Derry.
There were two sets of couches, a coffee table, and a variety of personal items. Ah, so this is where he kept all of his stuff, you realize. Back in Derry, he didn’t have a lot of pictures of him and his family... You left the suitcases and bags near the couches, taking a look around the room. Your gaze settled on a rounded picture frame—containing a picture of him and two elders; his parents.
His father was a man with a square jaw and a hard gaze, with blue eyes and blonde hair. His mother, however, was the one who you realized that Robert got his features from. She had refined facial features, more prominent than your own, and had short brown hair with brown eyes; which is what Robert had.
Setting the frame back down on the counter, you entered the dining room and kitchen. There wasn’t much to look from, except for the vase of flowers that had were lively—but withering—reminding you that Robert had been here just a little over two months ago. Robert followed you, eager to read your thoughts on his home.
It smells just like him, you think with a slight blush. Everything.
“I like it,” you smile. “This place is very welcoming.”
“Not as welcoming as your house,” Robert retorts, pointing upstairs. “C’mon. I’ll show you around.”
You followed him and found out that there was one bathroom, one guest room, and a pantry downstairs. Upstairs, however, there were two baths (one in the “masters” bedroom, and the other out in the hallway), two guest rooms, and the master’s. He took the master’s bedroom, and even suggested that you should stay there.
Of course, you declined, telling him that you weren’t ready for that yet.
The rest of the day was spent unpacking and lounging in the living room.
Thankfully, Robert had a TV so you helped recommend him all sorts of shows and movies for him to choose from. Jokingly, you told him that the Shrek movies were classics—which was how you found yourself sitting beside Robert, watching the four Shrek movies. You couldn’t believe that Robert was watching the movies with a straight face, as if he was literally taking in the entire films for what they were.
After that, you and Robert watched the first few episodes of Game of Thrones; which Robert enjoyed...a lot. You were glad that he was beginning to enjoy himself—which you found both endearing and adorable. It was nice to just rest on the couch with Robert’s arm around you. You still saw him as your best friend, but as the hours passed by, you were starting to see him as something more.
“What did you want to do tomorrow?” Robert asks.
“Can we just stay in?” you continue, “I just want to relax before we do everything.”
“That’s perfectly fine with me,” he laughs. “Y’know, we can always not leave Castle Rock.”
“Don’t get your hopes too high, cowboy.”
“Cowboy...?” Robert questions.
“It’s a joke,” you giggle. “You’ll understand later.”
He grumbled when you wiggled out of his hold, stretching your limbs while a tired yawn left your lips. You walked over to the screen-door near the backyard, staring out at the woods—which surrounded Castle Rock, like Derry. You could see Robert’s reflection behind you, his hands massaging your shoulders.
“God, that feels good,” you groan.
“What do you think is in the woods?” Robert asks suddenly.
Opening your eyes, you turned around, tilting your head. What is he talking about?
“What do you mean?” you reply, confused. “Is...is there something—?”
“...dangerous in there?” he finishes for you. “Just your typical bear and whatnot, but...”
“—you think that there’s something in there?”
“I’m not sure,” Robert says. “I...I can just feel that something bad is here.”
“Maybe it’s...” You trail off, remembering your discussion with him in the basement. A frown pulled at your features, matching your now-sour mood. Sighing, you brushed out of Robert’s hold and headed up the stairs, not wanting to talk about this anymore.
You were here to relax, not worry.
You were in the woods, running.
Running from someone—no, not someone; something.
Your lungs burned and your legs ached, your feet cold from the snow that seeped into the ends of your jeans and shoes. Your hair was matted to your face from sweat, feeling burning hot despite the snow around you. You passed by dead trees and and harsh twigs, stumbling on your feet as you continued to run. What you were running from, you didn’t know.
You were afraid, and you were confused.
Your foot caught on a twig, a sick mockery of a cliché that made you cry out in fear and pain. Snow covered your clothes and your cheeks were red, with chapped lips and dry tears. Panic gripped at your heart, and you stumbled forward, continuing your trek until you reached the end of a cliff. The sun was barely rising overhead, puffs of air leaving your lips.
You looked down at your gloved hands, the fabric only available to someone wealthy. Your brown eyes scanned the environment with confusion—for some reason, you couldn’t help but remember that it was September...or was it October? So why was it freezing cold, snowing, like it was the chilly month of December?
“Henry!” a voice yells out. “Henry stop!”
Frantic, you turned towards the origin of the sound, breathing heavily with wide eyes. Your gaze fell on two people standing (the smaller one running further into the lake) on the frozen lake not too far from you, and for some reason, you couldn’t help but feel...angry? Confused? Full of grief? At the same time, you reminded yourself that this was a dream, that this was a figment of someone’s imagination.
This wasn’t real.
Once more, you found yourself gasping for breath, clutching the sheets. Fear and panic gripped at your heart, and you stumbled out of bed—remembering that you weren’t alone. You needed someone to hold you, to tell you that everything was going to be okay: and so, the first person you thought of, was Robert.
You stumbled out of the room, heaving while wiping tears away from your eyes. Your feet carry you faster to his room faster than you expected, knocking on his door softly—afraid to wake him up. “Robert,” you call in a hoarse voice. “Robert open the door, please.”
You heard Robert call out your name in question, before you heard his footsteps against the floorboards. Unlocking the door, you fell into his arms as soon as he opened the door: breathing heavily against his chest. Even though the dream wasn’t as...terrifying as the other ones, you were still left feeling panicked and confused.
“What happened, darling?” he asks, rubbing the back of your head.
Through the darkness you could see him squinting, just as perplexed as you were. You couldn’t form a coherent response, muttering out, “bad dream” to him. You held onto him for comfort, and not caring about anything else, you asked him if you could sleep in his bed. Thankfully, he said yes, and soon enough, you were resting in Robert’s bed.
His arms were wrapped protectively around you, while your face was buried into his neck; his body acting as a protective shield. You listened to his heartbeat against his pulse, hearing him hum quietly. Before long, you were deep in sleep—feeling more at peace than you ever did before in your lonely life.
When you finally wake up, you can’t help but smile when you see Robert’s face in front of yours. His hair fell over his face, making him look more like the innocent puppy that he acted like—than the smartest man you’ve ever met. You fell back against him, relishing the contact and warmth shared.
This feels really nice.
Everything felt surreal, to be honest.
Never before, could you ever imagine that you’d be here—in the arms of someone who genuinely cared for you—and the longer you thought about it, the more your gut began to fill with butterflies. The hold the two were in was so intimate that you weren’t sure to be embarrassed by it, or to embrace it. You shuffle in Robert’s hold, rousing him from sleep.
His eyes open; full of love.
“Morning,” you reply. “How are you?”
“I should be asking you the same thing,” he huffs. He moves a tentative hand to rest it along your waist, leaving it there when he sees that you don’t recoil. He continues, “But...I’m fine, how are you, darling?”
He likes calling me that, you muse. It’s cute, really.
“I’m okay,” you say. “Last night was just...”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“I do, but it was so confusing, Robert.”
Silence, and then, “...it’s okay if you don’t want to talk.”
You meet his gaze once more, appreciating that he wasn’t going to push you into talking. Sure, you could see the curiosity and concern in his eyes—and maybe it was wrong for you to not share such crucial information—but you couldn’t bring your mind to focus on the dream. You closed your eyes, moving closer to Robert: your head against his chest.
“This feels nice,” you mutter quietly. “Relaxing.”
“You still want to head out today?”
You shake your head. “No. I just want to stay like this.”
“Alright,” he says. “Whatever you want, darling.”
The two of you stay like that for thirty more minutes—caressing each other and seeking comfort and warmth. It’s comforting to listen to the steady beat of his heart, to feel like he’s the only person in the world. You wonder what he’s thinking about and try to pry again; you still can’t read him. You wonder when he began to have feelings for you—and your best guess was that he had them ever since you knocked on his door—the day you met.
“It’s you,” you remembered him whispering to you.
You wonder if he said that because he thought you were the love of his life (which, in itself, wasn’t bad: it was just surprising and strange). You didn’t really see anything in yourself that merited such a reaction from someone, but to each their own. You weren’t a bombshell beauty, but you knew how to take care of people—and you felt happy taking care of people.
Then again, you had a similar view of Robert.
He was strange and odd (at most times), but he was also very kind and seemed to do everything in his power to impress you. At first, you did find his mannerisms and attitude to be odd—again, you didn’t really see anything in yourself that would make someone fall “head over heels” over you—but you also found that charming. He saw something in you that you couldn’t see yourself; he believed in you when you didn’t believe in yourself.
He was your best friend, even though you knew him for a month and a half. He was the best thing that happened to you in Derry, having lived a dreary life and an unfulfilling educational career. Robert was just the thing that you needed to freshen up your mundane life; and you love it. He was amazing and wonderful.
And now, he was yours.
Albeit you were still going through the motions, Robert being your first “partner,” but you had faith in yourself and him. Things were a bit rocky with the two of you having a middle ground in being aware of Derry’s (and now, Castle Rock) paranormal nature; but, that was easily made up through long conversations, and comfort.
You moved your legs so that they were intertwined with Robert’s, the fabric of his sweatpants comforting against your legs. You tilted your head upwards, meeting Robert’s gaze again—feeling a bit flustered when you realized that his eyes were trained on you still.
Was he staring at me the entire time? you question.
“When we get back,” he says, “I’m going to apply to work at the library.”
“You should,” you trail off. “Or—Y’know, work at a museum out of Derry?”
“Why out of Derry? It’s not so bad there.”
“Trust me,” you snort. “You can easily get a job out of Derry, it pays better.”
“Like where? Somewhere in Europe?”
You snort. “I didn’t mean out of the country, but that works too...Why?”
“I dunno,” Robert shrugs, shifting so that the two of you were laying side-by-side in bed. He lays on his side so that he can still have his arm wrapped around your body, causing you to smile. “We should travel around the world.”
We, you repeat in your head. He wants me to travel with him.
You find yourself smiling like a love-sick idiot. “I like that idea,” you reply honestly, and then shuffle out of bed. “I’m going to shower,” you continue, “...and then make breakfast downstairs. I’ll see you then.”
“Wait,” he calls, taking your hand in his.
Startled, you turn around to meet his gaze. Robert sits upright and leans over, pressing a kiss along your cheek—close enough to touch the corner of your lips—before letting you go. Blushing, you mutter sweet nothings to him before leaving his room and gathering your things. That definitely got you thinking about kissing him (on the lips), and you had a feeling that it wouldn’t be long until that happened.
What would it be like?
How would it feel?
Would you enjoy it?
Your head spun with questions as you showered, using body-wash and shampoo that smelled an awful lot like Robert. This is his house you dummy, you reason. Of course everything here would be used by him.
When you were done you changed into a loose black t-shirt, faded blue jeans, and slipped a teal hoodie over your body. Finding that the house was still quiet, you checked Robert’s room to find that he was knocked out back into sleep. Giggling, you closed the door and headed downstairs—phone in hand—to continue your morning.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the fridge, considering the fact that Robert had moved to Derry—and he had probably tossed all of the perishable items before they could go to waste. You closed the fridge and shuffled through the pantry, your surroundings foreign but familiar. Robert’s house was stylized similar to the one in Derry, so not everything was different. Heck, he even had a back-door view to the woods—like his house on 29 Neibolt Street; which had a view of the Barrens and the abandoned train yards.
You settled on a bag of pretzels, snacking on it while you rested on the couch, scrolling through your phone. Maybe Robert and I should go to a diner, you think to yourself.
I’m sure there’s a place around here...
After an hour or so had passed, you heard Robert trudging down the stairs, running a hand through wet locks of hair—a towel hanging over his left arm. You tossed your phone to the table, giving Robert a sly grin.
“Good morning,” you add, snickering, “again.”
He chuckles. “Morning, darling.”
“I figured we should head out,” you continue, “to eat.”
“There’s a breakfast diner down the street,” Robert says. “They should be open right now.”
You nod, smiling. “Let’s go, then.”
i really apologize for the late/lack of updates! i've been really busy lately, and with my parents taking a trip out of the country, i'll be having less time to work on this series, and most of my time will have to be dedicated to helping them run their business while they're gone. in addition to that, updates may come less now that i'm going to put more time into my actual series—the one i plan to publish—so that'll add onto the lack of updates.
i'll try to update as soon as i can.
please leave comments though! i really appreciate it when you leave them! <3