Chapter Seventy

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Returning to the large tree house as the sun started to set, carefully Meredith climbed the ladder, followed by Harry. The rifle on his back thankfully hadn't been used. Harry didn't want to kill any animals, and both knew they were in the animals' territory, but Harry was ready to protect Meredith.

It was quiet after the ladder was brought back up. Birds flew by. Their wings thumped to at never ending beat; squawks filled the cooling air. Besides them, and the occasional rustle of bushes below, it was almost silent. Yet, Meredith doubted if it ever became silent here.

Harry stood next to her on the balcony, looking out across the vastness. The world never stopped. While it was a scary feeling, to be so lost and alone out here, Harry had Meredith. His fingers curled around her hand and gave a squeeze. Meredith smiled.

"What do you think?" he asked quietly.

"I think this place is all yours, yet you bring me here."

"You're not a fan."

"It's beautifully, really."

"But you like the cities," Harry stated because he knew. "You like the sound."

"Silence scares me," Meredith admitted. "It's so ominous, like something is going to happen-- something bad. Silence has never been followed by something good in my life." It gave her chills. Even in the Highlands, there was some sound, like footsteps or water. Here, even with the animals, it was as if they all fell asleep.

"I think we should change that," Harry said calmly. "Silence isn't something to be afraid of. It is normal. It happens. In my life, usually it's amazing."

"Hmm." Meredith thought but didn't say was that it was silent, it was just her thoughts. Her thoughts scared her. They never left her, but at least in the city, she knew she wasn't alone. Inside her head in silence outside, it was scary. All the thoughts screamed-- they wanted something. She refused to give in.

Harry noticed. "Mere?"

Meredith perked up.

"Mere, what is it?"

Looking up, the moon was gone, replaced by clouds. Thankfully silence was coming tonight, and Meredith welcomed the wetness. While Harry found it was his every day life and Meredith escaped the cold of northern Wisconsin, at least it wasn't quiet. Placing her hand outside the tree house, a faint mist graced her skin. The rain only started.

"Mere?"

Bringing her hand back in, she wiped it off on his skin. "Looks like you can't escape the rain. You bring it wherever you go."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Looks like I can't." His blue eyes watched Meredith, waiting for her next move. He knew that when she became like this, she hid something, and while they stared a lot, there were some things he yet didn't know. However, he had a good guess with why she didn't like the silence.

"It is beautiful," Meredith said. "We can come back whenever you like, but it's just... different."

"How?"

"Lonely."

"I'm right beside you," he promised.

Meredith knew.

"I'll stay beside you. You don't have to be lonely, Mere." His voice was childlike, something innocent and sweet dripped from his tongue. "Whatever is going on-- whatever happens when it's silent-- you can tell me. I might... even know."

Perhaps Harry knew more than Meredith knew-- he felt more than she knew-- this wasn't the time or place. "Harry, I don't really want to talk about it."

"I think we should talk about it. Who's going to listen?" he asked. "The bird? The animals? The bugs? The rain? It's only us here. No one has to know. You can say whatever you like."

Meredith swallowed. "Sometimes I don't like what my mind has to say."

"What does it say?"

"Terrible things," Meredith whispered. "They're mean, and it hurts. When things are said in your voice, suddenly they hurt more than anything else."

"What do they say?"

"Whatever someone has told me."

"The paparazzi?"

"Sometimes. Other times it's my mother. Other times it's high school. Other times it's dumb residents," Meredith listed. "I know I shouldn't care, but when it's silent, you just start to think. Then you're deep in a hole and you can't get out."

Harry swallowed. "Mere, you should call me at times like this. We can talk about it."

"You're sleeping or you have a life, Harry."

"I love you, Mere."

"I know."

"So let me help you," Harry persisted. "Don't be so stubborn. These things aren't true-- you and I both know that. Sometimes they don't bother you, but sometimes they do. And no one understands. I am bothered too, by half of the things paparazzi or other people say to me, and I don't know why. It's not like they haven't been said before." He scoffed. "Yet, for some odd reason, it gets under my skin. It makes me feel sick. I don't understand why."

"But it's my voice, Harry. It's me telling myself that I am stupid and ugly and fat," Meredith said. "How does one just stop that? I have so much confidence sometimes, but it's all an act. I'm just scared on the inside."

"What are you scared of?"

"Everything." Anger rushed through her. "I'm scared of commitment. I'm scared of being locked in the life that you have. I'm scared of what future I might have. I'm scared of what my life is like. I'm scared of going outside and getting murdered." There were too many things. Her heartbeat rushed. Her mind pounded. Her body ached. She just needed to lie down. Yet, when she wanted sound the most, only silence came.

"Are you scared of me?"

"Of course not. I know who you are, Harry. I just have no idea who I am." 

Harry swallowed. "But you're scared of our future?"

"Absolutely."

"Are we moving too quickly?"

"No."

Harry sighed. "Mere, you're allowed to go whenever you like. I don't want you to feel like a prisoner." Harry knew what Meredith meant because his mother had felt that way too. "I want you to be able to be who you are-- whoever you are. If you feel trapped, Mere, you're allowed to get out. Just tell me, and I'll let you go," Harry promised. "I don't want you to lose who you are. I don't want you to just be another face in the crowd. You are unique and wonderful, and I wouldn't want you to be anything less than who you are.

"And I know I can't solve all the problems. I can't even begin to solve them, but I can help you, Mere."

Meredith peered at him, trying to understand his perfect words. Harry, at one point, thought he could solve it all, but it was only Meredith that knew her own pain. No matter how much she tried to describe it to someone, no one would understand. Pain wasn't felt the same way by everyone.

"Thank you, Harry." Meredith squeezed his hand.


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