My heart pounded. I gasped, my breath ragged. My throat closed up. I started to panic. What was happening? Why couldn't I breathe?
"Look at me. Look at me," he said. "You're okay."
"I can't. I can't," I gasped, unable to get out more than two words. The wind had been knocked out of me.
"Exhale. Exhale," he told me. "You can breathe. It's just a side effect."
I forced myself to exhale. My heart rate slowed, and I had a moment of clarity. It was over. I could breathe.
"There you go," he said.
"What happened?" I asked. I looked around wildly, trying to get some sense of what had changed. We were in the same spot we'd been a moment before. But I knew we were trapped.
We'd been walking through the ruins. At the moment, we were standing in the center of a circle of stones. Each stone was over twenty feet high and stood spaced at ten foot intervals. It was far too small to be an arena for jousting, but you could have a nice sword fight here without much difficulty.
Portals to other worlds had opened here, long ago, when the links between the worlds were stronger. My grandmother had told me about them. Most people didn't believe the portals existed anymore.
I could feel the energy pulsating around us now. I wondered for a moment if we'd stumbled on an active portal. No. No. That couldn't be possible. This wasn't a portal.
I picked up a rock and tossed it between two of the standing stones. It bounced off and hit the knobby grass with a dull thud. The invisible barrier now surrounding us flashed dark blue for a moment before turning invisible. I knew what this was. It was a Truth Field.
Truth Fields weren't something that just happened. They had to be set up and activated. Who had set this one up? The obvious culprit was standing right next to me. It's the sort of thing Oliver would do. It had been years. Years of silence, and he'd come back.
"What did you do?" I demanded. I drew my crossbow, suddenly feeling threatened. He was the one who had led me to this spot. He was the one who had suggested we take a walk.
"Whoa. Whoa," Oliver said. "I didn't do anything."
"First you say 'let's go for a walk' and suddenly we're caught in an active Truth Field? You told me you didn't believe in coincidence, so don't even think you're going to start with that one. Five years! Five years of total silence from you, of me believing that you hated me, and now you show up? You're never going to know that my heart was broken for years, and I grieved in the silence. The silence you left me in forever. You hurt me. What am I doing?"
I said all of this in one breath, the words coming out before I even had time to think about what I was saying. I clamped a hand over my mouth. Refusing to go on. But the truth was so liberating that the words threatened to spill out.
I held the crossbow in front of me, taking a defensive position. "I healed. I moved on. I moved on because you wouldn't. You never forgave me. Great! I did it again."
"Heather, it's okay," Oliver said. He held up his hands in a gesture of peace. "Truth Fields don't just make you tell the truth. Some make you want to tell the truth. They manipulate your emotions, taking control of the dominant emotion to draw out the truth."
"A+. Gold star for the perfect student. Don't patronize me." I'd been irritated when we'd begun our walk, and now this irritation had grown to utter rage.
"Did you do this?" I asked. "You can't lie to me. Did you do this?" The wind had picked up, blowing my locks of hair around me. I took a step back, leveling the crossbow at his heart.
Oliver's cloak flapped and his hood flew down. I could see his dark hair just starting to curl on the ends. That's when I used to ask him to cut it. He had scruff, but nothing that could really be called a beard. Not yet anyway. Those emerald eyes looked straight into mine for the first time in five years.
"No," Oliver said flatly. He appeared calm, like he'd experienced Truth Fields before and was used to the effects enough to ignore them. "But I think I know who did."
"Calista Landin. I went to visit her in prison a few days ago. It's a long story. I knew her before."
"You mean to tell me that you're friends with the psychopath who tried to kill Trinity to open a portal to another world?" I scoffed. "I didn't want to know that. And she managed to pull this off while she's incarcerated? You expect me to believe that?"
"Let's ignore the improbability of that and focus on why. That's how we're going to get out of here."
I took a deep breath. He was right. I hated that.
"Can you put that down?" Oliver pointed at my drawn crossbow.
"It's not like you're out weaponed, unless you stopped carrying around throwing knives," I pointed out. But I relented and slung the crossbow strap back over my shoulder.
Oliver shrugged. "Some things don't change."
I examined the Truth Field barrier. It went out to the circle of stones and glowed blue when I touched it. Impossible to break through.
"Why do you think it was Calista?" I asked.
"Calista breaks rules. Sealed Truth Fields are illegal. And she specialized in Blue Star. This Truth Field is about our memories. Our past." Oliver struck the barrier, emphasizing to me that he was also trapped. Sometimes Truth Fields were set up for a specific person. Anyone else could move in and out.
"Blue Star. Memory. Thank you, stardust engineer," I said sarcastically, slow-clapping. That was stardust 101. Even I knew that.
This one was for both of us. I wanted to scream. Personally, I had the inclination to shoot him. No, I didn't want that. Not really. I shoved the thought away. This was someone I had loved. I had loved him once. Oliver Moon.
"I went to see Calista," Oliver explained. "She told me I had baggage from my past. She told me I had to stop running from it. I came to see you, because I knew she was right. Didn't think she'd go this far. But hey, that's what I get for getting involved with a psychopath."
I cocked an eyebrow. "Are you referring to Calista or someone else?"
"Calista and someone else. Can we start with five years ago?" Oliver asked. "That's what this is about. We're stuck here until we spill our guts. Only the truth is going to break this thing."
"Fine. You first."
"Ask me anything," Oliver said.
For the first time in a long time, I felt like he was ready to talk. "Did you hate me?" I asked. "After I told you the answer was no?"
"Yes." For a moment, the Truth Field shimmered around us. Its power was weakening already.
"Do you hate me now?" I asked. I thought back to the night in the café. About how I had left him alone, about how I had told him I couldn't marry him. I didn't regret ending it, but I wish I had been kinder, somehow done it differently.
Oliver paused. His brow furrowed for a moment as he chose his words. He'd been in Truth Fields a lot then. Enough to learn how to fight them and think. But he still couldn't lie. No one could lie in a Truth Field.
"Because no matter how much I hated you, it wouldn't change the fact that you left me. A lot happened in those five years. I got kidnapped by a narcissist after you left the café actually. Long story, might actually make a full-length novel at some point.
His name was Darien. He could erase people's memories, and all I wanted to do was forget. I wanted to forget about you. Forget about the pain. I wanted peace, and he used that to manipulate me. He even promised me that he could make you forget that you'd broken up with me if that's what I wanted. But then he tried to erase the memories of every single being, and my friends had to stop him..."
"You're making this up," I accused. None of this could be real. Surely someone would have heard about it.
"I am literally in a Truth Field. Shut up. They stopped Darien, but the side effect was that everyone except us forgot about the events that occurred. The biggest cover-up ever. But what's a few days in comparison to the life memories of every single person? Had to weigh that risk.
I was on the wrong side, assisting in Darien's plan. Darien tried to get me to kill someone. My friends almost died. And there was this kid, Jakendra, who gave up her memories to stop Darien. By all accounts, I deserved to be incarcerated for life if not worse for everything I did. But that's not what I got. I changed. Jakendra showed me forgiveness looks like. If she could forgive me for everything that I had done, then I could at least work on not hating you."
The confession flowed from him, with the ease that comes from a Truth Field. But he paused for a moment now. As if he really wanted to make sure I heard what he said next.
"I don't hate you. Not anymore. But you still used me. Still hurt me. I loved you. I wanted to marry you, Heather. But you wouldn't give me an answer. All you did was play games."
His eyes, which had been distant, came back to focus on me. They were soft now, almost misty as he became lost in the memories.
"The absence of pain isn't joy. Hating you or forgetting you wasn't going to change what happened. It happened. You didn't want to be with me."
The Truth Field shimmered again.
"I tried to reach you afterward," I said. "I tried to patch things up." It was a feeble response. I realized all over again how much I had hurt him.
"I know," he said. "I didn't want to hear from you ever again. That's why I ignored you. But it seems like you made out okay in the end."
I almost smiled. "I suppose I did."
"My turn. I'm done running now. What do you want to say to me?" Oliver asked.
It was the question I had longed for him to ask all those years ago. I took a deep breath. I thought back to what I had done. "If I could do it all over again, I would have told you 'no' sooner. You wanted me to commit. I felt that we weren't right for each other. The unselfish thing would have been to let you go."
It was something I felt I could never get him to understand. How I had loved him but had still known that we weren't right for each other. "I liked being with you. I did love you. But we wouldn't have been good for each other. You made me feel good. You made me feel special and loved. So, I didn't answer you, because I didn't want it to end."
The truth laid bare was ugly and raw. I had been a jerk. A selfish jerk.
Oliver almost smiled. "You did love me then?" he asked. "I thought you didn't."
"Yes. I did." I tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear and glanced at the Truth Field. It was still there. We hadn't done enough to break it yet. I had to tell him the rest of it.
"I was obsessed with how you hated me, how you'd gone from wanting to be with me every minute to actively walking away every time I walked by. You made a point to ignore me. And you didn't forgive me. I became consumed with the hope that you would one day welcome me back with open arms. Best friends forever. That didn't happen.
Relationships are messy. You weren't perfect either. You manipulated my emotions and you weren't honest about who you were. And you hurt me by walking away and refusing to forgive me.
But you did teach me something. You taught me that sometimes you don't get the closure you want. And you have to learn to move on even if someone won't forgive you. You have to be ready to forgive, even if they never ask. Sometimes, that's the best you can do."
The words that had been kept in silence for years flew from my lips, impossible to hold back.
The hatred and anger I had felt toward him had melted, and I remembered the core truth to it all. Truth fields were about more than being honest about emotions. It was about relaying the experiences. What you knew.
I was close to tears. I tried to not look at him because if I did, I knew I would cry. I didn't want to cry. "I believe that God forgave me for how I hurt you and the mistakes that I made. And I learned to rest in that, even though you decided to never talk to me again. I learned to be okay with that."
"Will you forgive me?" he asked.
I was surprised at this question. I thought about all the pain we had caused each other. All the times we had been so focused on ourselves that we'd forgotten the other person. All the dishonesty. "Only if you'll forgive me," I said.
He nodded, so subtle I almost missed it. But I nodded back.
The Truth Field burst in a shower of blue sparks. We were free. I sighed, letting the tension leave my shoulders.
I couldn't have married him. He hadn't been ready when I had known him. I still knew even now. He might have changed, but he was no longer mine. But in that moment a peace filled my soul. I'd given up on ever seeing him again, ever talking with him again. But here we were.
We didn't say anything as we walked back to my house. I paused by the door. "Why today though? Why now?" I asked.
Oliver reached a hand into his pocket. He pulled out a small jewelry box. He opened it and showed me the ring inside. "I already know where I'm going to propose."
My throat tightened, and I just nodded.
"I'm ready now. Thank you."
Far away in a dark prison: Calista smiled to herself, watching the entire scene unfold. She had wondered if Oliver would actually go through with it. But with the energy she had harnessed from the Truth Field, there would be enough. "I'm coming, Darien. And I'm going to bring you home."
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About the Creator
Passionate writer that is enthusiastic about writing engaging, compelling content. Excels in breaking down complex concepts into simple terms and connecting with readers through sharing stories and personal experience.