Dreaming Underground (Chapter Four: The Bracelets)
The tatty, fraying black and yellow threads of his much-loved bracelet were in his dreams that night. He couldn’t remember where he had gotten it from but he’d always thought it must have been a gift to him from some distant relative who knew nothing about him but his name, that being the only thing on the vibrantly-coloured bracelet – or at least, it once had been, but by now most of the letters had gone missing, with only I and E surviving. But within his dreams, the lack of letters was insignificant.
What was significant was the way in which those black and yellow threads wound themselves tightly around Eddie’s left wrist, crossed the room to where Richie was standing, and wound themselves around his wrist too, essentially binding them together. The two of them spent the entire duration of Eddie’s dream connected not only by the threads, but more often than not by holding each other’s hands as well. Even when Eddie awoke after roughly five hours of sleeping the tingling feeling in his left hand refused to leave him, his thoughts of Richie doing the same.
Turning his head to the side, he found his friend still lying beside him, eyes closed with a peaceful look on his face. He was the pure embodiment of tranquillity, and it wasn’t often he could say something like that about Richie Tozier. It was all too tempting to brush the hair away from his eyes and gently kiss his forehead but he managed to fight off the compulsion by forcing himself to remember how he’d felt when he’d discovered that the person he’d given his first kiss to was not his best friend as he’d thought, but the nightmarish monster that would happily psychologically torture him before killing him.
But the real Richie wasn’t a thing like Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The real Richie was sweet, attractive and insanely irritating, yet still funny and entertaining. And if he suddenly became less irritating, Eddie was pretty sure that nothing would feel right anymore. He was far too loud and never knew when to shut up, but a quieter Richie would have been worrying. They were constantly bickering (which resulted in frequent comparisons between them and old married couples) but they both secretly enjoyed their petty little arguments and Eddie wouldn’t have had it any other way.
He was still thinking about all of this when Richie’s eyes fluttered open. He sat up and stretched, yawning, until his mouth curved up into a grin. Then, reaching over to the nearest nightstand to grab his glasses, he mentioned the one thing Eddie had hoped he hadn’t noticed. “You were staring at me.” His voice was serious but his grin remained on his face and he was blushing slightly, but nowhere near as much as Eddie was.
“Shut up,” Eddie hissed playfully, laughing as he picked up his pillow and hit him in the chest with it. “I just happened to look at you for a second, that’s all.”
“Yeah, right,” Richie muttered, rolling his eyes at him. After a moment, he rolled out of the bed, stretched his legs and said, “So what’s for breakfast?”
Eddie shrugged. He didn’t feel like eating and he couldn’t risk Richie getting caught by letting him wander into the kitchen on his own, so he suggested that he’d go and get something for him. His mother wasn’t up yet so he managed to sneak past her room, grab and bagel and a glass of juice from the kitchen, and quietly return to his bedroom where Richie was waiting for him without a problem.
Richie must have been hungry because he wolfed down the bagel within seconds and then looked up at him expectantly, as if he was asking for more. Eddie just scowled at him and handed him the glass of juice, encouraging him to drink it. After taking a single sip – during which Richie’s face screwed itself up into the perfect image of disgust – he spat it back out into the glass and thrust it into Eddie’s grasp. “It’s got pulp in it. I hate pulp.”
“But it’s good for you,” Eddie immediately explained, like he didn’t already know it. He just found it hard to believe that anyone would refuse something that could make them healthier, even if they didn’t necessary like it. He didn’t particularly enjoy having to take pills all the time, but they were good for him and without them he’d be even more fragile and delicate than he was when he was taking them. That – and his mother’s insistence – was why he did it.
“Then you drink it,” Richie retorted teasingly, knowing damn well that he wouldn’t – even if he hadn’t spat the juice back into the glass, Eddie still wasn’t exactly a fan of sharing food and drink even without the added touch of a mouthful of saliva. He teased him even more when Eddie looked down at the glass for a second and then almost threw up at the thought of it, adding “If that’s what you’re like about sharing a drink, then what the hell are you gonna do when I stick my tongue down your throat?” to his taunts, but it instantly became apparent that he’d gone too far because suddenly the glass had slipped from his friend’s grip and had crashed onto the floor and so had his friend, juice and glass had gone everywhere and Eddie was hyperventilating, his inhaler smashed into smithereens in the sewer so no use to anyone.
He told him he was just joking, that he wasn’t really going to do anything like it. Eddie heard him say he was sorry for the second time in twelve hours. He was on a roll. He wrapped his arms around him, begging him to breathe and rubbing his back without even caring when the shards of glass sliced at his legs as he kneeled in front of him. When Eddie seemed to be calming down, Richie yanked the blanket off the bed and flung it around his friend’s shoulders before turning away to make an attempt at cleaning up the glass with his bare hands.
But when Eddie’s condition deteriorated, he whipped round again, jumped to his feet and started in the direction of the door, telling him he was going to get his mother. He had just reached the bedroom door when a hand snatched at his ankle and Eddie practically yelled at him not to go. “You’ll…” He took a deep, shaky breath. “Get in trouble,” he finished, the panic still very much alive in his voice. “I’ll be fine. Just… give me a minute.” Richie nodded hesitantly and came away from the door, sitting back down on the floor beside his friend. “I had my first kiss yesterday,” Eddie explained to him quietly once he’d calmed himself down (with Richie’s aid, naturally). He kept his gaze trained on the carpeted floor, afraid to look his friend in the eye and directly witness his reaction.
“Wow, that bad, huh?” Richie joked, though he was half-serious about believing his friend had been traumatised by his first kiss.
“Well, the kiss itself wasn’t bad,” Eddie went on, his cheeks turning a bright shade of pink. “It’s just…” He squeezed his eyes shut tightly and took a long, deep breath, preparing to tell his friend what had happened. “I kissed the fucking clown.” It came out as a sort of whispered screech and he could tell Richie had to do a double take, pausing for a minute to comprehend what he had just heard him say.
“Did you just say you kissed the clown? The fucking clown?” His eyes were wide in astonishment and Eddie could tell he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or throw up. “Well, I’m sort of impressed,” Richie eventually admitted, nonchalantly leaning his back against the wall next to the bed. “So it was good, right? – you said it wasn’t bad – but what’s… Why? Why did you kiss It?”
“Because I thought it was you!”
He yelled it a little too loudly and for a short while there was only tense silence enveloping them, until his mother’s footsteps began thundering towards his room and she was calling out for him, asking what all the noise was. Temporarily forgetting the tense moment that had just occurred, Eddie hissed at his friend to hide and Richie promptly threw himself under the bed, the blanket falling down enough to cover his view of the door just in time before Eddie’s mother burst in, demanding to know who her son was talking to.
Eddie didn’t like lying at the best of times and lying to his mother was always going to be worse, but he had to for Richie’s sake (as well as his own, because it while Richie would have gotten the brunt of any ferocious hostility, he probably wouldn’t get away without at least taking some of it; he had been the one to let his friend into the house against his mother’s instruction, after all). So he told her, rather unimaginatively, that he’d been talking to himself. She narrowed her eyes and looked at him curiously, silently asking for an elaboration, to which he hastily replied that he’d been practising speaking in front of the mirror to try and improve his confidence.
She seemed to buy into his deception and nodded, reminding him to eat breakfast and clean up the mess before walking away and gently shutting the door behind her, but it was only after she left that Eddie realised he didn’t even have a mirror in his bedroom.
He held his breath, expecting her to realise it too and return angry at his lie, and waited for several minutes before signally to the boy underneath his bed that it was safe for him to come out.
Richie crawled out from beneath the bed and sat cross-legged on the floor, staring at his friend as the uncomfortable tension creeped up on them both. Eddie stared back, biting his lower lip.
Then, without uttering a single word, Richie took something out of his pocket and leaned across the floor, sliding it over to him. “This yours?” he asked casually, ignoring the tension returning from their earlier conversation. “I’ve had it for years and almost forgot I even had it. Mine went missing a long time ago and I found this one instead. It’s similar but…”
Unbeknownst to Eddie, his friend was still droning on, a monotonous sound of static in the background of Eddie’s mind as he gazed down at the object Richie was suggesting belonged to him. It was a bracelet made with blue and crimson threads, a series of beads hanging in the middle of it, each with its own letter imprinted on it, spelling out the name Eddie.
Nodding, he stuffed it into his pocket and headed into the kitchen for a brush he could sweep the broken glass up with. Richie watched him from the doorway, his gaze trained on Eddie’s light movements and with a smile on his face.