Chapter Twelve - I am G
“Willow.” I recognized the voice above me before I closed my eyes. Kalen was here. “Fuck Willow. What did he do to you.”
I opened my eyes and looked up, it was lighter out now, morning had well and truly begun to take hold. Kalen stared down at me, his eyes dark with concern. He lifted my head and pulled me in close to him. “You’re freezing.”
“Why are you here Kalen.” I mumbled. “How’d you know.”
“I’ll explain later. We have to call an ambulance.”
Kalen held his phone out and began to dial 911. “No, please. The sirens, he’ll find me.”
Kalen looked back down at me, tears lined his eyes and he clenched his jaw. “Okay. We need to get you to the hospital though Willow. You’re severely injured… and probably hypothermic.”
“We should wait.” I whispered confused. “My friend… G, he’s on his way.”
Kalen looked away for a second and shook his head. “This wasn’t how I wanted you to find out Willow.”
I felt my brow furrow, even though it hurt to do so. “Find out what.”
“I’m G.” he whispered.
My stomach rolled and I tried to ignore the nausea, but it was too much. I was too overwhelmed. Before my eyes, G evaporated, as though he were never there… because he never had been, it had been Kalen. I sat up and dry heaved, until I couldn’t breathe.
“Relax.” Kalen soothed. “I’ll explain later. Let’s get you to the hospital.”
I nodded, too tired to get the full story right now… as much as I wanted it. I held my hand out, but Kalen shook his head and put his arms under my knees, and around my back. Although I knew it took all his strength, he made it seem like I was weightless, standing up, carrying me out through the gates. We were almost at his car when I saw him, my father, running toward us. His face like thunder. I didn’t know how he’d found me, I just cared that he had.
“Kalen.” I whispered. “He’s here.”
“Fuck.” he muttered under his breath. He slipped the keys into my hand and placed me down by his car. “Get in and lock the doors Willow.”
“He’ll hurt you.” I whispered.
“Not if I hurt him first.” he replied walking toward my father. “You need to turn around and leave Mr. Hartford.”
“Or what pip-squeak.” My father shouted as he grew closer.
Kalen looked back at me for a second, still leaning haplessly against the door of his car. “Get in the car Willow. Now!”
I nodded, and unlocked the car, I opened the car door and sat down in the seat. By the time I had locked the doors my father and Kalen were face to face. My father threw the first punch, but Kalen dodged it and followed it up with a hook to the jaw. Dad fell back, seemingly shocked by the contact. He soon straightened himself up and went to throw another, Kalen blocked it before punching my father hard in the gut. My father leaned over, in obvious pain. Kalen began shouting, telling my father to go. I almost thought he would and so did Kalen, who for a second let his guard down, he looked back at me and shot me a bittersweet smile just as my father looked up with menacing eyes and launched at Kalen, I banged on the window, but it was too late, my father had Kalen in a headlock. Kalen struggled and almost fought him off but it was too much, and although they were facing away from me now, I could tell he was beginning to lose the will to keep fighting.
I mustered all my strength and unlocked the car door. Silently I slipped out of the car and although it hurt like a thousand knives stabbing into my gut I walked to the edge of the footpath and picked up a large broken branch. I knew I only had the energy for one hit, so I needed to make it count. I lifted my arms, the branch heavy in my hands and brought it down hard on top of my fathers head. He groaned loudly and released a breathless Kalen before falling down onto the pavement.
Kalen stood up and looked at me in shock. I dropped the branch on the ground and almost collapsed. Kalen caught me.
“Let’s go.” he muttered. “Before he wakes up.”
“Not to the hospital, please Kalen.” I whispered. “He’ll find me.”
“I won’t let him get to you Willow.” He promised. “You need to see a doctor.”
I sat in the seat and curled up, the pain so searing everything seemed brighter than usual, and louder. Kalen walked back around to his side and hopped in. The car purred to life and we drove off, leaving my father injured on the pavement.
I watched Kalen as he drove, his face pale. He glanced at me and placed his hand over mine. “Stay with me Willow.” He begged.
I nodded, but I could feel myself slipping, the brightness around me intensified, and then just like the lights going out in a power cut, everything went black.
I couldn’t open my eyes when the car stopped, when Kalen shouted for help. I could barely understand the words around me, but I tried.
“She needs to go to theatre now…. Possible internal bleeding.”
The sounds were muffled, but I could tell we were moving. I couldn’t hear Kalen.
“Where is the boy that brought her in?”
“The security guards have taken him to a room. He was shaken and had grazing on his knuckles. They’ve called the police.”
I couldn’t focus anymore, the voices without faces muffled into white noise.
When I woke again I felt light and surprisingly pain free. My face felt tight and swollen and I knew I must have looked a mess. I lifted my hands up, there was a brace on one and line with fluids attached to the other. It was daylight now well and truly, in fact I could see that it was nearing into the late afternoon.
Kalen. I thought Idly, I looked around but I was all alone. I needed to make sure he was okay. Before I needed to ring the buzzer a nurse walked in with a jug of water and a cup.
“My friend.” I croaked. “Kalen, the one who brought me in. Where is he?”
The nurse tilted her head and bit her lip. “You don’t deserve to be beaten up for love.”
“Excuse me?” I retorted, the words came out like a drunk drawl, whatever the drugs were that I was on, they were strong.
“The boy, your boyfriend?”
I shook my head. “My friend, he saved me… my father was going to attack me again.”
Her eyes widened and she lifted her hand to her mouth. She placed the jug down and hurried out of the room without any further explanation. It was five full minutes before anyone came back. A doctor walked in with two officers and smiled kindly at me. She walked around to the side of the bed and pulled the chair in close. She placed her hand over mine and leaned in.
“You’re a very lucky girl. You were minutes away from hemorrhaging when you were brought in.” The doctor exclaimed. “You’ve got a few bruises and your wrist has a hairline fracture. We stemmed the internal bleeding and you will be fine, you will just need to take it easy for a few days. We’ll keep you in overnight, and reevaluate how you are in the morning.
“Thank you doctor.” I murmured. “Uh, where is my friend, Kalen.”
The doctor looked over at the police officers and nodded. “The police would like to have a few words. We can wait till a parent comes in if you’d like.”
“No.” I almost yelled, attempting to lunge forward, and for the first time since I’d opened my eyes I felt searing pain. I winced and edged back into the bed. “My father cannot know I am here.”
I looked at the cops and pleaded with them. “I know I am a minor, and my father is my guardian…. But he did this to me. He’s been violent with my Mom too.”
The cops looked surprised, they wrote things down on their notepads. “Where is Kalen?” I asked for the third time.
“When a young woman presents in the emergency room severely beaten and a young man brings her in with bruising and grazing to his knuckles, questions need to be answered.” One of the Police officers explained.
“Did he tell you he had to fight my father off, that my father almost killed him too, he had him in a headlock. I had to hit my dad over the head to get him to let go.” I lifted my hand to my mouth and bit back a gasp. What if I had killed my father, what if he was still in the street. Would I be going to prison?
“Perps say anything to get off the perceived crime Ma’am.”
“Well did he?”
The other cop lifted his walkie talkie and pressed the button. “Release the boy into the custody of his parents. The girl has corroborated his story.”
I let out a sigh and closed my eyes. The battle was only half won though, my father was still out there and my mother was still missing. I told the police everything I knew. The had someone go out and check the spot where Kalen and I had left my dad on the pavement, and there was no one there. After a breakdown, the police assured me that he wouldn’t be able to get to me. After hours, when the sun had pretty much set my room was finally empty. But only for a short time. Just after dinner, Kalen walked through my door.
He shoved his hands in his pockets and scuffed along the ground.
“I’m sorry they held you in custody.” I mumbled. “I shouldn’t have brought you into this.”
Kalen shook his head. “I’m glad you brought me into this Willow.”
I nodded and watched Kalen as he stood uncomfortably by the door. He didn’t seem big and strong right now, he seemed weak and vulnerable, like something heavy was weighing on his mind. And then I remembered. I hadn’t brought him into it. I had brought G into it.
“Only I didn’t bring you into it did I.” I whispered. “I called G.”
“Willow.” He murmured softly.
“I don’t know how to feel Kalen.” I said. “I feel like I’ve lost someone. I know its only been a short time, but G came along right when I needed him and now he’s gone, now he never existed.”
“I exist, I am G… Willow. You don’t need to feel like you’ve lost anyone.”
I shook my head. “When did you figure it out Kalen, why didn’t you say anything?”
Kalen’s eyes broke contact with mine, he gazed out the window for a solid minute before looking back at me. “I never meant for it to go. I was only meant to break the ice, get you talking to me and then tell you who I was.”
Stunned into silence, I could only listen.
“I truly needed a tutor. I did. I worked out it was you. See when we were kids, Solitaire was your superhero name your birthday is on the 12th of May. I had a feeling it was you. So I picked you because I’m weak, because I needed to feel better about myself… Willow I’m so sorry. I know I should have told you right away. I planned to come clean today… when we met in front of the school but then…..”
“Stop.” I finally managed to utter. I was no longer looking at him and I couldn’t listen to anymore. My heart ached to much. Had I just been some kind of experimental joke all along? Kalen had know… from the start. He had orchestrated this. “You need to leave.”
“Willow.” Kalen's voice broke. I looked up at him, surprised to find deep emotion in his face and tears lining his eyes. “Please. My parents said you can stay with us, let me keep you safe.”
“You tricked me. I told you things… I wouldn’t have if….” I stopped. “I don’t want to stay with you Kalen. I don’t want to see you. Leave.”
He nodded and then turned to the door. “I never meant to hurt you Willow.”
“I know. But you did.”
The door opened and closed, and I was alone once more. The tears began flowing and I couldn’t stop them, even though the salt within them burned the marks my father had left on my skin. I hadn’t just lost G, I’d lost Kalen too, and my mom… and although I’d never really had him… my father too. I had lost everyone who had ever meant something to me.
I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes. For what good it would do, I tried to sleep. So that for one moment I could forget everything.
The doctors kept me in a few days, mostly because there was no where else to send me. I couldn’t go home and I had no other family. When the social worker after three days of waiting, walked in, I felt a weird kind of relief.
“So we’re agreed.” She murmured. “Group home till graduation, We’ll help you get set up for college and then you’re on your own.”
“That was the plan anyway.” I replied. “Thank you.”
“No problem Miss Hartford. I’ll have the doctors sign your discharge, and we’ll be on our way.”
It was only an hour before I was walking out of the hospital with the social worker. The group home was on the other side of town. Far far away from school, and my home. It was full of other kids, some my age, some younger. All broken lost souls in the system. I felt them watch me as the social worker led me inside. But unlike all the looks I’d received in my lifetime, these ones weren’t ones of judgement. They were ones of understanding.
The social worker spoke to someone, the house mother I supposed while I looked around. The home was nothing flash, an old Victorian place that was in need of some TLC. There were hundreds of pictures adorning the walls. Children of all ages, standing out front of the building.
“Willow.” The social worker exclaimed. “I’m going to go now. The police will be by in an hour or so to take you to your home to get some things.”
I looked at her and nodded. Unsure of what to think or how to feel about returning to that place. My father was still missing, maybe he’d returned there by now.
“Thank you.” I smiled.
“Good luck.” She replied as she walked to the door.
“Willow.” the woman who ran the home said with a soft voice. I turned to look at her. She was short and homely, dressed in old jeans and a oversized purple jumper. Her hair was loosely pulled back into a bun. She hand fine lines in the corners of her almond shaped green eyes and a kind smile. “Let me show you to your room. You will be sharing with Lucy, she’s 15.”
I nodded. “Okay.”
She walked up the stairs and I followed behind her. “Curfew is 8:30pm. I know that is early, but it’s important that you stick to it. Especially in your case. Understood?”
“Please, honey call me Maggie.”
“Here we are.” She soothed stopping at the top of the stairs, there was a bedroom door to our right. She knocked on the door and waited until a young girl opened the door.
“Lucy, this is Willow. Willow this is Lucy.”
Lucy eyes widened at the sight of me, I wasn’t sure if it was because I still looked bruised and grazed or because she recognized me.
“You’re a senior at my school.” She whispered. “The one they….”
Ah, so it was the latter.
“Yeah.” I replied. “That’ll be me.”
Maggie left me with Lucy and I settled myself in. I could sense Lucy’s eyes on me as I sat down on my new bed. I looked over at her and smiled. She reminded me of myself, short with dark brown hair and thick black rimmed glasses. She wore tom boyish clothes like I did too. She frowned and looked down.
“Is it true that you and Kalen Adams are a thing?” she asked gingerly. “It’s what everyone has been saying. The rumor was that you’d both eloped.”
“Eloped? Hasn’t he been at school then.”
“No.” She murmured. “That girl, his ex girlfriend… the cheerleader was baying for blood. She stood up in the cafeteria and basically screamed that you and Kalen weren’t a thing.”
I smiled, amused that for a moment I’d effected Tiffany in the way she had always tried to get to me. Then I looked at Lucy and shook my head.
“We’re just friends.” I explained. “Were just friends.”
“Yeah, long story. Condensed version is that he lied to me.”
“People lie all the time.” Lucy replied. “He probably thought he had a good reason for it.”
I lay back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. “Maybe.”
The police arrived an hour later and drove me to my home. They assured me that they had been through the house before picking me up, and would be with me as I walked through. That didn’t lessen the anxiety swelling inside of me of course. As we drew closer I wanted to run further and further away. The car pulled in the driveway a few minutes later, my fathers no where to be seen. The police led me up the path and opened the door. The house seemed cold and dark without anyone living inside of it. A shiver rolled down my back as I walked up the stairs to my room. I pushed the door open and tried not to gasp, but I couldn’t help it. I looked down where I had been curled in a ball, small specks of dried blood patterned the ground. Nausea rolled through me. He could have killed me.
I looked to my desk, the laptop was there and in one piece. I packed a large bag of clothes, my school books and grabbed the laptop. I looked at the cops and nodded, anxious to get the hell away from this place for the last time.
Back at the group home I unpacked my things and then sat on my bed with my laptop. There was no message from G today.
I did have an email from him though, three in fact. Using the email address G had owned…
From: [email protected]
Subject: I need to explain.
Willow, please let me explain. I know it won’t fix things. I don’t expect you to forgive me… I just. I need to talk to you.
From: [email protected]
Subject: No Subject
My parents said you’re still in hospital. I can’t stop thinking about you. About whether you’re okay or not. They can’t tell me what’s happening…. Stupid confidentiality.
What I did was wrong. I know that. Willow…
I messed up.
From: [email protected]
Subject: Every time I close my eyes
I see you, cold… alone… on the ground barely breathing. Willow. I thought you were…. I thought I’d failed again. I thought..
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