“Do you have everything?” I asked.
Olivia chuckled. “That’s the third time you ask.”
“I know. I just want to be sure.” I pointed out, rechecking my suitcase for the fourth time. Just in case. We did travel a lot within two months. I’d have taken her outside the country, but ... one condition of my early release was that I shouldn’t leave the country until the 5 years have passed. I can go from one US State to the other, but I can’t even cross the border with Mexico. Not for another 2 years.
It doesn’t really make sense to me, because if I wanted to disappear, I can assure you the whole freaking United States of America would be sufficient, but my uncle’s lawyers thought it was a smart move. Opposed to no leaving Boston for any reason at all, it is a good deal, I guess.
“Mmh ... you don’t seem too eager to go back.” She mentioned, squinting her eyes, the way she does when she’s suspicious.
“What makes you think that?” She may not be Silvia, but Olivia is pretty good at understanding me, too. She did meet me when I was someone else, after all.
She met me when there still was an ounce of the old Jake Watson left inside me. She met me when I still held onto hope, because my mom was still alive, and she was somewhat responding to cures. I could hope.
Olivia walked over to me, and, with her sweet lovely smile, she wrapped her arms around my torso. “You keep on delaying.”
I half smiled and cupped her cheeks, gluing our bodies closer to hide the fact that she was right. “Maybe I just like being alone with you. Like old times.”
Her cheeks tinged a little pink, but she didn’t giggle as she used to. I like the fact that I was able to give her back an inkling of who she was back in the day, though. Before life decided to mess with her.
“We’ve been on the road for two months now, Jake. Don’t you think it’s enough?” Olivia argued, yet without pulling back.
I stroked her cheeks with my thumbs, leaning in enough for our noses to nuzzle each other. “I just want to make sure you’re alright.” And that your ex husband has lost track of you enough not to come chase you once we’re back to Boston. He doesn’t have my means, hell, he doesn’t have many means, so that should help us.
“You mean you want to make sure Walter doesn’t come after me.” Olivia pointed out.
I half smiled. She is a smart one, obvious. “If he comes after you, Liv, then he’s way more stupid than I thought.” But you know, these kinds of men are indeed as stupid as ape shits.
Olivia cracked a small smile, and took a closer refuge in my arms, leaving her head on my chest. “There’s no one and nothing that can hurt me as long as you’re with me. I know that.”
I suppose I’ve engrained that certainty in her head years ago, every time I repeated, over and over again, that her bullies would not dare touch her anymore. Until I was around, until they knew they had to face me if they dared touch her, nobody would hurt her.
18 years old JAKE
I slowed down, checking my beats. Still fast as hell. I shouldn’t have troubles at the next race, even with the broken rib. Definitely I shouldn’t have jumped off that cliff the other week, but ... oh, well. It wasn’t that high after all. The feeling of flying was more interesting, whatever doctors may say.
As I walked back home, I noticed a small group of kids just around the corner before my house. They were gathered around something, but I couldn’t tell what was it exactly. I would have thought they’d found a dead squirrel or something, but I heard shouts and cries.
Since I had to go that way nevertheless, I neared them, and as I got closer, I realized it wasn’t something they were gathered around, it was someone. Legs concealed her from me, but I could see pretty well it was a girl. A girl on the floor, crying. What the fuck?
“Hey!” I shouted once I realized there was somebody kicking her in the stomach. “Why don’t you pick on someone of your own size?” There were four boys, I think they were my age more or less. They surrounded a fifth one as he hit the girl. Ugh, bullies. Scum of the Earth. Yet I get the bad reputation.
The guy had been about to aim another kick at her when I shouted, so he stopped mid-air. I wasn’t close enough to stop that kick, but sure as hell I would be to stop the rest. The boy eyed me for a long, long moment, and I think he recognized me, because something sparkled in his eyes ... something like fear. I know that kind of look all too well. I had to do my best not to smirk.
Bullies are cowards. All of them. The moment they realize there’s somebody stronger than them, they cower back in fear.
“You shouldn’t poke your nose where you don’t belong.” The guy said, his voice a little too deep for him to be a teenager, yet I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him at school. Hell, I’m pretty sure he’s a senior like me. Maybe he’s repeated the year a couple of times.
“I live here, dumbass. You’re standing right beside my house.” I spat once I was close enough.
The guys with him gaped at the house-sorry, mansion behind them, and their eyes widened. “Wait, you’re ...” One of them blubbered, staggering back while the others stared at me, speechless.
“I am.” I anticipated him. “Now ...” I cracked my knuckles, “you can leave with a warning and all of your limbs still intact, or you can put up a fight and I can count every bone of yours I break for each of the kicks you gave the girl. What’s it gonna be?”
The guy that’d been kicking the girl smirked. “You’re one, and we’re five. You seriously think you can make it?”
I rolled my eyes. What’s with punks and their acting like movie villains? “Seriously?” I scoffed. I raised my hand to point at them, which had his four friends already cower back, frightened. “You’re gonna go with that line? You know that, every time a villain says that, he inevitably gets beaten up?”
He scoffed. “I’m not scared of you, Jake Watson. You may be all tough, but I’m not scared.”
“Your pals are, though.” I laughed. “Look at them ...” I sniffed the air, “Man, I think one or two already pissed themselves. Is that the ‘army’ you wanna rile up against me?” I took a few steps closer, and the kids backed up. I really love it when this happens.
“Barney, let’s go ...” One of them begged – yes, begged. “You don’t know what ... he’s ...” I swear, his teeth chattered, “... you don’t know what he’s capable of ...”
Nothing bad, really. It’s just that I’ve won a few championships over the years. Boxing championships, that is. But I think it’s mostly the fact that I am labeled as oh, so dangerous. Bad boy, I think that’s what they call me. Not in my face, that is.
I don’t really mind. Every school’s gotta have one, better me than some actual criminal, right?
Barney, as I suppose the bold guy goes by, stepped back from the girl. “It isn’t over, you know.” He told her.
I clenched my jaw. “It is over.” I spat, taking a step closer to him. “Whatever you think this girl’s done to you, consider yourselves even.”
“Or?” He scoffed.
I sighed. These people just never learn. “I promised my baby sister I wouldn’t get into a fight on her birthday ... you don’t wanna make me break that promise, do you? I mean, that would really, really piss me off, Barney.” I clenched my jaw, standing a mere inch from him. “And you know you don’t wanna see what happens when I’m pissed off.”
“Barney, let’s go ...” the boy from before begged. The others were long gone. Cowards.
“Yeah, Barney, go.” I taunted with a smirk.
He gritted his teeth for a moment, but when he realized he had no backup, he gave up. Growling, he stepped back from me, but he made one, awful mistake. As he neared the girl, he kicked her ankle, hissing: “I’ll see you tomorrow.” I couldn’t ignore that, could I? See? It’s not my fault, they provoke me.
I grabbed Barney’s arm, and twisted it behind his back fast enough for him to barely realize it. I stepped back from the girl with him, and let him go. I knew he’d charge at me, so I was prepared. I dodged the jab he aimed at my face, and I aimed one punch, just one, at his gut. It left him speechless, and he dropped to his knees.
I grabbed a fistful of his hair, and tilted his head up, so that he could face me as I hissed: “Now listen closely, Barney. I didn’t mean for things to get ugly, but you twisted my hand.” I tugged at his hair, and he screamed in pain. “You touch one hair on the girl’s head, I make you regret you were ever born. You hear me?”
“Not to me.” I forced him to stand, and kicked his calf to make him move towards the girl. “To her.”
“I-I’m sorry ...”
When I noticed her t-shirt was a little torn, and she had a few bruises all over her skin, my jaw clenched. “Did he do more than what I saw?” I asked her.
She was trembling, terrified to reply, either because traumatized or because she feared Barney here would retaliate if she snitched. Somehow her silence spoke louder, though.
I tugged at the guy’s arm harshly, and threw him onto the ground. “You will forget she ever existed, Barney.” I kicked his stomach for good measure, causing him to growl in pain. “If I get winds of one finger, just one finger you’ve laid on her again, you’re a dead man walking, Barney. You hear that?”
He nodded slowly, and his friend helped him stand. As they walked away, I neared the girl, who was still lying on the floor, scared. I took her hand, and helped her stand. “You okay?”
She was trembling, though. Inhaling deeply, I reached for the back of her knees. “Now don’t be scared. I’m only taking you inside to cure these wounds. I don’t mean any harm, okay?” I didn’t really wait for her answer before I seized her up in my arms, but she did nod warily.
When I got to the gate, I kicked it, knowing security guards were watching from the cameras. The girl had to really be unlucky. Had those bullies attacked just a street behind, the guards could have seen and taken action before me.
“Open up!” I yelled. A couple of seconds later the gate moved, so I crossed it. By the time I was at the door, there was already a guard coming my way. This goddamn place is more guarded than a mafia leader’s house.
“Do you need help, sir?” The guard asked.
I scoffed. “You’re how old, 29? And you call me sir?” I hate all this formality. It’s not like I need this protection. If there’s anybody that’ll ever attempt to hurt me, that’s me. But I guess I see my uncle’s point ... when you’re as rich as Croesus, you gotta take some countermeasures. Though I don’t think there would be anybody so stupid to try to rob us.
“It’s the rule, sir-uh ... Jake.” The guard replied. I actually know him quite well, he’s worked for my family for over a year now. I think he’s the one guard that doesn’t think I’m only a spoiled brat.
Sighing, I nodded. My uncle’s rule. No fraternizing with the guards. I wonder if that applies more to me or the staff. “Just open the door, Craig. Thanks.” I knew I was an asshole with him, but he knows I often am, so no big deal. “Is my uncle home?”
“No, sir. He just left.”
“Pity.” I scoffed.
Craig half laughed. I bet neither does he like my uncle. I wonder who does. He’s divorced twice from fairly nice women, I’d say he’s hardly likeable. “Miss Serene has just gone to sleep, sir.”
“Isn’t it late for her afternoon nap?”
Craig opened the door for me, and I entered with the girl in my arms. As silent as she was, I even forgot to tell the guard who was she, nor did he question me about her. But then, they’re pretty used to girls coming in and out, I guess. “Uh ... she wanted to stay to see the new babysitter, Mr. Watson agreed.”
Of course he did. If there’s one breach through my uncle’s leaden heart, that’s Serene. I suppose that’s the one thing that makes us similar.
“Alright. Thank you, Craig. Can you please tell Cora to come to my room?”
He startled. “Cora? The housemaid?” And his girlfriend, by chance. Pretty much everybody except my uncle knows. Always that no fraternizing crap.
“Yes, Cora ... tell her it’s urgent.” He was baffled, and mildly worried, but he complied. Cora’s healed my wounds after what my uncle calls ‘reckless behaviors’, so when I say it’s urgent, she knows what I mean.
I took the girl straight to my room, so that Cora would know where to find us. Once in there, I sat the poor bullied girl on my bed, and stepped back. “What’s your name?”
Her face was tear-stained. “Do you know those guys?” She nodded warily, but she was holding her stomach, obviously. Heaving a deep sigh, I kneeled before her. When I tried to move her arm aside, she flinched. “Calm down. I mean no harm. I just want to see how bad is the damage.”
“I-I’m fine.” She gripped her t-shirt not to let me touch it.
“You look all but fine, sweetheart.” Her jeans were ripped, and there were clear cuts on her knees. I bet they threw her to the ground.
There was a knock on the door, and a moment later Cora entered, promptly ready with her aid kit. “So, what mess did you get yourself into this time?”
I half smiled. “For once it’s not me.”
“Oh.” She noticed the girl on the bed. “What happened to her?”
I stepped back, so that Cora could kneel beside the girl, and work her magic. “Bullies.” I gritted my teeth.
“Oh, my God ... that’s horrible ... I’m sorry, honey.”
“Olivia, do you know their names? And why have they targeted precisely you?” I asked right off the bat, crossing my arms over my chest.
The girl winced when Cora applied medications on her bruised knees, but she didn’t reply. The maid tried to raise the girl’s t-shirt, but she didn’t allow it. “Jake, I think it’s best if you leave us for a moment.”
I frowned. “What?”
Cora turned to me, with that duh look on she always has when she thinks I’m being dumb. “It’s a girl.”
She rolled her eyes. “I know you’ve seen lots of naked girls, but this one may need some more privacy.”
I snorted, but left. If it’s what I think it is, though, Olivia there will have to give up a bit of her privacy to tell me everything.
My sister’s new babysitter. That’s the girl I rescued from bullies. What a funny old world. It turned out, those were her routine bullies. Barney there was a jerk that’d set his eye on her, and since she kept rejecting him, he began bullying her. The moron.
I took care of him and his pals, but I found out worse things. Because as it turnned out, my little protégé there needed way more protection than I’d imagined. Olivia was one of the most favorite victims for bullies in our school. At that point I couldn’t easily leave, could I?
So I did what a real cliché bookish bad boy would have done. I took the little nerd under my wing. That placated all the bullies but awoke another one. You see, right before Olivia and I started hanging out together, I’d just dumped my girlfriend. That Queen Bee Fitz mentioned at New Year’s Eve. Cynthia.
Cynthia was furious, oh, so furious when she came to know I’d started seeing someone else. Olivia and I back then were just ... friends, I guess. She was my little protégé, I spent a lot of time with her because I wanted to help her, and ... because I felt ... somewhat freer around her. She made me feel like my life was somewhat ... normal. Or at any rate less messy.
Olivia gave me the peace of mind I’d been searching for. I suppose that’s why I slowly grew so attached to her. She was my isle of peace. In exchange for her company, I protected her from Cynthia and everyone. I kept repeating her, over and over again, that as long as I was there, nobody would ever hurt her, that she was safe until she was with me ...
“Let’s go then.” Back to Boston. Hopefully Silvia’s not gonna go to heavy on me. I can’t hope she’ll forgive me for disappearing like this, but I hope she’ll understand someday.
“Are you sure I should be here?” Olivia wondered, wary.
I scoffed, placing her suitcase at the end of the bed. “This penthouse’s got like ... 5 bedrooms. I barely use 2. You can stay here as long as you want.”
“Jake ... it’s really generous of you, but I can’t accept this ...”
Of course she’d fight. That’s so Olivia. Grabbing her hand, I brought her to my chest, embracing her. “You said it yourself, Liv. You need a fresh start. This could be it.”
“No buts. You’re staying.”
She half smiled. “Walter won’t come after me, Jake. He couldn’t even if he wanted to.” A flimsy accountant that wastes all he has on gambling, of course he couldn’t afford to go looking for her. But you’re never too certain.
“Still. You’re staying.” I stated, unmoving.
Olivia smiled, leaving her forehead against mine. “I wish I could say I don’t want to, but ... I can’t deny it’ll be nice to wake up next to you for a while.”
I smirked, caressing her cheek. “Who says you will?”
She wrapped her arms around my torso, nuzzling my nose. “I do.”
“A little too sure of ourselves, aren’t we?”
She laughed. Can’t say I don’t love that. How she laughs with me, I mean. These past two months I’ve felt throw back to what we had, and ... it made me think. Maybe I made it way more complicated than it was. Maybe things might have really gone for the best.
Olivia stroked my cheek, still smiling. “Your nightmares don’t scare me, Jake. You know that.”
I let go of her, taken aback by her blunt response. “It’s not ... never mind. I need to go somewhere. I’ll be back in an hour or two. Make yourself at home.” Of course she knows about the nightmares, she was there, she witnessed them, and that’s not something you forget.
I moved toward the door, actually needing to go somewhere. It’s better if it’s the first place I go to after my penthouse.
“Jake ... don’t run away again.”
I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. “I’m not running away.”
Olivia sighed, and I heard her footsteps. “Yes, you are. You always do when the situation gets uncomfortable.” How right she is, but I’d rather she didn’t know.
“I really need to go somewhere. It’s not an excuse, Liv.”
“Maybe not.” She wrapped her arms around me, and I closed my eyes. Regrettably, the feeling isn’t the same. It’s not the same as when Silvia did this, I mean. And how could it be? “But that doesn’t mean you’re not running way.”
She leaned against my back, tightening her grip on me, as if to stop me from going. “Go where you have to. I’ll be waiting. But promise me one thing.”
“Promise you won’t leave me again.”
I can’t promise that. I know it’s gonna happen. “Liv, it’s not ... I ...”
I sighed, reaching for her hand. It was really warm, but I felt nothing. Nothing I would feel if it was somebody else’s hand. It’s obvious. I may have basked in a daydream of long gone times, but ... the situation is what it is. It may suck, my heart may be bleeding, but ... it still belongs to Silvia.
And Olivia knows that. Or rather, she knows there is someone. If anything, the insistent calls I never picked up should be a sign. She knows there is someone in my life. She just doesn’t know the whole story, and I’d rather she didn’t. It’ll be painful enough as it is, she doesn’t need to know I ... also used her to avert my thoughts from this specific someone.
I left because I had to rescue Olivia, but also because I needed time to myself. From Colin and Serene, from their betrayal. From the whole mess that is my life. From Silvia and every stab she inflicts on my heart without realizing.
It was stupid and selfish, using Olivia as placebo, to feel like I was back to a stage of my life where I still had a future, where I still hoped for something I couldn’t quite decipher. But I couldn’t help it.
“We’ll talk about it when I come back.” I said, needing time to think about all this. Maybe I looked at it the wrong way. Maybe these two months weren’t much of a memento, they were more of a signal. To tell me how wrong I was all this time.
On my way out, I took my phone out of my pocket, and dialed her number. The machine answered, so I left a message: “Hey, it’s me. Jake. I know you hate me right now. I know you won’t even want to see me, but ... I need to talk to you. I’m coming over. If Ryan’s there, if you don’t want me to come, call me back. But if I receive no answer, I’ll be at your door in 25 minutes. And you better get ready for a long and rough talk. It’s high time we end this lunacy.”
Heaving a deep sigh, I took the kettle off the stove. The clock had just struck midnight, but I couldn’t sleep. I decided that, for once, I would try a natural method. Valerian. It’s a special recipe my mom taught me. Maybe it’ll calm my nerves.
I heard my phone ring from the bedroom, but I didn’t feel like answering. Whoever it is, they’ll call back if it’s important.
I felt somewhat less numb, but ... not much different from the other days. My heart is still bleeding, my eyes are still bloodshot, I’m still stupidly crushed under the weight of a breakup I never saw coming. How cliché, huh?
I poured the valerian into my mug, and once I’d added two spoonfuls of sugar, I stirred it. It wasn’t long before my phone restarted ringing, but who cares. I took the mug with me as I went back to my room. I suppose a Netflix marathon might take my mind off of all this nonsensical pain. I can’t focus on any book.
My wrist hurt, but I ignore it. This morning I punched the wall out of frustration, so I twisted my left wrist. Stupid, I know. Especially since I’m left-handed. I took small sips of the valerian, but I didn’t nurture many hopes it’d work.
It’s been over 6 weeks. It should be over by now. I should be fine. Why aren’t I? Why do I feel even worse than how I was when the breakup was one day old? Why do I miss Ryan every day more? Isn’t it stupid to miss somebody that, clearly, wants nothing to do with you anymore?
By the time I got to my room, I’d half finished the valerian, but I felt no effect. However, somebody knocked on my door. Who would come here at midnight? Tess does that sometimes, when she’s gone on a date that failed. I’m really not in the mood for this tonight, though.
Placing the mug on my desk, I sighed. The person at the door was very insistent, so either I went to see who was it and what did they want, or I may as well call the police. But I’ve never seen a burglar knocking, so ...
Checking the peephole once I was there, I saw a guy. I wasn’t wearing my glasses nor contacts, so through the peephole I couldn’t really tell whether it was someone I know or not. No other chance but to open. If the worst happens and it’s a murderer, it won’t be as painful as it’s been the other time.
Slowly, I opened the door, but before I could speak, the guy did for me: “Silvia Banchi, right?”
“Ok. I found her.” He talked on the phone. I squinted my eyes when he handed his smartphone to me.
“Please, answer this.”
Am I dreaming, perhaps? Because this looks quite surreal. I took the phone, unsure, and brought it to my ear. “Ye-”
“Oh, finally, Sissy!” Tess’ frantic voice filled my ears.
“Tess? What’s going on? And who’s this guy you sent me?”
“That’s David, but no time for that. You gotta go with him. He’ll take you to the hospital.”
I frowned, eyeing the guy, who looked pretty preoccupied. “What? Why?”
Tess heaved a deep sigh, as if to calm herself. “It’s about Jake. He had an accident. He’s under surgery right now, and ... they say there’s a high chance he won’t make it.”