Chapter 13 ~ The Breakdown
Paisley had finally fallen asleep in my bed as I sat on the couch with a beer in my hand, watching the darkened sky and listening to the sounds of the ocean as the waves crashed upon the shore. It had been a few hours and Dad was still not back yet. The memory of what had happened still fresh in my mind, the sight of innocent lifeless bodies that littered the pavement, haunting me not just in my dreams but now, as my eyes remained open - how could I fail those innocent soul’s?
I heard the door shut quietly and turned to see Harlyn’s unmistakable silhouette hovering over the bed. She was making sure her sister was alright. I turned my gaze back around and brought the bottle up to my lips, the alcohol doing nothing to calm down the replay of what happened in my mind. What if Zav dies too? Tamelia was brutally injured, what if the wound is more serious?
Harlyn’s shoes came into view as she kicked them off her feet and they tumbled across the carpet. Without expecting it, she rounded the sofa and climbed on top of my lap, knocking my beer from my hand. I was just about to say something when her lips captured mine in a searing kiss, while her hands held my face steady. This kiss was what I needed, I required her connection, the only person to ever help clear the turmoil.
Her eyes glistened with watery tears as she looked down at me, “I’m so glad you’re okay, I was so worried about you,” she whispered.
Her concern etched in her beautiful features as her hazel’s flitted between my greens. She loved me, this goddess, selfless and caring, she loved me. I finally had someone to care for, that cared for me, and, like the concrete wall of a dam holding too much water pressure - I broke - completely shattered into a million pieces.
I had spent years fighting a cause that never seemed to rest, fighting against an evil so horrendous and ghastly that it kept me in a constant state of insomnia because if I shut my eyes, the memories would attack, they would replay like my own reoccurring horror with only harrowing outcomes.
Pressing my face into her chest as my arms surrounded her middle, pulling her as close as I possibly could and holding her there. “There were some that died... they were meant to go home but they died... I failed them, Arly, I failed them all...” I cried out in crippling pain, the flood of tears would not stop, this was my fault, all of it, I was not enough to rescue them.
“I know baby, I know... shh, I know. There was nothing you could have done, this was not your fault.”
“I can’t do this anymore... I’m not strong enough... I should have saved them... why couldn’t I save them?... Dad said, dad said they had families and now... now they’ll never know what happened... they’ll never know the love their families still carried for them... they are all alone...” My words between sobs of misery, agony at such injustice, were collapsing and I was unable to fight the despondency.
She moved off my lap to the seat beside me, pulling me on top of her, “shh, Arlo, you did the best you could with the circumstances you were given. Don’t think about it like that, you are my hero, you are my brave, incredible hero. Just let me hold you, let me take all your pain away.”
I wrapped myself around her, covering her petite frame with my much larger one as I cried hysterically into her chest. “They are gone, Arly... innocent little souls gone... this is my fault, I should have been more aggressive... should have rescued them before, but I couldn’t... I couldn’t... and now, they are dead... they didn’t deserve that... they didn’t deserve to die,” I wailed in angst, I couldn’t stop the years of pain, the outpour of guilt that was hitting me at full force.
She cleared her throat, her own emotion was cascading from her. “I’ve got you, Arlo, I’ve got you, baby. I love you, I’m never letting you go,” she whispered as she ran her fingers through my hair.
“Don’t leave me Harlyn, don’t leave... I can’t do this without you.”
“I’m right here baby, right here - I’m not going anywhere.”
I did need her, I needed her to fight the downward spiral, to keep the darkness at bay, I needed her warmth, her light, her heart, I needed her like the earth needed sunshine and rain and as more tears shed from my eyes, more anguish and despair exuded from my heart, I slipped into the empty, cold darkness that had always been more foe than friend.
“How did you find me? He said you had become his wife and that you were happy not having to deal with me anymore.” The sound of innocence roused me from my slumber prison, though, I kept my eyes closed. I could still feel Harlyn under me, she is my anchor, keeping me safe, supporting me through my harrowing breakdown.
“Paiz, tell me you didn’t believe him for a second? Tell me, you knew he was lying? Arlo and I had been trying to get you... all we have done is try to rescue you. Tristan was shot and almost died the first time.”
“You mean you did want me? I’m not a burden to you?” I felt her body tense below me.
“Princess, there is not a day that has gone by that I haven’t wished you were safe with me. I love you, more than I could ever express, I was terrified I would never see you again. If it wasn’t for Arlo...” I heard her words catch in her throat, she was hurting, Harlyn was struggling.
“Arly, I was so scared. I was all alone, thrown into a pit with a bunch of other stolen girls, what was I meant to think?”
“You were meant to know, that no matter what, I would spend my life trying to find you. You’re my sister and the only family either of us has. You have been my best friend for so many years, I would never have abandoned you. I would and did, sacrifice my life making sure you lived.”
“I was scared, so scared, the things they made the other girls do...”
“Please don’t cry Princess Paiz, I can’t move to hug you. Give me your hand. You are my everything Paisley, don’t ever doubt my love for you again.”
“I was just so scared, you don’t know what it was like in there...”
“Shh, you will never suffer that shit ever again... I promise.”
“I want to hug you.”
“I know, I do too, but, Arlo’s nightmares have been attacking him all night, I don’t want him to wake up, he’s been through a lot to rescue you. What you’ve been through can never be erased and I’m so sorry dad put you in this danger, but you’re safe now and we’re together, I’m going to make sure nothing bad ever happens to you again, okay? We are okay here...”
“Why is he sleeping on you?”
“Umm... because you stole the bed,” the girls giggled, this made me chuckle too, “you’re awake, eavesdropper,” she accused.
I opened one eye to look up at her, “sorry, I didn’t want to intrude.”
“Well, now that you’re awake, please get the fuck off, if I don’t pee soon you’ll be wearing it.” I lifted my hand to rub the sleep from my eyes and slowly moved off Harlyn.
She gave me a quick peck on the cheek, “thanks, moving you is like trying to move a sack of bricks.”
She jumped off the couch, wrapped her arms around Paisley, who was like a miniature version of her and squeezed, before bolting into the bathroom. I sat there awkwardly staring at her little sister, who waved. “Hi.”
“Hey,” I replied.
You could hear Harlyn groan from the bathroom, guess she really had been holding until the point she was about to burst. Paisley eyed me curiously, judging me in silence.
“So... you and Harlyn?” This made me laugh, she had the same spunkiness my goddess possessed.
“Yep,” I replied, nodding with a smile.
“When do I get to see dad?” I choked on my saliva, shit, I hadn’t even thought about the fact she wouldn’t know her father was dead. I didn’t know how to reply, she looked at me with such hope in her eyes. As the toilet flushed I felt a sense of relief wash over me, it was hard enough telling Harlyn Carmelito was dead but now, they would both mourn the loss together.
“You have no idea how good that felt,” it was only when she entered again did I realise she was still dressed in blood-soaked clothes.
“Tamelia?” I suddenly clicked.
“Relax, she’s fine, it was just a small wound, the bullet exited out the back of her. From what I could tell, it didn’t hit any major arteries. I think Brady was more of a mess than what she was.” I breathed out a sigh of relief.
“Any word on Zav?”
“No, nothing,” she looked down, her eyes saddened.
“I’ll give dad a call,” I said, standing up and stretching, this made her smile.
“Good, I need to feed Princess here...” she thrust her thumb in the direction of Paisley, “she looks like she hasn’t eaten in weeks and Tam’s due for a bandage change.”
I grabbed her wrist before she could escape, “I’m... sorry... about last night.”
She moved her arms up over my shoulders and linked her hands around the back of my neck. “Don’t ever be sorry for that,” Harlyn held my focus with fierce determination. “Just because you felt vulnerable or weakened, does not mean that’s who you are. I can’t begin to imagine what you’ve been through, but I fully meant what I said Arlo Ramalio, I love you, with all my heart and soul and I’m not going anywhere. If that means some nights we have to sit and break apart, then we do it... together.
“But don’t ever be sorry for having feelings about what you’ve endured or the pain you’ve suffered. This burden you carry is heavy and you are stronger than any man I’ve ever met, not just because you fight for the freedom of thankless faces, but because you can be emotional and that emotion, is what shapes you into who you are. I will never judge you and I will not leave you to suffer on your own, you are my hero, you have been since the moment I met you. I’ve heard your mum and dad talk about being each other’s soul, well that’s what you are to me... you are my soul Arlo, you are my perfection, don’t ever be sorry.”
I dipped my head to caress her lips with my own, having her embrace my terror like that was beyond astounding to me, I was the luckiest man alive. “I know I just said I wouldn’t leave you, but I really need to feed Paisley, so technically I’m leaving you - just not emotionally leaving you,” she beamed up at me.
“Go, I’ll come to find you after I speak with dad.” Giving her one last kiss before they headed out the door, for the first time in my life I felt completion, I had shown all of my ugliness last night, all of those shards I kept hidden and buried, pretended they didn’t exist - my weakness, my hurt, all of it stripped bare and vulnerable, yet she chose to love me, in spite of my inadequacies.
In her comfort, she had shown strength, in her support she showed honesty, she had been there when I needed her the most and she loved me through it all, never judging, never condemning but reinforcing and guiding my way back, I could believe, I could find hardiness, because now - I had our love.
Sometime later, after being completely torn to shreds by my stressed out father, I made my way to the girls. It wasn’t the fact that everything didn’t go to plan, I understood his temper, it was the fact that innocent fragile lives were taken and that people we loved were now hurt. I know he will come to his senses, that’s what he does, he cares so deeply for any loss of life that it angers him.
Upon my arrival, I found Tam lying across Brady’s lap in the Karaoke Dungeon, munching down on BLT’s Harlyn and Paisley had made them. Brady’s hair was dishevelled and he was shirtless, that boy was more muscle than anything else. As I stared at them on the couch, I noticed how close they seemed to be, I mean they were best friends but they appeared to be emotionally closer than normal, intimate. He was caressing her softly, brushing the hair back from her forehead as she stared up at him lovingly and for as many years as I had known them, I had never seen them so close as to pet?... nuzzle?... just caress each other in general. “Here.”
A plate of bacon and eggs was thrust in front of my face, I looked across to see a Paisley’s hazel eyes inspecting my reaction. “Thank you,” I said, collecting the plate from her tiny hands.
“It’s okay, I didn’t make it or anything, Arly did, and she’s bringing in the drinks now.” Not more than twenty-four hours ago this tiny thing was trapped with no hope in sight, now, she was making herself comfortable in my family’s home - my home - and as Harlyn walked in with a big smile, I knew this was exactly, the only, future I ever wanted and she is the only one I want that with. There was just one thing missing - Zavion.
“What did Chase say?”
“You didn’t have to do this, thank you.” My appreciation made her blush, I had to bite back a groan that threatened to spill out, seeing her shyness was like kryptonite.
“I wanted to...” Harlyn smiled, she was overly happy today, I guess that’s what happens when your heart is full. “What did he say about Zav?”
This made the other two, googly-eyed lovebirds on the couches, ears prick up. “He said that he’s come out of surgery, that he is in a coma and his body is resting. I told him why he moved...”
“And why did he fire?” Brady and Tam asked at the same time, then giggled at each other. Both Harlyn and I looked at them curiously and with suspicion, what the hell had happened between the two of them?
“Because Eddie moved behind Paisley and drew his gun, ready to shoot.” Harlyn’s head snapped to Paiz, washed with emotion and fear, things could have turned out very different and the sudden revelation was awakening.
“It’s true, I felt him behind me and turned to see what he was doing...” she suddenly dropped her knife and fork. “When can we go home and see dad?” Harlyn’s eyes were bulging, I could tell she hadn’t even thought of what to say or how to explain their father’s death.
She placed her plate of eggs on the coffee table and pushed it away from her with a deep sigh. “Princess Paiz, there’s something I have to tell you...”