Chapter 29 | A Step in the Right Direction
The next day, classes went by kind of fast, and when it was time for History with Mark I immediately walked over to the janitor’s closet. I decided to skip that class altogether, and wait for Mark to come and meet me.
The entire class hour almost goes by, and with only ten minutes left, I heard someone walk and stop outside of the closet door.
I couldn’t tell who it was, but the feeling inside of my gut told me it was him.
I slowly reached out to open the closet door, but then the shadow underneath suddenly turned and began to walk way. I quickly yanked the closet door open and peered out, watching his back as he got further and further away.
“Mark!” I shouted, and he stopped, “Please talk to me.” I said just loud enough for him to hear.
After a few seconds of no response, he slowly turned around and faced me. He had two black eyes and a swollen lip. My heart sank.
He walked over to me and into the closet as I shut the door behind us.
“Mark...” My voice was soft.
Mark’s face was emotionless, but it only took seconds of him looking at me before he finally broke down.
He put his entire weight on me as he leaned into me. I immediately wrapped my arms around his neck and softly stroked his hair as he clung to me. His arms found their way around my waist, pulling me so tight that I could hardly breathe.
“Hey, hey it’s alright Mark. Everything’s going to be okay.” I softly whispered against his ear, causing him to tense.
I had never in my entire four years of knowing Mark, witnessed him as vulnerable as he was right at that very moment.
I slowly pulled away and forced him to look at me.
“Well, let’s just say my mom’s new boyfriend is a real charmer.” He sarcastically stated.
My eyes widened at is remark, and I felt my heart break for him. “Mark I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. It isn’t your fault, nor is it mine. It’s her. It’s always been her fucking fault.” He breathed as he took a step away from me, which kind of hurt, might I add.
“You don’t deserve this Mark. You don’t deserve any of this... Even me.”
His head snapped up so fast at my last remark as he deeply stared into my eyes, almost making me feel small.
“I know I played with your emotions, as I did everyone else. I can’t take back what I did, or how I made you feel. Hell, if I could, I’d take everything back in a heartbeat. I would do everything so differently. You showcase this tough exterior where you don’t care about anything, but on the inside you are the purest soul I have ever met Mark. You feel everything so deeply, no matter how hard you try to play it off. I see right through you so well that it’s almost scary. You have become my best friend, in an odd way. I’m so sorry that I hurt you, and I just hope that one day you’ll be able to truly forgive me.” I said all in one breath, not missing a single beat.
I looked at Mark and his eyes had softened immensely at my words. He went to take a step toward me, but I found myself taking a step back.
Mark’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he looked at me.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think we need more time apart. I need to work on myself, as well as you need to work on you and your family. Take your mom to that rehab center just outside of town. Drop her off and don’t look back. Tell her you love her so much, and just pray that she actually gives being sober a chance. I want you to have the best relationship you can have with your mom, because pretty soon we won’t have our parents there anymore all the time.” I explained the best way that I could.
He seemed as though he understood what I was saying and he slowly nodded.
“I just want you to be happy Mark. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” I sadly smiled.
I took a step forward and gently placed my hand against his cheek. He leaned into my hand and I felt his breath hitch.
I took a daring step forward, and slowly brought my face to his. Our eyes locked onto each other and I almost wanted to start crying. My eyes were burning, but no tears fell.
I slowly leaned forward and placed a soft kiss against his cheek as I stepped beside and around him, opening the closet door.
“See you around.” My voice barely came out as a whisper, but I knew he heard me because he only nodded as his eyes were still trained on the spot that I previously occupied.
The bell rang and I took in a deep breath before letting it out as I began to walk toward the cafeteria. I met up with Riley, Lucy and Callie and we all sat together at our regular lunch table. They asked me what was wrong when they took in my sad smile, but I just told them that I was fine.
That was excruciating.
Still, I felt a sense of certainty after Naveah walked away. She was right, I needed to step up and take charge of my life if I ever wanted to see a change.
Instead of going to lunch, I decided to leave for the rest of the day. I walked out of the janitor’s closet and toward the front doors to the school.
As I’m walking, I focused on my cell phone, but soon after I ran into someone.
“Shit.” He muttered and I looked up to see Connor.
“Sorry.” I said, stepping back.
“It’s cool.” He finally looked at my face and his eyes widened. “Dude, what the hell happened?”
“Nothing. I need to go.” I said as I started to walk around him and toward the doors again.
“No wait.” He grabbed me by the arm, “Mom?” Is all he asked.
“I’m coming with you.”
I tried to shake my head and object, but he gave me a look and I decided not to fight him on it.
Before we exited the school doors, Red appeared.
“Where are you guys going?” He asked.
“We need to do something. Can you cover for us?” Connor asked. Red nodded with a smile and looked genuinely happy to see Connor and I together. If only he knew the reason.
Connor and I turned and left, heading for my car. We got inside and buckled our seat belts before I sped out of the parking lot.
I noticed Connor look over at me from the corner of my eye, but the only thing I was focused on was getting to my mom and finally doing the one thing that I should have done a long time ago.
We didn’t speak the entire ride. As we pulled into my driveway, I noticed smoke coming from the house and my eyes widened. I was instantly brought back to that night at Connors birthday party when Lucy’s mother passed away due to a house fire she accidentally started while not in her right state of mind.
I slammed on my breaks and turned the car off, immediately swinging the door open and jumping out. I sprinted for my house as Connor yelled after me.
“Mark, don’t!” He shouted as he pulled his phone out to call for help. I assumed he dialed 911.
I don’t even take a second thought before I pushed open the front door and barged inside. I didn’t see any flames, but I was still surrounded by a cloud of heavy, thick smoke. I immediately began coughing as I pulled the collar of my shirt up and over my mouth and nose.
“MOM!” I shouted as panic began to set in.
I walked toward the kitchen and saw the stove on fire, with a pan burning as it was covered in grease.
As I walked over to try to put the fire out, I tripped over something and fell to the floor.
I looked over and saw my mom lying there beside me.
“Shit, mom!” I shouted and crawled over to her. I let go of my shirt and it fell as I used both hands to pick her up from the floor.
She barely weighed anything from all the alcohol and not eating. I lifted her up with ease and began to head for the front door as I heard sirens approaching from outside. Two fire trucks and an ambulance appeared in my front yard as I finally reached the front door and walked outside. Connor ran over to me and helped me carry my mom over to the ambulance just as the paramedics were pulling out their stretcher.
I gently laid my mother’s limp body down onto the stretcher as the paramedic placed an oxygen mask over her face. I was coughing and hysterical as I watched them tend to my mom. Connor tried to pull me toward the other side of the ambulance to get my own oxygen mask, but I pushed his hands away.
My mind was only on my mom.
From the looks of her, she was piss drunk before the fire started, and must have passed out in the kitchen. Luckily, she was on the floor so she didn’t take in as much smoke as she could have if she were still conscious and standing around or sitting at the kitchen counter.
The paramedics finally forced me to take an oxygen mask, and when I did it finally regulated my breathing as the coughing slowly started to disappear.
The firefighters managed to control the grease fire before it burned down our entire kitchen. There was some slight water and smoke damage, but nothing that wouldn’t be covered by our insurance.
Once the firefighters packed up and left, I locked my house up and walked back outside with Connor.
The ambulance took my mom to the hospital to pump her stomach and to make sure she didn’t obtain any real damage from the smoke. I told the paramedics that I would meet them at the hospital, since I hated ambulances.
“Holy shit dude. It’s a miracle we made it here when we did.” Connor suddenly commented, “That could have been so much worse.”
I knew he was serious, but still his words made me angry.
“I know that.” I stated in a low tone as my lips stayed in a straight line.
I shook my head and buried my head into my hands as all of my emotions finally hit me at full force. Loud, heart-wrenching sobs spewed from me as I sat on the steps of my porch. I felt like a girl for crying, but sometimes all a guy really needs to do is just cry everything out no matter how it makes him feel afterward.
I almost forgot that I wasn’t alone, when I felt an arm wrap around my shoulders.
I jumped at the contact, but soon after just sat there and let him console me like he used to do whenever we first met four years ago. We didn’t need to speak or share our feelings. We didn’t need to cry together. We just sat there.
Two old friends, at a crossroads, but still having an understanding for one another.
“I’m sorry about Naveah. I don’t know what I was thinking, or that I was even thinking at all. I guess I let my desire, overcome everything else and by the time it turned into something, I couldn’t stop.” I suddenly said after minutes of pure silence.
“I know we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. I know the trust has been completely broken. But I’d like to think that we can eventually just start over. No girls getting in the way. Not even Naveah.” I found myself saying.
“So you aren’t going to give her a chance?” He asked.
I looked out into the open yard of my house and watched as blue birds flew around.
“I just think that after everything that’s happened, its best if we just go our separate ways.”
My heart broke as my mouth finally said the words.
“You’ll be alright.” Connor said as he softly patted my back, “It’ll take time, but you’ll be alright.”
I nodded and stood up, stretching my legs out. Connor stood up too and I thanked him for coming with me.
“I should probably get to the hospital. Do you want me to drop you back off at school?”
We got into my car and after I dropped Connor back off at school, I headed to the hospital.
When I got there, I asked for my mom and a nurse took me to her room. The nurse was blonde, so naturally I thought about Naveah, but quickly pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind.
When I arrived at my mom’s door, I hesitated for a few seconds before finally pushing the door open and walking inside.
She was still asleep, so I carefully pulled the chair up beside her bed and just sat with her.
After about thirty minutes, she finally began to stir.
“Mark?” She said once her eyes opened up.
“Morning sunshine.” I said in a flat tone.
“What happened?” Her voice was raspy due to the smoke, so I reached over and handed her a glass of water.
She downed the entire glass in one go, and handed it back to me. I placed it on the table and sat back into my chair.
“Well, let’s see. You were plastered and then decided you were hungry. You’re lucky you didn’t burn the entire house down.” I said a little more harshly than I wanted to.
Her eyes immediately filled with tears as her lips started to tremble.
I looked away, as my mother’s tears had always been my weakness. She reached out for my hand, but I pulled it away.
“You need help mom.” I said without looking at her. My voice was strong and steady. “You could have died. I could have come home from school to find you and the house burned to nothing. Do you get that?” I finally turned to look at her as tears fell from her eyes.
My intense gaze softened at her crying, and I found myself chocking back sobs of my own.
“I can’t keep doing this and neither can you.” I said after collecting myself again, “You need to take some goddamn control of your life. I hate this!” My voice got a little louder as she reached for my hand again, and this time I didn’t pull away.
I knew she understood everything that I was saying, and comprehended it. The nurses pumped her stomach, so she was completely sober, which I’m sure she despised.
But to my complete and utter shock, she finally said something that even I wasn’t expecting.
My eyes slightly widened as I let her continue to speak.
“I’ve been a horrible mother and you don’t deserve any of it. After your father left, all I cared about was a drink. All I cared about was numbing my feelings to forget just how much he hurt me. I wasn’t there for you like I was supposed to be and I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry Mark. I know sorry doesn’t make up for everything that I’ve said or done to you, but it’s the only thing I can do right now.” She sobbed.
“No, it’s not the only thing you can do.” I firmly stated, “What you’re going to do, is pack up your shit and I’m going to drop you off at the rehab center just outside of town. Your insurance will cover it, and I think you need to stay there for as long as it takes to help you turn your life around. I’m going to be going off to college soon, yeah, I actually got into the state college here. My point is, I won’t be around to take care of you, and I know your deadbeat boyfriends don’t give a damn about you. I do not want to get a phone call one day saying that you’re gone because you were drunk and careless.”
My mom fully listened to what I was saying and finally nodded in understanding.
“You need to change mom, and for the better.” I finally let myself sadly smile at her. “Please?” My voice was vulnerable as I actually pleaded for my mom to agree and listen to me for once.
A fear tears escaped from my eyes as they slowly rolled down my cheeks.
My mom leaned forward, and pressed her delicate hand against my cheek. I saw her look at me, and really look at me. I saw her take in my bruised eyes and swollen lip from just the night before. I saw her take in the years of tired behind my eyes and the toll it had taken on me. I saw something shatter behind her dull brown eyes and I think she finally realized what she had done to me – to our family.
“I will son. I promise.”
My mom hadn’t made any promises to me since I was a kid. A promise was something she had never broken before, back when she was sober all the time. A promise meant something to her, it always had.
I finally leaned into her hand and let myself cry as I nodded and gripped her other hand with my own.
“Thank you mom.” I said, finally feeling somewhat free from my own life. Free from the hardships and free from the alcohol. Free from the lies and the secrets. Free from everything.
I stayed at the hospital with my mom overnight, and the doctors discharged her the next morning. I drove her home, and when she saw the shape of the house, I saw her break a little more. Bottles of alcohol littered the living room floor, and the smell of smoke was so strong, you could almost choke on it.
“My God...” She mumbled while looking around.
“It looks a lot worse than it actually was.” I tried to make her feel just a tiny bit better, though I knew it wouldn’t work in the slightest. “The insurance company is sending people out to clean up and take care of the smoke smell within the next week or so. I’ll take care of everything while you’re gone, you don’t need to worry.”
She turned to me as she softly smiled with a nod.
After I helped her pack, we left and headed toward the rehab center just outside of town. When we got there, I went inside to sign her in as she waited for me outside.
When I came out to meet her, she was sitting on a bench talking with an older woman.
I slowly approached as I began to hear their conversation.
“I’ve been here for almost seven months. The first few were almost unbearable, but my two sons are what pushed me to stick to it. They’ve been my rock since before I even came here.”
“Yeah, I know exactly what you mean.” My mother softly smiled as she finally turned to look at me.
I weakly smiled back and my mom said goodbye to the woman before getting up to walk over to me.
“Well, you’re all checked in and ready to go. One of the nurses will come out to take you to your room. Visitation is every other weekend, so I’ll come to each one up until I have to leave for college.” I said, trying my hardest to keep from breaking down all over again.
I knew that once I left here, I would finally be on my own, and I wasn’t so certain that I would be able to do it.
“Thank you, Mark. You truly are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” She said, and I almost lost it right there. My mom hadn’t said anything like that to me since before my father left us all those years ago.
I soon after found myself pulling my mom in for a hug, and she wasted no time in wrapping her small arms around me.
“I’ll see you soon mom.” I said as I pulled away.
An older woman came out, the nurse I assumed, and took my mother’s hand while she began to walk her into the rehab center.
Before she completely disappeared behind the doors, my mom looked back to me one last time as she said, “I love you” and then she was gone.
I took in a deep breath and slowly let it out.
I love you too, mom.