Chapter 21 | Powerless
I’m sitting alone in a dark room.
The only thing in this room with me, is the chair underneath me, supporting my weight.
Suddenly, a piece of string drops from the ceiling, and closes around my throat. Second by second, it tightens. I’m losing the ability to breathe.
As my eyes start to shut, and black spots dance around my vision, I look up at the ceiling to see a face smiling down at me.
I now see his hands are controlling the piece of string, every second it gets tighter.
I look around the room, for anyone or anything to help me.
As my eyes make it to the other side of the room, I see three other chairs, all occupied.
“Guys! Help!” I barely manage to shout as the piece of string becomes even more tight, threatening to break through the skin around my neck.
Liam, Ethan and Lexi all just stare at me, with knowing smiles on each of their faces.
“Please!” I try again, clawing at my throat as Jeremy laughs above me.
Just when I feel the string tearing through my skin, I jerk away and sit up in bed. I look over toward my window to see that it’s still dark outside. I glance at my phone and press the home button, illuminating the space around it.
I slowly push my covers away, slowly standing up and out of bed.
I walk over toward my bathroom, and turn on the light. It almost blinds me, but eventually my eyes adjust as I look into the mirror.
The skin against my throat looks a little red, so I softly rub at it. I must have been clawing at it in my sleep due to the nightmare.
God, that was awful.
The way the three of them just smiled at me, as Jeremy tries to strangle me with string.
I will never forget those faces.
I shake my head, turning on my bathroom sink, to splash some cold water on my face.
It does little to wake me up or calm me down, so instead I reach to turn on my shower.
Once the water is scalding hot, I toss away my shorts and T-shirt as I step into the shower.
I instantly smile as the burning hot water falls over my restless body.
The anxiety slowly starts to slip away, leaving me a little more calm. I drop my head as water pours over me like a waterfall.
The searing liquid feels nice as it rains down my neck and body.
After I wash my body, and run some product through my hair, I step out of the shower.
My body shivers, instantly missing the hot water from the shower. I pull my robe on after drying my hair and body. As I walk out into my bedroom, I scream at the sight of Liam.
“What the hell? What are you doing up?” I glare as I hold my hand over my chest.
“I could ask you the same question.” He retorts, crossing his arms over his chest. “Did you have another nightmare? I thought they were getting better.”
I shrug. “They come and go.”
“Want to talk about it?”
I look at him, a permanent frown on his face.
“Honestly, no.” I sigh. “It’s better if we don’t.”
“I don’t see how. You never want to talk about anything. You’re spending all your free time with Ethan, and even then you don’t tell him anything about how you’re feeling. Well, other than the gross lovey stuff.” He scoffs at the last part.
I roll my eyes.
“It’s fine, really. Why dwell on something that isn’t going to change?”
“It isn’t changing, because you aren’t dealing with it. You just hide it and pretend it’s not there.”
Since when did Liam become smart?
“I promise everything is fine. I’m sorry that I woke you up.”
“Well, since we’re both awake, want to go to iHop?”
I immediately smile at him.
“I’ll get ready.”
Liam nods and leaves my room, closing the door after him.
I walk into my closet to grab a pair of shorts and a simple T-shirt. As summer time soon approaches, the weather outside has gotten much warmer.
I hear dad shuffling around inside his bedroom. He must be getting ready to leave for work. As soon as I pass his bedroom, his door opens.
“Oh, Dallas, you scared the turds outta me!” He exclaims as I try not to laugh at the word ‘turds’.
“Sorry dad, we woke up early for no reason so Liam wants us to go to iHop before school.” I shrug as we both walk downstairs.
“Hm, you both just magically woke up early on a Tuesday?” He eyes me suspiciously.
“You wanna go with us?” I ask, hopeful that it distracts him from his suspicions.
“Wish I could, but I’m already running behind schedule.” He sighs. “Can we all do dinner tonight? You can invite Lexi and Ethan.” He says Ethan’s name dryly, still not completely used to the idea that he’s now my boyfriend.
I grin with a shake of my head. “You’re going to have to get over it sooner or later dad, and sure, sounds great!” I smile wide.
I lean up to kiss his cheek, and he gives me a side hug as he rushes out of the house.
Once he’s gone, Liam comes strolling down the stairs dressed in fresh blue-jean pants and a T-shirt.
“Ready? I’m starving.”
“How? You literally just woke up. Don’t you need to wait a little before eating?” I ask, as that’s how it is for me.
“Are you kidding? This thing can eat any time of the day, rain or shine!” He says proudly, pointing directly at his flat stomach.
“I don’t know where you put everything.” I shake my head, reaching for my bag before heading out of the front door, Liam following behind me.
As we drive to iHop, I call Lexi and Ethan to tell them about our plans. I’m surprised that they’re both awake. Liam stops at Ethan’s to pick him up, while Lexi says she’ll meet us there.
We have an hour to kill before we need to be at school to make it before the final bell. Once Lexi arrives, we all dig in to our endless pancakes.
I smile at Ethan, since the last time we were here we confessed that we loved each other.
He leans over to kiss my temple, causing me to blush. He doesn’t take the kiss any further than that, as I’m sure he’s thinking about what happened the last time we were here not that long ago.
It’s been a week or so, and honestly I’m glad that we were able to talk through it.
It’s the first week of May, and I’m thrilled to know that the end of high school is near. The only downside: final exams start next week. Lexi and I have had many sleepovers to help each other study every possible note and textbook that we could find.
Ethan has offered to help me study, but honestly, Lexi and I have a system that has yet to fail us.
Each year we stress over exams, and each year we end up passing, sometimes by the good grace of God himself. Each time I take a test, I feel as though I’ve failed before I even finish. I’m amazing at psyching myself out.
“For the first time ever, I wish this week would go by slower.” Lexi sighs after shoving a piece of pancake into her mouth. She’s clearly obsessed. I think she’s had more than the rest of us combined.
Ethan nods his head in agreement, as he munches on a crispy piece of bacon. Liam follows suite while pouring an unhealthy amount of syrup over his entire plate.
“Dude, you eat syrup on your hashbrowns?” I raise an eyebrow. “That’s kinda weird.”
Ethan laughs at this.
“And you’re kinda boring. This is amazing. Here, try it.” He scoops some of his hashbrowns onto his spoon before handing it over to me from across the booth. A few pieces fall off the fork, and Liam reaches out to catch them before they fall onto the table.
“I saved you, my precious.” He says before shoving the pieces into his mouth.
I stare at him with a blank look. “Really?”
“Just eat the damn potatoes and give me my spoon back.” Liam sighs impatiently.
I chuckle before bringing the spoon to my mouth and taking the bite.
I wait a few seconds, as Liam watches me with a childish grin on his face.
“So? It’s perfect, right? I know it’s perfect.” He nods enthusiastically.
I decide to mess with him.
I immediately begin coughing and holding my hands over my throat, pretending as though I’m going to be sick. “LIAM, WHY WOULD YOU POISON YOUR ONLY SISTER?” I shout, as a few of the employee’s near the back stare at me in question.
Liam’s eyes widen, his hands reaching out to stop me from causing a scene.
“I hate you.” He mumbles as he snatches his spoon from my plate.
“No but really, it wasn’t half bad.” I casually shrug.
“I knew it!” He says loudly, pointing his finger at me.
More people in the restaurant stare at our table, so I send them apologetic smiles.
Ethan and Lexi are laughing uncontrollably at our brother/sister banter.
Somehow, I find myself laughing too.
It feels good to laugh with the people closest to me, after everything I’ve been through these last few months.
I have an appointment tomorrow after school with my very first therapist. Dad wanted me to have someone I can try to talk to about my feelings after everything that happened with Jeremy. I tried to assure him that I didn’t need to go, but he practically begged me. He said as my father, he doesn’t know how else to help me with this, since mom was normally the better one at giving heart to hearts.
I agreed only for him. I don’t need him worrying about me. He’s still grieving over mom not being here, and the last thing I want to do is add more stress to his already full plate.
I just hope the woman I see, can actually help me figure some of this stuff out, and fast.
I can slowly feel myself falling back into the darkness of everything, the nightmares proving so. I’ve come a long way, and I don’t want to feel that way anymore or ever again.
I hate feeling powerless.
Later that evening, dad is shouting at us to hurry up so that we can all leave for dinner. He’s taking us all out to some new buffet place, so I’m excited about that.
Lexi and Ethan are already here. They decided that we should all ride together in dad’s truck since he knows exactly where it is.
“Do I look okay?” Lexi asks.
“Why does it matter, it’s just us?” I chuckle.
“You never know who could be there.” She laughs. “Besides, I like looking cute.”
I watch her look at herself in my mirror. The skinny jeans and blouse really look good on her.
“What about Carter?” I smirk.
“Eh.” She shrugs.
“Oh no, what happened?”
“I don’t know. He’s just been acting different. Kind of distant. I’m just trying to give him his space.” She shrugs, clearly defeated. “I don’t want to scare him off for good.”
I nod. “I get that.”
“We’ll see what happens,” She smiles, “But until then, if I want to look cute while I go out, so be it.”
“Amen sister.” I smile as we both walk out of my room and down stairs.
Ethan, Liam and my dad are all waiting impatiently by the front door.
“For heaven’s sake girls, you both took hours.” Dad says dryly.
“Blame her!” I point to Lexi, who only sheepishly smiles.
“We better get going! Don’t want to miss all the food!” Lexi cheers before strolling outside before anyone else.
My dad rolls his eyes, as the rest of us follow. We all get into dad’s truck and I turn up the radio as we cruise down the road.
Once we finally make it to the restaurant, dad asks for a table and we all head directly to the line of food.
“My God… this is… heaven!” Liam exclaims with a look of pure awe on his face. I swear I see his eyes glistening. “Dude, look.” He nudges Ethan with his arm. “They have everything imaginable.”
“I know.” Ethan nods with his own look of joy on his face. “I’ve never been this happy.”
I immediately send him a challenging look, and he’s quick to recover.
“Other than being with you babe, of course!” He smiles sheepishly.
I roll my eyes, but can’t help the look of awe that appears on my own face as I scan over the numerous options of food. They have everything from Italian, to Chinese, to Greek, to American. I’ve never seen so much food in one place before.
My mouth is literally watering.
“See ya suckers, I’m going for the lasagna!” Lexi rushes around us to get to the huge platter of lasagna and various other pasta dishes. She loads a second plate up with just different garlic breads, before rushing back to our table to begin eating.
I highly doubt she’s going to finish all of that, then again, she’s been known to surprise me before.
“What are you trying first babe?” Ethan says from beside me.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t be standing here staring at the food like a creep.” I laugh. “Help me decide!”
“Well, I’m going for the Chinese first. That shrimp fried rice looks heavenly.” He smiles happily. “You in the mood for Chinese?”
“Hm, maybe. I’ll meet you over there.” I reply, before eyeing some of the fried chicken next to a huge pan of macaroni and cheese.
I can already tell that this is going to be our new favorite place to eat out. It has everything.
After we all have way too much food on our plates, we all sit at the table and begin stuffing our faces.
“My God… dad, we never have to cook again.” Liam sighs with content after shoving another bite of mashed potatoes into his mouth.
“You know son, you may be onto something.” Dad nods while pointing his empty fork at Liam. “You know… I read online that they even cook turkey dinners for Thanksgiving.”
I roll my eyes. “We are not spending Thanksgiving at a buffet.”
“Awe, Dal, why not?” Dad whines like a toddler.
Lexi tries not to laugh.
“Because, it’s just, I don’t know… weird.” I shrug, though this oven-baked macaroni and cheese might be slightly changing my mind.
“At least think about it until we leave.” Liam pleads.
“Fine, I’ll think about it.” I sigh.
“Here, while you think, try these fresh egg rolls.” Ethan smirks while passing one over onto my plate.
“How dare you. You know egg rolls are my weakness.” I fake a hurt gasp.
Dad laughs, and soon I do too as I take a bite of the egg roll.
Everyone watches me expectantly.
“On second thought… cooking is overrated.” I shrug with a sheepish smile on my face.
Liam and dad cheer as if their favorite football team has just won the super bowl. I look around at the other tables, as other people begin to stare.
I lower my head in embarrassment.
“You’re incredibly cute when you do that.” Ethan suddenly whispers beside me. I smile while leaning into his side, since he made it his personal mission to sit beside me.
“Hey, none of that.” Dad points accusingly. “Five feet apart.”
“Dad…” I whine. “Focus on your chicken nuggets.”
“What? They have chicken nuggets? What on earth would possess you to keep that vital information from me?” Liam exclaims before rushing up out of his seat and heading straight for the food again.
“We’re never going to leave at this rate.” Lexi sighs with a playful grin.
“We could just leave him here.” Dad shrugs.
I laugh as I nudge dad’s side with my elbow. Of course, he made sure to sit on the other side of me to keep an eye on Ethan’s wandering hands.
I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. After I finish, and wash my hands, I go to leave.
As I’m walking down the dimly lit hallway, a larger man comes walking down to head for the men’s room. He stops when he sees me, and smiles as if he’s trying to flirt.
“How are you beautiful?” He asks.
“Uh, fine. Thanks.” I reply sharply. I go to walk around him but he stops me.
“You here with anyone? I’m alone and would love some company.” He asks smoothly, as if he’s done this before.
“No thanks, I’m here with someone.” I say, referring to Ethan.
“Ah, boyfriend?” The man replies.
“I don’t see how that’s any of your business, excuse me.” I try again to move around him, but he stops me again.
“Does this boyfriend have a name?”
I become very uncomfortable, very fast
I can feel my heart beating rapidly against my chest. I know I need to remove myself from this situation, before I have another panic attack.
“Please, can I get by?” I ask, not even answering his question.
“Alright, if you insist. Can I at least get your-“, but I cut him off as I yell.
“GET AWAY FROM ME!”
The man’s eyes widen and before he has any time to react, Ethan and Liam are already next to me, Liam pushing the man up against the wall. Dad rushes over, trying to assess the situation.
“Whoa, relax! I was just talking to her!” The man says, clearly alarmed at my sudden outburst.
“Go. Now.” My dad says sternly, eyeing the man up and down. The man turns and continues to the bathroom, muttering “crazy” under his breath as he walks.
“Baby, are you alright?” Ethan tries to console me, pulling me into his chest. My breathing is rapid, my heart still beating at lightning speed.
“I want to leave.” I mutter into his chest.
“Yes, let’s call it a night kids. Ethan take Dallas to the truck, I’ll pay for the food.” Dad instructs.
As Ethan guides me out of the restaurant, I glance at our table to see Lexi helping the waiter pack up our remaining food so we can take it home with us. I give her a shaky smile, just before I’m outside and into the warm evening air.
“I’m sorry. I ruined everyone’s night.” I cry against Ethan’s chest.
“Stop, you didn’t ruin anything. We were about ready to leave, to begin with.” Ethan reassures me, rubbing soothing circles against my back. I’ve become more and more comfortable with him touching me, whether it’s wrapping his arms around me, or rubbing circles against my back whenever I’m feeling bad or anxious. I don’t flinch or shy away from him anymore. I pushed that feeling away; knowing Ethan would never do anything to hurt me.
I feel so safe when I’m with him.
“Hey, are you alright?” Lexi asks once she’s outside. Dad and Liam are still inside handling the bill.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry.” I sigh.
“Don’t apologize.” She shakes her head. “Ever.”
I hate that this is still happening to me. I thought I was finally making real progress.
My session with that therapist couldn’t come soon enough.
I hate this feeling.