I couldn’t believe, Gaelyn had been concerned enough to come and check up on me after my nightmare. I didn’t think it would matter to him or not if I was still upset over the things that had occurred at Rose County high school. That was another thing; I was going to need to need to get my GED, because as soon as I had turned 18, I had dropped out of school. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk through the halls of my former high school. At least not without seeing my classmates’ bodies everywhere. No one would ever think that a shooting would occur in what should have been a safe place for students to go to. I wondered if there even such as a truly safe place anymore. It had been easy for Tommy and Rodney to take their classmates lives, so how hard would be for someone else to repeat something like the shooting.
Gaelyn was right about one thing; I needed to get help for my nightmares. Eventually they would start to make me sick, which was the last thing I could afford, considering I was barely able to make ends meet, even with the state’s help. I wondered if the state would be find help for me. Considering what had happened, I think they should especially after leaving me in the dump they called apartments.
I glance over my shoulder, at Gaelyn who’s sitting quietly on the couch, looking contemplative. I wondered what direction his thoughts had taken him. He didn’t look any more peaceful then he did at any other time; in fact he looked like he was at war with himself. I wondered how we had ended up where we were now. I could understand how I had gotten here, being a foster kid and disabled and everything. Gaelyn however, was too smart to end up here forever. I’d always admired him because he’d always been so smart. It didn’t take a genius to end up in this place, but he was certainly too good to be here.
“How did you end up in a place like this?” I ask breaking the silence. He looked up at me. “You were on track to going to an ivy League school what happened to change that?
“I’m not as smart as you think I am” he replies as he stands up and walks over to the window. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he heaves a sigh. “I’ve made several bad decisions, all of which I regret, but can never change.”
“It’s never too late to change, if you really want to” I say and I see him narrow his eyes. I wonder if he knows that I know about his drug problem.
“I don’t want to change” he snaps immediately irate “I’m far too stuck in life the way it is now. I don’t ever see it getting better.” I shook my head. I don’t know how I’d ever noticed that Gaelyn was so negative. He hadn’t seemed like that when I was fourteen, but I guess back then I’d never really known who he was.
“You don’t want to change for your family?” I ask quietly and he turns and glares at me.
“My family doesn’t care what happens, in fact you can say it’s their fault I’m like this.” I was surprised at the venom in his voice; I could practically hear the ice dripping off it. “I shouldn’t be here” he grumbles and turns and heads for the door. I wonder why every conversation ended with him storming off.
I wanted to help Gaelyn overcome his addiction, but I was starting to think that he didn’t want help; he wanted to stay a drug addict forever. Sighing, I roll myself over to my bed. Lifting myself out of my wheelchair, I slowly lowered myself to the bed. I wished I had never dragged myself out of bed, to let Gaelyn in. He was too selfish to see what his actions were doing to his family. Sophia’s wasn’t easy to deal with, and it felt like a huge weight on my shoulder every single day. Though I grieved her loss I was determined I would live my life to the best of my ability. Even as I realize I would be paralyzed for life, there was still so much I could still do to honor my best friend’s life. Starting tomorrow, I would be volunteering at the local library which was thankfully within strolling distance. I couldn’t wait to start, I always enjoyed being around little kids, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to actually do something.
When I lived with the Mead’s, they wouldn’t have let me because I wouldn’t be there to clean up after them. This was just a sign that my life was changing for the good despite the circumstances I found myself in. I sighed and closed my eyes, tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.
I awoke the next morning, feeling less than rested. I’d dreamed about the shooting and seeing Sophia die. I close my eyes as I see the blood streaming down what was left of her face. Bullets to the head tended to be pretty brutal; this one might as well have taken her head off. I could still hear Rodney and Tommy’s voices in my head as they laughed about the kids they had killed.
I wondered what would happen to them, I was aware the police had found them hiding out in Rodney’s parent’s basement. I hoped they went to jail and never got out, but considering they were minors, I wasn’t sure what would happen. Although with the fact that they’d killed sixteen people, they might get tried as adults, which could mean the death penalty for them.
I had never thought of myself as a bitter person until after the Rose County High tragedy, even now I still watched people talking about it on the news. People always wonder how something like this could happen, how kids could be twisted and evil that they could take another’s life. The truth of the matter is, if some adult had taken notice of how the boys had been treated by their peers, and then maybe something like this could have been prevented. Everyone was too wrapped up in their own lives to see the suffering going on around them. We were all guilty of it, myself included, which is why despite how angry I felt about being paralyzed for the rest of my life, I decided I would do my best to help others who feel like Tommy and Rodney did. The Rose County high school shooting doesn’t have to be repeated and I would do my best to make sure it wouldn’t. I understood that you can’t help everyone, some are just too far gone into their pain to be helped, but there were others that could be helped, those were the ones I wanted to reach out too.
If I could help someone like Tommy and Rodney then maybe I could somehow rid myself of the guilt that plagued me while I slept. I knew it wasn’t my fault that I’d survived and Sophia had not, but it wasn’t getting my brain to understand that was my problem.
Sighing, I dragged myself to a sitting position, grabbing my clothes; I barely manage to get my shorts on without panting breathlessly. I hated that I had to go through this everyday but I guess it was better than being dead. I still had a life to live, when many of my friends did not.
After getting dressed, I drag myself into my wheelchair and head for the kitchen to make my breakfast. I was starting to feel a little anxious about going to the library to counsel with kids who had been bullied, and didn’t think there was a way out. What if I said the wrong thing and made them mad? How was I supposed to deal with that?
Twenty minutes later, I was rolling out of my door, shutting my door behind me. I glanced towards Gaelyn’s door. It wasn’t hard to stare at the tall dark haired man that was pounding on the door. He was taller than most, and in fact that made me more nervous of him.
“I know you’re in there Gaelyn.” He said, before turning and catching me staring at him. I blush and start to look away. It wasn’t any of my business if he needed to talk to Gaelyn. Turning away, I start to roll down the hall when I feel an arm touching my shoulder.
“Hi, I’m James Walker, friend of Gaelyn’s.” he introduced himself and I frowned, wondering if he was some kind of drug dealer looking for money that Gaelyn owed him. He must have known what I was thinking because he laughed before telling me he wasn’t Gaelyn’s supplier.
“I’m actually trying to get him to break his habit but so far I haven’t been having much luck. He’s too stubborn.”
“It’s going to kill him and he doesn’t care.” It had been obvious to me since I’d moved into this apartment building he’d been using something, and had been for a long time.
“No, he doesn’t, so I don’t know if there’s actually anything anyone can do to help him.” I could tell that thought bothered him. I was glad that someone else cared about him, because lately it seemed that the people who should have cared about Gaelyn weren’t doing anything to stop his downward spiral. If I had any idea of how to help without setting him off I would do it.
“Do you know if he’s home?” James asked suddenly and I shrugged.
“He came over for a little while yesterday, but as usual ended up storming out.” I was still a little mad over that. I knew it was probably because of the drugs he was taking that were making him act so erratically but I wasn’t sure.
“I’m sure it was because he was strung up and coming off the high” James said “I wouldn’t take anything he said or done too personally. Just know it’s the drugs that are making him behave the way he is.”
I nodded I knew that of course, but it bothered me that someone as strong as Gaelyn acted had to resort to drug usage.
“Do you know how long he’s been using?” I ask, having a hard time comparing him to the teen that had wanted to comfort me when I’d lost my parents, to the man he was now; the man who didn’t care enough about himself to not poison himself with drugs.
“Since his teens” James said, and I could hear the sadness in his voice. He was obviously someone who cared about Gaelyn very much. “At this point I don’t think there is any chance of redeeming him; he’s been addicted for far too long.”
“No one is beyond redemption” I said looking at him “Everyone deserves to have someone in their corner willing to fight for them.” James chuckled and he shook his head.
“It would be nice if I could know the name of the most optimistic person I have ever talked to” James commented. I smiled.
“Annaleigh Robertson” I replied “and I’m going to be late for my job.” I really didn’t want to just go off and abandon him because I was enjoying our conversation but I didn’t want to be late to my first day. It wouldn’t look very good, and I would like to make a good impression.
“Well, Annaleigh Robertson, I hope I get to talk to you again without the dismal business of drugs coming up.” James says, a grin spreading wide across his face. I wanted to melt where I was; there was something about James that I really liked.
“I hope to see you soon, you already know where I live, so I suppose if you come see Gaelyn often enough, chances are we can talk.” I say smiling, though I wondered what a guy like James could possibly see in someone like me. I wouldn’t ever have the ability to walk again. I don’t know why this was even bothering me, it’s not like a guy like him would even notice me.
Feeling dejected I rolled down the hall to the elevator, I don’t even know why I was thinking like this, I had just met James. Still, I liked the way his smile lit up his whole face, but I really liked that he wanted to help Gaelyn despite Gaelyn not wanting anyone’s help. It took a strong person to put up with someone else’s weaknesses and then to still care for them, it spoke a lot about James’ character. Annaleigh, this is not the time to go nuts over a guy, even one as good looking as James. Besides, you can’t even walk. What hope do you even have to attract someone like him? My thoughts weren’t usually so self-deprecating but since noticing how good looking James was, it automatically made me more self-conscious of how I really looked. I needed to get James out of my head so that I could concentrate on my volunteering at the church. I wanted to help kids make a better decision than taking their pain out on their peers.
Exiting the building, I made my way to the sidewalk, and took a right away from the apartments. It would only be about a ten minute walk to the church. I couldn’t help but feel excited for this job. I really want to be able to help kids start making better decisions and to help them learn that bullying is not a good option.
After all look where it got you? And look where it got Gaelyn, he’s by far the worst I’ve seen and the sad part is, he’s only the way he is because his father bullied him and put too much pressure on his young shoulders. However, Gaelyn shouldn’t have used that as his excuse to become addicted. I shook my head trying to clear my thoughts. I wanted to help Gaelyn but unless he admitted he had a problem then I wouldn’t be able to do that. I didn’t need to spend so much of my time worrying over him. He chose to be put in the position that he was in; he could change it if he wanted too. It wouldn’t be easy for him but he could do it.
I rolled down the sidewalk, avoiding looking anyone in the eyes. This neighborhood made me nervous. But until I got some money saved up from my disability check, I wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while, so I had to make the best out of a crappy situation. I wondered if Sophia and I would have found an apartment by now if she were still here.
Thinking about my best friend brought tears to my eyes. I still missed her miserably, and thought about her every single night. I still saw her limp bloody body in the halls. I knew that I should talk to someone about my dreams; there was help out there for what I was going through. In my way I was a lot like Gaelyn than I liked to admit, I had the inability to admit I had a problem and get help.
Sighing, an eerie feeling that someone was watching me, made the hair on the back of my neck prickle. Swallowing hard, I tried to push myself faster down the road. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea after all? Being alone in a bad neighborhood was never a good idea. It wasn’t like I could get someone to come with me though; besides Gaelyn I didn’t know anyone in our apartment complex. I seriously doubted I could really trust anyone in the building and that included Gaelyn. He was addicted to drugs so who knew just how far he was willing to go to get his next high? I’ve read about drug addicts and how they ruthlessly pursue their next high like there’s nothing more important to them. I wondered if I was about to be robbed of what little money I had. I hoped not, I didn’t have much until my disability kicked in, so I needed what I had for groceries.
Sucking in a breath, I try to ignore the terror that is slowly filling my veins. This was not how I imagined my night would go. First night of my volunteer duty and I get mugged. That wasn’t anything I was going to be proud of, not only were the memories I was living with, I had to live with getting beaten up for drug money. My arms grew tired the longer I forced them to roll the wheels as fast as I could. I was only a few minutes away from the church. I silently pray that I could make it there in time.
“Slow down Annaleigh!” I hear an out of breath voice call from behind me. Frowning, I turn and see Gaelyn bending down with his hands on his knees, gasping for air.
“Sorry, I thought you were a mugger” I apologize as I watch him trying to catch his breath for a minute. He snorted and sat up and I looked into blue eyes, the whites surrounding the pupil were bloodshot red, and I knew I wasn’t any safer with him than I would be with a member MS13 a notoriously bad gang. Not that any gang was necessarily good, but this one was worse than usual.
“It’s not a good idea for you to be out here at night alone” Gaelyn spoke and for a minute he sounded normal, not like he was high as a kite.
“I know that now” I mutter as I turn and start to roll down the sidewalk again.
“James has a girlfriend, so I wouldn’t flirt too hard with him” Gaelyn says as he quickly catches up with me. I scowl at him. He was full of useful information tonight.
“So” I tell him “It’s not like we would ever be anything than friends anyhow.” I remark feeling more than a little bitter about the dating situation. I wouldn’t ever be good enough for any man to want to date. He frowns at me and I try to ignore the butterflies in my stomach. It was more than apparent I wasn’t as over my crush as I had thought I was. Which was bad enough because I knew it could go nowhere, while he was addicted to drugs. I had enough of my own problems without adding his to the mix.
“Are you getting help for your dreams?” he asks after a moments silence. I shake my head.
“No time. I’m going to be at the church most days.” And then the other part would be spent locked in my apartment.
“You need help” he said “you don’t need to live with memories like those!”
“Why are you on my case about getting help, when you need it more than I do?” I asked feeling frustrated. He glares at me, and I know we are about to have another argument.
“I’m not the one who witnessed a school shooting, and is left to deal with my best friend’s death!” he growled, I ignored the glares he sent my way.
“You can’t tell me you became a drug addict because your father bullied you and applied too much pressure” I started feeling his heated stare on my back. “No, there’s something else that’s making you run, that’s what the whole drug addiction is about. You’re trying to run from something. I don’t know what it is but you obviously need help for it. That’s all your drug addiction is, is a cry for help!” I sensed I had crossed a line as I finish what I’m saying.
“Who told you about my dad?” his voice has gone stone cold, and it leaves me wondering just how much of his issues are caused by him. “You think you’re so smart, but you know nothing about me or what I’ve been through. So don’t presume to think you can tell me I need more help than you do!” his voice sent chills racing down my spine, I’d never seen him so angry, even when he was high he’d never been like this. “You and your self-righteousness can find someone else, I don’t need some broken little girl who nobody else wants to pity me!” he turns and stalks off, the anger in his voice made me shake. I wouldn’t ever admit to him how much he’d terrified me in that moment.
He was right about a couple of things though, I was broken and nobody wanted me. I had always thought that, and it kind of sucked to have it thrown back in your face. I feel a tear fall down my face as I stare into the black space where Gaelyn had disappeared. It was just like we were kids again; he’d been downright cruel to me before Sophia died.
Feeling lost and more than a little confused, I continued rolling towards the church that was just now in sight. I was still feeling confused about why I was even upset about Gaelyn’s cruel words when I entered the church building. It didn’t look like much of a church, as it was just as run down as the rest of the neighborhood seemed to be. I only hoped that this place could bring me some much needed comfort. It wasn’t like I had a best friend to turn to anymore. Sophia would have punched Gaelyn in the face for what he’d said to me and at this point I was kind of wishing I could punch him in the face.
Upon entering the building, I find the fellowship hall, where a few people are already sitting and waiting. I roll up to the first person I see that looks like she’s in charge. Mrs. Thomas frowns when she sees me entering and a feeling of dread fills me, I had the feeling my already bad night was about to get worse.
“You are Annaleigh Robertson?” she asks as I approach, I nod and swallow hard. I needed this place more than I thought I did. I needed this place not just to help others but to help myself. “I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding. We’re not looking for any more volunteers at this location.” I heave a sigh; I should have figured how this could not happen to me today. “We have another location but it’s all the way across town.” Mrs. Thomas said and I could see the sympathy in her eyes.
I manage to mutter a good night before turning and wheeling myself out of the church. I had looked forward to working with the kids, but now I had nothing. Exiting onto the street, I start making my way back to the apartment.
I make it back to my apartment with no problems, as I exit the elevator I see Gaelyn standing outside of his apartment. Just the sight of him brings back the painful words he’d yelled at me and I look away. I feel his glare on my back, as I reach for my keys. The force of his glare brings tears to my eyes, I don’t really know what I had done that was so wrong, but apparently he had thought it was unforgiveable.
Feeling even more broken than I already was, I enter my apartment and shut the door behind me. Closing the door on the pain Gaelyn had caused me, though I knew I wouldn’t be able to forget it anytime soon.