Before We Burn

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Oaklyn waited impatiently in the therapist lobby. Her legs bounced as she wanted something to calm her.

She had decided not to indulge in the items Sandra had bought her too hastily, but she was beginning to regret it.

The two pills at a time she had started to take were doing a number on her.

When Oaklyn surveyed the waiting room, she noticed a girl around the same age, maybe younger, looking just as uncomfortable.

Bandages were around both of her wrists, along with a slew of rubber bands.

She quickly averted her gaze when the girl glanced at her. She nervously chewed on her nail until her family therapist stepped out of the back room.

Her blond bob bounced around the shoulders of her black pantsuit. A golden necklace flashed in the sun that leaked from the windows.

“Oaklyn?” she asked once she recognized her. “Your family doesn’t have an appointment for another two weeks.”

Oaklyn rapidly scampered from her seat and greeted her. She felt uneasy making eye contact and kept flickering her stare throughout the small room.

“Yeah, about that. I was wondering if I could talk to you personally. It’s hard to speak with my parents around,” she replied rather quickly.

Her therapist hesitated for a moment as she studied her. Her light brows wrinkled when she leaned closer.

“You know I can’t do that without an appointment, and I’d need permission from your parents since they are involved with your present sessions.”

Oaklyn nodded her head and cracked her knuckles to relieve some of the tension.

“Yeah, I know. I just, uh,” Oaklyn chuckled in embarrassment, “nevermind. It was worth a shot.”

She quickly turned around toward the door until her therapist called out to her.

“Oaklyn, call this number,” she said as she wrote down a phone number on a business card. “They’ll be able to help you at any time of the day without cost.”

Oaklyn took the card from her with a closed smile, then shortly exited the office.

Once she made it outside, she promptly looked up the number on her phone.

Drug Addiction Hotline

She peered up from her phone in disbelief and scoffed.

“Thanks, Ms. Shithead,” she growled as she crumpled up the card and then hurled it in the trash can. “Pills are just a symptom of my problems.”

She lit up a cigarette while she repressed the urge to scream into the sky.

She started to pace back and forth at the side of the office building. She popped two pills from her pocket, then continued to smoke.

“I don’t know what to do,” she panicked. “I don’t know what to do.”

When she stopped to take a deep breath, she saw Wesley walking out of a boxing gym next door.

A duffel bag was at his side with sweatpants and a large tank top over his torso. His hair matted to his face with sweat, and his pale cheeks were flushed.

She stomped out her cigarette and ran toward him through the parking lot.

When he loaded the last bit of his things into the backseat, his face brightened when he saw her stooping against the trunk.

“What are you doing here?” he asked before he lifted her to sit on the top of the car.

She gestured to the treatment building. “I tried to take your advice, and I requested a personal session.”

“Tried?” his eyebrow lifted.

She nodded as she sucked in her bottom lip, then sighed in disappointment.

“I would need consent because I am in family therapy. It doesn’t matter if I’m over eighteen.”

“Shit,” Wesley muttered under his breath. “You tried, though. That takes a lot to do.”

Oaklyn placed to the gym, then back at him. Her eyebrows lifted as she looked him up and down.

“Like being a boxer?” she laughed. “That’s kinda badass.”

He smirked as he leaned over her. His hands entrapped her on each side.

“It helps me clear my head. I get these,” he paused and shifted away from her, “thoughts sometimes. My dad had them, but the more extreme version. Clearly.”

He chuckled, but a profound sadness crept beneath.

Her face softened, and she reached for him.

She felt terrible that he had been silently struggling by himself, and she had only focused on what she was going through.

“What kind of thoughts?”

Wesley held her hands in his. He looked down at them and stroked her knuckles with his thumbs.

“I just want to-” he paused when he turned his head toward the sky, “I get too afraid I’m going to hurt someone. I’ll even picture it in my head, and it scares me. I constantly worry if that’s just who I am; a violent monster like my father.”

Oaklyn rested her forehead against his and cradled his face.

“You are not your father,” she whispered to him. “You will never be your father.”

He smiled at her.

Their moment ruined, however, when a group of guys came out of a restaurant. The aroma of beer and pizza enclosed around them as they wandered closer.

“Strangler Boy!” one of them shouted.

Oaklyn recognized most of the guys from the party. Kyle was one of them.

Wesley sighed heavily and dragged away from her again. His hands slid into his pockets.

She could tell from the silhouette against the material that his fingers had coiled into fists. She peeked up at him to see his jaw clenched.

“Found a perfect victim, huh? Who better than Flamer girl,” another yelled as they walked closer.

Oaklyn decided to keep her eyes trained on Wesley’s chest. Her nostrils flared in anger, and she grasped the lip of the trunk tightly.

Kyle remained in the back of the group and did nothing to end the comments flung from their mouths.

She knew it was his way of getting back at Wesley for showing him up at the party.

“I would pick her too. She’s just as hot as the house that killed her brother.”

Wesley moved quickly. “What did you say?”

The group backed away when he looked as though he was about to charge at them.

She hopped off the car and rested a hand on his chest once she placed herself in front of him.

“Baby, let’s just go,”

“Stockholm Syndrome if you ask me,” someone muttered.

Oaklyn squinted when rage flittered through her body. She veered around and threw daggers at each one of them, mainly at Kyle.

He called himself a friend but allowed the rest of them to team up against her and her boyfriend.

“If you make one more comment like that about him, you’ll be the next one six feet under,” she growled, “and it won’t be a house that burns you alive.”

The group scattered instantly once the fear got through to them.

Wesley heaved her back toward him and hugged her tightly.

“I’m sorry. I just got so angry.”

“It’s okay,” he murmured into her ear.

She glanced over his arms, then pulled away from him.

Kyle was the last one standing. He didn’t seem phased by her threat but looked ashamed.

“I’m sor-”

“I don’t want you or your buddies to ever come near either of us again,” Wesley warned him through clenched teeth. “Do you understand?”

He nodded before he ran off toward his friends, who were shouting for him.

“Come on,” Oaklyn said as she tugged his hand.


Once they arrived at his house, Wesley turned the radio on in his room. The music played softly, and Oaklyn hummed along while she browsed through his sketches.

“My little badass,” he teased. “Look at you standing up for me back there.”

“Well, so did you,” she giggled. “I think your former friends were right. We are a match made in Hell.”

Wesley chuckled as he watched her thumb through the pages. He loved seeing how enamored she’d become by looking at all of his artwork.

Her eyes twinkled when she found one of a royal blue butterfly sitting on top of a vibrant sunflower.

She excitedly spun it around to show him.

“I think this one is my favorite,” she smiled. “The bright contrast of colors. It makes me think of happiness and sadness combining.”

Wesley looked at her in awe from the edge of his bed. He shook his head in disbelief and smiled shyly.

“That’s what I thought,” he confessed. “You sure you’re not an artist?”

She shrugged. “I never thought about it. My parents had us musically trained since we were old enough to pick up an instrument.”

Another moment passed as she flipped through more sketches, but she went back to the one with the butterfly.

Her eyes were fixated on it as if glued. Her fingers traced the strokes of the pencil Wesley had used, and a gentle smile lightened her face.

It was one that he swore he had never seen before. It almost brought tears to his eyes from the genuine happiness that radiated off of Oaklyn.

That was all he ever wanted to see.

“Why haven’t you painted this one?” she asked as she glanced at him again.

“I didn’t think it was any good. I’m my own worst critic most times.”

Wesley took a second to gawk at her again. His smile faded, and his eyes softened when he came to an overwhelming realization.

“I love you,” he spoke out, then immediately pinched his eyes shut when he heard the words flutter from his mouth.

Her eyes widened, and her grin fell in surprise. “W... What?”

Her whole world felt like it erupted. She was left confused about what to do next. She had boyfriends before, but they had never stuck around to tell her they loved her.

She wasn’t sure how to handle their relationship. She was struggling too much and felt selfish for bringing Wesley along for the ride. It wasn’t fair to him that she wanted to destroy herself while he wished to help her.

Yet, she couldn’t deny her feelings for him either. She didn’t want to break it off.

If she were to, it wouldn’t have done any good. They were in too deep already.

“Uhm,” he groaned as he stood up from his bed. “I never said it before. I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

Wesley stood in front of his window with his hands in his pockets. His stare trained on the wooden floor beneath his feet.

She bit her lip before she set the sketchbook down and shuffled toward him. She didn’t hesitate to nestle his face to make him look at her.

“I love you, too,” she told him.

A broad, relieved smile stretched his cheeks. He kissed Oaklyn, then held her tightly around her back.

She couldn’t help but giggle at him when he planted kisses all over her face.

“That makes me so happy to hear.”

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