“What did he say to you?” Vincent snapped at me.
“I- I d-don’t know...” I mumbled in panic. My mind was jumbled with too many thoughts at the same time. I shouldn’t have left him there. I should have insisted for him to stay in my house. I should have listened to the nagging feeling in my gut, I should have known. I should have stopped him!
“Taylor!” Vince snapped again, making me focus on him instead of drowning in guilt like I’ve been doing since we left my house.
“It’s... I- I... he... said my name. That’s it.” I managed to spurt out. “Then the line was cut.”
“He only said your name? Maybe his battery just went out.” He suggested.
“No. It’s the way he said it... something was wrong. I could tell by his voice. Can’t you go faster?” I cried out in despair.
I knew something bad had happened, something really bad.
“We’re almost there, hang on.” Vince sped up until we were parking right outside Matt’s house. I ran out of the car and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the door open, creaking ominously with the wind.
“I knew something was wrong.” I murmured, halting in front of the door.
Vincent walked pass me and paused at the doorframe, calling out for Matt, but nobody answered him. The living room flickered with the light of the TV in the background in the dead of silence.
“Taylor,” Vince tried to grab my arm to prevent me from walking inside. “We don’t know what happened, it can be a robbery... he can still be in the house.” He tried to warn me but I shrugged his hand off and kept walking.
First I saw the center table turned. A few broken bottles were scattered on the floor, small shards of glass glinting all over the carpet. Then I saw Matt lying on the floor, unmoving. Then I saw all the blood. Dripping from his head to his face, smearing his shirt and the floor.
“Oh, God.” I whispered, feeling sick to my stomach.
Vincent had reached Matt by then and was kneeling down, calling out Matt’s name. It felt like forever until Matt’s eyes finally fluttered open and blinked confused at us. “What happened?” I asked urgently, coming to his side.
“My father.” He murmured, his voice rough and low.
He tried to sit but he seemed to be hurt pretty badly because he winced at every move he tried to make. I helped hoist him up to a sitting position, as gently as I possibly could.
“Thanks.” He murmured and tried to wipe some blood of the corner of his mouth but his hand had blood all over and didn’t help cleaning anything much. “Where’s all this blood coming from?” he asked, his words slurring.
Vincent quickly started to check for injuries, his eyes hard and analytical. “You have a gash in your head and a cut in your upper lip.”
Matt seemed completely disoriented, and raised his hand to touch his head, but stopped midway and flinched in pain.
“Where does it hurt?” Vincent asked worriedly.
“It feels like a broken rib,” Matt said with a groan and wrapped an arm around his ribcage.
“Do you know your name, and where you are right now?” Vince asked and Matt rolled his eyes in a bad mood to answer stupid questions. “Humor me, please.”
“I’m Matt. I’m in my house.” He grumbled.
“Are you feeling nauseous or sick?”
“I feel a bit dizzy, is all.” Matt mumbled, swaying a little. “A bottle to the head will do that for ya…”
“Can you follow my finger?” Vince asked and ran his finger from right to left in the air, then up and down, as Matt followed the movement with a puzzled look on his face.
“I don’t think he has a concussion.” Vincent stated. “It’s just a small cut on the side of his head. Maybe it won’t even need stitches, but it’s best if we take him to a hospital, just to make sure-”
“No! No hospitals! I’m fine.” Matt snapped sharply.
Vincent and I exchanged silent looks before he said in a cautious tone. “All right, but cuts in the head bleed like hell. We need to find something to press over it to stop the bleeding.” Vince said and I was already taking my shirt off and twisting it in a bundle to put on Matt’s head.
“I’m going to press hard. I know it’s going to hurt, but the pressure is important to stop the bleeding.” Vincent instructed, while Matt grunted under his breath as Vincent pressed on the cut in his head.
“How the heck do you know so much about this first-aid stuff?” I asked, impressed.
“My uncle is a doctor. We have a lot of dinners together and it’s pretty much all he talks about. You learn a few things after a while...” He explained with a shrug, then he looked worriedly around. “Is your father still in the house, Mathew?”
“I- I don’t know. I don’t think he is, or we’d have known. He’s very loud when he’s drunk like that. M-maybe he’s passed out in his bedroom?”
“We found the front door wide open.” I told him.
“He must have panicked and ran out, after he hit me with that bottle.” Matt explained, his breath labored like it was hard for him to talk. “I think I remember him yelling that he had killed me. All the blood must have spooked him. I remember I tried to call Taylor but I think I passed out before the call went through.”
“Why did he do this to you?” Vince asked, his eyes searching his in the dark room.
Matt stared at the floor and just shrugged, tiredly. “Same old reasons.”
“We need to get him out of here, Vince. We don’t know when his father could be coming back. Maybe he’s even upstairs, if he finds me here, things will get even worse, believe me.”
“Okay, Matthew, do you think you can walk?” Vince asked.
Matt nodded and tried to stand up but failed, slumping back on the floor with a grimace of pain. I ran to him and helped hoist him up again, with Vincent’s aid, since Matt was pretty heavy and I couldn’t do it on my own.
When Matt tried to give a step forward, his knee gave out and he almost collapsed. “Shit!” Matt cursed, bending his leg to avoid his foot from touching the floor. “Something’s wrong with my ankle.”
Vincent was quick to wrap an arm around his waist, holding him firmly up so he wouldn’t fall. “We’ll check it later, after we get you out of here. Come on.” Vincent ordered and egged us forward.
Matt limped his way out of the house, supported by Vincent and me on both sides. He slumped in the passengers’ seat of Vincent’s car and we drove quickly away. He had his head leaning against the window, one hand pressing my shirt on his bleeding head, and the other arm wrapped over his stomach, while his eyes glazed over the view outside.
Vincent drove in silence, hands gripping the steering wheel and eyes fixed on the road, but sometimes he would flick his head quickly to check on Matt. I didn’t know what to say. I was so shocked to see Matt like that; it had never been bad like this before, so brutal. He was so hurt, his face was bruised, his lip swollen and bleeding. His head had a slash God knows how deep, and beneath those clothes he had a broken rib, maybe a broken ankle and probably more injuries we haven’t even seen yet. Just the memory of all that blood on Matt made me feel sick.
“M-maybe we should really get him to the hospital?” I suggested in a small voice.
“NO!” Matt’s loud protest rang in the silence of the car. “No hospitals. It will only make things worse. They’ll have to call him. They will call him to take care of me,” he said with contempt dripping from his mouth. “It’s not as bad as it looks. I’m fine. I don’t need to go to a hospital.” He resumed his position, slumped against the door of the car.
“W-what are we going to do, then?” I asked, scared.
“He can stay at my place tonight.” Vince suggested. He flicked his eyes to me through the review mirror. “Your mom will probably freak out if she sees him like this. Drag him to the hospital, which he obviously don’t want to, and even call the cops on his father. It’ll be a mess and a hell for him. I’ll check him properly at my place and if it looks really bad, we take him to the hospital. If not, then he rests for tonight and we’ll see what he wants to do tomorrow, okay?”
I nodded and Vincent drove to his mansion. We helped Matt out of the car and inside the house, trying to be as quiet as we could. Then we carried him up the staircase and headed towards Vincent’s room. He put Matt carefully on his bed, clicked a lamp on the nightstand and turned to me. “Stay with him. I’ll be right back.”
I sat by Matt’s side and glanced worriedly at him. He sat hunched on the bed, staring down at his bleeding hands over his lap. He looked so defeated, as if his father had managed to break his spirit this time, along with his body. He never looked this abandoned before, like nothing else mattered to him anymore.
It made my heart break inside.
I reached out and pulled his bloodied hand into mine, and only then did I realize how much my own hands were shaking. I tried to steady myself and show him he could lean on me for support, show him I was there for him. I needed to be strong for Matt now. He needed someone to hold him and tell him he was going to be all right, but I was barely holding it together.
“Everything’s going to be okay, Matty,” I said softly, trying to reassure him. “Vincent is going to take care of everything, you’ll see. You’re safe in here.”
I was trying so hard not to cry for seeing him this broken, the light in his eyes all gone… even the blue in them seemed faded somehow.
He didn’t respond. He just sat there in silence, staring down, not even holding my hand back. I wished I was strong for him, but I wasn’t. Matt has always been the one picking up my pieces, defending me from everything. How could I help him, if I was scared like this? How could I make him feel safe, if I couldn’t even hold his hand without shaking?
“I wish I could make you okay again, Matt... I’d give anything to make you feel better, to make your pain go away.” I whispered, my voice breaking a little at the end.
I squeezed his hand gently, trying to pass on to him a little bit of my love and he surprised me by squeezing my hand back. Then Vincent walked back into the room, holding a bunch of towels and boxes in his arms.
He put all the stuff he was carrying on the bed and started tending to Matt immediately. He took out some gauze from one of the boxes first, then disinfectants, alcohol and a towel to wipe all the blood off his wound on the head. He checked the clean wound and nodded, seeming satisfied that the bleeding had stopped. “Good, this seems like it won’t even need stitches,” he said, relieved. “I’ll put some alcohol now, so it won’t get infected. This might sting a bit.” He warned.
After he finished tending to the wound in the head, he turned to Matt and asked if he could take his shirt off, but Matt was in some sort of catatonic state, one arm wrapped around his stomach and his head hung low. He didn’t respond.
“I need to see how your ribs are Matthew.” Vince explained.
When Matt didn’t respond again, Vincent tried another approach. “I’ll get the scissors here and cut your shirt off, since you can’t raise your arms. I’ll give you a new shirt tomorrow, all right? Stay still.” He started to peel Matt’s bloodied shirt off while Matt just laid there, like a ragged limp doll.
When Vincent was done with the shirt, I had to still myself as I looked at Matt’s beaten up torso. A huge purple bruise had already formed on the right side and a few other ugly marks spread all over his body. It made me feel sick, imagining his father doing all that to his own son. How fucked up a monster was that man?
Vincent quickly bandaged Matt’s ribs and moved to the floor. “Taylor, help me with the shoes,” he directed, checking Matt’s left ankle carefully.
His ankle was swollen, doubled the normal size, with a nasty purple showing through the skin. Vincent sucked in his breath when he saw the state of the injury.
“Maybe tomorrow we’ll need to go to a doctor and have that ankle look at, man. It looks broken.” He glanced up to watch Matt’s reaction.
Matt was really shutting himself off the world up there. I don’t think he was even listening to anything we were saying. “We’ll see what we’ll do tomorrow.” Vincent muttered, carefully taking the socks off and resting Matt’s foot gently on the mattress.
Matt had always been a God to me, this athletic muscled giant, fierce, strong and invincible, but now he looked so small and fragile... a broken boy, falling into pieces.
Vincent sat beside him again, to clean the blood off his hands. My eyes followed Vincent’s careful ministrations as he dabbed at Matt’s cuts. They were probably cuts made from the shards of the broken bottles on the floor. The sight of it made me feel queasy all over again. I hated seeing blood, I could never handle blood.
“Pass me the alcohol, Taylor;” Vincent asked, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Matt’s hands. All that blood, the cuts in his flesh... his hands… they were all slashed... blood everywhere... falling… dripping...
“Taylor?” Vince cut in again. “Holmes!” he snapped loudly and I blinked startled, gulping down bile that was rising up my throat.
Vincent looked at me with a frown and his eyes flickered quickly to my trembling hands. Great, now he could see how big of a pansy I was, how weak and pathetic and useless and... “Can you go to the bathroom and grab me some painkillers for Matt?” he asked, this time, softly. “They are in an acrylic orange bottle, inside one of the cabinets. I can handle his cuts here on my own, you can go.”
I nodded and went to get the pills, grateful for the distraction. I felt relieved and ashamed at the same time.
Weak, weak, weak, my mind kept repeating to myself, scorning me.
I stumbled into his gigantic bathroom. There were so many cabinets, too many places to look for the pills. I went through them all, until I finally managed to find two orange flasks. I walked silently back to the room and stopped when I heard Vincent talking to Matt. His voice was low and serious as he tended to his hands.
“... and I know how you feel. Because you couldn’t stand up to your dad. I thought all this things too, once, but people don’t know how it is... the years of abuse... growing up with their violence, taking punch after punch for every little thing you do.” Vincent muttered, an understanding lacing his words.
“I know abuse. I know taking physical and psychological abuse. I know the guilt, the shame, the blaming we do to ourselves after. If you think I’m good at those mind games, you haven’t met my father. He’s the master of them all.” Vincent sneered, his voice hard, resentful now. Then he changed his tone, mimicking someone:
“You are useless! A failure! You will never accomplish anything. You’re not good enough and you never will be! You think you’re smart, boy? You’re not nearly close enough. The world will chew you up and spit you out! You’re soft, weak! You’re a waste of my time, and my time is worth a lot! Incompetent. Unqualified. Unable to do anything right. She was the only good thing in my life and you took her away!” Vincent repeated his father’s words, his face turning angry, snarling and full of hate.
“That’s the speech he gave me when I was six years old, you know. I got hurt doing some kid’s stuff and the nannies were worried, so they called him from one of his business meetings to take care of me. They called him, to take care of me. It only made things worse.” Vincent repeated Matt’s exact words in the car, when we suggested getting him to the hospital. “I didn’t let anyone know I was hurt after that day, so they wouldn’t call him again. I’ve learned to take care of myself since then.”
“You took her away?” Matt’s quiet voice rolled in the room, the first time he spoke since the outburst in the car.
“My mom. She died in childbirth. There were... complications.” Vincent shrugged, like there was nothing he could do about it, either he dealt with it or not, she was still going to be dead.
“Mine too.” Matt murmured and they stared at each other in silence for a while, before Vincent gave him a tiny nod.
I could see a bond forming between the two from where I stood in silence, watching by the bathroom door. Vincent has never told me any of this.
“It sucks, but what you got to do, right? They’re gone. We’re not.” Vince said, matter of fact. “And hey, a lot of people got it way worse. At least I had my money, it helped take care of a lot of problems, things that I needed to do that would’ve sucked if I didn’t have the money. I can’t complain about that. Plus, I have Alfred too. He has always looked after me. I’m lucky to have him in my life.”
“He’s not your butler.” Matt said, finally understanding.
Alfred was Vincent’s father figure. He was like his dad, not a mere employee.
Now I understood it too.
“He is not.” Vincent nodded. “Hey, but you’re lucky too. You had Taylor when you were growing up.” Vincent pointed out. “And Taylor’s parents, right? I’ve met Mrs. Holmes. She’s very warm and very loving.”
That earned a smile from Matt’s bruised lips.
“She’s like a female bubbly version of Taylor, isn’t she?” Vincent mused with a chuckle. “So all in all, we ended up fine, you know… despite the shitty fathers we have.”
Matt wrapped an arm over his broken ribs. “I know what you must think of me.”
“I don’t think anything, okay?” Vince quickly replied. “Matt, you don’t have to feel ashamed. Your father is the one who should feel ashamed, he’s the one doing this to you.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Matt said, defeated.
“What do you mean?” Vince asked with a frown.
“He won’t ever stop. I think he’ll only stop when he kills me.”
“You can’t let him keep doing this to you,” Vincent said, nervously. “When I got old enough to understand what my father was doing to me... let’s just say, I didn’t let him abuse me anymore. When he pushes now, I push back harder. They don’t have the right to do this shit to us! You can’t keep laying down and taking these punches. You have to start fighting back!”
“I- I can’t.” Matt shook his head, blue eyes so sad with the weight of it all. “It’s like what you said that day at the library, I’m weak and a coward.”
“You are not. I was trying to provoke you that day, Matt, what I said wasn’t true. I knew you’d be brave to fight for Taylor, and you did. I had absolute certainty that you would. You’re not weak and you’re not a coward.” Vincent said almost as a command. “Remember, I’m always right. You have to trust me on this.”
Matt shook his head. “You’re wrong this time.”
“I am. Never. Wrong.” Vincent’s stood up, his voice hard and full of authority.
“Vince, please. Stop.” I tried to intervene. Matt wasn’t fit for any more fights today, or anyone forcing him to do anything. He had had enough.
Vincent glanced at me and took a deep breath, calming himself.
“Okay. For the sake of argument, let’s say he can’t do anything about his father right now. Fair enough. Then, let me help him.” He proposed, crossing his arms over his chest.
“H-how?” I asked, unsure.
“He can stay away from his father, until he feels like he can stand up to him.” He proposed, then turned to Adam. “You can stay here, not just for tonight, for as long as you want. We’ll go get some of your stuff at your place tomorrow, when he’s not at your house. You don’t even need to see him again, okay? And you stay here with me. If you don’t get used to here, you have Taylor’s home to go to, but you can’t go back to that. You can’t go back to his abuse. You have to promise me that. You only go back when you know you’re ready to fight back. If you think you can’t, you stay away from him.” Vince said firmly. “What do you say? Do we have a deal?”
Matt tilted his head up and stared at Vincent for a long time, before sighing and nodding tiredly in agreement.
“Okay, then.” Vincent agreed too.
“I found two orange flasks, Vince. Didn’t know which one was the right one...” I walked between them, handing him the pills.
Vincent discarded one flask and opened the other, handing a couple of pills to Matt. “Take these. These are fairly mild because I’m still not a hundred percent sure if you have a concussion or not, so it’s best not to fill you with heavy drugs for now, but it’ll help alleviate your pain, at least.”
I felt so grateful and relieved for everything that Vincent was doing now for Matt. I could never repay him. He was so amazing.
“Thank you,” Matt said looking to me and Vincent with so much gratitude in his blue eyes, it almost made me tear up. “I think I’ll lay down now.” He murmured, sounding so tired. He laid on his side on the edge of Vincent’s gigantic master king bed, while Vincent grabbed a blanket from the end of the bed to cover him. It only took a couple minutes for him to start drifting into sleep.
Vincent turned to me. “Stay with him. If you need anything, call m-”
“No!” I grabbed his hand pleadingly. “Your bed is huge, it fits five people in there. Please, don’t leave us.” I whispered, scared.
I didn’t know why, but Vincent made me feel safe. I was panicking just thinking about him leaving the room. He frowned and watched me squirm in agony for a moment before nodding in consent. He closed the door of his room and turned the light off, then headed back to bed. I snuck beneath the covers by Matt’s side while Vincent laid by my side. I was stuck in the middle of the most incredible boys on Earth.
“Thank you, Vince,” I said to the dark room. “You are incredible.”
He was quiet for a moment before he responded.
“Get some rest, Taylor. We all had a long night.”
I turned to the side, wrapping my arm lightly around Matt’s waist.
Something was still not quite right, so I turned to grab Vincent’s hand and pulled him close to me, his fingers intertwined into mine as I held on to Matt’s waist again.
Vincent had to rest his arm around me and Matt at the same time, because I had his hand firmly in mine, and that’s how I slept that night, sandwiched between the two most amazing boys I have ever known.