XXIV. Statements and Forevers
“It’s unfortunately what I expected,” Emma said with a sigh as she entered my hospital room. I’d just gotten finished with my MRI less than an hour ago and Madison and I were watching the best show the hospital had to offer: Law and Order SVU. And we were amazing at figuring out who committed the crime before they did. Connor had left about ten minutes ago to comfort Abbi after an eternity of me assuring him that I understood and wasn’t mad. “You have not only one bruised rib, but two.” Madison’s jaw clenched as he sat on my bed next to me, causing me to gently run my thumb over his knuckles in a comforting matter in order to calm him down. “But luckily with the proper medicines and breathing exercises, we will have you whipped back into shape. But your shallow oxygen levels still worry me. They’re worse than they should be, so I’m going to keep you on oxygen for another day or two and when that straightens itself out, we can discharge you, okay?”
I nodded. “That’s great, thank you Emma.” She nodded in response before she left. Madison opened his mouth to say something, but I caught him before he could. “I’m fine Madison,” I assured. “There’s no need for you to get arrested for assault.”
He sighed and reluctantly stayed quiet. It made me a bit giddy to see him so worked up over me.
“Okay, but rest assured, if the justice system doesn’t handle them, I will.”
“I know you will,” I said with a chuckle as I squeezed his hand and leaned back into my bed. I couldn’t wait to go home. Madison’s apartment. They’re one and the same to me now.
I was about to open my mouth to say something else when suddenly there was a knock on my door. “Police department, may we come in?” A deep male voice that I didn’t recognize called from the other side of the door, causing me to tense up. I was supposed to give my statement today. I held on tighter to Madison’s hand.
“Y-Yes. Come in,” I made out as Madison gave me a concerned look. Almost instantly, two men in their late forties to early fifties walked in with one holding a video camera and tripod.
“Hello,” one said, the one who’d called from the other side of the door. “My name is Officer Walker and this here is Officer Herold.” They extended their hands to shake with me then Madison which we shook.
“Nice to meet you,” Madison said as he shook their hands with his free hand. “I’m Madison and this is Noah.”
“Hello, boys,” Officer Walker said as he took a seat across from us and pulled out a notepad while Herold set up the camera and tripod. They didn’t seem at all concerned about our interlocked hands, which I was grateful for. “Noah, today we’ll be conducting a video statement. Are you alright with that, or would you rather give a written statement?”
“This is fine,” I said, my voice shaking a bit as what happened to me began playing over and over again in my mind. I held Madison tighter.
Officer Walker looked at Officer Herold. “Are we ready?”
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Good. Now, Madison, could you please leave the room so you won’t directly or indirectly interfere with Noah’s-”
“No,” I quickly said, cutting off Officer Walker, causing all eyes to instantly land on me. My cheeks became warm as I looked down. “It’s just...I feel safer when Madison is around and I need him here with me so I can get through this.”
“I promise I won’t interfere,” Madison pleaded. “I don’t want to leave him alone.”
Officer Herold looked at Officer Walker who sighed and nodded. “Alright you can stay, but don’t say anything until instructed to do so, okay?”
Madison nodded then Walker looked at Herold who pressed the record button. “Please state your name and age,” Officer Walker started.
“My name is Noah Lorenzo Bruno and I am nineteen years old.”
“What grade are you in, Noah?”
“I’m a senior in high school. I started a bit late.”
“Can you tell us everything you remember from two days ago? Beginning to end.”
I swallowed and nodded.
“Take all the time you need,” Officer Herold said, causing me to nod before I took a deep breath and started.
“I spent the day at Madison’s apartment trying to finish a story that I needed to get done and just spending time with him because we needed it. My best friend, Connor, had dropped off my homework and asked me if I was coming to football practice-”
“Can you clarify please?” Officer Walker interrupted.
“Soccer practice,” I corrected. “And I was originally going to stay with Madison but he persuaded me to go, so I did. We swung by my house and I grabbed my uniform-”
“Where were your parents?” Herold asked.
I swallowed and sighed. “They died a while back. I live with my Nona, but we’re not on speaking terms currently.”
My jaw tightened. “She doesn’t agree with my relationship. She thinks I’m an abomination, so I distanced myself.”
Herold nodded and I continued.
“Anyway, after that, Madison drove me to the fields, kissed me goodbye, and then I got out.”
“Could any one have seen you two?” Walker asked.
I shrugged. “It was unlikely. We were in a section of the parking lot where no one usually was and far away from the fields.”
He nodded and wrote something down. “Now tell us what happened when you got to the soccer field.”
I looked at Madison who merely nodded, the look in his eyes giving me silent support. He squeezed my hand.
“I walked onto the fields and apologized to them for being late. Trey said they needed to talk to me. He was acting più cattivo than usual.”
“Can you clarify?” Herold asked.
“Sorry, I’m bilingual and sometimes I switch between the two. But he was acting worse than usual. Anyway, they said that they didn’t want me on the team because I was a fag. I asked them how they knew and they said that Madison’s father had shown them the tape-”
“Wait, wait, wait. What tape and what does Madison’s father have to do with this?”
I could tell Madison was uncomfortable and wanted to say something, but he kept his mouth shut.
“We used to work for Madison’s dad at the pizzeria around the corner from the fields called Pop’s Pizzeria. But after he installed some security cameras, he caught us making out and he really didn’t like it.” My throat became tight as I spoke. “He...he forced me to break up with Madison or he would out me to my church and friends. I was terrified so I complied though I really didn’t want to. He even changed my shifts so I couldn’t see Madison at all. It was terrible.”
“How did your Nona find out about you two?” Walker asked and I looked at Madison. He nodded.
“My friend Connor came up with a coup to get us back together. I explained everything that happened to Madison so he wouldn’t just think I broke up with him and when I told him he was furious. I managed to calm him down before he did something stupid and we spent most of the next day together. But then he left when my Nona came home and said he had some things to take care of, so I let him go. I worked on my story until I got a call from Madison. He was crying. It broke my heart. I asked him what was happening and all he kept saying was that he needed me. So I went to him. My Nona kept asking me where I was going and getting on my case so I ended up coming out to her out of frustration. She didn’t really like it, but I didn’t care. Still don’t. I just had to get to Madison.” I ran my thumbs over his knuckles, knowing that I was about to get to the hardest part for him.
“When I got there, the place was a mess and I found him crying in the bathtub bleeding and bruised and...” I trailed as the image of Madison played back in my head.
“And what?” Walker pressed.
“His father had beaten him for standing up to him. Badly. And the look on his face when he saw me, both comforted yet terrified...” I let out a shaky breath. “It broke my heart and made me furious. I wanted to find his dad and make him pay for leaving Madison s scared that he was literally shaking, but I couldn’t leave him, not in the vulnerable and scared state he was in. So I took care of him and stayed with him for a while to not only make sure he was okay, but to protect him if his father tried anything. That’s where most of his bruises came from.”
“And did his father try to come after or contact you two again?” Walker asked.
“No,” I said, shaking my head as did Madison, though his mouth remained shut.
Officer Herold looked Madison in the eyes and I could tell Mads was uncomfortable. “Son, is this true?”
Madison swallowed as his leg started shaking uncontrollably. I ran my thumb over his knuckles. “Madison, it’s okay. They’re here to help,” I gently whispered before I kissed the back of his hand.
“I know,” he sighed, his voice a bit shaky before he looked Officer Herold in the eyes and nodded. “Yes, it’s all true. I-I wanted to file a report, but I was so scared and confused and afraid a-and if he found out he’d come back and maybe even hurt Noah or-”
“Babe, look at me,” I said as I cupped his face and turned his attention from the officers to me.
“Noah, he’s going to be mad and if he gets off the hook-”
“Madison, look at me.”
Madison’s lips drew together as tears visibly started welling in his eyes. “Noah, I’m so scared.”
“I know, my love. I am too,” I gently stated as I used my thumb to wipe away his falling tears. I felt the officers’ eyes on us but I didn’t care. Madison’s well being is my first priority. Always. “But we have each other, okay? And we’ll make sure that they never do this to anyone ever again okay?”
Madison nodded his head before he gently rubbed his nose against mine, something that he rarely did unless he needed to be comforted, before he buried his head in the crook of my neck. I gently ran one hand through his hair while I used the other to rub his back. He relaxed under my touch and nuzzled deeper into me.
Once I was certain that he was okay, I looked back at the officers. “After Trey said all those horrible things to me, he said that if I don’t leave, he’ll make me leave. Naturally I stood my ground because I’d put so much into that team and I didn’t think they’d do what they did. I honestly thought they were like my brothers. But then he punched me. Then another. Then he kicked me, and before I knew it, I was on the ground. I mean...I don’t know how I ended up here. Madison told me I was knocked out, but I don’t remember. I just woke up with pain and now I found out that I have multiple bruised ribs that mess up my breathing and...” my words stopped flowing from my mouth. Saying everything out loud made my heart break and yearn for the days when we didn’t care about personal choices, we cared about soccer. We cared about each other. We were a family. But now...nothing will be the same.
I swallowed down my feelings and took a deep breath. “Now I wat to make sure that they don’t do this to anyone else.”
Officer Walker nodded. “Madison, how did you get involved?”
At the mention of his name, Madison raised his head and there were tear trails evident on his face, but he quickly tried to wipe them away. “I was in the car by myself on my phone then suddenly there was this boy who started pounding on my window.” Madison’s voice was hoarse as he spoke. “He looked scared and desperate. I opened my window and he told me that Noah was being hurt and nothing else mattered. I ran out to the fields to see them standing around and kicking him while he was already on the ground and then that bastard Trey kicked him in the face...” His voice became tight as he held me tighter, pain evident in his voice. “Just to see the way Noah’s eyes rolled back in his head as his head hit the floor was enough for me to throw all self control out of the window, and honestly it was all a blur after that. I mean, I remember fists and feet being thrown and the next thing I remember was being in the ambulance with Noah wanting to bash their faces in.”
Officer Walker nodded before he wrote something down. Madison buried his face in my neck once more, but not before whispering a soft ”ti amo tanto” (I love you so much) in my ear. “I love you too,” I whispered back before I placed a soft kiss on his lips, not caring that there were two other people in the room along with a recording camera. I could tell Madison was still stressed and upset and I wanted to calm him down the way he’d done for me so many times before. “Are you okay?” I asked, causing him to chuckle as he gently wiped my hair from my forehead.
“Me? I should be asking you. You’re the one in the hospital.”
“But we’re both hurting. I’ll be fine, I’m just worried about you. You’ve gone through so much-”
“And so have you,” he pressed. “It’s just...I want to go back home and hold you forever, as cheesy as it sounds. But if we never leave the bed, then maybe, just maybe, nothing could hurt us.” I smiled and wiped away the remainder of his tears.
“Maybe,” I whispered before Officer Herold cleared his throat. I honestly forgot they were here for a second.
“Only a couple more questions, then we’ll be done, okay boys?”
“Where was Connor?” Officer Walker asked as he looked down at his notepad. “You said he was the one who asked you to come to practice. Where was he?”
“The same place he is now: with his girlfriend. Her grandfather died and she needed him.”
He nodded. “Any more major details you want to add or questions?”
“Will they pay for what they’ve done?” Madison instantly asked. “Trey, my father, all of them?”
Walker nodded. “We will try our best, boys. We promise.”
“Thank you,” I said, relief filling my being before they cut off the camera.
“Thank you,” Herold said. “Listen boys, I know a bit of what you’re going through. My cousin...he went through something like this and it was awful, and to see you two young men go through it...I promise we’ll do all we can.”
I offered him a grateful smile. “Thank you.”
“Boys, we might be back later for some more information. We’ll keep you updated.”
“Okay,” Madison said before the officers gathered their things and let themselves out. He wrapped his large arms around me and held me close. “Can our forever start now?” He whispered into my shoulder as he adjusted our bodies on the small bed.
I smiled as I carefully adjust myself in his arms so my breathing tube wouldn’t be tangled around us. “Yeah. I think I’d like that.”