The next morning I’m awakened by a loud banging on the door, followed by the unmistakable tone of Trevor’s voice.
“Emma! I know you’re in there.” He bangs again. “Open up. Please.”
I push my sheets away and sit up in bed so that I have a better view of the door. He’s pretty strong, but definitely not crazy enough to bust the door in. Still, I prepare myself for the unexpected as I wrap my arms around my knees and wait.
“Emma,” he sighs in defeat, and I can imagine him resting his forearms against the door above his head. “Please just talk to me.”
The emotion in his voice is heavy, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think he meant it when he said he was sorry. It sounded like he meant it, but I’m not ready to trust him just yet.
“I really need to talk to you. Why won’t you let me in?”
I can hear him tapping his knuckles against the wood impatiently. “Okay...”
I continue to wait for several minutes, but no more sound comes from the other side of the door. I decide that I need to get away. I can’t just hang around my dorm room all weekend hoping to avoid Trevor. I need to escape. To Breathe.
I pull on a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie. Throwing some snacks into a duffle bag and grabbing my violin, I twist the knob of my door and exit my temporary prison.
“Emma!” The voice causes me to jump, nearly dropping my cherished violin.
I turn to face the owner of the voice.
“Hey,” I respond lazily.
Lindsey makes her way towards me and looks at me with concern as she bows her head slightly to gain a better view of my face.
“You okay?” she asks, and all I can do is nod pathetically while shrugging one shoulder. She grabs me and hauls me into her arms just as a single tear escapes my lashes. It’s the first tear I’ve let loose since Trevor bashed in my heart, and I know that it won’t be the last.
“I really need to get out of here for a bit,” I choke out as I gently push myself out of her embrace.
She only bobs her head in understanding as she releases her hold. My only guess is that Trevor tried to reach her, to get a hold of me, and explained everything—or she’s just very perceptive of my feelings at the moment and knows she shouldn’t ask for details.
“Where are you going? Do you have your phone?”
“Yes. And I’m going to Merv,” I tell her.
I’d mentioned Merv to her once before. I gave her the general location and explained his significance to me. She seems to understand my need in going there now and promises to never intrude.
“Let me know if you need anything, okay?” she pleads, and I dip my head in acknowledgment.
“I’ll explain later,” I tell her as I head down the hallway.
The warmth and charm that normally greets me when I step into the belly of Merv is surprisingly absent today. Instead, I’m met with an echoing stillness that mimics the empty ache in my chest. I pull myself up the ladder and get comfortable on a bale of hay. I pull out a bag of M&M’s, popping a few in my mouth, before applying rosin to my violin bow.
Once she’s tuned and warmed up, I begin with a subtle graze of her strings; a low rumbling melody vibrates the lonely space around me. I close my eyes and let the rhythm and tempo to engulf me, allowing me to fade into each separate note and chord of the song. Tears begin to fall, and I’m immediately transported back in time—to a place where the remembrance of trust was shattered from my grasp.
I’m fourteen and my father has once again abandoned my mother and me for another late night at the office. We sit in uneasy silence as we both flick our food around on our plates. He called to say he wouldn’t be home until around midnight, so there was no point in waiting up for him. He’s made a habit of this recently. I never see him come home anymore because I’m already sound asleep. But, this one night, I’d witnessed his return, and it changed my view of him forever. The strong man I’d known my whole life was dead. Now all I can see is a broken man who threw away his family in exchange for neglect. It wasn’t just me and my mother that he neglected, but his own memory. Alcohol fed his desire to forget, and it began to define him as a person.
It was late, but for some reason, the sound of the door shutting downstairs forces me out of my slumber. A moment later, I can hear voices whispering from down the hall. I throw off the sheets and tiptoe my way across the carpeted flooring. Cracking open the door I peek through with one eye. Not seeing any movement I slide the door open just a tad further and poke my head out of the opening.
There they are. My father, with a bottle of something in one hand, and my mother holding the forearm of the other arm. Her words are soft but I can make them out easily now without the barrier of my door hindering the sound.
“Scott, you can’t keep doing this,” she’s muttering to him, her face pinched in worry.
He just laughs in her face as he throws back his head and downs another few gulps of the alcoholic beverage. He’d been distancing himself for awhile now, but the alcohol didn’t start until about four months ago.
“And why not, Linda? Why not?” He sounds surprisingly calm. Too calm. A shiver dances down my spine. “Who even cares, right? Everything I’ve worked for is a lie. Do you know how many innocent lives I’ve destroyed by throwing them behind bars?”
“I’m supposed to be the good guy. People should be able to trust me, and guess what... they do.” He laughs but there’s no joy in the sound. “They do. They trust me. Over and over and over again. It’s my job!” He throws his hands up in the air, tearing my mother’s arms away from him and splashing dark liquid onto the floor.
“Then quit!” My mother’s voice rises with irritation.
“I can’t,” he hisses as he throws a glare at her. “I’m tied up in too much right now. I’ve got too many people depending on me.”
A couple seconds tick by in silence until my mother’s voice comes out in a whisper.
“You know who else is depending on you?” she asks. “Your daughter. Scott, Emma needs her father. You’ve vanished from our lives as if you don’t care.”
“Yeah?” he laughs with a hint of wicked amusement. “That’s a joke. She can’t even stand the sight of me. When I am home she’s always off somewhere else.”
“And whose fault is that?”
“Oh, so now that’s my fault too?” He takes another swig from the bottle. “That little brat should be grateful for what I do for her.”
“Brat?” my mom gasps. “Grateful?”
I’m tempted to shut the door and pretend I never heard a word, but I can’t bring myself to leave. I need to know the truth. I need to know why he hates me. What did I do?
“All I do is work so the two of you can be happy. You know that?” He’s losing his calm as his fist shakes in the air. “Everything I’ve done is for her, and she doesn’t even notice.” There’s a thick pause before he puts the bottle to his lips again. “No,” he slurs. “She’s not my daughter... she’s just an extra mouth to feed.”
Tears burn trails down my face as his words slap me in the gut. I’ve heard all I need to hear at that moment, and I silently shut the door and retreat back to the false security of my, now cold, bed.
Two weeks later, I celebrate my fifteenth birthday in the seclusion of my bedroom. My mother had tried to coax me out, but I had refused, telling her that I didn’t feel well. A month later my father was dead. When I found him, lifeless in his office, I knew that his misery was my fault. My selfishness had driven him over the edge, and I’d never get a chance to fix what I’d done. His blood was on my hands, and no amount of fake smiling or kind words would wash them clean. His death was my fault. I hadn’t been enough. I wasn’t enough.
“Found you.” A voice rips me from the bitter taste of my memories.
I set down the instrument in my lap, quickly wiping at my damp cheeks before glancing up.
“What are you doing here?” my voice quivers. “How did you find me?”
“We need to talk.” Trevor walks towards me cautiously before taking a seat on a hay bale next to me. “I think there are some things we need to get out in the open.”
“Yeah?” I turn my attention to my lap, unable to meet his gaze. “Like what?”
“Like what exactly happened to Trinity,” he responds quickly.
“How will that fix anything?” I mutter bitterly.
“Because... it will explain why you and I can never be together.”