M A B E L
And I stop.
I stop dead in my tracks in the buzzing hallway of the emergency room, standing with my back to the automatic doors that keep opening and closing because people keep filing in and out. I’m standing here, breathing heavily from the sprint I had broke into to get across the crowded parking lot and into the hospital to find Hayes and see if his brothers are alright.
I’ve found Hayes, sitting slouched in one of the many cushioned chairs in the surprisingly empty hospital waiting room. His head is bowed, hair crusted with yellow yolk from earlier, forearms resting on his thighs and he’s jittery and looking down the hallway opposite to me every five seconds and he’s snapping something against the inside of his wrist.
“Hayes!” I call out to him, forcing my legs forward when he takes one look at me, and a flood of relief washes over his features.
He pushes himself out of the seat quickly, too quickly, and I wrap my arms around him– let him drop his head to bury his face against my shoulder. He doesn’t hug me back, not that I expected him to, and he just holds my arms against him– almost as if he doesn’t want me to let him go.
“Hayes.” I say again, softer this time, and he breathes in a shaky breath.
“I could have stopped it–” he cuts himself off by drawing in another breath for air. “If I hadn’t gotten myself thrown out I could’ve–”
I force his head up, and press my lips against his. It’s gentle, but quick and to keep him from breaking away and blaming himself even further, I grip his chin in my hand to kiss him just a bit harder. I’m the first to pull away, stare up at him with a sad, but reassuring smile. He breathes in another large breath.
“Tell me what happened, okay?” I guide him back towards the waiting room, and he falls into an empty chair in defeat with a loud sigh. “Is everyone alright?”
Hayes clasps his hands behind his head and shrinks into himself and I’m beginning to realize that he’s feeling so much in this moment he has no idea what to do with himself. I kneel in front of him, hoping that me being close enough for him to touch me at an arms length will give him some sort of comfort. He shakes his head distractedly, drops his arms into his lap before snapping the rubber band on his arm against the inside of his wrist.
There’s red welts there now, from where he’s snapped the band against his tender skin, and the pale flesh is beginning to split open. I slide my hand into his, preventing him from causing any more damage to himself.
“It’s Brooklyn,” he says. “Everyone else is fine, a little shaken up, but no one else is hurt.”
The sweet, curly haired boy with writer’s hands.
“He’s got a broken nose, and four of his ribs on his left side are badly bruised,” Hayes exhales, but continues to grip my hand in his. “I had no idea Jonathan had been hitting him for so long, I swear, Mabel, if I would have known I would’ve stop–”
“But why did he do it?” I stop the green eyed man mid-sentence, growing tired of the fact that he continues to blame himself for something that he wasn’t at fault for.
He stares me in the eye with such rage that I’m taken off guard.
“Because Brooklyn’s gay.”
I stare at the floor, force myself to swallow the cotton in my throat before I can meet Hayes’ gaze again.
“Hayes, I’m so sorry.”
And those words alone are enough to bring tears to his eyes. He drops his head into his hands, shoulders shaking, his whole entire body trembling as he cries silently into his palms. I’m quick to stand to my feet, nearly tripping over my shoelaces, and cradling his head to my abdomen. The shirt of his that I’m wearing is still soaked from earlier, from getting eggs thrown at me, but Hayes doesn’t seem to mind when he buries his tearstained face in the damp, smelly fabric.
“I didn’t know,” he cries, his voice muffled by my stomach, arms curling around my waist. “He thought I’d hate him, he thought I wouldn’t love him.”
The wild flowers in my chest wilt.
“That’s hardly true, Hayes,” I scrub a hand through his egg encrusted hair. “I know it and you know it and deep down, Brooklyn knows it too.”
Hayes sucks in a shaky breath, arms tightening around me as if he’s afraid I’ll just vanish, and he presses his cheek against my stomach. He blows out a breath, and I think that maybe he’s finished crying, which worries me because Hayes Winchester has so much bottled inside that he needs to let it all out somehow.
“I’m sorry,” he says, and slouches back in the hospital chair with a heavy sigh. “It’s my anxiety, I didn’t mean to get like that, but it’s all just pressing onto me, and I can’t breathe.”
And it’s the fact that Hayes actually opens up to me, to tell me right now what’s taking place inside of him, that makes pull him forward, and wrap my arms around his shoulders again. I don’t ask him if he took his medication today, I know now isn’t the right time, because Hayes is already dealing with so much, he doesn’t need another person suffocating him about his diseases.
I run a hand down his sweatshirt covered back, plant a kiss to his sticky head in hopes to chase away the anxiety, away the fears. The tremors that run through his body seem to settle, but he’s still so stiff, fingers still trembling in his lap. I hope that maybe if I stay here, holding him, that the panic attack he’s experiencing will eventually subside.
He’s yanking away from me, jolting to his feet so quickly I think he may fall over. But he jerks his head in the direction the voice came from, and he forces a smile. The kind of smile that’s supposed to be sad, but reassuring. The kind of smile people give to their loved ones in these kind of situations.
Chance runs at his brother, crashing into him with enough force to make Hayes grunt, and he wraps his arms around him.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay,” Hayes says, and I realize he says this because his brother is crying onto his shoulder. “It’s okay, Chance.”
A seventeen year old boy seeking comfort in his anxiety ridden brother.
Chance is noticeably bigger than his older brother, more broad shouldered, large biceps that bulge when he tightens his arms around Hayes.
Hayes is smaller in size, noticeably so, though he’s a foot taller than Chance with a head of wild, unruly, black hair, and if you look close enough you can notice the resemblance between the two– in the sharp nose, the mouth. Although, the bridge of Chance’s nose, and the skin beneath his brown eyes are littered with freckles.
Chance’s brown hair almost looks blond in the fluorescent lighting of the hospital waiting room, where it flickers above us and he seems to bury his face in his brother’s shoulder and he cries.
“I was there,” he rubs at his cheeks, swiping at the tears there. “I got home from practice in time to see Brooks get thrown down the stairs.”
My heart falls into the hollow of my stomach, and I contemplate bursting into tears also because this boy, this kind boy that is the spitting image of Hayes but with curly hair and glasses, has to deal with such trauma. But then I look around Hayes, and his brother to see that the youngest is standing at the entrance of the waiting room, staring blankly at his two brothers.
Leo, his name is Leo.
I force a smile, hoping it reaches my eyes as I step around the two hugging brothers, and walk towards the boy. Maybe he needs comfort, maybe he needs a friend, maybe he just needs a smile.
He doesn’t smile back at me.
“Hi.” I say to him with another forced smile, and sit down in the nearest chair.
“You’re that pretty girl,” he notes absently, sparing a glance at his brothers. “I remember you.”
I smile again.
Leo slides into the chair beside mine, fingers tapping softly against the armrests on either side of him. He appears to be in a completely different world, eyes glazed over as he stares at his untied shoelaces.
“Are you alright, Leo?” I ask, and he snaps his head up when I say his name, looks at the egg soaked shirt of his brother’s that I’m wearing.
He hums to himself, looks around the room for the third time before staring up at me. Leo smiles, but it isn’t the real kind of smile you’d expect to be painted across a little boy’s face. No, this smile is to hide the fact that he’s absolutely terrified, to appear as if he’s fine.
He must take after his eldest brother.
“Brooks locked me in the attic,” he says, kicks his legs back and forth, dirty shoelaces swinging. “It was scary.”
The horrors these boys have seen, have dealt with. They’re going to be scarred for life, hell, they all probably already are.
I think about the way Hayes is always so quiet on his feet, how a sudden loud sound always makes him stiffen, and grip onto the nearest thing to him.
“Why did he hide you?”
I think about the way Chance is bubbly and loud and how he probably can’t be that way at home, be himself.
I think about the way Brooklyn looks over his shoulder every so often, just to check and see if someone’s following behind him, to see if he’s in the clear.
“Because,” he twiddles his thumbs in his lap, shifts in the seat. “He didn’t want me to see. He didn’t want me to stop it, so he made me hide.”
My heart shatters.
I think about the way Leo touches every object in sight, touches everything so gently with the tips of his pale fingers like maybe he isn’t sure anything’s real.
“There was a boy in his room, he’s really, really nice,” Leo voices, touching my arm with an absent smile. “He makes things better for Brooks.”
I smile sadly at the youngest Winchester brother, watch as he slides his fingertips across my forearm. He seems to do that for quite a while, just sits in silence, and draws patterns onto my skin with his fingers.
He smiles, for the first time in over ten minutes, he smiles.
“Just like how you make things better for Hayes.” He says, and he might as well have just crammed cotton down my throat.
The eldest brother, Hayes fucking Winchester, doesn’t let that go unnoticed. He looks over at me and just stares and I don’t expect him to smile because he’s so nervous and his emotions are all over the place but he does and it completely shocks me.
I pick at the dried egg in my nails, let my eyes drift away from Hayes, and down the dimly lit hallway adjacent to the waiting room.
If anything, I can’t help but think, Hayes makes things better for me.
But I won’t be selfish and tell him such a thing, because Hayes Winchester doesn’t even want to be here, in this life, and I know that he’s only just enjoying my presence for the time being.
Because despite everything, Hayes fucking Winchester still wants to be dead