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Chapter 17 - Taylor

I was walking towards Greg in the school hall with a spring in my step. I finally managed to convince Greg to come to my house to fill in college applications. I noticed he had forgotten to send one in, Green’s veterinary university. So I took it upon myself and send it in. “Greg!” giddily I shout out his name as I finally spot him down the hall with Joel beside him. He grins shyly as he looks my way and waves timidly. “Taylor, I was wondering if I could come by again today, I forgot something yesterday.” He nervously twiddles with his fingers as he speaks. “If this is about that application you forgot yesterday, I already sent it in for you.” His head snaps up, his eyes wide. “Really?” He looks unbelievably cute like this though. “Yeah.” I grin at him “That’s what friends are for right?” He mumbles something I can’t make out. “What was that?” I bend forward to him “You’re not my friend.” He mumbles, I open my mouth to protest “You’re my boyfriend.”

Just as I am to reach out and kiss him the sting of a slap on my cheek jerks me wide awake. I blink my eyes open and am faced with my little brother’s slightly disturbed face. “You were drooling and smiling fratello. It was very creepy.” I cup the cheek where his red hand print is shining on my tan skin. “There was no need to slap me so hard you know.” I grumble as he gives me a haughty look and disappears out of my room. “If only that dream will come true.” I groan as I flop back down on my comfy bed. “Taylor!” Meredith’s high pitched voice snapped me out of my dozing “If you don’t get up right now you are going to make Syl late for school! And in addition to that there will be no breakfast for you.” That threat had me out of my bed in seconds, if I don’t eat breakfast I won’t last until lunch time. I quickly hop into my shower washing myself and rinsing in record time, dry myself off roughly and grab the first pair of clean pants I see after tugging on my boxers, throw on a pair of socks and a sweater. Racing down the stairs I struggle to put on my shoes and carry my stuffed backpack.

Stumbling into the kitchen I am greeted with Syl still eating his morning cereal, Rafa’s plate still full of pancakes. He has been coming around for breakfast, lunch and dinner since he tasted Meredith’s awesome cooking. Looking at the digital clock on the oven I groan as I see that it’s only 07.15 am. Flopping in my chair I grind out a good morning to Gordo who just entered the kitchen, Meredith smiles at me as she places a plate full of steaming pancakes and a cup of coffee. I roll my eyes at their obvious merit as I angrily chew on the pancakes. “So what happened to you?” I look to the side as we make our way into the red bricked school building, “Syl said something about you being disturbing in your sleep?” Leave it to my little brother to go announce to the world that I was having a pleasant dream. I put in my locker combo and started putting useless stuff in there. “The reason for that is I had a good dream last night.” I resist the urge to bang my head against the metal of the locker as Rafa tries but can’t successfully hide his excitement. “About Greg.” It’s not a question but a statement. I nod in agreement and he lets out a high pitched squeal. I grimace and rub my ears a little “God! Don’t do that ever again! I don’t want to lose my hearing.”

I was a little depressed when lunch finally rolled around; I hadn’t seen Greg all day. In all my excitement I had forgotten that Greg and his team had a game today. A game played at the other school’s gym, meaning I couldn’t go and watch it. I needed to get my marks up more if I wanted to get into my first choice college. So I opted to send him a quick good luck text. Just to wish you the best during your game. My heart felt a little heavier as there was no response what so ever throughout the rest of the day. It wasn’t until I went into my last class of the day that I got a response from Greg Thank you!  We won the game! Not long after another one came Can we talk after school? “Mister Thompson, please pay attention at the front of the class instead of your phone.” I just raise a brow and continue to stare at my phone and text Greg back a little apprehensive about what he wanted to talk about. We hadn’t really spoken since the day I heard Greg blow up on his mom about him telling me things about his past. Sure. Do you have practice today? Greg stated he didn’t have practice today because of the game. I will wait for you in the car park.

When the bell rang, I was out of my seat like a shot. I couldn’t wait to finally talk to Greg again. I bypassed a chuckling Rafa who was shaking his head as he stood beside Nance as she was getting stuff from her locker. I quickly did my thing with my locker and was outside just as I saw Greg’s head among the crowd. He was talking with a teammate as they made their way to his car. Damn it! Please tell me he is not carpooling today! The team usually carpooled on days of games that are held at other schools. I thanked my lucky stars as he started making his way to my cute little Fiat 500. “Greg!” He is a little startled as I called out to him, but he smiles as I walk over to him. I astonish us both as I hug him “Congrats on the win!” He squeezes my waist for a minute and mumbles a soft “Thank you”.

“So how did your game go?” I ask as I open the trunk so he could dump his sports bag in there and we don’t have to be surrounded by the smell of sweaty clothes. I know he won the game, but I still like to hear a little more about it. Plus Greg glows with happiness whenever he talks about volleyball. “In the first half the other school dominated, but we fought hard and managed to tie just before the break.” Greg has this excited gleam in his eyes and he waves his arms around as he gets more and more excited. “....And that’s how Joel managed to score our winning point.” Greg concludes after rambling on and on for nearly twenty minutes. It’s the most I have heard him say since we stopped talking. “So, what is it that you want to talk about?” I peek to the side as Greg is now oddly silent. He is leaning his head against the window as he stares out the window. “Could we go to that place where we k-kissed?” He blushes adorably and I just pass his house and make my to the restaurant parking lot where we shared our first kiss.

I parked the car on the sparsely full car park. I killed the engine and turned in my seat to face Greg. He was now a little nervous, fiddling with his fingers. “I know mom has told you most of what happened to me at the courtesy of my own father.” I grimace a little as I think back at the huge scar Greg has on his back. I place my hand on his shaking arm “Greg its okay, you don’t have to tell me all the details.” He finally looks up at me, eyes filled with tears. “I get the gist of it; there is no need to revisit those ghosts again until you are ready.” He sniffed once and rubbed his eyes with the edge of his sweater sleeve, smiling shakily.

“But I want to tell you.” He opens the door and gets out, turns and looks at me for to follow him. With nothing better to do and I am still quite curious despite my earlier remark about him not having to tell me. Greg was already a way ahead by the time I managed to extract myself from the car. He was seated on the low wall with the view of the ocean in the distance. I take a seat beside him and wait for him to start. He does so after looking at me once before turning to face the ocean. “I am pretty sure mom told you about my dad locking me up in a small, dark and dingy cellar right?” I nod before realising he can’t see me since he isn’t looking at me. “Yeah he did.” Now it was Greg’s turn to nod before he sighed. “For some time now, I always wondered why my parents kept me. My mom Bella Freeman never really bonded with me and my father Paul freeman was a man who believed in the power of his fists to solve all troubles. I had seen him hit my mom more than once if she didn’t responded the way he wanted. That only happened whenever she was too high or wasted to do his bidding. Then he would turn to me and demand the same thing. I usually got the job barely done and still he treaded me roughly but he never hit me. The hitting and burning me with his cigarettes came later.”

I bit my lip to try and keep my anger in check so he could continue his story. Instead I reach out and squeeze his hand in silent support. He squeezes back, his hand shaking slightly. “Back then he would just threaten me to lock me up in the cellar with all the monsters he claimed that lived there. My mom always managed to distract him whenever he made that kind of threat but not that day. That day he was so pissed off, something had gone wrong at work and I was caught when I was about to run away, I knew something was wrong with the way our family functioned, even back then. So as punishment, my dad decided that I was to be locked up in the cellar for five days and nights. I was to be offered no food or comfort. He said it was to build my weak character and appreciate what they did for me a little more.” Greg snorted as he said those words.

“After five days and nights I was released. I don’t know what they had told school about my five day absence but they didn’t make a fuss about it. I think it was because my father could be very charming when he needed to be. Anyway, when school started to ask questions about my declining health, my parents chalked it up to a very poor immune system and that was that. The same happened when I came to school one day covered in bruises, I was a very clumsy child and fell down the stairs a lot. They all bought it. Whether it was out of fright for my father’s wrath I don’t know, but they all kept quiet about my obvious abuse. It got worse when Paul started bringing home some work buddies and they participated in the abuse. It was one of them that started with using me as a human ashtray, my dad just carried on whether they were there or not. He had founf a new way of punishing me.”

I didn’t know what to say or do to make him feel better. He was so damn strong that he could tell me all of this without getting too emotional, that it made me cry a little for little Greg that was forced to grow up too quickly. “Please don’t cry for my Taylor, you’ll make me cry.” Greg’s voice cracked a little at the end. “I can’t help it Greg, they just keep coming when I think about all the things you have been through and still manage to smile and see positive things in the world. I don’t think I would be able to do that if what happened to you happened to me.”

Greg turned to me and engulfed me into a tight warm hug. “That is all because I have my new family and you in my life Taylor. You all remind me that there is a silver lining to every dark cloud.” I squeezed him tight, “I will always be your silver lining Greg.”

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