Stay Strong

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Chapter 17

I haven’t been able to focus on anything all day long. All I could think about was Gavin. My father. And now I was paying for it during lunch. Vanessa, Bryson, and Landon have all been hounding me, asking me what was wrong.

“Come on. We’re your best friends, Aspen,” Vanessa whined.

I glanced at Landon who was sitting beside Bryson on the other side of the table. I weighed the costs of telling him about Gavin. I supposed if I didn’t say too much about him then maybe Landon wouldn’t ask about her.

I took a deep breath and looking down at my hands, spoke, “My... I found my father.”

Everyone was quiet for so long that I looked up and saw Vanessa and Bryson had tears in their eyes and Landon looked confused.

“When?” Vanessa whispered.

“About several weeks. It started off with phone calls and text messages asking me to talk to him then he just...showed up...,” I trailed off, not wanting to tell them he showed up at my mother’s grave.

“Maybe he could help you with Candice?” Bryson mumbled, rubbing at his eyes.

I barked a laugh. “I barely trust the guy enough to invite him to my house, I sure as hell am not leaving him alone with Candice.”

“What’s his name?” Vanessa asked.

“Gavin Graves,” I stated.

“Wait. He’s an FBI agent. Isn’t he?” Landon gasped.

“Yep,” I popped the p.

“Why hasn’t he been in touch with you?” Landon asked.

I tried not to flinch but I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to talk about this. I grumbled, “Once my mother told him she was pregnant with me, he left.”

“What does your mother think about this?” he persists.

I make eye contact with him, my eyes hard and cold. “She doesn’t have much of an opinion on the matter.”

“Why? Is she sick? Is that why she can’t help you with Candice?” He leans forward at the same time I lean back, almost making myself fall out of my chair.

“I found you,” a voice slithered across my mind.

Blood. So much blood. A knife. A body.

“You heartless bastard!” a woman screamed as my cheek stung.

A small bed in the attic. A pale hand. Eyes that were cold. So, so cold.

“Promise me you will take care of Candice,” a softer voice followed with a gentle kiss to my forehead.

Gentle, soft hands. A smooth voice. A loving mother that is no longer here.

I choked back a sob as memories of everything that has happened since my mother was killed rushed through my mind. I barely registered Vanessa hug me or Bryson grab my hands. I was numb. I continued to stare in Landon’s direction but I saw nothing but a body. My mother’s body.

I didn’t move when another pair of arms wrapped around me until I felt something wet seep through my shirt and onto my shoulder. I looked down and saw nothing but blonde hair.

Sonia pulled back and stared at me with tearful eyes. “I am so, so sorry Aspen.”

I stared at her, numb. Until she hugged me again, then I wrapped my arms around her and cried into her shoulder.

And I’m not talking about dainty sobs. I’m talking about sobs that made my whole body shake. Eventually, I pulled away and Sonia did the same.

“Please forgive me,” she begged. “I...I was stupid and being bratty. I hurt you so much. I am so sorry. All over him,” she jerked her head in Landon’s direction before she buried her face in her hands and cried. I simply hugged her, hoping that she understands that I would forgive her in time.

“Wait, your argument, or whatever, was over me?” Landon asked, bewildered.

Sonia nodded her head. I told him that she thought that I was going to steal him away from her. “It was stupid I know. I was acting like a three-year-old who lost her toy in the sandbox at the park,” she mumbled.

“I think I like the idea of Aspen stealing me away if she’d have me,” Landon said with the most serious face and when I looked into his eyes I knew then that he wasn’t joking or fooling around.

I glanced between Sonia and Vanessa who were staring at him in shock from his forwardness. I took a deep breath, willing myself to keep from blushing.

“Landon, I have never had a relationship before and if you are serious about that then there is something you need to know about me before anything happens between us,” I stated, barely able to keep eye contact with him.

“Can you meet me at the playground after school?” I ask and he nods his head with a confused look. Just then the bell rings and we all head back to class.

I spend the rest of the day thinking about how this was going to play out. I could already see it. I would tell him and he would run, telling me he was no longer interested. After all, something like what happened to me would mess anyone up and most people wouldn’t want to deal with the baggage.

That afternoon came all to fast but not fast enough. I sat on one of the swings, humming to myself, looking at my shoes when someone sits down beside me.

“What did you need to tell me?” Landon asks, starting to swing as well.

Did I really want to tell him? I had only just met him months ago and it took me years to tell Vanessa, Bryson, and Sonia. I could back out of this now and save myself from the pain of being rejected.

I took a deep breath and calmed my nerves. Second-guessing myself wouldn’t do anything now. Maybe he would end up with Sonia after I tell him.

I glanced at him before reaching down and slowly rolling up my long sleeved shirt. He watched as I turned my arm and showed him the faded, slightly crooked line that ran from the back of my hand to my elbow.

He stares at it shocked for a minute before speaking. “What happened?” he asked softly.

I rolled my sleeve back down even slower than I rolled it up, buying myself time to find words to explain.

“Three...three years ago, my...,” I paused to swallow my tears back. “Something happened to my sister and I. Something that traumatized the both of us. But Candice was only three so she doesn’t remember too much of what happened. I was fifteen so I remember all too well. The memories never leave me. I barely sleep because of the nightmares and I am paranoid about opening up to others,” I tried to explain to him why I am so distant with other people who I haven’t known for very long.

“What happened? Does this have something to do with your mother?” he asks, laying a hand on my shoulder.

I nod my head and take another deep breath. I wipe the tears that had fallen from my eyes without me noticing.

I turned to look at Landon but when I did I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I jumped up and away from the swing right when a hand clamped over Landon’s mouth. Another arm pinned his own arms to his sides. I rush to help him but I am grabbed by someone.

I kick and try to scream when a rag is pressed to my mouth and before long I feel my consciousness slip away from me while I felt my panic skyrocket. What the hell was happening?


A/N:

Here’s one of the two chapters I’m posting today! Let me know what you guys think. Please enjoy! Bye Bye!

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