Fever Dreams

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Chapter 8: Deceived

I guess I should explain something. When I was younger, I was very resistant to confrontation. This kid in third grade (I think his name was Declan; I remember because he had a really cool name) picked on me for the remainder of elementary school and most of middle school. I was basically his slave because I did everything he said just to keep him from hurting me. Sad, right?
There was also the constant shit from my mom, as you know. And around age fourteen, I guess I snapped. Like Declan’s nose when I finally hit him. He was really a coward all along. Cried all the way to the nurse’s office.
Anyway, now when I feel stressed or anxious or cornered, all of those emotions channel into anger, which becomes violence. And when this happens…I guess you could say things sort of go black. I don’t know why it happens, but I go ape-shit on someone and completely forget everything. It’s pretty crazy.
Now that you have a feel for my issues, let’s move on.
Family dinner. Doesn’t seem too ominous, right? Well it should, and here’s why:
I sat across from Kallie, our parents perpendicular to us at the table. Mom and I hadn’t interacted since the incident two days ago. In fact, we haven’t even looked at each other. And you know what, I think I preferred it that way. As soon as she looked at me, she burst into tears.
“Julia?” my dad asked.
“Mom, it’s okay,” I whispered.
“No!” she sobbed. “Look at your arm! I’m a horrible person! I’m so sorry Ethan!”
Dad’s eyes widened. “You did that?”
“I wasn’t thinking!” she squalled.
“Mom!” I tried.
She slammed her hand on the table. “STOP CALLING ME ‘MOM!’ I CAN’T TAKE IT!”
Kallie flinched, and ran away. No one really noticed that, though.
“Your own son,” Dad growled.
She looked at him incredulously. “He’s not even mine!”
He paled. “Julia, don’t…”
“Shut it, Heath. It’s time your son learns the truth. Ethan, your real mother is Kathy, your father’s assistant. I claimed you as mine but…” She laughed bitterly. “Who were we kidding, Heath? He looks just like her!”
I guess that made sense. Mom has flaming red hair and a very short stature. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything we shared appearance-wise except the color of our eyes. I’d never really noticed, but I have Kathy’s nose, hair, skin tone, and tall, skinny build.
Still, I was shocked. I hadn’t said a word for a long time; I know because “Mom” and Dad have been watching me expectantly for a while. It all made sense now. Her drunken confessions were bitter truths. All along, she’d been calling me ugly because I reminded her of my dad’s affair. She hated me because I was evidence of my father’s sin.
I remember enough of my violent outburst to know I swiped most of the food off the table and slammed my chair against the wall. And now I’m running. I don’t know where I am now or where I’m going. I don’t even know why I’m out here; it’s cold as hell tonight and I’m wearing a wife beater and basketball shorts. I’m not even wearing shoes, what the hell am I doing?
Silas had tried to warn me. He’d been right, but I was just too stubborn to listen. I was protecting the facsimile of a “mother.” It was all a lie; my entire life was a sham. And the truth had been right there all along, shining like a flashlight in my eyes. How could I have been such an idiot?
I can see a bright light now, but I don’t want to move. So I freeze where I am. Maybe death will come quick.
Everything comes to a halt. Am I dead yet?
“Crazy bastard.”

How did it all end up this way?
“So how was school today?”
My mom asks me this as we have a simulation “family” dinner, the first and probably not the last we’ll have with Grey fucking Lintel.
“It’s Sunday, Mom,” I told her.
Her hair was a bit disheveled, and the dark bags under her eyes indicated that she’d obviously gotten very little sleep. I suspected Grey was the cause, but I didn’t voice it; I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion anymore according to him.
“Right, sorry,” she whispered.
I could see the subtle fear in her eyes when she made eye contact with Grey. I knew something was wrong; was he threatening her as he was me? Was he hurting her? You better not be hurting my mother you piece of shit.
“Valerie, could I borrow some money from you, dear?” Grey asked, voice borderline malicious. “I’m having trouble making rent on my apartment.”
Maybe you should try working then, you asshole, instead of embezzling from my mother.
“But…” Her voice was soft; she was afraid. “I need all of my money. I’m behind on my taxes and I have myself and Silas to support as well…”
He slammed his fork down on the table, causing her to flinch and shrink back. His expression darkened as if a sinister force had possessed him. “What was that?”
“I’m s-s-sorry,” she stuttered. “I’ll write a check.”
He smirked. “That’s what I like hear.”
If Dr. Jekyll were a real person, I’d be looking at him. And my mom was really frightened. In fact, the last time I’d seen that look on someone’s face…
The last time was when Ethan’s mom hit him. Grey is abusing my mom. And she doesn’t have the courage to tell anyone.
I don’t know how it happened, but I ended up lunging across the table at Grey and tackling him to the floor. I wrapped my hands around his neck, not intending to let go of him until he ceased struggling.
However, I forgot that he’s much larger than me. That’s how I ended up pinned to the floor. He’s punching me over and over, and I’m not really here anymore.
What I mean is, I sort of went away. I took myself out of the situation. I went to the place in my mind where I’m safe.
You mean you don’t have one of those?
I’m aware that he’s hitting me. I know my mom is trying to pull him off, and is now running for a phone to call the police. I can feel blood gushing from an orifice in my face; probably my nose. But I’m numb. I’m not mentally here.
And eventually the police arrived and pulled him off me. The paramedics have arrived as well. A tall woman is talking to me, instructing me to follow her to get my broken nose set, but I’m not listening to her. My legs, of their own volition, have carried me out the door.
I mounted my motorcycle, quickly pulling out of the driveway before anyone could stop me. I locked eyes with my mom for a moment, and then sped down the road.
I just drove for a while. I was scared, angry, and looking for an outlet for all the emotions running through my head at the moment. Turning a corner, I saw a person running the opposite way, right in my path. At the speed I was driving, I’d probably maim or kill them if I didn’t stop. I quickly skidded to a halt, bracing my foot on the ground, right in front of the figure; he’d stopped as well and seemingly had no intention to move out of the way.
It was Ethan. And he was about to let himself be run over.
“Crazy bastard,” I said, cutting my bike’s engine.
His eyes, which had been shut tight, opened at the sound of my voice. “Silas?”
I grinned, and removed my helmet. “Hey babe. What’s going on?”
He sniffed, and I finally noticed he was crying. “Usual shit. Why don’t you tell me why you look like you took a lawn mower to the face.”
I touched my split lip, recalling the events that took place not long ago. “My mom’s prick boyfriend beat the living hell out of me and got arrested. Your turn: Quid pro quo.”
He smirked. “Not letting me go that easy, huh? Fine. My mom isn’t…my real mom. My dad had an affair with his assistant.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Wait a minute. She dealt with that secret for almost eighteen years? That’s insane.”
“I wish she’d have left. Would have spared me all this pain.”
I smiled sadly, and held out my hand to him, climbing off of my motorcycle as he approached. I wrapped my arms around his midsection, and kissed his chest over his heart.
“I guess I’ll just have to compensate for that pain,” I said.
“That’s extremely sappy,” he pointed out.
“Don’t ruin it, jackass.”
Before he could respond, I yanked his head down into a kiss. I want to savor this John Greene moment, and I can’t with him talking.

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