Acceptance

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Chapter Twenty-two

[ANDREW]

“No mother, I don’t have a long enough break to come and visit you,” I said through the phone before performing a dramatic eye roll and taking a sip of coffee from the mug I was holding.

My mother was trying to convince me to visit her in D.C. since I was practically free having finished my major projects as of now.

“Two to three days tops is just enough,” my mother pledged from the other end of the line. I sighed at that, realizing she wasn’t going to give up anytime soon.

“You were here a few months ago,” I tried to reason as I walked from the study to the living room. Ethan was sitting on the couch with Roxanne, her head sprawled on his laps. He was running a hand through her fur absentmindedly as he continued to watch was on the TV. He didn’t have a class until eleven thirty.

I smiled, making my presence known with a little cough. He looked up at once, giving me a small smile before returning his attention to the TV, probably realizing I was in a conversation since my mum hadn’t stopped bickering through the phone.

“Andrew, you said it yourself, it’s been months!” she said rather too dramatically through the other end of the line.

“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do,” I said as a feeling of guilt hit me. She was right. I could make out a few days to come and see her. It’s not that I didn’t want to see her, it was that I was afraid to go back to D.C.

Going to D.C would mean seeing old schoolmates, being forced to participate in an endless conversation, being forced to endure the gossip being whispered about me concerning my weight loss and sudden move — In general, I didn’t want to see anyone that had any reason to come up and talk to me. I didn’t want to see old school mates or distant successful cousins. I wasn’t so comfortable with too many people when I was sure all they were doing was judging my appearance, my profession, and my lifestyle.

“There’s plenty you could do...” my mother trailed before sighing. “Don’t worry. It’s at times like this I thank the heavens I have two sons, and just not one. Andrew, imagine if you were my only child. You’d leave me here all alone with no in-laws and grandchildren to look forward to.”

I chuckled lightly as I started heading for the kitchen.

“Why do you say that?” I asked, dropping the empty mug in the sink. I searched the cupboards for the jar of breadsticks I kept in case anyone wanted a quick snack.

“Well isn’t it quite obvious? You keep stalling. I’m afraid you’re in some cult that prohibits a love life,” my mother said, making me laugh.

“I’m serious. You’re stalling, and I don’t know what for,” she said, making me groan.

“I’m not stalling. I’m just being careful,” I muttered as I munched on a breadstick.

“Oh really, tell me the last time you talked about a date to me in the last three years? And don’t tell me you just haven’t talked about them to me. That’s even worse,” she said, cornering me. I ran a hand through my hair before sighing in frustration. My mother definitely had a degree in guilt-tripping.

“Is it that boy from college? Is that why you’re not dating? Drew, I thought you got over that...” she muttered in a low tone, drawing her own conclusions.

I shook my head at her suggestion. “It’s not Christopher,” I said, discarding her assumption as I drew invisible shapes on the clean surface of the kitchen counter. There was a brief silence on the other end before my mother spoke up.

“I’m glad. I was just worried...” She trailed. Her statement was followed by a period of silence before she quietly said her goodbyes and hung up.

I felt an odd sting in my eyes. It was unusual for my mother to bring up Christopher. That period was definitely the worst in my life. I’d blamed her for taking Christopher away from me, I had blamed her for how over the scales I was, I’d even blamed her for the depression that followed my hunger strike and weight loss. I’d gotten over the blame stage of my life and made a lengthy needed apology to my mother. We were over that — over the whole Christopher thing.

I jumped at the sound of the door slamming behind me. I turned to find Ethan muttering a small sorry.

“Shit, you scared me!” I gasped, turning back to the sink as I gripped its edge. I heard another small sorry being muttered before wrapped around my waist in comfort.

I closed my eyes, giving a small comforted hum as Ethan kissed down my neck.

“Ethan...” I trailed, placing my hands on his as he continued to assault my neck with his ticklish kisses.

I giggled lightly, trying to wiggle my way out of his grip. He loosened his grip on my waist a little before turning me around to face him with ease. He then placed a quick peck on my forehead.

“I love it when you smile,” Ethan said, a look of sincerity plastered on his face. He earned a shy smile from me before I pushed him lightly, wiggling my way past him.

“You have school in two hours,” I said, heading over to the fridge. We hadn’t had proper breakfast and I had to send Devein of with junk food from the nearby department store. A situation she wasn’t quite against.

“I know,” Ethan muttered before giving me a suspicious look, “it’s like you want me gone, should I be worried?” Ethan asked, making me shake my head in response.

“No...” I trailed as I felt my face heat up. “Your birthday’s next week and all, when you’re at school is the only time I have to plan anything,” I confessed, pulling a half loaf of bread from the fridge.

“Oh,” Ethan muttered before his features broke out into a huge smile, “What are you planning?”

“You’ll find out eventually,” I mumbled making Ethan sigh in defeat. I smiled at the pout he was sprouting. It was kind of unbelievable he was turning twenty next week. I’d asked him about him being so old in his first year and he’d just given me a one worded reply of ‘Rehab.’ The reply hadn’t made sense, but since I’d caught him smoking it did.

“It can’t be a party...” Ethan trailed, referring to my hatred for any form of a crowd.

“No, it’s not,” I agreed as I cracked some eggs into a bowl for whisking.

“Is that the only clue you’re offering?” he asked, coming up beside me.

“Yes,” I said plainly as I dropped some diced peppers into the bowl. Ethan gave me a look that bordered between frustration and curiosity.

“I’ll go get ready for school,” Ethan announced. “So, you can plan whatever your planning I peace,” he finished, walking out the kitchen door.

I was done making breakfast by the time he was ready. He got up to leave few minutes after having some, mumbling something along the lines of ‘It wasn’t fair’ and ‘I should just tell him what I was planning already.’

I waved the car off at the entrance of the cabin, smiling warmly at Hector as he made his way into the house. He was grown now, with a small comb gracing his tiny head.

“Hmm,” I muttered at the feeling of my phone buzzing in my pocket.

“Hello?” I said, picking the call from the unknown number.

“Nice boyfriend. I didn’t know you were into the dark-haired types.”

My blood ran cold at the sound of the very familiar voice. I put my hand on my forehead, trying to steady myself as I tried to gain my composure.

“Why are you calling me?” I asked, my voice shaking.

“Can’t a guy just call?” Christopher asked before bursting into laughter. I felt my heart stop at the sound of it. It was weird. It sounded so close by. I shook my head, reminding myself that Christopher had left town a few days ago. The feeling was probably an illusion.

“I don’t appreciate you calling me—”

“Shut up Andrew,” Christopher snarled at the other end, cutting me off. I kept quiet immediately, mad at myself for following his orders like I used to years ago.

I haven’t changed. I realized as hot tears stung my eyes.

“I’m complimenting him, am I not?” Christopher asked, sounding oddly composed. “He’s handsome and pretty young—”

“Chris—”

“Shut up.”

I frowned down at the phone, wondering why I was even standing for this. He wasn’t here, he couldn’t hurt me.

“Stop poking your nose into my affairs, I’m tired of it,” I said at a go so he wouldn’t have the opportunity to cut me off. I ended the call immediately after, slotting the phone back into my pocket.

I rubbed my hands up and down my exposed arms in an attempt to calm myself. I still needed to make the reservations for the inn I wanted to spend time with Ethan on the weekend of his birthday. A small smile formed on my lips at the thought of him. I soon got over the phone call, walking out the door casually before locking it behind me.

I wasn’t going to let Christopher phase me. I’ll block the number he used to call me later. Or better still, I’ll change mine.

I started walking out to the main road in hopes of catching a cab since Ethan had taken the car.

“You’re damn stupid,” I suddenly heard as Christopher’s figure came out the corner to stand right in front of me.

My stomach immediately did a flip of fear, and I was scared I was going to have a heart attack. I wanted to do two things — run and break down in tears, but I was too caught up in my shock to do either.

“What are you—”

“Doing here?” Christopher said, finishing my sentence for me before laughing.

“True, my conference rounded up a few days ago but I added a little extension to the trip,” Christopher explained, running his hand through his neatly styled hair. The dress shirt and pants he had on made him look so out of place in this neighborhood.

“What do you want?” I asked, looking behind him as I tried to plot a way of escape. Running was barely an option. There was no way I could outrun without jacking up my ankle.

“I don’t want just something, I want a couple of things,” Christopher stated, taking a step forward. He was in line with my body, making me step back in discomfort.

“First, I want you to apologize for leaving me and cheating on me with that thing...” Christopher trailed, pointing down the path Ethan had passed with the car just a couple of minutes ago.

“Then I want you to go on your knees and beg me to take you back,” he muttered, taking out a cigarette before lighting it. “I mean, it’s only fair after all you’ve done.”

I gave him a look of disbelief. Maybe once up a time I would have taken his word for it. That it was my entire fault and that I was the one that had to beg and apologize, but things have changed and it seems Christopher is yet to realize that.

“Thanks, but no thanks,” I muttered as calmly and collectedly as I could. “I don’t want you back.”

Christopher laughed, shaking his head. “You’re acting all cheeky now because a hormonal youth decided to fuck your bones.”

“Don’t say that!” I barked, making both his eyes and mine widen into the size of saucers. I really didn’t think I had that in me.

“Why not? It’s true, isn’t it?” Christopher said, quickly gaining his composure from the initial shock. He took a drag of his cigarette, making my body shiver at the memory of him using it to burn my abdomen. The scars were long gone, but the memories were still vivid. Apart from smoking affecting Ethan’s health, I didn’t want him doing it because it reminded me of Christopher.

My body went into another shiver spasm, making me look away from him and the cigarette. I was handling too much right now and those memories weren’t exactly something I wanted to add to the pile.

“No, it’s not,” I replied as I wrapped my arms around myself in a hug. Christopher gave me smudge look, sizing me up.

“He’s fed you with all that love bullshit, hasn’t he?” Christopher said with a clear spite in his voice. I kept my gaze away from him as I felt my face warm up.

“I can’t believe it. I can’t believe you fell for it,” Christopher said with a low chuckle.

“Haven’t learned anything from being with me? Love is synonymous with stupidity. You’re not loveable and there’s nothing no one can do but pity you,” I heard Christopher say, as I felt his gaze on me.

“And you know I can do that. I do it very well — pity you, I mean,” Christopher said as I looked up at him. I watched him take another drag on his cigarette. “I’ll pity you, but not until I punish you for leaving me first I mean—”

“You know what? Shut your mouth!” I yelled, making Christopher move back in surprise. I was tired of taking his ill-conceived backlash. I just can’t handle it anymore.

“My mother shipped me all the way here to get me away from you and you couldn’t even spare a phone call. You got a new boyfriend just two weeks after my move and I’m the one who cheated? What happened to said boyfriend anyway? Did he leave you because he found out you were a psychopath?” I asked, heaving after my outburst. Christopher was giving me a look of disdain.

“He didn’t dump me. I dumped him. He was too independent, too defiant...” Christopher trailed, looking at me with a new expression — fear.

“See,” I said with a huff, “that’s just more proof that you’re a psychopath.”

“Ethan loves me,” I muttered, my voice becoming softer. “And—and I love him too,” I admitted as I toyed with the hem of my shirt.

“So don’t come here again. I’ll call the police the next time—Err—so, excuse me then,” I mumbled, making my way to walk past him.

“Shit!” I cried as Christopher took my arm in his and twisted it without mercy.

“Stop—”

“Shut up,” he said as he threw me on the floor before delivering a blow to my stomach.

I curled into a ball of pain as Christopher hovered over me. He bent over to look at me in the eyes before pulling me by my hair and giving me a painful slap. He then straightened out a little, pulling me by a leg towards the cabin.

“God damn it, I’ll show you a lesson you’ll never forget Andrew,” he grumbled in annoyance as he dragged me into my yard.

I gave a cry of pain as he dragged up the stairway to the front door, my head making contact with every concrete stair.

“God is this going to be a lesson,” Christopher laughed, squatting beside my bruised figure.

I looked on with tear-filled eyes as he drew on his cigarette before pressing the burning end on my palm. I screamed, trying to recoil my burnt arm but he only tugged at my hair in irritation.

“Shut up,” he stated plainly, making me bite my bottom lip to keep my sobs down.

I didn’t really have any neighbors close by, and the neighbors I did have were off to work and won’t be anyway close until noon. I could hear Roxanne barking from within the cabin but I’d locked her in and Ethan was on his way to school. Anyone who could save me from this was nowhere in sight.

I could feel the hot tears on my cheeks now. I’m going to die. God, I’m really going to die.

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