“Alright little man, what’s something you like to do?” Grandpa asks Aaron while looking at him in adoration seeing as those big green eyes get wider. Some context, Aaron’s gnawing away on his first-ever BBQ rib and enjoying the hell out of it. It’s funny since it’s been a while since Grandpa has decided to start grilling, but after everyone found out about Aaron they said it was occasion enough to grill.
Xavier and I ended up doing most of the grilling since everyone was trying to sit and have a conversation with Aaron, but luckily, he didn’t mind it at all. That kid loves to have people trying to talk to him and it’s something I truly adore about him.
I think I need to start grilling at home if it continuously places that brightness in his eyes or makes his nose sniff the air in the ways that he was when the food was grilling. It’s cute, and Amaya has always had a similar reaction to it but is better at keeping that side of her hidden, you just have to know what to search for these days. Amaya's just too good at keeping things hidden.
“I don’t know,” Aaron shrugs as all eyes stay on him, “I don’t do much. Sometimes Mommy or Daddy will watch the Flash with me which is cool, and I like to run. Running is very fun, except for when I run into something, that hurts.” Grandpa lets out a hearty laugh.
“You know, this one here-” he points to me, “-used to stress his momma out so much, was always running. Couldn’t even take this one to the doctor, he’d bolt faster than he ever has on a football field.” He laughs again as I shake my head. I hope he doesn't give Aaron any ideas.
“Really?” Aaron asks in disbelief.
“Uh- well…” I stare him dead in the eye. “I’m going to come clean here, needles terrify me. Mom used to get so angry with me each time she had to take us to the doctor for shots, I would never let it happen without a fight. I’d run straight through those doors as far away as I could.”
“Then why do I have to get my shots, you ran, I can run too.” God, I’m such a bad influence.
“No, you can’t. You need to get your shots for your own good and I shouldn’t have run back then though I say to hell with letting some dude I don’t even know stab me,” I mutter out the last few words of the sentence, feeling the eyes of many on me. “You don’t want to end up sick, and if you try to run I’d be forced to catch you and it’s not something I’d enjoy doing because I’d feel all types of guilt.”
I continue to stare down at him before looking away to take a bite out of my food.
“So I can’t run from my shots?” I let out a small laugh.
“Sorry, Aar, but no you cannot run away from your shots.” He lets out a small huff of air before turning back to look at Grandpa, that smile soon returning. And that’s another thing that I admire about him, he never manages to stay sad for long. Not to forget how he can brighten other people’s moods too.
“I like music too.”
“Oh really?” Aaron nods. “What type of music do you like?” Aaron sits to think about it for a few moments.
“I listen to what Mommy and Daddy play on guitar, but I also like Moana.”
Kayla’s head perks up just a bit and just like that, I remember how many people are out here now. Including Aunt Ellie, Diana who happens to be Uncle Jude and hers’ daughter, and also Uncle Benny. They’ve been here for a few hours.
“Don’t mention, Mo-” Aunt Jae starts.
“You like Moana?!” Kayla shrieks out.
I fight the urge to cover my ears since I don’t feel like going deaf. Aaron nods slowly as though he’s scared of something happening. Kayla doesn’t say anything as she just runs over to us, pulling him out of his seat before they run off.
“Wait, I’m coming too,” Diana calls out before taking off after them.
“Well, I think Aaron made some new friends, to say the least,” Xavier says from my right while laying back on his seat and patting his protruding belly. “That’s good for him.” I nod, thinking the same thing.
“He should’ve at least finish eating though,” I say, now glancing down at his plate that has a half-eaten rib on it. “Then again, he probably wouldn’t have been able to eat that much more of it anyway.”
“Okay, well,” Aunt Ellie starts, “you’re back to playing guitar? How’s that been going?”
“Fine, I guess. I mean, I’ve only played for him twice, Amaya plays more than I play.”
“She’s so cool,” Mark partially gushes. “Too bad I’m 12.” I give him a look full of amusement.
“Doesn’t matter if you were 12 or our age, I would never let you be with her. Those little buttheads in school used to try so damn hard for her, but that’s simply not happening.” Xavier chuckles beside me. “I don’t know what you’re laughing about, I’m stating simple facts here.”
“Trust and believe, I know. You don’t even realize how possessive you can actually be, but I think it’s kinda sweet in a weird type of way. At least Amaya feels that same way and gets all antsy when she sees other girls even look at you in that way.” I can feel a small blush appearing on my cheeks but turn my head away. I’m a man, I can’t be blushing so easily. “Take it from me, Mark, those two are complex as hell, but nobody stands a chance with either of them besides each other because they are hooked.”
“Okay, getting back on track with the conversation… I’ve been thinking about playing more, but I don’t know.” More like I don’t know if I’m gonna survive long enough to even make that decision.
“I think you should try it and see where it takes you,” Uncle Benny says while hugging Aunt Jae just a bit closer to him although she’s already in his lap. “Your mom showed us videos of you singing, you can carry a tune.” Thanks for that Mom.
“Yeah, and you sang at that party last month too.” I give Xavier a look.
“I personally think that you should stop thinking but let it move you, now play us something, it’s too quiet,” Uncle Jude commands with his usual smile on. I find myself fidgeting a bit at his attention.
“I don’t even have a guitar on me, and I don’t feel like-”
“You can borrow the old Gibson, Lord knows I haven’t touched it in a while,” Grandpa’s voice sounds a bit gruff as he hops up from the table, most likely to get the guitar. Dammit, I already know that when their minds are made up, I can’t change them.
“Fuck,” I mumble out beneath my breath so Grandma doesn’t have a reason to hit me in the back of the head again.
Xavier seems to be enjoying all of this seeing as he’s got this big stupid grin on his face that I want nothing more than to swipe away, but I’m not going to do that right now. Even if that bastard is enjoying the fact that I’m uncomfortable right now.
Grandpa reappears with his Gibson guitar that is pitch black and has a signature scrawled across it in white ink; he carefully hands it over to me. Staring at the guitar for longer than necessary as he does so.
“Bill Withers himself signed that guitar,” Grandpa says as his eyes fill with appreciation.
“Who in the heck is that?” Mark asks, his eyes full of nothing but curiosity as his face scrunches up just a bit.
“An artist from back in my days. His song Ain’t No Sunshine was just one of those songs you’d always hear on the radio, Lovely Day too.” A bright smile is on Grandpa’s face. It’s almost like a few of the wrinkles on his face have disappeared for just a few moments as he relives those glory days from when he was a younger man.
I’m familiar with Bill Withers seeing as Mom would occasionally play his music in the car, Ain’t No Sunshine usually being the song on, and after Amaya had broken up with me for the first time I listened to that song every day I woke up in the morning for a whole two months. Nowadays, I’ll just listen to the playlist we made together or hum Ooh Child by the Five Stairsteps and I could care less if people want to make comments about my semi-old taste in music because it truly is good.
It’s like back in those days people were making music for a purpose. They were trying to get a point across in the best way that would land with people listening to them. In those days music had such meaning while now you don’t find it as often albeit the fact that it’s still out there on occasion if you search hard enough.
“Thanks for the guitar.” Grandpa nods at me while I sit there silently scolding myself. Why the hell did my voice have to shake like that? There’s no way in hell they didn’t hear that. “What are you trying to hear?” I ask on the slower side, trying to make sure my voice doesn’t shake again.
“Something that makes me feel something,” Ezra opens up after what felt like ten minutes of silence but couldn’t have been more than a single minute. “What?” he asks while moving his head all around to take everyone in, sitting up in his seat more as practically everyone keeps their eyes on him.
A chorus of “Nothing” meets my ears as I direct my attention to the guitar in my hands.
“Something that makes you feel something,” I mutter out three times before making the choice that this is the time I’ll reveal a side of me that people rarely see. The sensitive one that has been hurt in ways unimaginable but has also felt what being in love is and that’s something I could never give up.
I remember those nights where I would just write songs because it helped to calm me down whenever I felt over-emotional. In these few weeks from hell I’ve spent a decent amount of time with a pen and notebook that was already half full of songs about Amaya. I wrote a whole hell of a lot more, these ones including Amaya or Aaron, never anything else.
“Alright, give me your honest opinions when I’m done?” Everyone nods, not speaking a word to me.
I push away from the table to create some space for me to sit uncomfortably with the guitar in my lap. When I play for strangers I have no care in the world because I don’t care about their opinions, I do, however, care about what my friends and family think about me.
Come on, Shawn, you’ve got this.
I start playing the opening chords to the song I wrote late at night last week when Amaya was on my head, by the next day I had each word memorized along with these light chords that brought the whole piece together. I wanted the song to show how I felt talking about her before all of our shit happened, but I have no idea what’s going on or if it’s actually good.
My eyes close tightly as I try not to think about all the people sitting around me but instead imagine Amaya standing in front of me.
God, I want to play her this song one day, more than anything actually, but I might never get the chance. So I’m gonna have to make do with closing my eyes and allowing my imagination to lead me.
I didn’t know that you’d be the one
The one to walk in my life and set the world apart
The one to steal my heart and hold it hostage
I go crazy with my need
Need doesn’t describe what runs through me with that smile
I smile as each lyric comes pouring out of me as I picture that smile that has always been so contagious. Something about it always makes her look so carefree and innocent that you wouldn’t believe half of the things she’s been through when it’s there.
It’s not something that you’ll see so often, not if you weren’t one of the elite members of her life. She has to be highly relaxed for that type of smile that makes my heart skip a beat, multiple beats really. I see it when she’s with Aaron, used to be when we were together, and the moments when she’s dancing which she has a not so secret love for.
You’re so beautiful, but you doubt yourself
Fight off the words I repeat over and over
Didn’t know you’d be the one I could spend my life with
Didn’t know I’d go crazy
Nobody knows our story, not fully
Because it’s mine and yours, yours and mine
We have our story and for once, I feel like a damn reader rather than someone in it. I don’t know where this is about to lead because she said she didn’t want to be in a relationship with me until this whole situation is solved. That conversation we had earlier is still burning a hole through my head, but it doesn’t prove anything either way. There’s something coming our way, I can feel it, and at the moment I have no idea how things are about to play out.
It’s always been me telling her that things are going to be okay and that there’s no need to worry, but now that I’m in her position, I’m more than scared. Me repeating that I love her and would never allow her to get hurt doesn’t seem to be as reassuring on the receiving end. It actually just sounds like bullshit, bullshit, and more bullshit.
But the frustration and jitters aren’t going to stop me from fighting to keep my happiness and I’m not too opposed to that as long as I get to keep her for the rest of my life.
Wonder Woman could never compare
You’re the only wonder I’ve seen
I’m not giving up on you, what we have
This might be the end of me
If it is, I’m glad it’s you
To the end of time
It’s you and me, me and you
I’ll fight for us forever and always
If she was here, in front of me right now, I’d reach out to her since I always feel the need to touch her in some way. I’d place a hand on her warm cheek and let her know in every way that she means so damn much to me and our family both. Tell her she won’t have to keep fighting for the rest of her life. One day there’s going to be a time where things are going to be relaxed or at least not as off the walls as they are now.
When that time comes for us she won’t be tired or feel so broken or as damaged as she feels she is. She’s going to feel like the world is finally on her side for once even if there are times when it tries to knock her down again.
Think back on the time we spent together
First moments ran into you
Say I stole your heart, no way similar to you taking mine
Stared into your majestic storm
Not knowing what’s yet to come
Beautiful grey or a perfect storm of red
Golden hair on my cheek
I’ll take your pain away, make it my own
So much more for the love I feel for you
Knew it since the day you came in my life
When I look into her eyes, feel her off-gold locks of hair on my skin, making it tickle in the slightest… that’s when all the thoughts of what we’ve gone through so far come to hit me. Then those lips are on my own with such urgency and those moments are the precise times where I knew for sure that for the rest of my life if I ever saw her in pain I’d take it all away. I’d make it better and if I had to, I’d play each of it on my shoulders.
Shy girl became my girl faster than light
Fell for a stolen snack, soon for you
Funny to think it started over my clumsiness
Xavier lets out a laugh at that part, I can tell it’s him since I’ve been hearing that laugh since we were just babies. In my head, I silently thank him for all that he’s done without even knowing it. But my mind stays on Amaya, thinking about how she’d feel about each lyric leaving my mouth. Would her heart flutter? Would she hate this? Would she think I’m terrible? Maybe I should stop thinking about that.
Now I’m addicted, can’t get clean
Seems like the world is all against me
But I’m not giving up on you and what we have
This might be the end of me
If it is, I’m glad it’s you
To the end of time
It’s you and me, me and you
I’ll fight for us forever and always
At this point, I know that I’m further than addicted. It’s a funny concept because when you’re addicted and work hard enough, you can get rid of that addiction and steer clear from it if you train yourself in the right way and have persistence along with perseverance.
I can’t do that with Amaya. I’ve tried it before and so has she, but each time we end up back with each other. She ends up melting in my arms as I refuse to let her go which she never has a problem with. This right here is far more than an addiction.
“You so owe me,” Xavier says once I’m done playing and my eyes open, he claps me on the back.
Xavier is a part of the relationship Amaya and I share in a way that not everyone knows. People knew that the three of us have been inseparable for years, but nobody really knows about him pushing us into the direction of each other.
He helped me to stop denying my ever-growing feelings for Amaya and speak about them when he was dealing with his own growing feelings for her. I truly appreciate that, but what I appreciate most is that he sat and explained to Amaya that it’s okay to feel something for me even while he felt himself falling more and more for her as he pushed her more and more into my direction.
“Well, w-what’d you guys think?” I ask while staring down at the guitar for a few moments, soaking in what I just played.
“If you’re asking me, you’re more whipped than some whipped cream,” Uncle Jude chuckles out, his voice sounding all light. Aunt Ellie’s laugh meets my ears when I notice the two of them being so close together, him whispering something to her as their sons look at them uncomfortably.
I like this side of him even if it makes Mark and Ezra feel awkward as hell. I’m glad it doesn’t sound as strained as it did just a few moments after the words left my mouth. Now that I look at things, I think Uncle Jude is doing what I have tried so desperately hard to do. He’s pushing the fact that I’m in danger out of his head, wanting nothing more than to forget.
“Whipped doesn’t come anywhere near close to what I feel,” I admit with a small but sure smile on my face.
“You wrote a song about Mommy?” Aaron brings all the attention to him before I find myself turning towards him. I watch as he creeps towards me with something I haven’t seen in those eyes for a while, but I don’t know what it is.
I nod slowly, reaching out to bring him into my arms. I want to hold my little buddy.
“I guess that’s pretty cool.” I smile as he plucks one of the guitar strings so gently that it wouldn’t be heard if a single person was speaking. “Still think you’re a chicken though.”
“Are we still bringing this up?” I ask with my smile not faltering in the slightest.
“Well, duh! You a scaredy-cat,” he teases while letting out a small laugh, plucking the strings once again, this time slower as he lets them ring. Aaron stares down at them as though he’s in a trance which he most likely is. “Mommy likes that you get nervous, says it shows how much you really care or something like that.” His attention stays on the guitar before he shrugs.
“You know, kid, it’s alright for me to be a scaredy-cat because I’m smooooth with it.”
Those eyes lift up to land on me for just a moment to give me one of the millions of looks his mother has given me. It’s actually funny since I know he uses our own looks against us which is one of the cutest things for me when he gets it a bit messed up. Aaron is like how I was at that age but in a more politely sweet type of way.
Something that he doesn’t know is how scared I actually get and try to hide it. I show how scared I feel with the smaller things, but I’m definitely not showing the horror that’s building in me with this whole situation. I don’t want to be on edge all the time or have more nightmares. That’s the last thing that I would ever want.
“I’m smoother than you are and I’m only four.” Aaron holds up four fingers for emphasis. “You’re four and a half times my age,” he laughs out. “Everyone thinks I’m adorable when I’m scared.” Chuckles of amusement ring through the room and I shake my head. “With you it’s funny, but it’s all good,” he says while leaning back into me. “I like that you’re not afraid to show how you really feel. You claim your emotions.”
He goes silent along with the whole room; I take it all in. I like how free Aaron is when it comes to his compliments; he truly is one of the sweetest people in my life and I’m so glad that he came into it and loves me in all the ways that he does, constantly making it known.
“I want to be like that when I’m older.” I feel myself starting to choke up. He just said he wants to be like me when he’s older… am I allowed to cry? I think I’m allowed to.
“Thanks,” I sniffle out as I turn my head away, holding him a bit snugger to me, kinda like my personal teddy bear. Aaron allows me to do so.
He can be Amaya’s Kangaroo but he could be my junior Mr. Bear or even a Koala bear. Koalas are the type of animals that are holding onto someone or something and he holds me together and gives me hugs when I’m in desperate need for them.
God the thought of me being forced to leave this wonderful child behind might be the thing that kills me. I don’t want to hurt him and I want to watch him grow, see if he is like me in the slightest which I think he very well might be.
But I want him to be like Amaya too. I want him to feel so passionate and determined in life that he never stays down when it feels like the world is kicking his ass, which it will. I want him to fall in love one day and have them make him feel the way Amaya makes me feel on the good days, or for him to make someone else feel that way.
I want him to love the people in his life and constantly show them how much they mean to him. I want to see the person he grows into and tell him every single day or when he’s down that he’s such a good person and I’m nothing but proud of him. I want to tell him that forever, but the simple fact is, I don’t know if there’s a chance of me being able to do that and that’s the scariest part. I just hope that if I go he never forgets how much I love him or how proud he’s managed to make me.
“Are you about to cry?” Those big green eyes burn holes in the side of my face. “Please don’t cry,” his small hands land on either side of my face. “If you end up crying, I’m gonna start crying too. I don’t wanna start crying right now, Daddy, please don’t make me,” Aaron pleads with me.
I give him a big hug, squeezing him a bit closer after he turns around in my arms. He holds me tight around the neck so that it makes me duck my head just a bit. I stay looking him in the eye before shifting my eyes to Xavier, handing him Grandpa’s guitar so I don’t have to worry about it falling as I hold Aaron that much tighter.
“I’m not about to cry.” That’s actually to be determined. “I just really love you, Buddy,” I mumble out before his grip tightens.
I almost forget the fact that we’re not alone and I probably would’ve if Xavier’s smirk hadn’t met me by the corner of my eye.
“I love you too, Daddy.”
There’s this feeling in my stomach telling me to embrace all of this seeing as it could be ripped away from me by the snap of a finger. Even if I place the threat against my life to the side, nothing in this life is ever definite and how long someone lives can’t be predicted unless you’re the person doing the taking of their life or harming the person. Even in those situations, it can never be determined.
In a single moment, everything could be torn away from you, a life being something that is easily taken though it can be so hard to make last. It doesn’t matter if you’re the happiest you’ve ever been, making a difference in the world too, all of it could come crashing down. That’s precisely why I’m wasting no more time… I’m going to embrace every moment with those that I love.
“Enjoy it while he’s young,” Uncle Jude says, releasing a long sigh as he gets up from the table and walks away. I can tell by the sound of his footsteps.
I look up to his retreating figure, noticing how Ellie starts to get up and follow, but Ezra and Mark stop her so they can go instead. A smile appears on my face.
Uncle Jude has always been a great dad, even when he didn’t have children of his own. He was like my dad, holding me up in ways so different than what anyone could ever imagine. I appreciate that more than anything and even if his boys don’t always show it, they also appreciate everything that he’s done. It’s just hard for them to show how they feel all the time, but eventually, it’s going to get to the point that it hurts.
“Okay?” Aaron asks while looking around.
“They will be,” I answer before nodding slowly. “Now let’s get you ready for bed so you have time to speak to Mommy and Granna, you know she’ll kill me if I mess up your sleeping schedule.” Aaron lets out a small laugh before hopping down from my lap.
“Scaredy-cat, scaredy-cat,” he teases while nodding his head to the sides and making a silly face as he does so.
“Mhm. You can come to me when you see the look of a fairly angry Amaya Wolff, you’ll learn that it’s no joke,” I say while standing from my seat, grabbing the guitar from Xavier and clearing the empty plates from the table. I throw them out but make sure to place the silverware in the sink.
“You’re pretty good at that.”
“I used to be a busboy for a while then I ended up being promoted to a waiter but I stopped working in the world of food which was one of the hardest decisions to make since it meant no more free food.” Laughter meets my ears. “I can still occasionally get it though seeing as Mom still works hard, still amazing.
“Anyway, I want to do something that’s more involved in the real world, something that can make this big difference.” I shrug my shoulders as Aaron just stares up at me.
“So I take it you don’t want to be a pro-baller anymore?” Grandpa asks with a small smile.
“That would be correct. When I’m in college I’ll probably play, but as I said, I want to do something important, make an impact. I want to be worth something. I guess what I want to do could be considered a help agency,” I say as I reach down to take Aaron’s hand into my own, giving it a small squeeze.
“What would you do there?” Aunt Jae asks softly.
“Well, Dylan actually helped me with the idea so we’re incorporating the two of our ideas. I want to help the people who don’t have voices to get the chance to build their strength and possibly find a voice of their own because being silent doesn’t change a thing. It’s so hard not to say anything.” I fight the urge to let my mind stray to Amaya’s previous situations.
“I want to have different aspects to it all. A homeless shelter being part of it all where we find someone who was once in their positions to speak to them on ways to put their lives back to before they fell off the deep end. Another part is a place for children who once were in positions like Amaya and Jonah to talk to someone and know that things aren’t always going to be that way forever. I want those kids to know that there are ways to get out of those situations as long as they continue looking for it and lean on those around them.
“They could also find something that grabs their attention whether it be in music, art, writing, sports, or even cooking which is more in Dylan’s league since he loves every part of that world. Cooking is his thing and he wants to help people in the best way he knows how.” I find that everyone in the kitchen is nodding their heads at the idea.
“That seems like a great idea,” Uncle Benny pipes up. “I also think it’s great that you’re wanting to keep your friends involved with something so… I can’t really find a word for it, but it’s inspirational even.”
“Glad you like it because it’s something I feel really strong about and I know starting our own business would be incredibly hard, but I really want to do this.” And that’s true. I want to do this because the thought of other children being in those positions irk me, but I haven’t really brought this up with anyone.
I don’t want it to be harder on anyone if I have all these plans for life and can’t fulfill them, so nobody really needs to know about this. Not beside Dylan since we had a brief conversation about all this, but I wanted to bring it up with Amaya at some point. All I know is if this whole situation is done with then I’ll tell her and see how she feels, but I think she could help a lot of children out there.
“I think things will go really well with that if you’re as passionate as you sound towards the business, not to mention that it could change the lives of young children in those positions in a positive way.”
I open my mouth to say something when Aaron tugs on my hand.
“What college are you going to?” The question catches me off-guard but I keep it well-hidden.
“I don’t know which school I’m going to but I’m going to apply to NYU, Columbia University, UCLA, Duke University, and Stanford,” I say before wrapping an arm around him. “I’ve already done everything I need to for applying except for getting letters of recommendation which I plan on getting done within the next few days or so.”
“Alright.” His voice gets small.
“What’s running through your head right now?” I ask while crouching down to lift him up and into my arms.
“Nothing really, Mommy says she’s applying to those schools except the Duke one, instead she’s applying to that school that has the same name as the Disney movie with the guy that has a hunchback,” Aaron says while resting his head on my shoulder.
Guy with a hunchback. Guy with a hunchback. What the hell Disney movie has a guy with a hunchback?
“Notre Dame de Namur?” Uncle Benny offers up before Aaron looks to him and nods with a big smile.
“Oh yeah, that’s it!” Aaron’s voice fills with enthusiasm, his eyes going bright too.
“Wow, I went there and met so many people that have been such a major influence in my life. It’s a beautiful place and not all that far from where you’re living now.” I look down to Aaron and see him nodding his head in approval at that last bit of information. I see he still has a problem with moving… or maybe there’s something more to that?
“Thanks for the insight Uncle B, but seriously bud, we’ve got to get you ready for bed.” Aaron huffs but doesn’t put up a fight in any way, showing his defeat.
“Night!” he yells over my shoulder to everyone.
“Good night!” Everyone yells out to him.
“Aaron, buddy wake up,” I call out for Aaron for the third time. We’ve been parked in the apartment parking lot for all of five minutes and of course, I could’ve carried him in, but that would mean he’ll most likely have trouble going to sleep tonight. I don’t want him to have any problems or to give Amaya any.
I watch as his big green eyes flutter open and he rubs the sleep out of them. He drops his hands down to instead wrap them around Brownie as he looks me dead in the eye.
“Good thing you’re awake, you’ve got to be ready to go to sleep in a few hours and your mommy would kill me if I messed up your sleeping schedule.” Xavier laughs from beside me before I discreetly reach over to pinch his arm, the sound of his wincing fills the car. Aaron looks to us with such a confused look that makes him look all that much cuter.
“I’ll be fine if Mommy plays me a song,” he answers in a calm voice before he starts to get all squirmy in his seat, grabbing at the straps to try and get loose. “Come on, I want to see Mommy!” I can tell how impatient he’s becoming.
“Okay, okay,” I laugh out before hopping out of the car and watching as Xavier does the same. From the windows I can see how much he really wants to see her and I’m not upset about it or anything. I get his urges to see her because I have those same exact ones, but I want more than to see her. I want to be with her in every way possible. I want a future with her and to raise him together.
I pull the door open to help him unbuckle his restraints as he watches my hands the entire time, most likely memorizing how to get himself free in the future. I remember learning how to get out when I was just about his age or so by doing the same exact thing.
I smile as he hops up from the seat, taking my hand in his own so I can help him out and keep his hand in my own as we walk side by side. Xavier takes Aaron’s backpack out of the backseat from the other side.
“Know if Uncle Jonah’s home?” Aaron asks; I look down to him.
“I don’t know,” I answer honestly, noticing the sad look that shows up on his face. “If he isn’t home, he’s going to be back sooner or later.” Aarons nods before I look away from him to look to Xavier who keeps staring ahead, face looking all blank.
“I can feel someone watching us but don’t look around, alright?” I don’t say a word, fighting the urge to look as my body goes rigid and I’m trying not to think about all this. “Stay calm.”
“How the hell do I do that?” I make sure to speak low enough so Aaron can’t hear me.
“Figure it out, but we need to walk a bit faster.”
I do that and fight the urge to lift Aaron and start bolting. If I did that, the person or people watching us would know that we know they’re watching which is far worse. I don’t need Aaron getting scared or anything, he’s already been through so much in these past few months… a guy following or watching us wouldn’t be good for him on a psychological way I’d feel. I have to be smart about this whole situation.
“Think running can help you?” Fuck. Fuck. Shit. They know!
I keep moving forward and Aaron doesn’t say a word, but I can tell he’s scared by the way he holds my hand that much tighter. His small hand shakes in the slightest and I have to stop myself from letting my own shake because I’m more than scared, but I need to be brave for him.
The only thing I can do right now is hope that whoever is watching us is just doing that or he waits for me to drop Aaron off with Amaya before doing anything to harm me. I don’t want him to witness something like that again, especially not when his nightmares are back.
But there are thoughts that come to mind, what happens if this person pulls a gun and forces him to watch as I bleed out? I don’t want him seeing shit like that, it really fucks a person up. This situation at the moment is already far worse than I could’ve imagined because never once did it cross my mind that they would harm me in front of my child.
Maybe I was just being hopeful, but I just didn’t think it was in them to do some crazy shit like that. If they hurt me in front of him they’re some real fucking monsters that aren’t right in their damn heads. Can’t a single one of them see how excessive that is? Don’t any of them have children at home that they care about?
Daddy’s hand is roughly yanked from my own and I look up just in time to see a man with deep brown hair that’s almost black slicked back, but it’s his eyes that catches my attention the most. His eyes are nearly black and look soulless. He looks so tired, I can see some hesitation when he throws Daddy down to the ground, kicking him so hard in the side that I can hear the impact.
My eyes go wide. “What are you doing?” I ask confused. Why did this stranger just hurt Daddy, he hasn’t done anything.
The sounds of grunts meet my ears and I watch as Daddy curls up a bit, his casted arm nursing his new injury. He coughs out, a small wheeze coming out in the process.
My heart starts to pound in my chest as I notice him slowly getting up, refusing to let me see the pain that I know he has to be in. The man allows him to get on his feet with a bored expression on his face.
“I don’t w-want to fight,” he groans out.
“You’ve got two choices, get your ass kicked,” the man knocks him down to his knees effortlessly with one blow to Daddy’s no-no spot. Daddy coughs out once again, making a strangled noise as his head sways to the side just a bit. I don’t think he’s okay. “Your second choice is still you getting your ass kicked but you can do that with the knowledge that you did in fact put up a fight, not much of a fight, but a fight.”
What’s wrong with this guy? Why is he hurting Daddy, we weren’t doing anything.
I tear my gaze away from Daddy to Uncle Avier who has a man on top of him, repeatedly punching him as he throws sloppy punches for just a moment but stops trying and tries to push the man off of him. Then it’s like his head is bobbing back and forth like an apple does in water.
I can’t see the guy’s face but I notice his black hair that is cut shorter on the sides and is all combed so it moves to the right. His skin looks just a shade darker than Daddy’s but a bit lighter than Uncle Xavier’s.
“P-Please don’t do this, not with h-him h-here,” Daddy pleads out, his voice shaking. I’ve never heard his voice like this before, it’s… scary. I don’t like the sound of his voice when it’s like this.
“That’s very admirable of you, still placing your boy first when you’re about to die.” I feel my blood run cold as it becomes hard to breathe. They can’t take Daddy from us. We need him. He and Mommy didn’t make up. “It’s such a sad, sad thing. You’re a good father for that and the hardest part is that this doesn’t concern you. All of this is about that bitch he has for a mother,” the man snarls out, seeming more and more animalistic as time goes by.
How does he know Mommy? Why doesn’t he like Mommy? Why did he come after Daddy? And why is his friend hurting Uncle Avier?
“Don’t you dare call her a bitch,” Daddy growls out, catching the man that started attacking him by surprise.
He flips them over, his fist connecting with his face. Once. Twice. Three. Four. Five. Six times as the guy thrashes around beneath him, but it doesn’t scare me. Maybe it would’ve scared me in the past, but I just want Daddy to win this fight so he can get free and help Uncle Avier.
I can feel all of his blistering anger as he glares down at the man that was once hurting him and talking trash about Mommy, but now I wonder if he regrets anything. Does that man regret hurting him? What made him want to come after them in the first place? He starts to move away before two guys run over out of nowhere, overpowering Daddy once again, forcing him down to the ground.
Daddy’s yells of agony ring through the air once again.
My knees buckle from beneath me, my head falling in my hands as I cry hard, harder than I usually do when I wake up from a nightmare. My body starts to shake as the same four words begin to replay over and over in my head. I can’t do anything. Soon all I can hear is the pounding of my heart, forcing almost everything else out as it becomes more and more difficult to breathe.
Daddy’s getting hurt. Uncle Avier’s getting hurt. I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything at all.
With each punch and kick, I can hear the grunts of everyone, but Daddy’s yells hit me the hardest. I can’t breathe. I really can’t breathe. I want nothing more than to help them both, neither of them deserves to get hurt.
“Stop!” I call out but it does no good. Why can’t I move? Why is it so hard to breathe? “Stop!” I scream at the top of my lungs.
I wish I was locked in a room, at least I couldn’t see everything happening. If I closed my eyes I could pretend it all was okay, just replaying that Mommy had said it’d all be okay over and over in my head. She’s always made bad situations better even when I knew she herself was feeling scared.
“Aaron,” Daddy wheezes out. I cradle my head in my hands at the sound of his pain, trying to trick my brain into thinking that he isn’t being hurt, that he’s safe.
But that’s taken away from me when I catch a glimpse of a new man that has dark brown eyes and a black beanie on his head along with the hood of a black hoodie he’s wearing. The man holds Daddy’s head up by his hair making me look him in the eye and notice his left one is already swollen shut. I find myself wincing at the sight along with the blood that is now pooling from both his nose and busted lip to move down his chin, now spotting up the concrete.
“Go,” he forces out, practically gasping it out.
I don’t move and it’s not because I don’t want to, I would like that very much, but it’s like I’m frozen in this very spot. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t will myself to leave, not when I can hear his grunts and groans or the forces of impact that these strange men make on him. The sound of crunching doesn’t help me either. I just want it all to stop.
The desperation in his voice is enough to force me onto my feet as I still cradle my head. I could run for help. I could get someone that can help them because I can’t. I can get Mommy! Each thought is ripped away from me when yet another man comes out of nowhere. I look up to him with tearful eyes noticing that he’s a bit taller than Daddy.
He grabs me by both my arms, slightly shaking me as his grip tightens. The tears streaming even more as I feel like I’m about to pass out from the lack of hair getting to where it needs to be. I want it to stop. The man’s grip hurts and when I try to pull free from him he only holds me that much harder yanking me forward.
The guy lifts me up and I drop Brownie in the process before I find myself kicking as I try to get him to drop me and let me be free. He squeezes me tighter but doesn’t allow me to drop. Pain lurks in each part that the man’s grip was on and is still on as I continue to fight him off even though it doesn’t make a difference.
“Let me go! Let me go!” Why is it always my family that gets hurt?
The man raises a hand to me and it’s just a flash before a stinging feeling meets my cheek and it burns as I scream out, now shaking as I cry even harder. I get shaken, finding myself getting more and more scared as I pray it’ll just stop.
I reach up to nurse my cheek but it makes it hurt that much more.
“Shut the hell up and stay still!” His voice is dark and I can tell he’s not messing around and I really don’t want to get hit again, so I listen. I don’t want him to get any angrier. I can control my crying to an extent, but not the way I’m shaking. The man doesn’t say a word about it though and I feel thankful as another hand doesn’t go up to hit me again.
I look over to Daddy as I try not to think about what has happened. I stare at the only visible part of him, his legs that only move in the slightest when he’s kicked. He hasn’t been making any sounds and before I know it, his legs seize too, but the guys on top of him don’t stop hurting him. From the sounds out it, they aren’t easing up, they’re actually going harder.
The tears stream down quicker and quicker. How come nobody can see or hear us? Why isn’t there anyone to help?
The open air around us was full of nothing but yells just a few moments ago and we’re not even far from the apartment. Now that I notice it, the parking lot is emptier than it’s ever been, there are a couple of cars out here, but not a single person in them. There’s not even people out on the road driving past. It’s strange and confusing.
“Daddy,” I whimper out over and over.
For just a moment I find myself staring up at the man holding me, taking in the poker face he has on while watching as Daddy gets attacked. I can’t read him and that makes a scary person to be around. I know he’s the type of person that Mommy has been trying to keep me away from. I can feel it.
Then that other guy started talking about Mommy, something about him speaking had me feeling like maybe it wasn’t on a personal level.
I can tell the difference now. I learned it from hearing everyone around me with people they don’t like along with people they feel pain over. The first time I started noticing it all is when Daddy ended up speaking about his dad and how he ended up leaving before I was born. One night I heard him and Mommy talking about him, Daddy didn’t say nice words. There were some bad ones, a lot of them actually, but I could see it’s because he hurts.
Then Mommy with Derrick, I know she feels this hate towards him, I know why though. I know he hurt her and I think he might’ve been about to hurt me if Mommy hadn’t been there that night. But I don’t hate him. I don’t know how I feel about him, maybe I’m still a bit scared. Actually, I know I’m scared, but I also know I feel bad for him. I feel bad for a lot of people, but the sad truth is, I can’t always help.
But I don’t feel as bad for those other people as I feel for myself, Daddy, and Uncle Avier. They’re being hurt right now and I’m not good enough to do anything. I’ve been in this situation twice but never am I quick enough to help. I’m no good and I wish I could be.
I could’ve gotten help the moment all of this started.
What if Daddy dies? That would land on these peoples’ shoulders, but it’d be on me too. I could’ve saved him if I was fast enough. And with Mommy… if I had just ran to her room instead of calling we could’ve grabbed Uncle Jonah and outran Derrick. She wouldn’t have needed to get hurt.
I look over to Uncle Avier and notice that he’s also not moving. My eyes focus on his face to notice his nose doesn’t look right, it seems so crooked, his lip looks split or so I’d assume from the blood pouring from it and making a trail down the side of his face. I didn’t think I’d have to see something like this again, not beside my nightmares which I don’t like to think about.
It’s not just about what happened to Mommy, I once saw her getting shot and other things that are just terrifying.
Now looking at Uncle Avier… I’ve never seen blood come from someone’s face like this, only with Mommy, but it wasn’t all that much when it was her. The most I saw her bleed happened on that night in the living room back in the old house.
I want to see his eyes open once again. I want to see the blue you find in the sky when it’s nice and bright, the sun shining bright, but the sun isn’t shining. There are clouds. I can feel that his eyes aren’t going to open, the way that his head is lulled to the side giving more than that. It makes my stomach all unsettled and awkward. I decide now that I don’t like this feeling, I hate it.
My head keeps looking back and forth from him to Daddy, praying that all this all fake.
I can feel the pain from the man’s grip on me, his gaze now heated as he stares down at me with such a pure hatred that I want nothing more than to disappear. Being invisible would be the best thing at a time like this.
Why can’t I just disappear? Why can’t this man let me go, I don’t like him.
Maybe all of this is just a nightmare. Maybe Daddy and Uncle Avier are both okay and we’re still at their grandparents’ house. My eyes are going to open at any moment, and when they do, everything is going to be okay.
These men aren’t going to be on top of Daddy anymore. In fact, he’s gonna be in front of me, laughing as he did earlier when we were running around before we left. He’ll smile like he did yesterday when we had dinner with all his other family, or when he spoke about what he wanted to do in his future.
This isn’t real… but I thought Mommy getting hurt wasn’t real either. That was nothing but real. This feels worse though, far worse.
“He’s not moving. He’s not moving. Please. Please stop,” I mutter out while forcing myself to look into the storm as I fight back the tears that are still streaming.
His light brown eyes glare back at me, a slight smirk on his face as he does so, but it’s not like Daddy’s or any of my uncles’ smirks. This one’s scary, straight out of nightmares.
“We have a point to get across young man,” he growls out. “I suggest you say your goodbyes.” I don’t want to say goodbye.
“Enriquo, I think he’s had enough!” One of the men hiding Daddy from my view yells out. Please let this mean that they’re going to stop hurting him.
The man that I now know as Enriquo drops me down to the ground, not sparing me another glance which I couldn’t be more than grateful for. I don’t let any of the pain stop me from making a run towards them, but I stop myself so fast that I almost fall. I don’t want to get hit again, it still hurts.
I look down to my knees, noticing that my jeans now have holes in them and a couple of scrapes come to view, but they don’t hurt as much as my sides do from the tight grip he had on me or from the slap. I lift my shirt up just a bit to see purple spots in the shapes of handprints.
Mommy’s gonna be mad when she finds out.
“He’s had enough when I said he’s had enough,” Enriqup grounds out while taking slow and dangerous steps closer to Daddy. I want to scream out for him to stop, but I know it’s no use, he won’t listen to me.
Enriquo pulls something out of his pocket and everything goes so quiet that you could only hear the sound of the slight breeze. Then there’s something else, kinda like a clicking noise and I don’t know what it could possibly be.
He drops down to his knees so I can’t see his face anymore. I don’t know what he’s doing to Daddy but his yells of agony meet my ears once again, worse than they were just a few minutes ago and I wish I didn’t have to hear it again.
“It truly did hurt that it had to be you, Harper, heard you were a decent guy too. Everyone knows that, but oh well.” I see him shrug his shoulders as if he didn’t just hurt someone for no reason and force me to sit through it like I’ve messed up.
Enriquo stands up, shoving the thing back in his pocket before motioning for each of the other guys to follow him as he leaves. Three of them look back to me with guilt ridden faces, including the guy that Daddy assaulted.
They each disperse and I watch them do so, making sure nobody tries coming back. When I turn back to Daddy I feel this sickness take over. From the first glimpse, I could see it’s exactly what I thought, he’s far worse than Mommy was when Derrick hurt him.
I run over to him and stare at his face that looks unrecognizable, some of his hair is matted down on his forehead with some blood which makes my eyes widen. My hand shakes as I reach out to take his hand, but I stop myself. I can’t hurt him anymore and he might get that much more hurt if I touch him.
I instead reach down to his shirt, lifting it up in the slightest to see that much more blood along with a hole in the side of his side. He got stabbed like Mommy. I shake my head at the thought. Come on, Aaron, this isn’t the time for that.
There’s a lot of purple on him too, he’s actually darker than Barney and I’m smart enough to know that’s not good. Not in the slightest.
“I hope you can hear me, Daddy.” My voice cracks in the slightest. “Don’t w-worry, Daddy, y-you’re going to be okay.” I gently rest my forehead against his own, ignoring the fact that there’s most likely going to be blood on me. “Mommy told me not to go on your phone without permission… so don’t be mad, but I’m getting help.”
I bring my hand to his pants pocket, pulling his phone out of it. I turn it on and type in: 1062000, the pin that I’ve seen Daddy put in many times before.
“In TV they say to call 911 for an emergency,” I mumble out before moving to his dial pad, putting the number in. I place the phone on speaker.
“911, what’s your emergency?” I stand up and begin to pace.
“My uh, my daddy and Uncle Avier were hurt. Neither of them is moving and there were some big guys that hurt them for nothing.” I take a deep breath after my voice shakes in the slightest as I try to calm my nerves.
“What’s your name and location?” the operator asks.
“My name’s Aaron Harper and we’re at the Southwood apartments,” I speak softly into the phone. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You’ve got to stay calm, alright? Help is on the way. Now, how old are you?” The woman’s voice is sweet and it would be reassuring had I not been looking at Daddy.
“I’m four.” I hear the woman take a deep breath on the other line.
“Can you see any adults or familiar faces?” I shake my head even though she can’t see anything I’m doing.
“No, and we were out in the open when it happened, but nobody was here. Nobody heard me or them yelling for help. I tried to get away, but then the man holding me ended up slapping me.” My voice gets low.
“I’m sorry that happened to you, Aaron.”
“Nowhere near as sorry as I feel. My mommy doesn’t even know yet, it’s gonna make her so sad. She’s already been sad.” My lip puckers out into a pout before I move over to Uncle Avier to place a kiss on his forehead as my heart starts to beat a bit quicker. “I don’t like when Mommy gets sad.”
“Do any of us?”
“Why are you being so nice to me?” I ask while placing the phone down beside me. I bring a hand to Uncle Avier’s face, wiping away some of the blood on his face.
“You haven’t given me a reason to be mean to you.”
“We didn’t give those guys a reason to be mean to us, but they were. They kept hurting them and I couldn’t do anything. All we were doing was heading back home, but now… now I don’t know.” A sigh of defeat leaves from deep within my lungs. “I want to wake up and find that this is just a nightmare.”
“It’s not a nightmare, bud, and I’m sorry you had to experience this today.”
“It’s not the first time,” I sigh out before I find myself wrapping my arms around Uncle Avier as I push some of his hair away from his face. “I don’t want to be the one to tell Mommy,” I whisper out.
“Well, when the police and ambulance get there an officer can come with you and handle all that, okay?” I only nod.
Neither of us says another word to each other but instead sit in silence and I take in the cloudy sky, but I know she’s still on the line. Something about her just makes me think that she wouldn’t hang up on me and that she really does care. She’s gonna help us.
“Hey, Uncle Avier,” I say in a small voice, ignoring the fact that the operator’s still listening. “I have a bit more hope in you being able to hear me since you don’t look as bad, but you still took a hit. I just want you to know that you’re important to me, and I know we started off on the rougher side, but you have always put me first. Well, me and Mommy both. I want you to know that while you’re in pain that I’m going to be here.”
I feel a hand reach out to squeeze my hand.
“You’re okay!” Uncle Avier reaches out to place a hand on his forehead. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be so loud,” I lower my volume.
“D-Don’t a-apologize. I-I’ve been worse.” I know he’s lying but decide not to call him out for it because it makes me feel just a bit better. “I’m going to be okay, just a little messed up,” he says while wrapping his arms around me. I try to ignore the way his head moves all over the place like it does when I get a bit dizzy.
“You’re not okay, I know you’re not okay.”
“How do you know that?” he asks while tilting his head to the side.
“Because I’ve seen Mommy and Uncle Jonah when they’re not okay. You’re not as bad as they’ve been, but you’re bad. Pretty bad, but not as bad as Daddy.” Uncle Avier’s eyes start to bolt around the complex before landing on the heap that is Daddy’s motionless body.
“Oh shit,” he forces out, trying to force himself up to his feet but collapsing down the next moment.
“Uncle Avier, don’t! You’re gonna hurt yourself!”
He doesn’t listen to me but instead tries again, moving only a bit slower, this time not falling though he continues to stumble. When he reaches Daddy he drops down to his knees, his hands fisting in his shirt.
“Shawn, please don’t do this, man. I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to save you. I was supposed to help you if all this happened. Don’t you dare leave us behind! I need you to keep teasing me when I do something stupid, Mom needs you, Aaron needs you, all of us need you so much,” Uncle Avier’s voice cracks as he breaks down, bringing Daddy closer to his chest.
“You didn’t deserve anything like this, Shawn. You shouldn’t have been in this situation. Those assholes shouldn’t have hurt you and I just want you to know that I’ll do anything for you to come back, just please open your eyes. I’ve had you in my life since the day I was born, you can’t leave, we’re not ready.” His sobs start to fill the air and that’s when I realize that this is the first time that I’ve ever heard him crying, and I don’t ever want to hear it again.
Just this morning he was happy, joking around, but now, now he’s crying over the chance of losing a brother even when he’s in the condition he’s in. This morning Daddy was happy, but now he’s not moving and is bleeding just like Mommy when Derrick hurt her. She was happy before it all happened. I don’t want to even think about this situation. I still just want to wake up from this whole nightmare.
“Today was supposed to be a good day until you told Mom about everything, she was going to flip out, but we were going to work through things. God, I wish I could’ve done more for you.” I don’t want to listen to this anymore. “I want you to fight. Please don’t stop fighting.”
I take a seat across from them.
“A-Aaron, are you okay?” Uncle Avier looks over to me. I open my mouth to answer the question but I find myself unable to speak even though I really want to. “Did you hear me, are you okay?” I try to speak again but only have another failed attempt.
No, I don’t think I am. My breath hitches before I find everything going black.