Chapter 20: Amaya
“Amaya, it’s time for you to stop,” Cody’s voice is full of worry as his eyes stay on me. I ignore him as I continue to push myself forward, staying light on my feet. My breathing hasn’t even picked up yet.
I’m not moving as fast as I usually would, but I’m still putting in more effort than I ever have in gym class since this just seems more important even if I don’t get a grade for it. I’ve been going at this since I let Aaron use my phone for about half an hour or so.
“Amaya please, this doesn’t help anything.”
“It helps a whole hell of a lot.” I pick up a bit more speed while my arms row more and more, the air acting as a personal stream.
“Running won’t change the fact that people you care about are hurt.” I start moving that much faster, my eyes narrowing as I go. “You can’t just shut down on the people that are still in your life because of bad things that happened to others that you happen to care about. Shawn wouldn’t want you to push us to the side when you’re scared.”
“I’m not scared,” I lie through my teeth.
“Yes, Amaya, you are. We’ve been friends since elementary school when we met on the playground,” he lets out a small chuckle, “you can’t trick me into believing you’re not scared. It doesn’t make you weak if you admit to that, in fact, it makes me strong.” Cody sighs before I glance over to him, seeing that he’s sitting on a bench with a weight in the tight grip of his left hand. His light brown hair slightly covers the view of his eyes.
On the day we met he still had his dirty blonde hair and he laughed a lot less back in those days since life was harder on him. Me and the boys were the first friends he had because he was still being homeschooled at the time, but once first grade started his mom had finally convinced his father to let him go as his older sister, Jen, was already in real classes.
We were such different people back then.
“Do you know why they did it?” I ask in a small voice while staring down at the speed I’m going at, 21 mph. Damn I’m pushing myself.
“I feel like you know the answer to that.” I do and I wish I didn’t need to know.
“I guess I do but I still feel the need to ask. I can’t stop thinking about the Panthers now. I keep thinking about if they come back. What if they end up finding out that Shawn is still alive as we speak and they come to finish him off?” I pant out while forcing myself to keep going on the treadmill, taking in deep and shaky breaths.
I hear movement coming towards me before the treadmill slows to a stop, those brown eyes landing on me. Cody softly takes me by my wrist, pulling me off before placing a towel in my other hand with an almost empty look on his face.
“I know how you feel.” He looks down at his shoes before shoving his hands into the pockets of his sweatpants.
“How?” I ask, my voice just above a whisper.
Cody clears his throat before bringing a hand from his pocket to slowly track it down his tired face. “Putting aside the fact that Shawn and Xavier have been in my life as long as you have been in it, it doesn’t just have to do with what I feel towards what happened today. That screwed me up too, but I was in your position not too long ago, maybe not as bad, but I was there and it eats away at me.” I look to him with my eyebrow raised as I make my confusion clearer than the day.
“What are you talking about?”
Cody looks to me for a moment or two before walking over to the bench he was sitting at to retrieve two Poland Springs bottles. He tosses one in my direction; I effortlessly catch it, opening it to take a sip.
“The day Aaron was sick two weeks ago, that wasn’t the only thing that had gone wrong that day. At school things were going fine up until after gym.” Cody swipes at his eyes that are now watering. “I couldn’t find Dylan until it was too late to stop what happened.”
“Too late for what? What happened to him?” My voice trembles at the words.
“Two boys cornered him in the locker room and they beat him bloody, by the time I found him he was bawling his eyes out and was shaking. H-He refused to allow me to touch him so I could clean his injuries. I had no idea how to make him feel better,” he huffs out while making fists at his sides.
How the hell didn’t I know about this?
“Why did they attack him? And why didn’t you tell me?”
“They found out he’s gay,” he forces out, and for a moment, I feel like I can hear the sound of his heartbeat picking up that much more; I closely watch his face. “The guys apparently saw us k-kiss each other and they knew I would put up a good fight against them, but Dylan-”
“-he’s not the type to fight,” I complete the sentence for him.
“That doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me, I could’ve helped.”
I don’t bring up how neither he or Dylan told me about their relationship. I can understand that they wanted to keep it private and I have enough respect for them to not push the matter. I can full-heartedly see they work well together, I’ve seen them as a possibility for the longest but I just haven’t said anything because why would I walk up to someone and say you’d look good with your best friend and I think you should be together.
It’s not my place.
“After it happened he wanted to pretend none of it happened, he was and still is rattled up by the thought of that day, so I let it go. I don’t say a word. He’ll be pissed if he ever finds out I’m telling you about this right now.” Cody looks to me with his eyes asking a silent question, “You’re not going to tell him, right?”
“I won’t bring it up.”
“Do you think he’s alright?” I ask with a raised eyebrow before Cody’s eyes land on the ground, his shaggy light brown hair covers my view of more than half of his face, but I don’t need to see it to know what it looks like because I have the same face. I’m there, feeling as though I was kicked while I’m already down, Aaron’s probably feeling the same exact way right about now and the worse part is that I don’t know how to make it better.
“I wish I could tell you, I honestly don’t even know if he’s physically okay because he’s so damn stubborn and refused to go to the hospital even when I was begging him. I don’t know what they did to him, all I know is that he was really hurt and didn’t want to be touched. I don’t know the effect of that day on a mental level. I can’t even ask him what happened because the last time he went ballistic. I can’t find myself to push him into it, especially because when pushed, he goes somewhere different, he doesn’t want to get violent, but he does occasionally get to that level…”
That’s something I haven’t ever thought I would hear, Dylan… getting violent? That sounds like it comes from a parallel universe, but I also have seen him get close to punching someone and if anyone would know if he’s capable it would be his boyfriend, right?
“On a different route, back to what I was saying earlier, I know where you’re standing, because I’ve been there. I might not have any clue as to when, if, or how Dylan is going to get better, but I believe in him in the same ways that you have to believe in Shawn. That’s what it means to be in love with someone, you back them up even when you yourself aren’t sure, make it known that you’re always going to be there to hold their hand, kiss their forehead, hold them when they’re snapping.
“Just as you feel alone you need to realize that the people you love are probably feeling the same exact thing, but what you don’t realize is that we’re not alone. All of us are willing to be there as long as you’re willing to keep us in your corner and are willing to ask for help. Me, the other guys, Shawn, everyone else that’s still standing here and has always been here, we don’t plan on leaving you any time soon.” He looks up to me with a small smile, the sadness in his eyes slightly dimming out and becoming a new light.
I pull him in for a hug which he immediately reciprocates.
“Thank you, Cody.”
“No need to thank me, you know you’re like a sister to me and I do what I can for those that mean something to me, as I said, I’m always right here for you. I also don’t trust the idea of you and Aaron staying in some hotel when there are other options.” I hand him a kind smile as we make our way out of the gym and make our way to the guest bedroom closest to it.
“The hotel wouldn’t have been all that bad, but thank you for giving me the opportunity to keep money in my pockets.” Cody chuckles.
“Not a problem, Wolff, you’re welcomed here whenever and you know that.”
“I wouldn’t say whenever, you’re father seems to despise me and I heard about his reaction to Shawn and Aaron when Jen was babysitting him, I don’t know why but I do know that if I want shade thrown my way I’d pay attention to the teens that already talk shit about me in school. The thing is, your father and me have barely even spoken, so maybe there’s something I don’t know about that happened, but I could care less.”
Cody clears his throat before scratching the back of his head.
“Dad is like that with almost everything that comes into his life, he does it with me too, the only people he doesn’t do it to is Mom, Jen, and even Grandpa the last I checked but I don’t speak to him. Dad and I mostly try to avoid each other and it’s pretty easy since he’s never home. Now I’m waiting for the moment he finds out about my not so hidden relationship.” We show up outside the door that holds Aaron behind it and he doesn’t make an effort to go and open it and neither do I.
“What scares you about telling him?” I wonder aloud accidentally.
“If he looks at me differently,” he sighs out while leaning back against the wall. He blows out a long and deep breath. “Anyone can see that we already aren’t on the best of terms and I don’t want us to get worse. I don’t want him to hate me because even if I don’t show it much, I do care. I keep coming back to the times when I was younger and he would constantly write me off like I wasn’t important but he always had time for Jen, it still hurts and the sad part is, even with her in college across the country it still happens, and my age doesn’t change how isolated that man makes me feel.
“I guess I don’t want things to be harsher and more towards the offensive side than what it is. I don’t want to have to cut him out of my life because I found love with someone I know likes me for me and doesn’t want to be in my life just because my family has money. Dylan and I make each other happy and though I don’t want to choose between them I know I’d choose him each time because he has always made me feel warm inside while with Dad… well, he’s cold to me at least.” I can see Cody’s been thinking a decent amount of time about that and it really makes me wonder what’s running through his head right about now.
We’ve both got wars that we’re fighting and though his war isn’t quite as visible to prying eyes, it’s there when you look at the signs or better yet hold a conversation with him. I’ve got my demons and he’s got his. I was so caught up in my own shit that I didn’t realize how much pain he was feeling though I did realize the new light in his eyes that came when he was around Dylan.
That day where the school found out about not just the abuse I suffer at home but also about Aaron, it was like Cody and Dylan were almost lighter, I can’t really explain it, but it was there and I wonder if people could see that same level of brightness when Shawn and I were together. He was one of the best things to ever happen to me and that’s why this hits harder than I could’ve ever imagined, it’s also why I can’t believe I was such a dumbass that I pushed at him for a bit over two weeks.
The hardest thought to fathom is if that was our final two weeks together and I was acting the way I was, God I wish I could take it all back, but there’s no way to turn back time.
“Did you think I would look at you differently?”
Shawn knew, but the question is if Xavier knew and if so, for how long? And what about Jonah? Even if they did know it wouldn’t change a thing because it’s not their secret to tell, it’s Dylan and Cody’s alone, but that doesn’t stop the questions from coming to mind.
“No, I didn’t think you’d look at me differently,” he starts and I listen closer, trying to detect if he’s telling the truth or not, but I think it’s safe to say he is. “I never once thought that you would change your opinion of me and at the moment, I don’t see that you have, have you?” I shake my head to him.
“You’re still Cody Asher to me, the boy I met on the playground.”
“Yeah, the boy you met on the playground. I haven’t really said this to anyone before, but I was scared of what happened to Dylan happening to me or even someone that I ended up getting involved with. We weren’t hurting anyone, we were just being ourselves and because of that what I wanted to prevent in the first place ended up happening anyway. I didn’t want to watch people I care about get hurt.” Cody places is head back on the wall to now stare at the ceiling.
“I wouldn’t have said anything to anyone if that wasn’t what you or Dylan wanted, I have enough respect and decency to keep things to myself. I’m not the type to out someone, especially when they do what makes them happy.” A sniffle meets my ears before I glance over to him, noticing the fresh glisten in his eyes. “D-Did I say something wrong?”
I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if I unintentionally did knowing how I’ve been screwing up a lot as of lately. It’s just hitting me how much of a pain of an ass life can be seeing as you could be at an all time high one day and then drowning in self-loathing and pity the next. It’s not even like I’m the only one being hit, it’s my whole family too and it all feels like it’s just some ripple effect or payback for something I’ve managed to do wrong with my life, which it most likely is. I also know that that would be a long-ass list to sort through to find out which one was worth all that happened today.
All of it’s adding up.
“No, Amaya, you didn’t say anything wrong. I was just thinking about how I was struggling to come to terms with myself. Dylan helped me to understand that I should love myself no matter what because if I despise myself, how could I expect others to not feel the same? When I accepted the fact that I did in fact have feelings for another guy in my life you were already going through so much and I couldn’t bring myself to bring up what I was going through with you.” I nod, not knowing what I should say to that, because I never want him to feel like he can’t come to me, even if I am experiencing some messed up things. A friendship should make it that much easier for you to speak to someone about how you feel.
“When did Shawn find out?” Hesitation washes all over his face. “I’m not mad that you didn’t tell me sooner, I swear it to you.”
“It was the day Bethany kissed him. The two of us weren’t really on the same page about things and he probably would’ve fought me if Dylan didn’t jump in between us.” What the hell could he have done that would’ve made Shawn want to fight him? “I was being an asshole to him and I did apologize for it, but anyway, that’s not the point, on that day we also saw another side of him. The anger wasn’t new, but the way he used it made him seem like a completely different person.” Cody turns his head away from me. “He can be quite scary in that state of mind.
“All of his desperation was controlling him, actually, it wasn’t just desperation, it was the pain and anxiety of the situation.” I lean back against the wall before pulling my hair down from my ponytail, letting it mask my eyes that want to pool out tears; I pull my hair back once again, new ponytail looking fresher.
“I wish saying I regret it would change the fact that I had left him that day. You just have to believe me when I say that it hurt me as much as it hurt him that day. God, I miss him so much, I have for these past two weeks.” I look over to Cody, watching how he nods and keeps his eyes on me as he does so.
“I know, I saw it each time you and Shawn would make eye-contact in the halls and when the two of you were together I could see a brightness in you that I haven’t seen in a long time, but it all went away after that day. When you felt him staring at you I could see the fight raging on inside of you, wanting to look but forcing yourself not to. Then there’s you and Charlie, I know good and damn well he was the topic of more than half your conversations together.” He’s not wrong about that. “I think you should tell Shawn all of this when his eyes open.”
“The sad thing is, he would’ve already known all this if those asshats didn’t attack him, but even still, it won’t change anything if he knows.”
“Two thingsIt makes him aware of what’s going on with you; we both know Shawn wants you and only you, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It’s you and it’s always going to be you, just make sure he knows it’s always him.” I remember the times where he didn’t need to be told that much but now with all I’ve said to him I can see why he needs the reassurance. “Two, were you going to tell him you wanted to work through your issues today.”
“Something along the lines of that, yeah. We were supposed to talk when he was dropping Aaron off.” I look down at my shoes before nibbling away at my bottom lip, not caring that it could possibly end up bleeding, it’s slightly easing my nerves. “I wish we had that talk right about now.”
“You wanna tell me?” I look up to him before he throws his hands up in surrender. “To help yourself feel better, not because I feel entitled or want to get into your business.”
“I know, Cody, and there’s no need to worry, I’m just not ready to say what I was going to say to him right now. It’s gonna kill me to tell someone that isn’t him first, he has more of a right to know than anyone.” Including myself.
“Did you decide which colleges you’re applying to?”
“Yeah, I did, some are over on the east coast while others are over it, but if I find out I got into a school over here I’m going to take the opportunity. Over here is where my home is.” A hand is placed on my shoulder.
“You found where you belong, Amaya, and you and your family are happy here.”
“I screwed it up though.”
“Yeah, you did mess up, big time, but you need to get it through your head that all of us mess up. Shawn was heartbroken, but you were too; he fought so hard to get you back and when he had you you just pushed him away once again.” Is this supposed to make me feel any better because this just hurts. “I could see where you were coming from, but the next time you have him in your life, don’t push him away unless you catch yourself losing feelings.
“In your case, that would mean never.” He’s not wrong. I don’t see myself ever getting over Shawn, especially when I have to look Aaron in the eye every morning and this baby when they’re born.
“I don’t know why he still wanted a relationship with me.”
“Still wants a relationship with you, and maybe because he’s in love with you and the family that you’ve given him?” Cody offers up while making gestures with his hands, hoping to guide me in the right direction with my thoughts. “You need to remember that you and Shawn have known each other since you were just kids, can you really blame him for wanting the rest of his life with you when you want the same exact things.”
“I’m not good for him, Code.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. You’re so damn good for him that everyone is able to see it and you’ve been through so much together but both of you are so scared of being weak in front of the other. Let yourself be weak sometimes rather than walking away from things like it changes what you feel.
“When you feel like you can’t do anything right let him know. Speak things out instead of hurting each other whether it be intentional or not. When he wakes up you need to say you’re sorry and explain that he means the world to you.” He draps an arm over my shoulder, pulling me closer to him and I feel myself relax in his hold.
“You think he would even want to hear-”
“If you were him would you want to hear that you mean the world to him?” I don’t answer but there’s really nothing to say about it either, we both already know what my answer would be to the question. “Exactly.” I open my mouth to speak. “If the next words to leave your mouth are about how the accident was your fault or you breaking his heart I’m going to snap.”
“Alright, point taken,” I say while holding my hands up in surrender.
“I’ve never seen you like this before,” he observes while his brown eyes slightly narrow, “your guilt is eating away at your whole existence. Your reaction seems worse than it was to Jonah getting shot.”
“What makes you say that?” I give him a small look.
“Don’t get ready to punch me or anything, but it just seems like this is hitting different, I can’t explain it, but I can see a difference in reactions. With Jonah you showed it hit hard, even with Derrick, but when something bad happens to Shawn and Xavier you shut down. You haven’t even allowed yourself to cry yet, have you?” No, I haven’t. Not fully anyway.
“Tell me this, did you think that was your fault too?” he asks while retracting his arm from around me.
“Yes,” I whisper out.
“Then how is this different, because if you ask me, what happened to Shawn and Xavier was a bit more brutal. Those guys that were after Shawn, they beat him bloody with their bare fists, pounding repeatedly, not caring that he was yelling for them to stop.” I close my eyes tightly, trying not to think about what happened but all I can imagine is Shawn’s face. “Xavier, they beat him until he was unconscious, right?” I don’t say a word.
“Derrick shot Jonah, that’s quick, but there’s even a question about that that you should be asking, he’s shot so many people before, why didn’t he shoot to kill?”
“Why don’t you express yourself when it comes to Shawn and Xavier? Shawn was the guy that gave you love when you felt like nobody else was feeling it towards you. Xavier is like a brother to you, but you can’t cry over what happened to him either. Why can’t you put yourself out there?” I make fists at my side, not because I want to punch him or anything, but to hopefully calm my emotions down.
“It feels like I don’t have the right,” I ground out and before I know it there are tears flowing freely down my cheeks. “That’s why I couldn’t let this happen,” I say while motioning to my face.
“What do you mean it feels like you don’t have the right? We all have the right to cry when something happens to someone we love or care about, we don’t even have to personally know someone to feel something over the fact that what happened shouldn’t have happened.” I wipe away at my eyes.
“It doesn’t always feel like that, and when Jonah was shot and I shot Derrick, Shawn was there to tell me that it didn’t land on my shoulders. He said we’d go through it all together and that he would always be there to make it better, but it doesn’t feel like that now. It feels like everything is being torn away from me instead.
“I-It also feels like it should be me, not them, their problems are with me, not Shawn and not Xavier. They got involved because they’re involved in me and it’s bullshit,” I start to whisper-shout since I don’t want to notify Aaron on the conversation that’s going on outside of the room he’s currently in.
“It shouldn’t have been you instead, it shouldn’t have been anyone, and it’s not your fault, if you want to blame anyone it’s Derrick. The damn Panthers wouldn’t have known about you hadn’t it had been for him getting two fucking kids into gangs and all that shit. This doesn’t fall on you. Why do you always have to think everything falls on you?” My breathing goes shaky as I think about the last time someone had asked me that. Shawn to be exact, on the day Jonah was shot too.
“It’s what I’m used to,” I mumble.
“What?” he asks; his voice just above a whisper.
I glance behind us and over to Derrick’s unconscious form before Shawn does the same. His eyes stay glued on Derrick for a minute or two before he brings his attention back to me and refuses to look anywhere besides to me. He removes his arms from around me to instead place a hand on each of my cheeks. He forces me to look up so we’re now staring into each other’s eyes before my heart clenches in my chest.
Is it bad that I want to just have all the bad erased from my head? Allow Shawn to just kiss the hell out of me until all I can think about is us and forget the shit going on around us. In that land, it’s just Shawn and I and our love for each other, nobody else but us and the moment. Jonah would be fine as would Derrick, hell, I’d prefer for him to be back on the run and us not knowing if he’d ever be coming back around or when than for him to be here.
“Hey, no, don’t think about him. Just look me in the eye, alright?” he says in this soft voice, but I can’t help but look over his shoulder still. That’s my own damage. I did that. I hurt him when I had a choice. I didn’t have to shoot him. I could’ve been the better person. I could’ve been better but when the time came for me to choose I chose wrong, I shot him. Jonah, he’s-
My thought process gets interrupted when Shawn chooses that moment to smash his lips onto my own. It was hard at first, urgent enough to make my head go blanker than ever before as that’s exactly what the both of us wanted. I could tell he wanted the same because he’s known since the second time we kissed the certain way he needs to kiss me for my head to put everything aside beside the moment. He knows that if i’m thinking about anything else that Derrick would be the only thing running through my head.
I pull away from him before taking deep breaths. “I-It’s what I’m used to, back at my house that is,” I whisper to him.
“Wait, what? What are you used to?” he asks before I huff.
“I’m used to everything being my fault. I was always jumping to say it was my fault so that I could protect both Jonah and Aaron when Mom wasn’t around for us. I rather take the hit or verbal abuse than have them take it, hell, there were a lot of hits that I took just for doing that,” I force out before taking calming breaths.
“Amaya, hey,” Cody’s voice meets my ears before a snap follows; I look over to him. “What were you just thinking about?”
“Shawn, he asked me the same question you asked me, on the day Jonah was shot…”
“I’m still used to everything being my fault, I guess that’s a habit I’m gonna have to have to work on getting rid of, but it’s so hard when all I can think about was the way I was raised.” I probably should’ve told that to Shawn before.
“Can I ask you a question without you getting angry about it?” He takes a deep breath while looking me in the eye.
“I’ll promise not to get too mad, but I can’t promise you I won’t get mad at all if I don’t know what question you plan on asking.” Why do I feel scared for this?
“Why didn’t you just get out? After Derrick stabbed you you went to live with Shawn, why didn’t you just do that sooner, or even go further? I guess what I’m trying to say is why didn’t you see about other possibilities instead of staying?”
“Mostly because of Aaron. If I ran, I didn’t know if one day I’d end up on the streets, and if I did I didn’t want to drag Aaron along for that, I also know that I refuse to leave him behind. I was going to stay in that situation as long as I needed to make sure there was less to worry about and that everything was clean. A life on the run and on the streets isn't something that he deserves, and that’s probably where we would’ve ended up if I was to leave earlier.” I close my eyes once again, trying not to imagine what life would’ve been like if I left each time that I had wanted to.
Something makes me feel like Shawn would’ve found a way to get to us, but my question is, would we still happen? I know there would be times where I wanted nothing more than to be back where I was, not because of Mom, but because of the people that were always there for me.
I would miss Shawn, the boys, Mrs. Harper… I would even miss some aspects of life that I used to do a lot more, like going to the park with the boys, skateboarding with them, and even going to school side by side with them because they always made my life better. At my worst moments I knew I could always depend on them.
If I was on my own back then I wouldn’t have half the memories I have now and what else would that leave me without?
“Do you want to go and check in on Aaron now?” I nod before my shaking hand lands on the handle of the door just to freeze in my place, my breath getting caught in the back of my throat. Cody bumps into me from behind but doesn’t make any movements after.
“-this is Shawn and I’m sorry I couldn’t answer your call but if you leave your name along with your number I promise to call you back. Actually, that’s a lie, if you’re annoying I won’t but to anyone else, try texting me.” Shawn’s voice stops and the muffled sounds of sniffling meets my ears; I head over to the bed, bringing Aaron into my arms once again.
“¿Cuánto tiempo llevas llamando?” Aaron’s lip begins to quiver but he doesn’t say a word which doesn’t create any shock-value to me, something tells me this is going to be how things are for a bit. “Canguro, lo siento sobre tu papá.”
His arms go around my neck, his head resting on my shoulder and it doesn’t take long for his tears to start soaking through my shirt and to my skin. The sound of his small sobs making my heart break even further as I try to stay strong in front of him.
“Yo también lo extraño.”
I don’t spare Cody a look as I place a kiss on Aaron’s head before smoothing back his curls; he climbs further up into my arms, his head moving to rest on my chest. I start rubbing his back in soothing circles.
“Calling is only going to hurt you more and this already hurts so much.” More than I’m capable at feeling at the moment. “You know what we can do instead?” I ask while swiping some of the hair out of his eyes and staring down at eyes full of tears and defeat. I place my hands on his cheeks, wiping away each tear. “We can be there for your daddy every day, wait for him to get better and then let him know that every step of his recovery we’re going to be there for him because that’s what family does.
“We can do the same for Uncle Avier too.” I place a kiss on his forehead before resting mine against his. “You aren’t alone,” I whisper to him. “I’m right here, and we’re going to be strong for your daddy. Juntos, ¿de acuerdo?”
‘Okay,’ he mouths out before his eyes close. I smile; standing with him in my arms, my eyes never once leaving the person that’s keeping me going through all of this and I just hope I can do the same for him.
¿Cuánto tiempo llevas llamando?- How long have you been calling?
Canguro, lo siento sobre tu papá.- Kangaroo, I'm sorry about your dad.
Juntos, ¿de acuerdo?- Together, all right?