Chapter 29: Amaya
The second I walk into Shawn’s hospital room I’m met with the sight of a man I’ve only seen once in my life, and if I’m honest, I never actually thought we’d see each other again. Eli Harper stands with a hand resting on his chin as he stares down at his brother with the same green eyes that are plagued with pain. I can tell he has a history, and part of me wants to know why he was fighting in the cage. I want to know him better than anyone else has known him and I can’t tell if that scares me or not.
Somehow I can’t stop looking him up and down, taking in every aspect of him, and for some reason I can’t help but compare him to his father. His brown hair is faded at the sides but the top sits in curl waves, it’s almost like having them side by side would create the same person, well except for the fact that he has freckles painted across his face. I guess that’s another similarity between him and Shawn, though Shawn’s aren’t on his face anymore, they’re on the back of his neck, his back, and his chest. There are freckles on another part of his body but you’d have to see him naked to notice.
“How exactly were you able to find us?” My hands move to rest on my hips as I wait for his answer.
Eli leans against the wall closest to him with a small smile, one that could any girl swoon. Actually, anyone but me since I’m still sitting here getting tongue tied around Shawn of whom I can’t get out of my thoughts. It’s crazy because I can guarantee that if he went to school with us almost have of the school’s eyes on him.
“Backtracking to October when we fought and before you knocked me out you said, ‘this is for Shawn and Xavier’ which one, doesn’t fall on me, and two, got me thinking, long and hard.” I take a seat in one of the hospital chairs that sits directly across the room from Shawn’s hospital bed; I motion for Eli to take a seat beside me.
Eli follows my silent request, his eyes staying on me the entire time.
“When did you find out about them?” the curiosity eats away at me before I ask one of the single questions that have been burning through my skull.
“Uh, I was ten or so when I found out they even existed,” he cracks his knuckles, “then a few years ago I ran into them, but they don’t know about me.” His hands start to get a little tremble. His eyes get soft. “Not unless you told them that is.”
“I didn’t tell them. Neither did Jonah.”
He starts to pat down his pocket before muttering a quiet “dammit” when he doesn’t find whatever he’s looking for. “Jonah, that’s your little brother, right? Sixteen?” I nod instead of asking him how he got that information. It seems useless when Jonah was able to get answers in less than an hour.
Eli’s probably just got a person that can give him what he needs.
“So I was right then, you’re their brother?” We both know that I’ve got the answer to the question, but honestly, I just want to hear him say it.
“Yeah, biologically, Shawn and Xavier are my brothers, and we share a father, but I went through all of the hard shit. They got things easy compared to me,” Eli sighs at the end of his sentence. I wouldn’t say their life was exactly easy, but I do know he had to have been through a lot more even if I don’t exactly know what. Eli rips his eyes from Shawn when it becomes unbearable.
“Hey Amaya, have- who’s that?” I glance over to the door, being meant with the face of my second best friend, and Eli’s other brother.
Xavier stands there between his parents who also take a sudden interest in our unexpected guest, my question, are they going to be happy when they find out who he is? Most likely not, but they’re welcoming people, at least Xavier and Mrs. Harper always are. Mr. Harper’s warming up. Everyone’s eyes transition over to me in unison. Why the hell is it that people always turn to me?
“Nope, nah-ah, that’s not my place.” I put my hands up in surrender. “Eli?”
“I uh- I- I’m-” he turns into a stuttering fool.
“Dammit,” I swear beneath my breath before motioning for everyone to take a seat; I wait for them to do so so there’s no worry of someone fainting.” Since he is incapable of speaking at the moment, this is Elijah, but he goes by Eli. I met him one day at one of my fights, I obviously kicked his ass, and he found us.”
All eyes land on Eli, Mr. Harper’s eyes widening in disbelief. He already knows. I know he does.
“I- I’m Elijah Archibald James Harper, Elijah, Eli, Harper,” he introduces himself while staring down at the ground.
“Elijah Harper,” Xavier mumbles out over and over which starts to make him sound like a mad man before suddenly things click with him. “You- You’re my brother, aren’t you?”
“Technically, yes, but I can go if you guys don’t want me here. I was making sure that Shawn’s okay and I wanted to… well it doesn’t matter what I wanted. I- I’ve got to go,’ Eli quickly says as he hops up from his seat. He’s about to excuse himself before Mrs. Harper gently takes his arm in a loose grip.
They stare into each other’s eyes, both of them barely blinking.
“Are you sure?” the disbelief is apparent in Eli’s voice, and honestly, I feel that same feeling in myself, but then again, I’m not surprised. Eli isn’t the first illegitimate child, and the last one she took in to raise as her own son, it isn’t his fault that he was born. She knows that, so she wouldn’t ever hate him for that.
“Stay,” she simply repeats again.
Xavier’s eyes transfer over to his father. “You knew, didn’t you?” Mrs. Harper’s eyes fall on her ex and Xavier.
“Did he know about you?”
Eli sniffles but doesn’t show any signs of actually crying as his head stays held high. “H- He didn’t care, but I’m over it.”
“Where’s your mom?” Eli’s hands turn into fists at his sides.
“You wouldn’t give a damn either way,” he responds to his father.
I walk over to him to place a comforting hand on his shoulder, letting him know that he isn’t as alone as he probably feels right now. I’ve been there, and for me, Shawn was the person to make me realize that someone is always going to be in my corner.
All of us have history while he’s the new comer.
“Look, I didn’t come here to stir up trouble or break apart your family. I’ve been on my own before and I don’t want to ruin your life in the ways that mine once were.”
“What are you talking about?” Mr. Harper asks in a small voice.
“You don’t remember the phone call, do you?” Mr. Harper doesn’t say a word but instead begins to rub his temples. “A few years ago I called you, Shawn was the person to answer me, he heard how disarray I was and said it was going to be okay because you’d make the problems go away.” He lets out a dry laugh at that. “He’s a good person for trying to calm me down like that, but I regret that call.”
His shaky breaths echo through the hospital room along with the soft murmurs of Shawn’s heart monitor.
“When you were on the line I told you how my mom was dying. I told you how I was about to turn thirteen and how every single day I was in the streets begging for money. I had to worry myself about finding a way to feed us and keep a roof over our heads,” Eli croaks out and I can tell he’s forcing the words out no matter how painful it is.
“You told me you didn’t care if my mom died or if she t-took me with,” his voice reverts back to being one of a small child, reminding me of Aaron’s once he’s had a nightmare. “Two weeks after that call she was gone and I didn’t get to say goodbye to her because I was busy trying to make money for us when I was just a kid. I wasn’t even in school.”
The notice the fresh cracks in the stoic front he tried to hold up for us just a minute ago. It seems his uprising is almost as tragic as my own, but I’d rather not compare sob-stories.
“What happened after that?” a small crack comes from Mr. Harper’s sentence.
“Why should I tell you anything? For nineteen years you never gave a shit about me, you had a kid with the woman that married you and then you screwed up again. Don’t think I don’t know about some of that shit too because I wasn’t the only person who tried to contact you,” Eli points before his eyes switch over to Mrs. Harper. “You are a nice person, M’am, I don’t need to personally know you to tell that much.
“I hope you’re happy, and though I don’t know you either Xavier, I’m glad you got to avoid the tragic path I went down with a good home and people that genuinely love you.” Eli’s hands begin to roughly go through his hair before he roughly tugs on his waves, part of me begins to fear that he’ll rip out a chunk of hair if he keeps doing that. “I- I shouldn’t have come here.”
“I’m sorry, Eli, I-”
“It’s Elijah to you,” he interrupts him, “and if you’re about to apologize, I don’t want to hear it. Nothing can change the fact that I ended up on the streets for nearly two years lying, begging, and stealing, not to mention some other shady shit.”
“I wasn’t going to apologize,” Mr. Harper states before everyone excluding me gives him a murderous glare. “What? I now that apologizing doesn’t change the fact that your mom is dead or that you were on the streets. I am, however, sorry for doing to you what I’ve done to Shawn, Xavier, and Amaya too-”
“Wait, you’re related, too?” Eli motions between me and his father.
“Nah, she’s dating Shawn and we kind of took her and Jonah in from a terrible situation,” Xavier provides to the conversation, and usually, I’d be upset about him disclosing my business, but for some reason I don’t feel that way.
“You talking about Derrick?”
“How do you know about him?” Xavier and I ask in sync.
“Everyone knows about Derrick’s track record whether they say anything or not, I also heard his little pep talk to you and Jonah before we fought. It’s one of the reasons I didn’t go as hard on you as I could’ve went.” I let out a snort at the statement.
Is that what he’s telling himself to sleep easy?
“Even if that is true, I can still beat your ass if I have to, I know your moves.” Eli smirks before moving so he stands only a foot or so apart from me, his face up close and personal with my own. Close enough that I can smell the peppermint mixed with a hint of nicotine in his breath. He must me a smoker.
“And I know yours, Ghost.”
“Ghost?” Mrs. Harper’s confusion draws me back before I take a few steps away from the new addition of the Harper family.
“Ghost Wolff, her old fighting name.”
“You had one of those?” Xavier’s amusement is clear in the question. “Did Jonah?” I nod while refusing to tear my eyes from Eli. “What was his name?”
“Barra rápida, or quick slash in English.”
“You always roll your tongue like that?” I feel a new heat starting to rise to my cheeks before Xavier’s hand wraps around my forearm, pulling me closer to him and distancing me from his flirtatious brother.
“Okay Eli, you’re new here, what you just did was a no-no. We,” he gestures between the two of them, “don’t flirt with her.” I give him a look.
“It’s all good, she’s not my type anyway,” he says with a smile.
“Why’s that?” I ask.
“I know you’ve been itching to ask me something, but you hesitate. You do it a lot really, and I want a girl who doesn’t give a damn and will just say what’s on her mind. I want her to take lead if she wants it, don’t wait for the okay,” he says while moving a bit closer. “All respect to women out there, but I guess I want a bad bitch. A really bad one, and you are one, just not the bad one for me.
“This is my second encounter with you and I can see how in love you are with Shawn, and I know he feels that same way about you.”
“How’d you pick up on that so quickly?” Eli clasps his hands together.
“There’s a few things, but these past two minutes alone gave it away when Xavier pulled you away from me and said the two of us don’t flirt with you. It seemed almost trained, like he’d been telling himself that for a long time. I can see why, you’re beautiful, you can have the whole world in your hands if you really wanted it.
“When you first saw me today you couldn’t stop staring into my eyes with this sadness looming over in your own. My guess, he has the same eyes.” I don’t say a word, allowing him to continue. “Now stop me when I’m wrong; you and Shawn were in a committed relationship but then something happened, filling you with concerns before you ended things thinking that you were doing what was best for him.
“But now, as he lies in that hospital bed, you are full of regrets and feel close to empty. Not fully though, you’ve got people that are keeping you motivated even though it hurts,” he finishes without that smile, his face now void of anything but seriousness.
“You’re pretty good for only knowing her less than a day’s length.”
“I’m only good because I was in a similar situation. I’ve picked up on the things people don’t notice until they’re well into adulthood. A nugget of knowledge for you, stop worrying so much about what can possibly go wrong and just bask in the moment. You never know when everything is going to be torn away from you. Hold on to it all for as long as you can.” Shit that was deep as hell.
“You can go back to what you were saying Ryan, that is what you go by now, right?”
“Yeah, I- I actually don’t remember what I was about to say.”
“Well, uh- Eli, I didn’t really introduce myself, I’m Xavier, and I welcome you to the abandoned child’s club,” Xavier’s voice is that of a teasing manner but I notice the slight drop in Mrs. Harper’s face.
“Xavier, chill a bit, alright?”
“Why? I’m only joking.” No, he’s not.
We both know that’s a lie, and I’m pretty sure if he were to make the comment out loud everyone else would tell too. I know he feels that abandonment whether he makes it clear like when he was younger, or if he buries it down deep as he’s doing now.
“Take it down a notch. You’re starting to make your mom upset, and I’m not talking about in the angry way.” He makes a quick glance to his mom before nodding.
“Alright, fine, I’ll cool it.”
I turn towards his mom when I see we’re in agreement. “Question, if you’re here, then where’s Aaron?”
“Jude and Jaelyn showed up and he ended up running over to them; at the moment he’s sitting out with them.” That’s good, at least he’s not doing anything mischievous. “They said they’d be in in-”
“What we talking about?” I feel the eyes of three people land on me, each of them being new in the room though Aaron’s presence is something that I guess I’ve trained my mind to recognize at a quick rate. For now, his green saint eyes are the eyes of a saint that’ll be on me until Shawn wakes up.
I can’t lie and say he hasn’t kept me saint through this whole mess.
I notice the small little dance Aaron starts to do in Shawn’s uncle’s arms, so I move a bit closer, standing directly in front of him before he jumps into my arms. His shirt drapes around my forearm in a way similar to a blanket.
“You wearing one of your daddy’s shirts?”
‘Yeah,’ he mouths out while wrapping an arm around me, the small movement is enough to make me get a whiff of the old owner of this shirt. I close my eyes before hugging Aaron a bit tighter as he does the same to me.
He pats my cheek, forcing me to open my eyes from the almost euphoric feeling of tricking my brain into thinking that Shawn is standing right next to me.
‘You’re not mad?’
“Why would I be mad?” I ask as I push long tufts of hair out of his face so his vision isn’t so obstructed. His legs constrict around me like a snake squeezing the life out of its prey, the only difference with us is that he’s squeezing the life into me. When he rests his head in the crook of my neck I have to stop myself from letting out a sigh of relief.
At least I know I have him. He’s not going to be ripped away from me in the ways that Shawn might possibly be, he’s here to stay, well, until he goes off to college.
“How are you doing, Ave?” Jaelyn speaks up with a sad smile as she steps towards him, placing a hand under his chin to force him to look down at her. She accesses the damage to her nephew’s face with narrowed eyes. “You look to be healing nicely compared to how you were looking two days ago with that girl-”
“Aunt Jae,” Xavier whines out while having a mini-tantrum, his foot even stomping to make matters worse.
“Girl?” I twist toward him as I adjust Aaron on my hip.
“U-Uh…” I can see how uncomfortable the situation is making him, but part of me, for some really, really big reason just wants to make him feel that way. Is that so wrong? Does that make me a bitch? Possibly, but it’s not new information, we all knew this.
“She might’ve unexpectedly showed up at the house and saw me with Charlie,” he begins to rock on the balls of his feet to his heels, “we might’ve been kissing when she came in too. But it didn’t go any further than that, I swear.”
“I wouldn’t exactly be one to talk.” The whole room switches their gazes to Aaron but when he starts to look back they each go back to looking at Xavier.
“I don’t think any of us would be able to talk,” Mrs. Harper says before Jude and Jae smirk.
“That one especially, Mom and Dad once-”
“You say a word about that and I will hurt you,” Mrs. Harper’s voice takes one of intimidation and this is one of the first times I’ve heard that voice. I’ve got to say it doesn’t feel so right, but we all have certain personalities and traits when we’re around our siblings, especially when they start pestering us.
“Yes, M’am,” Jude chuckles out before zippering his mouth shut.
“Don’t be a dork.”
Jaelyn giggles at that and I can’t help but wonder if this is a small insight of how Mrs. Harper’s childhood went, it’s actually quite amusing to watch.
“I couldn’t be a dork, Jour, a dork is a whale dick,” he snickers out. I’ll put that on the list of things to look up.
“Why is it that Aaron’s more mature than you are and he’s four.” Jude folds his arms across his chest with a golden boy smile.
“Age wise, I might be thirty-seven, but mentally, well Aaron and I are around the same age.” Mrs. Harper shakes her head before walking out of the room, Jude and Jae fist bump each other but don’t follow after her. Honestly, I can tell that she missed them, including their annoying moments like this once because she hasn’t seen her siblings in a few months even though we all live in the same state.
It’s a bit sad to think about.
“So I see she accepted that request of yours?” I bring the spotlight back to Xavier.
“Yeah, something like that, anyway, yeah Aunt Jae, my face has been healing nicely and he doesn’t hurt as much when I accidentally roll onto my face in my sleep.” He motions over to Shawn. “If only we could say the same for him.”
A paper is waved in my face before I look down to Aaron once again. “What’s this?” I go to take the letter but he yanks it out of my way to instead use that hand to point over to Shawn’s nightstand.
‘For Daddy when he wakes up.’
“Okay, ¿quieres colocarlo ahí?”
Aaron nods before I place him down on his feet, it doesn’t surprise me a single bit when he takes my hand in his own, I allow him to drag me over to our destination. He gets on his tippy toes to place the paper down rather than asking me for help.
“I think he’ll like whatever you’ve written for him, Kangaroo.”
“You’re very welcome, mi junior santo.”
“How’d you get so good at reading lips?” Eli reminds me of his presence.
“Wait, who are you?” Jude and Jae ask in unison.
“He’s a secret brother, but we can talk about him later. I want to know about those lip-reading skills.” I don’t think I’ll ever be used to having people’s eyes on me expectantly. Honestly, it feels like people always expect something from me and I don’t like that feeling.
“I’ve come across a few deaf people, it took me a bit of time to pick up sign language so I learned how to read lips. He’s comfortable with reading out words and I’m cool with doing things this way,” I respond as Aaron leans into my legs, using me as a support so he doesn’t have to hold himself up.
“Anything else you can do?”
“If you ever want to learn how to throw knives or something along the lines of that or self-defense, you can just give me a call. I won’t even charge you like these dojos go and do,” I say before weaving my hands through Aaron’s hair. “You, my love, need another haircut.”
I look into his big eyes as he mouths out, ‘Daddy does too.’
“I know, buddy, I know.”
¿quieres colocarlo ahí?- Do you want to put it over there?