Chapter 30: Amaya
I stand in the court, waiting to be freed from all this, my paper in my hands tremble and my lips are slightly parted as I plan on forcing myself to read my homework in front of the jury, or rather my classmates. I’ve been on the verge of a mental breakdown since I sat down in my seat a few minutes ago.
“You okay?” Ms. Gorland asks with concern.
“Yeah, I’m about to start,” I croak out while going over the words in my head over and over to make sure that it’s close to perfect. “Come on, all you have to do is read.” I breathe in and out, my eyes fall on Xavier who offers me a comforting smile.
‘Count to three and come clean,’ he mouths out before winking.
“Count to three and come clean. Count to three and come clean.”
“A month and a half ago, maybe even two, I would’ve told you that there wasn’t all that much that I cared about, sure, I care about my friends, my brothers, my sister, and Aaron too. To this day, that hasn’t changed and I know that it won’t ever, but now, in this short span of time plenty has come into my life and gone, some of it makes me feel liberated while others make me feel close to empty.” I read from off the page even though I memorized what I plan on saying, but this paper is my clutch since I can’t hold Aaron or Shawn’s hand as I do this.
“For the majority of my life I was living in this world of darkness, anger, and sorrow. It was depressing as hell, and sometimes, it still is, but I’ve got my rocks keeping me afloat, but occasionally it feels like I’m gonna make them drown right alongside with me.” I close my eyes, pretending that I’m alone in my bedroom speaking to myself. “I took hit after hit, both figuratively, and literally, it hardened me. I had no choice in the process, it was a terrible situation that I’m grateful I’m not in anymore.
“Thanks to Shawn, Xavier, and their mother who always offered Jonah and I a home instead of forcing us to go back to the broken one we were raised in.”
Now it’s Aaron I see, sitting in those seats with his undivided attention on me, his head resting in his hands as he hangs onto my every word. The curls on his head trimmed down a bit but not enough to make him look like a completely different person. A lot is different between this Aaron and the one I hugged behind this morning.
This one is around our age and he looks more like Shawn than the four-year-old version of himself. He’s the Aaron I want to allow the knowledge of my struggle along with Jonah’s, he deserves to know that much when he was caught up in the middle.
“I can’t live without Aaron who is this intelligent kid that makes even the stubbornest of people open their minds and heads up to reality.” I dampen my lips before I fold the paper and place it into my back pocket. “On the days where life hits me harder than usual and I feel so damn isolated, he gives me one of the biggest hugs he can manage as he mouths out that he’s gonna be here even if Shawn can’t be.
“He refuses to speak a word now and I think about what I would do to hear his little chuckle that is like a miniature version of Shawn’s. Aaron has been one of my largest rocks since the day he came into this world.” I sniffle before looking up at the Christmas lights that hang all around the room. I didn’t stop to pay attention to those earlier today. Now the hurt is taking over again.
Shawn loves Christmas. It’s his favorite time of year and I remember him saying a few years ago that one day when we get older he’s gonna take me somewhere where we can watch the snowfall as we sip on hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. We’d watch holiday movies the entire night long and fall asleep in each other’s arms.
He said one day we would play out in the snow with any future children we had, and no matter what, we’d have each other through thick and thin.
I want to believe that, but maybe none of those dreams matter. Not anymore at least. Not with Shawn in that hospital room surviving off of some damn breathing tube.
“There are these people that stand by me even when I constantly push them away. I know I’m not the easiest person to deal with, but one thing is certain, if people were so quick to give up on me then I wouldn’t be here.
“Honestly, I might be dead in some ditch by now.” My face falls, I can tell it does because this whole essay/speech thing just became a whole hell of a lot more serious. “I’d still be living the hysterically dark life that I had no choice but to be a part of though I do regret it more than any of you could ever know. I’m still trying to make up for my past.” My throat feels like it’s about to start swelling shut, but I’m fine. I’m going to be okay once I get this out.
“For one, I’m not one of the only people fighting, Shawn is. Aaron is. Xavier is. So are so many people in this world, but those are just three people who can’t live without, but there are a few more. Thank you,” I finish before walking back to my seat, not allowing anyone to ask me questions like teachers usually try to force you to do once you’ve presented.
“You did great,” Xavier praises as he pulls me into a side hug.
“I felt so damn uncomfortable up there.”
“But now you don’t have to be anxious about it since you got it all over with.”
“I guess you just might be right.” The face of modesty disappears before I’m meant with the cocky best friend with a triumphant smile at his sudden victory. I missed that smile. I remember when it was still crooked but over time it just naturally went to being straight.
“Did you, Amaya Santana Wolff, say that I, Xavier Logan Harper was right about something? Wow, are you a clone? That’s got to be it, you never say I’m right.” I crack a smile as I lightly punch him in the arm, his response is a simple shove that I barely even move to as he chuckles.
“It’s not a first, Ave, you don’t have to make such a big deal about it.”
“No, it’s not the first time, but it has been a while since you admitted to me being right, and if I’m being honest, a big part of me just wanted to see you smile.” I bite down on the inside of my cheek. I haven’t been smiling a lot and I know it was obvious enough. “You don’t allow yourself to notice or appreciate the small things in life anymore.
“Maybe it’s because you lost your soulmate and feel as though you can’t smile or be happy without him.” How the hell did he get so good at reading people?
“I think your situation along with Shawn and Aaron’s each can get confused, if I’m analyzing here, which I could do… or I can stop speaking if I’m making you upset in any way.”
“No, you’re fine.”
“Okay, so my thought process is that you and Shawn can’t see yourselves genuinely happy without having each other. Once again, problems that come with meeting your soulmate at such a young age.” How do we even know if we’re soulmates meant to live the rest of our lives together? There can’t be a way to be certain. All I know is that I want to live the rest of my life with him. How does it work? “Then there’s Aaron who doesn’t speak anymore, and it has me thinking-”
“Yeah, it’s got me thinking too.”
“I think the first day or two might’ve been a choice, but now, well now it just doesn’t seem so likely.” Not a bad theory, but maybe it’s something similar to me where he feels it shouldn’t be permitted when Shawn isn’t capable of speaking… or opening his eyes.
“Do you remember how old you were when we were younger?”
“Yeah,” I answer back.
“Why were you like that with us?”
“You already know the answer to that.”
“Humor me,” he softly requests while leaning back a bit more in his seat.
“At first, it seemed like somethingI had to do, then it became routine that nobody could get me out of unless I was back home, forced to be the loud one.” I look away from him to dig through my backpack for a bottle of Poland Springs before chugging down about half of it. “Want to tell me the point behind that?”
“I wanted you to self-explain the exact reason Aaron might not be talking without you realizing it. People tend to see more reason when they’re the ones putting it into words.” He’s a genius.
“Okay, even if I did just do that whole explaining exercise thing,children are different and won’t always go according to some family chart. Also, is this a choice of his, I’m not going to push him to speak again, though I can have him “speak” with Dad.” Xavier nods at the idea before his face lights up like a Christmas tree.
“What are your plans Friday evening?”
“Uh… probably to change into my sweatpants immediately when I get home, put on an oversized sweatshirt, and do whatever it takes to get Aaron to smile. Why do you ask?”
Xavier doesn’t answer but instead brings his phone into his hands, quickly texting a message with a smirk spread across his face, making him look impish, not to mention a bit creepy. He waits for a reply before a hoot of celebration escapes which is enough to make me question the sanity left in him. All I know is that it has to be a bit more than me.
“Cancel those plans, we’ve got a stay at home date.”
“So I’ll basically be doing the same thing but you’ll just be tagging along?”
“No, the guys, including Ace, are coming over and plan on spending the night. This is the weekend that we get you to enjoy yourself.”
“Great,” I mumble out before we decide to actually pay attention to the presentations taking place in the front of the room so we don’t get in trouble.
I feel like since we came home everyone has been trying overly hard to get me to be happy while I feel like the biggest buzzkill of the night which I don’t want to be. They’re trying to do a good thing by me but I can tell it’s not going to work out in the ways they intended for it to go, so I made the choice to come out in the kitchen and sit at the island with a can of orange Fanta.
“You alright, Amaya?” Ace’s voice drags me away from my dark hole of thoughts.
“No, I’m not,” I admit while taking a long sip of my soda.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I glance over to him, seeing his push his glasses up higher on the bridge of his nose. He takes a seat across from me before adjusting his Family Guy pajama shirt on his chest. “I know we haven’t really spoken that much, since I’ve mostly been with Jonah-” he starts to tap on the counter “-but I’m willing to speak. I know I’m not Shawn-” Did it have to be that line? “-and I know you haven’t known me all too long, but-”
“Calm down, you’re rambling.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to-”
“We talked about you not apologizing so much, it’s okay, really.” I stand from my seat to move over to the stove top and grab a slice of plain cheese pizza. I take a bite before going back to my seat, making sure my mouth is fully empty before saying a word. “Are you sure you want to speak to the root of the problems?”
“You aren’t the root of problems, Amaya, you need to give yourself more credit than that. You always place more on your shoulders than what actually lands on you.” Shawn’s said that to me a few times. I take a sip of my soda as I shake my head clear of Shawn which is harder than I wish it was. “I’ve only been here for two months and that seems to be a recurring theme.” His hands fold in front of him in the way that school used to train us to do when we were younger, but as time goes by it seems the teachers just stop giving a damn over certain things.
“Pretty pathetic, huh?”I ask before taking another bite of pizza.
“Maybe your attitude toward yourself is pathetic, butI don’t think that you’re pathetic. I can full-heartedly see why Shawn calls you “Wonder Woman”, because that’s who you are. The people you care about always come first, and you know something?”
“When the police gave up on my father you didn’t. It was the same for me, I was starting to give up… you didn’t create any problems for me, you solved them and gave me the one thing I wanted. A second chance. I can’t ever thank you enough for that.” I finish up the rest of my slice as I try to stop myself from biting down on my lip which has become a coping mechanism for me.
“My dad couldn’t thank you enough either. You’re his hero. Not to mention you’re Jonah’s too.” I jerk my head up.
“Why in hell am I Jonah’s hero?”
“He told Alexis and I how you would save him from the worst of hits. Then he told us about a few of your fights that you had thrown in order to save kids from being attacked when they got home only to suffer that exact fact.” A walk down the memory lane of my depressing as childhood, if only I had booze and wouldn’t hurt these children if I drank it. “You constantly place others before yourself.” That might just be one of my problems.
“Fine, then I’m the root of my problems along with about half of Shawn’s.”
“Stop overthinking things and live in the present. You constantly worry yourself about what can happen instead of embracing the precious, limited amount of time we have left with our loved ones. When Shawn wakes up I don’t want you thinking about if someone comes after him again all the time.
“You are allowed to be concerned about his safety, but don’t allow that concern to let you drive him away from you.” Who needs to go to a stranger to speak about your problems when your have Stanford Ace Bentley in your corner to give you all the advice you need.
“What if he doesn’t want this with me anymore?”
“Seeing that he was about to propose to you, I don’t think that’s much of a problem.” I replay the sentence over and over in my head, trying to convince myself that he’s not telling the truth in a small part of me while the other part wants to know that he’s being dead honest.
“He was going to propose to me?!” I whisper-shout with my heart pounding away like the police do a door.
“Shit, I said that aloud?” I nod without saying a word. “I didn’t tell you anything! You’ve got to swear you won’t tell anyone that I let that slip in front of you. I’m begging you,” he rushedly pleads out while taking my hands in his own.
“I- I won’t tell anyone. How long was he thinking about, you know… doing it?”
“About three or so weeks before the break-up.”
Shit. Shit. Shit, I messed up. I messed up bad. This is the worst damn case of self-sabotage if I’ve ever heard it.
I start pacing around the kitchen, walking the length of it as his eyes stay burning holes in my back. Would I have said yes? Yeah, definitely, a hundred percent. I know I love him with all of my heart and even though I’ve never said it aloud, since we were just kids I thought about one day marrying him. If I didn’t break up with him there’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve been my fiancé by now.
If this whole Panther situation didn’t happen we would’ve had that long conversation about everything. Turns out we both were missing a whole hell of a lot of information. Some of which I recovered and am still in the process of recovering.
“What’s running through your head right now?”
“How much I messed up.” I grip my head in my hands before starting massage it and relieve the headache building up. It feels like there’s a damn heartbeat in my head. “I also have a hankering for some bourbon or anything like that, but I can’t have shit,” I huff out.
“Why, besides the fact that you aren’t of the legal drinking age?”
“That doesn’t stop more than half of the kids in our school,” I say while stretching to grab a napkin to wipe my hands and my face. “I don’t drink because of Aaron, a small whiff of it might cause him to have a breakdown or something,” I share without exposing the full answer as to why I won’t be drinking for a while.
We stand in silence for a solid two minutes before what feels like a mini-linebacker crashes into my legs. It doesn’t take me long to put together that the guilty party is a doughy eyed Aaron whose eyes are heavy with need for sleep.
“Bed-time story?” he shocks me by using sign language rather than mouthing the words.
“He wants to know if he’s getting a bed-time story,” Ace translates for me.
“I know, I can understand sign language, but I don’t know how he did it. I never even showed him how to sign his own name.”
“I hope it’s okay, but I taught him a few words along with the alphabet.”
“Of course that’s alright, I didn’t know that you knew sign language.” I lift Aaron up and into my arms as the words leave my mouth. Ace never ceases to surprise me.
“My mom has impaired hearing and occasionally loses her hearing aide so we each learned how to sign so we don’t have to always write things down. I prefer to speak face to face instead of writing anyway.” I guess there’s a lot that I don’t know about him, but it’s probably the same way with him toward me.
“Thanks for showing him a bit of it.”
“It wasn’t a problem, he’s a natural, he even picked up the alphabet in ten minutes.” Ace smiles as he glances down to Aaron who smirks back to him. I’m gonna add this on the list of things Ace has done to make my life a bit of a brighter place whether it took me a bit of time to notice or not. “If you want, I can read him that story.”
Aaron nods quickly at the offer as he holds his arms out to be taken into Ace’s arms.
“I think the choice was already made.”
“Well, I guess this is good night?”
“Good night,” I say back before drinking the rest of my orange soda in a single gulp. I wait for them to be up the stairs fully to slump down in my seat. How the hell am I going to fall asleep when all I’ll be able to think about is what Shawn’s plans for us are?