Then You Look At Me

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Barricade

~Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk. Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me. Because of you, I am afraid~ Kelly Clarkson.

Chapter Theme Song: 'Because of You' by Kelly Clarkson.

°°

Rainey

“I know you’ve figured out by now that I am dealing with some shady stuff,” Alaric begins. “It’s funny how we share the same enemy; it is truly a small world. Our father used to be friends with Ron and some crazy shit went down and it just got chaotic. Don’t worry about him though, we’ve got your back, okay?”

I smile, nodding my head.

The party has ended and Ansel and his brothers, along with Riley and I are sitting in the living room. I managed to share with them the story of Kendra and it resulted in gazes of fascination and words of admiration from the boys. Their attitude toward the incident was significantly different than that of my mother’s. While her whole demeanor blatantly showed her disappointment and disapproval, the brothers look quite thrilled as if I were telling them about an action movie.

When my mom got the call that I split a girl’s head open, the words she sent via text on my phone was painful. Far more painful than the punch that man at the club gave me during his attempted assault.

Her words were sharp: like a knife. Piercing through my arteries and leaving me with a wound that may last a lifetime.

Rainey Slate, you are such a disgrace. You make me sick, giving birth to you wasted so much of my time! I could have used those labor minutes to make my life a lot better! You better not come home tonight. I am on my way to the school right now and I hope for the sake of that poor girl you almost killed that you get expelled!

Leonardo da Vinci once said that there are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, and those who do not see. My mother fits into the latter because no matter how much she sees or how much you try to show her, whether directly or indirectly, she will always remain blind to the obvious truth. She will always take the side of the culprit and she will always think the worst of you. The worst of me.

“But I won’t lie though, what you did to that girl was pretty solid,” Arden says and Aiden nods in agreement.

“Definitely badass, Rain. Damn.”

I stare at my fingers. “It’s not something to praise guys.”

“Are you kidding me? That was straight-up hot.” Alex frowns. “It’s great that you can defend yourself. Plus, that Kendra girl deserved it; what she did was pretty messed up.”

Ansel nods in agreement and Riley shrugs. “I try to tell her.”

I sigh. “It doesn’t change the fact that people think of me as a monster though.”

“You’re not.” Ansel quickly chimes in, reaching for my hand. “It doesn’t matter what other people say about you. Those who matter will not judge you and those who judge you do not matter. I think you have the most beautiful soul. It only matters what we think, right?”

I smile and nod my head.

“He’s right. I like you, Rain.” Alaric inputs. “You are smart and cool. Far more down-to-earth and loyal than Lea.”

“Speaking of Lea, where is she?” Alex scrunches his face up. “She disappeared after Ansel went after Rain.”

Aiden shrugs. “I caught her staring at Ansel’s room door from the stairs when Shanelle and I were on our way to mom and dad’s room. It seems she saw when Ansel took Rain upstairs but when she realized that I saw her staring like some creep, she quickly left the party. She looked sad.”

I glance at Ansel to read his expression, but he does not seem bothered by the news as he traces his thumb on my knuckle, our hands tightly intertwined.

“Well, that’s her loss.” Alaric has no hint of care in his tone. “By the way, did you just say; ‘while you were on your way to mom and dad’s room with Shanelle?’"

“Yeah,” Aiden smirks cockily as he reaches for a leftover chip from a bowl on the center table. He raises it to his mouth, but a cushion knocks it from his hand and smacks him in the face unexpectantly. He shuts his eyes. “That hurt.”

“Did you actually fuck a girl on our parents’ bed, Aiden?” Alaric furrows his brows and Aiden rubs his lower lip where the pillow had slap.

“Firstly, I think my lip is swollen. Secondly, Riley and Rainey are in our presence, Ric; your vulgar language is quite inappropriate. And fyi, we used the nightstand, not the bed.”

“What the hell is fyi?”

“It means ′for your information,′ but people don’t use that anymore, Aiden is just logging behind of time.” Arden props his feet onto the table while he scrolls down his cell, the light illuminating his features.

Alaric shuts his eyes and decides against further responding, shifting his focus back to me instead.

“Anyway, Rain, in due time you will know about what happened with our father and Ron. It’s quite a long story but you will come to know eventually. You’re apart of us now anyway. But for tonight it is getting late and I need you girls to return home and get some rest. Alex will drop you guys off. Don’t worry about Ron, we won’t let him hurt you, okay?”

“Yeah, we will slit his throat if he dares to lay a hand on you,” Aiden adds, jutting his lip out as he attempts to examine it cross-eyed.

I smile gratefully. “Thanks, guys.”

You are a part of us now anyway.

There is this strong feeling of comfort within me when Alaric uttered those words. Aside from my dad and Riley, the king boys are the only other persons who do not look at me with contempt. Their gazes are not judgmental, and I realize that family does not have to be blood-related. It can just be a group of persons with different DNAs coming together by fate and giving each other a sense of security.

I feel safe with the King brothers.

°°

It was a quarter past one when Riley and I arrived home last night. Jeff and my mom were already in bed and it offered us such relief as we immediately scurried upstairs at the speed of light. We were careful not to make too much noise as a confrontation with my mother is something I was not up for. I was exhausted and too much had already gone down during the day that I just wanted to crash in bed.

I used Riley’s cell to phone my dad. He was mad that he could not get through to me for these past few days but when I informed him that Miranda took my cellphone, he calmed down a bit and pointed all his anger to her instead. He promised to send some funds to my account and requested that I get a new cellphone as soon as possible. The thought is hardly thrilling because I got too attached to the confiscated one and now, I will have to reinstall all my applications.

The most astounding thing though is that he decided to enroll Riley into Crosshill High School. I told him about what happened and that I detest the idea of her being at Freetown High. He stated that it was a great idea to have her stay with me and that he will be phoning Principal Cameron to have her start next week. He also assured me that he will be sending some money to get her uniform and other school supplies purchased.

My mother would never do this.

Riley and I spent an hour chatting and laughing about Ansel and Alex. She informed me that she and Alex have decided to make things official and when I showed her the promise ring Ansel got me, her cheers were off the roof. I had to instinctively press my hand over her mouth so she would not rouse Jeff and my mom. I finally got her to calm down and told her all about the conversation we had in his room, including the heart-racing incident of him pulling me onto his lap. Soon we drift off to sleep with smiles on our faces. I am not sure what she dreamt about, but my dreams were filled with a certain dark-haired boy with a GPA of 5.0.

The warm sun peeks up the horizon, its pungent rays competing with the cool atmosphere of the morning. I roll out of bed after glancing at my bedside clock.

8:15 am.

Normally I would still be sleeping in, but I am starving, and I need to quickly make breakfast for Riley and me. The doctor had advised her to take her medication on time and to not skip meals. Seeing as she is now in my custody, I will need to ensure she abides by the instruction. I wouldn’t want Aunt Valerie regretting her choice of granting us approval.

I mince my way to the bathroom and quickly brush my teeth then pull Ansel’s hoodie on and hurry my way downstairs. My mom normally sleeps in until twelve on Saturdays. I plan to prepare something fast and easy so that I will not have to be in the same space as her. Maybe a peanut butter sandwich will suffice.

I open the cabinet and tip on my toes to grab a jar of peanut butter then I reach for a bag of bread and set them on the counter. I switch the stove on and put the kettle on it then retrieve two mugs. Riley has an unhealthy obsession with chocolate tea, so the larger cup with the ‘I Love Mom’ stamp will be hers.

“Good morning.”

I jolt at the croaky voice behind me, both cups slipping from my hands and shattering onto the floor. I swing my head around and notice Jeff standing at the entrance to the kitchen. He is just wearing a pair of slacks; his torso shirtless as he coils his arms against his chest.

I turn my face away with disdain and motion to reach down for the broken pieces. His heavy feet thud against the floor as he comes up close behind me. Way too close. I jerk away in slight fright, my back pressing into the counter as I regard him with dubiety.

“Stay away from me…”

He sighs, pushing a rough hand through his matted hair. “Will you stop acting like I’m a criminal? I just wanted to help you pick up the pieces.”

“You don’t need to help me with anything…just stay the hell away from me.” My knuckles are pale from gripping the counter so hard and my breathing is somewhat ragged. However, I manage to uphold an unphased attitude; I will never let this pervert know how much I fear him. My shoulders are pushed back as I attempt to stay as far away as the counter behind bids me.

But then he boldly puts his palms on either side of me and I cower away instinctively, my glare baring a heavy threat. “Move.”

“Rain, relax.” His tone is low as if we are sharing a secret. He becomes more daring as he presses his large hands against my waist, closing the small space between us. “I won’t hurt you.”

That line is enough to send me into a state of disorientation as a blurry flashback of one of the many painful moments, flashes across my mind. He had said those same words on that first night he visited me: ′Rain, relax. I will not hurt you’ but that was what he did immediately after.

I shut my eyes. “Stay the fuck away from me. If you do not move away, I will stab you, I will kill you—”

“What’s going on?” Riley appears at the door, still dressed in her zebra pajama pants and a black tank top. Her alert and suspicious eyes travel between me and Jeff who by now has retreated from his previous position with a strong look of guilt.

I swallow in relief as I feel my heart begins to thaw. I stoop down to pick the pieces up as Riley glares at Jeff presumptuously.

She is unaware of the many details of my past because I have not yet gathered enough courage to spill the painful memories to her. That period of my life makes me feel vulnerable and weak and I am not prepared to return to that dark and desolate place.

However, my best friend is a lot more discerning than I may think. She is still glaring at Jeff and I can tell she wants to say something but postpones her conjecture and scampers over to me, squatting down to assist me.

“Be careful, Rain. I’ll help you.”

I nod, refusing to meet her eyes, but my hands tell my uneasiness since they are slightly shaking. Riley notices this but she says nothing, instead, she looks back to Jeff who is now staring back at her blatantly.

“You just got back from wherever it is that you went, and you’re already making my kitchen a mess.” My mother’s voice worsens my disgruntled mental state as she sashays into the kitchen, her hips protruding against her burgundy robe at each delicate step.

She plants a kiss on her boyfriend’s lips, humming a ‘good morning.’ Jeff barely grumbles a response, but she seems to not mind as she gauges Riley and me with a look of disapproval.

“The maid will not be able to come today, so make sure you pick up every single piece. By the way, when did you get discharged, Riley?”

“Yesterday…” She answers as she continues to gather the splinters. Riley knows my mom could not care less about her discharge and her response after Riley’s answer gives enough confirmation.

“And your mother made it sound so detrimental. She called me crying as if you were in some life or death situation. Some people can be so extra.”

Her words upset me to the point that I lose focus, a piece of splinter penetrating my fingertip as red-hot blood seeps from the bruise. Riley reaches for my hand in worry, but I am already standing to my feet to confront my mom.

“How dare you say that? How dare you say that when you did not even tell me that Riley was hospitalized? You have no right to comment on this matter after what you’ve done. ”

She stares at me in what appears to be awe as she presses a palm against her hip. “What’s the point of arguing? She is not dead, is she? She’s right next to you so stop whining, child.”

How can she be this cruel?

I shake my head bitterly. “You’re evil. You are inconsiderate and all you care about is fancy clothes and hairstyles. You have no idea what your daughter is going through, and I am almost positive that you do not care. Sometimes I wonder if you are even my mother. You keep telling me how mad you are that you ended up with a daughter like me, but the feeling is mutual, Miranda. I am so mad that I winded up with a mother like you. You call Aunt Valerie ‘extra’ but at least she cares for her child, that is something you’ll never do and she’s someone you will never be!”

A wave of silence courses through the kitchen after those words. My mom seems wounded as she opens her mouth to offer a comeback. She decides against it and snaps her lips together, taking a few steps backward before leaving the kitchen.

A small pang of guilt washes over me but I attempt to shake it off. What I said was harsh, but she has said far worse to me. Those words are nothing compared to her constant acts of verbal abuse.

I blow my cheeks out as I press a palm to my forehead, realizing that Riley has already gotten rid of all the splinters and is now staring at me with a face of sympathy.

“Thanks for helping me, Ry. Come on, we’re having breakfast at the town’s mall.” I avoid Jeff’s eyes and lead the way out of the kitchen, presuming that Riley is following closely behind.

°°

Riley

“Why are you still here?” Jeff glowers at me, his eyes narrowed to slits. “Your friend told you to follow after her, didn’t she?”

His expression is one of pure loath and that makes two of us. If he thinks I did not catch onto what just happened, then he has a next guest coming.

I cross my arms. “Were you trying to harass my best friend?”

He raises a brow as if he is suddenly stupid and is incapable of comprehending human language. The first stage of denial is acting like a dumb, mentally deranged asshole.

“What did you just say?”

“I saw you. You were standing way too close to her; I’ll need you to stay away from my friend.”

He laughs and I narrow my eyes, wondering what he found so funny.

“You should mind your own business, little girl. Curiosity kills the cat.”

“Rainey is my business, she’s my sister. You’re the one who should mind your own business because Rainey is definitely not your business and just so you know, I will be telling her boyfriend about what you just did, you sick pedophile.”

The muscles in his face twitch at this and he takes a step toward me. I size up to him, glaring at him with equal resentment as he drops his voice.

“If I were you, I’d go paint my fucking nails and keep my nose out of people’s business. I just may give you a taste of what you’re prying into.”

“Fuck off. I don’t paint my nails, but I’d gladly paint it red with your fucking blood if you don’t stay away from her, asshole. I will be telling, and you will get what is coming to you. Her boyfriend won’t sit still and when you get your ass beaten, you will learn to stay away. Pervert.”

He glares at me venomously and deciding that I have said all I needed to, I turn away and leave the kitchen.


^A/N: Hi😊Thank you so much for reading!💜If you love my story don’t forget to hit that heart/like at the bottom and follow me (if you want lol) so that you can get instant notifications of when I post updates❤Lots of love, keep safe and stay tuned for more!💜

-Tiffanyluvss❤

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