’People fear death even more than death. It is strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend.
~ Jim Morrison
“You have a lot of explaining to do,” Tina said as Astrid let out a sigh and took a seat at the dining table next to Natalia.
“I know.” She just did not know where to start. Her aunt and uncle were looking at her expectantly from the opposite side of the table as she fumbled to pick the right words. She always found starting a conversation hard.
“How about you start from the night you stayed at your friend’s house- whoever that friend is- and came home the next day with a busted lip?” John offered, earning a soft glare from his wife and a nervous chuckle from Astrid.
“Ah, about that...“, she trailed off. “Well, some drunken ba- I mean goons tried to take advantage of me in the streets but I dealt with them. No big deal,” she bluntly said, earning horrified looks from the others. Natalia even slapped her hand against her mouth, emphasising how it was a big deal.
“Ho- What?” Tina stuttered as she stared at her niece who had a sheepish look on her face.
“What do you mean? And why didn’t you tell us about it?” John asked her sharply. Gone was the humour in his tone as he stared at Astrid with a hard and slightly angry look.
She let out a sigh and started explaining what had happened that day. She left out her detention though. And then she continued to tell them about what had happened today at Asher’s house, again leaving out the part where they had watched the city lights together. Somehow she felt that that was something private between her and Asher.
By the time she was done, she was met with complete silence. None of them spoke a word as they struggled to take in what she had said. After a few moments, John cleared his throat and carefully chose his words.
“Why did you not tell us about any of it?”
Astrid felt a little guilty at his tone. He sounded so worried that she couldn’t help but tell them how she truly felt.
“I am sorry. I am not used to sharing things with people. I have always dealt with it by myself so telling you all never really came to my mind. But I am perfectly alright. Nothing happened to me,” she softly replied. One look at their faces and she felt happy when she saw that they were anything but judgemental. Tina sighed before speaking.
“Of course, we would be worried. We understand you had to deal with things by yourself for a long time but you have people who care about you now. You need to tell us what is going on, especially things like this, Astrid. Do you understand?”
Astrid nodded her head, thinking it was over. She was about to get up from her seat when Tina spoke up again.
“Wait. I almost forgot. This came today.” She said, picking up a brown parcel from the counter and passed it to Astrid. “It was addressed to you so I didn’t open it. What is it?”
Astrid knew what it was the second she set her eyes on the small brown package. Her sleeping pills that her doctor had sent her. It had finally arrived. She couldn’t help the relief that flowed through her. No more sleepless nights. At least, for a while.
“It must be my pills.”
“I have nightmares sometimes.” Her words felt like acid in her mouth but she continued. “So I take pills. Sleeping pills. Nothing illegal.”
John looked at her with sympathy as Tina gave her a hug. Natalia gave her a sad look but didn’t say anything. She was being awfully quiet.
“Is it because of the accident?” Tina asked her.
“Kind of,” she mumbled. Tina looked like she wanted to ask more but before she could say anything, John put a hand on his wife’s shoulder.
“It’s getting pretty late. Get to bed. You both have school tomorrow.”
Astrid shot him a grateful look before scrambling upstairs in a rush. She had enough drama for the day and wanted nothing but to jump in bed. She quickly got ready for bed and popped the pills in her mouth.
A few minutes after she had pulled the duvet up to her chin and made herself comfortable, the drugs kicked in, letting the poor girl drift off to a peaceful and quiet slumber, not haunted by the monsters in her head.
Astrid finally understood she had no choice but to deal with the crowd at her table. She kept scowling as she sipped at her milkshake and watched George and Elijah banter over the silliest things. She noticed Madilyn and Ryan flirting as usual and ignored them completely. Elisa and Barbara had gone to the library.
Asher seemed to have made it a habit to sit next to her and quietly watch her and his friends. He did not say much and kept silent for most of the time, except to interrogate Astrid about what she had for lunch. Strangely for Astrid, she did not mind his questioning though she made sure to looked annoyed.
“I need to ask you something,” he whispered to her, all of a sudden. Astrid looked at him and raised her eyebrow, gesturing him to keep talking.
“Um...well, are you- I mean, do you want to come down to the police station with me today?” he hesitantly asked, before quickly adding, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
Astrid knew if an outsider like her gave her statement, they would have solid proof against Arianna’s father. So she simply nodded her head.
“Yeah. We can go straight from school, if that okay with you.”
Asher looked surprised for a second before smiling in gratitude.
Somehow, someway, those two words made her day.
Around an hour after school ended, bot of them were done giving their statements and after getting assured by the officer that the accused would not be getting anywhere near any of them, they left the station and were driving around the town aimlessly.
Astrid stared out of the window, lost in her thoughts. It was something about her that she was rather proud and scared of at the same time. Sometimes it scared her how she could think so much but feel so less.
“So where do you want to go?” Asher asked, glancing at her sideways.
“I don’t know. If you don’t remember, I am new here. Been here for barely a few months. You should be the one showing me around,” she said, giving him a sheepish look.
“Right,” he laughed and then added. “Even I don’t know much places around here.”
She was surprised but didn’t show it. She gave him a confused look.
“What do you mean?”
“I am new here too. Just moved in around six months back. I know that’s a pretty long time to get to know the place and all, but I never really bothered.”
“Where did you live before, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Florida. It was pretty nice there.”
“Why did you move here?”
“Dad actually has been working here for a long time, though we three stayed in Florida. He rarely visited because he worked all the time. He is an awesome father but he just works a lot. When Wyatt, that scumbag from yesterday, got in touch with Mom and said he wanted to be a part of Aria’s life, my parents were a bit hesitant, but agreed because he is her father, after all. But things soon became bad after he demanded for her custody and stuff. He even came home one day at night when I was out with friends and manhandled my mother and Aria. I came home, just in time and knocked him up pretty bad before the police came and arrested both of us. I was put in a holding cell, if it makes it any better,” he laughed slightly.
“Things got out of control when Dad came to know about all this. He said it was not safe for us there anymore and finally, we all packed up and viola, we are here. There you go.” He tried to make the whole story sound humorous but Astrid could see the incident had shaken him up pretty bad.
“Your friends must have been sad,” she commented. Asher’s face immediately darkened.
“Nah. They were more than happy to see me leaving. Pathetic liars. All of them showed their true faces after what happened. They were apparently too classy to associate themselves to thugs like me,” he stated bitterly and fell back into silence as Astrid digested his words.
To be honest, Asher felt like his time in that holding cell was less scary than the silence that prevailed between them. He was scared. Hell, he was terrified on the inside right now. He regretted saying too much. What if even she decided to leave him? What if she started looking at him the way the so-called friends did?
“At least, I hope you broke a few bones,” she said, finally. He gave her a confused look.
“Wyatt. I hope you did better damage that I did.”
Asher looked shocked for a brief second, before relief, joy and content all surged through him like a raging river as he laughed out loud at her comment.
At that moment he knew, she was a keeper.
Drop a comment and share your opinions on the story.
Question for the chapter: What colour eyes do you have?
VOTE AND SHARE!