Somewhere Above the Clouds

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Chapter 6 - Split open

River

“You punched someone?”
Jackson was standing at my bedroom door, his body took up the entire space.

He looked scary, and I would bet to most people that he was.

“You’re the person who taught me how!”
What did he expect me to never need to?

“I never expected you to actually need to do it.”

Oh.

He walked into my room and sat down beside me on my bed. I pulled my knees to my chest but he lightly pushed them back down and grabbed my chin with his hand, inspecting my lip.

“Did she hit you too?”
He raised his brows and I turned my head away from him.

The thought of someone looking at me too closely freaked me out. Even my own brother.

“No, she threw something. I’m not even sure what it was.”

“The Taming of the Shrew.”
He mumbled.

“What?”

“It was a book, your principal told Beau.”

“She hit me with William Shakespeare?”
I licked my busted lip and Jackson laughed.

“Come on, let’s get some ice on your lip.”
He took my hand and tried to pull me off my bed.

“Beau already did, as soon as I got home. You know... Your friend his kind of pushy.”

“Yeah, you could say that. Come on, you cant sit in your room all day, Riv.”

“You sure? I was thinking about staying in this room until I graduate from high school.”
I shrugged.

“What happened today River?”
He asked for at least the fifth time since he got home. But I couldn’t tell him. They were just stupid girls. They didn’t know anything. How could they possibly know anything about me?

“Just mean girls, Jack. I’ll survive.”
I jumped off my bed, trying to convince my brother not to worry about me.

They were just mean girls, and I would survive. Because, what other choice did I have?

“Beau is coming over, he said something about Harry Potter. Are you guys going to torture me?”
He pouted and it made me laugh to myself to see such a big guy be such a baby.

“I’m doing no such thing, brother.”

An hour later all three of us were sitting in the living room with popcorn and Harry Potter. Just as Beau predicted, Jackson was already nodding off.

“Told you.”
Beau said jabbing his thumb in my brother’s direction and I laughed a real laugh, then winced when I forgot about my busted lip. The taste of blood quickly became strong as it pooled in my mouth and I got up to run to the bathroom.

The taste of blood always made me nauseous. I was more worried about puking at school today than I was about what those dumb girls were saying.

I spit into the guest bathroom sink and had to hold myself up against the counter. I also never cared for seeing blood, especially when it was coming from my own body.

“River.”
Beau’s deep voice bounced from the living room and down the hall to where I was hovering over the sink.

I didn’t answer him because I thought I would for sure pass out if I spoke.

I spit more blood into the sink just as he appeared in the bathroom door’s frame.

“All that’s from your lip?”
He asked.

I nodded and bent over to rest my cheek on the cool countertop.

“You’re pale, here sit back.”
He grabbed my arms and pushed me back until I was sitting up against the tub.

“I don’t like blood.”
I told him.

He left the room and came back with a rag and another Ziploc bag full of ice. I decided then that he was obsessed with ice.

“Look up.”
He instructed.

He put his fingers under my chin and tilted my head back then told me to pull my bottom lip down. I jerked my head away from his grasp and he sighed.

“Do you want it to stop bleeding?”
He asked.

Yes.

I nodded.

“Then I need to look at it. You might need stitches.”

“No... Please I don’t want someone pushing a needle through my skin.”
I almost cried which was odd for me but the thought of getting stitches was terrifying.

“Then let me stop the bleeding.”
He whispered and something about his voice convinced me to listen to him.

I tilted my head back up and closed my eyes and pulled my lip down again as he pressed the towel to the split and held it there.

“I think it’ll be okay. Just keep the towel on it for a few minutes then the ice.”
He removed his hand and stood up.

“You’re still pale, come sit in the living room so I can make sure you don’t pass out.”
He lifted me up to my feet easily with one arm and helped me back to the couch.

He sat back down in the recliner but didn’t unpause the movie.

I looked over at him, he was rubbing his hand over the stubble on his face.

“What?”
I asked.

“Why did you get in the fight to begin with? Jackson said you won’t tell him.”

I took the towel from my lip.

“And what makes you think I would tell you?”
I was being rude but I didn’t care. I was so tired of that question.

He laughed.

“I didn’t think that you would, but I still had to ask.”

He pushed play and I sighed. I hated feeling guilty and Beau might’ve been a little pushy at times but he was kind to me.

“They said my dad killed my mom.”
I told him.

He grabbed the remote and pushed pause again.

“They said what?”
He asked, turning his whole body toward me.

His expression had changed and it made me nervous.

I swallowed before speaking again.

“These two girls... they were talking as they walked by me when I was putting my books in my locker. One of them said that my dad killed my mom, the other one said Jackson knew all about it. I didn’t believe them. But they just kept on and on. So I turned around and told them to shut up, and I guess one of them threw a book and me, you know the rest.”

He sat back in the chair but didn’t say a word which made me even more nervous.

A few seconds went by until he spoke again.

“Put the ice on your lip. It’ll help.”
He started the movie and I sat there dumbfounded, wishing a had a book that I could throw at him.

What was the point in even asking me?

I stood up on wobbly legs and made my way to my room, making sure to leave the ice on the coffee table.

Forget the ice.

Forget those girls.

Forget it all.

I slammed my door and buried my face in my pillows, ignoring the throb of the cut inside my lip.

A few minutes later my door creaked open.

He could not be serious.

“Go away.”
I groaned.

“You’re kicking me out?”
Jackson said and I popped my head up.

“Sorry I didn’t know it was you.”

“You would kick Beau out? I knew you were smart.”
He joked.

“Don’t make me laugh Jack. My lip keeps opening back up.”
I told him.

“River.”
He spoke my name in his serious voice. I hated his serious voice but I looked up anyway.

“He didn’t kill her. He ignored the fact that she was sick, he didn’t want to believe that it was real.”
He explained.

“Beau told you?”
I squeaked.

That traitor.

But Jackson shook his head.

“I wasn’t asleep.”
He winked.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you. I just didn’t want you to worry about it.”

“It’s my job to worry about you, River.”
He sighed.

And maybe it was, but I still didn’t like it.

I hated it actually.

I hated the cards that we were dealt.

I hated that my brother felt like he had to act as a stand-in father for me.

But I smiled up at him anyway. Because somehow in spite of all of that, Jackson had a heart of pure gold and all I wanted to do was protect it.

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