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“I have been always angry at my parents since you know when. Maybe it was because of my age or maybe I really hated them for what they did to me. But on our last summer vacation, it changed.” Jay started talking about what’s troubling him for the past few weeks.

“Seeing Vian traveling around with his father and you being with your mom, I felt alone and left out. I felt a prick in my heart every time you talk about the things you did with your mother and when I saw the pictures of Vian with his father. I felt empty unlike before even though I have you guys and I started missing my parents especially my mom.”

“They weren’t always like this, you know? I still remember my mom’s smiling face when she looks at me. My dad was always been a drunk but he used to be a good dad when he wasn’t high. I don’t know what changed or when it all changed. Before I know it, my life was ruined.”

“So after seeing you guys like that I wanted to be with my parents. I thought maybe they missed me after all these years. I know they haven’t tried to contact me once in all those years but hope is a dangerous thing and I hoped that maybe… maybe I will have a second chance with them.”

“When I finally went to meet them, They both were in a bad shape. My dad was intoxicated and beating my mom and the worst thing of it all was that she was enjoying it too. I learned from our neighbors that my dad started doing drugs a couple of years ago and he got my mom addicted too.”

“You know what my dad did the minute he saw me?” he asked me with a bitter smile. I grabbed his hand and stroked it gently to give him some comfort.

“He started hitting me asking me for money. When he saw the money in my pocket, he yanked it out and pushed me down. All the while my mom was enjoying the show laughing hysterically. She was so high that she couldn’t even recognize her own son.”

“He locked me in my room and made me do household chores like a slave. He beat the shit out of me whenever he saw me. I tried to talk to my mom but my dad made sure that she was intoxicated all the time. They didn’t have money or food and tried my best to pay some bills with my savings and bought some groceries.”

“I endured it all because after all they are my parents and I wanted them back. On that day when you guys found me at my house, my dad was asking me for more money and I refused to give him. So he got angry. “

“I didn’t tell you guys and pushed you away because I was jealous that you guys had something that I don’t so I thought you wouldn’t understand what I am feeling. And I was also ashamed of living at your house like a charity case. You may wonder was it worth it? I really don’t know. But they are the only family I have and they have no one except me. So I shouldn’t give up on them, right Aves?” he asked me innocently. I was only able to give him a smile as an answer. It was way beyond for a high school student to handle.

“I am sorry that I hurt you. I missed you so much. It was just… like I was hit by a cyclone wherever I go. I was overwhelmed and always angry thinking about my life. But thank you Aves for not giving up. I don’t think I would have survived this if it wasn’t for you.” He said with a genuine smile.

“First thing, you are not a charity case. You are my best friend and you have all the rights in that house as I am. And I don’t have to tell you my mom thinks of you as her own son and my grandma loves you so much. But I understand what you feel. We will figure this out. Don’t worry, Jay.” I assured him.

We walked home and went to bed saying our goodnights. But I couldn’t sleep. No matter how long I think I don’t know how to help Jay’s parents other than getting some professional help. Money is the problem here. How can a couple of high school students earn that much even if we get a part-time job? It won’t be enough to pay for the therapist. I can’t ask my mom. She is barely hanging there taking care of me and the café.

While I was thinking while rolling on my bed, I heard a rustling of leaves from the tree outside my window. At first, I thought that it might be due to the wind but then I heard it again. I gulped in fear and slowly approached the window to close it just in case.

I screamed when I heard a loud thud followed by a figure jumping inside my room through the window. It was so dark and I couldn’t see anything clearly. I turned around to run outside my room but unfortunately, that person grabbed my waist closing my mouth preventing me from moving.

“It’s me.” I heard Vian whisper in my ear. Only then I relaxed, and he slowly let me go.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I angrily jabbed him on his chest with my elbow and walked to my bed to switch on my bedside lamp.

“Well I called you guys didn’t pick up so…” he said shrugging and joined on my bed beside me.

“You called Jay?” I asked him surprised.

“Yeah… I guess he is still angry.”

“Well, who wouldn’t? You were having the days of your life with Hazel.” I said smirking. I knew it wasn’t true, but it still bothered me that he was hanging out with Hazel.

He didn’t say anything about that. He looked like he was thinking about something and sighed deeply.

“So what’s up with you and Hazel.” I urged him to talk trying my best to hide my jealousy.

“Nothing.” He cut me off, and it means I should stop talking about it. We stayed there in bed side by side looking at the ceiling for some time.

“You know Jay missed you so much.” I started talking distracting him from his thoughts. I saw him turning to his side towards me from the corner of my eyes.

“He needs you,” I said turning to my side looking at him. For a moment, I forgot about everything else, and I was lost in his eyes. Our faces were only inches apart, and I gulped looking at his eyes that didn’t waver.

Clearing my throat, I turned away because I don’t think I can think clearly if I keep staring at his eyes. I told him everything Jay told me. I knew it wasn’t in my place to tell him about it, but he needed to know to understand Jay better and there are no secrets between us three.

“He told you all that?” he asked me in surprise while getting up and walking to the door.

“Yes… and where are you going?” I sat up on my bed in confusion.

“To Jay.” He said keeping his hand on the doorknob ready to rush out.

“No… No way.” I rushed to him before he went out.

“Do you have any idea how long it took for him to fall asleep? You are not waking him up now. Talk to him in the morning.” I said pulling him back to the bed.

“I am such a terrible friend.” He said after a minute of silence.

“Yes, you are,” I said chuckling for that he jabbed me playfully. The night went by while we chatted and I didn’t remember when I fell asleep.

In the middle of the night, I heard a loud annoying blare that woke me up from my slumber. I tried to move in searching for the source of that infuriating sound but I couldn’t. Something was preventing me from moving.

And then I realized Vian was hugging me tightly in his sleep. I hate people touching me while I sleep and he is the opposite of that. Hugging something helps him sleep. I tried to free myself from him without waking him up, but his hold on me got tighter and he moved closer to me in his sleep mumbling something.

By then, I stopped hearing that sound but before I relax it started ringing again. I was so annoyed by that sound and Vian hugging me like a python hindering me from stopping that irritating sound doesn’t help me either.

I kicked him forcefully which made him roll and fall from the bed. He mumbled something in his sleep and went back to sleep on the floor. I looked around with my hooded sleepy eyes and found that sound was coming from my phone. That idiot, Vian changed my ringtone again.

I saw Jay’s name on my phone and answered it wondering why he was calling me from the other room. “Jay?” I was half asleep and my voice came out raspy.

“I heard Jay talking incoherently, but I was able to hear Vian’s name in between those words.

“Jay, I can’t understand what you are saying.” But he kept mumbling on about something.

“Are you drunk, Jay?” I asked him without believing my own words.

“N…o,” I heard him slurring. He is definitely drunk. I can’t believe this. Where even the hell he got alcohol at this time?

“Jay, where are you?”

“In the swing… I am swinging…” he said laughing like a maniac.

“What the hell are you doing there at this time? I yelled on the phone.

“Fine, stay there. I am coming to get you.” I cut the call and sighed looking at Vian. Every morning Jay and I felt like we won a war when we successfully woke Vian up.

After thirty minutes of my struggle, Vian woke up, and we both walked to the park with a water bottle in my hand to find Jay. As expected he was sitting on the swing with a whiskey bottle in his hand. His body drooped and he looked like he was about to fall. I ran to him just in time to catch him and made him sit properly.

“Jay, come on, drink this.” I made him drink the whole bottle of water that I brought.

“How did you get this?” I asked him grabbing the whiskey bottle from his hand.

“My dad.” He said groaning.

“Did you go home again? What the hell Jay?” I yelled and examined his face and body to see if he was injured.

“I stole it from his stash. He doesn’t know.” He said giggling like a child. I hugged him and kissed his head. He must have had a lot on his head to choose to get drunk.

I looked at Vian to help me get Jay back home. But that idiot was recording a video of us on his phone.

“What are you doing?” I asked him angrily. That is not the time to take a video.

“Hey V, my best friend,” Jay shouted and went to Vian stumbling on his steps pushing me aside, and hugged him. More like threw himself at him. I looked around in fear that he might wake the whole neighborhood.

Vian sat down on the other swing and continued taking video. But Jay was talking to the empty space near Vian thinking that it was Vian. It was so funny and Jay was so cute. Vian was laughing while taking the video and I couldn’t help it either.

“Look how cute he is. This is perfect blackmail material. When do we get to see cute Jay again? Enjoy Aves.” Vian said to me while we were laughing.

More like threw himself at him. He was just going on and on about how much he was angry at Vian these past few weeks and he even slapped the air thinking it was Vian’s cheeks.

“Talk to him, please,” I said to Vian with a begging look. He sighed and put his phone in his pocket stopping the recording. He guided Jay to sit with him on the grass.

“I will just take a walk.” I decided to leave thinking that it might be better to leave them alone. Vian nodded with a smile and gave me a thumbs up.

I walked a bit further away from them and lied down on the grass field and I saw the sky full of twinkling stars. Gazing at those stars calmed my mind, and I just wanted to get stuck in that moment forever. The sky was purplish-black which was alluring and breathtaking.

After some time, I sensed two of my best friends lying down beside me, and I heard them mumble ‘beautiful’ looking at the sky. I intertwined my fingers with them, and we lied there in silence linking our hands.

“I just want to be here like this with you guys forever,” I confessed due to some unknown overwhelming feelings. Otherwise, I am not a person who throws some cheesy comments now and then.

“We will.” They both said in unison.

On that night, we promised those million stars that our friendship will last as long as we live and twinkle like them forever.

There is beauty in the darkness.

Without darkness, there is no light.

Stars cannot be seen in daylight.

There may be dark times in our life.

But our friendship will always twinkle

Like those stars in the night sky.

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