FLAME

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Struggles you never understand.

No matter how hard the path is today,

No matter how long it takes,

Life will get better.

Difficult situations build strong people.
.……………………………………………

You may be best friends with someone for your whole life. You may think you know what struggles that they were battling. You may even think that you can help them because you care for them. But you are wrong. You never understand what they are going through unless you have been through the same situation yourself. Even then I don't think you will understand them like they want us to. That is why some people tend to isolate themselves when they are troubled because they know that no one will understand them as much as they want someone to be on their side. Sometimes... Life sucks, and you can do nothing about it.

It has been four days since we saw Jay. I was going to school every day hoping that Jay might show up, but he doesn't. Vian went to his house to see what happened but his parents told him that he has gone to London to see his Grandma. Somehow Vian wasn't convinced that Jay would go without telling us and it is true. He thinks that his parents were hiding something. So he kept searching for Jay in all the possible places.

Jay didn't even leave a message for us. His phone was switched off. We started getting restless thinking about Jay as every day goes by without any news about him. Part of me was convinced that he went to London, and he is safe. It must have been an emergency and his phone must have broken or something but part of me couldn't stop worrying about him. I just want to hear his voice once to know that he is ok.

Vian is more worried than me. He firmly believes that something is wrong. He is hell-bent on searching for him and I couldn't convince him otherwise even though what he is doing is illogical. Every day after school he would drop me at my home and go away. Only god knows where. I can understand what he is feeling, though. Since they became friends, they have never been alone. Jay always stayed with V at his house or mine because of his abusive parents. They always knew what the other person was up to if they happen to be alone. So this whole situation is making Vian cranky.

I can see a lot of changes in Vian since he came back from that vacation. He is calmer and less mischievous than before and one more drastic change is that he started getting angry easily. I have never seen him angry except when he throws some tantrums but that was cute, now he is a little intimidating even for me. He always looks like he is thinking about something and not caring anything that doesn't pique his interest. His body and his walk show this careless attitude but all of it is fake. His eyes... his eyes are the only thing that tells what he is feeling.

Jay's absence made him cranky. He was always angry and on the verge of exploding. Less than ten words came out of his mouth and his eyes were blazing in anger. Let's just say that the tiger is trying to break from its chains.

"Argh," Vian punched the wall in anger.

Everyone went to lunch, so I took him to an empty classroom to talk. He stopped coming to my house and was avoiding me most of the time at school, so I wanted to know what he was up to.

"Calm down, V," I said moving closer placing my palm on his chest while looking him in the eye. He tried his best to calm himself down, but his breathing was rapid and his nostrils were flaring. He turned his head away looking at everything but me. I gave him a minute to cool down.


"I don't know where he is," after a moment of silence he said in despair which softened my heart.

"It's not like him. He never left me like this. He would at least send me a text about his whereabouts. He always let me know. I have been going to his house for days now and I even waited all night for him to appear but he didn't. I am sure his father has something to do with it. I know he is just a lying bastard," he knocked the chair beside him in anger.

"I just... I just want to know that he is ok, you know? I just want to see him once, Ava." His voice croaked. He was showing his back to me hiding his face but I don't have to be an expert to know what he was feeling and what does his face looks like now.

I moved closer and made him turn to me slowly. Tears threatened to fall from his eyes. He is controlling so hard not to break down.

I hugged him because that is all I could do right now. I know it's weird for Jay to disappear like this but doubting his parents that they did something to him, I think it was a bit extreme. But I can't say that to Vian right now.

They both were rarely alone. Like twins, they were bonded emotionally. They were like brothers and Jay was more than a friend to Vian. He will do anything for Jay. So I could understand what Vian was feeling. He just doesn't know what to think right now.

I am missing him too. It's like I lost a limb. I have thought about going to his house to see for myself even though Vian has told me everything. I just want to hear and look at his father's eyes for myself. I have been planning to do it alone, but I think it's now or never.

"Let's go," I pulled him out of the classroom grabbing his hand, and started walking towards the gate.

"What are you doing?" Vian asked me all confused about my sudden behavior.

"We are going to Jay's home," I said without stopping.

He yanked me towards him making me stop. "Were you not listening to anything that I was saying? He is not there, Aves." He said grabbing my shoulder.

"I know. I just... I want to try one more time. Call it a hunch or stupidity or anything. I just need to see for myself. Maybe he came back or maybe he called his parents. I mean it's not like he suddenly disappeared from the world or anything. Let's just go and see. We may get something." I said to him convincing myself to have hope. At this point I am desperate, and I am willing to do anything. He sighed raking his hair in frustration with his fingers.

"Hey, look at me. Let's go to his house and check first. If it's a dead-end then we can ask help from Mr. Harrison or Mr. Donan. I think it's time we let the adults handle this, okay?"

He looked convinced. He sighed and nodded his head in approval, and we walked together hoping to find Jay.

"I cannot do this anymore."

"What do you mean you cannot? I need more money and for that, you need to work."

We saw Jay and his father arguing on the porch. We were surprised to see Jay there. He looked terrible. There was grease all over his body and clothes. His hair was oily and messy. I could see a bruise under his left eye and a cut on his lower lip. He looked raggedy.

Suddenly Jay's father removed his belt from his pants twisting one end on his hand leaving the other end free on the ground. He slowly moved towards Jay with faltering steps and a menacing look like a predator eyeing its prey and started to swing the belt at Jay. He was clearly drunk, and I could see his mother watching them from the couch inside the house. I expected her to come running and stop her husband from hurting her son but she didn't. Her face showed no emotion.

I froze when his father tried to hurt Jay with a gasp. Unlike me, Vian sprinted towards Jay and stood between the two of them taking the hit by himself protecting Jay. Even after that Jay's father didn't back off. He pushed Vian away who was in the way and tried to lash at Jay again.

Jay tried to help Vian but when he saw his father coming for him again his legs moved backward. Vian lost it when he saw Jay on the floor hiding his face behind his hands waiting for the lash. Vian shoved his father away with force from the back that made his father fall on the ground with a thud. He didn't stop even after that. He hauled him from the ground grabbing his shirt's collar and landed a punch on his face.

Before he could punch him again I ran towards him to stop him and thankfully Jay joined me. We both tried to restrain him, but I wasn't strong enough and Jay wasn't in good condition.

"I am going to call the police. Who do you think you are? I am going to kill you." Jay's drunkard father rambled and searched for his phone in his pockets.

When he couldn't find it, he came at us again to punch. I pushed him with all my force before he could hurt anyone. He fell on the floor hitting his head on the steps. I didn't mean to... It was kind of a reflex. I couldn't let him hurt my friends anymore. Thankfully he was alright and tried to stand up. It's going to leave a big bump on his head. Jay's mother came out to help her husband seeing him on the floor.

"You know what? I can call the police. I will tell them what you did to Jay and let's see who is going to jail." I was beyond angry, and I wanted him to pay for what he did. I took my phone out and was about to dial the number.

"No... No... let us be... Just this time, please." His mom begged me. I wanted to say a lot of mean things to her but after all, she is Jay's mother. I could never understand why she doesn't take her son's side for once and help her abusive husband. Jay used to tell me that she used to love him like every other mother in the world would love her son when he was a kid and where all that love has gone now?

"Don't you dare touch him again," I warned them and left that place with Vian and Jay. She didn't say anything back. She was examining her husband for any wounds and Jay left with a yearning look. His look pierced my heart like a needle. No one sane could handle that look and I don't know how she acts like she doesn't care.

Vian's sculpted cheek has now a cut because of the hit he took for Jay and it is bleeding a little and the area around it was bruised already. God knows what happened to Jay. He is limping while walking. I snaked my arm around his hip and pulled his arm around my shoulder giving him support to walk.

Vian is walking with us on my other side and he is so calm which is not a good sign. I looked at him often expecting him to look at me and smile but he's been avoiding the both of us.

We walked to my house in a deafening silence. I know we were thinking about a lot of things on our way but didn't dare to utter a word. Thankfully my Grandma is not home yet because I can't explain anything to her when I don't know anything for sure in the first place and I also have to explain why I skipped half day of school because she will get a call from the Principal's office but that's a problem for another time.

I slowly took Jay to their room where they stayed when they come here. I made him sit on the bed and went to grab a low wooden stool for him to sit on while showering. He wasn't in the condition to stand and shower.

After making everything ready, I slowly escorted him to the bathroom supporting his body. I made him sit on the wooded stool and unbuttoned his greasy, dirty shirt. I was hoping for him to stop me or say something, but he looked like he was in shock and didn't try to stop me.

So I started washing his face and his upper body using a foam lathered sponge. There were bruises on his back and his chest. I couldn't imagine what he suffered all those days. He flinched once in a while when I accidentally touched his bruise.

While I was aiding Jay, Vian came inside the bathroom. Finally, he decided to show up. I know why he came, so I gave the sponge to him and came out. He quietly and carefully tended to Jay. I decided to cook something because I don't know when was the last time Jay had a decent meal. Right when I finished cooking, they both came downstairs. At least now Jay looks a bit presentable and healthy. His wounds were treated but I noticed that Vian didn't treat his cut.

We ate in silence. Jay looked like he was still in shock and Vian looked like he was pissed. I just don't know how to make them feel better because even I wasn't feeling better. I don't know how to handle this situation. This is too much for a teen to handle on their own. For a starter, I know Jay was abused, but I need to know the whole story and by the looks of it Vian is not going to be of any help.

Jay ravished his food like he hasn't eaten for days but Vian didn't touch his food. He stood up and went somewhere in the middle. I decided to follow him leaving Jay to eat alone. He went to their room and was trying to apply some ointment on his cut using the mirror. I slowly grabbed the bud on his hand and made him sit on the bed. I slowly applied the ointment to his cut. He winced now and then but didn't say anything all the while.

We gathered in the living room including Jay who finished his meal.

"Okay then, I will leave now." Vian tried to leave as soon as he saw Jay.

"What? Why?" I was puzzled.

I thought he would stay and support his friend and talk to him. As for a fact, I know Jay will feel better a lot when he is with Vian than I, and Vian would never leave Jay when he needs him. So I was confused when he said he wanted to leave.

"I don't think I am needed here anymore," he said glancing at Jay. But Jay was in his own world looking at the floor.

"What are you talking about?"

"I don't think I can be a friend to someone who doesn't need me or think of me. Because friends tell each other when they were having a hard time. They share and help each other. People don't push their best friends away and keep things to them. Since I am just a stranger, I will leave now before I do something I regret." He spat and rushed out before me, or Jay could say anything. I know what he said was unreasonable to Jay. We didn't know what Jay was going through and for that, we just need to talk but I can also understand Vian's anger.

I bid good night to Jay and went to bed. I know Vian can never stay away from us. Although everything he did today was new to me I have a feeling that he can't stay away for so long. He will come to talk to Jay tomorrow like nothing happened once he calms himself down. He just needs time. At least that is what I am hoping.
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Enjoy reading - T

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