Charlie Ever After

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The first few nights went by fast. The house was now fully set up and the three of us were getting ready to start classes in just a few short days. I couldn’t believe how fast the summer blew by and as I look around my new bedroom a ray of hope springs up on me, catching me off guard. I’ve been in college for two years now, this year being my third and this is the first time that I actually feel like an adult.

They always say that once you graduate high school is when your adult life starts- but up until this week I still felt like a child. This newfound freedom finally giving me a sense of my own being. I’m no longer unaccountable for my actions, I’m no longer tethered to my parents in a way that dictates my every move and life choice. This was my start to make something of myself, be my own person- something I’ve wanted for so long.

My parents never forced me into anything, they were never really hard on me other than wanting me to do good in school and get the education I deserved so that I could succeed in life. As successful as my father was, he never pushed his success or his career on me. He’s always been a firm believer in letting me make my own choices when it came to what I wanted to do with my future- the only thing that was off the table was slacking off and doing poorly, but school work always came easy for me and I never had to worry too much- nor did I have to sacrifice anything that a normal guy would’ve done in high school. I still went out to parties every weekend, saving my Sundays for school work, I had plenty of friends, a few girlfriends here and there- so I don’t exactly know why I felt so trapped all of my younger life. I guess I’ve always just been so eager to be independent, not having to worry about anyone else but myself for a little bit- as selfish as that makes me sound.

“You wanna go out tonight? Collin, Isaac, and a few others are all going to meet up at the bar and figured I’d extend the invitation.” Jace was leaning against the kitchen island, shirtless with nothing but a pair of black pajama pants on as he sipped on cup of steaming coffee.

I debate the idea in my head for a minute and shrug my shoulders. “Why the hell not, mine as well get as much drinking in as we can before the real world starts.” I joke and walk over to the coffee maker, pouring myself a cup. As I settle on the couch, propping my feet up on the coffee table, I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I fish it out and smile before swiping my finger across the screen, answering the FaceTime call.

“Hey girls! How are you guys? I miss you.” I could feel Jace’s stare boring into the back of my head. I turn around and glare at him. I never hide my affection for my sisters in front of my friends, but they were always there to remind me of how weird they thought it was- but they didn’t understand. None of them have ever lost a sibling, or a parent. None of them can fathom how precious time is, how important family is. They’re there one day, then the next they can be completely ripped from you with no warning at all.

I return to my conversation as Jillian is going on and on about Trish taking her back to school shopping. Her voice raising an octave with every new item she lists off to me.

“Are you excited for first grade, Jill?” I smile at her, she’s now showing me her new backpack- it’s pink and purple with a 3D unicorn stitched to the front. “Wow!” I exclaim, trying my best to sound as excited as she is over the new backpack. She furiously nods her head as she tries pushing the two youngest ones out of the way so she can hog me all to herself. “Stop being mean to them.” I say and call the other two girls towards the camera. They’re whining and trying to shove Jillian away now. “If you guys can’t play nice and share I’ll have to tell mom.” This gets them to behave instantaneously. “Hey P” I call to April. “Are you excited to start pre-school?” She nods her head up and down and squeals.

I talk to the girls for a few more minutes before saying my I love yous to them. They hand the phone to Trish and she shoos them away. “I sure hope they’re not giving you too much shit with me not being there.” I tease and this awards me a roll of her eyes.

“Oh you know, same shit different day.” She laughs. The fact that Trish had a similar personality to mine- not afraid to cuss or offend anyone made me proud to call her my step mom. When I first met her, I thought she was going to be an annoying Martha Stewart type- all stuck up and strict, but she surprised me real quick the first time I drove with her.

We were on the highway and she was trying to rush both me and my twin sister Tessa to school when someone cut her off. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” She shouts, punching her hand to the horn on the steering wheel making both me and my sister jump. “Fuck you, asshole.” She screamed again, and as soon as the words left her mouth her face fell and heated up to the darkest scarlet I’ve ever seen. “Shit- I mean crap-” She turns around, seeing us both staring at her wide eyed. “I’m so sorry, guys! You totally didn’t hear that...” She laughed nervously, waiting for our reactions before me and Tessa burst into laughter.

From that day on she never held back from us. Her favorite phrase was “You can take the girl out of Jersey, but can’t take the Jersey out of the girl.” Her lame excuse for her excessive use of curse words, road rage and the confidence that could make anyone cower. Soon after that day she became my favorite person and we formed such a close bond that nothing could break.

Later that night after I stepped out of the shower, I stood in front of my closet and pulled out a pair of black jeans that hugged my legs but didn’t make me look like a high school skater punk and a multi shaded blue plaid button down. I paired the outfit with a pair of white vans and a grey beanie which slouched off the back of my head.

I rushed down the stairs, taking them two at a time before grabbing my wallet from the little table by the door. “What bar are we going to, should we call a cab?” I ask Jace and Collin who are perched on bar stools situated in front of the kitchen island. Both of them had an open can of Natty Light in their hands, making me cringe. “Don’t know how you guys are drinking that shit.”

“Hey, you weren’t complaining when you drained four of them the other night.” Jace retorts.

About an hour and a half later the three of us show up outside of the Tap House which was a local bar close enough to campus that everyone swarmed here on the weekends, mainly because they didn’t card anyone. We push our way through the door and instantly the energy is buzzing around us, the raspy voice of whatever college musician they found to play tonight blasting through the speakers.

The three of us find a table near the back. “What’re you guys gonna have? First round is on me.” I yell over the music. The guys list off what they want, and I look around anxious for Isaac’s arrival. Part of me knows the biggest reason I said yes to coming out tonight is because Isaac’s name was mentioned.

Ever since he texted me back a few nights ago I haven’t been able to get Charlie out of my mind and selfishly I wanted to get as much information from Isaac as possible. When my search comes up empty I walk over to the bar and lean in close, the bartender is a gorgeous blonde with sparking green eyes. I flash her a hundred watt smile, causing her to blush and place our drink order. The three of us order beer at first so she has the caps popped off in under a minute before handing them to me. I dig my wallet out of my back pocket and hand her thirty bucks. “Keep the change-” I lean in to read her name tag “Leah.” I offer her another smile before retreating back to our table.

“So bad news, Isaac bailed- something about the cops and his sister’s best friend.” Jace announces as he takes a sip from his beer.

My stomach instantly sours and I try to keep my composure the best I can. “Oh man-” my first words come out a little shaky. “Is everything okay?” I ask hoping he knows something. I can’t imagine why Charlie would be wrapped up with the police, she struck me as the good girl type.

Jace just shrugs his shoulders. “Oh well. Adam and Lucas are still coming. They’ll be here in about ten.”

I bite the inside of my bottom lip absentmindedly and lean back in my chair. I drain the rest of my beer before excusing myself. “Gotta take a piss, be right back.” But instead of heading into the bathroom I walk out the side door into the sticky end of summer heat.

I pace back and forth a few times, weighing my options in my head. I want to call and ask if everything is okay, but I also don’t want to come off weird or stalkerish. I don’t even know the girl and I’ve already asked Isaac about her once, I don’t wanna toss up any red flags. Against my better judgement my finger hovers over his contact name before finally pressing down, holding the phone to my ear as I listen to the dial tone. It rings a few times before going straight to voicemail and this does nothing to quell my anxiety.

What’s wrong with me? I’m usually the most down to earth one in my friend group and here I am panicking over some girl I don’t even know and a situation that I have no information about. I sigh to myself as I listen to Isaac’s voicemail greeting. “Hey man, Jace filled me in. I just wanted to reach out and make sure everything is okay. Shoot me a text or a call anytime.” I hang up the phone and inwardly cringe. I sure hope he doesn’t read anything into it.

We don’t leave the bar until last call at 1:45 am, by the time we stumble out of the bar the three of us are plastered. We call a cab and climb in silently hoping that I don’t vomit everywhere. I groan and lean my head against the cold window and close my eyes trying to stop the spinning in my head. I normally don’t drink this much, but I needed something to calm down the paranoia that I tried to ignore in the pit of my stomach. I can’t explain why someone I don’t even know can stir such an emotion in me- but I tell myself that first thing in the morning I’ll reach out to Isaac again.

Once home we stagger out of the car and up the front steps. Collin drops his keys FIVE times while trying to unlock the door before I push him out of the way and got us in on the first try. We say nothing to each other as we all make our way up to our rooms. I hear the both of them flop onto their beds as I’m brushing my teeth and if I’m not mistaken I hear the sound of vomiting coming from Collin’s room. I laugh to myself a little and with the motion it stirs my stomach and I groan, leaning against the counter in hopes to settle myself.

By the time I get back into my room, strip out of my clothes and flop down into my own bed there’s a message waiting on my cellphone for me. I open the message and with one eye open I strain to read the message.

Her boyfriend fucking assaulted her, man. He almost fucking killed her, I have to do something.

The message instantly sobers me up, I look at the time stamp on the message. It came in over two hours ago and I don’t want to wake him, so I promise myself that first thing when I wake up I’m going to give him a call. And with that I fall into the most fitful night sleep of my life, waking up twice to throw my guts up.

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