"Wake up, loser." I pop open an eye and Lydia is grinning down at me.
I glare back at her and open my eyes, blinking away the sensitivity to the light before sitting up slightly.
"You left me downstairs all alone." She pouts as she throws herself down on the bed next to me.
I try to hide the blush that lights up my cheeks as I recall the events of last night, on the phone with Tanner. I bite my bottom lip, trying to hide my smirk.
"Sorry, I uh couldn't fall asleep. The floor is pretty uncomfortable, especially with your big comfy bed calling my name from up here." I smile over at her, hoping that she buys my bullshit lie- not that I was lying about her bed calling my name, that was the truth.
She just shrugs her shoulders and cuddles up next to me. "I don't blame you, my neck and back are killing me now." She lets out a small groan.
I throw my arms around my best friend and snuggle into her as I hug her close to my body.
She pushes away from me. "Can't breath." She says dramatically before sitting up in bed. "I say we have a pool day today." She grins down at me. "Drinks, tanning, and plenty of gossip."
She swings her long legs over the side of the bed and slides down to the floor, making her way over to the gigantic floor to ceiling windows that adorn the far left wall. In one swift motion she whips the curtains open. "It's beautiful out!" She squeals in excitement before turning towards me.
I let out a low groan as I burry my face into the pillows, shielding my eyes from the sunlight.
"C'mon grumpy. Get up." Lydia pounces on top of me, burying her fingers in all of my most ticklish spots.
I can't help but to laugh and flail around at her attack before screaming for her to stop. She finally relents and leaves me be.
"Ugh fine." I give in and finally sit up. "Did Isaac ever get home last night?" I ask,
Lydia shrugs her shoulders and finally climbs off of me. "I'm not sure. Let's go check!" She bounces up off of the bed and skips out of her room and down the hall to Isaac's room.
She doesn't bother knocking before opening the door. She scans the room real quick before giving me a nod and moving into his bedroom quietly. She stands in front of his bed with a mischievous grin on her lips as she motions to me before jumping right on top of him with a loud giggle.
Isaac let's out a loud groan as Lydia's weight comes crashing down on top of him, shortly followed by my own weight as I jump into his bed as well, throwing my body across him. Lydia and I are both laughing maniacally as Isaac tries to roll us off of him. We both finally crawl off and Isaac shoots us the sharpest glare before a grin tilts at the corner of his lips and he joins in on our laughter.
I'm suddenly overwhelmed with so much emotion and I can't help the silent tears that slip down my cheeks. "I've missed you guys so much." I sniffle, and when Isaac and Lydia realize I'm crying they both tackle me down to the bed and wrap their arms around me in a tight hug.
"We've missed you too, Charlie baby." Isaac mutters into my hair.
Lydia giggles in my ear as she wiggles around in our grasp. "I love you guys." She squeals and after a few more moments of soaking in their love and affection, we finally pull apart.
"So, I was thinking a pool day." Lydia speaks up after about ten minutes of us just laying there in silence, looking up at the ceiling- all of us just so content in our little bubble of reality.
Isaac turns his head to look towards her, nodding his head. "Sounds like a great idea. I can definitely use a day of lounging by the pool. Last night was rough." He groans and then shudders as memories flood back from his night out.
Lydia and I glance at each other and both giggle. "What happened?" We ask in unison as we roll over onto our bellies to face him, propping our chins on our hands.
Isaac mimics our movements, rolling onto his stomach and facing us as he bends his legs up, swinging them through the air. He throws on his best valley girl accent before continuing, "So, my date was a complete bust. I've liked this guy for a while, and I thought things were going well...But last night he ended whatever we had going on; leaving me in the bar by myself- not to mention, he was my ride." Isaac rolls his eyes at us with a sigh as he drops the stupid accent.
"What a dick." Lydia screeches out, jumping to her brother's defense in a heartbeat.
I nod my head in agreement. "What's his name and address. I'll kick his ass." My inner tough guy shines through, which causes Isaac to chuckle and roll his eyes at my defense.
"Calm down Jackie Chan." Isaac grins at me before continuing his story. "So, I stayed at the bar and drank myself into a stupor, got a ride home from this older guy who kept trying to hit on me all night. He thought he was going to get some, but nuh-uh. He was pretty pissed when I slammed the door in his face-" Isaac's grin beamed as he finished the last part.
Lydia and I both look at each other than to Isaac. "You're crazy." I laugh out. "Why didn't you call one of us?" I smack him in the shoulder.
He rubs his arm and mouths an ow . "Because. I didn't want to ruin your guys' girl's night." He rolls his eyes like his reasoning is completely obvious.
Lydia and I both glare at him and then lunge at him, both slapping him on each of his arms. "Dumbass." We say in unison, causing all three of us to burst out into laughter as Isaac works on rubbing both of his arms better.
Lydia and I had just taken a short dip in the pool to cool off when I feel Isaac's gaze studying me. I lower my sunglasses down the bridge of my nose and glare over at him from my seat, stretched out on my beach chair in front of their pool. "What?" I ask cautiously.
Isaac opens his mouth as if he's going to say something and I look over at Lydia for support. She lifts her sunglasses to the top of her head and studies her brother before he starts to speak.
"I was just um, wondering. How are you doing? How's the whole Gavin situation." It's not often Isaac is nervous around me, he's known me since before I could even pronounce his name correctly- but I can tell that this is a subject that he doesn't feel necessarily comfortable hashing open with me.
I don't blame him though- it must've been hard for them to see me go through all of that. I never realized before that they noticed a lot more than I ever gave them credit for; they were just trying to silently support me and give me my space to make my own decisions. They didn't know it was as bad as it was, but when I called them from the police station that night, everything clicked for them.
I never once stepped back to think of the stress that it may have caused them. They dealt with plenty of sleepless nights with me after the incident, dealt with my crying, and bad dreams. They patched me back together without even knowing it, and I don't even think I ever thanked them.
Tears well in my eyes so I push my sunglasses back to shield them. "He's tried making a few fake Facebook and Instagram accounts to try and follow me, but I saw right through it and blocked them instantly. So far the new number is working." I shrug my shoulders and suck in a shuddery breath. "But I'm okay. I have you guys to thank for that. I can't believe I never realized how much you guys have done for me. Not only with Gavin, but my whole life. You guys have always saved me, and I feel like I'll never be able to repay you for what you guys have done for me. I almost feel like we're completely one sided, other than being a shoulder to cry on- I can't think of anything significant that I've been able to offer you guys." The tears are freely falling now and the look of shock on their faces is evident.
Lydia comes over to me first and moves my legs off of the lounge chair, sitting next to me as she wraps me up in her arms, her own tears falling from her eyes. "Charlie, don't even. Stop. We love you more than anything. You're our sister. You always will be. We do the things we do because we love you and you give us plenty in return, how could you ever think you don't?" She pushes me back by the shoulders before grabbing my face, tilting it up so I'm looking into her eyes- behind the safety of my sunglasses.
By this point I'm a sniffling mess and my tears are blurring my vision. I don't know what to say, I can't say anything because as much as her words warm my soul, I don't feel like they're true.
Isaac walks over and joins us, wrapping his long arms around the both of us and pulls us in.
"Charlie, you've been family since you stepped through our door for the first time. You'll always be family. I don't know if Lydia's ever told you this or not, but there's been quite a few family discussions in which my parents wanted to adopt you." Isaac says softly before pulling back from the embrace.
I don't know how to react or what to say, I just cry harder into Lydia's shoulder as she draws lazy circles across my back.
Once I've finally calmed down enough to speak I mumble an I love you to them and try to control my breathing.
Within minutes we're back to our normal carefree selves as we jump back into the pool, splashing at each other before settling under the rocky waterfall in the back corner of the pool.
I hold my head under the stream of water, letting my hair melt across my face before stepping back and pushing it away.
"So, how are you and Tanner?" Isaac coos.
A blush heats up my neck and face and I'm thankful for the shade of the rocky shelter as it successfully hides my reaction to his question.
"We're good. Really good." I can't help the cheesy grin that spreads across my lips, causing both Lydia and Isaac to let out squeals in unison.
"Spill the beans. I should've just stayed in with you guys last night, so I could've gotten filled in on all the juicy gossip." Isaac groans.
I repeat to them what I had already told Lydia last night and I can't keep my eyes off the smiles that are so obviously present on both of my best friends' faces. Seeing them happy for me is the warmest feeling I've ever encountered and it makes me feel like I was floating.
"Thank you." I finish my gush fest with.
They looked at me quizzically. "For what?" Isaac asks.
"For introducing me to him. Because of your guys intervention-" I roll my eyes. "I finally found someone that treats me well, makes me happy, and shows me what it feels like to be really loved. Well, loved in a healthy way." I bite my bottom lip and sink down so the water rests just under my chin.
Isaac shakes his head and rolls his eyes at me. "Please, I'm more than happy to play cupid. It just clicked to me when Tanner asked me about you after the party- how perfect you guys would be together." He grins mischievously.
I roll my eyes in response.
"I just had to get you guys together somehow and then lightbulb- I remembered where he goes to school and bam." His grin widens and I fight the urge to slap him.
"Well thank you, because now I have my own personal knight in shining armor." I smirk and splash him.
Lydia squeals and comes swimming closer to the both of us. "Yay, now we can go on a double date!" She gushes.
"I'm really happy for you, Charlie. I can speak for both Lydia and I. It's so amazing to finally see our Charlie girl happy." Isaac interjects and pulls his sister against his side. She looks up at him with a smile then turns that smile towards me, nodding her head in agreement to what he's said.
"We love you baby." Lydia beams at me before they both wade over to me and tackle me down into the water.
We're all freshly showered and dressed, sprawled out on the living room couch as we watch a movie together and I can't help my thoughts from drifting from how much fun I'm having with Lydia and Isaac to the guilt that I feel over not seeing my mom. Hell, I haven't really even talked to her in the few months that I've been away at school.
A wave of emotion washes over me as my thoughts starting nagging me more and more, making the pit of my stomach twist with guilt. I should hate her, and I do- to an extent but I can't help but to still love her, she is my mother. She raised me- kind of, birthed me. She was in a way, a piece of me and for some unknown reason I feel this sick sense of responsibility for her.
Before my brain can catch up with my lips I abruptly speak. "I'm think I'm going to go see my mother." I hold my breath for a moment before letting it out slowly, waiting for their reactions.
They just look at each other. "Are you sure?" Lydia finally speaks after a moment of silence.
I just nod my had curtly as I fidget with my fingers in my lap.
I finally look over at the both of them and despite their worried expressions they both shrug their shoulders. "Well, do you want us to come with you? Even if we just wait in the car?" Lydia finally asks.
I shake my head. "No, I think I need to go alone." I nod my head as if to reassure not only them but myself, too.
A few minutes later and about a bazillion questions from the two of them and I'm sitting in my car, keys in the ignition. It takes me a moment or two before I turn on my car but before I do, I send Tanner a short text.
I love you.
I let out a small sigh and shift my car into reverse, navigating out of the twisty driveway and pulling onto the main road.
I don't remember much of the drive because I'm stuck in such a daze but once I pull into the driveway I take notice of how dark the house looks. It's eerie, almost haunted looking- haunted with bad memories, if that's even a thing.
I suck in a shaky breath before shutting off the ignition. A chill courses down my spine as the emptiness of the house settles in. I survey the driveway taking instant notice of my mom's car parked next to me. She went out most nights, but never did she take public transit or accept rides from her prospects.
A feeling of dread washes over me and within milliseconds I'm out of the car and pounding on the front door. "Mom?" I yell out- no answer. I knock a few more times with no response before trying my key. I shove the door but it doesn't budge. It sometimes gets stuck, but normally it's never this bad and it usually only swelled in the summer heat.
Panic floods my system as I try to think of what to do. I instantly rush around the house, trying every ground level window until I finally find one that's unlocked in the back of the house. I pull my body up and through the frame, catching myself before crashing to the floor. My eyes slowly adjust to the dark house and my anxiety blinds all of my senses as I survey my surroundings. The house is in complete disarray. There's dishes towering over the sink, chairs pulled out from the kitchen table and a mound of mail that's near toppling over.
I quickly switch on my phone's built in flashlight and move around the house, checking every room for my mother. It's not until I reach the living room that I catch sight of her. She's slumped along the floor in front of the front door and a scream erupts from my throat as I rush over to her.
She's passed out cold, has a black eye and bloody lip- injuries I know that she didn't get herself. She may be a drunk, but she's a somewhat graceful one at that. She very rarely got injuries from her own stupidity.
My stomach soured as I thought about the only possibility that this left- someone did this to her.
I pulled her body into my lap and held my fingers to the pulse point on her neck, checking for any sign of life. I let out a sigh of relief as I feel a strong beat against my fingertips. "Thank fucking god." I grunt up to the heavens and I pull my phone from my back pocket, dialing 911.
Within minutes an ambulance is pulling up in front of the house. I had managed to get my mom to the couch and I paced impatiently until I see the flashing lights. I throw the door open and run outside, gesturing them inside as they wheel the stretcher behind them.
I stay back as they check on her and load her on the stretcher. One of the EMTs is asking me what happened and I can't even focus enough to tell him. I get out the very few details I know and he nods his head in response before laying a gentle hand on my shoulder.
"We'll take good care of her." He says kindly. He's in his fifties from the looks of it and he has a very fatherly vibe to him, which helps momentarily soothe my anxiety.
"You can ride with us, okay sweetie?" He adds.
I nod my head and follow behind him as he leads me out behind the two other EMTs and the stretcher where my mom is laying, a oxygen mask strapped to her face. Tears start freely flowing down my cheeks again, but I'm able to contain the sobs as I climb into the back of the ambulance, watching as the EMT shuts the door behind me.
Once at the hospital they wheel her back through the emergency room and show me to the waiting room. The same sweet EMT who had talked to me back at the house- sits with me for a few minutes, making sure that I'm okay and buys me a bottle of soda before leaving with the rest of his crew.
I bounce my leg anxiously for I don't know how long before I get up and walk outside. The automatic doors open for me and as soon as the fresh air hits me, I take a big greedy gulp as I crumple down to the ground.
After a few moments of silent crying I pull my phone from my back pocket and with a new wave of panic mixed with a bit of disappointment and sadness there's no message from Tanner waiting for me. I mash my finger across the screen a few times before pressing my phone to my ear, listening to the dial tone as I try to call him. It goes to voicemail and fresh tears spring into the corners of my eyes as I press the call button again. Voicemail. And again. Voicemail fucking again. I let out a scream before switching back to my contact list and calling the only other person I can think of right now- Lydia.
Within minutes- again, Lydia and Isaac are rolling up to my rescue. Before the car even comes to a stop, Lydia is rushing towards me. She swoops me up into her arms and crumples down next to me as she rocks me comfortingly. Isaac joins us, picking us both off of the ground and walking us over to a bench a few feet away.
We sit in silence for a few minutes, the air filled with nothing but the sounds of wildlife and my sniffles.
"What happened?" Isaac asks cautiously.
"I just found her there, on the ground." I shrug my shoulders. "I don't even really know what happened." I sigh.
"I'm sure she's okay." Lydia adds hopefully, trying to give me a smile but it doesn't reach her eyes.
I nod and as I do the sliding doors open and a nurse comes out. "Ms. Ramsay?" She calls to me.
I nod my head in response before standing up. The young woman ushers me inside and down the hall without saying anything. Isaac and Lydia trail behind me as the woman drops us off into a room with only one bed- occupying that bed is my mother, hooked up to an iv and oxygen.
She stops Lydia and Isaac in their tracks by placing a hand to Isaac's chest. He puffs up his chest in response.
"Are you guys family?" She asks with an impatient tone.
"Yes." Isaac replies tersely as he pushes forward just slightly.
The nurse studies them for a moment before letting out a sigh and I swear I catch the tail end of an eye roll but she walks away too quick. The two off them follow me into the room as I walk over to my mom's hospital bed and pull up a chair.. I grab her hand as Lydia and Isaac put a comforting hand on each of my shoulders.
My mom groans and opens her eyes slowly. "Where the hell am I?" She asks and her voice is so gravelly it hurts even me.
"The hospital." I manage to squeak out.
Her eyes soften just slightly when she hears my voice, looking over at me as if she's finally noticing that it's me who's sitting next to her. I give her small hand a squeeze and try to push out a comforting smile but it crumples before it even has a chance.
"What the hell happened mom?" I cry out softly, fresh tears falling down my cheeks.
My mom's face falls and she looks like she's lost as she tries recalling the events of the evening. "I can't really remember." She finally mutters.
I sigh and bow my head down, leaning it on our joined hands.
"I missed you so much Charlie." My mom croaks out after a moments silence and it just causes a whole new wave of emotions to crash over me and a new set of wracking sobs.