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I’m not sure where I’m going to go. I’m going away that’s for sure. Everyone just found out my secret, how fucked up my life is.

I’ve been walking for a while now, I’m not sure how long, only that it’s dark out. The problem is, all I can do is rethink the whole situation. All I can do is see Thea, wide eyes full of terror and desperation. I can still hear her screams echoing in my mind, my own haunting melody. How she stood in front of my father, arms dripping blood, ready to take his rage.

I remember how useless I was when her head flew back onto the floor with the force of his hit.

I never wanted her to find out. This wasn't supposed to happen, she got hurt because of me and my idiotic mistakes.

Maybe if I could have just kept it cool when Jake came around I would have never gotten in trouble. Maybe then the school wouldn’t have called my father and all this would have been avoided.

It was hard with Jake. I can stand whatever comes at me but come after the people I care about, and it’s not so easy to just take it. Jake reminded me of my father in a way. They’re both aggressive, they believe they’re above everyone else, and they usually get away with all the shit they do.

So when Jake insulted my friends, I felt the need to protect them. I don’t want the people I care about to get hurt, so I’ll take it. I’ll take the insults and the hits. I don’t care as long as they’re safe.

It’s the same thing I do with Justin. My little brother. He’s only ten, he shouldn’t have to live in a house with our monster of a father. I don’t want him living in fear, I want him to have a childhood like all the others. I want him to be happy and carefree. I want him to have things better than the shit I can provide for him.

I do what I can to help him with school and with advice. I try to talk with him and make him smile. But at the end of the day, it always ends with the slam of a door and him hiding in his room.

My steps slow down a bit as I think of Justin. A conflict plays in my mind about what would be best. I’ve always had to make the decisions for us. I have to split the money I get as best as I can. I have to figure out if he would rather get gifts on Christmas or his birthday. I certainly can’t afford both with all the shit I need to replace after our father destroys the house.

Now I have to think of him and what would happen if I left. If I really went to the train station and got on, I would leave him. But would it really be that bad? I’m not the big brother he needs. He needs a family. People who can give him something to smile about. People who can give him birthdays and Christmases. People who aren’t associated with our father.

He needs something new. Someone new. Not a screw-up of a brother.

My nose burns from the cold air and I’m certain something damaging happened to it. I definitely have bruises and each one hurts with each step. I curse under my breath. The guy knows how to pack a punch.

I’ll miss Justin. I’ll miss my friends. I’ll miss Thea. But they’re all better off without me. Especially now that they know. They know how screwed up my life is. They don’t want to deal with my issues. They wouldn’t know how to handle me. Hell, they didn't know how to handle me before they knew.

I’m not a good brother, and I’m not a good friend. They don’t need me. I’ll get on that train and soon I’ll become nothing but a passing memory.

I make my way onto the platform of the train station above the train tracks. I walk along the side of them, trying to figure out everything.

I thought it would be simple. I would leave, my friends would move on, my brother would find a better family, and I would simply figure it out.

I look at all the art on the wall next to the road. A lot of it is quite well done in my opinion. There’s a wolf that is painted mid-run, giving off a confident and regal composition. I pass by it and the next painting is of a girl mid-twirl who seems to be throwing bubbles up into the air. The bubbles are painted in such a way that they seem to shine and sparkle.

I pause and turn to look fully at a dark picture of the moon reflecting onto the water. The water is a deep blue and the moon is painted so it illuminates the whole scene. Fog and mist surround the moon and top of the water. There are translucent butterflies flying around the scene and I am enthralled by it.

Sure I draw, but I could never compare to the art in front of me. Something about it tugs at my mind like I’ve seen it before. The feeling is soon gone and I leave it.

I walk a bit farther down the platform looking at each piece of art done on the wall. This place is something that I’ve never seen. It’s not trashy graffiti that covers so many other walls around town. This whole thing, it’s like a community. I doubt everyone who contributes to the art knows each other which only makes it all more mesmerizing. It’s a silent form of unity, one that brings people together, even if they have yet to lay eyes on any of the others.

It all makes me feel a little better about everything.

I hold myself against the wall with my arms, leaning against it and breathing out a long breath. Everything just got so complicated. It was all supposed to be simple. I was only stuck at my father's house because of money issues. I had to support Justin while keeping our house and everything in it intact. I couldn’t just up and leave while Justin needed me. I couldn’t afford to leave and nothing would ever make me leave Justin to face my father alone.

And now he’s away from him. That should satisfy me, and yet it doesn’t. My friends would be free from me and my burdens if I left, but that doesn’t feel good either.

Is it selfish for me to want to stay?

It’s all just so confusing and I can’t seem to keep up with my emotions and thoughts.

Loud cheering brings me out of my thoughts and I push myself so I’m standing straight. Loud music begins to play and I find myself following the sounds back through the woods and towards the park around the area. It turns out one of the houses just around the corner from the park is throwing some sort of party.

I watch as blue light illuminates from the windows and through the door which remains wide open. The party moves from inside the house to out onto the street towards the fields by the park. I remind myself to stay away from the fields due to it being dark, making it more likely I’ll witness something I don’t want to.

I hesitate just a moment. My original plan was to hightail it out of Colorado. Away from everything I knew and start fresh. Now my mind can’t seem to make itself up.

Another round of cheering comes from the house and I walk up the path to the house. I need a break from everything. And if they have drinks in there, I have a feeling I know how to get it.

I don’t know why everyone was screaming. This party is fucking stupid.

No one looked confused at who I was when I first walked in. I would assume more than just close friends came to this party. Unless someone is popular as fuck or a celebrity, I’m correct in my statement seeing how there are enough people to fill the whole house and then some. The inside of the house was becoming hot and humid which made me feel suffocated. I don’t want to be hot because of someone else’s sweat.

I sit outside in one of the pool chairs. People are talking and making out in the water while others do the same in the backyard. Occasionally people will jump from the roof of the balcony above us into the pool making everyone shriek and laugh. I’ve had some alcohol, but I’m nowhere near drunk enough to do that shit.

I mainly come to parties for the drinks. I don't like to socialize, I absolutely don't dance, and I don't play games which only lead to drama and sex.

I don’t normally get crazy drunk. I did one time and I haven’t since. I didn’t jump off roofs or start fights. According to Benny, who I almost punched for saying it, I’m an affectionate drunk.

I groan out loud quietly to myself. I don’t even want to think about it.

I take another drink from my plastic cup of whatever they put on the table and lean back farther into the chair.

I still don’t know what to do about the whole situation I’m in.

I want to leave

I don’t want to leave

I need to leave and never come back

I want to stay

It’s better for everyone

I want to be selfish and stay

I groan again, angry at my own indecision. My gaze flits to a group of girls coming my way. I really don’t like socializing.

“What are you thinking so hard about over here all by yourself?” I lazily look up at her. Straight brown hair, bangs coming down to about her eyebrows, I couldn’t look too long at her sparkly gold dress as the shimmers were bothering my eyes. “What happened to your face?” she asks, obviously wondering about the bruises.

“Nothing” I mutter hoping she and her friends would leave me alone. I should have just left earlier. I should have known I couldn’t barge into a party without at least one pair of curious eyes.

She sticks out her hand a little too close to me for my liking, giving me a view of her long white painted nails. “I’m Isabella”

I’m not sure which would be more effective, if I took her hand so we could get this over with or if I ignored her until she went away.

She doesn’t seem like the type to give in too easily so I take her hand and give it a quick shake before pulling it away and tucking it into my pocket.

I don’t say anything and she just continues to watch me before a girl who I didn't notice standing with the other two girls behind Isabella speaks up. She has brown hair to her shoulders and wears black glasses which she touches the side of in a seemingly nervous gesture. Unlike the sparkly dress Isabella has on, this girl has on jeans and a yellow shirt. She seems more timid than the rest of the others, she has a hesitant look on her face as he looks from Isabella to me and back. “I don’t think he wants to talk right now Isabella..” she trails off uncertainty

Isabella scowls at her “now is not the time Sammy” she says Sammy in a patronizing way and it makes me narrow my eyes at her. It’s a bit hypocritical of me considering my first impression with Thea, but I will never support what I did. I know it was rude and completely out of line. I said things I shouldn’t have and I admit it. But Isabella seems the farthest thing from regretful.

“I don’t know if you know this, but we go to the same school. I’ve seen you around” she giggles at a joke that she didn’t make and I just continue to wish I had left ten minutes ago.

I pull my phone from my pocket and check the time. “Look, I’ve got to go” I move to get up and she backs up just enough so I don’t bump into her. I move to leave but she puts a hand on my chest.

“Don't go” she pouts “we just got started talking”

I smile at her and remove the hand she had on my chest. “Isabella,” my smile turns less kind and she takes a little step back as I walk forward. “I need to leave” I take another step and she steps back with her little group watching us off to the side. “And if you touch me again,” her smile is hesitant and confused. “I won’t be as kind” She takes another step back and the bottom of her matching gold heels hits past the edge of the pool and she topples backward with a panicked look before falling into the pool with a loud splash.

As I walk away, I wipe at the spot she touched hoping it will get rid of the remaining feel of her touch. There’s shouts and laughter as everyone in Isabella's group except one fusses over her when she re-emerges from the water.

I’m about nine steps away when I hear her shout back at me “it’s about that girl who’s always around you, isn’t it? I stop walking momentarily at what I’m assuming is the mention of Thea.

“She’s pitiful” Isabella laughs mockingly “really, always hanging off you and that group you’re always with like a lost dog

I stride over to where Isabella is struggling to get out of the pool. She watches my approach with wide eyes. She stands up from the pool, soaked head to toe as I stand in front of her.

I bend down to her height “you’re wrong. She is the most wonderful girl I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She lights up anyone’s world with just a look. She has no reason to be around me because she could have anyone at her fingertips but she does and I couldn’t be more grateful. So if anyone is hanging on, it’s me. I would hang on to her forever if she would let me. So get it straight Isabella. She will outshine anyone in a second. I will always choose her”

Isabella looks speechless for a second before I notice her fists clenched by her sides and her jaw clench. I turn and begin walking away. Apparently it was Isabella who gave me my answer. When it comes to leaving or staying, when it comes to my friends, my brother, Thea, I will always choose them. I will always choose Thea.

“She doesn’t even deserve you” she says after a moment

I continue walking but I turn my head just a bit so I can say to her over my shoulder “she deserves everything

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