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Mixed Up

Thea:

We weren’t able to find him all night.

I was still outside looking for him as morning dawned before Benny urged me inside for the night. Of course I didn’t want to, I was terrified that Alex had disappeared and I would never see him again.

Tears had stung at my eyes as I had run through the streets at night. Benny wanted me to stay put with my injuries, assuring me he would go out to help look, but I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing while he was still out there.

When Benny had finally convinced me to go inside for the night, I spent all night worrying. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night.

I was already up and out of bed early in the morning ready to go and continue looking for him. I was in the middle of tying my shoes when Benny opened his eyes from his position on my carpet to groggily to look at me, confused as to why I was awake at this time.

“Thea” he looked over at the clock on my desk “it’s five in the morning, what are you doing?”

I bit my lip anxiously “I want to go back out to find Alex”

He sighs and shifts so he is sitting up. He looks at me for a little while and nothing is said between us until he nods his head softly “alright, okay, but will you eat something first? Don’t think I didn’t notice you hardly slept last night and I won't have you passing out from exhaustion”

He looks at me sternly and I nod, agreeing to his terms. He smiles, satisfied with my answer, and starts getting up.

“I’m sorry you had to stay here on the floor. That couldn’t have been nice. You were welcome to use the couch you know?” I look at him, unhappy he slept on the floor while I was in my bed.

He shakes his head and rubs his eyes “you were pretty distraught last night, I didn’t want to leave you. I don’t mind sleeping here” he smiles lazily at me “it was worth it, I got to sleep next to a pretty girl”

Choosing to ignore his comment for my sake if anything, I get up from the chair I was in and walk into the closet to take a coat and begin to put it on.

Benny chuckles quietly and begins to get up, taking his blanket and pillow which he must have found downstairs into his arms. “Clearly, nothing will deter you from this rescue mission so it looks like I’m just going to have to keep up”

I'm happy he’s going to help me. I know he’s worried just like me, and I don’t know if I’m being frantic or something but I can’t stand here and assume he’s going to come home. He could be miles away and that terrifies me.

I don’t know what it is about him specifically that ignites emotions in me that make me feel again, but I can’t lose that. I can’t lose him.

Despite my eagerness to get going, I wait by the door for Benny as he finishes the last few things he needs to do to get ready. I watch him, anxious to get going, as he folds up the blanket placing it gently on the bed. “Are you ready?” I ask

He kneels down to tie his shoes and looks back at me chuckling a bit “almost”

He shakes his head from his position on the ground. “You’re really eager to get going huh?”

I shoot him a disbelieving look “are you not?”

He lets out a breath as he stands and walks over to me. He puts his hands on either side of my face. “He won’t leave” he shakes his head “he has everything here. Whether he realizes it now or later, he won’t leave. He has his brother, his friends, you

I can feel a shiver run through my body “but what if he doesn’t. What if he does leave. I don’t want him to leave” I don’t know why I’m telling this to him. Maybe it’s because I need to tell someone my worries, maybe because I don’t know how to figure all the recent events out.

Something passes over Bennys face but a tender smile takes over. “That's why I'm going out to look with you” he gives me a pointed look “even when you’re hurt” I’m about to thank him but he holds a finger to my lips, making all the words fall away. “But we’re not running, we’re not yelling, and we’re not going around picking fights”

I give him a flat look at the last condition but he just raises an eyebrow and I nod, looking down.

I need to remind myself he’s looking out for me, he knows Alex more than I do and I have to trust him. I do have a concussion, so in panicked times, I’m going to trust him to help when I can’t seem to think straight.

“Okay” I nod my head and he releases my face from his gentle grip. He takes my hand in his and leads me downstairs.

“I want you to eat something. Can you do that please? Something quick” he says

He releases my hand and I poke through the cabinets until I find what I’m looking for. I take the box of granola bars and pull out two, making a mental note to buy more. I hold it up to him and he nods, satisfied with my choice.

I hold the box up and look at him “do you want one?”

He shrugs “if you don’t mind. I’m sure it would be hypocritical for me to not eat after I told you to”

I take one out of the box and hand it to him. He smiles gratefully and we walk out the door into the cold. We’re both wearing sweatshirts but a shiver still moves down my spine. Benny looks at me worriedly. “Do you want to go get another sweater?”

I shake my head, adamant about getting on with our task. “I’m alright” I look up at him. “You’ve known Alex longer so you must know a place we can start, right?”

He looks up at the newly risen sun in concentration. “I think it would be best to start near any place he would be able to leave. Probably bus stations or train stations. He could get an uber from anywhere so keep an eye on the cars”

“Okay, maybe we can look at the different bus stops on the way to the train station?” I ask not particularly wanting to take the lead since he’s closer to Alex and may have different ideas. I don’t want him to feel like I’m taking over his friendship with him.

He smiles at me “that sounds good. I think just past Washington street is a bus stop we could start at. It’s not too far from here and we could walk up Holden street towards the train”

I nod in agreement and we both make our way down the street towards the bus station. It was relatively quiet between us and around on the streets. I think we were both lost in our own thoughts.

With Alex missing and the recent events that have happened, it feels like my whole head is underwater. I subconsciously lightly run my fingers over the bandages on my arm. It still feels like I’m feeling it for the first time. Every time I remember what happened, it comes back in vivid detail. The panic, the fear, the determination. I can feel the burn from the cuts and the pain in my head from it getting knocked back. The desperation I felt when Alex got hit by his own father.

I shiver from the thought. I could never imagine what it would be like to fear a family member. To go home to a place I didn’t feel safe. My house is empty and sometimes I dread going back to that dead house, but I could never imagine being in Alex’s situation.

Tears burn in my eyes as I imagine him living like that. And his brother, I clasp my hands together as I think of Alex’s brother. I didn’t know he had one, but when he was mentioned, I don’t know how he did it. I wish this had never happened. I wish Alex was safe, I wish he was happy. God, I wish he could just be happy. I don’t want this darkness and anger to be clouded around him. I wish he had never gone through it.

“Hey”

I stop walking as Benny turns and blocks my path from continuing forward. “We’re going to find him”

I can feel the tears I was holding in fall over my cheeks as I take in a deep breath that seems to do nothing. “I just can’t believe it” I shake my head “I can’t believe it” I look up at him who is looking at me with a pained expression “I don’t know how to be as calm as you”

Benny sighs and closes his eyes tilting his head up slightly. “I’m not, Thea”

I hum in question and he looks back at me “I’m not calm. I’m shocked and ashamed. I should have known, Thea, and I didn't. I didn't even think that something like that could have been happening. I was so lost in my own life that I didn’t stop to think of something that was pretty much happening in front of my own eyes,” he rests his forehead on the top of my head. “I'm drowning in guilt and I suppose keeping calm and quiet is helping you, and in turn, making me feel like I’m doing something right when I’ve done so much wrong”

My eyebrows scrunch together slightly. “That’s not fair,” I look down and murmur “that’s not fair to yourself”

With his head still resting in my head, I can feel his head move as he swallows. “You can’t blame yourself when it’s not your fault it happened. It wasn’t your job to know what was happening so don’t pretend it was all on your shoulders” I pull back a moment and point a finger at his chest “you didn’t hit him” my voice is unsteady “and while you didn’t know, no one else did either. You have done so much to be a wonderful friend to him, but you’re not superman, Benny. You can’t do everything”

I lean back into his arms and he wraps them around me tighter. He begins to shake with silent tears and I hold him tighter. Tears of my own fall and for a while, we just cry.


“I can’t believe this” Benny looks around at the street which is littered with plastic cups, food, garbage, and has a faint smell of alcohol.

“Must have been a party” I mumble while stepping around a puddle of what seems to be some kind of drink.

Benny laughs “you’ve got that right”

We continue to walk down the street towards the train station. Alex wasn’t at any bus stop, just families and birds which would fly away from our approaching figures. Each step we take freaks me out just a little bit and I almost don’t want to go to the station. Because if he’s not there, well that’s either good or really really bad.

There were still people walking around, presumably from the party as they laughed and stumbled down the street with their friends. Our journey together had been more on the quiet side. After our time crying, we had walked with just the sounds of our steady breaths and the sounds around us. I could occasionally see Benny look at me briefly before turning his head back to the road in front of us.

The next time he did it I looked back at him. When our eyes met, his widened, probably not expecting to get caught. “What?” I asked him

He fumbles on his words momentarily as he puts together an explanation “I- uh, just wanted to make sure, make sure you were okay” he shrugs “reassurance I guess”

I giggle softly and he looks lost as he looks at me. I intertwine our fingers, holding his hand. “I’m right here”

It’s a moment before he lifts our hands to his lips and kisses the back of my hand. “And I thank you for that”

I bite my lip and smile, turning to look back in front of us. I hear him sigh and mumble a bit to himself. I turn to look back at him and am startled when his eyes lock intensely onto mine. “Can I ask you something?”

“of course” I nod “anything”

I can see the hesitation on his face and I do my best to give him an encouraging smile even though I’m feeling a bit hesitant myself. I’m not sure where this is going but Benny’s seriousness has me confused. So much has been happening that I can’t imagine what would make him look like he’s trying to look into my soul. And with everything going on, I’m not sure if I’m ready for another revelation.

I hold my breath as he opens his mouth to speak, trying to seal away the worry. “Would you go on a date with me?”

The breath I was holding suddenly gets stuck in my throat and I look at him with wide eyes, not sure what to do. This came out of nowhere. I didn’t know he liked me like that. Do I like him like that as well? A date with Benny?

“It doesn’t have to be soon, you can pick where and when. Nothing serious, you don’t even have to if you don’t want to. I just wanted to ask” he laughs dully “didn’t want to miss out on something because I didn’t have the courage to ask” his eyes shift from the ground where he was kicking his toe into the ground, up to mine which are still wide and confused.

He shrugs “or not. It’s alright. I just wanted to ask” he sighs “look, we’re close to the train station so we can just find Alex and move on”

I blink hard and air finally seems to come back to me. He takes a step forward but I don't move from my spot, holding his hand so he stumbles backward a bit back towards me “yes” I say as I make eye contact with him. I clear my throat “yeah, yes” I nod “I would love to go on a date with you”

He pauses as he looks at me, seemingly frozen. His mouth pops open in surprise before curving into a bright smile. His hands curl and uncurl and he bounces lightly on his toes “really?”

Benny is nice. He’s funny, sweet, caring, and thoughtful. A date won’t hurt, I’m sure it will be nice. I like Benny. He’s fun to be around and I enjoy being with him. “Yeah. I would like that” I smile back at him and he squeezes my hand as we begin walking again.

The movement jostles me back to reality and I’m suddenly brought back to why we’re out here in the cold in the first place. Alex.

I swallow harshly. I feel like it was wrong to be accepting dates as my friend is missing. He could be anywhere, doing anything, and here I am with Benny. Preparing for dates.

A strangled breath escapes me and I lower my eyes. The guilt is momentarily interrupted when we hear a crash come from the side of one of the houses. I would normally turn around and try to get far away from strange noises in places I can't see, however, when shuffled footsteps start coming towards the street where we are, I pause, curiosity and desperation taking over.

Benny shifts himself so he’s partially covering my body with his own. I look over his tense shoulder and watch as someone comes from the shadow of the house into the street.

He mumbles to himself and runs a hand through his hair. A silent breath of relief and disbelief passes through my lips as I watch him walk through the lawn. He lifts his head and jerks back when he notices us watching him.

He blinks a few times before giving us a careless wave and a goofy smile. “Hey”

“Alex?” Benny asks with about the same amount of relief in his voice.

He looks down at his clothes and back up to us, smiling again. “That’s me” I don’t know if I’ve seen him this..carefree before. I take a step towards him.

“Are you alright?” Benny asks

Alex nods in several directions before landing back on us “I may be slightly intoxicated”

A soft cry passes my lips and I run up to him wrapping my arms around him. He stumbles a little but wraps his arms around me, steadying himself. He plants his head in my hair. He mumbles “don’t cry”

“I’m not crying,” I say into his shoulder “I’m just so glad we found you”

“You’re crying. And I don’t want you to. It makes me sad” his lips move slightly on top of my head and it makes a light rush of shivers move through my body.

I laugh both happily and sadly “alright Alex, I won’t cry”

He shifts his head in my hair, his nose nuzzling closer to me. “you shouldn’t be out this early. You should still be sleeping” he takes a breath “sleeping beauty can’t wake up until I kiss you”

I freeze under his touch and my eyes open as I try to look up at him “kiss me?”

He hums and nods slightly as best as he can with his face still on top of my head “yeah. I need to kiss you”

He pulls back to look into my eyes “do you want me to kiss you?”

I stare back into his eyes, frozen in place.

Do you want me to kiss you?

Do you want me to kiss you?

Do you want me to kiss you?

My lips move in faint movements but no words come out. I don’t know what to say.

His lips curve up and he puts his head back onto the top of mine. Pulling me back closer to his body he laughs lightly. “Ah, don’t listen to me. What do I know? I’m drunk”

Do you want me to kiss you?

I open my eyes and meet Bennys eyes from over Alex’s shoulder. His face is emotionless, yet lost as he looks between us.

I sigh softly and pull away from Alex. “You can come to my house” I murmur to him. He nods and takes my hand as I walk back towards Benny.

“Are you ready?” Benny asks as we walk up.

I nod, but I’m really not sure.

Do you want me to kiss you?

Would you go on a date with me?

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