The Harsh Truth
“I can’t stay here” Alex argues
I throw my hands up in exasperation. “Where else would you go? I already told you, it’s fine!” he is so frustratingly stubborn it makes me feel like I’m going crazy.
He narrows his eyes “I don’t belong here. It’s not my house and I refuse to intrude” he waves a hand around. “I’ll just go back to my old house”
I scoff “and pay the rent with what money?”
He cringes at my words before straightening out “I’ll figure it out”
“Alex! We’ve already figured it out, you’ll stay here” I point at the ground at the end of my statement and feel just about ready to throw a fit.
Alex runs a hand through his hair “won’t your parents mind?”
My heart squeezes momentarily and I let out a breath “it’ll be fine”
“Well can I at least talk to them? You know, let me explain myself?” he chuckles awkwardly “I don’t need them hating me because I couldn’t even ask myself”
My jaw clenches harder, trying to keep my emotions at bay. “it’s fine”
“Thea, can I just please talk to them? I mean, we’ve never even met before. How can they be fine with a stranger living in their house?” he asks
I can feel tears start to fall down my face and my hands shake a bit. “Just leave it, Alex”
“What’s the big deal? I just want to make sure. For everyone’s sake,” he says. His eyes widen when he sees my tears. “Hey, what happened?”
It seems like everything I’ve worked to store away, everything I’ve tried to hide, just falls. I wipe at my tears frustratedly and look away from him “they’re dead, Alex!” a sob falls from my mouth “they’re dead and there’s nothing I can do”
I’ve tried so long to say it’s fine, that it’s okay. I have tried to convince myself I’ve made peace with their deaths, that because I stopped laying on the floor of my house, curled up crying, or because I’ve stopped waking up sick at night, that I was okay. But I’m not. Hell, I can’t even tell someone about it. I’ve been hiding it not only from others but from myself. And now that I’m not, it hurts, it hurts a lot.
I close my eyes and hold a hand over my mouth. I almost forget about Alex until I feel his arms wrap around me “talk to me” he murmurs to me. I shake my head “ I don’t want to-” just as I’m about to say I don’t want to talk about it, he interrupts.
“Yes you do” he whispers and his arms wrap tighter around me. And as much as I don’t want to admit it, he’s right. I need to talk to someone. I refused the therapists people tried to give me, I refused the support and the help I was offered because I didn’t want to talk about it. But I do. After all this time, I need to, I want to.
“My parents,” I take a breath “leukemia is common in my family. And- well they drew the short straw” my breathing shutters as I talk more about it. But I need it out, no matter how hard it is to get through it.
“And it was last year when they died.” I move my head into Alex’s shirt and take a breath of his scent. He smells like pine.
“It was really bad, they both looked so.. sick. And I, I didn’t want to see them like that. They were both so strong and beautiful, inside and out. And I couldn’t see them like that, so vulnerable and weak, everything they’re not, so I would leave frequently. Because it hurt too much.”
I swallow harshly and Alex’s arms tighten around me, creating a feeling of security and comfort. I feel safe.
“They were so strong. And I couldn’t even sit more than ten minutes in their rooms before I left. Maybe if I was stronger I could have stayed and said my last goodbyes. But instead,”
My shoulders shake with silent tears, my words barely audible now. “I left the room and they died”
“God Alex, no one got to say goodbye to anyone. Mom and dad were in separate rooms, they couldn’t say anything. But me, I had a choice, and I was too weak to do what I wish I could do now a million times over”
I said what I could, but through the tears and hiccups, I don’t think I could get through the next part. The part where I drowned.
Alex doesn’t immediately follow up with ‘im sorry’ like every other person who’s heard my story. I couldn’t be more relieved that he didn’t. I am so sick of people saying ‘I’m sorry’ to me, pity laced around the words. They’re not sorry, they are displaying common courtesy so they can leave and move on. But Alex, he doesn’t do that. He listened without interruption and he continues to hold me while I cry. He provides comfort through actions, he shows every bit of care and support he has as he holds me. And that’s more comfort than a million ‘im sorrys’ will ever give me.
Alex took me back to Charlies to get brownies.
And I will say, they are wonderful.
“Am I correct in saying these brownies are absolutely amazing?” Alex asks
I nod vigorously. “Yes! These are the best” I take another bite and my shoulders relax in contentment.
I know this is not only for me. He needs this as well. Things seem almost normal, of course we’re getting terrified looks from other customers due to the condition of Alex’s face and the look on mine after my crying session, but we’re able to focus on now. It’s proving a bit difficult, but I do what I can to not focus on what happened.
My attention is drawn away from my thoughts when a chime begins to go off. Alex pulls out his phone and he looks down at it with furrowed eyebrows. “One second” he holds up a finger and slides out of the booth and walks away.
I watch him go outside and stand on the sidewalk with the phone to his ear.
“Oh! Thea!” a voice calls out.
I smile at Maggie who approaches me. “Oh how I’ve missed you, how have you been-”
Her eyes widen when she’s close enough to see the aftermath of my crying shown in my appearance. “Well clearly not very well,” she moves into the side of the booth where Alex was and she places her head on her hands. “What’s going on? Who do I need to destroy?”
I smile slightly and shake my head at her “I’m alright now Maggie, I’ve just been having a rough few days”
She nods like she knew it all along. Her eyes glance out the window and she smirks slightly “I see Mr. Lexagon came with you, how’s that been going?”
“There is no that, Maggie” I sigh “either way, I’m going on a date with a friend”
Maggies waves it off “and that’s all he’ll ever be.”
I roll my eyes “you don’t even know him”
“Well then tell me about him” she says with interest I know is fake.
“Well, his name is Benny, and he’s really sweet and funny-”
Maggie cuts in with a dramatic yawn “boring” she draws out. “It won’t work out”
I give her a blank stare “must you be so negative against him?”
“He is nothing compared to my Legaxon. And let me say, no one is more smitten with you than him”
I snort and giggle, covering my mouth. “Mhm”
“Just you wait, he’ll man up eventually and when he does you’ll know I’m serious” Maggie says seriously
“But it may take some waiting” she sighs “that boy will Ignore his emotions like they’re on fire”
I look at Alex’s approaching figure and he looks at Maggie “already pestering the poor girl are you Maggie?”
Maggie gasps “I am hurt Lexagon”
Alex scowls but Maggie ignores him
“I would never” Maggie stands and winks at me “well, I suppose I’ll be on my way”
Alex sits and I catch Maggie’s eyes as she points at Alex and mouths “smitten”
I giggle but turn my attention to Alex “how was your phone call?”
He groans “it was the police station” my eyes widen and I sit up straighter
“What did they say?” I ask
“They need me to come into the station to answer some questions. Basically, get my story on what happened” he sighs.
His eyebrows are drawn together and he places his head in his hands. I gently put my hand on his back, making him look up at me with teary eyes. “Would you like me to come with you? I wouldn’t mind at all. I wouldn’t want you to go through this alone.”
He hesitates and I can tell he doesn’t want to inconvenience me or be a bother. I’ve been there. I press a little harder on his shoulder, enough to show how serious I am. “It’s no bother, I want to do what you want me to do. Anything that would make this process easier. I promise”
He blows out a breath and nods slowly and it feels like a giant weight was just lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t want to leave him.
The officer took him into one of the back rooms and wouldn’t let me follow. Im sitting on one of the benches with my head resting on my upturned palms. I bounce my legs in nervousness and anxiety, I feel like I’m more restless and anxious than Alex. He went in there seemingly without a care in the world, although I know that isn’t true.
I wish he would open up more, he’s always so closed off about his emotions. I mean, he’s hardly talked about what caused the bruises on his face. His father.
The thought of him causes me to clench my fists and dig my nails into my palm until they bite. At one point the strain of it makes my arms begin to burn and I let go with gritted teeth. I pull down my sleeves to cover the bandages on my arms. Ever since it happened I’ve kept them covered. It’s not just about the looks I got, no, it’s not insecurity, it’s the memory.
The memory of how I got them. It feels like every time I look at them or my fingers brush against my arm, it’s like I’m there again. His father screaming at him, the threats against his brother, each hit he had to endure, the fear I felt, the absolute terror.
I swallow harshly and I wipe at my eyes which are now tearful.
Why does this happen? Why do bad things have to happen to good people?
I look at the door alarmed and curious when yelling comes from inside. I can’t tell what’s being said, but I distinctly recognize Alex’s voice.
It continues and my eyes have yet to stray from the door. Did something happen? My mind jumps from one conclusion to another but before I can get to a place close to panic, the door which I’m sitting outside of opens and I’m immediately attentive to Alex and the officers who walk out with him.
Alex is seething and I blink in surprise when I notice he has what I’m sure are tears in his eyes. I rush to his side and look between him and the officers. “What happened?” I ask. I’m asking both of them, not sure if Alex has the ability to answer in his anger, or if the police can disclose this sort of information with me.
The male officer to the left of me clears his throat and I turn my attention to him. “Are you his girlfriend?” he asks
“Yes” I answer without hesitation, knowing it isn’t true, but I need to know what’s happening.
Even though his anger, Alex looks at me with a quick turn of his head, his eyes now blazing with less anger and more of something else.
I don’t acknowledge him, embarrassed at how easy it was to say it was true and embarrassed that I basically just lied to a police officer for no one’s benefit but my own. Maybe I shouldn’t be prying for information, I shouldn’t have said that. It’s not my business.
I want to take it back, run away, say never mind and leave, but my thoughts are startled when the warmth of Alex’s arm wraps itself around my waist. “She is” he confirms my false answer
I breathe in a shuttered breath and smile at the officer who’s looking between us.
“Alright” he taps his pen against his pad of paper he’s carrying. “we are bringing your father into custody and will be held before his trial. It is likely he will be eligible for the diversion program, which will mean he will need to go to counseling and stay out of trouble while on probation. Which,” he looks at Alex who glares at the officer “means he will most likely be released” he taps on his notepad a few more times “however, we can get a personal protection order due to him being your father if you choose to pursue this option”
“That's idiotic” I whisper under my breath. They all seem to hear it as they all look at me. With newfound confidence, I say louder “that’s ridiculous. That’s like a slap on the wrist while Alex was getting beat to a freaking pulp!” my voice falters slightly as I say this. We haven’t talked much about what happened and saying it out loud makes the confidence I felt diminish quickly.
The female officer on my right clears her throat “I’m sorry miss-” she pauses, looking at me to fill in the blank
“Gray. Thea Gray” I mutter
She nods professionally and it pisses me off. “This isn’t a freaking game! This is Alex, he got hurt, my Alex got hurt and you seem to have not a care in the world!” I feel Alex squeeze me a little harder and I shut my mouth. “Sorry” I mutter reluctantly, not wanting to make a scene.
She nods once again and I feel the anger coming back. “Well, miss Gray, as a witness I’m going to have to question you about the incident”
She begins walking away without asking me to follow, I scowl at her back and I feel a little like Alex. I begrudgingly follow after her into a smaller room.
We sit in dark blue plastic chairs facing each other. She has her own notepad which she holds in her lap, her blue pen hovering just above the paper and she looks at me.
“Please do your best to explain the event that happened. What you saw, what you heard, what you know, and your part in it”
I take a deep breath, not exactly ready for this but I do my best.
I have yet to talk about it and work through it so I let it all out. I don’t care that she’s not here for my feelings or thoughts but I say them anyway. I tell her how terrified I was and what I did to try and help Alex. The hits he took, the way my head slammed on the ground, the glass on my arms, the words.
I watch Alex’s head snap back with the force of the man’s fist, blood rushes out and he flies across the room as the man hits him once again in the stomach.
Tears fall down my face as I live the event again.
“You little bitch!” he screams at me. I’m ready for him to come at me, hit me, do something, but his attention is diverted and the panic hits me hard.
I clear my throat and do my best to clear my panic and overwhelming emotions from my mind. The officer offers me some tissues which sat on the desk next to us. I take them and try to keep some dignity. “Thanks” I sniff
She nods and I don’t have it in me to be angry.
“Thank you for that, I know it must have been difficult” I brush off her sympathy and remain quiet. “I hear that you had to go to the hospital, am I correct?”
I gently brush my hands over the bandages on my arms and I nod. “Yeah”
She sighs and writes one last thing on her notepad and sets it on the desk. “I would like to document these injuries for the case if that’s alright”
“Yeah, sure” I answer.
She stands and offers her hand which I take and we shake lightly in dismissal. “Thank you for coming in miss Gray, and I’m sorry”
I turn to leave but she continues talking and I look back at her. “I do need to discuss with you the situation regarding Mr. Rivera’s younger brother, Justin”
I tense and look at her wide-eyed. “Okay” I say cautiously
“With his father's situation and his mother out of the picture, it’s a slightly complicated situation. Although Mr. Rivera wanting to claim guardianship of his brother, He will need a home, and with his current residence under police investigation, and the lack of income he has, I am afraid his brother will be going to stay with his grandparents up in Boston Massachusetts.”
Panic begins to surge through me and I look at the officer wide-eyed. “No, no way, that can’t happen. What does Alex think about this?” there is no way Alex would have agreed to this.
“While he disagreed, greatly, the circumstances do not give him much of a chance of a petition to be his legal guardian to succeed. He has no housing, he has school, he is young, and has responsibilities which just won’t work out adding his brother in the picture”
I shake my head “that’s ridiculous. He’s been taking care of Justin this whole time, I’m sure his father was no help, leaving Alex to take care of Justin, which he has, with an abusive father in the mix”
“Im sorry, there are just too many problems-”
I don’t know Justin, I don’t even know what he looks like, but I don’t want them to lose each other. That.. that’s, they’ve been through enough.
But what can I do?
I turn away from her and I walk out of the door.
I walk through the station looking for him. When I spot him standing by the door I walk up to him. Neither of us in a talking mood, we walk back to my house in silence.
So much is happening and I can’t keep up. My life has turned into a whirlwind of events within weeks. And I’m trying to stay strong, I don’t want to be weak, I can’t.
I bounce my foot anxiously on the porch of my house. The phone rings several times, making my anxiety jump up each time it does.
I look up at the dark sky, the stars slightly covered by wisps of clouds. I shiver from the cold and I silently beg to be strong through this.
The next ring gets cut off halfway and a voice speaks “hello?”
I take a breath, the cold air burning in my lungs. “Hi, this is Thea Gray,”
Exhale. “Is this Merriam Rivera?”
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