Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 19

Elena


Faint sounds of birds chirping cause my lids to peel open even though the weighted gravity is forcing a rebellion. The bright sun stings my eyes as they try to take in the refuge of my room. Things could have turned out so differently last night. Would they have left me there or dumped me someplace?

Despite the night I had, I slept soundly, probably from all the trauma my mind and body experienced. I swear I heard my dad check on me a few times last night - or this morning... Why didn’t he try to wake me? Did Mike tell him what happened? Is Mike still here? Is my dad home? Too many questions to process right now. Rubbing my temples, I roll out of bed, purposely ignoring the buzzing of my phone, and grab a fresh pair of panties and bra from my drawer.

Once in the bathroom, I glance into the mirror and cringe. Dried mascara is smeared down my cheeks, giving me the effect of murky raccoon eyes, my face has imprint lines from my pillow, and my hair is an absolute knotted travesty. I’m the definition of a train wreck. Removing Mike’s shirt and my undergarments, I turn on the shower. Hopefully, the water will wash away the pounding in my head, sore muscles, and the little memories I have of last night.

Still feeling nearly defiled, I turn the knob further to the red zone and begin to scrub my flesh. The memory of brazenly chilled fingertips triggers multiple shivers throughout my body despite the hot water washing over me. Scrubbing even harder in all the places where I remember his hands’ unnerving trails, my skin is getting red and raw. I try to focus on Mike to calm my nerves before I completely disintegrate on the floor of this cold tub.

Mike really took care of me last night, from what I can remember. I don’t remember much, but it’s enough to loosen the grip on my loofah. I recall him being with me most of the night; he witnessed the upchucks – which is just a horrifying memory. I saw his bloody knuckles and the split on his lower lip. He literally fought for me. My heart swells with warmth as it breaks through the arctic chill with a burst of a flame.

Taking a few deep breaths, I pull the shower curtain away and dry off. Dressing myself, I slide into Mike’s shirt once again, which hits me about mid-thigh. I notice a few specks of something on it. The material is dark. I can’t tell what it is; it could be blood. Is it weird that I don’t care? I love the smell of his shirt despite the stains - the aroma surrounds me as if it’s forming a protective bubble.

I don’t bother to blow dry my hair; it’s Sunday. I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not expecting anyone to visit.

I take a pit-stop in my room and put on a pair of baggy old sweatpants then pad my way to the kitchen; there’s a note on the counter.

I’ll be back around 4. We need to talk. Love Dad

Guess Mike told him. I let out a sigh, not looking forward to that talk. I reach up in the cupboard for a glass then set it on the counter. I open the fridge, spot the orange juice, and pour some in the glass. After taking a sip, I can’t help but smile and lift the low collar of Mike’s shirt against my nose to sniff it again.

As I turn around for the kitchen table, I nearly drop my glass. Mike is resting his palms on the table in front of me. The red cut on his bottom lip doesn’t stop him from having a big smirk on his face revealing that dimple. He caught me smelling his shirt.

Oh no. What is he still doing here? Play cool, Elena.

Green eyes trap my tongue. He caught me red-handed; he knows.

Those dimples of his appear unapologetically. “Good morning. You know, if I were a snake - I would have bitten ya,” he chimes.

“Y-yeah, I...I’m still waking up.” I did not expect to see him here; it’s nearly one in the afternoon. “What are you doing here?” I ask.

Mike’s taken back. “You asked me to stay,” he reminds me.

“Oh... right.” I do recall that part. My cheeks are getting warm.

The smirk disappears. “How are you feeling?” he sounds worried.

Resting the glass on the counter, I break eye contact to look down. Suddenly, I become fascinated by the color of the orange juice - it really is very orange... “I’ll be okay. Thanks to you.” My voice is small, but I know he heard me.

“I had to tell your dad. If I were a father, I’d want to know right away; to know what I’d be coming home to. He would have wanted to know why I slept here on the couch...I felt like I had to tell him sooner than later.” He takes a breath. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I dismiss, still staring at the orangiest orange juice there is. I know he’s right; I just wish none of it happened at all. Orangiest, that’s not even a word, is it? Why are my hands trembling?

“Come here.” I look up to see that he’s motioning for me to go to him with a wave of his hand. Somehow my feet move before my brain catches up like there is an invisible string pulling me towards his frame.

Stopping before him, his arms open wide. “May I?” he asks, stepping closer to me. I must have let him know he can because he has me in a strong embrace. My cheek presses against the heat of his bare solid chest, he buries his face in the nook of my neck; I can feel his hot breath on my skin – sending sparks of wanting down my body.

The short stubble of his beard is gently assaulting the flesh on my skin. His strong arms are wrapped around me tightly as I try to squeeze him right back to the best of my ability. If this is a dream, I’m clinging onto it with all the strength I can muster. There’s a need to breathe him in; it’s delightful. I feel so safe and warm in his arms. I don’t want this to end.

After holding me for a minute, he mumbles into my neck, “I’m so glad you are okay.” My heart leaps for him. He cares about me.

Removing himself, he gazes into my eyes. “Can you tell me what you remember? Is that okay?” he asks. Nodding my head, he motions for me to follow him to the couch. He sits next to me with his body turned, giving me his full attention. I use what’s left in me to pick up the shovel of regret and begin to dig out the memories of last night.

“I don’t know where to start,” I confess, picking at my middle fingernail.

“Just start at the beginning,” he encourages with empathy.

I decide against informing him of the car ride over to the house because that would mean telling him how I feel about him. I’m not so sure I want him to know about that yet. He most likely knows by now, especially after catching me smelling his shirt. If there is the slightest chance that he doesn’t, I don’t want to tell him right now. It’s not the right time...

So, I decide to start at the drinking: I go into detail about how I told myself I would have just one drink, but then one drink turned into two, then three, then I lost count. He nods his head as though he understands. I tell him that someone from the group who has blue eyes gave me drinks, but I can’t remember who.

“Did he have an eyebrow ring?” Mike asks.

“He might have, but I’m not a hundred percent sure. It’s all so blurry,” I say. Confusion overriding my recollections, he continues to watch me with earnest. I bring up the dancing that I vaguely remember. His fists ball up at his sides, causing the scabs on his knuckles to crack.

I tell him that I remember the same blue-eyed boy telling Declan that someone wanted to talk to him, then after Declan left, I was given another drink. I tell Mike that it tasted better than the others, but then things were happening...there was no control over my body, and before I knew it, I was on a bed.

My hands are starting to shake; Mike covers them with his own, telling me that I don’t have to continue if I don’t want to. But I do. I tell him that I remember lying there feeling completely helpless, hopeless, trapped in my own body – not being able to do anything about it. There was something about being a ‘Cochran’ - then Mike stops me.

“What?” he interrupts.

“That’s what he said. I remember asking him, 'why,’ and he said it was because I am a ‘Cochran’...” Looking over at Mike’s face, I can tell his brain is in overdrive.

“Mike, what does that mean?” I need answers. Does he know something I don’t?

He looks at me and squeezes my hands. “I’ll find out,” Mike promises. I believe him.

“Do you know whose house that was?” he asks.

When we walked into the party, I vaguely remember Declan telling me that it was in his family for generations... “Declan’s...” I say slowly, hoping that he doesn’t have any ties with what happened to me last night.

Mike stands up immediately and starts pacing the family room, his face is twisting with rage as he bellows, “That was his fucking house!” It catches me off guard; I flinch at his sudden outburst. I already have a pounding in my head, and his shouting is not helping.

“I can’t believe it was his fucking house, that asshole!” he continues.

None of what happened last night was Declan’s fault, not really. He didn’t know, did he? Mike is starting to scare me. His veins are popping out in his arms, neck, and face; his hands are in fists at his sides so tight that they’re turning white – a real contrast to the dark red scabs. He’s pacing and mumbling to himself like a madman, something about a "tall ass-wipe and that dick" – which I believe is Declan – "must know each other to have been invited to the party." He starts mumbling about something that has to do with "money," then something about "his son."

Whose son? I can’t keep up; my mind is swirling. My head is throbbing against my temples again – I need him to stop.

“Mike!” I squeak. “You’re scaring me.” It comes out more like a sob. I can’t stop the tears from peeking out. It works though; he looks at me once, then in a blink is kneeling in front of me, holding my hands in his.

“I’m sorry, Kitten. I didn’t mean to scare you; I never want to scare you. I’m just...” We are interrupted by a key in the door. We both watch as the knob turns, and my dad steps in.


Dad thanks Mike for staying with me as he ushers him out the door. They talk outside in whispers. I try to eavesdrop but have no luck.

Out the window, I watch as Mike walks across the yard to his bike. He mounts it, turns it on, and drives off. Where is he going?

The door handle turns, and my dad walks in to embrace me in a tight bear hug. “Mike told me what happened.” He releases me from the squeeze then holds me at arm’s length while gripping my arms. “Why did you do that? Why were you drinking? Why didn’t you tell me you were going to a party? Why did you put yourself into trouble? That was stupid, Elena.” He brings me back in for another bear hug. “If anything had happened to you...” he trails off.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” I sob into his chest, holding him tight.

“No, I’m sorry, kiddo.” He removes himself to look at me; his deep brown eyes are glossy. “None of this was your fault... I just...when I got that phone call last night – I was scared shitless. I was on my way over, but Mike thought it would be best just to let you rest.” He brushes my hair with his hand. “I knew he was right. I came to check on you a few times, but you were out cold.” He pulls me in for another embrace. “I’m so relieved to know you are okay.”

Leading me over to the familiar couch, he asks, “What happened? Were you...” he swallows, “violated?”

Since there’s hardly anything left of my middle fingernail, I start picking at my thumb nail.

Violated – yes – I remember that, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. I had it easy last night compared to others out there who may not have been so lucky. I look at my dad, who is so concerned with what I’m about to say.

“I was... sort of. Mike stopped it before it got too far.” My voice is still shaking - I’m not sure why. Dad brings me in for another hug.

He holds me tight. “Do you remember any names?”

The blue-eyed boy – I know his name. I did know his name, didn’t I? I met three boys last night...

I sob into his chest. “No. I met them. I did, and I knew their names at one point, but I honestly can’t remember them right now.”

Dad sighs and rubs my back. “As soon as you remember, you tell me – okay?” I nod my head into his chest in agreement.

It’s exhausting reliving everything, all the detail that I can remember anyway. After being placed on the bed, things start to go from a little hazy to a near blackout. I want to talk about something else.

“Hey, Dad?” I ask.

Dad pulls away from the embrace to look at me; he pushes my hair out of my face. “Yeah?”

“Mike saved me last night,” I tell him as he nods. “I would like to do something nice for him...as a thank you...will you help me?”

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