At The Edge Of Hopelessness

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As The Night Unfolds

An hour before midnight, Reuben grabbed a beer and walked upstairs – desperately trying to find a place where Donna’s drunk friends weren’t. Eleanor was with Alesha somewhere in the beach house, Reuben felt like he needed to give Eleanor more space, so with a beer in his hand he walked into a room that was luckily empty. It reeked of weed, someone must have been smoking in there. There was no bed in the room, just a disorganized couch. The floor was covered with carpet that was wet in the middle, Reuben doesn’t even want to know how did it get wet. He wrinkled his nose at the foul smell in the room and walked to open the small window that faced that back of the beach house. He opened it and inhaled the fresh yet salty and humid air. He opened the beer and gulp down a few mouthfuls from it. Reuben’s head had started to hurt. If it wasn’t for Emmett, he would have never shown up. Everything was too stressful for him – especially when he was trying to avoid Milo the whole time. He blew his cheeks out and look down at his wristwatch, in an hour it will officially be Emmett’s birthday, he will wish him well and then be on his way back home with Eleanor – he doesn’t feel like spending more time here. With Donna’s unbearable friends and Milo’s presence – it was hard for him to stay any longer.

Just when Reuben started to believe that he could have a peaceful time on his own in the madhouse, he heard peals of laughter following someone opening the door of the room. He rolled his eyes and turned around to see a few of Donna’s friends walking in. There were three guys with their arms around each other’s neck while two girls, as drunk as they could get – walking behind the guys. One of the guys was showing the others something on his phone. The entire group was completely wasted. Reuben heaved a sigh and waited for them, but they didn’t immediately notice him. Finally, one of the guys looked at Reuben and chuckled, “Hey, look! Grandpa is here!” he joked – pointing out at Emmett’s friend’s displeasure with these party-heads. Reuben twisted his mouth and ignored them while gulping another few sips from the bottle, “Woah! Slow down grandpa – you shouldn’t be drinking at this age.” Another one of them lamely joked. Reuben once again decided to ignore them. “What are you doing here, anyway? Isn’t it way past your bedtime, old man?” This time one of the girls commented – causing all of her friends to burst into waves of laughter – they were truly completely wasted.

Reuben ignored them again. Why would he engage with such juvenile idiots? Just when one of the guys with blonde hair was about to snarl another remark, the door of the room opened and walked in Milo. He glanced at the drunk heads before he looked at Rueben, who sighed and shrugged before looking out of the window again. “Here comes another one of them,” The guy said before he laughed. Milo was having a hard time processing that these were seventeen-year-old teens yet he was sure that kids could behave more maturely than them. “I don’t get what Emmett saw in your geeks,” One of the drunk girls said and rolled her eyes to which Milo chuckled and looked at her from feet to head, “Really?” he asked tilting his head, “I could clearly see what Donna saw in you,” Milo snarled. “Aren’t you one of her minions?” He folded his arms over his chest and asked the irksome girl, who was snarling at her. “How much pocket money does she give you to be around her? I am sure it didn’t cost much. Your desperation seems like a good discount offer,” he hummed and raised his eyebrow, “My guess is five dollars – that too when I am being generous,” he insulted her.

The girl stepped forward with the determination of yelling at Milo when Reuben decided to put a stop at it. “Leave it, Milo,” Reuben said as he looked at his friend before he glanced at the group of friends glaring at them. Milo flared his nostrils at the drunk heads before he looked at Reuben – he gritted his teeth. Milo is known for his temper. It can be bad at times. Reuben doesn’t want him to get in a fight with these juvenile friends of Donna. This will only upset Emmett and that’s the last thing Reuben wants at the moment. Milo stepped closer to Reuben, “They are just –” he was cut mid-sentence when the door of the room once again opened and entered another girl, she didn’t seem drunk like the rest of Donna’s friends in the room. Her eyes traveled to everyone in the room as everyone’s eyes were on her. She cleared her throat and addressed one of the guys from Donna’s friends, “Have you seen Donna? I can’t find her,” she asked. The guy just shrugged, “I don’t know,” he replied. The girl rolled her eyes, “Can you all come with me and find her – it will be midnight soon and there is so much left to do. Come on, we have to find her.” The girl waved her hands. The drunk girls rolled their eyes and the guys grunted before they mumbled their displeasure but followed the girl out of the room anyway. They walked out of the room but not before pushing Milo and bumping their shoulders on him intentionally on their way out.

Milo wanted to react but when he looked at Reuben – he stopped. Reuben lightly shook his head – asking him not to react. Milo curled his hands in fists and slammed his fist on the door once the five of them left the room. This was nothing new to Reuben. He, Austin, and Emmett know how ill-tempered Milo can be. Reuben stayed still and silent while Milo kicked the door and grunted curses at the closed door, “Fucking bastards!” Reuben heaved a sigh as watches his friend take his anger at the door before he turned his back to him and gazed out of the window. He couldn’t wait for this night to be over. He needed to get away from everyone – Donna, her friends, and most of all – Milo.

Milo flared his nostrils and slowly turned to look at Reuben, who had his back to Milo. Milo gulped as his shoulders sunk with guilt heavy on them. He had broken his promise to Reuben – he promised that he will keep his anger in check but he failed miserably. This entire night he hasn’t done anything but was sour to everyone when he promised Reuben that he will act normal. He pinched the bridge of his nose, “Reuben, listen –” he prepared to apologize when Reuben turned around and stopped him, “Milo, I told you – not here!” he didn’t raise his voice even when he wanted to but he couldn’t – not in a house full of strangers. Milo clenched his jaw and glanced away before looking back at his friend, “Reuben, no one is here – okay?” Milo was getting agitated. “The door is closed. The music is too loud. No one is going to listen to us. Your secret – our secret is safe with us,” Milo said to him. Reuben stepped to the other side of the room – maintain his distance from Milo, “There is no secret, Milo! There is nothing to hide. There is nothing, to begin with, you hear me!” Reuben pushed his hair back frustratedly as he paced around the room.

Milo watched Reuben vexed with the reality and he didn’t like the way he was been dismissive about it. Milo rolled his tongue in his inner cheek, “All right then, if there is nothing to hide then. Go and tell Eleanor where you were the other night?” He pointed his finger at the door. The was complete silence between the two of them, the only thing that could be heard was the thumping of loud music playing downstairs. Milo brushed his hand over his face and stepped closer to Reuben who refused to look back at him, “Nothing you say can deny the fact that you have been cheating on your girlfriend with me, Reuben. You cannot run away from the truth. You might not be gay, but you are definitely not straight either.” Milo told him. Reuben closed his eyes as he hears Milo speak – the discomfort on his face was evident to Milo. Milo heaved a sighed and stepped nearer to him before he gently placed his hand over Reuben’s shoulder. Reuben stiffed and immediately stepped away from Milo, “Milo, it was a mistake, okay? Don’t you dare start to believe that there will ever be anything between us?” Reuben snapped at Milo. Milo flinched at his words and tone, “Mistake doesn’t happen multiple times, Reuben.” Milo didn’t raise his voice – he tried to explain it to Reuben as calmly as he could. He didn’t want to scare him more – after all Reuben has always been the guy Milo loved.

Sandra, Leah, and Austin’s mother sat in a small café close to her residence as she waited for her company to arrive. She drank scorching hot coffee from the cup plain cup as she heaved a sigh. If Austin comes to know that Sandra is here meeting the person he is avoiding, he will be angry at her. But Sandra believes that he begins a little too harsh on Emmett. She gets that it hurt Austin a lot after Emmett left, especially when he had to go through his own trauma without any help. Austin has been very lonely since Emmett left. He stopped making friends. All he used to do was study for the college, work, take care of her and Leah, and provide for them. He stopped caring for himself and Sandra is scared that Austin will only waste more of his life, stuck in a very painful part of his life. She believes that Emmett can help Austin move on, that is why she called Macy and asked her to tell Emmett to meet her.

After a few minutes, Sandra saw Emmett walking into the café – looking around to spot her. A warm smile spread on her face. She lifted and waved her hand at Emmett, who grinned when he spotted her. He was quick by her side. “Oh my, Sandra.” He mumbled as he embraced her in a hug as soon as she stood on her feet. Sandra tittered as she patted Emmett’s back, “Look at you,” She pulled away and placed both her hands on each side of his face. “You have grown up,” she chuckled to which Emmett snickered, “But you look the same.” He replied before he placed both his hands over her shoulder and sighed, “I truly missed you,” he added. Sandra rolled her eyes, “Yes, that’s why you never even called.” She complained playfully. Emmett smiled as he smashed his lips – looking down he replied, “You know why I didn’t call, Sandra.” He gulped painful. “These have been the hardest five years of my life,” He spoke. Sandra sighed sorrowfully – thinking about what they had to go through that night, “True, it has been hard. Very hard.” She mumbled as she recalled what her children went through these five years.

Sandra asked Emmett to order something and he ordered a black coffee when they sat and chatted. “How is he doing?” Emmett asked after a small pause. Sandra smiled and shrugged, “He is okay. He acts as if he is fine but deep down, he really misses you,” she answered. Austin and Emmett have been best friends since Sandra could remember. She remembers how they used to stay at each other’s place, play video games all the time, study together, and were always there for each other until Emmett decided to leave so abruptly after the incident. Emmett sniggered, “I don’t know about it. I think he hates me now,” Emmett spoke. Sandra shook her head, “I don’t think he hates you. He can never hate you, Em. He is just – disappointed. You left when he needed you the most, that too without any explanation. He will be angry at you when he sees you but he would never hate you,” Sandra replied. Emmett curled his lips, “He will be upset when he will know that you met me behind his back,” he said to her. Sandra smiled, “He can’t tell me what I can or can’t do. I am his mother, he is not my father,” she said to which Emmett chuckled and nodded. She was right. He has known Sandra almost his entire life and he can confirm that Austin can’t do much in front of Sandra’s strengthening will.

There was silence between them while the waitress placed Emmett’s black coffee in front of him. Emmett chewed on his lower lip as he dared to ask while nervously traced his finger over the rim of the cup, “And, how is Leah doing?” He didn’t look at Sandra when he asked her. He didn’t know how serious Leah’s injuries were when he left. He didn’t know that she lost her eyesight until his mother informed him over the phone. Emmett remembers how he cried in the bathroom after he talked to his mother. He covered his sobs of guilt under the shower. All he could think about was how he shot her down. All he could see when he closed his eyes were her crying face. All he could hear were her sobs. He could have talked to her after the party, but now he broke her heart and smashed her soul right before the worst night of her life. He can never overcome the guilt.

Sandra could see how uneasy Emmett was getting asked about her daughter. Sandra knows how much her daughter was in love with him. She doesn’t know if he ever felt the same – which she hardly believes that he did, or if they ever get to talk about it, but it hurts her when she thinks how Leah couldn’t get the one, she truly loved. Sandra could never blame Emmett for not returning her feelings, she chose to fall in love with him while he didn’t. A sad smile curled on her face, “Leah,” she sighed and leaned back to her chair. “She is my brave child,” her voice wobbled. Emmett looked at Sandra with knitted eyebrows as she continued, “She lost her sight, but she never lost her volition. She fought like a warrior. It was not easy for her in the beginning. She struggled. She stumbled but she never gave up. After therapies and schooling, she finally accepted her reality. She is now trying everything to live each day without complaining. She is my strongest child,” A tear fell from her eye as she spoke about her daughter.

Emmett felt the lump in his throat as his eyes teared up. He couldn’t even imagine how hard it must have been for her. He knows how amazing Leah is. She has always been so positive and kind. Emmett feels guilty for returning her feelings. He wishes for her to get a guy who would love her unconditionally because deserves nothing less. He exhaled, “She must hate me,” he mumbled as he once again recalled their last interaction. Sandra pulled her eyebrows together, “Why would she hate you?” She asked him. Emmett looked at Sandra smashed his lips together but didn’t say anything. “I know she liked you back then, Emmett, and it is totally fine if you never felt the same. There is nothing to be guilty about. Leah is bigger than hating someone who didn’t return her feelings. She doesn’t hate you. I can assure you that – especially when asked Austin to not give up on his friendship with you after you left.” Sandra informed him. Emmett realized that she was not aware of the conversation he had with Leah before the shooting and it only made him feel worse – maybe he deserved it.

He looked at Sandra and forced a soft smile, “Do you think she will be okay meeting me?” He asked. Sandra smiled back, “Of course, she will be. Let me give you Leah and Austin’s contact information. Austin doesn’t live with me anymore but Leah does, you are always welcome to visit us as well.” Sandra invited. Emmett nodded and thanked before he pointed out after a small pause, “Uh – I went to your old house, but someone else lives there now.” He told her. Sandra nodded, “I knew you would go there,” she chuckled. “But, yes. We left the house. There were too many painful memories there and also, Austin wanted us to get a place closer to his own apartment. But to tell you the truth, the distance was just an excuse – in reality, he doesn’t want to come to the house where you four (Emmett, Austin, Reuben, and Milo) used to get along. And I am sure Leah didn’t want to live where she had memories of being with Alesha. It would have been hard for both my kids so, for the sake of their sanity I sold the house and moved to another place,” She replied.

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