The Girl Next Door

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Chapter 24: The Only Face

I pushed through darkness. I hurt everywhere. I could hear little murmurs of conversation. That excited me because I thought I was dead.

I slowly opened my eyes and found Nick and Jack.

“Dude! Look, look!” Nick exclaimed. Jack turned to face me and both rushed to my bed side.

I noticed the one face I wanted to see wasn’t there. “Shaina?” I croaked.

“I’ll go get her.” Nick told me gently.

“Man, you look awful.” Jack said quietly.

Before I could ask how bad, two people came running into my room.

“Matthew?” I heard a choked voice.

I turned towards the sound, and found Shaina standing in the doorway with tear stains down her cheeks.

I held up my arm to beckon her to me. I just wanted to hold her. “Sweet Pea?”

She ran to me and curled up in the bed beside me. “Matthew, I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry. It was all a set up.” She began to apologize and cry.

I held her to me, even though it hurt, and stroked her hair. “I know, baby. I know.” I kissed the top of her head. Nick mouthed we’re gonna go and him and Jack left us quietly. “Jackson called me and told me everything.” I told her.

She looked up into my face. Her eyes slowly moved over all the bruises and blood. “What happened?” she asked gently cupping my cheek.

“I stood up to my dad. I saw you stand up to Alice and I figured it was time for me to stand up to my dad. I told him I wasn’t going to be his punching bag anymore, that I wasn’t going to take it anymore and it made him so mad. I don’t even remember what happened. All I remember is pain. How bad do I look?”

Shaina laughed quietly and fished her phone from her pocket. She turned on the front facing camera and held it up to my face.

I was shocked at first. I looked like I had been hit by a bus. My entire face was covered in varying shades of blue and purple and red. “Yeesh...” I cringed. “He did quite a number.” I rotated my face to see it at every angle.

She pulled the phone from my grasp and put it away. “He also stabbed you.” she said so quietly I almost didn’t hear her. “Three times.”

I was stunned. “What?” I asked, hoping I had heard her wrong.

“Your dad stabbed you.”

While I was trying to process that information, Shaina’s parents came into my room.

She pushed herself up so she was sitting on the bed.

“We have some news.” her dad began. “Matthew, your, um, father has been taken to jail and sentenced to twenty years for child abuse and illegal possession and use of drugs.”

Thank god he’d be out of my life for awhile.

“I know you're already eighteen and can technically live on your own,” her mom began, “but I would like you stay with us until you graduate.” She finished smiling.

“Wow.” I breathed. That was so generous. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Shaina threw her arms around my neck, grinning and kissed me gently.

Her mom hugged me. “Welcome to the family.” she told me. Pulling away, she looked at Shaina. “Shaina, when should we expect you home?”

“Actually can I stay here?” she asked. “Matthew stayed with me every night I was in the hospital. Now I want to do the same for him.”

Her mom nodded as her dad opened his mouth to object. She grabbed his arm. “Come along, dear.”

“No funny business!” he called to us as he left.

I laughed. He had no idea...

Shaina turned back to me and seeing her, after everything we’d been through, I finally realized, this is what love feels like. I brushed the hair from Shaina’s face and whispered, “I love you.”

She broke out in the biggest grin I have ever seen and threw her arms around me. “You know, I wanted to be the first to say it but it sounded so amazing coming from you. I love you.”

“It’s sounds better coming from your lips.” I told her quietly as I kissed her.

And that, is how I fell in love with the girl next door. My Shaina.

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