However there isn’t a single part of me that would ever want to be chosen over someone’s child, your kids have to come first, always and with no exceptions. I see that now.
“You pick him Steve.”
His head shoots up, a complete look of disbelief on his face. This is killing me but I can’t let it show, he needs to think I’m strong on this or he won’t be.
Taking his hand from my hip I place it in my own, lowering myself to my knees in front of him and trying so hard to keep in my tears.
Oh god, he’s so upset, he’s so broken by this. He just needs to know it’s the right thing, I’m not sure it is but I know it’s the only real option he has right now. I’ll convince him, I don’t want him to bare this guilt.
“You pick him. You can’t let her leave Steve, you can’t let her take your baby. You pick her, for now. Maybe it’ll work out, maybe you’ll find a way to love each other when something so precious binds you both together...”
“No, please let me finish. Maybe you will, or maybe she’ll see it’s not meant to be too. Maybe she’ll be in a park one day and stumble upon the guy she’s supposed to be with, or maybe she’ll find the humanity she lost a few years ago down the back of the fucking couch.” He chuckles but let’s me continue. “What I’m saying is, picking her now doesn’t mean you’re picking her forever, it means you’re picking your son until he’s old enough to pick you back. You have to do this for him, for now. You pick him.”
He lets his face fall until our heads are touching.
“You’re a very special person Brie.”
I laugh, but it hurts to even try to feign happiness, so I have to stop. “So people keep telling me.”
He has to do this, right now it’s not about me or him or us or even her. It’s about an innocent baby that deserves to know his amazing daddy. Kids mean sacrifice, this is ours.
I know the tears are threatening to fall so I move away from him, there’s tension in his hands and I know he doesn’t want to let go but I pull until he does. I need the separation or I’ll take back everything I just said and kiss him right here.
Standing to my feet he doesn’t look up, he just hangs there like the weight of this is almost too much to suffer alone but he has to.
Just as I get to the door in order to escape back to my room I hear his weak and broken voice.
“Press charges Brie, please. I know what Hannah said but she doesn’t know you like I do, you’re strong enough to cope with anything. You can do this.”
I nod but I don’t turn back, closing the door on him gently behind me and finally letting the tears out. Standing in the middle of the room I just let everything out silently until I have nothing left to give. I know it was the right thing, I know it needed to be done, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I wonder if she even realises the pain she’s causing? Does she care? Or was this all just a way to finally latch her claws in him so deep he can never escape her...?
My mind forces me back to his last words. I haven’t stopped thinking about the charges, I don’t know honestly what I should do... There’s someone I need to speak too first.
Walking over to the bed I make sure my eyes are dry before I stir Josh gently.
He rubs the sleep from those long lashes before he looks at me. “Brie? Why are you up at three in the morning? Are you okay?”
I smile at him. “Can you take me somewhere? Now please?”
Josh nods, digging around in his pockets sleepily until he finds his car keys. I take the hoodie Josh was wearing earlier and throw it on before we both walk out of the room and creep quietly through the house, making sure not to wake anybody else.
His car is right outside the front door but as I go to get in I can feel eyes on me, looking up to Jayce’s bedroom window and seeing Steve looking down at us. He looks completely broken, I know he knows this is for the best right now but it doesn’t make it hurt any less for him. Or me.
I get inside the car swiftly and Josh takes off in the exact direction I wanted to go, he doesn’t need to be told, he knows who I need.
We don’t talk much, driving along the front and watching the boats drift back and forth in the docks as we wait at the lights. Everything really aches now, my legs hurt from even those few steps and my palms are fucking killing m, they itch like hell. Looking down at the claw marks on my thighs a shiver of disgust rushes through me.
He touched me. He touched my lips, he touched my body, he burrowed his way into my head. I want him out of me, I just don’t want to remember any of it and make it go away like last time.
“Brie, you okay?”
I nod. “Yeah just...” Don’t tell him, he’ll only freak. Think of something else. “What Hannah said earlier to Steve, asking if he’s sure, what did that mean?”
The hands Josh has on the wheel grip it so tight I wouldn’t be surprised if when he pulls them away he leaves a dent.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Bullshit. “It matters to me.”
He lets out an exasperated breath. Josh was never any good at keeping things to himself, he loves a bit of gossip as much as the rest of us but this seems more serious.
“Steve said I can’t tell you, he doesn’t want it to influence your decision.”
Okay, well now I have to know.
“Tell me now Joshua, or I swear to fuck I’ll tell you all about the consistency of my last period, in detail.”
Thank fuck Josh is gay because he’d be a crap husband to some poor girl for four days every month, it gives him the creeps, which obviously we find hilarious. While him and Al were living together in college he’d just keep giving her bars of chocolate until she stopped crying every time Aunty Flow came to visit. How that girl isn’t the size of a house is beyond me.
Josh shakes as he tries to shirk off the memory of my very graphic tampon demonstration freshman year. “Fine, fuck. I still think it’s abnormal for people to be able to bleed for five days and not die. Women have like fucking superpowers or something.”
Damn right we fucking do.
He clearly doesn’t want to tell me but he’s also smart enough to know arguing with me is pointless.
“Hannah thinks that if you press charges then that prick will probably press charges against Steve for assault. She thinks given the backing he’ll have and the fact Steve didn’t stop hitting him after the guy was down, he’d have to do some time.”
“He wants you to do it though Brie, he doesn’t want to be the reason that monster is still walking around. Hannah said she’d work it so he had a decent deal, and there’d be leniency with the baby on the way too. It was his choice to hit him, not yours, Steve doesn’t want you factoring what could happen to him into your decision.”
How the fuck could I not?
Josh reaches out to hold my knee and I freeze. He immediately pulls back his hand but it’s too late. Fuck, I don’t want it to be like this... I want the control back before I go fucking numb like last time...
The anger and hurt is bubbling away inside me, the shock that’s been clouding my memories of today’s events leaving my system and all the other emotions I’ve been surpressing now suddenly starting to rise.
I’m not ready yet. I’m not ready to let all that stuff back in. Not here.
I try to push them all down back into their can and seal the lid but there’s just too many. It’s too much.
Josh stops at the edge of the beach but now I feel like I can’t breathe. What the hell is this? I’ve never experienced this before.. It’s like I’m terrified, my body filled with panic but I don’t know what I’m afraid of.
Pushing open the door of Josh’s car I pull off my boots and leave them on the ground before taking off in a sprint towards the rock pools.
What the hell is this feeling? I just need air... yeah... I just need air...
My breath gets caught in my throat as I try to pull it in, nothing hitting my lungs. Oh god, it’s a panic attack. I’ve seen Al have them but I didn’t realise it felt like this. My lungs are on fire as they cry out for oxygen but I just keep moving forward trying to make it to my rock.
The ice cold water of the pools splash up and hit my ankles, the black sky only illuminated by an orange crackling bonfire happening further down the beach.
Steeping onto the rock, my whole body is exhausted. I can’t take another step, crashing to the floor all the light starts to seep away and the darkness begins to cloud my vision as I slip into unconsciousness.
The last thing I see before I’m engulfed in black is Josh’s shadowy form racing towards me as I lay my face down on the smooth surface of the rock.
I’m not sure how long I’ve been here but when I try to open my eyes there’s so much fucking light I can’t even peel my lids open.
Wait, did Josh just fucking leave me here until morning?
Forcing my eyes to open against their will, I have to blink a few times just to adjust to the light. I’m still on the rock at the beach but things are different too, there’s no bonfire or anyone else around for that matter, and the sand seems to extend for miles now.
Fuck, how hard did I hit my head?
Off in the distance, blanketed in the light of the rising sun, I see someone walking towards me. For a second I think it’s Josh but they’re shorter than he is.
Panic starts to set in. I now realise I’m alone here except for this person that seems to be approaching faster than humanly possible. My breathing was fine when I woke up but now my heart is racing once again. Why can’t I move?
I squeeze my eyes closed trying to clear my head, the bright light seeping through becomes shadowed and I know this person is right in front of me now.
Okay Brie, time to fight.
Throwing my eyes open... all my fear falls away... the sight of his perfect smile so much brighter than I ever remember it being as he leans down and looks into my eyes.
“Damn girl, I leave you for a couple years and look at all the trouble you gone got yourself into now baby doll.”