Chapter Four: Lea
After the rehab facility, Liam offered to take me to dinner before heading home. I accepted and thanked him for coming with me today. I should be buying him dinner for the extensive therapy session he had to witness. I knew it couldn’t have been on his top ten list of favorite days, but I was grateful nonetheless.
Liam and I found this “hole in the wall” Thai place (courtesy of Yelp) that turned out to be excellent. Liam acquiesced to my veganism and allowed me to order whatever I wanted. His thoughtfulness and maturity were characteristics that made him even more appealing. My last boyfriend never took my diet and lifestyle seriously. He pumped his body full of steroids and as much artery-clogging meat as he could shovel in his face. It used to drive me nuts. As we stuffed our faces with Tom Kha soup and fried rice until we might burst, I couldn’t help but admire Liam. He was so mature for his age, so understanding, so sweet and kind. He almost felt too good to be true.
After dinner, I asked Liam a little more about Jeff and Sean. I hadn’t seen them lately, nor had Liam brought them up very much, so of course, my curiosity got the better of me. I asked, “I haven’t seen Jeff or Sean lately. Is everything ok with them?”
Being short, Liam confided, “They are visiting Jeff’s parents in Portland.” He picked at his plate again. Observing Liam’s body language, I decided not to pry. He and I both had an emotion-filled day as it was, and I didn’t want to push a sensitive subject.
Searching for a subject change, I decided to answer Liam’s question from earlier. “So, would you still like to know more about my childhood, or did you get enough of that already?”
Liam chuckled, “Well, today was very informative, and you don’t have to go into detail about anything, but I did have one question…. Do you actually forgive her?”
Not expecting this question, I set my fork down and paused for a few moments. “Well, I believe that I forgive my mom for everything, but I will never forget. I will never forget the times she left me after school because she was scoring drugs, or too inebriated to even remember. I will never forget when she refused to take me to the hospital (even though my fever was 104 degrees) because she didn’t have insurance, and money for drugs was more important. I will never forget the countless dirt-bag boyfriends she had that verbally abused me or made me feel so unsafe in my own house. I will also never forget the times we were evicted from our apartment because she didn’t have money for rent or being in and out of child protective services. I won’t forget the worst time. The time I found my mother in a pool of her own blood when she tried to commit suicide. I was nine when I called 911 and saved her life. I wish I could say that was the last, but that was just the first.”
Once again, the words kept flowing from my mouth with no filter. A tear rolled down Liam’s eyes, but I continued, “I also remember the day she told me she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was 11. I didn’t know what it was. My mom always said it was what made her special, spontaneous, and unpredictable. To be honest, as a child it was one of the things I loved most about her. While the spontaneity could be a curse, some of the best moments of my childhood were mom’s surprises. I remember one time she came to my school and checked me out of class, saying I had a doctor’s appointment, but really, we spent the day at the zoo. She took me to see all the animals and even bought me a stuffed elephant and an ice cream—anything I wanted. On my ninth birthday, after her suicide attempt, she took me to a petting zoo where my friends and I rode ponies in a circle, got our faces painted. A clown even made us balloon animals. As I got older though, I began to learn. I learned that all the money she used to take me to the zoo or the petting zoo was from drugs. She sold her body or drugs to get cash, and in her moments of guilt or weakness for what she had put me through she would turn the tables and shower me with gifts.” The more and more I kept talking, the more and more my anger turned to nothing. As I am telling Liam about my past, I felt as if the little cracks in my heart were slowly being filled.
Liam squeezed my hand, “I am sorry, Lea. No child should ever have to go through that. I obviously didn’t know you as a child, but I do know you a bit as an adult. You are the most strong-willed, independent person I have ever met. You are smart, beautiful, wise beyond your years, and I think because of everything you have gone through, it has only made you stronger, better.”
Tears brimmed my eyes yet again. No one had ever said something that nice to me. I had always been an optimistic person, but when it came to my past, I had a tough time viewing it as glass half-full. It dawned on me that Liam was right. While my past was very hard, I couldn’t deny that it helped shape the person I was today. Sure, I had to drop out of school, but I could go back to school any time. I looked at Liam as though a light bulb had gone off and said, “Thank you. That was probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, and I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear that. I have struggled with my past, but I think I am finally dealing with it and not viewing it as a hindrance but a catalyst.”
Liam smiled, “Anytime Lea. It is true. You really are remarkable.”
At this moment, I wished Liam was straight. Was this what a sweet, thoughtful, mature guy was? I didn’t have much experience in that department. My last boyfriend’s name was Vinnie, and he was a total tool. I met him at the gym where I used to box—and he showered me with compliments and gifts, everything I lacked in my home life. It turned out that the money he used to buy my affection came from gang-related activities. Underneath Vinnie’s compliments and shallow gifts was an angry, bad-tempered person who thrived on bullying others, abused drugs and only cared for himself.
It took me two years to get away from him. Every time I tried, Vinnie would promise me he would change and work on his temper, or he would turn to fear tactics to get me to stay. I couldn’t deny that I loved him—why I wasn’t sure—I guess I was drawn to the bad boys. I needed the comfort they could provide, scared to be on my own, scared to acknowledge there was a world in which good guys or people existed. All I knew was the disappointment, abuse, and the lesser things in life. Seeing Liam, he was a good guy, a guy that I wanted to believe I deserved, yet I knew if we did date, I would eventually sabotage it. I was brilliant at screwing up anything good in my life, and if I didn’t, my mom did it for me.
“You ready to go?” Liam asked, snapping me back to reality.
“Yeah, I’m ready. Let me go to the bathroom really quick.” I excused myself and headed to the restroom. When I returned, Liam had paid for dinner, and as we headed to leave, he offered to ride with me to my apartment to make sure I got home safely. I didn’t refuse since Seattle (or any city for that matter) could be a little unsafe after dark, especially the route we had to go.
Arm in arm, we walked down the sidewalk toward the train. A short distance from the Thai place, we came upon this dark biker bar. The rundown shack looked like it was held together by the two buildings adjacent. Flashing neon lights scattered their insinuations across the front, and bikes lined up practically to the bar’s entrance, with no sort of order. Apparently, this joint was popular on a Sunday night. Three highly intoxicated, burly biker guys were out front, resting on their bikes, smoking cigarettes. As we drew close, one of the tattooed men, sporting a long ponytail, leather jacket, and arms as round as tree trunks, turned from his cigarette inhalation and sauntered toward us. He looked me up and down as if he had X-ray vision and with a devilish grin on his face gave a whistle. “My, my, pretty lady where are you headed?”
Liam and I attempted to walk around the guy, ignoring his remark, but the guy stepped in our path, gaining the attention of the other two muscled men. He gave Liam a stare down, the stench of alcohol and cigarettes oozing off him. “Boy, you going to keep that girl all to yourself? I would love to take her for a spin, show her what a real man is made of.”
Liam stopped in front of the guy (his head only coming to the drunk guy’s chest) and finally spoke, “Watch your mouth man, that is no way to talk to a lady.” Looking in the guy’s misty eyes, it was evident he wasn’t going to back down. I moved closer to Liam trying to think of something to say to get us out of this mess—of course, no one was around to come to our aid. “Can you please just let us pass. We don’t want any trouble,” was all I could think of saying.
“Oh, she doesn’t want any trouble she says. I will show you trouble!” The guy moved toward me, but Liam grabbed his wrist, and with a resounding crack it broke instantly. The drunken asshole howled with pain and fell to his knees, grasped his arm and screamed, “Kill that prick!” I gasped and stumbled backward.
The two other guys moved for Liam now, but Liam was faster (freakishly fast). He landed a jaw-breaking blow to one guy’s face, causing the guy to fall instantly. I caught one glimpse of Liam, and his eyes were glowing bright green, and my cheerful, sarcastic guy was no longer there. All I could see was the rage. Rage like I had never seen. He jumped midair, landing on the third man’s chest, pinning him to the ground. Straddling him, Liam started to pound the guy blow for blow with his fist. I finally snapped back to reality and without thinking moved over to stop Liam from killing the guy.
I yelled his name, “Liam! Liam! You are going to kill him; please stop!” With no response, I grabbed his shoulder, and suddenly Liam turned on me. His eyes were black with green irises, so vivid and full of rage, teeth sharp like fangs; no like the handsome man I knew. At that moment, I knew something was very wrong. It couldn’t be. Was Liam really a werewolf, an alien, a vampire?? I backed away—turning—I began to sprint as my life depended on it toward the train. I didn’t get far, however, until Liam caught up with me.
Grabbing my arm, he was pleading with me to stop. “Lea! Please! I can explain. Please just stop. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
I was shaking. Looking him in the eyes, which were back to their normal green color, I muttered: “What are you?”
Liam frowned, looking from side to side to make sure no one was close, “I will tell you everything, but you have to promise to listen and be open-minded.”
I swallowed. Hands and body still trembling I mumbled, “Fine I will listen, but you have to answer every question I have—and no lying.”
Liam hesitated but finally spoke, “I will answer all of your questions, even some you didn’t think to ask, but not here. Can we go back to your apartment?
I nodded and moved in the direction of the train. My body shook, and adrenaline coursed through my veins. What the hell just happened?
The ride home was awkward. Staring out the train window, I found myself glancing over in his direction. I examined his nails which were back to their normal shape and size. His arms hairy, but not abnormal for a man. In a general sense, his features for a guy were near perfect. My mind spun and raced a thousand miles a minute—so many thoughts ran through my head. Was he a werewolf? A vampire? Did they exist? The more I pondered, the dizzier I got. Glancing at Liam to ease my mind, he returned my gaze and gave a half smile. I returned the smile. Who could this man be?