Carbon

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Chapter 44

I pounded on the door, refraining from the usual lazy knock I offer to other people. Devin needed to answer quickly if she didn’t want me to break in. I roared boisterously, “Devin! Devin! Open up! It’s me, Ned! I know you’re mad and all, but I just want to make sure you’re okay!”

No answer.

I pounded again and waited, pressing my face against windows to see any movement in the rooms. I strolled around the house furtively, keeping an eye on any neighbors spying on me from their homes.

Heaven forbid I get the cops called on me. My parents would just be extra pleased with me.

Fantasies trickled through my head as I peered into each room on the tips of my toes. Devin would be waiting on a couch she just bought with a beer in hand complaining about In School Suspension. Or she would be taking a nap in the middle of her living room as if it was completely normal to fall asleep on carpet without any furniture in the house. Or she would be in her bedroom, scribbling down notes without hesitation on the wall, imagining separate universes with different stories. Or she would be listening to her CD player, listening to an old Coldplay or Keane CD or a mixed CD Heath made her. She would be content not attending school or showing her face at graduation. She would be in the bathroom, puking last night’s cheap booze into the porcelain bowl.

I came to the back of the house and noticed the window she had broken to get into the house had yet to be repaired, and the plastic and duct tape she covered the opening with was gone. I leaned over, peering into the portal, and no movement or person sat in the foyer across the house or in the living room. I sat up and stared at the hole.

All my life, I had never broken a law as serious as breaking and entering. I had been a strong participant in underage drinking, but I had never committed a real crime. I contemplated an excuse I would need to get out of jail time or even worse, prison time. I scrunched my face, and my fingers held my chin as I became occupied with all of these figments of truth I could use to my advantage.

For one, the window was already broken, the fogged glass glistening in the May afternoon, shards still settled around the foot of the door. My eyes rested on the opening. I couldn’t be charged with breaking—that was for sure. Devin could deal with the breaking part.

My eyes fell to the door handle, and my fingers wrapped around the handle in desperate hope. My thumb pulled down on the lever, and I gently pressed inside, and the door creaked open languidly as if something clogged the spindles and spires of the door hinges. A shovel fell to the floor as I opened the door wider and wider.

I absorbed the absolutely vacant foyer and living room—except for the random shovel.

I took a hesitant step inside and inquired, “Devin, are you in here?” I twisted my neck to the kitchen slowly, trying not to offset anything in the rooms—although the only thing that could be unsettled would have been the oxygen to carbon dioxide ratio.

I timidly slithered into the kitchen. The island, drawers, and refrigerator was barren as I investigated each drawer and shelf for any clues to see if she was even here. Her cracker stash was gone, and the stacked empty containers were gone even though they initially were in the corner of the room. I checked underneath the sink to see if she had stowed away any alcohol in a peculiar place to have for later. Cobwebs nestled along the pipes underneath the sink.

I considered invading her room, but something stopped me.

Steps thundered above me.

I switched my gaze to the white ceiling, patiently waiting to hear the weight of someone stomp across the floor, but I waited for ten minutes with no avail.

“Devin?” I inquired.

My feet slid quietly across the floor like a kid in socks on an early morning timidly. I promised myself that I would find her upstairs, but a part of me warned of the terrifying possibility that I would not find her.The terrifying possibility that she fell off the face of the earth.

The gentle tap resounded above me.

Each step above the last heightened my pulse at the possibility of discovery. My toes slid across the wooden steps silently, thudding against the beginning of the next as my gazed focused upon the end of the staircase.

Something rattled in a room upstairs.

I pounded up the stairs quickly, the anticipation killing me, hoping it wasn’t an opossum or a raccoon bounding through the house. I whipped around the edge of the bannister, boisterously sprinting to the edge of the hallway. I dipped my head into the master bedroom and called, “Devin?!”

No one answered me.

I wandered to the next room, and to the next, and to the next.

“Devin?

“Devin?!

“Devin!

“Devin!!!

“DEVIN!!!”

No retort or reply.

Devastated, I hung my head and shuffled to the edge of the staircase past the restroom. And my heart stopped.

I reversed a couple steps slowly, stunned by what I had glimpsed. I slowly turned my gaze to the tub, and I immediately rushed into the room. I could only stand and just observe her and the monstrosities done to her.

“Devin,” I whispered.

Devin’s leg hung over the lip of the tub, blood dried since it trickled down it. I glanced over the edge, and her blonde locks had been muddied and darkened to a shade very similar to her sister’s. Her face swelled around her nose, her eyes bruised and exhausted. Blood dried around her mouth and down from her nostrils, and bruises fell across her neck and down to her chest, stretching below her black sweatshirt. My eyes travelled down her waist, the lip of her sweatshirt pulled above her navel. Bruises continued to etch across her skin down her legs and feet. Blood dripped down from her black underwear, and I froze.

I didn’t know what to do.

“Devin, oh my god, Devin…”

Her eyelids gently pulled open with effort, and she stared at me with her icy blue eyes. I forgot how much I yearned for their acceptance and their own yearning. They shivered as she absorbed my appearance, and then a thought of recognition flashed across her expressive eyes. She mumbled with a weird, swollen accent, “Ned?”

I slowly nodded, pulling my jaw back to its proper position. I leaned forward and wrapped my arms around her lower back and under her kneecaps, folding her like a chair. “We got to get out of here.” I pulled her out of the tub briskly, and she squealed into my chest.

I froze.

“My ribs, my ribs, my ribs…”

My fingers tenderly prodded across her skin through her sweatshirt, and an abnormal ditch in her ribcage met my tips. I continued, and more fractures crumbled underneath my touch. My heart stank. “Oh my god.”

Her fingers wrapped into my t-shirt tautly.

I whispered as more of a comfort to myself, “It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay.”

“Put her down, Edwin.”

I whipped around to confront the voice, but he managed to shove me into the bathtub first. I crumpled on top of Devin as she began to sob profusely. I had been so used to watching her hold back her animalistic wails, but she just let them go. She did not hesitate to just sob and allow tears to roll down her cheeks even with me there. I pulled myself off of her, and our eyes met abruptly. She shook her head fervently and began to hyperventilate. I put my palm on her cheek, trying to calm her down with a gentle touch, but she just kept breathing irregularly. And then I felt a bulge on her jawline.

“Devin, oh my god.”

“Edwin, get out of the tub.”

My gaze whipped to a man across the room, standing there in the doorway. His stocky legs were tautly wrapped in black slacks, but he lacked shoes and a shirt. His barrel chest and chiseled abdomen startled me, a thin layer of fat sitting atop his muscles. He had cut his brunette hair short to his head. His square jaw clenched as he flared his nostrils angrily. His brow furrowed. My eyes slid up his chiseled arm to a piece of metal flowing from his arm as if it was a piece of him.

My eyes readjusted, and I immediately recognized a firearm clenched tautly in Jude Sebold’s gritty hand. A silencer sat on the end of the revolver.

“Mr. Sebold?”

His ember eyes nailed into me, and he hissed, “Don’t get in the way, Ned.”

I silently shook my head, my hands raised as I succumbed to the fire power threatening me from across the way. Devin’s gaze turned and glued on to him, her chin quivering as she bit her lip. I longed to hold her and tell her everything would be okay, but she and I both knew I couldn’t tell her such fallacies.

“Mr. Sebold, you have to be kidding me.”

Jude abruptly pointed the barrel of the gun to the ceiling and ripped the trigger. A whistle resounded as a bullet shot through the ceiling. Devin squealed, folding into herself with her hands tautly cuffed around her ears. She silently screamed into the linoleum, her eyes clenched shut fiercely.

“On the contrary, I don’t joke around with such matters.”

I froze, but my eyes slithered down to Devin as she curled into her internal hell.

“Don’t mind her, Ned. You and I could have a little talk. Get out of the tub.”

Devin cooed, “Don’t, Ned, don’t.”

He fired a round a foot above her head and two feet to my right. She fell into her catatonic state again. My eyes quivered on her, wondering what it took to put her in this state of shock, what horrors she experienced to minimize her to such a state of minute rebellion.

I obediently turned back to Jude and pulled myself out of the tub, careful not to step on Devin. I unevenly settled onto the balls of my feet and then stared at Jude, his revolver only a foot away from my chest. I begged for God to give me the strength to continue to stand as I shook like a leaf, frightened beyond anything I had ever experienced in my life.

A smile carved into his scruff he apparently neglected to shave for the past couple of days. He tilted the gun sideways and nodded to Devin. “I heard a story you and the slut had some relations.”

I dipped my chin, glaring intently at him.

“I heard some of those weren’t warranted, Ned. I thought I had taught you better than that. I thought you could take better care of my things.”

I glanced back to Devin. Her newly brunette hair stuck to her perspiring chest as she heaved loud breaths, trying to even everything out. Her blue eyes stared intently at me, begging to not do anything to her, as if I was the one hurting her. A grimace split her lips as she let another tear tumble down her cheeks.

A bullet whizzed past my face into the wall, shattering tiles, raining them down into the tub on top of Devin.

“Pay attention to me. We’ll deal with her in a second. Why did you show up?”

I stuttered, “She, she, she, she didn’t show up for school for the past week or at graduation, and I hadn’t seen her around at all. I didn’t know what to do. I promised to give her the homework she missed from suspension.”

“Your phone.”

“What?”

“Give me your phone.”

I reached into my back pocket, our eyes locked on each other with the barrel aimed directly at me. The cool phone brushed against my fingertips, and I slowly pulled it out. Jude stuck out a hand, and I gently placed it into his hands—never breaking eye-contact. I shuffled back to my spot, my feet planted into the linoleum floor.

“Oh, Ned, what happened to your contacts, bud? You’re showing everyone those crazy eyes of yours.”

My hand shot to my left eye, hiding away my biggest insecurity. I glanced at Devin who gingerly sat up, but pain twitched at her lips as her hand curled around the lip of the tub. My hand slid away from my face languidly as she gave me a small, reassuring smile—the first time I had seen her beautiful expression since that night. Sadness tainted it though. Sadness managed to wrangle away just the edge of her beauty, but I still melted in my stance. I furrowed my brow sympathetically, trying to understand the pain she was fighting back.

Jude whipped his derogatory gaze to his daughter and held her there. He hissed, “You slept with him besides that rape, you liar. You slut, how many times did you sleep with him? Hmm? God, you are a whore. ”

My hands clenched into taut fists, wishing to defend her or something, but I was too afraid to eat lead.

His gaze turned back to me, a smirk growing across his face, stretching across his jaw like an urge to divulge in a guilty pleasure. “You, you get back in the tub.”

I silently climbed back into the tub and stood there; Devin curled into a ball across from me. Devastation set in my chest as I caught Devin’s gaze turning from a small child to something feral, and I knew something was happening without my knowing.

“Fuck her.”

My eyes snapped back to him. “What?”

His revolver peeled away from me and rested to my side. I loudly gulped as I realized who he had the aim on now. “You heard me. If you don’t, I will sincerely shove a bullet through that skull of hers through her worthless little brain.”

Devin’s gaze did not resolve. She dared me to attempt anything against her. I noticed her knuckles of her fingers constricted as if she readied to scratch. My eyes focused on her finger tips, and I noticed she lacked any nails to speak of. “Devin, I’m so sorry.”

I froze, not knowing what to do. She was pretty aware of her consequences and was willing to take a bullet to the head instead of sex, and all I could do was respect her decision. I turned back to Jude and whispered, “I can’t.”

He snapped the trigger, and a bullet sliced the skin of her cheek and slammed into the wall. Devin did not move or flinch, just her eyes locked on me for the full time her life was threatened. The revolver’s smoking head then switched to me. “Fine, if you don’t, you get a bullet in your head.”

Devin launched to her feet and wrapped her arms around my neck.

“Dev, no… You don’t want to do this…”

And then she folded her lips over mine, and my hand tangled in her hair as she kissed me. She peeled away and whispered in my ear hastily, “Do this for me. I couldn’t live with myself.” She rolled back onto her heels, and her eyes glistened with new tears readying to cascade down her bruised cheeks. Our eyes locked for what seemed like an eternity, memorizing each highlight and curve of our irises, each slant of each imperfection.

Guilt cascaded over me as I recognized she had more gall than I ever could have as I would have easily allowed her to die. I would’ve stepped aside and let her die. I would have let her take a bullet, and here she was allowing herself to be taken again by me to let me live.

I buried my face into her clavicle and held back the urge to cry from embarrassment and from happiness and from elation and from devastation and from absolute fear.

Our eyes met for a long moment, as if she was assuring it was okay. She was telling me to rape her. She met my lips and pulled me closer to her, her hips pressed against mine. Tears began to roll down her cheeks again, and I cradled her chin in my hands, trying to hold back the urge to just sob into her, too.

I zipped my pants up and stared apologetically down at Devin.

Her limp body lay across the linoleum tub, new blood trickling down her legs. Her icy blue eyes stared at the linoleum wall of the tub, vacant and empty—hope and desperation gone. Her brunette hair splayed against the tub in all different directions. Her breathing was shallow and labored.

“Alright, get out, Ned. I’m done with you.”

I twisted my gaze to him and absentmindedly roared, “You have to let her go. She’s hurt. You know she’s hurt. How long has she been bleeding? She could go into shock. She’s not okay.”

He slowly clapped his hand against the revolver, a smile creasing his wrinkles again. His ember, dark eyes twinkled as he chortled, confessing, “You better leave, Ned; you don’t want to be here for this.”

I threw out my arms, separating the father and daughter as much as I possibly could. I shivered under his bestial gaze, not knowing the consequences of my actions. I hesitantly murmured, “You can’t do this. You’ve already beaten the shit out of her. How much more can she take?”

He laughed in my face.

“What?”

“No, no, you better leave for this.” He pulled the trigger again, and a bullet ripped through the sleeve of my shirt, tearing through a couple centimeters of my flesh. Blood trickled onto my sleeve and expanded against the gray fabric like a stain of juice against a napkin.

I groaned as my hand shot to my shoulder, applying pressure to the wound. My shoulder slumped, and my fingers slackened.

He positioned his finger on the trigger again and threatened, “It won’t be your arm next shot. It was very good to see you; I’ve honestly missed you in prison. I missed having somebody actually interested in my wellbeing. You know, I missed having someone think I am of worth.”

Devin was motionless, frozen in the tub.

“May I say goodbye?” I asked, motioning to her.

“Make it quick.”

I leaned over the edge of the tub and pressed my forehead into her shoulder. I whispered into her skin, “I’ll come back, okay? I’ll come back with some help. I’m so sorry. I should’ve—“

“Okay, get out.”

I pulled myself away from her reluctantly, and she twisted back to me. Her glazed eyes pleaded for me to stay as her fingertips brushed against my forearm. I shook her away and strolled across the bathroom as I heard her readjust and sit up. I glanced over my shoulder to see her brunette head pop over the edge to watch me.

Jude readjusted as I slid past him, the revolver never straying away to his side. I exited the bathroom and almost made it three steps away from the room before a shot fired.

I whipped around in time to see Devin launch herself onto Jude, wrapping one arm around his neck and the other one grappling with his other hand to grab the revolver. Her fingers wrapped around his wrist and snapped it towards her, but he fought back. He pistol-whipped her nose, but she continued to wrestle the gun out of his hand fiercely. He shot another round that slammed into the floorboards two feet to my right. I jumped back, falling on my back.

Devin threw a fist into Jude’s face as she wrestled him to the ground.

I remembered the way I watched animal documentaries when I was young and how I was stunned when a zebra survived an attack by a crocodile, lion, or other fierce predator, and I understood the mechanism of flight or fight. However, I never truly saw the endorphin rush and fight for life first-hand until this very moment. Despite the zebra being wounded and crushed by the lion, she was still growing a small revolt against her captor.

I was frozen in awe. I simply could not move.

Devin shoved her father against the floor and grabbed his arm with both hands. She opened her slackened jaw and fell upon his fleshy forearm, digging her fangs into his arm. Her legs swung to his sides and straddled him, creating a strong anchor to fortify her attacks. He let out a blood-curdling scream that provoked goose bumps to rise against my frail skin.

She tore the revolver from his hand, digging deeper into his skin with her teeth. She pulled away from his forearm abruptly and spat a stream of thick, maroon liquid from her mouth against the wall. Her left hand held the revolver as she scuffed the heel of her hand across her lips.

Jude struggled violently, kicking and thrashing to get her off of his abdomen, but she denied him the luxury of surviving another attack.

My heart tried to escape my chest like a wild animal begging to be torn from its entrapment. Ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump, ba-bump. My eyes widened in horror as the feral monster crept back into Devin.

Her tawny locks fell over her face, hiding the demon hidden inside the girl I loved. Her veins bulged as her right index finger wrapped around the slim trigger of the revolver aimed so intently at her father’s forehead. Her chest heaved up and down, steadying.

Jude froze, his palms facing the ceiling as he recognized his demise was inevitable. He began to beg pathetically, and I shook my head, stunned at the man’s sudden turn in character from this beast to the man I knew before this afternoon. “Please, baby girl, it’s your daddy. You don’t want to do this to your Dad.”

Devin’s icy, statuesque eyes nailed him into his place, answering his pleas with that menacing glare. She flicked back the trigger on the back of the revolver, loading the barrel with a bullet.

“Dev, don’t,” I whispered hesitantly, afraid she would turn against me, too. I could not decide who I was terrified of more in that moment—Devin or Jude. They possessed the same deadly glare and same bestial ferocity that would haunt me for years; they were one and the same when Devin fell into this façade.

“Devin, baby, don’t do this to me. Think of your mother. Think of your sister. Think of all the good times we had together. What about all of the bonding we had?”

She bared her teeth ferociously and snarled, “You mean when you prostituted me out? You mean when you let those men have their way with me? Or when you killed my unborn child? Or do you mean when you nearly beat me to death?” She pressed the barrel of the gun fiercely into his forehead, a divot no doubt forming under the pressure.

My heart ached as the secrets poured from her lips like vomit.

Jude didn’t just abused her—he used her like livestock. He used her like an aimless object.

“The way you fucked me all those times? The way I asked—no, pleaded—for you to stop? The way you threatened me if anyone ever found out? The way I feared being raped every night under your roof?”

My throat caught as tears began to streak down her face as she fought back the urge to collapse back into a young girl instead of a monster. I wished I left like he told me to.

That was why Heath found her in the church basement battered… Jude beat her because the kid would have let out Devin’s and Jude’s little secret. And then, I wondered if Heath and Devin were supposed to be parents together—was that why they were attached so tautly? The miscarriage? It was… Heath’s?

She swallowed loudly and hissed, “You should have finished the job. You don’t destroy me; I destroy me.”

“Devin, I lo—”

Her fingers snapped back against the trigger.

The bullet flew into the floor boards, throwing shards of wood from under the linoleum into the air like a mist.

“—ove you.”

Devin’s mouth hung ajar, stuttering as if she was caught on lock. Her eyes quivered as she stared fearfully down upon her father. Her hands shook, reverberating through the gun, tilting it back and forth carelessly.

Jude’s ear sat mere millimeters from the bullet hole in the floor. His ember eyes slid across his sclera to hesitantly stare at the scar, incredulous of his survival.

My widened eyes blinked away the flabbergasted expression I held. I couldn’t say it because of him. He ruined that one phrase for her entire life. She was terrified to hear that one phrase because she heard it first from a frightening beast.

Jude reached out timidly to his daughter, resting his palm on her left cheek. She clenched her eyes shut and tried to turn away from his touch. Her shoulders drooped and shuddered like a small child succumbing to disappointment and defeat. Her flaccid wrists rested the gun to Jude’s chest. Droplets fell against his chest as she receded to the minute presence she once had before. “There, that’s my girl.”

She slowly shook her head from side to side, her neck rolling restlessly with each movement. She hiccupped once, and then I saw her wrists snap back into strength. She quickly pressed the barrel of the gun to the center of his chest, wrapping her index and middle finger around the trigger automatically as if she was born to do this.

“Devin, no!” I cried out.

She pulled the trigger.

Jude stared incredulously at the barrel of the gun as no sound whistled through the silencer.

Devin pulled the gun to her and pointed it at him again, snapping the trigger back quickly.

Nothing.

She did it again. “What?”

Nothing.

Again. “No, no, no, no… God, no.”

Nothing.

Again.

Nothing.

Jude laughed with amusement, shaking Devin as her eyes desperately investigated the gun constantly, searching for any delicate detail preventing her from finally ridding herself of the nightmarish presence of her father. She wrestled with the metal piece for several minutes as his laugh grew from a minute chortle to a boisterous squeal. “Devin, seven rounds.”

I shuddered, terrified of what Jude would do to us now.

The shovel by the door—

Her blue eyes wandered hastily across the room, scouring for any reason or any way to succumb to a new thought to end this nightmarish hell.

“You imbecile, you can’t do anything right. You can’t figure out how to do anything, you worthless piece of shit.”

She snatched the barrel of the gun with her right hand and slammed the handle into his temple.

“What the hell, Devin? Are you insane or—?”

The handle whipped into his cheek again.

“Devin! Devin, stop!”

She reared back her arm and rushed forward, smashing the metal handle into his temple and face. She reared back again and again and again. Blood splashed across her chest, thighs, face, and eyes, glittering like sequins in the dim sunlight streaming in from the mottled windows. It splattered across the linoleum and against the porcelain. His wounds exploded with the liquid with each fierce impact as the loathing and the hatred she had harbored for so many years exuded from her actions.

Jude’s face contorted and swelled under her, bringing him into an unrecognizable state.

And then she kept going. Feral grunts fell from her full lips as her metal appendage collided into his bone, crushing it into smithereens, and she continued thrashing the impacts into him. His neck loosened, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head.

“Devin!” I screamed hysterically, terrified of what was happening inside of her.

Her arm pulled back and rushed forward again. His eye socket collapsed into itself like a vacuum suddenly popped up inside his skull. Her glazed eyes embraced this horrific sight, unblinking and full of vindication.

“Devin, you’re killing him!”

A series of blows concerted back to back to back against his skull, shattering his facial structure further and further, imploding every recognizable feature.

“Devin! You’re killing him! You’re killing him!”

Her left hand wrapped around his neck, steadying his limp body as she threw forth another barreling impact.

“Dev!”

And then she suddenly froze.

“Dev?” I inquired hesitantly.

Her blue eyes blinked lugubriously, languidly as she seemed to vacantly absorb the results of her concerted effort. Her hand fell limp, dropping the gun to her right. She gingerly pulled herself from Jude to her feet, struggling to gain her balance, swaying back and forth like a drunkard.

“Devin?”

She lumbered unevenly towards me and then past me, her hip carelessly smashing into my shoulder. I twisted to watch her slowly descend down the stairs, the vacant, glazed gaze glued to nothing but something in her own imagination. Her pink tongue slid across her purple lips and folded back inside her small mouth—and then she repeated the same action several times as she came to the first floor.

I thundered down the stairs after her, unaware of what she was doing.

Her tongue slid across her lips again.

I grasped the handrail at the end of the stairs, just a bystander in her catatonic trance, ignoring all of reality. “Devin?” I shuffled behind her as she floated into the living room.

She suddenly halted.

I sprinted around to her side and placed my hand on her shoulder. Her blue eyes remained frozen, glazed over, immune to what was happening. I gently shook her shoulder, trying to gain her attention. “Dev, you okay?”

Then her sclera came into full view. My heart stopped in my chest as her heels peeled off the floor, her toes fell away from gravity, and she limply fell into the floor absentmindedly. Her hands pinned to her sides, not even hesitating to catch herself.Her face smashed into the carpet, and she did not move from her uncomfortable position.

“Devin!!!”

I knelt down beside her, and then I noticed it—her eyelids fluttered. Her toes twitched, her fingertips dancing. I placed my hand on her lower back, terrified of what was happening to her, and then her skin reverberated against my touch. Abruptly, her body contorted tautly and then fell into a trance of constant movement of constricting and contracting.

“DEVIN!!!” I wailed.

She clenched her jaw, baring her teeth absently, and then her convulsions became more severe. Her arm slapped into my shin, and I quickly pinned her arms to the floor, hoping to stabilize her. She abruptly grunted and groaned before I felt her left arm twist under my grasp. My palm pressed down harshly against her arm, trying to prevent her from thrashing wildly. She let out a wail before her arm snapped from the harsh constraints of my fingers.

I launched backwards and fell onto my butt, my palms resting behind me as I stared at her incredulously.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do when someone had seizures. The only thing I knew was I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her anymore. I needed help—I whipped around and stared back up at the stairs.

My phone.

I sprinted up the stairs and fled to the bathroom. Blood began to pool around Jude’s head, but his chest rose and fell relatively evenly. I knelt down next to him and went through his many different pockets. His fingers rose to my face, brushing against my nose. He meekly whimpered, “Help me, Ned…” I shook him off, and I snatched my cell phone from his front pocket. I stood up and quickly dialed the number everyone is forced to remember since birth.

“911, where’s your emergency?” answered a grounded voice.

“Devin is having a seizure, and I don’t know what to do, and I’m freaking out—“

Jude moaned, “What about me?”

“And a man is injured, too… she hit him, but I swear to God it was defense. Oh my god, oh my god,” I found myself hyperventilating and having trouble gaining any composure.

I shuffled across the room and headed back down the stairs boisterously. “Sir, how long has she been having this seizure?”

I pulled my phone from my ear to glance at the clock, but I had no base to find the negative affect of time. I whimpered into the phone, “I don’t know.”I whipped around the corner, and Devin still seized on the floor in the middle of her living room. I knelt down beside her and rubbed her shoulder. I caught a glimpse of her face strained and contorted as if she was trying to fight back, as if she was trying to regain control.

“What’s your address?”

Stunned, I turned to Devin, begging for her to give me any idea what her address was. I just knew I took a left on this street and a right at another from my house and got here in about ten minutes. “I don’t know. I can go check in my car.”

“No, no, stay there with her. We’ll get your coordinates from your phone.”

The strong smell of ammonia flooded my nostrils. A puddle of urine formed around Devin, and my stomach dropped into my pelvis. I struggled to remain somewhat composed as I had never experienced this encompassing loss of control. Devin had always been so cool and collected, pretending she was in control of everything, but here she was, abandoning every ounce of control. Her body disobeyed like a stubborn child.

“What do I do? I don’t know what to do!”

Saliva expelled from her lips as she gurgled and spat onto the floor.

It became very hard for me to breathe.

“Sir, calm down. We’re sending an ambulance and a squad to your coordinates. Sir, I need you to tell me what kind of seizure she’s having.”

I frantically hesitated, “Um, I don’t know. She’s convulsing—hard. I think I broke her arm holding her down. I don’t know what to do.”

“Sir, what’s your name?”

“Ned Mortis—Edwin Mortis.”

“Ned, calm down, it’s going to be alright. I’m Raven. I need you to turn her on her side in case she begins to vomit. We don’t want her to choke on it. Only hold her on her side; don’t try to make the convulsions stop.”

I cuffed the phone to my ear with my shoulder and leaned over Devin, tugging on her left shoulder, forcing her to face away from me. I couldn’t bear to stare at her pained expression anymore. A stream of foam fell from the corner of her lips onto the carpet, gurgling and bubbling from inside her chest. “She’s spitting up,” I whimpered. My other hand rubbed her upper back, trying to give her comfort.

“Ned, do you know the two people injured on site?”

“Devin Sebold and Jude Sebold. They’re father and daughter.”

“Do you know the seizure patient?”

“Yes, yes, I do.”

“Listen to me, she might be able to hear you, so why don’t you talk to her a little bit?”

My eyes fell back to Devin, and I whimpered, choking back a sob as the tears suddenly began to pour without a hint of foreshadowing, “Hey, Dev, guess what?”

Of course she didn’t answer.

“You would have laughed so hard at graduation. Brody took a dare to not wear anything under his robes, and he practically flashed the front row—I thought Sam Stephens was going to up-chuck.”

“That’s good, Ned. Just hang on the line until the ambulance comes in.”

“Okay, Raven. Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“You don’t know if everything is really going to be okay, do you?”

She didn’t answer.

“Raven?”

“Keep talking to Devin, Ned.”

I usually couldn’t shut up in Devin’s presence, but I was too stunned to spit anything out. I was too terrified to give her any of the comfort I stored away for myself. I couldn’t ration any of my composure because I barely had enough to keep me from sobbing myself.

“Ned, are you there?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I can’t do this.”

“Tell the ambulance when they come in that she’s been seizing over five minutes.”

My heart dropped. “Is that bad?”

Devin suddenly fell limp under my hands; she rolled back onto my arm. Her eyes folded shut lightly as if she was merely napping. Her bruised face rested over the edge of my arm, and I pulled her onto my lap. Her heavy head sat on my lap as I petted her hair away from her battered bruises. “She stopped convulsing.”

“Good, is she conscious?”

“No. Is that bad?”

“Is she breathing?”

My eyes traveled to her chest, her sweatshirt unzipped down to her navel from her thrashing. I leaned over, zipped it up to her collar bone. Her chest rose and fell slowly, a quiet whistle blowing through her nose with each exhalation. “Yes.”

“Okay.”

“Is that bad?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

An ambulance siren could be heard barreling up the driveway.

“I think they’re here, Dev. You’re going to be okay. You’re gonna be okay.” I gave her a peck on her forehead, pulling back her bangs to press my lips against her cold forehead. I placed my forehead against hers and sat there, praying for the ambulance to be for her, praying for it to be the one to help us.

“Good, let them handle everything.”

I forgot Raven was on the line.

“Ambulance! Back away from the door.”

“In here!” I screamed laboriously. The phone clicked; Raven was gone forever.

The entry door slammed into the foyer wall, and two men shuffled inside the room with a long gurney and orange board between them. Their eyes quickly absorbed Devin and me, and they fell to their knees beside me silently. For a long while, they hesitantly stared at her battered body, and I wondered if they thought she was dead until they gingerly slipped the board underneath her and pushed me gently away from her. I almost fought back, paranoid that she was going to be hurt yet again.

“She seized for over five minutes…” I unconfidently admitted as they shone a light in both of her eyes—her pupils immediately dilating.

One nodded his head, and they pulled her off the floor and placed her on the gurney ruggedly. She whimpered quietly when she lulled to one side. “What’s her name?” one asked in a gruff voice below a 70s mustache.

“Devin Sebold.”

“Devin, I’m Mark, and this is Jeff. We’re taking you to the hospital, okay?” he said in a trivial voice as if she was elementary. I swallowed back my urge to correct his misconceptions about this miraculous individual.

“Help, please,” Jude whined from upstairs.

A rage boiled inside my chest, a loathing I had never experienced in my life. A pure hatred and disdain for a man who deserved every punishment offered to him. I should have given him a few thrashings before I took the phone call. I should have killed him for her. I should have ended all of the misery and hell she had gone through for the past eighteen years. I shuddered as my hairs rose, imagining gruesome ways to destroy him, to end his existence. I could have been her savior for at least one moment, enough to solidify everything.

And then again, she never admitted to those atrocities until tonight. If I had known, would I have defended him so fervently? Who would I have believed—a man I trusted for nearly my whole life or the girl who was in love with my best friend?

She pulled away from my lips for a moment, our bodies one, and she just stared into my discolored eyes, thoughts racing.

“What?” I asked, pushing her blonde hair over her shoulder with the back of my hand gently. I couldn’t explain how beautiful she was in that one moment, the way everything was so perfect, the way she was so perfect with her imperfections.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do you like me so much?”

“Why?”

“No one ever has.”

The men strapped her to the gurney, tautly pressing against her chest. Bruises continued to discolor her delicate skin that was so soft under my fingertips. Her hair, discolored and impure, fell across her eyes as the two rolled her away after calling another unit for Jude after evaluating his condition versus Devin.

I whimpered, “Please take me with her.”

“You family?”

I stood up slowly, blood rushing back to my shins and calves after kneeling for so long. Furrowed brow, I admitted, “No.”

“The other ambulance will stitch you up.”

I glanced to my arm and recognized the gash that bled so profusely and only stung when I remembered the wound. I applied pressure to my forearm and stared at Devin—bruises, dried blood, contusions, swollen area, and all. It could have been enough to make someone pass out, but it was weird because it was almost like this was movie makeup. This all was just a rouse because who could ever experience so much? Who could do this to another human being?

I waited impatiently in the hallway of the ER, waiting to give a sperm and DNA sample. The rape test would have been inconclusive and only register my DNA because Jude apparently forced her to shower before I came in. The gurney felt rock hard under my butt, and I was forced to witness the rush of the ER in the night—too many emergencies to allow somebody giving samples into a room immediately. I folded my fingers into a steeple and stared at the curtain in front of me—streaked with watercolor patterns reminiscent of a geriatric bathroom. I waited for someone to finally match me up, but the workers were too busy running in and out of two rooms in particular. One needed immediate surgery, and the other needed several consultations.

“Ned! Oh God!”

I twisted my head quickly to see my mom rush to me as if I was a toddler. Her black hair was pulled back into a messy bun, her eyes swollen and red from crying. She wrapped her arms around me tautly and patted my back, rocking back and forth. “Oh my god, Ned, I was so worried. I was terrified you were hurt. Oh God.”

I buried my face into her clavicle, choking back sobs, realizing I was so afraid I would never see her again. Stunned, I was sure I would never be held by my own mother. I thought I was going to die, and the tears fought to pour. I swallowed hard to push away the hysterics. I quickly embraced my mom and pulled her off of her feet. “I’m so sorry, Mom, for everything.”

“What can I do to make this better? I’ll do anything. Are you hurt? What can I do?” She pulled away and placed my sunken, exhausted face into her long, thin fingers. Her green eyes met mine, brushing away at something under my eye. A fragile smile stretched between her lips, waiting to be easily broken.

“I’ve just got a gash. They stitched it up at the site. I just have to give some samples.”

“For what?”

Embarrassed, I didn’t know how to respond, but I didn’t have to.

“Is there a Ned here?”

I immediately stood up and faced the nurse in lavender scrubs littered with playful kittens. He held a clipboard in his rugged hands, aged with latex and powder, and he motioned for me to follow him. My mom nodded and gave me the signal to follow him. He introduced himself with a name that escapes me—we only interacted that one time. He led me down the hallway to one of the curtained doorways people had been entering and leaving every so often.

“Your sister is awake, but she’s still groggy. I’ve got to warn you; she’s got her mouth wired shut to deal with that broken jaw. Don’t let her get too worked up or she’ll have issues breathing. She’s really emotional right now after the incident and from some of the medications we gave her to deal with the pain. She’s got a concussion, six broken ribs, a fractured nose, fracture of the jaw, fractured arm, numerous contusions, internal vaginal trauma—” He pulled back the curtain, and Devin stared half-heartedly at the entrance. I stepped inside, forgetting the rest of the injuries she sustained as he stated them.

Her normally tawny skin appeared ghostly pallor under the fluorescent lights, and her pale hospital gown was a size too big, hanging down her right shoulder, her clavicles protruding from her skin. Her brown hair fell down her shoulders and chest. A sheet was pulled to her breasts, her right arm tucked inside. I guiltily glanced at her left arm, noticing a purple cast that stretched from her hand to above her elbow. Her swollen blue eyes pierced through the purple bruising stretching from one side of her face, across her nose, to the other side. Her chin rested on one shoulder as if she was once asleep.

The nurse pulled the curtain close as if he understood that we weren’t siblings—as if he knew by the way my eyes stared at each of the curtains longingly, hoping it was her each time. Maybe by the way my heart fluttered as soon as he pulled back the curtain.

“Hey, Dev,” I whispered nonchalantly. I shuffled to the side of her bed, an empty chair begging for me to fill it. I flopped down upon the chair and pulled it closer to her bed, my knees pressed against the side-rails.

Her brows furrowed, and I immediately noticed her eyes began to water upon recognizing me. Afraid I was a trigger for her to remember everything, I considered leaving. Her chest heaved heartily, raising and lowering in a hasty pace. Her jaw clenched shut, and she bared her teeth, revealing a metal wire lacing between her gums to latch her mouth shut.

It was, needless to say, a little jarring to see her.

I shot out of my seat and tried to leave from just all of the overwhelming stimulations. How was I supposed to react to someone I loved rejecting me so easily? Immediately associating me with the incident.

Fingers curled into my shirt, pulling me back to the bed. I whipped around to see tears streaming down her face. She whistled through her teeth, “Please, don’t leave me.” She pulled on my shirt lightly, luring me into her. I nestled beside her on the bed, just meekly staring at her. They cleaned away the blood on her face and body, but I could still tell she had been through hell—eyes sunken and exhausted. Her nail-less fingers scabbed over the wounds, and I gently unhinged her fingers from my shirt, worried I would break the scabs.

She began to hyperventilate as I placed her hand in her lap, a sense of anxiety contagious enough to make me feel uneasy. She whimpered, “No, no, no.” Blood rushed to her face, her rosy cheeks swollen, too.

“Dev, you got to calm down; you are going to have trouble breathing if you start to cry.”

She ignored me blatantly, tears continuing to roll down her face as she fervently shook her head. My hand rested on her broken arm, the hard cast rough and callous against my touch. “Dev, calm down.”

Our eyes met, and, stunned, I shut up.

Her battered fingers wrapped around my fingers like a small child reaching for her parents’ hands. Her eyes shook, and I knew she wouldn’t be able to handle this. Like a stallion, she was broken—shattered by the experience. Terror cascaded over me as I pondered if she would ever be back to the normal Devin I fell in love with.

I cuffed the back of her neck, pulling her into my chest. She sat up on her knees and crawled onto my lap like a cat. Her arms wrapped around my trunk and squeezed loosely as she buried her face into my chest—even though I protested to prevent her from destroying her nose. She shivered.

My hand traveled up and down her bare back, sliding against her fragile skin and across her scars. My fingertips traced up her back to her tattoo, but I felt scabbing across the area instead of the normally smooth skin. She curled into a ball on my lap, sliding down to the point where her head rested on my lap. I pressed back her smooth hair, pulling her gown a little to see the tattoo. Free was no longer visible against her luminescent skin…

“Devin, what happened to your tattoo?”

She murmured into my skin, “Jude.”

A black box scarred across the adjective that Devin loved so much she tainted her skin with ink. Now a censorship spread across the word, deleting her tribute to something she would never tell me.

I leaned over, pressing my lips to her forehead. “You’ll be okay, alright? You won’t have to deal with him ever again—I swear to God, I’ll kill him if he touches you again.”

Her blue eyes fluttered to mine, expression blank. She turned back into my jeans and whimpered, the tears falling down her face again. Her fingers curled into my pants, ensnaring me in her melancholic, horribly shattered world.

I sunk into her, folding over her, lying against her side, my arms wrapping around her torso as she curled into a tauter ball.

“You knew?! You knew!” a voice shouted in the hallway.

I shot up, but Devin didn’t move, blankly staring into my chest as if I wasn’t there and she was looking at something totally different.

“Mom, how could you?! You knew, and you didn’t do anything.”

Devin pressed her hands against her ears and clenched her eyes shut. I pulled away from her, and she shot up, too. I put her back in the bed, covering her with the sheet as she nestled slowly back into the bed. I shut the light off—amazed the staff forgot to turn it off for her concussion. “Stay here.”

I rushed out the curtained door into the hallway to hopefully end the episode of drama outside Devin’s room—I couldn’t let her be in more pain than she already was in.

Esther’s hands wrapped inside the shirt of a women’s blouse, pulling her close to her face, a few centimeters separating the two of them. Esther’s blue eyes pierced into the woman’s ferociously, determined to get her point across. “How dare you?! How dare you, Mom?!”

The other woman stood equally as tall as Esther, her tawny hair cut short and blue eyes as piercing as Devin’s. She wore a black business suit with a plain white blouse underneath. She was a woman I could have walked past a hundred times and never thought to remember her. She was just so plain to the point of being anonymous in a crowd. This was Arianna Sebold.

The nurses hushed each other at their station, staring incredulously as the petite girl roared at the woman fiercely like a lion versus a domestic cat. Esther bared her teeth like a feral cat and hissed, “You did this to her? You let this happen to her! If you had the guts to admit that Dad is a monster, we wouldn’t be here! How could you stay with him when you knew?”

I slunk in between the two of them, ripping Esther away from her mother. I wrapped my arms around her waist, dragging here away abruptly. She fought back, her nails digging into my skin as she flailed her legs and arms at Arianna. Arianna tidied her uniform and resigned to the ER waiting room patiently.

Esther wailed, “Let go of me! Let go of me!”

“Stop, Esther!”

Esther halted her revolt once she recognized my voice. She twisted to see my face, immediately confessing, “She knew Dad had been doing this to her all along. She knew, and she didn’t do shit for it!”

And then the anger I reserved for Jude continued to seep into another category specially designed for Devin’s mother. I let go of Esther, who immediately whipped around and rushed into her sister’s room.

“Why didn’t you tell me?!” she roared again.

I sprinted to Devin’s room, whipping the curtain out of the way, forgetting any form of privacy for her. Esther stood over Devin and yelled, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Devin stared at Esther with a sympathetic, apologetic expression as if she was at fault for this whole incident. She nonchalantly shrugged as if this was not such a grave situation.

I stood silently, waiting for Devin to answer, because this needed to be said for some reason. In my head, if she admitted why she never told anyone about this, she would be free of the burden, but another part of me knew this burden was too great to simply strip off.

Esther hissed, “Tell me.”

Devin just stared.
“For the love of God, just tell me, Devin. Come on. Tell me why.”

No answer.

“Devin, just answer her,” I mustered furtively. She glanced at me and then turned back to her sister, stiff and waiting. She refused to answer.

“Tell me, right now.”

Nothing.

“Tell me!”

Nothing.

Esther whipped her hand into Devin’s jaw, and Devin’s head spun into the other side of the bed. Her hands shot to her jaw, and her knees tucked into her chest suddenly. I rushed over to Esther and grabbed her by the waist again. She roared, “Stop it, Ned! You aren’t even family! Who let you in here?!”

“Esther, stop,” I groaned as she swung at my stitches.

“Ned, get off!”

“It was because he said he was going to do the same to you.”

We froze, stunned by Devin as she turned back to us with the same feral glare that had terrified me back at the house. Her blue eyes pierced us in our place, and I let go of her sister, allowing her to peel away from me and kneel down beside the bed. Esther whispered, “What?”

Devin turned back to her lap, clenching her fists, something inside of her shaking her hands. She whispered, “He said if I ever told anyone, he would do the same thing to you.”

Esther shook her head and asked again, “What?”

“He threatened to hurt you, too, if I ever told. I couldn’t let that happen to you; I couldn’t let him do that to you.” Her blue eyes twisted to her sister, a slight grimace carved into her face. “I couldn’t let him.”

Esther buried her face into the sheets, clenching them as she began to sob into them like a child. Devin petted her sister as she just let her sob like a toddler being comforted by her mother because they were the only things they ever truly had from birth. The twins were the only people who held a secret compact to protect and serve. I never realized Devin had such a strong bond with her sister until she admitted this. A sister sacrificing herself for her twin.

“Devin,” I whispered, realizing the gravity of everything she had ever asked me and had ever said. She never said much because she was constantly thinking, and her words managed to strike Esther and me with a ferocity no dialogue ever should.


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