So, I'm working on some side projects right now and instead of leaving this space forgotten, I thought I'd share a little from Come Alive. I won't always have pieces up on Mondays, but for the next few weeks, I will. Hope you enjoy. I see him before he sees me. He’s sitting on the bleachers - my favorite spot - talking to someone on his cell phone. This has been our meeting place for a few weeks now, kind of our way of starting the day together. This morning, he’s wearing his typical uniform of letter jacket and jeans. I think of his scent - the way it lingers on my clothes after he holds me - and I smile, the butterflies coming to life inside. His hair falls across his forehead and he reaches up to brush it away. I stop for a few minutes and just watch him. I imagine he’s talking to his mom - who else would be up this early? Not wanting to interrupt him, I wait for awhile longer. I didn’t know if he would be here this morning because I wasn’t able to answer his phone call last night.
Memories come flooding back and I try and push them away. I glance again at the sky and remind myself today is a new day with new possibilities and hope. My eyes wander back to Kevin - he looks tired. He’s off the phone now, his eyes focusing on the clouds in the distance. His head rests in his hands and every once in awhile his left foot starts to involuntarily bounce. His nervous twitch. I smile to myself and make my way over to the bleachers. He hears my approach and lifts his head. Smiling, he reaches for my hand to help me up the stairs.
“You started early this morning.”
He tilts his head and his grin grows across his face, "What do you mean?”
I point to his phone still sticking out of his pocket and he nods his head in understanding.
“Oh. Yeah. That was uh...my mom.” He scratches his head sheepishly, as if he wonders whether or not he should divulge information, and shrugs, “She just likes to know I made it to school okay.”
I raise an eyebrow and position myself close to him - away from the chill of the morning air. He wraps his arm around me and pulls me closer still.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
I smile and blush at his greeting and lean forward to kiss his cheek. “Mornin''” My voice is a lot deeper than normal - I cough to clear the frog out of my throat and silently curse the evening spent outside on the frozen grass. I glance out of the corner of my eye as I sit gingerly next to him - my legs still incredibly sore from the night before. I pull my hair down across my face and attempt to make my bangs fall below my blackened eye. I feel his gaze inspecting me - noticing my wincing, my sharp intake of breath, my purposeful positioning of hair across my face...
“Your dad get a hold of you again?”
He always knows.
“Yeah.” I sniff to avoid the fresh wave of tears threatening escape, but he beats me to the punch. He doesn’t even say anything at first. He just grabs my hand and squeezes it.
“Don’t Kevin...please. Not now. I can’t handle it.” I look at him through my tears and will him to understand - to not go to those places - the ones where people ask me to leave my home or to say something against the only family I’ve ever known. They don’t understand. They won’t ever understand. It’s so much more complicated than walking out the door.
He glances down at our fingers - now interlocked. He looks at me and gives me the crooked smile that would make me go cockeyed for the rest of the day. “Why’d you come out here this morning?” He asked.
He touches the bruise on my cheek, black against the paleness of my skin, and purses his lips. “I hate that you have to live like this, Steph. No one should have to experience what you do on a daily basis. How do you do it? How have you not gone crazy? I think about my own parents and...I don’t know...it’s just so hard for me to fathom someone not experiencing the safety of a family.” He takes a strand of my hair and places it behind my ear and looks at me, waiting for a reply.
I have to hand it to him - his approach is different. Instead of asking me to leave, he asks why I stay. He tries to understand. I squeeze his hand as I fight for the words.
I look away and focus on the sun’s rays bathing the trees in its morning glow. “I don’t know, Kevin. I just...do. I have no choice but to survive. My brother helps - knowing there’s someone younger than me in the house pushes me to stay. I couldn’t ever leave Pacey knowing what happens when my dad gets angry. It’s just the cards I’ve been dealt, I guess.” I shrug my shoulders complacently and look at him out of the corner of my eye, “The only thing I can do is hang on to the constants in my life - writing. Protecting Pacey. The hope of a sunrise.” I glance down at our hands and whisper, “You.”
He takes my face gently into his hands and kisses me lightly on this lips - briefly touching the scar from the night before - and the birds begin to sing, echoing across the field against the backdrop of clouds that look like fire and mirror my heart - alive and bursting with a new day.
He pulls back and looks me in the eyes, “I’m going to find a way to keep you safe, Steph. I promise.”
Seeing the intensity in his gaze, I know without a doubt he’s telling the truth. I think about my father - his anger and what he would do if he knew I was talking with Kevin, and my blood runs cold. I look away for a second to collect my thoughts. I’m not used to this feeling - this knowing I need protection but not wanting it for fear of retaliation.
“Kevin...my dad is dangerous. Please don’t get involved - I don’t want you hurt.”
He studies me and shrugs his shoulders, “It’s too late, Steph. I’m already involved. I was involved the second I saw a bruise on your skin. Nothing will change that - and I promise I’ll be careful. Your dad doesn’t scare me.”
I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
That’s the problem, I think to myself.
I feel the fear rising - the fixation and compulsiveness - and silently will them away. Closing my eyes, I rest my head in my hands and wonder how long it will be until Kevin realizes the extent of my dad’s power.
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