Read pt. 1 here I see him before he sees me. He’s sitting on the bleachers - my favorite spot. I stop for a few minutes and just watch him. This has been our meeting place for a few weeks now, kind of our way of starting the day together. I didn’t know if he would be here this morning though 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. 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.
“Good morning, beautiful”
I smile and blush at his greeting and lean forward to kiss his cheek. “Good morning.” 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.
“Your dad get a hold of you again?”
He always knew.
“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.
“Do you know when I started watching the sunrise?”
“No....” I answer, wondering what it has to do with my situation but knowing before he even answers it has everything to do with what I went through last night at the hands of my father.
Kevin chuckled and shuffled his feet, almost as if he were embarrassed to share the story, “I showed up to school early one day. The doors weren’t even open. Everything was locked and it was completely dark. I didn’t have any money for breakfast, so I just sat on the curb and waited. That’s when I met her.”
His eyes had taken a distant quality to them - I watched as he struggled to find the words to say.
“I never saw her before that morning, and I haven’t seen her since. But I was sitting there, mind-numbingly bored, and she started talking to me. At first I was a little weirded out. I mean, who was this girl? She looked like one of those...emo kids or something. But then I realized the sleeves she wore? They covered the cuts on her arm. And the turtleneck? That covered the marks left by her mom.”
My breath starts picking up speed. I want to believe...but I’m not quite sure I have the ability to take the risk.
“Anyways, we’re sitting there having this completely one-sided conversation and she asks me a question: what I thought about the sunrise. At first, I didn’t know what to say, so I just continued to sit there and soon enough she kept talking. She said sunrises remind her of hope. Sunrises make her...
“feel alive.” I finished, shaking.
“...Yeah.” He scrunched his eyebrows the way he always did when he is trying to figure out something incredibly important. “How did you know?”
“She told me the same thing.”
He turned his knees so they bumped up against mine and I felt that all-too-familiar course of electricity race through my veins. “What?” He stared at me intently and I wonder briefly why someone so strikingly handsome wants to be with someone as...mousy as me. “When did you see her?”
“I don’t know...like, six months ago? It was at the end of last year.”
“I met her at the beginning of this year. In September.”
We both looked at each other in disbelief.
He glanced 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 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, their three-note song of hope and promise echoing across the field against the backdrop of clouds that looked like fire and mirrored my heart - alive and bursting with a new day.