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The Rush-Chapter Four

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Chapter Four

The iHome on my wooden bedside table glowed 10:47 as I got up from the couch, about to get ready for bed. That was when I got yet another troubled text from Seth. I was usually the one he leaned on when he was having a bad night. Bad night meaning his parents were getting really loaded and didn’t exactly see him as a good thing when they were. I often asked him if he cried about it as if I didn’t already know when he did, but I can’t expect him to admit to it. If Vinnie or Clifford found out about it, they would kill him.

u ok?
Seth:my other eyes black now, lots of empty needles lyin around again.....says enough

phil and gina?
Seth:them too
u need 2 leave the house?i can meet u at the hole
Seth:could u? i need a place 2 go 2
i know u do.months of hearing about what steve and patty do 2 u, u cant stay there on nights like this.
Seth:can u meet at the hole?
yeah i just need 2 wit 4 my mom 2 come in and say
goodnight.then i can go
Seth:ok so like 20 minutes?
yeah that should b good.
u wanna bring gina and phil?
Seth:no, theyre asleep
ok, c u soon
Seth:wait, r u sure? i dont like makin u sneak out 4 me....its
not like this hasnt happened be4
dont be crazy, its no problm
Seth:ok, c u

Just as our chat ended, my mom knocked on the door. I quickly scrambled under the covers, shoved my phone under my pillow, and picked up my copy of To Kill A Mockingbird and pretended to read.

She opened the door and smiled at me. I didn’t look up to keep up the charade. “Time for lights out, sweetie.”

I feigned an irritated sigh and marked the page I wasn’t up to. “Fine.” I closed the book and looked up at her. We exchanged a smile as she leaned in walked over and kissed my forehead.

“Goodnight sweetie, love you.”

“Love you, too,” I yawned as I reached to my nightstand and turned out my light.

I closed my eyes and my senses heightened. I heard my mom walk to the exit and the low, nearly inaudible moan of my door closing. Jimmy and Lucas were talking in whispers in their room across the hall. My mom thought they were sleeping so I was the only one who new how late the two eight year-olds could stay up. I guess when you’re a twin, you can’t really ignore the other one like you can ignore everything else.

I opened my eyes and waited for the whispering to die down before I reached for my nightstand again. Only this time, I gently pulled the drawer open and retrieved the flashlight with spare batteries. After shoving the batteries into my pajama shorts’ pocket and getting my phone out from under my pillow, I swung my feet silently onto the wooden floor beside my bed. I tip-toed over to my window and winced at the small whine of the metal hinge when I opened it.

I was just about to step onto the roof when I suddenly remembered the importance of keeping this a secret. If my mom peeked into my room before she went to bed, she would expect to see something laying under the covers. It wasn’t likely since I would probably be back before one or two, but it was better to take precautions even if she didn’t check.

I slithered over to my closet and got the blond, curly wig that I used in the school play the year before and a volleyball. I fitted the wig onto the ball and brought it back to my bed. After making sure the back of my head was facing the door, I took some spare pillows and made a vague image of my body. I stood by the door and decided that through eyes of someone who, not only has bad vision to begin with, but who was tired and ready to drop, it could pass as me sleeping.

Standing there made me realize how hard I was breathing. I was so nervous, but it was a jittery high; a thrill. Kind of like sending Olivia Jadski that fake note from a girl that her boyfriend was f***ing behind her back. That was around November and Vinnie gave me some help since we were already friends.

Prior to slipping onto the roof, I checked the lock on the window to make sure I could get back in. I wobbled my way to the oak tree beside my house and jumped onto the nearest limb. I hugged myself to the wood and inched my way to the trunk.

I could tell there clouds were in the sky despite the endless black. Answer in the question; there would be stars out if there were no clouds to guard them from gazing down on us. The crickets and cicadas were singing up a storm though the sultry, heavy air was still. The pallid crescent moon kept hiding and coming out of the moving darkness. Every so often it peeked out of a window in the clouds before going back again. I guess I’m the kind of person who notices such things in any situation. What the moon’s doing and whatnot. I guess I’m the kind of person who can look up at the sky at any hour and find something to keep looking at.

I jumped the gate separating the backyard from the front and made my way towards the street. God forbid my mom happens to be looking out the window at the side of the house. From experience I’ve learned that if it’s dark outside and bright inside, you can see out just as well as you can see in. I backed up against the side of the house to that I wasn’t exposed in the open grass. I shuffled my way to the front and ran down the street.

Despite the scorching heat during the day, the night was crisp. I couldn’t see my breathe, but the shorts and T-shirt didn’t make me look very smart. I would remember to change into sweatpants and grab a sweater next time......ha, next time. Unbelievable.

I pulled out the flashlight once my house was out of sight and I reached the section of the street where there were no lights on in the houses. The neighbors communicated fairly well in this development so it was best to proceed with relentless care. It made me feel better not to be totally blind when walking alone near midnight. I knew it wasn’t just my paranoid past; anyone would be scared doing this.

I made it to the intersection where I met Wes every time we all met at the hole. All I had to do was cross the empty street into the woods.

At this point I paused in doubt. I knew how thick and dense the trees of the small forest was during the day. Not that I wouldn’t know the way to the hole myself if Vinnie and Wes didn’t go with me, but I wasn’t used to them not being there. I would feel awkward if I only met one person during the day let alone no one at night. I had the opportunity to turn around and go home. To my safe warm bed, with my mom downstairs who would go to bed long after I would be asleep. After locking all the doors, closing all the windows, and checking each of our rooms to make sure we were where we were supposed to be, I might add.

But I promised a friend. One of the only friends I had that I needed. There were times when I needed him and he was loyal enough to help me. Now I needed to help him. I pulled out my phone to inspire myself.

r u at the hole?
Seth:yeah r u coming?u dont have 2 if u dont want 2
no im coming
Seth:k c u soon

Ok, there was no going back now. I sucked it up, wrapped my arms around my shaking skin, and crossed the street. I was constantly quarreling my better judgment. Not the reasons that were present in my mind, but to keep them out because as soon as I thought of them, they would turn my legs around.

When I heard the leaves crunching under my waterproof slippers, slightly squishy from the night dew, the paranoid anxiety started to settle in and the haunting memories of sleepless nights flooded back. I could remember all too clearly the vulnerable, inescapable helplessness that ran its icy fingers down my back for weeks. The emotions hadn’t left as I assumed they had. Now, I felt that no matter how terrified my inoffensive my little room made me feel, I wanted to do it over. Being in the dark, dense woods with a small flashlight as my only source of vision, I would’ve traded this one night in the woods for a million sleepless night in my room. I would’ve took them and been thankful for what I knew I could be doing outside of my house alone.

That was gambling with God. Just taking him off the shelf in times of desperation to make it through and them kickin’ him to the side of the road like a dead raccoon, my grandmother used to say. A game I played in my head, only with myself. I was never raised to go to church so I had nothing to believe in. The reality was that I was walking almost blindly into the crowd of tall trees. Even lonelier than turning to God himself.

I started flashing the light at every chirp of a cricket and croak of a frog. The pace I was walking was slowing down as I considered the chances that I was now lost. All for a friend, I told myself. Give your life for a friend you swear you don’t love. Used to, I scoffed at myself. Yet, here you are, risking your life just to comfort him about something that happens every night of his life.....

I knew it was the paranoia talking and not me; I didn’t still have a crush on him. I knew it, too. I’d known it for a long time, but I was still in the woods in the middle of the night just to talk to him.

Just as I thought I spotted the tree I choked out a, “Seth?”

I whipped my head around several times, the flash light following my alert gaze.

My voice was broken and frozen with fear. “Seth? Where are you?” How desperate and petrified I sounded was embarrassing even if he didn’t hear me.

I suddenly felt the slightest bone-chillingly warm pressure touch my shoulder. I gasped like I had almost died from suffocation and turned around, almost falling on my rear. I instinctively flashed the light directly at the person’s face. I exhaled hugely when I saw it was only Seth, and he hadn’t lied. His right eye was black from earlier that day and the left was now swelling up.

I put my hand over my heart and felt my pulse race. “J****, you scared the heck out of me!” I whispered manically.

“Sorry,” he whispered back, squinting even through the swollen bruises.

After breathing deeply for a seconds, I had a chance to really take in the beat up face. His auburn bangs fell over the top of his sad, oceans, but you could still see all too clearly that his parents had had their way with him. “Oh my God,” I said quietly. It never ceased to amaze me how cruel Seth’s parents were to him and his siblings even though it was shown in some way almost every day. I had only seen them once or twice, but it chilled my blood enough just to think about them.

He looked up at the tree started to walk towards it, motioning me to follow. I followed him up to a branch about half way up the trunk and sat down beside him. “Have you ever thought of going to the police about this? Because this can’t go on for your sake. And if that’s not enough, what about Gina and Phil?”

“I can’t go to them. They’ll take us away from them. It wouldn’t be too hard for them to decide the house wasn’t a good place for us to live. Steve and Patty aren’t too good about hiding their stuff; its a f***ing dump over their shack. That’s why none of you guys have been over before.”

I was confused. “Don’t you wanna leave?”

He kept looking down and never at my face. He was trying to avoid eye-contact with me and I knew that awkward feeling of not wanting to admit that someone is looking right at you. It seemed almost romantic, but that wasn’t the point of the moment. “Heck no, they’d take me out of state, long ways away. People are used to me here and leave me alone. People around town and at school. The fact that my family’s no good made its rounds when we came here and now they leave it because they always want new gossip. No one cares anymore even though the s*** never stopped. Its better than having everyone sticking their god**** noses in it. It's just part of Wilmington's scenery now.”

“Would you be able to.....make friends somewhere else?”

He paused for a minute, this is exactly what he was getting at. “I don't give a d*** abut friends. I can make it without a family, can't I? But once the word somehow got out about why I ended up somewhere else, who’s wanna even know my name? Me- some b****** kid who was orphaned from outta town because his jack*** parents are crackheads.”

“It sounds like you’re scared everyone’s just gonna be judgmental. Not everyone’s like that. I like being your friend.”

He shook his head. “Girls have soft spots for guys who get beat up. You don’t have to have like a guy to have a soft spot for him, but if he gets pounded, you better believe you’re gonna be real sensitive around him because girls keep their eyes open for guys they think aren’t heartless idiots. Even if I don’t turn you on, that’s why you’re here now. Plus, besides you, guys like Clifford and Wes and even Vinnie are hard to find days like today.”

He did have a point. Females did have a natural instinct to comfort and nurture the young or the weak. It wasn’t sexist, it was true. That probably was the main reason I had snuck out. Even if he wasn’t one of my best friends, if I knew he was out here ‘cuz his parents got high, I would’ve come. And he was also right when he said friends like the ones we had were hard to find. They seemed to take in strays when they had no where else to go. They took in Seth, they took in Vinnie, and they took in me.

I changed the subject, I couldn’t compete with that logic. “What about Gina and Phil? What do they think?”

“They were born after my parents got hooked on the stuff and I wasn’t. There no birth defects or any s*** like that, but its all they know home life to be. In the first few years I was around, Steve wasn’t bringin’ the stuff home instead of a paycheck, so I know it can be different. I guess their situation is better than mine because they can’t hope for anything different. They can’t pity themselves knowing they could be treated better than a pile of crap. At least they can think its normal.”

“I mean do they ever ask you about it? Like why they get.......beat?”

His voice became even more grave and shattered when he spoke of them. They were only four and five years old. “I took them to my room tonight after things calmed down. Right before Phil fell asleep, he asked me why love hurt so bad. He said he didn’t ever want to get married or have kids.”

“J**** C****, that’s horrible! I mean, sorry, but they beat each other up, too? Not”

He sighed. “Only over crack.”

I was quiet, trying to keep the image of someone beating him out of my head. To us, he was one of the craziest kids we knew, but he had chances in life. He had always been a straight A student and could manage to keep friends. Sometimes he even blew us off to do homework, made high honors list every marking period. You’d think his parents were doing something right. The ironic thing was they didn’t do s*** for him or his younger brother and sister. They had to get it themselves if they wanted it. Luckily it was a small town and easy to find someone who would give you a break. Plus the Craigs had declared bankruptcy long ago, so they had some money. They wouldn’t really notice if it was gone since all they really bought was more drugs. I was guessing they zonked out and gave the dealers whatever they wanted for the time being and lost track.

I tried to think of something to say that would comfort him. “This definitely isn’t the same thing that you go through, but I know how it feels not to feel safe in your own home. Or just alone, regardless. I mean, just this past month I listened in on my Ma on the phone talkin’ to her friend. They talked about how I like to write and wanna be an author, but it was my mom that said I probably wouldn’t ever write real books.” I paused for a moment, he was looking at me now. “And, another thing. Just look at how I came to be friends with you guys. Take a look at my life before that. I’m not religious, but I swear by God and sonny Jesus that the devil works through w****s like Olivia Rodgers and Kendra Jadski. But everyone still likes them because guys want in their pants. Because of that other girls wanna be them. Sometimes it’s just real f****d up like that. I guess that’s how it is for you, too, but it won’t last. Even though my life’s still pretty f****d up.”

I looked at him and his face was mad. When he spoke, his tone was explosively livid even though we had to keep whispering. “Yeah, just like the god**** movies, right? Like happy endings? ‘Oh, I’m a tortured soul, I end up seeing the light at the end while making out with a tough-as-nails action babe that’s been there the whole time but was never noticed’?! Oh, that?!?”

“Just....just calm down, man. Take it easy.”

This only made him worse. “Don’t you f*****’ tell me to take it easy, Mavie, you’re not wanted at home either!”

I would’ve been more burned if I didn’t see that he was about to cry. Dr. Phil had told me many times that kids that come from abusive families can become just as abusive even if they know how wrong it is. Yeah, Seth knew how wrong it was, but he wouldn’t end up like that. He was just angry. He didn’t have the balls to hurt anyone for real and he never would. I meant that in the highest respect to him, but he didn’t know that, though. He thought he would hurt someone if he got mad enough. “What do you want me to tell you, Seth?”

He stopped for a minute, his breathing was rapid and he was robbed of his voice. “I don’t know,” he croaked. “I just want someone to listen.”

“I hear you.”

That was it for him, he was gonna have a real cry. He folded his knees up against his chest, wrapped his arms around them, and put his head down. I heard him start to sob against his knees.

I put my arm around him and leaned my head against his shoulder. “It’s ok, it’s not your fault.” I chanted again and again.

After a few minutes of sitting like that, he picked his head up and his eyes were redder than they had been. He looked at me ruefully. “Am I gonna end up like them? Am I gonna get married, try some heroine, and have a couple kids so I can torture them and make them the same way? Just keep the family legacy going?” he cried.

“No way, man,” I assured him. “Do you think that when they were your age those idiots were getting grades like you? Or had friends, Seth? Do you think they had friends? Yeah, they had friends. Addicts tend to have very close relationships with the dealers, but that’s about it.”

He just sat there sniffling, looking down, tears continued to spill from his eyes. Even through the immense inflation of both eyes, though the rain of sadness that was running down his face, and the cries that injured his voice, I knew the minute the very thoughtful, almost philosophical expression ran across his face. “Why does everyone you meet have to hurt you?”

This took me off guard. “Huh?”

“Everyone we meet brings nothing but s*** and pain. That’s all. S*** and pain. It would be better if we were just left alone. There wouldn’t be no s*** or pain.”

He knew about that, too? “Everyone we know will eventually hold us back somehow. I think almost all the pain we feel is just other people bein’ there. But, what we have to do is decide and chose the people that are worth the pain. The ones that you love having in your life more than you hate having to live with the pain of having them there.”

He stayed quiet with his expression still broken and reduced.

I was just remembering where I got that from. It almost made me giggle that I could think about it in the intense, emotional atmosphere I was in at the moment. “I think Bob Marley said somethin’ like that once.....”

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