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Nick stared at his bed room ceiling as the ceiling fan whirled round and round. He closed his eyes as he heard a third beer bottle crash against the living room wall. This two bedroom apartment was too damn small, there wasn’t enough space for this crap. He heard his mom and dad scream at each other, then another crash, this time a much louder one. Nick shot up off his bed and ran down the hallway. He entered the living room to find his mom on the floor, crying with his dad standing over her, his fists clenched in rage. He had thrown her through the coffee table, again.
“What are you lookin’ at?” his dad, Jack, growled. Nick looked from his mother’s limp body to his father’s angry face, and then back to his mother.
“Why? He whispered in a trembling voice, how could you do this to the mother of your own son?” he screamed at the top of his lungs.
The next thing Nick knew, he was up against the wall receiving multiple blows to his face. His father cursed him out and put him down in anyway that he could. Of course his mom was no help, she slowly picked herself up off the floor and lit a cigarette. The beating seemed to go on for hours, finally his father let up, grabbed his car keys, and slammed the door behind him.
Nick stood up and glanced at his mother, Clair, who was crying on the couch, she looked pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.
This was the story of Nick Kauffman’s life. This brown hair, blue-eyed sixteen year old had been dealing with this all his life. His father was an abusive alcoholic who had abused his mother since before he was born. She never left him because she believed him when he said she could get no one else. Nick tried to tell her that wasn’t true but she wouldn’t listen. Their was no point in calling the cops because his mother always denied it and they both got beat more after the cops left.
Nick slowly walked down to his room and locked the door behind him. School would be starting soon and he would be away from this hell hole all day long. Between school and his job at Three Guy’s Coffee Shop, there was no way he’d have to deal with either one of his pathetic parents. He would be starting his junior year in highschool, so he’d have a lot more freedom. It was open campus for the upper class men at Harlem Highschool so he could do whatever he wanted during prep period and lunch time. If he could just find one solid friend this year, he would be happy with that. He examined the bruises and wiped his bloody lip with a tissue. Hopefully the wounds would heal before school started.
Their was a soft knock on the door and Nick heard his mother’s voice. “Nicky baby? she cooed, can I come in?”. Nick rolled his eyes he didn’t want to talk to her, he was tired of all her apologies and attempts at loving him. If she really loved him, she would have left Jack. He unlocked the door anyway and laid down on his bed. Clair sat next to him and stroked his hair. “I’m so sorry baby, I’m so sorry he hurt you like that.” she whimpered. Her blue eyes shined with tears and they made tears fall down Nick’s face. “Your always sorry! He yelled, yet you let it happen again and again and again!” he shouted and pushed her hand away from him. Clair blinked and wiped her nose on her sleeve. Her blonde hair fell into her face as she looked down. “I know.” She whispered. That was all she could say. Their was nothing else. She stood up off his bed and shuffled out of the room. Nick pulled his shirt off and turned out his light. “Only two more weeks,” he mumbled as he closed his eyes.
Nick shut off his alarm at 5am. He sat still for a moment making sure he didn’t wake up his dad. He hated being woken up in the morning, especially at this time. When the coast was clear, Nick quickly threw on a pair of skinny jeans and black t-shirt. Nick examined his thin body in the mirror, this look was the look he had been wearing since the sixth grade. He smiled and stepped into the bathroom to wash his face and spike his hair. He then grabbed a note book, pencil, and muffin and slipped out his window to catch the bus. He would call his mom later when he knew Jack was at work, he hated when Clair got phone calls and text messages.
Nick arrived to school fifteen minutes early. It was fall and New York was already quite chilly. He wrapped his hoody around himself tight and walked in. He couldn’t believe how big Harlem High school was! All of a sudden, a water bottle came flying out of nowhere and hit him directly in the back of the head. The next thing Nick knew, he was on the ground, surrounded by people, and getting laughed at. Horrified, he leaped up off the ground and made a run for the bathroom. He stepped in and sat against the door so no one could follow him in. He looked across the grimy bathroom to see another kid wearing eyeliner, smoking a joint. Nick bolted from the bathroom and ran towards his first period.
“Ow!” he heard a girl’s voice say as he ran down the hall. He stopped in his tracks to find he had ran right into a really pretty girl! “S-sorry” he stuttered as he helped her up.
The girl smiled and picked up her things. “It’s alright she said with a playful sigh, my name is Brianna, what’s yours?” she asked holding out her hand.
“Nick,” Nick heard himself mumble. Brianna’s gorgeous dark brown hair, chestnut eyes and gorgeous figure sent Nick’s head spiraling. She was also extremely nice, that was quite a bonus for a girl so beautiful.
“You want to go out sometime?” Nick heard himself ask, she’d probably say no but it was worth a try. Brianna cocked her head to one side and smiled. “I really don’t know you that well...” she started to say, but trailed off. Nick felt himself begin to sweat, looking into Brianna’s eyes made him forget all of his problems at home; she made him feel worth something. He had to just find a friend this year, but he might have just found more.
Brianna was ready to give this guy the same story she had given to others: “You’re nice but I’m not really interested. Don’t take it personal.”, but when she met Nick’s eyes, she softened a little. She saw a troubled kid, in need of love. All she saw in his eyes was blue, no joy or excitement, or even sadness, just blue. She gave it a thought and then smiled.
“Alright look, make plans for us to go out on Friday night, let me know by Thursday, and we’ll go from there.” she said and winked. She walked off towards her first class and left Nick standing in a daze.
After school, Nick wracked his brain trying to figure out what he could do to impress Brianna Friday night? He had to make a good impression, he had to. Brianna was the best thing that had ever happened to him and he wasn’t going to let her get away. This was his chance to get something good in his life for once.
Nick went through the rest of the school week like a robot. He did his assignments, homework, and went to work. When Thursday came around, Nick met Brianna in the same spot that they had first met.
“Hi!” he said winded, he had ran all the way to school that morning on pure adrenaline. “Look, I like you a lot, but there is only so much I can offer. I would love ti take you to one of the best, high-end restaurants in New York City, of course I want to take you to Broadway, the thing is I only have so much money to work with.” he looked Brianna straight in the eye and swallowed. “The best offer I have is a date to that café on 5th street, CoCo’s.”. Nick took a deep breath and awaited a response.
Brianna pondered for a moment. “That sounds good,” she finally answered. He looked so sweet and innocent, trying so hard to impress her, she couldn’t help but give him a shot. She ripped a corner off of her Algebra homework and wrote down her address.
“Pick me up at six, and don’t be late!” she said with a wink and walked off. Nick watched her walk away in a daze. She actually said yes, he couldn’t believe it. Tomorrow was going to be great.
Nick left school early Friday so he could make sure everything was perfect for his date tonight. He immediately hit Old Navy, because that was all he could afford. He had scraped up enough money to buy some nice pants and a button down shirt. Heading home, he got a strange gut feeling, as if something was wrong. When he arrived at his complex, Nick noticed a dent on the hood of his mom’s car. His eyes winded and he rushed up the stairs. He entered the apartment to find his Jack holding Clair by the hair and hitting her across her face.
“How dare you dent that car!” he screamed, “do you know how much it cost?, I’m going to make sure you pay as much possible!” he hissed. Clair looked up into Jack’s piercing green eyes pleadingly. “Please Jack! I didn’t mean it, it was an accident the grocery bags were heavy!” she cried. Jack gave her a disgusted look and hurled his fist into her rib cage. Clair fell to the floor gasping for air.
“No!” Nick screamed and rushed at his dad. He punched Jack square in the face and pushed him to the floor. “How does it feel? How does it feel you disgusting drunk!” he yelled as loud as his voice would go, and kicked him in the ribs. “You will never touch me or my mom again or you’ll pay!” he warned as he punched him the face a few more times.
Out of nowhere, Nick heard glass break and felt an intense pressure in the back of his head. He fell to the floor feeling dazed and confused. His head throbbed so badly, Nick thought he was going to pass out. Through blurry eyes, he could make out his father standing over him holding a broken beer bottle. His mom lay near him on the floor, still crying. Jack hoisted Nick up by his shirt collar and pinned him against the wall. The movement hurt Nick’s head.
“If you ever, ever try to go up against me again, you’ll be dead!” Jack warned and threw him back on the floor. Wounded himself, Jack limped into his bedroom and slammed the door shut.
Nick closed his eyes and focused on breathing. He slowly lifted his arm up to the back of his head and felt blood trickling out. “Damn,” he muttered as he tried to pick himself off the floor. He laid back down and took a deep breath. Clair crawled over to him and gently took his hand. “Are you ok baby?” She gasped, still trying to catch her breath. She stroked her son’s pale cheek.
Nick looked into his mom’s eyes, she looked dead. It was as if she wasn’t even there, Jack had finally beaten all the life out of her. Nick closed his eyes and let the tears fall down his cheeks. Clair pulled away when she felt the hot tears hit her fingers. “Don’t- don’t cry Nicky, please!” she begged. “I hate it when you’re sad!” she pleaded desperately. Nick just laid on the floor, taking deep breaths. He looked away, he couldn’t look at her. She looked absolutely pathetic, just laying there next to her wounded son, she didn’t even try to help him up or comfort him.
All of a sudden, her cut up face turned white as a ghost and her eyes became wide. She pulled her hand away from Nick’s face and slowly backed up. “You only care about yourself, don’t you?” she said. “What about me Nicky? He hurt me too! You should be helping me up right now, not just laying their on the floor like a piece of garbage!” she yelled and managed to stand up. “Your nothing, she spat, absolutely nothing!” and stormed off into the bedroom with Jack. Nick didn’t bother to move, he just stayed there, bleeding and helpless, and focusing on breathing. His head felt like it was spinning, his vision was blurry, and he wasn’t even sure where he was anymore. Time seemed to stop, he was still moving forward, but the clock wasn’t. Things seemed fuzzy and strange, he didn’t care about life anymore. He just wanted to die.
Nick came to with a start, is head throbbed when he tried to sit up. He reached back and felt dry, crusty blood all over his hair. The room was still a little fuzzy, but he basically felt ok. He slowly got up off the floor and walked into his mom’s room. There was no one in there. The whole apartment was quiet; Jack and his mom must have gone out. They usually gambled and hit clubs with friends on Friday night.
Nick walked into the kitchen and grabbed a pack of ice out of the freezer. He gently put it on the back of his head and glanced at the clock. Nick glanced at the clock and his eyes widened, he was supposed to go on a date with Brianna! He was supposed to pick her up at six! With ice pack in hand, Nick dashed out of the house and headed straight for Brianna’s.
He caught a cab up to 35th street and rang the buzzer to Brianna’s address. The neighborhood he lived in was so much nicer than his apartment complex. It was a neat row of houses along the street, all looking prim and proper. Nick walked up the steps and rang Brianna’s buzzer. Brianna sat crying in her room when the buzzer rang. She looked at the camera and saw Nick. He was holding something against the back of his head and he looked completely rumpled. Brianna rolled her eyes, first he blew her off and then he shows up two hours late looking like crap.
“What do you want?” She snapped. Nick put his head down and thought of something to say. “I-I know you don’t want to hear an excuse, I just want to say I’m sorry.” he said as sympathetically as he could. “You are the most beautiful girl in the world, you gave me a chance when no one else would, and I screwed up. I let the mean drunk I call my father and my pathetic mother, who sticks to him like a lost puppy, destroy me. They took the two important things from me, my strength and integrity.” he said as tears began to fall like a water fall down his face. He sat on the stairs and wept, he wept like he did when he was three years old and his dad hit him or his mom.
Brianna could taste her salty tears as she leaned against the door. She didn’t know what to say. She was still angry, yet she felt so bad. She wanted to turn him away and never speak to him again, and she wanted to hold him at the same time. Brianna thought for a moment, she thought about what she really wanted and came to realize what the right thing to do was. She opened the door and flew down the stairs. She rapped her arms around Nick’s waist and hugged him tight. She cried with him and stroked his hair.
“I thought about it, and I’m really sorry.” she confessed. “I was thinking about myself and not what you could have been going through. I saw it in your eyes the first day I met you, but I didn’t do anything about it.” she said in between sobs. “I just want you to know I’m really, really sorry!” she cried and let her head fall on Nick’s shoulder.
The two of them walked into Brianna’s apartment together and Nick told her everything. He told her about all the beatings, the love he never got from his mother, and the fact that he didn’t have one stable person in his life.
“It’s sad to think that I’ll never have a solid relationship with anyone.” Nick said as he hung his newly bandaged head down low. Brianna put her hand on his knee and squeezed it. “You have me she.” she murmured in his ear and nuzzled her nose against his cheek.
Nick looked into those gorgeous chestnut eyes and immediately felt like he was falling. Brianna leaned in toward his lips, just as Nick leaned back, a thought entered his head.
“What if my dad and mom were like this before he hit her?” he wondered out loud. The thought of his mom and dad ever truly being in love made him sick. “It’s just me and you right now Nick, Brianna cooed, don’t think about your parents.”.
Suddenly, Nick began to sweat and shake. He felt all sixteen years of his anger towards his parents coming out. He had to stop it, he had to get rid of this feeling. He jumped up off Brianna’s couch and ran out the door. He ran as fast as he could back to his apartment complex. Brianna chased after him screaming his name.
“Nick! Nick, stop! Please stop!”
She begged. Nick ran faster, he headed up the fire escape to the roof. He stood on the edge and looked down. He felt like he was invincible in this moment, the cool air brushing up against his face, the feeling of flight, it consumed him. He knew this would end his suffering, he knew it.
Brianna practically flew up the fire escape to find Nick on the edge of the building, looking down. “Wait! she called, think about what your doing!” she shrieked, hoping it would stop him from jumping. “My life is over Brianna, it’s over!” he said as more tears streamed down his face. He had given up, their was nothing to live for.
“Everyone deserves a second chance Nick, Brianna said, including you”. She slowly stepped towards Nick and gently touched his arm. “It’s true.” she added hoping it would change his mind.
Nick thought about what Brianna said and stepped off the ledge. “He took her hand and looked straight into her eyes. “You really think I deserve a second chance?” he asked. “Yes Brianna said and she hugged him, tight. They parted and smiled at each other.
“Look, Nick said, scratching the back of his aching head, I am truly crazy about you, but I have some stuff I need to figure out and get taken care of before me and you can have a future together.”. It was amazing how a single night could have brought two different people so close together. It made Nick believe that fate truly existed.
Brianna smiled and squeezed his hand. “I can wait, she said with a playful smile on her face, but I still want to be your friend!” she added. “Sounds good to me.” Nick said and together, they walked toward a newer, brighter future. A new beginning, a second chance.