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And then he listened
He planted his foot into the pavement and forced himself forward. He had to keep walking. One foot after another, he’d eventually get far enough that the thoughts would be out of his head. Minutes passed by, seeming like hours. The darkness wrapped itself around him, but he wouldn’t stop. The farther he went the more he realized he didn’t know where he was going. But the sidewalks were getting familiar now. Porch lights were flickering on; settling in the space the sun had left behind. He spotted a familiar tree, then another. He didn’t need to look up in search of a street sign; he’d been down this road before. He froze before the familiar trees, their leaves sighing in the wind. In his head, he knew better than to take another step, but something was forcing him forward.
He could smell the anxiety on his breath, the anger boiling inside his veins. He had to keep walking, until his feet found the place he was looking for. The street shuddered with silence, but his mind was racing with thoughts from the past. He needed to know what she was doing. Regardless of how long it’d been since they talked, he needed to know. He couldn’t stand in the background anymore. He’d made his mind up a year ago, the day she left and forgot who she was inside. He could feel the guilt gnawing on the edge of his stomach, knowing he hadn’t been there for her through it all. But he couldn’t stand by and watch as she transformed into the monster she was now.
He stopped in the middle of the side walk, thinking of what he would possibly say when he saw her. He still didn’t know what he was doing, or why he ended up here. But now that he stood a few yards away, he wasn’t going to miss the chance.
“Seventeen years, I stood by her side. Seventeen years.” He mumbled.
“And she just left. No explanation, just a ‘this isn’t working’. Seventeen years, and she expects me to believe that nothing was going on. She honestly thought we could still be friends. I had to leave. I’m not the one who changed. I didn’t turn into the monster who ignores their friends and forgets who they were. I didn’t stop talking to everyone I knew. No, she did. It’s her fault that this happened. It’s her fault that she’s the way she is.”
He forced his feet against the pavement again, the anger compelling him forward. He knew the things he needed to say, whether she wanted to hear them or not. He couldn’t wait any longer. He didn’t say anything the day they said goodbye, so now was his chance.
The old tan house froze in front of him, the familiarity echoing through his mind. He hadn’t even thought about the house in a year, and now the memories hit him like the cold wind against his face. The wooden fence stood shaking, and he remembered the day he helped build it. They were both thirteen, the summer before her dad had left.
He searched for the latch, knowing perfectly well where it would be. Although the cold air was growing more chilling, the metal latch burned to the touch. His anger was too much for reason. He stepped into the yard, breaking his own vow to never cross the fence again.
Curtains covered the front window, but he could see through the living room and into the kitchen, where the only light was on. He slipped across the yard, planning to use the back door, where he could walk to her room unnoticed. But something stopped him as he passed the first window. The basement window glowed with a dim light, and he could hear noises. He paused, wondering what is was that he heard. Again, it echoed. Shattering. Something breaking. And someone screaming. He couldn’t understand the words, but it happened again and again. Shattering, loud enough to shake the entire house, and muffled screams. He felt the fear tingle through his arms, but the anger was still flowing through his veins. He continued on, ignoring the sounds from below.
The back yard finally opened up, and his eyes landed on a small figure resting against the door. He rustled through the grass, making his way over towards it. His eyes adjusted to the small light flowing through the door, shining upon the figure. He stood frozen, his mind processing the images rushing through his eyes. She was huddled into a ball, her knees pulled tightly to her chest. One of her arms lay across her knees, warm red liquid spilling out and onto her clothes. Tears tumbled down her cheeks, and he could hear her chest tightening and her lungs convulsing. Her breath was short and splitting, and he knew she was going to make herself hyperventilate. But he couldn’t stop her, he couldn’t speak. His eyes were focused on the pain dripping out of her arms. It lingered, stingingly, across her arms and onto the cold deck lying beneath her. He heard the screams from the basement again, the voices growing in rage. She was listening too, and she picked up the sharp metal piece lying next to her. As the metal grazed her arms, he leaped forward and wrapped his hand around hers. The razor dropped, and her head flew up, staring into his eyes.
“What- you? What- what are you doing here?” she mumbled.
He stared back into her eyes, trying to remember why in fact, he was there. But the memories of their lives together were in his mind now, not the anger, nor the pain. Just the memories; from just a year ago, when they spent the entire night sitting in the exact spot they were now, sharing secrets and life wishes, to the time when they were forced to stay together when they both had chicken pox. The memories were all he could think of, and that girl was sitting in a broken pile beneath him. The shattering screams broke the silence, growing louder each second. He suddenly understood everything she had never said. She changed inside; everything about her had changed, around the exact time that her dad had come back. He pieced everything together in his head, knowing exactly what had happened to her and why things had changed.
He did the only thing his mind deemed logical; he ran. His feet moved from beneath him, taking him away from the memories, her pain, and the blasting screams from inside her house. He ran, as far as he could from the little tan house, until his lungs screamed for a break. He knew she needed someone to save her; she’d needed someone to save her from the moment that everything had changed, but he was too angry and broken to help her, so he ran away like he did the first time. In the middle of the sidewalk, his mind raced with questions and answers, until he finally had enough understanding to stand up again. He could feel the sharp metal lying in his fingers and stuffed in into his pocket. He looked around to see where his feet had taken him. A few streets over, she was still sitting outside the backdoor, listening to the fighting inside the house. He searched for his way back to her house. He wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do, or if she wanted him to go back, but he knew he had to. After all, he had seen her, the real her, the girl he had loved all of his life. She was still there, hidden somewhere beneath the tears and the pain, and he was going to find her.
He retraced his steps, landing again in the backyard he once loved so much. She was waiting for him, her arms covered and her tears wiped away. She waited as he slowly sat down next to her, breathing nervously.
“Talk to me,” he said. And then he listened.