“I think I wrote you about ten emails this week, but I never hit send. I decided it was too easy. Doesn’t answer any questions either. I mean you don’t reply to my texts, so why would you respond to my emails?”
I was frozen in my tracks. Completely unprepared for what was taking place before me. It was Kayla sitting there, but she wouldn’t look at me. Her powerful, confident voice sounded thin, and defeated. I was at a loss for words, so I said nothing. I slowly edged my way near her, eventually sitting on the step beside her. A sizable gap between us. I felt instant regret for my selfish behavior. I was so wrapped up in feeling sorry for myself, I didn’t even consider how Kayla and Mark might feel.
She continued with “what in the fuck is going on with you? I’m so scared for you Daniel. And I’m pissed off, and hurt. I don’t even know what to do anymore. I care about you so much. You really have no idea. And…and then…you treat me like this? You keep so much inside Daniel, and I can see that you struggle. That you are hurting. And I want to help. Tell me what to do Daniel. Is this it? Are we not friends anymore?”
At this point Kayla raised her head and looked me right in the eyes. A clearly visible layer of moisture, teetering on rushing down her cheeks. In effect, I had beat her to it, as a solitary tear glided from my eye, and rested on my top lip.
“I…I…I…don’t even know what I’m doing anymore Kayla. I’m…I’m so ashamed.”
I buried my head into my hands, between my knees and sobbed. It was all I could do. I didn’t have any magic words to make her feel better. I didn’t know what I could say to get her love and trust back into my life. All I could do was convulse and cry.
Kayla scooted up closer to me and wrapped her arm around me. Clutching tightly to my far shoulder.
“Let it out. Let it all out” she whispered, as she patiently waited for me to regain my composure. After a while, I more or less cried myself out, but I didn’t want to lose her warm embrace. Her caring touch. I unfolded myself, but rested my head into the crook of her arm.
“What happened Daniel? Mark said you guys had an awesome sleepover, and you guys were having so much fun, but after he brought you home, he never heard from you again. Neither of us heard from you again. And then you avoid us at school. What are we supposed to think? Did something happen at Mark’s? You can tell me Daniel.”
“Nothing happened at Mark’s. It was super fun.”
“Ok. So why did you disappear? Did something happen here? Did Mark or I do something to make you mad? I just don’t understand.”
“You guys didn’t do nothing. I…I…god…I don’t. I just don’t. This is….hhhooooo…so hard to say.”
I decided to unburden myself. Through a river of tears, I was having a hard time forming the words I desperately wanted to speak.
“Take your time Daniel. I want to help. Let me help.”
“Ummm…I got home and…my…ummm…dad. He ummm started to beat me up. So I ran.”
“Oh my god!”
“Ye…yeah…yeah. He ummm…he’s like done it my whole life.”
Kayla now joined in, in my trail of tears, as we sat there holding each other. As much as it felt good to finally say it to someone, it still hurt. I was still embarrassed.
“Oh Daniel. I’m so sorry. I…I had no idea.”
“Pretty fucked up huh. I mean, I don’t know why. I’ve always tried to be a good son, but he just…he just hates me. Why does he hate me?”
Now it was Kayla’s turn to wrestle with producing words. She stammered some, but couldn’t put together a coherent thought.
“I’m sorry Kayla. I shouldn’t have…shouldn’t have told you this.”
“No Daniel. I just…don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry Daniel. Does your mom know? I mean, somebody needs to know, right?”
“My mom. No. She doesn’t know. My uncle does. That’s where I went to stay. With him.”
“What are you going to to Daniel?”
“I don’t know. I’ve thought about running away, but I don’t know where I would go. I don’t want to like, tell my mom. I don’t want him to go to jail. I don’t want to mess up the family. I mean normally if only he is home, I just stay away. Like in the woods or something.”
“You can’t live like that. You have to get help Daniel.”
“I…I figure in just a couple more years, you know. Just try to avoid him, and then…just move away. Just get out of here, like forever. I made it like, almost two years…ummm…without him getting to me. But then Saturday, Mark dropped me off, and my mom and sister were gone, but my dad was here, and he…he came after me.”
“Oh Daniel…I wish I…I had a way to help, but…”
“I know Kayla. I ummm…thanks. You know, thanks for listening.”
“If it happens again or if you need to go somewhere. Call me or come over to my house. I can hide you or whatever. Ok?”
We sat there silently for a while, with our heads resting against one another. Neither of us too sure what to say next. Finally Kayla’s pocket buzzed.
“My mom. Look. I gotta go. If you’re up to it, I’d like to hang out later. Or even tomorrow. Whatever you want to do. You know, just have some fun. Ok?”
“Oh! Here. This is for you. Happy birthday Daniel.”
Kayla handed me a little white cardboard box, about the size of a baseball.
“You didn’t…you didn’t need…”
“Shut up! Like I wouldn’t buy a present for my bestie. Daniel?”
“You need to do something for me too. Call Mark. Please! He’s devastated. He thinks you totally hate him. He really cares about you a lot Daniel. Please call him.”
“Ok. I will. I just…don’t really know what to say.”
“It doesn’t matter. He just needs to know you’re ok, and maybe…that he’s still your friend.”
Then Kayla leaned back down to where I was still sitting, and kissed me on top of the head. “See you later. I hope you like the present.”
I waited until she rounded the corner before I undid the blue bow, and popped open the lid. Sitting inside the box was a plaster skull, with a hole drilled in the top. It was very realistic, and cool as Hell. There was a note tucked in the corner as well.
I added this note too, incase our conversation didn’t go well. You’re a hard person to buy for, but I know you’ve got this skull fetish. Weird boy…
So I found this candle holder. I hope you don’t have one already. Happy Birthday Teenager!
P.S. If our conversation DID go well, I have a second present waiting for you. Excited? You better be!
I couldn’t help it. She was such a kick-ass person. I smiled to myself. I felt better than I had all week. I got up from the steps and went inside the house. What in the Hell was I thinking before? Why would I distance myself from my friends, in my most desperate time of need? I’ve always considered myself above average in intelligence, but at 13, I’m realizing there is so much more to learn. So much more life to experience. With all it’s highs, and all it’s lows. Embrace it! Learn from it, and always strive to be a better person on the other side, of every hurdle you face.
I ran upstairs to grab my journal, an apple (healthy snack), a jacket, and Todd. It was time to sit in my lean-to, and write about some of what I’d learned in the last hour of my life.
After a solid hour of writing, Todd appeared bored, and I was feeling pretty hungry. I saw a few lights on in the house, so I crept alongside the tree-line, and peeked into the garage. Shit! Only my dad’s truck was parked inside. I persuaded Todd to enter the garage through his doggy-door, and I snuck back into the cover of the forest. We keep some food and water in the garage for Todd. If he wants to get into the house, he’ll scratch at the screen door, behind the house.
I went back to the lean-to because I didn’t know where else to go. After some thinking, I decided it was time to see if I was still in Kayla’s good graces. I texted her.
“Hey. Whatcha up to?”
“Excuse me! Do I know you?”
“Ha. Ha. Ha.”
“Just had dinner. Doing nothing now. What are you doing?”
“Sitting in the woods. My dad is only one home “
“OMG!” How long til your mom gets home?”
“You want company?”
“Good luck finding somebody.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Kayla. Would you please join me in the woods?”
“Well since you asked so nice. Actually this is perfect for my second part of your birthday present. It will take me a little while. I have to get supplies together.”
“Ok. Do you have any food you could bring? I’m starving. My dad was there when I went back for dinner.”
“Yeah sure. Ttyl.”
I sat there wondering what her second present might be. My instincts told me she was going to attack me or something, but the fact that she had to gather supplies made me wonder. What in the Hell did she have in mind?