Once the school fell silent, I hobbled my way to the sink. I saw pools of diluted pink liquid, and red footprints near the urinals, where my blood was trampled on without a care. I could feel my eyes starting to swell over, and my lips felt puffy and numb. I started to cry when I got a look at my reflection. I didn’t look like myself at all. He really messed me up bad. How could he do this to another person? Where does this kind of hatred come from? I’ve never done anything in my life to deserve this kind of punishment. I continued to sob as I daubed at my battered face with damp paper towels. After about ten minutes, I had most of the blood off, so I decided it was time to move on.
I limped my way down to my gym locker, hugging firmly to both my guts and the wall. I had a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie in my locker that I could put on to replace my blood soaked clothes. I could hear what sounded like basketball being played in the gymnasium beyond the wall. I stripped off my filthy clothes as fast as my aching body would allow. I did not want to get caught under these circumstances. There’s a not often used exit near the gym, so I made my way out of the building from there, back into the cold winter air.
It actually felt good to be outside in the cold. The sky was overcast, which helped ease my eyes too. I figured I would stop by home and grab a few things and get out of there before my dad got home from work. I didn’t know where I was going to go, but I really didn’t want my mom and dad to see me like this. It would just raise too many questions. The school could get involved, and maybe even the police. It would only amount to more beatings. I needed to keep this thing hidden.
Unknown to me, I was being followed. It wasn’t until I turned into my driveway, that I heard my name from behind me.
I froze. This was not a voice that I recognized. I slowly turned to see who was behind me, only to find it was one of Jonas’ posse. His own face betrayed him, when he caught sight of my extensive damage.
He whispered, “oh my god.” His tone thick with guilt.
“What do you want,?” I hissed.
“Oh my god. Ty…Tyler…I…I’m so sorry.”
“Fuck off! I don’t need your pity. Is there something you need? Do you just want to finish me off? Is that it? Go ahead. I’m not really up for a fight right now, but what the Hel…”
“Shut up! It’s not like that. Look, you really need a doctor, I think. Jonas went too far. I was…I was…I wanted to see if you were ok.”
“Why the change of heart? You didn’t seem to mind while he was killing me. Do I look ok? I’m fucked! I gotta go. Have a nice day.”
I turned to walk away, leaving this other kid standing there, stunned, not sure what to say. I honestly don’t even know his name. As I got a few steps further, I heard him say in a soft voice. “I’m sorry. I won’t let it happen again. I…I should have stopped him.”
I turned my head quickly, to give him a sarcastic smile, just as he swiped his hand across his eye. Seriously? This kid who’s never spoken to me in his life is crying for me? After what he was a part of, he comes here with some kind of empathetic bullshit. I spotted the shovel my dad left out from the day before. I picked it up and turned toward him, holding it like a baseball bat.
“Get the fuck out of here! I don’t want you here, ok? Leave me the fuck alone. Stopped him? Huh. You helped him, you idiot. Can you please just leave?” I reared back the shovel and screamed, “get the fuck out of here!”
He stepped back a few steps and put his hands up, stuttering, “but…but I…I…” He couldn’t produce the words he was looking for. I threw the shovel down next to me and turned back toward my house. Not another word was spoken. When I looked out the front door as I was closing it, he was still standing there. By the time I made it up to my room and glanced out my window, he was gone.
I didn’t think I had enough time to risk taking the shower I so desperately wanted, so I changed my clothes once again. I put on some long underwear and a pair of jeans. Wool socks. A t-shirt. Wool sweater. My hoodie. My parka. Gloves. A beanie, and a scarf. I didn’t know how long I’d be out, or where I’d end up, so I wanted to make sure I was gonna stay warm enough. With the scarf pulled up to my nose, and a pair of sunglasses on, you couldn’t even tell that I’d been beat up. I filled the pockets of my parka with granola bars and fruit snacks, pulled in my black hikers, and headed out the door. Half way up the block, I saw my dad pull into the driveway behind me. I barely made it out in time.
I had a whole city in front of me and no idea where to go. Normally I’d waste time at the library, but that’d mean I’d have to take off my scarf and glasses. Something I didn’t want to do. There really wasn’t anywhere that I could go indoors, so I decided to head to Millennium Park, and just hang out.
After about an hour, the shadows were growing long and the temperature was starting to drop. Before long, dawn would give way to nighttime, and I was bored and cold. I hopped a train back toward home, but I didn’t have a destination in mind. I got off near the library and just started walking. While I was on the train, my nose started to drip a little blood and all I had was the back of my glove to wipe it clean. If it continued to flow, I was going to have a real mess on my hands.
I absentmindedly walked block after block, just moving to keep warm. I rounded a corner and standing right across the street from me was a coffee shop. Jasmine’s coffee shop. What a stroke of luck. Why didn’t I think of this before? Jasmine is probably the only person who could help me. She’s a bit strange and I don’t know how far I can trust her, but she has said more than once, that she’d help me if I ever needed it. I definitely needed help now. I crossed the street and peaked in the window. She was not there. Damn. Well, maybe she was at home. I decided to walk there to check it out.
It wasn’t until I got to the directory and scanned all the names, that I discovered I had no idea what her last name was. I felt defeated, yet again. I slumped against the brick building and closed my eyes. The blood from my nose was starting to saturate the scarf covering my mouth and the copper sting of the blood was starting to make me feel nauseous.
Suddenly, a voice spoke from beside me.
“Are you locked out honey?”
I looked over and saw a sweet old lady smiling at me.
Thinking quickly, I said, “yes. Yes. I forgot my key.”
“Good thing I’m here, eh,?” she commented, as she opened up the big glass door. “Come along then.”
I stood up and tried to hide my face from her. She guided me into the lobby while saying, “my child, these eyes might not see as good as they used to, but are you hurt?”
“Umm…yeah. I kind of had an umm…accident.”
“I see. Well, you go on in and get fixed, you hear.”
“Yes ma’am,” I responded, while edging my way to the elevator, as she continued on her way the other direction. I made it to the door at the end of the hall, and knocked. There was no response. I couldn’t see any light illuminating from under the door, and there was no sound coming from the other side. I tried again, pounding a little harder. Still nothing. It didn’t seem like Jasmine was home. The idea of going back out into the cold was depressing. My mind was tapped out, and my body was giving way to fatigue. The body shots I took were starting to catch up with me as well. My ribs hurt. My back. My legs. I hadn’t had much of anything to eat all day, and I was probably getting dehydrated from lack of water. I felt weak and tired. Just standing there, I felt dizzy and disoriented. I slumped against the wall next to her door and slid myself into a sitting position. I ran my finger beneath my nose and was happy to find it crusty. At least the bleeding had stopped.
I’ll just wait here a while and see if she comes home. I don’t really have nowhere else to go, and I’m not bothering anybody. I’ll just sit here a while. Stay warm. Get some rest. My head feels like it weighs a hundred pounds. I can’t support it anymore. I tipped over, into my side and drew my knees up to my chest. That’s better. I’ll just sit here a while and..,within a minute, I was fast asleep.
Jasmine was busy inside her apartment, getting herself ready for work. From the bathroom, she thought she heard an out of place noise from the hallway, but when she poked her head out, she only heard silence. Probably just a neighbor getting home and letting their door slam shut.
She went to check on Timmy before she left, but his door was locked. He must either still be sleeping, or doesn’t want to be disturbed. She wasn’t going to press him. She felt bad enough already, for locking him in his room the last couple of weeks. She had loosened up her security some, but he was still not able to leave the apartment. He didn’t like the arrangement, but he seemed to understand.
Jasmine was fumbling through her bag as she opened up the front door. She was completely oblivious to the body lying on the floor, that she was about to trip over. Right as her left foot was about to make contact, she glanced down.
“Ahh! What the fuck?” It kind of looked like a pile of clothes, but there were legs, and boots. She crouched down and pulled the hood away from the buried face. Then she removed the beanie. A smattering of messy blonde hair sprung out, covering the side of this still mysterious face. She swept the hair back, immediately recognizing the profile. It was Tyler. She rolled him into his back carefully, and gasped.
“Oh my god Tyler. What happened to you?”
She gently caressed his cheek, calling his name. Nothing. He was out. She scooped his frail body up into her arms and carried him back into her apartment. She took him to her bedroom and gently set him on her bed. She clicked on a small lamp next to the bed and walked back into the kitchen to retrieve her cell phone.
“Yeah. Hi Julie.”
“Something’s come up and I’m gonna be a little late for work tonight.”
“I don’t know…probably like an hour.”
“I know. I know. I’m so sorry, but it’s kind of important.”
“I will. Ok. Thanks. Bye.”
She went back into her room and saw that Tyler was exactly as she’d left him. She touched his neck and found a good pulse, which was a relief. She started stripping off the many laters of clothes he was wearing, until he was down to just his long underwear. She slipped him under her sheet and comforter and turned him into his side. She went into the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water and a damp rag. She set the water on the nightstand and used the rag to clean up all the dried blood from his face and neck.
Then she ran to the nearest pharmacy to pick up some medical supplies to clean up his wounds, and some pain killers and ice packs. She didn’t have anything like that in her apartment. She also picked up some food. She tried to get stuff that’d appeal to a fourteen year old. Pop, cereal, chips, ice cream. Basically stuff that she dearly missed from her days before darkness.
She hustled back to her apartment and addressed Tyler’s wounds with various ointments and salves. She set three aspirin in the nightstand, next to the glass of water, along with a note:
I had to run to work, but I will be back as soon as possible. I left you some aspirin and water next to this note. I have food in the kitchen and there’s a towel at the foot of the bed if you want a bath or shower. I hope you are ok. I wish I could have stayed to help you, but I will when I get back.
She didn’t really think he’d wake up, but it’s best to cover everything. Her entire shift at work, all she could think about was poor Tyler. Who in the Hell did this to him? She also felt bad that it was her who he came to for help. He must not have many friends. He barely even knows her. On the other hand, she was happy he did come to her and she would do her best to help him out. It also let her know that Skyler had not found him either. With a little luck, tonight would stay as quiet as it was now and she’d be able to lock up and leave right at closing.
My eyes shot open and panic set right in. This is not my bed, my pillow, my room. Where the Hell am I? Once I was able to adjust to the darkness, I looked around the room. I don’t recognize anything. I’ve never been here before. Wait! I went to Jasmines’. I fell asleep. Maybe this is her place. There’s a note. I picked it up and read it. I then immediately took the three pills and slammed the glass of water. I laid back down, but was soon overcome with the need to pee.
I unhappily got out of the bed, suddenly aware of how much my body aches and how hard my head was pounding. Once I exited her room, I saw an open door to my left, with a nightlight shining inside. I could make out a sink, so this must be the bathroom. I stepped inside and emptied my bladder. My stomach rumbled a bit while I was standing there, so I made my way to the kitchen to see what food she had to offer. There wasn’t much, but it was everything I would ever want. I grabbed a few things and looked around for a table to sit at.
Unable to locate one, I decided to try and find the living room I was in the last time I was here. After a couple intricate turns through dark, beaded hallways, I came to a recognizable entrance. There was a dim lamp on in the corner. As I approached the couch I was planning to sit in, from behind, I noticed a pair of naked feet hanging over one of the armrests. I slowed my pace down as I got closer. Maybe it was Jasmine. As I got closer I could tell it was not Jasmine. It was a boy wearing headphones, with his eyes closed. Oh my god! IT WAS HIM! I stumbled backwards and bumped into a chair in the corner. This caused me to drop the can of Sprite I was holding. It crashed to the floor and started rolling across the floor toward the couch. The noise was loud enough to penetrate the music flooding his ears, as his eyes shot open and his head lifted. He immediately found where the noise came from.
Our eyes met, and I gasped. He sat up higher and leaned over the back of the couch, as stunned as I was. How is this even possible? I stepped back a few more paces, until I banging into a wall. I felt so vulnerable. So naked. Standing in only my long underwear. I made awkward movements with my hands, nervously trying to shield my nakedness and my covered bits. I was boiling hot with a fever, and the room was starting to spin. This was just too much for me to process. Thank god for the wall behind me. Without it, I’d be on the floor already.
The boy slowly pulled the headphones from his neck and set them on the couch. He started to stand up, never taking his widely opened eyes off of mine. He was as surprised as I was about this impossible encounter, but he didn’t seem to be terrified, like me. He cautiously moved around the side of the couch and started walking toward me. Like you would if you were trying to catch a frightened animal, before it ran off. Then he spoke, barely above a whisper, in an intricate combination of a raspy, yet prepubescent angelic tone.
“It’s you. You’re here.”
I gulped, unable to form words. It was all I could do to remember to breath. After all the time I had spent searching, unsuccessfully. Here I stood, at last, and I couldn’t even speak. He kept coming toward me, the mood of his face transforming from one of awe, to one of concern. As he closed the distance between us, his arms came forward. The last thing I remembered was blackness and falling forward into a soft crash landing.