"...if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too." - P.S. I Love You
* * * * * * *
It had been a rough three days. My grandmother had scheduled an appointment with the oncologist, Dr. Edwards for this week and I was preparing myself for the worst. After I got her news I didn't talk to anyone for the rest of the weekend. When Monday came, I felt a sense of relief. I had a place to go where I could talk and be understood, not judged. I had a sanctuary. Even so, I stood by the door for a moment, very much like my first meeting had started out.
I was wearing what I had worn to school earlier that day - grungy bib overalls and old Converse sneakers. Trivial things like fashion just didn't seem important anymore. Money certainly didn't ensure my grandmother's survival and the cancer was killing her as fast as it was killing someone who wasn't wealthy. I was desperate. If this truly was "therapy" then I was ready for them to help me. I was ready to speak, to tell them who I was, what I was about.
When it was time for sharing, I silently walked to the middle of the circle. I looked around me, at the faces I had come to know in the past three weeks. They were all staring back, waiting for me to begin. Most of them had already shared their stories.
There was Milton, who was bullied at school for his weight. He tried to hang himself and ended up breaking his closet rod, resulting in his parents sending him here.
Wilbur, whose parents were in the middle of a nasty divorce, had brought a gun to school. They stopped screaming long enough to refer him to a psychiatrist, who referred him to Lisa.
Venkat aka "Ven" was rebelling against his traditional Hindi parents, who wanted him to become a doctor. Instead, he had moved out of their house and was living with two other future actors, working and finishing high school. He might have been alright if there hadn't been a massive chlamydia outbreak at Pertha Hills High, all of them girls, all of them having been with Ven. Apparently, his undersexed guidance counselor had no clue how to deal with an Asian Persuasion's va-jay-jay addiction.
Joelle's parents got a divorce when she was young and neither parent ever seemed to pay her any attention. She shoplifted to give herself the things that she was always denied. Eventually she got caught, and it was either this program or a juvenile rehabilitation program.
Melissa had grown up getting raped and beaten by her father. He had assured her mother that it was "his" job to tuck her in at night. Her mother, blinded by love or fear and maybe even afraid that her daughter wasn't lying, refused to believe her. So Melissa decided that if no one would listen to her, there was no point in telling the truth. Ever again. I still had yet to determine whether the story was even true because ask the girl what color the sky is and I swear she'll tell you it's green.
When I walked in, she had managed a small smile that I assumed was intended for me. The two of us shared a bond. She had been seemingly unreachable in her own world and I was the only one who had ever spoke her native tongue: fists. That girl was a battleaxe.
And finally, there was Tuck, another student at Pertha Hills High. The only morsels of information I had managed to glean from him is that he was angry and didn't know what to do. So he disguised the anger with humor and diffused awkward situations with jokes. Only I seemed to notice the way his eyes burned.
Six kids, six backgrounds and stories. Six pairs of eyes (seven including Lisa) on me. I was about to become one of them, to be welcomed into the most fucked-up family in Hidden Springs, a group of people who weren't all beautiful, who weren't all rich. They were all people who had scars, who got beat up and beat down. Most importantly, they were people who got back up.
My voice started out small, my lip trembling and my breath short. I thought I might even throw up. But gradually it grew, getting louder, more confident as I went along. I told them everything, even the things that were before my time. It all came out - about my grandparents, their perfect marriage, how my father had grown up depressed, my parents' unorthodox relationship, Olivia Grace the still-born, Grandfather's car accident, my mother's cheating and leaving, the night my father shot himself, and finally, finding out about Grandmother's cancer. Not only did I tell them these things but for the first time, I described how they made me feel, how they had formed the person I was today. In ten minutes, I revealed more to this group of misfits than I had ever divulged to anyone. Including myself.
And when it was all over, rather than waiting for their scorn or worse, their sympathy, I did the thing that my feet had wanted to do since the meeting began: I ran.
* * * * * * *
"Excuse me Miss, is this seat taken?"
I had been sobbing in front of Noble Tome Library for about five minutes when Tuck's voice startled me out of my stupor. The bastard had actually followed me.
"No, it's a free country. Go ahead," I mumbled, unsure whether I was pleased or irritated.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure." I frowned up at him. "It's not like it requires balls to sit here."
"Well geez," Tuck rolled his eyes. "You don't have to beg me."
Yep, definitely irritated.
"So, Bright Eyes," he turned to me, "what's wrong?"
"Were you not at the same meeting that I was just at? I mean, are you freaking kidding me?" I laughed humorlessly. "It turns out, I'm just as fucked-up as the rest of you. And quit calling me that!"
Tuck grinned. "It fits. You know," he said, changing the subject, "you haven't even asked me what I'm doing here."
"Yeah, well, you're not exactly the most enlightening individual I have ever encountered," I muttered.
"What was that?"
"Where's your necklace?" he asked.
My hands immediately flew to my neck. "I uh, didn't wear it today."
"Sure is a nice piece," he murmured appreciatively.
"Thank you. My grandmother bought it for me after my father died."
"Well, she's got exquisite taste."
There was a moment where I almost dropped the bitchy attitude. Tuck was looking at me and I felt like I was hearing everything he wasn't saying. His oceanic blue eyes were shining and I was drowning in their depths. I suddenly felt compelled to tell him everything. And then he had to go and ruin it.
In one smooth motion, his arm snaked around me, his hand gently brushing my shoulder where his fingertips lightly rested. Even through my T-shirt, I could feel his warmth. I found myself inching closer to him, wanting to fall into his arms and surrender my defenses to this mysterious guy. And then lightning quick, my senses returned and I was appropriately outraged.
"What do you think you're doing?" I cried. "I have a boyfriend! You heard me tell Ven that."
"Hey, I'm just going along with the mood," he said, putting his hands up. "It felt right and I went for it."
"Well, go with it with someone else! I have a boyfriend," I repeated, more for my own sake than this.
"Then why are you here with me and not him?" he asked.
I let forth a string of curses. Damn it, he was right. And I was an idiot. "I'll be going home now. Goodbye Tuck," I said, turning on my heel and marching off.
"Bye, Bright Eyes," he whispered.