How did I get here?

Over the course of the last year, Reed Johnson's life has made some interesting twists and turns, and sadly, very few of them were for the better. Now, to get her away from the scenes that provoked her post-traumatic stress, her father has chosen to move the family back home to Nazareth in Pennsylvania.
Both old and new friends quickly start to make an impact on her life, and pretty soon, Reed is caught up in a web of drama while dealing with a lot of stuff herself. With an already fragile mental health, who knows how she'll end up?

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6. Chapter 5

"DAD!" I screamed as I wrapped myself in a fluffy, green towel. I held it up with one hand while I tried to shelter my face from the spray that shot out from the shower. He burst in the door, half of his face covered in red sleep marks. 

"Do something!" I growled and stepped outside, letting the carpet floor in the hallway dry my feet. I went downstairs to the kitchen where I washed out the last remains of shampoo from my hair in the kitchen sink. It was a saturday, and David was off God knows where with some friends he'd made at the local university. He'd decided to continue his major in Anthropology. He still hadn't been to see Nonni and Nonno. 

As if my day couldn't get any better, that was the exact moment he and two of his friends walked in the door to see me awkwardly bent over the sink, in nothing but a towel. David walked to the edge of the kitchen slowly, and leaned on the wall.

"Reed, I love you unconditionally, despite your weird ways," he began with a crooked smile. His friends just awkwardly stood there, trying to look anywhere but my ass, while I ignored David. "But sis, I gotta ask, since when did a normal shower become too mainstream for you?" I burst out in a little laugh and stood normally, the last trace of citrus shampoo gone from my curls. 

"Since the shower broke. Ten minutes ago." 

"I see. Run along now." He laughed and gave me a little push on the shoulder when I walked past him on my way to my room. When I reached the stairs, I heard a smack, and David growling "That's my little sister dude! She's only seventeen!", followed by a laugh from one of the others. Where a girl who hadn't been raised alongside David would have been embarrassed, or maybe even proud, I was merely amused, and mumbled to myself 'fucking pennsylvanian crooks' with a slight shake of my head. 

Later that day, I heard David open the front door after the doorbell had rung, and I heard a familiar voice while standing in the kitchen. 

"Can Reed come out to play?" It joked, and I smiled. I was afraid I might've scared off Alex at school the other day, but he seemed to be absolutely the same.

"She's in the kitchen, why don't you ask her?" He chuckled. "Good to see you little guy." 

"Yeah you too man." Alex replied, then walked confidently through the house to where I was standing. He hadn't been in here for years, but when we were little, he'd spent so much time around the house. He still knew his way around.

"What are you doing?" He asked as soon as he was inside the doorway. I smiled, and glanced at him. 

"My favorite hobby in the world. Absolutely nothing. I didn't feel like unpacking again today." I said and arched my back like a content cat.

"Good. You can come with me then." He announced and reached out his hand for me to take it. I did so cautiously and followed him out of the house. Just before he closed the door behind him, he called into the house "Reed's going out!" then directed me to his bicycle. 

"Sit on the back. We're going to my house." He ordered with a playful smile as he let go of my hand and mounted the seat. He had even strapped a little pillow on top of the big clip that usually held a bag or a box. I laughed a breezy laugh and sat on it, side-saddle, just like we used to do it when we were 9. The wind blew through my tangles mess of hair, and he sped up significantly when we were out of sight from the house. The smile on my face was inevitable. Only now did I realize how much I had missed Alex, and his crazy plans, and our afternoons mucking about together. 

We pulled up in front of his house, which hadn't changed one bit. Even the rose bushes and the evergreen that lined their front garden were the same, and trimmed the same way. 

"Not that I'm not enjoying myself already, but why am I here?" I asked and hopped off the bike. I walked beside him as he pulled it up the driveway to put it in the garage. 

"My parents are getting ready for some business party thing that I wasn't listening to, but all you need to know is that it's me and Gina all alone tonight. And let me tell you, while she is adorable, Gina is not a very good conversationalist. So you're here tonight to keep me entertained. Also, I have no idea how to cook baby food." He explained, a playful smile on his lips the whole time. 

"Happy to be of service." I said and stepped inside the house with him. Nothing much had changed on the inside either, except now, baby toys were scattered all over instead of legos, and safety rails were spread around in different places between rooms. 

"Alex, good, you're back. Gina is napping, so just let her until she wakes up, and then keep her entertained. You know what dinner time is. Reed dear, how nice to see you. It feels like it's been more than two years since last time doesn't it?" Alex's mom rambled as she breezed through the room, putting in her pearl earrings. She was the ultimate trophy wife, stay at home mom, on any committee she could get her hands on, and great at small talk. She was nice though, not a snob trophy wife. Just a sane trophy. With an unhealthy amount of troll dolls in her collection. 

"Good to see you." I managed to get out before she was gone again. Alex's dad stepped down from the upstairs, dressed in a name brand suit, and pulled aside the safety gate at the bottom of the stairs. 

"Reed? I didn't know you were coming. There's money for food in the kitchen. Have fun guys." He said before he went outside while straightening his tie. His wife followed and closed the door behind her. 

"Your parents forgot to turn on the baby alarm." I said and pointed at the little speaker on the table in the hallway. The little green light that was supposed to be turned on was dead, and in this huge a house, there was no telling if Gina was crying her heart out. 

Alex got a look near fury in his eyes, scaring me a little, and I took a step back before he dodged up the stairs quickly. I could hear doors opening, and as soon as I regained my calm, I grabbed the baby alarm to see if anything critical was happening. When I turned it on, I heard Alex cooing, and a little girl crying. Then the sound faded as he began to bring her downstairs.

He came down calmly, softly stroking her back while she clung to him. Just like her brother, she had a mess of curls on her head, but unlike him, she looked frail, and tiny.

"She's so small." I mused.

"She was early." He said and gestured for me to follow him with his head. He went through the dining room to the couch and sat down with Gina. I sat down next to him and waved and smiled at the little child. She cautiously curled further into Alex's chest and looked away from me. 

"She'll warm up in a minute, she's just a little groggy." He said, looking down at her with the most adoring look i his eyes. Just seeing it made me happy.

"You wanna watch a movie or something?" He asked one Gina had stopped hiccuping after the crying. 

"Sure. What do you wanna watch?" I asked, turning myself to face him. Suddenly, I felt a small, cold hand touch my thigh, and Gina was crawling towards me, sitting up and looking me in the eyes with a puzzled gaze. I smiled and stroked her hair. That seemed to win her over. She brought her hand up and tried to do the same to me, but she couldn't reach, so I stroked hers again. Then she crawled fully onto my lap and reached for my hair. This time she caught some of it, and clutched it in her little palm.

"She likes you." Alex said, amused at Gina's sudden fascination with my hair. "C'mon, let's take her downstairs and watch the movie there. The screen is better." He stood up, and I sat Gina on my hip, carrying her down to the hangout room in the basement. It was filled with beanbag chairs, a couch, a chaise lounge, and huge tv, a surround sound system, and much more. We sat down side by side on the wide chaise lounge and put Gina on top of our legs, which were pressed up against each other. Alex grabbed a remote and scurried through Netflix until we agreed on Pacific Rim. 

"Should Gina be watching this?" I laughed as she carefully studied my hand. "Oh she already has, several times," Alex replied, "she loves the Kaiju." 

We marathoned two movies before it was getting close to Gina's dinnertime, and we ventured back upstairs to cook for her. Since she had been early, she was still on a baby food diet, the kind that came from those weird boxes, and I cooked the gooey stuff while Alex played with her on the kitchen floor. 

When the time came to feed her with it, Alex completely let me take over. "Aren't you going to feed her?" I asked, setting the bowl on the table in front of her high chair, just out of reach from her. 

"Nah, I figure I'll let you do it." He said and sat down at the table. I shrugged and checked the temperature of the mush. 

After 15 minutes, there was food in my hair, on my clothes, and in my bra. Gina was smiling, making this never ending "mmmmhhmmmhmmmhhhhmmm" sound that Alex said signified that she enjoyed the food. I was even smiling, laughing, and also sticky all over. I looked at Alex, who also had a little goo in his eyebrow and laughed. 

"You did this on purpose you sick bastard," I laughed, glad that I'd decided to text Alex, and glad that we clicked so naturally even after so long. "You knew this would happen." 

He could hold it in any longer, and he burst out in a hearty laugh that warmed up all the way to my core and made me laugh even louder than before. 

"We'd be horrible parents." He chuckled, and my laugh slowly died out while I wiped Gina's hands and face. "Well, I would. You seem to have it covered pretty well."

"I babysat a lot in Chicago." 

The clock rolled around 8, and it was time to put Gina to bed. Again, Alex let me do the job while he cleaned up the kitchen. When I came down we sat back in the living room. I'd started yawning around the same time as Gina, and was pretty tired. We never put on another movie, instead we just talked for a bit.

"Is it weird to be back after so long?" Alex asked, leaning back on the armrest of the couch. We sat in one end each, our legs sharing the middle. I shrugged. "Not any weirder than I thought it would be. I mean, I had a life in Chicago. I had friends, and a career that was about to set off. It's weird leaving that behind. But it is nice to be home." I explained.

"So it's still home to you then?" He asked, and I nodded. "Yeah." He smiled at that. 

"Did you turn on the baby alarm?" I asked, not wanting to repeat the same mistake that their mother had made. Alex pointed at the coffee table, where a little green light shone in the evening light. It was just before sunset, and the sun shot orange light in through the big wall to wall windows that showed the backyard. I looked at Alex's ace, bathed in the orange haze and laughed. 

"You still have goo on your face." I said. "You're one to talk." I looked at him seriously, and said without humor, "I think it's in my bra. Dude. Do you have any idea how weird that feels?" 

His laughter boomed through the room, and he threw his head back and sighed. "Oh Reed. I've missed you." 

"I've missed you too." I said. For a moment we just stared into each other's eyes, with small smiles on our faces, then he changed the subject. 

"Did you know there's a dance school on South Whitfield Street? I think they have classical ballet. You should find a class there."

"Why do you know about dance schools dude?" I asked, giving him a weird look, trying to avoid the answer to the question. His eyes caught mine, and I tilted my head to the side, raiding my eyebrows. 

"My mom keeps talking about getting Gina started on ballet early. She's already trying to make the poor kid sit still the entire way through her recording of the Bolshoi doing La Sylphide." He shrugged. "You should really go though. I hear it's a good school."

"Poor Gina." I said, still attempting to steer away from the topic. 

"Reed."

"What?"

"Why don't you want to go to ballet class?" He asked, seeing right through me. "Does it have anything to do with what happened in Chicago? And is it something I should know about?" 

I slowly nodded. 

"Will you tell me?" He probed gently, leaning forward a little. I rested my head on the beck of the couch and shut my eyes. 

"I can tell you some of it. Not it all." I said, to which he nodded eagerly. 

"It was after class, and I stayed behind to practice this really hard part, and we'd just broken up the day before. And I went to the locker room to change and all of a sudden he was just..." I trailed off and gulped. 

"It's okay. You don't need to tell me any more than that." Alex said, but it was too late. The memories had already started rolling inside my mind like an old roll of film, and I caved, reliving the night that had almost killed me. 

 

My iPhone was plugged into the speakers, playing a piece from Cinderella. I was the alternate, and needed to know it better than I knew how to breathe, so I stayed behind to work on it. Not only did I not quite have it down yet, I also wanted to distract myself from the events of the previous few days. 

Stopping mid piquet to go home, I went over to pick up my phone and leave, when I saw the five texts he had sent. 

how many times do I need to tell you I'm sorry?

 

Where the hell are you?

 

Answering won't kill you you know

 

I'm not kidding Reed

 

You're mine. You can't just decide that you're not all of a sudden

 

The texts made me sick, and I hurried to the locker room to change, as it was cold outside. Dropping my bag on one of the benches in there, I started to untie my wrap skirt and my pointe shoes. There was a sudden creak from the door, and light shone into the dark room. I turned around to see a figure in the square of bright light from the hallway, but I couldn't see the face. I knew that set of shoulders though. And my breath caught in my throat. 

"What the hell Angus? This is the girls locker room, you can't be in here. Get the fuck out." I complained and turned back around to store the pins that held up my bun in the box I used to avoid losing them. One by one I plucked them out, and I was so distracted with the job that I didn't even notice that he was stepping closer, quietly, like a cat. 

"You don't get to say when this is over." He stated, and I screamed, turning around to find him only meters away from me. I finally noticed what he had in his hand, a piece of metal that reflected the light from the open door onto the floor. 
"I told you Angus, no more. I can't be abused like this anymore. You have to let me go." I said, trying for a calm and authoritative approach, to convince him that hurting me wouldn't make things better. It had worked before, but not always, and I feared for my life. Fresh sweat broke out on my forehead, and chills ran down my back as I looked into his pair of cold blue eyes. No emotion was left. Only a wild insanity that I had witnessed before, and had always gotten me hurt in the end. 

"You left me no choice Reed." He said, his voice suddenly shaky. 
"Why do you want to do this to me?" I asked. "You say you love me every day but as soon as I talk to someone else you cut me or beat me? If you loved me you wouldn't do that. That's why I left you." I said, trying to reason with him, but seemingly coming no closer to a solution. It pained me even now to see him like this, callous eyes, no longer the boy I'd fallen for, and stuck with for nearly a year.

"I did that to show you how dangerous it is! How dangerous those people are! They'll hurt you! I only wanted to take care of you!" He yelled frantically and waved the knife in front of him, advancing on me. "This is to show you Reed. Lessons need to be learned the hard way."

Then he slashed. I felt nothing at first, then a white hot pain shot through my abdomen, and I looked down with an open mouth and big eyes to see a long line of red seeping through my white leotard, stretching from the bottom of my ribcage on the left, to my right hip. I tried to step back, only to find the bench in my way, and I fell backwards.

"You should have just listened!" He screamed and slashed again, this time hitting my upper arm. He raised his hand and swung it hard across my face, leaving a throbbing pain on the right side of my face. I felt blood come from my eyebrow and run down into my mouth. I clutched at my stomach, trying to keep the blood in with my hands while he took another step forward so he stood over me. 

"I'm sorry." He said, then grabbed my shoulder and slammed my head back against the bench. Everything went black."

"Reed? Reed come back. That's it. Good girl. There we go. Come back. You're okay. It's all okay. It's just me, just Alex. No one is going to hurt you anymore. I'm here. I won't let anything happen, I promise." Alex's voice pulled me back to reality. My eyelids blinked frantically, and I was shaking, and hyperventilating. 

"It's okay." He said slowly, stroking my arm. "I'm here. You're in Nazareth. Not Chicago. This is not Chicago. You're home. You're at my house. All is good. You can relax now." 

My breathing slowed down, and I shut my eyes to stop the fluttering of my eyelids. I couldn't do anything about the shaking. "I'm sorry." I whispered.

"No Reed, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked you. It's my fault. I'm sorry." 

"I can't keep letting that happen." I breathed, rubbing my arms. Absentmindedly, I rubbed my fingers over the scar on my left arm, where he had cut me. 

"I'm gonna call David to pick you up." Alex said, and I nodded slowly. The scar started to burn a little from the rubbing, but I couldn't seem to snap out of it. Suddenly, I felt a hand on my wrist.

"Reed, stop it. You'll end up drawing blood."

 

David honked outside the house a little while later, and I got up to leave. Alex put a gentle hand on my shoulder as we walked together to the door. I turned around and saw the apology in his eyes.

"I'm sorry." 

"It's okay." 

He helped me put on my jacket, and opened the door. 

"See you tomorrow?" He asked.

"Sure. I'll text you." I said, gave him a quick hug, and dashed out to the car. David didn't say anything, just glared a little at Alex, and then we drove off around the corner. 

"Don't tell dad?" I said hopefully, giving him a pleading look. I saw his knuckles turn whiter in the dark car as he tightened his grip on the steering wheel. 

"He shouldn't have asked you." 

"He didn't know how bad it was." I defended Alex. "I can't keep letting this happen. He's not to blame here. So don't tell dad." I said stubbornly and turned my head to look out the window at the streets we zoomed down. 

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