Taking You For Granted

Oliver had always been around, and so he would always be around... Just, as a friend. That's all he was, she swore to herself. But, when something terrible happens she's forced to take a new look at her longest standing, never changing relationship.

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14. the root of all evil

Tuesday began with an ignored phone call from my mother. The voicemail began with 'we're worried about you' and continued with 'let's talk about the settlement before you make a decision', and 'you're too young to make this call on your own', and 'that money could put you through college', and my personal favorite 'we've heard you've been traipsing through town with that silly boy, making yourself look ridiculous', and finally ended with 'come home'.

No sorries. No mention of missing me. Per usual, it was all about the money and the image of our family. Apparently people were talking at the club.

I was in a foul mood as I ate breakfast. Oli tapped my foot under the table, but didn't try to pry into what was bothering me. I'd tell him later.

Ironically, GOLD DIGGER was the newest addition to the graffiti on my locker complete with a surprisingly good caricature of Kanye West. It actually made me laugh.

Wednesday, I found anonymous notes telling me what I should do with my pride, or my attitude, or the money. Where I should shove them all. Or that I should just die.

I wanted to throw them all away, but I mailed them to Carla instead.

Thursday started with a bang, or rather a crash. Someone threw a brick through a street-facing window of the Galaviz home. We called the police about that one. Surprisingly, they chalked it up to a prank taken too far rather than a threat, but they said they'd investigate it.

Friday, I stood outside of my last class wondering why Oliver was late. I didn't want to look for him alone, so I called Hedy. She and Will met me at the end of the hall and we went in search for him together. The most logical place to look first was his last class, AP Physics. It was on the complete opposite end of the school.

He wasn't there. I tried calling him, the log on my phone telling me it was the seventh incomplete call.

There was a bathroom down this hall. Will checked for me. He wasn't there either.

An icy cold filled my stomach. Hedy squeezed my hand.

"Dude, don't go down to the art wing right now," a passerby elbowed his friend.

"But I left my wallet in the band room," the other replied. "I really wanted to grab something to eat before I went home.

"I'll spot you, man," the first said. "Seriously, you don't want to interrupt what's happening down there."

I traded looks between Hedy and Will. We practically sprinted down the halls to the art wing. He wasn't in the band hall or the art rooms. Nor was he in the costume closet or the choir room. We heard snickering from the auditorium. Will hurried to open the door.

"Shit! Let's go!" Someone yelled.

Whoever it was, all we caught a glimpse of were the backs of their letterman jackets.

A spotlight was focused on the center of the stage. No one was there, but there was a trap door. I darted up the stairs to the stage and ran behind the curtains to the stairs that led beneath the stage.

There he was. Just... pulverized. He was so still. Bruised every inch you could see. His nose and mouth were bloodied, his face almost unrecognizable. He was curled up in a ball at the foot of some risers. A broken cane was nearby on the floor. It had been a prop in one of our plays before it had been used as a weapon.

I fought the urge to cry as I approached him and sat on the floor. He was breathing. I reached over to touch his face, but I was scared.

Footsteps ran down the stairs behind me.

Hedy gasped. Will ran over and knelt beside Oliver's head.

"Hedy, call an ambulance," he ordered.

"Signal is shit down here," she cursed and ran back upstairs. I could hear that she was crying in her voice.

"Oliver, you there man?" He called to Oli, but with no response.

I reached for Oliver's hand. It was then that I realized the angle of his arm was all wrong. I dropped his hand out of shock. He didn't respond, he didn't groan in pain, he didn't open his eyes. I covered my mouth in horror.

Paramedics were under the stage with us less than half an hour later. They checked on his vitals and had him on a gurney. They still hadn't been able to get him to regain consciousness.

Will drove Oliver's Jeep home after we called Carolyn. We followed him in Hedy's car, then picked him and a hysterical Carolyn up to take to the hospital.

We waited anxiously in the waiting room for updates from the doctors. Oliver had a concussion, required stitches on his upper lip and above his left eyebrow. His nose was not broken, but his left arm was. So were a few of his ribs.

But, he would be okay.

He would be okay.

The doctors finished patching him up. We moved from the waiting room to the room they had him recovering in. It was share with an elderly man who was snoring loudly on the other side of an ugly blue curtain.

His eye, the right one, that wasn't swollen shut, opened and blinked a few times before finding something to focus on. He looked around the room and his eye found us huddled in the corner of the room. We both hurried to his bedside. Carolyn took his right hand and let out a small, grateful whimper.

"Hey," he croaked, then grimaced before cracking a crooked smile. "Boy am I glad to see the two of you."

His voice was so raw, it made me cringe. His eye met mine and he looked like he wanted to cry.

"Son, what happened?" Carolyn asked.

"I don't want to talk about it right now," he said. "My throat hurts from whatever tubes they shoved down me."

She nodded.

We heard a knock at the door, followed by footsteps and Mr. Evans's voice sounding baffled, "Oh, I think I'm in the wrong room."

"We're on the other side of the curtain," I called to him.

"Oh, pardon me," he said to the still snoring old man before he met us behind the curtain.

He spotted Oliver, "Man, did they do a number on you."

Oliver smiled again, then flinched at the pull of the stitches on his lip.

"You'll be happy to know that security at the school caught one of the students responsible for this," Mr. Evans informed us. "They can't ignore an attack of this magnitude on school grounds. The police are working with the school administration to piece together what happened and to try to get him to give up his conspirators."

Conspirators. My whole life was becoming a conspiracy.

"Thomas, can we speak in the hallway?" Carolyn asked.

He nodded and put his arm around her as they disappeared on the other side of the curtain.

"I saw that," Oliver said, quiet enough that they probably didn't hear him.

I stepped closer to him and he grabbed my hand.

"I'm okay," he said firmly.

I nodded my head.

"I thought I lost you for a moment," I admitted. "When I found you..."

"I'm okay," he repeated and squeezed my hand.

I nodded again.

They let him go home on Sunday.

I drove us to school on Monday. We just had a month and a half to get through and school would be over. We'd have the summer away from this wretched place in just a month and two weeks.

He limped down the halls beside me, trying to stand as straight as possible. Ready as ever to launch himself at anyone who threatened me. I felt ready to protect him, too.

He'd told me and Carolyn - and the police - that a group of boys had ambushed him on his way to my classroom, pulled him into the Auditorium, and proceeded to beat him senseless under the stage. Before he passed out, they had told him that this was a warning.

The police department responded by assigning a police car to sit outside of Oli's house for the next week and assigning a police officer to walk us from our last classes of the day to Oli's car.

Nothing happened that week, so they police protection was lifted.

Carla asked me to give a video recorded deposition. I felt filthy and completely violated when the Zimmermans' lawyer asked me about my attempted suicide and my stay in a mental health facility. Carla objected, reminding the judge and the the defense attorney that it was irrelevant to the case. The judge agreed with her.

I couldn't believe they'd dig into my past like that. I had thought my medical history, irrelevant as it was, was private and confidential.

And the questioning had surfaced some memories I didn't realize I had. Like the fact that Eddie had managed to touch my chest and kiss my ear before Oliver pulled him off of me. I remembered him tearing my dress now. It wasn't just something I knew because the torn dress existed.

I felt sick to my stomach.

After it was over, Oliver took me to Jude and Lucy's to watch a movie with them and Lew.

I couldn't relax through the whole movie. I couldn't calm down.

Oliver took me home. Carolyn had gone for a drink with Carla and Mr. Evans. Carla was going back to Austin in the morning.

I felt like I my skin was crawling. I couldn't stop the cycle of questions going through my head from earlier that day.

I took a warm shower, but that didn't help like it normally would.

I felt desperate for a quiet mind. I just wanted to not think anymore.

I went into the kitchen and opened the the cabinet to the left of the sink, where Oli and I had once found a bottle of Seven. We each took a sip that day, not long after his dad left and he and Carolyn had just moved into this house, and immediately spit it out. I hadn't had alcohol ever since.

But, in moments like this, that's what people did in the movies, right? I found a bottle of spiced rum and took a swig. It burned in my nostrils when I breathed out. I choked on the flame of it in my throat. I heard footsteps in the hall and took another swallow of the fluid before he could come in and stop me.

"June, are you al- what are you doing?!"

I capped the bottle and put it back in the cabinet. When I turned to face him it felt like my brain was a step behind, like how floating ice stays in the same place when you turn a glass.

He stared at my in disbelief.

"June, why did you do that?" He asked.

"I wanted to see if it would help my brain," I explained. The words felt like molasses.

"I'm afraid I can't help you stand," he frowned. "Let's go to your room. I don't want my mom to find you like this."

I dropped my head, sad that he was upset. Sad that this wasn't helping at all. It sort of just hung a gauzy veil over my problems. I was never doing this again.

I pulled myself up with the aide of the counter, knocking my head into the cabinet above it.

"Aye!" I exclaimed and held a hand to the bump that was forming.

Oli came over to me and tried to examine my head with his good arm. He pulled me into a one armed hug and kissed the bump on my head before pulling me down the hall to my room. The hall looked like it stretched for miles, but it took us no time to get to the end of it. He opened my door and I stumbled in, falling onto my bed.

I patted the space beside me.

Oli sat down with a grimace and exhaled. His ribs hurt him.

"That's my fault," I stated.

"No it's not."

"It is," I said. "I always hurt you."

"That isn't true."

"I'm hurting you now," I pointed out. "I'm always making you worried."

He laughed.

"I'm mad at you at the moment, but I'm not hurt," he said. "And worrying about your safety and wellbeing is different from you being a worry, if that's what you mean."

"I just want to make you happy," I said.

I couldn't keep my mouth shut.

"You do make me happy," he said.

"And I want to beeee happy," I rolled over onto my stomach. "I want to erase what happened. I want you to be the only one who's touched me."

I heard him swallow.

"We can't change the past," he said.

"I knoooow," I whined into the blanket.

"We can make what happens next worthwhile, though," I could hear the smile in his voice. "But you can't do things like this anymore."

"I don't like this anyway," I grumbled.

I knew I was acting like a child. And it felt like I was on a boat.

I turned over onto my back again.

"Can I climb your treehouse?" I asked.

"That's a really bad idea," he answered and I frowned at him.

He covered his face with his right hand and laughed.

"What?" I asked.

"You are maddeningly adorable like this," he said.

I sat up and stared at him.

"Stop looking at me like that," he warned.

"Like what?" I cocked my head to the side.

"Like that," he pointed at me.

"And what will happen if I don't?" I was genuinely curious. "I don't know how to stop doing something when I'm not sure how I'm doing it."

He shook his head.

He was very cute when he was frustrated. I put my hand on his knee and leaned in to kiss him.

"Ow," he said against my lips.

I forgot that he still had stitches in his top lip. I tried to be more gentle, but I was failing.

"Ow," he said again, but laughed this time.

I pulled away and reached over to run my finger over the stitches on his lip, wishing they'd dissolved already. I wondered if he'd develop a scar.

I leaned in again and kissed only his bottom lip, tugging on it a bit. He sucked in a breath.

"This is a bad idea," he whispered, sounding like he didn't want to say it.

"Is it?" I asked.

"Yes," he answered, still sounding like he didn't like that answer.

I leaned in more as I kissed him again, this time too much.

"Ow, ow, dammit!" He caught himself with his right arm and I moved away from him.

"I'm sorry," I frowned.

"It's okay," he held his hand to his ribs when he'd righted himself.

I curled up on my side and he stroked my hair.

"Do you want me to stay with you or do you want to be alone?" He asked.

"Stay," I said.

I could feel the buzz pulling me toward sleep. Drool slipped down my cheek and I wiped it, embarrassed.

And then I did slip into a dream.

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