Jay | One Shot

Jay has never asked for help, never. To her it's a sign of weakness and defeat, something which could possibly get her killed. With little over a year to go, she's counting down the days until she's old enough to become her own guardian. Jay knows better than to get in trouble, so it's not her fault when her best friend Rebecca decides to break into her little closet of a room and convinces her to sneak out for the night. After all; what her aunt wont know, wont hurt Jay - or will it?

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2. Jay

I don’t dance, not because I don’t want to, but because it’s against the five rules. In all honesty there’s more than just five; there’s a thousand and still counting if you list them all, but officially there’s only five.

            “Pink or peach?” Rebecca is waving color samples in front of my face, to get my attention. I have no idea why she even bothers; I have no sense in fashion, not that it matters anyway. I know that she’s desperate to get me involved in the school dance, but there’s nothing she can do. Even if I was allowed to go I’m not sure I would, because I know that a waterfall of rage would be waiting for me at home.

            “What’s the difference?” I shift my eyes between the two color samples, trying to determinate the slight color difference under the horrible lights in the lunch room.

            “Jay, they are totally opposites; like night and day.” She rolls her eyes at me, as if it’s a fact that every normal person should know. Clearly I’m not normal.

            “They look the same to me,” I shrug before turning back to my book.

            “Jay,” she whines as if it’s a matter of life and death, and I just doomed her to the end of eternity.

Rebecca has always been overdramatic and talkative, whereas I’ve always been the quiet girl with her nose dipped so deep into her books, that I’ve become invisible. We’re total opposites, which makes me wonder, for the millionth and fifth time, how we started talking in the first place. I think it was kindergarten, when one of the other girl’s wouldn’t share her crayons with me, and Rebecca stepped in and offered her own to me.

“Will you just pick one?” She’s getting frustrated with me, as she always does, and if she was standing I’m sure she would have stomped her foot.

            “Pink,” I sigh before I, once again, try to return to the alternate universe of my book.

            “That color is so last year though.”

            “Then peach,” I let out with a frustrated groan. We’ve been doing this back and forth between colors, cuts, and accessories since first period, and all I want to do is dive, head first, into my private universe. Unfortunately Kim isn’t here today to divert Rebecca’s attention, or fashion crisis, and I end up taking the full blow.

            “But-“

“No buts, I’m sure peach will match your toe nails, or whatever you’re concerned about, perfectly.” I have a tendency to cut Rebecca off whenever she starts using ‘but’ too much. It’s something that she absolutely hates and wishes I would quit doing, but I’ve never been the best at pleasing others, no matter how hard I try.

            “If only you knew.” She has that mysterious grin on her face, which always exposes her whenever she has a secret plan, most of them which are usually directed towards me.

            “What now?” I sigh, as I fold the corner of page 259 down and close the book. There’s no point in trying anymore, I’ve already lost. If Rebecca is in the middle of a devious plan, there’s no way I can’t know; for my own protection, as well as other’s.

            “Nothing.” The innocent look that she always tries to fake, is evident on her face. She’s trying to cover up her radiating grin, but it slips through the cracks in her mask and lights up her face with excitement.

            “Spill.”

            “The dress isn’t for me,” she shrugs it off as if it’s nothing, but I know that she’s hiding an important detail from me. With a raised eyebrow and a questioning look, I urge her to go on and reveal her plan to me. “It’s for you.” By the time the words register in my mind, Rebecca has already picked up her stuff and moved half way across the lunch room.

            “Oh heck no.” In the matter of a second I manage to collect my book bag from the floor and cross the lunch room, with my book safely tucked under my right arm. “What do you mean; it’s for me?” The question is out before I’m fully caught up with her.

            “I mean what I said,” she stops in the middle of the hallway, before she turns around to face me. “You deserve a little fun, even if it’s only for one night.” Her eyes are radiating hope, and it breaks my heart to know that I’m going to crush it.

            “You know I can’t,” I simply state, before I’m the one hurrying down the hallway, with her trailing behind me.

            “What do you mean; you can’t?”

            “I mean what I said,” I snap at her as we reach my locker. I’m not mad at her, in fact I’m slightly honored that she is putting so much effort into giving me one night of freedom. But she should know by now; I don’t get freedom, and no matter how free of the chains I seem they always come snapping back, tighter and stronger than ever.

            “They’ll let you if my parents talks to them.” She’s right, as always. With a single phone call from her parents, I could be freed from the chains and the rules of my aunt – even if it’s only for a night.

            “You know what will happen if I go.” I grab my geography binder before slamming the locker behind me. I already know what she’s going to say, and I’m tired of having this exact same conversation with Rebecca over and over again.

            “What exactly will happen?” She’s following me down the empty hallway again. There’s exactly ten minutes until the first bell rings and I know I won’t get rid of her before then.

            “You know.”

            “But I don’t; you’ve never told me.” It’s true; I’ve never actually uttered the words, not that I ever would, but Rebecca is not stupid. She’s seen the marks and she knows what’s going on within the confinement of my house.

            “You know I’m never going to,” I mumble before I take my seat in the back of the classroom. Rebecca has anatomy this hour, but that doesn’t mean that she’ll leave me alone until she absolutely has to.

            “Why not?”

            “Just drop it,” I snap at her before I rest my head on the table, wishing that she would vanish into thin air.

            “You know I can’t,” are the last words she lets slip across her lips and out into the empty classroom, before she disappears out of the door and finally grants me the silence I’ve been craving since first period.

            “Hey,” as I lift my head from the table, I’m met with the sight of Alex slipping into the empty seat next to me. I’m not surprised to see him; he’s Rebecca’s twin brother, and even though he has no idea what’s going on with me, I know that my best friend has given him strict orders to keep an eye on me. “How’s your day?”

            “Just peachy,” I sigh before my head is back on the table.

            “Same,” is the last word allowed in our conversation.

            I’m the last one to leave the classroom when the bell rings, but in the hallway I’m, once again, greeted by the sight of Alex.

            “Jay,” his voice is cold and serious. Alex has never used that tone with me, and it shocks me to hear it. “Stop.” I know what he wants, or at least I have a good idea of what he saw, when I leaned forward in class and my t-shirt rode up just an inch on my back, and that’s why I’m running; from him as much as from my problems. But unlike Alex I haven’t been on the track team for years, and within long he’s caught up with me, and I’m being dragged into the girls’ bathroom.

            “I don’t think you’re supposed to be in here,” I try to divert the conversation before it has even started. “I’m pretty sure it’s against school policy.”

            I watch in silence as Alex checks the stalls, before he returns to me. “Spill.”

            “About what?” I move on to plan B; act clueless.

            “About this,” in one swift motion, Alex has reached for the edge of my t-shirt. Within a second the bruised part of my lower back is exposed fully to his eyes, and there’s no use of denying its existence anymore.

            “It’s nothing,” I answer, before I struggle to free the fabric from his grip, so I can cover the few bruised inches that the t-shirt isn’t covering any more.

            “Are you seriously trying to tell me, that a black and blue back is nothing?” He’s getting angry; with me and with the beat up skin that he can’t seem to get his eyes away from. “They’re beating you.”

            “No one’s beating me,” I’m quick to defend, but the blazing fire in his eyes tells me that he doesn’t believe me, not even the slightest.

            “Why didn’t you say anything?” His eyes finally let go of my beat up back, as his grip on the fabric ceases to exist. “I can help you.”

            “I don’t need your help; I’m not weak.” At the idea of begging for his protection and pity, a burning rage of my own settles into my veins.
            “I know you’re not weak,” within an instant his voice has gone from hard to velvety soft. “But asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a symbol of trust.”

            “Whatever,” is the highly sophisticated reply I come up with.

            “Does Rebecca know?” I avoid his eyes, in a desperate attempt to avoid his question, but my flickering eyes seems to be the only answer he needs. “You don’t trust me.” It comes out as a statement, and I’m sure that it was never meant as a question at all.

            “I do; Alex I do trust you.” It pains me that he doubts our friendship, no matter if it’s been forced by his sister or not, and the disappointment in his eyes only fuels the pain.

            “No you don’t,” Alex’s always so kind eyes are cold and hard, and for the first time ever I see him turn them away from me in disgust. “If you had you would have told me.” Those are the last words trailing from his lips, before he turns around and heads towards the door.

            “Alex, wait!” I call out after him, but he’s already gone.

            It’s Friday morning and I’m anxiously waiting in the passenger seat, as the car pulls up in front of the school entrance. I’m ready to escape the tension in the car and even more so; her.

            “Before you go,” I tense, with my hand on the door, at the sound of her cold voice within the small confinement of the car. She has already pushed, pulled, and kicked this morning, and with the ‘accidental’ burn mark she left on my wrist last night, I was sure she was done for the day. “You should know that Tom and I are going out tonight,” a night without the wicked witch of the west sound almost seems too good to be true. “Your door will be locked by seven.”

            My heart has dropped to my stomach, where it stays as I leave the car, and the witch herself, behind. It seems as if I’ve hit rock bottom, with no going back.

            At six fifty-five my door is locked and sealed from the outside, and I’m left in my room with a glass of water, a plate with leftovers from dinner, and my algebra homework. I hold my breath and listen for the familiar click of a turning key at the front door. As soon as I’m sure that they’re both gone and not coming back, I dig my cellphone out of my pillowcase.

            Alex hasn’t talked to me since our confrontation in the girl’s bathroom less than three days ago, and I know there’s no way he’s going to respond to the thirty text messages I’ve already sent him, yet I try again.

            After five minutes of empty silence, I give up staring at the small screen on the phone.

            “I’m sorry,” I whisper out into the empty house.

            “It’s okay.” I’m startled as my bedroom window is forced open and my best friend pulls herself through it, before she drops to the floor.

            “What are you doing here?” I’m still whispering, just in case someone is listening.

            “I came to get you,” she shrugs as if it’s the most natural thing in the whole world. But my best friend climbing through my bedroom window to ‘rescue’ me from my tower, isn’t exactly what I would call natural – at least not in my world.

            “Why?”

            “Because I can and because you deserve this night off,” I want to turn her away; force her to leave and never come back, but the hope that’s sparking in her eyes prevents me from doing so.

            “How are you planning on getting me out?” Unless she has Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility tucked safely under her dress, I wouldn’t count on me ever getting out alive.

            “The same way I got in.” She gestures towards the open window. I’m surprised it wasn’t locked in the first place; she always makes sure that I have no way of escaping.

            “I can’t sneak out the window.” My voice is softer than before; she could be listening, ready to catch me at any given moment.

            “Why not?” Because I’ll get an eye to match my back, I want to say. But the bruise on my back has already caused enough trouble with her family, so I hold it back. “Everyone does it.”

            “I’m not everyone.” I feel insecure and vulnerable, with Rebecca standing in the middle of my bedroom. I can’t ignore the fact that it’s her first time in the house, nor can I ignore her searching eyes, taking in every little detail of the small room.

            “But you could be, at least for tonight.” I’m conflicted. If I stay she will just find another reason to beat me. At least, if I go it would have been worth it.

            “Lead the way.”

            My heart is pumping so fast I think it might explode in my chest, as Rebecca parks the car in front of the school. I follow her out of the car, and into the chilly spring evening.

            “Wait.” A major detail in every teenage girl’s high school experience, hits me like a brick wall collapsed on top of me. Rebecca is dressed in a flawless midnight blue dress, whereas I’m wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt.

            “What?” Rebecca stops in her track and turns around to look at me.

            “This,” I signal down my body.

            “Oh,” is the only word that falls from her lips as she realizes my outfit, but I can see the wheels turning in her head. “We can fix it.”

            “If you think I’m taking my clothes off in the middle of a parking lot-“ It seems as if the blood in my veins has been replaced by anxiety, and the more I talk the more it builds.

            “Wow, trust me; no one wants to see that,” she laughs as I struggle to regain just a bit of my sanity. “I was talking about a hot date.” She’s wiggling her eyebrows in that crazy way only Rebecca does, and somehow it calms me enough to laugh along with her.

            “A hot date, really?” I’m skeptical, mostly because I know Rebecca’s version of hot dates. “Who do you have in mind?” I can’t believe I’m somewhat agreeing to her crazy plan, even before it’s all revealed to me.

            “Alex.” The sound of his name causes a heavy stone to fall from my chest and into the pit of my stomach. “I’ll go find him.”

            “Even if you do find him, I doubt he’ll agree.” The thought of Alex makes me regret ever jumping out of my bedroom window, and wish that I could hide underneath the covers of my bed and sulk in silence.

            “Of course he will,” she turns on her heels and heads for the entrance of the gym, before calling over her shoulder; “stay there, I’ll be right back.”

            I’m left, leaning up against her car in the dark. There’s more than a million stars in the sky, and even more reasons that I should have stayed home tonight. I can feel it; a sudden chill, or maybe just a change in the atmosphere. It’s getting colder and more uncomfortable to stand in the dark alone.

            “There you are.” I instantly tense at the sound of her voice, cutting through the silent night.

            They say that the fear of the dark is really just the fear of the unseen. That the people who fear the dark are really afraid of what hides within the dark, and how powerful it could be. That, however, is not my problem. As she steps out into the light from the streetlamp, I can see exactly what I’m afraid of and I know just how powerful it is. “What are you doing here?” My words are clumsy and blend together in one big mess.

            “I could ask you the same thing.” She’s awfully calm, and it scares me even more. I know it’s the calm and mild mood before the storm races and takes over every piece of sanity that she may or may not possess. “Did you really think I would leave you all to yourself?” The unlocked bedroom window is the first thing that comes to mind; it was a setup.

            “What do you want?” I know what she wants, but that doesn’t keep me from asking the question.

            “I want you to show me some much deserved respect,” she snaps and I know it’s over; a tornado of rage is heading my way and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.

            “Much deserved?” I know its unbelievably stupid, and that I should have just kept my mouth shut, but I can’t stop the dry laughter escaping my lips.

            “Don’t get mouthy with me.” Her fist connects with my face before it retreats and comes back stronger than ever. Before I know it I’m on the ground, taking her foot to my stomach over and over again. “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?” The power behind her kicks intensify, yet I can’t feel a thing. I’m numb to the pain, and all I can focus on is the thick red trail that’s slowly making its way down my face. I can see it from out of the corner of my eye. It’s the only thing that’s real in this surreal situation, it’s the only thing that has always been there for me, and will always be there for me.

            “Jay?” Believe me, if I could I would answer Alex the minute his voice penetrates my state of numbness. If I could I would have jumped off the ground and leaped into his open arms, but I’m broken and bruised and I have no energy left for answering or leaping. “You!” I can tell by the accusation in his voice, that he’s reached our dark corner of the parking lot and is now bearing witness to the cruelties of my aunt.

            I’m swept away by a whirlwind of darkness that appears to be so comforting that I can’t resist, not that I try. The next thing I know I wake up in a hospital bed, when a nurse forces my eyes open and checks it with a small flashlight.

            “Hey,” Alex is by my side, just as he was when I lost consciousness. Images of bedroom windows, a dark parking lot, and blood red trails down pale faces, reminds me of what happened before my safe and sound nap.

“Where is she?” Anxiety is evident in my voice. I hate sounding so vulnerable, but this time I don’t fight it; I just let it happen.

            “She’s gone,” Alex is by my side within a second, and unlike so many times before I welcome the comfort he brings.

            “Gone?” My voice is a barely existing whisper, which makes me doubt if he can even hear it above my racing heart.

            “The police took her; she’s not coming back.”

For the first time in forever, the chains are vanishing. This time it isn’t a sudden pull, which always makes me believe that they’re hiding somewhere in the shadows of my mind, ready to attach themselves to me again. This time they’re dissolving into thin air, as if they’ve been dipped in a low PH value acid, and for the first time in forever I’m freed from my tower and the heavy chains. For the first time in forever I’m free to do exactly what I desire.

“What will happen now?” I want to believe, so desperately, that this is the beginning of my fairy tale, but I know better than to dream.

“There’s a lot of paper work to take care of, so for tonight all you have to worry about is you.” Alex is stroking my arm in a soothing manner. In every other situation it would have been awkward, but it feels more comforting than anything. Most of all, because I know that Alex will never lay a hand on me the way she did.

“How do you feel?” The nurse who has been checking up on me, is standing at the foot of my bed. She’s completely dressed in white, and somewhere in my mind I categorize her as an angel, send to liberate me from my dictator – and my pain.

“Better.” I offer her a simple smile, as a thank you. Whether it looks genuine or not I have no idea. “When can I leave?” I’m anxious to get out of here. I hate the pitiful stares and the tension filled atmosphere that hospitals always seems to house.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

The mild spring night is soothing the slight burn from the violation, which the pain medication wasn’t quite able to soothe.

The passenger seat of Alex’s old car seems even more comfortable than the hospital bed. The cool seat is comforting and the smell of cheeseburgers still lingers in the air, from his last stop at Burger King. “I’m sorry you couldn’t go to the dance.” It’s not until he speaks that I realize that his usual t-shirt and jeans, have been exchanged for a pair of dress pants and a button down shirt. Someone looks fancy, I feel like saying, but I’m not in the mood for any teasing about my old jeans and bloody t-shirt, not to mention the purple bruise I’m sporting on the left side of my face.

“Don’t be,” I tell him, even though a light stone of disappointment is settling in my heart. I’ve never liked pity, but now that my secret is out I’m more determined than ever to keep a strong face.

“Maybe we can still make it.” He must be going insane, because he pulls up in front of the school and parks the car.

“Alex, it’s past midnight.” There’s only a single light burning in the lobby, and I know that it’s the janitor, who’s unfortunate enough to have been stuck with cleaning up after the festivities.

“So?” The challenge is ringing in the car, as Alex opens the door and steps out of the car, before slowly making his way towards the entrance of the school.

It takes me a minute or two to realize that he’s not going to turn around and yell, got yah, at any minute. I can’t help but shake my head at the lunacy of the situation, before I follow him out into the night and towards the school.

By the time I reach the entrance, Alex is holding the door open for me and the janitor is nowhere to be seen. “Did you bribe him or something?” I joke as he leads me towards the gym.

“Maybe.” Despite how hard he’s trying to cover it up, I can hear the serious tone that’s hiding underneath the joke, and I suddenly get the urge to ask how much he paid him for my night of freedom.

It’s dark in the gym when we enter, but one flick of a light switch and a million Christmas lights light up everywhere. “Can I have this dance?” Alex is holding his hand out for me, before gesturing towards the balloon covered dance floor.

“But there’s no music.” It’s a lame excuse, but I don’t dance; that was the rule.

“Who needs music when we have our imagination?” And before I can object, I’m being twirled across the floor, causing balloons to go flying in every direction. It’s liberating to dance across the slick floor of the gym, and I can’t hold the building laughter back. The whole scenario must look completely absurd to any witnesses, but I decide not to care and let myself get lost in the moment instead.

Alex finally changes the pace from wild and playful to soft and slow, and I imagine the DJ changing the song to a soothing melody that fits the pace of our dance.

 “You’re like a glow stick.” It’s official; Alex is definitely going insane. “You had to break before you could shine.”

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