Bridges

Genoa and Kevin - both 15 - explore what it means to be loved when you can't seem to get it right.

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6. (Genoa)

I wanted to text Kelsie and tell her all about it, but you're not allowed phones on the ward. Seeing Kevin, having a seizure in front of him and ten stitches; she wouldn't believe any of it. Well, maybe just the bit about the stitches.

"There we are. All done." Doctor Morose put down his utensils and smiled.

I suppose we were lucky to have Mark in some ways. He had friends in high places at the hospital. He could always wiggle us to the front of the line. We could count on that.

"Now, watch yourself, young lady. You could get into real trouble," he continued before banishing us away.

The CT scan showed no damage so we went home with a warning to dose up on pills and be careful of bouts of nausea.

In the car, I texted Kelsie for a catch up but the idea was quickly dismissed by Mark.

"No," he said, when I announced that they should take the first right before home. “You’re not going, kiddo.”

I don't know why he insisted I was 'kiddo' all the time. Perhaps it made him seem like he actually cared about me. Either way, I wasn't a kid or his. He should call me something else, like landlord. It was more appropriate.

"Come on, Mark! The doctor said that I was fine. I'll be home before dinner."

It always tired me that I had to argue with Mark. I’m a strong believer that every step-father should stay out of affairs that don’t concern anyone not directly related to them. And Mark wasn’t even close to being my step-father. He was about as related to me as the checkout girl in Morrison’s.

Mum looked from me in the back to Mark in the passenger seat with helplessness.

"Kiddo, how much do you want me to bet that that doctor's made a mistake? There's something wrong with your head if you think that you're going out after having stitches. Honey, turn the car round, we're going back."

Mum looked like she seriously considered his sarcasm before she slapped his thigh lightly, laughed and put her foot on the pedal towards home.

I grunted and tossed my phone into my pocket.

As though to ensure that I adhered to Mark's demand, I retched into the plastic hat that the doctor had sent me off with. For my own good, it appeared I wasn't going to see Kelsie tonight.

*

Two days later, mum dropped me off for school at the usual place. It was a fifteen minute walk that usually seemed to take forever but this morning it wasn't long enough. I hadn't spoken to Kelsie about seeing Kevin at the skate park. I'd told her what had happened to me, but I couldn't work out if the park should be Kevin and I’s special thing, or if Kelsie could be sworn into keeping it a secret.

"So, lose the bandage and gain some stitches. I see where you're going with this!" she joked.

"I know. Well, it wasn't planned."

I was embarrassed by it. I hadn't really wanted to replay the moment in my mind, which was another reason to keep it secret from Kelsie. But I was also embarrassed that I felt like I had to lie to her. She was my best friend and I was keeping the juiciest bit of gossip from her.

The bell rang as soon as we pushed open the doors and we agreed to meet later. Wednesdays were the only days in the week that we didn't have a class together before lunch. That, alone, almost proved that I should have stayed at home today.

Through each class I debated whether to let Kelsie in or not but I decided that I'd save it for another day, when I could talk about it without a fiery shyness spreading through me.

"Hey!" Kelsie beamed. She'd found me slumped, in the cafeteria, over a single portion of chips whilst she towered over with her double cheeseburger, double curly fries, double portion of beans, grilled tomato and a cup of hot chocolate, struggling to hold the tray steady. "So," she began stuffing some chips into her mouth. "Mmmm, they're good. Here have some."

I pushed the packet away and shook my head, being reminded by the pain that it should remain still at all times.

"No, thanks."

"Ok, if you sure ... Anyway, what I wanted to know was ..." she looked up. Her green eyes fixed on mine unblinkingly as though it might be the last time that she saw me. "... who found you at the skate park?"

"I don't know," I answered, meekly. "I passed out."

"Hmmm," she mused, cramming more chips in. "I thought you said you had a seizure."

"Yeah, I did but ... I can't remember. It was all a bit of a blur, really."

"Oh ok. So ... you wouldn't remember if someone called for help?"

"Um, nope. I don't. Besides Kelsie, where is this going? Believe me and our conversation ends here."

"Ok, wait. I won’t mention it again after this one; do you know if it was a guy that helped you?" There was something about the way she said 'guy' that made us both realise that the cat was out of the bag.

"Ok," I resigned. "Who told you?"

"Eek!" She squealed and clapped, jiggling her boobs dangerously close to her tower of food. "So it's true, it's true!"

"Shhh! Keep your voice down," I snapped, aware that there was a certain number of people craning their heads to get a look. "Now, tell me," I whispered. "Who told you?"

"Told me? Oh, Gen! I just put two and two together."

"Two and two? What two and two? What are you talking about? Who told you?"

"It was Kevin."

"What?" I was so still now that I could have been sitting for a royal portrait. Every bone was rigid. Was Kevin telling everyone what happened?

"Oh no, no, no, no, no!" I blurted. "No, he can't be serious. He told everyone about what happened!”

Now it was Kelsie’s time to hush me.  

"Oh, relax Dame Edna! He didn't tell everyone." She leaned in close to me so that I could smell the chip fat on her tongue. "He just told me."

"But why, why, wh- wh- why would he tell you that?" I blabbered.

"Because he asked me if you were ok. I told him that I didn't know what had happened so he told me everything."

I was swimming. For someone who wasn't in love, I was getting quite crazy.

"Wow."

That was all I could manage. Hearing what Kelsie had said was as beautiful as watching a sunset from the highest peak of mountain. It took your breath away.

"Yeah, he looked kinda beat up about it, actually. All white and pasty ... Like he really cared about you."

There was nothing. Just nothing. It's such a cliché when people talk about being lost for words. But when you find that you've run out of them yourself, it's not so hard to believe after all.

*

I didn't see Kevin that day, or the next. By Friday, I half expected never to see him again. I slunk to the quiet retreat of the skate park. Kelsie's tutoring had taken off already so she was occupied most of the time. But she said that she'd drop by before sunset.

That left me with a whole lot of thinking time. Losing myself had been harder these past couple of days. My head constantly felt like it was filled with a hive of bees and there was no room for anything else. Plus, all I wanted to do was sleep.

After an hour of sitting, trying to find the parting lines between the sea and sky, I laid down as I had on the last day that I saw Kevin. I watched the gold sun through my eyelids once more and dreamed of a place in equal splendor as this.

When I woke up, I realised that I had been asleep for some time longer than I had intended. I saw what I thought was an angel sat beside me. I was so drugged on sleep that I didn't quite realise that the shape was Kevin.

I was slower on moving this time, partly because I wasn't about to embarrass myself again and also, the quicker I got up, the longer the silence would be as I tried to fumble for words.

But, Kevin spoke first.

"Sorry, I was about to head off. I didn't mean to wake you."

"You didn't." I ruffled my hair, trying to smooth it and passed my hand across my mouth, checking that I hadn't been dribbling.

"I see you're better." Though he was speaking freely now, his voice was still broken and staccato.

"Yeah. Hey, thanks for ... for what you did. You know, helping me and all."

"No, no. It's fine. You helped me first. Remember?”

I back tracked. I was so tired and sore that I'd forgotten nearly everything about our meeting prior to me ending up in A&E.

"You mean the tissues?"

He nodded slightly.

"It was nothing," I said, brushing the gesture off. But secretly I was weeping. Was that all it was? An exchange? A save for a save, that kind of thing?

We were silent. I caught glimpses of his face out of the corner of my eye. Kelsie was right, he was more pale and sunken. His eyes were black and thick with bags and his lips was only just beginning to heal. He looked so frail and innocent that I was desperate to do something. This didn't need to be the time where we put up solid boundaries about who could do what and to whom.

I slipped my hand on top of his. He flinched, but didn't move it. I stared out into the sea envisaging this to be the cherry on the cake. The last time I saw Kevin before I got too attached. The last time I worried about whether my skirt matched my bag when I saw him in the hall. Enough of that. When I left this park, it would all be over.

Kevin pulled his hand from under mine and used it to brush away a tear. He coughed to clear his throat then ever so softly said: "Thank you." He smiled, the first smile all evening.

He got up before the sunset and jumped to the ground. I watched him leave me in the behind in the fading light of the sun.

I couldn't even begin to understand what was wrong or offer a solution in the dilemma that made a fifteen year old boy go so mellow and withdrawn. All I could think was; it must have been a bad soccer game

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