Title: Time Goes On
Chapter: Chapter 4 of 10
Warning: This fictional story contains mature content such as; alcohol-usage, profanity, sex and violence, consider youself warned.
Excerpt: Being with Zac was like being on a never ending roller coaster… you know what the ride is going to do because you’ve already been over it, but you don’t get off. You know about the dark tunnel, the steep hill and the fall down the other side. You know about the sharp turn just after the corkscrew. No matter what, when you see each part ahead of you, you know what will happen next. It becomes predictable. Yet, you also get tired of the same ride and have to get off at some point, the ride has to be stopped… whatever it takes.
September went with a chill beginning to appear in the air. Somehow, I had been talked into helping Avery with her school work one day while Diana took Mackenzie and Zoe for a dentist appointment. Jessica was out with her boyfriend, Randy, and the guys were at a children’s hospital to spend the day. “Avery doesn’t want to go and really wants to see you.” Diana had told me. I hadn’t seen anyone except Zac in the last week and she had explained that Walker would pick Avery up that evening but that she had school work to do and the only way she could come over was if it was ok with me and if she got her school work done. I had agreed and Diana had dropped her off about an hour later. I had to convince Avery that math was not her mortal enemy and had explained it to her until she was finally able to do it on her own.
Upon her return home with that night, Diana had called and asked if I’d be interested in becoming a tutor/babysitter. I did need a job pretty bad (which Zac had mentioned to her) and it hadn’t taken much to convince me to accept her offer. Everyone was happy with the decision, especially Zac and me. So for the next two weeks I was at the Hanson’s 6 times for a tutoring session and 4 times to babysit.
Zac would often find an excuse to come into the room where I was for a kiss or to talk for a few minutes. He was very sweet and had become my constant companion. He held me when I cried and laughed at my stupid jokes or the new form of swearing I’d taken up around the children. His favorite word that I’d begun using was “Fudge” and the phrase he liked best was “Shiiii, shhh, shhhhh.” I loved the sound of his laugh. He’d loved the fact that he had new information about me after his 45 minute phone conversation with Lacey. (That blabber mouth!) I’d accepted that I’d never hear the end of that stuff… like the time I was in 6th grade and had tripped in the cafeteria and spilled coke all over the quarter back of the football team, who of course had been the only guy I had a crush on. Or the time I was was serving a volleyball in gym, in front of the whole senior class when I was in 8th grade and had not only managed to hit the ball in a straight up motion but had been hit square in the face when it came down. Or my first day of summer school between 6th and 7th grade when I had gotten on the wrong bus to go home. Yep, Lacey was a blabber mouth. Zac never made too big of a deal out of any of it though. I was falling in love more and more and had long ago realized that I was in over my head. I had stopped trying to find a way out of his spell and had surrendered my heart and soul to him.
The last of October had brought cold weather and an excitement in the Hanson household for Halloween and the approach of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Zac’s 19th birthday had been celebrated the night of the 22nd with a party at their new home. Diana and Walker had let us have the game room for the party. Music played through the stereo speakers mounted to the wall and the 18 guests played pool and talked until around 3am when they started leaving. The evening with the younger siblings and parents had ended after presents and cake at around 9pm and Walker and Diana had agreed to let the party continue as long as we didn’t wake the children up.
That night, Zac and I made love for the first time in 2 weeks. I was nervous about being caught but at the same time I had missed him. There was really no such thing as privacy in a house with 2 parents and 6 siblings. Plus 2 sister-in-laws. Zac having his own room had it’s advantages though. This was certainly one of them.
He was so easy and loving. His kisses were like a first kiss and his skin was so warm. As he moved on top of me with such passion and steadiness, his lips brushed my neck, sending chills through my body. I felt like I was so safe in a cocoon wrapped in his arms and the blankets. We seemed to be in our own world. I bit down on my lip to keep from screaming when the most incredible release came and he laid breathless on top of me. We lay still for a moment before he raised his head and smiled just before a deep, long kiss. Then, he slowly rolled over to lay next to me and had pulled me into his arms, our bodies still on fire. I situated myself so that my head was on his abs and he began to run his fingers through my bangs as I played with his other hand, tracing in and out his fingers and over his palm. Soon we were face to face on the pillows and in a deep, comfortable sleep. I was finally beginning to understand what I’d heard people talk about all my life… about finding that one special person and knowing you’d never be with anyone else. Even though I was only 18 and Zac barely 19, we knew we’d be together. I just couldn’t see myself with anyone else. I never wanted to kiss anyone else, I never wanted to be in anyone else’s arms. It was that simple. Lacey always said “Time goes on and things change.” But I thought nothing would change… I wish I had known how wrong I was.
As November began, things got busy around the Hanson household. The guys were now recording final tracks for a new album, and Thanksgiving plans, as well as Christmas approaching, brought on stress and excitement.
Diana and Walker had invited me to spend the holiday at their home along with the 4 aunts, 6 uncles and 12 cousins that would be joining them. “Everyone wants to meet you. Zac has talked about you nonstop and their curiosity is getting the better of them.” Diana told me late one morning while we were having coffee in her kitchen. I was there to give school lessons and was waiting on Avery to get done with the science test she had started before I’d arrived. “Zac’s been talking about me nonstop huh?” I asked, looking over at where he was standing by the back door. He just grinned and kept his eyes on the backyard. I graciously accepted their offer and had begun getting things ready at the breakfast table for Avery’s work. She came bouncing down the stairs and handed Diana her test before grabbing a Dr.Pepper out of the fridge and sitting at the breakfast table where I now had her stuff laid out for her. “Just do this and then I’ll look over it and we’ll go from there.” I smiled as she nodded. Diana handed me the math grade book. Then, she took her coffee, a pen, the science test and a history paper Avery had done the night before, into her bedroom. I went over Zoe’s assignments for the day as Avery frowned, starting her dreaded math. Things got into the routine and began to quiet down as the kids worked on their school work and the guys retreated into their studio.
“Mel, I need to talk to you.” I was sitting alone in the kitchen grading Avery’s work when I heard a voice from the door. I turned to see Ike walking in and watched him pour a glass of tea. “Want something to drink?” he asked softly. I shook my head, picking up the bottle of water on the table. He nodded and took a sip from his glass. He had a worried frown on his face, but he had that look quite often with Karen being due soon and the stress of the album.
“What did you want to talk about?” I asked. I seemed to pull him out of a deep thought. His head jerked up and he glared at me, then asked “What?” I put the pen down and pushed Avery’s paper over to the side. “You said you needed to talk to me. About what?”
He took a deep breath and sat in the chair next to mine.
“Melissa, I want to talk to you about you and Zac.” He looked at me as if waiting for me to argue. I just nodded and raised my eyebrows. He continued, “I just don’t understand how either of you can go on as if nothing happened.” I sighed deeply and he said “I know, you both want to forget.” I looked at him as he took another sip of his tea. Then he put his hand on mine and sighed before he continued “I really would just like to know how you can forget what he did to you. I know the bruises are gone and that things have been going really good for a while…”
I suddenly answered “Yes Isaac, the bruises are gone, and things have been going really good! Why do you insist that he’ll hurt me again? Why can’t you just forget it too?”
He rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes. Without opening them he said “Because I know him. I know what he’s done before.” He opened his eyes and squeezed my hand. “He’s hurt every girl he’s ever been with. His first girlfriend was a girl who lived down the street from us when he was 13. He dated her for 4 months and he used to slap her right across the face!” Ike’s voice was raising now. “Then the next day, he’d take a bouquet of flowers to her and say he was sorry, but it never stopped. The worst time was with a girl when he was 15. He got drunk and beat the shit out of her cause she smiled at a hotel employee! Then Courtney was the one he dated the longest and he beat her and treated her like hell! You saw the pictures! What are you thinking Melissa?!” He glared at me and I looked away. I knew he wasn’t lying about any of it but I just couldn’t seem to get around the fact that Zac was so sweet and loving with me. At least he had been. I kept wondering if I could let it go and forgive him, why couldn’t his family. I just didn’t understand. Before I could say anything I heard a voice that made me look up at the kitchen entrance.
“Mel, Ike? What’s going on?” Zac stood with his arms crossed over his chest as his eyes darted between me and Ike. Isaac just stood up and shook his head before walking out. Zac came over and sat in the chair where his brother had just been. He looked at me and asked “Melissa, what was all the yelling about?” I glanced at him and back down at my hands resting on the table. I shrugged and he said “Tell me what happened.” I just replied “It was nothing. Really, everything is fine.” He looked at me and in his eyes I could see that this was not our last conversation about what Ike and I had been talking about. For the time being though, he just smiled and kissed me before going into the living room. I finished Avery’s paper and helped Zoe with her writing, Mac with his math and history and then helped Diana plan their next assignments. That afternoon, I stood by the door, pulling on my coat and chatting with Walker, who had just returned home, about the possible snow later that week that the weatherman had predicted. Zac put on his leather jacket and walked me to my car. “See you later?” he whispered in my ear while hugging me. “For a movie if you’ll pick up some dinner on the way.” I whispered back. He pulled away smiling and replied “7-ish?” I nodded and got into my car. He and Diana stood at the door and waved as I pulled away.
All the way home, I kept thinking about Isaac’s words and I knew when Zac got to my house, it would be brought up again. I also knew that I wanted to ask about Courtney and what I’d been told he’d done to her. I was so nervous about what his reaction would be that by the time I walked into my house, my stomach was turning flips and I felt a terrible lump in my throat. I glanced at the clock as I put my things down, 4:45pm. Rubbing my arms as the chill in the house hit when I took my coat off, I walked into the kitchen. I got a cup from the cabinet and filled it with water. I put it into the microwave and pushed the buttons to heat it. Walking out of the kitchen and back into the living room, I pulled my shoes off and turned the heater on. Jumping at the beeping, signaling that the microwave was done heating the cup of water, I whispered “Get a hold of yourself.” I walked into the kitchen and took a single bag of gingerbread tea out of a small container and dropped it into the cup of hot water. I walked into the living room and sat on the couch, sipping the tea and flipping through the channels on TV. After watching a cooking show for about an hour, I then watched some of the discovery channel’s “Story of the Challenger.”
Afterwards, I got up and walked into my room. Pulling open my dresser drawer, I pulled out the envelope with Courtney’s pictures. I looked at each one as I sat on my bed. I felt chills at the thought that Zac was able to do such terrible things to someone. I studied the photos and notes that she had written. I read over the letters that she’d written to Diana and tears began to fall at the details of her fear, sadness and constant emotional and physical pain. She had written word for word everything that he’d ever said or done to her and had dated the pages. I just shook my head as I wondered how Zac would react. What would he say and do? Would he just walk out? Would he hit me? Would he try to deny it? The fact that I was questioning his actions didn’t help. I knew he had done this, but just couldn’t stop telling myself that it wasn’t possible. My mind raced with what to say… how was I going to go about bringing it up? Oh God… the thought flashed that he doesn’t even know I have this stuff. Then it hit me… Did he even know about the photos and notes and letters? Did he even know that his parents and brothers knew about this? I felt sick and my heart beat faster and faster… I just knew it would come out of my chest at any moment!
Suddenly, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a knock on the door. “Well, now or never.” I whispered. I walked into the living room and opened the door. I was greeted by the delicious smell of takeout junk food, and the sight of a beautiful bouquet of roses and his wide smile.
“Zac, we need to talk. There’s some things I need to ask you about.” I said as I put the dishes in the dishwasher after we’d had dinner. He followed me into the living room and replied “Good. Cause there’s some things I want to ask you about too.” As we sat on the couch I saw his faint smile and knew what was coming. I decided that would be a good way to bring Courtney up… let him ask about the conversation that had taken place between Ike and me that day.
I sighed and said “Ok. You go first.” He leaned back and crossed his arms. Taking a deep breath, he looked over at me and said “I want to know what happened today. What was Ike yelling about?”
I glanced at him and said “He was telling me some stuff about your past relationships and honestly, he wanted to know why I was still seeing you.” I looked down at my hands and waited for his reply. He was quiet and wasn’t moving. I looked up at him and he had a confused and worried expression. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “What did he say?” he asked without looking at me. He just looked down and I could see anger slowly building. I knew his reaction would be determined by the answer I gave to his question. My stomach tightened and I felt a chill go down my back.
“He… Ike and your mom… they told me… they told me about… um…” I stumbled over the words as he glared at me. “What? What did they tell you about?” he asked finally. His voice was quiet and raspy, almost as if he already knew the answer. “They… Zac,” I sighed deeply, closing my eyes, “Zac, I know about Courtney.” His face lost it’s color as his interlaced fingers turned a pale white in his grip. His teeth clenched and his eyes held what can only be called a death glare… angry and his actions unpredictable. I got up and walked into my room to get the envelope. As I turned away from my dresser he was standing by the door. His chest moved with his heavy breaths and his hands almost trembled. His eyes squinted when he noticed the envelope.
“What’s that?” he asked.” I handed him the envelope and sat on the end of my bed. He moved over to the bed and sat on the side. I watched, scared and anxious, as he opened it and began to read bits of the letters and notes and flipped through the pictures. “Where did you get these?” he asked through clenched teeth and he once again gave me that glare. “I… uh… I got them from your mom and Ike.” I began to twist the sheet around my finger as I noticed him standing up. My heart and mind began to race as I sat wondering what he was going to do. He started pacing back and forth, glancing down at the photos that lay on the bed. “Zac,” I said standing up, “Please don’t be mad. I know you didn’t meant to do this but I need to know what happened. What did she do? Did you catch her cheating or something? Were you dru…”
I suddenly saw his hand raise and felt a blow to the side of my face that knocked me down on the bed. I cried out as a sharp pain built around my cheek, but before I could even look up, I was jerked up and slammed against the wall. Just as my eyes began to open I saw the back of his hand come toward me and his knuckles connected with my lip. “Zac! Please stop! No Zac! Please don’t! Stop!” I cried but he was in a rage like I never knew could be felt by a person. He slapped me as blood gushed from my lip. My words fell on deaf ears as I tried to beg and plead with him. He threw me across the room where my arm hit the edge of my dresser and then I saw him coming toward me. I tried to move away but it was useless. “Zac, please, I’m sorry!”
I continued to beg him to stop but he grabbed my arms and pushed me so hard against the wall I thought my arms would break. He was so strong and he pressed his body against me as our eyes met. His eyes were glazed over and his breathing was heavy. He held me tight and talked in a low voice but his teeth were clenched. “Melissa, I have loved you and taken care of you all this time. Why couldn’t you just let it go? I told you how I felt about her. You just had to know the details didn’t you. God, you are one of a kind you know. Anybody else would have forgotten about it but not you. I have done nothing…”
I closed my eyes as the pain worsened and quickly learned that was a mistake.
His hand gripped hard on my jaw as he forced my head up screaming
“GOD DAMMIT LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU!” I winced in pain but looked at him as he once again talked in a soft voice through clenched teeth “I have done nothing to have that shit thrown in my face. Courtney…” he paused and looked down for a moment, as if her name brought on new anger, then he continued as he glared at me. “Courtney, she was nothing more than a worthless bitch who did nothing but provoke me into doing all of that. And you know something, you are becoming just like her.” I looked down as tears began to fall. He quickly jerked my head back up and screamed.
“WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST TELL YOU?! YOU STUPID BITCH, I SAID LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU!!” I cringed at his words and the loudness of his voice. His face was no more than 4-5 inches from mine. “I wanted nothing more than to wrap my hands around her neck…” he said as his hand slid over to my throat and I whispered “Please. Zac, don’t please.” as I felt his fingers tighten. He leaned closer to my ear and continued just above a whisper, my pleading seemingly unheard. “Oh God, I just wanted to get my hands around her neck and watch the life slowly come out of her. I wanted to hear her beg me not to kill her.”
I looked down with a painful cry as tears escaped my eyes. I suddenly realized my mistake and turned back to face him. It was too late though and once again his hand raised and fell, connecting with the other side of face. I fell to the floor and was pulled up by my wrist and thrown into the entertainment center. My face hit the sharp corner and I felt blood run down the side of face and onto my neck. I heard him yelling and pacing back and forth as I slid down and laid on the floor. I was only able to catch a bit of what he was saying.
“Why did you have to know about her…? Why can’t you love me like I love you… Why do you have to make me do this… God dammit, Melissa, I love you. Can’t you understand… I wanted to forget the past and start over with you, but you just wouldn’t let me… Hell, I wasn’t gonna fuck up with you too.”
He came to where I was sitting on the floor. He grabbed my wrist so tight I felt my skin burn in his grip. “Why couldn’t you let me start over with you?” he asked shakily. I glanced up and saw that tears were in his eyes. “I… I’m… s-sorry… Za-Zac… I… I didn’t m-mean.. t-to.” I replied through my own tears as I trembled in his grasp. I was beginning to feel dizzy and weak. His hand slowly came up and his finger wiped a tear that fell down my cheek. His tears became more apparent and he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand as he stood up and turned away. “Go get cleaned up,” he said softly with a sniffle. His back was toward me and I could see his muscles tense as he fought not to break down.
I winced in pain as I slowly stood up and walked into the bathroom. I sat on the side of the tub and cried for at least 30 minutes before having the courage to look in the mirror. I stood, bracing myself on the sink and slowly raised my head. There was a stream of blood from a small cut on the side of my forehead that ran down onto my neck. Blood dripped from a cut in the corner of my bottom lip from his knuckle. My face had started swelling and becoming discolored. I pulled off my shirt. My back ached and already was getting a bruise, as was my arms and shoulder. My neck was red and my eyes were bloodshot and puffy. I was in so much pain and continued to cry as I washed my face. I heard the phone ring as I finished washing up. I turned off the water and listened closely. “Hello?” he answered. “Yeah, hi mom… No I’m gonna be leaving in a bit… Ok… No we’re fine…” I started crying again at the words. “Ok, see you then… Love you too… Okay, bye.” I heard him hang the phone up and I walked out. He was sitting on the bed. I reached into my dresser drawer and pulled out a shirt. I pulled it on and sat down in the chair.
For the first time, he looked at me. He stood up and walked over to me and gently took my hands as he got on his knees in front of me. I glanced at him and saw that he’d been crying. His eyes were so worried and sad. His lip quivered as he asked “Are you ok? Do you want me to take you to the hospital?” I just shook my head and whispered “I’ll be fine.” He then easily pulled me to my feet and began to unbutton my jeans and I grabbed his hand. He looked at me and said “No baby, I’m just going to help you get into bed.” I nodded and he walked me over to bed and I sat down. He pulled my jeans and socks off and pulled the blanket back. Then he lifted my legs into bed and covered me up. He walked over and turned out the light then climbed into bed next to me. His fingers gently played with my hair and he began to sing softly in my ear. I was only awake for a few brief moments before sleep over took me and I drifted off.
Over the next week, I stayed in the house a lot. I rarely answered the phone and never answered the door. I slept a lot and cried even more. My body ached and was sore and stiff every time I moved. I had given Diana the old “I’m sick” excuse as to why I couldn’t come over to help with the school lessons. I figured she knew I wasn’t sick because she had asked me very quietly “Melissa, did something happen between you and Zac?” I had just told her a simple “No.” and bit my lip to keep from correcting the lie. I knew I was going to be pulled into another conversation about the situation and why I was still with him when I saw them again but I couldn’t talk about it then.
Zac didn’t come over and had only called 3 times. He’d ask “Are you feeling better?” and “Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the doctor?” — that always let me know other people were in the room. He’d apologized over and over and cried, begging me not to leave him, the next morning.
I can’t explain it but I could never walk away from him. I could never not forgive him and try to forget. I always stayed and tried not to think about what had happened. The bruises faded and the soreness went away and I’d assume my role in the chaos. At least until it’d happen again. Being with Zac was like being on a never ending roller coaster… you know what the ride is going to do because you’ve already been over it, but you don’t get off. You know about the dark tunnel, the steep hill and the fall down the other side. You know about the sharp turn just after the corkscrew. No matter what, when you see each part ahead of you, you know what will happen next. It becomes predictable. Yet, you also get tired of the same ride and have to get off at some point, the ride has to be stopped… whatever it takes.
The day before Thanksgiving, I drove to the Hanson’s to help Diana with preparing the dinner and getting the house ready for the guests. I hadn’t seen them since the day I’d helped the kids with their work. When I walked in and took my jacket off, Zoe ran up and gave me a hug. Then she looked at me and her eyes got wide as she asked “Mel, what happened to your forehead?” This caused Ike and Diana to trade glances as they walked into the room. I still had a bit of the cut and although the other bruises were barely noticeable, the one on my forehead was still a little purple around the cut. Ike crossed his arms and glared at me. “Yes Melissa,” he said, “What happened to your forehead?” Diana placed a warning hand on his arm and smiled at me. “Melissa, would you come into the kitchen and wash up so you can help me with this cooking and I need you to help with some cleaning too.” I followed her into the kitchen and Ike grabbed my arm at the entrance. “We’re not done.” he said in my ear through clenched teeth. I just jerked my arm away and walked into the kitchen.
For the next several hours, things were beyond chaotic. We chopped food and mixed batters, arranged furniture, dusted and scrubbed the downstairs bathroom. Diana put out strict orders for no one to mess it up. “You touch it you put it back,” she’d said. We also made 2 trips to the store, which were tasks in themselves! At the house, the kids were running in and out and screaming, the guys were playing so music could be heard throughout in every room and the TV blared the weather channel. Still, there were a lot of laughs and the conversations were kept light.
Later that afternoon, Diana and I sat in the living room. Mac and Zoe were upstairs playing and Avery and Jessica had gone to a friend’s house to borrow some platters that her mom had offered to loan to Diana. Karen had gone to bed saying she didn’t feel well and Tori was on the phone in the den. Taylor, Zac and Ike were in the kitchen cleaning up. Diana suddenly sat up and looked around as if to see if someone was watching. Then she faintly smiled at me and run a finger over my forehead, then she glanced toward the kitchen and back at me with her eyebrows raised. I knew right away what she was doing and I couldn’t bring myself to even begin to tell her anything about that night nearly two weeks before. Although, now, I’m sure she knew. I just smiled and shook my head. She looked at me as a worried mother and also a confused friend. Her face held different emotions at that moment.
Zac’s stretching groan broke our silence and he stooped down behind the couch where his mother and I sat side by side. He frowned when we looked at him and he’d seen his mother take her hand away from my face. “Looks terrible doesn’t it?” he asked. Diana glared at him and I just looked down. Then he continued and at that moment, I became a champion player in the game played by girls and women in my situation everyday. “That door got her pretty good huh mom?” We both smiled and Diana gave the best fake smile I’d ever gotten from anyone. “Yeah it sure did,” she replied. “We were just talking about that. What’d you say it was, the bedroom door?” I caught her signal right away and just smiled saying “No, the front door.” She nodded, giving me a I-know-what-you’re-trying-to-do-and-it’s-not-working expression.
Taylor came in and just looked at all of us and wrinkled his eyebrows, but following a glance from Diana, he gave a half smile. Tay doesn’t talk a lot but his eyes can tell someone what he thinks in a glance. Oh God, he knows too I thought. Then he disappeared into the den. A short time later he and Tori came out and pulled on their jackets saying they would be back later. Then they were gone.
After a moment, Zac stood up and leaned down to kiss me and Ike suddenly came into the room and said “Melissa, come to the store with me. I need to pick up some more things.” Zac quickly said “You want me to go?” Ike just shook his head and said “C’mon Mel.” I wondered what his hurry was and when Diana nudged me I knew that this was not a spur of the moment trip. We’d been to the store twice already. I stood up and put on my jacket. Zac kissed me as his mother tugged on his arm. He looked confused and I knew that whatever this was, he had no idea about it.
Ike and I walked out and got into his Trailblazer. He drove for a few minutes before he suddenly pulled over on the side of the road and turned the car off. I glanced at him and then looked out of the window. His voice broke the silence “Melissa, don’t lie to me.” I looked at him. “That door you ran in to. Was it on the left or the right side of the Zachary Hanson Company?” I blinked fast as I realized that the night had not gone unexplained by Zac in whatever way he’d done it. It hit me then as Ike looked over at me — he and his parents were going to compare stories. They knew I had no idea what Zac had told them. They planned to get both sides then confront us. I knew I couldn’t lie and I didn’t know how to tell him the truth. I just couldn’t seem to say the words.
“It wasn’t a door.” I said bluntly. He raised his eyebrows “It was the entertainment center in my bedroom.” His mouth dropped open and his eyes narrowed. As I stared at him I realized that Zac had told him the same thing. I smiled inside. “How?” was his reply. I looked up at him and asked “What?” He shifted in his seat then asked “How did you get hurt like that on the entertainment center?” Aha, the trap, I thought to myself. I felt my heartbeat quicken then answered “Well, Zac and me were kinda wrestling around and I ran into it.” He rolled his eyes and started the car. He weaved in and out of traffic until he pulled onto a quiet road as light snow began to fall. He didn’t say a word as he pulled into a driveway of a white house with dark green trim. Flowers lined the walkway up to the steps of the wood porch. He climbed out of the car and came around to open the passenger door. He took my hand, pulled me out and we walked up to the door. He knocked twice before it was opened.
A young girl answered and a huge smile came across her face. “Good Lord, Isaac Hanson! I haven’t seen you in a long time.” They embraced as she asked “How are you?” He smiled, pulling away and replying, “I’m fine thanks and you?” She grinned and nodded “Pretty good and how’s the family?” He smiled saying “Fine, just busy.” Suddenly her face fell as she gasped “Oh Lord, I’m sorry! Please come in here.” She opened the door and Ike and I stepped inside to be greeted with a warm living room decorated in dark blue and white and the smell of cake baking in the oven. She motioned for us to sit down and went into the kitchen, talking in a raised voice. “Ashley went to the store and won’t be back for a while. I’m glad you decided to go ahead and come over. I really am glad to see you again…” her voice lowered as she stepped back into the living room and sit on the love seat next to the small couch.
I kept looking at Isaac as she kept talking. He was ignoring my glances. “…It’s been too long. So, are you going to introduce me to, um, Melissa, right?”
I glared at Isaac who now looked over at me. I saw it in his eyes… this was obviously planned out. I looked over at her smiling. “Excuse me,” I asked “But how do you know my name? I’ve never met you.” She and Isaac began to exchange glances and I looked at her once more. She leaned back, crossing her legs and began playing with her fingers. She was waiting for Ike to answer. I looked over at him, he was sitting forward with his elbows on his knees and with one hand, he was running his thumb across his lips. As she said “Be right back, there’s a cake in the oven,” she quickly jumped up and walked back into the kitchen. “Ike, who is that? Her face, I’ve seen her.”
He looked over at me. It was true, I’d seen her somewhere. I just didn’t remember. She had long, auburn hair and her smile was bright. She was about my size and couldn’t have been any older than me yet I had the sense that that her soul was older than her body… like she was wise and had lived beyond her years. There was just something about her, I knew I’d met her but couldn’t remember for the life of me when or where or even her name. She walked back in the room and after she’d sit down, she looked over at Isaac. He sighed and just as he said the words, it finally hit me. “Mel, this is Courtney.”
I sat staring at Isaac, I was unable to move or speak. I wondered how long they had planned this. Who else in the family knew that Ike was going to take me to see her. Courtney obviously knew more about me than I did about her. I couldn’t believe they were going to such lengths. “Melissa?” Courtney’s voice pulled me back from my thoughts. “Huh?” I looked at her.
“I asked what happened to your forehead.” she replied. “Oh,” I said, reaching up and running my finger across the cut. “Zac told me and Tay last week that she got hurt on the entertainment center, then two days ago he said it was a door. She told mom it was the door today. On the way here, she said it was the entertainment center.” Ike said.
Courtney nodded. “Yeah, I ran into a door a lot when I was dating Zac. Sometimes, I even tripped and fell down the stairs, or I banged my arm on the kitchen counter. Once, I hit my forehead on the bedpost. Of course, I’d never been that clumsy before and I haven’t been since.” She sighed and Ike sat back on the couch and looked at me. “I really thought Zac would be different with you Mel. I thought he’d finally changed. He liked you a lot, that’s why I wanted you to tell him you liked him. Taylor and mom, all of us thought that he was not going to do this anymore. We all thought he’d changed. Even Courtney didn’t believe it at first.” She nodded and laughed a little, “I really thought that he’d be different with the next girl. I couldn’t believe that he was doing this to someone else. I know you feel like everyone’s trying to break you guys up but no one wants for you to be unhappy. It’s just that he needs help. It’ll only get worse as time goes on.”
I stood up and pulled my jacket on, “Ike, I want to go, now.” I said.
Both of them glared at me and then she said “I didn’t mean to upset you. I want us to talk. Please stay.” I just shook my head and said “No, I want to leave.” Ike took my hand and asked “Why? Why won’t you just stay and talk about this. I thought you’d want to talk to her and…” I jerked my hand away. “NO! I want to leave now, Ike! Are you going to drive me home or do I need to start walking?” He sighed and said “Melissa, if you’d just stay for a while and…” I walked toward the door and said “No, I’m leaving now. I don’t want any part of this!” My heart raced and all I could think about was getting out of there. I can’t explain it, I just knew I didn’t want to talk to her.
Isaac stood up and said “Ok, ok, we’ll leave.” He grabbed his jacket and he and Courtney came to the door where I was standing. They hugged and Ike whispered “Thanks.” and then she hugged me and said “Diana has my number.” I just said “Bye.”
Ike and me got into the car and drove home in silence.
Tons of thoughts were running through my head. When we pulled into the Hanson’s driveway, Ike turned the car off and turned to face me. “Mel, she was right. It’ll only get worse and next time he…” I interrupted him “Isaac, I don’t want to hear this!” I looked at him and saw an expression of worry, anger and sadness. “Ike, please try to understand. I just don’t believe that…” I sighed, “Zac loves me and I love him and we want to be together.”
He just shook his head and replied “Hell, Melissa, I just don’t know what else to do. I went on this ride with Courtney and I just can’t do it again. Just remember that I love you like I love my sisters. I will always be here for you.”
We hugged and I had never felt so safe. I felt the tears in my eyes as his hug got tighter and he began to sing softly in my ear as I cried. “When you have no light to guide you, and no one to walk beside you, I will come to you, oh I will come to you.” He was very comforting and I knew that what he said was true. I really had made him run out of options. Still, I knew if I ever needed help, he’d be the one I’d call. He was like a constant source of strength and someone who would never say “I told you so.”
I went inside and said a quick goodbye to everyone and kissed Zac. Then I drove home and mostly spent the rest of the night drinking coffee and thinking about the day. I thought about what Courtney had said and the tightness I’d felt in my stomach hearing her words. I thought about the way I felt a sense of a knife in my back. I thought about Isaac and the warmth and safety I’d felt sitting in his car hugging him. I thought about Zac…
The morning sun woke me out of the 4 hours I’d slept. I’d told Diana I’d be at their house early to help her with final preparations. I quickly showered and got dressed. Then I drove over to their house and Jessica let me in just as she was leaving to pick up her cousin. “She has no clue how to get here.” Jess had laughed on her way out. “Mom’s in the kitchen.” I smiled and went into the kitchen to find Diana mixing a cake batter.
“Hi Mel! Come on in sweetie! Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” I smiled and hugged her. “Is everyone, well besides Jess, still asleep?” I asked.
“No,” Diana shook her head as she poured the cake batter into a pan and slid it into the oven. “Walker went to pick up his brother and nephew in Little Rock, he took Mac with him. Avery is cleaning upstairs, with Zoe’s help. Tori and Karen are both getting showers and dressing.” She sighed heavily as she pulled another box of cake mix out of the cabinet.
“What about the boys?” I asked as I got out the eggs and handed them to her. She smiled and answered “They’re still asleep.” We both laughed and Diana said “Melissa, Ike said you were upset yesterday and I want you to know that none of that or anything else will be brought up today, so relax and have fun! The family is really looking forward to meeting you.” I felt a rush of relief flow over me and smiled “I’m looking forward to meeting them too.” For the next few hours, the Hanson household took on all the craziness of trying to prepare a holiday meal for 35 people. I became aware at that time for Diana’s wishes for a big kitchen when they had the house built.
At around 2:30 that afternoon, everyone started to arrive. Zac and I had retreated into his room and Walker had knocked on the door to let us know everyone was here. As we were walking out, I glanced in the mirror and made sure my hair covered the fading cut and bruise on my forehead. Then I walked downstairs and was greeted with hugs and handshakes and questions coming from all directions by everyone. Zac kept his arm protectively around me and once things settled down, I began to relax. We started dinner at around 5 and it was wonderful. I felt good being around such a close family. Since I didn’t have my own, it was a comfort to at least have a boyfriend who had a close family. They had welcomed me with open arms and everyone was very friendly but not nosy, their questions were general and we laughed and talked throughout the whole dinner. Once in a while things would get quiet and we’d listen to the children laughing at their table in the den.
After dinner and a hour spent sitting in the living room talking, Zac decided to come home with me. He’d explained to everyone that we really hadn’t spent a lot of time together lately and so we were excused without too many questions. We hugged and said goodbye to everyone. Ike hugged me at the door and whispered “Be careful.” I nodded and Zac and I got into my car and drove back to my house.
This fictional story is hosted at The Gifted Ones,
with permission from the author Chelle.