Chapter: 14 of 43
Other Info: Sequel to Walls
Warnings: Drug-usage, cursing, violence etc
Excerpt: Three words out of her mouth had ruined him. Those words had been “I give up.” Now, hopelessness having stripped most of what was left of emotion from him, he simply lay there apathetically, letting the sounds of her hate wash over him. That doctor had been right. He’d told him, and Tay hadn’t listened. Why hadn’t he listened? Lying there, hooked to tubes and wires, barely able to see straight, he’d heard this man telling him that there was every likelihood that he would be sent away. To some “facility” somewhere.
“Ike what are you doing?”
Ike paused, jingling the keys in is hand. “Getting the car. I’m not walking Taylor home.”
Diana sighed. “And just why can’t he walk? It’s all of five blocks. He managed to get himself there, he can get himself home.”
He shrugged. His mother was mad, and nothing he said would really matter. “I’ll be right back, mom.” She stepped in front of him, and the look on her face made him cringe. He’d seen her this angry only once, and there hadn’t been much left of the person who had caused it, when she’d finished with them.
“Isaac answer my question. Why are you making a special trip to get the car to drive him?”
He looked at her for a few minutes, tempted to just go around her. He knew there was little about her that was rational now. Deciding that an answer would be less hazardous to him, he nodded toward the end of the drive.
“I’m not bringing him through them. Not in the shape he’s in right now. And I’m too tired to muck through the woods. We’ll be right back. Okay?” He kissed her cheek, and scooted around her before she could get hold of him. He was very glad he wasn’t Taylor right now. He backed the car out of the drive, fairly heedless of the people in his way. The way he felt this morning, they could get out of his way, or he’d just back right over them, he really didn’t care.
Ike pulled up in front of Tiffany’s house, surprised to see Tiffany waiting alone on the porch. He’d left her and Taylor together, Tiffany’s mom being none too thrilled with Tay, and just as happy to have him wait outside. She’d made it so clear that she wanted him out, that Ike was instantly nervous…
He jogged up the steps to a frustrated looking Tiff. “Okay, did he run away? Where’d he go?” He could feel adrenaline surging, and had to fight to slow down his breathing. Had Taylor really taken off? Where was he?
Tiff saw what he was thinking immediately. “No, he’s inside. He started to get sick, I didn’t really want him to make a spectacle of himself. My mom’s with him. I really hope she doesn’t hurt him. She’s pretty mad.”
Ike shook his head, the anxiety draining off. “I’m sure she’ll wait so my mom can kill him Tiff. I’m gonna go get him, okay?”
She nodded listlessly, her expression so downcast that he had to stop. Kneeling down next to her, he tipped her face up to him. “What’s the matter, Tiffy, you okay?”
She shook her head, feeling tears prickling in her eyes. “No, Ike I’m not. Just go get him and take him home, okay?”
He stroked her hair gently, wanting to help her, but not sure how. “Can you tell me what’s wrong Tiff?”
She pushed his hand away. “I’m tired, my head hurts, and my best friend… just go get him. I’m okay.”
He straightened up, gave her a quick pat on the shoulder, and let himself in.
Isaac tapped softly on the bathroom door, not wanting to startle Ellen, who was kneeling beside his brother, holding his hair out of his face with one hand, and rubbing his back with the other. A fair amount of the mad seemed to have left her.
She looked up at him and motioned him in. “Not letting up, Ike, I don’t know.”
He nodded. It was usually that way with Taylor. “I know. Want me to sit with him?”
She shook her head, “No, no, it’s alright.” She looked worried, and he sat down to wait with her, reaching down to touch his brother’s shoulder. Poor kid couldn’t even catch a breath. It just wasn’t fair, especially considering what was waiting for him at home. After this, he’d be way to tired to cope with it. He leaned back against the wall, stretching his long legs out next to his brother, putting himself within reach. He wished he could convince himself that this was because of the drinking but he knew better. The sickness last night had been from that, this was just Taylor. It happened so often now… sighing, he absently ran a thumb over his brother’s wrist, wanting some kind of contact. He’d had hopes that they would all get through, things had seemed so much better lately, but now… he was startled from his brooding by a sudden grab of his hand. He looked up, into Taylor’s pale eyes, eyes that were bloodshot and swimming with tears.
He smiled gently. “What is it Tay? Is it better yet?” He noted peripherally, that Ellen was up, running water, and fussing with things.
Taylor laid his head down on his crossed arms. “Ike I’m gonna die, I really think I am. That was so bad…” His voice trailed off, still out of breath.
Isaac looked up at a tap on his leg, and reached up to accept the water that Ellen was holding out. Nodding his thanks, he passed it to Taylor, who seemed almost too weak to hold it. He climbed to his feet while Taylor got himself put back together, and reached down to help him up. “Come on. I hate to do this to you, but you have to go home now.”
Taylor looked bleakly up at him, nodded, and let Ike haul him to his feet. Ellen patted his back sympathetically. “Take care honey, let us know if we can help.” He nodded, and eyed Ike apprehensively. Isaac just shook his head, unable to offer him any encouragement.
Tiff was gone when they crossed the porch. Wordless, they climbed into the car, and headed home.
Taylor straightened up and his knuckles went white on the door handle. His mom was sitting out on the front steps, and she did not look happy. Feeling his heart racing, he reached out for Ike. “I can’t do this Ike, I can’t…”
Ike glanced at him sharply, hearing flat panic. “Tay, it’s gonna be okay. You have to calm down.” He thought Taylor looked about to have a heart attack, pale and shaky, eyes huge, breath rasping in and out, with frightening rapidity. He slid an arm around the trembling boy, and pulled him close. “Tay, she’s not gonna do anything. She’s mad, but she’s been mad before.”
Taylor shook his head. “I hope she hits me, I hope all she does is hit me, ’cause I don’t want to leave.”
“Leave? what’re you talking about? Where do you think you’re going?”
Taylor shook his head. “I don’t know, I don’t know. Ike…” He was clutching Isaac’s sleeve, nails digging through the fabric. “Ike, you can’t let her send me away.”
Isaac stared at him, bewildered. Where did he get the idea that they were sending him anywhere? He shook his head, convinced the stress had finally driven his brother over the edge. Before he could utter so much as a word, the passenger door flew open.
Taylor literally felt his heart stop. Hands suddenly had him, bright flash of pain as his head hit the door, and then he was out, and all he could see were her eyes. Struggling to stand, to breath, dizzy and shaking, beyond terrified, he was helpless. The hands gripping his shirt moved up to the back of his neck, taking hold of the hair there, yanking him forward. Her voice was a hiss. “Inside! Now! NOW!”
He stumbled as she shoved him toward the house, struggling to stay on his feet. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. He felt someone gripping his arm, pulling him toward the door, and looked up at a grimfaced Isaac, who only shook his head.
The door slammed behind him and before he could breathe he was spun around, shoved hard against the wall. Wide eyed, he could only stare. Diana’s hand, raised as if to slap him, was poised only inches from his face. Wordless, he waited, praying that all she did was hit him.
Diana was beyond angry. All they’d gone through, and he had done this. She’d sat up all night, pacing the floor, raging at him, telling herself that she had to calm down before she saw him. That the Brodys were right, letting him spend the night there was the right thing. She’d cool off. He’d come down. That they could work it all out. She’d felt relatively calm, sitting out in the sun waiting for him, but one look at his face had shattered her. She knew that look, the bloodshot eyes, the stupid glazed over expression, she could see it through the windshield. Now, looking at him standing against the wall, shaking and weak, it was all she could do not to just put his head through it. Knowing she was losing control she stepped back, bringing her hand down.
“Get him out of my sight!” She barked, shooting a look at Isaac, and turning her back on her middle son. “Just get him away from me before I kill him.”
Isaac gently took Taylor by the shoulder, and led him upstairs, shaken to the core. What was going to happen now?
Taylor lay on his bed, as he had for hours. Ike had stayed for a while, not wanting to leave him, but getting no real responses from Tay, he’d given up and, not particularly wanting to be around his mother either, gone back to Tiffany’s.
Taylor wished he’d stayed. He really could have used the support. Sighing, he listened, as he had been, to his mother venting her rage at him, on everyone else in the house. She’d been more or less yelling at everyone, since he’d come up here. Twice she’d come into the room, looked at him with something akin to utter loathing on her face, and fled the room again.
A short time ago, he’d overheard a heated phone call, he knew not with who, that had destroyed him. He’d heard, with his own ears, his mother, who he loved beyond all, telling someone that she couldn’t handle him, that she’d done everything possible, everything she’d been told to do, and yet he had done this.
Three words out of her mouth had ruined him. Those words had been “I give up.” Now, hopelessness having stripped most of what was left of emotion from him, he simply lay there apathetically, letting the sounds of her hate wash over him. That doctor had been right. He’d told him, and Tay hadn’t listened. Why hadn’t he listened? Lying there, hooked to tubes and wires, barely able to see straight, he’d heard this man telling him that there was every likelihood that he would be sent away. To some “facility” somewhere. That lots of kids slipped and used drugs, but most kids didn’t try to kill their younger siblings. That there were serious doubts that he would even see his family again.
At the time, sick, in pain, and wanting to die, he hadn’t cared. Later, when his family hadn’t shown up, he’d been afraid, but still so numb and dazed that the fear had seemed remote. He’d put the doctor’s words from his mind when his family had finally been there, and had said they were taking him home. He’d never told them what had been said to him. As he’d never told them that the man had approached him again, the day before he left, to tell him of the media circus that had fallen upon the hospital, and that in his opinion, if he cared about his family, he wouldn’t go with them. Unable to accept that as in any way reasonable, Taylor had brushed him off, only to be told, “You should make sure you’re on your best behavior young man, because they have options. Be aware of that.”
The following morning, waiting for his dad to pick him up, the same doctor had sat down opposite him, and told him, plainly and bluntly, that a recommendation had been make to them, for placement. That the “pressure was on” for his parents to send him somewhere with “professionals” who could “help him learn to cope with his problems.” A place where he would be to “minimize the risk to the rest of your family,” and again, the repetition, “They have many options.”
Options. Those words had sunk into his soul, trapped there, cycling. “Options, they have options…” Those words had been the source of weeks of low key terror, the constant underlying anxiety caused by the thought that they might not want him.
That he was here only because they felt he had to be. That if he messed up at all they might send him away. That perhaps they were just waiting for one of those “places” to have room for him. That he was on borrowed time in his own home, that the people who loved him, really didn’t want him.
Those words, the source of a bone deep depression he never even knew he had, draining his energy, sapping his strength, making it impossible to be interested in anything, find any joy anywhere, denying him escape even in sleep. “Options.” A cloud hanging over his head, constantly, blocking all light and warmth. And now she’d given up.
He sighed, gazing dry eyed at the light above his head. He’d spent so much time, trying to feel her out. Did she still love him? He thought she did. He trusted that she did. But how could she not hate him? Look at what he’d done? Look at poor Zac, still bruised, still aching, even after all these weeks. And still afraid. Look what he’d done to him. And to Isaac. Poor Ike, non-violent and peaceful Ike, punching holes in the walls. She’d be right to send him away. For all of their sakes. Right or wrong, she was going to. He’d heard it himself.
The thought terrified him, but he wasn’t feeling it. All he felt was numb. Something inside him had died at her words. “I give up, I give up, I give up…”
He couldn’t stop hearing them. And so he simply lay there, unaware that somewhere deep inside him, things were peaking, approaching critical mass.
Adrenaline fading finally, exhaustion overcoming even this fear, he’d begun to drift, finally losing himself into sleep. His mother’s voice, loud, shrill, still reached him, wafting past sleep dimmed ears, becoming part of his dreams.
The noise startled him awake. Zac’s entrance into the bedroom had barely penetrated his ragged sleep, but now Zac was slamming things around. Taylor sat up and looked at his brother, faint concern all but eclipsed by apathy… Watching, Taylor didn’t say a word. Zac had now grabbed a book and nearly threw himself into one of the chairs at the small table in the corner of the room. He put the book on the table with a satisfying slam, and nodded his head at it for emphasis.
“You okay Zac?” Taylor found words, and slowly got up from the bed, walking towards Zac. Something in Zac’s manner was forcing his hand. He couldn’t just let him sit there.
Zac just stared at Taylor as if he was seeing a ghost. His eyes were wet and rimmed with red. Taylor could see he had been crying.
Taylor sat down on the edge of the table, reaching for Zac’s hand.
“Why you crying? Did something happen?”
Zac angrily swiped at his eyes with the back of his wrist. “I’m fine Taylor.”
“Are you sure? I mean, I heard mom yelling…” Taylor trailed off, watching as Zac’s eyes narrowed.
“I think the whole block heard her. Thanks to you. Now leave me alone,” Zac snapped, getting up and jumping onto his own bed, burying himself beneath the covers.
Taylor closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Zac, what happened?” He’d seen the fresh tears as Zac ran across the room, he was worried. “Zac, please, just talk to me!”
Zac stuck his head out, anger stamped throughout his face. “She told me that I was… never mind. But it’s your fault. I tried to leave to go to Billy’s, and she told me that I was probably just going to go out and get into trouble, that I was just like you. I never even did anything. She’s just crazy, you’ve just driven her crazy, just like you did Ike. You just get out of my face.”
He turned away, and, stung by his words, Taylor left him, plodding back over to his own bed. This was ridiculous. She was mad at him. Only him. There was no reason to take it out on anyone else, least of all Zac.
He stared back up at the light again, losing himself in its hypnotic glow.
He’d almost drifted off again, when Zac’s tearful voice roused him again. “Tay?”
He turned to his brother, alarmed to see that Zac seemed to have slipped out of anger, and into despair. He was openly sobbing, gazing pleadingly at his brother.
“Tay, why would she say that to me? What did I do wrong?”
Taylor shook his head sadly. “Zac, you didn’t do anything. She’s just mad at me…” He sighed bitterly, shutting his eyes. He was just so tired. His eyes flew open again, at a sudden spate of evil tempered shouting from down the hall. When he opened his eyes, there was anger storming in them. Enough was enough. He had to take care of this. He stalked out of the room and headed down the stairs.
He found her in the kitchen. She was making just as much noise as Zac had, if not more, slamming cupboards, dishes, just about anything she could get her hands on. His own temper flared, seeing her acting this way.
He left before she could see him, and went looking for the little ones.
It never occurred to him that his mind was clear, and that he was making thought out, rational decisions, regarding other peoples welfare. He never even noticed that the withdrawal induced, and traumatic fog had lifted. He just wanted to find the kids, and make sure they were okay.
He found them in the living room, sitting about three feet from the TV, in a tight, nervous looking little huddle.
He went over, scotching down next to them. “You guys okay?”
They looked apprehensively at him, but Jess found her voice. “We’re okay. She’s screaming at everyone though. Taylor…” Her eyes grew huge, and he saw something that almost looked like enthusiasm in them. “What did you do?” He almost laughed then, she looked so impressed. “I’ve never made her yell like that, ever. It must have been really bad!”
He nodded, face serious. “It was bad, Jessie, really bad, and I’m really sorry she’s yelling at you guys. You know what you should do? You should go on up and watch the TV in our room. Tell Zac I said it’s okay. I’m gonna go talk to her, and things could get kinda loud. You might not be able to hear what you’re watching, if you stay down here.”
Jessie looked at him, searchingly, for a moment, and then nodded. She understood. He wanted them gone, in case there was a fight. Nodding again, she flicked off the TV. “C’mon you guys, let’s go upstairs.”
Knowing something was amiss, clearly picking up on the tense atmosphere in the house, the two little ones silently complied.
Jess, on her way up behind them, turned back to her brother. “Hey Tay… good luck.” He nodded. “Thanks. I’ll need it.”
“You sure will.” She watched him for a moment more, then turned and followed the others up the stairs.
Sighing, he listened for a moment to his mother’s muttering and swearing in the kitchen. When he heard a crash, his own temper flared up.
“MOM! Cut it out!” Taylor stormed into the kitchen and up to his mother, grabbing her arm. “Just stop throwing things around, and say whatever you have to say! You’re scaring everyone half to death, just stop it!”
“You… you just get out of my sight! I can’t even look at you! It makes me sick to look at you! Who the hell are you to talk about scaring people?!” She yanked her arm away, turned away from her son and started to walk away.
If she looked at him, she’d kill him, she knew it.
Taylor, however, was having none of it.
“Don’t you dare walk out on me!” Taylor shouted. She wasn’t going to do this to him. If she was mad at him, well then she was going to deal with it right here and now. No more of this, I can’t handle it and walk away crap. He went up to her and got in her face. “SAY IT! I want you to say it!”
“Say what?!” She turned back to him, barely controlling the urge to slap him. “What do you want me to say?! I have nothing to say to you. I’m sick of wasting my breath. Just go somewhere with yourself and get out of my sight!!!” She was staring at him, at his face which was flushed with anger, his eyes which were nearly rolling in his head, listening to his breath, coming out in hitching gasps, he looked… insane.
Too angry herself to give it any credence, she shook her head, brushing him off.
“Cut the out of control act, Taylor, I’m not buying it.” She started out of the room again, and again, he grabbed her, this time roughly enough to hurt.
“Just say it! Stop taking it all out on everyone else, and just say it!! You’re making everyone crazy!! It’s all because of me, we both know it, so just say what you have to say!! Tell me you hate me! I know you do! I can see it! You hate me and you want to send me away! Well do it then! I can’t take this anymore! I can’t take sitting around this house, knowing what you think of me, and waiting for you to one day say that’s it you’re gone! So do it! I dare you! Send me away! I know what you think of me, I know I’m only here because you think I have to be!! I know you don’t want me!!!!” He shifted his grip from the tenuous one on her arm, to a more secure hold on the front of her collar, yanking her toward him.
“What are you TALKING about?!”
Diana pulled away from her son, and shoved him, none too gently, away from her. “Have you totally lost your mind?! You have, haven’t you?! Not only are you selfish, inconsiderate, irresponsible, reckless, and completely uncaring, you’re also raving out of your mind!!! You want to be sent away?! Great! Glad to hear it. Let me help you pack!!!” Furious, her sarcastic tone turned vicious. “You’re evidentially as stupid as you’re acting, if you think anyone sending you away. You were born into us, and like it or not, we have to keep you. You’re completely right that I don’t want to, but I have no choice. I don’t even know you. You are not my son. But guess what? You get to stay anyway, just to make my life hell. Just get out of my face.”
“Don’t lie to me! You know what I mean! I’m not stupid! You think I don’t know? They TOLD me!!! I’ve know all along!”
Something, either his tone, or his words, penetrated her anger, and she began, finally, to really hear what he was saying. And to realize that she’d heard these words before, once. He’d spoken them to her, at the edge of a nightmare.
Taken aback, she fell silent, staring at him. When she trusted her voice enough to speak, her tone was wary.
“Why don’t you tell me just what you’re talking about, please?”
He snorted impatiently. “Just quit pretending, give me at least that much respect and tell me the truth.”
She shook her head. “Taylor, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Unable to believe that she would carry this on, even when he’d heard her, his frustration, and temper, got the better of him. He turned to leave, too angry to stay near her, and she reached out, perhaps to stop him. To his heightened and over reactive senses, her hand was coming at him, and his hand flashed out, perhaps only intending to deflect her arm, instead connecting with the side of her head. The moment froze.
Taylor, speechless, unable to believe that he’d just hit his mother.
Eyes wide, he shook his head, and attempted a defense. He got nothing out.
Diana, mute, shocked, reeling from an emotional blow far far greater than the physical one. He never saw it coming, one moment he was starting to apologize, and the next he was crashing into the wall, hard enough to knock him off his feet.
Staring up at her, horrified, his voice failed him. Mute, he watched her advance on him, closing his eyes at the last minute, when her hand reached down to him.
Diana grabbed her child by the first available handle, his hair. Yanking him to his feet, she shoved him, limp and unresisting, into the wall, shocked rage hiding from her the sound of his head striking the doorjamb, blinding her to the pain on his face as her hand lashed out once, twice, a third time, connecting with his face and head. Too furious to scream at him, too hurt that he would have hit her to think at all.
Taylor accepted her attack numbly, shock, for a moment, rendering him powerless. Wracked with guilt, he barely felt the blows, delivered by hands that had always touched him lovingly.
Then the moment was gone, and survival instinct kicked in. Eyes flying open, he pushed himself away from his mother, hands coming up to cover his head. Off balance, the sudden movement bringing on a spate of dizziness, he fell sideways, ripping out the handful of hair she still clutched, freeing him from her grip.
Scrambling backward away from her, he hauled himself to his feet by the back of the couch, and ran, his mother on his heels. He ran blindly, not knowing where he was going, and found himself starting up the stairs. Three steps up his foot slipped, sending him tumbling, pain crashing into him as his body twisted on the stairs, and for a moment he was unable to move. His head hit the step, leaving him dazed, paralyzed by pain, looking into hate filled eyes. Defeated, he lay there, looking up at her, praying she’d just kill him. He couldn’t live with the hate in her eyes.
Diana, poised to strike, stood above her son, loathing the only emotion she was capable of. None of her children had ever raised a hand against her, and the fact that it was Tay, the one she’d always been closest too, was killing her.
Hand fisted, ready to crash down on him, the sight of blood on his face suddenly penetrated the insane rage that surrounded her. His mouth was bleeding. Bleeding badly. She’d made him bleed… Rational thought crept in as she stared at him, and slowly her raised fist lowered. She stared at him for a moment longer, and then nodded.
“Taylor.” Her voice was a hoarse croak. “You’re right. You are not any longer living in this house. Because I will kill you. Do you understand me? I will kill you.” Not waiting for an answer, she left him there, screaming up the stairs, “Zachary get down here now!!!” as she slammed out of the front door. A few minutes later the sound of tires screeching out of the drive filled the house.
Zac pounded down the stairs, scared beyond belief. He’d never heard his mother’s voice sound like that before. He came up short, at the sight of his brother, curled on his side, halfway up the stairs, trembling violently. Freezing, Zac was almost afraid to go near him. Taylor was shaking so badly he almost appeared to be in the grip of a seizure, and Zac was terrified of what he might find. Advancing slowly, every step torture, he crept toward his brother.
“Tay?” His voice shook, and he prayed Taylor would answer him . “Tay, say something!” Fear for his brother overriding fear OF him, Zac suddenly dropped down next to him, reaching out and giving him a shake. “Tay!! Tay, please, say something!” Taylor’s eyes opened, pain filled and despairing, and reached a shaking hand out for his brother. “Zacky, go call dad. Go now.” He whispered the words, unable to do more. Zac nodded “I will, I will, what is it? Get up Tay, come on…” He took his brother’s arm and tried to pull him up, jumping back at an ungodly screech from Taylor. Eyes huge, never having heard anyone scream like that in his life, he grabbed onto the banister for support, feeling himself beginning to gray out. Biting his lip hard, he managed to bring himself to some sort of alertness, and knelt down again. “Tay tell me what happened.”
Taylor’s voice was nearly inaudible. “Call Dad Zac, I can’t move. I can’t move, I really hurt something, you have to call him…” His voice trailed off, as his eyes closed, and Zac shook him again. “NO TAY!! Stay awake! I’m calling him right now! Just stay awake!! Jessie!!!” He called out to the house at large, bringing his sister running.
The sight of one of her brothers collapsed and bleeding on the stairs, and her other brother pacing wildly, eyes frantic, froze her to the spot.
Zac shook her roughly, making her jump. “Talk to him Jess, just keep him talking!! Just do it!!” He ran into the kitchen, to call his dad, leaving Jessie alone with Taylor. Confused, she shouted after him. “Zac what happened to him?!”
Zac, who was afraid he knew only too well what had happened to his brother, hollered back to her. “I don’t know, I guess he fell down the stairs!! Just talk to him!!”
Satisfied that this was what had happened, Jessie sat next to her brother, shaking him gently. “Tay, you awake?”
He opened his eyes, struggling not to scream at the pain her gentle touch had caused him. “Yeah Jess. I’m awake. Don’t do that, it hurts.”
She nodded. “Did you fall down the stairs?”
He glanced up at her face, knowing he couldn’t tell her the truth. “Yeah Jess. Hush now. Please.”
“Zac said to keep you awake.”
He sighed a little. Nausea was licking at the back of his throat, he was afraid an extra word might tip him over the edge. “I’ll stay awake, I promise, but don’t make me talk.”
She nodded, noticing he’d gone considerably greenish.
“Tay you look like you’re gonna throw up. You’re not are you?”
He whispered faintly, “I don’t know” and fell silent, knowing that if he uttered one more word, her question would be answered.
She sat with him, absently playing with his hair, waiting for Zac to get back.
Taylor’s mind wouldn’t let him go. Over and over, playing itself out in his head, all of the words between him and his mother. The pain in his back and neck as unrelenting as the nausea welling in his throat, his thoughts giving him no rest, he suddenly just couldn’t take it anymore. Shoving his sister away, he hauled himself upright, unable to suppress the shriek that suddenly ripped out of him. He’d never felt pain like this… God, how could this kind of pain not mean he was dying?
His eyes met Jessie’s, and he saw the fear there, that fear making up his mind. He was doing it to her now. Now it wasn’t just him, and Zac, and Ike, and his mom and his dad, it was everyone. He was ruining everyone.
Zac was calling his dad. Why had he asked him to do that? Dad would agree, he had to go. This was all too much. He pushed away Jessie’s concerned hands, and dragged himself to his feet. Not sure he’d be able to walk, and not really caring, he stumbled the rest of the way down the stairs, continuously brushing off his sister as she attempted to restrain him.
“Zac!!!” Zac heard his sister yell, and stuck on finger in the ear not already blocked by the phone. The hold music was beginning to get to him, and he didn’t need to hear her too. “Zac!! Zac get in here and help me!!”
Sighing, he hollered back in to her. “Jess, just hang on! I’m on hold!!”
“Zac!!!!” Panic in her voice suddenly brought him to attention. “Zac he left!!! Help me!!”
Zac dropped the phone, and ran, but by the time he got to the front door, his brother was already gone.
He really didn’t know where he was headed. No particular destination in mind. He only knew that it seemed like it was taking forever to get there. Wherever there was.
He had to stop once to throw up, and it had left him shaking, on his knees, gasping for air, his breath coming in short bursts and whistles. His chest felt like it was caving in, and he was pretty sure his eyes were going to swim away, they were watering so much. His head pounded, and he rubbed desperately to try and rid his vision of the stars that sparkled on the edge of his vision, not realizing that the rubbing was only worsening the condition. He felt so weak and was almost afraid he would collapse before he reached his destination.
As it neared closer, he suddenly knew exactly where it was his body was leading him. The house was only a few hundred feet away, but each step he took towards it, he felt like it was getting further away. He stumbled in the driveway, and very nearly didn’t make it back onto his feet. The struggle to make his limbs work, was almost shutting off his breathing. God his back hurt, had he broken something? He could barely breathe.
He reached the door, and weakly pounded with a limp fist. He rested his forehead on the door, and nearly fell inside when it was pulled open. She looked down at him. He was panting, literally. His tongue was slightly hanging out of his mouth and his breathing was shallow and labored. Shocked at the dried blood around his mouth, down his chin… the bruises forming in bluish patches on his face, she didn’t say a word. Merely grabbed him by his arms, and pulled him to his feet, dragging him inside.
Taylor fell against her, whimpering at the pain in his back, aware that she was taking all his weight, but unable to help it. It hurt too much to stand upright.
Tiffany looked over his head toward Isaac. What she saw scared her. The shock on his face had flitted briefly to anger, and then to nothing at all. As she watched, he sank down onto the sofa, and dropped his head into his hands. Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to Taylor. She’d deal with Ike later on. Stepping back slightly, she made him look up at her.
“Come on, Tay, lets go get you cleaned up, and you can tell me what happened.”
He nodded mutely, and let himself be led into the bathroom.
“Tip you’re head back Tay, a little bit… There you go…” Tiffany watched water from the hand shower sluicing the dried blood away from her friends face. The marks underneath all the grime were clearly fingermarks. Sighing, she tried once again to find out what had happened. “Tay, c’mon, who did this to you?”
His answer, delivered in a monotone, devoid of all emotion, was the same one he’d been giving for ten minutes. “Nobody, I fell down the stairs.”
He curled himself up tighter, arms around knees, head on arms. It wasn’t making it very easy to get him cleaned up. She’d tried to go with a wet cloth, but the dried blood in his hair, and the fact that he’d, at some point, thrown up all over himself, had convinced her to just put him in the tub and shower him down. She’d tried to get Isaac to come help him, but Isaac had just waved her away.
Taylor had finally told her. “Tiffany, I really don’t care…” and had pulled off his clothes. Or tried to. Moving at all made him cry out, and she wondered if something was badly enough injured to warrant a doctor. She’d helped him out of his clothes, and into the tub, where he’d discovered that he couldn’t reach up over his head to wash the blood out of his hair.
Finally she’d taken the shower away from him, and snapped. “Just don’t even move, I’ll do it.” Now, trying to get the soap out of his hair, with him curled in a ball, the last dregs of her patience washed away. “Taylor, for heaven sake, sit up!! How am I supposed to do anything for you if you’re all in a knot?” He glanced uneasily at her, and uncurled himself very slightly. She sighed, feeling bad. Being yelled at was probably the last thing in the world he needed. She finished rinsing him off quickly, and shut the water off. “Can you dry yourself off, or do you need help?”
He shook his head, “Tiff, I don’t even know if I can stand up.”
Frowning, she took his arm, now wet and slippery, and hauled him to his feet.
“Come on, just hold on to me, last thing you need is to fall and bash something open on the tub.”
He started to step up, then froze, attention riveted behind her.
Before she could turn, Isaac was standing next to her, reaching past her to grab hold of his brother, much more securely than she had been.
“I’ve got him Tiff, can you find him something to put on?”
She nodded and took off out of the room before he could change his mind.
“Lemme have y’foot Tay” Isaac waited while Taylor got his foot off the floor, and stuck it out for him to dry off. “It’s taking you longer and longer to move, Tay, you really need to get checked out”
Taylor shook his head. “No. I’m okay. Can you hurry up? I’m freezing.”
“I could let you do it yourself, you’d be a lot colder then.” He stood up and reached for the clothes Tiffany had brought in. “Here, get your arms up.” He stopped at the gasp of pain from Taylor, when he’d tried to co-operate. “Aw, Tay, damn it! I know, it really hurts… just move really slow and easy, you have to get something on, you can’t walk around naked.”
Taylor nodded, and together they managed to get him dressed, although the effort had caused enough pain to gray him out more than once, and to bring back nausea.
Seeing him go white, Isaac had cautioned him. “Breath it out Tay, if you get sick now, we have to do this all over again. Don’t give in.”
Taylor had nodded, fighting it off, and finally looked up into his brother’s eyes. Isaac smiled slightly and reached down to help him up. “Come on, Tay, we need to figure this out.” Taylor winced, but followed his brother into the other room.
Isaac paced, phone pressed to his ear. Zachary’s hysterical ranting went on and on, he’d long since given up trying to break in. He would just have to wait for the flood to taper off on its own. He’d just sat down to try to talk to Taylor, when the phone had rung, and he’d picked it up to hear his brother’s voice, raving at him. He’d listened while Zac relayed his opinion that their mother had lost her mind, that she’d tried to kill Taylor, that she was gone and he didn’t know where she was, that Taylor had run off and nobody knew where he was, that Taylor was hurt and someone had to find him. In the background, he could hear yet more hysterics, one of his sister’s, sobbing her heart out, scared to death. Thoroughly sick of it all, he glanced at his brother, wishing for the moment that he’d never heard of him. Taylor’s idiocy had uprooted and scrambled the entire household. Turning his attention back to Zac, he broke in, loudly, “Zac!! ZACHARY!!!!”
“It’s okay, he’s here.”
The flow of words cut off.
“He’s there? Oh God Ike, is he okay?!”
“I don’t know Zac, but he’s here. We’ll take care of it.”
“I’m coming over.”
“No!!” Not meaning to shout, he lowered his voice. “Zac, you have to stay there with the kids, don’t come over here. We’ll be home soon.”
Zac wasn’t pleased about this, and Ike tuned out the rash of complaints, again looking over at Taylor, who was watching him fearfully. What the hell did he have to be afraid of? What was up with that?
Ike’s patience slipped another notch. First he was sick, then he was scared, then he was in some sort of breakdown, now this, it was just too much. God how he wished they’d just left him in some hospital someplace. He’d just had it.
“What Ike?” Zac’s voice was puzzled, and so was Ike.
“What? I didn’t say anything. We’ll be home in a…” He was cut off by a vicious cuff to the head, hard enough to make his ears ring, and, shocked, he dropped the phone, turning to stare at Tiffany, who’s eyes were flashing.
“What the hell is wrong with you?!”
He shook his head, baffled, “What? What did you hit me for?!”
“Why’d you say that?!” She started out the front door, shooting him a death look. He stared after her, retrieved the phone, and found Zac frantically asking him the same thing. Clueless, he broke in again.
“Zac, what are you talking about?” Zac sighed, exasperated.
“You can’t mean that Ike, he’s our brother, you shouldn’t say things like that. What if he heard you?”
“Said WHAT?!?!?!” He was by now thoroughly sick of all of them.
“That you wished we’d left him, Ike, that!”
Ike suddenly felt sick. Had he said that? He’d thought it.
“Oh my God, Zac… Did I say that?”
“Yes you did.”
Without another word, Ike slammed the phone down and ran after Tiffany. He hadn’t realized he’d said it out loud. He found Tiffany standing on the front porch, furious. “Tiffy, where did he go?! I swear to God, I had no idea that came out of my mouth, I was thinking it… where is he?!?!”
She nodded down the road. “He took your car. I tried to stop him. See what I got for my trouble?” She turned to him and he saw her lip was gashed open.
“He hit you?”
She nodded. “I tried to take his arm, he hauled off and belted me one, and took off with your car. Now what the hell do we do? Why’d you say that?! Ike, how could you have said that?? He’s already so scared…”
“I know, I know, I didn’t mean to, it just came out, I was thinking out loud…” Panic set in as he realized what he’d said, and what condition his brother was in. “Tiffy, we have to find him.”
She shook her head. “No, not us. I’m calling the police. You better get home, and get your parents… No. No don’t. The police will want to talk to you. Go call them from the cell phone. Damn it Ike, that was the stupidest thing you’ve ever ever done!”
She stalked into the house, stopping to grab, and throw him, the cell phone. He caught it, and started to dial, thinking only that this time, they were going to lose him forever, and it was his fault.