"Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." -Corinthians 13:7

Learning to Hate Me - Chapter 18: Refrain (by: fonduehamster)

"Oh my God! Get in here! You look awful!"

I didn't blame Wendy for her response: it was more than adequate. Since being rap-beat up, I hadn't changed and was still wearing the same ripped clothing, sans blood but with the addition of a large, prominent vodka stain on my pants. My appearance at school in such a state had become less and less frequent, thanks in no small part to Will. But now, at my weakest and most vulnerable, I couldn't be brought to drag myself to him. So here I stood upon Wendy's doorstep, with bruises coloring my face on cheeks that would normally never blush and cuts racing like crusty red lightning over my forehead and hands.

Walking forward mechanically to the sounds of Wendy's voice ushering me into her house, I was welcomed with the familiar sight of something that seemed to have been lacking in my life for a while: family. After quite a struggle, she managed to push me up the steps and into her room, where she sat me down on her bed. Leaving me momentarily to get something, I sat in complete silence. I didn't think while sitting there - it took a colossal effort to have simply gotten my body to walk to her house but to think would have been a trial by fire. I didn't have to worry as Wendy soon returned with a damp cloth and began dabbing at some of the wounds that had re-opened during the walk to her house.

"What happened? Did people at school do this? Ken?"

I winced at the sound of the word, pulling my right hand away from the cool linen and touched my face, remembering how he had grabbed my hair and pressed my face against the tiles as he undid my belt, pulled down my jeans, and-

"Oh God," I moaned incoherently, my voice also muffled behind the slowly arriving wave of sobs and choking gasps.

Leaning forward I grabbed Wendy and held her close to me, basking in the warming heat that exuding from her instead of the blistering fire that had nearly scalded me alive.

"I-I-I was in the bathroom," I stuttered, the tears rolling down my cheeks as I passed through the second circle of Hell, flying through rings of flames.

"They came out of nowhere." I continued, trying not to remember but still needing to recall the barest facts to tell Wendy, "And grabbed me. And.and."

It resided somewhere deep within myself, tucked away by my subconscious in an effort to salvage what was left of my conscious self. It was hidden, locked away in a vain attempt to keep it away from me, repressing every inward sign of it, hoping that if ignored long enough, the beast would go away. But its tracks were everywhere: within the faint circles beneath my eyes, in the lines that formed at the corners of my mouth as I wearily tried to smile away the pain, and behind my eyes, which had grown wide and gave me an appearance of looking constantly haunted, the signs were obvious.

Shushing me, Wendy pulled back and held my crying face in her hands. Turning away, I looked to the floor - a reflex developed after many years under baleful stares.

"I'll be right back. Let me go call a doctor or something. Maybe I should call you parents and have them take you to the hospital," she said quietly while her right thumb caught a tear and wiped it away.

My eyes widened as she got up to leave.

"No! Please don't. I don't want to be."

She stopped and looked at me as I clutched her left hand so tightly that my knuckles had gone chalk white.

".alone."

Giving me a comforting smile, Wendy gave me a sense of reassurance, instilling in me some of sense of the strength and control that I had been robbed of.

"I've got to get you some medical attention. Don't worry, I'll be right back," she murmured peacefully, settling a few of the butterflies that had fluttered from my stomach to my throat.

She quietly closed the door behind her, leaving me to sit in the room that was her microcosm in the universe. Any other day I would have taken the time to notice the finger painting tacked up with curious pride or the countless papers covered in half-formed stories that were littered over her desk. But this was far from any other day and I silently sat so still that I could hear the air flowing over my head, whispering gaseous gossip to the ceiling. Thankfully, the dull shimmer of the turning knob caught my attention as Wendy slowly opened the door, re-entered, and closed the door.

She wordlessly drifted next to me, sitting so that she was situated somewhere between the wall and a mass of flesh and bone that had been reduced to a quivering pile of silenced screaming. Putting her hand around my waist, she pulled my head into her lap.

Now the damp cloth was lying in a clammy, ruffled pile, the white of the linen looking dulled and sullied with a grimy red tint to it. My heart heaved as it gave a mirthless laugh - anything that even so much as touched me seemed to crumple and fall under its own weight.

Wendy had been trying her best to wrap her arms around me and, despite my broader size, she had managed to surround me in her embrace. Rocking me gently, she murmured indiscernible words that seemed a cross between the low, hushed coo of a mother calming her child and the subdued roar of a wave rolling onto the shore. The sounds came together in a warming, strengthening song that tried to fill the shattered void beneath my skin with a temperate heat. But I played my own song in my head, each maddening crash of notes as impalpable as the next. I shouted and screamed and bellowed and cried and yelled, hoping the raucously silent dirge would remove every memory of mirrors, shadows, and cold heat from my mind.

"I told them to stop." my voice trailed off indefinitely, and Wendy heard the words and the silence.

"But they wouldn't. And then.Ken.he. Oh God, it was so.cold. And I thought I was burning."

My train of thought was broken as someone lightly rapped on the door. Wendy flinched at the sound, knowing that it was the reason for my burrowing deeper into her arms. Illogical as it may sound, my world at that moment consisted of two things: within the four walls that surrounded me was a place that was safe and outside those walls was a world that had far too much space and far too many people like Ken. The knocking on the door sliced through my mind as the prickling heat of memory crept down my spine, setting every nerve ablaze in a fiery echo. No matter who or what was behind the door, it would still be part of Ken's world, shattering the comforting safety of my last four walls and throwing open the gates to my crumbling sanctuary.

"Later mom!" Wendy shouted in a reserved tone, wincing as she saw new tears well up at the corner of my eyes as she yelled, "I'll come down later!"

There was a pause and the room began to fill with a stagnant air that made waves of nausea ripple in my stomach.

"Wendy. It's me."

"Oh god. It's Will," I murmured inanely, "You can't let him see me like.this."

I could feel the accent that I had placed on the last word pierce Wendy with a poisonous regret that seeped into her veins, a venom that she had no intention of curing herself of. She stood up quietly, wrapping a coarse but warm blanket around me. As she placed her hand on the doorknob, she turned to me and tried to give me a weak smile. But I felt my eyes hollow out, as I could do nothing but stare through her. The corner of her lips quivered and she turned to face the door before her feeble grin failed her.

Opening the door slightly, she pressed her face close to the small crack formed and whispered. I caught traces of their conversation, their words floating towards me like wisps of cloudy smoke.

".real shaken."

".what happened."

".come back later."

".just let me see him."

".not such a great idea."

".very worried."

And as the tiny sliver of light that passed through the door widened and Wendy stepped back with a slightly resigned look upon her face, Will appeared at the door. Sitting upon Wendy's bed and with voices from hours ago still howling in my head I couldn't help marvel at the fact that some of the things in my life hadn't been twisted by the grotesque shadows that haunted my every move. Soundlessly and with a calm solemnity that must have been borne as a reaction to my figure that shrank smaller and smaller into Wendy's blanket, Will sat down on the bed next to me. A hand tentatively reached over towards me and settled upon my left thigh lightly.

Leaning over, he looked into my eyes, letting my story tell itself beneath the dark, hooded lids that had sunk into my visage. The playful flame in his eyes that I had grown accustomed to being warmed by had now steadied into a staunch ember that smoldered with its dull intensity. Leaning ever farther still, he placed his lips on my left cheek but to have called what he did a kiss would be almost heresy. He told me stories, he soothed my being, and he warmed the frigid core that had collected rime as it sat stolidly in my chest. He asked me no questions and I gave him no answers. Words were useless at that point. Then, as his lips parted from my cheek, he wrapped his arms gently around me, humming a familiar tune that sent curls of white flame down my spine.

As he neared the end of the tune, I looked up at him, feeling the warmth of his hug start to melt the invisible, glacial sepulcher that I had been buried in. Smiling with what little strength he had lent me, I finished the song for him.

".was blind but now I see."

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