Soundtrack for the chapter: "The Boy Who Never" by Landon Pigg, "You Found Me" and "Look After You" by The Fray, "Sober" by P!nk, and "Stay (I Miss You)" by Lisa Loeb.
Chapter Eighteen: The Boobs & The Makeup Don't Hide a Thing
It seems like the simplest concept:
just push them all away and you'll never get hurt.
However, the simplest isn't always the most effective.
Someday, somebody's gonna find their way in
and they are going to leave you on your knees.
Rosaline's Point of View
I'm ball-less, a eunuch, a self-sabotaging eunuch – I castrated myself the moment I walked out of that bedroom. Even if I'm not positive that I wanted to sleep with someone for my first time without being able to tell him that I love him...still, I cut off my proverbial balls the moment I didn't have the courage to either tell him my love or show him my love.
I'm my own worst enemy.
I love Javier Rodriguez and I won't let myself do anything about it.
Wednesday morning I found myself washing my face in the girl's restroom and once again cursing myself for putting makeup on. Which I kept putting on because I couldn't imagine that I was such a crybaby, but everyday I proved to myself that I was. Apparently opening myself up to love – or even falling in love in the first place – made me a freaking mess. Yes, I can remember crying this much after Joe, but I sure as hell hadn't been breaking down in tears all the time before I got together with Joe. Then again, I fell in love with Javier in despite of everything that happened with Joe and my fathers, so perhaps crying comes with the territory. I'm terrified by how I feel for him and I'm angry at myself for not being able to tell him how I feel.
"And I suck." I muttered to my reflection, wondering how I could hide my tear swollen eyes without any help of makeup. Groaning, I brushed my hair away from my face with my fingers, rubbed at my eyes, and squared my shoulders: time to face this day like the woman that I was. Rosaline St. James: Crybaby. I dropped my shoulders and leaned my head against the mirror. "Not uplifting, St. James." I mumbled to myself.
It had been a hard day, just like the day before it except now I had the added bonus of having flashbacks to the night before. Now, when I saw Javier I ran while thinking about how his bare chest had felt beneath my fingers and how powerful his arms looked. Now every time my eyes caught his I thought back to the question he had had in them before I gave him the okay to explore my body. Oh, and now while I ran from him I also desperately wanted to feel his lips on mine again.
Made more difficult since I couldn't stop berating myself for what I had done. I had tried to be brave and had chickened out instead. How could I show him how I felt? How could I save him? Because after looking at those pictures on his walls I knew that I needed to; he was as broken as he had said he was. I didn't know how he was broken, I had no idea what had happened to bring that look into his eyes, but I knew it was there. I had seen it with my own eyes and I was not going to let him get back to the place that he had been in last year.
Granted, I have no idea what had happened our junior year...but that wasn't going to stop me. I just needed to figure out what I could do for him from afar to make his life easier. I'm an angry, somewhat violent, opinionated, and passionate person...what can I do to help a guy who doesn't show any kind of emotion unless he absolutely has to?
Slowly I raised my head and stared into my eyes.
Oh, there was definitely something that I could do.
Perhaps I couldn't offer Javier what I wished, but I could give him my protection. I could mold my anger and fear as a force for him, instead of against him.
I can collect him.
It only took ten minutes of waiting across from his locker to find the misspelling culprit, or at least one of the dumb and outspoken Sharpie holders that walked the school halls. Unsurprisingly, it was one of the popular elite of the school: Ben Greene. Smiling to myself, I watched as he uncapped his marker and attempted (and failed) to discreetly check either way down the hall before setting his marker against the face of the locker. Once the marker made contact, I pushed myself away from the wall of lockers and walked across the hall to him.
"My New Years Resolution was the be nicer." I announced once I was behind him, causing him to jump and whirl around. I smiled when his eyes made contact with me. "So I'm going to ask you nicely to step away from the locker and stop proving your idiocy by writing on it."
His eyes narrowed and he scoffed at me, "And who do you think you are?"
"Rosaline St. James, that's who I think I am." I replied, taking a step closer to him. "Girl who can and will kick your ass if I have to." I tilted my head to the side and smiled up at him wanly, "You have seen Jarrod, right? That was my brother's work and he's the one that taught me how to fight. Do you want to see what I can do to you? Because I'd really enjoy showing you."
He swallowed hard, but rolled his eyes and turned back to the locker. Sighing, I gripped the back of his head and slammed his head into the locker. Not hard enough to break anything, just enough to get his attention and prove my point.
He immediately pulled back and glared at me, "What the hell?!"
"I asked you nicely, you can't say that I didn't give you fair warning." I replied, ignoring the people that had stopped moving and were watching us. Thankfully no teachers had shown up...yet...but I was pretty used to them by this point.
"Try that shit again – "
"Would you like me to?" I asked sweetly and then narrowed my eyes, "Step away from the damn locker Ben and leave it the hell alone. Let's face it: I'm not afraid to beat you in the middle of the hallway, and I will beat you. You're just a guy that thinks he can fight; I've been learning self-defense from an overprotective brother since I was ten – You. Will. Not. Win. Understand?" I asked, my voice low. "If graffiti keeps showing up on this locker I'm going to come after you, got it? I don't care if you're the one that wrote it or not, you will be the first person I come after and I will make you feel pain. And you want to know the truly sick part?" I leaned in close to him and whispered into his ear, "I'll enjoy it."
I took a step back and smiled up at him once again, "Look, Benny, I know that it's easy to forget, because of the boobs and the makeup, but I'm a bully." I snatched the marker out of his hand and put the cap back on, "You and your friends should work harder on remembering that." I added, handing him back his Sharpie. He glared at me for another moment, but made his escape as soon as he could. I watched him scurry down the hall and then turned my gaze onto my onlookers, "What?" I asked, sending them all back to whatever they had been doing before I had attacked Ben.
I turned my eyes back on Javier's locker, taking in the worn look of the navy paint – due to the janitor having to clean it so often – and grinned. No graffiti yet and if there was, I got to show Benny boy that I am a woman of my word. Which would be fun: I'm really tired of him and his friends, they keep hurting people I care about.
And I'm done with that.
"What do you find attractive on a man?" Ellen asked as she sat down at our lunch table. I looked up from my salad in surprise and then thought it over – it was better to just answer her questions rather than try to figure out where they came from.
"Hmm...I'm a fan of vests." I replied and then thought back to Javier the night before, dressed in just a light blue tee and a pair of sweatpants. "And comfort, apparently I find it attractive when a guy looks comfortable and not all gussied up."
She nodded her head and then smiled brightly, "I have become very partial to button up shirts, I must admit."
"Because of how well Javier wears them?" Nikki asked, sitting down beside us with her usual plate of pizza and fries. My heart skipped a beat at the mention of him and I couldn't help but think back to his chest, how defined and toned it was. How warm he felt... How he had let me do whatever I had wanted to him...
"Have you been terrorizing the school?" Lulu asked as a greeting, sitting down beside me.
"Not exactly." I murmured, "I've just..." I frowned, chewing on the inside of my cheek. "Been suffering from PMS?"
Lulu rolled her eyes, "Come on Rowe, you're out to save someone."
"Yeah, this is how it always starts." Nikki added, "First you start physically terrorizing the people that are bullying the person in question and playing the mind games you rock at, then you turn your complete focus onto the person in question."
"It's Javi, isn't it?" Ellen asked, staring at me with her knowing blue eyes. I stared into them for a long moment and then nodded my head, causing her to grin. "Good."
"Finally!" Nikki exclaimed.
"I was really wondering how long it would take for your instincts to get the best of you." Lulu added softly, smiling warmly at me. "I've missed the protective and nurturing you."
Protective and nurturing me has turned into a major crybaby, but whatever.
"How do you guys feel about welcoming him into the fold?" I asked and then frowned when they all shared a look of understanding. "What's going on?"
"Nothing." Nikki said with a grin, "When are you going to bring him in? Because Jarrod is making his way to him right now."
I quickly glanced over my shoulder into the middle of the lunchroom and then cursed, jumping out of my seat and moving towards the two. Jarrod had the same stupid cocky look on his black and blue face he'd had since the student body turned on Javier. Ben and Ulysses trailed after him, stupidly self-assured looks on their face. Obviously Ben hadn't warned them that I was on a rampage.
Javier looked up from the book he had been reading as he made his way through the cafeteria and a wary expression covered his face when he saw them. He came to a stop, just waiting for whatever came next. Which was something that I noticed that he did every time any of his old friends set their sights on him – he wouldn't stand up for himself for anything.
Happy for the first time that day that I had worn flat boots with little traction, I slid in front of Javier before the threesome made their way to him. Ben's eyes widened in surprise when he saw me and I wagged my fingers at him, smiling with absolutely no warmth.
"Hi boys." I greeted, crossing my arms against my chest and staring up into Jarrod's face. "God, you look awful."
Jarrod glared at me, "Get out of the way, we want to talk to Javier."
I shrugged, "Too bad."
"I'm here to talk to you." I replied, tilting my head to the side and smiling up at him. "You look like you're still in pain, does it hurt terribly?"
"Bitch." He growled and I immediately felt Javier take a step closer, his warmth enveloping me.
"Don't talk to her like that." He said softly, in his voice a threat of violence to come.
Jarrod's eye flicked over my shoulder, "What, you don't like how I talk to the little dyke?" He asked, obviously goading Javier.
Javier's chest pressed against my back with the next step and I could feel the tension in his body; he was strung so tight I knew that a fight was about to erupt. Which I desperately didn't want to happen; I didn't want him to get in trouble and I didn't want him him to be violent in front of Lulu. She had finally found a guy that she wasn't terrified of, I couldn't let Jarrod take that away from her. I couldn't let Javier be goaded into losing her trust.
I straightened to my complete five feet and eight inches, narrowed my eyes, and took a step closer to Jarrod; using my body to stop whatever was about to happened between the two. "Jarrod, Jarrod, Jarrod... You really need to watch yourself, I am just waiting for a reason to beat the crap out of you. The only reason I've been holding off is because you haven't healed from my brother yet." I shot him a tight smile, "Don't push your luck."
"You think I'm afraid of you?" He growled.
"You should be." I replied, my voice low. "You hurt someone I love and that was a mistake." I took another step closer, until I was toe to toe with him. "See, you've made an enemy in me and that's never good."
"I could destroy you."
"Really? How? I don't give a damn about the social scene here, I think you're an idiot therefore your opinion means squat to me, and I really don't care about the greater majority of my peers here or how they feel about me. How are you going to destroy me? The only power you hold is social power and that, as well as you, means nothing to me. Absolutely nothing." I looked at him pityingly, "You are only as important as someone thinks you are, and I don't find you important. So I am unable to take a threat from you seriously Jarrod. It's just too bad."
He looked uncomfortable at that, but rolled his eyes. "Whatever. You think you mean anything to me?"
"Unfortunately for you, what I can do to you publicly means a lot to you." I turned my gaze to Ben, "Benny boy, I take it that you didn't share my warning with any of your friends?" He swallowed hard and I shook my head, "Stupid move."
"What warning?" Ulysses asked, staring at me skeptically.
I grinned, "I was just reminding Greene that I'm a bully first and foremost, and that you all should try to remember that. Because I'll only be too happy to show you what it's like to be bullied."
"You really think we're going to honestly be afraid of you?"
I smiled and walked over to him, putting my hand on his shoulder. "Yes, I think you will be." I replied and then applied force to the pressure point there. He immediately grimaced in pain. I let go and grabbed Javier's hand. "See you later boys." I said flippantly and then led Javier over to the table where my friends were.
"That was great." Nikki said with a grin, "Ulysses is still rubbing his shoulder."
"Jarrod looked nervous." Ellen said quietly and Lulu reached over to her and rubbed her shoulder.
"Hey cousin, what are you doing here?" Bree asked as she finally made it to the table. I glanced back at Javier, something that I had been trying not to do during the whole exchange and quickly dropped my hold on his hand. His dark eyes caught mine and he stared at me with his soul weary gaze, seeming to be attempting to figure something out.
"Rosie's welcoming him into the fold." Nikki said, answering Bree's question. "Finally."
"About time!" Bree exclaimed brightly.
"Why?" Javier asked softly, his eyes having yet to release mine.
I swallowed hard, "Maybe I'm tired of you not standing up for yourself."
He nodded his head slightly and the intensity in his eyes dimmed a bit, no longer holding me captive. For a brief moment a look of pain covered his face and I could all but feel him pulling away from me. He shuttered the intensity in his eyes and turned his gaze away from me and I realized in that moment that I had said the wrong thing. One too many times I had said the wrong thing and now he was defending himself against me.
I hurt him.
I've hurt him over and over again.
The back of my eyes burned as I thought back to the pictures that had lined the wall of his stairway; the look in his eyes that had been haunting me since last night. I had hurt the boy who couldn't hide his pain from a school photographer. I had hurt the boy who had screamed for help silently... And I kept hurting him. To the point where he was trying to hide the pain in his eyes...something he had never tried to do before.
What is wrong with me?
How did I turn into...this?
I spent the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening thinking over those two questions, and by eleven at night I still had no answers. So I decided to turn to the woman who always had answers (since I don't feel like I can talk freely with Jere about...what happened, well what almost happened). Even though I don't like to lean on others, even though I love to pretend that I'm Superwoman, even though I'm the one that comes in with the Kleenex... I...I'm not. I saved my friends, I am there for them, I advocate for others, but...I'm not Superwoman.
I've protected myself for so long and...and I'm not sure that I even know how to let down my own walls anymore. I...I'm broken. I won't allow anything to touch me, to hurt me, but I'm protecting something that has already been broken. Shattered. Protecting fiercely, kind of rabidly, something that is no longer whole, and he still managed to find his way in.
He still got in.
"I rushed over as fast as I could." Lulu announced, walking into my room and shrugging out of her winter coat. Underneath it she wore a pair of gray pajama bottoms that had sock monkeys on them and a long sleeved tee with a huge winking monkey on it. Her long black hair was mussed, but not as crazily as mine got when I fell asleep. Kicking off her boots, she walked across my room and crawled into bed with me, not even seeming surprised at my tear stained face.
"I'm not Superwoman." I whispered, my eyes filling with tears anew.
"You don't have to be." She replied softly, rubbing my back and reassuringly.
"I feel like I h-have to be." I choked out, tears falling freely down my face. "I don't know any other way to be."
"Rowe...you expect too much of yourself." Lulu said softly, handing me a packet of Kleenex that she had pulled out from a pocket in her pajama bottoms. "You aren't superhuman, you're as human as the rest of us."
I sniffled, staring into her kind and patient eyes. She smiled at me softly and brushed a strand of hair out of my eyes and I immediately began to sob. "I don't feel like my problems should be anything the rest of you have to deal with, and...when I think of what you've been through I feel so small."
"Hey." She said, "No comparing scars, okay?"
I wiped at my eyes with the Kleenex and then took a deep, shaky breath. "Just breathe." I whispered softly and she nodded her head.
It was what I had told her after, after she finally told me what Ivan was doing to her. What I had told her when we had called the cops on him. What I had told her when she had spent a year after crying, empty, and depressed. But most importantly...it was what I told her when Jade and I found her passed out on the bathroom floor...having tried to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping pills.
Lulu is the strongest girl I know for so many reasons, but the fact that she picked herself up after having tried to commit suicide and decided to live...? That is the moment I realized that she was forever the strongest person in the room – in every room. She was strong enough to live through Ivan's violence and she was strong enough, fierce enough, to live through the devastation of that relationship.
She forever says that her suicide attempt was a moment of weakness, and in the next breath I tell her that living through it was her strongest moment. She fought to live, she didn't give up. Jere calls her 'Phoenix' and it's apt; she rose from the ashes reborn and stronger than ever before.
"I love him." I whispered softly, "And I'm afraid to."
She nodded her head, once again not surprised. "Javier is not like them, you know that right?"
I bit my bottom lip and glanced away from her, "On some level...but that's not the side of me that has much power. It's not the part of me that I'm listening to."
"I get it." She whispered, "I mean, it's obviously not the same thing, but I understand. I...care about Javier and I trust that he won't hurt me...but I'm so jumpy around him. It takes a lot of energy to not let it show. But..." She sighed, "Today we went shopping with him and Ellen kept trying to put him in these tight shirts – which he did, because she's Ellen. And...and he's really toned, he...he could hurt someone without trying too hard."
My mind flashed back to his beautiful chest and I tried to view it in the light that Lulu did, and I had to agree. What I had seen as a work of art, she would inevitably see as a weapon. One that could be turned against her at a moment's notice. His muscular and toned arms would hold enough force to break her bones, his obvious strength could pin her to the ground and keep her from moving. His hands could press against her mouth and silence her screams.
God, it has to be so hard to live with a mindset like that.
"Oh Lulu," I murmured, wrapping her into a tight hug. "He's not Ivan."
"I know that, but I can't help but think...what if?"
I squeezed her tighter, "I don't think there is a 'what if' with him."
"Then...what if it's possible that there's no 'what if' for you?"
I released her and wiped at my eyes again, "I don't want to be left again, Lu."
"Not every man will leave you."
I shook my head, "You don't know that."
She smiled crookedly at me, "I know, but it's a version of what I say to myself every day: not every man will beat me. Not every man that looks at me with interest is thinking of raping me." A lone tear made its way down her face, her light eyes full of others waiting to follow the same path. "It's so weird... I want to be in love, I want to have someone that I can one day spend the rest of my life with, but..." She shrugged helplessly, "I can't imagine it happening. So I just invest myself in the rest of your lives, the rest of your relationships. And Rowe, I want love for you so badly. You deserve it, you deserve for a man to be everything you ever wanted."
"Lulu, you are the more deserving party of love in this room."
She shook her head, "In that aspect I am broken beyond repair. Rowe, think about losing him, think about how that would make you feel. I saw how you looked at him in the lunchroom today, you looked devastated when he turned away from you."
I balled up my comforter in my hands and took another calming breath, already feeling the unset of another crying jag. "It's sick: I don't want to risk letting him know how I feel, but I also don't want him to give up on me."
"Isn't that brushing on what you were talking about earlier on the phone?"
I nodded my head, "How did I turn into the girl that can hurt someone that's already hurt, over and over again?"
"Your heart was broken."
"I used to be the one that helped everyone. I would rather cut off my arm than hurt someone that was already broken."
I shook my head, "That shouldn't matter."
"But it does." She grabbed either side of my face and angled my head towards hers. "This is your heart we are talking about. Your heart was broken and for the first time you want to put it into jeopardy in order to help another."
"Then I'm just being selfish."
"You're being too hard on yourself again." She replied, dropping her hold on me. "You don't know how to save Javier without giving him your heart. You love him and it terrifies you and you know that if you help him, he's going to have the power to hurt you like Joe hurt you before."
I shook my head, "No." I said softly, "If I give him my heart he'll be able to hurt me much worse than Joe ever did."
She smiled, "The hopeless romantic in me finds that adorable."
I rolled my eyes, "Yeah, well I find it petrifying."
She was silent for a long moment, the only sound my sniffling as I tried to pull myself together. Then she cleared her throat and I turned my gaze to her. "He's miserable right now."
I frowned, "What?"
"Today when we took him shopping, besides making a few comments about feeling like a life sized Ken doll, he wasn't acting like himself. He was quiet and brooding more than usual."
"Why did you take him shopping?" I asked, finally paying more attention to the announcement. Before I had been more focused on her fear of his body than on my actual curiosity about why Javier was with them trying on skin tight shirts.
"Because we felt the need to start helping...you were taking too long to decide that he needed help."
My heart lurched at that and I immediately felt ashamed. "Oh."
"I'm not judging, you've been through a lot when it comes to guys. It makes sense that you wouldn't – "
" – Act like myself?" I interrupted, "Selfishly protect myself instead of helping those in actual need?"
"Okay, once again you are being too hard on yourself. And you were protecting someone in need." She declared, her light green eyes free of judgment...just as they always were.
"I have to fix this." I whispered in a hoarse tone, "I have to help him."
She smiled, "And you will."
"I may have to beat up some people." I replied, looking at her intently.
She rolled her eyes, "I'm not afraid of your violence, Rowe."
Just the violence of everyone else...
"Thank you...it's just...he won't protect himself, why won't he protect himself?"
"Not everyone stands up to bullies like you do, some of us are too scared. Which they can smell, like blood in the water."
"Bastards." I muttered darkly, "I'll give them blood in the water."
Lulu frowned and gnawed on her bottom lip for a moment, "You're getting a little scary."
"I've got a boy to protect." I said fiercely and then frowned, my voice softening. "A boy that I love and don't feel like I can do anything about that, but at least I can protect him...right?"
She nodded, "Right." She smiled at me for a moment and then leaned over and wrapped me in on of her rare hugs. "Thank you for coming to me with this." She said softly, "It hurts us when you don't, you know. It feels like you don't trust us."
"That's not it at all – " I started.
" – I know, I know. You're too used to being the savior, you don't know how to be the one that needs saving."
I closed my eyes, "I don't mean to hurt you. I'd never want to hurt any of you."
She patted my back, "We know." She squeezed me tight and then let me go, "And thanks again, I just...sometimes I feel like you think I'm too weak to handle some things."
I stared at her and then laughed, "Oh Lulu, how wrong you are." I patted her shoulder, still laughing. "I think you are the strongest girl I'll ever know, which is why I came to you." I smiled at her, "You're not broken Lulu, I promise you."
She smiled, "You're not broken, I promise you."
A/N: Hmm...they were going to ramble on a bit longer (well, not ramble) but I felt like this was a stronger end to the chapter. She has a very close relationship with her friends and they are all seriously invested in this relationship. But you all know that already. Hope you enjoyed reading! Finally, some major headway! And you got to see Rosaline in action. She's a little on the violent side, I'll admit, but her ways can be very effective and right now Javier is in desperate need of effective.
So, during my long MIA period this time I was pretty much hiding my writing from my family. I had the honor of being a part of Project Fondle (at DropofRomeo dot webs dot com) and made the mistake of telling my mom. Well, not the mistake, but as soon as I told her it felt like everyone in my family wanted to read my writing. Which was...awkward. Especially since my seventy-five year old grandmother seriously wants a copy of one of my stories. Oh, and my seventy-three year old grandfather keeps reminding me that he's expecting a copy in his email at some point (well...he expected it last week...). And my mom wants a copy of them all, and it goes on an on. Moreover, for someone that's not a fan of being in the spotlight, it's been a really weird month.
I've seriously got to buy some more ink for my printer. Lots of it.
Anyway, thanks for reading! (And for those of you who read the excerpt of this story in my interview: that's coming in the next chapter!) Now to go work on one of my three ignored stories as well as more chapters for this one and Thatcher and Nadine's story. ; )