Chapter Three: Reality is a Bitch
Savannah leaned back on the edge of the desk, feet braced against the floor. Notes scattered across the large desk's surface and work sheets piled up after ignoring them for the last three nights. Deciding the spare period given to her was ample opportunity to catch up, she got to work immediately.
After a while, however, her motivation diminished and boredom invaded her numbed senses.
"I could always go home and chill…" she said to the empty library.
Beyond the glass windows, raindrops pounded against its smooth surface.
Her eyelids lowered. Maybe she should go home… She shook her head. No, she couldn't go home yet. At least one homework assignment needed to be finished.
In the distance, Savannah heard footsteps ascending the spiral staircase, but wasn't sure where they headed since the carpeted flooring muffled each step. She watched for anyone's approach but the sparse yellow lights in her wing provided little illumination. Most of the light came from the window, but was no help. Only dim gray light streamed through the foggy glass. She checked the ancient clock nailed above a book shelf. She'd been there for twenty minutes. She wondered who would be out of class in the middle of a period.
She picked up her book once more, ignoring the new presence but dropped it when a figure appeared at the corner of her eyes.
The sound of the book hitting the floor echoed throughout the wing.
An expression of surprise, the only thing she gave.
"Hello, small fry." The boy stepped toward her, slow.
Her eyebrows furrowed when she noticed he wore no coat, so his white uniform and bag were wet. Water droplets fell from wet chunks of unbound dark strands. "Alex, what are you—"
He stood in front of her, unsteady hands reached for her bare hands.
She flinched when his freezing fingers wrapped around hers. "What the heck? You're freezing!" She exclaimed, but didn't pull away.
"Shut up, small fry." His voice shook, perhaps, from the cold.
Savannah peered into dark blue eyes and shook her head. "Idiot, where's your coat? It's cold and wet out there." She froze when the hands grabbed the front of her shirt and pulled her closer. What was going on here? She laughed inwardly, unsure. "Where have you been, Alex, to get so wet?"
He shrugged. "I was on the roof."
"In this weather?"
He shrugged again. "Yeah, and? I needed some time to think, that's all."
She blinked once. "About what?"
Alex drew away from her, a lop-sided grin on his face. "Just about life. Now, I didn't come down here just to chit-chat." He left and grabbed an empty chair from one of the other tables and dragged it to hers. Afterwards, he dropped his bag onto the table with a heavy thud.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
He parked himself in the chair and rummaged through his bag. "I came here to study as you were doing before I came." His forehead wrinkled and he met her gaze. "Is there a problem with that?"
Savannah shook her head. "No, there's no problem. It's just, um; I thought you didn't want to be bothered with me."
His jaw clenched and he stared down his nose at her. "Did I ever say that?"
She sank low into her chair. "No."
"Then don't assume." He pulled a book and a black case from his bag and put them on the table. He opened the case and took out his reading glasses.
Savannah looked to the clock on the wall and smiled with a flush of relief. The spare period was over; time to head home. She rose to her feet and shoved her books and papers into her bag. "I have to go, Alex." She stopped and her face scrunched in concentration. "Oh!" Her face cleared. "Don't forget to go change out of that shirt before you get hypothermia." She went back to her frenzied rush.
"Why? I thought we were going to study together. And don't worry about my health. I hardly ever get sick."
She shoved another folder into her bag. "I have to be home before five."
"I'll walk you." He got up and packed his book away.
She paused in her rush and gazed at him, her mouth curved into an apologetic smile. "Uh, thanks for the offer, Alex, but I kind of live far and I don't want you—" Something connected with her forehead. She blinked and looked to her feet where the paper ball sat. "Uh…"
"Will you stop with your excuse?" he exclaimed.
Savannah met Alex's furious eyes. She noted his eyes seemed a much darker blue.
"I said that I will walk you home and that is what I intend to do, damn it!"
She frowned. "But I'm taking the bus."
Alex groaned a hand to his face. "So what?" The words came out muffled behind his hand. "I have an unlimited card. What's the big deal, small fry? What are you trying to hide from me?"
"I'm not hiding anything," was her quick response. She slapped a hand to her mouth, eyes wide. Oh damn it.
"Yeah, right!" he bragged. "You said that too fast and you covered your mouth right after. You're hiding something!"
She removed her hand from her mouth. She knew if she could blush, her cheeks would be several shades of red right then. "W-whatever, Alex." She cursed herself for her obvious trip in her words. Grabbing her bag, she pushed past him. She suffered enough embarrassment for today.
"Hey, wait up!"
"You better hurry up then!" She called over her shoulder, leaving the library.
Water sprayed everywhere as Savannah shook her umbrella dry. She stood beneath the house's canopy top and brushed off some water droplets on her uniform. She glanced to the boy.
Alex stood by the wet metal gate, his uniform soaked to the bone.
Earlier, she offered to share her umbrella with him but he declined. She wondered why he didn't go to his locker and grab his jacket, but thought better of asking. It wasn't any of her business why he did things a certain way. She took out her key, unlocked the door and turned to the boy. "Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow, Alex?"
He put a hand to his chest, eyes wide. "You're not gonna invite me inside?" He pouted, pushing his bottom lip out, exaggerated. "How rude, small fry."
She rolled her eyes and turned to the door. She moved to step inside but stopped. Her body tensed when warm air washed over her neck, raising goose bumps. She turned mid-way to meet him. "Why are you standing so close to me, Alex?" she asked, voice low.
He smiled. It wasn't a proper smile because there were no teeth. "I just wanted to say goodbye, small fry, that's all." He winked and left.
"Hey! Stop calling me that!"
All she received in return was a rich laugh.
Shaking her head, she entered the house, conversed in light conversation with her brother and left to climb the stairs to her room. She gathered her belongings and headed into the bathroom across the hall. Her recent dreams or nightmares more like it, returned to her suddenly. She sighed under the torrent spray of lukewarm water. Behind her closed eyes, she saw blood.
His journey home was quiet and lonely like it always was. He didn't think the absence of the schoolgirl was the cause, but he was reminded of days when he hadn't seen her. Those days, he thought, were lonelier.
Eventually, he reached the gates encasing his home, or rather his house, because 'home' implied there was warmth and love present in the structure. He looked at the mansion and thought it was nothing but a waste of unnecessary space, housing two strangers.
During dinner, as cutlery slid against smooth porcelain, Alex thought his loneliness never felt as great as it did then. Feelings he kept within amplified when he looked around the dining room and remembered about the empty seats.
His parents had gone missing when he was five years old. He never found out what happened. The police searched for them for two years but never came up with new evidence. The file was soon filed as a cold case. Since then, his older half-brother raised him.
"What is occupying your mind, Alexander?"
The deepness of his brother's voice startled Alex. The memories fell. His gaze met rust colored eyes. They were set in a pale face framed by shoulder-length, wild black hair. Alex blinked. He forgot for a moment his brother was there. With a shake of his head, he stuffed the forkful of food into his mouth. He hoped it would give him a good excuse to stop the conversation for at least a few minutes.
His brother grunted. "You usually argue with me from the moment you step foot into this house." He leaned forward onto his elbows and gave Alex a hard look. "Is there anything going on at school that I should know about?"
Alex grumbled under his breath and set his fork on his plate.
His brother sighed. "I see you want to start the silent treatment again, am I correct?"
He glared at him. "Why do you care anyway, David? You're too busy with your stupid business."
He was grateful to his brother (never let David know. He would never let him live it down) for allowing him to live with him, but as the years slowly bled together, they... drifted apart.
Truthfully, they weren't close in the first place, but now, all Alex felt for his older brother was irritation and an inkling of dislike. He was sure the feeling was mutual.
"Alexander, I am speaking to you."
Alex set his eyes on his brother. "What the hell do you want from me?"
David grinned. "Ah, now there's the Alexander I know."
The bastard, Alex thought; if he thought that that was funny, he should find this hilarious. Grabbing a meatball off of his plate, he threw it at his brother's face. It connected to his cheek, smearing sauce on it. "Ah, now there's the David I know!"
"Alexander! I cannot believe you—"
He ignored the rant. Dropping his cheek on his open palm, he listened with half an ear. Well, that was quite funny, he mused. Not something he would do every day, though.
"—and I am sick of having to tell you to stop smoking, Alexander. It is bad for your lungs. Do you want to die at an early age?"
He wiped the sauce off his hand with his napkin. "I'm not smoking."
David rolled his eyes. "Bullshit, Alexander. I can smell the smoke in your damn clothes. What do you take me for—an idiot? I was not born yesterday."
"Only God knows that, David," he said idly, as though he were talking about the weather.
With a heavy sigh, David said, "I suggest you go to your room, Alexander." He waved his hand in a dismissive manner towards the stairs in the living room.
Alex gave him a humorless smile. "Whatever you say, mommy." Pushing his chair back, he rose to his feet and walked out of the room. He heard his brother mumble something about him being impossible sometimes and smirked. He climbed the stairs to his bedroom and shut the door.
Lying on the cool sheet of his bed while tracing the shadows playing on the high plaster ceilings with his eyes, he hoped for a better day to follow such an empty one.
Staring into the darkness of her bedroom, Savannah turned onto her side, ready for sleep, but the moaning along with the sounds of a bed squeaking rhythmically burst into her consciousness. Oh hell, her aunt was at it again.
"Darryl! Oh, oh, there, right there..."
Savannah gritted her teeth and grabbed the ends of her pillow and pulled them over her ears. There was a slight scream and she pressed the ends closer. When was this ever going to end? she thought with a bitter undertone. She closed her eyes in hopes of blocking the disgusting noises from her mind.
The door opened.
Opening her eyes, Savannah sat up. She leaned onto her side and switched on her nightstand lamp. She looked to the doorway. "Spencer? What's wrong?" she asked.
Sniffing, he shook his head, black bangs hanging before his eyes. "I'm sorry, Savannah," he whispered. "I didn't mean to. I—"he hiccuped, "I tried to stop it, but—" he hiccuped again, "I couldn't. I'm so sorry, Savannah. I don't want Aunt Rachel to find out that I had another accident," he cried, his sobs growing in volume.
Oh, Spencer. With a sad smile, Savannah slid out of bed and moved to his side, pulling him into a hug.
His tears wet her exposed collarbone.
She cooed reassurance into his hair and rubbed his back. She cupped his wet cheeks, brushed the tears away and kissed his forehead. She received a smile of gratitude in return. "Now, I want you to calm down and rest, okay? I'll be right back."
He nodded again, went to her bed and crawled under the sheets.
Savannah smiled her approval and stepped out. Entering her brother's room, she closed the door, approached his bed and wrenched the soiled sheets free. She turned to throw them into the hamper that sat beside it.
Suddenly, a hand gripped her wrist.
"Savannah, what do you think you're doing?"
Her mind drew a blank. Her breathing rate increased; she trembled.
The hand tightened its grip. "I said, what do you think you are doing? Answer me when I'm speaking to you, you whore!"
"Uh..." She didn't know what to say. The hand spun her sharply around and she stared at her aunt.
She stood before her, dark robe opened, exposing her naked form. Her hair stood up in a frizz. She slid narrowed green eyes to the sheets held in her left hand. Her expression hardened into one of drunken rage and fury. "You were trying to cover up for that brother of yours, weren't you?"
Savannah shook her head.
Her aunt pulled her closer. "Answer me!"
"Please, it's not that big of a deal." Her voice lacked strength. She dropped the sheets on the floor. Staring at her aunt, her heart rate increased to almost ninety miles at her throat.
Her aunt dropped her grip and stared at her. Her voice dropped several decibels. "Not a big deal?" She backed away from her. "Not a big deal!"
She brought her head forward, her voice almost a growl. "We will see about that." With a tight smile, she turned to leave.
Savannah grabbed her aunt's arm and pulled her back into the room. "No! Leave Spencer alone, please, Aunt Rachel!" Tears pooled in her eyes.
Her aunt's eyes flashed and she slammed her fist into the side of her head.
She cried out.
Her aunt loomed over her, chin down. "Where do you think you get the audacity to disrespect me like that, you stupid, ungrateful girl? Huh!" She pushed her away.
Savannah hit the wall; she grunted and fell to her knees.
Her aunt closed the door. "You want to take his punishment, Savannah? Very well; it doesn't matter to me who gets it." She grabbed a leather belt from the top of the dresser. Her arm raised and the belt slapped against her leg.
She cried out.
The belt slammed against her thigh, leaving a bright red line.
Her leg lifted into the air. She fell onto her side and curled up into a ball.
She had to protect her brother.
Feeling a soft touch on her sweat-ridden shoulder, Savannah opened her puffy eyes. She sniffed and looked up to Spencer's face.
He rubbed at his eyes. "Savannah, are you okay?"
She wiped his tears away. "Yeah," she croaked. The aching of her body was too much. "I'm okay, sweetie. Is she gone?"
He nodded. "Yeah, Savannah, she left early this morning for a conference. You want me to fill the tub with some warm water?"
"Yes, I would like that, Spence. Thanks."
He nodded and climbed off the bed and walked to the bathroom.
Once he was gone, she cried into her pillow. She hadn't realize how much time passed until her brother announced the water was ready. She swabbed the tears away and left for the bathroom. She stepped inside and upon shutting the door; she wasted no time in ridding herself of her sleepwear. She lowered herself into the filled tub and allowed herself a sigh of contentment.
"You want me to wash your back?" Spencer asked.
She nodded and told him where the sponge was. "Don't touch my back, please. It's much too sore right now."
With a smile, she watched the steam rise to the ceiling and let her brain wander and contemplate.
She hated they had to live in fear each and every day.
She hated her aunt wouldn't see her as who she was anymore.
But... she hated herself for destroying everything.
The tears fell. She frowned and brushed in impatient strokes at her face. She wasn't going to cry again. She didn't want to cry. What was the point?
"Savannah, do you... do you think Aunt Rachel is going to hit me tonight?"
Savannah snapped out of her depressive thoughts and looked to her brother—the very brother since they came to live with their aunt, she sworn to protect with her life.
She frowned. "I won't let her, Spencer."
"Spencer, don't worry about Aunt Rachel. She will not touch you because I promise I will protect you with my very life. Now come here and give your big sister a kiss."
To Be Continued. . .
Seeing Through Tears. All rights reserved (c) 2012-2013