Wiping tears from her cheeks, Divia took a deep breath. He had to be alright she thought as she took off across campus. She made a list of the things she needed to do before she left. The professors she needed to contact regarding the papers that were due. It hardly mattered since she changed her major. Most of her classes she took this past year wouldn’t help her towards her goal.
Her feet seemed to have a mind of their own as she hurried towards her dorm. The peace she had found earlier was gone. A growing dread threatened to engulf her. What if her dad died? What if she was never able to tell him how much she love him?
She regretted all the years she had spent being in awe of him. Too afraid to displease him. She should have been more outgoing, more of the daughter he wanted instead of the one he didn’t understand. She had the uncomfortable feeling that she hadn’t been fair to him. She had been too ready to point the blame at him. To tell everyone how he didn’t understand her. She hadn’t tried to understand either. She may never get a chance to show him how much she cared about him.
She burst into her room. The door banging loudly into the wall behind her. Teasha jumped up eyes puffy and red. Identical to how Divia was sure she looked like. “What happened?” they cried together.
“You first” Divia said closing the door. Concern for her friend overriding her fears about her father.
Teasha took a deep breath before opening her mouth to respond. Only sobs came out. Divia moved across the room wrapping her arms around the girl. “It’ll be ok. Whatever it is it’ll be ok.”
Shaking her head Teasha gulped “no no it won’t.” She clung to Divia. Her fingers digging into her back “he’s dead….”
“No he’s in surgery” Divia protested “mom would have told me if he had died.”
“I heard it” Teasha gulped “on the radio.”
Stuffing the panic rising inside her Divia frowned. “Why would my dad’s accident be on the radio?”
“What accident?” Teasha sniffed hearing Divia for the first time since she came home.
“My dad” Divia repeated “was in a bike accident. He’s in surgery. He might not make it. I have to go home.”
“I’m so sorry” Teasha stammered “I didn’t know.”
“Who were you talking about?” Divia asked as dread filled her as Teasha pulled away from her. She could see the distress written all over her friends face. Holding her hand around the girls face “it’s not Zach is it? He wasn’t in an accident was he?” Panic filled her voice as a hundred different scenarios played out in her head.
“No not Zach” Teasha shook her head . “Phoenix his….” she gulped or air “his plane went down over the ocean.”
“Oh honey” Divia pulled her close letting Teasha cry on her shoulder “I’m so sorry.”
An hour later Teasha raised herself from her bed. Sniffling she wiped her nose on her sleeve. “I’m coming with you.”
“What about class?” Divia asked from her side of the room “don’t you have a test next week?”
“I wont be able to concentrate” the girl complained.
“Honey don’t throw your education away” Divia said coming to sit beside the upset girl. Handing her a Kleenex she continued “going home won’t make you feel any better.”
“I know” she blew her nose “I wish there was something I could do.”
“The best thing you can do is to stay in school,” Divia said “I have to home. Mom needs me.”
“You’re right but what if he’s…” she stopped shuddering. “I never got to tell him how much I loved him.”
“I know honey” Divia rubbed her friends back. “You have to accept this is why he broke up with you before he left. He didn’t want to put you through this pain.”
“It didn’t work” she sniffed. “I’m still hurting. Still waiting to know if he’s alright. I can’t just turn my feelings off.”
“Then prove to him that you can be a good military wife.” She spoke with a firmness she seldom showed. “Pull yourself together. Do what needs to be done.”
Teasha looked up through her tears “you’ve changed.”
Shrugging Divia glanced away, “not really. I’ve been to unsure of myself and what I wanted to be myself. It’s time I took control of my life. I can’t wait for someone else to hang the moon for me.”
“You can’t give up on love either” Teasha protested letting concern for her friend rise above her own misery.
“Oh I won’t” looked at her hands “it’s just not a priority anymore. I have to find happiness within myself first before looking for it in someone else.”
“I’m sorry” Teasha mumbled getting up to help Divia pack. “I’ve been a terrible friend. So wrapped up in my own problems. I didn’t even ask you about Marzia.”
“There’s not much to tell” Divia said softly. “She left and I don’t know why.”
“I’m sorry” Teasha squeezed her tight. “I should have been a better friend.”
“Don’t worry about it” Divia sniffed “it’s not the end of the world.”
“If you need to talk” Teasha offered “I’m here.” Looking at the boxes “how are you going to get home?”
“Rent a car I guess” Divia shrugged “I haven’t given it much thought.”
“I’ll drive you” Teasha said “no objections. Tomorrow is Friday. I don’t have class until Monday. I’ll go for the weekend. Visit my parents. Hopefully stay busy so I don’t think too much.”
“I accept” Divia said relieved that detail was taken care of. “You should tell Zach you’re leaving.”
“Maybe he’ll want to come with us” Teasha smiled “I doubt it though.”
“At least offer” Divia sighed wishing she had siblings to share in this crisis.
Teasha knocked on her brother’s door. “Zach you in there?” she put an ear to the door listening for movement. Frowning she lifted her hand to knock again. It sounded like someone was crying or moaning. “Zach” she shouted pummeling the door “let me in.”
She fell forward when the door was jerked open. Waylon stood in front of her, hair topsy turvey, shirt untucked and ripped. “Is that blood?” Teasha demanded staring wide-eyed at his appearances.
“It’s not mine” he mumbled.
“Zach” she cried pushing past him “where’s Zach?”
Waylon slapped the door following her. “He doesn’t want a lot of fuss.”
“He’s hurt” she pointed at the blood stains on Waylon’s shirt “where is he?”
“I’m taking care of him” Waylon glared at her.
“He’s my brother” she shouted whirling around confronting the man. “I want to know what happened.” She stared at the young man standing in front of her. The grazed bruised knuckles on his hands. The blood stains on his shirt. His insistence that Zach was ok made her wonder. What if this seemingly nice guy had hurt him. “I’m not leaving until I see him.”
“I didn’t…you think…” Waylon seemed to wilt in front of her. “I would never hurt him.”
“Why won’t you let me see him?” she demanded “he’s been hurt before by someone he thought loved him.”
“He’s in the closet,” Waylon waved towards the door “he won’t come out. He crawled in there as soon as I got him home.”
“What happened?” she demanded walking towards the door. She choked back a sob upon what she saw. The last time Zach had crawled into a closet and refused to come out was right after he came home from the hospital. She had found him in his bedroom closet crying. The closet had become his safe place. The place he retreated to when the world became too much to handle.
“Dexter Gage happened” Waylon shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m gonna kill him.” He strode towards the door slamming it shut behind him sending a few pictures crashing to the floor.
Teasha stared at the door stunned by the raw anger that washed over her. Turning back to the closet she knelt beside her brother who was curled up into tight ball on the floor. “Zachie” her voice squeaked as she pulled him to her.
“I want to go home” he mumbled “please take me home.”
“If that’s what you want,” she rubbed her hands along his back feeling the sobs rocking his body. “I’ll help you pack.” There was no point in arguing or demanding he talk to her. He would tell her what happened eventually in his way in his own time.
“Thank you” he mumbled following her out of the closet.
She gasped upon seeing his battered face in the light. Blood dried cake on one side of his face. His bottom lip was swollen. When he talked she could tell he hand some broken or loose teeth. “Did he do that to you?” her hands shook. She wanted to follow Waylon and make sure he gave Dexter exactly what he had coming to him.
Tracing a hand across his face Zach winced. “I’m ok,” his voice flat emotionless.
“No you’re not” she walked towards him “I’m taking you to the hospital.”
“No” he jerked away from her. His words slurred from the swollen lip “home. I want to go home.”
“We’ll go home after you see a doctor” she took his arm “I promise we’ll go home tomorrow.” She steered him towards the door.
Shaking his head he started to back away “no. No I won’t go. It’s not safe.”
“Zach please” she pleaded as he retreated towards the closet. At least let me clean you up a bit.”
Twenty minutes later she had gotten most of the dirt and blood removed from his face. In the back of her mind she hoped that Waylon had found Dexter and given him a beating within and inch of his life.
“I’m sorry” Zach said speaking for the first since she began.
“It’s not your fault” she assured him
He shuddered “if I had done was I was told.” He stopped glancing away.
Teasha wanted to shout at him to tell him to talk to her. She knew that would have the opposite effect on him. She willed herself to be patient. She had to let him tell her in his own way in his own time.
“He he dragged me with the bushes” Zach began again shivering “he he….kkkkissed me.” He lifted his eyes. “I told him to stop.” Tears rolled down his cheeks “I begged him to stop.”
“I’m going to kill him” Teasha cried repeating the same words Waylon had as he ran from the room earlier. How could someone like that exist? How could he claim to love someone then terrorize them? It didn’t make sense. Her brother wouldn’t hurt a fly. He didn’t deserve this. No one did.
“I…I hit him” his voice broke through her dark thoughts “I wanted him to stop.” He stared at his hands. “I just kept hitting him and hitting him.” He took a gulp of air “I hurt him. I couldn’t stop hitting him.”
“Zach honey” Teasha took a mirror from her bag. “Look” she demanded holding the mirror out to him “it was self-defense. Dexter hurt you too. He would have done worse if you hadn’t stood up for yourself.” She watched him as he explored the bruises on his face. “It’s not your fault,” she repeated.
“I just” he swallowed “I didn’t think…”
She could see the tears building behind his eyes again “it’s alright. It’s a terrible thing what he did to you. I’m so proud of you.”
His light blue eyes moved towards her “proud of me?”
Nodding she squeezed him tight “you fought back. You refused to be a helpless victim. You are so much more than you believe.”
He gave her a lopsided grin. He had never seen himself like that before. “Waylon…where is he?”
“I don’t know” she said.
“He’s looking for Dexter isn’t he?” He staggered to his feet “we have to find him. He’s going to do something stupid.”
“Alright I’ll look for him” she assured him. She followed him towards the door.
“I’m with you” he asserted when she tried to stop him.
“Absolutely not,” she protested pushing him lightly towards the bed. “I’ll find you. You stay and pack.”
Zach sat on the bed staring at the closed door. Mustering all his strength he staggered from the room. He had to find Waylon before it was too late. He couldn’t let him do something he’d regret for the rest of his life. Teasha meant well but she didn’t know Waylon the way he did. Didn’t know that Waylon would do anything to protect him.
Heart pounding Zach stopped on the edge of the dormitory grounds. He stared across the road towards the bridge. He took several deep breaths before venturing towards the dark unlit field across the street. He was following his instinct that Waylon would be out there looking for traces of Dexter. He wouldn’t find any. He was sure of that.
The long grass rubbed against his pants legs leaving them damp with dew. Closing his eyes he listened for sounds that he wasn’t alone. A rustling to his left had him jumping backwards until he realized it was a small rodent moving in the long grass. Taking several deep breaths he continued towards the river’s edge. The last place he had seen Dexter.
A loud splash almost had him running for cover. A familiar voice demanded “what the hell are you doing here?”
“Looking for you” Zach squeaked as he felt Waylon’s arms wrap around him. Soon he felt Waylon’s lips softly caressing the nape of his neck. His breath caught in his throat as he choked out “I love you.”
Waylon gently turned so he could bring his lips to the blond’s mouth. Careful not to move too fast or to hurt him. A soft moan escaped from Zach when Waylon pulled back to gaze into his eyes. “I was afraid I had lost you,” he ran his fingers through Zach’s hair.
“I’m here” Zach whispered resting his cheek against Waylon’s chest.
“Don’t ever leave me,” Waylon pleaded.
“I wish I didn’t have to” Zach closed his eyes regretting his poor choice of words. Waylon’s arms dropped from around him. Zach walked towards the river’s edge sighing. How cold was the water he wondered? It was still early spring. Would it be cold enough to give someone hypothermia before they drowned? “I’m going home. I can’t stay here….”
“I’m going home too” Waylon put his arms around the blond again. He moved slowly knowing how easily Zach was startled. “My Uncle needs my help on the ranch.”
“This doesn’t have to be the end” Zach said turning in Waylon’s embrace. “We still have tonight and I could come to visit.”
Waylon chuckled a little the sound a little sad in the cool crisp air. “You’d never survive on a ranch.”
“I could try” Zach murmured “I’d try anything for you.”
“No” Waylon shook his head firmly. “It wouldn’t do for either of us making drastic changes for the other.” As much as they both didn’t want to say it. It felt like goodbye.
“I know” Zach sighed tentatively putting his arms around Waylon’s waist. I placed soft kisses along Waylon’s neck and jaw line. “I want you to love me.”
With a low moan of assent Waylon gently guided them to the dew drenched ground. He hovered over the blond seeing the desire and acceptance in his light blue eyes before he lowered his mouth to Zach’s lips.