Divia sat alone absorbing the early morning sun. She had been home for over a month now. It had been touch and go with her dad for the first week. When he opened his eyes and stared without recognition at her and her mom it almost broke her heart. Divia thought she’d lose it. Where the strength came from to hold her mom as she wept on her shoulder she had no clue. Inside all she wanted to do was run away and never come back.
That was three weeks ago. His memory had improved since then. It was still fuzzy. Certain events he still didn’t remember like the accident itself. Divia thought that was a blessing. Who would want to remember something that traumatic?
She leaned back her eyes closed. Her face tilted towards the sun. A slight smile upon her face. Today was the first day of his physical therapy. She hoped her dad wouldn’t be difficult and argue with the therapist. She knew how temperamental he could be especially when he was in pain or embarrassed. When he was both who knew what he was capable of? Liono hated to appear weak in front of anyone. It was worse when it was his family and friends. For weeks his visitors had been tip toeing around his room afraid of saying or doing something wrong. Not an easy task Divia knew from experience. Depending on his mood anything might spark an argument.
“Excuse me” a soft exotic voice said above her head “is someone sitting here?”
“Oh” Divia murmured opening her eyes “sorry.” She scooted over making room for the someone else to sit.
“Thank you” the voice said sounding grateful “sorry for disturbing you. I just really needed to get off my feet.”
“No problem” Divia was quick to say. She took a glance over at the person she was sharing a bench with. Her acquaintance was the exact opposite of what she imagined she’d look like based off her voice. The young woman had dark wavy hair tumbling past her shoulders. There were streaks of an unspecified color that may have been the result of a failed highlight job. It was the woman’s eyes that were remarkable. They were hidden behind thick dark frames but their soft mahogany glow shone through. Divia found herself staring longer than seemed polite.
The woman laughed breaking the spell Divia was under. “Do I have a booger coming out my nose or something?” the woman asked. Her smile was genuine as she self-consciously wiped a hand over and around her nose.
“No no I’m sorry” Divia mumbled as her cheeks grew hot.
“I’d prefer it if someone told me if there were” she flashed her a toothy grin “I’d hate to find out later I was walking around with a big old booger hanging from my nose. People may think its impolite to say something but it’s so much worse to let someone walk around like that.”
Divia found herself relaxing around her and laughing along with her. Glancing at the time she sighed “I should be going. My dad’s about to start physical therapy and I have to be there.”
Frowning the woman stood up as well. “From my experience patients usually don’t want their family around.”
“I know” Divia shrugged glancing away. Her eyes moving around the serene garden like park wishing she could bottle the peace she felt there. “My dad isn’t very….cooperative. He may need me there to keep him somewhat civil.” Turning back to her companion she said “he wouldn’t want to appear weak in front of me.”
“Ok” the woman nodded seeming to have filed what she said away “I guess I’ll be seeing you later than.”
“You might” Divia agreed thinking the woman was there visiting another patient.
Twenty minutes later Divia sat unobtrusively to the side while her dad went through the paces. He grunted in pain. Never once complaining. Maybe it was her presence or maybe the fact his therapist was young and pretty. Divia knew her eyes almost popped from their eye sockets when her acquaintance from outside came into the room in a lab coat introducing herself as Renee Hauske, physical therapist.
As the interns helped her dad into his wheelchair. Renee smiled brightly at her “I knew we’d meet again” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
Divia swallowed as her hands suddenly felt clammy. She could feel the woman’s eyes watching her in a way that made her pulse race. Her mouth felt dry as she croaked out her own name in response.
“It’s nice to meet you Divia” the calm self-assured woman smiled again before turning her full attention to her father.
Divia’s ears perked up when she heard her dad’s deep voice ask “are you married?” Inwardly she groaned. Why did older people feel the need to ask personal information about someone’s relationship status upon meeting them?
“I was engaged” Renee’s soft exotic voice replied “it didn’t work out obviously.” she laughed waving her empty finger around.
“His loss” Liono chuckled with her.
“We wanted different things” Renee sighed “she lives in Sunset Valley with her new girlfriend now.”
Divia held her breath leaning forward listening for her dad’s response. Would he be repulsed by having a lesbian therapist? She knew he had gay friends but for whatever reason he never struck her as being very accepting of them.
“Give it time” he advised her “you’ll find the girl eventually.”
“It’s been almost three years” she objected “all I seem to attract are jerks.”
“Maybe you like jerks” Liono said with a grin and a sparkle in his eyes.
Laughing Renee shook her head “you might be right.” She helped him back into his chair.
“That’s all for today Mr Marx. You did excellent today.”
Liono smirked as he caught sight of his daughter watching them. “My daughter’s single. Maybe you could ask her out,” he suggested.
“Dad” Divia protested walking towards them cheeks blazing with heat.
“What” he demanded innocently eyes shifting “did you think I didn’t know?”
“I” her eyes darted towards Renee “I never told you. How did you….”
“I’m not blind or an idiot” he grumbled but his eyes never lost their twinkle “did you think I wouldn’t approve?” Her silence spoke for her as he nodded in acceptance. “I want you to be happy. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Stepping back Renee suggested “maybe you’d like to take your dad to the garden where you can talk.”
Nodding Divia took her place behind her dad’s wheelchair. She didn’t knew what to say or even what she should be feeling. She felt somehow lighter like a heavy burden had been removed from her shoulders. Her dad loved her. He wasn’t mad like she expected him to be. To her astonishment he had tried to set her up with his therapist. Tears stung her eyes blurring her vision.
“Are you crying?” Liono asked his voice betraying his irritation he felt around anyone crying.
“Sorry” she mumbled slowly pushing him towards the bench she had shared with Renee earlier that day.
“Divia I’m not upset I wish…” he sighed “I wish you’d own your feelings. If you feel angry be angry. If you feel like crying than cry. Don’t let me or anyone else dictate how you feel.” He fell silent while Divia sat down on the bench facing him. He reached over took her hand “I know I’ve been hard on you. I’m sorry. I thought if I pushed you enough you’d stand up for yourself.” He squeezed her hand “I guess that’s not what you needed and I’m sorry.”
Something broke inside her. Like a chunk of ice had fallen away from her heart. “Daddy” she cried throwing her arms around “I love you so so much and I’m sorry I doubted you.”
Hesitantly at first he raised his arms to hold her. “Does this mean I have a green light to set things up with Renee?”
“Oh daddy you’re impossible” she cried into his shoulder feeling she’d let him do whatever he wanted as long as she knew he loved her.
Zach stared out the window. The busy sidewalk showed people going about their everyday lives. Some wore dresses, some were in business suits, others in t-shirts and jeans. Mothers with babies in strollers. Others were carrying multiple bags from their shopping excursions. All normal. Zach couldn’t help but wonder what was behind the smiles. What monsters lurked within? Who went home and hurt the ones they loved?
Shivering he turned away from the window. He found his therapist watching him. Her eyes following his every movement making feel conspicuous. He crossed his arms in front of himself wishing he were a turtle so he could hide within his shell. He watched her lips twitch as she jotted down something inside her notebook.
He watched the pen she wrote with. For a moment he wondered how she could write with her arm curled up like that. It seemed very awkward but a lot of left-handed writers appeared to write like that. It was something that he’d always noticed, had tried to copy but couldn’t.
When she was done she twirled the pin around, appearing to be in deep thought. “What were you thinking about when you gazed out the window?” she asked after several minutes of silence.
The sound of her voice caught Zach off guard. The intake of his breath was loud in the silent room. He shook his head slowly his hair flying around his face “nnothing” he stammered. He could feel her gaze on him making him squirm.
“Zach if you want my help you need to talk to me” the woman’s voice was gentle to Zach’s ears.
“Are you really as nice as you appear?” he asked his voice low, cautious.
She raised her chin to acknowledge she heard his question. “What makes you think I might not be?” she countered his question with one of her own.
He pressed his spine into the hard backed chair he sat in. He glanced furtively around the room stopping on the exit door. His dad was sitting just on the other side of that door. All he had to do was get up and walk through it and this would all be over.
“Zach” her voice was low barely loud enough to catch his attention. “Do you think about what people are hiding behind their smiles?”
Shocked he nodded “there’s a lot of evil hidden behind pleasant smiles.”
“It’s exhausting trying to figure out what someone’s hiding isn’t it?” she asked.
He nodded wondering how she knew. “You can’t tell” he mumbled. His eyes were vacant as he retreated further into himself.
He watched as she checked the time. She gave him a thin-lipped smile before placing her hands flat on top of her desk. “That’s it for today. We’ll see you on Friday” she said like a question giving him the option to say no.
He never did. He simply nodded as he moved towards the door wondering what if anything she learned about him and whether it was helping him or not.
Later that night Teasha slipped into his room. “How did it go?” she asked sitting on the edge of his bed her light blue eyes watching him.
Sitting up he shrugged “I don’t like her.”
“Tell daddy and he’ll find someone else” she suggested.
“It’s not that easy” he drew his knees up wrapping his arms around them. “She makes me say things I don’t want to think about.”
She gave him a quizzical look “that’s kind of what she’s supposed to do. It’s the only way she can help you.”
“I guess” he mumbled “are you home for good now?”
Teasha nodded “at least for the summer. I wish you’d change your mind and come back to school with me in the fall.” She saw the terrified look in his eyes “it’s not the same without you.”
“Waylon won’t be there” he sighed resting his chin on his hands a shudder shaking his shoulders.
“Have you heard from him lately?” she asked ruffling his soft blonde hair with her fingers.
“No” he almost wailed.
“He hasn’t called?” her voice sounded shocked.
“He has” Zach mumbled “I haven’t answered.”
“Why the hell not?” she demanded indignant on Waylon’s behalf.
Shrugging his shoulders he talked into his hands making his words hard to understand. “What’s the point? I’m here. He’s there. It’s over….”
She had to admit he did have a point. “You can still be friends” she said quietly.
“I don’t want to be friends” he closed his eyes images of their last night together replaying in his mind. A low moan escaped his lips as his body remembered the way Waylon’s hands ignited a fire within him.
“Zach you and he … you didn’t….” she gave him a piercing gaze “you did.” She was shocked. She wouldn’t have thought her brother would ever. Not after….”You didn’t just do it with Waylon because of Dex…”
He lifted his head up. Eyes blazing with hate “Dexter never touched me. He tried but I…” His throat constricted cutting off his voice.
“Alright” she replied calmly wondering what actually did happen between him and Dexter. No one had seen Dexter after that night. No she mentally chided herself. Her brother would never hurt anyone. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t. “At least tell me you and Waylon were safe.”
“Safe?” he looked at her eyes wide his tone confused.
“Yeah safe as in careful” she rolled her eyes at him “you know protection. Geez Zach do I have to spell it out for you.”
“Of course we…” his voice faltered he didn’t exactly remember. Had they used anything? “I don’t know” he admitted aloud “it’s not like we planned for it to happen. It just did.”
“Zach” she cried in exasperation “you’re an idiot.”
The magnitude of what he said started to sink in he asked “what am I going to do now?” His anxiety causing his voice to come out squeaky.
“The first thing you’re going to do is take a pregnancy test” she told him.
“Why?” he asked recoiling at the idea.
“Zach use your head” she bit her lip to keep from saying more. He was already in shock at the idea of being pregnant she had to be gentle if she wanted him to cooperate with her. “You know as well as I do you could be pregnant.”
“I know” he cried as the enormity of it pressed in around him choking off his air “All I wanted was to feel better. To feel loved. I didn’t think…”
“It’s going to be alright” she soothed pulling him close rocking him in her arms like she did when they were kids and he’d had a bad dream “we’ll figure this out together. I promise it’s going to be ok.”
“I’m sorry that you always have to take care of me” he muttered into her shoulder “everyone would be better off if I had jumped off the bridge that night.”
“What? What did you say?” she demanded pushing him from her shoulder. Holding his face between her hands “don’t you dare think that’s an option. I’d be lost without you. Our dads would be devastated. How do you think Waylon would feel? He loves you.”
Tears streamed down his face “I’m sorry. I try not to think about how awful everything is. How people hide who they are behind smiles. I wonder what evil lurks behind those smiles. I just want peace. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to die either. It’s just sometimes the dark thoughts surround me and I wonder if it’d be better to not have to think at all ever again.”
Shaking him she demanded “when these feelings come up call me. Call dad or daddy. Waylon or anyone else. We’ll drop everything and come to you. You’re not alone. You have people who care about you. Who want to help you.”
“I…” he turned away from her intense gaze “I don’t want to be a burden. You have lives to live. You don’t need me hanging around like a dead weight around your necks.”
“Then talk to that therapist. Tell her everything you just told me.” She pulled him close “you don’t have to suffer through this alone.”
“I’ll try” he said “I promise I’ll try.”