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4. Pain

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Maybe I should talk about my childhood. I’m having a sad day, so I’ll be a bit more open than before, well, perhaps. My parents were both good people, kind, caring; everything that good parents should be. My mom was an artist of sorts, she never really settled into one medium, she would change ideas with the hour. She didn’t devote herself to much for longer than a few days. But if she did, it was amazing. The marriage itself was an accomplishment. She met my father when she was young, maybe 18 or so. He had gotten a job in a tattoo parlor, he was still a new artist. He was 20 when she came into his life and never left. Never. Forever’s a hell of a long time, well, sometimes.

So they were bizarre indeed, but I loved them nonetheless. They were artistic, it was what they did. I picked it up along the way for the most part. It’s part of learning, of being a kid, growing up. You take up the characteristics that you’re exposed to. I picked up a love for art and a strong belief in it. My parents were very caring, they seldom truly fought, well, you know. All families bicker, but nothing big. They never went to sleep angry. They always had time to listen if we needed to talk. We – my sister and I.

Fayth was the oldest, my only sibling. My parents loved us both equally. Of course, being older, she had more options. There was always that slight rivalry, but we were close no matter what. She didn’t treat me like a child and she found time for me. Even when she started going around with Syrius, she’d let me hang around at times. Syrius was always nice to me, I don’t know if it was because he truly cared about me or just out of respect to Faye. I didn’t mind either way, he was just . . . great. Something about him set me at ease, it was somewhat comforting. That’s a separate rant. To begin –

Call it what you may, but I had immense respect for Syrius. He wasn’t afraid to be who he was, he never lowered himself or his standards. The opinion of other people meant little or nothing to him. Maybe it was pride, maybe something else, either way, he had that charm that made everyone seem drawn to him. He had it all going for him, and he knew it. A freak by nature, he was intimidating but still young and childish. He could go from hot to cold in a moment. There was just something there. He smiled a lot and you felt privileged for him to waste time on you; he was just so sure of everything. I thought that he was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen, he was the embodiment of everything I searched for in life. I wish that I could explain it better. He thought nothing of me, save that I was his girlfriend’s little sister, but I thought the world of him. He was comforting to be around. It’s hard to explain.

The rest of the gang were kind to me as a child, they were all like Syrius, though not as . . . great. Darius would go out of her way to check up on me, I thought that it was the coolest thing in the world. She’d drop by, talk to Faye, come into my room and talk a while. She’s a great listener, I respected her highly as well. I didn’t think much of Raine, he was just “there”. And my relationship with Draven took off later. To explain a little bit.

My sister didn’t go away – she died. It would be more accurate to say that she was killed, murdered. Some people thought suicide, but I knew better. The funeral was my first, my life changed at that point. I’m having trouble writing this because this is the truth; I’ve been telling stories for so long that I don’t remember the truth, well, I might. The funeral was horrific. A dark day, rain poured for weeks during and after her passing. The gang came to the funeral, my father threw a fit. Syrius was allowed to go as well, he stood in the corner in handcuffs. My father blamed them for her passing, my mother might’ve agreed, I forget. He asked them to leave in a tone that edged on rudeness. Raine spoke for the group, this was a change for him. He told my parents that they had every right to be there and wouldn’t dare disrespect Faye by leaving. My mother urged him to let it alone, but my father wouldn’t have it. Syrius’ presence got under his skin more than anything. They were holding him as a suspect in her case, hence the handcuffs and security. But he did get to see her. He got to say goodbye, they all did. I was sitting alone at the wake, staring at the ground in silence, when Darius sat herself down next to me on my right side. My parents were standing to my left, they eyed her suspiciously. She spoke plainly to me, saying all the right words, holding me close. I didn’t realize I was crying until I felt her dry my eyes. It was weird.

Darius stayed next to me the entire time. Raine was on her other side, but she paid him little to no mind. Weird isn’t the proper word to describe it, but it’ll suffice. She was kind and compassionate, not her usual cold self. I don’t remember seeing her cry, her eyes might have gotten a bit moist, but she never cried I wondered if she ever cried. Maybe? My mind worried over it as I listened to the usual words. The church seemed dark and abandoned, our small service seemed forsaken. It was simple, quiet, eerie. I wasn’t highly religious; the church was unsettling. I sat with my eyes lowered, avoiding the world. Most everything was a blur, I remember my father’s muttering throughout the entire service about Syrius. I could feel the storm brewing, but all I could do was wait and watch. It would come, I was positive of it, I could see my mother preparing herself for hell.

We were at the cemetery when he broke. They’d just put her in the ground when he started. He walked over to where Syrius stood, approaching slowly, being careful and meticulous. And he just started hitting him, he beat the hell out of him. The security personnel were useless; it required my mother, Darius, Raine, Draven and myself to drag him off. Syrius was a bloody mess, but he didn’t complain. He got to his feet and straightened up as well as he could manage. Just silence. The handcuffs restricted his movement, but I wondered. He’d taken the hits without so much as a qualm, but what if? If he’d been able to defend himself, would he? I watched him stand there, silence, like it never happened. Maybe it didn’t.

We left the cemetery hurriedly, dragging my father off. Syrius was still there, standing alone in the rain, his eyes distant. My father was yelling and fighting like a child, my mother pleaded with him to control himself, out of respect to his lost child. He only fought louder and harder. Darius took me by the arm and asked if I was okay. I remember nodding and a possible affirmative response. She knelt down a bit to be at my level, her eyes warm and inviting. Draven lurked behind her, I’m not sure why.

“If you ever need us, you know where to go. Never hesitate.” Her voice was calm and even, Draven looked down at me carefully, his mind seemed to be working, I let it alone. I never spoke to any of them without my sister being right there at my side. I couldn’t bother them. I thanked her politely anyway and we all parted ways.

We got home and silence settled in. My father had calmed down a bit, he was shaking though. My parents sat together for a while in silence until my father snapped, my mother held him as he cried. I started going for walks more often, just here and there to clear my head. Sometimes it worked, sometimes. For a while I had vowed to visit Faye every day, but I always found myself frozen at the gates. Months passed before I could go in.

I’d walked to the cemetery as usual, staring through the gate. It was a nice day. I turned to leave, quitting yet again, when I bumped into someone. I apologized quickly and glanced up. Draven looked at me with a smile. I don’t know what it was about him, but I stopped stammering. He put his arm over my shoulder and, turning me around, we went into the cemetery together. We made our way past infants and adults, all manner of people, all of them dead. Faye had a little quiet spot in the back, it wasn’t too bad. They had her headstone done by now, my knees buckled when I saw it. I wanted her back; seeing her name there, carved in stone. That made it definite. That made it real. I couldn’t hide from it anymore. That stone symbolized my downfall.

What I hadn’t counted on was someone catching me. I could feel the tears creep down from my eyes, I lied to myself, making believe that it was all a dream, a terrible dream. I pleaded desperately for someone to find me and save me from my own madness. I didn’t expect that it’d actually happen. I needed someone to shake me, anything, something to bring me back. What actually occurred would suffice.

I felt a warm embrace; I was so out of my skin that it seemed distant. Draven was holding me close, he was quiet and content. This was the most he’d ever touched me in the entire time I’d known him. And I was perfectly calm. Under usual circumstances I’d have a panic attack, but now I was fine, absolutely fine. I was relaxed and sedate and I stopped crying. He helped me to my feet and he still held me so I could face him. At that moment I knew. Just looking at his eyes, I knew. He’d lost his usual brooding glare, he was childish and sweet. He looked scared though. Terrified. I held onto him and we both stayed there until the sky darkened. He walked me home, nothing was said, words were garish and wasteful at that moment.

My parents had been worried about me, I apologized and explained where I was. I left out the part about Draven though, it would only upset my father. The day ended as it was. Over the next few days I saw Draven a lot, compared to how I never saw him ordinarily. I’d go out of my way to see him, telling my parents that I was going to the cemetery when I’d really be off to visit Draven. I couldn’t explain it then, it was truly bizarre. It was comforting to be in his presence, everything seemed to fade away. I saw Raine and Darius from time to time as well, they were keeping well, as always. They were complete. What Draven and I had was . . . well, I couldn’t define it.

Raine never realized that they were siblings, Draven and Darius. I knew, it was somewhat obvious. Draven had betrayed his sister, she refused to acknowledge him as family. She was forgiving enough to be friendly and speak to him, but never as her brother. Never. I figured that Raine would figure it out when the time was right. Syrius had been sent away for counseling of sorts. The gang went through a few phases. There was the old days, you know, before Faye’s death. Then there was the gang minus Syrius and Faye, but plus me at times. Then, minus me. I’ll describe the other phases later. It’s kind of funny if you really think about it, well, maybe. The gang was dedicated entirely to its’ members, they persevered through hardship and suffering. Yet, there were secrets buried deep down, hidden from the world. Locked away, biding their time, the truth would surface eventually, it always does. Eventually.

As it goes, all good things must come to an end, the downfall was inevitable. I came home from school one day, Draven walked with me. My father was waiting at the door, which he never did. I separated myself from Draven and approached my father. He had a strong look of absolute contempt in his eye, I couldn’t decide the best course of action. I smiled at him as I passed, trying desperately to pull a cute and fluffy moment. He wasn’t moved. He followed me inside and closed the door softly. He heaved a long sigh before he began.

“What’s going on Madison?” His voice was authoritative and firm. I smiled back at him, questioning him. He edged closer to me, my eyes lowered.

“You are not allowed to associate with any of them. Ever. After what they put us though? While you’re under my roof, you’ll act like my daughter.”

I remember responding, trying weakly to defend myself, it failed. He only yelled louder and got closer to me. I backed up until my back hit the wall, I was trapped. Still I fought. He almost raised a hand to me when my mother came out and stopped him. He explained to her that he was sick of the lies, he would deal with it no longer. She was upset with me, but only for a moment. It was that mother-daughter bond. My father was furious. He kept screaming like a madman.

“You’ll have nothing to do with him!”

“You can’t do that!”

“I can’t? Watch me! Why the hell couldn’t I?”

“Because I love him!”

Right then I clasped my hand over my mouth and stopped breathing. I had used the infamous “L” word, it was blasphemous. My parents were blown away, they just stood there in shock. I remember running out, needing of salvation. I ran to the apartment where I knew Draven lived and I asked him to go with me. He asked no questions and made no protestations. He grabbed his coat and we went. We went for a walk in the rain in silence. I could feel myself shaking, even as he held me. We found somewhere remote to speak.

I remember ranting and raving to him continuously for ages. He just sat and listened. I told him what had happened, why I was so unhinged. Just listened in silence. I told him the part about love and still he didn’t falter. I spoke until I didn’t possess a voice to ramble with anymore. And still – silent.

He just held me there, preserved, time froze. Everything was as it should be. I hated to admit the truth, that I could love such a brute, but the truth held me in his arms like a child. After a bit of menial discussion, Draven urged that I go home and work things out. He walked me back, careful to avoid anywhere my father could be peering from. He hugged me close and gave me a little kiss, our first, it was official. And we parted. I went inside to find the apartment empty and dark. I turned on the light to find a note on the table.

“Gone to the hospital, there’s been an accident. Come to this address immediately.” I recognized my father’s sketchy hand, I saw the page quiver as I read. My father’s words were hurried and messy. I clenched the address of the hospital in my hand and ran back out in the rain. I ran on and on, I kept going, beyond pain, beyond all emotion, anything. I went through countless people until I got to my father. He was pacing around, shaking, muttering, crying. I walked up slowly, he didn’t see me yet. I saw a doctor come up to him, I watched them talk. And then my father let out the most heart-wrenching scream I’d ever heard and he dropped to his knees. I never saw my father like that before. I ran up to him and demanded to know what happened. He was shaking, the doctor had walked away. I knelt and helped him to a chair. I had watched one of the most important events of my life as a spectator, I didn’t know what to do.

“She’s gone,” he whispered to me. His eyes were distant. “She’s . . . gone. For good.” His mind had stopped working, he just stared into space. Then he turned and glared at me. “It’s your fault, you did this, you killed her.” His voice had a harsh tone to it, it was horrible. I got up and staggered backwards, away from him. I couldn’t breathe anymore, I couldn’t feel anything. He had to be talking about my mother, I just . . . disappeared. I went in search of a doctor to confirm my suspicion. And they told me. She was gone. Dead. Forever.

I went back and looked at my father. I stood and just watched from afar as he broke down and sat there, sobbing uncontrollably. And I decided to leave, to run away. I left the hospital and walked away. I just kept going. I’d let my father tell Draven what he wanted to if he came looking for me. I had aunts and uncles, but I couldn’t go to them. I walked away from everything I ever had. I let go. I went home, gathered up what little I could, what I’d need to survive. And I walked away. I left my life behind and left.

Let me explain my life history in a short summary. Me and Faye and the gang all lived in the same building. Raine and Syrius were always there. Darius and Draven moved in when we were young teenagers. Syrius was part of another gang when he starting going around with Faye, but he knew Raine, Darius and Draven from around the building. They were friends, nothing more. When Cicero backstabbed them both, Syrius got sent away and Draven and I got close. Raine and Darius had been together for a bit now. And I left. I took my stuff and walked away, I stayed where I could and made due with what I had. When Syrius got out, he wasn’t the same. He’d blocked out most of the trauma and didn’t remember any of us, we all had to be re-introduced slowly. He remembered Raine and Draven, but not Darius and myself. It was rough. And Darius reminded him of Faye. Darius reminded me of Faye too, but it didn’t strike me until later when I came back. I stayed away for a few years I’d say, but one day I made the decision. I went back.

It was a dreary day, it was my mother’s anniversary. I hadn’t even gone to the funeral. But I went back to see my father. He was working behind the counter, looking down at paperwork when I came in. The bell jingled and he looked up. I saw age in his eyes and tension, stress’ effects He seemed to be looking at me from years ago with the eyes of an old man. I just stood there as he saw past me, I waited for anything, some sort of speech. He just looked at me, closed the book he was looking through, and came over to me. We stood toe to toe, I thought that he’d hit me. He was shaking and his muscles went through a long spasm as he took a step toward me. I was going to take a step back, but he came at me. And hugged me. It was insanely weird. He held me and I held him and we stayed there and everything was forgiven. It was fine.

The deal was this. I would go back to my “family”, I’d live with my father, he’d know that I was okay. But I couldn’t associate with the old crew. I would avoid them and stay away and let it alone. My father hadn’t met them officially, only Syrius. He’d seen them at the funeral but blocked out the memory. So he didn’t really know them to see them. So I agreed and I went to stay with Dad again. And I ran into Raine and I couldn’t help myself. I got him a job with my father. He had forgotten them, like I said, so I introduced him and he was hired. My father had a bit of suspicion, but he let it alone. He had locked the past away, he left it alone, he was glad to have me back.

So Raine got a job with my father and I. Why did I get him a job? Because I wanted to get back to Draven, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I didn’t even know where to start. I doubted that he’d forgive me. I decided to take things as they came along and eventually I’d get myself reintroduced to Raine and Darius, then we’d work on Draven. That was the plan. Key word – was. So I was kind of stuck. And then Syrius came back and things starting moving really fast and got really complicated. I stopped believing, I found that it was easier to accept life if none of it was real. It all became a distant dream, a pleasant nightmare. None of it was real and never would be. And that’s just how it worked. That’s how I liked it and it worked out well for me. Denial became a way of life. A successful way of life at that. So there we were.

It’s confusing if you think about it but it does make sense as well. That’s just how it goes. Like I said, the gang went through several phases. We were probably happiest once we got Syrius back and we started to cause trouble around the community. It was exciting in a sense, I don’t know what drew me in. My father loved me and suspected foul play at times, but usually he was alright. He let it go, he was appreciative enough that I’d returned. The gang was a family, we depended on one another and trusted one another.

And then there was Draven. Our reunion was far from uneventful, we had a long talk that night, locked away from the group. I sat down and let him rant and rave. I instigated topics for him to rant about from time to time, he yelled on and on for hours on end. But it wasn’t really yelling. It was organized venting. When he was done, I got up and held him. He sat down with me and we both just held one another until he’d stopped shaking. And we talked quietly about our past, our future, everything of significance, even things that were insignificant. All of it was fair game for discussion. I loved him then and I wasn’t afraid to admit it to him. Draven was afraid though. I’d never seen someone like that be so fearful. He told me about Darius, about his family, about his parents. We talked about his childhood and his harsh upbringing. He showed me the scars across his back from his father. I held him when he got choked up. He confessed his darkest sins to me and I forgave him when the world refused. He told me everything, things that he still wasn’t able to tell Darius. And I forgave him. Despite his darkness, I loved him anyway. That’s what love means. You love someone despite all else, despite their actions and their faults, if you love them, that’s enough. You make it work, regardless. Sure, there’s limits, but not many. The world makes up limits that aren’t truly there, it’s an illusion to dishearten society. It’s just a dream, remember? A horrible dream that none of us can wake up from. Ever.

The truth hurts, but I’m tired and all else fails to help the pain. I’ll be better tomorrow, I’ll be back to my normal self then, but right now I have to make due with what I’ve got. And I will. Draven and I talked for hours about everything. He was completely honest with me. It was horrifying, we didn’t know each other all that well, at least it didn’t seem so. He asked me to swear that I’d be his, always. And I did. I promised him everything, my life, my heart, my soul, everything that I am and could ever be was his. And he was mine. We were each other’s. It was a mutual relationship and it worked out well for each of us. There was a ring he wore, I’d never thought to ask about it. He gave it to me that night. He looked at me in all seriousness when he did it too.

“It was my mother’s.”

Those were his words. That’s it. The mother that he’d killed with his own bare hands, the mother whose blood would never wash off, despite the years. His own flesh and blood. I smiled and held him close and I treasured it with my heart and soul. It was ours, it was our secret. Forever.

And the gang was complete. Raine, Darius, Draven, Syrius, and myself. I told my father that I went out with friends at night, he’d met them all again, the only one he’d recognized was Syrius. I told you, he blocked it out. I think that denial is hereditary, it must run in the family, we were very good at it. Very good. It was scary sometimes, the things we’d lie about, little things, petty ones. Draven broke me of the habit, sometimes. In my writing I was someone else, a happy person. Around him I was honest and true, I couldn’t look him in the face and tell a lie, it just wasn’t possible. He had been honest with me about something that could destroy him if it got out, and Darius as well. He had given me the blackest part of his heart on faith alone. I couldn’t betray him with petty lies, it would be an insult to the immense amount of trust he had in me. A mockery of everything that he was. Everything we were. Together. Because love does prove real from time to time. Only from time to time.

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