Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FICTION: Until the Sunrise by Molly Stamper

          She moved a strand of auburn hair out of her face and blinked. The numbers and symbols on the page before her were starting to blur into different shapes. If Christine turned her head one equation even looked like a dinosaur. She took that as a sign that her sleep deprived mind had had enough math for one night.

            The seventeen year old closed her math book and stood from her desk. She moved into her bathroom and began getting ready for bed. A few minutes later, Christine quickly dove into her bed. Her mind and body were exhausted, she was happy to finally being able to go to sleep. She made herself comfortable and closed her eyes

            Bang! Her eyes snapped back open. Something loud and large had hit her window. Christine's heart dropped to her stomach, she sat up and stared wide eyed at the window. Everything remained still for a few moments; the only audible sounds were Christine's rapidly pounding heart and slow breathing.

            Bang! She saw it hit this time, a large round object, most likely a rock. Christine remained motionless on her bed, too afraid to see who had thrown it. Come on now Christine, she thought, mentally chastising herself. A burglar wouldn't have thrown a rock. A ghost wouldn't have either.

            With new found courage, she pushed the covers off and walked over to the window. She peered outside. Illuminated in the dim glow of the street light stood her best friend Derek. His expression was haunted and he looked a great deal older than eighteen.

            Christine opened the window slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible. The last thing she needed was for her parents to think she was sneaking a boy into her room, even if it was Derek.

            “Derek? What are you doing here?” She called down to him, careful to keep her voice low.

            He shook his head. “Just let me in Tini. And I’ll explain everything.”

            “Derek, what’s going on? Wh¾”

             He interrupted her. “Please Tini, just let me in. I promise I’ll tell you everything.” Christine sighed and shut the window.

            Christine made her way downstairs as quietly as she could. She opened the back

door and let Derek inside the house. The pair walked wordlessly back up to her room.

            Christine shut her bedroom door, flipped on the light and whirled around to face Derek. A gasp escaped her lips as she took in his haggard appearance. How had she not seen it before? His left eye was swollen and slowly turning a dark purple color, there was a small, bleeding gash on his cheek, and worst of all his shirt was stained crimson.

             As Christine's eyes drank in the injuries she immediately knew what had caused them, Derek's step-father. Derek's real father had died when he was four, and his mother had remarried shortly after. When Derek was ten his step-father became verbally abusive to both his mother and him. When he was thirteen it turned to physical.

            Christine blinked back tears as the memory of the first time Derek showed up to school with bruises played in her mind like a movie. The teacher's had called child protective services, but somehow his step-father had still gotten away with it.

            Christine sat down on the edge of her bed and Derek followed suit. He took a deep breath and the explanation poured out of him. In a voice barely above a whisper, he sat on the edge of her bed and explained everything.

            “He was drinking again,” Derek began. “I don’t care when he hits me, you know that,” He continued. “But he went after her this time.”

            Christine felt her heart drop. Derek’s step father went after his mother? “Is she okay?” Christine held her breath waiting for the answer. She didn’t know what she would do if Mrs. Hunter wasn’t.

            Derek nodded looking away. “She’s fine for now. But I don’t think she will be in the morning.” Christine shivered involuntary. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know what Derek meant by that. Derek continued the story. “I just couldn’t stand for it, Tini. I didn’t think, I just acted.”

            Christine’s eyes traveled to Derek’s shirt, seeing for the first time the crimson spots that stained it. An uneasy comprehension dawned on her. “Derek, you didn’t?! Please tell me you didn’t!” She begged him, her voice horrified.

            “I’m sorry Christine,” He never used her full name. It was always Tini, the nickname he had given her the day they met in second grade. She shut her eyes, but the tears still managed to squeeze through, trailing down her cheeks.

            Derek reached out and tenderly wiped them away. “Don’t cry for me Tini. It’ll be okay.”

            She looked at him, her green eyes shimmering with fresh tears. “It won’t be

okay,” She whispered. “Nothing will ever be okay again.” She turned her body away from him, not wanting him to see her break down. She was his best friend; she shouldn’t be acting like this. She needed to be strong for him.

            Christine felt his arms encircle her waist and she let him pull her onto his lap. She sobbed against his chest and he let her. Derek, the one whose life was forever going to be changed, was letting her pour her eyes out. Christine didn’t deserve his friendship.

            They stayed like that for awhile. Her head resting against his shoulder, his arms around her waist.

            "You could fight it you know," she sniffed. "It was self-defense, Derek."

            Derek shook his head. "They didn't believe me when I was thirteen, they won't believe me now." His tone was final and Christine didn't want to argue with him.

            “What are you going to do then Derek?” She finally whispered. He remained silent for awhile, and Christine was afraid she had upset him.

            “The right thing,” He finally replied. “I’m turning myself in tomorrow. I just needed to say goodbye first.” She nodded, saying nothing. She didn’t trust her voice.

            Derek rubbed her back. “You’re probably exhausted Tini, let’s go to bed.”
Derek removed his shirt and threw the crumpled, blood caked cloth into the corner. They then crawled under the covers together, Derek wrapping his arms around her. Christine vowed she would not fall asleep, that she would stay awake the entirety of their final night together. But exhaustion reared it’s ugly head, and soon she was pulled into the peaceful ignorance of sleep.

            When morning came, Christine found herself alone in her bed. For a brief, happy moment she thought it all to be a dream. But the note on her night stand betrayed the truth.

            Don't forget about me Tini was all it said. Christine felt a fresh tide of tears bubbling up from within her. She clutched her pillow and breathed in slowly; trying to calm down. But her steady intakes of breath couldn't keep the tears at bay. Her pillow became the sponge of her grief. She continued to sob onto it until she heard her mother's voice calling that breakfast was ready.

            Christine sat up and wiped her eyes. Sitting here crying and feeling sorry for herself wasn't helping anyone. It was a travesty that Derek's step-father had gotten away with everything, but not this time. The system may have failed Derek when he was thirteen, Christine would be sure that it wouldn't this time. Derek was her best friend and she was going to fight for him.

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