Tied (All Torn Up #2) - Page 11
But most of all, I want to tell him how I waited for him.
Hoped for him and dreamt of him for so long.
How I’m still waiting.
Is it possible to wish someone right out of your heart into existence?
Yes. Yes, it is.
Now we just have to find each other again.
“Do you know what you want?” Zac asks. I peer up at the café menu written on a huge chalkboard, as we stand in line, completely overwhelmed by all the choices. I don’t even know what half the stuff is. Like biscotti.
It’s been over a week since my outing with Feather and seeing my prince at the traffic light. I find myself peering around the café and out into the street, hoping to see him again. I have no way of knowing how to find him, but this town is very small—I can only assume he must live here. I wonder how close we have been to each other all this time.
For the past year, I’ve asked my parents if they know where he lives, so maybe I can write to him, but their answer is always the same: “leave it alone” or “that’s not acceptable.” I asked them when I first moved to Merryfield and even asked Dr. Reynolds if there was a way for me to contact him, but they were all adamant that it was best for me to leave him alone as he was “mentally unstable.” For now, I push those thoughts away so I can focus on my outing with my older brother.
Next to me, Zac orders a bagel and coffee then turns to me. “Well?” he prods, gently breaking my thoughts.
He came down this weekend just to see me. I appreciate his effort. I know it’s a hassle for him to visit me since he lives in the city, but it breaks the monotony of my days. Usually, he takes me out of Merryfield and Anna joins us and, for a few hours, I feel like a normal person and less of a freak. Zac always tries hard to treat me like I’m just his sister and not some kind of victim. He’s never condescending, never full of pity, and he never acts like he’s in a rush to get away from me. He was even nice enough to hang my Christmas tree photographs on the wall next to my bed this morning, so I can look at them every day.
“Um…” I look at him for help while the young guy behind the counter waits with a bored expression on his face. Behind us, the line is getting restless. The pressure becomes even more unbearable, but Zac seems unconcerned, and I’m grateful for his patience. Decisions aren’t easy for me. For ten years, all I was given was bread, water, dry cereal, Fruit Roll-Ups, little boxes of juice, trail mix, and an occasional apple, cookie, or cupcake used as a bribe.
“Do you want the cupcake? Be a good girl then. Bend over and don’t scream or fight and I’ll let you have the cupcake.”
I’m ashamed to admit that, some days, I wanted that cupcake so bad that I bent over and bit my tongue until it bled to keep from screaming as he touched me. I always regretted it later, when the sweet icing was burning in my tummy, the appeal of the treat long gone.
I shake my head and force out a breath. Those memories always gut me, but no one needs to hear them. No one needs to know how they continue to torment me. The bad man is dead, and I have my prince to thank—if I can ever find him.
“I’m sorry,” I say. I apologize a lot because it makes everything feel better, like saying everything is “great.” I recite what Feather always gets for me. “A blueberry muffin and a vanilla latte with skim milk.” I have no idea if I like anything else, and I’m embarrassed to ask him to describe everything on the menu to me.
“Okay.” Zac grins, his left dimple making an appearance. “Why don’t you go grab us a table, and I’ll bring it over.”
Nodding, I head for a small table by the windows, avoiding eye contact with the other customers, and settle into one of the wooden chairs to wait for Zac.
“You should talk to someone about that,” a female voice says, and I turn to see a girl at the next table pointing at my arm. “I used to cut and burn, too. You can get help. Self-harm isn’t the answer.”
My cheeks burn with embarrassment as I pull my sweater sleeves down to my wrists and push my hair back over my shoulder. “Thank you,” I say as politely as I can. “But I didn’t do it to myself.”
With wide eyes she shakes her head, sending her short, black bob bouncing around her shoulders. “Girl, that’s even worse. Don’t let some asshole hurt you. I been there, too.”
Zac sets the tray of food on the table in front of me, looking from me to the girl as if he’s waiting for an introduction.
“Did he do that to you?” The girl shoots him a look that could melt ice.
“Do what?” Zac asks, his brow creasing.
“Put them cigarette burn marks all over her arms. That’s what.”
The look of surprise and hurt on his handsome face makes my chest hurt, and I struggle to breathe. I want to run back to the car, to my backpack in the backseat of Zac’s car. He always lets me bring it if he takes me somewhere as long as I leave it in the car.
“No,” I reply. “He’s my brother. He would never hurt me.”
“What’s going on?” Zac demands, his defenses rising.
“Nothing, Zac,” I glance back at the girl, wishing she would just go away and mind her own business. “Thank you for your concern, but I’m fine.”
Her eyebrow rises. “You sure about that?”
The couple at the table next to us leans close to each other, their eyes darting over at us as they whisper. About me, most likely.
“Yes, I’m positive. Thank you.” I force my millionth fake smile.
Suddenly her face changes, going from suspicion to shock to pity. “Holy shit.” She lowers her voice to an excited whisper. “You’re that girl who was found in the hole out in the woods, aren’t you? You’re little Holly Daniels. I read about you.”
I meet her eyes and put on my best look of defiant confidence. “No. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” There. I did it. I deflected her. I don’t owe anyone anything. I focus all my attention on removing the paper from my muffin as she gets up and walks away, mumbling to herself about assholes and denial.
“What was that all about?” Zac still looks confused.
I shrug, wanting to move on and not make this outing any more uncomfortable than it already is. Since I was found, my family has had to deal with this kind of attention from random, nosy people in both public and private ways. I was mostly shielded from it, being at Merryfield, and I wonder if that’s part of the reason my parents sent me there. Not just for the therapy, but to hide me away.
“She saw the burn scars on my arms and thought I was hurting myself or had a boyfriend that was hurting me, I guess.” I sigh. “Then she recognized me.”
“Jesus.” He shakes his head. “People just don’t know boundaries sometimes.”
“It’s okay. I forgot to pull my sleeves down.”
He dumps a packet of sugar into his coffee, his jaw clenching. “You shouldn’t have to wear long-sleeved shirts all the time. People should just shut the hell up and be respectful of others.” He’s angry for me, and I hate to see him this way. He’s a very calm, soft-spoken guy most of the time, and it bothers me that being around me makes him mad.
I reach over and touch his hand, which is stirring his coffee with a fierce briskness. He stops and glances up at me with a look of surprise on his face. I never initiate touching, and I pull away quickly. Reaching out to him felt like an impulse, almost an involuntary reflex. Maybe it means I’m starting to trust. “It’s okay, Zac,” I say softly. I rub my hand against my thigh, still feeling slightly awkward about touching his hand. I’m brimming with so much I want to say, but it’s like there’s this cork inside me that keeps me from letting it all out. I want to tell him how scared I am that I’ll never feel normal. That I’ll never feel like part of the family. That I may never have a relationship. That people will always look at me like I’m damaged and dirty. I want to tell him I’m sorry he has to deal with the questions and the stares sometimes, too. “I really don’t want to talk about it but…people recognize me, they ask questions. I have to get used to it.”
“I don’t know how you don’t scream at these rude-ass people.” Zac busies himself spreading butter from a tiny plastic cup onto his bagel.
“You screamed. You know what that means. You scream, you get burnt. You pull away? The dog gets burnt. Get it through your fucking head.”
I shake my head, momentarily afraid to speak.
“So, how was your visit with Mom and Dad?” he asks.
I focus on my brother’s face and wait for the memory to fade back into the dark hole it seeped out of. “Good. The same.” I take the lid off my latte, peer inside, and put the lid back on. “Thank you for letting me stay in your room, it really came out pretty.” He nods, and I continue. “Mom and Dad were nice…but they didn’t talk to me much at all. It felt like they were only seeing me because they had to, not because they wanted to.” He nods again, and I pull a blueberry from the soft, yellow fluff to examine it. “I don’t know, I’m still just trying to fit in. Feather has taken me shopping and out to eat few times, but she usually spends most of the time we’re together typing on her phone. I tried to spend some time with Lizzie during the visit, but Mom acts a little crazy about it, like she doesn’t want me near her.”