I love to write. I’ve always loved to write. When I was 7, my parents gave me a typewriter and I would sit in my room for hours and hours on end, composing stories about … okay, mostly horses. (I was that crazy horse girl.) Twelve years later, the drive to create and write hasn’t gone away, so I write stories. Short stories, at this point, but I hope to someday turn them into longer stories. But for now, I’ll share them with you on this glorious Storytime Tuesday.
This is another story from a (more recent) composition class. While it’s not really based on a song, there are bits and pieces inspired by “Take It Out On Me” by Florida-Georgia Line (one of my absolute favorites).
One more comment was going to set her off. She could feel her heart beating faster, her face turning red, her nails digging tiny, crescent-shaped wells in her palms in response to his heated words. After four years with him, in that moment, she was nearly ready to throw it all away. That he had the audacity to treat her like this was beyond her ability to comprehend.
“And that,” he raged on, oblivious to the change occurring in the typically docile girl seated on the floor in front of him, “is why I cant trust you! Dammit, April. I let you out of my sight for one night. One night! And this is how you thank me.” He gestured angrily at his phone, resting precariously on a pillow where he’d thrown it in a blind rage.
April lowered her head to her chest and blinked rapidly, trying to fight the emotion swelling higher and higher, threatening to shove her heart up into her throat. She couldn’t take it anymore. “You know what?” she exploded, startling herself and him with the strength in her fragile voice. “You don’t own me. I don’t have to thank you for anything. It is my business what I do and where I go and who I’m with.”
“Whom,” he interjected harshly, rolling his eyes.
“Go to hell, Jacob. Like I care.” She exhaled sharply, throwing her head back. The small, glow-in-the-dark stars arranged in their precise, swirling constellations on her bedroom ceiling gave her a moment’s reprieve from the situation at hand. They had always been a comfort to her, from the first day her father and she had triumphantly come home from the second grade class fair, bag of stars in hand, after together winning the archery competition. They had been there the day her mother sat her down on the bed and told her Daddy wasn’t feeling well. They had been there as she lay awake at night, trembling, wondering why Mama was yelling at Daddy if he was sick. And they had been there the first night the word ‘family’ meant April and Mama, the first night Daddy became a picture on the fireplace and some flowers on a grassy hill. Through it all, the stars were there, telling her it would all be okay.
“Listen to me, April,” Jacob’s anger jolted her out of her thoughts. “Don’t just sit there staring at those stupid stars.”
“Stupid … stars. Stupid stars?” April swung her face to meet his gaze.
He shrugged. “Yeah. I mean, you’re nineteen years old, and you have glow-in-the-dark stars on your ceiling. No wonder you’re not mature enough to handle—“
Jacob blinked. “What?”
“Are you serious?” Something in his face changed, almost as if his body had been suddenly possessed, and he chuckled softly. It was a cruel, ugly sound. “You’re kicking me out because I made one little comment about your childish stars?” April seethed, but he continued. “Oh, no, did I hurt your feelings? Aw, should I go ask Daddy for a Band-Aid? Oh, wait. You don’t have one.” He smiled sadistically.
“How could you … Why would you …” April sputtered weakly, his unbridled malice quickly dousing the fire of anger burning in her chest.
“Ah, my little angel,” he cooed, intentionally misusing the once-sweet nickname he had given her, “you can’t kick me out. You need me.” He looked up at the stars. “I’m your North star. No one else will ever want you.” Lowering his eyes, he caught her gaze and held it. “I’m all you’ll ever have,” he whispered.
His words hung in the air like breath turned to vapor on a winter morning and April sat, stunned. “You’re wrong,” she wanted to say, “there is someone who loves me,” but the words wouldn’t come. Satisfied, Jacob crossed the floor, opened her bedroom door, and left.
The spell of silence reigned over the house and April slowly stood and crawled, trembling, onto her bed, almost careful not to make a sound. Lowering herself onto the soft sheets, she closed her eyes and began to sob quietly.
Her thoughts slipped unconsciously to the first time Jacob had seen the stars. She had always been self-conscious about them, only exposing them to the few people she’d ever been close to in her life. They were her secret source of strength, her Samson’s hair, and she irrationally feared the severance of that strength should her secret fall into the wrong hands.
After dating Jacob for nearly a year, she had finally built up the courage to reveal the stars to him. “Just promise me you won’t laugh,” she had pleaded, leading him up the stairs by the hand. “Just don’t say anything if you think it’s stupid.”
He had smiled and assured her he would never laugh. When she opened the door, he had stood in silence for a few minutes before quietly stating in his low, rumbling voice, “This is amazing,” before taking her in his arms and stroking her dark hair. “I think it’s wonderful that you have something like this to remember your dad by. I would never laugh at you.”
I would never laugh at you. I would never laugh at you. I would never laugh at you. The phrase played over and over in her head like a song you wish desperately to forget but can’t. Jacob had been a different person then. The sweet, sensitive, loving boy who had pursued her relentlessly since she was fifteen had slowly morphed over the years into an unpredictable monster. Some days he was Old Jacob, picking her up by the waist and twirling her around, bringing her daises, which she adored, for no reason, even cooking her dinner on special occasions. Other days, however, he was like he was today: a vindictive, controlling monster who enjoyed the pain of others, particularly the already-vulnerable April.
How did it come to this? she wondered brokenly, tears burning streams of misery down her face. What did I do to make him stop loving me? Her head ached and she began to pound her fist repeatedly into the wall beside her bed. The more her fist collided with the rough brick, the less her chest ached. She pounded and pounded until her knuckles were a bloody mess, the skin torn and even missing in many places. Curling into a ball, she began to cry harder, her anguish taking on an element of hate.
He always did this to her. Always. Patting her blankets blindly until she found her phone, April stabbed angrily at the screen until she came face to face with the reason for Jacob’s wrath: a picture of April and a tall, muscular blonde, smiling with their arms wrapped around each other. Her head rested ever-so-slightly on his shoulder, and the sight of the picture displayed publicly on social media had been enough to whip Jacob into a rage April had rarely experienced in the past.
The picture’s origin was innocent enough. April had been intending to spend the past evening at a charity concert with several friends, including Conner, the blonde object of Jacob’s jealousy. When the two girls who were supposed to be “chaperoning,” as Jacob had put it, had called at the last minute to say they couldn’t make it, April had almost been relieved. She secretly loved spending time alone with Conner, whom she had met completely by chance several months ago while on a coffee run for her demanding boss. To April’s surprise, Conner seemed to genuinely enjoy her presence. He was courteous, smiled easily, and made her laugh, which didn’t happen often, unless Jacob was in a particularly generous mood.
Though not very physically “attractive” by most standards, Conner had raised Jacob’s suspicions from the moment April had introduced the two of them, and rightfully so. Unbeknownst to Jacob, April had been spending increasing amounts of time with Conner, all the while using her unpredictable, needy boss as an excuse to dodge Jacob’s questions as to where she’d been. Slowly, she had begun to develop feelings for Conner, and they were beyond evident in the picture taken at the previous night’s concert. The joy spelled plainly across her face and the way she clutched Conner’s waist had told Jacob all he needed to know: he was slowly but surely losing the one person in the world who adored him completely and treated his word as law.
Why did I have to be so stupid? April wondered. What did I have to prove by posting that picture? I should have known he’d see it. She had known he’d see it. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she had been hoping he would not only see the picture, but also realize the meaning behind it. She had hoped he would see how happy she was with Conner, how much she needed him, and how he returned her feelings. She had also known that something like this would happen, but at the time, it had seemed worth it. Now, she wasn’t so sure.
The screen of her phone went black, jarring her thoughts enough to reveal what seemed like the only possible solution to her problems. Her room had grown dark while she had lain there, and she was startled by how fast the time had gone by. She sat up abruptly, quickly combed her fingers through her tangled curls, and ran out her door, taking the stairs two at a time. She slammed the kitchen door shut on her way out, only pausing briefly to grab her keys.
The fifteen-minute car ride seemed like the longest ride of her life. Every red light seemed to drag on for a thousand years, and anyone who was unfortunate enough to be driving slower than five miles per hour over the speed limit were less-than-gently prodded along by sharp bursts from April’s horn. After what seemed like an eternity, she reached her destination, shook the gears into park, and nearly fell to her knees in a hasty attempt to reach the door in the darkness. She leaned against the door and pounded with all her might, as if her life depended on it. She pounded with all the fury her broken heart had stored up over the past years, with the urgency of a girl who knew safety from the storm inside was on the other side of the door.
She didn’t hear the lock being slid out of place and nearly tumbled to the ground when Conner opened the door.
“April!” he exclaimed, grabbing her elbow to steady her. “It’s past eleven. What’d he do this time? Here, come sit down.”
“No,” she whispered, breathless. “It’s not about him. Not anymore.” She threw herself forward at him, her lips landing forcefully on his.
He stumbled backward, then, realizing what was happening, took her face in his hands. For a long moment they stood, tangled in each other’s arms. Finally, he pulled away.
“What’s wrong, love?” he asked quietly, brushing a strand of hair from her face. “This can’t be what you meant to happen.”
“Yes!” April cried, looking up pleadingly into his face, mere inches from her own. “I’m finished with him. I want to be with you!” She tentatively touched his face, trying to smile, but he looked away.
“April …” he sighed and rested his chin on top of her head for a moment before taking her by the shoulders and staring into her eyes. “You need to think about this. Is that really what you want?”
The smile faded from her face. “You mean … You mean you don’t want … But I thought …” Eyes wide, she covered her mouth with her hand and lowered her face to the floor.
“You know how I feel about you. That’s not it.” Conner tilted her face up with his finger. “Yes, I know that you know how I feel. It was obvious, April. I could never hide it well, though I tried.”
“Then why …?” April trailed off, uncomprehending.
“I don’t want you to choose me like this. This is all wrong. You’re mad at Jacob, you’re not thinking clearly, and as much as you know I’d love for this to happen, I can’t let it. Not like this.”
“Just tell me what I have to do.” She shook her head slowly. “I want to be with you. I’ve spent long enough with him.”
“Why? Why now?” Conner demanded, a strange look in his eyes.
April paused for a moment. “Because … because it’s you. It’s always been you. I just couldn’t see it! Well, I could, but there was Jacob. He was in the way, but now …”
“Now he won’t be.”
“Won’t be or isn’t? There’s a difference.”
“He … he won’t be.”
Conner exhaled sharply. “So he doesn’t know about your decision?”
“Well … no. But that shouldn’t be a problem. I can call him right now—“ April frantically searched her pockets for her phone, pulled it out, and began typing in the numbers she’d known by heart for four years.
Conner grabbed her hand. “No. You can’t end it like this. That’s not fair to him.”
“Not fair to him? Conner, you know what he’s put me through. Not fair to him? I’ve been dealing with him for four years—though it was actually good for the first two years, I guess—and you’re worried about it not being fair to him?” April stared at Conner, incredulous, but his eyes remained steady.
“I understand all of that, and believe me, I know you’ve put up with a lot. More than anyone should. I want this to be real, though. I don’t want you to choose me because you’re heartbroken over him. Can you see that? Do you understand where I’m at with all of this?”
She nodded slightly, still holding his gaze.
“You mean so much to me, April. You’re like the stars in my night sky. You take everything that’s dark and you light it up. You help me be a better person, an unafraid person, and I don’t want to risk that. Not for anything. Okay?”
“Your … stars?” she whispered.
“Yes. That was a dumb analogy but—“
“No. It wasn’t dumb. I … I love the stars. I have since I was little.”
“So do I, but that’s really not the point here.” Conner stroked her cheek lightly with his finger. “If this is what you really want … If I’m what you really want … Then you need to take care of him. After that, we can talk about stars all you like. We can go look at the stars.” He smiled. “I’ll even name a star after you if that’s what you want! But for now, this is reality. You have to decide what you want and you have to act on that.”
April genuinely smiled for the first time in what felt like years. “I’m sure. This is … You are what I want. You’re my stars, too.”
They stood grinning at each other for a moment, and Conner took her hand. “Well, if you’ve made your decision, get it over with!”
“Get it over with?” April blinked. “Get what over … oh. Now?”
“Yes! Unless you’d rather wait. It’s up to you.”
“Oh, no, now is good. I guess he’d still be up. Are you … going to wait here?”
“I’ll drive you. In your car, of course, so he won’t notice me. But I think you need the support.”
A small, indistinct feeling inched its way into April’s mind, growing larger and larger with each passing moment. It was a feeling that had been absent for far too long. As it grew, April realized what it was: hope.
* * *
“You’ll be fine. I promise. I’m right out here if anything goes wrong. Just stay strong and tell him how you feel.” Conner let go of April’s hand and reached across her, opening her door.
She smiled uneasily at him with conflicting emotions. Pangs of joy, hope, and fear stabbed randomly at her heart, causing her to physically shake. Seeing her trembling hands, Conner spoke softly to her. “You know what you need to do. If this is what you want, that’s what you need to do. This is your decision.”
April nodded determinedly and, with a sudden burst of courage, stepped out of the car and onto Jacob’s lawn. She drew in deep breath after deep breath, somehow hoping the cool night air would stifle her fear long enough for her to tell Jacob what she had come to tell him. Reaching his door, she paused and looked back at Conner, who smiled reassuringly.
Out of habit, April looked upward in hopes of calming herself, and was rewarded with a vast, sparkling display of twinkling stars looking down on her. Go on, they seemed to say. Have courage. Be strong. Better things lie ahead. She knew this was true. It was true and she was scared. Take a chance.
April raised her hand and knocked.
© Rachel Grit and Finding the Wardrobe, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rachel Grit and Finding the Wardrobe with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.