Chapter 9 : Chapter 9: Swallow
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It was one of those days when I would lay in my bed, thoughts swirling around keeping me from sleeping. When everything felt wrong. Everything was broken. Things with Mum seemed to be worsening. I didn’t even want to think about it because it made me feel nauseous.
Cassie could tell things were worse too. Cassie cried herself to sleep almost every night. I could here small whimpers coming from her room and when she snuck into my room, her pillow case was wet with tears.
The worst part was there was nothing I could say to comfort her. When Cassie and I caught Mum drinking straight from the bottle last year, she poured the rest down the drain and promised to never drink again.
All promises get broken. And then when they are broken, it just hurts more than the truth.
The only thing that kept me sane was Rose. She would come over, grinning, every day. Like her and I were the only people in the world. She didn’t have to say anything, but she was comforting, her soft, deep auburn hair between my fingers.
She knew something was wrong, frowning when I shook my head that I was ok. It doesn’t matter though, I can’t explain this to her. And maybe in not explaining I am being dishonest, but it is not my secret to tell. Its not my problem to explain.
I wanted to blame myself for her drinking. I wanted to blame something. I guess that’s what they tell you that you can’t control. But sometimes, it was control that I wanted.
I shook away the ideas, and was able to fall asleep in the oppressive silence that hung over the house.
Rose had her head on my shoulder, and I was running my hand through her hair.
“Things are complicated,” Rose said, her soft whisper trying to hide her disappointment.
“Yes,” I replied, unsure of what she was going to say, nervous that she was going to end this—whatever this was.
“Do you still want things to be just that? Or do you actually want to get somewhere. Do you want to do something about this complicated and twisted thing?”
“What complicated and twisted thing?” I said, turning to look into her blue-green eyes.
“Putting our problems away. Pretending like we are in a relationship, but not being sure of that. Not facing the present?”
Rose had that little wrinkle in-between her eyebrows that she got when she was worried.
“If you want to talk about problems. If you want to get caught up in the bad stuff. If you want to ignore the things that are good, that get us through our problems,”
Rose was disappointed in my answer. Maybe she didn’t know what me telling her would bring. Maybe she wouldn’t know that it could bring nothing but hurt and worry to her. I wanted to keep her safe. Keep her away from the dark spot on my life that loomed over me.
Rose stood up abruptly.
“Then take me on a date,”
“What?” I said shaking my head in confusion. I wanted nothing more than to make her happy, I was just confused at the request. I didn’t know that was the kind of relationship she wanted, and above all I had absolutely no ideas what this had to do with us ignoring the problems that we were too scared to face.
“If we are going to act like a couple, and focus not on each other and helping one another, but the feelings we have, then we should do couple like things,”
“Ok, well then, Rose Weasley, will you go out with me?”
She smile, nodded for a second, “I like coffee,”
“Alright, well I will see you tonight then,” she said as she turned and walked back to her house, turning to look at me a couple times as she left.
I remained seated on the porch, fidgeting with my hands. It was like I wanted to tell her, but I felt like it was too big a weight. I didn’t want to burden someone else with my problem, someone that I might have loved. I shook the thought away. We could be the happy worry-free couple that we wanted to be, even though the end of the summer was getting closer. It was mid-July, and I knew that the end of the summer meant the end of a lot of other things too.
I led Rose by the hand, through the door into my favorite coffee shop, Pajamas’ Coffee. It was crowded, a lot of kids nibbling on pasties and running around in circles, hyped up on sugar.
Rose looked up at the menu that hung over the cash register.
She read through the items carefully and closely, I waited until it had seemed like she made up her mind.
I walked up to the register, a blonde lady with a pony tail, grinning.
“I will have a caramel mocha, please,”
“Alright, and for you?” the blonde said looking at Rose.
Rose furrowed her brow, “um, just the same thing please.”
“Got it. And for here or to go?”
“To go,” I said as Rose started to say “for here”
I led Rose over to a counter where we waited for our mochas.
“That wasn’t much of a date,” Rose said, pouting.
I smiled and put my arm around her, “That’s because it’s not over yet…”
She smiled and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
The sky became a dull blue color as the sun began to set. Rose and my hands were intertwined as we walked down the street, coffee in the other hand.
I led her away from the street that was crowded with shops and towards the lake that was a couple of blocks away.
“Where are we going?” Rose said excitedly.
“You really don’t spend that much time in this town do you?”
Rose wrinkled her nose up, “No, just the summers and I haven’t really…ever had a great tour guide?”
“So that’s what I am, a tour guide? You know I was wondering about the status of our relationship, but this makes perfect sense…” I said playfully, bumping into her jokingly as we walked down the street.
“Well that’s awkward…I thought you knew that’s what I always wanted from this relationship…” she smiled back at me, her arm sliding around my waist.
We approached the lake and I led her to an old oak tree that sat so its longest branch barely skimmed the flat and mirrored surface of the lake.
The branch was about a meter in diameter, and so I lifted Rose onto the limb of the tree that you could sit on, and feel like you were floating above the water. My mum taught me this when I was little.
Rose squealed as I placed her on the branch. I handed her our coffees that I had set on the ground, and hopped up beside her, something that I was finally able to do after so many years of practice.
Rose kicked her feet back and forth, her feet not quite reaching the surface of the lake.
“When did you learn about this place?” Rose said, watching the tree tops for crow-like birds that flew in and out of nests in the trees.
“My mum showed it to me when I was young. I guess I have been coming here ever since,” I said, shrugging my shoulders like it didn’t matter. But it did. There was something about my childhood that was hard to think about now that I was dealing with my mum’s drinking problem. It was hard to imagine not knowing that she had a problem, to think about the time when I always put my full trust into her, to remember the way that she used to seem like the strongest person in the world.
“Henry…” Rose said sympathetically, like she saw something shift on my face.
I pulled my head to her, “Hmm?” I said, feeling warmth that I was trying to suppress rise in my eyes.
She pulled her hand to my cheek, her touch making me shiver. I kept looking down, not wanting to make eye contact. I traced patterns in the bark of the wood between us.
“Tell me, Henry,”
“Tell you what?” I said, acting like I didn’t know what she was talking about. Acting like I didn’t know that she knew about my mum, maybe to try to trick myself into thinking that I didn’t know she knew.
“You know,” she said, as I finally allowed myself to look up.
“Yes. But I don’t know why you want to know,” I said coming out a little more harsh than I had meant.
She let her hand drop to her lap, and she sighed.
“I am sorry, Rose. I just don’t know if I am ready to talk about it. I thought that was what our relationship was supposed to be – simple. Life gets too complicated, and if we let life get in the way of us…well I don’t know. I just don’t want to loose you in the muddle,”
“I know,” she said. She let the subject drop.
We sat in silence for a few minutes, the warmth between us enough to keep it from becoming awkward. I lifted her chin up, and kissed her gently. She kissed me back, her lips moving with mine. Her hands then moved under my shirt, and she stroked my back, sending tingling up my spine. My hands wandered under her shirt and onto her back. She seemed so far away even though she was so close. I wanted her closer to me. Her legs swung across me at some point, and they draped off of mine, so that she was almost sitting on me. My hands moved up and down her back. It seemed like time wasn’t going forward. We broke apart, both of us trying not to, trying to make it last longer.
Later that night, Rose had gone home, Cassie was asleep, and my mom was passed out on the couch, her computer in her lap. I picked up the computer and placed it on the table, turning off all the lights. I was being the adult again. Which sucked. But it was something that I was used to. I guess even though I love my mum, I don’t always have to respect her descisions.
Maybe I did need to talk to someone, talk to Rose. But why put stress on her? It wasn’t her problem. I didn’t need her to feel sorry for me. I should be able to deal with it myself.
A/N: Sorry it has been so long! Please keep reading though, with summer coming up, I will have a lot more time! Thanks for reading, and reviewing :)
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by Leigh Kelley