Content Warning: Swearing, some reference to domestic violence.
Dear Diary, I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. A long while. I’ve been so busy with dance that I barely have time to think about anything else, it seems. There is a performance coming up that I’m pretty excited about. My whole family will be there, and Fletcher, too.
He and I have been having some problems but nothing we can’t work out. Before, he was jealous of Julie. Now, he’s jealous of her and how much time I’ve been putting into ballet. It’s more than dancing to me and I thought he understood that. I guess not.
Anyway, that about sums up the past several months. Here I am now, standing outside of Julie’s house because she didn’t show up for rehearsal today. It’s not like her to skip something important like this, so I’m worried that she’s sick or something.
This is the first time I’ve ever been to Jules’ house as she never lets me come over. Not even to carpool to the studio or gym. Seeing it now, I wonder if she’s embarrassed. She doesn’t have to be – not with me. I know not everyone has the advantages in life I’ve been given.
Her townhouse is on the end. It probably should be considered a historical landmark but it’s just outside the Historic District where all the fancy gothic looking houses are. Julie is such a vibrant person, it’s hard to imagine her in this dreary place.
“I told you not to come here,” she said after letting me in.
The walls were stark white and the room was sparsely furnished. The furniture she did have seemed nice enough, although, I can’t say much for her taste.
“I’m sorry, Jules. I was worried when you didn’t show up today.”
“I… I was going to call you later. I didn’t think you’d just show up, though.”
“So you said. Are you all right?”
She glanced over her shoulder at Paisley who was playing nearby before answering me. “I’m fine. I think you should go.”
I was about to respond when Paisley realized I was there. We’d gotten to be good friends, she and I. Her pouty lips curved into a smile and she squealed, “Olen!”
Laughing, I hurried over to her and scooped her up into my arms. ‘Olen’ was how she pronounced my name and it was music to my ears. There was something about her tiny voice that melted my heart.
She was a squirmy little thing, so I threw her up in the air, easily catching her and holding her above my face.
“Be careful with her – don’t drop her!”
“Have I ever dropped you?”
“Olen!” Paisley squealed again.
Julie rolled her eyes and said, “Last time I held her like that, the stinker spit up on my face.”
“Good thing your mouth was closed!” I said brightly, grinning at the little girl.
When the fun was over and Paisley had settled down, I asked, “What’s the deal? For real? You’ve never missed before.”
Julie sighed loudly and hugged her sweater around her small frame. “Can’t you tell I don’t want to talk about it? I swear, Holden, most people require the smallest sign to figure things like this out. You need an entire billboard with flashing lights!”
It was my turn to sigh because I didn’t think I was that bad. “I shouldn’t have to tell you how much I care about you. I don’t believe you’re okay, and I’m not leaving until you can convince me.”
Julie’s eyes filled with tears and with a voice barely above a whisper, she said, “Why don’t you put her in the highchair? I need to feed her.”
Without hesitating, I put Paisley in her highchair, making sure the tray was safely locked in place. When I turned around, Julie was crying, one hand frantically wiping at the tears.
“Oh, damn it,” I mumbled, immediately trying to comfort her.
As I began to wrap my arms around her to pull her close and let her cry it out, she winced, holding her side near her lower ribcage and pushed me away.
“No, don’t – ” she said with a grimace.
Letting go, I looked deeply into her eyes, my heart beating faster than I can ever remember it doing. “Did he hurt you?” I demanded, barely containing my anger, my eyes narrowing into slits.
“N-no, I just slipped in the bathtub – ”
“Asshole! Get your hands off my wife!”
Julie jumped sky-high when she heard Brent’s booming voice. Before I could say anything, he lunged across the floor and shoved me hard against the wall, his hands on my chest, holding me there.
Julie’s first instinct was to grab Paisley, and I was glad for that. I could feel through the pressure Brent exerted against me that I was probably stronger than him and the last thing I wanted was for either of the girls to get hurt if this turned uglier than it already was.
“Who do you think you are, putting your hands all over my wife? Julie told me you’re gay! What’s the big idea?”
I glared at him, still trying to size him up since I didn’t know how far he would go with this. It would have been nice if everyone could have walked away without getting hurt but I couldn’t contain myself when I pictured Brent beating Julie.
“What did you do to her? I can tell you hurt her! You’re a real man, hitting a woman, huh? Does it make you feel strong picking on someone smaller than you?”
“You’re gonna be so sorry you talked to me this way, boy.”
“What’re you gonna do? Are you even gonna do anything because you haven’t yet!” I sneered at him.
“Guys, stop it!” Julie cried out as she tried to calm Paisley, who was wailing now.
“Shut the fuck up, Julie!” Brent growled, still glowering at me.
“Don’t talk to her like that,” I said, my voice low and as threatening as I could make it.
He merely smirked at me with one eyebrow raised. “I’m gonna mess you up so bad.”
Let me just say right here how it’s a really good thing I’m a dancer because, damn, I’m quick. He threw a punch at me that, if I hadn’t ducked at the right time, would have hurt really bad.
As he was regaining his balance, I threw a punch at him that connected with his right jaw and sent him flying kind of sideways and backward through the air like a leaf in the wind.
Without even looking at him, or checking to see if he was able to get back up and cause more damage, I grabbed Julie’s hand and pulled her and Paisley out of there. We were several blocks away before I finally let go of her and hailed a cab to take them back to my place.
When we got home, Chris and Rosetta were – you guessed it – drinking. I had the distinct feeling we were interrupting something. But that the ‘something’ wasn’t exactly good.
They both had strange expressions kind of like they’d both heard a stupid joke but they couldn’t groan about it out loud if that makes any sense. I was curious but had more pressing matters.
Julie was uptight, like anyone in her position would be, but she wasn’t crying anymore. Paisley was quiet and looked a little sleepy to me.
“You guys can have my room. We don’t have a crib or anything but we’ll improvise.”
“Holden, we can’t take your room. I don’t want to put you out.”
“What’s going on?” asked Chris from across the room.
“Uh, Julie and Paisley are staying here temporarily. I didn’t have a chance to ask you guys ahead of time. Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Rosetta said with a slight smile. “Stay as long as you like.”
“Thank you,” Julie meekly said.
“You know,” Rosetta said, “I think there’s an old playpen in the den closet. I am certain that would make a good crib.”
“Good thinking, Sis.”
“You know, there’s a daybed in the den, too,” I said. “If you won’t take my room – and the offer’s still open – you and Paisley could sleep in there.”
“That sounds really good. Do you mind if I feed Paisley? I never got the chance before we left my house.”
“Oh, sure,” I said. “Um, there’s some yogurt in the fridge.. or there’s oatmeal. Does she eat bananas? There’s bananas.”
“Thank you so much,” she said with a sniffle. “I’ll find what I need.”
Julie and Fletcher passed each other as he was leaving the kitchen and she was going in. He stood in the archway of the dining room, staring at me.
I don’t know the last time I saw him with such a disappointed, pained face. He looked like he could cry but was holding it back.
He didn’t say anything until we heard the kitchen door close. “She’s staying here? How could you?”
“How could I what?” I demanded as Chris and Rosetta joined us.
“You know what!” he spat, his eyes darkening. “Why don’t you just admit how you feel about her?”
“How I feel about Julie?” I don’t think I could have been more puzzled. Why was he so damn possessive?
“Yes, Julie! You’re sweet, needy Jules!”
“Shut up, she’ll hear you!” I wasn’t doing a very good job of keeping it down either, I’ll admit.
I could feel heat rising to my cheeks as I heard Rosetta stifle a snort from behind me. I knew she was enjoying this immensely.
“I don’t give a shit! It’s time I heard the truth, Holden!”
“Uh, we have drinks for you but…,” Chris stammered, his voice cracking before trailing off.
“The truth about what? What is it you think is going on? Because there’s nothing! She’s my best friend and we’re dance partners! That’s it!”
Fletcher’s eyes moved to Rosetta and Chris and I could see the humiliation and anger building even higher in him. It was a moment before he looked at me again. “She calls you ‘boo bear!’ You call her ‘Jules’! And you’re lying to me, I can tell!”
Exasperation took my breath away, my pulse pounded in my temples. “Dude, I’ve had it with the accusations. I haven’t lied to you.”
While Fletcher continued to glare at me, I had the strange sensation that I was watching this all take place. Like in a movie. It didn’t seem real and I didn’t feel like I could stop what was happening. I glanced back at Chris and my sister again, wishing they had the sense to go away. In order to make Rosetta leave, I could threaten her within an inch of her life and she still probably wouldn’t leave. She hated Fletcher that much and found this too amusing. Chris, on the other hand, looked like a deer caught in headlights and I realized his feet were probably rooted to the spot. He couldn’t have left if he tried.
“You know what? I’m sick of trying to believe you, Holden. I’m outta here.”
With that, he pushed past me and left.
As fast as my legs would carry me, I ran through the front door and called his name. He stopped before opening the front gate, his back still to me.
My heart was racing now beyond what I felt I could bear and I was trembling from head to toe. Fletcher had left me many times before. Technically, he didn’t even live here even though the guest room was basically his.
This, though… this felt different. It felt final like an invisible line had been crossed. Without him in my life, I didn’t think I could endure.
“Fletch, please, don’t leave like this.” When he didn’t turn to face, me, I came down the steps so I was level with him and resorted to begging. “Don’t leave. Just… please, talk to me.”
There were unshed tears in his eyes as he looked at me. “I can’t take this anymore. I mean it.”
“What does that mean?” And did I really want to know?
He stared at his feet, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“It means I’m sick of your snarky-ass sister. I’m tired of always wondering if you’re hooking up with Julie behind my back.” Finally, he looked into my eyes, his jaw firmly set. “It means we’re through.”
I couldn’t even respond as his words sucked the life right out of me. I was trembling harder now and felt like I could faint. My entire body was uncomfortably hot but I felt cold.
“You can’t mean that,” I whispered, barely able to choke out the words.
“I mean it,” he quietly said. “We are through.”
Then, with silent tears streaming freely down my face, I watched him walk away until I could no longer see him.
Author’s Note: Did you notice the pink banner in the upper left-hand corner of this site? I’ve put together a survey (it’s really short!) and would be most grateful if you would take a couple minutes to let me know your thoughts. Thank you to those who’ve already taken it, and thank you in advance to those who are going to. 😀
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