The original crowd, p.49
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       The Original Crowd, p.49

         Part #0.5 of A Whole New Crowd series by Tijan
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  I knew tears were rolling down my face, but I just didn’t care. I was beyond caring.

  I raged back, “Are you kidding me! Are you? You know who your parents are. You know what they looked like, what they liked to eat, what they hated. You know everything about them! You even know they screwed up!! So you get off your pity act. My parents didn’t want me! They didn’t care! Each fucking family I was placed with didn’t care. When I was six, I thought that I’d try and be perfect and do anything my new family asked of me, because if I did, surely they would want to keep me. What I got was a sick pervert who’d visit my room at night abusing me in ways I’ll never get out of my head and his wife who blamed me when she caught him. I was immediately kicked out to the next family. The second I didn’t act perfect, I was booted out.”

  I stopped shouting. Everything just stopped. I stood there, paralyzed as everything I’ve ever buried surfaced to the forefront of my mind. Things that I buried so far down so I would never have to feel the worst moments of my life. It was like a dam had been broken and I was gasping for air.

  Oh God, oh God.

  I hadn’t realized…I hadn’t known…that burying all the memories that I did would explode inside me. It was like my insides wanted out. I let out a gut wrenching sob that came from deep inside me and fell to the ground.

  “Oh God—” I choked out, clawing at my clothes, my nails, digging deep into my skin, were drawing blood. I needed to get these memories out of me.

  “Taryn,” Tray murmured, catching me. “Taryn—” he whispered, holding me tight.

  “Tray,” I gasped, curling into him, burrowing into him as close to him as I could.

  He sat down and held me in his lap, cradling me as I wept.

  In that hotel room, with Tray, I grieved for my six year old self. I sobbed remembering all the families that didn’t think I was perfect enough for them. I cried for every injustice that had ever been inflicted upon me.

  Seventeen years of memories and emotions that I thought were long forgotten and buried poured out of me.

  *

  Tray held me the entire night. We missed the game, we missed the parties, the celebration. Tray changed my clothes, kissing my forehead as he slipped the shirt over my head, my shoulder when he worked one arm out, my midriff when he lifted it in the first place. He kissed my thighs when he unzipped my pants and pulled them down. As they passed my knees, he kissed those too. My feet, my toes. He kissed my hands, each finger, when he pulled on my pajama top, my neck as it fitted around it, my stomach as he covered it with fabric. He kissed my toes, pulling my pajama bottoms on, my shins, my knees, my thighs, hips, and lastly just below my waist.

  When I was dressed, he quickly changed himself. Turning the light off, he crawled into bed and slipped underneath the covers with me. He wrapped his arms around me, protecting me. Enfolding me.

  I broke again.

  He kissed my shoulder and whispered, “I’ve fallen for you.”

  I sobbed, curling in a fetal position, with Tray pressed behind me.

  He whispered again, “I’ve fallen for the bitch that walked down the hallway and told me to screw myself. I’ve fallen for the girl who cares so goddamn much about her sister, about her psycho ex, his brother, about anyone who she considers family that she’d do anything for them, including going to jail. I’ve fallen for the girl who swears at me when she’s happy, and who’ll fight to the fucking bitter end if it means she’ll come out standing.”

  I never stopped sobbing, feeling his words, feeling it battle the emotions that I was feeling inside.

  Tray continued, pressing a kiss to the side of my jaw, “I’ve fallen for the girl who can tell me to fuck off. Who can have a staring contest with Amber, Jasmine, and whoever else and walk away after they’ve been reduced to piles. I’ve fallen for the girl who can bring me to my knees, over and over again, and then press a hand to my cheek and lift me back up.”

  I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t do anything but grieve for my past.

  My shoulders were shaking, the sobs were going in and out. I rolled over to look at him and met his eyes through my tear drenched ones. Then finally, for what felt like forever, I let it all go.

  Tray cupped my cheek with his hand and he whispered tenderly, “I’ve fallen for a girl who makes me humble.”

  I kissed him. A full-out wet, tear-soaked kiss.

  I poured everything into it. Everything I couldn’t say.

  And that night we made love, for the first time.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  Once you cry it out, and let it all go, you’re supposed to feel better, right? I did feel a little better, but something else was brewing. The feeling from yesterday was still with me and it didn’t have anything to do with my break down. I just knew something else was going on—I could feel it and it was painful. I didn’t know how to fix it.

  Tray was asleep beside me, his arms folded around me, his words still in my ears.

  I sighed, shivering slightly, but not from the cold. Tray had warmed me, inside and out.

  But I shivered nonetheless, because I knew something had gone wrong. Deadly wrong. I knew that it would irrevocably change my life.

  I knew it was a dream when I noticed I was with Brian in the woods by the school. He was in front of me, looking at me like he missed me. Why would he miss me? I just saw him the other day. He was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. It seemed so surreal. I turned around, and I was back in the hotel bed with Tray. Brian was looking between Tray and me. He looked into my eyes and I saw how much he loved me. He was trying to give me a message. If I could just hear what he was trying to tell me…

  “Brian,” I whispered, tears in my eyes.

  He smiled, a tender, ethereal smile. An immortal smile.

  “Brian,” I murmured again, confused and scared.

  He gave me a smile. Tears were running down my cheeks.

  Oh, God. His eyes gave away everything. He was telling me goodbye.

  He turned and walked away. Brian was gone.

  I jolted awake, tears running down my face. Somehow I knew that my dream was real. I found my phone laying on the bedside table. I had shut it off last night, because I knew Mandy would be calling me at all hours. I didn’t think anyone else would need to get a hold of me.

  I powered my phone on and saw that I had twenty missed calls since yesterday afternoon—all from Geezer. I really didn’t want to call him back. I knew what he was going to tell me, and I didn’t want to hear it.

  I jumped when my phone rang. I didn’t want to answer it, so I just stared at it. Tray woke up immediately. He took one look at me, saw I was awake, and then reached for the phone.

  Seconds later, it started ringing again. He answered, “Yeah?”

  A moment later, he looked at me and held it out for me to take.

  I pressed it to my ear and murmured hoarsely, “Yeah?”

  “Taryn.”

  It was Geezer, but it didn’t sound like him.

  “Geezer?” I sat up. I needed to know for sure. I had to hear it.

  “Oh God, Taryn.” He broke down, crying uncontrollably.

  “Geezer, what is it?” I was so fucking scared of what he was about to tell me.

  “It’s Brian.”

  Brian was gone.

  “Oh God—” I broke out, the dam crashed and came tumbling down again.

  “He,” Geezer paused, trying to get out the rest, “he…Taryn—”

  “Charles,” hearing his name made him cry even harder, “what happened?”

  “He…he was coming to see you. He’d…he said he knew what Jace had done. He was coming to tell you. Oh God, Taryn,” he whimpered.

  “Charles,” I said softly, my heart breaking. I sat up and moved to the edge of the bed. The bed sheet pooled around my waist, as I sat there, phone to my ear, waiting for Geezer to respond.

  “I tried calling your cell, but I don’t think it’s turned o
n…it was a car accident.” It was the car accident we passed, the one that made me feel so uneasy.

  I’d turned it off—I didn’t want to see how many times Mandy would call. I thought it would be ok.

  I didn’t say anything. I held my breath. My heart was pounding in my ears.

  “He’s…Brian…he’s…”

  He’s dead.

  I already knew.

  “He’s dead, Taryn.”

  I sat there. I couldn’t speak and it felt like I couldn’t breathe.

  Geezer was crying, whimpering like a child, and I just sat there. I didn’t have it in me to comfort him. I saw my reflection in the mirror—I was empty of all emotion. I turned it off, just shut it off so I couldn’t feel anything. I should know better, last night was the perfect example of what burying your memories and emotions can do to you But I just couldn’t feel right now. I wanted to be shut off—from everything .

  Tray sat up and took the phone away.

  He lifted it to his ear and asked, “Hello?”

  I had to hear it all over again.

  I heard Geezer tell Tray. And a moment later, after a quick conversation, Tray reached around and replaced the phone.

  I sat there.

  “Taryn,” Tray spoke.

  I felt nothing.

  “Taryn,” he tried again.

  Still nothing. Time was frozen as was I.

  Then I felt Tray’s fingers at my arm. He was pulling me up. And I stood there while he touched me, a cool slide of air hit me and then—I was dressed again.

  He’d changed me. While I stood there, staring dumbly, as he knelt before me, his hands at my feet, trying to get my shoes on.

  I stared at his back. I saw how large it was, muscular, strong. I saw the muscles bulge, slightly, with every movement he made, every turn he took.

  Every reach he made.

  He was standing before me, a bag slung over his shoulder. He had all the bags then and he grasped my elbow, pulling me with him. I blinked.

  We were on the elevator.

  My eyes closed.

  We were at the front desk.

  I blinked again.

  We were in his car and I frowned—not knowing how we’d gotten there. Why we’d gotten there.

  Oh that’s right—

  Brian.

  *

  Brian’s pastor said all the right things. He told us to remember Brian as he would want to be remembered. How his life had been, to remember his strength and to remember his happiness. We were there to remember Brian. We were there to remember those who had passed on, their memories we’d cherish, to say goodbye, and to gain closure.

  Brian was in the front, in a casket, his eyes were closed and he was in a suit. Which was bullshit. Brian would never wear a suit, much less to his own fucking funeral. Brian would want to go out in a t-shirt and torn jeans, frayed at the ends, and he’d want to be barefoot. I’m pretty sure the shiny black shoes he was wearing had never been his.

  I was numb inside as I listened to the pastor’s nurturing voice, a calm atmosphere surrounding him.

  We were there for us, ourselves.

  The dead have passed on.

  Brian had already left, said his goodbye, I felt it in my heart.

  Death is a harsh reality.

  Some understand death, embrace it, others fear it.

  It’s an inevitable stage in life, no one can escape. So all we can do is cherish the life we have remaining.

  Embrace those surrounding us, our loved ones and try to live without regrets. Change to become who we want to be when we meet death.

  I wanted to meet death head-on. I didn’t want it to take me in my sleep. I wanted to see it coming. I wanted to know what was happening.

  Brian hadn’t been prepared, but then again, Brian was dead. I doubt he cared anymore.

  We’re supposed to make ourselves spiritually ready. To make right with God. To make right with everyone else, with ourselves. With our souls.

  I listened to the pastor. I heard every word, every nuance.

  Geezer sat beside me. He looked sober, but from the sheen of tears in his eyes, I knew he’d be smoking the second he could leave. He used it to cover everything: his distress, his despair, his fears.

  He held my hand throughout the ceremony.

  I looked for Grayley, but he hadn’t come.

  But it seemed everyone else in Pedlam came. Students from school—I saw Gentley in the back—and even the chief of police—Brian would’ve thought that was hilarious. But I could only give a sad smile.

  And of course, Jace was there, sitting in the front next to his father.

  I looked at Brian’s father and I saw the life of abuse had worn right through him. He wasn’t old, a mere forty-two, but he looked eighty years old. He had tears in his eyes, while he sat stiffly beside Jace.

  Their mother had left a long time ago. Brian had once told me she never existed. He’d been ten then. When he was fifteen, he’d confessed that she’d walked out when they were kids.

  I looked back at Jace. He sat there, looking straight ahead at Brian as the pastor continued. He looked like he had aged ten years since I last saw him.

  And I think I hated him.

  Because he was the only one in that fucking church who felt the same as me, but he was so unreachable.

  Tray shifted beside me and leaned forward on his elbows.

  I looked at him and sighed. I remembered his words: he’d fallen for me.

  He’d washed me, fed me, and changed me. He dealt with Mandy’s calls when we got back. He made arrangements—for everything. I wasn’t able to feel. I’d just…checked out.

  And Tray had stepped in my place.

  I ran my hand through his hair, feeling its softness, and trailed my fingers down his shoulder, his arm, and reached for his hand.

  Tray looked up and gave me a small smile, before kissing my hand. Then he let our hands rest in his lap, where he was tracing my palm with his fingers.

  I felt Geezer squeeze my hand again and I heard him draw in his breath. He was pale, trying to hold his emotions back.

  I don’t know what inspired me, but I leaned over and kissed his cheek. I whispered, “Brian’s in a better place now.”

  Geezer’s tear-filled eyes met mine as he listened.

  I added, “We’re the ones who gotta pick it up. Bri’s gone,” my voice broke, “But he’s better than us.”

  His tears fell and Geezer didn’t even try to brush them away as he squeezed my hand tighter.

  I heard the pastor again. He was saying it is not that trouble

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