I've been standing down the street from Sarah's for more than 20 minutes now. I was going to come early and help set up. But when I got down the street I found myself stopping.
I got off my bike and have been standing here since. I can see the house in the distance.
"Hey." I jump when I hear Sarah's voice.
"Hey." I turn to see her and John B in his van next to me.
"You comin'?" John is looking good as always.
"Yeah. Be there in a minute."
They both smile and continue driving. I stand there for another three or four minutes before getting back on my bike. When I park my bike by the dock I can see everyone on the boat.
They're all smiling, talking, and relaxed. Some part of me doesn't want to go near it. Doesn't want to destroy their joy. Then Sarah pops out from behind me with a bag of chips.
"Totally. I feel crippling anxiety and on top of it all, I have a massive headache. It's all good" We both laugh.
"So... I just wanted to tell you that JJ isn't coming."
"He texted saying he wasn't feeling well." Sure...
"It's fine. Once you talk to everyone else he'll jump on board."
"See you up there. Everyone's excited to see you."
Sarah runs off and I find my body frozen.
What if JJ doesn't ever want to see me again? What if the others agree with him? Is this the wrong move? Will this just push them all further away? Will I ever be able to make friends again?
Am I too messed up? Should I start learning how to knit? Maybe gardening?
"Hey, weirdo!" I hear from far away and turn to see Rafe standing outside the house. "Go." He laughs at me and walks into the house.
I repeat it in my head. Go. Again. Go. Go. Go. I step forward. Go. I start to breathe. Go. Go. I step onto the boat. Everyone immediately turns to me.
Most of them smile, Taylor still looks like she did that night, afraid.
"Hey." Every part of my body is shaking.
"Hey." They all say weird at different times on different levels ranging from excited to scared.
"I'm going to be completely honest with you guys and let you know that right now I am scared to death about this.
My heart feels like it's about to jump out of my chest and I'm this close to peeing my pants."
"Oh. Okay." John B says and we all laugh a little, lightening the mood a little.
"I'm also going to be completely honest about everything else. The other day..." I look at them all looking at me, the complete attention freaks me out.
"Wow, I really should've written some note cards. I have someone forgot my entire life with a single look from all of you.
" I nervously laugh and they either laugh because they think it's funny or to just make me feel better. "No, but really, I'm so so so so so so sorry. I can't say it enough.
Well, I could, but then I might eventually die from dehydration." I don't know why I'm trying to crack jokes right now.
"Parker." Sarah looks to me to breathe.
"Thanks. So I was trying to figure out where to begin this... story per se. And I guess the easiest way is to just start when I was five. I would say that's the time it began.
It could've been earlier. But it's the first memory I have of it. When I was playing with my toys in the living room of our old townhome. He stepped on when. Got very angry. Then threw it at me.
Hit me in the eye. He blamed me for it. Told everyone I hit myself while playing. Stuff like that continued for a while. Then I was able to talk back. I couldn't help it.
I knew I couldn't physically take him, so I would say things. But that just made him say things back He used to tell me I was a mistake.
He would say 'you're just the product of a drunk night and faulty condom'. I had no idea what a condom was until later." I hear a few chuckles.
"When I was ten I not only knew I was gay, but I told my mom. I didn't feel comfortable telling my dad. But, as always, he found out. He realized my mom was hiding something.
He thought she was cheating on him. But instead of attacking her, he attacked me, knowing it would hurt her more. He grabbed me by the throat. Then threw me against our Christmas tree.
Oh yeah, it was Christmas Eve! I got multiple cuts from the broken ornaments. That's when my mom just shouted I was gay. My dad just walked out of the house after that.
The next morning, Christmas, our tree and all the presents were gone. There was a bonfire in the backyard."
"After that, I stopped talking back. I stopped doing anything that could anger him. I went to school. Came home. Did well in all my classes. Sat silent at dinner.
Only left my room when I needed to. Except for the few times I snuck out. He did the same. I'm pretty sure we didn't say a word to each other for the first year.
After that, it was nothing but 'hi' and 'good morning'. But then came last Christmas." I can feel my chest tightening, but breath through it. "We were driving to our lake house in Ithaca.
It was two days before Christmas. I was in the back seat. My mom was driving and my dad was in the passenger seat getting annoyed with the radio and taking swigs from his flask.
Then my mom made the wrong turn. She must've just been distracted. But then that angered my dad. He was already angry with the radio not working and had a fair amount of his flask."
"So... he really flew off the deep end. Immediately he started shouting at her. The road... it was covered in an inch or two of snow. My mom just sat there, silent. She did nothing to stop him.
I could see her hands shaking. The car was swerving a bit. It would go slightly into the other lane, then back towards the woods. I saw something bad about to happen. So I tried to stop it.
I yelled. Loudly. Shouted at him. Told him to stop. And immediately he swung his arm back at me. Instinctively I swung back. My arm hit his. And his arm went right at my mom.
He hit her in the bead. His head went forward and next I know the car was flipping." Tears start rolling down my face.
"Here." Kiara hands me some tissues.
"Thanks." I take a deep breath in and let one out. "I woke up in the hospital after that. They told me a trucker found us and called the police.
By the time the ambulance arrived my mom was already dead. They said she died immediately. Hit her head on the window." My head is trembling.
"And my dad had nothing but some scratches and a concussion. I had broken my left hand." I show them the scar from the surgery. "Then a concussion as well as fractured rib.
I was in the hospital for a few weeks. I didn't see my dad once then. The nurses said he was allowed to go home the morning after we arrived.
I had to take a taxi home after my surgeries were done. When I got home he didn't speak to me. But he was drunk. He was always drunk after that."
"For a month he just didn't speak. We rarely even saw each other. I spent all my time as far as I could from home. He spent all his days drinking in front of the TV. But then something changed.
He started getting angrier. Worse than he had ever gotten before. He would throw things. Yell at me when I wasn't even in the room. I would wake up to him yelling at me.
I would go to sleep with him yelling at me. And he always said the same thing. He told me... he told me I should've died. That it was all my fault and I should've been the one to die that day.
" Sarah goes to put her hand on my shoulder but I flinch and she backs up.
"Sorry." I look to her and apologize. "After you get told something over and over. Every day. Every night. You begin to hear it in your head. Eventually, I began to believe it.
And I never really realized it until, well... the other day. I truly believed the words he said. And part of me still does. Something in me still believes that I should be the dead one.
" I take a minute to wipe my tears and blow my nose.
"It was almost two months ago that I came home late from work and he was in one of his moods. The house was destroyed. It always was. I gave up cleaning it after a month.
I walked straight to my room. But on the way, I guess I made too much noise and he woke up from his drunken slumber. He immediately jumped from the couch and charged at me.
I remember feeling like a bull was running at me. Instinctively I reacted and grabbed a bat from the floor. I swung it at him. Hit him square in the head. Knocked him right out. Or so I thought.
I was running to my room when I heard him starting to throw things. I was ready to hide in my room when I heard him shouting about my mom. He was calling her a bitch. Saying she was a slut."