Click here to catch up on Chapter 18 of willwriteforhearts' gripping story!
Before his car crash with Dad, Nick was the athlete of the family. He has this big-guy build that so characterizes your average jock in high school, and I guess by the time I was born, all the sportiness had been used up. I’m a toothpick. And for the first time in a very, very long time, I’m wishing I wasn’t.
Maybe if I wasn’t so fragile, maybe if I’d actually gotten off of my lazy butt in the past year, I wouldn’t have to be worrying about this broken rib and frantically wishing I could run faster.
I don’t even know where I’m going, where I can go; I’m too terrified and adrenaline-drunk to be thinking about that kind of stuff. The pain in my side hurts so much; I feel almost lightheaded, dizzy.
“Alice!” Shouting from Thomas.
“Dad!” I scream, not to anybody in particular, running faster. “Dad!” The word chokes in my throat.
Where is he now? I need him. I need him here, right now. He’s always gone when I need him.
I’m panting and I don’t even care about the pain in my side anymore so I let go, arms churning forward with the rest of my body.
I don’t want to die. Not tonight.
All of a sudden: Lights.. I would be surprised if I my heart didn’t feel like exploding from exhaustion. I rub my eyes, trying to see through the spots in my eyes. A car?
Which means there’s a person.
“Help me!” I scream. “Someone’s chasing me!” Why can’t the neighborhood see me? Where is everybody?
It screeches to a stop and a ponytailed girl rushes out to meet me, somehow recognizable. My brain is functioning too slowly to connect any dots, and I freeze.
“Alice!” The girl says this, waving her arm.
How does she know my name?
Hands grab my arm from behind in those brief seconds of confusion and my side burns; I scream.
“Forgot to keep running, Alice?” It's Thomas, a cruel grin on his face.
“Let me go!” Then, to the girl, “Help me!”
Thomas looks up, as if noticing her for the first time. His face contorts in anger and he yanks me along with him, walking towards her. “Ungrateful brat, I told you to stay home.”
I gape like a 5-year-old, staring at her incredulously. “Sam?”
It is Sam. The girl that Nick—
“I’m sorry.” She glances at me quickly, ashamed, eyes tearing up. “I didn’t know… I’m sorry…”
“I told you to stay home.” Thomas almost growls. “You think you can leave whenever you want? Just like your mother, huh?”
“Stop it, Dad.” She sniffs, suddenly getting angry.
Wait—did she just call him Dad?
Her voice raises and she straightens. “What the hell are you doing with this girl, anyways?”
“My business.” He's glaring fiercely.
“Well, now it’s mine too.”
He lets me go for a second and slaps her. I’m too afraid to move but Sam shoves him back a moment after, shouting at me in a rush. “Run, Alice!”
An animalistic desire to live claws my insides and I run, again, run away, anywhere but near him. All I feel is relief. I’m okay. I’m alive.
There’s a scream from behind me and I realize that it’s not me that I should be worrying about anymore.
Something inside me begs to keep moving but I turn around just in time to see Thomas drag Sam into his—her own—house. Guilt creeps through the adrenaline and I’m afraid.
“You have to go back.”
I shriek with all the building apprehension, staring wildly at Dad. Where does he keep coming from? Surprise turns into anger and I shout. “Why didn’t you come earlier? I needed you!”
He looks at me with a steady gaze, grimacing. “It doesn’t work that way.”
I sigh angrily, shaking my head. “I don’t understand.” I look away and catch my breath. “Just leave me alone.”
Something cold and light touches my shoulder and I realize it’s his hand. I avoid looking at him directly but the strength inside me seems to sap away and I can’t find the will to shake him off.
“You have to be brave, Alice.”
Brave? Me? Yeah, right.
“She needs you.”
I don’t turn around because I can already tell that he’ll be gone when I do. I’m terrified and I can’t make myself look back at the house. Because running away from what you’re afraid of is one thing, but running towards it is another.
Because not so deep down inside, I know Dad’s right.
My nerves are frayed by the time Mom gets here. I feel sick, like someone’s pushing in my eyes after having kicked me in the stomach. I can barely focus on making a plan to rescue Alice. Something. Anything. But nothing comes to mind.
Mom gets out of her car slowly and I can hear her sobbing. “Nick! Nick, th-this is all my fault…”
Yeah, it is, I think.
You know that’s not really true, says Wheelchair.
But she could at least try to help, couldn’t she?
Mom picks me up from the porch and I stumble towards her involuntarily, cursing my legs for the millionth time. “What’re we gonna do,” she sobs, “without her? Without him?”
She thrusts me back on the porch, turning around to wipe her eyes. “Thomas! Who else?”
“What are you talking about?” My voice comes out sharper than I’d intended. She stops crying for a second to turn around, eyes wide. I can tell that she’s about to go to another fit of sobs so I continue quickly, “He’s done nothing for you, Mom. Nothing but make you feel horrible about yourself.” She doesn’t really seem to be in the mood to think about us, so I don’t go any farther with my explanation.
“He loves me... I need somebody...”
Moonlight shines over her, movie-style, and she looks smaller, somehow. Younger. It terrifies me.
“Maybe,” I say, relenting, head in hands, “but not him.”
I push down the sick terror I feel as far down as possible, trying to clear my head. I have to be patient but I’m not really sure I have time for that anymore. I hate this responsibility; I’m not supposed to be taking of my Mom, not like this. This is not supposed to happen.
“N-Nick?” Timothy looks at me from a little behind Mom, shivering. “What’re we go-onna do?”
The neighbors have flocked around him, looking at me as well.
All eyes on me.
“I know where he is.” Mom looks down at her feet.
I try to hold back my impatience again, words coming out too quickly, “Where, Mom? Tell us.”
“I’ll drive you to the house...” Her hands are shaking.
Swallow. “No, it’s okay. I can drive.” I get onto Wheelchair quickly, keeping myself steady, focused.
The neighbor girl laughs nervously across the yard, arms crossed. “Uh, how’re you supposed to drive without legs?” The boy punches her but she just scowls, muttering, “It’s a sensible question!” before looking back at me.
“Special car.” I say, rolling over to it as I speak. Timothy follows behind, glancing venomously at the neighbor girl.
We get in without a word; the neighbor girl looks embarrassed, glancing at the neighbor boy apologetically.
We all wake up a little when the car starts, and I glance at Mom in the passenger seat. I can do this.
“Where to?” I ask, swallowing my fear. It's time to find Alice.