Saving You

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Lillian Gray, Dec 11, 2014.

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    A one x one between Lilian Gray and Discordant.

    "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

    Childhood marked the time of missing teeth, untied shoelaces, and the call for a mother when we fell too hard on the pavement. The playground was the biggest world we knew, and our backyard some untold story from another universe. The little yellow lot, that was my house. Aged shingles marked the dried roof, cracked paint ran along the sides between the garage and the main house. It was in dire need of a good coat of paint, but it was our safe haven. When you came, we'd play astronaut together, Indiana Jones, or whatever we wanted. The world was ours, and we were innocent enough to be safe from the tragedy just off the curb.

    "Can I sit with you?"

    Middle school, that was awkward for both of us. We never lost touch though. Even if I was the strange redhead in the back of class, and you the corresponding clown, we still managed to click together in a harmonious little pair. Just the two of us. From time to time, we would fight, but who didn't? Puberty was a weird time for both of us. You got taller, I became more feminine, and playing doctor in the backyard was territory forgotten.

    "Who are you taking to prom?"

    Affections were lost on each other. Unrequited love is painful and often times an awkward series of events. Maybe I should have paid more attention when you serenaded me to old time love songs in the borrowed cars of our parents. Maybe you should have noticed the extra attention, the sidelong glance from behind a curtain of hair. We were only human, and what we notice is often beyond what we understand.

    I left. You left. College? It was a mystery what had happened to us, and there's only one thing to say now that you're gone...

    "I miss you."

    #1 Lillian Gray, Dec 11, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
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  2. Ellen Davis (open)

    Ellen Davis

    Age: 20 years
    Height: 5'4"
    Hair Color: Red
    Eye Color: Green hazel

    Ellen grew up with one best friend. She was too much of a quiet girl to branch out and attempt to socialize with the outside world. In her mind, there were few she trusted, even fewer who she liked. Her days were spent in her backyard, thinking up new ways to save the day in her own imagination. Some called her over imaginative, but that never stopped her, and the constant encouragement from her family only served to strengthen her mind. As she grew older, playtime became less important as she made way for her studies. This was a point in her life where her family became more strict, and fights were commonplace. Ellen would never say she had a bad childhood, but she certainly had her fair share of disagreements within her family.

    When Ellen moved to college, she felt freed. There were no rules or limitations, and curfew was a thing of the past. This is where she turned from a sweet, over cautious student, into a hard drinking party girl. She maintained decent grades, but, they were never anything to boast about. As the years went on, she learned to balance both sides of her, but she heavily favored her inner alcoholic.

    Mother - Alissa Davis
    Father - Troy Davis
    Older Brother - James Davis

    The heavy bass and flare of bright neon lights was enough to make anyone feel sick, but the atmosphere was so familiar, like a breath of fresh air after the long gauntlet of final examinations. It was someone's basement, but, Ellen hadn't inquired as to who's home she was intruding. The party was there, the music loud and the people drinking better than fish in the ocean. Ellen let her hair down in a flash of deep red, howling with the rest of them in excitement. The burning taste of cheap vodka melted away her worries, the room became a blur before she was aware of anything else. It hardly mattered. Half the fun was losing sight of the world around you and letting it all come down, bit by bit. The couch became a soft bed of grass to lay your head, and the floor an infinite abyss in which to heave up any sickness. This gentle meadow was so much more than a living room when she didn't care what cheap drink she consumed.

    It had been less than a week since Ellen's return from her second year at a not so local college. Four solid hours of pavement separated her from the lifestyle she feared and cherished. At a first glance, no one would have been able to tell that the wild red head was pursuing a degree in nursing, a probable six year challenge if she worked hard and made the right connections. Ellen liked helping people just as much as she enjoyed helping herself to another little red plastic cup, filled with who knew what from who knew where.

    She threw her head back and fell further into her demented daydream of swaying willows in the wind. Ellen was drunk, and any place was better than the sweat stained atmosphere of a local college party. She hadn't half a mind to say where she even was. In the morning, she'd wake up, find her bearings, and make her way home to the family which loathed her split personality.

    "Ellen!" A shrill voice called from beneath the booming bass. "Try this!"

    It was Monica Anderson, a tiny thing with dyed blonde hair and a slightly crooked smile. Braces hadn't been an option, what with her family having been too poor to afford the down payment. She'd been on and off again friends with Ellen since middle school. They warmed up again to one another after having spent too much time at parties, and having made connections between them. Monica had turned twenty one before Ellen, and in exchange for buying the younger liquor, all Ellen had to do was write a paper or two from time to time, just enough to keep her failing grades at an average of a poor C.

    "What is it?" Ellen asked, her own voice was swallowed by the sounds of the music blaring out of the speakers around them.

    "Hell, I don't know, just try it!" Monica giggled, a half snorting, half delirious noise that should have sent alarm bells ringing. Ellen threw it back without another thought.

    The world turned black and the music faded into an almost pleasant noise in the back of Ellen's mind. She fell somewhere along the couch, haphazardly strewn about in a mess of makeup and perspiration.

    "...en. Ellen?" Monica's weary voice made it's way to Ellen's ears. She groaned, and slapped a hand across her face to smack her out of her groggy state. "Girl, get up! Boys want us to go."

    "What boys?" Ellen grumbled. Her head throbbed in symphony with the bass she couldn't hardly recall. An unknown tune sang it's way through her head as she started to recall some of the previous night's happenings.

    "Harper twins, this is there house, come on, let's get you up."

    Monica half dragged Ellen from the house and started her on the path home. It was no different than an overdrawn walk of shame. Ellen's mascara ran halfway down her cheeks, a bit of lip stick was smeared on the corner of her lip. She looked like she'd been crying. Quickly as she could, Monica handed the girl a slightly damp facial towel, for which Ellen was grateful. She didn't enjoy looking like beauty and the beast all in one.

    The walk home was quiet, almost peaceful. The sun only peaked above the horizon in front of her, casually waving good morning to the early commuters with a bright ray to their rear view mirror. At least now with her face washed up, Ellen could wave to the familiar faces without judgement, even if her skin tight black dress was hiked halfway up her legs.

    She made it to the little corner lot, worn yellow paint, to find both her parents' cars still in the driveway. It was odd, but she didn't question the sight.

    Ellen stumbled to get her key to go in the front door, but with that gentle nudge of crafted metal, she had pushed the door slightly ajar. Confused now, she took one step inside, then another, until she rounded into the living room and let out a horrible cry.

    The one night she could have stayed home.

    The one night it was best she let her guilty pleasures take over.

    It just wouldn't be the same.
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  3. Chad Metzger (open)
    Chad Metzger

    Age: 20
    Height: 5’11”
    Hair Color: Brown
    Eye Color: Brown

    With an easygoing personality and wickedly quick wit, Chad spent most of his childhood as the kid everyone wanted to have around. This despite the fact he never excelled at sports, didn’t come from money, and certainly had no grandiose sense of style. His ability to make people laugh and penchant for seeing the brighter side of life was almost contagious. Even after his mother left, for reasons that were never quite clear, Chad never lost his good natured personality.

    Yet growing up he really only had one close friend, Ellen Davis. Oh there were plenty of acquaintances and even the occasional girlfriend, but whenever he wanted to drop the jovial act and talk about something meaningful, it was Ellen to whom he always turned.

    Father: Larry Metzger
    Mother: Amy Metzger (hasn’t seen her since he was twelve)

    Chad Metzger also spent the previous night getting rip-roaring drunk.

    In his defensive, he never intended to drink at all that evening. Instead, his grand plan was to sit on the battered couch in his father’s basement, kick his feet up on the coffee table, and find something halfway decent to watch on what passed for basic cable these days. Sad and pathetic, yes, but also blissfully uncomplicated. At one in the morning, he admitted defeat and was heading to bed when Kevin Wilks showed up on the doorstep bearing three gifts: a bottle of Captain Morgan’s, a bottle of Southern Comfort, and, God help them, a bottle of Jägermeister.

    Kevin wasn’t what Chad would call a close friend. However, Kevin seemed to be under the impression they were lifelong compadres. Still, Chad didn’t mind having the guy around, if only because it made him feel just a little better about his own prospects in life. That night, the older boy looked especially pathetic. With pale skin, sunken eyes, and a sheen of sweat on his brow that couldn’t have been caused by the pleasant summer night, Kevin looked like he’d escaped from an unsuccessful stint in rehab. Once the two settled in and each had taken a shot from the unholy trinity of liquor, Chad got the story out of his buddy.

    “Amber dumped me,” Kevin lamented as he flopped down on the couch. “She said she’d met some other guy, someone who wanted to make something of his life. She actually said I had no ambition, and that I’d end up selling used cars like my dad. She didn’t want to settle for someone who sold used cars.”

    Chad nodded somberly, like you were supposed to, but the truth was he didn’t much care. Amber was right. Kevin had no ambition, and he probably would follow in his father’s footsteps. The mere fact that she stayed with him as long as she had was a downright miracle. In any case, this breakup news didn’t come as a surprise. Still, you had to be there for your friends, right?

    “What about Monica Anderson?” Chad suggested, trying to be encouraging. He picked up the remote and resumed his hunt for something interesting to watch. “I hear she’s back from college.”

    Kevin almost spewed his last slug of Jägermeister all over the coffee table, not that anyone would have ever noticed with the myriad of mystery stains already decorating its surface. “That crooked toothed bitch,” he said, after managing to down the liquor. “No thank you.”

    “I thought you guys had a thing in high school,” Chad said.

    “No way. We hung out a little in like junior high, before she turned all annoying and shit. Besides, she’s a college girl now. They’re too good for country bumpkins like us.”

    Chad suspected there was more to the story than his friend led on, but he wasn’t about to dig deeper when the guy had already clearly had a rough night. Besides, he was bristling at being lumped in with the country bumpkin crowd. It was true, though. He was now part of that less than illustrious group known as townies, those poor souls who lived their entire lives in this place without any hope of getting out.

    “I don’t think I could kiss her,” Kevin continued, blithely ignorant of Chad’s momentary self-loathing. “And it’s not just the teeth, though that girl could really use a set of braces. No, it’d be like kissing my sister… if I had a sister. It would be the same as you hooking up with Ellen.”

    Ellen… She’d probably been back from school for a week or so now.

    Chad absent mindedly set down the remote, randomly settling on a channel where an all too energetic man was trying to sell them the world’s best and most innovative juicer. Ellen was the reason he hadn’t gone to the Harper twins’ party that night. Of course, he’d been invited. He was invited to all the parties. But Ellen might be there, and he couldn’t take that risk, not yet. He imagined her face when he told her about being asked not to return to college after the fall semester, could see the disappointment and disapproval in her eyes.

    They’d grown apart over the last couple years, mainly due to distance rather than a falling out. Even though he hadn’t really spoken much to her since they’d both gone off to college, her opinion still mattered more to him than anyone else, and her reproach would be especially painful.

    Thankfully, Chad didn’t have time to dwell on Ellen long. Kevin become mesmerized by the man in the infomercial, and exclaimed, “I got to get me one of those. I’ve always wanted to know if you can juice an avocado. You could have like a guacamole flavored drink. Man, wouldn’t that be great?”

    From there the night devolved into a haze of random conversation and drunkenness. When morning came, Chad found himself on the couch. Kevin was gone, replaced by a rather unfriendly hangover.

    #3 Discordant, Dec 13, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2014
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  4. There were lights of a different kind. Blue and red, alternating between each alarmingly bright hue. A siren blared to another kind of tune, something simple, rhythmic, and too loud for the early morning with its hard and tinny pitch. The officer behind the commotion shut off the sirens, but left the lights on for one reason or another that Ellen couldn't comprehend. Her eyes didn't mind the distraction though, they darted from side to side as they changed. Anything to get her attention off the grim scene she'd stumbled into.

    It hadn't been long for Ellen's good neighbors, the Parker family, to respond to her desperate cries. She pounded on their door out of shock, her heart wrenching sobs filled their entryway within minutes. They came out in their early clothes, robes thick as pillows, the missus had her hair half curled, their two boys with foam at the sides of their mouth after having brushed their teeth. It took some time for an ambulance to arrive as well as a few patrol cars from the next town over. Their hometown wasn't big enough to justify a fully enforced law department, and so back up was called, more so for the situation at hand. Murder was a big deal, for any town of course, but when the population was relatively small, the departments didn't often know how to handle a delicate problem like homicide.

    Ellen had stumbled upon the bodies of her mother, father, and brother sometime before the Parker family had been off to work. Every other vehicle took their sweet time passing by as soon as the emergency squads had shown up, and taped off the property. She watched as the bodies were taken out on carts and bits of the house were marked off as evidence. Poor Ellen couldn't go inside for fear she might contaminate the scene.

    "Three dead. Forced entry." A cop had tried to be subtle about spreading the information, but, in their little town? The news spread like wildfire within the hour, even off the little corner lot tucked away on the far side of town.

    The mother of the Parkers, Mary, had her arms wrapped around Ellen in a protective embrace. Ellen was tucked beneath several layers of blankets, to ward off the shock, a paramedic had explained. She didn't need them to fend off the cold, the heat of the summer morning was hard on everyone but the tear stained girl. Her limbs ached and shook every time the lights atop the police car alternated. Blue. Red. Blue. Red. Where she'd tried so hard to find a distraction in the color, she'd only found more pain. Ellen gripped the Parker woman hard, disbelief warped through the very bones beneath her flesh.

    They're all gone.

    The families had been somewhat close, Parker and Davis, having been neighbors for many years. Mary watched the girl grow up into the less than proud woman she wanted her to become, but nevertheless, her growth had been there. That boy she always played with came over from time to time, and she sure as hell wished he'd been there that morning instead of having her alone.

    "Ellen?" Mary tried speaking to the girl. "Ellen, do you want to come inside?"

    She shook her head from side to side, then slowly, up and down. Ellen wasn't sure what she wanted to do. Her life had been slashed to pieces before her eyes, quite literally. Blood had smeared the bottom of her shoes, and she'd tossed them away, allowed them to be taken as evidence. She'd touched death, and wanted no more.

    "Do you have a friend you want me to call?" Mary lead Ellen inside anyways. "Come inside, please, you don't need to be out here any more."

    I could call...or...

    The names wouldn't come. Monica sounded foreign, and the Harper twins seemed like strangers now, even though they'd only just seen each other a few hours prior. She didn't know who to call or what she was supposed to say. The words, like the names, just couldn't come out of her mouth. Ellen's lips twitched with anxiety before another wave of tears burst forth.

    "You just..." Mary glanced at her husband, both at a loss for words. "Ellen, let's just sit you down for now."
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  5. Chad rolled off the couch, landing on all fours and nearly impaling his hand on a piece of broken glass. It looked to be the neck of the Southern Comfort bottle. When had that happened? Truth be told, he only had hazy recollections of anything past 2 a.m. or so, and some of those memories must have been snippets from a dream because they made no sense. However, he was quite sure Kevin had called that toll-free number and ordered himself a juicer.

    Rising on unsteady legs, he shambled toward the kitchen to get some water. The basement of the Metzger house had been converted into an apartment of sorts: with kitchen, bathroom, and even a separate entryway out back. It was a gift Larry Metzger gave his son when the boy entered high school. The old man said it was so that his son could learn to be independent, but Chad knew better. His father was trying to be the world’s best dad, to make up for the miserable excuse of a mother he had. When he was twelve, the woman up and left without so much as a note explaining why she’d gone. Neither older nor young Metzger had heard from her in the eight years since her departure.

    Water retrieved, he made the arduous trek back to the couch where he intended to spend the remainder of the day recovering. Unfortunately, the sound of his ringing cellphone cut through the merciful silence of the basement.

    “Hello,” he answered, trying to make his voice sound normal.

    “Rough night.” It was his father on the other end, but there was no hint of condemnation in the old man’s voice. “You were making quite the commotion down there.”

    “Kevin came over,” Chad explained. “He broke up with his girlfriend. Sorry if we kept you up.”

    “You really didn’t,” his father said. “I can sleep through a damn hurricane. I just noticed it when I got up to go to the bathroom. That’s not why I’m calling anyway. Didn’t you used to hang out with that Davis girl? Ellen was her name, right?”

    “Yeah, why?” Chad asked suspiciously. It was odd that Ellen’s name had come up twice in less than twelve hours. Perhaps it was a sign he should track her down and talk to her.

    “Nathan Freeman came into the shop this morning and said there were a couple cruisers parked out front of her parent’s house. He said they had police tape around the whole place.”

    If his father said much after that, Chad didn’t hear it. His mind, still recovering from a night of drinking, was sent reeling once more by this new development. What happened? Was Ellen hurt?

    Trying his best to push aside the effects of the hangover, Chad grabbed his keys and bolted for the stairs and his waiting car. He had to find out what the hell was going on.
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  6. Two hushed voices tried to make sense of the situation, leaving Ellen to fend to herself in a mass of tears, smeared makeup, and a terrible hangover. She'd gone back outside to watch the commotion, she had to figure there was at least something to do, it felt more productive than sitting inside the house letting her fears consume her.

    This isn't real. It's just a dream. She tried to tell herself.

    An officer had come into the Parker home, asked a few questions from the neighbors, and in a vain attempt he even tried to get Ellen to talk. He asked her when she'd gotten home, seven she replied, and was embarrassed to explain that she'd been out partying. The only condolence anyone could offer was that she wasn't home. That was the miracle, that there was at least one member alive who could be consoled instead of buried.

    That way, she could turn right around and put the other three members of her family into the ground.

    "Ellen, you think of anything, and you call me right away." The officer handed Ellen a small white card, his number scribbled on the backside in black ink. "Anything at all, whatever you need, alright?"

    She nodded, but held her tongue. There wasn't anything she wanted to say that wouldn't force her back into tears.

    "Mr. Parker, Mrs. Parker." The officer tipped his head towards the two neighbors before he turned off the front steps of the Parker's home where Ellen sat. He couldn't bear to look at the girl any more, the pain was obvious in her features. Her eyes were sunk in, probably from the alcohol the officer had to assume, but it only made her look worse off. She wouldn't stop shaking either, no matter how many blankets they piled on her in the morning heat. Hell, he was sweating in just his uniform, cropped sleeves and all.

    Ellen snapped her head to attention for a brief moment. "My purse..." She mumbled to herself. The small black purse was just on the edge of the steps, Mrs. Parker had placed it there without her knowing. Ellen reached inside and pulled out her mid morning savior, the last of two cigarettes in the pack. It took her a few stumbled attempts before she got the lighter to spark, but when she did, it was all she could do to keep herself from inhaling both sticks at once. Ellen hardly smoked, just when she was stressed.

    Currently, that didn't even cover it.

    As the mass of cruisers started to leave, only a few remaining to pick up the remnants of the scene.'s my house. Ellen thought unhappily. She took a drag from her cigarette, shaky on the exhale. A new car rolled down the street, one that looked oddly familiar, yet she couldn't place why. Her eyes watched it approach, glad to be rid of the tears for once, if only a brief moment in time.
    #6 Lillian Gray, Dec 14, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
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  7. Chad initially parked his blue Camaro half a block away from the Davis house. From that distance, he could see an army of police cruisers parked haphazardly around the property but little else. Flashing lights radiated from the tops of some of those cars, while others remained still yet no less ominous. What people he could make out were merely faceless shapes moving around like busy ants. If any of them were Ellen or her family, he could not tell from here.

    He sat there staring out the windshield, paralyzed by indecision. Maybe he shouldn’t even be here. If something happened to Ellen, would her family share that with him, a one-time friend who they hadn’t heard from in nearly two years? And if Ellen was fine, then what? Would he be the one she wanted to turn to for comfort? He very much doubted that.

    The hangover didn’t help the confusion and self-doubt. Every time a rational thought entered his mind, it was mercilessly beaten down by the throbbing of angry blood vessels. The movies had it wrong on this point. Traumatic events didn’t cut through the fog of a hangover. You didn’t suddenly become hyper alert, capable of rational thought or action. Oh it might fade from the forefront of your mind ever so slightly, but it was always there, knocking on the door of consciousness, demanding you pay attention.

    Chad tried puzzling out what was going on. His first thought was the Ellen’s father had a heart attack or maybe a stroke, but that didn’t make sense. You wouldn’t send that many police cars for a heart attack. Could it be a break-in? If so, why the ambulance? That left only a few horrifying possibilities.

    He began to tremble uncontrollably.

    Rapid knocking on the driver side window brought him out his semi catatonic state. He turned and blinked a few times, not recognizing the wrinkled, old face scowling at him. Mission Ridge was a small town, but it wasn’t so small that you knew every resident on sight. Chad rolled down the window.

    “What the hell you doing here?” the old man snarled. “Come to gawk, did you?”

    Chad struggled to speak, but no words came out.

    The old man had no such problem, and continued berating him. “That family is going through enough right now. They don’t need lookyloos hangin around getting into their business. You just get out here, and don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

    “What happened?” Chad finally managed to ask.

    The man’s face flushed with anger. “Did you hear what I just said? Get out of here.”

    Chad wasn’t about to argue with the man. He turned the key in the ignition, and slowly pulled away. He’d made up his mind to just drive by. The old guy was right, he had no business butting in. But when he saw Ellen sitting on the steps of a neighbor’s house, he stopped the car, not even bothering to pull off to the side.

    Funny, his first thought was not, Oh my God, she’s okay, or even, she looks so sad. Instead, it was, when did she start smoking? Instantly he felt embarrassed by such a superficial thought.

    Getting out of the Camaro, he took a few tentative steps towards her but then stopped. He had no idea what to say. Every question, every statement, sounded trite in his mind. So he just stood there staring at her, desperate to give her comfort but not knowing how.
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  8. Ellen choked on the previous drag of her cigarette. Chad was standing just at the end of the sidewalk, looking at her with a deep concern he did not know how to alleviate. She couldn't blame him for being shocked, or confused, but that wasn't what the matter was. The girl could hardly think as it was, and now he was there, the first time in two years they'd really seen each other since splitting off to go to college.

    On the one hand, she was overjoyed to see him, and on the other she was ready to fall apart in his arms, cry and cry like she might have done as a child. What she did was really no different than the latter option.

    "Chad." She stated his name.

    Memories of a better time flashed through her mind, one after the other, in quick bursts of forgotten joy. The first time they'd met, how their mothers encouraged play dates so the adults could sit and talk about the economy, or how their family was. Sitting together at lunch, sharing desserts and trying to keep Chad out of trouble. Braces, lost teeth, scrapes, bruises, taking their parents' cars out without their knowing. All of it was from a better place in the world, a little piece of happiness had just walked up to her, and Ellen was too stunned to notice.

    Ellen went to stand, one of the several layers of blankets fell from her shoulders and she did her best to pull what she could back around herself. The cigarette in her hand burned without her wanting it any more. She dropped it to the cement stairs that led up to the Parker's home and smothered it out with the heel of her shoe. After having come home to a new horror, Ellen hadn't the time to change into anything more decent, and she wasn't allowed back into her own home until everything had been processed. So she stood there in all her grace, bright red high heels her mother had given her the last Christmas, a little black dress she constantly had to pull down to avoid looking indecent in front of everyone she knew in a good wholesome way. It was clear she'd gone out, clear she'd come back, only to Chad it wasn't clear what was going on.

    Where to begin?

    "What're you doing here, it's been a while?" Ellen meant to chuckle, to try and lighten the grim atmosphere, but it came out as a choked sob. Before she knew it, she was crying again, and sat back down on the stairs to get a grip on herself.

    Mrs. Parker came out from inside the house to see what had made the girl so upset again, and she saw Chad standing there like a deer in headlights. Poor boy didn't have a clue what had happened by the looks of it, his car parked halfway in the street with the engine still roaring.

    "Ellen, it's time you stay inside now." She cooed. Mrs. Parker looked up towards Chad and waved him towards their front door. "You too, come on now, I recognize you, don't worry. She's gonna need you today."
    #8 Lillian Gray, Dec 15, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2014
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  9. When she first said his name, Chad was convinced that coming here was a mistake. He read so much into that one word, believing her tone to be a harsh rebuke. He was such a moron. What did he think he could do for her? He didn’t even know what was going on, just hints of something terrible. No doubt Ellen had closer friends these days. She probably hoped to see them standing here, not him.

    But when she started to cry, all that doubt vanished. He saw the truth of things. He didn’t see a woman in red heels and slinky black dress. He didn’t see a face shattered by grief. Instead, he saw the little girl he’d met when they were no more than toddlers. He saw a cute red head in a pink dress, with tiny ribbons in her hair, a little girl who wanted nothing more than to play with him. And in that moment, he knew that coming here was precisely the right choice.

    Other thoughts began weaving their way through his mind. She was dressed like she’d been out last night and never came home. Where was the rest of her family… any of her family? Why was he the one here and not them? For some reason, he had thoughts of Troy Davis shooting his family before turning the gun on himself. Chad didn’t know why that imagery came to mind. Maybe it was because that’s what he saw on the news all the time— husband or boyfriend goes on shooting rampage. But Ellen’s father wasn’t like that. Then again, a lot could happen in two years.

    The neighbor’s voice drove this unspeakable speculation from his thoughts. Breaking free from the paralysis, Chad walked toward the steps where Ellen sat, oblivious to the fact his car was still running in the middle of the road. When he reached her, he didn’t say a word. What could he say? How’s college? How’s the family? What the hell happened here? None of it seemed appropriate. So he said nothing. He just held out a hand to help her up. A simple gesture, but it was the best he could manage.
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  10. Ellen took hold of Chad's hand, she trembled once she was on her feet. What was there to say? He certainly didn't find the words he was looking for, silent as the night. Ellen couldn't handle it any longer, he was there, a constant source of relief from her younger days, standing before her with his hand outstretched. Chad was only trying to help, and by the Gods she'd need it.

    "They're gone, they're all gone!" She pushed her face into his chest, and sobbed. "What am I gonna do?"

    "Ellen, Chad, please, come inside." There was Mrs. Parker, ushering the both of them inside. She shut the door behind them and all was quiet, save for the redhead girl's mournful cries. The whole morning had been hard for her, but it never seemed to end. Ceaseless tears streamed down her face, so little as a word sent her into a flurry of panic.

    "S-somebody, t-they, oh god, Chad." Ellen gripped his arms hard, an attempt to anchor herself back into what she considered reality. They can't be dead. They can't.

    She refused to let go, and stood there crying in the Parker's entryway. The mister and missus had long gotten their children off to school, wanting to save them the atrocities from the neighboring home. Only Mrs. Parker remained to make sure Ellen was taken care of, although with Chad there she felt she had better chances of calming the girl down. They'd been fast friends since they were three, and all the way up until high school had ended. Having someone like that nearby was bound to make Ellen stop crying, at least for a little while. It was still heartbreaking to watch the girl go through the trauma on her own, no family to support her in the meantime.

    Mrs. Parker looked shamefully to the floor. It wasn't her place to say what happened, but she murmured a bit of the situation so the man might catch up. "It was a break in, Ellen was gone, so she's alright, but..." The woman shook her head. "They didn't make it, nobody did."
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  11. As Ellen took his hand, the fog of confusion lifted, and blessed clarity returned once more. Chad understood exactly why he was here and what he needed to do. While the hangover still nibbled at the edges of his perception, he would not let it get the better of him. The important thing was to help Ellen any way she needed.

    He listened to her, turning her words over and over in his mind to gleam any details he could. They were all gone. That’s how she put it, but Chad knew there was no ambiguity there. Her family had not gone out to the grocery store, had not planned some secret vacation and left Ellen behind. They were dead. He fought the urge to ask questions, to find out more. She would tell him in her own time.

    In the entry way of the neighbor’s house, Mrs. Parke filled in some of the details. There was a break-in last night, but Ellen wasn’t home. By the look of her dress, he guessed she was at a party and probably the one thrown by the Harper twins. She crashed there or maybe with another friend, and when she returned home she found the bodies. No one told him this last part, but intuitively he knew it to be true.

    Chad was so thankful for Mrs. Parker, not just because she realized his need to understand what was happening, but because she had gone out of her way to help Ellen. She didn’t have to that. She could have watched the scene unfold from behind the safety of her blinds. Chad couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if his friend had to stand on her own front lawn, alone and terrified, as they brought her mother, father, and brother out in body bags.

    He guided, Ellen to the adjoining living room. With uncomfortable looking furniture, still-life paintings, and even a couple vases complete with plastic flowers, the room looked entirely artificial. It was the kind of place you brought guests but never entered otherwise. Chad led Ellen to a couch, where he gently urged her to sit down. He made no attempt to break the contact between them.

    “I’m sorry,” were the first words he spoke out loud to Ellen. He wasn’t just sympathizing with her loss and pain, he was apologizing for two years of silence. He wanted forgiveness for letting their prescious friendship slip away. He remembered how he decided not to go to the party last night just in case she might be there, and how he was so afraid she might be disappointed in him. Sitting in the living room of the Parker’s house, it seemed like such a pitiful excuse.

    He wiped the tears from her cheeks, knowing full well they would be replaced by new ones. “Life just… It doesn’t matter. I’m here now.”
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  12. Ellen refused to let go, grateful to Chad for seeing that, never once did he let go of her. His contact remained constant as he set her gently down on the guest room furniture. It was hard, uncomfortably so, but who was Ellen to complain about a couch when her entire family had been murdered in cold blood? So she kept quiet. Quiet, except for the constant sobs bubbling out past her lips.

    "What am I g-gonna-" Ellen sobbed, halfway between a choked wail and hiccup.

    She cried in Chad's arms for a while. Ellen felt so small in comparison, when had he grown so much? Her eyes were red and completely raw, the hangover was long forgotten as she tried to make sense of the Godless world she found herself in. There were so many answered questions, but she hadn't the heart so speak them. If she uttered so much as another word of mourning, the tears would resume, and her pain would only grow and grow. The limit to her agony seemed endless, but there had to be some sort of wall she could reach.

    Ellen slid down on the couch, her head rested in the middle while her legs curled up around the arm. If Chad wanted to sit, he could, although she wouldn't ask for him too. Her hand clung to his shirt when he moved, fearful he'd be gone in an instant. So long as he stayed nearby, even for a little while, her spirits would improve.

    "How did you know?" Ellen asked, caution in her voice. "You showed up, like you knew."

    It wasn't an accusation at all. more or less, a curious observation. Chad had shown up out of the blue after two years of absence, so how as it he knew to come that morning?
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  13. Chad did sit down next to her. It felt like the right thing to do, and sensing that she needed the contact, he made no attempt to free himself from her grip. He let her lie there, because what else could you do in that situation but let her grieve. He wanted to explain how he’d felt when his mother left and how he’d eventually gotten over that, but how inane that seemed. It wasn’t remotely the same thing. You couldn’t compare the two losses. His mother was alive… somewhere, hers would be buried in the ground a few days from now. His mother could return, hers never would. He still had a father who loved and supported him; she was now alone in the world. Yes, it was an incredibly moronic comparison, and thankfully those thoughts died before they passed his lips.

    “My father,” he said in answer to her questions. “He called this morning. Somebody who brought in their car said they’d seen the police at your house. I didn’t know what happened, but I just knew I had to come. I was so scared that something happened to you. I had no idea that…”

    He let this last sentence trail off, afraid to speak the words out loud.

    Chad had to fight the ridiculous impulse to lighten the mood. His natural reaction to almost any stressful circumstance was to combat it with humor, and in most case a self-deprecating joke or even just a playful smile worked wondrous to ease even the most tense situations. It was what had made him so liked among his peers. But this kind of grief was on a whole different level, and there was no way to lighten its burden. He didn’t know how he could help Ellen, save for just being there for her.

    And then an idea struck him.

    “Do the police still need you?” he asked. “If not, we should get out of here. It’s not good to stay here. You don’t need to see all this. What do you say? Let’s go someplace with better memories.”
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  14. It was already common news that her family was in trouble. Ellen sunk herself further into the near wrought iron couch and muffled a sigh. She wanted to be far from the center of attention, but that wouldn't be possible when the news of murder spread. What, with the small town and the fiery topic, it'd spread faster than wild fire.

    "I'm dressed in this, this dress and my shoes are three inches tall." Ellen mumbled into the couch. "This isn't exactly a good outfit to go anywhere in, Chad, I don't mean to, I don't-"

    Ellen shook her head. No, going somewhere dressed as she was would only make her feel out of place. She had no idea where Chad wanted to take her, her spirits weren't high enough for the thought to be worthwhile. Her hand gripped hard around Chad, looking for more comfort instead of the prospect of a miracle somewhere else. What could be better, really? He was here, she was alive, and it seemed the best option.

    "I'm sorry." Ellen apologized. "I didn't mean to snap at you."

    She hadn't snapped, not really. Her voice had too much of a melancholy to it to be anything but misery showing through. Still, she apologized, and did her best not to burst into tears again. She felt like she was falling apart at the seams. With each new rip and tear, even subtle words opening up the fresh new wound on her heart, she could only cry.

    "That's fine. That's fine, just, away."

    "You gonna take her then?" Mrs. Parker suddenly appeared. There was a phone clutched to her chest, she picked it up to tell the other end to hold, presumably her employer. "I can certainly let her stay here, don't wanna put the burden on you."
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  15. Chad took no offense at Ellen’s initial rebuke. They’d shared too much history for such petty things to bother him, and besides, she was right. Her current attire hardly seemed appropriate for a murder scene let alone where he wanted to take her. The dress, the shoes, and the current state of her disheveled hair and makeup streaked face made her look like she was ready to go clubbing in the ninth circle of hell.

    Yet still he looked passed that. He saw the real Ellen, and realized that in the two years since they’d last seen each other, she’d grown into a beautiful woman.

    He kissed her on the forehead, gently urging her to stand. He began to lead her from the living room, and when Mrs. Parker spoke, he only turned slightly away from Ellen to focus on the neighbor.

    “No, I’ve got her,” he said, and there was something so protective in his tone of voice. “You’ve been so kind to Ellen, Ma’am. I can’t even begin to thank you for that.”

    Then returning his attention to his friend, he said. “I’ve got some of my mother’s old clothes back at my house. None of it will be very stylish, but I’m sure we can find you something that’s more appropriate and fits.”

    When Chad’s mother walked out, she left everything she owned behind. It was one of many strange circumstances surrounding her departure. She left a note, but just in case they might get it into their heads that she’d been the victim of foul play, she called that night. All she said was, “I haven’t been kidnapped, so don’t bother with the police. I’m just not happy anymore.”

    Chad’s father was devastated by his wife’s abandonment, especially since he thought they were a perfect, happy family. He couldn’t find it in himself to give or throw away her belongings. He just packed a closet full of clothes into three enormous boxes and stacked them in the hall closet just in case she came back. The nearly three dozen shoes she accumulated over the years didn’t even make it to boxes. They still lived in the bedroom closet, neatly arranged on the shoe rack Larry Metzger had made for his wife on their tenth wedding anniversary.

    Chad hated admitting that they still kept his mother’s clothes. In fact, this was the first time he mentioned it to anyone. However, in this situation there wasn’t any other choice, and he knew Ellen was in no shape to make fun of him over it.

    Stepping into the bright morning sun, the first thing he caught sight of was a rather perturbed looking cop aggressively dangling the Camaro’s keys in one hand. Crap, he forgot to move his car. As if to emphasize the foolishness of this choice, a line of cars had formed behind his. The first one was slowly angling its way passed, trying not to hit the other cars parked properly on the side of the road. At least the police officer was nice enough to shut off the car.

    As soon as he saw Chad and Ellen walking across the front lawn, the cop’s expression changed. He wasn’t one of the Mission Ridge police. He had no idea who Chad was, but he sure as hell recognized the girl whose house he’d been collecting evidence from all morning.

    “You can’t just park your car in the middle of the street,” the cop said when they drew near. His tone was the oddest mixture of sympathy and annoyance. Chad doubted he’d ever hear that particular inflection again in his life.

    “I’m sorry, sir,” Chad said, snatching the keys and opening the passenger door for Ellen. “It won’t happen again.”
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  16. Ellen shivered, her eyes went wide with the realization she'd somehow lost her two blankets. Then she had to fight hard to remember where she'd gotten them. One moment she was standing in her doorway, the next, blankets, a stern hand on her shoulder, and voices all around her. That's what it was like now, the voices came back and a hand guided her out into the bright light of day.

    The officer spoke with Chad, and Ellen simply ignored them. It was easier to pretend they weren't talking about anything serious.

    The Camaro would have been warmer had it been any other day. Ellen recalled times in the summer when they couldn't get the air conditioner to run, and they'd sit in the car with the windows rolled down all the way. Her skin would stick to the seats just past the short jeans which were common for the scorching days Even then, it was still hot. They'd sweat in their seats laughing about it all. Then Chad finally fixed it, some miracle that was. Summer had turned to winter, and with it new problems.

    She sat in the passenger side thinking of summer days, but her thoughts quickly turned sour as they passed house after dilapidated house.

    The ride wasn't long. The same old houses passed by. Something had changed, Ellen thought, but she hadn't the thought to place what it was, problem being she couldn't see it for what it was. She'd been gone most of the time for two years, college had turned her into a new woman, and it wasn't pretty at all. Her perception of what once was, tall trees and freshly painted homes, changed into reality. They were run down and the trees trimmed, either that or she'd grown.

    But, as she passed, all she could think of was how old everything looked.

    "Do you have anything for a hangover?" Ellen asked quietly.

    Or just another bottle of booze, I don't care.

    "I don't really know what I'm supposed to do right now, I just, I-" Ellen stammered. The tears threatened to come back, but she forced them back with a hard gulp.
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  17. The Camaro pulled into the drive at the side of his father’s house, and Chad found himself grateful for the brevity of the trip. How many times had they ridden together in that car? How many laughs, conversations, and secrets had they shared? And in all of that time, never had there been a more awkward silence. While his mind churned with hundreds of things to say to make her feel better, none of them seemed right to speak out loud.

    “I’m sure I can find some aspirin. You can go through my mother’s clothes while I hunt some down,” he said, turning off car. “As for what you’re supposed to do… Anything at all, Ellen. There’s no right or wrong thing because so few people have ever gone through what you’re going through now. If you want to scream and shout, go ahead. If you need to break things, I’ve got a few dishes I was going to throw out anyway. Hell, if you want to run through the street naked, no one will blame you. Just do whatever you feel you have to.”

    It was the closest thing to advice he could offer, but he honestly didn’t know if it was any good.

    Instead of entering through the back door as he usually did, Chad led them up the front porch. As they entered the house, he instantly regretted that decision. Larry Metzger, while being a kind-hearted and thoughtful man, was by no means a tidy one. Beer cans littered the floor in a trail from kitchen to living room. Discarded frozen dinners were stacked near the couch, the place the man usually ate his meals. The carpets needed vacuuming; the walls needed new paint.

    Chad quickly moved through the entryway and up the stairs where he went to the hall closet and pulled out three large boxes. These he dragged into the master bedroom, because it seemed like Ellen would be more comfortable there than rooting through them in the hall.

    “I’ll be right back with that aspirin,” he said. “Hopefully you’ll find something in there that works. If you’re looking for shoes, they’re in the closest over there. I’m not sure what size my mother wore.”

    He beat a hasty retreat, as eager to get a few moments alone to compose his thoughts as he was to find a hangover remedy. He located the aspirin in the upstairs bathroom, but a trip to the kitchen was necessary to retrieve a glass and some water. While there, he tried not to judge his father for the two weeks’ worth of dishes piled up in the sink. He had no place to be critical of the man. Sure, by now his father should have gotten over his mother’s leaving some eight years ago, but the man had been so understanding when Chad came back from college with his tail between his legs. He’d allowed his son to move back into the basement, and said he wouldn’t charge rent until the boy regrouped and figured out what to do next. What was a little mess when compared to that generosity?

    Returning to the bedroom, Chad offered Ellen both pills and water.
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  18. Ellen somehow doubted running naked through the streets would offer her any peace of mind. All it would do is show the world the small tattoo she'd been hiding, and that the freshman fifteen was a pure myth. She wanted no part in showing off her birthday suit to anyone at the moment, not that Chad was being serious to begin with.

    The mess of the Metzger apartment barely phased her. It reminded her somewhat of the state of whatever dorm she ended up in after a long party. One too many apartments had the same smell, same appearance of a trail of beer cans to the most resourceful places of the space. Usually, there was one to the fridge, the toilet, and any bed in the place, because what else could a man need when he had a drink on one arm and a pretty girl on the other? Not much, that's what, Ellen figured.

    They trudged past the filth and into the master bedroom, which remained untouched from the mess outside. Chad set the boxes in a small array at the foot of the bed, through which Ellen tried to find something that fit her. The sizes ranged all the way from broad and baggy sweaters, down to skin tight tank tops which left nothing to the imagination. There were a few flannel button ups that Ellen favored. They were simpler than the low cut tops she was accustomed to buying when she went out. It felt more homey, and less likely to draw any attention to herself.

    She pulled the black dress over her head and left it on the floor in a heap. Ellen kicked off her red heels, abandoning the outfit seemed like the proper thing to do, had the latter not been a gift from her now deceased mother. She leaned down and set the heels up in a pair, making sure they were perfectly straight before standing again.

    Ellen dressed herself in one of the flannel shirts, different shades of blue and gray with a few faded yellow stripes running along with the plaid pattern, taking her sweet time pushing every small white button through the slit on the opposite side. Her fingers stumbled with the simple task, her mind too preoccupied to accomplish the buttoning of a shirt.

    "Shit." She cursed when she found it too difficult, only having gotten the middle two buttons through.

    When Chad returned Ellen snatched the pill bottle from his hand and swallowed two dry. There'd be no instant gratification from the Aspirin, she knew that, but Ellen pulled three more from the bottle and swallowed them from the glass her friend had provided.

    Her half decent state wasn't on her mind. If she had to down half the bottle before her mind was clear and free, she would. Ellen gripped the Aspirin hard in her hand, the empty glass in the other. Her thoughts were all in a jumble, and there was no organizing the chaos there. Her family was gone, her life had been erased in half a night.

    "I should've locked the door, I should've..." Ellen whispered. "They're..."

    Ellen couldn't even form a sentence. Her mind just wouldn't allow for any complex thoughts.

    She dropped her head and let curtains of red hair block out her face.
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  19. Chad watched his friend ravenously devour aspirin without the slightest hint of judgment on his face. Even the disarray of her clothes didn’t bother him in the least. Under different circumstance, with a different girl, that LL Bean meets heroin addict look would have really done something for him. The red hair would even earn her bonus points. In college, Chad was always enamored by the redheads. Now that he stood in his parents’ bedroom (scratch that, his father’s bedroom), he couldn’t help but wonder how much of those desires stemmed from a love, all be it platonic, for his closest childhood friend. But he couldn’t feel that type of attraction to Ellen. Well, that was a lie, now wasn’t it?

    He sat down on the bed, brushing her hair away and lifting her chin so he could see her eyes. He did this less so that he could look upon her face and more so she could see the sincerity in his own expression.

    “Don’t say that Ellen,” he said. “Don’t even think it. Cry. Scream. Break things. Punch me in the face if you think it will help. I don’t care, but don’t you dare blame yourself for what happened. There is nothing you could have done that would have saved them, so don’t go beating yourself up. If you had been there last night, there would be four dead bodies this morning instead of three.”

    The words were harsh; he meant them to be. His heart was already breaking for her, and he couldn’t stand to watch her take on this extra burden. The only way he knew to stop her from traveling down this self-destructive path was to combat it head on. Of course, this blame was probably a normal part of the grieving process. It might just pass in time. But Chad was no psychiatrist. This type of self-loathing just seemed pointless.

    Self-loathing? You hypocritical bastard, he thought. Isn’t that exactly what you’ve been feeling for the last six month? Self-loathing is exactly what you’ve been doing since returning home with your tail between your legs. If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black, then I don’t know what is.

    “Listen, I’m sorry,” he said more softly this time. “I’m not going to pretend to understand what you’re going through. Nobody can. I know this sucks more than anything in your worst nightmares. I get that. But you are alive, Ellen, and that’s something. I don’t want you to squander that life blaming yourself for something you couldn’t predict or stop.”

    He felt his own tears welling up at the corner of his eyes but fought to keep them from falling.
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  20. "But, what if, I-" Ellen fumbled over what she wanted to say. Chad cut her off with his apology.

    It isn't his fault.

    Sure, the odds were impossible, but if there was the slightest chance she could have saved even one of her family members it would have been worth it. She'd been home for less than a week, argued and bickered her way through night after night of drinking, gambling and partying outside the comforts of both her parents. To her, it mattered little what advice they had for her, she was considered an adult in the eyes of society and could do as she wished while she was good and young. Despite their pleas, she'd continued to go out without another care in the world. To think, that same indignant air about her had saved her from certain death, yet had also taken the lives of three others.

    It didn't feel fair. Her life for three. It was like God himself wanted to deliver one last mighty lesson, that modesty and a willing ear were two things a human being needed, else they lose the things they loved most. She heard it loud and clear, but it still was far from fair. There were people on Earth who'd killed, raped, stolen and abused what they loved.

    What happened to loving thy neighbor? I'm no worse than any other college kid! Ellen wanted to shout, but there'd be no voice to answer, she knew better now.

    "I could've called someone." Ellen stammered. Her mind raced back to thoughts of blame. She looked up into Chad's eyes and pleaded for him to grasp the sense in what she said. "Dammit, I could've done something. They're all dead!"

    Then she was screaming at Chad. Nonsensical phrases slipped past her lips, curses that set the blame on her, on the killer, on her parents for not having survived. She wanted someone to blame, but there was no name. No matter how hard she howled there'd be no name, just her shrill voice as it ceased to make an audible note. It had been less than twenty four hours, of course no one knew who the intruder was, that would have been incredible. Ellen slapped her hand hard on Chad's chest, enough to leave a mark had there been bare skin. Then she did it again, with her opposite hand, a quick blow against him as she cried.

    "They're gone!" Ellen shrieked. "I don't want to cry, I don't want to break anything, I want them back! I want them to be alive, that's what'd help, I want them back."

    She rested her head on his chest as the floodgates of her pain were lowered. Ellen had been cushioned by waves of empathy with the countless officers, and Mrs. Parker, none of them were so blunt as to point out there could have been four bodies. It was within the realm of possibilities, had Ellen decided she wanted to go home. She appreciated that dull honesty, and hated it all the same for being true. She stifled a gargled intake of air, stuck on her own spit and mucus. She hadn't the time to comment on how grotesque she sounded.

    Ellen went to speak, but that was it for her. She cried, and continued to do so with her head cradled against Chad for the last bits of comfort she could pull. The gravity of the situation was sinking in, crushing the world around her with every bit of force it could muster, and Ellen went down hard, wailing her way to the very bottom of an endless pit of despair and pain.
    #20 Lillian Gray, Dec 23, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2014
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