What if? The alternate version of Never Alone

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 31 (v.1) - Chapter 31

Submitted: April 04, 2011

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Comments: 3

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Submitted: April 04, 2011

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I told Mamma  I wanted to stay home from school the next day, when she came to check on me. I didn't really feel sick, like I'd hoped. I just had some sore muscles from sleeping funny, but I didn't want to see Josh. And I didn't want to see Ben with that girl again.

I also wasn't ready to do what I had to about Ben. I wasn't ready to let the little bit, I had left, go.

I spent the day getting caught up in my school work and obsessing about Ben.

After having to justify my absence to Josh, of course. He still didn't believe I was sick.

I kept hoping that my flu symptoms would hit again, so that I'd be sure I was actually getting sick instead of just having a cold or something. But all I felt all day, amazingly, was tired, after lunch.

But maybe that was just because I'd gorged on leftovers from last night as part of my new plan to gain weight.

Fortunately, I hadn't lost my appetite the way Mamma and Louis had, yet.

Overall, the day had been quiet and sort of relaxing - aside from the obsessing about Ben part. But I'd gotten away with an entire Josh-free day. Something that was much too rare.

On Thursday, I didn't feel great, but I went to school anyway. I wasn't ready to go another day without seeing Ben. It was too painful.

I knew what I had to do, and I'd do it. But I could give myself these last two days, before Christmas break, to get used to the idea. To, sort of, say goodbye.

"I thought you were sick." Josh said, sarcastically, when I got in the car.

"I am." I said. "But there's only two days left and I'm doing bad enough as it is." Which was true enough.

"Mmm, hmm."

"Why is it so unbelievable to you that I'm sick?" I asked annoyed.

He just shrugged and pulled the car out onto the road. "I'll believe it when you're throwing up or something."

I rolled my eyes. That just might happen soon. My stomach wasn't feeling so great.

I battled with myself when the time came to see Ben. I wanted to see him, but not whoever he might be with.

I wound up giving in - of course - and looked for him.

I was relieved that he was alone. And then I felt guilty for being relieved. Ben needed to move on.

I didn't have long to focus on my guilt, though, because Stacey was at it again.

She 'accidentally' dropped the big pile of stuff she was carrying, right in front of Ben.

I knew by his face that he knew what she was doing, but Ben, being who he was, helped her pick everything up anyway.

Once Stacey had all her stuff back together, she was having trouble keeping her hands to herself, again.

I'd never been violent before, but watching Stacey, all over Ben, was making me really want to be.

 Josh pulled me away before I could see Ben get away from her and I was fuming for the walk to class.

My anger towards Stacey only lasted until I got to Physics and saw the blonde girl.

She was the one I really had to worry about.

I knew Ben would never like someone like Stacey. But I didn't know that about this girl. And it looked like he really might like her.

And even though I wanted to, I couldn't hate her. Not if she was going to be able to make him happy.

I sat down in my seat and stared at nothing as a tear slid down my cheek.

We got our tests back and as I thought, I did absolutely awful on it.

I couldn't bring myself to really care, though. I almost didn't care about anything anymore.

I just felt...numb.

I was stuck with Josh indefinitely, and I'd never be able to be with Ben again. And soon I wouldn't even have the tiny bit of contact that we had left.

I noticed less than usual, after that.

The only thing I really payed attention to, was that I still didn't feel so good and I was really thirsty. Everything else was a blur.

I almost felt like I was sleepwalking. I was going through the motions, but my mind wasn't really there.

I didn't wake up until I saw Ben and had to try extra hard not to cry.

After class, before heading to the parking lot to meet Josh, I stopped in the bathroom. I'd had alot of water throughout the day.

While I was washing my hands, I heard someone else come in the bathroom and I involuntarily glanced up to see Anna walking towards me.

I doubted that it was a coincidence that she just happened to come in here at the same time I did.

Any doubt, disappeared when she came and leaned on the sink next to mine with her arms crossed and that x-ray look of hers, trained on me.

"Hi." I said awkwardly.

She continued to watch me and didn't answer.

I turned off the water and dried my hands, unsure of what do to. On the one hand, she was still my best friend in the world, even if I wasn't hers anymore. And I wanted to talk to her more than anything, at the moment. But I knew if Josh found out, he'd be mad.

"You look awful." She finally said.

I snorted a laugh. "Gee, thanks." I said jokingly.

"I mean it." She said, seriously. "Whenever I see you now, you look...I don't know, dead inside or something."

I glanced down and felt my eyes sting. Leave it to Anna to pinpoint exactly how I felt.

I looked back at her and attempted a smile while I shrugged. I wasn't going to deny it.

"Lizzie, is this really better than...?"

"Than the alternative?" I finished for her.

She nodded. "How can you just let him do this to you? Is it so horrible for your dad to lose this job? Is it worth it?"

"I don't know." I said honestly. "Sometimes I feel like nothing in the world could be worse than this. Sometimes I think it would be better if..." I trailed off, unable to finish.

She looked alarmed. "Lizzie." She said in warning.

I looked at her confused for a minute before I realized what she thought I meant.

"Don't worry," I shook my head. "I'm not suicidal." I looked away. "I was going to say, maybe it would have been better for everyone if I'd never been born."

"Don't say that." She said. "It's not true."

I just shrugged again.

"I better go." I said. "Josh would kill me if he knew I was talking to you."

"What? Does he have cameras in the bathroom?" She asked.

I laughed without any acutal humor. "Who knows?"

"Lizzie," She said. "It's just us in here. Please, talk to me. I don't understand. Why is this so much better?"

"Anna, I don't know if you can understand." I said.

"That's it?" She said, angry now. "All I get is a 'you wouldn't understand'?"

I didn't know what to say.

Anna turned and started for the door.

"No, Anna, wait!" I cried. "I didn't mean it like that!"

She stopped and turned to face me again. "How did you mean it, then. Explain it to me. Make me understand."

I took a deep breath and tried to think of how to put it. "It's not that I think you wouldn't try to understand." I started. "Or that you wouldn't want to. But...you couldn't. Not really."

"Why not?" She asked, still annoyed.

"Because we come from different places."

"Yeah, I know that." She said. "So, you're from the city. So what?"

"Yeah," I agreed. "I am. And you've lived here your whole life. To you, the city is...glamorous. All shopping and sight seeing."

She just looked at me, as if to say 'And?'

"Anna," I decided to go another direction. "Have you always had your own room?"

"I guess." She said, with that same look on her face. "So, you've had to share before. Lizzie, that's not the most horrible thing in the world."

"That's not it." I said. "You've always had your own room, because you've always had a house."

Her expression softened and she seemed to understand where I was going.

"Anna, you don't know what it's like to be homeless." I said. "I do."

"Lizzie..."

I didn't let her argue. "You don't know what it's like to watch your parents worry themselves sick about how they were going to give you the most basic things." I continued. "Worry about how they were going to feed you and give you a place to sleep."

Anna didn't say anything.

"To have to depend on charity for those things sometimes." I said. "I know, there's nothing wrong with charity. But Mamma and Daddy are proud." I looked down. "They've had to sacrifice alot of that pride because me and Louis were more important." I met her eyes again. "Sometimes, when we had to go to a soup kitchen or something, Daddy wouldn't even eat. He said if he couldn't feed us, then he didn't deserve to."

"He tried." I said. "He always worked so hard. But there weren't always jobs. And stuff came up. If Louis or I got sick, that was it. He didn't have insurance, of course. So it would wipe out most or all the savings he had."

"Anna, this is the first time I can remember, that my parents have any...security. The first time, in a long time, I didn't wonder where we were going to live next."

" Sometimes, Mamma wouldn't sleep at all. She was scared that if she did, something bad would happen because we happened to be living in a shelter or an apartment, in a bad neighborhood, with useless locks."

Anna looked down, starting to get it.

"I could go back to living like that." I said. "In a heartbeat, if it meant I didn't have to..." I shook my head. "But I can't do that to them. My parents have already given up everything for me."

"If it hadn't been for me, they could have...." I smiled and shrugged. "Who knows? They could have been anything. They wouldn't have had to drop out of high school and leave their families if they didn't have me."

"They chose to be my parents. They chose me." I said. "And now...I have to choose them. I owe it to them."

"Lizzie..."Anna tried again.

"I know money isn't everything." I sighed. "But I also know what it's like, not to have any."

"You asked me if this was really better than what would happen." I said. "I don't know, because I don't know for sure what would happen." I admitted. "But I know what could. And I won't do that to them. Not when I can stop it."

"Lizzie, I wouldn't let you...be homeless." She said. "And neither would Ben."

"Are you going to support my whole family?" I smiled sadly. "Even if Daddy would allow that, Anna, it's not practical."

"He could get another job." She said, not giving up.

"Maybe." I allowed. "And it might not be for a really long time. Do you know how long it took for him to get this job? How proud he is of it? I can't take that away from him."

Anna wiped her eyes with her hands and I think maybe she really did understand.

"This is the only way I know how to protect them." I said. "It's all I know that I can do."

She nodded and didn't say anything. She almost looked like she was in shock.

"At least this way, I'm the only one who gets hurt." I said, dropping my eyes to the floor.

"You're wrong." She contradicted me.

I looked at her again.

"If your family knew about this, it would hurt them." She said.

I nodded. "Which is why they can't know."

"And it's killing Ben."

I looked away again, unable to meet Anna's eyes. "He'll forget about me. Eventually." I said feeling hopeless.

"If you think that," She said. "You don't know Ben very well."

I didn't know whether that should make me happy or not. I didn't want Ben to waste his time waiting for me. But I had to admit, hearing her say that, made me hope just a little bit.

"And it hurts me to see you like this." She said.

I looked at her. "I'm sorry."

She didn't seem to know what to say and we just stood there for a minute.

"I gotta go." I said, realizing how long I'd been in here.

She nodded and I headed for the door but stopped before I opened it.

"Anna?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for still caring." I said before ducking out the door.


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