Having the path memorized, I closed my eyes, clips of what had happened playing through my mind.
Walking into the house to see everything was calm, until an argument broke out. I sat on the floor in my room, back pressed against the wall, trying to block out the noise coming from the kitchen. What was once a petty fight turned for the worse when they started screaming at each other. Then, I heard the recognizable shattering of glass.
I slowly walked to my door and opened it to see my mother on the ground, crying softly and holding her hands out to protect herself. I shouted for my father to stop as he grabbed a nearby tamp and smashed it against her arms. Blood spilled from her open wounds as the glass dug into her skin.
I heard him yell, "Shut up, Briana," after he had hit her once, and continued to do so multiple times. I rushed up behind him and tried to pull him away, but he instead turned and punched me in the face, hitting the side of my cheek. It grew numb fast; ignoring the pain was something I had long since gotten used to doing.
Instead of staying any longer, I fled the house, dashing towards my usual place. My dad called for me to come back, but made no attempt to stop me.
Finally, after about ten minutes, I came upon my destination. I slowed and dried my eyes, then climbed the wooden fence surrounding the playground.
My bag was resting a couple feet away from where I had landed, and I grabbed it as I kept walking. The playground had been abandoned long ago, too many safety hazards or something, and a new one was built nearby. So far, I hadn't seen anything more than a few cats wandering here, so I could always be alone here.
I walked over to one of the slides, tall enough that I could sit on the edge and be covered from the sun, or rain if necessary.
I pulled out a bottle of water and chugged it, knowing I would be here for a while. I tossed my dark-brown hair into a messy ponytail, then rested back on a pillow I had left before.
Tears started to stream out of my eyes, making each second last a minute. I squeezed them shut and made no sound, hoping that I wouldn't ever have to open them again.
After what had felt like an hour, I froze in my spot, quieting myself completely as I strained to listen to the creaking of the wooden boards.
Unsure of what else to do, I pulled the zipper of my backpack shut and stood up, looking cautiously to see who had found me.
He stood directly in front of me, a worried expression on his face. Without thinking, I ran towards him
"You came, Braylon," I managed to say between sobs. He wrapped his arms around me, holding me tightly.
He didn't reply, but there was nothing for him to say anyway. I dug my face into his shoulder, trying to calm myself. After what had felt like an eternity, we separated slightly. My arms rested on his neck, while his hands held my waist.
I gazed at his face, amazed at how flawless he was. He has tan skin that helped conceal the few freckles surrounding his nose. His eyes were a dazzling hazel, and his light brown hair was slightly messed up, but in a way that only made it look better.
Concern filled his eyes as he lightly grazed the bruise on my cheekbone, then connected his soft lips with mine, closing the gap.
The kiss ended shorter than I had expected. Braylon left one arm around my hip, then walked with me back towards the slide. Instead of going back in it, we sat on a nearby grass patch, his jacket loosely draped over my shoulders.
I couldn't help but stare at him, still unbelieving of the fact that he was mine. Braylon was one of the best on the school's football team, and was no undeniably handsome that he could get any girl he wanted. Yet he still chose me.
He met my gaze and brushed my hair out of my face with his warm hand, leaving a trail of fire wherever he touched.
"What happened this time?" He asked softly.
I stared at the fence and murmured, "Another fight."
He raised my chin and continued to stare deeply into my gray eyes. I tried to get out of his grip, but I couldn't get the nerve to move with my little strength.
"I love you," Braylon whispered.
"I love you too," was all I could come up with. He pulled me closer.
"But, why," I added, even though I had asked this question more times than I could remember.
He laughed to himself, then looked back up at me. "Because, Bree, you're perfect. I love everything about you. Every time I'm near you, I feel like it's impossible not to smile. Everyone else is wrong about you. But no matter what they say, I will love you until the end." Each word came out with no uncertainty. He slowly leaned in and kissed me again.
After a few minutes, we broke apart, our foreheads touching.
I knew it seemed stupid, but I really felt like he was meant for me, even if we were only seventeen. I'd known him all my life, and always wished I had him; now I did. Braylon loved me like no one ever had. He gave me the chance that I had always needed.
When we were seen together at school, they would always make fun of me, asking why he would go out with someone like me. Instead of agreeing with them, he would stand up for me, but in the end they would end up walking away laughing at me, at us.
I lost track of time as he rested quietly, our bodies as close as possible. Darkness rapidly overcame the sky, a signal that we would need to get home soon.
I laid my head on his shoulder as the sun set, and once the light of day had completely vanished, I broke the silence, asking him, "Can I stay at your house for tonight?" His response was a single nod, then another kiss to my forehead.
Braylon helped me up, and we started towards his house, hand in hand. As he entered his home, I smiled at his mother, who wore a look concern as she noticed my cheek. Braylon shot her a look that told her he had it under control, and she went back to cleaning.
We walked directly to his room, exhausted. As I stepped towards his bed, he smiled and picked me up quickly. I gasped, then laughed as he carried me to his bed and set me down. He laid down next to me, and I rolled over to kiss him.
I caught him off guard, and positioned myself on top of him before he could move again.
I pulled back and whispered, "Don't do that." His hands traced down my back and stopped at my thighs, pulling me closer to him. I smiled and put my arms around his neck, my lips close to his ear.
"Not now," I said gently. He immediately loosened his grip. I kissed him one more time, then laid back at his side.
He wrapped his arm around my back, my head resting on his chest.
I felt as if the world could be ending, but as long as I was with Braylon, nothing bad would happen to us. I closed my eyes slowly, knowing that I would be safe for the night, and fell asleep.
I woke to dim lights shining through the window on the opposite wall of Braylon's bed. The warmth of his body was absent, and I panicked for a moment. I sat up quickly, throwing off the blanket he had placed over me as I slept, and left the room in search for him. I frantically walked down the hall, the smell of sausage filling my senses.
As I entered the kitchen, I saw Braylon standing by the oven, turning a piece of meat on the stovetop. I ran up to him and hugged him from behind. He turned around with a spatula in his hand and returned it, knowing I was worried that he wasn't with me. He bent down to kiss me on the forehead, but instead I planted my lips onto his, pulling him closer.
The sizzling of sausage drew us apart, and he quickly flipped the last of it in the pan.
I laughed at him, looking at the clock above the oven. It read, "6:02".
I stared back at him, then asked, "Why are you up so early?"
"I thought you might want to eat before we go back to your house. We still have school today, you know, and I figured you would want to change before we went. Besides, I don’t want your dad to hate me any more than he already does."
I smiled, then grabbed one of the fresh biscuits sitting on a plate nearby, taking a bite. Thinking about it for a minute, my expression dropped, knowing he was right. We had to go back to my house, and I would have to face whatever I was going to get.
Braylon finished making breakfast, and we ate in silence. I helped him clean up afterwards since he had gone through so much trouble for me, and we set off.
We moved in silence, the chirping of the early morning birds the only sound to be heard. I tensed up as he approached my neighborhood after about twenty minutes. I could tell Braylon noticed because he stopped and pulled me into his arms.
Although I wish I never had to, I withdrew from the hug, taking his hand.
My lawn had a few broken beer bottles scattered about it, indicating that my dad had been drinking a lot.
I stepped through the front door cautiously to see my father sitting on the raggedy couch, passing the time as he waited for me by chugging alcohol.
Aware that I had come in, he slurred, "Where have you been?"
"With Braylon," I answered as confidently as could manage, though my voice still wavered.
"You should have come back here when I told you to," he snarled, getting up wobbly. He took a step towards me, and I backed up a bit just to run into Braylon. He grabbed my shoulders, moving to my side, and took my hand again.
"And you!" He jabbed a finger at Braylon, shoving him back a little. I could smell the liquor in my father's breath.
"You shouldn't be taking her away like this!" He growled in his face. He pulled a fist back and slammed it into his face, taking Braylon by surprise. My dad took a glass bottle from the other hand and smashed it on the side of his head, shattering it into a thousand tiny pieces that were dispersed all around the floor. Blood streaked down his face within seconds.
I shouted as loudly as I could for him to stop, unable to do anything. I watched in horror as he continued to hurt Braylon, and shortly after, vise versa.
Tears streamed down my cheeks, unable to look away from the terrible sight; Braylon was only trying to protect himself, but my father had other intentions.
He turned around for a minute and reached for the pistol sitting on the side table next to the couch; He always had one lying around the house somewhere.
Everything from there happened in a blur. My father pulled the handgun up to Braylon's head. My boyfriend's cries of plea for him to stop. The firing of the gun. Braylon's body falling limply, crashing onto the shards of glass.
He dad stepped back, his eyes showing how shocked he was at what he had done. A scream escaped my mouth, a cry more piercing than I thought was ever possible. My father directed his attention towards me.
He looked back down at the pistol in his hand, and drew it to his temple. Before I had a chance to protest, he pulled the trigger.
He fell to the ground, the gun skidding across the floor and next to Braylon's leg. I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes, hoping that this was just another one of my nightmares.
I had sat there for so long that I no longer remembered sitting down in the first place. Finally, reality hit me, and I realized that this was actually happening.
Slowly, I got up from my uncomfortable position. I looked down at Braylon, and new water droplets streaked down my face.
I bent down next to him and placed my lips on his one last time. His mouth was agape, probably because he was just as shocked as I was at what had happened, and his lips were cold.
When I stared back at Braylon, I noticed the handgun. At first, I backed away, then realized that I had nothing to lose. Nothing to live for. I held it in my hands for a few minutes, turning it over and over, then put my finger on the trigger.
Only one thought could enter my mind, and it never escaped.
My life is over.
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