Chapter Nineteen: Deserving

"Man is not, by nature, deserving of all that he wants. When we think that we are automatically entitled to something, that is when we start walking all over others to get it." -Criss Jami-

Mrs. Miller tells me about Dylan's childhood.

"He wouldn't dare even approach the boys at first but, once we urged him on, he became the little star of the All-Boys' Shakespeare Act," she says, proudly.

"I was a tree," he points out, raising his eyebrows at me.

"Yes, well - the best tree of the lot."

I have to bite back a smile and Dylan shakes his head, leaning forward. "Why don't you tell her about the Parents' Day Speech?"

"That sounds important," I remark.

Mrs. Miller frowns a little and spoons strawberry syrup onto my plate. "He believes it embarrasses me."

"That's cuz it's embarrassing."

"It is not." She leans back and looks at me, folding her arms and attempting to explain; "He... well, he was saying wonderful things on stage and he was only six years old when this stupid older boy threw confetti at the wrong time. Dylan got a little... frightened and he ended up, well-"

"I pissed my pants."


But I'm laughing now and so is Mrs. Miller.

"But he is really talented," she adds, glancing affectionately at her son. She leans forward to smooth his tousled hair and turns to smile at me, gently. "I just hope Jacky takes good care of him."

It's the only time I feel myself stiffen.

Uncle Nolan is funny.

Like, not funny in that way the adults try to be which can sometimes come off as a little condescending but, like, really, truly funny.

I'm still laughing at his tale about an old woman at a wedding when Dylan catches my eye and clears his throat. I don't understand the gesture but I straighten up and then he suggests we leave. I glance down at the slice of vanilla cake on my plate and the half-empty, half-cold cup of tea in front of me.

"Dylan, you don't have to go yet. Please stay."

"Nah, Mom, thanks but I gotta get back and Becky promised her mom she'd be back early too."

I nod effectively but I can't help realizing that the sense of despair and dread I was feeling when I first entered the house is gone. I like sitting with his mother and listening to his uncle and observing his father and being surrounded by people who care for each other because they want to, not because they have no other choice.

"I wouldn't have minded, you know."

"What?" Dylan glances at me as we drive out of his parents' gate.

"I wouldn't have minded staying a little longer. I was having a... good time."

"Really?" His eyebrows are extremely close to his hairline. "And here I was thinking you were getting more uncomfortable by the second."

"Did it really seem like that?"

"Of course not. I just wanted to leave - I have some work to catch up on and, besides, it was getting late."


He turns to look at me and then takes my hand cautiously. "You're okay, aren't you?"

"Sure. I just wish - things were more simple sometimes, you know?"

"Sure. Who doesn't?"

But things aren't simple and I realize that more than ever once I step through the front door.

There is no sign of movement and I cannot hear a single voice. I cautiously move past the darkened stairs and closed doors into the kitchen. I don't want to speak in case the monster really is here so I just sit down in a chair and close my eyes, knowing it's too dangerous to tread upstairs.

"Rebecca..." My mother's voice is soft but it startles me just the same. "You're home."


"Where did you go?"



I close my eyes again and shake my head. "Mom, please. There's no use to these strange, random conversations - there never is, because the next day, the whole point of a talk just dies, you know? So, if you don't mind, I'd really rather not - speak."

"That's no way to talk to your mother."

My heart seems to rise in its beating and seize to beat all at once. I stand and spin, too fast, and the chair topples over. Without realizing it, I wish I had a gun or a knife - anything to make the monster in front of me drop to the floor. Then he steps forward and, suddenly, I am the dead, lifeless, cowardly girl I was before and I shake my head constantly and strange, scratchy noises burst from my throat.

"No! No, no, no!" I'm screaming and he tries to speak but it's all incoherent with my mother's hushed tones merging with his. "Get out! Please... please..."

His gaze drops to the floor - the ugly, cruel villain at once the wronged victim, the ashamed culprit.

"Rebecca, at least listen to him!"

"No, no, I won't!" I turn and try desperately to unlatch the back door. My fingers feel to limp, however, and I scratch uselessly at its locks and feel warm liquid trickle down my fingers as my nails hit the metal. "Stop it, stop it, stop it!"

I feel his hands on me, pulling me back and I turn on him, scratching his hideous face with bloody fingernails. He holds on tightly, my mother yelling all the while as he pushes me against the table and, grabbing an old tablecloth, binds my hands together and keeps me in that position, shouting at me to "Calm the hell down!"

My tears are suddenly pathetic and my mothers' even more so. I stop crying and stop struggling. My mother holds my hand and I just shake my head. Looking the monster straight in the eye, I spit out, "I hate you."

I wake up and my wrists are still bound. I hazily recall my mother slipping a sleeping pill into my mouth and the monster forcing me to drink water.

"Mom." I croak and begin to cry again.

It's in the most helpless state. I hate her more than I ever have and, yet, when it comes down to the core - she's all I have. "Mom..."

She rushes in, her face white and her eyes red. "Oh, Rebecca... He had to tie you - you weren't in your senses."

"Please... I feel like a prisoner."

"I didn't mean for this to happen," she says as she struggles to untie the filthy dishtowel. "If you just talked to him rationally..."

I am too tired to argue.

"He is really sorry... please, Rebecca, just talk to him. Forgive him. We'll - we'll be a family again."

"I thought he never did anything wrong."

"Rebecca... it's all in the past, please... please... just think about this rationally. He's back - he was so fond of you."

I twitch involuntarily and then bend over; the kitchen floor is suddenly splattered with the remains of the tea and lunch I had at Dylan's parents'.

"Oh, Rebecca!" She throws the dirty dishtowel over the mess and goes to pour a glass of water while I massage my wrists. "Are you sure you're alright?"

Of course I am not, in any sense of the word, 'alright' but I don't bother to point it out.

"Where is he?" I mumble, sipping the water and cringing at the taste of vomit in my mouth.


I heave over again and she jumps, gingerly touching my back. "Is... is it any better?"

"I need to leave."

"You can't."

"I have to."

I stand back, treading around the mess and swaying weakly into the hallway. "He needs to leave," I add quietly.

"Oh Rebecca."

My knees feel weak and I lean back against the wall, closing my eyes. Then I collapse onto the corridor carpet and cover my face in my hands.

"Rebecca, you're not... you haven't been doing anything with that... boyfriend of yours, have you?" She steps forward. "That Dylan kid."

"No, I haven't."

"Then why...?"

"Because I'm sick!" I cry, banging my fist against the wall. "I'm sick of all this bullshit! I can't take it anymore, okay? I can't!"

Then she does something I have never seen her do since I was twelve. She sits down besides me and wraps her arms around my shoulders. She pulls me close and I inhale her scent - cigarettes, alcohol, cheap perfume but her old creamy, vanilla lotion too - and then she kisses the top of my head. I reluctantly but inevitably turn into her, curling towards her and, despite my vomit-splattered shoes, she envelopes me into her long, thin arms.

"I know," she whispers.

And suddenly, we're both crying.

I lay on my bed and just try not to think. And the more I try to avoid, the more effectively thoughts jump out at me.

Henry and my mother are asleep in her room. My mother and I spent an hour downstairs, holding each other and whispering but when he called her name, she gently pulled away and obediently headed up the stairs like a puppet. Dylan called four times since last night but I have been unable to call him back.

I don't deserve it.

It's not utter despair or loss of all hope that makes me think that thought. My head is clear, as clear as the early morning sky with its cloudless stretch of whitening blue outside my bedroom window. It's just a simple fact that took me far too long to reach.

I don't deserve it.

I don't deserve to be hurt, over and over, by my frazzled mother and certainly not by the man in her bed. But neither do I deserve Dylan, my ideal, my only friend, because I've hurt people too. I've hurt Jacqueline and I would hurt Mr. and Mrs. Miller and Uncle Nolan and, seeing his family devastated, I was sure to hurt Dylan too. My heart thumps as I swallow hard and reach over for the blade hidden beneath my bedside table.

I am not crazy and I am not a depressed sociopath. I am not a troubled wildly-hormonal teen and I am not an overreacting idiot.

I just don't deserve it.

So, yes, that was cheerfully depressing.
A lot has happened, as you can see, the most important being Henry's return. I have a plot worked out but please feel free to come forward with any ideas for what you'd like to have happen.
I'd really like to thank the reviewers, particularly the anonymous ones as I PM the others.
Mwahh... :)