Closer to the Edge
© Sorraya T 2013
Chapter Nine: Coming Clean
Jase had cornered me at school in the Art room. I was painting lilies for the Senior Art Show, at the command of Mrs Gray, my art teacher. She and Mrs Clarke had decided that I needed to be motivated to up my school involvement. So now I was stuck with a paintbrush in hand throughout lunch. And up until Jase had found me and confronted me with his observation, I'd been enjoying the retreat from the watchful gazes of my peers.
"Sure am," I agreed lightly. "I don't even like lilies."
"Piper." he said sharply. I jerked my head to search his blue eyes, his pierced eyebrow furrowed with frustration. "Tell me what's going on."
I froze. Slowly, I placed my paint and brush on the table and turned to look at him. "Jase, please don't make me do this." I begged him, voice uncharacteristically quiet.
He ran a hand through his cropped hair. "I don't know what else to do, Pip. You haven't been happy for years. But now you aren't even trying to be, it's like you're giving up."
"You think I'm not trying?" I asked incredulously. "I have a smile on my face every day and I always try to keep myself busy."
"That's not being happy, that's avoiding what you know you've gotta face." he said sternly, folding his arms.
"And what's that?"
"Tyler Whitehouse." he said simply. "Tyler Whitehouse and all the shit that went down when your dad died."
I turned away from Jase and started to clean my brushes. "The bell's going to ring in a couple of minutes." I told him quietly. "We should get to class."
"Stop brushing me off, Pip." he responded, for once not even slightly aggressive. "You're my best friend, you're practically my sister. I can't keep watching you fall to pieces and pretend everything's alright."
I swiveled back to face Jase, and for once dropped all pretences. "You don't know what happened, Jason. I'll talk to Tyler. But you need to stay out of it."
My best friend flinched back a little, but nodded. "I know. I know. But promise me that you'll talk to him. Tonight."
I met his eyes and nodded back. "Tonight."
I hated Jase. I hated him with a deep, fiery passion. I hated that, because of him, I was standing on Tyler Whitehouse's doorstep. If Tyler was Devil Spawn, Jase was the Devil. They were conspiring against me. Both of them were probably behind the door holding hands with Ashton Kutcher and a film crew, about to tell me I was being Punk'd.
I heard a crash and a yell from inside that jerked me from my bitter musings. Taking a deep breath, I rang the doorbell of Tyler's over-sized, stupid house. It was probably smaller than mine, but still. It was the principal of the thing.
After a minute or so, I was about to turn away, when the door jerked open just enough for Tyler to peak out, nervous smile plastered on his handsome face. "Hey, Pip, I'm really sorry but this is a bad time. Can we talk tomorrow at school?"
I frowned at him. "Devil Spawn, I don't just come around to people's houses to say 'hi'. We need to talk."
"Yeah, I know, I just can't-"
"Get the fuck back here, you little shit." A deep voice roared from inside, followed by another crash.
Tyler's fake smile dropped, a worried, serious look replacing it. "Piper, you need to leave. Now." He went to shut the door, but, for some stupid, unknown reason I pushed my hand against the door and held it open.
"What's going on?" I demanded.
"Piper, leave." he ordered, moving to shut the door again.
I was too fast for him, however, ducking inside before the door was shut. "Dammit, Raven, get out!" He growled.
Before I could retort, a man slightly shorter than Tyler stormed into the hallway where we stood. I hadn't seen him in years, and he had aged considerably, but I knew his face as well as I knew his son's. Tyler's father looked like him, except instead of warm brown eyes, they were muddy and dull. His dark skin was lined, his hair graying and his face had a cruel twist to it that his son's didn't.
"Who the hell are you?" he said, running his eyes over my body very obviously and crudely. At that moment I cursed the fact that my jeans were tight and I wore only a tank top.
"Piper Raven." I told him coolly, attempting a bravado I didn't feel. "I would say it's nice to see you, Mr Whitehouse, but it's not. You've aged terribly, and you still have all the manners of a rhinoceros."
Tyler gripped my arm and pulled me slightly behind him. When I saw the cold glint in the eye of his father, I understood why.
Tyler's black eye was still dark and it had been days since it appeared. I thought of the bruise to the side of his head, and all the stupid excuses he'd been making for years about being clumsy on the field. I remembered an incident over a year ago where his wrist had been fractured and nobody knew how.
Looking into the eyes of his father, I felt sick as it all began to make sense. I couldn't stop my hand from fisting in the back of Tyler's shirt, hoping to communicate how sorry I was that I hadn't realized. I felt a rush of black hatred for Samuel Whitehouse.
The man himself stared me down, a cruel smirk forming on his lips. "I see why my boy's been practically living at the Raven household. You've grown up, Piper. You're a beautiful young lady."
His words were combined with a sickening leer, and I felt Tyler begin to shake with fury. I ducked in front of him, before he could pull me back or object. "And you've degenerated into a Neanderthal."
He barked out a laugh and moved forward, grabbing my wrist as his gaze turned cold. "What the hell are you doing in my house? Unless you're here to get in my bed, you're going to get the hell out."
I wrenched my hand from his grip to backhand him across the face. He yelped, hand moving to his rapidly reddening cheek. "I'm here to give you a taste of your own medicine." I hissed.
His rage had escalated, and Tyler wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me back to him with a jerk and attempting to get me to the door and out to safety. He'd just opened the door when he was pulled back by his father, who raised his hand. Without hesitation, I leapt in front of Tyler Whitehouse and received a harsh blow to the face from his father. I gave a pained cry and fell to the ground.
Tyler seemed to come alive at that moment, and I saw the man I knew had the strength to tackle over any enormous football player who came his way, the strength he used to protect me at a party if he thought a guy was getting too close. He lifted his fist and punched his father under the jaw, sending him flying back against a wall. Immediately after, he pulled me up and slung me over his shoulder before marching out the door.
He shifted me in his arms to carry me bridal style, before marching over to his Jeep, a car he only used when neither Archer or I could drive with him, and gently placed me in the passenger seat, before going around to climb in the driver side and zooming us away from his house of horror.
"We need to get you to a hospital." He said quietly. I turned to look at him, and became aware of a deep, painful throb next to my eye. The awkward angle had meant that Samuel hadn't hit anywhere too vulnerable, thankfully.
"I'm okay, Tyler." I told him quietly, reaching out to touch his arm. He relaxed slightly beneath my touch. His face was stiff and I couldn't stop myself from bringing my hand to his stubbly cheek. He shuddered and lost control beneath my fingers, his mask falling and his devastated guilt beginning to show.
"You shouldn't have jumped in front, Piper. He could have killed you." he told me, agonized.
"He could have killed you every day you went home to him." I shot back. "I'm okay, Tyler. But you're not."
He shook his head. "We need to get you to a hospital."
"Tyler." I said loudly, moving my hand to hold his arm again. "Can we talk? Please? I think... I think it's now or never."
He look unsure for a moment, but suddenly one of his hands came to rest upon the one I'd lain on his arm. He didn't say a word, simply nodding.
We drove until we got to the Lake, the same place Flick and I had thrown rocks at the wall to create smudges. But the Lake was extremely significant to us, to my entire relationship with Tyler.
We were both silent as we watched the late afternoon sun reflected in the water. I was the first to break it. "We haven't been here since-"
We didn't look at each other. Every time I blinked my gaze would suddenly be filled with the sight of Samuel moving to strike his son. I clenched my eyes shut as a sick feeling rose in my gut, willing the sight away. "Why didn't you tell me?"
I heard his breath stop. "I didn't think you'd give a crap."
I choked on my own shocked, bitter laughter. "That's right, how could I possibly care that you have been abused by your own father for God knows how long?" I suddenly recalled the argument I'd overheard between Archer and Tyler in the living room that night a few weeks ago.
"Man, you have to report it!" Archer's voice argued.
"No way!" His best friend responded, "He's already lost his wife, Arch. I won't leave him too."
"Ty, dude, I feel for the guy, I do." He assured, "but this is wrong. He can't blame you for your mom-"
"Look, he's having a tough time, is all!" he shot back, voice defensive.
"This isn't alright, man. Seriously, you know what mom is gonna say."
Demon-house sighed. "Yeah, I know."
"And if Pippy found out-"
"She wouldn't care, Arch." He snapped. "She'd probably shake his hand."
Tyler's last reply to Archer rung in my ears. She'd probably shake his hand.
He genuinely thought I would have congratulated his father for what he was doing. All the arguments we'd had over the past few years suddenly seemed so much more significant. He thought I hated him. He should have known that everything I said and did was because I couldn't hate him. It was impossible for me to even try.
"You genuinely thought that. That's what you and Archer were talking about." I said, slightly dazed from my realization.
He didn't respond.
"Archer knew." I stated. Again, he said nothing. "Mom knew." I again received no response. "I'm the only one you didn't tell." He finally turned and looked at me, nodding slowly. I shook my head, hoping to clear the sudden fog of hurt that had appeared. "Okay. Well. Look how that turned out."
"You were safer not knowing." he objected.
"My face seems to disagree with you." I responded dryly. "And it wasn't about my safety. You actually thought I wouldn't... Even though you and me... You seriously didn't..." I couldn't finish my thought out loud, it was too ridiculous.
"Well, I didn't exactly have reason to think you did give a shit, did I?" Tyler bit suddenly, voice hard. "You've called me Devil Spawn for three years. Three years. This has been going on for two. Why would I ever think you cared?"
"Because I've always cared, Tyler!" I cried. "When Archer introduced me to you, when were kids, I knew that we would be... I knew you were special." I finished quietly. I hadn't talked honestly about anything for three years, and now I wasn't entirely sure how to go about it.
"I thought that too." he responded, temper growing. Our eyes were locked in the car, glaring at each other with matching pain and fury. "And it kept getting better. Our night here, it was the best night of my fucking life. I was convinced we would be together, Piper. Fuck, I freaking loved you, you know that? I. Loved. You. And then it all went to shit." He finished with a frustrated gesture between us.
"My dad died, Tyler. He died and you were there for Archer and you ignored me for a week. A whole freaking week. It went to shit because you stopped giving a shit." I hissed.
He looked away, suddenly ashamed. "I didn't think Archer would- no, could cope with it at that point." He looked up at me beseechingly, willing me to understand. "He told me he needed me to be there for him, Piper. I already felt guilty as hell, I'd just taken his sister's virginity for Christ's sake. What other option did I have."
"You had the option to be there for me too!" I told him desperately. "Instead of pretending I didn't exist, being there for Archer and my mom and caring for them, and leaving me to look after myself and sit by the front door telling everyone who came to gawk 'Oh, thank you for your concern, yes he was an incredible man, you saying sorry makes everything so much fucking better!'"
"Do you remember the night after he died, Piper?" he asked quietly, and I stayed quiet. "I doubt you do, you were so fucking drunk. But I remember every second of it. You sat on your own in the lounge room and I came in and tried to hug you. But you pushed me off and told me to stay away from you. You told me to stay away because if you'd been home that night then he would still be alive. He wouldn't have gone out looking for you and been hit by a car. You told me I must have been the spawn of Satan designed to ruin your life. It was the first time you called me Devil Spawn." His face was hard, his eyes tight, and jaw clenched. "And you've called me that name every day since. So every day I'm reminded of you telling me I meant nothing to you because it's my fault your dad died."
My jaw dropped, and I couldn't deny that I didn't remember much of that night. But suddenly every day afterwards made sense, how he couldn't look at me, how he would ignore me. I'd crushed him.
"You know what you told me the last time you were drunk? When I took you home from Jase's?" he didn't wait for me to respond before he continued. "I put you to bed and you told me you loved me. So tell me, Piper Raven, which is it? Do you hate me? Or do you love me?"
His eyes held mine and wouldn't let me look away. It was like I was falling into them. "I-I don't hate you, Tyler."
He didn't waver. "Do you love me?" He asked calmly.
I swallowed nervously. "Yes. I do." those eyes brightened and it killed me that I was going to make them go dull again. "But neither of us are ready for this. We can't be together yet because I don't trust you." He went to interrupt but I cut him off. "And you don't trust me. We aren't there yet, and if we start this before we're ready, we'll ruin everything."
I looked down at my hands and my voice became quiet. "I haven't been this honest with anyone in years, Tyler. But you can see me for what I am, and that's why I love you. It's why we're meant for each other." I reached over and took his hand. "We know where we both stand now. So we can start working up to the hard stuff and make this right."
His hand clasped mine tightly, as if he never wanted to let go. "Know this, Piper." He said seriously. "We leave things as we do now, we aren't together. But I won't stop chasing you. Not ever."
I leaned into him, wrapping my arms tightly around his neck as his slid around my waist. We clutched to each other in a way we hadn't allowed ourselves to in years. His scent and touch surrounded me as I moved my lips to his ear. "I'm counting on it."
HEY DER. Okay, well, I know this was uncharacteristically serious for this story, but it needed to happen in order to allow the story to progress as it should. At this stage, I don't think there'll be any other chapters of CttE that are completely serious. There'll be serious scenes every now and then, but this whole chapter is needed to show why Piper acts the way she does and it gives a bit of background.
Please read and review, I will be updating as soon as possible. Remember that character pictures for all my stories are at: jackles .webs .com
Just remove the spaces.
Every one of my readers is amazing, thank you for your support, and BIG thank you to AAB for her really sweet message asking about updates. This chapter is dedicated to her!
Love, Sorraya T