By: H.M. Ward



I run. I run out the front door of my house sobbing. I don't know what I think or what I need. I just know that I want Trystan, but when I get to his house, something's wrong. When Trystan pulls the door open, it seems like he is going to walk out, which is strange since he's not wearing a shirt and his hair is damp. I glance at his face - his blue eyes are wild. They're too big, like he has no idea what to do, like I'm the last person he expected on his doorstep.

Trystan hesitates. He looks over his shoulder with panic in his eyes. He tells me to leave in a rush of air. I can hardly make out the word. My heart is pounding. My skin prickles. Something is wrong, but I don't understand. Before I have a chance to ask, someone slams into Trystan. The door snaps shut as their bodies collide and fall into the wall.

I scream. My hands fly to my face as the sound rips out of the back of my throat. Someone is hurting him. Now it makes sense. Now the look on his face, the fear in his eyes, means something. Trystan was going to run out the front door, but I was standing there blocking his way. If he tried to run past, whoever is fighting with Trystan could have come after me instead.

Trystan threw himself in the middle. He knew someone was behind him.

Glancing around frantically, I try to figure out what to do. I'm tiny. I can't do anything, but I know what I saw. Someone is hurting Trystan. I pull my cell phone from my pocket and call 911. I'm not even sure what I'm saying. I repeat myself and say the name of the condo unit one more time. They ask me too many questions. They try to keep me in place, but I can't just stand there. I put the phone down without hanging up. They can find me.

That's when things get worse. I hear Trystan's voice through the front window. It's a strangled yelp and then a crash. Glass shatters inside the house. Horrors are taking place behind that door. My heart thumps in my chest so furiously that I think it might crack my ribs. My muscles tense. Every part of me knows that I'll get my ass kicked - maybe worse - if I walk through that door, but I have to. I can't leave him in there. I can't wait for the police. Trystan needs me. Someone's hurting him.

I can't just stand here and cower. But I have nothing to fight with. I glance around and see a busted up brick in the parking lot. I run and grab it. Then, I do the stupidest thing I've ever done in my entire life - I open the door and go inside.

The sight makes me stop in my tracks. My mouth gapes open. A man in a white dress shirt has Trystan by the throat and is pressing him into the wall. Trystan's hands are wrapped tightly around the man's wrists. Every muscle in Trystan's body is corded tight, like they could snap at any second. His face is a mixture of pain and terror, and is the wrong color. He can't breathe. Trystan doesn't see me. The other man doesn't hear me. He's screaming at Trystan, blaming him for something that I can't understand. Every time the man screams, he shoves Trystan back into the wall, harder and harder, choking him.

Rage courses through my veins. My muscles tense and I don't think. I feel the rock burning a hole in my hand. I feel the pull toward the man's back, as if the broken brick wants to collide with his head. I launch myself across the room and swing my arm. My hand comes down hard and the brick slams into the man's head. But, I realize my mistake too late. I'm too short, too weak. I didn't hit him hard enough.

Instead of falling to the ground, the man drops Trystan to the floor and rounds on me. His eyes burn like acid, overflowing with hatred. I know I'm going to die. The way he looks at me, the way his hands float up so slowly, makes every hair on my body stand on end. I slide one shoe back. My senses are all hypersensitive, but it doesn't help. I know what he's going to do. I see him coming toward me, slowly fixating his focus on my neck. I know he wants to snap me like a twig. My lips are parted, but I can't speak. Someone has stolen my voice.

"What the fuck gives you the right to attack me in my own home?" His voice is like gravel and nails. Venom is laced thickly through every word. His shoulders are hunched forward like he's ready to pounce and bury me in the ground.

My heart hammers harder. I don't understand. I blink, even though I don't want to take my eyes off the man. "You were hurting him." The words come out of my mouth in a huff of air as though he's already choking me.

"It's none of your damn business what I do to him." The man's jaw shifts back and forth. He steps toward me and grabs my wrist. I scream and he shoves me back into the wall. I claw at my arm, at that one wrist that he has pinned, but I'm not strong enough.

The man hisses in my face, "He's my kid, not yours. I should break your hand for this. You came into my home and attacked me. No one would blame me, you know. No one would know what happened here. They'd say you were lucky that I didn't shoot you." He twists my wrist slowly, twisting it farther and farther.

My heart pounds frantically, as pain shoots up my arm. I try to pull away from him, but I can't. I scratch at his hand, the one holding me, and kick his shins, but he just laughs. It's like I'm a fly. I can't do anything to stop him. Fear makes my body shake. He smiles like he's enjoying hurting me, like he'll really do it.

I freak out. My brain snaps. Trystan is battered and bloody on the floor and this lunatic is his father. This is the person responsible. Before I know what I'm doing, my mouth lands on his shoulder and I bite. He screams and throws me back. The floor hits me hard and I roll onto my side. There's no time - there's no time to run or crawl away. Before I can blink, his foot connects with my stomach. Pain shoots through me as tears burst from my eyes. A raw scream rips from my throat. I try to curl into a ball, but the man doesn't stop. It's like he can't stop, like he has to finish this. I scream louder as the foot comes at me again, but it doesn't connect.

Trystan is yelling, his voice is mangled, but I still understand him. "Don't touch her!" He's standing. There are angry marks around his neck and his lip is split. A trail of blood runs down his cheek. That wound from the other day, the one that Tucker was upset about, opened up.

Tucker. Tucker knew something was wrong. My eyes dart to Trystan. His dad has been beating the shit out of him. I didn't know. Horror washes over me in a frigid wave. How did I not know?

Trystan's dad has a strange look on his face. I get to my feet even though my middle feels like it's been smashed to bits. Trystan stands between us. His shoulders are tense, corded with muscle, ready to fight. I don't breathe. I can't. Everything happens so quickly, but it feels like forever, like we're moving through a vat of Vaseline.

Trystan's dad takes a swing at his son. Angry words come pouring out of his mouth and his fist follows. Trystan remains between us, dodges the hit, and swings his arm straight up. Trystan's fist connects under his dad's jaw. The punch is solid. The man's bones make a cracking sound before he gets a strange look on his face and falls backwards. His body hits the floor.

Trystan stands over his father, breathing hard, his fingers still clenched into a fist. Neither of us moves. Trystan's shaking, looking at his hand like he's some kind of monster. When he turns back to me, I nearly die. His expression is horrible. All the anguish is plainly painted across his face for me to see.

We both stare at each other for a second. It feels like time stops, but in a bad way. I finally remember I have feet and lunge at him, throwing myself into his arms. Trystan's chest is slick, covered in sweat. I feel every muscle in his body as he wraps his arms around me. He buries his face in my hair and we stay like that until the lights and voices tear us apart. Trystan releases me and looks up confused. Their words sound like far away echoes. They say to drop to the floor, to let go of me. Neither of us moves. We both shiver as the men run at us. One pulls me from Trystan, while the other knocks him to the floor and pulls his arms behind his back.

A police officer speaks to me. "Are you all right? Are you the one who called? Miss..." he continues to talk, but I'm shaking. I can't understand why they're hurting Trystan. I can't understand anything.

I blurt out, "He didn't hurt me! That man did. What are you doing?" I try to pull away from the cop, but he keeps me back. More police are there. Another cop car. They say that I should calm down. They ask my name, my parent's names. They want to know what happened, if I'm all right. But I can't speak, they don't listen when I tell them that Trystan is hurt. They pull Trystan away from me and I can't see him. It feels like there's a foot on my chest and I can't breathe.

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