“Ian! Eris!” startled by a sudden scream beneath my room, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. My vision slowly adjusted as I stared at the ceiling where blue stars resurfaced.
“Ian! Eris!” another screech echoed throughout the house. I jumped over the bed, put on blue slippers, and took large steps out of the room. As I raced downstairs, my cornea almost leaped out. Dad was carrying mom in his arms. Her eyes were closed, his fixed on the thin figure before him. He jerked his head and scanned any presence in the living room.
When his gaze met mine, he yelled again, “Get the car key!”
My feet automatically moved. In a split second, they led me to my parents’ room. I rushed to the side table beside their bed and opened the first drawer. I searched for the key but nothing was found. Vague images of my unconscious mother continuously replayed in my head. My mind was almost blanked when I opened the second drawer, my heart racing, my hands trembling.
“The key! Where is the car key?” I mumbled to myself, almost lacking in air.
“Ian!” Another faint scream took me back.
I took a deep breath and slapped my face. “Calm down!”
My nerves eased a bit and I stopped shaking. A minute grin curved my lips after opening the last drawer where a silver key gleamed. I took it with my right hand and got out of the room. I dashed down the stairs but accidentally missed a step.
“Ouch!” I cried out when my head touched the ceramic tiled floor. Warm liquid rolled down to my cheeks. I moved my right hand to my face and touched the left part of my forehead. The blurry image of fingers with a tint of blood came into view.
“How reckless can you be?” I complained to myself and pushed my body with my arms. The struggle to stand required so much strength, my body ached a lot after falling to the first floor.
“Kuya!” Eris shouted from behind right after I stood up. I spun my body but lost my balance. Eris hurried and caught me before falling to the floor again. She put my left arm on her shoulder and wrapped her right arm on my waist.
“Thanks,” I said, pressing my weight on her body.
“What happened?” she asked as we trudged to the door. I didn’t answer.
“What happened?” she insisted.
I took a deep breath. “I slipped and fell on the stairs.”
Eris brushed her forehead with her free hand, “Why are you so careless, kuya? Look at you, you’re bleeding.”
“No, just be careful next time.”
Dad was waiting beside the car, tapping his right foot on the floor when we reached the door. His eyes were fixed to Mom who was still unconscious.
“Dad!” I called out. He turned his head and looked at me. His eyes filled with shock.
“What happened?” he blurted out.
“Details later! We need to rush mom in to the hospital,” I exclaimed.
Because my body was not as hurt as before, I removed my arm from Eris’ shoulder. I told her that I can stand on my own and gave her the key. She opened the door and dad carefully laid mom into the passenger seat. We followed. I sat beside mom, dad occupied the driver seat, and Eris beside him.
Dad sighed countless times as the car almost leaped off of the road. “What happened?” dad asked, looking at me through the mirror.
“I fell from the second floor when I ran on the stairs.”
He spanked and cuffed the steering wheel. “My god, Ian, your idiocy is brimming! What if you hit your head harder than that, we would have rushed two people in the hospital,” he shouted.
“Sorry,” I replied emptily, looking at the window.
“Dad, it’s not his fault!” Eris said.
“Shut your mouth, Eris. I’m not talking to you,” he said sternly. Eris looked away and bit her lip. “If this happens again, Ian, you’ll find the beating you’re looking for. Understand?” he added.
My gaze turned to mom. Her breathing was fast like she was drowning and suffocating for air. Her eyes were closed stiffly and there were circles around it. Her skin was pale, almost turning bluish. The expression that she had pained me.
“Doctor, doctor, we need a doctor,” dad shouted as we entered the corridor of the hospital. Two nurses immediately helped us and took mom to the Emergency Room. After receiving first aid, I found Eris sitting in a column of chairs in front of the Emergency Room. Dad was waiting in front of the door, walking back and forth. The corridor was dead silent with only the three of us. One or two nurses would wander occasionally. It seemed an eternity had passed when the door opened.
“Mr. Reyes,” the doctor called out.
“Yes?” Dad responded.
“Mrs. Reyes is very tired. She has large eye bags under her eyes, it seemed that she didn’t sleep well yesterday. Her condition is stable for now but we have to transfer her to a private room to further observe her condition.”
When the doctor left, my body turned cold. I had a bad feeling about this. My intuition wasn’t wrong but I was too late. Dad’s fist was already in front of my face. When it landed, my body hovered two meters away from where I stood before falling to the ground. My back felt cold against the floor, my vision was blurry and I tasted a lot of blood in my mouth.
“You, f*****, it’s your fault!” he shouted as he landed a few more kicks on my face, legs, and stomach. Each hit hurt but it hurt more inside. “If your mom and Eris hadn’t waited for you, she wouldn’t have passed out.” I couldn’t resist, even if I wanted to, my body refused to move.
“Dad, what are you doing?” I heard a faint scream. It was Eris, I guessed. I received another solid kick on my face, it was so strong that my head bounced a few times on the floor. I had no energy left in my body. I couldn’t even open my eyes. I could only hear and feel the numbing pain in my body. Even the sound of faint footfalls seemed to be in slow motion or even my heavy breathing.
Someone held my head. “Kuya, kuya, are you alright?” Few drops of warm liquid fell on my face. Tears? Was Eris crying? No, she couldn’t be. I tried to smile, to tell her I’m okay but my facial muscles wouldn’t move.
“Ian?” a different familiar voice said, deep and warm. “Ian! Hang in there! Nurse, Nurse, anyone?” The voice shouted and there were more footsteps before I lost consciousness.
When I opened my eyes, I was inside a white room, it was brightly lit and quiet. I was laying there, in a narrow bed where I could taste the scent of chemicals in the air. I turned my head and found a faint figure sitting beside the bed. My vision was still a bit blurry so I can’t recognize who it was. His face leaned forward, his warm hand touched my cheeks. The sudden sensation surprised me but I didn’t hate it. It was gentle and kind.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Who are you?” I returned the question.
“It’s Yeren.” After hearing those words, I blinked a few times, my sight slowly becoming clearer. I tried to move, to confirm who he was, only to realize the numbing pain in my back and legs, only my neck and arms were movable. A soundless whimper came out.
“Careful! You’ve been beaten to a pulp.” He said, his hands carefully pinning my shoulders. I didn’t move, I just studied his face as he held me down. It was him. He has a pained expression and I could sense the concern behind them.
“How come you’re here?” I blurted out.
Yeren let go of my shoulders and sat down again beside the bed. “I saw you, you were bleeding and lying on the floor, there was a girl beside you but she kept on crying so I called for help.” Neither of us said anything after that. We’re just there, quiet, our eyes staring at each other.
“I didn’t mean to, but I saw them.” He finally said, his voice almost inaudible.
I was stupefied as I swallowed a large amount of saliva in my throat. “What do you mean?”
“The cigar－” he was about to say something when the door creaked. I turned my gaze, dad was approaching with large strides. He wore no emotion, the corners of his lips were curved down; his eyebrows knit together.
“Dad?” I muttered, my voice almost a whisper, my lips slightly trembling.
When he reached the other end of the bed, his gaze turned to Yeren. I followed it. Yeren’s eyebrows were raised, his lips slightly parted in bewilderment. “Who is this young man?” Dad asked.
There was a long silence before I answered, “He’s the one who helped me.”
Dad’s face was painted with disbelief, some wrinkles appeared on his forehead then he looked at me again. “I won’t be bothered if you die.” He smirked and took a glance at Yeren. “I’m grateful though, I can’t afford to be in jail right now for killing my son, even if you are a little piece of s***.”
I gasped. Everything came back to me in a flash but I was helpless. I couldn’t say anything.
“Remember this, I am not sorry about what happened. Everything is your fault,” he said, emphasizing his last words before turning his back.
Yeren moved his right hand beside my left arm, his fist gripping the bed sheet, so tight that he was trembling. When our eyes met, his eyes were flaming with rage. I moved my hand toward his and clasped it lightly, my eyes staring at him, begging, ‘Please. Don’t do anything. Don’t do anything unnecessary.’
Dad shifted sideways. “And don’t forget, your mom doesn’t have to know about this. Got it?” He paused and gave me a hostile look. “If she ever did, you know what I can do, remember that,” he said before finally disappearing behind the door.
It’s hard to describe Yeren’s expression when I look at him. It was filled with anger and confusion. “Isn’t… Isn’t…” he hesitated.
“Isn’t that… Isn’t that…” he stopped again and rubbed his palms on his face, breathing heavily.
Finally, he spoke again, biting his lower lip. “I don’t want to pry so much,” he paused, taking a deep breath. “But isn’t that, no… That’s your father, right? He’s the one that made you like this? ”
I looked away, but that was an answer in itself. After a while, I heard silent sobs and that surprised me. When I turned my gaze to Yeren, he was standing, his head was raised a bit, his right arm covering his eyes, tears flowing on his cheeks. I didn’t know what to do or what to feel. I didn’t know if I wanted to be happy or angry, or both.
“I don’t need your pity,” I said.
Yeren rubbed his eyes but I could see the pain behind them. His lips curved into a bitter half-smile. “I know that we don’t know each other, other than our names. I don’t understand myself right now why am I so concerned with you or why am I crying like this. Is it out of pity or something else? I don’t know.” He paused as he sat on the bed, his gaze staring somewhere to avoid mine. “I don’t understand myself. You’re just a stranger who reminded me of someone.”
I locked my gaze to his back, gritting my teeth. “A moment ago, it was a pity. Now, I reminded you of, god, who knows who. You think this is fun?” I gasped, trying to relieve the tension in my voice. “Damn it, Yeren! My life is not an RPG game where you can play the hero.”
There was a long pause before he replied, “I must take my leave then.” He stood up and that moment was when I realized the weight of my words. I pushed him away as I did to everyone else. Although I knew that this would happen, it frustrated the hell out of me. The first time it stung like hell. I always thought that pushing anyone that got too close was my defense mechanism to protect myself but he’s different, the same yet different.
“Sorry, if I made you feel that way,” he said and began to walk away. Every step seemed to make me worse. I wanted to at least say something but words were trapped in the back of my throat.
My heart raced as adrenaline rushed all over me. I mustered all my courage and took a deep breath. Although my body ached so much, I still managed to lift my back and rotate myself. The floor was cold on my bare feet. I stood but too much gravity was pulling me down that I almost fell. The sudden movements also detached a tube connected to dextrose injected at the back of my right hand. It didn’t faze me. My feet made unsure steps to catch up to him and when I finally did, I reached out my right hand to his arm. The palm of my hand was hot from where it touched and it made me weaker. He turned to me and my body suddenly fell against him.
Everything happened in a flash but I remembered it in vivid slow motion. There was only darkness behind my eyes. No image was burned but it was like a painting, an image colored by all the sensations. At that moment, I could hear the heavy beating of his heart in my ear. Each thump was in almost perfect rhythm with mine. I was hot all over but there was no urgency to let go. It made me so weak that I’d be on my knees if he was not supporting my weight.
“Be careful!” He wrapped his right hand on my shoulders, my hand still holding the other. “You’ve been beaten so you can’t just move around.”
“I’m sorry,” I said but there was so much tremor in my voice. “I’m really sorry,” I repeated, still stuttering, as I let go of his hand.
He stayed silent. Instead, he carefully spun my body to his side. His grip on my shoulders tightened then he pulled me closer so I wouldn’t fall.
“I’m really sorry, it’s just that I’m not used to this kind of kindness,” I said, staring somewhere unseeingly. “I don’t know what to feel, or what I should say.”
I turned my head to him as we took a step. My eyes met his. He smiled, “You don’t have to say anything. If others can’t treat you with kindness, I will.” He took a deep breath as he tried to look away but failed. “If your dad can hurt you like this, I can help. If you want to cry, you can lean on me.” He sucked another deep breath before declaring some words with immanent boldness, “Live with me.”
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