*This chapter includes instances of domestic violence and abuse, so if that may be triggering for you please feel free to skip ahead.*
Chapter 2: The Recovery
"What the hell are you doing locked up in that goddamn room?!" His rages just outside my safety net. I look down at my jeans and sweatshirt combo and decided that adding my coat should be enough for the cold outside.
My hair was parted in the middle and braided down past my shoulders and I'd grab a hat too, maybe even some gloves on my way out. It was just getting there that held difficulty. I knew that he was at least drunk right now, which meant he wouldn't necessarily get physically dangerous, I'd just need to tell him what he wanted to hear.
So I took a deep breath and opened the door. He had just started coming up the stairs, barely able to take sober steps without the support of the breaking stair rail. When his bloodshot eyes landed on my body, I knew that he had to have taken something else. The anger- that particular fire that burned his blue eyes till they turned grey-resulted from alcohol and something else.
This meant I was in more danger than I initially thought.
He stops at the top of the stairs and waves me over, "Get over here," my hesitant steps only irritate him more, "NOW ADIRA!" HE throws the empty beer bottle my way and it shatters right at my feet, but I can't let it slow me down, so I tiptoe my way through.
"Where's the goddamn food?! Huh?!" He barks, grabbing me by the drawstrings of my sweatshirt, looping his hand around it until it tightens against my neck, "ANSWER ME!!"
"I-I have to g-go grocery s-sh-hopping," I say as clearly as I can. A little behind me, Chester had started to growl but I warned him with a few fingers up.
He'd always defend me whenever my father acted like this but I knew my dad wouldn't hesitate to kill him.
My father's grip tightens and he pulls me, off the ground just by the neck, making me level with his weak 6'0" posture, "The next time I call you, your answer better be immediate, am I understood?"
I nodded, now unable to speak at all.
"Answer me when I'm talking to you," he barks, throwing my body back, causing me to crumble on the ground. I cough relentlessly as the air rushes hastily back into my system.
"Are you hearing me Adira?!" He yells pacing back and forth, "Or did you manage to go deaf again huh?!" With one leg pulled back, he swings it straight into my chest, using the wall behind me for support, "Didn't you hear me speaking to you this entire time?!" Another kick to my rib this time, causing me to scream out.
"I hear you!" I yell back, tears now running down my face, "I'll go get food right now, dad. I'll go right now."
"Then what the hell are you still doing on the floor Adira!" He screams throwing a punch this time.
If it wasn't the explosion of heat that went off just under my left cheekbone, I'd have been confused about the blood on his huge silver class ring and across his knuckles. My ears ring as the hallway tilts and spins, making it more difficult for me to process the second punch that came my way. I screamed when this happened, and behind me Chester growled, ready to lounge.
Frustrated with my incoherence, my father seems to take things in his own hands, pulling me to my feet by the same drawstrings, and dragging me behind him down the stairs. I don't remember if my feet ever touched the ground, or why my drool looked like blood, but when the frigid cold hit me, all my senses seemed to push themselves into overdrive.
"And don't come back unless you have the fucking food," my father barks before slamming the door shut. Chester rubs against my legs and it was then that I realized I didn't even have any shoes. I try to reorient myself but the world seemed to continue spinning around me. I needed to sit.
I stumble further into the forest that surrounded our house, trying to remember where it was I told Emerson I'd meet him. Was it in the front or the back? Did it even matter at this point? Tears froze against my cheek and I shoved my hand deeper into the front pocket of my sweatshirt, walking aimlessly towards the oak tree at the side of our property.
I just needed to rest a little, then I'd find Emerson or take the bus. So I fall to my knees first, then turned so my back rested against the rough oak trunk. Chester barks furiously further behind me, but it was too far for me to go get him. He was incessant, hasty, what was the matter? Was he okay? I try to stand up to get a better look of him but the ice had already seeped into my bones. I just needed sleep. Then I'd wake up okay. Just some sleep.
Growls. Flashes of light. A fist.
"I think she's waking up," A deep voice to my right sounds. My eyes squeeze close because of a tightness in my cheek, and thumping in my chest. Was I dead?
"Everybody, get out, except for Emerson, we don't want to overwhelm her. Once she's acclimated, we'll meet you all in the dining room. If she wants to."
There seems to be hums in agreement with the decision and soon a door closes, beyond me. I take a shaky breath, and test my sight by squinting then eventually opening them to the world around me.
The first thing I see is him.
It's strange, everything was hazy, blurry even except for him. He was tall, taller than I expected, and much more beautiful. His name meant brave and powerful, a perfect synopsis of what I witnessed. He was breath-taking, beard perfectly shaped along a tight square jaw, hazel eyes hooded with long lashes, and an even less realistic smile to match. This had to be another dream.
His skin was smooth and light brown, muscled to a capacity that made me aware of his strength but not intimidated by it. Or maybe that was just because it was him. I was sure this was a dream. No one looked like that.
But in our dreams there was only us, and less hospitalization. I-by the will of God and 25 angels-managed to look away from him for a second, scanning the room to find that I wasn't necessarily in a hospital but a doctor's office.
To my right there stood a man in a white lab coat which covered a plaid shirt, tucked into nice pants. He seemed young, really young, too young to be a real doctor.
"Who are you?" I asked with a shake of fear in my voice, then a better question came to mind, "Where am I?"
"You're at my house," Emerson spoke in the baritone that was familiar to me, but still sent shivers up and down my spine, "This is our family doctor Chance Williamson. He checked your injuries after we found you."
"Found me?" I was confused, then the memories came back in short clips. I was laying in the snow. Chester was barking up a storm. The ice became my blood. I went to sleep.
"At your house," Emerson says carefully, "Your dog led us your way."
"And we found you just in time," Chance spoke now, "Thankfully you didn't need any stitches but I do have some ointment for cuts and bruises. I was afraid of hypothermia considering the amount of time you were outside without much clothing, but didn't want to take a blood sample without your permission."
I try to keep up with him, but all the shock seemed to settle on my skin like a heavyweight. Neither of them rushed me when I didn't speak, seemingly understanding how easy it would be for me to freak out, and I was.
Okay Adira, try to categorize everything, and start small-I advise myself.
"You're real," I sighed at Emerson, "A-And you came for me."
His smile blinded me, "I am real, and I told you I would come."
"You said it last time too," I mumbled causing a growl to emerge from him. It startled me into thinking that maybe I had made the sound up. No person could make that sound.
"Well, I'm here now," he recovers from a quick lapse of anger, "And you're with me."
"Wait how far are we from-" my question is interrupted by my stomach growling.
"You probably have tons of questions," Dr. Williamson walks over, "But food is necessary and we're just about ready for dinner so," He takes off his coat, "Emerson can help you head down to-"
"Wait I can't just... stay here," my protest is immediate, "Like I can't mooch off your-"
"Adira you wouldn't be mooching off anything, we're inviting you to dinner, where we can have a longer conversation about all this. With details."
He had mastered the art of communicating with me, and that was proof in of itself, that maybe trusting him, even a little wasn't all that crazy.
"Okay," I sighed and was helped out of the bed an action that shouldn't have been as painful as it was.
I felt a resistance tug above my stomach and reached to touch it when Dr. Williamson mentions, "We bandaged the bruised area to stop you from over stretching, we can remove them tonight after our meal."
I nodded, "Thank you," within me a deeper confusion stirred, "Actually, can we have a minute?"
Both men look at each other and exchange a look I knew nothing about. By the end of it the doctor held a victorious smirk and Emerson glared as he left.
When the door closed the gap between us seems even smaller. My body took solitude as an opportunity to jump head first into the sensations he released on us. My palms were drenched yet throat dry, making me have to take a large gulp from my dehydrated mouth.
I needed to focus, "What's going on here?" My question was hurried, "W-Why are you-"
"I'm helping you-"
"I can't pay you back for... for any of this Emerson."
"I'm not asking you to," His frustration was marked by furrowed brows and wrinkle by his left eye, "What did you think I meant when I said I'd find you and keep you safe?"
I considered his words not having much of an answer, "I'm not here to be some charity ca-"
"Stop speaking like that about yourself," his words were quick and harsh, "I'm taking care you Adira."
"I can't just stay here, what if my father comes looking or-"
This time I'm shut up by the proximity between us. One large step had him directly in front of me, my knees grazing his jeans as he stares down at me with fire in those hazel orbs.
"I'm. Taking. Care. Of. You."
The nature of his tone make my body innately resistant to it, stubbornness forcing me to cross my arms over my chest as I asked, "What if I don't want you to?"
He takes a deep breath before leaning forward, arms on either side of my body as he aligns his face with mine, "Well we're going to have a little problem then baby."
Whether it was the rumble I heard when he spoke, or the fact that his cocoa skin seemed as though some deity painted it with care and precision, I felt compelled to listen. I wanted to be around him regardless of circumstance.
"Because I'm never leaving you alone," He assures quietly.
"That's creepy," I couldn't stop the comment and was surprised to see the smile on his lips, "You can't force me to-"
"I'd never force you to do anything, ever. But I can't promise that I won't... react to your decisions."
He takes another annoyingly perfect breath then answers, "Meaning if you decide that driving halfway across the world is what you want, then I'll respect your decision, but may also follow you there."
"Ugh, we're going in circles," I groaned leaning forward to suppress the sound of my growling stomach, "There's no logical reason for you to be feeling this way. It's not like we're dating or anything."
He smirks, "Fine, want to be my girlfriend?"
My eyes bulge out of my head, "Are you crazy?!"
"Emerson," I glared his way, trying to distract him and myself from the fact that my face was burning hot, and trying not to smile was failing.
"We've known each other for months, speaking every night for hours at a time-"
"Through a mental telekinetic pathway that we can't even explain!" I yelled leaning into his atmosphere. A big mistake.
The aroma that hits reminded me of cedarwood and seawater. I wasn't sure how I was able to make that connection, but I knew that it was correct. It was a perfect combination, one that made my senses muddle into nothingness. My chest caved in on itself in a soothing way and a tingle sprouted at the back of my neck.
He was unaware of the impression his being left on my body so continued speaking, "Regardless of how this communication happened, it's a normal timeline. Just unusual means."
I huffed, now escaping his spell on my body, "But-"
"Okay Adira, do you want me to leave you alone? After dinner just drop you off at the airport or wherever it is you want to go to so you can never see me again?"
The thought made my chest pain, "Well...no but I can't just-"
"You can," He stepped the couple inches it takes to be directly between my legs, "Just stay with me, even for a little while at first. If you don't like it then we'll figure something else out."
"Did you even run this by your parents?" I ask nervously.
"They suggested you stay," He shocks me by saying, "They believe we're dating."
My eyes widened, "What?! Why would they?!"
"Months Adira!," He says making me laugh, "That goes to say that you're welcome here."
"Only for a couple weeks," I cave in making his eyes sparkle.
"Okay," He nods and reaches out to help me from the bed again. Walking was going to be painful. Apparently I managed to sprain my ankle along with the other host of injuries that came my way. I gripped Emerson's arm, which he held out for support and pushed on distracting myself by taking in the mansion-like home.
The wooden fixtures seemed more elaborate than silver or gold and everything was spotless. There were several series of paintings along the walls and another floor above the one we were currently on. When we reached the staircase it was to go down to the main floor, to the right of which was a lounging area with a fireplace.
The furniture in this area was white with deep red accents and it fused with the mahogany wooden floors and crystal chandeliers. All so exquisite.
"Right now it's just my parents, Chance and Charice, my younger sister, that will be at dinner," He spoke as I soaked up the interior design.
"Are there usually more people?" I ask gently.
"In the house? Yeah usually, my friends."
I nodded and tried to ignore the ache in my entire body pushing forward until it became too much. I stopped in the middle of the staircase and his worried eyes grazed me over.
"Where does it hurt?" He rushes ahead of me, stopping me from pushing through and keep moving. Being a step below me, put me at eye level with him.
Oh, him. Locking eyes with him made my vulnerability spike. My heart raced at the thought of being away from him for even a moment. My eyes filled up and I know that didn't help to ease his worry, so I look away.
He senses my distress and guides me back to him, "Adira, what's wrong?"
"It just hurts," I admit gently, "I can-"
He side steps me, causing me to bump into him.
"I can carry you," He offers up, already reaching down to lift me.
I stepped away, "No," I pulled down on my now dry sweatshirt which suddenly seemed to stick all too close, "No I can walk."
"What you think I"m too weak to carry you?" He teases with a breath-taking smile, "Is that a challenge?"
I laughed looking up at him, "No, it's not. I should just walk slower."
He huffed but agrees, stepping out of the way and assisting me the rest of the way to the dining room. Once at the entrance, the four voices go silent and they stand to greet me.