Advertise Here
Want to advertise here? Get started for as little as $5
Chapter Eleven ~ Friends, Foes & Family

Chapter Eleven ~ Friends, Foes & Family

A Chapter by aubreydiamond

When Zeb said two minutes he really meant it. Almost as soon as I'd put my phone back in my pocket he swerved around the corner to the car park driving a white four-footed Swift that was significantly smaller than his brothers car. He swerved right next to where I was standing and pulled the handbrake abruptly.

‘Hey stranger,’ he grinned at me, hoping out of the car and running around to me. Unexpectedly, he pulled me into a big bony hug, almost picking me up off my feet. This was a first.

‘Whoa! Is it true? Did you really just give me a hug?’ I joked, squeezing him back.

‘Yeah, yeah,’ he mocked. ‘Feel like I haven't seen you in donkey’s years.’

‘I know. Me either. Even though it's only been a couple of days.’ I grinned. ‘Whose car is this?’

‘Mums,’ he said plainly. ‘Damon packed a s****y with me so I'm borrowing hers.’

‘What's Damon's problem?’

‘Everything,’ he laughed. Damon was that older brother we always heard about but never met. Zeb always described his family members as “interesting people”.

‘Shall we go park up at the beach?’ I asked. ‘I need a good debrief.’

Together we got back into the little white car and zipped off. I was happy to see the health clinic disappear in the rear vision mirror as we turned out onto the roads running parallel and headed towards the beach front.

Along the way, I wasted no time in spilling the series of events starting yesterday up until this moment. Zeb drove with his jaw practically in his lap as I informed him abort Luke’s prescription, the HIV, Valerie and everything I’d just managed to sort out with Carmen. If I'd ever seen a look of pure admiration and astonishment, it was nothing compared to how Zeb looked right now. As soon as we pulled up in an empty beach-front car park, he immediately wound down his driver’s window and sparked a cigarette.

‘F**k…’ he whispered after I’d finished conveying the drama that has become my life. He took several long drags. ‘Fuuuuck. And you actually pointed a shotgun at her?’

‘Yeah… I wasn't really thinking,’ I said, cringing back on the memory.

‘Damn. You are your mother's daughter, that's for sure.’ He laughed. He clearly found this funnier that I did.

‘Oh shut up,’ I joked. ‘Unlike her I have a full range of human emotions. Oh yeah, my abortion appointment is next week by the way.’ I pulled out the slip Carmen had just given me and straightened it out. ‘1st of February,’ I read. ‘In Wellington at five pm.’

‘That’s next Friday. Why in Wellington?’

‘I guess they don't perform them here in Raumu.’ I sighed. I didn't realise I'd have to travel an hour to the appointment. That mean organising transport there and back - but I didn't have the energy to worry about that now. There's no way I would miss it, and I would have sorted something out by then. It was just nice to sit with Zeb and listen to the waves crashing on the shore after what was a particularly full on day.

‘So once it's all over,’ Zeb said eventually, ‘what then? Are you going to go back to school?’

School. I was dreading the reminder that it was approaching the time of year when we all get back into our routines. This whole break has been more than intense, and pushed school out of my mind entirely. The place I cared so much about and found most of my refuge at was now at the bottom of my priorities list. What was more shocking was that I didn't really care about it.

‘I don't even know, Zeb,’ I replied. ‘It's like my brain can't plan past the appointment. I just have to get through it before I worry about what's next.’

‘That's fair enough babe,’ he said supportively. ‘You won't need to worry about school anyway. You're like the top student in our whole year, you couldn't do any wrong.’

‘What about getting pregnant?’

‘True,’ he laughed. ‘Ya never know - Mrs Henry is on her fourth kid, could always ask her to babysit.’

‘Oh shut up you egg.’ Zeb cackled as he threw his cigarette butt out the car park window and opened the pack for another.

‘Just sayin’.’

‘What about you?’ I asked, ready to stop talking about myself for once. ‘Are you going back to school this year?’

‘Nope. There's nothing left there for me anymore,’ he said calmly. ‘Besides I don't need another day of the local f**k-wits and meat-heads reminding me that I'm a homosexual.’

‘They’re Just idiots.’

‘Oh I know - they think that “gay” is infectious. But I mean, if they were completely straight they wouldn't be worried about it, now would they?’

‘You shouldn't listen to them though.’

‘I don't. I just don't need to be around it. It's bad enough at home.’

‘What? You mean…’

‘I came out to my family.’

 Oh my god - I knew how big of a deal this was for Zeb. He has always been completely and authentically himself for as long as I’d known him, but the one thing he had never been comfortable doing was telling his family exactly who he was. He had strict parents with very old and rigid ways of thinking about life, as well as being the middle son of three boys didn’t make it any easier. He’d worried about this day for almost as long as I'd known him, so I immediately understood how much this would have been affecting him. Why is that sometimes the people closest to you are the hardest to talk to?

‘Oh Zeb, are you okay?’ I asked immediately.

‘Yeah… I think so. No, I am fine.’ He replied definitively. ‘I mean they had to find out sooner or later. I don't know how they didn't notice any sooner. I guess mum and dad didn't want to accept it.’

‘How did they take it?’ I asked, already feeling like I knew the answer to that question.

‘Well, Mum was more understanding than dad, and she’s still been a c**t about it - I'm surprised she let me borrow her car, but I think it might just be her guilt kicking in. Dad kicked me out. Told me f*****s aren’t welcome in his home.’ He smiled as he said this which scared me. Zeb was a master of ignoring insults, but I could see in his eyes that it had struck him deep in his heart. I leaned over and wrapped my arms around him, as much as I could in the cramped car.

‘Damon didn't say anything,’ he continued, ‘just stood there. Neither did Carlos but I didn’t expect him to. He's only ten.’

‘They're still your brothers.’

‘Who are scared of my father,’ he replied, wiping his eyes before any tears could escape and show signs of pain. ‘They won't speak out of line as long as dads around. A*s holes. I'm done with the lot of them right now. They can all get fucked for all I care.’

I stayed in my sideways hugging position for a little longer while he finished his second cigarette. When Zeb didn't refuse affection, I knew that he appreciated it. I wanted to show him how much I cared, even though I knew he understood how I felt, it was just nice to support and show appreciation for my friends who have done the exact same for me lately.

‘You know you’ll always have me and Juniper, right? We love and support you, and we’d never judge you or think otherwise. You're our best friend.’

He smiled at me sweetly and nodded. We might not necessarily be blood, but we are still family.

‘You reckon I'll be able to stay at Junipers too?’ He asked. ‘I'm not going home anytime soon, I can guarantee that.’

‘Give her a text, I can't imagine that'd be a problem though, Rose loves you.’

For at least another few hours, we sat in the car and stared out into the horizon, watching the sun set and talking about all sorts of random and irrelevant things. It was so good to be able to unplug from the heat of my life and just laugh and joke about with Zeb, who just as equally needed an escape from the bullshit life threw at him. We hadn't had much one-on-one time together in a while either, so it was a much needed hang-out session for the both of us.

Once we’d watched the bright orange and champagne coloured sky shift as the sun set, Zeb started the car and we made our way to Carzel’s house, where Juniper has messaged and asked to be picked up from.

She was waiting outside on the road when we arrived, looking cheerfully smitten with herself. Zeb gave her s**t as soon as she got in the car, making her cheeks match the shade of her fiery red hair.

‘Lovely date, was it?’ He asked, speeding up onto the main road.

‘Oh shut up,’ Juniper blushed. ‘It was nice to see him. He's still pretty down, but he seems okay-ish.’

‘He shouldn't be down. He’s a lucky man,’ Zeb winked at Juniper in the rear-view mirror, much to her annoyance. ‘I'm crashing at yours tonight too Berry.’ He added.

Sleepover!!!’ She yelped.

‘Oh Jesus,’ he groaned.

When we arrived back at Amber Grove, both Rose and Rain were home sharing a large pot of roast vegetables at the dining table. They both greeted us with big smiles and open arms, pulling up chairs and adding forks to the setting so we could all join them.

Rose was incredibly happy and hospitable to have both Zeb and myself staying for as long as we needed, and immediately began setting up an extra bed on the couch for Zeb to sleep on. (‘Stay as long as you need, dear.’ Rose told Zeb. ‘This couch isn't the comfiest but I’d rather know that you have somewhere safe to sleep!’)

We spent the evening together as a group, relaxing and chatting until we had polished off all of the vegetables that were accompanied by several pots of herbal teas. After dinner, Rose told us a few of her intrepid and adventurous journeys overseas from her youth, and Rain had broken out the board games commencing several competitive rounds of scrabble and monopoly. When it had almost reached midnight my energy levels caught my attention, and it didn't take long for everyone to start yawning infectiously. We made our ways to the beds that called our names, and soon the house was dark and quiet, and sleep was greeting us.

 

What a day. I lay on my side in Junipers bed with my eyes closed, Rose Quartz in hand, buried beneath the blankets. I twirled the crystal in my palm while I pictured myself in my mind’s eye:

I was looking at a strong, beautiful and confident woman. She was a new and powerful version of myself blossoming into fruition without anyone else's consent. She was her own woman, much stronger than I had initially realised - and she wasn't going anywhere. She had discovered truths about her lost partner that made her question her entire relationship, but didn't let it break her. She was dealing with the reality of having an abortion, forcing her way to the surface past all the turmoil and debris, and she still wasn't breaking. She was a reminder that I was in charge of my life, and not to let anyone or anything influence the path I took. I was in the driver’s seat and I always had been.

I smiled to myself, proud of how I handled today. It wasn't like me to be confrontational, nor was I one to barge around to someone's house and demand information. But I did, and though it was an emotionally draining sequence of events, the outcome was something worth being happy about.

I was getting there, one day at a time.

 

*

 

Over the next week, Juniper, Zeb and myself spend majority of our remaining free days lounging about Amber Grove, playing more rounds of Scrabble (which Juniper and Zeb became incredible competitive with) or just wandering the local walking tracks together, making the most of each other's company before school started back up again, which I still wasn't thinking about.

I had still been receiving more and more messages from my mother every other day now, slowly getting less and less passive-aggressive with each message:

 

[MUM:

Hello???

 

MUM:

Are you going to talk to me today?

 

MUM:

There’s a few letters here for you in the mail.

 

MUM:

Hi Aroha, how are you going today?

 

MUM:

Morning. I've bought you some new clothes; they’re here waiting for you.]

 

I didn't feel as annoyed with her anymore. I'd kinda let go of the scene she pulled out the other night as I’d had other things going on that took control of my attention. But I also think she got the message that I needed some space, as for the first time ever in my life, she wasn't pestering me and wasn't constantly on my case 24/7. But I still didn't know how to talk to her - or what to say to her. Once I had gotten this appointment out of the way, I might be able to approach her without internally panicking over her finding out I was pregnant.

I had also been in contact with Valerie too, who had wasted no time getting busy with her new proposal in place:

 

[VALERIE:

Been busy. Getting the space cleaned up properly and ready to go. Should be starting soon.

 

VALERIE:

White-coats coming to check out the set-up next week. Thanks again.

 

VALERIE:

Come see me when the appointments been if you want.]

 

It was odd to have such calm and composed conversation via text with Valerie; I think she had well and truly hit a point in her life when she needed to hit rock bottom in order to bounce back to a better place. I could already feel that Valerie was someone in my life that I could trust, and though there was still an element of her that I didn't know, she had shown a side of herself to me that no one else had seen before. And that's not something you disregard in life with anyone.

I still kept thinking about Luke too - what he would say if he were still here and what his thoughts and feelings on everything would have been. Maybe he would have told me that he was sick, or maybe he could have helped me through this whole ordeal even if I didn't know any of his secrets. In a way I guess he was still with me, but not in the physical way that I wanted him to be. I'd made it this far though, and I kept seeing myself as that stronger more confident woman that I was metamorphosing into - and besides Juniper and Zeb, that was the only reassurance I had that told me I could do this.

 

The morning of the 31st signalled one more day until my appointment, and up until now I had been relatively calm - Then the anxiety nerves caught a hold of me. The entire morning we spent relaxing around Juniper’s, but I was far from relaxed. I couldn't stop thinking about the next day ahead of me and everything that came with it, finding it hard to sit still and focus on anything other than my own internal mind-battle.

 Juniper and Zeb were doing their best to keep my moods up, bless them, but there wasn't really much that either of them could do to change how I was feeling other than offer me kind words of comfort. I had to ride it out until tomorrow had been and gone. And let me tell you, looking forward to it being over and done with was the biggest understatement of the century.

When I rose out of bed that morning, I changed into the same outfit I had been wearing for the past couple of days, reminding me that I was going to have to make an emergency laundry-trip back to my own home later on today. I still planned on coming back to Juniper’s, as Rose had agreed to take me into Wellington for the appointment tomorrow, but I knew that making a trip home would mean potentially seeing my mother, which I’d been dreading this past week. But worn-clothes always made me feel uncomfortable, and I'd felt enough of that.

When I exited Juniper’s room and out into the dining area, I found Juniper and Zeb mid-scrabble, again. Rose was pottering in the kitchen and the missing work boots told me Rain had already left for work.

‘What time is it?’ I said bleary-eyed.

‘Ah, she’s awake!’ Zeb smiled at me. ‘Almost ten.’

‘V-E-R-S-E - verse! Double word, twenty points!!’ Juniper cheered. ‘Mornin’ Aro. Sleep well?’

‘Yeah,’ I yawned. ‘I can't believe I slept in so late.’

‘That's how you know your body needs it!’ Rose said from in the kitchen. She was layering thin slices of potatoes on top of each other in a rectangular baking dish. And as per usual, it smelt amazing.

‘What are we doing today?’ Zeb asked, frowning at his letter tiles with great distaste. ‘I've got s**t letters, man!’

‘I don't really mind,’ Juniper replied, turning to me. ‘You feel like doing anything in particular?’

‘Uh, I don't know. Anything really.’ This whole time I’d let Juniper and Zeb delegate where we were going and what we were doing. I didn't have the mental ability to entertain even myself, so I was quite happy to go with the flow until I had to face reality.

‘I was going to go and see Carzel again today,’ Juniper said, calculating her next move as Zeb lay down several of his tiles. ‘He's still not that good…’

‘I wouldn't mind seeing Carzel actually…’ I thought aloud. Now that it had been over a week since Luke’s passing, I wanted to see how someone just as close to Luke as I was had been holding up.

‘Lucky man,’ Zeb laughed. ‘I can drop you two off if you want?’

‘Where are you going?’

‘I need to give mum back her car,’ he said gloomily. ‘And I need some fresh clothes.’

‘S**t, me too,’ I added. But I didn't mind waiting until much later in the day before I had to tackle going back home.

‘How are you going to get back here?’ Juniper asked Zeb.

‘I'll bus or something. I don't want to give mum a reason to get s****y with me - again. I only agreed to having her car for one night anyway.’

Once Juniper and Zeb had finished their game, which ended in a tie because they both became impatient, we got our things together to head off for Carzel’s house.

‘Alright well there will be fresh potato bake here if anyone's hungry later on,’ Rose called out, wrapping the dish in tinfoil and sliding into the counter-oven.

‘Ooh, I almost forgot!’ Juniper cried, leaping back into the kitchen behind Rose and opening the fridge, where she pulled out a lidded ceramic pot.

‘What's that?’ I asked.

‘Soup I made.’

‘Damn, the guy’s getting soup made for him and everything!’ Zeb joked, making Juniper blush again.

‘Be quiet! Soup is good for you when you're not well!’ She said defensively.

‘Yeah, I think that's when you've actually got a flu…’

‘Good for the soul, I mean,’ She snapped. ‘See ya mum.’

We bid Rose goodbye and made our way out of the house to Zeb’s mum’s car which was parked just behind Rose’s station wagon. It was covered in lots of tiny leaves and bark fallen from the trees above.

‘S**t, your mums not gonna like that,’ Juniper said, pointing to the natural mess on the car.

‘Good.’ Zeb didn't even look as he got in the car, but was quite happy to leave it there for his mother to clean.

Carzel lived only a few streets away from my own house, which always made it handy that Luke spent so much time there. We were always close and within a five minute walk from one another. So it seemed strange pulling up outside the house knowing that we were here to see Carzel instead.

The house had a big front lawn that was littered with balls, shin-pads and cricket bats. Several fruit trees were spaced around the property and two big people-moving vans were parked behind one another. The ground level of the house appeared to be a big garage with two big blue doors. To the left of that, a stone staircase curved up to the second story landing, where the balcony welcomed you past a set of ranch slider doors up to the front entrance. The whole house screamed eighties from its vintage railing and neon stained-glass windows to its staple wood panels and old chipping paint. I still preferred this to my own home.

We waved Zeb goodbye after arranging to meet back at Juniper’s in a few hours. He disappeared around the corner, and Juniper and I made our way up the stone steps to the front door. I could hear the clattering sound of plates and cutlery along with a multitude of muffled voices as we approached. Juniper’s hands were busy carrying her pot of home-made soup, so I outstretched my fist and knocked thrice. The flurry of noise inside ceased for a moment before someone began to approach the front door. Loud, deep footsteps drawing closer until the door unlocked and swung open.

Carzel’s mum, Bonnie stood in the doorway; she was quite a large woman, with an incredibly kind face. She had long black hair that was usually tied in a tight bun at the back of her head, though this time it was a very wild and untameable mop with free-flying wisps floating above each ear. She looked a bit bothered, and was holding a spatula in her left hand.

‘Oh, hi Juniper, Aroha,’ She said after quickly registering who it was. She looked at the spatula and giggled. ‘Sorry, been a bit of a full on morning.’ I could hear what sounded like Carzel’s younger brothers having a fist fight in the lounge. ‘OI, DANIEL AND TANE, OUTSIDE!’ She hissed from behind the doorframe. ‘Come in girls, make yourselves at home.’

We stepped through the threshold. I couldn't believe this was the first time I'd stepped foot in Carzel’s home, but now that I saw it all I could imagine was a younger Luke living amidst it all. It really was everything you’d imagine a family home to be - full of colour and mix-matched objects and furnishings that showed the years of life raised under its roof. The main room we arrived in was big and spacious, with a kitchen, dining and lounge amalgamated together very similarly to my own homes set-up. A-frames were erected against the wall with wet, drooping clothes hanging over them, portraits and group photos adorned every other wall showing family members or friends, and the entire house had the buzz of activity and smelt of home-made baking. It was lovely.

‘Sorry about the mess girls,’ Bonnie said, hurrying to turn off the blaring television that the younger boys had left on. I could hear them rough-housing and yelling at one another from the back yard.

Bonnie was an incredibly kind and maternal woman who had done the hard yards of raising five children by herself. But she wasn't the type of person to brag about it, she just got on with what needed to be done. I would never want to get on her bad side however - she might be a kind and lovely woman but I could tell she didn't take s**t from no one, especially not her children. Nothing scarier than a mother chasing you with a wooden spoon - something Carzel used to tell us Bonnie was famous for.

‘It's fine, Bonnie. This is your home,’ Juniper said sweetly.

‘Those bloody boys don't seem to think so!’ She exclaimed, pulling a tray of scones out of the oven and placing them on the counter. ‘You girls hungry?’

‘We just had something, thank you though.’ I said. Bonnie and I didn't know each other very well but we both knew exactly who the other was.

‘You sure dear? There’s plenty! Always more than enough food with three boys in the house.’

‘I've brought some soup though. For all of you.’ Juniper rested the ceramic pot on the counter, and Bonnie looked like she'd just won a prize.

‘Oh, Juniper, you’re a honey! You didn't have to do that.’

‘I know,’ she smiled, looking pleased with herself. It was hard not to like Juniper - she has this bright energy that even adults and parents can't help but adore.

Bonnie lifted the lid of the pot and took a big whiff of the soup.

‘Ooh, yuuuuum! Well then you're definitely staying for something to eat,’ She reached for her cupboards and grabbed two extra plates.

‘How’s he doing today?’ Juniper asked. Bonnie sighed and half-rolled her eyes simultaneously shaking her head.

‘He’s awake, for starters.’ She said plainly, sounding conflicted between sympathy and tolerance. ‘But he's not eating much. That boy needs to get some fresh air and sunshine.’

‘We’ll go and check in on him.’ Juniper turned to me and gave me a little nod. I followed her as she began down the hallway. There were three rooms on each side of the hallway, and all of them had stickers and pictures of sorts stuck to the doors, signifying who’s room belonged to whom. As we passed halfway, a glass door at the end of the hallway burst open, and Daniel and Tane rushed inside and past us, almost knocking me over as they went.

BOYS!’ I heard Bonnie cry from behind.

We reached the end of the hallway - the last door on the right was closed firmly, and had a large poster of Bob Marley stapled in place. Juniper knocked gently on the door, but there was no answer. She knocked again.

‘Carzel?’ She called. ‘Carzel? It's me, June. Are you awake?’

No response.

‘Maybe he's asleep?’ I suggested to her. Juniper kept knocking and calling out to him.

Another door across the hall opened, and a young girl with thick dark hair and Bonnie’s similar facial expressions looked back at me. A few seconds passed but we were still staring at one another.

‘Hello,’ I said breaking the silence.

‘Hi.’ She looked me up and down and then stepped out of her room. I knew Carzel had a younger sister, but we’d never met before. She was a good four or five years younger than us, and was clearly embarking on the journey of puberty and hormones.

‘Just go in,’ she said moodily to Juniper.

‘Hmm? Oh, Hi Jade,’ She said. Jade pushed past me and opened Carzel’s bedroom door with a forceful push.

Carzel looked up in shock; sitting on his little bed leaning against the wall with a big set of headphones on. His room was tiny; and overflowing with band posters and Rastafarian decor. A small TV with a PlayStation and an Xbox sat at the foot of his bed, and a large mound of clothes piled high told me there was a chest of drawers beneath them. It smelt a bit musty, like someone hadn't opened the windows in a couple of days, and definitely belonged to a boy.

‘What the f**k?’ Carzel snapped at Jade. ‘Oh hey guys,’ He said spotting us.

‘Are you done with my headphones?’ She snapped.

‘Obviously not.’

‘I need them. Now.’

‘Alright, chill out!’ Carzel uncoiled the wire in his lap and removed the headphones, handing them to Jade. She snatched them out of his hand and took off down the hallway without another word.

‘Bye?’ I said sarcastically once she was out of earshot.

‘Don't worry ‘bout her. She just thinks she's hot s**t cause she's got a boyfriend now.’ He joked, pulling himself to a sitting position. ‘How are ya?’

I should've been the one asking him that; for Carzel’s naturally tanned skin, he was looking very pale. His eyes carried big dark bags beneath them, and he was looking skinnier than normal; even his thick dreads drooping down his face made him look thinner. It was scary what loss could do to people in such a short amount of time.

‘Alright,’ I replied. ‘How are you?’

He shook his head side to side.

‘Been better, but I feel okay. Quite happy doing’ my thing.’

‘You gotta go outside at some point.’ I said. He shrugged and looked away. This wasn't the Carzel that we knew.

‘What you been listening to?’ Juniper said, sitting next to him on the bed.

‘Into The Wild soundtrack, Eddie Vedder. You heard it before?’

‘I don't think so,’ she said, looking concerned. I could see Juniper analysing Carzel without him realising.

‘It's real good anyway, give it a listen.’

‘Yeah I will,’ she smiled. There was an awkward pause. Juniper kept catching my eye but I didn't know what to say to break the tension. Carzel was no dummy though.

‘Did my mum ask you both to come and check up on me?’ He said with a tone of sadness that wasn't there just a moment ago.

‘No, not at all.’ I said.

‘I - we wanted to come and make sure you were okay,’ said Juniper. ‘I made some soup I thought you might like. If you don't feel like eating it's liquid anyways so…’

‘Thanks, June. I'm just taking it day by day.’

‘What’s the deal with Lazuli’s?’ I asked him. ‘Are you going back? Chloe's working there now.’

‘Nah, I don't think so. Chloe aye?’

‘Why don't you want to go back?’

‘I can't handle how mind-numbing it is. I've been there for too long and it's gotten me nowhere. After Luke though, I couldn't bring myself to go back.’

True, Lazuli’s was probably the quietest cafe in the entire of Raumu, but sitting here in his room wasn't any better of a way to spend his days. I could feel that he was not really in a good mental space, but he was doing his best to seem like he wasn't enduring anything worse.

‘Fair enough,’ I said. ‘Have you thought about doing something different? You've always been good at drawing? You should get an art job or something. Or studying? You've finished school now anyways.’

He shrugged.

‘Anything's gotta be better than sitting here and wallowing in your own thoughts,’ I said. ‘Trust me; it doesn't do you much good. You can't escape your own head.’

‘Why don't you come out with us? Get some fresh air; we could get some lunch or something?’ Juniper suggested, looking keen at the idea.

‘I like my room,’ he said flatly. ‘At the moment i think it's just where I need to be until I know what to do next.’

Juniper looked quite disappointed. Her body language shifted and I could see her withdrawing slightly, about to stand up. Carzel was looking into his lap.

‘I'm gonna go to the bathroom and check on that soup,’ Juniper said, looking at me with an intense gaze. She rose to her feet and slipped out into the hallway. Carzel’s eyes followed her, and when she was it of sight he sighed and slumped into the wall behind him.

‘What's going on Carzel?’ I asked him quietly. ‘You can talk to me - we’ve known each other since new entrance. I can see you're not right. Is it Luke?’

‘Sort of,’ he mumbled. ‘It still feels fucked he's not here. I don't know. I've got other crap on my mind too.’ He looked out the window longingly and sighed again.

‘What is it?’ I said. He looked very reluctant to tell me. ‘It's gonna take a lot to surprise this human, trust me.’

He considered me for a moment. His eyes looked pained.

‘Promise you won't say anything to anyone?’

‘I promise.’

No one. Not even Juniper; I don't want her to know.’

‘What is it?’

‘I… I got Hayleigh pregnant.’

S**t. I may be desensitised to shock at the moment, but i certainly wasn't expecting him to say this. I let myself be surprised for a brief second as Carzel pressed his face into his hands out of frustration, then brushed it away. If anyone understood the feeling of surprise pregnancy it was me.

‘Are you okay about it?’ I asked him. He looked at me rather amazed I didn't seem very bothered by it.

‘Uhh, I don't really know,’ he sniffled. ‘She isn't replying to me or contacting me or anything. Should she?’

‘Maybe. She may just want some space? When did is happen? I didn't know you two were a thing.’

‘It was the night on the island - and we’re not really…’

So I wasn't the only one. It made sense as to why Hayleigh and Olivia were at the health clinic when I was. But I knew Hayleigh, and had always known she was a self-entitled spoilt brat who gets what she wants from mummy and daddy. How Carzel ended up sleeping with her, I don't want to know, but he obviously didn't think it through properly at the time… like I didn't either…

‘I don't know what to do…’ he cried.

‘She'll probably be coping with it in her own way, whatever that may be. Unless she asks you for help it's not really your responsibility just yet.’

‘But it is if she’s pregnant with my child.’

‘But it’s also her decision to make, Carzel. She’ll come to you if she needs it. Don't get me wrong, your hearts in the right place, but you’ve gotta worry about yourself first.’

He nodded slowly, showing that he understood what I was saying but didn’t necessarily agree with it.

‘You don't seem very surprised,’ he said suspiciously. ‘Did you already know?’

‘No. Not exactly.’ His bushy eyebrow raised, and I knew that I couldn't lie my way around this one. ‘I'm… pregnant too.’

Carzel’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped.

‘Wh- What!?’ He exclaimed. ‘How?’

‘Same as you. On the island.’

‘B- But… Luke.’

I nodded, and he pieced the puzzle that was my current life together on his own.

‘S**t, Aroha… how are you coping with all of this?’ He asked. He had become a lot more animated; perhaps the reality of my situation instantly put his own into perspective? He could've had it much worse - I was living proof of that.

‘I'm still asking myself that to be honest,’ I joked. ‘But I’m getting through it. Just.’

‘And what're you going to do about… the baby?’ He whispered.

‘I have an appointment in Wellington tomorrow.’

‘For a check-up?’

‘No…’

‘Then…? Oh. Are you okay?’

‘Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's been a lot to handle but I'm doing better. It's been a roller-coaster to say the least.’

‘And I thought I was struggling…’ he said.

‘Don't get me wrong, this has been the toughest few weeks of my life, easily. But I'm still here, and I'm sorting it out. Maybe it would have been easier if Luke was here, but it is what it is.’

‘He would've been excited,’ Carzel said. ‘He loved kids.’

‘He was a big kid,’ I laughed.

‘With his f*****g paper mache hat,’ Carzel giggled. It was nice to talk about Luke with someone who knew him like I did. Valerie was Luke’s mother, but Carzel was his best friend, and a girlfriend can be similar to that. Carzel knew him in and out like I did, and had grown up alongside him, so it felt safe talking to him about this stuff - he understood.

‘I miss him,’ he said.

‘Me too,’ I replied. We sighed in unison, sharing a little moment of pain. After Valerie, Carzel was the next closest person to Luke that I knew, and it made me wonder - how much of Luke’s world did Carzel know about? Now was the time to ask.

‘Did you know he was sick?’

Carzel froze. Instantly his body became tense and he was trying not to catch my eye. He’d quickly adopted an uncertain and nervous demeanour which only told me that I'd just shared information that he was already well-aware of.

‘How did you find out?’ He said, eyeing me suspiciously.

‘You knew!?’ I gasped. Anger suddenly surged through my being; Luke had shared this with another person other than me, and by the sound of things really did make an effort to ensure it was kept secret. I know Carzel was one of the closest people to him, but I thought I was too. It only solidified the idea that I was intentionally kept in the dark because I “wouldn't understand”.

‘How long did you know?’ I said exasperatedly.

‘A while.’ He said. ‘He told me when he was about seven or eight?’

If that was supposed to make me feel better, it didn't. Carzel had known the whole time I'd known him and hadn't said anything. Yes, it wasn't his place to say anything, but he still knew.

‘He used to stay her a lot,’ he continued, ‘he had his medicine with him most of the time so it was kinda hard to ignore. I just sort of asked him one day.’

‘Why wouldn't he of told me?’

‘I know that he didn't want to hurt you.’

‘Really? Because keeping it a complete secret his entire life wasn’t going to hurt me? He might've had the odd blond-moment but he was no idiot.’

‘He wanted to tell you Aroha, he really did. He just didn't know how. So much time went on that I guess he realised that he couldn't. It would have meant sacrificing everything you two had built together, and he didn't want to jeopardise that - he already knew he'd fucked up by not telling you, but how could he?’

‘Easily,’ I snapped, feeling myself becoming petty. ‘He could've opened his mouth and formed the words. It's not hard.’

‘Aroha,’ Carzel started, leaning a little closer to me. ‘Believe me when I say, he couldn't bring himself to do it. I can't count the amount of times he used to talk about wanting to tell you, but he'd eventually start talking about how great you are and how wonderful you are to him that he couldn't bring himself to ruin something so good. You can understand that, right?’

‘I guess…’

‘He never wanted to hurt you. Just protect you.’

‘So I keep hearing, but how do I really know that? It's not like I can just ring him up and ask him myself?’

‘I know,’ he said, eyes glistening. ‘But he really loved you. That much I know for sure.’

I knew that. I knew the way Luke felt, I knew how I felt about him too; at least I thought I did. But none of that really mattered because none of it could change anything. The reality is that he did lie to me. Even if he wanted to tell me, he didn’t. I don't feel like that's something I could just let go, but I really had to try, otherwise it would become dead-weight on my conscious that I had been doing very well at cutting loose.

‘I don't even know how he got HIV,’ Carzel continued. ‘I think he was born with it. Must've been what the money I loaned him was for.’

I'd forgotten that Luke had borrowed money from Carzel. Even on the island the reasons behind his loan was kept a complete secret from me…

‘And you don't have any idea what that money was for?’ I asked.

‘Not really. Meds, I presume. His mother didn't make enough money to pay for the prescription, but I'm not sure if that's what he used it for or not… like I said, I didn't ask any questions. He didn't want to answer any.’

‘And this was before he disappeared, right?’ I asked.

‘Yeah, a bit. Couple month’s maybe?’

What happened in the final few months in Luke’s life was a complete mystery. None of us knew who or where his father was. There was so much confusion and uncertainty around the events that led up to his death that I'm not sure what to believe. I'm not sure I even want to know.

‘Did he say anything to you before he disappeared?’ I asked. I knew it wasn't a good idea to dwell on it any more than I already was, but my curiosity got the better of me.

‘No, nothing. Just a note saying he's sorry but he had to leave and that he’d see me again one day. After that, I saw him on the island and… that was it…’ his eyes began to water and I could feel him trying his hardest to keep his tears back.

Carzel was hurting from grief, guilt and loss, and I understood all too well what the amalgam of those feelings is like, though mine was mixed with a bit of anger and betrayal too. But after going through such an ordeal in my own mind, it was harder watching someone I knew about to do the same thing. I was still mad and pissed off with Luke, (some days more than others) but I had to keep reminding myself that I'm still here, and I'm still moving forward. Carrying the pain and sadness was my choice, and I chose to no longer allow it to suck me dry of my will to live my life without worrying about what could have been…

‘You need to stop beating yourself up, Carzel,’ i said strongly, pulling myself out of my negative thoughts and back into a place of sympathy for Carzel but also for myself. ‘It's not our fault that he decided to pack up and leave without another word. It's not our fault that he didn't know his father. It wasn't ever our responsibility to make sure he was healthy and took his meds, he was in control of his own life, just like you are yours, and I am mine.’

‘I just feel like I should have done something…’

‘I know, so do I. But we are only two people - how were we to help him when he didn't help us understand what was going on?’

‘Yeah… I guess you're right.’

‘Don't dwell on it Carzel. I did, and it's taken me the longest and most tiring couple weeks of my life to realise that.’

Carzel let my words sink in for a while, and I could tell I was hitting him deep. He was really listening to everything I was saying and taking it on board now. And to be honest, I was too. It wasn't until I heard myself talk these things out loud did I properly agree with them - Luke’s actions were entirely his own, and it was not our fault or responsibility to keep tabs on him all the time. We had our own lives, and it was clear that with or without Luke around they would still go on. That didn't mean we cared for Luke any less, but it did show us that you are the only person in control of your own life, and that doesn't change.

We sat in his room for a while longer talking and letting our feelings fall out and onto the floor. Juniper still hadn't returned to the room, and when I poked my head out of the door to check on her I could hear her deep in conversation with Bonnie in the kitchen.

Carzel and I talked for a while more; it was amazing what letting your emotions out with a mutual party could do for you - I felt significantly lighter within the next few hours, and also felt less alone; Carzel was coping with everything his own way, just like me and Valerie had done, but I think having spoken openly about it all was just what we both needed. I'd reached another level in my mind that I was able to think about this all without feeling as overwhelmed or angry, but also accept that it happened the way it did. There was no point lingering on the past anymore - it had been and gone, and there were bigger things ahead of me that were on my horizon.

Carzel even looked a whole lot better after our conversation; the colour in his skin had started to return and for what must've been the first time in a while, he stepped out of his bedroom. Bonnie screeched in delight at the sight of her son looking better, and gave him a big hug and kiss when he arrived by the dining table, much to his embarrassment. Juniper and I thought it was sweet.

Bonnie had kindly forced Juniper and I to stay for something to eat, not taking no for an answer. We had a huge spread of home-made deliciousness and Juniper’s soup in front of us to enjoy. And enjoy we did - there was something magical about a Mums home-made cooking. Bonnie kept filling up our plates once they'd finished until we had to politely refuse any more food in fright of being sick. But we all left that table significantly heavier than when we arrived, and found ourselves blobbed on the couches for almost a whole hour post-eating. By the time we realised we’d spent almost the whole day here, the sun was already beginning to set.

S**t!’ I exclaimed, checking the time on my phone and realising it was much later than I anticipated. I had been sucked into the nonsense on TV I'd completely lost track of time.

‘What's up?’ Juniper asked.

‘I forgot I was going to go home and get some clean clothes… I might just pop round now seeing as it's just around the corner.’

‘Oh yeah… oh s**t I better text Zeb and let him know we won't be long. Do you want me to come with?’

‘Na, it's okay. I won't be long anyways.’

‘Sweet. I'll get Mum to pick us up.’

I stood up from the couch where Juniper and Carzel were sitting, and stepped over Daniel and Tane who were sprawled out on the carpet before the TV. ‘Thank you so much for lunch, Bonnie. It was beautiful.’

‘You're more than welcome, darling. Come over any time.’

I smiled behind to them all before reaching for the front door. Juniper was leaning slightly close to Carzel, who's eyes were glued to the screen. I desperately wanted to tell her what I knew, but I didn't want to crush her emotions or break Carzel’s trust. So I waved at her and mouthed that I'd text her shortly, before opening the door and leaving the house.

I couldn't get over how late it was; it certainly didn't feel like we’d been at Carzel’s all day, but the twilight sky and fresh evening air said otherwise. I rolled the sleeves of my jersey down and began to descend the stairs to the driveway, heading two streets over for Vale Road.

I felt better about everything, even the appointment tomorrow. It was looming over me but I felt like I'd released a lot of pent up anger and frustration with Carzel earlier, it wasn't going to go stale in my system anymore and make me feel like s**t, so thinking about everything else had become easier and painless too. Even Luke. This was a very welcomed feeling.

I stowed my hands in my pockets as I walked on the very brief route to my house. As I walked, I felt the shape of a folded piece of paper in my pocket. When I pulled it out, I realised it was the appointment slip for my abortion tomorrow. I'd read it too many times for my own liking and had memorised just about every letter and number printed on it, so I shoved it back in my pocket to forget about it just as I turned into Vale Road.

I could see my mum's car parked in the driveway as I walked up the street. I'd hoped to of timed it better so I could have swung in earlier while she was at work, but I had lost track of the day, and now was my only real chance. I wasn't going into this appointment with dirty clothes. That just wasn't happening.

I still hadn't responded to my mums texts either; I didn't know what to say back to her, but it hit me when I saw her vehicle that I'd have to see her face to face. At least with text we weren't near one another, and there seemed to be a lot more confidence to say what you mean behind the safety of your phone. Face to face was different. And though I'd gotten over the way she acted, there was still so much between us that hadn't been addressed, and it was really not the right time in my life to deal with that right now.

When I reached the front door, I remembered that my house keys were still in my bag which was sitting in Juniper’s bedroom. I'd completely forgotten to grab them on my way out, ruling out my idea of sneaking in and out without being noticed. I took a deep breath, and knocked on the door.

Mums silhouette appeared behind the door, coming into focus as she approached. I saw her step fault as she too made out who was standing on the other side. She briskly reached for the handle, and clicked open the door.

She stood completely still for a split second, staring at me. She was wearing her normal lawyer outfits, but with an apron over the top of them. Her heels had been discarded and she was walking around in her stockings, as well as her glasses were sitting on top of her head and not on the bridge of her hooked nose.

Then she did something that I hadn't seen for a very long time - she smiled.

‘Aroha!’ She cried, and pulled me in for an unexpected hug, which ended as soon as it has started. She straightened her apron to contain the foreign excitement.

‘Hi…’ I said uncomfortably. For a moment she just stood in the doorway looking at me, before snapping out of it and moving out of the way so I could step in.

‘I've been wondering where you've been,’ She said, shutting the door behind me. ‘Come in, come in. Would you like some dinner? I was just about to text you and offer to come and get you.’

‘I'm just here to grab some clothes,’ I said plainly. She swivelled on the spot, looking disheartened.

‘Oh… I see. I… I made a roast chicken.’

‘You made a roast?’

‘I can cook,’ she said indignantly. ‘I was hoping… we could have dinner together.’

Oh no, she was trying to make it up to me. She knew she made a fool of herself at Juniper’s, and she was trying to rectify her actions. A part of me really wanted to stay, sit down and talk with her and work things out, seeing as she has apparently realised her errors, but with the appointment tomorrow and everything else that has been happening, it felt too uncomfortably close to be around her right now. And that's on me, not her.

‘Oh, sorry I can't. I promised Juniper I'd help her with a few things tonight.’ I walked straight past her and made my way up the stairs to my room. I felt horrible saying no, but I couldn't do it. Not yet.

I hadn't set foot in my bedroom since the day of the funeral, but it felt strange to be back here. I could tell mum had been in here numerous times because the foundation puddle had been cleaned up and there was a neat pile of brand new clothes on my cleanly made bed still with labels on them. I wasted no time ripping off the clothing I was wearing and jumping into something cleaner from my cupboards. I proceeded to stuff clothes that I knew I liked into an overnight back to take with me back to Amber Grove.

‘You don't like the new clothes?’ Mums voice suddenly said from the hallway. She was leaning in my bedroom doorframe, watching me as I packed.

‘Uhh, I don't know, I'll have to look at them later,’ I said, not facing her. She didn't say anything, but I could still feel her there as I shoved fabrics in the bag. I wanted to tell her to let me pack in peace, but then I thought about Valerie; her look of grief and loss was stained in my memory for good. I thought about how much pain she was in because of Luke’s death, and how she tried to be a good parent and do right by her son and his health, only to end up alone. I couldn't imagine what kind of pain comes with losing a child - or maybe I will, but not in the same way. It had shifted the way I saw mothers, even my own.

I felt guilty. Guilty that I’d cut her out when things were too much to handle, and even though she had been over-bearing and aggressive, I guess in her own fucked up she was trying to care and be proactive about me. I could also see she’d realised how her way of going about things wasn't exactly helpful, so she’d changed her approach. That's a big deal for my mum. But I still couldn't bring myself to tell her what was really happening. Not when I was just about to have the procedure to end it. I don't think she'd fully understand my reasoning’s and motives behind everything, and there was too much now to divulge that it was in my best interest to say nothing. But that didn't mean I was going to continue ignoring her, or that I didn't owe her an apology.

‘I'm sorry,’ I said abruptly. Mum looked at me surprised. ‘I didn't mean to shut you out the way I did… or maybe I did, but I’m sorry if it hurt you. I just didn't know how else to make you understand that I really needed space after Luke’s death. It's been really hard.’

‘Aroha,’ she whispered. I could see her eyes twinkling as she stepped into the room. ‘I'm sorry too. It was immature and unacceptable the way I turned up at your friend’s house like that. I don't mean to pester you as well, I just couldn't help myself. I didn't like the idea of someone else taking care of you when you were upset like that. It- it should’ve been my job.’

‘I can take care of myself now, mum,’ I said calmly. ‘I may only be eighteen, but this past few weeks has taught me that I was stronger than I ever thought I was.’

‘Then come home. I won't get in your way, just come back to the house you belong to.’

‘I can't, not yet.’ I still had my appointment tomorrow to get through. ‘I have commitments to Juniper and Zeb over the next couple of days,’ I lied. ‘But I promise I’ll stop ignoring your texts.’

I could see her fighting so hard within herself to refrain from forcing me to stay. She was twitching slightly, biting her lip. But she hasn't lost that change of heart; I could still see the desire to make it up to me in her eyes. She didn't want to fight anymore, not with me at least.

‘Okay, fine,’ She sighed. ‘But please come home soon. It's not the same without you here.’

‘I will.’

I stowed the rest of my clean clothes in the nearest bag that I could find after emptying its contents onto my desk top. I quickly looked around for anything else that I wanted to bring with me, but clothes was it. I looked on my right bedside table and saw the broken blue shell and Luke’s acrostic poem - i had a good mind to rip it up and throw it in the rubbish, but I forced my attention away from it.

‘There's mail here for you too,’ mum said before she reached the door. On the left bedside table, a small stack of envelopes lay. She picked them up and began flipping them in her hands. ‘A couple from the school, regarding subject changes. Ones just got your name on it with nothing else, and…’

She trailed off. Her eyes darted from the envelope to me.

‘Raumu Health Obstetrics & Maternity Ward…’ She read. The air went still, and it felt like time froze. The look on her face had gone from sincere to suspicious. She was looking at me through a panicked frown that could only mean she'd assumed what I knew was true.

‘Are you pregnant?’ She said. Her fingertips were quivering slightly as she held the paper.

‘No,’ I laughed. ‘I was just inquiring about work and career paths. Must just be an information pack.’ I don't know how I'd managed to come up with that as quickly as I did but I'd miraculously made it sound genuine. She eyed me a little more suspiciously before handing me the mail that I stuffed in the bag on top of my clothes.

‘You’d really want to work there?’ She asked me. ‘Doesn't strike me as the kind of place you'd be interested in. What about my work? I could find you an office to start up in after graduation…’

‘I was just inquiring mum. I'm not worrying about that yet.’

‘Right.’ She shook her head snapping herself back into reality.

I followed her down the hallway and the stairs. She stopped at the archway to the kitchen and turned to me as I made my way for the front door. I could tell she still wanted me to stay, but it was a little too close for comfort. I wanted to get back to Juniper’s where at the moment I felt the most comfortable.

‘You know you can talk to me,’ she said as I turned to face her. ‘About anything. I want you to know that I will always be here to listen.’

I’d never heard these words come out of her mouth. There must be some serious shifting going on in her head, the mother I fought with before wouldn't have said things as kind as that. She wouldn't have known how to deal with her own emotions. But she was trying for my sake, I couldn't not appreciate that.

‘Thank you Mum,’ I said, and walked over to her forcing a hug. I didn't hug her very often, so when I did she knew that I really meant it. Her arms briskly enclosed around me, and stroked my hair falling down my back. ‘I'll be in touch soon.’

And with that, I set off without looking back. I opened the front door and closed it gently behind me. I didn't want to prolong the encounter any more as I could feel it moving into an emotional one, and I wasn't emotionally able for that. We still had lots to work on in our relationship, and only time would tell how much she actually had changed, but right now I felt a lot more grateful for her, more so because I could see the effort she was putting to welcome me back home. I just wasn't quite ready yet. I needed a few more days to get myself in check.

I turned the road turning off of Vale Road back towards Carzel’s. The sky had gotten a lot darker in my short visit home, and the temperature had dropped again. I walked a lot faster until my calf muscles began demanding me to slow down, in which time I'd arrived at Carzel’s house to see Rose waiting in her station wagon for Juniper, who was talking to Carzel at the door. She waved at me and then made her way to the car. I have Carzel a wave and he grinned back at me from the balcony. It was nice to see him smiling again. We climbed into the car and Rose set off for Amber Grove.

‘Good day girls?’ She asked us turning onto the main road.

‘Not bad,’ Juniper smiled.

‘Yeah. Alright,’ I added.

‘Now darling,’ Rose said to me through the rear vision mirror, ‘I've been asked to work for a friend tomorrow who desperately needs the help - she’s sick at the moment, so I won't be able to take you in to your appointment. If you want though, and if Zeb is free, you're welcome to take my car if he’s okay to drive you in?’

‘Okay, that's all good,’ I said. ‘I'm sure he’ll be fine with it.’

‘Is he home at the moment?’ Juniper asked.

‘Yes he was when I left,’ Rose replied to Juniper, then turned to me again. ‘What time is your appointment again darling?’

‘Five pm. Hang on I’ll double-check.’

I reached into my pocket for the slip, but my fingertips met nothing but pocket lint. My heart dropped into my stomach. I frantically rummaged in the bag of clothes for the jeans I had changed out of, but I knew they weren't there. They were still on the floor in my bedroom, crumpled in a heap with my abortion appointment slip folded up inside, just waiting to be found by the wrong eyes. My mother's eyes.

F**k.

 



© 2019 aubreydiamond


My Review

Would you like to review this Chapter?
Login | Register




Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

116 Views
Added on March 10, 2019
Last Updated on March 19, 2019
Tags: drama, young adult, pregnancy, coming of age, fiction, life, death, love, birth, teenage, comedy, baby, friends, family, murder, drugs, swearing, course language, aroha


Author

aubreydiamond
aubreydiamond

New Zealand



About
I come in peace! My name is Aubrey, I’ve been a creative witch for as long as I can remember. Writing, drawing and all of the creative outlets have been my source of magic since I could craf.. more..

Writing