“I’m sorry I freaked out…” I said, breaking the silence as we sat in Hale’s room.
“It’s alright. Quit apologizing for these things, Rynn. It’s okay.” He stood up and grabbed a shirt from the dresser. I had just realized all he had on were his pants, and his hair was a wet mess. “How’s your mom?” He turned around, combing his fingers through his beach brown hair. I sighed, “She’s okay. Getting used to spending the holidays alone. She has a couple gifts for you and Grace at the house.”
“She didn’t have to get me anything…” Hale breathed. Grace, his little sister, was the sweetest four year old ever. She doesn’t know her mom, considering the poor woman didn’t make it through Gracie’s birth.
“I know she didn’t, but you know how she is. Ever since Grace was born and your mom… y’know… My mom just feels bad. She wants you guys to be happy.”
“It’s kind of hard to be happy when my dad is constantly drinking.” Hale looked at me, his hazel eyes so innocent. Hale had bipolar disorder before we even met, but his depression and PTSD kicked in when his mom died and his dad became an alcoholic. His dad began abusing Hale once Grace was born. He was just so angry…
“Where are your dad and Gracie, anyway?” I tried changing the subject.
“He took her to buy some new clothes. He felt like he didn’t get her enough for Christmas. But it’s not that. He just doesn’t want her to let out the little secret that Daddy gets drunk and hits around on us.”
“I know…” I stood up and ruffled his hair, “I’m sorry, Hale.” My voice was shaky, and barely a whisper. I gently grabbed his right arm and looked at the scars that have been there since 7th grade, only to get worse as time went by. “Hey,” He said, pulling his arm away. “I’m fine, okay?”
He wasn’t fine, though. He never was. Why did he have to lie to me? I wanted him to be truthful, tell me what’s on his mind, and let me help him.
I shook my head, and turned the other way. Hale look startled when we heard his dad and sister get in. “It’s alright,” I said, “he’s sober, and I’m here.” I grabbed his hand and walked downstairs. “Rynn!” Grace saw me and jumped into my arms. “Hey, Gracie.” I hugged her small body. She was so cute. Looked just like her mom… Curly blonde hair, piercing hazel eyes. I sighed and stood up, holding her on my hip. “Hey, Mr. Scott.” I half smiled, hoping he was in a good mood.
He didn’t say anything, just nodded; grabbing the new bags he had just bought Grace and took them upstairs. “Did you get some new clothes, Grace?” Hale patted her back.
She bit her lip, “Mhm, but Daddy said he’d take them away if I told the secret.”
I looked at Hale, trying hard not to cry. Ever since the child could talk, anything that would come out of her mouth had to do with “the secret”.
Hale held out his arms and I handed him Gracie. “I know, baby. I’m sorry.” He hugged her tight as she buried her face into his chest. Grace was the most important person in his life, he loves her so much. He told me once, if he ever succeeds, he wants my mom to take Grace. He said he would not leave her with their Dad, no matter what.
“Hey, Gracie, you want to go to the park? Huh?” Hale was always taking her places. Anywhere to get her away from their dad.
She revealed her face and threw her arms into the air, “Yes!” she grinned.
“Hah, alright. You and Rynn wait here, I’ll grab your jacket, okay?” He put her down and I grabbed her hand, smiling. I watched Hale walk back upstairs, hoping his dad wouldn’t give him shit while he was up there.
Grace and I both heard a bang, like something fell, or something was thrown. I snapped my head up and saw Hale come back down with her jacket and a sweater for me. “You okay?” I whispered.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He rushed us out the door.
I helped Gracie zip up her coat then lifted her into her seat and buckled her up. I smiled as she kicked her legs in excitement. No one was hardly ever at the park during the winter, that’s when we go most. Less people are good. Especially with my anxiety, Hale and Gracie seeing other kids with their mom’s, it’s easier.
I sat on a swing next to Hale as we watched Grace make piles of snow “Y’know, the other day when she was playing with her new toys, she asked why you weren’t at our house.” Hale didn’t look at me as he talked, just kept his eyes on his little sister.
“Why?” I glanced at her angelic self.
“She thinks you’re part of the family. I told her, I said you were at your house, with your family, doing the same thing we were doing; celebrating Christmas. Her expression was puzzled, and she said ‘I thought Rynn was our family.’ She sees you as a big sister, Rynn. You’re the only female she has in her life.”
I blinked, taking in what Hale had just said. Gracie turned to us, waving. I got up and walked towards her. “Whatcha making, kiddo?” I kneeled down by her.
“This is me, and this is Hale.” She beamed, making one more pile.
“Is that your Dad?” I pointed to the last one.
She shook her head, “That’s you, silly!”
Hale kneeled next to me and gave me that look, the one that says I told you so. I sighed, “Well then, where’s your Dad?” I questioned. Grace looked at us, “He’s not part of the family.”
Hale got up, swinging Gracie into his arms. She squealed and laughed while I stared at the snow piles. Hale, Gracie, and Rynn. Did this little girl really see me like that? Like a sister? I mean, I guess I really am the only female figure in her life… Something hit my back and I stood up, spinning around to see Grace and Hale chuckling at me. “Oh, so that’s how it is?” I bent down and grabbed a handful of snow, patting it into a ball and throwing one at Hale. He laughed as he dodged it and tossed one back. Soon, it was two against one, and I was getting my butt kicked. I hid behind the slide, a snowball in my hand waiting for Hale to come around. “Ready, Gracie?” I heard him whisper. “1…2…3!” they jumped, completely out of nowhere, and murdered me with white. I laughed so hard I fell, and Gracie bounced on me. “We won!” She giggled. I laughed and shook my head, “I want a rematch!”