46 | in which he is caught before he falls

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When you can tell your story without crying,
You know you have healed.

.\.|./.

Ryan Falls

| in which he is caught before he falls |

I hear it, every word that sounds from the speakerphone I hadn't even known I was carrying. I hear it and yet fail to make sense of it. I hear it and it heals me, proof of my trauma and a way out.

'How could I -- or anyone else -- possibly like being sexually abused?'

'Abuse is a big word, Ryan. I prefer the term hands-on education.'

'You were always my favorite, Ryan, out of all the boys, you were always the one I loved.'

'Please, just let me go.'

'Sometimes when I'm lonely ... I go back into the basement and replay all the good times we had. You remember them, don't you?'

I spin around, my heart suddenly quiet. My mouth hanging open, I stare at Crystal and her phone, unable to believe what I'm seeing and hearing. Crystal stares back, a sad look on her face. Her eyes sparkle with unshed tears and she sniffs, biting her lower lip before speaking.

"I left you alone," she tells me. "Because he would never have said this with anyone around. I wanted to tell you, Ryan ..."

She walks over to me, and I don't move, frozen still.

"But you wouldn't have done it. You wouldn't have been able to. You're stronger than you think you are but you hold yourself back. You've ... you're so used to the pain you no longer feel it. And just as I had to get beaten by Jem to know my own limitations, you had to face Martin to break the mental chains holding you captive."

Her hand touches my face, and I notice she's wiping away my tears before wrapping her arms around me. Her touch breaks me down, and I let her hold me. I remain frozen, too dumb-founded to move or take in anything going on.

"I'm so sorry," she whispers, caressing my hair and holding me so that I don't fall apart. "I'm sorry I left you there and made you feel like I wasn't beside you. I only did it so I could help you. You have to trust me, Ryan. I promised you I'd never let you fall."

I don't cry this time, my mind yelling at me that this is too good to be true. It says this is useless, that it will change nothing and that I'm a fool to think Crystal can do anything. My mind doesn't take anything in, yelling at me that this isn't real.

But as we stand on the street, holding each other, I believe her.

As Crystal hands the audio to the forensics team that finally reports that the audio is original and untampered with, and the officer calls his forces together to raid a criminal's house, I believe her.

As I watch the police officers getting out of their cars a few hours later, knocking on Martin's door and showing him their badges before marching into his house, I believe her.

As Martin is cuffed behind his back and forced into the back of a police car on accounts of child sexual abuse after the evidence is found after a search of his basement, I believe her.

Even while his eyes stay rooted on me, and I stand, knowing that the woman I called mom is watching me too, I believe the girl who holds my sweaty hand in hers and stands beside me. My mind blocks everything out: Martin's incessant pleading regarding his innocence, the police officers summoning Bree to the station to interrogate her regarding her longstanding silence over the matter of my abuse, the sirens that accompany the flashing red and blue lights casting the entire neighborhood in an eerie light, the low mumblings of the neighbors peeking from their windows or standing in their doorways and watching the scene.

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