45 | in which he doesn't listen to her

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Sometimes ...
The harder you fall,
The stronger you rise.

.\.|./.

Ryan Falls

| in which he doesn't listen to her |

As soon as Crystal gets to her feet, my world literally collapses around me. My heart jumps into my throat and I can't breathe. I can't think, I can't speak, and I just can't be here. Not without Crystal, at least.

I grab her hand, clinging on for dear life and unable to believe that she's actually leaving me here.

"Crystal --" I begin.

"I'll be right back, Ryan," she says casually.

"No," I gasp, unable to breathe. "No, Crystal, please --"

"Ryan," she says, gently pulling her hand free. "I'll only be two minutes. You have to trust me."

"I'll wait in the car," I plead, hoping she'll listen.

I have been alone with this man too many times, and no matter how much I want to trust Crystal, this is unbearable. I trust her, but I can't trust her this much. I can't even if I try.

"Let her go, kiddo," Martin speaks up, and my voice catches in my throat. "Go ahead, dear," he says to Crystal.

"Trust me," she whispers to me again, giving me a soothing look before heading in the direction he points.

She leaves me frozen on the couch, wishing I was anywhere but here. I stare after her, unable to believe this. How can she leave me, knowing how afraid I am of the man standing a mere few feet from me? The sheer sight of him causes my skin to crawl, and being here in his house, under his eyes, within his reach ... I can't take any of this.

"She's your girlfriend?" Martin Grey asks, his voice even.

I don't answer, willing my body to return under my submission so I can drag it out of here. I've lost all control, of my body and of my mind. Suddenly, not even Crystal's reassurances seem enough. She hasn't been through what I've been through. She can't possibly know how I feel, let alone help me.

"Does she know about us?" he asks.

A shiver runs down my spine at the hushed tone in his voice. I refuse to answer, though, wishing my body would follow my command and just move. I want to go outside and Crystal will follow me. I don't trust Martin, but Crystal can take care of herself. She's stronger than I am, which is why she's always ready to face things. She faced Jeremy even when she was afraid of him. She faced Lilliana and only fled because she didn't want to end up hurting her. She faced my mom when I couldn't, and now she's here, saying she wants to face Martin.

Something I can never even imagine doing.

"Kid?" Martin says and my blood begins to boil.

"Shut up," I hiss at him. "I'm not your kid. If I was, you wouldn't have ..."

"Wouldn't have what?" he insists, a hint of amusement in his voice.

"Wouldn't have done what you did," I say, my voice already growing weaker.

I keep my hands in my lap, my eyes fixed on the corridor that leads to the bathroom and the one Crystal followed. She's only been gone a few moments but it already feels like a lifetime.

Where is she?

"Don't act like you didn't like it, Ryan," Martin's voice reaches me.

My gaze snaps towards him and bile rises up my throat. "Like it?" I repeat incredulously. "How could I -- or anyone else -- possibly like being sexually abused?"

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