Chp 31:

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Tessa:

I find myself sitting on the couch, a blanket draped over my shoulders and a cup of tea in my hands. He sits down on the ottoman directly across from me, his elbows rested on his legs and he leans forward.

His dark hair is tousled and he's wearing a t-shirt. "What?" , "You're going to tell me and you're going to tell me right now. Who are they?" , My eyes trail up to his face. It was time to tell him.

I sigh and a take a sip then begin. "I was fifteen when they started...tormenting me. At first it started off as little things." , "Throwing pieces of paper at me or tripping me in the hallways. Then into my second semester of sophomore year, they began spreading rumors." , "Jordana started a rumor that I slept with five guys all within a week time span." I shake my head.

"Obviously she made the rumors seem so legitimate that people started buying into them." , "Then I began getting called a slut and a whore-it went on for months..." , I don't look at his face, I keep my eyes locked on my cup in my hands.

"I guess one day they got bored with me and they wanted a new target...so they went after Hayley." I realize my voice cracks when I say her name. "It was the same tormenting, however the only difference was...Hayley couldn't take it." I cover my mouth with my hand and try to blink back tears.

"After her death, I physically and emotionally shut down. I didn't leave my house for over a month, my parents even hired a therapist for me...she didn't help." , " I will never be able to forgive myself for letting that happen to her.

I could've done more and I didn't. I could have prevented it and I didn't." I tilt my head back against the couch and look up, tears come rushing down my face.

"It was a wonder to us all that I had even gained the resilience to go off to college.", "Though it was during my time there when I realized all I needed was to escape from my town and I would be alright." , "So I moved out here...to a city with over eight million people, it was a fresh start and it was exactly what I needed for myself."

I set my cup down on the small table which is next to the couch and I look at him. The look on his face is impossible to read. His hands are cupped together in front of his face and he looks to be thinking.

"Nick?" , he tilts back his head and shuts his eyes, inhaling and exhaling slowly then looks at me. When he opens his eyes-they are blood shot, I'm surprised. "I don't understand.", "How could someone do that to you?" His tone of voice sounds pained. "I still don't have an answer to that." , "And now they're back?" I nod.

"I'm going to hit him." He says, standing up and clenching his fists. I jump off of the couch and stand in front of him. "No, no you're not. Nick, these are my demons to fight...not yours."

He stares at me stupefied and then nods. "Fine, fine." Sitting back down on the couch, I pull my knees up to my chest. He doesn't say anything and neither do I for a few seconds."They can't get to you anymore, Tess." , I scuff. "Don't you see? They already have." He scans my face and then frowns.

"Dammit, I was right there, I could have decked him if you had jus-" I stop him mid sentence. "I know you're mad and so am I, but we are not resorting to violence." he looks utterly disappointed.

He grips my hand and stares at me, his green-gray eyes seemed to beam. "Tess, you can look at this two ways...you can let them effect you and give them all of the power or you can choose to ignore them and stand up for yourself."

"I know that you are capable of standing up for yourself...you stood up against me, and I have the utmost respect for you because of that." My eyes soften and I feel that sensation where I wanted to melt into the carpet when he spoke like this to me.

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