Redemptive: Ch. 2

Sunday, June 09, 2019


The house was a disaster by the time the party ended. 

As promised, Ty stuck around to help clean up. I was grateful for the help, but I couldn’t get Zeke and the hopeless expression on his face out of my head. I felt bad for him. He didn’t deserved to be tortured by Ike for reasons that weren’t even his fault.

I stomped on a red plastic cup, and shoved it forcefully into the trash bag I was carrying. A little too forcefully apparently; my hand ripped right through the bag, and the contents poured onto the floor. I let out a frustrated sigh, and dramatically plopped myself onto the ground, tucking my head between my knees.

“You okay?” Ty asked.

“No,” I said.

Ty bent down beside me, and stroked my back. He twirled a lock of my black hair around his finger, and tucked it behind my ear as he leaned in to kiss the top of my head.

“I know the mess seems endless right now, but I promise you this house will look brand new before your parents get home, okay? I’m not leaving until you can lick every surface,” he said, smiling.

“Thank you,” I said, “but it’s not just the mess.”

“Okay, well, I know Chelsea left with Ike, and that it’s probably not one of her best ideas, but eventually we all learn from our mistakes. It may take a couple tries or even a couple thousand, but I promise you, Chelsea will be okay. She’s a tough girl, and she’s very lucky to have you as a friend.”

“Chelsea left with Ike?” I snapped my head up to look at him with wide eyes.

“She’s fine. I promise.”

“You’re making too many promises.”

Ty chuckled, and kissed the tip of my nose. “There’s no such thing.”

I lowered my gaze to the pristine, white carpet of the floor, thankful I’d remembered to hide the red wine. I could feel the warmth of Ty’s hand tracing small circles along my back, and I wanted so badly to just forget about Zeke and Ike and everything that happened, but I couldn’t.

“What else is bothering you?” Ty asked, his forehead wrinkling in concern. 

I sighed. “I don’t like the way Ike treats Zeke. It’s wrong. He doesn’t deserve to be treated like that. Zeke’s always been so nice to him. It’s not like he asked for that stupid driving arrangement.”

“I already cleaned the carpet. I promise, your parents won’t ever be able to tell there was a spill.”

“It’s not about the carpet, Ty!”

Ty raised his eyebrows, but didn’t speak. Using his thumb and forefinger, he traced a line up and down the vertebras of my spine, causing gooseflesh to appear on my skin. I was a sucker for this kind of soothing touch, and he knew it. I could already feel my anger toward Ike fading, the memory of Zeke hanging from the stair banister under a waterfall of cheap beer beginning to—

I moved away from Ty, swatting his hands away as he immediately reached for me.

Ty sighed. “Cam, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to talk to Ike? I can talk to him before practice tomorrow morning if that will make you feel better.”

“He won’t listen.”

“Probably not, but I can still try to get through to him. Who knows? Maybe something will stick."

I was silent. Ty was right. If anyone could get through to Ike, it was probably Ty. It wouldn’t hurt to let him try.

“Are you sure there isn’t something else bothering you? Ike’s always been an asshole. Especially to Zeke. But I’ve never seen you get this upset about it before.”

That was true. Though I had always been disgusted by Ike’s pranks, it had never bothered me this much. A simple eye-roll and a that’s so Ike were enough of a response, and then I would go on as if nothing ever happened.

But it bothered me now. 

Zeke’s tortured, helpless expression, the hatred in his voice as he threw the towel and said Does it look like I’m okay?…the images played on a loop inside my head.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just feel awful about it. I mean, he wouldn’t even take the towel I offered him. He was so upset, so helpless. And what did he do to be treated like that anyway? Nothing. He did nothing.  It’s not right. We need to do something because I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t.”

Ty moved to sit behind me, his legs on either side of me as he took me into his arms. I leaned back into his embrace, resting my head and back on his chest.

“I’ll talk to Ike at practice tomorrow morning, okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, okay. Even though it won’t make a difference.”

“Well, until you gain some magic psychic powers, I think we’ll have to leave the future unpredictable for now. They’re rare, but miracles do happen every now and then, you know.”

I sighed, and rolled my eyes. I knew Ty was probably right, but the guilt gnawing at my insides wasn’t satisfied. I would find a way to make things right eventually. 

I always did.


****

My parents were professional fixers.

From the couple who couldn’t agree on anything to the child who had trouble fitting in at school, my parents were famous for fixing every problem. They had a television special on the Oprah Network, and had written countless self-help books, their most recent being the reason they were spending Spring Break on a ten-day book tour. If there was a problem, you could bet my parents had a solution.

Perhaps that’s where I got it from.

I remember when I was five years old, I was wandering the grocery store while my mother shopped when I spotted a middle-aged couple arguing in the frozen meal section. Without hesitating, I walked up to the couple, hands on my hips, head cocked to the side, and inquired about the “root of their problem” like I’d seen my parents do a thousand times on their television special.

“What’s your root?” I had asked them.

“Excuse me?” the lady had asked.

“What’s this fight really about?” I asked, using the best impression of my mother’s voice.

“Camille! There you are!” my mother had said as she appeared with the shopping cart. “I’m so sorry. I hope she didn’t bother you.”

The woman had blinked, looking from me to my mother. “I know you,” the woman said. “You and your husband…you have that special on tv! And this must be your daughter!” the woman laughed. “No wonder she sounded so wise and grown up!”

My mother wound up talking to the lady in front of the Lean Cuisines for what felt like forever until eventually my mother handed the lady an appointment card for next week. 

After that, my parents regularly used me as one of their “icebreakers” to reel in clients, encouraging me to insert myself in the middle of a stranger’s personal issues. 

It’s a habit that stuck with me long after it stopped being cute. There was rarely a problem I wasn’t determined to fix.

And Zeke had become one of them.

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