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Twenty - Creased Tuxedo

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"Stop!" I gasp.

Xavier looks over his shoulder at me, a slight frown marring his beautiful features.

I jump off the bed -- forgetting that I'm hardly wearing anything -- and run over to him, grabbing his arm and pulling away from the window-sill.

"What's wrong?" Xavier asks.

Panting, I look up into his grey eyes.

"The kitchen," I breathe. "It's right beneath my bedroom, and the windows, they're vertically placed, so if you jump, and since dad is in the kitchen, you'll land outside that kitchen window, and he always sits in the chair that looks out the window, and he'll see you because you'll be there, and --"

"Breathe, breathe, Haley, breathe," Xavier stops me, placing his hands on either side of my face and looking me straight in the eyes.

I blink.

"Breathe," he repeats softly, his eyes gentle.

Realizing that I've been holding my breath, I exhale it slowly, inhaling another. Xavier looks satisfied, a slight smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

"What do we do?" he asks softly.

"I don't know," I whimper like a wounded puppy.

Xavier chuckles, grinning. "Come on, Haley. You got this. You're smart, I know you'll think of something."

"I'm only book smart, you know that," I confess, my eyes wide. "You know I'm dumb when it comes to real life. I don't know how to handle it. I'm lame."

He rolls his eyes. "No, you're not. Now stop freaking out and think."

"How about," I begin. "You hide here until dad leaves for work and then you can go?"

"It's Sunday," Xavier reminds me.

"Then you can hide here till tomorrow," I say stupidly.

"I have to return this suit." Xavier teases me with a smile. "Besides, I have work tonight."

I stare at him. "What do you even do?" I blurt out. "I mean, sorry, I don't mean to intrude or --"

"I work at a shoe factory," Xavier tells me, his thumb caressing my cheek. "In packaging."

He smiles but I don't return it, wondering how life can be so cruel to some people. And this thought always takes me back to how cruel people are too. Now that I think about Xavier before I got to know him, I can actually reflect on my own flawed judgments.

Judging by Xavier's slipping grades and bruised exterior, I had been just like everyone else, assuming the worst. I hadn't laughed at him or mocked him, but I didn't have a good opinion of him. After getting to know Xavier, I have realized how shallow we human beings are. We judge by appearances, and even then, we assume the worst.

Seeing his bruises, everyone had assumed something related to gangs, and fighting, and illegal acts. Why hadn't anyone thought of domestic violence?

When he was constantly absent from class and failing his tests, everyone assumed he was into something bad like drugs and gangs. Why hadn't anyone considered he was working two jobs to support his family and not buying books because they cost too much?

Those who saw Xavier at a rehab center would come to school and openly tell everyone that he was using drugs and was addicted. Why hadn't anyone thought that he might just be trying to get help for his hopelessly addicted mother?

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