9: Franny

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9. Franny

Dad's gone.

He's staying late at a bar and won't be back till the morning or late into the night. Most teenagers would be happy to hear that their dad's going out and leaving them alone all night but all I feel is dread.

What if he doesn't come back? What if he gets too drunk and is lying in a ditch somewhere? Or gets into a fight and ends up bleeding on the ground?

I should be able to trust my dad, but he's a walking disaster. Any trust I once had for him is gone now. I wander around the empty house and feel as lonely as the building itself. The walls pop from the heating and the floor creaks now and then as I walk along it. But I still feel alone and lost.

That is until the doorbell rings.

Thinking it's my dad, I rush over and unlock the door, sliding over the latch. I twist the doorknob and open the door wide but the person I see in the doorway is not my dad. The dark-haired boy stands shakily in front of me, his head down and a hand pressed against his side.

I look at where his hand sits and my eyes widen at the large red patch of liquid that is soaking into his clothes and dripping onto his hand.

"Jesus," I whisper, "what the hell happened?"

Tyler's grip tightens on the bag in his other hand and slowly he lifts his head up. His face is contorted in pain, his eye swelling and flaring red. Blood drips from his mouth and his lips are cut.

"Help me," he says. "Please just . . . "

I don't waste any time and move backwards, pushing the door open further for him to walk in. He stumbles forward, dropping his bag onto the floor and grabs onto the bannister for support. I quickly shut the door and lock it back up before rushing to Tyler's side.

He's hunched over, fast, short breaths coming out of his mouth. I place a hand on his back, hesitantly. "You need to lie down so I can help you. Please, you're going to bleed out everywhere."

I'm panicking on the inside. I don't have any medical knowledge. The most I can do is put a band aid on a paper cut. From the sight of Tyler's shirt, which is drenched in blood, the wound beneath is not a simple paper cut that can be fixed with a wet tissue and a bandage.

Tyler looks up and sees the dining table a few feet away through the open doorway to the kitchen. He staggers over and I lurch forward, scared he will fall, but he doesn't collapse. He grits his teeth and keeps moving until he's at the table. I look down at the blood dripping after him and my stomach churns.

What could have happened? Who would have wanted to hurt Tyler this badly?

Why did he come to me for help?

Tyler stumbles to the table and collapses against it. I rush over with a flustered urgency that would have panicked me if I was the one wounded. But Tyler doesn't seem irritated or annoyed at the fact that I can't seem to calm down long enough to form a complete sentence.

"It's okay," he says quietly, turning so that his back is to the table.

He grits his teeth and pushes himself up until he's sitting on the edge of the table. His face tightens in pain and I bite my lip, unsure of how I can help him. "Just calm down."

These are the words that I should be telling him. I should be the one with my hand on his shoulder, saying that it will be okay and that he just needs to close his eyes and keep breathing.

"You afraid of blood?" he asks.

I shake my head and he gives me a slight smile. "Good. Because you're about to see loads of it."

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