33: Franny

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33. Franny

Dad's talking.

And moving and eating and drinking. And I don't know what to do. Most of the time I just sit there beside his bed and rattle off random thoughts, anything that comes into my head. How school was, what homework I have, how Tally is and what I'm going to make for myself for dinner.

I talk about Tyler a lot, too.

I don't realize it until Dad gives me a weird look. He's never given me that look before and I quickly change the subject. Now I'm careful about what I say in front of him. I want to talk about Tyler and I want to share everything that happened with him the last couple weeks. He's becoming the rock that I never had and the one thing I need to shield myself from my own father.

But I don't know where I stand with my dad. He's better and healthier and is adjusting to the loss of an eye slowly. But things happened before he was attacked. He threw a bottle at me and every night that still manages to worm its way into my mind. Things look like they're getting better, but I have no idea anymore. I don't want to forgive everything he's done just because he was attacked.

An attack that was ultimately his own fault.

I don't want to forgive him if he's just going to start throwing bottles again.

Hospitals runs are less enjoyable now that Ethan has gone home. I spend time with my dad but then leave quickly after. Tyler isn't around the hospital anymore and Tally has less time for me because her parents are back and going at each other's necks.

So that leaves me. To walk in and out of his hospital room and decide how the hell I'm meant to talk to him. I'm thankful he's alive and that he's well. But just because he got beaten to a pulp doesn't mean that he'll change.

"Alright," the doctor says as I shrug my coat on, ready to leave. "Looks like everything is healing correctly and your eye has no current infection and should be all good to go. I'd say you can go home on Thursday, Mr. Howard."

It's Tuesday.

He nods. "Sounds good, thanks."

The doctor gives me a smile as he leaves and I wrap my scarf around my neck. The tips of my fingers already tense from the awaiting chill outside. Suddenly we got hit with a huge temperature drop. It's supposed to warm up over the next few days, though.

"You gonna be okay for two more days?" Dad asks.

I smile a little and nod my head. "I'll be fine," I say. "You've got to rest though. Get all your energy up."

I try not to look at the large bandage pressing down on his bad eye but it's difficult not to.

"I'll be good," he says. "Don't worry about me. Be safe."

I nod and pick up my school bag off the floor before walking out of his hospital room.

***

"You see this?" I hear Tally say as she shoves a piece of paper in my face. I bat her hand away and move off from my locker, taking the paper into hand.

The page is bright blue with bold words slapped across the middle: 'Father-Daughter dance!'

I roll my eyes. "Yeah, well, that's not happening, is it?"

"The whole thing's stupid," Tally mutters, crossing her bare, pale arms over her chest. I'm wearing a long-sleeved sweater and there she is, defying the weather in a tank top. She must be freezing. "I mean, what about the people without a dad? Or hell, what about the people without a daughter?"

I shrug. "Father and son dance. Mother and son dance – I don't know. It doesn't matter. I'm not going."

"Well that makes two of us." Tally sighs. "I hardly want to go to a dance with my dad. Mom probably wouldn't even let him out of the house anyway. They're both so fucking annoying."

'Annoying' means something different to Tally—it always did. When she says her parents are 'annoying,' it never means that they've just pissed her off or that she can't deal with them at that point. It means that she literally can't be around them. When her parents are 'annoying,' it means they're fighting. And when they're fighting, they're hurting each other.

"Can I stay over?" she suddenly asks. "Just for tonight."

I smile. "You can stay over as many times as you want," I say.

"Your dad won't care?" she asks.

"Not when he's all the way in the hospital. He's not being released till Thursday."

"You don't sound too happy," Tally comments.

I straighten up against the side of my open locker. "I am happy it's just . . . shit I don't know."

"I get it," Tally says, and I glance up at her, catching her eyes, and nod.

Because she does get it. She always gets it.

"Okay, um, do you need stuff from your place?" I ask, then see the look on her face and give a soft smile. "Or I can just let you borrow some clothes."

"Yeah, let's go with that one," she breathes.

"Alright," I give a tentative grin and bump my shoulder with hers, "we can stream some movies and get a huge bag of popcorn. And ice cream. And a ton of candy."

"On a school night?" Tally fakes a gasp of shock and my grin widens.

The bell goes off and I sigh, shutting my locker. Tally groans out loud and drops her head back. "Don't make me go to class. Please. I can't stand another second."

I laugh. "Come on. Learning awaits."

"Learning can go fuck itself."

***

Tyler's sitting on the bleachers during lunch. It's cold but he doesn't seem to care. I have my hands in my pockets to ward off the chill in the air. He's hunched over, elbows digging into his thighs and hands limply hanging over the edge of his knees.

His eyes dart around, watching the football players go through a brief practice. I walk over and sit beside him, but he doesn't acknowledge me. I glance at him before sighing and watching the football team as well.

"You miss it, don't you?" I ask.

Tyler doesn't say anything for a while until a gust of air escapes his lungs. "Yes." He clears his throat. "Yeah. I miss it."

"So what's stopping you?" I ask. "From going back? Joining the team again? They'll accept you in a heartbeat. You know they will."

He shrugs. "I don't know. Myself. Probably."

"You shouldn't stop yourself from getting something you want," I comment.

Tyler frowns and turns towards me, hooking a leg over the bench of the bleachers. "What do you want?"

"What?" I ask with confusion.

"What do you want? I never see you fighting for something you want badly. What is it?"

I shrug. "I don't know."

It's a lot of things. Stability. Normality. Tranquility.

All the -ilities.

But what's the point in fighting for it when I know I'm not going to get it?

"You're a hypocrite," Tyler says. "Telling me to fight for what I want, yet you don't."

He softens the blow with a small smile but I just shrug again.

"Never denied being a hypocrite."

"Never denied that you don't fight for what you want, either," he says.

"That's because I don't," I say. "I stopped a long time ago. It got me nowhere."

That's the thing about Tyler. He's as toxic as he is healing.

- Ellie x

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