Title: Alive [Chapter Nineteen]
Summary: Sage Alvi’s whole world turned upside-down when she lost her mother to cancer. Now forced to live with a father she never knew, she’s trying to navigate her way through a new home, city and school. To make things worse, her half-siblings hate her and she’s being bullied by the cool crowd. They say high school is hard, but this is just ridiculous.
Aidan hurriedly threw on a pair of jeans and t-shirt before rushing out of the room to chase down Madeline. Sage took her time getting dressed, trying not to think about how embarrassing this whole situation was. Getting caught red-handed was bad enough but to have it be by Aidan’s mom was beyond horrible. Just thinking about the disgusted look on Madeline’s face made Sage cringe. Angry voices drifted in from the other room, piquing her curiosity, and she approached the door to eavesdrop.
“You promised me, Aidan. You swore you would stop seeing that girl.”
“Get over it, Mom.”
“You’ve already been expelled because of her. Who knows what other kinds of trouble she’ll lead you into? She’s obviously a bad influence on you.”
“It wasn’t her fault she was attacked that day. Either blame that asshole or me, but not her!”
“Stop making excuses! I don’t want you seeing her anymore.”
“Yeah well, that’s not gonna happen.”
“Look how you’re already misbehaving. I bet I have her to thank for that.”
“How do you explain this new attitude of yours? You’ve never behaved like this with me before.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m sick of you blaming her for everything.”
“I have every reason to! She’s ill-bred, has no manners, and every time I see her she has her hands all over you.”
“Like that’s a bad thing?” he taunted, his voice dripping with wry humor.
“Watch your tone, Aidan.”
“Sage isn’t corrupting some sweet, innocent child, Mom. I’m not exactly an angel, remember?”
“I always thought you were better than your father, that you were too smart to fall for these kinds of girls. Obviously I was wrong.”
“Don’t compare me to him! I am not him.”
“Then stop disrespecting me the way he does.”
“I’m not! I’m just trying to make you understand-”
“All these years I’ve worked so hard to keep you out of trouble but you’re willing to forget all of that just because some slut spread her legs for you? Who does that to their mother? What kind of a man are you?”
“Okay. I get it. You can stop now.”
“How do you think your father will react when he finds out about the expulsion?”
“You said you wouldn’t tell him.”
“And you promised to stay away from that girl. Why should I keep my word when you won’t keep yours?” Madeline’s voice was ice-cold as she continued. “Don’t force me to tell him, honey. I don’t want to.”
Sage burst out of the room and started towards Madeline. “Are you kidding me? Are you seriously threatening your son?” Instantly Aidan was in front of her, blocking her path, trying to hold her back.
“Get back inside!” he yelled.
“You know exactly what that bastard would do but you don’t care what happens to Aidan, do you? You’ll only protect him as long as he obeys your commands?”
“Stay out of this!” Aidan warned.
“Get out of my house or I’m calling the police. Don’t force me to do that,” Madeline said, her eyes gleaming with hatred.
“No one’s forcing you, you’d be choosing to do it. Just like you choose to stand idly by when your sadistic husband hurts Aidan!” Sage snarled. “What kind of a mother are you? You’re supposed to love your son and protect him, not manipulate him or make him feel guilty.” Her eyes brimmed with angry tears. “I thought Thomas was a bad parent but you and your husband are so much worse. Aidan would be better off as an orphan!”
“Get her out of my house now!”
Picking her up, Aidan carried her outside as Sage continued to hurl insults at Madeline. Her blood was boiling with rage and frustration, her mind still reeling from what she’d witnessed. The way Madeline had tried to control Aidan had been frightening. What kind of a fucked up family was this? Aidan had no one in his family who genuinely loved and cared for him. She couldn’t understand it, it shocked her. Parents were not supposed to be like this.
He set her down on the floor when they were finally outside.
“No!” he shouted. “Not another word. You’re going to shut up and leave.”
Stunned, she stepped back. “I was trying to-”
“That was none of your fucking business! You had no right to butt in.”
“Excuse me? She was insulting me, calling me names and using me to control you. She was threatening you! How can you expect me not to do anything?”
“I was handling it!”
“How? By giving into her threats?”
“She wasn’t threatening me. She wouldn’t do that.”
“I heard it with my own ears, Aidan!”
“She was just bullshitting. I would have talked her out of it.”
Sage stared at him, dumbfounded by his refusal to see the truth. How could he be so blind when it came to his mom? How could he not realise Madeline was just as controlling as his dad?
“You need to get out of here,” Aidan said.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
Gripping her hand, he started dragging her down the driveway. “You have your phone on you?”
She checked to find it still nestled in the back pocket of her jeans. “Yeah.”
“Call Theo to pick you up.”
“No! I’m not leaving you alone with her.”
He faced her again. “You have no idea what goes on in this house, what I go through. She does. She’s been through hell to protect me.” His jaw clenched with anger, heated gaze boring through her. “Don’t ever disrespect my mom like that again.” He turned around and stormed back to the house.
Sage stood outside, waiting for him a long time, until it finally sank in that he wasn’t coming back. He really had abandoned her.
Pulling out her phone, she dialed Theo’s number.
Sage stared down at her cell phone, reading the text message from Aidan.“Meet me in the 3rd floor bathroom before first period.”
After her confrontation with Madeline yesterday, this was the first she’d heard from Aidan. Relief surged through her. He’d been so volatile, and their fight had been intense. She hadn’t slept the entire night, wondering if he was still furious with her and mostly worrying about him. Plus, she was still confused as to why he’d lost his temper at her the way he did. Madeline’s manipulative behavior had sickened her to her stomach and Sage had no regrets about defending Aidan. Someone had to look out for him, because, obviously, his parents wouldn’t.
Entering the bathroom where he’d wanted to meet, she walked to the mirror to check her reflection. Her haggard face, complete with dark circles under puffy eyes stared back at her. So not the image she wanted to project on her first day back in school after the expulsion.
The door swung open and in walked Aidan, backpack slung over his shoulder. She regarded him with uncertainty, taking in the wretched expression on his face. He looked as miserable as she felt. “Hi,” she said.
He sauntered forward, stopping in front of her. “Hi.”
She rushed towards him, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. He returned her embrace, his hands spanning the small of her back. “I was so worried about you,” she whispered.
Surprised by the defiance in his voice, she scrutinized his face only to find hostility reflected at her. He was still angry.
“You have to apologize to my mom.”
That was not what she expected to hear. “Excuse me?”
“You were a total bitch to her yesterday and she didn’t deserve that. You need to talk to her and tell her you’re sorry.”
“But I’m not sorry.”
“Are you kidding me? You think you can talk to her like that and I’ll let it go?”
“She was threatening to have you beaten by your dad. How the hell can you expect me not to say anything?”
He threw his backpack against the wall in frustration; she jumped back instinctively. “I know her. She wouldn’t have done that. You?” He glared at Sage. “You had no right to speak her to like that. You treated her like shit.”
“I’m not apologizing!”
“Swallow your fucking pride and just do it!” he yelled. “This is not an option. You have to do this. If you and I are ever going to make this work, you have to patch things up with her.”
“I was trying to protect you!”
“Fuck you!” A mixture of desperation and rage gleamed in his eyes. “You said you loved me. Did you mean it?”
“Then do this. Please.”
Her mind spun with confusion. Sage struggled to understand why he refused to see things from her point of view. Yet, she considered doing as he asked just to appease him – but she changed her mind immediately. Every cell in her body screamed in protest at the thought of apologizing to his mother. No. She did the right thing by defending him. Staying silent would have been wrong. “I can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t.”
There was a long bout of silence before he spoke again. “Sometimes I really fucking hate you.”
She inhaled a sharp breath, his vicious words slicing apart her insides. There was venom in his eyes, the hate directed at her so difficult to take she couldn’t even bear to look at him.
“I used to think everyone else was the problem but I was wrong. It’s not them. It’s you. Maybe your father would actually give a fuck about you if you stopped being like this.”
Every time she’d confided in him about her insecurities and feelings of self-doubt, he’d assured her she didn’t need to change. If people didn’t accept her for who she was, that was something they needed to work through, not her. He’d remind her that she was a person with conviction who refused to be complacent when things were unfair. She was a fighter and that was one of the things he loved about her. Now here he was, parroting the very words he’d once argued against. Pain flowed through her. She struggled to keep her composure even though she felt sick.
His voice was barely above a whisper when he spoke again. “We’re over.”
Aidan walked out, leaving her alone to process his words.
Later that day Sage was sitting in the library when David rushed in and took a seat across from her. Usually cheerful, now he appeared to be anything but. “You okay?”
“We need to talk. It’s important.”
It must have been, considering his nervous demeanor. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m gonna ask you something. You gotta be honest.”
Already she felt her stomach tense up. “Okay.”
“What’s going on between you and Aidan?”
Her insides coiled up, she felt sick again. As hard as she tried to convey a normal tone, her voice sounded weak. “Nothing. There’s nothing going on.”
David cast her a suspicious glint. “Come on, Sage. Don’t lie to me. You’re horrible at it.”
Finding it hard to hold his gaze, she focused her attention on a nearby textbook, fiddling with the pages. “I was seeing him for a while, but things are over now.” Saying the words out loud made the pain palpable, and much more difficult to bottle up which she’d been doing since the breakup this morning.
“Good. He’s an asshole. You should stay away from him.”
“How did you find out about us?”
It was his turn to hesitate. “It doesn’t matter.”
“What’s going on? Tell me.”
A wary sigh escaped his lips. “You don’t want to know.”
“Whatever it is, I’d rather hear it from you than someone else.”
David’s keen gaze focused in on her, watching her. “You know the bathroom on the third floor that’s closed most of the time?”
Sage knew it all too well. “Yeah.”
“I was in there, hiding out from some losers in the football team who, by the way, keep calling me a cocksucker, but the moment I offer to live up to my name they get all pissy.”
She rolled her eyes. “Today, David. Get to the point today.”
“Anyway, I wanted something to calm me down so I went into one of the stalls to blaze up. Next thing I know Cat and Aidan storm in, having a huge argument.”
She stilled. “They didn’t see you?”
“Nah, man. They were too into each other to notice anyone in the stalls. She was pissed, super pissed, screaming at him, asking him if it was true he was hooking up with that bitch. I had no idea who the hell she was talking about, then Aidan mentioned your name and I kinda figured out the rest. She was crying hysterically and kept asking him how he could do this.”
“What did he say?”
“At first he just kept saying sorry and then…” David paused.
“Aidan said you were payback for when Cat cheated on him. He was using you to get to her. Then she asked him if he loved you.”
Sage swallowed an audible breath, waiting for him to continue.
David reached out to hold her hand. “I don’t want to tell you the next part. ”
“Well, you better.” Sage plastered on a fake smile. “I hate being in suspense.”
Despite her urging, he still waited a few seconds before answering. “He said he didn’t love you.” David’s teeth pulled at his bottom lip. “That’s what finally calmed her down.”
His brutal words sunk in slowly, threatening to dissipate the calm facade she’d been trying so desperately to hold on to.
“Are you alright?” David asked, concerned.
Through sheer willpower she found the inner strength to remain composed. Hell, she even managed a self-deprecating smile. “Guess I’m lucky it was you in there. Imagine if that was Tish. She’d be telling everyone I was the new school slut.”
“Come on. Don’t say that.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. School slut has a nicer ring to it than ISIS terrorist, don’t you think?” There was only so long she could keep up the act, especially as David examined her closely. Immediately she started stuffing books into her backpack. “I have to go. Need to catch up on all the chem stuff I missed last week.”
“Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. You didn’t need to hear all that.”
“No, you did the right thing. You were watching out for me.”
“You gonna be okay? If you want, I’ll try to kick his ass.”
“Nah, he’s not worth it,” she replied with a forced smile. “And I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me. I’ve gone through much worse.” Slinging the backpack over her shoulder, she walked out of the library. David’s words echoed in her mind, tormenting her. Finally she put on her headphones and turned up the volume to the loudest level. She would not cry. She wouldn’t break. One way or another she was going to drown out this horrible day, and this world, and everything about Aidan.
To be continued…
A/N – Thank you so much for reading. If you have the time, I’d love to read your thoughts about the chapter.
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