Blogging The Harper Way 2: Alone With Everyone (Chapter 4)

 
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So, here's a thing that's kinda weird; When I was a kid, I fucking dreaded going to sleepovers. 'Why?', you ask? Well, I'll tell ya'! Two words: Bloody Mary. You know, the super fun party game where one kid'll go close themselves in the bathroom with a candle or a dim flashlight, then they'll stare into the mirror for a couple minutes, say 'bloody Mary' three times, expecting to see a ghost, then everybody loses their minds and goes to fear eat pizza until they pass out. To pretty much everyone alive, it's just a harmless, fun, rite of passage that every kid plays.

To me, however, it was a source of genuine anxiety. Of horror.

Because, as would be my luck, I had one prick of a kid tell me about the 'game' not long after people found out my Mom was dead, and when he did, he made sure to tell me that it was her who people would see. He told everybody, and I mean every-fucking-body. So, any time the game would come up, I'd have a complete mental breakdown, no matter where I was. Without fail. The other kids would all have a good laugh, I'd call Uncle Al to get me, and I'd have to get all new friends...

But childhood wasn't the end of it, not just yet. No, some degree of that kind of bullshit followed me all the way to high school. There were, of course, a couple of kids I met along the way who were totally awesome right out of the gate, and I'm still friends with some of them, but any kid who 'Bloody Maryed' me was cut out of my life forever. It was a hard fucking rule. You can't allow that kind of cancer to infest you, even when it's kids. Because kids are just like adults in some ways, not the least of which being that they can be exceedingly, thoughtlessly cruel.

That said, they've got nothing on teenagers.

Now, what I'm about to tell you is something I've kept to myself for many, many years. I only ever told my husband Sean and my little buddy Robyn (and that was only after she shared some similarly traumatic shit from her past). But rather than just blurting it out to you like I did for Robyn, I'm gonna set it up properly.

Like, I've written, deleted, re-written, re-deleted, and re-re-written this about a million times before getting to this point, because it's super fucking hard to talk about. However, I kinda feel like I need to let it out, so that's what I'm gonna do. Like it's just time, ya' know? I mean, a big part of me doing this latest string of posts is to help me work through some awful shit, and the best way to do that, I find, is to do so in an as unflinching a manner as I possibly can.

So, first thing's first:

Dad, I'm starting this with a formal, very public apology to you. I've kept this from everyone for so long specifically so it never got back to you, and I'm sorry for that, but it was what I felt was best for everybody. I knew you couldn't've handled it any better than I could without someone getting seriously injured, and I just didn't want you to end up doing something we'd both regret in the long run. Something that couldn't be taken back, no matter how badly you'd want to. Yes, it's that big, and no, I don't think I'd be able to get through it face-to-face.

So... text form. Steel yourself, I mean it. We can talk later.

Now that that's out of the way, about a third of the way through my sophomore year of high school (I went to Mercer Island High, in case you were wondering), I met this guy named Tyler Washburn. He was super smart, funny, incredibly good looking (he looked like Leon Kennedy who, yes, is fictional), and, probably best of all, he genuinely wanted to hang out with me. Tyler was a newbie – he moved to Seattle maybe a couple weeks before he and I met. I'd seen him around though, as we had a few of the same classes and the same lunch period (where we both usually sat alone), but, again, no contact.

His second Friday in, however, is when we formally met. He just kinda decided to introduce himself at lunch, where I sat staring off into space, thinking about nothing in particular.

"Hey. Can I, um... can I sit with you?" Tyler asked.
"Absolutely," I cheered, snapping out of it. "Have a seat!"
He did, then we both sat like statues for a bit, spacing out before it finally clicked in my head that Tyler would probably like an actual introduction.
"Oh! Sorry! I'm Elizabeth," I gasped, reaching out to shake his hand like we were law colleagues or something.
"Tyler," he replied. "I... I noticed you sit alone too."
"Yup," I replied, nodding slowly. "I do do that."
"You new too?" Tyler asked.
"Nope, I've lived out here since I was six," I sighed.
"How come you sit all alone then?" Tyler asked.
"All of my friends have first lunch," I replied. "So, ya' know... things just kinda shake out that way."
"Oh. W-would you rather not have compa—"
"NO! You're fine!" I exclaimed. "I do enjoy the company of others, I just don't always have it."
"That girl Erin Brown told me to sit with you," Ty said.
"Oh! You know Erin?" I asked.
"She sits behind me in first period," Ty said. "She's pretty cool."
"Totally! She's the best," I replied.

Now, I love the hell outta Erin, but, in my head, I was thinking "That dirty, rotten bitch!", because I told her I was sorta crushing on Tyler not two days before. It was a secret, Erin. A SECRET. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

"She told me you liked anime," Ty added. "What's your favorite?"
"Jesus, man, you're not afraid to go right for the jugular, are ya'?" I asked, laughing a bit.
"I guess it is kind of a heavy question," Tyler replied, his cheeks reddening slightly.
"You're damn right it is!" I playfully hissed.

Ty looked like he was feeling more than a little uncomfortable, which, while I found him even cuter in that state for some reason, made me feel bad. I didn't wanna push the guy away. Quite the contrary! I wanted to get to know him to see if my crush was actually warranted or just my girl parts thinking for themselves. So, after an awkward pause that felt like a billion years, I decided to give him a straight answer.

"Against my better judgment, Dragonball gets the honor," I finally replied.
"Why?" Tyler asked.
"'Why' what?" I asked.
"Why against your better judgment?" Ty clarified. "DBZ's awesome!"
"Yeah, until you read the comic," I replied. "Then it's just awesome for the music and voic— WAIT. Are we talking dub or sub?"
"Ew. Sub," Ty replied, looking at me like I was crazy for even asking.
"Oh, we're gonna get along just fine," I replied.

And we did. Like... incredibly so. From there, Tyler and I became the absolute best of friends. We hung out pretty much every day that school year, then spent as much time together over the summer as we could. We'd go to the movies, roam the mall, hit up Sonic Boom, whatever we felt like. We were thick as thieves. Of course, I lived with my Dad in the summer months, and I wasn't really keen on many people encroaching on my Dad time for all the obvious reasons.

But Ty got to, and Dad was totally cool with it.

I mean, I was stupid in love with Tyler by that point, and I suppose I couldn't really hide it. I always downplayed it though, ya' know? Like, it came up sometimes - never between the two of us - but I always just said, like, "yeah, I guess I kinda enjoy him," or "he's alright," when what I really wanted was to describe all the ways in which he was perfect... and then detail a bunch of super-innocent, 'X' rated stuff I wanted to do with him (which I won't go into now or ever).

Unfortunately, this high opinion was tainted throughout our Junior year. Why? Because he started hanging out with the Chets, obviously. What? You don't know what I mean? Okay, so, let me walk this back a bit. A Chet is basically your typical, dumb-dumb, asshole jock type. They're the jocks that give all other jocks and/or sportos a bad name. Every school has them, and mine was no exception to that rule.

And, boy, did they ever take a shine to Tyler.

I mean, I couldn't blame them. Not one bit. On top of having all those great qualities I mentioned earlier, Ty was also the fucking king of our track team pretty much the moment he joined it. This fast-tracked him into the good graces of all the big, power players of all the other sports, and he started hanging out with them more and more, leaving me in the lurch. Putting me on a shelf for when it was okay to just be him. It sucked, but I got it. I mean, I wasn't happy about it, but I also tried not to let it get me down. After all, teenage guys need teenage guy friends. That's all there is to it.

Also, like... people just change. Or, their behavior does, at least. Maybe they want different things out of life than they thought, or they get pressured in different ways by different people into doing different things. Maybe even things they don't really wanna do. That's what happened with him (a combination of all of the above). Plus, I wasn't a sporto. That wasn't my world, nor was it really even a world that interested me. I would support Tyler and other friends in their pursuits, of course, but at the end of the day, I just wasn't into it on a fan level. Certainly not on a lifestyle level.

Hence the growing apart.

But, when Ty and I were together, we always immediately fell into our favorite rhythms - watching and discussing anime, listening to music, going to movies, playing video games... all the fun stuff we loved. And, for a while, if we happened to run into pretty much anybody else, sporto or not, Ty didn't just, like, completely ignore me in favor of his new buddies. He'd just keep hanging with me and either let them tag along with us, or just get up with them later.

Until the semester varsity quarterback Myles Lucas came into the picture.

Myles was the Chettiest Chet to ever Chet, and he brought with him all the baggage and shit behavior those types usually do. On the outside, he was conventionally attractive, even charming, and he used those attributes to a more sinister end than most would expect. However, the more you hung around with him (or even just privately dissected him), the more of his real, psychotic personality showed. Why, he was a regular Ted Bundy Junior in the making. He was an awful person, and his awfulness infected pretty much everybody who spent any real time with him. Whether they welcomed it - or even knew it- or not.

So, that semester, I had a free study period every day, which I would pretty much always spend in the school library. Sometimes I'd actually use it to study, but, more often than not, I'd just dick around on the internet, draw, write, or read. Sometimes, I'd run into people I liked, and we'd shoot the shit or something, but it was usually alone time. That's kind of a theme with me, if you haven't gathered it already.

One day, just shy of two weeks before our Easter break, I was hanging out in the library, thinking about a story I wanted to write. I can't remember exactly why, but I needed to use one of the computers to do some research for it. I feel like it was something about cats, but my brain could just be substituting cats in order to help make it easier to disclose a traumatic event. Kitties are the ultimate in furry comfort, especially kittens... but this isn't kitten time.

Now, for a good 20 minutes beforehand, I half-ass observed Tyler, Myles, and a couple of their other pals come in and start using one of the computers. They were all laughing and joking around, but, like, super quietly. I figured it was because they were probably looking at porn or something. Well, I mean, they were on the 'CUMputer', which got its super clever name by being a computer with zero peripheral visibility. Its relative seclusion from prying eyes meant that people used it to look up shit they shouldn't be.

Like ultra hardcore pornography.

Anyway, when I approached the computers, Ty and his buddies hushed themselves even more. They were still carrying on, but clearly they didn't wish to include me in their fun. Again, I was pretty certain they were looking at porn, and straight guys seem to have a tendency to exclude straight girls from group porn fun. I don't get it. Seems as though you'd want girls around for that, especially if you're hoping to put any of what you're looking at into quick practice. But what do I know? I'm just a dumb ol' girl, right?

Whatever.

After a few minutes of the guys going on in hushed tones, I heard a quick 'Psst! Hey!' then looked up to see Tyler peeking over the monitor and looking me dead in the eyes.

"Liz, you gotta see this," he said, motioning for me to join him and his Chet friends, which I did.

I mean, I didn't really have any reason not to, ya' know? Though we weren't as close that year as we were the year before, we were still always on good terms, and that wasn't something I ever thought either of us took for granted. It didn't matter that I didn't really like his buddies, because I liked him and he like me, and that was enough.

So, I grabbed up my stuff, then circled around the other computers to the 'CUMputer'. I was immediately greeted by the old 3D pipes screensaver, which led to me kind of raising an eyebrow at them. That, in turn, caused everybody else burst into laughter like they'd just pulled the greatest prank in the history of pranks. Because they got me to pack up all my shit and move around all the computers to their gross little neck of the woods. Some joke, eh? They weren't done though, that's the thing. The screensaver was just the prelude to something else. A bonus, I guess? I should've known it, and I should've told Ty I was too busy, but I didn't. I joined them, and I put myself right where they wanted me.

I rolled my eyes, sort of tutted at them, then spoke up.

"Ooooooh, 3D pipes. Fascinating, I know, but n—"

Myles cut me off simply by moving the mouse.

I couldn't believe it. There, in a stunning, gut-wrenching slideshow, were... pictures. The crime scene pictures of my Mom, dead in her bedroom, full of bullet holes - blood absolutely everywhere. I froze. I wanted nothing more than to run, but I couldn't actually get my legs to move, and just I stood there watching as each horror indelibly seared itself into my memory, one after the other. And not just the photos from inside our house, either. It was autopsy photos too. To make matters worse, those rotten pig fuckers were all laughing like cartoon hyenas. Laughing at me. Laughing at my poor fucking Mom.

After the slideshow started over, I finally burst into tears and ran away without a word.

I knew the pictures'd leaked. Dad's old partner Aaron Robinson called and gave us a heads up. Apparently, some asshole within the NYPD sold the pictures off to someone who had the sole intent of disseminating them to the general public - likely someone with a grudge against Dad. From the moment my father relayed the message, I made it my fucking life's mission to do whatever I could to avoid seeing them. Like, normally, I have this nagging need to know, even (maybe especially) with super dark shit like death. But this was my Mom, ya' know? I didn't have even the slightest bit of morbid curiosity. I just wanted to remember her alive, reading me stories and making fucking pies. Even if my last in-person memories of her are bitterly sad, she was still alive in them, and they're far better than the alternative.

And Tyler knew that. All of it.

Of course, after I saw the picture, lost my shit, and ran to the bathroom, I puked my guts out and lost my whole fucking mind for a good hour and a half. Eventually, someone (I don't remember who) found me and told my friend Erin that I was in the bathroom freaking out. She came in, I struggled through telling her that something happened between me and Ty, and she comforted me like a real, true blue friend, even though I wouldn't tell her what that 'something' happened to be.

In the two weeks that followed, I did my best to not only avoid Tyler and his friends, but also to keep up my normal, cheerful appearance around Dad any time I was lucky enough to see him. That cheeky bastard's like a Hamburglar for information he doesn't have, and his thirst for knowledge doesn't just apply to his work. It's every facet of his life. Especially the things in it he loves the most - Mom and I. So I couldn't have him getting wind of what'd happened.

That wouldn't end well for anyone.

Anyway, somehow, I was able to keep it up until Spring break. However, I stayed with Dad during any extended time off of school (again, as I've said in the past, I spent the vast majority of my school days living at Uncle Al's place), and the more time Dad has to work a problem, the better he can work it. And I was depressed. It also didn't help that, from the first day of break, it kept fucking raining. For two days, it rained pretty steadily, and said rain, coupled with the heavy shit on my mind, eventually worked me into a pretty outwardly obvious funk.

By the third day, the rain'd picked up into a pretty torrential downpour, and I was just kinda floating around the apartment like a droopy husk. I could tell Dad wanted desperately to ask what was up, but he seemed like he couldn't really find the right words, ya' know? I mean, it's hard to see someone you love struggling, but pointing out said struggles can often lead you and your loved one into a minefield of explosive emotion. Especially if that person happens to be a teenager.

Thankfully...ish, right when it seemed Dad had committed to walking that minefield, there was a knock on his office door.

"Who is it?" Dad asked.
"I-it's Ty, sir," Tyler's voice called.

I panicked.
I violently shook my head at Dad, shooshing him with my finger the whole time.

"I don't wanna see him," I mouthed.

Dad looked at me like I was being a crazy person for a moment or two, then shrugged it off and continued.

"Alright," he quietly began. "What do you want me to say?"
"I dunno just... just fucking tell him I'm sleeping," I hissed, hightailing it around the corner and flattening myself up against the wall like Solid Snake so I could listen in without being seen.

Dad let out a hard sigh, got up from his desk, and sauntered over to the door, opening it wide.

"Mr. Washburn," Dad said.
"H-hi, sir. Is Liz here?" Ty asked.
"She's sleeping," Dad said.
"Oh," Tyler sighed. "Well, c-could you tell her I was here?"
"Sure," Dad replied. "Got a message?"

Like I said: Hamburglar. If he couldn't get the story from me, he'd try to get it from someone else.

"I... um... I... I just wanted to tell her I'm s— that I'm... that I'm sorry," Ty stammered.
"Sorry about what?" Dad asked, his tone shifting from pleasant, to angry, snarling Dadbeast.

There was a stark silence before Ty started talking.

"W-well, some guys at school pla—"
"I'm here," I said, cutting him off and walking back into the office.

Dad shifted his fiery glare between the two of us, before slightly raising an eyebrow at me. He would've chucked Ty out the window like a piece of dirt if I asked him, but I just shook my head and walked past. Tyler started to step into the office.

"Liz, I don't wanna lose y—"
"Outside," I snapped, pushing him back out into the hall and slamming the door behind us.

We speed walked all the way down the hall and into the elevator, then I closed the cage door and hit the down button.

"Elizab—"
"Out. Side," I snarled, cutting him off again.

We rode all the way down in silence, exited the elevator, then walked outside. It was raining like crazy, but there was a small balcony above the entrance to Dad's building that jutted out enough it would keep one of us dry. And seeing as Tyler was already wet, he could stand to be the one stuck in the fucking downpour. I didn't care all that much about his well being in that moment. He'd hurt me in such a profound way that just all the love I had for him did a complete 180, and became a sad wrath of sorts.

I mean... Tyler 'Bloody Maryed' me worse than anyone.

He looked like he wanted to say something, but he knew that if he did, I'd just snap at him again. If I was gonna talk to him, it'd be on my terms and no-one else's. So, I took a deep, wavering breath, and started.

"I don't know what to say to you," I whimpered. "I... I don't even wanna look at you."
"I'm sorry, Elizabeth," Tyler sighed.
"Oh, a-all forgiven then," I replied, every fraction of every letter dripping with sarcastic bitterness.
"C'mon, w-we're friends," Tyler whined. "Aren't we?"
"Noooooo, that ship has fucking sailed," I hissed.
"C'mon! That's not fai—"
"Not fair? Not fucking fair?" I snapped. "I'll tell ya' what not fucking fair, Tyler - a-ambushing your supposed friend w-with... with... with pictures of..."

I couldn't say the words. I just started bawling my eyes out.

Ty looked at me like he couldn't believe what I was saying. Like he couldn't possibly comprehend exactly why we couldn't be friends anymore. Then, he reached out to hug me like that was somehow the right thing to do... and, I mean, maybe it was, ya' know? We were super fucking close before all that, after all. Maybe we really could've just hugged it out. Maybe I should've given him a real chance to explain himself. To clear his name.

But the thing is, every single portion of your life can change without a moment's hesitation. Your feelings toward a person can completely evaporate in the blink of an eye under the right circumstances, and after I saw those pictures, Tyler had exactly one, surefire way to stay in my life, but it would've had to happen in that library. He had to say something - anything - to his Chet friends that let them know exactly how slimy and awful they were, but he didn't. And because stupid me still somehow had feelings for him, all I could think of was how I wished I could turn the clock back a few weeks and make the bullshit not happen.

Because I really, really wanted my friend back.

Whatever. It didn't matter anyway, because the very instant his arms came up, I saw flashes of those pictures of Mom's gnarled, bloody body, and instinct took over. I slapped Tyler right across the mouth, hard enough he almost fell over. I know it surprised him, because it surprised me. I mean, I didn't set out to hit him, and I believe that he saw my arm moving and thought I was just gonna hug him, forgive him, and put everything behind us. But there are just some lines that, once they're crossed, you can never go back over them. For me, that line is my family, period.

Especially my fucking parents.

"Liz, I-I didn't know! I-I I sw— I swe—"
"Th-then why didn't ya' fucking s-say something?! W-why didn't ya' f-fucking deck Myles, o-or walk away with me!?" I cried. "Y-you just laughed. W-with him... y-you laughed at me. At m-my fucking dead Mom."
"I didn't know it was her," he whined. "I-I just thought it was some random per—"
"HOW THE FUCK WOULD THAT MAKE IT BETTER, TYLER!? H—"
"I DON'T KNOW, OKAY!?" Tyler wailed.
"No. I-it's not okay, Ty. It'll never be okay," I whimpered.
"Please, Elizabeth, I love you. I-I'm in love wi—"
"YOU DON'T GET TO FUCKING TELL ME THAT NOW!" I roared.
"P-please, I didn't know! Y-you've gotta believ—"
"Leave me alone, Tyler," I cried. "Just... just go home."

And that was that.

Tyler got in his car and sped off, and I went back inside, rode the elevator up to Dad's floor, and exited into the hallway, where I just curled up against the wall and blatted like a cranky, tired two-year-old. After a minute or two, Dad came out, sat down next to me and put his arm around my shoulder, rubbing it gently as I buried my head in his. He asked me what'd happened, and I told him that Tyler did something he could never take back.

Dad immediately thought there was some kind of sexual assault or something, but I let him know that it was nothing like that, and that I wasn't gonna say more on the subject. I told him I just wanted to forget it and move on with my life like a normal person... and that's exactly what I did.

It was hard at first, but I never spoke to Tyler Washburn again.

Sure, I'd see him around school, but I always averted my course if I saw him until, eventually, he kind of naturally stayed out of my way. Over the years, I've heard things about him through people we both knew, but I never personally sought him out. He tried to add me on Facebook a few years ago, and I just blocked him. There was a little part of me that kind of felt bad about it, but the rest of me thought of that day in the library and said "no fucking way, Jo-fucking-sé " to giving him any kind of in.

So what's the point of all of this? I don't know. I guess I just wanted to finally get it all out in the open so it doesn't eat away at me anymore. I mean, like I said, the whole point of me doing these blogs is to help me work through my inner minefield of crazy bullshit demons, and this one was a biggie. Maybe my Beelzebub. And I feel a kind of hesitant relief that it's out out. That it can never be bottled up again.

Also, if there's one thing you can take away from this, it's that if you ever cross my line - my family - I'll fucking burn you, no matter who you are, no matter what.

So, don't play with that kind of fire.

Love and peace,
- Elizabeth

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