Living with Raven-Jay was strange for sure. Not that she was strange or anything; it was just the way she acted, like she was scared to even move in case I rejected her like her parents had. I was so mad at them for doing this to her! It wasn’t enough that they’d treated her like crap her whole life but now they had to go and do this to her. What kind of parents were they? Completely abandoning her just because she’d finally discovered that she wasn’t exactly like them! It just made me sick to my stomach. Children were precious gifts that you were meant to love completely, regardless of who they are, not something you just cast aside when they don’t fit the mould you made for them. The worst thing was, that for hours after R-J had come to my place, she kept questioning herself, telling herself that she wasn’t good enough, that she should have tried harder to fight the feelings, been a better daughter to them, anything that would make them hate her less. It was heart-breaking but she wouldn’t let me do anything to help. I offered to go talk with her parents to see if I could change their minds, even though I knew it would probably make things worse since they hated my family, but she desperately begged me not to. I tried to talk to her, to see if there was anything I could do to ease her suffering even a little, but she shut me out. As soon as I told her that she could have my room and I’d take the couch she ran and didn’t come back out. I heard her crying on and off throughout the night. It sounded like she tried to smother the sound with a pillow or something but I still heard it. The need to ease her suffering was tremendous. Her pain caused me pain, especially knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it. It got so bad that eventually I got up and sat against the bedroom room begging her to let me in or even just to talk to me. When that didn’t work I just talked to the door, hoping that it reached her, wherever she was in the room. I had no clue what to say to her. I couldn’t exactly tell her I understood what she was going through because I didn’t. I couldn’t tell her I loved her, even though I did, because I had a feeling that would just make this whole situation worse. I couldn’t tell her that things would get better, I mean, I know how much I hated hearing that when my mom first died. I had a feeling that Raven-Jay would appreciate it about as much as I had so that was a definite no. Finally, after almost 15 minutes of quiet deliberation, I decided on something that I wished someone had told me when my mom died.
“I know you’re hurting R-J and…I’m not gonna say it’s going to get better or that I know how it feels but I…I just wanted you to know that you don’t have to go through this alone. I’m here for you, if you ever need to talk or if you need a shoulder to cry on. Hell, even if you just need someone to take your anger out on. I’m here R-J, I’ll always be here” I sighed, hopefully loud enough for her to hear me, before letting my head bang back against the solidly shut door. Raven-Jay didn’t answer me, not that I’d really expected her too, but it was still a little disappointing. Oh well, I was just going to sit here until she talked to me. It’s not as if I had anything else to do tonight.
I was woken sometime the next morning by my phones constant ringing from across the room. My neck and back hurt from leaning against the door for however long and at some point during the night I must’ve fallen to the floor ‘cause that’s where I was now. I stretched my body, winching as it made my already tender areas even worse, before I pushed myself up to go hunt for my phone. I searched for a couple minutes on my couch for it, in which time it stopped ringing only to start right back up again, only to find it on my TV stand. With a sigh I picked it up and pulled it to my ear.
“Isn’t it a little early” I groaned, pinching the bridge of my nose. I really, really wanted to go back to sleep. I could feel the couch calling out to me. What time was it anyway? It was still dark outside but it was also the end of September so that didn’t really give me any clues.
“I’m sorry son but it’s really important” my dad’s smooth voice came down the line. His voice also sounded a little gruff, like he’d been crying or like he was forcing a powerful emotion down, but I was way too tired to go into that right now.
“Um…hi dad, what’s up?” I asked through a massive yawn that was fighting its way out. I hadn’t expected it to be my dad calling me although I probably should have been.
“I’m sorry to ask this son, especially with how much you’ve been helping me out recently, but I need you in the office today” he said forcefully. It wasn’t quite a demand but there was enough force behind it for me to know how serious he was. He never usually asked me to do anything for him so I knew whatever it was he needed away from the office for had to be serious.
“I don’t know dad, my friend, she’s in a really bad place right now and she needs me too. Can’t you get Corrin or Ronald to cover?” I asked nervously. I hated letting my dad down over something so serious but I don’t think it would be a good idea to leave Raven-Jay on her own today, not with how she was blaming herself yesterday. If I left her who knows what would happen. She might even put herself down so much that she actually talked herself into going to one of those horrible camps her parents had wanted her to go to.
“Cameron” my dad almost groaned “I need to make the arrangements for your mother’s funeral and I need you to take care of the business for me, okay?” he almost begged me. I’d never heard my dad, who was one of the strongest people I knew, sound so downtrodden or defeated. He just hadn’t been the same since my mom’s been gone. I rubbed my hand across my eyes and forehead up into my hair. I seriously needed to be in 2 places at once today.
“Okay, I’ve got a couple things to sort first but I’ll head in as soon as I can” I found myself saying after a moment of silence. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to manage this but I had to figure out something.
“I’ll get Jamison to deal with things until you get in” he said lightly, a little too lightly really. I could almost see him rolling his eyes. Mitchel Jamison was a really good worker but he wasn’t exactly the best when it came to running things which was actually why Corrin Liem got called up to the office so often. She had an amazing knack for sorting things out and getting people to listen to her. “I love you son” he added almost as an afterthought
“Love you too dad” I replied immediately, knowing how much it meant for my dad to hear those words since my mom had died. My dad hung up the phone then, leaving me to try and figure out what the hell I was going to do now. I couldn’t just leave R-J here on her own all day while I went to work and there wasn’t really anyone she seemed to trust apart from me anymore so I couldn’t ask someone else to stay with her either. I briefly considered taking her into the office with me so I could still keep an eye on her but I wasn’t so sure that would be the best thing for her right now. I just couldn’t see how I was going to get around this today.
“I’m going with you” a small voice from behind me said, cutting through my thoughts immediately. I rubbed my tired eyes with the heel of my hand, giving myself some extra time to think of what I could say to her, before I opened my mouth to speak.
“I’m not sure if that the right thing for you just now” I tried slowly. Tact had never really been a strong point for me so as soon as the words were out I knew they wouldn’t have the effect I’d intended them to have. Whatever I’d been expecting it was nothing compared to what left her mouth next.
“I knew it” she whispered, her voice breaking halfway through.
I spun around to face her standing in front of my, now open, bedroom door. She looked so small and delicate in the oversized t-shirt and boxers I’d given her to sleep in last night. Subconsciously I must have moved towards her because she took a small step back.
“You didn’t care about me at all, did you? It was all an act! The whole pretending you understood, pretending that you didn’t care, it was all an act! I mean, how could you understand? I’m disgusting. No wonder my parents disowned me” she screamed at me, her words piercing me like a thousand tiny daggers. She looked everywhere but at me the whole time she spoke but I still caught the sheen of tears in her eyes and the self-doubt just beneath the surface that had sparked all this. I had never hated her parents more than in this moment. As soon as she finished it was like the air being let out of a balloon; she fell to her knees, her body shaking all over. I ran over to her, well almost since the space between us was so little that it wasn’t much of a run, and dropped to my knees in front of her, silently begging her to look at me. She didn’t.
“Listen R-J, if you doubt everything else in your life right now, don’t doubt our friendship. It means the world to me, you mean the world to me, and nothing , I really mean nothing, will ever change that” it was kind of hard getting the words out at first but as soon as they were out I knew that they were completely true.
“R-J?” I asked softly when she still wouldn’t look at me. She still didn’t move or reply to me in any way. I waited with baited breath for her to look at me. How many times can a heart break because I felt like mine was doing just that. I’d done my best to make peace with the fact that she and I would never be together. For the most part I was okay with that but I couldn’t lose her friendship, not over something like this. Finally, after what felt like forever, she turned to face me, her emerald eyes shining with unshed tears.
“I’m sorry, I just…you said……” she whispered, almost seeming to be at a loss for words.
“I only said what I did because I didn’t want you to feel uncomfortable or out of your depth. You’ve been through a lot these past few days and I just wanted to make sure you’re okay” I answered her immediately. I didn’t even have to think of what I was going to say because all of those thoughts had been going through my head since last night.
“I just want to feel normal” she whispered slowly, as if she wasn’t sure if they were they right words to say or not. She shook her head softly before pushing herself up to her feet. I quickly did the same.
“Okay, normal…I can do that” I said once I was back on my feet. She still seemed so fragile standing in front of me but her eyes had lit up a little when I agreed to help her return to some sort of normality.
“Just let me get dressed and we’ll go” I shot her what I hoped was a reassuring smile before I disappeared into my room to get changed. Just before I left the living room I thought I saw her return my smile but it was too quick for me to know for sure. I changed quickly into my usual work stuff and dragged a comb through my hair to settle it back into its usual style. No matter how quick I thought I’d been getting ready somehow Raven-Jay managed to beat me. When I went back through to the living room she was sitting on the single chair. Her hair was in a slick up-do and she was wearing a pair of black trousers with a dark grey jumper and a pair of scuffed black converse. I guess her parents didn’t let her take much when they kicked her out. I stood watching her for a few moments before she realised I was there. It was kind of nice watching her when she didn’t realise anyone was there. She still seemed nervous and a little scared but she looked more at peace with herself than she had been in months. With a little regret for disturbing her when she was so at ease I cleared my throat to announce my presence. She turned to me slowly but she didn’t seem surprised to see me standing there.
“Are you ready to go?” I motioned to the door as I spoke. She nodded her head slowly before getting up and walking towards the door. I quickly followed her and we left the apartment to head out to work.
Having Raven-Jay back at work wasn’t actually as hard on her as I’d thought it was going to be. She seemed a little sad maybe but apart from that she took everything in her stride. She even seemed herself enough to stop and talk to Ronald for a few moments when he asked her how she was as we passed his desk on the way to my office. Ronald was wise enough not to ask her anything to personal since I think that even he could see how delicate she still looked. He just made it seem like friendly concern for her since she hadn’t been in the office for a few days. I was so thankful for him right now as Raven-Jay gave him a genuine, albeit still kind of sad looking, smile as she answered his questions. They only talked for a few minutes at the most but Raven-Jay walked away with a small smile on her face. She walked straight into my office without hesitation which brought a relieved smile to my face. It was good seeing her so sure of herself even if it was for something as small as this.
“Hey Ronald do you know how my dad’s dealing with…everything?” I asked slowly, feeling a rush of guilt flood me for not making the time to find out how my dad was coping with my mom’s loss. I know I’d been busy but my dad had always made time for me so I should’ve paid him the same courtesy.
“He’s not good. He is trying but your mother was everything to him and for him to lose her…well, I can’t even imagine how hard that would have been on him. I do know that he is glad to have you around though. I know you have a lot going on in your own life but you should make some more time for him, especially now while you are both grieving” Ronald answered me in his usual soft spoken but direct way. I swear, it was almost like Ronald could read my mind sometimes. He always knew the right thing to say.
“Thanks Ronald, I’ll keep that in mind” I replied finally. I would eventually have to figure something out but for now I had other things on my mind. Ronald seemed so sense this because he didn’t push the issue any farther, instead he just nodded his head and then went back to work. Taking that as the dismissal it clearly was I turned away and walked into my office.
Raven-Jay had pulled one of chairs in the room up to my desk and had started looking through some files I’d left lying around. I really should have sorted them. As if sensing that I was there R-J turned in her seat to look at me. She plastered a smile on her face that didn’t reach her eyes but I’d already seen how upset she still was the moment I stepped into my office. Bringing her here hadn’t really helped at all.
“Hey Cam, I hope you don’t mind but I was…You need your office sorted so that what I’m doing” she said once she’d turned around to face me. The same fake cheer that she’d tried to put into her smile had been forced into her voice too. It hurt me that she was still putting up barriers between us after everything but forcing her to face how upset she was wouldn’t do any good. She would have to face everything sooner or later but if pretending made it easier for her to feel ‘normal’ again then who was I to judge.
“Nah, it’s fine. It needed done anyway so if you want to do it feel free” I smiled softly as I answered her before I pulled the other chair over beside her and sat down.
“Let’s get started then, shall we?” I asked, picking up a large file from the pile on my desk. She relaxed a little bit more at my words. We worked through the pile on my desk for maybe a couple hours or so before Raven-Jay got up and stretched her arms above her head. I kind of wanted to stretch too, my arms were cramped from going through all those files, but I stayed seated.
“Do you want a coffee or something?” she asked softly, her arms still above her head. We’d mostly worked in a comfortable silence, only occasionally talking when we had too, so it was nice to hear her voice again. Unfortunately I had to turn her down.
“Actually no thanks, I have to go do something.” I sighed feeling bad for just up and leaving her. I had to do this though. It was something I’d been thinking on doing since Raven-Jay turned up at my door last night and watching her these past few hours, how sad she looked when she thought I wasn’t looking, kind of sealed the deal.
“Oh, okay. Do you want me to come with you?” she asked after a few moments had passed between us.
“No, I mean, it’s probably better if you stay here. I won’t be long, maybe an hour at the most” her face fell just a little as I spoke but I couldn’t back out on this. I had to do this. She nodded her head without saying anything and sat back down at the desk instead of going to get some coffee like she originally wanted to. I felt bad but I left without saying anything else either. I just didn’t know what to say. Before I left the main office though I went over to Corrin and asked her to go in to my office and sit with Raven-Jay until I came back since Raven-Jay sort of knew her and would probably be okay with her for an hour. She seemed a little hesitant at first but she agreed nonetheless. I also asked Ronald if he would keep an eye on upstairs whilst I was out since I probably should have been up there myself. He agreed a lot quicker than Corrin had. With their agreements I left the office to deal with the task at hand.
It wasn’t that hard to track them down. From what Raven-Jay had told me about them and what I’d learned myself from all the things they’d been involved in over the years it wasn’t even remotely difficult to narrow down their location. In the end it was a coin flip between their house, which was unlikely at this time of day, or at the local church which was much more likely. From what I’d learned about them they all but lived in that church. The church claimed to know nothing about the activities of their more…zealous members but that was almost impossible seeing as at least two or three things they’d done had ended up in the paper. Choosing the more likely option I headed to the church. The church lot wasn’t packed exactly but there were several people milling around outside. Two of those people were Stella and Sheldon Marone, Raven-Jay’s parents. I heard people start to mutter around me as I walked towards the Marone’s. Their muttering and whispering must have tipped Raven-Jay’s parents off that I was here because they turned to face me before turning and trying to walk away from me. I wasn’t going to let them get away so easily though.
“Mr and Mrs Marone!” I shouted at them. They kept walking, not even acknowledging that I was talking to them. I hadn’t really expected them to.
“I suggest you talk to me if you don’t want me to tell all your church ‘friends’ exactly what kind of people you are” I tried again. I felt kind of bad shouting out like that but it didn’t affect me enough to make me stop. In the end it had the effect I’d intended; the Marone’s came to a complete stop. They didn’t turn to face me but they also didn’t walk away as I approached them. The whispering around me got louder as I walked up to Raven-Jay’s so called parents but no one made a move to come nearer to either of us. Mr Marone was the first to turn to face me when I reached them. Mrs Marone was a lot slower. She also had a look on her face that that made me think that if looks could kill I’d be 6 feet under now.
“You should not be here” Mr Marone spoke after his wife turned to face me. He still looked as calm as ever, seriously how did he do that, but his gaze was hard.
“I think I’m fine right where I am, thanks” I snapped back tersely. He had no right to tell me what to do!
“You are not welcome here” Mr Marone again spoke in his calm tone. I rolled my eyes at his words. Tell me something I didn’t know.
“Oh, really? What are you going to do, kick me out like you kicked out your own daughter?” I all but growled at the couple. I’d been brought up to always show respect to my elders but these two didn’t deserve even an ounce of respect so I didn’t feel bad at all for speaking to them the way I was. Mr Marone’s eyes widened marginally in shock. He opened his mouth as if to reply but before he could get a single word out his wife cut him off.
“She is not our daughter! She is an abomination!” She spoke slowly, as if to accentuate her words, but the way she said them was somehow worse than her shouting. How could she call her that?! I felt my fists clench at my sides in anger. I had never felt so angry in my life.
“How can you say that? You raised her and loved her for 18 years then you just turn around and abandon her because she isn’t what you wanted her to be” I tried to control my voice but my anger took over and by the end I was almost shouting. I could feel people staring at me but I didn’t care.
“Do not act so surprised, after all it was you who corrupted her in the first place.” Mrs Marone continued as if I hadn’t spoken at all. I don’t think anything she could have said would’ve shocked me more. How could she justify her despicable actions by blaming me? What the hell was wrong with her?
“Being gay is not a choice” I ground out in frustration. “Why Raven-Jay beat herself up all night about losing you is beyond me. She is a better person than you will ever be and you will never even know it” I said to them, my voice coming out with a calm I didn’t feel. My anger at them was still eating me up inside but it was blatantly obvious that they weren’t going to change their minds. They were just ignorant and it would be them that missed out. Raven-Jay was the best person I knew and it was their loss to live a life without her in it. Without waiting for them to reply I turned and walked back the way I came.
“Don’t come back here again Mr Connors or we will call the police on you” I thought I heard Mrs Marone yell at me as I left. I didn’t rise to it though; I just kept on walking until I reached my car.
The drive back to the office was a short one. I spent the entire drive trying to calm the anger and frustration that had built up inside of me during the conversation with Mr and Mrs Marone. It was really hard. It probably would have been easier if I’d gotten some sort of satisfaction or relief from the confrontation but I hadn’t. Nothing had changed. They were still as inconsiderate and close-minded as always and Raven-Jay was still going to have to learn to live without her parents. Losing her parents had broken a part of R-J that I didn’t know would ever heal. Nobody deserved to be treated how she’d been treated, especially by her own family. Speaking of family, my dad called me as I was walking back into the office building. He sounded really upset, although he was obviously trying to hide it. I wasn’t sure what to do when he was like that. It wasn’t something I was used to. Before I could come up with something to say to him though he had hung up on me, only stopping long enough to say that he’d arranged my mother’s funeral and that he would explain further when he came to my house later tonight. I hadn’t known that he’d planned to come by my house tonight so it was a bit of a surprise but it was probably for the best since I’d been too busy to help him out much. I would definitely have to fix that. Only moments after my dad cut off I heard a sound I never thought I’d hear again; Raven-Jay’s laugh. It had a small and brittle quality to it but it was a laugh nonetheless. I almost ran straight into my private office just to see if I was imagining it but thought better of it at the last moment. Through the glass in the door I could see that I wasn’t imagining anything, Raven-Jay was sitting where I’d left her and Corrin was sitting over from her. They each had a file lying on the desk beside them but they seemed more interested in the conversation that was so obviously going on between them. Raven-Jay had a small smile on her face and she actually seemed to be actively taking part in whatever they were talking about which was a change from the past 24 hours. It was nice to see her like this. Seeing her happy made me ridiculously happy. Damn it, I had to get over this! We were never going to be together so I had to stop feeling like this! Pushing past these feeling that didn’t seem like they would ever go away I raised my hand to knock on the door. The conversation between the girls stopped but when they looked over at me they both burst out laughing.