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“Guys, I just got a text from Liam; says he’s sick.”
“Oh, poor baby.”Taylor rolls her eyes sarcastically. “It’s cold season; everybody’s sick and we all showed up anyway.”
“He’s sick again? Wasn’t he sick twice last week too?”
“Maybe he just has a pathetic immune system.”
“Or maybe he’s just trying to avoid that chem quiz!”
We congregate in the classroom and wait for the bell to ring to signify homeroom has begun. I listen to my friends speculate jokingly about Liam’s frequent absences, but I don’t feel much like laughing. Everything about Liam makes me sad and angry and hurt all at the same time – I can’t make heads or tails of it.
“Hey, Kathy!” Taylor’s snappy voice caught my attention and brings me back to reality. “You know Liam the best. What do you think?”
“I think he’s sick.”
With that, they move on to a different topic, laughing and joking about various things I don’t care to follow. I can feel myself drifting off to last Tuesday, and I can’t stop myself. What do you do when you know something awful is happening to somebody but they told you not to tell anybody? How do you fix that sort of predicament?
The sound of my phone going off almost causes a riot.
“Kathy got a text!”
A chorus of “oooooh”.
“Who’s it from?”
“Liam.” I confess with a small blush. At least such a thing would distract from the actual text message.
“I so called that!” Taylor’s cheer is loud and boisterous. “You’ve got a crush Liiiiiam!”
“She does not! This is innocent Kathy we’re talking about. She’d never succumb to such folly. Eh, Kathy?”
[/b]My dad was furious. I’m sorry. [b]
“… yeah, never.”
“That didn’t sound very sincere.”
“Shh, she’s distract by the oh holy text message!”
“And now she’s texting him back!”
Last Tuesday Liam and I were studying together when his sweater got snagged and revealed several bruises down the side of his arm. He covered it as quickly as he could, but the image was permanently imprinted in my brain. The bruises were consistent with the shape of fingers pushing deep into the muscle. I glared at him straight in the eye, daring him to tell me the truth. I didn’t say anything; I didn’t need to.
It wasn’t the first incident, but it was the only obvious one. Some days he would show up to school with what looks like powder on his face and a very faint shadow cast on his cheek; an eye; his neck, but the indications were so subtle nobody bothered to joke about it. Some days he would walk with an ever so slight limp, or would wince when touched gently. Every time this happened, it was after a day he had been “sick”.
On that same Tuesday about an hour after I saw the bruises, I held his arm gently and glared into his eyes again. If he was going to tell me, he would, but I honestly did think it would make things better if he alleviated the burden of silence. I hadn’t considered that the alleviation of his burden would then become my own burden.
“Wow Kathy. What in that text message makes you so preoccupied?”
“Oh, hush. She’s probably just absorbed by how in looove she is with him!”
It was odd how easily my friends could turn a blind eye to signs that something’s wrong. Did they genuinely not piece it together, or are they just better at pretending they don’t know? How can they miss it? The signs are so obvious when looked upon without doubt.
After I glared at him that second time, he insisted I didn’t tell anyone what I saw. He didn’t blatantly state why the bruises were there, but ever since last Tuesday he’s been honest about what’s been happening. How can he expect me to keep his secret? All the lies he’s been telling… it must be killing him. If I told anyone he would hate me, but if I don’t tell anyone I’d hate myself. Don’t teens die for keeping secrets like these sometimes? I understand that it would get his father in trouble, or is he afraid that if he tells his father will hurt him more? What am I supposed to do? I don’t know anymore…
“Kathy… are you okay?” Taylor’s voice was soft, so I knew she was genuinely worried. “You’re very pale.”
“I’m sorry Kathy – we were just teasing, you know. Stop taking everything so seriously!”
Do I tell them? Do I dare? Liam will be angry with me, but if it’s for the better does that make it okay? I’d rather be disloyal now than have no one to be loyal to later. I can’t bear to know he’s in pain anymore. I should tell them!
Wait. Is this an invasion of his privacy? It’s not like it’s any of my business. What happens before a sick day isn’t my problem, so why should I get involved? If Liam didn’t want it to be private, he wouldn’t lie about it!
Taylor’s nudge brought me back to reality. “Seriously Kathy, stop spacing out.”
“I have to tell you something.”
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