Nick stood in Amanda’s room, feeling incredibly nervous. It wasn’t because he was in her room….he didn’t want to admit that. However it was more so the fact that he was about to tell her everything he’d been going through for the past ten years.
Ever since his father had left. He sometimes wondered if his father thought of him, what kind of person he was, or if he was even alive.
“Nick, what’s wrong?” Amanda said once he’d gone silent. He was even trembling and when she moved closer, he backed away again.
“It’s better if I just show you.” he whispered. His arms moved down and off came the sweatshirt, slowly over his head before he tossed it aside on the bed. Amanda looked…he had deep cuts on his arms that were healing, but she knew they weren’t old. Bruises covered his forearms and shoulders, his neck. Amanda fought the urge to cry out as more layers were removed, and Nick stood in front of her shirtless.
“This won’t be pretty,” he had said before the last shirt came off. Amanda felt her eyes water. Nick was almost a skeleton…his ribs and backbone showed prominently. Ugly scars disfigured his back and more bruises, these were fresh.
“Who….who did this to you?” Amanda asked shakily, her voice breaking. He just looked so frail that she thought if she touched him, he would fall apart. No wonder he had worn all these clothes. He was wasting away. Brian hadn’t been kidding when he said Nick was sick. This was worse than anything she could have imagined.
Nick looked at her, his eyes dark and empty.
“Your mother?” Amanda repeated. She took a step forward and this time he didn’t move. Her hand touched his arm and she could feel the smoothness of his scar on his shoulder, the one that was most noticable. She shivered and stepped back.
“She punishes me. It doesn’t hurt that bad,” Nick said finally and Amanda felt the tears spill over.
“Not that bad?!”
Nick smiled weakly and began putting the clothes back on. He could feel another dizzy spell but fought it off. Amanda was fully crying now and he felt helpless, he didn’t realize how bad he looked until then. He took a step towards her but this time she moved away, afraid of hurting him by touching him.
“Don’t be afraid of me.” he said. She kept crying and his first instinct was to hold her. She looked in surprise as his arms wrapped around her….but he felt warm. She was surprised even more by how warm he felt, even though he looked so sickly.
“Shh. Don’t cry for me.”
“I’m not crying, so you shouldn’t have to. I’ve dealt with it this long, haven’t I?” Nick whispered. She reached around him and embraced him, admiring his strength. In that moment he felt a sensation inside him that he couldn’t explain, but he felt safe with Amanda.
They heard Sarah come to the door and let go.
“Nick, it’s getting late. Would you like to stay for dinner? We’re having pasta.” she said sweetly.
“No, thank you. I should probably get going.” he told her. Although the house smelled of food and he was hungry, he knew if he stayed he’d get even a longer sentence.
“I’ll walk him out.” Amanda said slowly. She and Nick went outside and the two of them were silent.
“Nick, I’m so sorry for pressuring you but you really need to tell someone what she’s doing to you. This isn’t healthy.” she said once they were on the porch.
“I have a roof over my head and I don’t deal with her at school, I will be okay.” he reasoned. Amanda started tearing up, she couldn’t bear to think of how sick he looked again. It was just too much to let slip.
“Please get help. Brian’s dad can-”
“NO. I don’t want to go to a foster home….please promise you won’t tell Brian or your aunt. You can’t tell anyone.” Nick whispered frantically. Amanda stood on the step, just looking at him and feeling herself tremble. He was worse than he would admit and she knew he wouldn’t last another three years.
“I don’t know.”
“I trust you. If you tell them I don’t know if we can be friends anymore. Please respect my request. I don’t want to be taken away.” Nick told her. Amanda nodded and watched him walk quickly to his house….she ran her hands over her arms and shivered, feeling afraid for him.
As a few days went by there was a bit of a heat wave. The temperatures were above normal for this time of year.
“Aren’t you hot under all that?” Brian asked. Nick was wearing a sweat shirt and two other shirts like usual. His face was flushed but he pretended like nothing was wrong. After lunch he went to his locker and Amanda followed, she wanted to talk to him about the other day….she had thought about it and knew she couldn’t sit back and watch anymore.
“Nick?” she called out. He stopped walking but he didn’t turn around. Amanda was confused until he swayed and suddenly fell. She ran to him as he collapsed.
He crashed to the ground and just lay there, Amanda at his side, shaking him gently. His face felt warm.
“Nick….answer me please…”
Nick finally stirred after a moment, looking up at her. He was woozy but tried to get up anyway.
“Maybe you should see the nurse. You’re very warm.” she suggested.
“What? No….I can’t go to the nurse. I’ll be ok.” Nick lied. The pain in his stomach came and went again….the toast he had that morning was nowhere near enough food but he figured he could hold out until supper…..if there was any at all.
Amanda got up and shook her head at him as he took a drink from the water fountain.
“I don’t know if I can keep this secret Nick. You’re sick. You need help.”
“I said I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. If you were really my friend you would understand….and we can’t tell Brian. His father is a cop. Just trust me, please….I will be ok.”
Somehow Amanda didn’t think so.
Nick went home from school that day fighting off dizzy spells but managed to get his chores done for the day.
“I’m not feeling so good. I’m going to bed now.” he said. His mother sat in the living room with a glass of wine, not looking at him.
“Your chores better be finished.” she snapped.
“They are. Goodnight.” Nick said, although he didn’t feel that she deserved anything. As he fell asleep that night, he wondered if he would ever get away. He wondered how much longer he could hold out, and maybe Amanda was right.
He knew it wasn’t gonna go on like this forever, something had to change.
Nick just wondered how he could do that.