Notes: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, this is it. We've finally reached the last chapter of "Untouched and Alive." I'll admit that I'm happy with the way this turned out, both the story and the chapter. I'll just go ahead and tell you right now that I expect a review from every single person who reads this or an email if you want. No, I take that back. I want a review and I want an email. *people blink* Or not. But I'd really like it if you did. The email's
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"Throughout her childhood, she frequently prayed earnestly for that double blessing-her virtue and her life-and her prayers were often as rambling and incoherent as they were frantic. Eventually she had worried that God was growing weary of her endless desperate pleas for deliverance, that He was sick of her inability to take care of herself and stay out of trouble, and that He might decide that she had used up all of the divine mercy allotted to her… By the time Chyna was ten or eleven, in consideration of God's hectic schedule, she had condensed her rambling pleas, in times of terror, to this: 'God, this is Chyna Shepherd, here in'-fill the blank with the name of the current place-'and I'm begging you, please, please, please, just let me get through this untouched and alive.' Soon, realizing that God, being God, would know precisely where she was, she reduced her entreaty to: ' God, this is Chyna Shepherd. Please get me through this untouched and alive.' Finally, certain that God was exasperatedly familiar with her panicky presumptions on His time and grace, she has shortened her plea to a telegraphic minimum: 'Chyna Shepherd, untouched and alive.'"
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Things change. And they always change when you least expect it, when you finally lose all hope in any sort of salvation and when you begin to accept the fact that that's just how it is and that it'll never be any different. That's when it happens.
And then you can't believe that life is so wonderful and that you missed it all just because of your stubborn pride. And one morning you wake up with a strange emotion flowing swiftly through your body. It takes a few hours before you finally realize that it's total and complete happiness, a feeling that you haven't felt for so long that it's practically foreign to you.
Then, slowly, you yourself start to change. The black shadow that looms over you disappears and the clouds that seemed to always follow above you leave to burden another poor soul. And you find yourself staring in amazement at your smiling reflection, not being able to comprehend that it's really you.
And how do I know this, you ask. I know it because I'm living it.
It's been ten months. Exactly ten months to the day since that memorable evening Daisuke and I spent making out in a hospital bed, and therefore causing me to look at life in a whole different way.
"I'll be your guardian, if you'll let me," he had murmured, placing feather-light kisses across my temple. "I'll keep you safe."
I wondered briefly at his choice of words before giving a short affirmative sound and bringing his lips down to meet mine once again. If he wanted to be my guardian, I reasoned, who am I to stop him? At the time I never would have admitted it, but the idea of someone wanting to protect me gave me an indescribable sense of belonging. Everything, at that moment, was perfect.
Sadly though it didn't last. A day or so later I was out of the hospital and sent back in to the real world. A few weeks after that I found myself stuck in the middle of a courtroom battle, started by my mother's starvation for revenge and my father's reluctance to give up custody even after the infamous knife incident. In the end, Mom received full custody and Dad was found guilty on various counts of child abuse and sent to jail for a year or so at the most.
That particular sentence, Takeru would later argue, was way too nice.
"He should have gotten at least 25 years. The man practically destroyed your life."
I wasn't really fazed. We do live in a world where the courts often find vandalism worse than rape, after all. I honestly was expecting something much less severe for my dear father.
Besides, I'm out of his house. That's all that really matters, isn't it?
Since then life has steadily gotten better. I don't have to worry about hiding anymore bruises, and for the first time in years I'm not afraid to go home at night.
Of course, that's not to say that it's all better. Because it isn't, fairly far from it, actually. I still have nightmares, although thankfully not every night like I used to. The scars, both physically and mentally, are still not completely faded, which isn't really a surprise. Some of them I don't think ever will.
And of course there's therapy. My mother forced me to go to a shrink, claiming it would help me in the long run. I resented him at first, this man who was trying to get into my head, but then I began to talk. Before I knew it I was starting to trust him.
Eventually he wanted to put me on drugs. I protested fervently at first before relenting after a few sessions. They actually aren't that bad. I've learned to enjoy taking the pills he gave me to stop my panic attacks, which had become a daily occurrence. And I positively adore the little orange ones that help me sleep. I'm not too keen on the antidepressants, however. Although I'm pretty sure that's just because they're antidepressants, and every time I think of them those disgustingly happy Prozac addicts pop into my mind. My shrink says he'll take me off of them in a month or so though. I think I can wait 'til then.
Still, I honestly think I'm getting better, even if it is just slightly.
"Abuse is one of the hardest things to overcome," my shrink had said during one of our earlier sessions. "It's always after the abuse is over that you really begin to feel the true effects of it because that's when you finally begin to see just how horrible what your father did was."
My friends have helped a lot. It's strange how comforting it is to listen to Mimi drone on and on about Michael or Jyou telling me of his newest allergy or Taichi and Daisuke chattering back and forth about soccer. Somehow the smallest things make me happy I'm here.
The other day Koushiro and Miyako had planned a day for all of the Chosen (well, except for Mimi) to just get together and hang out at the park. It was a little awkward for me at first, being around Sora and all, but I managed to get over it. Occasionally I'd feel her staring and when I'd turn she would give me a sad smile which I returned and then we'd look away.
The two of us had managed to stay away from each other until that day. I figured that she'd probably hate me. Now, however, I've decided that our friendship might be salvageable. I think that she's finally realized that it was her who ruined her relationship with Tai, not me.
In any case, Sora has moved on. I hear that her and Jyou are going on their first date this weekend. The irony of it hasn't escaped me.
Anyway as I was saying, the awkwardness faded and I finally began to enjoy our little park adventure. Of course that might just be because Dai decided to spend the whole day permanently attached to my hand and shamelessly indulging in PDA, giving the few who weren't aware of our relationship a real shock I'm sure.
No one said anything though. Well, except for Koushiro, who announced that he still couldn't believe it. "You two are so different. I don't see how you ended up falling for each other. But here you are, cute little Daisuke and our moody little Yamato, together and all over each other."
"My Yamato," Dai corrected. In response I placed my hand gently behind his neck and pulled him into a deep kiss, which caused Miyako, Hikari, and Takeru to burst into a chorus of squeals and 'Aww's while Taichi and Ken decided to applaud loudly in between whistles.
As I leaned my head back onto Daisuke's shoulder I shot a glance at Tai. He winked and gave me a huge grin, which I wholeheartedly returned, and then he continued explaining the rules of soccer to Iori.
One night I had confessed to Daisuke the entire situation between Tai and me (which, I might add, I did after he confessed to having a huge crush on my brother before me, sending me into fits of laughter). He merely gave me his famous grin and claimed, "It's the goggles. You're in love with the goggles. It's a common problem, considering that they are damn sexy."
He ended up giving me his goggles that night, saying that he thought I should have them, that they would remind me that he'd always be there when I need him. I flushed and accepted them, placing them next to my bed.
Dai doesn't quite look like Dai without those stupid goggles. Honestly I think he looks better, but Taichi begs to differ. In a way it's sort of symbolic, him not wearing them anymore. It means this has changed him too.
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"And when each crisis passed, when the black flood of terror receded, when her stuttering heart finally began to speak each beat clearly and calmly again, she had repeated the five words once more but with a different inflection than she had used previously, not as a plea for deliverance this time but as a dutiful report, Chyna-Shepherd-untouched-and-alive, much as a sailor in wartime might report to his captain after the ship had survived a vigorous strafing by enemy planes-'All present and accounted for, sir.' She was present; she was accounted for; and she let God know of her gratitude with the same five words, figuring that He would hear the difference in her inflection and would understand."
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"What are you thinking about?"
I glance up into chocolate brown eyes and grin warmly. "Nothing much. Just thinking back on the last few months."
"Hmm…" Daisuke nods and continues massaging my knuckles. "We've all been through a lot in a few months, haven't we?"
I watch thoughtfully as he lets his hand wander up to my wrist and trace my scars. "Yeah, I guess we have." He lifts my arm up and begins to place soft kisses on each of the pink scars. He does that a lot. I asked him once how he could stand to. They're so ugly, after all.
"No, they're not," he had replied. "They're part of you, so that automatically makes them beautiful."
The doctors warned me before I was released from the hospital that I would always have those scars, both from the TV and the suicide attempt. They suggested that maybe I look into surgery since I had so many of them. I considered it for a while, not really wanting to live the rest of my life with that on my arm and be constantly reminded of my father. But eventually I declined. "I need to be reminded," I later told Daisuke. "I need to be reminded that I'm strong, that I survived. They're my battle scars."
With a contented sigh, he lays my arm gently back down and puts his arms around me again, pulling me closer to him so that I can feel his breath against my hair. "You're gonna be okay, Blue Eyes. I've got you now and I have no intention of letting you go. It'll all be okay now."
"I know." I happily lean into the embrace. I love affection now; I almost crave it. According to my shrink, that's normal. He'd be concerned if I didn't. And thankfully my dear boyfriend doesn't seem to mind. I make a soft sound resembling a purr and let my mind wander. Strangely it falls on a seemingly forgotten subject. I close my eyes and murmur into Daisuke's shoulder. "Ishida-Yamato-untouched-and-alive."
"What?" He pulls me back so that he can look me in the eye.
"Nothing. Just reporting something." I can see his confusion, but I do my best to silently tell him I'll explain later.
He receives my message and doesn't ask just yet. Instead he places a small kiss on my forehead before moving to my lips.
"I love you, Blue Eyes."
"I love you too, Dai," I say, enjoying the way it rolls off my tongue. "I love you too."
Life, I decide, at this very moment, is beautiful. And truth be told, I want to live.