Author's Note: Ok, I removed Falling Grace, because personally I thought I could write better than that. So I started thinking, and I wrote this story. It involves some of my past—really graphic stuff that I'd rather not disgust—some personal experiences, and some grief. I used all my emotions to make this character and I hope you like it. I don't own The Suite Life or any of the characters, but I definitely own Angela.
Warning: This chapter involves some mentions of abuse, rape, and other mature materials. Don't read if you'll be offended.
Angela looked up, her heart pounding slightly and her face flushing as her eyes drifted over the skinny teenager in the doorway. "Hey, Cody. You alright?"
She semi-consciously brushed back her dirty blonde hair with a rough hand, keeping her eyes on the boy in front of her the entire time. It was the first time she'd had a male in her house for awhile—besides her other friends—and one of the first times she'd had a kid. Darn, Angela. Why do you do things like this? she asked herself, but inside she knew the answer. She was lonely—she wasn't getting any younger or going to get married any time soon, so she'd gone out and signed herself up to be a foster parent. Sure, the paper-work had taken a long time, but at least now she could take care of a kid who needed some help. Besides, she needed some company.
Cody Martin. That was who they'd given her—a small, skinny, and terrified teen. She'd looked over some of his old records. His mother had died when he was fourteen in a hit-and-run car accident; his father had come to take care of them, but due to his past performances, the law was hesitant to give him to his father. They'd given Cody's twin—Zack—to the father—Kurt—and sent Cody to join a foster family. Cody hadn't contacted his father or his twin brother since, but had been shifted around to two different foster homes over the next two years, which both turned out to be rather abusive. The first one had used him as a punching bag for their low-esteemed son, the second one had sold his body to other men for sex. He'd been taken out of their homes—the first family went to jail for awhile, the second one had vanished—and had been put back into the organization. After Angela was reviewed, they'd decided to give her a chance and give a home to the boy who needed it the most.
Cody nodded now, and Angela wondered how the boy could be sixteen years old. He looked more like he was thirteen or fourteen at the most, still young and innocent. Clothes bagged around his thin frame—Angela had heard she was getting a sixteen-year-old teen so she'd gone and gotten some clothes, not suspecting that she'd be getting an extremely skinny and small boy. The clothes were way too big, and Angela reminded herself to take him shopping later.
"You want something to eat?" Angela asked the most obvious question she could, and the teen nodded again. She noticed his eyes darted around anxiously, as if afraid she'd take a knife and attack him any minute. The past had obviously scarred him, and she reminded herself that she would have to build trust, not just expect it to be there right away. The foster organization had told her he'd be scared and shy—rather defensive too, when he thought he was going to be hurt.
"What do you want?" Angela waited for the boy to answer. He hadn't said a word since she'd taken him to her home, and she wanted to hear his voice so she didn't feel so scared with this new individual in her house.
"Anything, please," Cody answered, his shaggy blonde hair draping over one eye. He pushed it back with his finger, across his pale face, and glanced at her with his brown eyes. They darted to the ground as she searched them, as if he was inferior to her and didn't deserve her respect. His voice was low and hoarse with a hidden fear that Angela couldn't place. He seemed scared—scared to trust her.
Angela's heart twisted inside. She didn't expect the boy to be this scared. This wasn't even the worst case she could get either—she wondered how other foster parents managed it. "Why don't you sit down?"
She gestured to the wooden table in her kitchen, and Cody dragged his feet slowly over to where it was, throwing nervous looks at her every once in awhile. Angela waited until he sat down, and then turned to her refrigerator to see what a hungry teenager might want to eat. She shuffled through the freezer until she found a frozen pizza. "Hey, is pizza ok?"
Cody nodded in answer, and she ripped open the box and slid the pizza into the oven. "It's going to take awhile, ok? I mean, to cook that is…" she broke off with an uneasy chuckle. Cody didn't even smile.
He nodded again, and she began to find the silence uncomfortable—even though the house had been even more silent before he'd arrived, when she'd had only herself to talk to, or when an occasional friend dropped by.
"So, tell me about yourself, Cody," she said, sitting down in a chair across from the teenage boy. "What do you like to do?"
Cody shrugged. Angela tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, becoming rather agitated. How was she supposed to find out anything about her new foster son if he didn't want to talk to her?
"Umm… you have a twin, don't you?" Angela ventured. She asked the question and paused, not knowing if this was invading personal information. "Zack?"
A flash of pain darted across Cody's face and Angela cursed herself for being so stupid. Of course the kid was hurting—he hadn't seen his twin for two years!
"Never mind," she started, but Cody's lip was already trembling, and a tear trickled down his cheek. "Cody, I'm sorry."
"It's ok," Cody whispered softly, shaking his head slightly to move his blonde hair from his eyes. "I just really miss him…"
There was an awkward silence, and Angela sucked in a deep breath. Sometimes she really didn't know when to stop. The second hand of the clock in the kitchen now sounded dangerously loud. Luckily she was saved by the smell of cheese and tomato sauce drifting from the oven. Sighing in relief, she tucked in her chair and walked over, pulling the pizza out, cutting a slice, and sliding it on a plate for Cody.
Cody held the hot pizza in his hands, whispering, "Thank you." Then he devoured the piece ravenously as if he hadn't eaten for a couple of days—which Angela painfully reminded herself might be true. Angela flinched as she looked at the pizza with its dripping orange grease, the soggy cheese that hung over the edge, the oily pepperonis, but it seemed good enough for Cody, who finished it in about three minutes flat.
Silently, Angela slipped him another piece of pizza, all the while observing the teen. Up close, she noted how truly thin he was—the way his shirt bagged around his chest and the hollowness of his cheeks—and felt rather self-conscious about her weight, which she hadn't for the last ten years of her life. She glanced down at her own body—wearing a rather tight pink sweater over a white tank top, and grimaced. Angela had never been really fashionable or popular—she was just satisfied with the way she was, a hard-working rough lady who loved her life—all except for the constant loneliness.
Cody ate four pieces of pizza in the silence of the kitchen before he was finished. He thanked her again, and then shuffled over to the sink, placing the plate inside it. Then they were back to stage one.
Angela flinched, feeling rather out-of-place. Cody stood awkwardly on the tile floor, and then murmured something about needing to go to the bathroom with a flushed face. Angela sighed, relieved to have something to do. She led the teen upstairs and pointed him out to a bathroom, which he cautiously entered, closing the door behind him. She'd already showed him his room, but decided when he was done, she could show him the rest of the house.
Angela shuffled into Cody's room—a room that had once been a guest room. It was painted a light-colored blue, and she thought it looked decent enough. She moved the clothes on his bed around, not because they were disorganized, but rather for the sake of having something to do. She noticed how large they truly were, and sighed, knowing she'd have to go shopping again—something she truly hated to do.
Angela had never been a rather typical woman. She'd been more a tomboy her whole life—working as a mechanic, actually. She liked herself the way she was, she loved her job, she loved her life—only sometimes she got lonely, and that's where Cody came in.
She kept on folding the clothes until she realized that Cody was taking an extremely long time in the bathroom. Feeling rather uncomfortable, she walked up to the door in the hallway and knocked on it with her knuckles. "Hey, Cody? Are you ok?"
There was no answer, but Angela pressed her ear to the door, and she heard something that sounded like harsh gagging noises. "Cody?"
There was still no answer, but the noises continued.
"Cody, I'm going to come in, alright?" She shoved hard on the door, the lock breaking free from the hinges, and landed hard on the floor. She sat there on the tile for awhile, trying to catch her breath as she stared at what the teenager was doing.
Cody had worked his fingers up his throat and was puking into the toilet what looked like the pizza he had just eaten. When she came in, he whirled around nervously, trying to hide the painful evidence that was behind him.
"I'm sorry," he whispered breathlessly. "I didn't know… I didn't know you were there," he finished, rather stupidly. "I wouldn't have…" His thin frame shuddered with sobs that were already working their way down his cheeks. "Please don't… please don't hurt me, please, Miss. I'm sorry, I don't…"
Angela watched in horror as the teen in front of her fell apart, his body racked with hoarse sobs. He fell hard to the ground, clamping the edge of the toilet with his fingers, grasping almost desperately. "I'm sorry," he moaned, over and over, his eyes now reddened from tears. "I'm sorry, please don't hurt me, Miss, please."
Angela stared at his trembling form, his arms wrapped protectively around his legs. "Oh God, Cody," she whispered. "Why… why… were you doing that?"
"I'm sorry," his voice came out in a small squeak as he continued to rock himself back and forth. "I'm sorry."
"Cody," Angela felt helpless in front of this broken teenager. She crawled closer to him on her knees, and wrapped her arms around him in an embrace. Cody tried to pull away from her, but she grasped him harder, soothing him with soft words. "Cody, I'm not going to hurt you, I'm not going to hurt you, ok? I'm going to be your friend, ok? You can call me Angela, and I'm going to take care of you." She'd never been one to express her emotions too openly, but she felt that this boy deserved it.
Cody sniffed, his head buried in her shoulder, his tears seeping through her clothing. She could feel the wetness against her skin and she felt somehow powerful and protective, holding the teen closer to her. "Shh… it's ok…"
They sat there—Angela feeling like a mother she would never be, Cody feeling like he had a family for once in two years. Finally, Cody pulled away from her and ran a skinny arm across his eyes, trying to stop his sniffs. Angela looked at him and asked the question. "Why were you doing that?"
Cody's lip trembled and Angela was afraid she was going to make him start crying all over again. The moment passed and he took a deep, shuddering breath, looking up at her. "I'm sorry. It's just that… Marcus—the guy I was living with before… he… he…" his voice broke in pain and Angela ran a hand over his back, trying to calm him. "They like it when you're thin," he managed to finish. "Skinny boys are pretty boys. They always wanted to play with the pretty boys—get hard inside of them. Marcus got paid more for skinny ones." A sarcastic chuckle escaped, and Angela felt herself twist inside.
Angela pressed her hands around Cody's face, bringing his eyes to face hers. "All I can tell you, Cody, is that you've only been here for a couple of hours, but I'm not going to let anything happen to you, ok? I know you've probably heard that about ten million times, but I'm here and that man—Marcus—he's never going to hurt you again, and if he wants to, he's going to have to go through me."
Cody looked skeptically at her and Angela grinned and flexed. "Come on, kid. I'm a lot stronger than I look."
Cody gave her a wavering smile and Angela returned it. It was a start.
"Hey, Miss?" Angela looked up, a bit annoyed.
"Cody, what did I tell you to call me?"
"Sorry," Cody stumbled, "Angela. Sorry."
"It's ok," Angela whispered, a strand of hair flipping into her eye. She flicked it back. "What do you need, Cody?"
Cody grinned nervously and Angela smiled warmly. Cody had been with her for three days now, but his lopsided smile still made her feel loved inside every time he flashed it. He held up a battered red book and handed it to her.
"This is…" he ran his tongue over his lips nervously. "This is… well, Zack gave it to me before we split up—it's sort of like my journal, I guess. And well… I've been writing in it ever since two years ago and I figured… maybe you'd want to read it."
Angela looked at him, her blue eyes concerned, running a hand over the frayed cover of the hard-cover book. "Cody, you don't have to do this, you know."
He nodded. "Yeah, I know, but I… you can read it. It might help you know some more about me." He slipped his hands into his pants pockets—which Angela was pleased to see fit. She'd taken him shopping as soon as she could.
Angela nodded, rather speechless. "Ok, Cody. I'll do that."
I'm scared. Everything hurts.
Marcus—you know that new guy I'm with—I just found out why he wants me.
Zack, it was scary today. I was so scared.
He pulled me into this big room he has in the middle of his house, and there were two guys in there. They paid him so money and they made me take off my clothes. Zack, they kissed me. I was so scared. What was I supposed to do?
They hurt me Zack, really bad.
They raped me, Zack.
I feel so dirty. I'm so dirty, this world would be better off without me.
I hate myself.
I hate myself.
I hate myself.
I love you Zack. I wonder what you're doing with Dad. Don't let him kill you, ok?
All my thoughts are so scattered. I can't write anymore, my side hurts too much.
I'm going to find you one day, ok? I remember when you gave me this. Somehow I think you gave it to me because you didn't have anything else to get me for my birthday.
But Zack, it's the best present anybody could have gotten for me. It's why I've been able to get through all of this.
I have to find you, that's why.
You're the only reason I'm still alive, and I know you're out there, because sometimes I have feelings that aren't my own.
I miss you, Zack.
"Cody?" Angela stepped into the teen's room where he was sitting nervously on the bed, his arms crossed. "Cody, I…" she wiped away a quick tear from the corner of her eye. "I just finished reading it—I'm sorry I took so long, but that's two years of your life and it took me three hours to read it. I hope you found something to do."
Cody nodded. "I just watched TV for awhile, and then I was just… thinking."
"Oh. Well, Cody, I just want to say that I'll keep you safe and they're never going to hurt you again, ok?"
Cody nodded, his chin crinkling up in grief as tears started to flow down his cheeks. He sniffed in a choked sob and then turned to bury his face in Angela's chest. Angela could only hold him, stroking his back as she tried to keep back the tears herself. "It's ok, Cody."
Cody looked up at her, his eyes shining with tears. "You say you're going to keep me safe, but that's what they all say."
Author's Note: So, what did you think? Come on, it wasn't that bad. I hope you liked it, review for more. For Zack lovers, Zack's going to enter the story somewhere along the line…
-Falling With Grace