Violet was cautious of walking out of her room to the kitchen. It was going behind enemy lines where she could be ambushed at any moment. Luckily both of her parental units were too busy dealing with all of their regular bullshit. Seriously, they acted as if there were some quota of things they had to be pissed off about.
She got one of the green ceramic coffee mugs and filled it with water. She liked the way it always tasted kind of gritty out of those mugs. Violet set the mug down on the island and turned it with her palms.
Violet's mother had said they were going apartment hunting today. At the time she didn't have the opportunity to protest –not her involvement because she actually enjoyed scouting out houses- but the overall idea of moving. She didn't want to move again. She wasn't a runner like her mother. She refused to be.
Just the other night she was regretting calling her mother weak and now here she is, being moved around again because her mom doesn't know how to cope. Violet acknowledged that they hadn't even given her a pat on the back for how she handled herself during the attack. She wasn't seeking praise but at the same time she was surprised it wasn't there. That she was indifferent to. What pissed her off was Tate having to hide when her dad came around. And Tate didn't even care. He saved their lives and he had to hide in the shrubs to avoid pissing off the guy who was supposed to be there and wasn't.
Violet wanted to say something when Tate came back out of the bushes. She wanted to tell him that he didn't have to say nice things about her dad. But there was something in his voice that held her back. The way he said she was lucky made her feel like maybe she did take them for granted. Her parents certainly put the fun back in dysfunctional but something told her Tate was comparing them to worse. It hit close to home for him and even though his nothing in his tone or expression was asking for it she felt bad for him.
Sometimes she just felt resentful towards both her parents. They had tried to nurture her so much when she was younger. Talk about your feelings, Vi. Use I statements. When you wouldn't let me stay up late I felt… When you put me in time out I felt… And now neither of them wanted to know how she feels. It was like at some point they realized all the perfect parenting was in vain. They wanted to raise her to be a confident woman with her own views and opinions until they realized that meant she wouldn't always agree with them. They created a little monster they couldn't run away from. Now they invalidated her emotions by dismissing them completely. What was even the point?
Her mom was going to be home soon and they'd be on their way. Tate had left right before her mom went out for errands. It had to have been at least an hour since she'd seen him so her mom was bound to be home soon. Great… She was going by Tate time now. In class the day before she remembered the date by counting forward from the last time she'd seen him. How embarrassing, as if replaying conversations and practicing ones that hadn't even taken place yet wasn't bad enough.
Violet thought about their conversation today. It was brief –they always felt brief. She had mentioned her mom wanting to move and he didn't say anything. She was surprised by how much that had affected her.
"My mom's trying to sell the house as quickly as possible." She had said with a mock laugh. Like she was trying to say how ridiculous that was and waited for his response. She had expected him to second her contempt and when he didn't she felt everything in her stomach jump in her throat. That was when her mom came out and blindsided her with the whole house hunting thing. She was going to put off leaving but then Tate just dismissed himself to let her get to it.
Violet set the mug down and left to smoke a cigarette outside. On her way to the back door she saw something from the corner of her eye. A slight movement but when she looked there was nothing but the basement door was opened.
Tate was sitting in the basement thinking about Violet's room and the way it smelt like sweet tea and powdered sugar. He liked watching her sleep. It was the only time he didn't have to fight off the ravenous, wild dogs that were his thoughts. He had watched her chest lift and fall when she breathed. It was subtle and soft, almost too delicate. Once, after a deep exhale he wondered if her chest was going to lift again. Like her mortality had just slipped away peacefully in that last breath and he held his until she moved again, wondering what it would mean for them if she didn't.
Tate loved a puppy once. He had seen it, it wasn't his. He wanted to keep it but even at that age he knew he couldn't. It was small and brown with a bloated tummy and it bit his fingers playfully when he tried to pet it. He had wanted to keep it, he even thought it would relieve his mother. That was normal, right? Asking for a dog would have been a welcomed conversation. The reason he couldn't keep it was because Tate or his dark friend would have played with the puppy and then it would just be all dead and he wouldn't love it anymore. Walking away proved how much he did care about it. It was just puppy love, he thought and laughed a little. The noise broke the relative silence of the cellar and bounced around.
Tate sat on the cement with his knees pulled up to his stomach. He pulled loose stings from the hole in his jeans and set them in a pile. The florescent lights flickered and buzzed above him.
Would he be proud of himself if he let Violet go? The question didn't interest him. Maybe when you really loved something you didn't care about its wellbeing at all. He coveted her. It made him angry –his go to emotion. It made him angry that she could never return those feelings. He just wanted her to love him, need him, belong to him, fear him and he'd do anything for her. He wanted her to look behind the mask and want to stay. Want to stay and not worry about ending up all dead.
Someone was walking down the stairs. Tate moved to turn the light off and looked around the corner. It was Violet, taking big bold steps into the dark like a snake hissing to give itself courage. The light from upstairs was behind her and her shadow was stretched long across the cement. She walked past the hallway he was lurking in. He was going to let her know that he was there but he wanted to wait to see if she'd know. He stared at her face hard like he could will her look at him but she didn't.
He took a step forward but it was clumsy and he hit his shoe on the wall. Violet didn't look back she ran forward to the stairs.
Tate ran after her and held her waist.
She was calm but he held her a moment too long. His grip admitted that it was just an excuse to hold her. Violet smiled up at him through her hair framing her soft, pale face. He closed his hands into fists at her sides and the baggy fabric of her dress gathered in his hands. He could rip it if he wanted to. He wanted to know what she would do if he did. It was thin, flimsy with no stretch. Tate could rip it at the seams but he let it go, it slipped slowly from him and he put his hands into his back pockets.
"I thought you left?"
"Vi?" Vivian called from the top of the stairs.
"I'll be right up." Violet yelled toward her mother and turned back to look at Tate.
Her skin smelt like figs. Tate looked down at his feet and shifted his weight. He didn't want to look at Violet because he didn't want to see that expression on her face. Like everything was final and over before it even started.
"Don't go." He said.
"If I don't she'll come down here." She whispered.
"I mean, don't move."
Violet kissed him. She pressed her hands against his chest and leaned forward onto her tip toes. He stood there, absorbing the weight she was pressing against him with his hands still tucked away in his back pockets. She was ending the kiss, the way she started to pull away with his bottom lip between both of hers. He refused to let something so monumental end so quickly. He pulled her by the small of her back and kept one his hands there. Violet, as close to him as she was right then, she felt like home.
"Vi?" Vivian was getting impatient.
"Yeah, hang on." Violet said and set her forehead against Tate's.
"Don't leave." He held her hair in his left hand and stared into her eyes. "You can't leave. Ever."
"I won't." Violet swore. He could hear the promise in her voice.
He held her for a second and buried his face in her neck. He inhaled the sweet fig smell and closed his eyes, trying to keep this with him. He wondered what she'd do if he didn't let her go. He let his arms fall back to his sides and Violet went back up the stairs.