I warn you now, this is the chapter you've all been waiting for, asking about, and worrying about. I am very ready to run away as I'm sure some of you are going to hate me for what I've put Austin though. Well, hopefully not really, but I'm prepared. Okay, maybe not. But it's definitely a very sad story and I hope I'm doing it justice for him and his character.
Also, your reviews. I love them. All of them.
To whoever asked if Dez is coming back at some point, I don't really know.
I've considered it myself, but I haven't decided yet. The story is far from over and it's actually in a lot of ways, just begun. I've told some of you what I've got planned including lots of music and a lot of jealousy and angsty, angsty teens.
Please let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Somehow, Austin ended up in the backseat of Ally's car with Rocky. It probably wasn't because of her since he had not said a single word after briefly nodding his head. He had looked to Rocky with an expression of understanding and limped his way toward the exit and into the car. Ally was driving to the local hospital, hoping he wasn't as injured as he seemed.
A million questions were pressing at her mouth. But she didn't dare say a word yet. Rocky had also laid out such a mess in front of her, how would she ever pretend she didn't hear his story? It wasn't like he was ready to have the deepest conversation ever. More so, he realized that Austin was seriously going to get hurt if he didn't come with them and it was the only way to convince him otherwise.
"Rocky, do me a favor and call Trish and tell her to meet us at the hospital," Ally finally said softly, passing the boy her phone. He didn't say a word but did as he was told, uttering a reply to pass onto the older woman.
The car ride continued in silence until they reached the bright ER doors. Rocky and Austin got out, telling her to park and they'd meet her inside. Ally took her time though, knowing he was in better hands once inside that hospital. She sat in her car, trying to process everything that had happened in the last few hours.
Everything swirled around her, a million miles a minute. Her thoughts clashed angry with her emotions, once more sending her into a fury of tears. She hated feeling sorry for herself when she was perfectly fine compared to those she was supposed to help, but who was going to look out for her? Trish was also concerned with those around her. Very rarely did she hear, "How are you doing? Are you okay?"
Ally sighed and pulled the keys from the car, shutting the door with a simple thud. The large hospital almost glared back at her, as if questioning why she bothered at all. Ignoring her thoughts still swirling, she edged her way toward where she dropped the boys off and into the waiting room.
She quickly found Rocky sitting alone, looking on edge and worried. "Hey."
He looked up. "Hey."
"Where is Austin?"
"They took him in a room by himself."
Ally felt sick at this. He should have friends around him now. Someone familiar. Not alone in a hospital where he was already feeling hurt and lost. "What did the nurses say?"
"Nothing." His expression soured more. "Told me I should call his parents and go home."
"They don't know the situation," Ally said carefully, sitting down next to him. "Trish is on her way. She'll settle this."
"No," he answered back. "She probably won't. We don't even know if Austin has parents at all. He might be running from his parents or something, Ally. Once she walks in and says who she is, they're going to call the state in. I know how shit like this works. I tried this many times. I always ended back up in my old house. It never ended."
"We don't even know what caused Austin this."
Rocky just turned his shoulder and stared at the wall, obviously done talking to her. Seeing he was okay seemed to ease his anger toward the girl, but he was still obviously hurt from what happened to be going on around him.
The shelter was supposed to offer stability. These kids had seen none of that in the last few weeks. It was a miracle they were all as sane as they were. Well, sane as they could be. Ally stared at the white walls, thinking about hospital clichés. People milled around her, talking in hushed voices while the scent of clean just drenched the air.
"This is agonizing," Ally thought out loud. "I wish we knew something. Or could do something."
He just snickered.
"Sorry I said anything," she mumbled back.
Trish decided to walk in then and Ally was happy to see someone who could do something more. After explaining everything that happened, Trish ran off toward the nurses, determined to fight for the blond boy herself. If anyone would be able to convince them to let them in, it would be her.
Ally continued to watch Rocky and then remembered what he had also confessed hours ago.
"I'm proud of you, Rocky."
He seemed honestly surprised with what she said and glanced her way. Uneasiness took over his face and his lips pressed together. "Why?"
"Because you finally told someone what's happened to you. Do you know how important that is? I don't mean for this to become a therapy session by any means, but I just want you to know that. You have no idea how relieved I was to here you say that. I don't know what else to say to you, but that I'm proud of you. You may not think so, but you've come a long way."
He just stared back at her, finally his expression softening. It wasn't a happy one, but more one of content and appreciation. "You're all right, Ally."
Ally couldn't help but grin stupidly back at him, a soft giggle escaping her lips. She didn't have to answer him. There was something unspoken from that point on. Things between them were okay.
Trish came back over a few minutes later, an annoyed expression on her face. "Well, good news is that Austin is going to be okay. Bad news is we can't see him yet."
"Why?" both asked.
"He's still being taken care of." Trish ran a hand through her hair. "Ally, can I talk to you for a second?"
Ally looked to Rocky who seemed a bit disappointed to not be included, but nodded her head. "Yeah, sure."
They walked off to the side. "I didn't want to say this in front of him but I think we both need to realize tonight is going to change things at the shelter. I hate to say it, but Austin's got a record here. Old injuries. They're notifying his parents as we speak and hopefully, this isn't the cause because if it is, it's about to get ugly."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that the state is about to come in and ask a lot of questions. If Austin tells the hospital who is doing this, someone will be taken in for questioning. From there, they decide what happens. Austin turns eighteen in a few months, according to reports. Right now, he's not able to make his own choices. If he has family in the area, he might end up with them. If not, he goes into the hands of the state and from there, we can fight for him. It won't be an easy night by any means, but I want you to know, if the person who is doing this to him is coming to this hospital right now, it will be settled. I won't let that boy get hurt again."
Trish had such a determination in her eyes it set fire to Ally as well. She felt sick at the same time though, her stomach churning over losing the boy against her will. He could be whisked off to some family he didn't even like or know if it ended up being his parents who were hurting him. And honestly, who else could it be? If he was sleeping in parks and running from someone near here, it had to be one of his parents. Ally felt sick. The kid was probably terrified.
Just then, a loud voice entered the room, talking to one of the nurses.
"I'm here to see Austin Moon."
Ally shuddered instantly and from some feeling deep inside of her, knew somewhere behind her stood a very evil person.
Trish and Ally turned around at the same time, laying eyes on a large, burly man who looked terrifying like she had predicted. He had long, stringy hair that fell half down his back, kept tied away from his face by what looked like an old string. From the discolored prints on his hands, Ally guessed he was a mechanic.
But it was his face that just gave her chills.
Stone like eyes stared at the small framed nurse in front of him. His eyebrows pointed what seemed to be forever downward and his lips were also dirty and worn. He just looked dirty in general … and mean. Unbelievably mean.
"It has to be him," a voice said. Rocky. He was standing up next to them now, his entire body shaking. Somehow, it probably brought back unhappy memories for him. Ally placed a comforting hand on his shoulder as they stared at the guy in front of them, waiting for the nurse's answer.
She also had a similar expression of shock and fear, paging the doctor to the front to speak with him. She also pointed their way, motioning for all of them to come forward. Ally wanted to stay right there. She didn't want to meet this man. Trish was first to step toward him, dragging Ally and Rocky by their hands.
"This is who he came in with."
The man stared down at the short group. "Jimmy Stock. What do you know about Austin?"
"Who are you?" Ally blurted before thinking.
He stared down at her with such menacing eyes she wished she never spoke. "I'm his step father. Who are you?"
Ally darted a bit toward Trish.
Trish took over. Despite the man being absolutely a threat to look at, he had been very in line so far. But Ally had not a doubt in her mind she was staring at the man who hurt the poor boy.
"I'm Trish Pereez. I'm currently in charge at Marie's Shelter. Austin has been staying with us the last few days. We found him today with severe injuries and brought him here. We have reason to believe someone is hurting him, so the authorities have been called and an investigation has been started, Mr. Stock. We'd like your cooperation in finding who is hurting him. It is seemingly very serious of a situation and Austin is in the need of help."
Ally never thought she'd see a human like Hulk but the guy in front of her might as well have turned green. He stepped forward even more, practically on top of Trish now and glared at her. "Who the hell do you think you are, bitch?"
She didn't back down. "I suggest you step back, sir as you are on camera and there is security all around you. If you wish to speak to me about your step son, we will do so civilly. I'm waiting for the authorities to arrive and until then, I have other matters to attend to, like the safety of young Austin."
Trish was hitting all the wrong yet right buttons, simply proving to herself that the guy was guilty of abuse.
Ally and Rocky stepped back as the two glared at each other, both also relieved when two police officers walked in. It was a matter of seconds when all the commotion started and words began to fly like venom through the air. The two stood there in complete shock as Jimmy Stock lost it on both cops, screaming about Austin and how there shouldn't be an investigation at all. Words began to mesh between the group and Rocky motioned for Ally to follow him through a set of doors, while everyone was distracted.
"What are you doing?" she whispered angrily at him. "You can't just go back there!"
"Who is going to stop me?" he questioned with a smirk. "Now come on, do you want to see Austin or not?"
Ally thought she would like to see him, but not get arrested while doing so. With a sigh, she followed after him, deciding it was better back there then the war going on in the front of the place. They darted through a hallway, looking for the blond boy. Most of the rooms were closed off, making their search even harder.
"Austin?" Rocky hissed. Most of the nurses had gone to help up front, as the noise had gotten louder.
Ally pulled on his arm, hoping that her own fear wasn't showing too much through. She was the adult here, after all.
Then, Ally saw him. Lying down on a bed, his eyes closed with such a peaceful look on his face, it was obvious he had no idea what was going on just beyond those doors. "Austin!" she yelped too loudly, making a few others stare her way. Rocky groaned and pulled her along, closing the door behind them.
Austin sat up in alarm, his arm in a sling. "What is going on?" he asked softly.
Was it that obvious there was something wrong?
"Austin, I don't mean to scare you," Ally started.
Rocky snickered and pushed her aside. "Bro, someone named Jimmy Stock is here. Who is he?"
And that was just the confirmation all needed to know Jimmy Stock was the man behind all of this. His step father… but if he had a step father, he also had a mother. Where was she and why wasn't she protecting him from any of this?
"I need to get out of here," he muttered, getting up off the bed, but crumbling to the floor when his weight decided to overpower his injured body. "He's going to kill me. I mean it this time. He's going to kill me."
"Austin," Ally said with such a determined tone both stopped to look at her. "If you don't realize this, you're in a hospital with cops outside. He isn't going to get to you here."
"You don't know him, you don't realize who he is," he answered in such a quiet tone. Never before had Austin been so fragile and scared to them and Ally was shattering looking at him shake before her. Rocky helped him back onto the bed, walking over to the door with a smirk. He took a chair and placed it over the door, so no one could enter.
"Man, you're with us right now. Tell is what the hell is going on."
Austin seemed to realize he wasn't going to get very fair injured and sighed, leaning back on the bed. "Might as well make it my last thing I say alive because someone will at least know he's a monster."
Ally wanted to say he wouldn't die but she couldn't make any promises at the moment, when she was terrified herself of the man just outside those doors.
Austin finally looked up, toward Ally. "Remember when I told you there was someone I'd never be able to see again and it hurt more than anything?" he asked.
Ally vaguely remembered the conversation from his first night there and nodded. "Yeah."
"Well, I was talking about my mom." His eyes filled with tears but they stayed where they were. "She was a soldier in the war. That's how her and Jimmy met. Jimmy was dishonorably discharged for assault last year, but my mom didn't seem to realize who the hell she was dating. He was nice at first, just how they all are. Gentleman and loved me, apparently, offered to help get us back on our feet. We were really poor and he had some money, from where, I don't even want to know."
Austin paused, angrily staring at the wall now.
"But when he got discharged, it only seemed to fuel their love more. They got engaged only after meeting a month before and they were married two weeks later. I live in his house… or lived I guess but he'd never officially adopted me."
"I don't understand," Rocky said. "If your mom knows he's doing this, why won't she stop it?"
"She doesn't … didn't know," he whispered. "It didn't start until after she left."
"War," he said simply. "A year long deployment. I had my doubts about him the moment we were alone together, the first time. He just seemed so different and cruel around me. I can't even describe it because it wasn't anything that he really did. I just got a feeling and how do you explain that to your mother who has a duty to the country? She was a medic. She had no choice but to fly back to Afghanistan."
"It was little things are first. He wouldn't buy any food for me and wouldn't even offer to give me anything to eat. He never gave me money for books. I often stole to get what I needed to survive. I feel terrible about it, but it was the only way to do so. I thought maybe he was doing it in some sort of army training shit, so I asked if he wanted me to get a job. He said I didn't need one and just laughed. I didn't know what that meant, so I went back to stealing my food and whatever I needed. One day, I was caught. My number is our home one, so he always gets to it and sees who calls, of course. He came and picked me up. That was six months ago, the first time he hit me. It was just one punch to the face, but it just… it hurt so badly for weeks. I thought maybe he shattered something and I would never be okay again. I mean, physically that is."
Ally was in tears already.
"But I ignored it, deciding army men had their way and maybe it was tough love. After all, every time my mom would call he'd talk so highly of me and I thought maybe I'm just crazy. Maybe it's me that's fucked up and he's fine. But it continued. Soon I wasn't able to play my guitar anymore… he just broke it. Said it wasn't worth my time and I needed to be a real man like him. I was just in such shock over his actions I didn't know what to say. I started lying to my mom on the phone. After a while, he'd come home drunk and just start hitting me. For no apparent reason. I thought if I stayed out a lot, I'd be okay. Kept figuring it was me. But when I would come back to the house, he'd be angry too. Hit me some more. It was nothing unbearable though. So, I let it be. Whatever. My mom would be home in less than six months and everything would be okay again."
Austin looked up at the two in front of him, the tears starting to overflow. "That's when everything just fell apart. I was home and so was he when someone knocked on the door. I answered it as he was too drunk to even care. Two guys in a military uniform were standing there, a letter in their hands. They regretted to inform me…" He broke down, his entire body racked with sobs. "She died in battle. Saving another one of the soldiers. Went down a hero, they said. I took in the papers and sat down, staring at them. I lost it then and started to sob. He came in trying to see why I was so upset and he grabbed the papers, reading them himself. I don't doubt he cared for her, but apparently that was my fault that she was… gone. I can't begin to tell you how bad it hurt the second he threw me into the wall. I couldn't get up, I couldn't see. I barely remember anything he said. He kept kicking me and kicking me until I could taste blood, something about how if she didn't have to care for me, she wouldn't be there."
Rocky was also shaking now and both were hugging each other. The room seemed to darken and the air was cold, ice cold.
"It just got to the point where I was more bruised than not and I didn't know what I was living for. I fought back in one last attempt to do something for myself which ended up with me getting that damn beer bottle tossed over my head. I ran and ran until I was almost unable to walk, somehow ending up in front of the shelter. I lied when I told you I didn't remember that night, Ally. I did, every bit of it. But I couldn't admit that he was right, I wasn't a man. I was a coward who ran away and hoped my problems would be fixed. So, I left and hoped maybe I was wrong and we could work this out. My optimism is going to be the death of me someday. He beat me again and I walked the streets this time, knowing I couldn't go back there because the next time, he'd kill me. So, I wandered for a few days, knowing how bad it was. And then I decided what could really happen if I stayed at the shelter? You guys seemed like such a family together and I wanted that. I missed my family. So, I came back. And I was having such a great time with Rocky and the others and you, Ally. I thought maybe this is what I was supposed to find. And then, at the mall. He was there. I saw him and I know he saw me, so I knew I couldn't do it. I couldn't take the idea of him knowing I was there so once again, I ran. I didn't know what to do. I was terrified not only for myself, but you guys too. I was worried he would come back and hurt me and hurt everyone I was growing attached to. And then, I knew I should tell you but I didn't want to involve you. And… well, we got angry. I never meant a word I said either, Ally. I just… you have to understand how scared I was. How scared I am. I just want to be okay. I want to be able to close my eyes at night and not have to worry about tomorrow. To know that I'm not living my days wondering if he's going to hurt me again and take away any solitude I should ever have. I don't want to be that person who lives in fear everyday of someone. I want to be happy. I just want to be happy."