It was Christmas week, which meant school was out until after New Years. Tori wasn't exactly excited about being home, since her parents were fighting more and more everyday. She would wake up to them bickering over breakfast and go to bed to them going back and forth about finances and other things, sometimes in full blown screams. Luckily the police never showed up since her dad was a cop himself, though sometimes she wished they would so they could either take one of her parents or even herself somewhere else so she could escape the fighting. The past few days had been a lingering argument over finances due to Christmas gifts for various members of the family. Tori tuned it out most of the time, but every so often she would get caught in the same room when the screams would start ripping from their throats.
"What do you want me to do, Holly? I can't work 16 hour shifts every day of the week. I'm already doing it two or three times, any more than that and I won't be able to stay awake."
"Well you need to do something because this isn't working. The mortgage is falling behind since you absolutely had to buy a bunch of expensive things for your side of the family, and now there's barely anything left for the kids or the bills."
"So you're going to attack me for wanting to do something nice for my family now?"
"When you go about it the way you did, yes I will attack you for it. We're supposed to be a team but you feel like you can just do whatever you want because you make more money than I do."
"Oh here we go again."
Tori got off the couch and turned off the TV, heading upstairs to her room. It wasn't particularly cold out, so she decided to put on a hoodie and grab her phone to go for a walk, anything to get out of the house until this argument blew over for a while. She grabbed a soft dark purple hoodie and slipped it over her head, putting her phone in the big pocket in the middle. It flashed with a missed message but she ignored it, grabbing a five dollar bill out of her wallet and stuffing it in her back pocket. The upstairs of the house was cold since a recent argument had been about heating costs, so Tori turned up the heater in her room a bit so as not to freeze when she came home.
Her parents were still face to face when she headed back down to put on her running shoes. The atmosphere was thick with contempt and the dripping sarcasm from each side made her skin crawl. These fights had been going on for so long now she wasn't sure how much longer it could keep happening before her parents split up for good, but she didn't want to think about that. It was the holidays, the happiest time of the year, or supposed to be. But today, all she wanted to do was get away.
"Can I get a large hazelnut, two and two please?" Tori asked, waiting for a hot beverage to help burn the feelings away from her stomach. The coffee stand was deserted aside from one older man that sat on a bench with a fluffy golden retriever next to him. She walked over and patted the dog's head lovingly, smiling at his wagging tongue. Animals had always been a soft spot for her. They loved almost unconditionally, and the companionship and loyalty they provided was admirable to her. So unlike human beings. People were nasty and violent, using sex for power and deception to get ahead. Animals don't know betrayal like people do. You can always count on your dog or gerbil to be home when you need a friend, and to listen when you need someone to talk to. When her coffee was ready Tori grabbed the cup and nodded her thanks, turning to head towards a park near her house before almost running right into Jade and Beck.
"Vega, you look like shit."
"Leave me alone, Jade." Tori kept her eyes down and walked around the black clad woman, hoping she would let it go.
"What? No snarky comeback today?" Jade asked, a faint smile of amusement on her lips.
Tori didn't answer and just kept walking away, sipping lightly at her coffee.
Jade wondered what was wrong with Tori, since she usually pleaded with Jade in a playful but somewhat serious way to leave her alone. Today, though, there was no hint of playfulness in her tone. She didn't make eye contact or hit Jade's arm grudgingly, which she always did when Jade mocked her with the southern accent or was exceedingly dramatic with her insults. The sparkle seemed to have gone from her eyes, leaving them a dull brown instead of the caramel color they usually were, and somewhere deep inside that actually made Jade feel guilty. She wasn't friends with Tori, that much was certain, but she had always nursed a soft spot for the brunette, not really sure what to make of it.
"Jade?" Beck called to her quietly.
She snapped out of her trance and looked over to the long haired boy next to her. "Yeah, what do you need?"
"I'm ordering. Do you want something?"
"Just my usual I guess."
Beck ordered the drinks and brought them to the table on the back right side of the stand, sitting down on one side and passing Jade her coffee. She accepted it with a weak smile and sat opposite him, staring away into the trees of the park. Small groups of people moved this way and that, some running, some pushing strollers and yet some barking into their phones. Jade wondered how people got along back before electricity. The thought of business men actually having face to face meetings with pen and paper instead of Facetiming with PDAs and iPads. Working on documents by candlelight and dipping your pen in ink instead of basking in the warm glow of fluorescent office lights, hacking away at a keyboard and straining your eyes at a screen. Technology had come along to make lives easier, to make tasks simpler, and Jade couldn't help but laugh at the fact that all most technology had done is stress people out.
"You okay?" Beck asked, eyeing his ex-girlfriend carefully. "You seem like you're far away."
"Just thinking. In one of those moods."
"Ah." Beck dropped the subject understandingly, choosing to sip silently at his drink and continue to watch traffic.
Moments later Jade's eyes fell on Tori once again. She was sitting on a swing at the far end of the park across the street. Jade could just barely see her through the trees, catching sight of the lime green stripes on her shoes. She watched as Tori swung back and forth slowly, not hanging onto the chains connected to the swing. She cupped her drink with it resting between her thighs, eyes on the ground. Jade felt a pang of guilt in her stomach at how she'd treated the olive-skinned woman. Watching her sulk was bad enough, but the thought that her comment had barely made an impact on her told her that something else much worse was happening, and that made the guilt burn twice as hot. Eventually Tori got up and walked away in the direction of her house, and Jade watched until she was out of sight.
Trina's car was gone, as usual, meaning that she'd be going back into the thick of the action alone once again. Tori finished her coffee and dropped it in the trash can outside the house, slipping quietly through the side patio door. The yelling was coming from the basement storage, and an uneasy feeling rippled through her gut. Maybe one of her parents was getting ready to move out. It wouldn't be a happy thing, but this living situation couldn't go on like it had been forever. She wouldn't be able to stand it. The rest of the house was empty so she quickly made a sandwich and took it upstairs to her room, sitting on the edge of her bed to eat. The sun was going down now and sunbeams shone through her window, casting shadows on the floor and walls. The vent system allowed her to hear the conversation in the basement due to its high volume, much to her delight. She laid back on the pillows and plugged her ears, willing it all to go away. In the process her phone buzzed again so she actually looked this time, glad for a distraction.
Tori- I'm sorry for what I said earlier, it was stupid and I didn't mean to make you feel any worse. If I can help let me know. -Jade
Tori reread the text message four times in disbelief. It couldn't really be from Jade. Someone must have stolen her phone, or maybe she was playing another joke. Tori wanted to believe it was real and take comfort in the message, but she'd been tricked and put down by Jade so many times it was hard to take it at face value, and anyone who knew of their relationship would call her a fool for doing so. She stared at the screen for a few minutes contemplating what she should do before opening a reply.
Thanks, if you really mean it. If not, I don't even care anymore. -Tori
Her parents had moved now from the basement to the living room, and from the sounds of it they were trekking to the stairs. Great. The booming sound of her dad's voice filled the hallway and bounced around menacingly. Footsteps were audible only for a moment before each pair disappeared into the master bedroom, the door slamming shut behind them. She couldn't tell what the fight was about now, or if it had even changed from the earlier topic, but she did hear a very clear "our daughter is home, keep your voice down." Tori rolled over and faced the far wall away from her door, wanting nothing more than to drown out the argument. She pulled her phone back out of her pocket and turned on some music, laying the phone on the pillow next to her head. The music started and so did the tears.
Two hours later the fight was still raging, though it sounded more one-sided now than it did earlier in the day. Tori could hear her mom yelling about how Gary was around for the family more than her dad was, and that was apparently the last straw. A loud rumbling sound followed by shattering glass shook the wall just barely, and Tori shrunk into a ball. She drew her knees into her chest and sobbed quietly, hoping that her parents were both okay and no one was hurt from the glass, however it had gotten broken. She thought back to Jade and how she asked if she could help, the fleeting though of actually calling her to be rescued made her heart hammer against her chest. Her feelings for Jade weren't exactly very clear, all she knew was that when she thought about her she got excited and her breath quickened, and whenever Jade made fun of her or was intentionally mean it killed her on the inside. Her pride would take a hit since Jade had just thrown her disheveled appearance in her face barely three hours ago, but Tori couldn't handle being home anymore. She grabbed her phone and called Jade.
"J-Jade..." Tori sniffled and wiped her eyes, her voice thick with tears.
"Tori? What's the matter? Are you okay?" Jade rambled off questions in a hurry.
"I...need a friend."
"Where are you?"
"At home. I need to get out of here. Please."
Jade heard the plea in her voice and it broke her heart. Tori was so fragile and loving, and even though she was mean to her, the hurt in her voice and the image of tears pouring from those chocolate doe eyes made Jade angry, almost protective. "I'll be there in a few minutes. Wait for me outside."
They both hung up and Tori got out of bed, putting her shoes back on and sneaking quietly down the stairs. The glass coffee table in the living room was in a million pieces and one of the legs was broken off, with a large painting from the wall mixed in. One of them must have ripped the painting from the wall and threw it through the tabletop. She slipped out the front door and closed it quietly behind her. It took about ten minutes for Jade to get there, and Tori got into the passenger seat immediately. Jade was wearing a leather jacket with a pair of black yoga pants and what looked like black ballet shoes. Her hair was in a loose bun in the back with strands falling on each side of her face. She didn't have much makeup on, only some eyeshadow and a light pink lipstain. Tori stared at her for a minute, in awe of such raw beauty.
"What happened, Tor?" Jade asked, backing slowly out of the driveway.
"They never stop fighting." Tori choked the words out, feeling tears sting her eyes again.
"Who's fighting? Over what?" Jade felt awkward after a minute, hoping her questions weren't too invasive. They weren't very close, and she wasn't even sure she should be asking these questions.
"My parents. They fight constantly. All day long. I can't get away from it. They move between different rooms of the house, following eachother, trying to get the last word in. The screaming and the name calling, the blame game. I'm sick of it. I can't take it anymore."
Jade's eyes widened in shock. Any time the group had been over to Tori's house when both of her parents were there they were the perfect couple. She realized that they would put up a front of course with other people around, but it was a very good front. Everyone thought Tori had a great home life, as there was no evidence to the contrary. She had never complained about anything before or showed signs of neglect or anything, but now she was clearly showing signs of being at wit's end. Jade turned slowly at a red light and straightened the car out, glancing over at Tori out of the corner of her eye. The thin beauty was staring out her window, tears flowing freely down her perfect cheekbones. Her long brunette hair was slightly messy like she'd been sleeping recently and her eyes were heavy lidded.
"I know what it's like having parents that fight a lot. I'm sorry you have to deal with that."
"Me too. It never used to be this bad, but ever since Gary started coming around when my dad isn't home it's gotten worse."
"Yeah I can imagine that would be a catalyst."
"I don't know what to do, Jade. If I ask them to stop they tell me to mind my own business. Trina is never around to help me out. I can't just go to my room and shut the door since half the time they're in their room arguing which is across from mine and even when they're somewhere else I can hear it through the vents."
"Well you can stay at my house tonight and see what the situation is tomorrow. If they're still going at it and you don't want to go home we'll work it out from there."
Tori turned to look Jade full in the face. "Why are you doing this for me anyway?"
Jade expected the question but it still made her uncomfortable. "I don't hate you Tori, and no one should have to sit through those situations. It's not healthy."
The radio DJ asked a question about an old Broadway musical, and Jade pulled out her phone, quickly dialing the number. She got through and answered the question, hearing her own voice through the car speakers. The correct answer won her a pair of movie tickets. Tori smiled and watched Jade drive the rest of the way to her house. When they walked in Tori headed for the couch after kicking her shoes off by the door. She laid down on the far side and tucked her knees back up to her chest, trying to fall asleep.
"You don't have to sleep on the couch. My room is downstairs."
"I don't want to take your bed, you've done enough already."
"We'll share, it's fine with me."
Tori blushed, though she wasn't sure why. She followed Jade down into the basement and curled up on her bed. Jade did the same and switched off the lamp on the bedside table, and they both fell asleep quickly.
The next day the two of them laid in Jade's bed for most of the morning and afternoon watching movies. Jade eventually got dressed, saying they needed to get up and get some things done. Tori checked her phone but it was blank, so she put it back in her pocket and headed for the bathroom. After cleaning up a bit and brushing her teeth with a disposable toothbrush Jade had in the medicine cabinet she went back into the room and sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for Jade to finish up getting ready.
They hopped in the car and headed for the radio station so Jade could pick up her movie tickets she'd won and then headed to Tori's house to assess the situation. The glass was still on the floor from the broken table, and there were two new holes in the wall in the kitchen. Jade's eyes swept the living room and kitchen area carefully. She couldn't believe something like this happened at Tori's house. Tori walked over to the kitchen and grabbed the trash can, dragging it to the living room to clean up the mess. Jade bent down to help, clearing out the large pieces of glass before grabbing the broom and dustpan to get the small bits. She watched Tori carefully as they cleaned up, gauging her reaction on the situation. Tori's was somber and emotionless. Her face was calm and her mouth was closed, her lips pressed into a straight line. Her eyes showed a little pain, and it was enough to make Jade feel guilty again. Once everything was cleaned up Tori inspected the holes in the walls, which were surprisingly about the size of her mom's fist.
"Go upstairs and pack a bag, I want you to come stay with me."
"A-Are you sure?" Tori asked, hesitating a bit.
"Yes, please go pack quickly before anyone gets home. We'll go get something to eat on the way back."
"Okay, I'll be right down."
A few minutes later Tori came down with a pink and black Adidas dufflebag slung over her shoulder. Her eyes were red and her face was wet, showing that she had been crying. "It's so much worse up there. Their room is torn apart." Jade stepped forward and brought Tori into a hug, dragging her nails lightly over the small of her back. "I'm so sorry Tori." She closed her eyes as Tori nuzzled into her neck, her tears falling down onto her bare skin. They were warm and Tori's hair covered her face. The smell of strawberries and cream mixed with a little vanilla perfume overwhelmed her senses. Tori shook slightly as she sobbed, having a hard time breathing. Jade reached a hand up and ran her fingers through Tori's hair, trying to calm her down. They stayed like that for the better part of ten minutes, then Jade started to direct them out the door, wanting to be gone before the Vegas showed up.
Jade drove through KFC and got something for dinner to take back to the house, knowing Tori wouldn't want to sit out in public at the moment. They got back to the house and Jade parked in the garage, not planning to leave again for the night. The two of them walked into the kitchen and sat down on opposite sides of the island, spreading the food out across the surface. Tori grabbed two plates from the dishwasher and set them on the countertop, then turned to the fridge to grab drinks. She pulled out two cans of Sprite and passed one to Jade who nodded her thanks. They dug in and ate in silence, mostly since Tori hadn't eaten much of anything in a couple days and her stomach was ravenous.
Later on they resumed what was done for most of the day, retiring back to Jade's bed for more movie marathon. Jade put in a movie called Sleepwalking and they tucked in to watch, but Tori fell asleep about twenty minutes in. Jade rolled onto her side and watched her sleep for a few minutes. She looked so peaceful in her dreams, which made Jade think that maybe she was somewhere else for a while. That made her feel better. She reached over and tucked a strand of hair behind Tori's ear, then leaned forward and kissed her forehead lightly. She didn't know why she was doing these things, it just seemed like her body acted without asking her brain for permission. Tori snored lightly and Jade smiled, turning back to the movie.
It went on like that for a few days, up until Christmas Eve. Tori's parents hadn't called or texted her at all to see where she was. They probably hadn't even noticed she was gone. Tori laughed bitterly and went to take a shower. She finished and got dressed in a pair of dark blue skinny jeans with an oversized shirt that had Rudolph on the front and fell down over one shoulder. She pulled her hair back in a lazy bun with chopsticks sticking out from each side and put on a little green eyeshadow. Finishing up with a thin coat of lipstick, she headed back into Jade's room and grabbed her bag. Jade looked up from her laptop with a scowl which quickly faltered, and she stared at Tori open-mouthed.
"What?" Tori asked self consciously, looking down at her feet.
"You look really nice Tori" Jade said simply, smiling a little with the corners of her lips.
Tori blushed and the color made her eyes sparkle. "Thanks Jade. For everything."
"Why do you have your bag? Are you going home?"
"I think I should. It's Christmas Eve, I think Trina should probably be there and I haven't seen her in a while. Even if my parents are ganks about the whole thing I'd like to spend some time with my sister."
"Holidays are such a drag" Jade drawled, her old self shining back through again.
Tori smiled and poked Jade's shoulder playfully. "You know you're full of the Christmas spirit, you just don't let it come out cause it'll ruin your image." Jade rolled her eyes hard and Tori started singing. "Come on be my baby tonight."
Jade arched a brow and when Tori realized what she was singing she blushed again even harder. The embarrassment was enough to make Jade laugh, and when she did she couldn't stop. Tori chuckled a little uneasy at first, but Jade's inability to keep it together had her laughing just as hard after a few minutes. Eventually they both died down a bit, choking and sputtering like a dying engine. Tori's lungs burned and her eyes watered. Jade's cheeks hurt and she took long, deep breaths to steady herself. The two women looked at eachother for a fleeting moment, realizing that a sort of friendship had formed over the last week. Jade knew she couldn't be the same towards Tori anymore. She'd gone through so much at home and Jade wouldn't be able to live with herself if she made her life any more miserable when she got the chance to escape.
"Drive me home?" Tori asked with a smile.
Jade wasn't one for holidays, which anyone could easily guess, so she planned on using her movie tickets that night to see the opening of Les Miserable. She wondered if anyone would be around to go. The idea that Beck's parents might have gone to Canada to see family for Christmas came into her mind so she pulled out her phone and texted him, asking him what his plans were.
I don't have anything going on, so yeah, that sounds good. I'll see you later.
She plugged her phone in to let it charge for a while and decided to take a shower herself. The warm water turned her pale skin a shade of red, and the steam helped to wipe away the emotional stress of the last few days. Her new friendship with Tori and all the feelings associated with her having to deal with a not so ideal home life had been taxing on her, and she couldn't even imagine how Tori was feeling. Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary from all the bad things. When you lose that, you truly don't have anywhere to go. She finished up her shower and got dressed again, going with a black skirt and leggings and a black hoodie. No Christmas colors here. The clock on her cable box said seven thirty and the movie wasn't until midnight, but Jade was bored so she decided to head over to Beck's early and hang out for a while then go get some food. She grabbed her keys and headed out.
Beck climbed out of the RV in jeans with a matching jean jacket. He slipped into the passenger seat of Jade's car and winked at her while he put his seatbelt on. She smiled and shook her head before putting the car in gear, heading towards the downtown area. Beck scrolled through The Slap on his phone as Jade drove, and seeing his phone reminded her that she forgot to take hers off the charger. Oh well, too late now. She'd just have to do without it for the night.
Tori made scrambled eggs and toast for herself since no one else was home, and she sat in the living room while she ate. The TV was nothing but Christmas specials and infomercials, but she ended up finding Home Alone on ABC Family. She kicked back and watched the movie, finishing her dinner and leaving the plate on the table. Half way through her dad burst through the front door without warning, causing Tori to jump in her seat. He stalked through to the kitchen and started opening and slamming drawers, obviously looking for something in a bout of frustration.
"What are you looking for?" No answer. "Dad?"
"What are you looking for?"
"Your mother took my car back to the dealership since the registration was in her name, saying that if I'm so worried about money I can save the payments for a couple months and buy a used car instead."
"Okay, so what do you need in here?"
"The key to the firesafe box."
Tori didn't ask anymore questions. She knew what was in the box; birth certificates, passports and the mortgage paperwork. Her dad banged around for a few more minutes until he tossed a key ring into the air, snatching it victoriously. He must have found the one he was looking for. Tori shook her head and leaned sideways on the couch, huffing out a breath. It was exhausting being in this house. Not long after her dad disappeared into the basement her mom came home, sticking her head in the front door to look around silently.
"Is your dad here?"
"Yeah, he's in the basement."
"Alright." Holly took her shoes off and kicked them to the side, heading for the staircase.
"Are you guys ever going to be done with this, or do you expect me to live this way until I go to college?"
"Assuming you can even go. Your dad will probably steal your college fund."
"That's real nice, mom. If you guys are going to keep doing this just get a divorce and get it over with."
Tori's mom looked at her with eyes peeled. She wasn't sure what that look meant, but she disappeared up the stairs a moment later without another word. Tori grabbed her phone and texted her sister to find out what was going on with her.
I'm at Melissa's cabin with her and some friends. I won't be home until after New Years. Sorry Tor! Merry Christmas!
Tori settled back into the couch and finished the rest of the movie, then searched the channels for another when it was done. Home Alone 2 came on back to back with the first one and when she didn't find anything better she resolved to watching that. David came up from the basement with papers in his hand, stuffing them into his back pocket. He pulled out his phone and went through it for a minute, then sent a quick text and put it back. Tori wasn't paying attention anymore, she was just waiting for the fight to break out. And it did. About forty minutes into the second movie her dad came in from outside and went straight upstairs, and the yelling started immediately. It was only nine thirty. She knew it would be a big thing to ask on Christmas Eve, even though Jade wasn't into holidays, but she really needed to get out. She fired off a text to Jade and waited for a response. Twenty minutes later, nothing, so she tried again. Same result. Thinking maybe something was wrong, she dialed Jade's number but instead of ringing it went straight to voicemail. Tori assumed that she must be busy with her family or something and decided to turn her phone off. Her one source of comfort that really knew what was going on in her life was unavailable, and she could feel that this night was only going to get worse.
Strangely enough, the fight died down rather quickly and she didn't hear any voices for a long time. The second movie finished at eleven and Tori listened for voices but heard nothing. She got up and went into the kitchen to take care of her plate and grab a bottle of water, and still there was nothing. Odd. Her parents were both still upstairs, and for a second the horrifying though that maybe they'd killed eachother or something flashed into her mind. She was about to run up and check on them when her mom came down the stairs with a suitcase. Tori saw the luggage and instantly knew what was going on, and tears stung her eyes.
"I wasn't serious when I said to get a divorce, I just wanted you guys to stop fighting."
"I know honey, but this was a long time coming. You know that."
Tori's eyes welled over and the tears fell down. Her mom looked at her sadly and walked over to pull her into a hug. She stood there with her arms wrapped tightly around her mom and breathed in her scent, trying to remember it the best she could. Her mom pulled away and kissed her cheek softly, wiping away the tears.
"I'm sorry baby, but this is what's best for everyone."
"When will I see you again? Where are you going?"
"I'm going to stay with Aunt Jill. I'll call you tomorrow okay? I love you sweetheart."
"I love you too mom."
Holly slipped through the door and was gone. Tori cried harder and stood in the kitchen with her arms wrapped around her midsection, not able to move. Suddenly she felt she was going to be sick so she ran to the downstairs bathroom and threw up. The burning in her throat matched the burning in her eyes, and both reflected the pain in her chest. Her heart was broken and she didn't know how to deal with it. She sat on the floor of the bathroom for a few minutes to make sure she was done, then rinsed her mouth out with mouthwash in the sink. Upstairs her dad's door was closed and she was too much of a wreck to knock, even though she was worried about how he was doing. She would check in the morning.
Her phone pressed against her stomach when she laid down. She pulled it out and tried calling the one person she wanted at that moment, Jade. The phone beeped as she pressed the numbers and hit send, but her heart fell when it went straight to voicemail again. She was probably out with her family having fun or having a nice dinner. Tori couldn't stomach the image, but she was happy that Jade had somewhere to be for the holiday even though she didn't like it. It was dark out now and the traffic light by their house shone red and green lights on the walls of her room through the open blinds. She rolled over and looked at the clock with tears streaming down her face and a pain in her gut. It was twelve o'four.