Through Grass, Grown Tall


“Ma!” John’s voice was calling out into the emptiness of his house and even though he was trying not to sound it – the anger was practically pulsating through his veins and through his voice. “Ma!? Dad!?” Silence. “Well, fuck you guys also.” John muttered to himself as he dropped his baseball bag and made his way into the kitchen to try and find something to nourish his famished growing teenage body. He figured his mother had at least put something in the freezer for him to defrost and heat up. He figured she wouldn’t forget him that much. But what he forgot to figure in was the one simple fact – he was practically invisible in his house.

So even though he was disappointed when he realized there was nothing waiting for him in any part of the fridge he also realized it was exactly like he expected it to be. It wasn’t bad enough that neither of his parents showed up for his first playoff game as a starting varsity member, but it was the fact that they had seemed to completely forget about it all together that really hurt. No note; no nothing. “I can’t wait to move out.” He muttered to himself as he scoured the cabinets coming up so empty handed that he had to settle on the one can of chicken noodle soup that he found in the back of the cupboard from god knows when. It wouldn’t have been a terrible meal if he didn’t live in Arizona and the temperature outside could rival the heat of the cooked soup.

But John sucked it up. He sat himself at the dining room table alone and he ate his soup with nothing but the sounds of the spoon hitting the bowl filling the room. He let out a breathe and he closed his eyes for a moment as he remembered all the times they all sat around the table laughing and telling stories of their days. Back when things were easier. Back when they were still a normally functioning family. Back when he would see cars drive by the big window that led into the dining room and slow down while turning with their headlights hitting the inside of the room and showcasing his entire family sitting there sharing a meal together. He imagined what it must have looked like to those passerby’s. He imagined it was something like those Norman Rockefeller paintings they’d studied in school. John kept his eyes closed as he tried to imagine what those moments were like again. But it’d become so distant in his memory that he couldn’t even place the feelings. He couldn’t even remember what it was like to have a family some days. So he let it go. He opened his eyes and he took in the empty room around him. And like he’d done so many times before, he sucked it up and he let it all go. He let the missed baseball games, prom photo sessions, and family dinners go because he realized one thing – he would be gone soon.

The only real question with John’s thought was, who exactly the ‘he’ was that would be gone first.


He was trying not to stare, but fuck that was proving impossible. John was frozen, or at least it felt that way. His mind was running with a million different thoughts and a million more different scenarios’. All of them included Hunter and the mysterious life she’d been living since she left practically under the cover of darkness two years ago. At the time he’d convinced himself that she had to leave. That, for the both of them, there was really no other option. He’d accepted losing her, too, because he didn’t deserve her in his life anymore. The person who did deserve her was also gone. Dead and buried. And he felt like they both deserved to cease to exist together. Because that was what they always were – together.

John could recall how jealous he was when they were all younger and he’d have to watch the two of them run around and play games without him. He could remember how much he hated being older and left distant. He hated how his friends all made him feel like he couldn’t play with the two of them. He hated that he was never going to be her first choice. She’d always been his first choice and it was shitty to him that he’d never get to experience the same feeling.

But watching her now, out of the corner of his eye, as the ceremony went on and Mr. Champagne, a man he’d known practically his whole life, married the women who’d made him and Hunter a family again all those years ago – all John could think of was – would he ever get a happy ending?

Fuck, was he even deserving of a happy ending at this point?

Probably not, but right now that didn’t mean shit.

Right now, all John could do was stare, not so subtly, at the girl who’d changed the course of all of their lives. The girl who looked like she didn’t give a shit about anyone; not even herself. Hunter looked like a mess. Her body was far too skinny. Her bones were practically visible, even though her oversized dress, and her eyes looked empty. Her once bright blue eyes were basically non-existent. John knew Hunter could feel him staring. He knew she was trying to avoid him. He couldn’t blame her. Fuck, he was trying to avoid himself most of the time these last few years. But all he wanted was to know she was okay. Because at the end of the day – that’s all that really mattered. John had to know she’d been okay because he’d made a promise to take care of her along time ago. And even though he’d been incredibly shitty about it the last few years – he knew he had to made amends now. In this house of God, he made that promise to himself. He wasn’t going to let Hunter Champagne go again without knowing she was actually okay. And if he had it the way he hoped; he was just never going to have to let her go at all.


“John, you remember Mrs. Monson, right?” John was standing near his mother with a beer in his hand and his attention swaying from his mothers conversations with all the people floating around the reception at the Champagne house, but all he was really trying to do was find the one girl who pretty much everyone in the house assumed didn’t belong here anymore. If it weren’t for the fact that John hadn’t seen his mother so lively in so long – he’d have left to search for Hunter the moment they got here, but his mom looked so happy. He couldn’t just walk away from her like this now. He’d missed this version of the woman who’d raised him. If he hadn’t seen Hunter in two years, he probably hadn’t seen his own mother in the form that she used to be in so much longer.
She looked happy. Standing there with a glass of wine in her hand and her hair all done up and nice. She looked like he’d always envisioned her to look like. And he knew then, in that moment, that he wouldn’t let her fall apart again.

But if John knew one thing for certain it was this – in order to keep everyone together and happy – he needed to start first with himself. And that had to be done by facing his biggest demons. And one of them was walking into the room with a half full glass of some dark liquor in her hand and some man who John couldn’t place standing far too close to her. He looked too old to be friends with her. And Hunter looked too tipsy to be okay with all of this completely. But then again, that was the old Hunter. The new Hunter could be a completely different girl. The new Hunter, John noticed, seemed to enjoy this attention.

“Yeah, Ma, I remember her. It’s nice to see you again, Mrs. Monson.” John was still looking over towards Hunter and this mysterious man, but he couldn’t escape his mother and Mrs. Monson all that easily. He felt his blood pulsating as this man leaned closer to Hunter and whispered something in her ear. He hated the way Hunter didn’t even seem fazed or at the least, blush. He hated that Hunter wasn’t anything like he remembered. He watched as she leaned back into him and said something to the man.

And just like that he was back to the John he used to be. Mrs. Monson was asking him questions about his band and his mother was listening as John tried to answer, but she kept filling in when she realized how vague he was being. John was trying to concentrate, but all he could think about was Hunter. Hunter and the way her body pressed against his. Hunter and her laugh. Hunter and her kisses. Hunter and the way she looked peacefully sleeping next to him each morning before the worlds stresses and the lies all filled her pretty face. Hunter. Hunter. Hunter.
He couldn’t focus. He was trying to be polite, he could feel the conversational words floating out of his throat, but his mind wasn’t involved. Pretending really had become second nature to him, he noticed. Everything from that point was a blur.

His mother noticed that John’s voice was beyond a monotone and she noticed his attention was elsewhere. She followed his line of vision and she swore her own breath caught in her throat. She swore she saw her son falling apart before her eyes. But she also swore she saw him practically turn to stone. John was her eldest son. He was all she really had left. And even though she knew he was still a mess, she watched his posture straighten and his eyes shift back towards her own before finally moving towards Mrs. Monson. And with a quick glimpse back in Hunter’s direction Mrs. O’Callaghan saw all she needed to know that her son wasn’t okay. And he wouldn’t be for a long time – no matter how hard he tried to pretend he was. Because until Hunter Champagne was okay, John O’Callaghan wouldn’t be either.

“Mrs. Monson, it’s been so nice catching up with you, but I think I just saw someone that I know and I want to go say hello. Mom, I’ll be right back, okay?” Jenny tried to find the words to answer her son, but she couldn’t. All she could do was nod softly at the boy she’d raised, but somehow missed the man he’d turned into. And even though she could recognize every feature on his face down to the tiniest freckles like she’d been able to every day since he was born – she couldn’t recognize the sudden look of heartbreak in his eyes as he moved away from them and towards the girl who had basically lived in their house throughout her children’s childhood.

But sometimes, Mother’s aren’t supposed to understand everything their children do. The shameful part of the situation was – Jenny understood too well about her son; she just wished that she didn’t have to.

John was moving through the house as quickly as he could in order to reach Hunter, but it seemed like every step he took led him to another person who wanted to say hello and have a conversation. He was trying to be polite and not let people realize how livid he actually was or where he attention was actually focused, because the conversations that would start would only cause too much trouble, but he couldn’t move his eyes from the girl. That man was took close for John’s liking and his hands were wandering too easily over her body. He hated how Hunter was letting it happen. And even though he didn’t want to cause a scene, John knew with every step he took that got him closer to the girl – that plan was probably not going to last. And then he was so close. There was only a group of people between him and Hunter and maybe fifty steps, but apparently that was even too far. Because the moment he took another step was the moment that Hunter and the mystery man seemed to come to an agreement to leave. John tried to call out her name to stop her, but his voice didn’t listen to his brains signal. His body stiffened as he watched Hunter’s small body get wrapped up in the mans right arm with nothing but the backs of their bodies and the closing door left in his sight. And in that moment John felt like every part of him was suffering another loss. He felt hot and short of breath and God, did he feel alone, despite the people surrounding him.

“John?” The voice was coming from next to him and he recognized it without even having to think. So John did what he’d been doing best for so many years – he put on his best smile and he faked it.

“Hello, Mr. Champagne. Congratulations, by the way.” The man looked older than John remembered, but than again, he assumed the last few years had probably done that to him. Fuck, it had done it to all of them.

“Thank you, John. I’m glad you and your mother could make it. She looks good.” John nodded and looked over at his mother who was engrossed in conversation with another group of women who he could barely place. She did look good. She looked like she’d finally let all of her burdens go. Even if it was just for one day. “You look good too, John. Grown up.” John nodded again and took another sip of his beer before he tried to make a conversation with the man who he’d hurt without ever actually trying too.

“You know I –“

“John, please. It’s the past. Have you seen Hunter?” John noticed the almost grimace that seemed to form on Mr. Champagne’s mouth as he spoke his daughters name, but John let it pass. Sometimes in the past, he swore he saw the same look on his own parent’s mouths when they said his name. Every family had their shit, right?

“I did, but… we never got to catch up.” John nodded at the door and Mr. Champagne seemed to understand without having to ask. John wanted to hope that the man didn’t have to see his own daughter leave his wedding reception with some random guy, but honestly, John knew at this point he probably had and really – what difference would it make? He already knew too much about his daughter’s indiscretions in the past.

“Well, John, I’m sure you’re not missing too much.” Mr. Champagne paused after he said the words and he knew he should take them back. He knew that he should say something else. He knew he should try to help the struggling boy in front of him who had already lost so much. But they’d all lost so much – his words wouldn’t change anything. The past was the past, and that was the place it would always stay. “I hope you find some peace, John. God knows one of the two of you could use it.” And with that Mr. Champagne was moving. He was patting John on the shoulders and giving him a slight nod in the most hopeful manner he could muster up. But all he could do as he walked away from the boy he’d known since his daughter’s was little and running around with pigtails and rainbow clips in her hair, was stare at the closed door that John himself couldn’t seem to turn away from and try to shake his own images of his daughter leaving his wedding party with someone even he could barely place. And as he walked away and focused his attention back on the party and the people coming up to him the only thing he could think was – God, could they all use a little bit of peace.
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Well, Hello Everyone!!
Hope you're all doing well. We're starting to get the ball rolling here. Ketely read it and told me she almost cried - I'm not sure why, but I hope you guys are enjoying it. We've heard from a few of you (the usual suspects) but we'd love to hear from the rest of you. I mean, for how many people are reading this we should be killing it with the comments. But as usual, we've got silent readers. But I digress, leave up some love and we'll try to update ASAP. Thanks to everyone out there who is reading - commenter or not!