Through Grass, Grown Tall


Hunter’s blonde hair bounced on her shoulders as she bobbed up and down, cheering on her team. “Go Aztecs!” She yelled, clapping her hands together and doing a high kick. She looked at the girls around her, smiling as they all turned to her, waiting for the call. “Defense, defense,” she yelled. Clap, clap.

The team followed in suit, cheering on the football game and engaging the crowd. The stadium was echoing with the yells of the competing crowds. After all, it was the region football game and they were favored to win.

Hunter cheered on her team and led the cheerleaders in chants and stunts. Her stunt team lifted her into the air; she lifted her leg above her head and squeezed tightly in order to correctly perform a heel stretch. She found Chase in the crowd, laughing as he winked at her. He had commented a few times about her flexibility. It paid off to date a cheerleader.

Hunter laughed as she cradled down, cheering once again to the crowd. The game soon came to an end and she was sure she would lose her voice from how much she had been screaming. The final score had come down to 24-21, her team winning by a field goal.

Her team and friends rejoiced as they clenched the regional title, and they led the crowd in an ‘Aztec’ chant. The crowd was filing out shortly and Hunter, being in student council had to stay to help clean up. She tore down signs with the team, grinning as arms wrapped around her waist and lips pressed themselves against her neck.

“Excuse me, sir,” she chuckled. “I have a boyfriend.”

“Well, what a lucky, lucky boy,” Chase laughed, releasing her and kissing her lips sweetly. She smiled brighter as she saw her friends on the team giggling and rolling their eyes. She knew they were jealous and that made her love Chase that much more. He was hers—no one else’s. “So, come over when you’re done cleaning up, yes?”

Hunter continued tearing down signs they had wrapped to the stands, thanking Chase as he began to help. “You’re not going to Downey’s after-party tonight?”

Christian Downey was their all-state school quarterback, who oddly, was known more for his outrageous ragers than the fact that he was going to be attending USC on a football scholarship. Hunter wondered what she’d be remembered for—student body president? Cheerleader? Chase’s girlfriend?

As much as she loved him, she honestly hoped it wasn’t the latter. She wanted to be remembered for who she was—not for who she was with.

Chase frowned and shrugged his shoulders, rubbing his brown hair. “I don’t know, I’m not really in the party mood. Why don’t we just go to my place? My parents are out. We can have the house to ourselves,” he smirked.

“People expect us to be there, Chase,” she replied, crumpling a sign and putting it in the garbage. It was always odd to think about; they spent all this time making beautiful signs for a game that lasted a few hours, then they just crumpled them and threw them away. Was it worth all the endless hours of painting? ‘It’d be worth it on college applications and scholarships,’ her father always said. Maybe he was right. “I also told Downey we’d be there.”

“Downey is going to be so drunk he won’t even notice,” Chase chuckled. “Come on, Hun. Miss one party.”

She sighed. It wasn’t just a party to her—this was her social status. People expected her to be involved in everything, so she was. She never missed a game, event, or party. If she was involved in everything she would get positive reviews from students, teachers, and other faculty. Her father always told her that ‘reputation was everything’, and as a very successful owner of a law firm—she believed him whole-heartedly. And if she wanted to be student body president the next year she would need a good rep.

“Let’s just stop by for a while. Have a drink, then we’ll go?” She smiled sweetly, trying to make a compromise. Her friends always asked her how she and Chase had made their relationship work for so long. They had basically been in love since they were five when they met in the first grade. It wasn’t easy, was what she had always said. But if her mother had ever taught her anything before she died it was that compromise was key.

Chase groaned, and nodded his head. “You’re lucky I love you.”

“Don’t act so pained,” she laughed. “Everyone is going—even John and Jared.”

“How do you know more about my best friends than I do?” He chuckled, shaking his head.

“They obviously like me more,” she laughed, kissing his lips. “I’ll meet you there, yes?”

Chase nodded his head and walked away, sticking his hands in his pockets. He bounced on the balls of his toes when he walked. His whole family walked the same. It was cute.

Hunter continued to clean up the field, yawning in exhaustion. Her day had been so busy. From helping in the pep rally, to decorating the field for the game, making the football team goodie bags, finishing her homework, then actually cheering for the game, and now this party?—she was beat.

She drove down the familiar streets of Arizona, smiling as she walked into her house and smelled apple pie. That could mean only one thing—her dad was back from his business trip. She skipped through the house, dropping her cheer bag by the door and searching with a smile on her lips. She waltzed into the kitchen and planted a kiss on her dad’s cheek when she saw him sitting at the island.

“Dad! I missed you,” she grinned, taking a seat and leaning into him as he placed his arm around her giving her a fatherly kiss on the forehead.

“Hey pumpkin,” he smiled. His eyes were tired and his voice was low. It must have been a rough weekend. “How was the game?”

“We won,” Hunter replied, using his fork to take a bite out of the apple pie in front of him. Rosa always made apple pie when her dad was back from long trips, cookies whenever anyone was sad, and cider when there was need for celebration. She kind of kept them all together when her mother passed. Hunter wasn’t sure how she did it, but she did.

It had all happened so suddenly. Her parents had been in a fight—which was unusual, because no matter how big the disagreement Hunter never really remembered her parents being mad at each other. They got along so well—in her eyes her parents were created for one another. And that’s what her mother always told her.

Lori Champagne had always said that Zeus split every soul into two pieces and that we spent our entire lives searching for the other half, but that when we found them excellence was in action. Her mother and father were perfection—that was the only way to explain it. They loved one another so much that the constellations were jealous of the light they gave off.

They were magic.

That’s why when Hunter heard the yelling coming from the family room downstairs she instantly woke with a sickened feeling. She was six—but she knew something was wrong. She could feel it in the air. Something was off in the universe around her.

She found out later that her parents had been arguing about how often her father had been away on trips. He had missed four of Hunter’s dance recitals and her mom couldn’t take it anymore—she wanted him to be more involved.

Hunter never took it personally, she understood even at six that without her father’s job she wouldn’t have the big, princess house that she lived in. She wouldn’t have had all of her toys, or been able to afford dance classes. They wouldn’t have been able to hire Rosa, and besides Chase and her mom, Rosa was her best friend.

Her mother had left in the night to go for a drive just to clear her head. She stopped at a gas station to grab a pack of cigarettes, giving in to her old college habits, when a man dressed in black appeared with a gun. The register was left empty with two bloody bodies on the floor, the smaller one being her mother.

Ironically, after she died, Michael buried himself deeper into his work, prosecuting every murderer he could. Hunter never had the heart to tell him that no matter how many people he convicted, it would never bring Lori back. She let him live in the lie, because honestly, it was easier to pretend that she never had left them.

Hunter was turning nine when her father introduced her to Maggie. Perhaps she was lucky that she was so young open hearted because she accepted the woman right away. Maggie was young, sweet, and nice, but the part Hunter loved most about her was that she never tried to replace Lori. She simply understood that she never could. And that deserved respect.

“How was your trip?” Hunter asked, pouring them both a glass of milk to accompany their pie.

Michael sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. “Well, you can’t win them all I suppose.”

Hunter grimaced and pointed at his plate. “Just eat your pie. It happens.”

The two sat there in the silence of their home. Rosa was off for the evening. Maggie was shopping. It was just them—and that was okay. Hunter loved these moments, these moments of silence with her father. He was the one that was always there even when he wasn’t. She never had been upset that he was always working, and it still didn’t bother her. That’s just who he was. She understood.

In many ways she was the same. She made herself so busy that she didn’t have to sit around and let her thoughts consume her. She liked being involved with things other than her mind. Your mind could drive you crazy if you let it.

“Where are you off to tonight?” Michael asked, using the sleeve of his shirt to wipe milk out of his dark stubble.

Hunter bounced off the chair grabbing both of their plates and rinsing them off. “Just a party, then probably going to stay at Shays…” she trailed off. Her father had always supported her and Chase but he didn’t know she was planning on staying the night with him. Some things were just better left unsaid.

Her dad nodded his head and walked over to her tiredly, handing her a fifty-dollar bill. “Call a taxi if you girls need it, okay? Please be safe, tells those young men to behave themselves as well,” he chuckled, kissing the crown of her head softly. “I’m going to go do some more work.”

Hunter nodded her head and listened to him disappear into his study. She sighed, walking upstairs and stepping into the shower. She fixed her hair and got dressed in shorts and a t-shirt before grabbing her phone to make sure Shay was on her way. Within a matter of minutes there was a honking noise outside. Hunter made her way to her friend’s BMW, sitting down on the black leather seats with a squeak.

“So, I’m trying to answer a really tough question that Eric asked me earlier,” Shay began, pulling out of the driveway and flipping her long raven colored hair behind her back.

“And what life-changing question has Eric Halvorsen been posing with you these days?” Hunter laughed, shaking her head, preparing herself for mediocrity.

“Which is better when you’re high—music or food? You can only choose one,” Shay replied, giggling.

Hunter shook her head at her friends, smiling as she realized that the question was actually quite difficult to answer. Maybe she should give Eric more credit. They had eventually come to the conclusion that it depends on amount of weed and the way it has been taken. Sometimes you’re so baked that food is imperative, but sometimes you were so dazed that music was enough food for thought.

They walked into the party, greeting their friends, chuckling at the ones who were already wasted when it was barely eleven o’clock. Hunter scanned the room and grinned as her eyes landed on a crooked smile from across the room. She grabbed Shay’s hand and led her over to the group of friends.

“Well, don’t you two look lovely tonight,” the boy smiled, looking Hunter and Shay up and down. She felt her cheeks grow warm.

“John,” she said simply, giving him a small grin. Shay wrapped her arms around his neck, giggling sweetly and flirting shamelessly, taking the boy’s attention shortly.

Hunter rolled her eyes and laughed, grabbing Jared Monaco into a hug. “Hey cutie, where’s your sister?”

The red head rolled his eyes, “Probably making out with Downey or something. She’s a little slut I swear.”

She laughed and hit his arm playfully, “Watch it she’s one of my best friends!”

“Yeah, so you know she’s a ho,” John laughed, leaning away from Shay and joining the conversation. She excused herself from them, sliding away with Eric to go get a drink. “Where’s Chase at?”

Hunter shrugged her shoulders and grabbed the beer from Jared’s hands. “Yeah, I was totally done with that,” he chuckled, rolling his eyes and walking away to grab everyone more drinks.

“He said he’d meet me here,” she said, browsing the room, but not finding her shaggy headed boyfriend.

“Yeah well, he says a lot of things,” John said simply, taking a gulp of his beer and looking somewhere else. He may have been laughing and hanging out with his friends, but something was wrong with him. Hunter had known him long enough to tell when he was upset. His shoulder’s slumped and his posture wasn’t as relaxed. His crooked smile didn’t completely reach his eyes. She hated when John was like this—he was one of her best friends, seeing him sad made her sad.

She remembered the first time she had met John O’Callaghan. It was the same day she had met Chase. Their mothers were all sitting outside the elementary school together, fussing over their shirts and backpacks, not ready to let their children disappear from their grasps. It was Hunter and Chase’s first day of kindergarten and John’s first day of first grade.

Chase had very obviously been dressed by his mother. He was wearing nice little jeans with an ugly green sweater vest. John, on the other hand was always the rebel. He had holes in his jeans that were stained with dirt. He had an old baseball t-shirt and a baseball cap to match with his black Converse sneakers.

John simply looked over at her and grimaced, “You wear too much pink.”

Hunter stared back into his eyes, refusing to let the older boy make her cry. “At least my face isn’t covered in permanent dirt,” she replied, referencing his freckles. Her mother reprimanded her for the rudeness, but John just smirked and nodded his head. They had an understanding. She could hang.

Hunter smiled as she looked at John now. His jeans were a little skinnier now, but her still wore baseball t-shirts and worn out baseball caps. He was still the same spitfire she had met on her first day of kindergarten. He was the same boy she had always known.

“Hey guys.”

Hunter turned to Chase’s voice, welcoming him with a kiss, not noticing as John turned away just in time to miss their affections. “Hey handsome, would you like a drink?”

Chase nodded his head and grinned, kissing her nose. Hunter left the two and walked into the kitchen, making her way to Shay and Eric who were engrossed in conversation. She leaned against the counter next to them sipping her mixed drink from Jared.

“Shay, you just need more mystery,” Eric said, shaking his head. “John needs a chase. No pun-intended about Chase.”

Hunter laughed with Eric, before turning to Shay, “Just make out with someone else in front of him or something. If he gets jealous he wants you, if not, move on. You know, Garrett has been wanting to ask you out.”

“Ew,” Shay sighed. “You guys better not tell about my crush.”

“We would have by now,” Eric said, rolling his eyes. “Besides, he totally already can tell. You’re not exactly the most low-key flirt.”

Shay groaned and hid her face in Hunter’s shoulder. “I need an easy relationship like you and Chase.”

Hunter chuckled. Her and Chase’s relationship was anything but easy. It was possibly the most stressful thing in her life as of late. She loved him to death, but sometimes she was scared that it wouldn’t be enough to save them--and that loving him to death would be just that.

Love wasn’t enough to save any of them.

“Come on, let’s go socialize. Stop moping,” Hunter said simply, grabbing Shay’s hand and going back to where John and Chase seemed to be having a tense conversation. The boys stopped talking as she approached them, both standing with similar straight expressions. They looked so much alike sometimes.

Chase grabbed Hunter as they approached them and led her outside, running a hand through his hair and sighing. “God, he’s so annoying sometimes!” He yelled, shaking his head at the boy they had just left inside.

Hunter looked at him confusedly, what had she just missed? “Who? John?” She asked, taking a sip of her drink. “What happened?”

“He told me to go home, said I shouldn’t be here. Said it’s not good for my health,” Chase mocked, rolling his eyes. “I swear the asshole just can’t stand that I’m just as popular as him.”

“Maybe he’s just worried—

“Don’t take his side,” he said, cutting her off sternly, closing his eyes. “I know my limits, Hunter. I’m the one living with this. Not you two.”

She stared at the ground silently, shifting her weight from either foot. “We all just worry about you…you can’t blame us. We love you.”

Chase took a deep breath, covering his eyes with his hands. He pulled her into a hug a few moments later, kissing her forehead sweetly. “I know, I’m sorry. I love you guys too. It’s just frustrating having eight mothers all the time.”

Hunter chuckled and pressed her lips to his neck, trying her best not to be alarmed at the heat coming from his skin. He had to have a fever of at least 100 degrees to be that hot. “Do you feel okay though?”

He shrugged, “Fighting with John kind of takes it out of me. I could use a drink.”

“I can help there,” Hunter chuckled, grabbing them both drinks. They went back inside and met up with their friends. They drank, laughed, and drank more. Within an hour Hunter was light on her feet, her head starting to feel fuzzy. She stopped noticing details, like the paling of Chase’s face, and her words began slurring together smoothly.

Hunter found herself leaning against Shay for support, giggling at a joke that didn’t deserve the amount of attention it was getting, when Chase’s hand wrapped around her wrist, pulling her towards him. “Babe,” he said sweetly in her ear.

“Yes?” She smiled, batting her eyelashes and falling into his warm body.

“I need to head home,” he said slowly. “I don’t feel very well at all.”

“Oh,” Hunter said, her smile fading. She wasn’t ready to leave, but Chase was sick? She knew she should accompany him, but she didn’t want to.

“A-are you going to stay here or…?” Chase asked. She realized just how pale and sickly he looked. He needed rest.

Hunter glanced around the room looking at all of her smiling friends, letting her eyes linger on one boy for a little too long. He was looking at Chase with such intensity in his eyes—she couldn’t place it. “Yeah, I’m going to stay here,” she said, letting her eyes go back to Chase.

“Right,” he said knowingly, nodding his head. He started walking away from her, no goodbye.

She grabbed his arm, “Hey…don’t be mad. I’m just not ready to go to sleep and…well, you’re going to be too tired to do anything.”

“No, I want you to stay,” Chase said, agreeing. When he didn’t feel well he passed out within ten minutes of being home, they both knew this. “You should stay, you’re…yeah, just stay.”

“I’m what?” Hunter asked nervously, ignoring the weird glances they were getting from their friends.

“Not sick,” he said simply. He pressed his lips against hers and looked across the room to John, nodding his head. “I’ll call you when I get home, okay? I love you.”

“I love you too, sunshine,” she said sweetly, kissing his cheek and letting him go. She watched him disappear from the house before she turned to join her friends again. She and Jared won three games of beer pong in a row and she shot-gunned two beers before she had realized that another boy had disappeared as well.

Hunter made her way through the house, closing her eyes every so often as to not throw up. She opened a bedroom, taking a deep breath when she saw a familiar boy lying on the bed. She walked in and shut the door behind her, taking a seat on the bed next to him.

She smiled goofily as he sat up next to her. “Hello, John Cornelius,” she giggled, bunching up her cheeks and closing her already squinted eyes.

“Hello Hunter Beatrice,” John laughed, matching her expression.

She crinkled her nose and looked away with distaste, “Don’t say my middle name. It’s ugly.”

“And Cornelius is a good name?”

“It has character!” She laughed, raising her hands in the air. “You’re the only Cornelius I know, after all.”

He chuckled and ran a hand through his hair. “Chase went home finally, yeah?”

Hunter nodded her head and looked around the room. It was like every other teenage boy’s room—covered in pictures of musicians and half naked women. “I didn’t even realize he felt so sick,” she admitted, guilt sitting in her stomach. She should know these things.

“He wasn’t supposed to go out tonight. I told him that,” John sighed, covering his hands with his face. “It’s aggravating you know?”

She looked at him intrigued by the change in the sound of his voice. Chase was always the sweet one. Even when he was mad he couldn’t really be mean. But John, John had always had so much feeling—so much emotion in every single one of his actions…and right now, well, he sounded angry.

“What is?” Hunter asked slowly, trying to sober up her mind to remember this moment in its entirety.

“He has a mother, he has a father—he is the only one they care about and yet he is determined to go about and do exactly what they say not to do,” John said, his eyes staring straight forward and his jaw set firmly. “He is always making me watch after him and frankly I’m over the ‘Chase Show’. I shouldn’t have to babysit—it’s not my job, but I have to because—

“You love him,” Hunter said, cutting him off.

John sighed, his eyes still staring at an old beer can sitting on the floor in front of them. “Do you know how many of my club baseball games my mom has been to this season?”

“All of them probably,” Hunter smiled. “She loves you.”

He scoffed, his eyes turning to look out the window. “Not as much as she loves him…”

“John,” she paused, “Your mom loves you. You’re her son.”

“I’m the healthy son. There’s a difference. And she hasn’t been to a single one.”

Hunter kept her lips shut, because she knew the honesty in his words. John was the healthy son, and sometimes, well sometimes the sick son seemed to take more precedence. It wasn’t Chase’s fault. He didn’t choose to be this way—to have doctors’ appointments every week, or to suddenly faint because his body was just too weak. He didn’t choose this lifestyle, but neither did John. And while John may have been born into this brotherhood, Hunter had chosen to be a part of it.

“You matter,” Hunter said simply. “You know that right?” John was quiet. She could see tears forming in the corners of his eyes that were threatening to pour over. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, holding him as he stared in front of them.

They were silent for moments, just letting their breathing and their thoughts consume them. But the comfort of every thought they knew was broken in time, when John spoke words that she would have never expected.

“You’re not trapped,” he said softly, almost scared to speak them out loud for how, well, wrong they were. “You don’t have to be with him.”

Hunter didn’t know what to say. Her mouth couldn’t open and her mind couldn’t form complete thoughts. No matter how hard it was to say, even if she wanted out—she could never be out of this relationship. She could never break the heart of a boy who was dying; his heart was already weak enough. He needed her to keep him strong, and she needed his life.

There was no love like love that everyone knew was going to eventually run out.

“I love Chase, John,” Hunter said after a few moments, trying to gather her mind.

“So do I,” he said simply, looking away. “I’m just…we can’t pretend…”

“Pretend what?” She could feel herself becoming defensive. “I’m not pretending—

“He’s going to die, Hunter,” John stated, staring into her eyes for the first time. “I’ve been through this therapy before. I’ve been to more doctors’ appointments than you. I live with this.
He is going to die.

“We’re all going to die,” Hunter responded, feeling sadness overwhelm her.

“Some deaths are sooner than others,” he whispered. This conversation was so familiar to her. Why was she the only one who couldn’t seem to accept the fact that was so obvious to them all? She refused to believe it. “Don’t let yourself die with him, Hunter.”

She stood up angrily as she listened to his words. “I’m not dying, John,” she spat. “I’m doing my best to live my life for myself and for a boy who may not get one. Do you know how hard it is to be in a relationship where everyone stares at you in sympathy because they’re all counting down days until you’re alone? Do you?!”

“Yeah, I do,” John argued, standing up and walking towards her quickly. “It’s the same look I get whenever we have a normal brotherly moment. Every time I feel ordinary I see eyes looking, staring at me because they know this moment isn’t going to last. I feel like they’re counting down to my death as well. Like they assume we just go as one. Who is John O’Callaghan without Chase O’Callaghan?”

“The same as Hunter without Chase,” she said wretchedly. “No one.”

“Stop,” he scolded. “You stop that.”

Hunter felt tears pouring down her cheeks. “What happens to us all when he’s gone? What happens, John?”

“I-I don’t know,” he said softly. “But all I do know is that you’re not no one, and I never want you to say that again.”

John pressed his hands to her cheeks and used his thumbs to rub away her tears. He ‘shhed’ her until she stop crying, and eventually he was just holding her. His warm body pushed against hers tightly, his hands rubbing circles in her back.

It was different. He was taller than Chase, but his clothes smelled of the same linen. His hands were rougher than Chase’s, and much warmer, but still of the same nature. He was so like his brother—but so much unalike at the same time.

She wasn’t sure how it started, or who had made the first move, but before Hunter knew it she was falling to the floor with John’s lips fervently moving against hers, creating a tension she had never felt between them before.

Her hands moved through his hair eagerly, pulling his lips closer to hers with every movement. His hands touched her body sweetly, but with such a need that she didn’t stop him as he slipped her shirt over her head. He sucked on her neck, causing her to gasp at how quickly he found her sensitive spot.

John moved unalike anything she had known. He was more mature—more skilled, smooth. He had done this before, but yet somehow, he still seemed nervous. They kissed as slowly as their clothing fell beside them. As John reached for a condom in his wallet no questions arose. Hunter thought it’d be like a movie where they’d pause, ask each other if this was okay—but there was no hesitation.

Both of them knew this was right.

Hunter was so lost as she moaned John’s name into his neck that she didn’t hear the vibration of her phone that was sitting on her bed, that had a boy calling to say that he was sorry, and that he loved her.

That was the first of many missed calls.


Her lips were dry. She licked them slowly, stretching out her legs, pausing as they collided cool metal that made her draw her limbs into her body quickly. She felt her heartbeat quicken and she listened as a beeping noise accelerated in perfect sync. She opened her eyes, squinting as white fluorescent lights blinded her. Her breathing became ragged as she looked around the empty room. There were grotesque pink and blue pastel paintings everywhere that matched one empty chair in the corner of the room.

There was a large IV in her left arm that was accompanied by bracelets with all of her information on them. She was connected to a large machine that sat on her right that recorded the vitals of her every move.

She was in the hospital but it felt more like Hell.

Hunter sat up in her bed, leaning back into the pillows and glancing at the T.V. in the corner of the room. The voices blaring from it were from an old re-run of Friends. She remembered watching this episode once. She and Eric used to watch Friends all the time.

She turned her attention to the door that was opening to her left. A smiling nurse walked through the door, speaking excitedly about how she was finally awake. Hunter wasn’t listening; all she could do is try to remember how she got here in the first place. It all came back within a matter of moments, just in time for a doctor to ask her questions about the situation.

What were her intentions with the drug? Was she aware that such a high dose was going to cause a possible death? Did she know the consequences of the illegal drug? Was she trying to kill herself?

Hunter was stumped on the last question, finally answering with a quiet, ‘I don’t know.’ Wanting to kill yourself was one thing, but saying it out loud was another.

“When can I leave?” She asked simply, looking away from the man. Her skin was starting to itch from the sheets and the constant noise from the hallways was already irritating her.

“Well, considering the possible suicide attempt, a couple of days,” the doctor replied simply, exiting the room. He dealt with suicide victims? She would have figured someone with better social skills.

Hunter sighed and laid back into her bed, closing her eyes. She could hear the door open again but she ignored it, assuming it was a nurse. She opened them a few moments later as a chair dragged itself by her bed and a familiar voice filled her eardrums.

“Hunter, I’m very glad you are okay, baby,” Rosa spoke sweetly, grasping her hand tightly and holding back tears.

She felt her chest tighten and her own mind tell her tears to stop. If there was one person she would never want to hurt it would be Rosa. “I didn’t think anyone had come,” Hunter said meekly, her voice quivering.

Rosa sighed and ran a hand through her greying brown hair. “You nearly gave me a heart attack, Hunter. What were you thinking?” The woman spoke softly, but angrily. Of course she was angry, she was the single person who had proved to always be there. Rosa loved her. “No, you weren’t thinking. You would never do this—you aren’t this person.”

“I’m sorry,” Hunter whispered, closing her eyes. “I didn’t mean—I didn’t realize…”

Rosa grasped her hand tighter, laying her face against her forearm. “Never do something like this again—I’m getting you help. You have no choice.”

Hunter stayed silent. She didn’t want help. If she had help she would have to acknowledge things that she had been successfully been avoiding. She would be okay eventually—she could do it alone. “Did anyone else…did anyone come?” Hunter said, sadness taking over her mind. The truth was that she had to do this alone.

Rosa released her hand and looked away from her. “Not that I’ve seen,” the woman said softly. “Your phone has been ringing though. I put it on a charger for you.”

Hunter took a deep breath and looked at the fluorescent lights with a grimace. “Does my father know?”

The woman nodded her head. “He said he’ll deal with it when he gets home from his vacation.”

“Deal with it,” Hunter repeated, scoffing. “Right.”

“Oh Hun, you know that’s not what he means,” Rosa replied, trying to sooth her. It was useless. They both knew what he had meant by the statement. She was a burden to him and had been for the past two years. Things had been better for him when she was gone. “Hey, how about I get you a wheel chair and we can go outside. Get some fresh air, yeah?”

Hunter began to protest, to say that she could walk but Rosa was already gone from the room. She sighed and leaned over to her cell phone, noticing a crack across the screen. She had probably thrown it that night as well…

Hunter opened her phone, frowning, as she saw no missed texts, but one voicemail from a boy she hadn’t spoken to in almost two years. She nervously pressed the green play button next to his name. She was instantly brought back into a night from two years ago—just nights before she left. The conversation seemed so similar that she could picture him as she listened to his words over the speakers.

His hands were running through his hair. “Hunter, who the fuck do you think you are?” Eric Halvorsen yelled angrily into the phone. He would pace around the room as he continued to speak. “You think you can just come back here and act like you don’t exist? Yes, I completely understand that no one wants you here—but you’re forgetting that some of us fought to make you stay. I was there. Rosa was there. John was there. You’re not okay. None of us are okay. John is not okay and for you to come back here and do things like this—do you get how much you are making him suffer, Hunter? Where are you? Where is the Hunter we all knew? You need to get your shit together. Your show isn’t cute anymore—and frankly, Chase would fucking hate you right now. Fix yourself. Or leave. Get better or get the fuck out of our lives before you destroy those too.”

Hunter erased the message, feeling anger pool into her limbs. Eric had no right to speak to her like that. This wasn’t a show—and she was trying so hard to get out of their lives. If she wasn’t in the hospital—if Rosa hadn’t had found her she would have been gone. She should have been dead.

“Are you ready, Hun?” Rosa asked, grabbing her and pulling her to the wheel chair. Truth was, she wasn’t ready. She didn’t want to move but from the look in the older woman’s eyes, she didn’t really have much of a choice in anything anymore. She was going to be put in rehab, be on suicide watch, and she was sure never left alone. Rosa had lost a son to drug abuse, and Hunter knew she wouldn’t let another person fall to it if she had a choice.

Hunter looked at the floor as Rosa began wheeling her into the hallway. She licked her chapped lips again, hating the cracked feeling of them. The skin on her forearm was nearly translucent and her whole body felt weak. And as she looked to a boy that was quickly approaching her, she instantly felt sicker, as if that was possible.

His hair was a tousled mess and his eyes had bags underneath them. It was far too early in the morning for him to smell so strongly of Jack Daniel’s that she assumed he had never gone to bed. His combat boots hit the floor so loudly that Hunter swore it was the only sound in the room—it seemed to echo in her ears.

Rosa stopped the chair as John stopped in front of her, throwing something into her lap. She glanced down slowly staring angrily at the bag of Oreo cookies. She looked up quickly, her eyes narrowing in fury. She opened her mouth to speak, but before she had the chance he was storming away—not looking back.

How dare he. He knew how she felt about actions like this—cookies and the soft bullshit that Rosa and her father always did that just made her feel like a child. Cookies wouldn’t make you feel better—growing the fuck up did, was what she had always told him.

So maybe, just maybe that’s what he was trying to tell her—‘to grow the fuck up’. She threw the cookies on the floor, screaming quietly, ignoring the glances she was receiving from nurses around her. He had taken the upper hand in this and she couldn’t handle it. John had been the only thing she had ever been to control and now that he was gone all she had left was herself. And, if she was being honest, that wasn’t much.
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So, this is almost 6,500 words! I hope most of your questions or suspicions have been answered. There are still some twists coming, so be prepared. But for now, how do you guys feel? Do you like Hunter and Chase? Is she messing up with John? Do you think they'll speak? Let me know how you're feeling!