Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/874648-The-Struggle-to-Listen
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Romance/Love · #874648
A boyfriend's struggle to keep love without repeating his father's mistakes.
Her knees ached as she collapsed to the floor on them, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t care. Guilt and heartfelt love swept over her heart as she laid her head on her knees and her arms covered her head. A silent cry escaped her lips prior to her releasing a choked sob. A sob that soon the entire class of shocked teenagers cringed at. Reality struck as her cries of pain and grief delivered the wordless message.
Everyone dared not move as some looked on at the helpless crying girl cradled on the floor while some stared at the dreaded cell phone abandoned by her side. Whispers and murmurs escalated into gasps and cries. “Oh my gosh” ’s and “It can’t be true” ‘s only denied the inevitable truth. The truth that the mourning had begun, for the poor girl and her long lost boyfriend, Allen.

Allen tried so hard not to be like his abusive father. He’d grown up in a house were tempers were flared twenty four seven. His mother tried to drink away the pain Allen’s father inflicted upon her daily. But it was never enough. Soon pills seemed to be a better answer and proved to be a fatally permanent one. By age 13 with his mother out of the picture and his father driving him like a slave, Allen had lost all hope of happiness and withdrew into his bitter heart.
High school seemed to be his only escape, and it made him very sociable and happy for at least of the day. But he still carried a bitter temper with him. He had tried his best to immerse himself in school and friends to “get away from it all”. One day after school during his junior year, he tried to “get away from it all” in the library. He went far into the back and leaned against a bookcase. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He hoped that the teachers wouldn’t come into the library to look for the mysterious boy who just punched a student in the face after losing his temper. He tried to count to ten, but he still was not calm. A small shy voice halted his counting at forty-two.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry but could I just shelve this book real quick.”

He opened his eyes to see a girl he had barely spoken to from his math class. He mumbled an apology, and stepped out of the way. He looked at the floor impatiently waiting for her to leave. “

Um do you need help with something?”

He looked up surprised.

“Me? Nah. Just hiding out.”

She looked at him amused, “So you are who Ms. Sharply was looking for? Don’t worry she’s gone. Sound like you did a real number on that kid.”

He looked her in the eyes sharply with an insane look, “I didn’t do anything!”

She backed up and reverted back to her shy ways.

She quickly turned around and walked away.

He leaned back against the case and began his counting again from zero. Once he reached sixty-six he opened his eyes and frowned. He walked to the front of the library to see the girl trying to reach a book on the top shelf. He walked up behind her and grabbed the book for her. She turned around and backed into the bookcase.

“Sorry I snapped at you. Temper problems. Thanks for the heads up.”
He gently handed the book to her. He was about to walk away when she asked, “Are you ok?”

He looked at her perplexed.

“I know we don’t talk that much, but if you just need to let off some steam, I’m her in the library just shelving. I’ve learned to listen in my peer counseling class, and talking things out helps with tempers.”

He looked at her with amazement wondering if someone actually cared. He looked in her eyes and found sincerity. His pride overtook the conversation, “Nah.”

He turned and exited through a set of doors that he re-entered two days later after school. He found her in the Reference section.

“Hi Emily.”

She turned to see him slightly less intimidating but with a huge bruise over his right eye.

“What happened?!”

He looked at the ground shyly and stuffed his hands in his letterman’s packets.

“You mind if I take you up on that offer?”

She thought back to their previous conversation and then looked back at his eye.

“Sure. Would you like me just to listen?”

“Please, but only if this remains confidential” he hurriedly replied.

But for some odd reason he trusted her completely. She was rather a recluse girl (without anyone to spread gossip to), but very amiable and always smiling (very inviting). She stopped her shelving and looked him in the eye, “I promise.”

He took a deep breath and began to relate his home life to her as if she was a therapist. He talked and she shelved. She barely said anything; except for a few words sprinkled here and there to assure him she was listening. He’d follow her up and down the rows pouring his heart out. By the time he was done she had tears in her eyes. She hugged him and said, “Your family is your friends.”

He stepped back after she let go and said, “I better be going.”

His pride encouraged him to leave the library before he was seen, but did not prevent him from saying thanks the next day in class. Nor did it prevent him from returning to the library every afternoon to talk to her. He was oddly drawn to her and soon the one sided conversations became shared and the topics more appealing.
Junior year was winding down as the days inched closer to the last dance before the senior prom. Allen entered the library to find her waiting for him by the circulation desk. He quickly entered and asked her before she could get a word out, “Would you like to go to the dance with me?”

Shocked she processed the information and formulated an answer, “Yes”.

The two let out a sigh of relief. The dance and dinner after became the two’s first date. The couple’s feelings for one another had grown prior to the dance and only flourished after he asked her out on a second date.

Soon the two quickly became inseparable. His suppressed feelings of care and affection long over due to be shared with someone who cared for him also, poured into their relationship. Summer vacation only brought the two closer together. The night before school began happened to be their six-month anniversary. Before walking her to her house, he pulled her out of the car and looked into her eyes longingly.

“Emily, I must thank you. Before you I was just living from day to day, miserable all the time searching for a way to release my anger and get attention. No one ever noticed me I felt. I was just a figment of my mom’s alcoholic imagination. And my dad used me as a punching bag. You taught me how to control my rage. You showed me that there are people out there that care, or at least there is one. One that cares about me…and I feel horrible because I’ve lied to you.”

She broke away from his embrace looking into his eyes for a reasonable explanation. He hugged her to reassure her and continued, “I said I care about you, but…I don’t just care about you. I love you. I love you so much that I don’t want to let you go right now.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck and repeated those three little words. He kissed her and then picked her up and whirled her around. He placed her down and said, “You know how much I despise my parents, and so I hope you feel the power of what I’m about to promise you. I promise you that I will never treat you the way my father treated my mother. I’d kill myself before I’d ever hurt you. I will treat you like a queen.”

He picked her up and carried her to the door. He put her down and placed his forehead on hers, “I promise.” She smiled and she said, “I know.”

School started and life changed. He couldn’t see her as often as he’d liked because she had made the cheerleading squad under his encouragement and she was off practicing. He’d attend them all and drive her home afterward. Their love for each other never dwindled. There relationship was finally truly tested one day after practice. She ran up to him in the stands, “Hey hon. We are all gonna go to get some ice cream, so I don’t need a ride. Thanks for coming though.”

“Oh its no problem, I will take you.”

“Well its sorta just a cheerleading thing, its like some initiation for all the newbies and no one else is allowed.”

He looked down at his book then back at her. She could see the frown on his face he was trying his best to hide.

“Oh hon, its just today. I promise. I’ll call you as soon as I get home.”

She kissed him and whispered an “I love you” in his ear and ran off to the honking cars. He drove home, slightly depressed but content that the kiss might just last him until her phone call.
Two hours after he had been home her parents called, “Allen? Hey! Is Emily with you?”

“No ma’am, she’s with the cheerleaders out eating ice cream.”

“Oh. Well we wanted to go visit her aunt before visiting hours were over. Could you perhaps go pick her up, I’m not sure where she is.”

“Oh no problem.” After hanging up Allen called one of the cheerleaders he knew to see where they’d be. “Oh they are about to come over to my house right now. “

Allen drove over to the house. As he was coming up on it he had a bad feeling in his stomach. He saw three trashcans out in the front lawn filled with some syrupy liquid. Two girls, one in each of the cans, tried their best to get out. They were laughing and kept slipping back in. Allen got out of the car and helped the first one out. “Where’s Emily?” The girl laughed, “She’s coming.”
Soon shouting could and a chant of men could be heard with a girl’s scream of laughter. “Throw her in! Throw her in! Throw her in!” Around from the side of the house three male cheerleaders were carrying Emily above their heads. She was making no effort to get out of her predicament. Out of sheer surprise and immediate jealousy Allen hollered, “Put her down!”

The three males stopped. “ I said put her down.” They placed her down gently. “Allen! Why are you here?”

She ran to him. The largest male cheerleader stepped up to him, “Yea! Why ARE you here punk? This is for cheerleaders only, not family rejects.”

He pushed Allen into his car.

“Tom! Stop it! Don’t touch him.”

Allen stepped forward, “I’d suggest you watch yourself.” Emily pushed Allen back, “Allen don’t listen to him. Come on let’s just go.”

“Watch myself? Or else what? You are going to sic your daddy on me so he can beat me up like he does you?”

Allen jumped at Tom, “I’d suggest you let that be your last insult to my face or else you’ll end up with no face to insult with.” Tom had touched a nerve in Allen that brought back his old threatening self.
The mad look in his eyes almost spooked Tom. Emily pulled on Allen, “Allen honey, let’s just go.”

Allen pushed past her, slid in the driver’s seat and slammed the door. She ran to the passenger’s side and they drove away.

“Allen, why did you come?”

Short and sweet he answered her, “Your mother wanted me to pick you up.”


“To visit your aunt.”

“Oh my gosh, I completely forgot.”

There was complete silence after that remark until she asked, “Are you ok?”

Allen quickly pulled over into an abandoned lot and looked straight ahead. He dug his hands into the steering wheel and tried to speak as calmly as possible, “Would you be ok, if you felt your girlfriend had abandoned you for some new cooler friends only to find some guys carrying her off to who knows where?”

“They were just going to through me in the trash full of syrup they weren’t kidnapping me.” He sighed.

“Look I’m sorry. I just don’t like my girlfriend being handled like that. It…”

“It makes you jealous?” He looked at her and she looked lovingly back. “You know I love you, but you got really angry out there. Are you sure you are ok?”

“I’m fine. Just promise me you won’t go out with those guys again.”

“I can’t make that promise hon. I work with them.”

He sighed once again and drove off back to her house. Her house was his second home. He was allowed to sometimes sleep on the couch when his father had “guests” over or when his mood was especially temperamental.
Weeks had passed and Allen’s jealousy grew the more he saw Emily befriending the guys of the squad. After her aunt had died, Allen came over with flowers to comfort Emily. When he drove up he saw a familiar car already parked outside. The door was open so he entered. The house was deserted but he could hear voices outside. When he went to the back door he saw Emily surrounded by all the male cheerleaders. They were each hugging her and showing sympathy for her aunt. Allen’s jealousy spiked, but he tried to calm himself, “They are just showing their regards.”

When Tom hugged her, he held on for quite a long time. She coughed and said, “You can let go now.”

He stopped hugging her but with his arms around her waist, he kissed her on the forehead. She stepped back and pried his hands off of her. “I think you better go now.”

Allen stepped out, “Yes I think you better go.”

Tom looked at Allen without fear and said, “Aw look the family reject has come back to protect his girl again.”

Allen stared at the ground and breathed in, “Please leave.”

Tom smiled, “And what are you going to do about it.” Emily interrupted, “You don’t want to stay and find out. Now look, I asked you to leave once. I will not ask again, I will call the cops. Please don’t come back here again ok? Just go.”

The other cheerleaders hurriedly ran past Allen. Tom reached for Emily's chin, “See ya later sweet thing.”

Allen charged for Tom and pushed him into the fence. “Lay off my girlfriend! It’s your last chance, GET OUT OF HERE!”

Tom hurriedly shoved past Allen. Allen kept facing the fence clenching his fists.


“What were they doing here?”

“Just showing their regards.”

“No, what were they doing back here…in the yard?”

“They walked in the house and found me gardening.”

“Why wasn’t the door locked?”

“Because I had left it open for you, you said you were coming over.”

He whirled around, “Do NOT make this seem like my fault. I told you it’d be best if you stop seeing them.”

She backed up, “Its not your fault. And I told you I couldn’t, we are on the same team.”

“So it doesn’t matter to you that some guy is flirting with you in front of your boyfriend?! You could care less?”

His voice rose to a volume he’d never spoken to her before, and she in turn became defensive. “I can take care of myself. You can’t control whom I am friends with. You could try but I can’t be with someone who is jealous of every male friend I have.”

Allen paused, “So what are you saying?” She remained silent, her newfound pride kept the little voice inside her suppressed.

“So those guys over me? You like them more?”


“No! I get it You don’t want me in your life either.” He brushed passed her and the flowers he had left on the table. He couldn’t hear her calling to him. All he heard was an intense ringing sound and a mental confirmation of his unpopular status.
The drive home was completely mechanical. Once inside, he paced. His temper was concealed but his depression began to throb in time with the hunger pains in his stomach. He searched the cabinets and refrigerator for food. Though he didn’t find any edible sustenance, he came across the widely famed liquid courage. The beer bottle called him and he faithfully answered. He took the 1st swig of his life and gagged on the bitter liquid. But somehow his problems didn’t seem as big. He tried a little more and a little more until he was halfway through bottle number three. He was staring at kitchen table in a daze. With a rush of anger he pushed all of the bottles on the floor. After the glass had shattered there was silence that reminded him that he was alone. He had no one to confide in anymore.
He took another bottle out of the fridge when the door swung open. Emily walked in and looked at him. She didn’t see the sensitive happy boy that she knew and loved, but rather a tired angry teen staring at her.

“Allen, are you drinking?”

He took a swig, wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and hung himself over the open refrigerator door.

“What do you think?”

“Are you drunk?” He shrugged. She snatched the bottle away in disgust. He protested, “Give that back!”

“No! Not until we talk.”

“Talk? HA you wanna talk to me. No you …you want to…”

Allen tripped over his feet and fell to floor barely missing the broken shards of glass. She placed the beer on the counter and tried pulling him up, but he pushed her away.

“Go to your boyfriend Toby or whatever he is.”

He hiccupped, stood, and wavered a bit. “Don’t say that Allen. You know…”

He laughed a hearty, bitter, drunken laugh and shouted, “I KNOW!? I know what? I know nothing. I should have known that you were in love with those cheering guys. You were probably cheating on me the entire time.”

Hurt by such a callous remark Emily became defensive, “ You jerk! You know I’ve always been faithful to you. Those are just my friends. Don’t ever question my love for you.”

“Yea whatever!”

She could contain herself no longer; “I can’t deal with you like this. You are hard and cold. Now I see why your mother never loved you and your father hates you.”

As if fired by a new passion and blinded by rage Allen snapped. He slapped her so hard she was knocked against the wall. He pushed her neck into the wall, and held her there threatening to choke her.

“Get out of my house.”

The bloodshot madness in his eyes warned her that he was not in the right composure for any further argument. The sting in her face only briefly described the pain she felt. The love of her life had hit her, but she wasn’t afraid to throw out one last remark as she was exiting through the door: “You are just like your father.”

She had not seen him all day. He wasn’t at home when she dropped by to apologize and see how he was the next morning. He didn’t meet her in the hallway before the 1st bell or after any of the others. He wasn’t in lunch and by the last period of the day she was extremely regretful for her harsh words.
The last class of the day had begun and as the teacher droned on, Emily contemplated what she’d say to him, when she saw him again. Her thoughts were interrupted by a commotion in the halls and a kid running into the classroom, “Some guy is on the roof and he has a gun.”

The classroom burst out into an uproar and some girls screamed and huddled together in the corner. Emily was oddly silent, yet her face turned deathly pale. Words she had not really taken literally echoed in her mind, “I’d kill myself before I’d ever hurt you.”

She slowly began to walk to the door when the teacher rushed passed her and demanded the class stay put. She slammed the door and locked it. Emily instinctively ran to the door and shouted, “Let me out! Allen! Please! Just let me see him!! Its my Allen up there! Please let me go!”

The class directed their attention on her, as she slid to the floor banging on the door until Tom pulled her back. “Get off of me! This is YOUR fault. This is all YOUR fault.”

She kicked his shins and pounded on his chest. He tried to hold her, but she pushed him away, “Get away from me! I belong to Allen do you hear?!”

She raced to the door and pounded again. “DO YOU HEAR ME!? I belong to Allen.”

She slid back down and held her knees with a mad look in her eyes. She didn’t shed a tear. Her trance was broken when she heard a distant ringing.

“My phone!”

She crawled to her purse and answered. “ALLEN! ALLEN!”

There was a soft low voice on the other end. “Emily?”

She smiled, “Yes its me baby.”

She tried to act as calm as possible.” “You forgot to meet me today. Where were you?”

“On the roof.”

She dropped into her chair, but tried her best not to reveal her anxiety. “Allen will you come down and meet me? I miss you.”

“I miss you.”

“Ok then. Its settled. How about you stay right where you are and I come to you.”



“Listen. No I can’t hurt you again.”

“You never hurt me.”

“I hit you”

“Don’t worry about that. I know it wasn’t you. It was the alcohol.”

“I hit you.”


“I’m my father.”

“No honey, no you aren’t you are a sweet loving boy who…”

“Who hurt the woman he loves.”

“I said some bad hurtful things to you yesterday also. It was my fault.” There was a halt in the conversation as the class listened on deathly quiet.


“I can hear the sirens.”

“Baby listen to me. Please don’t jump. I wanna give you a hug and say sorry to your face. Please just wait. I will be there in a second.”



“Do you love me?”

“Oh Allen I love you with all my heart. My life would be incomplete without you.”

“Emily? I couldn’t live my life knowing everyday that I once hurt you, and that I’m a danger to you.”

“Baby, forget about that. That doesn’t matter.” He raised his voice for the first time throughout the conversation.

“It does! It does. I am like my father.”


“I hit you…”

“No Allen…”

“…like he hit her. I can’t live with myself.”

“Don’t leave me Allen.”

“Do you love me Emily?”

“You are not your father Allen. Promise me you won’t jump.”

After a thought he replied, “I promise.”

But she forgot…

“I love you Allen.”

“I love you Emily. Forgive me.”

He dropped the phone. “ALLEN!?” She heard a faint shout, “I love you.”


Then she heard it. She heard the true deafening shot. She collapsed.

Some say that Allen’s choice was selfish, sick and twisted. They’d admit it behind her back and to her face that he wasn’t a healthy boy and just not right for her. She never listened.
She stopped listening.

Others said it was another Romeo and Juliet story with a twist and mourned the tragic ending.

She stopped listening.

Allen’s father didn’t attend the funeral, none of his family did. Emily was his only family. Emily made the arrangements. Emily paid for the tombstone. Emily engraved the words that will forever mark his place of eternal rest: “You are not like your father.” She hoped he was listening.
© Copyright 2004 babyjami (babyjami at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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