When nothingness surrounds you, it gives you a chance to release bad energy and absorb all that is good. It allows you to think, relax and disappear from reality. Sitting in the darkness means that you can’t be seen… no one can see the tears crashing down your face… no one can see the dark circles under your eyes… no one can see that you’re broken.
I’d spent a lot of time in the dark since that night, both metaphorically and literally. I refused to let mum see my emotions and had wound a tight, hard cocoon around myself; it would be hard to break into that quickly.
She’d figured out what I’d meant on the phone and was trying her utmost to get answers out of me: why? When? Where? All the usual kind… but I hadn’t leaked a single thing… especially what happened after I’d hung up on her.
She worried when I locked myself in the bathroom, most nights, in total darkness and would often wait outside the door until I emerged – which wasn’t often.
James had been discharged from the hospital the day after and, though it seems hard to believe, I couldn’t bring myself to look at him. I’d spent the whole previous night with him, running to the restroom every ten minutes to cry over what had happened just before.
His face reminded me too much of Ben. He practically was Ben, in every thinkable way. Every time I looked at him… I felt pain where my heart should have been. I couldn’t take it any longer.
As soon as mum and the McFarlows had arrived, stating that they were James’ grandparents – half true – I’d asked mum to take me home. At first, she’d thought I was mad; why would I want to leave him? But I did…
She’d finally agreed and we left him with Teresa and Jerry. Since then, I’d hidden away from the world, only lurking out when necessary for survival; though I’d questioned the point on several occasions. I’d even talked mum into letting me miss College. I hadn’t even wanted to see James.
The McFarlows and he had left a couple days after and I felt nothing. All emotion had been drained out of me. Gone…
My eyes snapped open at the slight rap against the thick, wooden door. Darkness… I couldn’t see anything. It was February, and mum had made me go back to College. I’d found myself locked in the Art supplies cupboard, in Mr. Newton’s studio, for the majority of the day – the only lesson he’d had was a double second year class, that had been studying theory, and therefore didn’t require anything from my hiding place.
There was another rap against the door: “Can whoever’s in there open up?” came Mr. Newton’s voice, “There’s no point pretending that you’re not there because I know you are.” I closed my eyes again and breathed in and back out, deeply, before pushing myself up, onto my feet, and going over to the door.
I took hold of the lock and turned it left. It clicked open. The hand dropped downwards and was pulled open from the outside, letting a stream of sunlight into the pitch black, windowless room. The light blinded me and my face screwed up at the sudden change.
“Ah, Casey,” Mr. Newton sighed, running a hand through his graying hair and looking at me with a slanted smile. He had, by far, been the teacher I felt most comfortable around at College – even though I couldn’t bring myself to call him by his first name, “can I ask why you are hiding it my supplies cupboard?”
“I don’t know,” I replied, looking down at my hands as I picked at my nails, “I guess… I guess I just wanted to…”
“Get away?” he interrupted with an encouraging tone. I looked up at him and studied the smile on his face. It matched the tone of his voice: encouraging and safe. I nodded.
“Everything in my life has just come spiraling down at once and nothing makes sense anymore.”
“So you think sitting in the dark will help?”
“No, it drowns it out, temporarily, giving me the time to forget it before having to face reality.” I confessed. Mr. Newton sighed,
“Talking about your problems is also good,” he leaned inside the room and flicked the switch beside me, filling the supplies cupboard with yellow, fluorescent light, “but it’s usually best done when you can actually see the person you’re talking to.” I sighed, but I had to agree with him… he was my teacher.
I turned on my heel and returned back to where I’d been sat previously, a short distance away from the door. I resumed as I had been before, with my knees tucked under my chin and my arms hugging them in front. Mr. Newton shut the door behind him and sat opposite me, with one leg crossed and the other stood, bent at the knee, over it. He leaned his arm against his raised knee and looked at me with a gentle, reassuring smile.
It wasn’t very often that I confided in teachers, so I’d found the whole situation daunting and unreal. Was I really going to spill everything out, after everything I’d done to keep it quiet? Was I really prepared to through it all away?
“I got myself into some trouble,” I began, taking a deep breath, “it was when I was still doing my GCSEs and it would have ruined everything I’d worked hard for it.
“Well, the trouble I got myself into was so bad that mum and I moved away. No one knew about it, and we intended for no one to find out. But the trouble wasn’t something that could just disappear forever, but it could be hidden and kept quiet about… temporarily.
“So, we sorted everything out, with help from friends, and we moved back, leaving everything behind. I’m confronted with it from time to time, but I’ve embraced it now and don’t mind what I got myself into.
“I’ve learnt to accept it and… love the mistake I made. It’s a part of me and always will be. But… it’s become too hard to keep hidden and it had caused me to lie and hurt the people I love.” I fell silent, and brushed away the stray tear that clung it my cheek. I looked up at Mr. Newton. He didn’t say anything, but his eyes spoke for him. They shed sympathy and understanding. But he didn’t know the half of it.
“Have you tried to tell people about it?” he asked.
“Yes,” I nodded, “but it backfired. I’ve been trying to say it for so, so long… I just can’t find the right words.” I gazed at Mr. Newton, urging him through my eyes for an answer. He pursed his lips and thought, before exhaling and looking back at me, his eyes locking onto mine.
“Have you started the project I set, yet?” he asked, changing to subject. What? I looked at him bewildered. He was supposed to be helping me, wasn’t he?
“No,” I admitted, “but what had it got to do with…”
“Start it soon,” he interrupted, “use it to portray a message. All the pieces will be presented in a presentation… in front of an audience… with an explanation as to why you did what you did.” My mouth dropped open slightly as I took in his words. The man was a genius…
“Come on, Casey. I thought you of all people knew that there is more ways than just words to explain and express yourself.”
So true, Greg… so true…