The Best of You
Alli looked at the familiar faces around her. On the way, Dave told her what all they had been through apart…and together. Some went to Bardell…thank God…she still didn't want the world to know her struggle. She didn't get how…how 10 strangers could sit in a circle and share their darkest scars to each other.
They were all smiling….laughing…didn't they know that they were like her. They would never be okay…they weren't going to get fixed…and no matter how people tried to sympathize….it was still their fault.
"Alli.…since you are new….please introduce yourself." The counselor stood up in the middle of their circle.
"Come join me in the circle.
"…hi…im alli bhandari….." As if she wanted 10 set of eyes on her.
"Hi Alli." The circle said.
"Well….for now you can just listen to others as we talk." Ms. Suave smiled as Alli nodded rushing to sit on the ground.
"ummm…I'm Bianca…and I'm a rape survivor…." She started off as Alli made a light gasp. "And I found myself wanting to throw up again…but I didn't….."
"So what stopped you?" Ms. Suave asked as the girl swallowed the lump in her throat. "A friend…when I get low…he is always there for me…" She smiled looking at Adam who blushed.
"That's good. Guys what you have been through cannot be erased but you have to learn to cope and find the happiness you deserve."
"It gets hard sometimes…ya know…." Dave started. "All I want to do is be the best brother to James. I can't forgive myself for almost leaving him like that. I can't imagine what he felt like seeing me lay on the floor with blood everywhere…..
"Dave you are being too critical of yourself. You just lost your father…."
"But I let it weigh me down to the point that I forgot that there was someone who needed me." Dave cried.
"Let me ask you a question. How do you think your brother sees you?" A camper asked him.
"He tells me that I am his hero. He has forgiven me."
"…..Then you must forgive yourself." Another replied back.
"…..Dave I know your brother loves you…" Alli said trying to help him like he helped her. "That day in the park…when he ran to you…I knew you could never hurt him…and that you love him too." He only nodded as they continued with their session.
Alli didn't know if this was helping but it made her realize that she was not the only one…alone…it made her somehow envy Bianca a little bit.
"Good job….you have 45 minutes to eat." They all went their separate ways.
"You are offly quiet…." Bianca as she opened a bag of trail mix giving Alli some banana chips.
"How could you say it like that….with ease…without another thought…." Alli asked looking at the curly haired girl.
"Because I am dealing with it…and letting it go….when I use to start trouble at school, I would do it because I was fighting against everyone who had hurt me….my mother….her boyfriends…..i told her…but she didn't care….at all…as long as she got her drugs."
"So what happened?" She asked with intrigue.
"I live with my grandma…luckily my mom lives 5hours away from here. She is not coming back…especially with the system involved."
"I wish mine did too….." Alli put the strange chip in her mouth.
"….your dad?" Bianca asked as Alli shook her head. She had always heard rumors about the Bhandari siblings. She knew they weren't so perfect when she transferred to the school. She figured that maybe Sav was hurting her….
"Yeah…..every night….for almost a year. I think she knew….I know she knew…but she just turned her head."
"That explains why you stopped flirting with guys and started to cover up."
"It wasn't your fault…" Bianca held her hand. "I know it sounds cliché now but it wasn't." Alli held her hand back.
"You are letting people touch you too. That is a step….and don't let Jenna get to you…."
"I won't tell…I promise."
"Why don't you make a move on Bianca…." Dave asked as he ate his beef jerky.
"She just sees me a good friend…she was with Drew for God's sakes." Adam said remembering how felt to see them kiss. They look in her eyes for him was never returned by his brother though.
"…and Drew transferred…don't you think if he wanted her…he would have kept communication."
"…guy code though." Only Adam would say something like this.
"This has nothing to do with guy code. When what you want is in front of you."
"Signal sucks out here." She tried texting Clare telling her that she was good.
"Tell me about it…so why isn't Sav here?" Both girls entered the tent.
"Sav who?" Alli asked as Bianca got the hint. It didn't help that she heard his voice in her head…both of their voices in her head…so loud…so suffocating.
"…I'm sorry…I sense a subject change…I know this is random but would you mind if I slept with Adam…and you could sleep with Dave?"
"…"Sleep with another guy…
"I'm sorry I know I might seem selfish but especially since I know what you are going through first hand….It's just that…at night…I call him when I can't go to sleep…his voice relaxes me." Bianca said looking at the nervous girl ball up. "Dave won't try…."
"…I know he won't…." She finally said. "…Dave is the reason I am here." For some reason she wanted to trust him…she wanted to trust people in general again…and she found herself trusting Bianca….
"Thanks Bhandari." The girls smiled.
"This next exercise I am going to ask you to team up….and put yourself in each other's shoes. How do you think that person feels….Bianca…Alli…."
"I don't know if I will be good…." She put her head down in defeat as the other campers encouraged her with a "you could do it." How could they believe in her if she didn't believe in herself? Was it fake? Were they pushing her up to make herself look like a fool.
"….just say how you think Bianca feels." The other counselor said. "You go first."
"Ok…I am tough because I have to be because if I don't be…people will take advantage of me….i have been hurt so many times before…can't get hurt again….I keep myself far away and only a few see the real me." Alli said as everyone applauded including Bianca.
"Bianca how did you feel hearing that…"
"Like it was true….that is how I feel…before I came here. I thought no good things existed. I thought I was just meant to lay on my back I had been doing before."
"Now you do Alli."
"…..i'm scared…because I am a product of what he did to me…how he hurt me. I can't even look people in the eye. When someone touches me…I jump….because I know they will hurt me too. I want to get better…but then I would have to tell the world." She said as Alli cried.
"Alli….i" A camper put an arm hesitantly around the Muslim girl…and Alli let her do it.
"no…people will pity me….I don't want people to pity me…and I still feel shamed….because people will say I did it to myself…before I was known to flirt. I just wanted the attention….I guess I got it."
"No Alli." Dave said. "it was not your fault….he should have never done that to you…never…"
"I keep telling myself that…hopefully I will believe it myself."
"We all still feel insecure…"Adam said. "I wonder do people really see me as a boy…or something artificial….a wannabe…."
"My burn marks hurt sometimes when I look at them. I am reminded of how I am never good enough…that is why Drew left." He said as the others listened.
"He didn't want me to be his burden anymore….he wanted to have his own life….." He put his head down.
"You are not a burden Adam." Bianca said. "You are not…and don't ever say that again."
"You really like Adam don't you." Alli changed in her tent.
"Is it that noticeable…" Bianca asked shyly.
"Yeah…" This was nice…girl talk…talking about things they should talk about at their age.
"It's just that…I hate it when he doubts himself ya know. He can't see how beautiful he is. He thinks everyone is a transophobe….i have to admit…at first I was a little cautious myself…then I found myself liking him…his goofey jokes…his smile…but he probably doesn't want me…."
"Now who is doubting themselves…" She laughed.
"Ummmm…..Adam told me we are supposed to be trading tents." Dave interrupted their conversation.
"…..Thanks for knocking." Bianca rolled her eyes as she walked out. "Bye Alli."
"She's pretty cool." Alli smiled telling him.
"…and you talked today….." He said as he turned on the lantern.
"yeah….it was one of the hardest things ever…but I had to push myself….." She watched as Dave put his bag far from her. He didn't want to scare her.
"It still hurts to talk about my dad and my attempt suicide….." He said as he unrolled his sleeping bag as Alli looked at him fascination. He was the strongest person she had ever met…and he was proud.
"I know it does." She put her hair in a pony tail. It should have felt odd sleeping in a tent with a guy but somehow they were friends…and this didn't. it was weird. She had never felt this sure of yourself when she was this vulnerable. She didn't have to explain herself.
"I told you this would help…." He smiled as he watched her look uncertain.
"I'm sorry Adam." Bianca sat on her bag watching Adam turn on his lantern.
"…for?" Not looking at her…because he didn't know what he would do if he looked her in her eyes.
"For hurting you. I always saw the look in your eyes when me and Drew were together." She remembered how he would always try to keep occupied.
"I did it because….i don't know why….." She shrugged realizing Adam was doing the same thing. "Am I doing something wrong?"
"Why?" He reached to turn off the lantern.
"…because you are trying to keep busy. I thought you wanted me here." Bianca asked.
"I do….I do…" He said.
"Well then act like it…." Bianca said.
"It's different though…you and me face to face…." Adam looked in her eyes.
"That's what I like about it?" She bit her lip.
"I remember I use to be so mad at my dad." Dave said.
"Because he was always working….I loved him but I barely knew him…but I see why he had to work…because my mother was never around. She just popped in and out…..The last words I said to him….was…'he was a terrible dad'." He said.
"That is why I beat myself up like this. My scars represent the pain I put him through his last day alive." Alli bit her lip as she listened. He trusted her enough to tell her this.
"At least your dad was worthy…and your brother is amazing….." She cried. "Do you know how lucky you are and how jealous I am that I don't have that…I didn't come from a loving family. My mom makes it her life to put me down…I was constantly called 'whore'."
"Shhh….can I hug you…." He asked her as she clutched herself. She needed comfort really badly now.
"….It's just a hug" he assured her as she clenched up even more. "I won't hurt you." He reached for her as she let him pull her in.