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"If I keep my eyes closed he looks just like you..."

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                “We’ll be back tomorrow afternoon. We promise.” Cross said.

                The Rowdy Van was parked outside of a shabby motel in a small town in Iowa that Amanda couldn’t remember the name of. Martin was in the driver’s seat, either on lookout or not being bothered to enter the conversation, Amanda honestly couldn’t tell. Beast was in the passenger’s seat, completely unaware of the conversation happening, her eyes locked on a frumpy old lady walking a Chihuahua that was closer to resembling a sausage roll. Amanda had her arms crossed over her chest, sitting in a circle on the back floor of the van with the Cross, Gripps, and Vogel.

                “How come Beast gets to go?” Amanda argued. “Can’t I tag along as well?”

                She’s only coming because she’s a good tracker,” Martin answered firmly from the front, but still not turning to face them. “I ain’t bringing you both along on whatever Blackwing shitshow this could end up being. I’m not risking both of you getting hurt.”

                “But you’re willing to unceremoniously dump one of us in a strange town at a dingy motel?” Amanda retorted.

                She grabbed a cigarette out of her pocket and lit it. The van was silent for a few minutes before Gripps reached over and squeezed her hand.

                “We wouldn’t leave you if we didn’t have to,” he said quietly so that Martin wouldn’t hear.

                Amanda nodded, knowing that he was right but still being annoyed by the whole situation anyway.

                “Don’t worry, Boss,” said Vogel at his attempt at a whisper which was really not a whisper at all, just him making shush-ing noises at himself, “We’ll be back before you know it!”

                She took the final drag of her cigarette, stomped it out on the floor of the van, said goodbye, and left.

                A few hours later Amanda lay on the bed in the cheap motel room, staring at the ceiling, bored out of her mind and counting the number of gross stains on the ceiling. Thirty-six. Her mind eventually wandered to Martin. As much as she fought with herself over it, the love she had for him went further than the brotherly love she had for Cross, Gripps, and Vogel, no matter how hard she tried to think about him in the same way. But he never acted like he felt the same way and Amanda didn’t want to risk bringing it up, so she stayed silent on the issue. As much as she wanted Martin to love her the same way she loved him, she would rather have him as a friend than not at all.

                Not that she was even sure she had him as that anymore. He had barely spoken to her about the whole Blackwing situation and the end result of her being shut away in Overlook Hotel: Iowa Edition. Ever since she joined the Rowdies they had always been honest with her about everything and they had never kept a secret from her. And now it felt like everything was some huge mystery that they would never give her clues for.

                Thinking about the whole situation was making Amanda angry so she got up off the bed, grabbed her room key, and left. It didn’t take her long to find the small town’s run-down excuse for a bar. It was tiny and grubby, but it was there and it served beer, so Amanda considered herself satisfied. She walked in, sat down at the bar, and ordered herself a drink. The bartender had just handed Amanda her beer when a guy roughly the same age as Amanda sat down beside her.

                “Why is it that I’ve never seen a face as pretty as yours around here before?” he asked, slurring his words slightly.

                Amanda smirked. “Probably because I’ve never been here before.”

                “Well then let me introduce myself. I’m Jake,” he said, pretending to tip his non-existent hat. “So what brings you to this corner of the world?”

                “My brothers were getting together with a friend that lives in town,” Amanda lied, not wanting to explain to a total stranger why she lived in a van with four men.

                “How many brothers?” Jake asked.

                “Four, all older.” Amanda laughed.

                A look of panic swept over Jake’s face.

                “They’re great though. And besides, they’re not here.” With a pang, Amanda thought of Martin and how much she wished that it was him sitting there at the bar flirting with her.

                “So what are your plans for tonight?” Jake asked.

                “You mean aside from getting trashed in a grungy bar with a complete stranger?”

                “Well,” Jake said, moving in closer, “after that.”

*

                Amanda and Jake walked down the barely lit hallway on the second floor of the decrepit apartment building. Jake stopped near the end of the hall and nodded towards a door with 214 on it.

                “This is me.” He said, unlocking the door and holding it open for Amanda.

                The apartment was small, and with the exception of the bed being in a separate room, looked remarkably like the motel room Amanda bad been staying in. Jake showed Amanda to the living room and excused himself for a few minutes. Amanda stood in the middle of the room looking around awkwardly, before letting herself outside onto the balcony.

                The breeze was cold on her bare shoulders, but Amanda just wrapped her arms around herself and stayed out in the cool night air. Amanda heard the balcony door slide open and Jake joined her outside. Jake was considerably more drunk than Amanda but still managed to cross over and turn her to face him. Their eyes locked for a moment and then Jake kissed her. Amanda closed her eyes and kissed him back.

                She imagined it was Martin. She imagined that she wasn’t drunk with a man she had met just a few hours before. She imagined that she was in the Rowdy Van with the one that she loved. Jake kissed her deeply and put his hand on her waist. He then started kissing her neck and moved his hand under Amanda’s shirt.

                Suddenly Amanda felt a familiar lurch in her stomach and a prickling sensation her hand. She felt her heart skip a beat as she realized that her medication was in the van and nowhere near this stranger’s apartment. Amanda cried out in pain and stepped back from Jake as she stared in horror at the dozen nails that pierced through the back of her hand.

                Jake stared at her. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

                Amanda took jagged breaths, trying to remain calm and ignore the excruciating pain. “I’m sorry… I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I have nails in my hand and I need to you to help me.”

                Jake looked disgusted. “Freak!” he yelled at her, and then pushed her off the balcony.

                Amanda landed awkwardly on her foot and painfully twisted her ankle as she hit the ground, and the gravel dug painfully into her palms, one of which was seemingly bleeding profusely from the nails, as a result of her instinctively holding out her hands to catch herself. Amanda heard the balcony door on the second-floor slam shut, and knew that there was no one to help her in close proximity. Amanda dug into the pocket of her jeans and grabbed her cell phone. They might not be close, but they would come for her.

                Amanda dialed and held the phone to her ear, still laying on the ground, tears streaming down her face. She only had to listen to the sound of ringing a few times before Gripps answered.

                “Hello?” He said, and Amanda didn’t think she had ever been so happy to hear the sound of his voice.

                “Gripps,” Amanda’s voice was shaking, but she tried to calm herself down. “I fucked up. I need you to come get me.” She started crying again. “But I don’t know where I am.”

                “’Manda, don’t worry, we’re coming for you. We’ll find you.”

                Amanda felt another stab of pain from the nails. “Please hurry, Gripps. I’m outside some apartment building, but that’s all I know.”

                “It’s gonna be okay, ‘Manda,” came Gripps’ reassuring voice. “We’ll be there soon.”

*

                It felt like hours, although Amanda had to keep reminding herself that it couldn’t possibly have been. The boys would never make her wait that long. Amanda counted her breaths, partly to keep herself calm, and partly to remind herself to keep breathing. Suddenly Amanda heard footsteps on the gravel running towards her. Once they reached her they stopped and Amanda closed her eyes as she felt the pain from her hand disappear. Amanda opened her eyes again and through the tears saw Gripps and Cross standing over her.

                Gripps knelt down beside her and stroked her hair. “It’s okay, ‘Manda. We’re here now.”

                Cross walked over to stand beside Gripps. “’Manda, what happened to you?”

                Amanda covered her face with her hands as more tears threatened to escape as all of the events of the past few hours came flooding back to her. Gripps continued to gently stroke her hair as she explained what happened – leaving out a few specific details – from the moment she left the motel to being pushed off the balcony.

                “Wait,” Cross interrupted, “he did what?!”

                Amanda raised her arm to point at the second floor. “He pushed me off that balcony.”

                Cross and Gripps exchanged glances.

                “Gripps,” Cross said, “call Martin and get him to meet you at the motel. I’ll meet up with you at the edge of town, the side we came in on.”

                Gripps nodded, stood up, and dug the Rowdy’s phone out of his pocket. By the time he was dialing Cross had already disappeared. Amanda was confused as to who Gripps could possibly be calling to get in touch with Martin seeing as the four of them shared one phone and it was evident that Gripps had it, but Amanda’s silent questions were answered as the person on the other end had answered.

                “Hey, Estevez, I need to talk to Martin,” Gripps said, then waited a few moments before he spoke again. “Martin, I need you to wrap things up and meet me at the motel.” He was silent again for a few seconds. “Not really… What?... No.” Gripps glanced down at Amanda. “She’s not walking anywhere… No, Cross needs us to leave… Yeah. Okay… Bye.”

                Gripps hung up the phone and without another word picked Amanda up off of the ground. Her head was spinning but she felt safe in Gripps’ arms, so she managed to remain calm and eventually stopped crying.

                Gripps and Amanda were almost at the motel when her mind wandered to why the Rowdy 3 were with Estevez and what he could possibly have to do with Blackwing. She also wondered what Cross was doing and why it would require her and Gripps to leave. Amanda was pulled from her thoughts when she heard the familiar and comforting sound of the growling engine of the Rowdy Van.

                Amanda looked up at the sound of the door sliding open and Vogel ran towards them. He opened his mouth to say something but Gripps held his hand up slightly and Vogel took the hint and stayed silent and walked quietly beside them back to the van where Martin was waiting in the driver's seat. When they got to the van Gripps gently put Amanda down and moved some stuff around so that she was able to sit up and lean her back against the wall of the van. Vogel climbed in after them and closed the door.

                Martin pulled out of the parking lot and Gripps moved to the front of the van and evicted Beast from the passenger’s seat, where she grudgingly moved to the back to investigate Amanda.

                “Edge of town,” Gripps said, “side we came in on.”

                Martin nodded and then spoke in a near whisper so only Gripps could hear. “Drummer gonna be okay? Don’t think I’ve ever seen her in such rough shape, and we found her once when she thought she was on fire.”

                Gripps though hard about what he wanted to say to Martin. The truth was the obvious thing to tell him, but Gripps wasn’t confident that divulging the entire night's events was what he wanted to do. However, there didn’t seem to be any other option, given Amanda’s current physical and emotional state.

                “She went home with a guy she met at the bar,” Gripps said quietly. “She ended up having an attack…” Gripps hesitated. “So he pushed her off his balcony.”

                Martin blew through a stop sign and barely missed a pedestrian.

                “He did what?!” Martin hissed.

                Gripps gave him a warning look and nodded to the back at Amanda. “Yes. But once we’re out of town we’re going to have to look at her ankle. I’m not convinced that it’s not broken but regardless she’s going to be walking on it for a while.”

                “Why the hell would he throw her off a balcony?” Martin fumed.

                Gripps considered him for a minute. “Most people just don’t get ‘Manda like we do.”

                Martin pulled over when he saw Cross waiting for them on the side of the road. He slid the door open and climbed into the van. Once he was settled in the back beside Amanda, Martin rolled the van back on to the road and drove in silence out of that God-forsaken town. In the back, Amanda held tightly on to Vogel’s hand, rested her head on Cross’ shoulder, and drifted into an uneasy sleep.

*

                A week later Amanda was sitting in the back of the Rowdy Van with Gripps who had insisted on checking her ankle even though she had maintained that it wasn’t broken. But as Gripps pointed out, it might not be broken but the swelling hadn't gone down and she still winced in pain whenever Gripps tried to inspect it.

                The Rowdies had decided on camping in a secluded forest clearing until Amanda could at least walk again. Amanda had argued that she was fine and that it didn’t matter, Martin told her that she was being ridiculous, so camping it was and there was no further discussion on the matter. Or at all, seeing as Martin had been actively avoiding Amanda since they parked.

                “Hey, Gripps?” Amanda asked.

                “Hmm?” Was Gripps’ response as he continued to prod at her ankle.

                “Is Martin mad at me? About what happened?”

                Gripps stopped his work and looked up at Amanda. “He’s not mad…” he paused, “at you.”

                Amanda raised her eyebrows. “I’m not following.”

                Gripps shrugged and returned his attention back to Amanda’s ankle. “You didn't throw yourself off that balcony.”

                “I know that,” Amanda persisted, “but I shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

                “Look, ‘Manda, shouldn’t you be having this conversation with Martin?”

                “I would if he stopped avoiding me! I can’t say anything to him because he’s never around and he’s never avoided me like this before which is why I’m so sure that he’s angry!”

                Gripps put his hand on her shoulder and looked intently into her eyes. “He’s not angry, Drummer. Honestly… I think he would cry if he still knew how to.” Gripps then pulled her into a hug. “We can feel your emotions, but only some of us know what they really mean. Martin’s down by the creek. Go talk to him. But please don’t put too much pressure on that ankle.”

                Amanda pulled out of the hug and smiled at him. “Thank you,” she said before awkwardly standing up and leaving the van.

                Amanda slowly made her way down to the creek, trying to ignore the throbbing pain in her ankle. Eventually, she made it and found Martin sitting by the water, absent-mindedly skipping rocks on the surface.

                “Mind if I join you?” She asked, limping over to him.

                Martin grunted but otherwise stayed silent, so Amanda sat down beside him.

                “I’m sorry,” Amanda said, staring at the water, too ashamed to look at Martin as she said it.

                “Not your fault,” Martin replied, “don’t need to apologize.”

                “Don’t do that,” Amanda said, turning herself so that she could see him. “Don’t act like there’s nothing wrong because there is. And don’t say that I don’t need to apologize because I do. I fucked up. I know that. But I need you to talk to me. I need you to stop avoiding me. If you want to be mad at me then be mad. If you want to get angry then get angry. I don’t care. But I am sorry.”

                “’Manda, he threw you off a balcony,” Martin said, still not looking at her. “I’m not mad at you, but I want to kill him.”

                Amanda hesitated, “I’m getting a sneaking suspicion that Cross took care of that for you,” she said quietly.

                Martin finally looked over at her. “He didn’t… kill him.” He said slowly.

                Amanda tilted her head, “well that doesn’t exactly sound like he didn’t hurt him.”

                Martin shrugged and returned to staring at the water. “He didn’t say exactly.”

                “But aside from that,” Amanda continued, “are you going to stop avoiding me?”

                “I wasn’t avoiding you, Drummer. I just couldn’t look at the amount of pain you were in an’ be okay with it. I couldn’t pretend that everything was okay, which is what you were doing. I couldn't react the way I thought made sense and I didn’t know who you needed me to be for you.”

                Amanda gently put her hand on Martin’s arm. “Who did you want to be for me?

                Martin sighed. “It doesn’t matter.”

                “I need to tell you something. But I need you to promise that whatever you think about what I say next, this conversation stays here and we can both forget that it ever happened if we need to.” Martin nodded, so Amanda continued, “I didn’t go get drunk just for the hell of it. And I didn’t go home with some stranger because I genuinely wanted to. I like you, Martin. But I feel like all we’re doing is walking on eggshells around each other. I know why I am, but why are you? Do you think I’m fragile? Do you think I’m some kind of stuck up princess? Or do you just not want to be around me anymore?”

                Martin didn’t answer right away but instead weighed out his words before he said them. “I guess I was just worried that for all of the reasons that you escaped your old life and came with us, being in a relationship would be one of those “former life” things. I didn't know if you would ever want to fall in love.” Martin then turned so that he was facing her again. “I guess I was wrong.”

                “I was so angry,” Amanda said, months worth of hurt staining her voice, and a wave of intense emotion hitting Martin. “I was at the motel, laying on the bed, staring at the ceiling, and I was angry. Because all I wanted was to know that you loved me the way that I loved you. So I left because I didn’t want to be alone. And then I wasn’t alone technically, but all I wanted was for the man who was holding me to be you.”

                “It could have been,” Martin said quietly.

                “But I didn’t know that,” Amanda replied.

                Martin moved closer and wrapped his arm around her. “Listen, ‘Manda, I can’t change what happened, as much as I wish that I could. But I ain’t letting anyone hurt you ever again.” He pulled her in closer and she leaned her head against his shoulder. “Not even me.”