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Bleeding Hearts

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 It was more than they dared wish for.

      Alyssa couldn’t help but look around in awe at the creation around her, the thing she helped  create, even if her part was unintentional. Alyssa Greene had gotten herself a Prom, and man, was it a great one. 

      The gym looked like it had been completely remodeled. The floors shined and the room sparkled. Everyone was laughing and no one was being judged. Of course, it also had the typical accessories of a prom. There were people awkwardly dancing in the corner, people making out (and more) behind the bleachers, and people crowded around the food drinks while Mr. Hawkins and Trent pretended not to notice Nick spiking the punch. The whole night was epic, and everyone was enjoying themselves, almost.

        It wasn’t that Alyssa didn’t enjoy it, or wasn’t grateful. She was, truly. But she and her girlfriend, Emma, locked eyes and they both knew they wanted the same thing: To have some good old fashioned privacy.

***

     Emma was a goddess at sneaking away without notice. And she succeeded at it tonight. She slipped out of the gym with ease and took a breathe of fresh, sweat-less air before practically running to Alyssa, who was waiting by her car. 

“I can’t believe this.” Emma said.

”Me either.”

”We actually got our prom.” 

“Yup.” Alyssa was grinning like a fool.

”But you know what’s even better than this?” 

“A walk that’s just for us.”

     Alyssa took Emma’s hand and the two strolled down the parking lot towards the community garden, happier than they had ever been before.

”Hey, look who it is!”

Or not.

     Alyssa blood ran cold, and, according to look on her face, so did Emma’s. She squeezed her hand and looked defiantly towards the voice. Steve Mackerel and his cronies were walking towards them, malice evident on their faces. 

“Hi, Steve.” Alyssa whispered.

”I can’t believe it, it’s dyke one and two, live in person.”

”What do you want, Steve?” Emma snapped. He sneered at her. “Just some questions about what the hell this is.”

”It’s prom.” Alyssa stated, desperately praying for someone to come check on them. 

“We already had a prom.”

”I know, but, we wanted to have a better prom, an inclusive one, with people from all over America.”

”Well did you have to let the homos invade? You know, our town was doing just fine before you and those Broadway freaks marched in on your little stupid pride parade.” Steve directed this at Emma.

”They’re not freaks.” Emma was trying to brave, but her voice couldn’t help but shake.”

    Steve had moved onto Alyssa, stroking her breast with his finger. “It’s such a shame you went lezzie Alyssa, we could have been such a great team.” He paused in mock thought. “It’s not to late to join the  right side of life. Why don’t you ditch man-whore over here and show everyone in the gym how it’s really done.”

Alyssa glared. “Leave. Us. Alone.”

      Steve shrugged. “Okay. You want to be difficult, I’ll be difficult.” He turned to his cronies. “Why don’t we show these dykes what happens when homos mess with our town.”

       Alyssa’s breathing grew quicker. She looked at Emma panickedly. “Go, he’s more likely to listen to me.” Emma shook her head. “I’m not leaving you!”

And then she was on the ground.

       Alyssa just yelled “No!” when she too, was punched. Only one thought raced through Alyssa’s head, and she launched herself at Emma, landing on top of her. Emma groaned, and Alyssa kicked and cried as someone tried to pull her off. 

Now she was taking the beatings, which was fine as long as Emma wasn’t. Alyssa was done protecting herself. Her tears came harder as she heard the crack and felt the burst of pain in her ribs, leg, and wrist. 

      “Protecting you’re lover, Greene?” Steve asked. Suddenly he successfully pulled her up. She weakly struggled only to here a defeating crack in her collar bone, and suddenly she was on the ground, and the world was out of focus. 

“Your girlfriend gonna stop me from givin’ you some love?”

Alyssa groaned and tried to move away from the voice, which was growing distant, but was only met with excruciating pain. She saw Steve lower himself to the ground and a burst of crisp air under her dress. “No.” She moaned, barely above a whisper. Steve just laughed. “This is what your missin’, baby.”

    It hurt. Oh Lord, did it hurt. Alyssa’s vision was getting darker, and the pain stronger, but Alyssa prayed. She let it all out in those moments, praying for forgiveness for everything, even Emma. She would gladly face the fires of Hell as long as it stopped.

      And suddenly there a came a yell, and lots of swearing. Alyssa felt a burst of pain in her leg and someone say “Thanks, dyke.” As the world went dark for good, Alyssa heard a voice, clear as day.

It will be okay.

 

Chapter Text

         Emma was confused.

    When she first woke up, the world was blurry. Nothing was in focus and the only thing Emma could distinguish was a beeping noise. Well that, and lots of white. She moved to sit up, starting to push up with her arm when she gasped in pain. Her body felt like it’d been run over by a truck. She groaned tried to use her other arm to sit only to be met with a throbbing in her head. She groaned.

”Emma?”

She turned towards the frail voice. “Grandma?”

Emma heard the sound of things being moved around. “Here, let me give your glasses.”

She  was met with the face of a kind, older woman. “Better?” The woman asked.

”Yeah.”

       Emma surveyed her surroundings. She was in a hospital room, and she looked like hell. Her right arm was wrapped in a heavy, white cast. Her other arm was covered in nasty bruises. A glance in the mirror revealed that she had a killer black eye (which would explain the bad vision in her left eye.) Her nose was swollen and her lip was cut. She looked at her grandmother in confusion. “What happened?”

Mary grimaced. “Well, we were kind of hoping you could tell us, dear. Tom noticed that you were gone and went to check on you, but when he got out to where you were, all he found was you unconscious.” She paused. “Do you remember what happened, Emma?”

      She thought.

   She was at a party, no, a prom. The inclusive one. She and Alyssa had snuck out for some fresh air and privacy...

”Alyssa!”

    Relief was evident on Mary’s face that her granddaughter remembered, but it quickly disappeared at Emma’s concern. 

“Is she okay?!”

Mary took Emma’s hand and sighed. “Emma honey,”

Is. She. Okay?!” 

“She’s alive...but... Alyssa...seems to have taken the brunt of the damage. Her ribs are broken, as is her leg, collar bone, and wrist. And...Alyssa suffered a concussion from whatever happened. She’s currently unconscious, but she’s stable, improving, and the doctors are sure she’ll wake up soon. But Alyssa will be okay.”

     Emma yelped as she started to get out off the bed. “I need to see her.”

No.” 

Mary gently pushed the girl back into bed and sighed at the look on Emma’s face. “You need to rest, love. I know you want to see Alyssa, I do too, but you need to heal as much as she does. Just, lay here while I go get the nurse. She’s going to ask you some tough questions, okay? Just answer as honestly as you can.”

Emma sighed. Apparently being a hate crime victim means you’re five again. “Okay.”

And she stared at the wall, wondering how the hell she was gonna get through these next few days. 

Chapter Text

      She knew one thing: The woman in front of her was absolutely insane. 

      The woman frantically paced around the room, shooting wild glancing at the girl. “You don’t remember anything, Alyssa?”

Thats what she called her, Alyssa. She shakes her head. “Well I remember, how to get around, talk, eat, my colors, and stuff.” 

“But you don’t remember your name?”

Alyssa sighs. She’s been asked this three times in the past five minutes. “No. Besides, shouldn’t you get a doctor?”

The woman jumps up, as if startled. “Yes—of course.”

The woman returns with a pretty older woman. “Hi Alyssa, I’m Doctor Myles. I’ve been monitoring your treatment this week. Your mother tells me you can’t remember your name?”

Right, the crazy lady was her mother. Alyssa remembered that, even though she didn’t want to. “Nope.”

Doctor Myles makes a note on her clipboard. Her auburn hair is strung up in a tight bun, and it makes her look hot. Alyssa fights the urge to lick her lips. “Okay Alyssa, can you tell me what I just asked you?”

She blinks. “Uh, if I can remember my name?”

”Good. What did you have for breakfast this morning? Watch on TV?

”Scrambled eggs, and toast. I watched HGTV.”

The wom—Mom opens her mouth, but Doctor Myles cuts her off. “We have to make sure her short term  memory hasn’t been affected either, ma’am.”  

Doctor Myles turns back to Alyssa. “Can you tell me your mother’s name?”

Blank. “No.”

”Your birthday?”

”No.”

”Favorite color?”

”Nope.” 

They run down the list. Mom is crying, which annoys Alyssa. Doesn’t she know this is frustrating for her too?! Eventually, Doctor Myles leaves the room and Alyssa looks at her mother. “Sorry.”

Mrs. Greene wipes her eyes. “You have nothing to apologize for, super star. It’s whoever did this to you’s fault.”

”Do...what exactly happened to me?”

Mom sighed and took Alyssa’s hand. “We don’t know.”

Just then Doctor Myles came back in. “So, I looked at Alyssa’s brain scans...and I have good and bad news.”

They look at her.

“Good news: based on the results of the brain scan, and the fact that the concussion was minor, Alyssa should have regained her complete memories in roughly three to four days. Also, everything seems to be healing nicely, so I say that you should be out of here in a week. Bad news, until Alyssa regains her memories, or Miss Nolan is ready to talk, we won’t know how exactly this happened.”

Alyssa stares. “Did...this Nolan girl do this to me?”

”No!” Mrs. Greene cries. “She didn’t. Emma is in other room, healing as well.”

”And Emma is my...?”

”Friend.”

”Ah.” Alyssa stared. “Emma...I...can’t picture what she  looks like, but I feel like we’re...connected, somehow.”

Mom gives a thin-lipped smile. “You are.”

”Well I’m gonna go finish my duties. I’m having the nurses ask you the same questions I did each time they check on you, just so we can see how your memory is progressing, okay?” 

“Okay.”

”And, Alyssa? You see the hospital bracelet on your wrist? It has your basic information on it. I want you to memorize the stuff on there, okay?”

”Okay.”

     “WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE DOESN'T REMEMBER ME?”

Alyssa looks at her mother. “Is that Emma?”

”Yes.”

Mom sighed. “I’m gonna go talk to her.”

Alyssa watched her mother go and stared at her bracelet. 

My name is Alyssa Margaret Greene. I am seventeen years old, and was born on September 16th, 2001.

If only she actually knew that.

 

Chapter Text

    Helen Greene was a lie. 

    Her whole persona was. A woman of God, she called herself. Yeah, right. A woman of God wouldn’t have pushed her daughter to the brink. A woman of God wouldn’t have gotten in the way of another child’s happiness. A woman of God wouldn’t be punished like this. 

    Alyssa couldn’t remember. She couldn’t remember how awful Helen treated her. And, by God, what would happen when she did? She might as well prepare for Child Protection Services.

    True, Alyssa was starting to remember some things. She remembered her friends, though she couldn’t remember why they were friends, or when they became friends. She remembered all her personal information now, and her favorite things. She remembered that her father was gone.

    And she remembered the prom. She only remembered going, and she didn’t remember the first one, apparently. But the worse part was that she remembered Emma

Emma, who Helen couldn’t even rightfully state as her daughter’s girlfriend. 

     Alyssa couldn’t remember everything about her. Just that her name was Emma Nolan, they were dating, and that she wore the most adorable glasses. 

     So maybe Helen wasn’t entirely okay with it. Maybe admitting it was draining her from the core. But she was being punished for this exact reason, so, as she approached Mary Nolan in the guest lounge, she knew she had to make something right.

***

    “Good afternoon.”

”Good afternoon.” 

Mary’s voice was tight, cold. Helen didn’t blame her. She probably blamed her.

”Is your coffee good?”

Mary snorted. “It’s hospital coffee.”

Helen laughed. “I would’ve brought my own if I could stand to leave Alyssa for that long.”

Mary nodded. “How is she?”

”She’s wonderful. She’s already starting to regain her memories.”

”I’m glad to here it.”

”And how’s Emma?”

Mary sighed. “She’s a fighter, that one. She’s healing, but she’s being really stubborn about things.”

Helen looked at the woman across from her warily. “I...was wondering, if it’s alright with you, if I could talk to Emma, apologize.”

Mary gave her a look. “I see you’ve come to your senses.”

Helen sighed. “Not entirely. It’s just...so hard, to wrap my head around.” 

     Mary gave Helen a kind look and grasped her hand. “I will take this to my grave, but, in all honesty, I wasn’t exactly okay with it either.”

Helen looked at her, surprised. “I was born in nineteen-fourty-nine, so my child was a mixture of the traditional fifties and well, the sixties. I was raised in a very conservative, Catholic  house-hold. Anything that you could possibly be against, we were against. But I broke my own barriers, always being slightly more open-minded than my family. I wore pants, I actually talked to non-white folks, and was the first woman in my family to go to college. My father was not pleased.

      “When I went to college in sixty-seven, it rocked my world. I met all sorts of people my family talked down upon, even homosexuals, and to my surprise they were all pretty neat and normal. I even marched in the ninteen-seventy parade for homosexual rights and covered for my friends when they went to Stonewall! But I wasn’t perfect. I still found excuses to leave the room when my homosexual friends got all lovey-dovey. I still found myself thinking ‘Why can’t they just be glad with what they’ve got?’ When the campaign for marriage was happening. And in terms of Emma, well, I won’t say I didn’t suspect it.

      “I noticed that she never wore the dresses I got her anymore. I noticed that she cut her hair short. I noticed that she was always dressing like, well, a boy. I noticed the awkward silence after I would ask her if she had a boyfriend yet. And I knew I couldn’t deny it. I prayed to the Good Lord ‘Don’t let it be true,’ Because it’s just so different when it’s your own flesh and blood, you know?”

Helen nodded. 

“But then Emma came out to me. The funny part it is, when she told me she was gay, I asked her why it was such a big deal that she told me she was happy!”

Helen laughed.

”And, after she briefed me on the modern lingo, I smiled and hugged her and told her it would be okay. 

“But that night, I prayed and asked God ‘Why?,’ and you know what He said? ‘Mary, for Heavens sake, is it really such a big deal that she likes women?’ And I said ‘No, but–‘ and He said ‘Mary, does this mean you have to love her any different?’ And that was that.

”But then Emma showed up on my door step that evening, and I thought ‘Screw it, this is my granddaughter, she doesn’t deserve this, and right now she needs her grandmother,’ And I have been a proud ally ever since. “

    Helen nodded solemnly. If only she could be as good as this woman. “You must hate me.”

Mary smiled. “No. I’ve wanted to beat some since into you, though.”

Helen laughed, then sighed. “It’s just...I have to unlearn everything I’ve ever known.”

”I know, and it’s not supposed to be easy. I’ll tell you right know that you can always come to me, though.”

Helen hugged her. “Thank you.”

”My pleasure.” Mary looked at Helen. “Now, in terms of Emma, how about I bribe her with news of Alyssa in exchange for not ripping your head off with her good arm?”

Helen smiled. “Deal.”

 

 

Chapter Text

       The tension was thick, to say the least.

        Mary sat on the couch, hands gripping her cup of coffee as she watched her granddaughter and Helen interact. It had been five minutes, and neither had said a word. Emma sat in her bed, scowling at the red haired woman. Helen nervously tapped her manicured nails against her own cup of coffee, looking down. Finally Emma said the inevitable “How’s Alyssa?”

     Mrs. Greene smiled. “She’s doing good. She says she can hardly feel any pain.” 

“That’s good.” Emma nodded. “And her memory?”

”Well, I haven’t had the chance to talk to Dr. Myles yet today, but from what I can tell, she’s regaining more every moment. 

Emma nodded. “Did...have you tried to turn her straight yet?”

 Mary sits on the edge of her seat, ready to jump in at a moments notice. Helen inhales sharply but then she sighs. Still looking down, she says “No.”

       As much as she hates to admit it, Emma is surprised. If she where Mrs. Greene, she would have jumped at the opportunity to make Alyssa straight again.

Mrs. Greene looks up at Emma. “I may be a bigot, but I’m not that stupid. I know it would never work.” She smiled. “Besides, I saw the look on her face when Dr. Myles came in. It’s the same as my face when ever I see John Stamos.”

Emma blushes and everyone laughs. The silence returns though. Mary watches as Helen rises and drags her chair over to Emma’s bed. She sits beside the girl and takes her hand. Emma pulls it away, but they continue to look at each other, Emma in slight confusion and Helen in kindness. “Are you gonna give me an exorcism?” Emma asks. Mrs. Greene laughs. “No, I am not.” They look at each other again before Helen asks “What do you think of me, Emma?”

     The girl looks at her grandmother. “Can I be honest?” Mary nods. Emma looks Mrs. Greene dead in the eye. “I hate you.” 

The older woman sighs. “I expected nothing less.”

Emma continues. “I hate everything about you. I hate your stupid ‘I-want-to-speak-to-the-manager’ outfits, I hate your obnoxious voice, I hate your beliefs, I hate how you treated me, and how you treat Alyssa. I hate it all.” 

“Emma—“ Mary warns, but Helen stops her. “No, I deserve to hear that.” She turns to Emma and gazes at her sincerely. 

“I came here today to apologize.” Emma’s jaw can’t help but drop. Mrs. Greene continues. “I know that I have no excuse for how I treated you, nor do I need to explain it. But I’m going to, because you deserve to hear the truth.

”I am a coward. A lot of the adults in this town are, but I am the worst of them. I deal with my fear by torturing innocents, and it is not acceptable. I grew up in a strict, religious household and rather than making my daughters life better by breaking free from it, I raised her similarly. My plan has backfired, clearly. My only goal in life was to make sure Alyssa doesn’t make the same mistakes I did when I was her age, but I’ve gone about it the wrong way, and now I’ve nearly lost her. I should have given her freedom, but instead I gave her a gilded cage, and for that I am sorry. And...I was afraid of you, Emma, of what could happen to Alyssa for loving you. I know firsthand what it’s like to love someone people don’t approve of, and I didn’t want Alyssa to get hurt. But if I had just let her love you, then maybe she wouldn’t have gotten hurt, neither of you would have.”

     Emma is starting at her former arch-nemesis in shock. “...I...”

”Emma, I am a grown woman, and you know that. Yet I have acted like a child towards you, and I am forever sorry. There is nothing I can do to make this truly right, but I can try. The Bible teaches us to Love Thy Neighbor, and, from now on, I am going to do just that.”

Emma takes Mrs. Greene’s hand and says “I take back everything I said about you being a horrible parent, because right know you proved to me that you are much better than mine. It’s going take me awhile to fully recover from everything this year, but, I’d be honored to call you ‘Mom’ when I’m ready, if that’s okay?”

Mrs. Greene is crying. “That would be wonderful.” 

“You can see Alyssa, if you want.” Mrs. Greene says. “She doesn’t remember what you look like, but she knows that she loves you.”

Emma smiles. “I do.”

”But first,” She adds, adjusting her glasses and running a finger through her hair, “I’ve gotta make a good first impression.”

 

Chapter Text

        Wow was Alyssa’s first thought as Emma entered the room. Though she hadn’t been able to picture her girlfriend, she could tell immediately that she had good taste. Emma was wearing a light blue tank top that showed off her arms and a pair of gym shorts. Her strawberry-blonde hair shined as though it had been freshly washed, and her glasses seemed perfectly molded for her face. 

Emma broke into a grin at seeing her love and rushed towards Alyssa. 

“How are you?” Emma asked, giving an awkward one armed hug. 

 

“Good. Climb in with me, please.”

Emma glanced at the door and then scrambled beside Alyssa, spooning her and placing her broken arm across her chest. 

        “How’s your memory?”

Alyssa sighed. She was getting kind of tired of answering that question. “I think I’m almost back to normal. I can answer almost all the questions with complete accuracy. And, when you walked in, I remembered that you’re hot.”

       Emma giggled. “I try.” Alyssa gave her a smirk. “You know who else is hot?”

“Who?”

Dr. Myles.

”I mean, have you seen her? That hair, those eyes, she’s smokin’.”

Emma raised her eyebrow. “Have you taken pain meds recently?”

”A couple of minutes ago, why?”

”Okay, so at least we know the brain damage wasn’t that bad.”

Alyssa slugged her. “I’m not that out-of-character, am I?” 

“A little.”

         She humphed and sat back in her bed. “Hey, are the Broadway gang coming?”

”The Broadway Ga— you mean Barry and them?”

”Yeah.”

”Oh, yeah! They wanted to come earlier but they had to arrange flights and book new hotel rooms and stuff. They also wanted to give us some alone time. I’m pretty sure grandma said they’ll be here later this afternoon.”

”Cool. Have Kaylee and Shelby visited you?”

Emma turned cold and looked away from Alyssa. “Why would they visit me?” 

“Because they wanted to say hi and stuff? They visited me.”

”Lucky you.”

“Look Em, I know they were jerks, but they apologized, right?”

Emma sighed. “Yeah, they did, but...I’m just not as good as forgiving people as you are.”

”Oh.”

       They sit in silence before Emma asked “Do you remember, what happened that night? How we got here?”

Alyssa frowned. “No, it’s actually the one thing I can’t remember at all. Myles said it’s my bodies natural response to trauma? Why?”

Emma sighs. “Guess it’s all on me then.”

Alyssa smiles and kisses her love. “Hey, how about you quiz me on our relationship?” 

Emma grins evilly. “Oh, yes.”

       They spend the next hour embarrassing the hell out of each other. “Do you remember the peanut brittle?” Emma asked. Alyssa doubled over. “I made such a mess!” Suddenly she winces and holds her side. “Agh, my ribs.”

”Yeah mine hurt too.”

Dr. Myles knocks and enters. “Hey girls, do you mind if I check on Alyssa for a few?”

Emma nods. “Sure, I’ll go.”

”Wait!”

Alyssa grabs a sharpie and signs her name in neat cursive. Emma frowns. “You seriously made the last A a heart? Alyssa, you’re seventeen, not twelve.” 

Alyssa just shushed her with a kiss. “It’s a reminder of my loooove.” 

      As she walked back to her own room, Emma couldn’t help but sigh. Her family was coming, but not her parents.

Chapter Text

     Emma had forgotten how overwhelming it was to have the whole broadway gang there at once. (Mrs. Greene, wisely, was nowhere to be found.) Angie was talking to grandma, Dee Dee and Trent were conversing amongst themselves, and Barry was talking to her.

     “So, how are ya kid?” He asked.

“Yeah, what’s the four-one-one?” Trent said from the back.

“First of all,” Emma started, “never say that again. And second, I’m fine.”

”Well, how’s the pain? No offense, but you look pretty rough.” Angie said.

”Trust me, I’ve been worse. And the pain’s pretty much gone. I mean, I’m a little sore, but I’m pretty okay.”

”Y’all can sign my cast, if you want?” Emma added. 

     There was a scramble for sharpies and suddenly Emma was crowded as they all signed. 

“You know, you can sell this on EBay for big bucks once you get it off!” Dee Dee said with a wink. Emma smiled. “I’ll remember that.”

”And how’s Alyssa?”

”Oh, she’s good, but fair warning, she has short term amnesia. She’s pretty much  regained full memory, and she remembers who y’all are, but, just—don’t come on too strong.”

”Well, obviously she remembers me, I’m pretty unforgettable.” Dee Dee scoffed. 

Emma laughed. “Oh, and, Alyssa’s climbed on top of the rainbow and isn’t sliding down anytime soon, if you know what I mean.”

”Huh?” Dee Dee asked. Barry whacked her. “It means she’s high as a kite, Allen. Keep up.”

Everyone roared with laughter. 

      They all chatted for awhile before the talk eventually turned to how exactly Emma had gotten here in the first place. She sighed.

”I just...don’t wanna talk about it.”

”Well you have to talk at some point.” Angie said kindly. 

“I know, but, it’s just so hard. It’s all so much.”

”Well, could you sing about it? That seemed to help you before.” Dee Dee asked. 

“Can we stop mentioning it! I don’t even wanna think about it.” Emma snapped. “Please.”

”Okay.”

”Um, thanks for visiting me, by the way. I know it threw a wrench in your plans.”

”Oh, it’s no problem!” Trent said. “Of course we’d hang with you, kid.” 

“Yeah, as long we’re—you need us, we’ll be here.” Dee Dee said.

      Emma smiled. “Thanks, it means a lot to have my family with me, especially since my parents—“ she didn’t finish the sentence.

”They haven’t visited?” Barry asked quietly, taking Emma’s hand.”

”It’s just, I know it’s stupid because if they were going to reach out, it’d be because they were yelling at me because I ‘dragged the whole town into my sh*t,’ but I just...”

Barry looked Emma in the eye, tears pooling out of his. “Hey, you know what kid? You don’t need them. ‘Cause you’v found one that’s much better than they’ll ever be. Yes, our family is messy, but families aren’t supposed to be perfect. We need our ups and downs and in betweens. We need those to help us know that no matter what, we’ll stand with each other. And you know what? Screw ‘blood is thicker than water,’ cause I’ll take found family over birth ones any day, and so should you.” 

    Emma hugged him tighter than she’d ever hugged anyone before. “Thank you.” She whispered, sobbing into his shoulder. Suddenly she heated foot steps, and a voice she hadn’t heard in years. “Emma?”

 

 

Chapter Text

      In the room next door, Alyssa was eying her mother with contempt. Helen took it as a sign of the inevitable.

“Alyssa—“

The girl held up a hand. “No, it’s my turn to speak.”

”Do you remember our talk?”

”Yes, but I think it’s time we have another.”

Helen sighed. “That’s fair.”

       Alyssa stared at her mother. “ Why ? Why did you have to treat me, treat Emma , like that?”

”I—have no excuse.”

“Good, ‘cause I’m done making excuses for you.”

”Alyssa—“ Helen stopped herself. She knew this was fair, she should’ve expected this. “ I just wanted to protect you .”

“And look at where it got us.”

Helen broke at Alyssa’s harshness, and the girl faltered. “Sorry, it’s just the meds—“

”No, you don’t owe me an apology.” Mom said. She approached Alyssa. “Can I?” Alyssa nodded and her mom climbed in beside her.

”These past few days, I have given so many explanations. And I’m not going to give you one. Not because you don’t deserve it, but because they still don’t make it right. And besides, like you said, it’s your turn to speak.”

     Alyssa gave a shaky breath. “There...were times where I would try to make peace with the part of me that hated you by convincing myself that maybe, with time, you would come to be the mom who buys their child rainbow stuff and gives out free hugs at pride. I thought ‘maybe if dad comes back...’ but when you pulled the fake prom I just decided to give up. I knew you were never going to be that.

        “I’ve often wondered if you would be different if dad were around. If you’d be more happy, accepting. I just,”

Dang it, she was crying. “I just wish I could have that perfect nuclear family, that perfect life. I wish I could have this all be right. And I wish that dad were here, ‘cause maybe I’d be straight.”

     Helen held her sobbing daughter. “Shh, it’s okay, I know.” She stroked her hair. “Your father was a good man , Alyssa, I want you to know that. I can’t tell you why he’s not coming back, but I can tell that if he were, he would be horrified to hear you say that. Your father was the person I should be, a Christian who truly lived like Jesus and loved thy neighbor. And I’m sorry I couldn’t be like that. I won’t lie, I will probably never be that mom you described earlier, but I can be the mom you need. The mom who tries, who puts her daughters happiness before hers, who never lets this happen.”

   “I talked to Emma.” Mom said after a moment.

”I know, I can hear through the walls.” Alyssa retorted.

”I love you, Mom.” She said. Helen squeezedher daughter as tight as she could. “I love you too.”

She truly did.


 

      In Emma’s room, it was a different story. She sat  on her bed, tense, defense mode on. Mary hovered between her granddaughter and daughter-in-law, wise enough to not throw Jenny out, but she’s not welcoming her with open arms, either.

“Come to yell at me?” Emma snarked. “Or better yet, congratulate me on learning my lesson?”

”I’m not gonna fight you Emma, we’ve done enough of that to last a lifetime.”

”I wouldn’t call it ‘fighting,’  ‘one sided abuse’ is a more accurate term.”

       Jenny’s nostrils flared. Jesus, she’s making this hard. But, believe it or not, a part of her loves her daughter, even now.”

”How are you?”

”I’m none of your—“

“She’s doing good.”

          The tension is suffocating. All three want out of this. But Jenny is not giving up on her daughter.

             “I’m sorry.”

“That hardly cuts it.”

“Emma, I’m trying to—“

“You don’t get to try! You had seventeen years to try and be an at least semi-decent mother, and you didn’t try.”

          It is in this moment that Emma realized she’s been needing to say this for years. All the stuff she could’ve, should’ve said when she came out, was coming out now. The pain she felt because of this person, the suffering, the longing she felt for wanting real parents. Surprisingly, this was much more satisfying than straight anger.

            “Do you know how it felt to be me, Jennifer ?” She continued. “Do you? Do you know how it feels to be constantly bobbing in-and-out of other’s houses because your parents don’t want you at yours? Do you know how it feels to be so proud of your first A, only to be blatantly pushed aside and be told to stop bragging ? To not have your parents showing up at your fifth grade graduation, first days of school, middle school graduations, honor roll awards, concerts? To realize something about yourself and have no one to go to about it because you know it won’t go well for you? To finally get the courage to say it, only to have your mother tell you that she should’ve aborted you ?! And then, to top it all off, be kicked out ?!

“So yeah, I don’t think sorry cuts it.”

             Jenny was silent. Finally she said “I’ll admit, I should have never been a mother. I should’ve never married your father, nor stayed with him. I should have been a million times better. And I never should have made that comment, nor any of the others I’ve made over the years. I should have protected you, yet I did not. But Emma,”

             The girls glare didn’t  soften, but Jenny continued.

               “believe it or not, when you finally came out of me all those years ago, I was not disgusted. I was, relieved , yes, but not disgusted. I felt love when I first looked at you, Emma Mary, and I thought ‘Godd*mn, this is my child, and I’m gonna love her with all my being.’ Your father ripped that from me, and it’s no ones fault but my own.

         “So, if you never want to see me again, I understand. But I want to try, Emma, I want to be your mom now.”

          The girl was silent. She shifted in her bed. “I hate to inform you of this, but I’ll be going to college in three months. You’re time to fix yourself has expired.”

“Emma, I think you should really—“

She turned to her grandma. “What do you think I should do?”

“I think you need to do what is best for your well being, Emma.”

           Emma sighed and looked at her mother. “I honestly wish I could truthfully say I hate you with every ounce of my being, but there is a teeny , tiny part of me that still holds on to loving you, the hope that maybe you’d be better than dad. And I know if Alyssa were here, she’d tell me that forgiveness would make me feel better, and she’s right, I guess.”

           She threw  a pointed look at Mary. “ Don’t tell her I said that.”

“My lips are sealed.” The woman said with a grin.

Emma rolled her eyes but turned back to her mother, daring herself to look the woman in the eyes.

            “But take note, mother, that I’m not just gonna snap my fingers and have us be a freaking sitcom family. You’re gonna have to work your a** off to earn this, understand?

                “Loud and clear.” Jenny answered. “How can I start?”

Emma gave  her a small smile. “I think you should meet the rest of the family.”

 

 

Chapter Text

             Emma wasn’t sure how Kaylee and Shelby thought they were a part of her family, but here they were, silently facing her hospital bed. Apparently, this was the day of not-so-pleasant meetings. Was there still time to atone for sins? Emma wondered. Shelby cleared her throat, breaking Emma out of her thoughts.

           “So how are you?”

           “Fine.”

“I...brought you some ice cream! My mom made it, I know you’ve always liked the way she made it.”

            Emma jerked her thumb towards the fridge. “Put in there.”

             Kaylee crossed her arms. “You’re not being very appreciative.”

             “Gee, I wonder why.”

              “You know, Alyssa was a lot nicer to us when we visited her.”

               “Well, spoiler alert, I’m not Alyssa.”

               “God, why do you have to make this so hard !”

                “Because you made my life a living hell! You sent me death threats! You made me end up here!”

                 “We didn’t beat you up, that was Steve.”

Emma rolled her eyes at Shelby’s stupidity. “Indirectly, Gonzales.”

                  Kaylee huffed. “For God’s sake, we apologized.”

                  Emma let out a scream of frustration. “Why does everyone think that an apology makes it all better? An apology doesn’t mean sh*t !

               The three girls stood in tense silence. Finally, Emma asked “Did Alyssa tell you to come?”

                 “No, we came because we felt awful about what happened, and we were gonna see you when we saw Alyssa, but your grandma said no.” Kaylee snapped.

                  “Oh.”

  “So, uh, how’s the school reacting?”

                  “A lot of people feel bad, some are being a**holes, but we all mostly feel bad. I personally feel like this is God’s way of punishing us.” Shelby said.

                   “Look, I appreciate that you guys are trying to make it up to me, but it’s just not a good time, okay?” Emma said. “Maybe when I don’t have a million broken bones we can try again.”

              “Okay.” Shelby said. She hugged Emma, and Kaylee followed.

              “I’m sorry.” Shelby said.

              “Me too.” Kaylee echoed.

               They left and Emma thought. Maybe karma wasn’t all that negative. Maybe she could heal some wounds after all.

Chapter Text

       Emma could have stayed there forever. It had been a wild, chaotic past few days, filled with laughter and tears and disgruntled forgiveness. But none of it mattered, as long as Alyssa was in her arms. 

       The brunette’s head was on Emma’s chest, her bronze hand intertwined with Emma’s pale one. Their legs were wrapped together (well, as best they could with being broken.) It was so absolutely perfect that Emma would have given everything to have more of them. (Well, except for the moments that led up to this, those weren’t so perfect.)

      Alyssa stirred, and Emma quickly hushed her. “Hey, go back to sleep.”

      Alyssa yawned and shot her girlfriend a grin. “But I’m not tired.” 

      Emma rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe it, I’m dating an actual five year old.” Alyssa rolled hers and playfully egged Emma on the shoulder. “Shut up.”

      The two shared a laugh. Emma looked down on Alyssa and smiled. “I’m glad we can have moments like this, babe. Everyone’s so invested in our lives lately, it’s nice to have time to ourselves. 

       Alyssa looked up. “Speaking of, Mom said the police really want to talk to us.”

       Emma sighed. “I’m aware.”

”She kept asking me if I knew anything, but...I kept coming up blank. It’s weird, it’s like the one thing I can’t remember.”

”Trust me, you don’t wanna know.”

       Alyssa looked up hopefully. “You know?”

      Emma gave her girlfriend a look. “Alyssa...I...it’s upsetting. I don’t really think I should—“ 

      Alyssa sat up so hard it gave her whiplash. “Emma, I don’t want, don’t need secrets in this relationship. All my life, people have kept things from me. Hell, I've kept things from me. This is like, the final piece of the puzzle I need to make everything make sense. Please, tell me.” 

       The blonde sighed, then said, rather selfishly “I’ll have to say it twice.”

       Alyssa softened. “Hey, it’s okay. Why don’t we...kill two birds with one stone and I’ll be there while you tell the police?”

       Emma smiled. “It would be easier.”

”Okay.”


       It’s not the police station. Thank god, it’s not the police station. It is, however, the small guest area of the Bloomington community hospital. The chairs are hard and cramped, and the whole place smells of disinfectant. Then again, so do the rooms. But Alyssa is there, on her left, squeezing Emma’s hand, and that’s all that matters. 

       She looks up at the officer and let’s out a shaky breath. He looks at her kindly, but also in suspicion. Leave it to Indiana police officers to think this was a hoax. 

”I’m ready, sir.”

      He nods, taking out his clipboard. “Alright, miss Nolan. What were you doing in the time that lead up to the attack?”

”I was...taking a walk with Alyssa.”

”And did you do anything that might have provoked this attack?” 

”No, Steve provoked us!”

Alyssa squeezed her hand. “Easy, Em, it’s okay.”

She took another shaky breath. “Um, we were yelling at each other, Steve and I, I mean, and he punched, and Alyssa landed on top of me, and then I can’t remember anything else.”

      The officer nodded. “That all.”

”Yes. Oh, um, there were three other guys, besides Steve. Landon Gaines, Trevor Powell, and Noah Bines.”

      Alyssa’s were bright with determination. “I launched myself at Emma to protect her. Steve...or someone, pulled me off. They beat me and kicked and punched, and I was kicking to. But...eventually I grew too weak. At that point,” Alyssa paused, fighting the tears. “At that point, Steve, he, h-h-he r-r-raped me. Then I blacked out, I guess.”

    Emma gasped. “Alyssa, I-oh my god.” 

Alyssa held up a hand. “Don’t.”

      The officer nodded. “Thank you ladies. Your words will help bring these hooligans to justice.”

      Alyssa snorted. “My girlfriend I have a blatantly obvious hate crime, and I am raped, and the people who did it are hooligans? Thank you, officer, for your time.”

She grabbed Emma’s hand. “C’mon, lets go.” 

      Emma couldn’t stop apologizing. “I am so sorry, Alyssa, I should have—“

No.” Alyssa said firmly. “It’s okay.  They’re getting what they deserve, and we‘re stronger because of this, right?”

Emma nodded, and Alyssa looked out, confidently. “We are okay.”

 

Chapter Text

          Three Days Later

      The sunshine had never felt so good. After so long being cooped up, Alyssa never wanted to go inside again. 

       The world felt so good, the moment they walked (and hobbled) out the hospital doors that it was easy to forget the past, but they couldn’t. Alyssa promised herself that. Their bones were still heavy, their bodies scarred, hearts bloodied. But they could wear those scars with pride, raise those heavy bones, and clean off those hearts.

        And Emma knew their was still a long road ahead on this journey. There was still the trial. There was still a testimony to be given. And there was still the reactions of her peers. But Emma no longer cared. Alyssa was right, she thought. The world had thrown so much at them. They were left so damaged. But Alyssa planned to show off that damage, let the world know what those battle scars really meant. 

       And Emma would do the same.

       You can beat us. You can bruise us. You can break are bones. But you can not break our spirits

       After all, a caged bird still sings. Light can be found in the darkest of times. Hearts will still bleed, but we will smile and wear it as war paint. 

        We are still here.