Secret of the Tenei Star Chapter 10
The Scars Bared
Emily shuddered as the autumn winds began to seep through the worn out fibers of her coat. Gee, she thought, how fast the seasons change.
The wind continued gusting about her, perhaps trying its hardest to bring her down, trying to rub in the misery of the past few months. All of those months of torture. . .
Emily made a sour face. It was still a mystery to her why she even bothered staying with that evil jerk Aaron for that long. Even more perplexing was the fact she even felt a damn thing for his disgusting, heartless self in the first place. She was amazed at how she withstood so much of his behavior. . .and painful treatment toward her.
Why did he do that to me? she wondered as a darkened look crossed her face. In fact, why do that to anybody at all? How could anybody ever hurt the one they claim to love in such an unspeakable way? How could-
Emily stopped in her tracks as something new crossed her mind. A sudden insight.
What am I saying? How could I hurt Gremio this way?
Emily sighed as she continued her pace. Yes, she'd hurt Gremio quite a bit when she told him she wanted to be with Aaron. . .after two or three weeks of cheating on him. That was definitely a cruel blow for Gremio. But she had never meant to do such harm.
With Aaron, though, that was a different story. His own mind couldn't discern what morals really were. Either that, or he never bothered to find out. And even if he ever understood what was right or wrong, he obviously never cared where Emily was concerned. . .or according to him, wasn't concerned. Many times she hated to be alone with him, but didn't know where she could go to be safe. It's not as if his friends were any better.
She couldn't count the times those creeps tried finding an excuse just to touch her, how they would 'accidentally' grope her or slap or pinch her rear end. Well, until one day Aaron caught them in the act and threatened to anatomically sever their perishables. Oh, they backed off, all right. It was probably the only good thing Aaron had ever done for her, Emily had to admit. Of course, his sudden good deed was most likely due to his possessiveness. He didn't make them stop out of true concern, he did it because he wanted to be the only one touching her. She couldn't tell which was worse, however.
And it wasn't as if she could go back to Gremio. . .or at least, that's what she had believed for so long. . .perhaps, too long.
The clouds had finally gathered, a threat of snow ringing in the skies, when Emily finally spotted him. There he stood near an entrance of a store, appearing to be doing absolutely nothing. She knew exactly what he was doing there. He was obviously on a break, taking a walk in order to clear his head. . .or maybe he was going to meet someone, or-
. . .maybe it was fate. Maybe they were meant to meet out here. Maybe they might-
Emily almost gasped at Gremio's appearance. The last time she had seen him, small strings of hair barely had grazed his shoulders. Now it reached down his back, as he kept it tied back. He wore a thin green cloak, probably since the season turned cruel. Besides the cloak, the rest of his wardrobe hadn't changed too much.
She cautiously stepped closer to him, gazing at him dejectedly. Finally, the words escaped her throat.
Gremio turned around, and his mouth fell open. The first time he'd seen her in over four months. "E-Emily, y-you. . ."
She forced a weak smile and nodded. "Can we talk?"
Gremio was just as nervous as when she'd first confronted him that first night. "S-sure." He cleared his throat, then pointed somewhere. "I know a place near the alley where we can be alone."
"S-so how have you been?" she asked softly as they headed down the street.
"I. . .uh, fine, I guess." His voice was throaty.
They turned the corner. "It's been a while. . ." she said, putting no effort into her words.
"Yeah. . ." He finally stopped walking. "We can stop here, I guess. . .so what did you want to talk about?"
"Um. . ." Emily cleared her throat. "About. . .things, I suppose. About what's happened these past few months. About. . .us."
Her words took Gremio by surprise. "'Us'?" he repeated. "Heh. Correct me if I'm wrong, but, um, aren't you with Aaron now?"
"I was, but. . .something happened."
Emily bit her lip, then lowered her head, feeling slight shame. "I'm pregnant."
Gremio blinked at her, as if he didn't understand what she had said. "You're-you're-"
"Y-yeah." Emily stared back sheepishly. "Pregnant."
Gremio looked down, finally noticing Emily's new package, then let out groan. "So let me guess. . .you went to Aaron, he made you pregnant, then when he found out, he kicked you out, and now you're hoping to live off of me now, is that it?"
Emily's eyes widened in horror. "No! That's not what happened, Gremio! It's not-"
He didn't seem to hear her at all. "Of course, I wouldn't expect any less of Aaron. It's not as if he could ever raise a kid."
"It's not his."
Emily sighed and repeated the words slowly. "It's not his."
"Oh, so he kicked you out because it wasn't his?"
"He didn't kick me out. I wrote him a note this morning saying I was leaving him, then went to the doctor's. He doesn't know about-"
"You didn't. . .tell him?"
"I just found out."
Gremio's expression turned surprised. . .a refreshing change from the stern look he had been giving Emily for the past minute. "Then what are you doing talking to me about it?" Finally, it hit him. "Th-the child," he said nervously. "Are-are you trying to tell me that-"
Emily nodded, her expression mixed. "It's yours."
He was stunned. "What, what. . .how do you figure this? I, I mean, did you just discover this now?" He was obviously thrown by the news. "Th-then what about Aaron? Aren't you going to go back and tell him? I mean, he is the one you're in love with, isn't he?"
"No, Gremio. . ." Emily sighed, her eyes lowered in sorrow. "I have never been in love with him. I know this now. That's why I left. I have been in love with you, and only you. Please believe me. . ."
Gremio's face registered even more shock. "E-Emily," he started, gradually studying her overall appearance. "Wh-what-I don't. . .how. . .I mean, I don't know what to say. This is a bit much to take right now."
"Gremio, look at me," Emily instructed him. She brought her arm up, placed a hand under his chin, and directed his face toward her. "Look at me. I would not be telling you this if it weren't true. I have never loved Aaron, I have never loved the way he treated me, I have never loved his sickening, abusive behavior toward me."
"Then why did you stay with him for so long?"
Emily's eyes further dimmed. "I felt. . .trapped," she admitted. "As soon as I decided I wanted to leave him, I realized I was late. That was about a month after I'd. . .left you. When I found out I was pregnant, I thought again about leaving him because for the longest time, I thought it was his. And I thought he might change when I told him. Of course, he didn't. But then, I'm not sure what happened. . .maybe I snapped, or just saw the light, I don't know. . .but I started to believe that maybe the child wasn't his. So finally I made an appointment with the doctor. . .and he confirmed how far I was along. Five months."
"Five mo-" he began to say. "But-but how can you be so sure it isn't Aaron's?"
"Gremio," Emily started, giving him a pained look. She sighed again. "Yes, I'll admit that, two weeks before we broke up, I cheated on you. I slept with that creep Aaron, and I will never forgive myself for hurting you. . .let alone expect you to forgive me for such a stupid act. But it finally dawned on me, just recently. After I had gone to be with Aaron, he never touched me that way again. He was either too busy treating me like dirt, or acting like a moron with his friends. I've only slept with him once. . .but have been hurt by him in more ways than one."
Gremio frowned, shaking his head. "Then a couple weeks later, you decide to spend one last night with me. . ."
"No!" Emily protested. "No, Gremio, it wasn't like that. I didn't do it out of convenience if that's what you're thinking. I made a mistake, pure and simple. And I'm sorry, Gremio. I wish I'd never laid eyes on him in the first place. I wish I hadn't deluded myself. . .that was my biggest mistake yet. Please believe me. It's caused me so much hurt. . .but it's hurt you even more, and I'll never be able to live that down. I will never forgive myself for putting you through such pain. I don't know how to ever make it up to you, how to make up for the pain, how to make up for lost time. . ." She turned her head away, tears shining in her eyes.
Gremio's expression suddenly turned sorrowful. "Emily, I just don't understand why you would ever do this to me, to us."
"A mistake, Gremio," insisted Emily. "I am sorry. I can't change the past. . .but I can always hope for a better future. And right now, I hope that you will understand in time. . .and accept my apology. I never, ever meant to hurt you. I could never intentionally hurt someone I love."
"What's even worse is that, how you could leave me and be with someone as horrible as that," Gremio continued, appearing to not have heard her. "I mean, from what you've told me, this guy hurt you on a daily basis, whether it was physically or emotionally. And yet you left me to be with him. I mean, it hurts to know that you would rather be with someone like that instead of someone who would never even think of raising a hand to you, no matter what."
"But I don't want to be with him, Gremio," she assured him. "I don't. And even if the child were his, I wouldn't stay with him now. He isn't the kind of person I want raising the baby. I want someone kind, someone sweet, someone good, someone moral, to help me raise this child. Gremio, I realize that we're both. . .young, but I believe that together, we can overcome anything. Gremio, please believe me. I love you so much, and I pray that in time, you will love me again."
"Emily. . ." Gremio let out a sigh, shaking his head. "I've never stopped loving you. I couldn't. Emily, I. . ." He stopped and looked into her eyes once again, finding truth in them. He then moved forward to embrace her gently.
"G-Gremio," Emily stammered softly, surprised by this sudden gesture.
"Welcome back, Emily," he whispered. "I've missed you." He pulled away and gazed at her lovingly.
A tear ran down Emily's cheek. "Oh, Gremio," she murmured, a contented smile returning to her lips after so, so long.
"Oh, Emily. . ."
"Oh, knock it off awready."
The interjection startled the couple in turning their heads to the direction of the annoyed voice.
Aaron stepped out of the alley, a dark, disgusted look on his face. His eyes were red-rimmed, his clothes filthy, the neck of a half-empty bottle on gin squeezed tightly in his right hand. "Wha's de shtory here, Em?" he asked her. "You shayin' you leavin' me now? Hahahahahaha, I might'a known."
Emily's eyes narrowed as the man stepped closer. A chill ran down her back as he stared coldly at her, giving her one of those frightening looks he gave her when trying to intimidate her. . .or hit her.
But this time, he did neither. Instead, he wiped away the saliva that had slid down his chin with the back of his bottle-carrying hand. Then, he let out a frightening snigger, and, with all his drunken might, threw the bottle a short distance away, thoroughly shattering it. The noise shocked both Emily and Gremio.
"Aw, das too damn bad anyway," he continued. "We could'a made some wond'ful memories or somethin'. But. . .I hear you're wit' Gremio 'gain cuz you're havin' his kid or whatever? How low can a shlut like ya'self be? Dirty good-for-nothin' little-"
"Leave us alone, Aaron," Gremio commanded the slightly inebriated man. "I'm taking Emily where you can't treat her like this anymore. So just go away."
Despite his tipsy state, Aaron perfectly took in Gremio's every word. "Ooohh, I'm shcared now! Whassa little kid gonna do to me? Huh?" His eyes narrowed, and he displayed a wicked smirk. Attempting to snap his fingers, he unintentionally let out a weak belch, then said something else. "Come on out, boys."
In three different directions, Aaron's hoodlum group advanced toward Gremio.
"Aaron, what are you doing?" Emily demanded to know, her voice shaky. "What's going on?!"
Aaron's smile only curled more. "I'm a' takin' care of your boyfriend for ya, what elshe?"
Gremio's expression turned shocked as Suede and Soros roughly grabbed him by the arms and dragged him over to the side of one of the buildings. There, Suede took Gremio and slammed his back up against the brick wall.
"Hehehe, it's curtains for you, happy boy," Suede snickered.
Soros let out a chuckle as well, his enormous eyes burning into Gremio's.
"Stop that!" Emily shouted. "Let him go! You let him go!!" She started to run toward Gremio, but Aaron caught her and held her in his grasp.
"Lend me a hand here, Soros," Suede said to his partner. Obediently, Soros grabbed a hold of one of Gremio's arms, and with his other hand, kept Gremio's shoulder pressed against the wall. Suede did the same on the opposite side.
"Gremio!!!" Emily cried out helplessly. "You leave him alone!" But her protests were useless.
Shark slowly strutted over to the scene until he was in front of Gremio. Turning, he touched the brim of his hat in greeting as a gentleman would, then lifted his face. "I've been waiting for this moment," he stated, speaking in the deliberate way he had at their first meeting.
"Hey Shark!" Aaron called. With one arm wrapped around Emily, he reached into his pocket and tossed the shiny, oval object over to Shark. "I had it sharpened for ya!"
Shark caught it with hardly any effort. He smiled slightly. "Your effort was appreciated," he told him. "But I think you knew I'd find another." With that, he reached into his own pocket and pulled out another object identical to the one Aaron had thrown to him. He produced both blades with sharp wrist movements. Twin jackknives.
Gremio stared back in fear. His head pounded, his heart pounded. . .as he realized Shark's threats would now hold true.
Shark's eyes flashed in merriment at Gremio's panic, and his personality changed once more as if someone had flipped a switch. "Heh, heh, you're goin' down today, boy," he sneered, then stepped closer, threatening Gremio with his mere presence.
The insane look returned on Shark's face. "How about scar to go with that pretty face of yours?" he taunted the petrified Gremio. Without warning, he whirled around, extending an arm, and violently slashed the young man across the cheek.
Gremio almost cried out as the sharp blade brutally drilled through his skin. It was a pain unlike any he had ever experienced before.
Emily's jaw dropped in horror. "GREMIO!!!!" she shrieked, beyond terrified. "Stop it! STOP IT!!!"
Completely ignoring her cries, Shark looked back at Gremio to examine the damage he'd already done. He smiled, pleased at his work. Then he spun around in the other direction, putting the other knife to use. "I think one good hit deserves another." Gripping the tool hard, he gashed Gremio again across the face, on the same cheek, creating an imperfect "X."
The knife tore across Gremio's face with the same force and pain. "ARGH!"
"Oh, Gremio," Emily was sobbing. She was now staring at the love of her life, held up against the wall, with two large, hideous, bleeding cuts he'd just received.
"Aw, forget about 'im," Aaron instructed her nonchalantly. "He lived like a loser, now he'll die a loser."
Emily instantly stopped crying. All the pain, all the suffering she had endured had ended. . .and began to boil within her, forming a ball of rage inside of her. Her eyes narrowed. She couldn't let this happen. She couldn't let Gremio die. It was her fault they were in this mess in the first place. And now stupid Aaron and his stupid friends were hurting him, making him endure suffering he didn't deserve. . .and were on the verge of killing him. . .
Killing him. . .killing him. . .
. . .killing him. . .
With the words bouncing off the walls of her own mind, Emily's teeth clenched. God, how she hated the bastard that was holding her back ever so tightly. With revived, reddened passion, she stamped her foot down on Aaron's as hard as she could, causing him to yelp in surprise. He immediately released her, practically hopping on one foot. She frowned at him, then in a final act of fury, a sort of payback for all the crap and abuse he'd given her, she brought her boot's pointed toe back and, with all the strength she could muster, struck him directly in his manhood.
"AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!" Aaron's jaw dropped and his hands immediately traveled to his broken package. She had hit him so hard that his knees began to buckle.
Fuming, she turned around and started to head toward Gremio. But Aaron quickly caught up with her, in spite of his partially drunken state and. . .newly received impairment, and put her in his hold once more. "You shouldn't a' done that, li'l lady," he whispered, his words fierce. "You shouldn't a' done that at all."
Gremio stared back at Emily, who gave him a pleading look. All the feeling drained from Gremio's face, not due to his injury, but from sudden fear that he knew what was about to happen.
Aaron whipped out another knife and pressed it to Emily's neck. "You are gonna pay, darlin'," he informed her.
A tear slid down Emily's cheek, but she gave Gremio a smile. A smile that told him everything would be okay. Their suffering would be over soon.
But it wasn't the way they wanted it to end.
Emily blinked as Aaron kept the blade to her neck. "I love you." She mouthed the words to Gremio.
"I love you," Gremio answered her, his words also creating no sound.
They gazed tenderly at one another for what was one blessed, fervid moment in time, sharing the warm, affectionate glance.
Then Aaron's blade opened her throat.
Gremio's eyes widened again in alarm. "EMILY!!!!!!!" His heartbreaking cry reverberated throughout the alley, its tragic echo resounding down the street. "NO!!!! GOD, NO!!!!!"
"Aw, don't look so sad, ya queer," Shark jeered. "You'll be joining her soon." Suede, Soros, and Aaron formed a chorus of scornful laughter.
Without a warning, Shark moved forward and plunged a blade deep into Gremio's chest.
Shark grinned and jerked the knife out. "This'll finish you off, pretty boy." Gritting his teeth, he took his other jackknife and jammed it into Gremio's stomach, impaling him yet again.
Gremio welcomed the attack openly. He didn't even flinch as the blade mercilessly bit through his skin, entering his midsection. He didn't care anymore. Emily was now dead. And soon he would be. His suffering would end.
No, he didn't flinch. He didn't flinch at all as he felt his very mortality escape him through the mouth in a sea of crimson.
He would die there, but maybe he would get to see Emily again. . .if the beautiful heavens truly existed.
The world around him began to dissolve as Shark stepped back. He could hear their laughter as Aaron commanded them to let him go now. It was sweet cacophony to his ears. He was free to die. And perish he would, soon enough. Just let the poor fool lie there until he bled to his miserable death.
Gremio felt the arms of his assailants bring him down slowly from the wall, and his feet touched the ground. But his energy left him long ago. He coughed up more blood, his mind fading in and out of reality.
Maybe he'd be happier up there. He would see Emily. She was a good person. She was always a good person, just lead in the wrong direction. She was good. . .
. . .she was good. . .
Yes. He'd see her. How he longed to see her once more. He would be free to be with her. He would be where no one would object, disapprove. . .
He would be free. . .
The blood from both his mouth and face trickled downward, tainting his shirt. His vision blackened to night, and he finally collapsed in his attackers' grasp.
Emily. . .
In a flash, it all ended. Closing his eyes for good, his mind halted, and his head slowly hung forward. He did not feel the tense, overwhelmed nerves within his own body slacken into a deathly coma, embracing the gentle tranquility.
At long last, he was free.
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