Hope Is Lost

By: Emma James
My boxing session has loosened me up, and I’m feeling relaxed. I always feel good after I’ve sweated it out. I’m showered and carrying my gym bag back around to find Faith, who should be finished with her yoga lesson, when I hear a cry and a loud thump.

What the hell? I do a slow jog down to the open part of the gym where the mats are to find somebody is laid out on the ground beside the stairs. My brain instantly kicks in to gear. I’d know those legs anywhere.

Jesus. It’s Faith. What the fuck!

Levi’s down on the mats beside Faith, frantically talking to her. “Short Stuff, I’m so sorry. Are you all right?”

I make it over to Levi in double time and kneel down next to him. “What happened, man?”

There’s blood pouring out of her head, and her previous gash has been opened up wide. With the gash looking like it’s deeper and longer now, it’s bubbling up like a drinking fountain.

“I happened.” Levi has no humor in his voice. “Harley, can you grab a towel to help stop the bleeding. She’s going to need to get her head stitched up again. Honestly, she took one look at me, cried out, and then she turned away and shot forward. But she didn’t realize the stairs were behind her, and she ran straight into the side of them, hitting the cement edge of one of the stairs. She split her head open again and knocked herself on her back from the impact.”

I concentrate on Faith who is dazed and trying to sit up while Levi tries to keep her lying down. I’m not sure if she knows what just happened.

“Faith, honey, just relax, we’ve got you. Just stay down until we can get your head under control. You’re going to be okay.” She visibly relaxes when she hears my voice.

When I unzip my sports bag which I dropped by my leg, pulling out a clean, spare hand towel, Levi snatches it from me. Then I hear my brother’s office door slam and look up.

He’s standing outside of his office at the top of the stairs, looking down on us over the side of the handrail, his eyes widening in shock. Once his mind catches up with what he is seeing, I can see the fear and panic on his face as he rushes down the stairs.

Aahh, hell. Here we go.

I hold one hand up to him, trying to reassure him. “She’ll be okay,” I call up to him. I can only imagine what this looks like to my brother. “It looks worse than it is.”

He isn’t listening to me. He’s too busy concentrating on flying down the stairs.

I hang my head, knowing my brother will be going through his own private little hell at the moment until he sees for himself what I’ve been trying to tell him. His head will be filled with flashbacks of the island. He won’t be seeing Faith and a split open head; he’ll be seeing death and a bloody massacre.

My words seem to have sunken into Levi’s head, though. He’s handling the situation a lot better now, gently holding the towel to her head as blood seeps into it.

Text drops to his knees to move in behind her carefully, lifting Faith’s shoulders and placing her head in his lap. He takes a deep breath then shoves Levi in the shoulder to get his attention before he takes the towel from him with an anger directed solely at Levi.

“Hey! Cut it out. It’s not Levi’s fault.” I warn my brother in a voice that gets his attention.

It’s such a punch to the gut seeing my brother treat Levi like this. My brother is afraid for Faith, and he’s hurting his friend in the process. I can see how upset he is, but it’s not Levi’s fault. It’s nobody’s.

My brother’s been able to hide himself away these past six years, but now that Faith’s arrived, she’s pushing his emotional buttons. He’s buried them deep. They are tucked away into little boxes where he doesn’t have to acknowledge them if he doesn’t want to, and now Faith’s messing with all that.

Levi holds his hands up in front of him. “Whoa. Text, buddy, I was just minding my own business. I just got here to do a work out. I think Faith saw me, and I shocked the hell out of her... head-meet-stairs.” He points to the stairs above us, a bloody smear on the side. “Those stitches of hers split open like a smashed tomato, and she knocked herself right off her feet. I don’t know how well she’s doing… I think she was seeing stars for a bit, because she wasn’t tracking me.”

My brother’s staring at the red smear above us, his eyes glazed over. I don’t think he’s even in The Cage at the moment. I think he’s on the island.

I snap my fingers in front of his face to try to break through. “Text, I want you to look around and see where you are. You and everybody else here is safe. We’re all in your gym, The Cage.” I talk slowly and confidently to him.

Levi catches on and starts watching my brother. “Bro, look at me. You know why she hit her head. We’re all safe in your gym. There’s no danger. The only danger is Short Stuff to herself.

Although my brother’s a little slow to come out of his fog, he gradually registers what Levi and I have been saying to him, and his eyes start blinking. He looks at the both of us and then takes in his surroundings.

“Jase, I’m okay.” Faith’s voice gets his attention, and he looks down at her.

I put a hand on his shoulder. “Buddy, nobody’s going to get hurt again today.”

Faith has her eyes shut while my brother keeps the small, stained towel clamped to her forehead.

“I’m good. I can get up. I need to show Jase I’m okay.” She starts trying to sit up, but my brother holds her firmly in place with one hand to her chest. Faith ultimately gives up and lets him have his way.

“Harley, I thought I saw Levi and... and...” She sounds confused as she pushes the towel away from her forehead, opening her eyes. “Oh, hey, Levi... um... Can you just humor me and stand up, please?” Faith’s voice is unusually high pitched as she watches Levi kneeling beside her, waiting for him to move.

Blood is flowing down her cheek, but she doesn’t even feel it. She slides Text’s hand off her chest and pushes off him gently, getting into a cross-legged position to get a better look, and she still doesn’t notice the blood trailing down her face. My brother has his legs on either side of her, parroting the way she’s sitting, with his chest pressed up against her back. He takes the towel and holds it against her forehead, but she doesn’t seem to be aware of him behind her.

Levi looks from me to Text and back to Faith, hesitates, and then takes a deep, resigned breath and pushes off with one leg to stand up. He’s wearing his work-out shorts and a tank top. To everybody else, this is normal. Levi’s looking a little pale and a lot worried as he shuffles from side to side, making me feel sorry for him. This was not how he wanted to tell her.

As her eyes travel up and down his body, Levi looks so helpless, waiting for her to say something. I think we’re all holding our breath. When Faith’s breath falters just a little, it’s her only tell.





I drop my head then realize Jase is behind me, so I push his hand out of the way and hold the towel to my face myself.

Holy shit, what have I gone and done again?

I decide looking at my lap is the best option at the moment. I can’t look Levi in the face; all I can do is mumble to myself, “For six years, I’ve been a totally self-absorbed ass. Six years.” I’m so angry with myself in this moment.

“Faith...” Levi tries to get my attention. “Faith.” He crouches down in front of me again. “Faith!” His sharp voice forces me to acknowledge him.

I take a deep breath and meet Levi’s eyes. I need to get a grip. “It’s okay, Levi. This is my problem, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it to make up for not being here for you guys. I already know none of you hold it against me. I get that. But I have to live with letting Chance down a little by not being here for his friends in some capacity.”

“Faith...”

“For God sake, I didn’t even acknowledge any of you. I’m not looking for y’all to make me feel better. It simply is what it is, and I’ve got to deal with it.”

“Ahh, hell, Faith, don’t do that to yourself.” Harley’s now trying to fix this situation, but there’s nothing that can excuse how badly I abandoned these guys.

Nothing.

I simply have to live with it.

“I was just wondering when somebody was going to enlighten me on Levi.” I’ve gone from shocked to starting to feel pissed off that I was put in this position in the first place. It may still be shock. Who knows? My head is freakin’ killing me, but that’s the least of my worries. There are too many emotions swirling around in my head at the moment.

Something is building inside of me.

“I’ve been here four days, and nobody told me. Retro showed me Levi’s body, lifted his shirt, but nobody told me. Levi had the perfect opportunity, and y’all watched, knowing there was more to tell me.”

I can’t help directing my crankiness to Harley. “Nice one, Harley.” I look up and to the side. “Jase, I can’t expect you to tell me anything, but you could’ve drawn a stick figure. You know, something simple, left leg drawn down only to above the knee. I would have caught on, or you could have sent me a text.”

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