I coughed blood as I rolled over onto my stomach. It dripped from my mouth and lips and I spat it out, not caring that it would stain. That old bastard deserved it for what he’d done—for what he’d done to me ever since Mum died.
Where is he now though?
I didn’t know.
I crawled up on my knees, bending over with a sob of pain. He’d done me over good this time. There was no hiding it, no way to pull this off as a fight I’d been in. I’d literally had the shit kicked and beat out of me and hadn’t been able to get as much as a proper hit in on my own.
I’d been in the process of packing a bag when he’d happened upon me. More clean clothes to bring over to Maria’s place because I couldn’t face staying here with him drunk off his arse.
Turned out he hadn’t been as drunk as I’d thought. Not drunk enough to leave me well enough alone, anyway. He’d come into my room and without a single word he’d preceded to grab hold of me, shove me up against the wall, and drive a brutal fist right into my stomach.
When I’d doubled in pain, his knee had come up to crack against my face, barely missing my nose. If he’d hit my nose then, he would’ve broken it, of that I was sure.
But his fists hadn’t been kinder when they’d descended on my face. My lips were split several places, judging by the blood, and I must’ve bit the inside of my mouth or my tongue or something, because I was bleeding in there too. Hopefully he hadn’t knocked out any teeth.
Screw my bag.
Just fuck it all.
I stumbled my way to the front door, trying my best to be careful just in case he was still around. I couldn’t take another round. He’d kill me if he got a hold of me again, of that I was sure.
Everything hurt, but I kept moving anyway. I couldn’t stay back there, couldn’t stay close to him.
Maria’s house was dark and silent. And the front door was locked.
That’s right. Because I told her I was staying at home tonight.
I rang the bell.
I had to see her, had to… I didn’t even know. All I knew was that everything was better when I was with her.
The house was still dark and silent.
I pressed the bell again, hoping she’d forgive me for waking her up in the middle of the night. She would though, I knew that already. Maria was kind—but fierce too if she needed to be.
She was wonderful and I didn’t deserve her. Yet I had her anyway and… she was the best thing to ever happen to me.
The door opened and I stumbled through as I’d been leaning on the door. My hands and knees connected painfully with the floor, but I was in so much pain already it didn’t matter.
‘Hey,’ someone said. It wasn’t Maria—but a male voice. ‘Are you drunk?’
I shook my head violently.
It was him again, the bastard. I’d forgotten all about his last vicious act, because the pain had been enough to occupy me. But I was wet, and my clothes was soaked in whatever bottle of alcohol he’d deigned to empty over me.
‘Let me find the light.’
‘No—’ I tried to protest, but it was too late. The bright lights of the hallway blinded me and I squeezed my eyes shut. They burned.
He—whoever he was, I still hadn’t been able to figure that out—crouched back down in front of me. ‘You. Maria’s guy. Roar, right?’
I peered blearily at him now from under my hood. When had I even pulled that over my head? Or had I had it on for as long as that bastard had been beating on me?
I recognised him now. It wasn’t Maria’s uncle—but the uncle’s boyfriend whom I’d only briefly met before.
‘Shit. Wait here.’ He backed away and hurried up the stairs.
It wasn’t like I wanted to move anytime soon. My ribs protested painfully, blood still dripped from my nose and my mouth and my lips.
I heard commotion upstairs, voices, but couldn’t make out what they said. Then footsteps came down the stairs again and this time it was Maria’s uncle who appeared. With a first-aid kit.
‘Come on.’ He grabbed hold of my arm, gently, and I hobbled with him into the kitchen where he pushed me down on a chair. ‘Let me have a look at you.’
I straightened up as good as I was able too, and his eyes seemed to take stock of my entire face as soon as he slid my hood off my head. Then he started to clean some of the blood off and he tilted my head back slightly, likely in hopes of getting the nosebleed to stop.
Maria came hurrying into the kitchen, in pyjamas, hair ruffled, and eyes wide. She took one of my hands in hers and held on, not too tightly, but enough for me to know she was here.
‘Did he do this?’ She asked in a demanding tone of voice. Though she didn’t wait for my confirmation before she continued, ‘The bastard! I’ll kill him.’
I knew she wouldn’t. I knew she couldn’t. But that she even said it warmed. I squeezed her hand tight.
‘Who?’ her uncle asked, voice calm.
‘His step-father,’ Maria spat vehemently, then turned to me. ‘Roar?’ Her fingers tangled gently in my hair.
I looked up at her, but didn’t say anything. What was there to say?
Her uncle dabbed at a cut on my lower lip.
‘You’re not going back there,’ she announced and I opened my mouth to actually agree with her, when she continued, ‘You’re not. You’re staying here with me. Right, Thomas?’
‘Of course.’ Thomas nodded, glancing up at her before meeting my gaze. ‘You’re going nowhere.’
Something stuck in my throat. Something that lodged there and kept me from saying anything, even a choked thanks.
‘You’re going to need new clothes.’ He touched the hoodie I already wore. It was gray originally, but dotted with blood now. ‘Can you get some from my closet for him? Some joggers and a jumper, whatever you find.’ He asked this of his boyfriend, who’d been standing in the doorway until now.
He nodded—and promptly disappeared.
I closed my eyes as Thomas continued to clean my face. It hurt, especially as some of the blood had already coagulated, but I knew it had to be done. I’d look a right mess for the foreseeable future though.
‘Should he go to A&E?’ Maria asked frantically, fingertips gently massaging my scalp.
‘If he wants to wait for hours,’ Thomas replied calmly.
‘Doesn’t this qualify as urgent?’ Maria usually had the same kind of calm as her uncle, but not now. Now she was anything but calm and collected.
‘You know what it’s like down there, Maria. Something more urgent’s always going on. Usually waiting less than an hour to get in is a miracle.’ He turned back to the first-aid kid, which lay spread open on the kitchen table. ‘Besides, there’s nothing they can do for him there that I can’t do. Nothing’s broken. They can give him better painkillers, but these will have to do.’
He gave me two pills and a glass of water he filled from the tap. ‘Have you been drinking?’
I popped the pills in my mouth easily, but the glass was more of a struggle. My lips were so swollen it was hard to take a sip. Some water spilled onto my hoodie, but it was beyond saving by now anyway, so it wasn’t like it mattered.
‘No,’ I said after the pills were swallowed. My voice was hoarse, choked. ‘He poured it over me. Threatened to put me on fire.’ If it hadn’t been for the fact he couldn’t find his lighter—or matches—he likely would’ve tried to do just that. I didn’t put it past him.
Maria gasped in outrage, seemingly lost for words.
Thomas’s expression closed off, but he was still collected, still able to keep a level head. Then again, he was a doctor. It came with the job, didn’t it? He probably saw lots of fucked up shit.
He cleaned my face some more, felt me over for pain and abused bones. I winced as his hands pressed down over my ribs, but they didn’t seem to be broken. Fractured maybe, but not broken.
‘Come on,’ Maria whispered then, pulling on the hand she still held. ‘Let’s get you in the shower.’
‘Careful with his face,’ Thomas warned, and Maria nodded.
The uncle’s boyfriend—what was his name again?—handed her the folded clothes he’d been up to get earlier.
I didn’t look at either of them as I hobbled after Maria. I was tired, drained, in pain, and all I wanted was to sleep for the next year.
Sleep wasn’t imminent though as Maria led me into the bathroom. She turned on the lights, locked the door, and then instantly went for my hoodie.
I could only lift my arms—and hiss in pain as I did so—but she got it off and threw it away. My T-shirt came next, just as painful to remove as the hoodie.
‘Oh, Roar,’ she sighed as she got a good look at my torso.
I didn’t look down. Didn’t want to see the damage he’d done.
She went for my jeans next. She pulled them down and off along with my boxers and socks.
If I hadn’t been almost dead on my feet and in so much pain it was hard to feel anything else, I would’ve been embarrassed standing completely nude in front of her like this.
As it was, I just let her shove me gently into the shower.
‘Ah, fuck it,’ she muttered, clearly having had a silent conversation with herself, and then she started stripping too.
I watched dully. Normally this would’ve been quite interesting, not to mention it would get certain parts of my body moving, but the pain blanketed everything else. There wasn’t so much as a stirring down there.
Maria closed the sliding glass doors, enveloping us in the shower. It was more than big enough for the two of us. Then she grabbed the shower head, kept it pointed at the wall as she adjusted the water. When she was happy with it, she slowly moved the stream over my feet, up my legs and over my torso.
‘Is this okay?’
I nodded and she fitted the shower-head back on the wall to free her hands.
She pumped soap into her palms, rubbed them together, and then preceded to slater me up in it.
‘What did he pour over you? It stinks like a distillery.’
‘Don’t know,’ I murmured, closing my eyes as she slowly but surely got rid of the smell of alcohol, replacing it with the vanilla scent of the soap she used. It always smelled good on her—though whenever I’d borrowed the shower, I’d always used the shower gel belonging to her uncle. I didn’t think vanilla was my scent—but it was a hundred times better than the stink of alcohol or beer.
‘I have to wash your hair too, but we’ve got to be careful so we don’t get shampoo on your face.’ She turned the shower-head away for now, squeezed some of her bubblegum-scented shampoo into her palms, and carefully applied it to my hair.
I tilted my head back to help so some of the foam wouldn’t get in any of the cuts on my face.
She grabbed the shower-head next and preceded to carefully rinse the shampoo out. Not a single drop of water made it to my face. Some trickled over my ears, but they weren’t hurt as far as I knew.
‘There.’ She put the shower-head back. ‘I want to it again, just to be sure we got it all off.’ So saying, she started slathering my body with the vanilla soap again, and then my hair with the bubblegum shampoo.
When she said we were done, she wrapped me in a fluffy blue towel, and tied a smaller red one around herself.
I sunk onto the toilet seat and let her dab me dry. I had no strength left or I might’ve tried to do it myself, but for once I let someone else fuzz over me. I didn’t have it in me to deny her. Nor did I want to right now.
‘Leo didn’t get any underwear.’ She pursed her lips.
So that was his name. Leo…
‘But I think you’ve got some in my room.’ She chewed thoughtfully on her over lip. ‘Unless you want to go without?’
Go without underwear in borrowed joggers? That felt wrong somehow.
‘I’ll go find a pair,’ she said then; I must’ve grimaced or something.
I sat with the fluffy towel still wrapped around my shoulders as she padded out into the hall and down to her room.
She came back not long after and I did find the strength to pull my own underwear on, as well as the joggers. She had to help me with the T-shirt though. That hurt too much for me to want to do it again, so we left the jumper on the counter.
She dressed in her pyjamas again, and then I trailed after her into her bedroom. She turned off the overhead light, clicked on the small lamp on the bedside table, and then she crawled back under her covers.
‘Come here, Roar.’ She held the duvet up invitingly.
I put my knee on the bed slowly, then just seemed to fall into it, right smack up against her.
She wrapped both arms around my shoulders, holding me tight. My head rested on her chest, my arm squeezed tight around her waist, and my leg wedged in-between both of hers.
And like that, safe and sound in her bed and her arms, I just fucking broke down.