a r m s
“And in his arms I found safety.”
I shivered, eyes tightly closed.
“Athena? Thena?” A female voice echoed in my mind. A deeper voice also cut in. “Baby girl? What’s wrong?”
I could feel myself shaking. I was curled up in a tight ball, crying softly.
I felt arms wrap around my body and I laid my head against a comforting bosom. Nora’s chin rested on my head. Her soft hands brushed my cheeks.
“Come back to the present, Athena, love. Come back to the moment, to the place you are in right now.” Her accent made her words more full and i opened my tear filled eyes.
“I’m a dirty nasty broken girl, you know.”
She looked deep into my eyes. “No you’re not. You’re beautiful and sweet. And you’re in one piece. Maybe a little chipped here and there, but our flaws are what accentuate our beauty.”
I looked up at her.
“You don’t know what I’ve done. What I’ve been forced to do.”
“And I don’t care. I know you to be a sweet girl, and I don’t care what has been stolen from you. Do you need anything?”
“C-could I have some tea?”
She nodded and got up, leaving the room.
Harris was looking at me with concern in my eyes. Some part of me wanted to hide from him and cover my head with my arms, but something deeper in me told me he wasn’t like those other boys.
“Who did this to you, baby girl?” He whispered in a strained voice.
I wobbled over to him and fell into his arms. I wanted to feel safe and protected. I wrapped his arms around me and he squeezed me reassuringly.
I cried into his chest and he held me tightly, rocking back and forth and humming softly in a comforting tone.
“You know,” i sniffled, “I used to be funny. I used to talk. I used to laugh and joke. I used to dance and sing. I used to love going on stage and acting. I used to wear ribbons in my hair and pretty dresses.” My voice cracked and tears rolled down my cheeks. He gently swiped them away.
“And now I don’t.” I looked away.
“Now I don’t talk and I hide. I don’t make eye contact and I don’t want to be seen. I hate acting. I just want to hide in my hoodies and curl up under the covers, never coming out.”
“Sweet, sweet lass.” He murmured into my hair. “You can hide behind me whenever you need to. I won’t mind.”
I squeezed his midsection tightly.
“You are huggable.” I said softly and a soft laugh escaped his mouth, sending a warm breath onto my head.
“I’ll always be your boy to hug, okay darlin’?”
“I’m not a innocent little flower, you know. I’m dirty as a dish rag. B-but I promise you I didn’t mean to. I just couldn’t be strong enough to fight it.”
I felt so vulnerable, so scared he would recoil from me in disgust. But instead his arms tightened.
“They’ll never touch you again. I’m going to learn to protect you.”
“Can I touch your hair?” I asked quietly.
He chuckled, smiling at me. “Of course, baby girl,”
I moved my hand to his head and ran my fingers through his soft hair. “It’s so fluffy.” I breathed.
Harris winked. “I use lots of extra conditioner.”
Nora walked in with a cup of tea, and instead of teasing me and Harris she just smiled gently. “I got your tea, lass.”
I loved how they called me lass. I noticed they didn’t use much Scottish slang, but when they did it flowed so naturally from their mouths.
Harris let me go and gently lead me to the couch, sitting near me and tucking a blanket around me. Nora handed me my tea. “Do you want me to take you home?” She asked quietly.
I shook my head. “No... I want to stay and watch the movie. I’m okay now.”
They both seemed relieved and Nora picked up the remote. “What do you want to watch?”
I ducked my head. “Jane Austen,” I mumbled.
Nora grinned. “You’ve got taste, lass.” She scrolled through the movies and clicked on the first Jane Austen movie she saw. As soon as the calming music started I relaxed, sinking into the embrace of the couch, surrounded on both sides by my friends.
How weird it was that I had friends.
To think, I had only known them two weeks and I already felt like I had known them forever. I smiled, peeking at Harris out of the corner of my eye to see him looking down at me with a fierce protectiveness and an incredible gentleness.
I smiled, popped a strawberry in my mouth, and rested my head against his shoulder, ignoring Nora’s fangirling.