I can't handle the boots.
We sat on the kitchen counter tucking into the most mouthwatering pizza. Perfectly hot barbecue chicken with extra cheese and a thin crust, I remember Liam saying it was his favorite food. I watched him appreciate every bite, closing his eyes and making small humming noises as he devoured every inch of the slice, sucking onto the end of his fingers, making sure there’s nothing left.
“You’re really good at bowling.” He said, swaying his dangling legs.
“You too, it was close.” I reply, finishing off my last slice. With a sigh I stand up, holding my hand out to drag him off the counter and lead him to my bed room.
We were fine downstairs, laughing and joking with one another but now that we were back in my bedroom the mood between us shifted. I watched as he sat timidly on the end of my bed, his arm went up to rub the back of his neck and his eyes focused on anything but me. I felt the awkwardness cling to the air but I didn’t know what had changed. He seemed more nervous than me and I was the one who was about to get almost naked and prance myself around in front of him like an idiot.
“A bets a bet, right?” I said with a displeasing tone, opening up my underwear drawer to reveal a bold display of colours.
As I rooted through it I felt Liam join me next to the drawer, sending a warm shiver coursing throughout my body.
“Stop” he said quietly putting his hand in the drawer and pulling the red lace panties out of my grasp. I could feel my cheeks heating up just knowing my panties were in his hands. But I looked up at him, questioning why he wants me to stop.
“I didn’t think you would actually agree to it.” He finally muttered out.
“You don’t want me to -” I asked, a little confused.
“Oh, I want you too.” He tried to portray some confidence that I could clearly see he lacked, it made me smile and I think he could tell I could see right through him “but it was wrong of me to ask you to do that. So you can just ... uh... buy me lunch or something.”
Lazily my eyes fell down to the red panties he was still holding in his hand. He absentmindedly stroked the lace between his thumb and index finger in slow, gentle movements. His eyes followed down to the panties and his cheeks pinked right before my eyes, he released his grasp around my underwear letting the delicate material fall to join its friends.
I giggled at his embarrassment “for a ladies man, you sure do get shy about things” I teased.
Liam pushed my drawer closed and backed away. “I’m not shy” he tried to say with confidence, fixing the collar up on his leather jacket like it was his ego and he was straightening it out.
Still standing at my drawer I watched him as he kicked off his shoes, pulled down his jeans and flopped onto my bed, making himself comfortable. The room flooded with ‘We are the champions’ playing from his phone and with a smile he accepted the call.
“Just at Livs”
He watched me from the corner of his eye and I suddenly felt like I was intruding on his private conversation. I rocked back and forth on my own two feet with awkwardness but he pulled back the duvet and patted the bed beside him, gesturing me to climb in.
Now that I was next to him I could hear the faint buzz of a males voice on the other end of the line. I couldn’t make out exactly what he was saying but I’m sure I heard my name thrown in there once or twice. Liam rolled his eyes but laughed.
“You’re such a dick.”
“I’ll sort it.”
He hung up and placed his phone on the bedside table without saying word, leaving me burning with curiosity. He is like the most private person ever, he gives nothing away willingly.
“What are you sorting?” I ask trying to act casual whilst fingering the white floral pattern on my duvet.
“The alcohol for the lock in.” He replied nonchalantly.
I backed away from him in disbelief. “You can’t sneak alcohol in.”
“Why not? We do it every year.” He shrugged like it was no big deal and then snuggled down more under the duvet. His eyes moved to the photographs by my desk, I knew he was looking at the photo booth strip I took with Harris and I paused my breathing with suspense. He turned back to me, eyes alight with an unknown emotion.
“What would your boyfriend say if he knew we slept in this bed together?” His impassive coldness was back.
“Harris isn’t my boyfriend. We’re just friends” I squealed at his accusation.
“I don’t trust him.” He said darkly. “I don’t like him.” He added.
“Well, I don’t like your friends.” I was getting a little defensive now. Harris was a great guy, he didn’t even give him a chance.
“I won’t deny my friends can be dicks but they’re loyal to me. Jordan’s my brother and Zaks my best mate.” He smiled fondly at the mention of his friends.
I scoffed at his words “Jordan’s the worst! And Zaks an idiot. What about Ben?”
“I can’t stand Ben. I’ve never liked him. You know he was really into you at one point? When he asked you on dates it was legit, then we teased him about it because we’re dicks and he felt like he needed to prove some messed up point to us. So he left you hanging at that dance and told everyone he played you for two months. You know I punched him for that? He had a black eye for two weeks.”
That was a revelation, I thought he and Ben were tight. I remember his black eye, rumor was he got a soccer ball kicked to the face and I thought karma was catching up. I never knew it was Liam.
“Zak puts up with a lot of my shit. He covers for me every time with no complaints or questions asked. He has Jenkins by the balls so he gets away with murder at the school. And anything I do that he takes the blame for stays off his record, so it doesn’t affect his future.”
“Jordan just gets me. He seems to know what I’m thinking and feeling, sometimes before I even do. I know he’s been a dick to you, he is a dick. But I trust him with my life. My friends ... they know I’m messed up but they accept it. I never have to explain myself to them, they don’t ask me questions.”
I listened intently as he spoke with such affection towards his friends. My perception of them didn’t change but it made me happy knowing he had people in his life that he could rely on because something told me he was lacking in that department.
My eyes jolted open in the darkness. I glanced at Liams distressed sleeping face, did he just say something?
“The boots are too heavy, you’re going to break my rib cage.”
My whole body froze, Liam was having a nightmare. His voice sounded small and utterly frightened. Eyes fluttered beneath his eyelids and his body jolted sharply a few times as he let out multiple pained groans.
“Don’t touch her.” He screeched louder.
“Liam” I shouted.
“Stop” his voice ripped through the darkness even louder.
I gripped his shoulders and shook him frantically calling out his name. He jolted up right and on instinct he grabbed hold of my wrists digging deep into my skin with his nails. My face naturally screwed up with pain but I sat deadly still watching terrified silver eyes blink back at me. Liam was soaked through with sweat and his pale face illuminated the darkness. The pain from my wrists echoed through my body as his sharp nails penetrated my skin. He panted frantically trying to regulate his breathing, blinking through the darkness as he readjusted himself to his surroundings.
His eyes clouded as reality set back in. I winced as his nails lifted their hook and his eyes fell on my broken skin, regret and guilt washing over him like a tidal wave.
“Oh my God” he got out of bed and backed away from me like he had just committed the worst crime and couldn’t get away fast enough. “God, why am I like this?” He said with annoyance, hitting his palm against his forehead. He looked up at me through watery, sincere, blue eyes “I’m so sorry” he cried out, backing further away frantically. “I need to go.” He picked up his jeans and ran out of my bedroom struggling to put them on as he moved.
I swiped away the trickling blood from my wrists, ignoring the after sting and chased after him, meeting him at my front door just as he was about to leave.
“Liam it’s the middle of the night, don’t go. Don’t walk out whenever things get tough.”
Still holding the door knob he rested his forehead against the door and exhaled deeply.
“Don’t you see I’m dangerous to be around? Liv, I just hurt you.” He turned to me with broken silver eyes that pooled with emotion, the self Hatred clear to see.
“Liam, you didn’t intentionally hurt me. I’m fine, it’s just a few scratches. Please come back to bed.”
“Liv, I can’t.” He banged his head against the door, filling the silence inside the walls with a unpleasant sound.
“Please Liam.” I slowly raised my arm and grabbed his bicep to offer some sort of connection to him. Guiding him away from the door and into the lounge.
He seemed unsure and uncomfortable in his own skin but he sat in the arm chair while I went to make him a drink. I placed a bandage on each wrist and pulled on my dressing gown to hide the unwanted reminder. When I returned Liam looked no better, he was fragile and vulnerable and I wondered if talking about it would make things better or worse.
“You were having a nightmare?” I asked delicately.
He nodded, taking small sips of water. “It happens a lot.” He replied in a small, raspy voice.
“You want to talk about it?” I offered.
His eyes widened in fear, silver shooting through the blue and for a moment I thought he was going to turn down the offer but then he started talking.
“He has these big boots with metal tips. They’re heavy and they cause the big purple bruises on my chest. He gets me onto the floor then kicks me or tramples on me. And I lie there, letting him. I can’t breathe, I can’t move. Sometimes it feels like he’s breaking my ribs. If I’m lucky I’ll black out and lose consciousness. The boots are the worst. I can handle him picking fights, I can handle the massive rings he dresses his knuckles with. But the boots... I can’t handle the boots.”
He struggled to piece his words together as tears silently rolled down his cheeks pushing each one away with the back of his hand. I place my hand slowly onto his knee to offer some comfort.
“Why do you let that happen to you?” I whisper, sounding more upset than I wanted him to know I was.
“If he doesn’t do it to me then he’ll do it to my mom.” He said sadly.
“You and your mom can get help, she can get away.”
“My mom doesn’t want to get away... it’s complicated Liv.”
And that is when I realized there was more to his story than he cared to share right now. He inched up the sleeve of my dressing gown and caressed the bandage, looking lost. “I’m so sorry I hurt you. I would never intentionally hurt you, you know that right?”
“I know.” I replied honestly. “Let’s go back to bed.”
“I think I’ll sleep here, if that’s okay.” Liam gestured towards the sofa. I knew he was just scared about hurting me again so I pulled on his hand and leaded him back to the bedroom ignoring his suggestion.