The Gentiles

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Callie

Heat creeps up my face. Only to be amplified by Abe chuckling. He draws the curtains of the shower, the sound of shuffling accompanying his shadow. I turn around, not even wanting to watch his silhouette move. I then hear something hit the tiled floor with a wet flop.

My arm reaches for the doorknob, halted by Abe’s warning. “I’m almost done. Don’t leave.”

It’s only around a minute more before the shower turns off and Abe demanded for a towel. Well, shouldn’t he have gotten one before he suddenly decided to get in?

I slip one from the curtain, all the while training my eyes anywhere but there, careful not to yank it wider than I should and reveal something that would embarrass the heck out of me. This is my life, full of embarrassments and disappointments. As if being awkward and self-conscious isn’t enough.

Staying close to the door, I wait as Abe steps out of the shower, listening to him unzipping his backpack as things hit the counter.

“Callie.”

When he calls me by my name this time, his voice is clipped, a command. Yet, there’s a gentleness in there that made me feel somehow… revered. Important. With the seriousness that came along with it, I feel like we’re in business. Like he was about to pass me a task but knew that I would be able to accomplish it. That he believes in me I would never let him down, no matter the outcome of what I do.

Or that’s what I want to tell myself coming to terms that I am about to practice my backstitch on his flesh.

I turn around, finding him staring at me. Between his thumb and index fingers, he pinches tightly what seems to be a thin, curved metal, and at first, I thought it was some kind of earring until I saw the pointy end. A glossy blue thread hangs from the other end of it, confirming what I dread to admit. I’m pretty sure that made the blood drain from my face.

“Start here,” Abe points with the needle at one end of his cut. Now that he cleaned up, I can see that the wound is long but that doesn’t mean that it goes deep all the way. It runs slanted on his torso, from the end of his rib down to his hip bone. It’s still fresh, and Abe pinching it with his fingers could be the only reason the blood is not trickling out of it.

Abe gritted his teeth while I shakily close up the wound, not even a single grunt escaped from his pinched lips. I thought it would be easy, doing the suture, but skin is not as soft as it looks or even feel. The needle feels like it was going through a thick rubber.

I finished the task much slower than it probably it really was, feeling all the more nauseous when I felt myself leak just a little bit. I shouldn’t have done what I did, that thing that Abe caught me doing. Now, I am sweaty, I feel disgusting, and my stomach is churning. I feel as if I will vomit.

Abe wrapped his side after I did the last touch of disinfection, demanding I grab some of Harry’s clothes fresh from the laundry.

“Thanks, Nymph,” he tells me, haphazardly pulling one of Harry’s camp shirts, and a pair of his jeans, which I helped him with after denying on aiding him pulling the boxers up. His eyes kept on flashing towards my door, probably afraid that Harry would pass by again, but I was more than relieved when he did not make a move to lock it.

I follow him into the kitchen where he gulps down a huge jug of water in record and he then disappears into the night, leaving through the backdoor. Not even a single glance back nor any word of explanation what happened to him or where he’ll be off to.

Yes, I’m concerned about him, but I know better than to pry in his private matters. The day I followed him into the forest, my curiosity got the better of me and it almost cost me my life.

Today is the last day of the school week. Finally. I only came for two days and I’m already drained and exhausted. The students seem louder, annoying even. I don’t know what it is with me. I blame it on the lack of sleep.

Harry woke me up this morning to a heartful breakfast of fried rice and bacon, orange juice and fresh strawberries. He also prepared toast with butter and sugar, a perfect combination to match with everything else and personally my favorite. He looks chipper, more than his usual jolly self and I know it must be his excitement for today’s game. I refuse to believe it has anything to do with his late night affairs.

“You know I want you there, sweetheart,” he told me over breakfast. I always come to in house games and accompany him to other schools for outside games if my co-curriculars allows me. I’d like to think of myself as his most dedicated cheerleader who isn’t actually on the cheering squad, much less on the dance squad.

“But I want you to tell me honestly that you feel fine.” His gaze swept on my forehead. I kept on telling him that apart from a slight headache that I have, I feel mostly okay. “You can skip this one out if you want to rest for the afternoon.”

I already informed my club that I will not be able to make it to rehearsals today because I will be attending the game but some of them thought it has something to do with me hitting my head.

After giving it my best to convince Harry that I’m fine, he finally relented. He instructed Fely to stay by my side at all times and if the gym got too noisy, I can leave if I wanted to and not wait for him.

My chest warmed at his thoughtfulness, yet again, but it was only for a short minute before he asked me a question that made my blood turn cold.

“Last night…” He paused, scratching the back of his head as a sign of discomfort. “Did you – did you by any chance see something peculiar around the house?”

Initially, what came to mind was Abe but that would not have had garnered a reaction like this from Harry and he wouldn’t have asked me with such nervousness. If it was Abe he meant, he would just talk to him and not me, demand what he was doing late at night in the house with me, if he saw the two of us together, and perhaps gotten a much solid answer from him than if somehow I had gotten brave and it were me who asked.

No, Harry meant the girl who was half dressed – not half naked, I’d always like to think of a glass half full than otherwise – hiding in the kitchen. And if I heard them sneak up to his room upstairs.

“No,” I answered him, having gotten rid of the lump in my throat. “Why? Did something happen?”

Silently, I patted myself at the back for looking so convincing because Harry then slid his chair closer to mine and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. I wanted to cringe away, knowing he just slept with another girl and I don’t like thinking about him touching her and then touching me, but I kept the charade on so he wouldn’t suspect a thing. And he didn’t.

“No, nothing. Never mind that. I thought I heard something weird but…” His eyes focused on mine, going from worried to calm. “It’s nothing. I must have been too exhausted and thought things up,” he finished.

We drove to the school and had a pretty normal day. Well, as normal as it is when a huge game was about to commence. The latter half of the day, everyone is excused from their classes to freely choose between attending the game, engage in co-curriculars, or just go home early.

A huge part of the student body prepares for the game, of course. Some help the physical education teachers and school staff organize the school grounds, particularly the gymnasium. The school band practices the chants; the cheer squad perfects their routines; the art department helps with last minute preparations for banners and posters; the IT club is in charge with the technical business; and there are volunteers who want to help the health center, and the cafeteria.

All the members of the basketball team are excused for the whole day, needing to focus on their training and keeping their bodies in top shape ready for extreme exertion later on. Harry kissed me goodbye before heading off with Coach Carter.

He was followed by cheers and hoots as he passed by the full hallways, students clapping him on the back and giving him fist bumps along the way. The genuine look on his face makes it feel like I have butterflies on my stomach – it wasn’t the most comfortable but I loved the feeling of excitement it gave me.

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