The Gentiles

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Abe’s hold on me tightened making me think that despite his words that sting me to the core, his actions would be quite the opposite. Because, I have come to realize, Abe had been nothing but gentle to me this whole time.

Apart from him calling me nymph to tease me, he didn’t really do anything malicious to me. He hadn’t been mean and he even pulled me aside the other day to make sure I’m okay after I got hospitalized. And now, sure that he saw the tears in my eyes when I left the gymnasium, he offered to drive me away from where it hurts, though he couldn’t have known the reason why.

His attempts at making me feel better by riling me up was not lost on me, either. He made my chest feel lighter in quite a while, through his harmless banter and the intensity of his attention.

However, disappointment weaved its way in front of my expectations as Abe pushed me away from him, the heat of his body making the air around me feel empty and cold.

My arms dropped to my side, one hand clutching his jacket. I couldn’t read the mixed expressions playing on his face and it only made my heart sink a little bit lower to my stomach.

Laughing nervously, pathetically, I try to make light of the situation, shrugging off the hurt. “Well, okay. I’ll replace your bandage and then –”

“No, baby,” he growled lowly in a pained voice. He turned his face away from me, hands fisted together so tightly the white of his knuckles became evident.

From his profile, I could see that his thick, dark eyebrows are drawn together, a crease has formed between them. My heart skipped over to my throat at what he’d called me and I doubt it even registered in his mind what he’d said or his eyes would be as round as mine in shock.

“You need to go.” He shook his head, giving me his back completely like he did before. “What was I thinking bringing you here?” he mumbles almost to himself.

Just when I thought we’re getting somewhere.

After a bad night, and I don’t even want to guess what had occurred that time or I’ll die of nervousness, he asked me to stitch him up. I’m still pretty jarred by that, having to puncture his flesh over and over again with a curved needle seeing him lock his jaw tightly to prevent himself from crying out in pain until the gash closed. He trusted me to do that, to not say a word about that, but now he doesn’t trust me enough to clean that same wound?

I braced my own shoulders, fisting my own fingers that had been worrying the thick fabric of his jacket, I only now notice. I’m tired of him rudely shutting me away when he’d show worry and came to my rescue even if I didn’t ask him to.

Before my mind catches up with what I was about to do, I shucked his jacket at him. The great wall that is Abraham’s back didn’t even bulge. It didn’t stop my fit, nevertheless.

“What’s your problem?” My voice rises an octave, sounding almost frantic. I won’t be surprised if it went higher, I’m close enough to get there. “I’m just trying to help.”

I am beginning to sound whiny so I cleared my throat and attempted to bring some of my composure back. “Whether you want to or not,” I added like that would actually sway him.

I crossed my arms on my chest to emphasize my resolve then I remember he couldn’t see me so I rested my hands on my hips instead because I felt stupid and I don’t really know what to do with them now that they’re empty.

Obviously, his parents don’t know, he’s not living with them anymore, for crying out loud. I don’t know what aunt Denise must have felt when Abe told them he’d move out. He’s always been a mama’s boy but I couldn’t help but wonder whether his decision made her upset of she just up and gave in to his whims. I know she’s worried sick about him as the rest of the family after he’d detached himself from us but he’s still her son and if I felt upset when I saw his state last night, I couldn’t imagine how she would react if she knew.

I’m not sure if Ane knows but with Ane being Ane, if she did know, she’d probably have wrestled her brother to the hospital. That’s how persistent she is. A huff attempted to break free from my mouth but I stopped it. The two of them really are twins.

Inch by torturous inch, Abe swiveled around, his face stoic and haunting. Afraid he’d rebuff my offer and ask me to leave again, I hastily spoke first.

“You’re not getting rid of me, Abe.”

Something flashes in his eyes and I soften my gaze. My heart has been thumping nonstop in my chest since I followed Abe to his car, head almost free of the haze of heartbreak and regret. I walk toward the door but doesn’t reach for the knob. I thought I heard faint footsteps in my wake but from my peripheral view as I turn to the bathroom, I saw that Abe did not as much move a hairsbreadth.

Turning the lights on, I checked the only drawer by the sink and found a first aid kit that hasn’t been opened and still has the tag price hanging on the zipper. I opened the mirror cupboard and found cotton and iodine as well. I stepped out of the bathroom to find Abe where I left him and I had the urge to roll my eyes.

Of course, he’d be brooding even if he’s alone. What else does he do besides run dangerously and hang out with his shady friends?

Speaking of, where are those friends of his? Why didn’t he ask for their help last night?

I want answers but decided that now’s not the time. I set the things I gathered on the bed and pulled Abe’s arm to let him sit on it. I sit beside him, and for a moment, there was an awkward silence bubbling between us. I cleared my throat and motioned to his neck.

“You should…” I swallowed, licked my lips, and tried again. “You should take it off,” I said in a rush, pointing up and down with my index finger to his torso, indicating his shirt. I hope he wouldn’t comment about the blush I feel slowly heating up my face.

For all my big talk a while ago, I had the decency to feel shy. Well, it hadn’t really crossed my mind that Abe had to be topless for me to do what I offered to do. There’s no going back now and a simple thing as him being half naked should not stop me from helping him out.

To distract myself, I took the first aid kit and pry it open. I inspect the contents, which, thankfully, are enough for what I need to do. There’s also a pair of small scissors included and a tiny roll of micropore.

I took a pinch of cotton and roll it between my forefinger and thumb, twisting the small bottle of agua oxigenada in preparation.

Abe hissed loudly. “Hold up,” he interrupted with furrowed brows. He made a small jerking movement away from me. “You’re not using alcohol.”

I cocked my head in confusion. I looked back at the cotton in my hand and then it dawned on me. “It isn’t,” I assured him. The look of suspicion in his face didn’t go away and it made me giggle. “It’s hydrogen peroxide,” I explain to him.

He gaped at me. “That sounded fucking worse.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his silliness. Despite me enjoying his misery, I feel the need to calm him down a bit. “It doesn’t burn. It’s just like the iodine we applied last night.”

With a frown still plastered on his gorgeous face, Abe nodded. Not quite convinced but still not trusting my word on it. And to think he braved the needle. Seeing him like this, it was like he was back to being that boisterous little boy I had known. Trying to be fearless and even more so daunting when the smallest, most innocent things terrified him.

“Come on,” I said. “Shirt off.”

The moment the words were out of my mouth, my eyes find his and I know I’ve made a mistake even before his smoldering look burned through me.

“I thought you’d never ask,” he tells me with a smirk.

I sighed. It’s my fault. I walked right into that. I have to choose my words carefully with Abe. He’s as likely to twist my words as he is to twist my gut with the whirlpool of emotions he’s inconspicuously stirring there.

Just like… Right. Now.

With a glint in his eyes and a smile playing on his lips, he started unbuttoning his shirt from the bottom to the top. Who does that? I couldn’t pry my eyes away as hints of his smooth, tanned skin is slowly revealed, taut muscles that I did not get the chance to appreciate the first time I caught sight of them because of the nerve-wracking situation. His dark shirt flops open but his fingers stopped halfway through.

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