After

9 - Jessica

"I don't have time for this," I groan, giving up on trying to shove him out of the door. In exasperation, I swivel on my heel away from the door. Fine, I'll give the press what they want and then they can leave with one more broken piece of me.

"You don't understand," Tag invites himself in, closing the door behind him. My throat closes, eyes flickering to the door as my mind begins to panic. Tag notices, gives me an apologetic look and opens the door a crack – a promise that he won't do anything, that he's giving me a route of escape

"No," I snap at him, cutting off his words. "You don't understand. I don't ever want to talk about that again! Got it?!"

But Tag is unfazed, simply standing there with his stupid notebook and a pacified expression on his face. Wordlessly, he reaches for the hem of his shirt, pulling it up to reveal his toned stomach ripped by three, thick lacerations.

"I met them too, Jessica," he says quietly, his eyes reaching up to meet mine. But mine are too transfixed by the riddled, rough scars. So that's why he hadn't tucked in his shirt – he'd been completely prepared to show me this.

"You..." I start but my words are lost in my throat.

"They killed my father," he says slowly, his eyes open and sincere, his pain only hidden underneath the thin layers of his skin. "On the same night they almost killed you."

My mouth is dry. My eyes trail up to his face, eyebrows knitted together as I see him no longer as a measly journalist but as someone who understands. I can't find any words - that's something that doesn't happen very often.

"Can we sit?" Tag asks, adjusting his shirt back over his torso.


"What do you remember about them, Jessica?" Tag asks, sitting neatly on the sofa next to where I am shoved to the side, as far away from him as I possibly can be.

I fiddle with my nails, my pale pink nail polish chipping. It feels like I'm in a psychiatrist session, oppressed by his beady gaze. I never did like those meetings with the psychiatrist back in rehab.

"I don't want to talk about this," I shake my head again, feeling like it's the hundredth time I've said those words in the last twenty minutes.

"Okay," he sighs, though, with some ridiculous magic, he sounds polite doing it. "How about what you remember from the mines-"

"You know what?" I shoot up to my feet, snapping my hard gaze to him, my arm pointing in the direction of the door. "You're leaving!"

"Hey," he looks like a wounded deer in the middle of the road, shocked at the sight of headlights. "I'm just trying-"

"Yeah, yeah, you're just trying to help," I roll my eyes, scoffing. "They all are."

"No," he shakes his head, standing up calmly and brushing off his jeans. "I'm here because," he breathes, his eyes drifting from mine to somewhere less incriminating. "I need your help."


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