Did I fall on the floor?
This was my first thought upon waking. Well, coming to, I suppose. I think waking involves some sort of voluntary sleep phase. Anyway, stupid thought, I know. The thing is, when you've been put to involuntary sleep and you didn't see it coming, the confusion just sort of stays with you. In the movies, I always see these heroes who've been knocked unconscious be instantly on their guard. I suppose they have years of training in this kind of thing. Having experienced it myself, I don't know if I'll ever believe those movies again.
But I digress. The point is, I was disoriented. If this were any normal Monday night, I would assume I fell asleep watching TV and fell off the couch. Hence, my first thought.
Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of what would prove to be a lengthy series of strange Mondays. And every other day of the week. I didn't know that at the time, so instead of just rolling with the punches, I laid in darkness trying to get my bearings.
Opening my eyes was suddenly a lot more difficult than it should have been. So I kept them closed and tried to remember what was happening right before my involuntary nap. All I could come up with was a blank. A big gaping black hole where my memory should have been. It wasn't like something just on the edge of my mind that I could almost grasp, it was just...nothing. I went through some basic amnesia tests: name, president, locker combination...all there. I remembered Monday until school ended, but after that...the nothingness. For some reason between school and now, at least to me, I ceased to exist.
But, I was breathing. And alive. And I could feel things. The ground was hard under me, and the air smelled like spoiled fish. Not a pleasant smell, but I took it as a good sign that I was okay. Or, at least, now existing. I laid my hands out flat and felt the ground. Asphalt. So, I was outside. And possibly in the middle of a street. But it was quiet, the sound of cars far off and muted. Okay, a side street of some sort. I tried opening my eyes again, and this time it worked. I was looking up at the dark night sky. No stars were visible, but I could see the tops of buildings on either side of me. I was in an alley. The buildings loomed over me, red brick monstrosities that were probably just a few stories tall, but seemed impossibly huge from this vantage point. The smell of rotted fish got stronger as I breathed in. My nose wrinkled and my stomach heaved a bit, but I managed to get it under control by taking shallow breaths through my mouth.
I slowly pulled myself up to a sitting position. For some reason I was expecting some pain, but overall I felt fine. A shuffling sound made me whip my head around toward the entrance to the alley, but all I saw was a flash of red as something disappeared around the corner. I decided to ignore it, since I wasn't exactly in any condition to follow after it, much less defend myself if it ended up being a mugger or something. I looked around and took in my surroundings. The source of the smell was readily apparent. My feet lay resting against a large green dumpster that had its lid open, black plastic trash bags overflowing out the top. There were some flies buzzing around it, obviously happier with whatever was rotting inside than my nose was. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light of the alley, I spotted my messenger bag next to me. So, I guess I wasn't mugged. That was a relief, though not much of one. As far as I could remember from packing it up this morning, all that was in there was school supplies and some cash. Like five dollars in cash. Maybe I pissed off a mugger by being a useless target. And he knocked me out? I guess it was a possibility. I groaned a bit as I pushed myself up. There wasn't pain, but there was a stiffness that told me I had been laying there long enough to be even more freaked out. I stood still for a moment after I stood up completely, worried that I would be dizzy, but I still felt fine. No concussion or anything, then, and my head didn't feel like I had been unconscious for any practical reason. Maybe I fainted? Well, whatever it was, it couldn't be a good thing. Besides the dumpster in front of me and my messenger bag still sitting next to me, the alley appeared to be empty. At least I hadn't been laying amongst a family of rats or something. A shudder wracked my body as I thought about all of the things that could have happened while I lay there unconscious. I shook my head a bit as I decided not to think about that. Instead I concentrated on what to do next. I didn't wear a watch, so I had no idea how late it was. I leaned down and grabbed my bag, and that's when I noticed the holes in my jacket. I was wearing a black hoodie, and there were slashes along the front of it. They looked like they had been sliced into the fabric, two long lines across my stomach. I stared at them for a moment, too scared to touch them. So, obviously something besides passing out had happened here. I didn't just magically tear my jacket open in perfectly straight lines when I hit the ground. I hoisted the bag onto one shoulder and my other hand hovered over my stomach for a moment before it dropped back to my side. Another thing to ignore for the moment, then.
I looked at the ground around me one more time before making my way out of the alley. When I reached the entrance, I stopped and looked back. I don't know what I was expecting, but all I could see was a short dark space between two apartment buildings. Just like any other nondescript alley in the neighborhood. I took a deep breath and stepped out onto the sidewalk. I was a little surprised to see that I appeared to be just a few blocks from my own apartment. Laying in that alley for the few minutes I had consciously been there had felt like being halfway around the world. But, no, I was in an area that I walked pass practically every day I didn't get a ride to get to my bus stop. That, at least, solved the problem of how I was going to get home. Briefly, I considered going to the police station that was a few blocks in the opposite direction from my home, but I had no idea what I would tell them.
“Hello officer, I just woke up in an alley. And look at my jacket.” Yeah, that wouldn't end in massive amounts of drug tests and phone calls to my dad in what was probably the middle of the night. At least he never waited up for me. He was probably passed out himself by now. No, the best thing to do now was head home and try to regroup once I was safely in my room.
The walk home was uneventful. The streetlights hummed and flickered as I walked under them. A few cars passed me, but none I recognized, and none slowed down or appeared to notice me. There was no one else walking on the street, so it must have been pretty late. The shops were all closed, except for the convenience store on my corner, but I passed by it quickly, just giving a wave to Martin, the night guy who I sometimes chatted with, and who knew my dad quite well. My dad probably supported his whole family just on beer purchases alone. My apartment building loomed over the smaller ones surrounding it, a red brick shadow until I got close enough to practically touch it. The streetlight directly in front of it had burned out a week before, and sat there dark, as it probably would for at least another two weeks, until the city could get out and fix it. Luckily, my neighborhood wasn't too bad. If I had been on the other side of the highway five blocks ahead of me, I would have most likely been running home, mace at the ready. For some reason, the criminals stayed on their own side.
I tried to be as quiet as possible as I slipped my key into the lock and opened to door. Cringing as it squeaked - I'd have to fix that sometime soon - and poking my head around, I sighed in relief when I saw the empty front room. Not that my dad would have woken up from his drunken stupor in front of the TV, but I was glad that I wouldn't even have to deal with the possibility. I stepped inside and closed the door softly. I locked the deadbolt and made my way along the back wall of the dark room, only becoming completely relaxed when I had shut myself into my small bedroom. I could hear my dad's snoring from down the hall, so it looked like I had missed the interrogation bullet.
Blinking against the bright overhead light after I flipped it on, I dropped my bag on the carpet and looked down at myself. A gasp escaped me as I saw the state of my clothes for the first time. The jacket was done, two large slashes leaving gaping holes. That wasn't the part that made my head swim. From the top of my jeans to the tops of my knees, the material was stained a dark brown. I had never seen massive amounts of dried blood outside of slasher films, but I instantly knew that's what it was. It couldn't be my blood, that was certain, but something was either in quite a bit of pain, or possibly dead, from that amount. I touched a fingertip to it, pressing more firmly on it when I discovered that it wasn't wet, just a little bit tacky. So, a long time on the ground, then. I wiped my hands on the back of my pants and unbuttoned them, practically ripping them off of my body, my shoes flying off in my haste. My legs were also stained a dark red brown color, my underwear totally ruined as well. I yanked the zip of my hoodie down and pulled it off, the full on freak out getting worse when I saw the state of my shirt. The gashes went all the way through. How the hell had these gashes gotten there without hurting me? I yanked the shirt off and peered at my stomach. There were two large gashes in my skin, blood covering them.
My breathing stopped completely and I stood still as I stared at them. Was I in shock? Was this what shock felt like? My whole body was numb and cold, and I could feel the shaky breath I let out echo in my head asI tried to think through the haze that had overcome my brain. There was no part of this situation that was not totally screwed up. I was standing in the middle of my bedroom, in the middle of my so-ordinary-it-was-almost-painful life with half my blood on the outside of my body and absolutely no pain. I tentatively reached a hand up and held it over the gashes in my skin. I barely touched a finger to the skin, tracing along the top gash. Nothing. No pain. I pressed harder, flattening my palm against it. Still nothing. There were gaping holes in my body made from what was probably a large knife, and it was like nothing at all had happened to me. The wounds had stopped bleeding, apparently, as no more blood came out when I pushed on them.
I shook myself out of my stupor and looked down at my ruined clothes. I decided to deal with them later. Making my way quietly down the hall, to the bathroom, I shut the door and leaned against it. After taking a moment to pull myself together, I started the shower. After taking my bra and socks off and tossing them on the counter – at least something hadn't been ruined – I stuck my hand under the spray, frowning when it almost burned me. I turned the dial all the way to cold and waited a moment. Great, the plumbing was screwed up again. At least it was too hot this time instead of the usual freezing morning surprise. I stepped under the spray after it reached a non-scorching level. I watched with fascination as the blood lightened to a pink and pooled around the drain. Once the blood was cleaned off the gashes looked no less severe. They were obviously deep, and the skin flapped open a little bit around them. I stretched my stomach taught, and looked closer, the water running down my hair and making a curtain around my face as I inspected the wounds. I could see some things on the inside of my body that I was pretty certain I shouldn't ever be able to see.
The water was running clear now, so I shut off the shower and grabbed a towel from the rack, hastily drying myself off and wrapping it around my body. Once I was back in my bedroom, I dropped the towel and stood in front of my closet mirror. Yeah, I definitely should not be seeing whatever that was. My eyes were wide and darker than their usual light green color, set off against my pale face. My hair was plastered my my head in dark blonde strands that felt cold on my shoulders. I grabbed some pajamas from my closet and threw them on.
I paced around my small room. This was insane. Or I was insane. Or both. I had always heard that insane people didn't know they were insane. I was thinking, maybe, not so much. Or maybe I was delusional and none of this was really happening.
What I needed was an outside opinion. Grabbing my phone, I dialed a number without even thinking about it. If anyone could help me, it would be Jason. I just hoped to god he would answer.
The rings felt like an eternity until finally there was a click and a familiar voice mumbled what I supposed was a “hello”.
“Jase!” I said, jumping at the loudness of my voice in the quiet apartment.
“Trish?” the voice replied, sounding more awake, “what's going on? It's 4 in the morning.”
“You have to come over,” I replied, a little quieter than my abrupt greeting.
“What's wrong?” he replied, now sounding completely awake and completely worried.
I closed my eyes briefly and took a deep breath, “please come over.”
My voice sounded a lot calmer than I felt. I heard some movement on the other end and then Jason's voice came through, strong and determined.
“I'll be there in ten minutes.”
“Thank you,” I whispered, even as the connection clicked off.
Eight minutes later there was a light knock at my window. I pulled the curtain back to reveal my best friend's face, full of worry, crowned by a mop of unruly black hair. I unlocked the window and pulled it open. Jason pulled his lanky form through the opening after I backed up and sat on the bed.
“What's going on?” he asked me quietly, his brow creased, and his piercing blue eyes searching as he looked over my seemingly unharmed form.
My hair was still dripping from the shower, and I had looked shaken in the mirror when I had looked myself over earlier. Not a reassuring impression when paired with a scared late night phone call. I wasn't sure where to start, so I sat in silence for a moment, pleading with my expression for help with something I hadn't even started to understand. He sat across from me on the bed, still looking me over, the crease growing deeper as I tried to come up with an opener that wouldn't let him know exactly how freaked out I was at the moment.
“Something happened tonight,” I began hesitantly.
He waited for me to continue, and the concern on his face only helped a little.
“I'm not really sure...” I couldn't finish the thought, because I wasn't sure of anything, really.
“Start at the beginning,” he said, a small smile on his lips.
I chuckled a bit, amazed that he knew me well enough to practically read my mind.
I decided to take his advice, hoping it might help. “Did I talk to you after last period today?”
He frowned, “you don't remember?”
“That's sort of the problem.”
“Okay,” he replied, “um, no, I haven't spoken to you since lunch. I think the last thing I said to you was 'I wish I had more french fries'.”
I had to laugh again. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
“I had to eat a salad for dinner. It was child abuse.”
I smiled at Jason's attempt to lighten the mood, even though he was obviously getting more freaked out by the minute.
Fiddling with the edge of my comforter, I continued, “Something weird happened between then and now, and I'm starting to think I'm going a little crazy.”
He waited for me to continue.
I took a deep breath. “So, the thing is, something happened, and then I woke up in an alley a few blocks down, and I can't remember anything in between. Like a complete blank.”
He was looking me over again, frowning deeper than before, “are you hurt? Are you- do you need me to take you to the hospital? I know your dad's probably...”
He didn't have to finish the thought for me to get it. Yes, my dad was passed out down the hall, and yes, even if he weren't, there's no way I'd let him drive me anywhere right now. We'd both gotten used to it over the years. My dad wasn't a bad guy, really, just not someone you'd depend on for, well, anything. Although, so far he'd managed to keep a pretty steady job and keep up with the whole food and shelter thing. I hadn't had to drop out of school and support him, or pick him up from jail or anything, so I was way better off the some of the other kids at school. He was what I called a 'high functioning' alcoholic. A decent guy, and acceptable dad, a sloppy drunk most of the time. Although, in this case, it might work in my favor.
“I'm fine. At least, I feel fine.” I said.
Jason's relief shone through a little. That was good. I was worried, but not life or death worried. Just on the verge of hyperventilating worried.
“No one took my stuff, I don't feel hurt, it's not really...” Okay, it was really, but I was starting to think maybe this was a bad idea.
Bringing my best friend into this thing had been my first thought. Maybe I should have gone through a few more before making a decision. Oh well, too late now. If I tried to get out of it, he'd never let it go. That was usually what I liked most about him.
I looked over at the pile of clothes in the corner of the room. That was as good a place to start as any. I stood up and indicated for him to stay where he was. Grabbing the dirty bundle, I held it in my hands for a moment, before dropping it on the bed in front of his legs. He just stared at it, probably unsure if he really wanted to look.
“This is what I was wearing,” I said, holding my arms around my stomach and leaning against the wall.
He took the jacket of the top and held it up, looking at the large gashes. Pulling on the holes to spread them further, he looked up at me questioningly. I just nodded, watching him think it through. He held up the shirt next, sucking in a breath at the large stains down the front. The pants followed, and when he held up my underwear, he actually managed to look a little embarrassed through his concern. He dropped them all back into a pile.
“What the hell, Trish?” he said finally, “is that blood?”
“I think so,” I replied in a whisper. “I think it's mine.”
Jason jumped off the bed, grabbing my arms and holding them away from my body. He pulled up my shirt and stood stock still as he stared at my stomach. The large cuts were still there. Still open, still not bleeding.
“Holy shit, you said you were fine. You need to go to the hospital!”
His voice had gotten loud enough that I shushed him out of habit, immediately feeling bad about it when he gave me an irritated glare.
“I feel fine. And it stopped bleeding. Now they're just...there. I don't know what the hell is going on, but if you freak out on me, I don't think I can stand it.” Tears were falling freely from my eyes now, to my embarrassment, but I couldn't stop them.
The night caught up with me all at once and I started weeping. Jason pulled me into a hug as my whole body shook with the force of the sobs. I could feel the adrenaline making my body shake, the shock finally wearing off. This was not where I wanted to end up when I called him over. I should have just dealt with this on my own, but I didn't even know what the hell I was dealing with. He just continued to hold onto me tightly, which I appreciated, knowing how much he probably wanted to be careful with me after seeing those wounds.
“I don't know what's going on,” I mumbled into his shoulder when I finally got my sobs under control, “I don't know what to do.”
“It's okay,” he said, letting up on the embrace, “it's okay. We'll figure it out.”
He took a step back and looked at me for a moment, before taking a seat on the bed again.
“I think maybe, um, stitches?” he said, and I could have hugged him again, because he was obviously going to pretend like I hadn't just had a meltdown in front of him.
Every second he was showing me again why he was my best friend. The perfect responses to the most impossible situations. If there was one thing that I never did in front of another human being, it was cry. I vowed to myself after my mom left that I would never show that kind of weakness again.
Five years earlier, when I was 11, she had walked out of our lives. I had begged, pleaded, wept like I would never stop, and she had just walked out. Walked out with a look on her face that was almost disappointment. Disappointment that an 11 year old couldn't control herself, couldn't understand why she needed to leave. She ran away and I was supposed to understand. Even in my head, I knew that it was ridiculous to want to be something better, something that she wouldn't want to leave, but there it was. My dad never got me a therapist, he couldn't afford it, but sometimes I kind of wish he had. Knowing you're screwed up, and actually having the tools to deal with it are two different things.
The silence in the room was broken when a light rain started to hit the window, shaking me out of my thoughts of things long gone by. Jason was expecting something. A reaction, an answer, a clue to what he was supposed to do here. His black curls were falling in his eyes a bit, but he didn't seem to notice as he looked me over. He was more apprehensive than concerned now. I had just thrown my problem at him, and I had a feeling he was looking at me as a trapped animal. Not quite sure what the reactions were going to be, but pretty certain it could get out of hand faster than he could keep up.
Jason reached out and put a hand on my chin, pulling my head up so he could look at me. “Go grab your sewing kit. I'll fix you up.”
I nodded and moved over to the closet to pull it off of the lower shelf where it sad amidst my stacks of books, the only thing I ever really spent any money on. It was an old lunchbox from elementary school, the colors faded, brighter colors left in brighter days. It was the only thing I still owned that my mother had bought me. One last thing that I wouldn't give up. Dad had gotten rid of all of her stuff long ago, sold it or given it away, not able to look at anything that reminded him of her. I sometimes think it would have been better if she had died. It might have been easier for him to accept her being out of his life if she wasn't still out there somewhere, able to come back but never wanting to. The lunch box was padded material with a picture of a dinosaur on the front. It had once been a loud combination of primary colors, but the red had faded to lighter orange and the yellow was almost gone completely. The loops of metal that served as zippers were no longer the bright yellow circles that came on it, they had long since been replaced with safety pins. A cheap alternative that worked almost as well. A metaphor for my whole life in one simple thing. I stuffed all of my sewing stuff in this too small bag because I had nothing else to keep in there. And if I didn't have a use for it anymore, well, getting rid of the only thing left of my mother might seem practical enough for me to actually do it one day if the mood struck. So I stuffed it all in there and pretended like I just didn't want to spend the money for a new one. If it still works, no need to replace it.
I unzipped it and looked inside at the cramped, but neatly organized needles and thread and bits and pieces of everything else one would need to make their thrift store clothes even thriftier. I didn't like to sew, but I also didn't like to spend my money on clothes. Dad was keeping it together for now, but that wasn't a guarantee. The money I had stashed away was my guarantee. The life I could be leading started with the little things. And now, it looked like my refusal to care about being fashionable might be paying off just a little.
I dropped the kit on the bed and looked up at Jason. He eyed the contents with some apprehension.
I completely understood. “I think maybe a thick needle to get through the skin. Thick and sharp.”
He swallowed visibly and started rooting around for something that would do the trick. He pulled out and discarded a few choices before he found one that looked like it was sharp enough. Then he went through the thread and found some thick white strands. He held them up for my inspection. I shrugged. How was I supposed to know what kind of thread would work best to sew someone's skin together. The situation was just getting weirder as we got deeper in.
Jason chuckled, “well, I see them do this on TV all the time. If it doesn't work, I'm totally writing a letter.”
I gave him a small smile and took the needle and thread from him. He watched warily as I pulled a long piece out and cut it, quickly threading it through. Years of practice made me an expert. I tied off the ends and handed it back to him. He held it up and looked at me expectantly.
“Turn around,” I said, and lifted my eyebrow in challenge when he smirked at me. “Just do it, perv.”
He smiled the first genuine smile I'd gotten from him all night and turned around to face the window. I pulled my shirt off and held it over my chest, baring my stomach.
“Okay,” I said, and he turned back to me, pulling a breath in through his nose heavily as he looked over the cuts again.
“Trish, I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to be able to see some of this,” he said as he held forgotten thread in one hand and touched the top gash with the other.
“I know what you mean,” I replied. “Please just try to fix it.”
Jason nodded and got to work. He held one end of the top gash together and put the needle in place. He hesitated a moment before pulling the skin taught and stabbing into it, looking up at my face as he pulled it through. I stared at it as he worked.
“It doesn't hurt,” I whispered, my voice failing me, “I can feel it, but it's like a tugging and nothing.”
For some reason, I was glad when he whispered too, his voice barely discernible over the patter of the rain on the window across the room. “I guess that's a good thing.”
Somehow, I wasn't so sure.
The stitch up job was over pretty quickly. I tied the ends off for him, almost asking if I could do the second gash myself after he got through the first, but then I noticed that my hands were shaking, and decided to just let him finish. With the way my night had been going, I'd end up looking like some kind of crazy frankenstein without even trying. After I tied off the second stitch, he put the leftover thread and the needle back in their proper place, pulling the safety pin zipper hard to get it to close around everything that tried to escape the kit whenever it was opened.
“You should get a bigger bag,” Jason said as he finally got it shut, and for a moment my anger flared bright and hot.
For just a moment, I almost hated him. He was supposed to be perfect. He was supposed to read my mind. For just a moment, I forgot myself, and my emotions got away from me again. The shake that had been confined to my hands spread and my body was left shaking like a leaf.
Jason grabbed me and pulled me to him, kicking the sewing kit onto the floor. He turned me around and sat me in his lap, holding me tight. I was completely confined, and normally I would have elbowed him and forced my way out, but just this once I decided to let it go. I let him do the thing he always seemed to want to do. I let him be my rock. I didn't know what was going on, but having the support of one other person seemed to do wonders for my state of mind. We sat there for what seemed like hours, until the tremors stopped and the shaking even left my hands. The white noise of rain falling outside, and the breath on the back of my neck were the only things I was aware of outside of my racing mind. What the hell had happened tonight? Why couldn't I remember? Did I really just have Jason stitch up my stomach like he was fixing my torn jacket, which, dammit, I would have to try to fix later on.
The last thought made me laugh, and Jason let me go, looking at me questioningly when I turned to face him. I gave him a quick smile, and just like that, the shadow that had been in front of his face all night disappeared. He had finally decided I wasn't going to completely fall apart on him. He didn't have to treat me like glass. Just maybe he could go back to being his normal self. I wouldn't implode. It almost made me laugh out loud again.
I stared at him pointedly until he got the hint, the tips of his ears turning red when he realized he had just been holding onto a lapful of half-naked girl and he hadn't even noticed. He turned to face the window again and I slipped my shirt back on, going slow when I felt the stitches pull taught. They held up, though, and I pulled the bottom of the shirt up to inspect them. The white thread looked like old scars crisscrossing my stomach in two thick lines, but he had done a decent job of keeping them as straight and thin of lines as possible. He had potential. Maybe I could talk him into fixing my jacket for me. I smiled at the thought and got a mental image of him sitting in my living room sewing while I put my feet up and watched TV.
“I'm turning around now,” he said as he did so, “if you're still topless...”
He saw me drop my shirttail, “darn.”
“Worth a shot,” I replied, grinning at him.
He grinned back at me for a moment, before looking back over at the pile of ruined clothes. His smile dropped and his back tensed.
“What the hell happened to you, Trish?” he asked, “this is insane.”
“Or maybe we are,” I sighed back at him.
“Let's look at this logically,” he started, ignoring my comment, “You woke up in an alley. Your clothes are covered in what I'm going to assume is your own blood, because the alternative, well-”
“It's mine,” I interrupted him, “it was dried all over my stomach and legs, but definitely came from the big freaking holes in my stomach, which, for some reason, don't hurt. In fact, they barely feel like anything at all.”
“Yeah,” he said, glancing down at my stomach briefly, “we're gonna go ahead and skip over that part for now.”
I rolled my eyes as he continued. “So, you were cut by something that looks like a big ol' knife, and left passed out in an alley, but they didn't take your bag.”
“No point,” I cut in, “unless they were a mugger with a yen for calculus.”
Jason nodded, “okay, so maybe not a mugger. You don't know what you were doing there because of the soap opera like memory loss, and you didn't see anyone before I got here?”
The last part was a question. I nodded in reply.
“I waved to Martin, the convenience store guy, and a couple of cars drove by, but nobody that I noticed.”
“So someone knocked you out and then left you there. For a while, since you say the blood had dried.”
I nodded again.
Jason bit his lip as he mulled this story over. “Maybe we should go to the police.”
“And tell them what?” I asked, pushing a damp hair out of my face as it slipped down. “Good middle of the night to you, Officer. I think I was mugged but they didn't take anything, and I think I was stabbed, but it doesn't hurt and I fixed it myself. Go solve the crime!”
It was Jason's turn to roll his eyes. “Okay, point.”
We sat in silence once more as the rain started to hit the window harder, creating a dull roar in the background.
“So what we really need to do is figure out what happened between school and you waking up under the stars.”
“So maybe we ask around at school? Try to fill in the gaps?”
I nodded my head, since it was the only solution I could come up with as well. “Yeah, but we try to be discreet about it.”
The smile on Jason's face was a bit self deprecating. “Yeah, so that was directed at me.”
“Ya think? Last time you tried to get information out of someone, you ended up convincing half of the school that I had herpes.”
“Okay, but in my defense, you should have told me you were just going in for a checkup before you went missing from english.”
“Herpes, Jase. Herp. Es.”
His smile grew larger even as he tried to look apologetic. “It was funny if you weren't you. And were me. And didn't fear painful retaliation.”
“Herpes.” I repeated, giving him a glare. “Just, be a bit more discreet this time. If they all start thinking I have chlamydia, no one will find the body.”
Jason grinned at me, and I couldn't help but grin back. Okay, maybe it was kind of funny. The moment didn't last long. Jason's face went from smiling to frowning in an instant.
“We'll figure this out,” he said. “We're two moderately intelligent younger people, one of whom has a lot of time on his hands since his parents stopped expecting him to babysit his little sister every day and finally hired a real live babysitter. Piece of cake.”
I gave him an exasperated grin, “you know you didn't mind sitting Megan.”
“Well, yeah, but seriously, I have the free time, we'll totally figure this out.”
“Free time is one thing, an actual idea of what the hell to do is another.”
Jason's gaze went unfocused for a moment as he fell into thought. I watched him, thinking vaguely about how messed up it was that we could keep ourselves together in such a weird situation.
“So, okay,” he began, breaking me out of my reverie, “obviously someone was involved in this, so if anyone at school was involved, they'll be pretty surprised when you show up for school tomorrow if those cuts on your stomach are any indication...”
His gaze wasn't quite landing as he looked anywhere but at my face.
“I know it's messed up,” I said quietly, “but I'm seriously fine. It doesn't hurt. I'm freaked out too.”
He just nodded. I grabbed his hand and held it tightly. We both stared at our grasped hands. My mind was racing through scenarios of how tomorrow would play out. Assuming someone from school had been involved, they'd definitely be expecting me to be dead or at least in the hospital with the amount of blood that had been on me when I came to. If I got lucky, and boy was that a relative term, then someone at school had been involved somehow and they would freak out when I showed up for class like nothing had happened.
Jason sighed and let go of my hand. “I can also spend some time tomorrow after school looking around where you were. Where you woke up.”
“Yeah, okay,” I agreed.
I wasn't sure what good it would do, since I passed the area almost every day. Just a typical lower class neighborhood. But maybe after this happened, something would stand out. Now that we were looking for it. And thank goodness for the “we” part of that. After talking it out with Jason, I felt better in ways I didn't know I could.
I glanced over at my bedside clock and was startled to see that it was almost 6. The rain outside continued to pour, masking the impending daylight. The bubble that had been surrounding us broke, and I realized that, since I was still alive, I had to get on with my actual life. Unfortunately, that life involved school in an hour and a half, and Jason getting back to his house before his parents figured out he was gone.
Jason's gaze followed mine to the clock.
“Crap on a stick!” he said a little louder than he probably meant to, “I have to get back, my dad gets up in like 20 minutes and I'll be grounded until I'm 30.”
He jumped up and opened the window. The rain started to come in, and he closed it again quickly.
“Let me give you a ride to school,” he said, turning back to me, his blue eyes pleading with me not to fight his overprotective instincts just this once.
I grinned at him. “Yeah, okay. I'll see you in like an hour.”
His grin mirrored mine and he opened his mouth, starting to say something. Instead, he shrugged and opened the window again, slipping out of it. I heard a muffled “ow” as he fell rather than jumped down to the other side. Thank goodness the window was low to the ground. Explaining broken bones might be a little too much complication right now. The window closed from the outside, and I saw his face illuminated for a moment before he disappeared, off to sneak back into his house and pretend his whole world wasn't totally screwed up. Which is what I needed to do right now as well.