Everything Soraya told me was shocking but I’d already guessed it was something terrible that caused her to be so against people. And now as we sat in her room I had to find a way to calm her down. My arms were still wrapped around her as she sobbed into my shoulder, but despite having spent years learning how to calm my sisters down when they were upset, I felt lost.
“Com’on Petite Colombe” I stated motioning her to move slightly, “How bout I go make my famous hot chocolate, then we can watch a movie or something yeah?”
She sniffled lightly, rubbing furiously at her eyes as she pulled back from my shoulder, my arms still around her waist as I waited for an answer. She nodded after she spent a few moments collecting herself and tried to pull away to walk towards the door but I just shook my head with a grin.
“No no no, you’re coming with me.” I specified, pulling her back to me by her arm and then quickly picking her up by her upper thighs before she had time to start protesting, and tossing her gently over my shoulder.
“Ashton!” She shouted, hitting at my back in distress “Ashton! Put me down!” I laughed at her protests, and began making my way down the stairs towards the kitchen, one arm wrapped securely around her legs below her arse so she didn’t fall.
“This isn’t funny!” She shouted again but I could hear the laughter in her voice as I stepped through the doorway. “I’m not five” she finally huffed, and I could feel her elbows press against my lower back as she presumably propped her head up on her palms. I could just about picture the smile on her face, but she’d already schooled it into a frown as I dragged her back down off my shoulder and placed her on the bench top near the stove.
I stood frozen for a moment in front of her. Her eyes were still puffy from crying but they were now alight with amusement despite the frown shaking on her lips.
“You’re an asshole.” She muttered, blowing a strand of hair out of her face, but it was reluctant and fell back down. Almost on instinct I reached out to brush the burgundy strand behind her ear and the frown dropped from her face as she stared at me. “What?” she asked confused, “Is there something on my face?” There were streaks of mascara staining her cheeks but I shook my head and pulled back. Removing my hand from the counter where it had at some point landed beside her without me noticing.
“No you’re all good.” I replied with a grin, turning to face the stove and rubbing my hands together, “Now, where do you keep the cocoa powder and your saucepans?” I glanced back at her as she pointed towards the cupboard beside and below the stove,
“Saucepan’s are in there and then the cocoa powder and whatever else you need is in the pantry.” She explained, “but why is this a ‘famous’ hot chocolate recipe?” she asked sceptically, an eyebrow raised for affect.
“Well it’s a hit with the guys and the twins absolutely love it but I guess you’re just going to have to wait and try it for yourself.” I winked and got to work pulling out the items I needed, mixing the cocoa powder with some raw sugar, a dash of vanilla and milk before setting it all to simmer on the stove.
“I’m a little surprised that you actually know what you’re doing.” Soraya stated in amusement, swinging her legs back and forth without hitting the bench and as she put her weight on her outstretched arms on the counter top either side of her. I leaned against the counter beside the stove with my hip, watching her with a smirk as I stirred the hot chocolate gently.
“What? You thought I couldn’t cook?” I raised an eyebrow,
“Still not convinced you can actually.” she corrected, a grin that could only be described as mischievous spreading across her lips “Making hot chocolate is a far cry from actually being able to properly cook.”
“All right fine, what do you want me to cook then?” I raised an eyebrow in question, folding my arms across my chest as I leaned my hip against the stove next to her. She seemed to think about my question for a bit, and then because it was like 4:30 in the afternoon she shrugged.
“How about just an omelette or something because it’s way too early for dinner.”
“An omelette?” I asked, “That’s all you could think of?”
“Yep.” She stated, a challenging look in her eye, “Unless that’s too difficult for you?” and it was her turn now to raise an eyebrow, her lips curving into a confident smirk.
“It’s a tough one, but I think I can manage.” I added an eyebrow wiggle and pushed off from the counter, making my way towards the fridge to figure out what ingredients I had to work with. Surprisingly, the fridge was fully stocked when I opened it; this was something I hadn’t noticed when I had been going straight for the milk the first time.
It made sense though, considering her foster parents usually worked a lot of nights and they had two teenagers to feed. This way they had full opportunity to make whatever they needed. Even if they were anything like me and just decided to opt for the easy options. Still, it was shocking to see this much food at once.
Shaking off my mild shock, I pulled out the draw on the vegetable crisper to retrieve what appeared to be fresh tomatoes, and some mushrooms. Doubling back once I’d taken the items to the counter – and quickly stirred the hot chocolate – to retrieve a few eggs and with a seconds pause, some parsley and shredded cheese.
With all the ingredients on the counter I went about grabbing a chopping board and a glass bowl.
“Geez, going all out with the vegetables there aren’t you.” Soraya mocked, watching in amusement from her spot on the counter.
“Well I’m sorry the princess demanded an omelette so she’s gonna get a proper one.” I shot her another wink, watching her face scrunch up in disgust.
“If you say so.” She rolled her eyes, reaching into her back pocket with a little difficulty to pull out her phone and I set to cutting up the ingredients. Occasionally taking breaks to stir the hot chocolate, which I had turned the heat down on so it would take longer to make and give me time to finish the food.
We fell into a comfortable silence as I finished chopping the tomatoes and started cracking the eggs into a bowl. Pausing to shrug off my jacket and chucking it onto a random bar stool, before I began whisking the eggs with some milk and various salts and peppers.
It was at this point that a flash went off in the room and I blinked in mild shock before raising an eyebrow – there seems to be a lot of eyebrow raising going on tonight – in question at Soraya. She was fiddling around on her phone still, but looked up when she noticed me watching her.
“What?” She questioned, “I need evidence here okay. No one will believe me when I tell them I got the Ashton Klarence to cook for me.”
“They’ll be too distracted by my rugged attractiveness if you do. Chicks love a man that can cook.”
“You’re so full of yourself.” She stated.
“You love it.” I said, smirk in full.
“In your dreams.”
“Only every night.” I joked, laughing as she scowled and returning to whisking as the pan heated beside the hot chocolate, butter slowly melting and filling the room with a crackling sound as it got warm.
Once I was satisfied with how fluffy the eggs were I poured the mixture into the waiting pan, the smell of eggs soon filling the air. It was at this point that I realised how hungry I actually was, which is actually not surprising because I am almost always hungry but still.
As I added the tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese to the left side I decided that the hot chocolate was probably done. And so the hunt for the largest mugs I could find begun. It really wasn’t too hard to find some that I was happy with, but it took opening multiple cupboards before I found the right one and I could see Soraya smirking over the top of her phone.
“Recon there are any marshmallows in this place?” I questioned,
“Probably.” She replied, taking this as the option to put her phone down and slip of the counter, brushing by me to get to the pantry. “How long until the omelette is done do you think?” She asked as she came out of the small inbuilt corner pantry, successfully holding a bag of mini marshmallows.
“Just a couple of minutes, I’m about to flip it.” I told her, fetching the spatula and prodding at the edges. This was the moment of truth. I could either make or break the omelette. So it was with a lot of care and practice that I pulled up the edges and slipped the blade of the spatula underneath, carefully folding half the omelette over itself. With the hard part done I flipped the omelette over so it could cook for a little while longer.
“Wow, its actually looking decent.” Soraya stated, she was peaking over my shoulder, obviously standing on her tippy toes as she used my shoulder to balance herself. It was kind of funny how much smaller than me she was but then again I was over 6ft.
“Did you ever doubt my amazing abilities?”
“Yes. I really did.” She replied, still watching over my shoulder.
“Sora, I have like 3 sisters, of course I can cook.”
“Oh yeah, forgot about that.” She admitted, stepping around me to put the marshmallows beside me as I turned off the stove.
“Can you hold the mugs for me for a second?” I asked, grabbing the tea towel off the oven handle as she held out one of the mugs. “I’m gonna pour the hot chocolate in so you’re going to need to hold it carefully” I warned, picking up the saucepan by the handle and balancing it with the tea towel in the other hand.
“You better not burn me here.” Soraya said,
“I’ll kiss it better if I do.”
“Weirdo.” She rolled her eyes and I stepped closer, carefully pouring the liquid into the first mug as she held it. The same was done for the second mug and I put the saucepan back on the stove with the rest of the left over hot chocolate so it wouldn’t scold the counter top.
“You’re on marshmallow duty by the way.” I said mock seriously “I’m trusting you to do the right thing here.”
“I’m putting like 20.”
“I expect nothing less.”
By the time everything was all served up, each of us had a plate with half of the large omelette and a mug of hot chocolate which we balanced precariously as we made it to the lounge room.
“Blankets. Were gonna need a big ass blanket if we’re gonna do this movie thing properly.” I pointed out as we set everything on the coffee table in front of the tv.
“We can steal the duvet off my bed.” Soraya was already making her way to the stairs and I followed her to her room. Once upstairs we pulled the thick blanket off her bed, the movement causing my phone to fall from my pocket and bounce underneath her bed. I wasn’t too fussed about the device because it had landed on carpet so I casually stooped to pick it up, kneeling on the ground to see under the bed.
“What’s this?” I asked upon spotting what looked like some sort of diary. I reached for it, pulling it free and sitting up on my heels to exam it closer. “Does Soraya Kingston keep a diary?”
She seemed to freeze at that, dropping the duvet to reach for the book in my hands.
“Give that too me.” She ordered, holding out her hand expectantly but I shook my head, a smirk growing on my face.
“Or I’ll beat you with my baseball bat, that’s what.” She threatened and I let out a surprised bark of laughter,
“You wouldn’t even dream of hurting me.” I joked, batting my eyelashes innocently, “I’m precious.”
“Yeah a precious pain in the ass, now give me the damn sketch pad.”
“Oh so it’s a sketch pad? I didn’t know you could draw.” I stated curiously, going to open the book but I didn’t get the chance because Soraya launched herself at me causing both of us to fall to the floor. I laughed as she tried in vain to get the book from my hand, holding it further out above my head as she crawled up me to get it. Her knee poking me hard in the abdomen but I only laughed more. And reached with my free arm to wrap around her waist and trap her there so she couldn’t get the book.
“You asshole! Let me go!” She shouted, hitting haphazardly at my chest. “Let me have my book!”
“Not until you let me have a look” I bribed,
“I will kick you in the balls if you don’t let me have that sketch pad.” She threatened, her hitting stopping as she glared down at me.
“Oh come on it can’t be that bad. I just want a little peak.”
“Yeah and I wanted someone sane for president and we all saw how that turned out.” She snarked, going back to struggling to reach for the book above my head. But at that point I took the opportunity to flip us over using my grip on her waist. She let out a startled squeak as she landed flat on her back, staring up at me with wide eyes before it morphed into a glare.
“Get off of me.”
“Nah I quiet like it here actually.” I smirked, looking down at her in amusement. Her hair was a mess as it splayed across the carpet and I watched in wonder as her cheeks began to stain red for some reason.
She let out an annoyed huff and crossed her arms over her chest as she stared up at me in annoyance. But the look was made less intense by her red cheeks. It was kind of cute actually and I furrowed my brow in confusion. Why was I thinking that? This was Soraya.
“What are you staring at?” She broke my train of thought by asking.
“What – oh nothing.” I stammered, cursing myself for that totally convincing answer, and immediately getting in off of her. The room suddenly felt very awkward.
“Uh...okay.” Soraya looked very confused. But by that point I’d already noticed her sketch pad which now lay open on the carpet to a random page. I must have dropped it at some point without noticing.
“What the hell is that supposed to be?” I asked in shock, staring at weirdest looking thing drawn on the page, it might have been a tree but it also could have been a person doing interpretive dancing, I honestly could not tell.
“Oh fuck off, I never said I could actually draw.” She huffed in annoyance, standing up to close the sketch pad, putting it back under the bed and fishing out my phone in the process. “Now come on before the food gets cold. I’m hungry.”
With that she stomped off down the stairs as I laughed, grabbing the duvet and following her back down the stairs. The moment before completely forgotten as we sat down in the lounge room, blanket over the two of us and food precariously balanced.
“Well?” I asked as she flicked through Netflix on the tv.
“Well what?” She asked without looking at me, her attention focused on what movie we were going to play.
“How’s my wonderful cooking?”
“I’ve had better.” She glanced at me long enough to smirk before refocusing on the tv.
“Sure you have.” I rolled my eyes, “What are we watching anyway? Nothing scary yeah?” I asked around a mouth full of food. It was a damn good omelette mind you.
“Your such a baby, I swear to god, scary movies are the best.” She stated, “But I guess this one time we’ll watch something else so widdle Ashton doesn’t get a fright.”
And with that she clicked on Batman vrs Superman, and pressed play.
“I hope you have tissues.” I warned, taking a sip of my hot chocolate and placing my already empty plate back on the coffee table, settling back to watch. The blanket was over the both of us, but Soraya had stolen the majority of it, I didn’t mind though, girls usually got cold very easily. Instead I placed my an arm over the back of the couch, fingers brushing some of her hair that she’d thrown up into a pony tail at some point since coming down stairs.
“I’ll be fine.” She shrugged, pulling her feet up onto the couch. They rested against my thigh and I had a sneaking suspicion that she was stealing some of my body heat to warm her socked toes.
“Bloody hell your feet are cold.” I muttered, “no wonder you’ve stolen almost all the blanket.”
“Shhh your missing the movie.” She shushed me, now sipping on her hot chocolate as she too had finished her omelette.
“Come here before you freeze to death.” I ordered, holding the blanket up so she could move closer. Soraya just rolled her eyes and shuffled closer, my arm settling around her shoulders.
“I’m not even that cold.” She protested lightly, but she also snuggled deeper into my side with a content sigh once she was settled. “But you are very warm.” She mumbled and I let out a soft chuckle as the movie played on.
About half way through the movie Zeke came home, it was dark by then but not exactly late in the evening. He shot us a glance, raising an eyebrow in question but I shrugged the shoulder on the side that Soraya wasn’t on.
“What are you guys watching?” Zeke asked instead of commenting, coming to sit on the other end of the couch, legs stretched out to the coffee table.
“Batman vs Superman” Soraya answered, and Zeke hummed in approval, settling in to finish the movie with us.
“You know this is like a 3hr movie right?” he pointed out.
“We do now.” She replied and I glanced over at Zeke again. He looked worn and tired, his face etched with fatigue, I wondered where he had been all afternoon but didn’t comment on it.
Eventually the movie came to an end and I decided that it was probably time for me to leave, it was getting late after all and mum needed all the help she could get with the little ones. Soraya had in fact managed not to cry at the end, which was probably for the best, she’d done enough crying for the night.
“I had better head home.” I mentioned, “Its getting late.”
“Oh yeah, you’re right” She seemed a little hesitant but sat up so we could both get up. Zeke appeared asleep on the couch. She walked me to the door and we lingered in the small foyer for a moment. It seemed like she wanted to say something but was having trouble finding the right words. After a short moment she seemed to come to a decision.
“Uh, thanks, for like staying with me.” She muttered awkwardly, avoiding eye contact as she stared at the wall beside me. “I, uh, really appreciate it.”
“Anytime.” I replied softly, reaching out to tilt her chin up so she was looking at me, “I’m here for you okay, we all are. Alice, Zeke, Xavier – even if he’s not in the best shape at the moment – your family. We all care about you. And you can always come to me if you need to, okay?”
“Okay.” She whispered back, and with that I gave her a small smile, hesitated for a second, before leaning in to place a quick kiss to her forehead. She furrowed her eyebrows in confusion and I whirled around to slip out the door. Practically running across the grass to my car.
The face that stared back at me was hard to see as my own. The bruising was extensive, high points of blue and black smudged with murky yellows and reds as the blood vessels slowly worked to piece themselves back together. One red eye stared back at me, contrasting the white of the other. It had healed some, or at least I thought it had. I could see more pink than red towards the outer edges of the sclera.
They’d taken me off the strong pain killers by now and my whole face felt like it was throbbing, and as I leaned on the sink with both hands I was horrified. Sure there was no real visible structural damage besides the stitches but it was going to take weeks for the bruising to disappear. But it was the fear that I wasn’t going to be able to play baseball for my final year that had me most shaken.
I shook my head in disgust, turning away from my reflection to run the tap. I’d be back at school tomorrow and for once I didn’t want people looking at me. Alistair had assured me that I looked badass, but I’d seen the way Zeke had looked at me.
“Xavier, cover yourself up with some foundation you look like a disgrace.” My mother’s voice drifted coldly from the doorway, she had a scowl on her face as she watched me through the mirror.
“What does it matter, no one’s going to see me anyway.” I muttered back, cupping my hands in the sink and gently washing it over the side of my face that didn’t hurt when I spoke.
“I don’t care, I do not want you walking around the house looking – looking like some degenerate. I will not stand for it.”
“You do realise that makeup won’t do anything right mother? The fucking swelling will still be there. But you know surely that’s a look that won’t tarnish the family name.” I hissed back bitterly. She was always like this, even I knew she was a bitch.
“You’re such a disgrace to the family name, your father won’t stand for it.” She snapped, narrowing her eyes at me in disgust.
“Oh yeah? That same father that couldn’t even be bothered coming back home when his only son was in hospital?” I dried my face as I waited for her answer, it was sure to be a good one.
“You’re father has more important things to do than worry about your stupid mistakes.” She said, turning on her heel to leave my room, but I followed her to the doorway of the bathroom to watch her go.
“You know, I’m not surprised Leah left. Got out while she could I suppose.” I called after her. She rounded on me faster than I could even blink, her hand snapping up as if to hit me, I flinched, but she froze half way. Immediately composing herself, her eyes staring glaciers at me.
“Do not speak of that disgusting child ever again. She made her decision the moment she got into bed with that slut.” Her words were practically ice as she snapped at me. “Now do as I said and cover yourself up, before I make you join her.” The threat rolled off her tongue like she was simply stating the weather and I watched her leave in shock, my hands shaking at my side.
I stood in the doorway to the bathroom for a solid few minutes before I could get myself to move. Once I did, however, I didn’t head back into the bathroom to do as I was told, instead I made my way over to my bed and sat down heavily.
My mother had always been a bit on the cruel side when I was growing up. Leah had been her favourite, but I’m pretty sure even if she hadn’t decided to leave when she did, mother probably wouldn’t have hesitated to kick her out herself.
I let out a huff of air, falling back onto the mattress. It was weird being trapped in the house for this long. Usually I would be out with the guys or something, I didn’t tend to like being home. I was lucky that Alistair and Ashton seemed to be taking turns visiting when they weren’t both here.
Still it was getting to the point where I was actually missing school. Which was a feat in itself. But oddly enough, before I had the chance to further stew in my misery I heard a strange rustling from outside my window. Curious, I pulled myself up and made my way over to the closed window, pulling it up and blinking in shock as I took in what I was seeing.
He was back. He was back and he was once again climbing the tree in my side yard.
“Zeke? What the hell are you doing?!” I shouted and his head snapped in my direction so fast that I was worried he might actually fall out of the tree.
What the hell was he doing back here? I thought I had gotten it through to him that he was not welcome here. That I didn’t want to see him again. That I couldn’t see him. He was just making a mess of everything. I couldn’t think straight when he was around.
“What?” Zeke said back, reaching up to pull himself to the next branch. My eyes involuntarily tracking the movement. “Obviously I’m just expressing my extreme outdoor abilities.” He huffed, before continuing. “I’m coming to visit you, you idiot.”
“You need to leave.” I hissed at him harshly, hands on the window ready to pull it shut, but by then he had already reached it.
“Don’t even think about it.” Zeke pulled the upper half of his body into the room, “We need to talk.” He was oddly serious and I stumbled back a step as he pulled himself fully into my room, pushing the window down to close.
“No we don’t.” I argued, crossing my arms across my chest as I watched him warily. He seemed to be taking in my room though, not paying any attention to my clear annoyance.
“You let everyone else come and visit you.” Zeke turned to look back at me, his expression hurt. “Why can’t I?”
“Because you’re different.” I responded instantly.
“How?” He took a step forward and I flinched back. “How am I different? What did I do wrong? Xav...”
“Nothing – just” I hesitated, the words catching in my throat. What was I even trying to say? How could I explain this to him, I’d already hurt him enough. But then I caught sight of his eyes wandering across my face and my resolve solidified. It was his fault. It was his fault that I was in this position. Why I couldn’t get control of my thoughts. He was trying to make me something I wasn’t and I needed him to stop. “I’m not gay.” I snapped, the words feeling bitter on my tongue. He couldn’t change me.
“I’m not saying you are.” He reasoned, his hands suddenly out in front of himself, like he was trying to calm me down. It was then I realised I’d dropped my arms to my side and my fingers had curled into fists. I released them immediately, turning to leave the room before a hand suddenly caught my wrist. “Xavier, I’m just here as a friend. I don’t want anything you don’t want. I’m not going to force you into anything. Why can’t you see that?” He pleaded, his touch sending shivers down my body and I ripped my hand away like I’d been burnt.
I turned back to see the hurt flash across his face before his expression turned bitter.
“Wow. I didn’t take you as that much of a homophobe.” He hissed, wrenching his hand back from where it was left stretched out, “What? Can’t even let someone who’s bisexual touch you? Afraid you might catch the gay? How ironic that your own sister’s gay.”
“Yeah? And where the fuck is she?” I shouted back in outrage, immediately regretting it as I heard footsteps moving down the hall. I felt my face pale. “Shit, you need to go.” I spoke in panic, if my mother found him in my room I had no idea what she would do.
“We’re having a fucking conversation here.” Zeke protested, obviously not catching shift in the situation. I rushed towards him, taking him off guard as I tried to shove him back towards the window. “What the hell?” He gasped in shock, immediately pulling back against me. The footsteps were closer now, the clack of high heels clearly audible on the marbled floors. Zeke seemed to hear as well as I watched the realisation dawn on him. But by then it was too late. My mother was already practically at the door and there would be no time for Zeke to make it safely out the window and out of sight. So instead I quickly changed directions, grabbing his arm and pulling towards the nearest hiding place. The walk in wardrobe.
Zeke didn’t protest as I shoved him inside the closet. The door only just shutting as I watched the handle on my bedroom door twist. Heart racing, I quickly made it back to my bed, grabbing my phone and pulling it up to rest against my right ear just as the door opened.
“Hold on, my mother’s just come in, give me a sec.” I spoke into the receiver, keeping my voice as even as I could, pretending to cover the speaker as I pulled the device from my ear and looked towards my mother. “Did you need something?” I directed the question towards my mother who now stood in the open doorway, her eyes narrowed.
“Who are you on the phone too?” She questioned, her tone tight.
“Just Alice.” I responded casually.
“Hang up.” She ordered, and I blinked at her in shock, completely forgetting that I actually wasn’t actually on the phone with Alistair for a second.
“No? What the hell. I’m not going to just hang up on him.” I argued.
“You will do as I say Xavier. You’re already on thin ice and I do not want you talking to that disgusting boy!” She shouted,
“He’s my friend. I will talk to him if I want to!” I shouted back, but I should have kept my mouth shut. Because the next moment she had crossed to room and a loud crack filled the air as her palm connected with the good side of my face. I stumbled from both the impact and shock, pain racing across my face as I fell to my knees. The right side stung and I could already feel a red hand print raising across my cheek. But it was the left side that felt like I’d broken it again, the pain was that prominent. I let out a gasp as it throbbed, tears forming in my eyes.
“You will not raise your voice to me like that again!” My mother snapped, “And I told you to cover your disgraceful appearance! If you haven’t done something about it in the next 30 minutes, I swear to God Xavier I will disinherit you.”
I stared in horror as she turned to leave the room, my hand coming up to hold the side of my face in hopes to stifle some of the pain. I let out a quiet sob as it did nothing, refusing to let the tears escape.
In that moment I was so relieved that I hadn’t actually been on the phone with Alistair. I couldn’t bear the thought of him having to hear what my mother thought of him. But then Zeke was by my side, fear and worry etched across his face as he struggled to know what to do, and all relief I felt disappeared in an instance.
Zeke was still here.
“Oh my god.” He whispered in shock, his hands fluttering over me as he struggled to find a place to rest them. I flinched at the movement, but by then I was already grabbing a hold of his arms and bringing him closer without thought. He seemed to move without me needing to say anything after that, suddenly sure of himself as he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into his lap.
My head rested on his shoulder, the right side pressed into the side of his neck, and my arms wrapped around him, fingers digging into his back. I honestly didn’t give a fuck what we looked like, I just needed something to stabilize me. Ashton had always been the one to hold me when Maer reacted at her worst, but right now I didn’t care that I had been trying to get Zeke far away from me just minutes before.
“Shhh” Zeke shushed, his arms holding me close to his chest, fingers rubbing gently into my back, “You’re okay, she’s gone now. You’re safe. It’s all going to be okay.”
A shudder wracked my body as I forced back another sob. My chest hurt and I couldn’t seem to bring in a proper breath because I knew everything was not going to be okay.
Zeke began softly running his fingers through my hair, mumbling assurances as he pressed his head into the crook of my neck, holding onto me tightly. I craved the feeling of his solid presence keeping me together. He was warm and gentle, everything I needed in that moment and I bit hard on my dry lips to hold back another sob that rattled around in my chest.
It wasn’t until I felt my own shirt dampening that I realised it was Zeke who was actually crying. This made it all worse. I couldn’t stand when other people got upset over me, she’d only slapped me across the face and yet here I was making a fuss over it and upsetting someone else.
I let my arms drop from around him, pulling back to the extent of his caged arms still wrapped around me. Zeke looked up then, his eyes glassy and his eyelashes damp, but he offered me a weak smile and used one hand to wipe at his face with the cuff of his sleeve. His other hand remained rubbing small circles in my side.
“You okay?” He asked softly, and when I nodded silent yes he didn’t look at all convinced. “Xavier...” He whispered, shaking his own head and reaching up to cup the side of my face gently, his thumb brushing over the raised skin of the hand print.
“You should go.” I muttered, shaking his hand of my face and moving back. He remained silent for a few moments, just watching me quietly, before he suddenly stood, offering me his hand. I frowned in confusion at the gesture but allowed him to help me up, that frown deepening as he pulled me in the direction of the bathroom instead of dropping my hand.
“Zeke, what are you doing?” I asked in confusion
“Your mother wants you to cover the bruising, right?” he asked sadly and I instantly stopped walking.
“I am not doing what that woman wants.” I hissed, suddenly angry that he agreed with her, but that anger melted as he once again brought his hand up to my face, fingertips just lightly brushing my skin.
“I can’t let her do that to you again.” He whispered, his voice sounding fractured, “Please let me help.”
I stared at him in shock, his white blond hair making the colour of his watery eyes shine. He looked so sincere that when he began pulling me towards the bathroom again I didn’t argue further. Instead I silently followed him into the room, the mirror catching my attention as I stared at the newest addition, it was a nasty red but it matched in easily with the mottled bruises.
“Do you have any foundation in here?” Zeke asked and I pointed to one of the drawers under and to the side of the sink. He followed my direction and came out with a small glass bottle; I’d gotten it from my sister before she had left and it was possibly one of the last gifts she had given me.
I stood perfectly still as he walked back over to me, pumping a small amount of product into the palm of his hand.
“May I?” He asked gently and I could only nod as he began using his fingers to delicately spread the foundation across my skin. It was cold but the liquid texture felt nice against the tightness of my bruised skin. He stood incredibly close as he worked, fingers dancing across my skin and I felt mesmerised by the contact.
“You should probably go.” I said softly when he was finished and the person in the mirror looked back at me with only swollen features. Zeke had done a good job, but there was only so much makeup could cover and I hoped my mother understood that.
“Okay.” Zeke didn’t argue, instead he left the bathroom heading towards the window as I followed him again. It was getting dark outside I noticed as he pushed the window up and I waited for him to climb through, but he hesitated instead, turning to face me. I frowned in confusion.
He didn’t respond, instead he stepped towards me, wrapping his arms quickly around my waist and pulling me in for a hug. It was over before I could even react and then Zeke was hurrying back out the window.