I ran as fast as I could. I wanted to get away from everybody, from everything.
I ran around the school building until I found the narrow iron door that led to the rooftop. No student was allowed up there, but I had once learned that if you banged at the lock in this certain way, it would open quite easily.I climbed the narrow steps quickly and walked into the rooftop. And then I was finally alone.
I sat against the brick wall surrounding the edge of the roof and forced myself to calm down.My hands still trembled a little as I rested my face on my crossed arms.Then I heard the metal door to the rooftop scraping open and footsteps coming my way. I didn’t need to look to know who it was. I had told only one person about this place. He was the only one who knew I came up here when I was upset.
Matt slid down next to me and I reeled in the warmth of his body close to mine. I wanted him to stop being mad at me, but I didn’t have the courage to ask him to forgive me for what I did, for ruining our friendship forever. I was happy that he was here, though, that he had come for me. That he still care enough about me to come looking.
I sniffed and only then realized I had been crying.
“Here.” Matt handed me a few paper towels to clean my face up. “I looked for you at the bathroom first… thought you’d be there, cleaning the blood off your face.”
I took the paper towel and wiped the blood from my chin. “Thanks.”
“What happened, Tay?” he asked, his voice filled with concern.
I sighed. “Vincent somehow arranged a restraining order for David to stay away from me. David just got notified this morning and came straight to me, demanding explanations. He was really angry. He loses control when he’s angry.”
“A restraining order from Vincent? Why the fuck he’d get a restraining order for?” Matt asked, taking the whole turn of events as Vincent’s fault.
“That night at the party, after you left…” I said cautiously, sensing him tensing beside me. “David cornered me outside and forced me to kiss him.”
Matt’s eyes darkened dangerously. “He forced you?”
“I think he was drunk. I was drunk too…” I tried to justify the unjustifiable.
“Did he hurt you?”
“It’s okay, Matt.”
“Taylor. Did he hurt you? Don’t lie to me.”
I twisted my arm to show him the purple bruises on my wrist.
He let out a menacing growl. “That fucking bastard. I’m going to kill him.”
“Look, you don’t need to worry, nothing happened, okay? Vincent was there and intervened,” I said before Matt could do something stupid. “He punched David really hard. He also promised me he’d take care of this problem, but I didn’t know what he was planning to do. I didn’t know he was getting a restraining order. He was only trying to help me, but it ended in all this mess.” I murmured, shaking my head sadly.
“Well, at least we know you’re safe from David now,” Matt said, calming down. “I can beat him up every day, and the little shit still keeps coming after you. Maybe with a lawyer and the police involved, he’ll finally leave you alone.”
“Yeah... that was scary.” I mumbled, staring at my feet. “I don’t think he’ll take a threat from a Worthington lightly. He will stay away.”
There was a beat of silence before Matt spoke again.
“You sure you’re okay, Tay?”
I glanced up at him, tears prickling at the corner of my eyes. “I’m fine. I just… I’m not even upset about this thing with David, I don’t even care about that. I’m mostly surprised to see you here now… I thought you hated me, after what I did in that party. I thought you were never going to speak to me again.”
I stared at the floor, wringing my fingers nervously.
“Taylor, about that,” he said hesitantly. “I guess I could have handled things better than the way I did. I wasn’t expecting you to do what you did and… I- I freaked out. I know I reacted badly, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to think I wouldn’t want to see or speak to you again.” He passed a hand over his hair, trying to find the right words. “I mean, I understand why you’d think that, the way things are going…but it’s not just now, things have been a little weird between us for a while now, haven’t they?”
I took a quick cautious peek at him. “W-what do you mean?”
“I’m talking about how you’ve been acting weirdly around me for some time now and… what happened that day in my house, in our weekend hang out? You told me to forget about it, that it didn’t mean anything, but… it did, didn’t it?”
I glanced at my feet, unable to meet his eyes.
“Why didn’t you tell me before, Tay? That you feel this way.” he asked quietly.
“You know why. Look at what happened. How you’ve reacted when I told you in that room at the party.”
He cringed beside me, and glanced away, looking embarrassed. “Yeah. I know. Again, I’m really sorry about that.”
“I knew that telling you could ruin everything between us, like it just did now.” I whispered, blinking away some tears. “I know you don’t feel the same way I do, Matt, but… we still can be friends, can’t we? I understand if you don’t want to but-”
“Taylor, we will always be friends, stop being an idiot.” he snapped at me. “What I need you to understand is that I’m not angry at you, I just don’t know.”
I looked at him with a confused frown.
“I don’t know what to do.” He explained. “You’ve always been my best friend, Tay. I don’t know how to move on from this. You have to give me some time to adjust here. And forgive me if I mess up a little along the way.”
I nodded, understanding his request.
“I don’t want to hurt you, you’re everything I have, Tay. I’d be lost without you in my life.” He looked pleadingly at me, begging for me to understand. “I don’t want to mess anything up between us. I don’t want to ever lose you.”
“I understand, Matt.”
“Do you, Tay?” he asked quietly.
His voice carried so much sadness and regret. This was not just about my feelings for him. He was trying to tell me how much he’d be losing as well. He’d not only lose his best friend, but also lose my mother, my family, and my house, a place he could always come to when he needed, his sanctuary... he’d have nothing left.
I couldn’t blame him for being afraid now.
“Yeah, I do. I understand what you’re trying to say, Matt. I get it, I really do. I don’t want to ever lose you too.”
“I’m sorry,” he said in a mournful tone.
“I’ll still love you, no matter what. You know that, don’t you? Maybe it’s not the kind of love you want, but it’s still love,” he said tentatively.
I smiled sadly. “I know, Matt.”
He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me closer, holding me in his arms. I rested my head on his shoulder and we stayed like that for a while, staring ahead into nothing in silence. Then I finally reached a decision.
“I don’t want us fighting because of this anymore, Matt.” I told him.
“Me neither, Tay.”
“So I need to move on. I’m tired of waiting for something that’s never going to happen.” I untangled myself from him and stood up.
I felt so sad.
“I need to start seeing you as just my best friend now. We will always be friends, right?” I extended my hand for him to take it.
“Yeah,” he said and looked sadly at my hand.
“Let’s go back to the school. We must be late for class.”
“I don’t feel like going to class right now. I’m going to stick around here for a while. You go ahead.” he muttered.
“Okay.” I nodded, giving him the space he needed. “Can you come home with me, after school is over? Mom’s nagging nonstop, asking about you. She misses you more than she misses me.” I grumbled and that earned a small smile from him.
I wanted to let him know he still had me, my friendship and my family to rely on. He’d always have that, no matter what.
“I think I can make arrangements for that,” he said, giving me a weak smile.
“Cool. I’ll see you after school then.”
He nodded and I left him at the school’s rooftop. My heart felt small inside my chest as the bell rang, calling for the start of classes.