I didn’t think about how visible my bruises were when I took off my jacket earlier to air dry my neck. Luckily, he only noticed the most recent one, the one I had gotten this morning thanks to Karen’s bitch shove. I sigh in relief as I tug on both sides of the collar of my jacket and head for the door.
Damon had just texted me a moment ago, offering a ride. I figured, might as well, since I couldn’t find an excuse good enough to stop talking to Silas.
I talked to Silas Cravens.
And I liked it.
This was probably the first time he’s ever really seen me. Great. Now he’ll only be familiar with Drunk Tammy.
I knew from today that I share at least half my classes with him and I’m sure he’s going to expect me to return any greetings he sends my way. That’s not how I am at school.
I know people and they know me, but as far as socialization goes, people know I prefer to be left alone unless they are Vinh. Speaking of which, where is he?
I head down the stairs that hosts a stream of couples making out. I recognize a few people. Hmm… that doesn’t look like your boyfriend, Gwen. And that guy doesn’t look like Gwen, Mark.
Huh. Maybe they broke up.
Getting down these stairs is an ordeal for me, especially when I’m a few shots in, but by the time I reach ground level, I look over to the living room to find Vinh grinning at me while snuggling up with a handsome fella. “I’m going home” I mouth at him. He nods his head and goes back to talking with his boy toy.
I smile to myself and as I turn around, I see Damon several feet away, checking his phone. I start to approach him when I am hit with a shockingly cold shower.
My vision is blurry and my muscles tense as I look up to see Natasha holding a bucket of melted ice from the second floor railing. I glare at her, unable to speak with my teeth chattering from the cold.
With everyone pointing and laughing, I am overwhelmed with a dizzying disorientation that drives my dead mind into dreary blankness. I look up to Natasha again and she laughs, but more noticeable, Silas has joined the crowd. He stood there with an expressionless face, only a twitching brow.
Damon rushes over, angry and concerned, and takes off his massive jacket to blanket me in his scent and warmth. He leans down and whispers in my ear, “I got you. Don’t let them get to you. They’re not worth it.”
His cheek was touching mine and I could feel the heat radiating from his face, which is probably flush from anger. It felt comforting to have him by my side in a moment like this. He wraps his arms around me as he leads me out the front door with him.
I don’t look up. I don’t want to see any of their faces anymore.
Outside, I finally found the strength to sigh.
“Tam, are you okay? I heard a lot of sounds and then-” Vinh explains, but I’m just tired. Tired enough to sleep forever.
“Vinny, it’s okay,” I try to calm him, though my voice was quivering, “I’m okay. I have Damon to take me home. Go back in there with Jeremy! He looks like he really likes you.”
He blushes, but there was still worry in his eyes. “Are you sure?”
“Yes!” I push him inside. “Go get him!”
He stares at me for a moment, but knowing him, I give him a wide grin, which took all my energy to offer. He smiles back, still a bit sad, and walks back inside.
Before I got in his car, Damon made sure I took off my jacket, which was still wet from Nicole’s bucket of tears she’s collected from me over the years. Now, sitting in the passenger’s side of a very quiet drive, I can only stare out the window, reliving that awful moment.
I don’t know why my brain does this to me. I have happy memories, too. Why aren’t those replaying in my head?
Instead, I’m sitting here trying to decipher every part of Silas’ facial expression from that moment.
“So,” Damon begins nervously, “What were you up to after we talked on the swing?”
I turn my head over to look at him. With cars passing by in the opposite direction, I could see the light from their headlights dance across his well defined features. His nose is tall, but not so much that it would take from his brows or lips. His jawline presents itself with a flattering angle that is lined with the slight stubble on his skin.
“Oh, I was upstairs talking to Silas.” I answer without thinking.
His jaw clenches and I spot his hands gripping the steering wheel a bit tighter. I don’t like angry men, but god he looks good like this. “Alone?”
“Yup!” I sound drunk, but it’s the only way to warm myself up from the dampness of my hair that’s hitting the back of my neck.
“Did you have fun?” That was a weird question.
I mean I guess I had fun. You talked to Silas Cravens without tripping over yourself. You deserve a golden medal!
“Yeah, before the weather drastically changed,” I say as I hold up a lock of my wet hair, waiting for him to look over. He laughs and I could feel the car shaking while it makes its way through the road much smoother.
“I meant your time with Silas. He didn’t do anything to you did he?”
“No? Why would you say that?”
“The guy has a reputation. I just want to make sure he didn’t try any funny business.” He proceeds with a face of disgust and it makes him look like he just smelled his own fart.
“No,” I begin, remembering what Silas had said to me earlier, “His brother has a reputation. It seems like he just got dragged along.”
He ponders for a second before finally agreeing, “You’re right.” Then, under his breath, probably hoping I couldn’t hear, he mumbles, “I’m probably just jealous.”
He parks a good distance from my building, and as I get out of the car, he runs around to make sure he gets to close the door. We walk quietly toward my front door, and he awkwardly starts, “So about what Natasha did…”
“Nope. Already forgotten. Which reminds me, I should give you your jacket back.”
“No, please. Keep it. It looks great on you.” He gazes into my eyes with a smile that crinkles the corners of his. Even the dimmest of streetlights manage to spark a light in his striking green eyes.
“But it has your name on it.” I point over my shoulder, at the back of the jacket, which has his last name, Henderson, embroidered on it.
“Exactly,” he whispers before pulling me into a hug.
Hugs are normal between friends. I’ve hugged Vinh a million times and I’ve hugged many other people who meant less to me. Hugs are a casual form of comfort and care. I was familiar with the concept and every hug felt the same to me.
This one didn’t.
And it wasn’t because he was doing anything wrong, but there was a little more to what he was doing than I’ve ever experienced. With one hand on my back and the other at the back of my head, I felt like I was being cradled as he rested his chin at the top of my head. We stood there for a while, with him holding me, and me just barely hanging onto reality.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to stop her,” he breathes. I pull my head back, but he keeps his hands where they were.
“That has nothing to do with you. If she couldn’t do that, she would have found some other form of torture.” His nose is inches away from mine.
He pulls my head back into the cradle and whispers, “Well, either way, I’m sorry,” before kissing the top of my head.
Once I get inside, I close the door carefully and stand there, resting my back on it as I catch up on my breathing.
What was that?
Whatever it was… it was cute.
Or maybe I’ve just never had someone care for me like that. I don’t have siblings or a dad to protect me. Maybe that’s what they’d do if they want to protect me: kisses on the top of my head.
Let me get this clear. I NEVER miss school. Not when I’m sick. Not when my mom is sick. Not even if the president announced a prediction of multiple natural disasters to hit my area. I am Asian American and my parents expect me to show up to school, rain or shine, just like how they show up at work, tsunami or earthquake.
BUT if I were to choose a day to take off, it would be today.
I woke up this morning, a lifeless corpse animated by the dark magic of Asian expectations. After my shower, I still felt groggy, and while I usually am a pretty warm person, I don’t think my forehead should be this hot.
My mom didn’t say anything as she dropped me off. The only thing I had the energy of noticing was an apologetic smile on her face.
Thanks, Mom. Just… dying here and that’s your best offer. A stinkin’ smile.
I hear those familiar giggles approaching me from behind and this time, I don’t calculate. I don’t choose anything I just continue walking aimlessly and wait for my fate.
When I finally feel that push, I let myself fall. The hit that my body takes as I reach the ground is substantial, but worth it considering how great the fall was. It was like for a second, I was suspended in mid-air. It felt longer than it was, and for that, I was grateful.
The hit hurt, but only for a second before everything else went black.
With my eyes glued shut, I felt myself floating. I hear random voices asking what’s wrong, but mostly, I felt warmth from whoever was so close to me.
I wake up in the nurse’s office, alone. No, I’m not alone. Someone is holding my hand, but my eyes refuse to open long enough to investigate.
I lay there for a minute, giving my eyes the rest they clearly needed. Finally, as my breathing falters, I manage to find the energy to open my eyes and peek over to my side, where a brown haired boy rested his head next to our hands, which cupped cozily. He was facing away, so I couldn’t tell who it was, but I was sure it wasn’t Damon, whose hair was more of a dirty blond. This boy is faced away, so to my dismay, I had to give up the investigation.
I try to wriggle my fingers free from his hand, but it suddenly tightens its grip. “You’re up already, V? I thought I’d get a longer nap before I have to return to class.”
I freeze and stare at the ceiling, wide eyed.
It’s Silas. Silas is holding my hand.