I could see my fingers trembling as I slowly clenched my hands into fists. I pushed myself farther into the fetal position and rocked back and forth on the hardwood floor as sobs escaped my lips.
“Please don’t. Please.” I begged as the throbbing pain in the side of my bed intensified. I was met with silence before I could see Rick circling around me. The aroma of cigarettes filled the tiny office as I pinched my eyes shut.
“It’s been a frustrating few weeks, Isabella. I need to release my anger somehow.” He slowly said before chuckling to himself. I kept my eyes pinched shut and curled into a ball as Rick crouched down beside me. Before I could beg Rick to stop, I felt my arm being tugged as my body flew across the floor.
I laid still on the floor, and didn’t make a sound as Rick crossed the room over to me. With my hair covering half of my face, I watched as Rick blew out a puff of smoke before examining his cigarette.
I could feel my breathing come out in short labored breaths as Rick bent down beside me. As he grabbed my arm, more tears leaked out of my eyes as I whispered for him to stop repeatedly. My words fell on deaf ears as Rick took one last puff of his cigarette before giving me a sinister smile.
“This’ll leave a mark.” He said before the butt of the cigarette made contact with my bear skin. A scream tore out of my mouth as Rick loudly laughed. I tried pulling my arm back, but Rick was relentless as he brought the hot cigarette down on my arm repeatedly.
The sound of laughter from a group of people walking by brought me back to present day as I brought my gaze down to my arm that was covered by a denim jacket. Lifting the sleeve of the jacket, I lightly grazed over the the marks Rick had made a few nights ago. The wounds still stung when I made contact with them, but they had begun healing. It had been difficult trying to hide the marks from Lila today when she was helping me get ready. She insisted on me trying on every outfit from her closet, and she had come close to seeing the burns a few times.
Today was my date with Mason, and as much as I wanted to ask him to reschedule, I ultimately decided against it. I had finished getting ready a couple minutes ago, and decided to come out and get fresh air as I waited for him to arrive. A few minutes passed of me coming in and out of my thoughts, when I heard footsteps approaching the bench where I was seated.
Turning to my left, I watched as Mason walked towards me with a massive smile on his face. He held a single daisy in his hand as he stopped in front of me. Gone was his casual t-shirt, and instead it was replaced by a navy blue polo shirt paired with a black jacket and pants.
Compared to Mason, I couldn’t help but feel bland. It was no secret that Mason was good looking and was popular amongst the ladies, whereas I looked homeless the majority of the time.
“You look beautiful.” Was the first thing out of Mason’s mouth as I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. A shy smile covered my lips as I looked away from Mason’s intense gaze. Something about his eyes intimidated me. Sometimes it felt like if I let him stare too long, he would uncover everything I had kept hidden.
Taking Mason’s outstretched hand, I stood up from the bench and straightened out my clothes. It had taken a lot of convincing but Lila agreed to let me wear pants to my date. She had been pestering me to wear a dress, but I avoided any clothing item with skin exposure. My legs weren’t nearly as bruised up as my arms, but I decided to avoid a dress all together. The scars that had developed on my skin across the span of a decade were horrendous and I couldn’t stomach the idea of Mason, or anyone else for that matter seeing them.
Instead, Lila dressed me in a tan sweater paired with a denim jacket and black pants. Glancing back up at Mason, I responded to his earlier comment, “Thank you. You don’t look too bad yourself.” I said to him as his smile widened.
I watched as Mason held his arm out for me to take. Stepping closer to him, I looped my arm through his as he guided us over to the parking lot. “I brought this for you. I saw it on my way here and it reminded me of you.” Mason said as he held the daisy out for me to take. Grabbing it from him, I swirled the flower in between my fingers, “How so?” I asked, curious to hear what he had to say.
“An old teacher of mine loved flowers, and she would always tell us about how the daisy represented innocence and a pure soul.” He said as I lightly touched the petals of the flower. A genuine smile erupted on my face as I looked over at Mason. I could tell that he was being sincere with his words as he gave me a small smile.
Although the gesture was admirable, I couldn’t help but disagree with Mason. From the outside I may come across as naive and innocent, but I was far from it. This world was a cruel place, and with the things that I had seen and experienced, my once pure heart had become tainted with darkness.
“It’s beautiful, thank you.” I said as we reached his car. I could tell that Mason was being sincere about the flower reminding him of me, and the last thing I wanted to do was tell him how wrong he was.
Mason gave me a small smile as he helped me into the car. The drive was short, and was filled with minimal conversation as we both talked about school and what we had done all day. It wasn’t long before Mason pulled into a small park a few miles away from school. The park appeared to be mostly empty aside from a few people taking walks. Climbing out of the car, I followed Mason over to the grass area where a small blanket was set up along with a picnic basket, drinks, and food.
Had Mason set all of this up?
My heart fluttered in my chest as I stared over at Mason who was watching my reaction.
“Did you do all of this?” I asked him as he sheepishly smiled at me. A strong emotion washed over me as I took a couple steps towards him before wrapping my arms around his body. I felt tears threatening to fall from my eyes as Mason’s arms came around me as well. I didn’t think that I would get so emotional at a date, but this had been the first time anyone had ever planned something like this for me.
Pulling back, I whispered thank you to Mason who gave me a wide smile before pilling me down to the blanket. The sun had just set, so the sky was beautifully lit with a soft orange tone. There was a slight breeze blowing, but I didn’t mind it as Mason pulled food out of the basket.
“Okay, I have to admit, I didn’t cook any of this.” He admitted as he pulled various food items out of the basket.
A giggle erupted from my chest as I shook my head at him, “It’s probably safer for the both of us that way.” I jokingly said as Mason paused and feigned a hurt expression on his face, causing me to laugh even more.
A steady silence ensued between us as Mason filled our plates up with food. He had brought more than enough food, and I felt my mouth watering as I looked over at the pasta, bread, salad, and pizza Mason had brought.
“This is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to. You’ll love the food.” Mason said as he held out a plate that was brimming with food. Pulling the plate onto my lap, I waited for Mason to settle in before taking my first bite. Various flavors erupted in mouth as Mason watched my expression with a knowing expression on my face. He wasn’t wrong.
The food was fantastic.
“Told ya” He said, as he also took a bite from his plate. Mason and I remained seated on the blanket and continued eating our food as we asked each other random questions about our favorite colors, food, and movies. I couldn’t help but feel guilty each time I fed Mason a random lie about all the different foods and movies I loved growing up. If only he knew that most nights I went to bed hungry, and that Rick had never bothered even buying a TV, let alone any movies.
By the time we had finished eating, my stomach was stuffed and I could barely move. I could tell Mason felt the same way as he laid back on the blanket. The sun had completely set, and gone was the orange sky, and instead it was replaced by various stars illuminating the night sky. Lying down beside Mason, I stared up ahead at the tiny stars that sat still in the sky.
“You see that star right there, it’s called the Polaris star, but many know it as the North Star. People use it as navigation tool to get around.” Mason explained as he pointed up ahead at the sky. “And that one over there is the Ursa Major, it’s name was influenced by Greek Mythology.”
Looking over at him, I could see that he was focused heavily on the constellations in the night sky. “How do you know all of this?” I asked him. It was rare to come across many people our age who knew anything about various stars and their origins.
Mason remained silent as his eyes remained glued to the sky. A minute passed in silence before he answered, “My father loved astronomy. He wasn’t able to make a career out of it, but it never stopped him from watching the stars every night from our balcony.” He explained as a faraway look entered in his eyes. I couldn’t help but notice that Mason spoke of his father in past tense, as if he wasn’t around anymore.
I feared the worst as I softly asked him, “Where is he now?”
Shaking his head, Mason looked over at me with a bitter smile on his face, “He and my mother divorced a couple years ago. He and I don’t speak as often anymore.” He said as broke eye contact with me and diverted his attention back to the sky again.
I could tell that, that was the extent to what Mason was going to say about his father. It seemed to be a sore topic, and the last thing I wanted to do was put Mason in a bad mood by prodding even more.
Turning back over to look at the sky, I held my hand up and pointed over to a clump of stars that were grouped together in the sky, “How about those stars? Do you know anything about them?” I asked Mason as I continued pointing up at the sky.
I waited for Mason to say something, but I only heard silence from his end. Turning over to see what was wrong, I felt my stomach drop as I followed Mason’s eyes to see what he was fixated on. When I had held up my hand to point at the stars, my jacket sleeve had rolled down, exposing my wounds.
Everything felt as if it was in slow motion as Mason sat up quickly and pulled my arm towards him. I tried pulling back my arm from his grasp, but was unsuccessful as Mason kept a tight grip on it.
Mason’s face was unreadable as he gently grazed the marks on my arm. I could feel my heartbeat accelerating, and anxiety settling in my chest as Mason remained silent
God, I was so stupid! How could I be so reckless?
“Isabella, what happened to your arm.” Mason asked in a low voice as he held onto my arm. I could feel my heart thumping loudly in my chest as I collected my thoughts.
“Oh this? Lila and I were trying to cook something new last night, and I ended up burning myself on the stove.” I played it off as I tried to pull my arm back from his grasp.
Mason refused to let go as he looked up at me. He wore a confused expression on his face as he glanced back and forth at my wounds, “You burnt yourself in three different spots?”
I kept a poker face on as I shook my head and giggled, “Yeah, the oil from the pan splashed onto my arm. I can be so clumsy.” I said as I finally pulled my arm back from Mason. Pulling down the sleeve to my jacket, I looked up at Mason who hadn’t said anything. He appeared to be deep in thought as he processed what had just happened.
I silently cursed at my stupidity as I waited for Mason to say something.
“You should get some cream on that, and be more careful next time.” Was all he said as he began picking up our trash. I internally sighed in relief, thanking the universe that Mason wasn’t prodding for more information.
Although he didn’t seem to completely buy my excuse, he seemed to have let it go for the time being, and that was all that mattered.
The last thing I wanted was for Mason to discover the secrets I had worked so hard to bury.
I hope you all enjoyed this chapter!
I love you all and thank you for reading!