Are you free to Skype? Vivian wants to talk to you.
WED, 6:30 PM
I smiled at the text, taking a sip of juice from the cup I was holding. Ace and I had been talking a lot. We’ve spoken through Skype a few times and some occasions he’s with his three-year-old niece and six-year-old nephew.
They were sweet kids. Vivian, his niece seemed to like animals a lot and kept asking to see Roxanne or Hector when she heard them in the background. Charles, Ace’s nephew enjoyed drawing and was always prepared to show me some neatly colored drawing of a superhero or object whenever I saw me talking with Ace.
I bit my lip, taking in his request. I wasn’t sure I could do that now, my ankle was hurting and I needed to rest.
I need some rest, my ankle’s busted.
WED, 6:35 PM
That’s okay, we’ll talk later.
WED, 6:36 PM
I locked my phone before washing the now empty cup. I then headed to my room’s bathroom to get some heat spray for my ankle.
Entering the room I found Ethan sprawled on the bed reading a novel. I walked to the bathroom, searching through the cabinet for the spray can.
I groaned when I pressed the cap and nothing came out but air.
“What’s wrong?” Ethan asked as I came out of the bathroom.
“Nothing, just out of heat spray,” I said, making Ethan roll his eyes at me as he started to laugh. I tossed the empty spray can at him. He dodged it skillfully, rolling to the other side as he continued to chuckle. I sighed in defeat before exiting the room.
I headed for Devein’s room, realizing I’d probably put a can in the bathroom’s cabinet months ago.
I knocked on her door before walking in to find her at her study table attempting to do what seemed like homework. I smiled looking from her to Roxanne who was attempting to tear apart a teddy bear I’d gotten for Devein a few days ago.
“Drop it,” I ordered, making Roxanne let go of the bear before whining. I ignored her fledge, giving Devein’s room a look over instead. The room was at that stage where it was oddly clean, but I knew better. I could come here an hour later and meet the place upside down.
“How’s your homework?” I asked, opening the bathroom door.
“Fine,” she said before biting her lip, “where’s the stress on education?” she asked before mouthing the word slowly beneath her breath.
“You’re doing stress?” I asked, leaving the doorknob of the bathroom to approach her.
“Yeah...” she trailed, looking down at her assignment. “I thought this was easy as hell when we were taught in school but I got a mark that shall not be named in the class exercise.”
I chuckled at her frustration before taking a look at her notes. Stress was easy but their teacher probably didn’t show them the trick.
“Let me teach you a trick,” I offered, taking her pen from her, “anything that ends with the above has its stress on the second to the last syllable.”
“So, education...” she trailed, before looking over the list I’d made at the side of her note. “So the stress is on ‘CA’?” she asked as I nodded in approval.
“Thanks,” she said as a smile burst through her face. “Do you have any more?” she asked, earning a chuckle from me.
“A few more. One for vowels and verbs another for words that have their stress on the second to the last syllable, I’ll show later,” I said as I messed up her hair. She groaned as she tried to fix it back in place.
I laughed as I left her to go to the bathroom. I checked the cabinets before sighing in frustration. I couldn’t really understand why I couldn’t find the can.
I eyed the top cabinet, deciding that I must have put it there for safekeeping. I sighed a bit, stepping on my tip toes to search it. I didn’t feel a can of heat spray, but my hand did bump into a small unfamiliar pack.
I took it down with me as my ankle cried in pain from having lifted my weight.
What? I said in my head as I blinked down at the pack of cigarettes in my hand. Some of the cigarettes were already gone meaning that they were in use. I started to panic, wondering whether Devein was smoking. It was possible - kids from the street had easy access to things like this. I haven’t known her for long enough to know what she did, or didn’t do.
I shook my head, beating myself mentally for the assumption. Devein didn’t have any money on her and there was no place close by that would sell to her. They asked for IDs and Devein barely looked her age not to talk of passing off as a twenty-one-year-old.
I looked up at the cabinet again as I thought. Even if Devein was smoking there was no way she could get to the top cabinet that was so far up. I wasn’t comfortable to get to myself.
“Shit,” I muttered, putting one and two together. I blinked furiously as I tried to digest the idea that Ethan was smoking.
I stuffed the pack of cigarettes into the pocket of my trousers before heading out the bathroom door and Devein’s room.
I walked into the room to still find Ethan reading. He looked up at me with a half smile which only made me grimace.
“Did you find the heat spray?” he asked as I took a seat at the edge of the bed. I eyed him in an inspection. All those times he smelled of smoke. All those odd walks in the evenings...
“No, I didn’t,” I said looking directly at him.
“But I did find this,” I said, pulling the half-empty pack of cigarettes out my pant pocket.
“I just want to know why — God, I don’t know. Damn it, you have asthma for Pete’s sake!”
“Andrew, you don’t understand!” Ethan said, letting his voice get louder. “I don’t like to do it. I just-”
“Then don’t do it,” I said, cutting him off. I let my hand slide across the bed so the fingers of my palm were slightly brushing his free hand. “You’ve been making a mistake, we’ll just fix it.”
“I’m not sure if I can give it up - If I want to,” Ethan said, looking from me to the rumpled bed sheet beneath him.
“What do you mean by you’re not sure you want to give it up? It’s the only logical thing to do.” I tried to reason with him as I let my fingers brush his lightly. He looked down at them before shaking his head.
“It keeps me sane,” he said firmly.
“No, you just think it does—”
“You don’t understand, okay?!” he yelled, catching me off guard. I blinked in surprise, taking my hand away from his.
“Those things could kill you...” I trailed, trying to get through to him. I wasn’t sure if I was doing anything right, I’ve not exactly seen Ethan in this state before.
“Look,” he started, balling his palms into fists, “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but you have no right to call me out on my health. Your eating disorder is just as bad as my smoking, I...”
“Ethan,” I said in a firm tone, making him stop, “I don’t have that anymore,” I corrected holding back the sobs that were threatening to strangle me.
“Well you might as well still have it, look at you-” He trailed before stopping suddenly. His eyes widened as if just realizing what he’d been saying.
“Shit,” he muttered, giving me a pleading look.
“Shit, Andrew I’m sorry,” he suddenly apologized as he tried to take a hold of my hand. I pulled it away from his reach, giving him a look of disappointment and anger. I can’t actually believe he’d said that.
“There’s no need to feel sorry for what’s true,” I said, my voice trembling. I looked away. I should be happy. He finally admitted it; finally told me the truth to my face. That I still looked hideous and sick.
I heard him curse under his breath before the bed sank in an indication that he was coming closer. I soon felt him take my hand in his, squeezing lightly.
“I didn’t mean it, I wasn’t thinking. I — shit,” he cussed, covering his face with his hand. I could barely make out his features with my tear filled eyes. My ankle was still throbbing, and I had a headache from what I was trying to deal with now. I wasn’t sure what to do anymore. I was just in pain, both emotional and physical.
“I find that hard to believe,” I said, taking my hand away before getting up, “a lot of people say the truth when they’re mad.”
“Where are you going?” I heard Ethan ask as I pulled a jacket on.
“To get some heat spray,” I said as I slipped on a pair of loafers. “Don’t wait up,”
I heard Ethan sigh as I closed the door behind me. I bumped into Devein who had apparently been pressing her ear against the door with a glass.
“You were listening in?” I said in a matter of fact tone. She hid the glass behind her as a guilty blush washed over her features.
“I err,” she muttered, looking at everything but me.
I shook my head, walking past her and into the living room.
“Don’t wait up,” I said above me voice as I headed for the front door, opening it and walking out before shutting the door behind me.
I got back to the cabin to find Ethan seating on the long living room sofa... His eyes turned to me as I walked in, a sigh of relief escaping from his lips.
“I’ve been worried,” He muttered as I walked into the living room, dropping the Nylon bag of supermarket goods on the center table.
“No one asked you to wait up,” I pointed out as I took off my wood brown jacket. Ethan gave me a dull look, like he didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Don’t.” I stated firmly before squatting down to empty the contents of the bag, “You don’t have to apologize for saying the truth.”
Ethan opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but he shut it staying silent. I unloaded the cans of heat spray and a small cigarette-shaped object from the bag. I then slid the makeshift cigarette towards Ethan.
“Here,” I said as I motion for him to take it. He looked down at it and them at me, clearly not sure how he should act — how I wanted him to act.
“Look, I’m not going to argue with you about your smoking—”
“I’ll stop,” he said cutting me off. I gave him grim look telling him to cut that out before continuing.
“That’s more harmless, you’ll be puffing out water vapor mixed with a little nicotine,” I said as Ethan picked up the instrument.
“Thanks...” he finally trailed, examining it.
I nodded, getting up. I’d spent an hour and a half asking around for where I could get it.
“Andrew...” Ethan called as he got up from the sofa.
“I’m sorry.” He completed as he came up to stand in front of me. He was a good two or three inches taller than me. I couldn’t help noticing that he looked like he’d been run over by a truck. He had bags under his eyes and his eyes were red from probably crying. His appearance pulled at me, but not enough to sway the decision I’d made mentally.
“It’s okay,” I said looking away from him.
“Andrew...” he trailed, making me look up at him and suddenly back out at his attempt to kiss me.
“I’m sorry, I—I can’t,” I muttered, running a hand through my hair. Ethan bit his bottom lip, eyeing me anxiously.
“Why?” He asked, still giving me that lost puppy gaze. I sighed, knowing his question was meant in a much broader sense and not just in the rejected kiss alone.
“I think we should keep it this way. You know, until my uncle and your mum get married and you leave,” I said looking up at him.
“So, you’re taking a hundred steps back?” he asked as he stared straight at me with his reddened green eyes.
“I’m just being practical,” I said, defending my stand.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said, giving me a pleading look. “I was just mad and scared. I didn’t want you to see me differently just because of a stupid bad habit.”
I sighed, shaking my head, “look, I think we’ve become too close for comfort. I have to maintain a level of respect from you as your caretaker and I surely can’t do that when we’re tumbling under the sheets together.”
Ethan bit his lip, “I respect you. I respect you more than I do anybody else.”
“I’m not so sure about that...” I trailed honestly.
“We can’t be lovers Ethan. We have to tell ourselves the truth,” I said s free tears started to roll down Ethan’s cheeks.
“You need to concentrate on school work,” I started, looking for an excuse to bail, “and I can’t risk getting hurt again, I’m sorry,” I finally admitted walking past him and into the hallway. I heard him curse violently as I walked into my room — our room now.
I hugged myself, looking down at the bed we’ve been sharing for a few months. I built up my composure before picking a pillow and a duvet. There was an inflatable bed somewhere in the storage room.
“What are you doing?” My skin jumped at the sound of Ethan’s voice.
“Giving you space,” I said, looking from him to the pillow and duvet in my hands.
“Goodnight then,” I said, walking past him and out the door.
You’re doing the right thing. I tried to convince myself but I wasn’t so sure. Were the right things meant to hurt so much?