The Slow Burn
T A Y A
“You guys go ahead, I’m fine,” Judah said as we finally reached his house. He could barely keep his eyes open and Jesse had to help drag him inside.
“He doesn’t look fine,” Hallee whispered to me as Jesse let him down on the bed. Judah groaned in pain as he put his arm over his face and laid flat on his stomach.
“I got this,” I whispered back to Hallee. “I’ll stay with him,”
Hallee nodded and pulled Jesse to the side. Meanwhile, Judah was still shivering, but he kept mumbling that he was all right. I could tell he was trying to put up a fight. He didn’t want to look weak and or ask for help. Still, I couldn’t possibly leave him at home, all alone, in this state—no way in hell.
“Call us if you need anything,” Hallee said to me again and I nodded.
“You should... go with them, I’ll be fine,” Judah whined as Hallee and Jesse walked out the door.
“I told you I’m not going anywhere,” I replied, making my way over to him.
I bent down on the side of the bed so I was on eye-level with him. He turned to me and gave me a weak smile.
“You know, you don’t have to do this for me?” he croaked.
“I know that. But I want to,” I smiled back and my hand instinctively went to tuck away the strands of hair on his forehead. He looked at me intently as I stroke hi hair, his eyebrows furrowed as if he was thinking of something super serious.
“Why are you so nice to me, Blondie? Why’d you care so much?” he said with a pained smile on his face.
Why would he even ask me that? Was it so hard for him to believe that someone would care about him, just because?
“I don’t know why... I just do,” I shrugged.
He took in what I just said and he just stared at me with an expression I couldn’t read. Slowly, his hand then reached up and he held mine in place. His hand was cold, and I tried my hardest not to flinch at the contact.
We stayed like that for the longest time. Nobody said anything else, and there was this feeling of peace in the midst of the quietness. Soon enough, Judah eyes fluttered shut. He looked so tired as he drifted into sleep. I watched as his chest rise and fall with every breath he took. My hand was still holding onto his and I laid my head down next to him. I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of his breathing slowing down, somehow wishing we could lay like this forever.
But forever had to end sometime.
“Judah! Open up!” suddenly I heard a loud pounding at the door and I jerked up instantly.
I looked over to Judah who was still asleep. Slowly, I peeled my hand from his grip and made my way towards the front door.
“You never showed up last night! I know you’re in there! Open the damn door, Judah!” the voice called out again.
“Can I help you?” I cracked the door open and there stood a familiar looking girl.
Her ginger hair was messy and tangled up. She was wearing a cropped top and tight leather pants, revealing the belly ring and tattoos on her ribcage and arm. A cigarette was stuck between her middle and forefinger.
This must be Ava.
“Who are you?” she eyed me suspiciously. “And where’s Judah?”
She was eyeing me from head to toe and she cocked her head to the side. The look on her face was nothing but friendly, it was intimidating, as if she was trying to challenge me or something.
“He’s asleep, come back later,” I said curtly, and I was about to shut the door on her when she quickly stepped in and pushed the door back.
I stumbled back and my mouth gaped at her, but she ignored me. She walked right in and started scouring the house.
“Judah! Where are you?” she yelled loudly and I pulled her arm to the side.
“Please, he’s asleep. Don’t bother him,” I pleaded.
“Don’t you fucking touch me,” her eyes darted to my hand on her arm and her tone was threatening. I pulled my hand away immediately.
“S—sorry,” I muttered.
She stifled a laugh and put one hand on her hip. She took one step closer to me and I stepped back in response.
“So, you must be the bitch that he’s been fucking behind me?” she said suddenly.
“I’d never picture you to be Judah’s type. He’s normally not into the plain ones,”
“What are you talking about?”
“You must think you’re so special, huh? But you know what, you’re not. Judah’s just bored of the same old stuff. Soon enough, he’s gonna ditch your old boring ass,”
Something about her words ignited a flame within me. Without thinking, my hand had reached out and slapped her across the face.
The sound echoed through the room and I regretted it as soon as I did it, but I couldn’t take it back. Ava turned to me with fire in her eyes as her hand went to touch the side of her face. She was seething.
“Didn’t I tell you not to fucking touch me?”
Before I could say anything else, the back of her hand landed on my cheek with such a force, I fell straight to the ground. I winced my eyes shut as my cheek flared up in pain and there was a metallic taste in my mouth.
“What the fuck?” and suddenly I heard Judah’s voice.
I opened my eyes and saw Judah, standing right behind Ava. His eyes were dark and his breathing was heavy. He looked at me and then at Ava. The look on his face was obvious; he was dead angry.
“Judah, I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Max got the stuff you wanted, let’s go to Castro’s,” Ava turned to face him and she was about to put her hand on his chest when he grabbed her hand and pulled it away.
“The fuck did you do to her?” he hissed.
“Nothing! The bitch started it, I’m just ending it,”
“Get the fuck outta here,”
“And I ain’t ever coming back to Castro’s, so don’t you come looking for me no more,”
“Are you fucking serious right now?”
“Get out Ava, or I swear to god I’ll fucking drag you out myself,” his voice just dropped an octave lower and it was scary as hell. I had never seen Judah this angry in my life.
“This isn’t over,” she spat at him. I had to commend her bravery though, because if I were her, I would have ran for my life.
Ava shot me one last glare before making her way out the door. Once the door was slammed shut, Judah turned to me and bent down on my level. His hand searched my face gently and I flinched as he rubbed the stinging area on my cheek.
“Are you okay? Blondie, I’m so sorry,” he breathed.
“I’m okay. It’s not your fault,” I shook my head lightly. “Your friend’s pretty intense though,” I said, trying to lighten up the mood. He looked at me with such worry in his eyes, but I just gave him a small smile, trying to convince him that I was all right.
“Blondie... I think you should leave too,” he said all of a sudden.
“You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be around me. Fuck, I mean look what happened to you,” he said, swallowing hard and glancing away.
“This is not your fault. And I told you, I’m not going anywhere,” My hands reached out to the side of his face, pulling his face back to meet mine.
I didn’t know where this sudden surge of confidence came from. But all I could think about right now was how much I wanted to take care of him. To take care of his pain.
“Goddamn it Blondie!” his fist suddenly connected with the wall behind me and the wall cracked slightly. My body flinched in shock as I didn’t expect that reaction out of him at all.
“Why are you so goddamn stubborn? Stop trying to save me!” he scowled.
He stood up abruptly and his hand punched the wall again several times. I stood up and staggered away as he started groaning in anger and pain.
“Leave!” he said in a threatening tone.
His word said one thing, but his eyes meant another.
I would be lying if I say I wasn’t afraid of him at this point. He was starting to scare the shit out of me, but I decided to hold my ground anyway.
“You think you’re so tough, huh Judah?” I said and his eyes widened at my words.
“You fight people. You build your walls and you keep people out. You break people’s hearts before they could break yours. You think that makes you strong. But I’m telling you right now, you don’t have to do this...” I paused for a second and said, “you’re better than this,”
For a while we just stood there, holding a staring contest. He looked angry, but also sad, and maybe even hurt.
I took a deep breath and stepped closer to him. He didn’t move an inch, so I took another step closer until I was standing right in front of him. Slowly and cautiously, I took his busted knuckles in my hand.
“Look, I don’t know why you keep doing this to yourself. Like you have to prove that you’re strong and all. But I’m telling you, you don’t have to always be so strong. You don’t have to put up a fight. Let me take some of the punches,”
His hand started shaking a little and he put his head down, purposefully avoiding eye contact with me.
“Judah, listen to me,” I grabbed his face with both of my hands and looked him square in the eyes, “I just wanna tell you... whatever it is that you’re going through, you’re not alone, ok? You have me,”
His eyes became glossy all of a sudden and he looked at me as if he was marveling at something, or as if he was trying to remember something, I couldn’t tell. He stared right at me for the longest time, and I wasn’t sure if he was hearing me. His eyes were empty as if he was looking into space.
“Judah?” I called out to him.
“You...? You’re... no, that’s crazy,” he muttered under his breath.
“You...” He muttered again, but it was as if he was talking to himself.
I started waving my hand in front of him to get his attention back.
“Judah? What are you talking about? Do you hear what I’m trying to tell you?”
It took him a few seconds until he was looking right at me again. His eyes were dark and serious, but tender at the same time. And as much as I try, I couldn’t read what was going through that gorgeous head of his.
“Judah, what’s going—” My words were cut off as he suddenly pulled me into his arms. His face dropped to my shoulder as he hugged me tight.
“I remember now...” he murmured against the skin on my lower neck, sending shivers all around.
“Remember what? What are you doing? Are you okay?”
He pulled away slightly and I thought he was gonna say something, but he didn’t. Instead, his hand landed on the side of my face gently and he started caressing my cheek. It was as if everything was on slow motion.
I watched him intently as he cocked his head to the side and his tongue darted to lick his lips. His eyes darkened and suddenly there was this weird feeling building up inside of me—the feeling of fear and excitement all at once.
It felt like I was a little lamb, about to be attacked by a lion. But actually, this lamb would happily surrender herself too.
He caught me off guard as his mouth opened and he suddenly spoke:
“I know what I’m about to do isn’t part of the deal, but do you trust me?”