She doesn't know when it started.
She couldn't tell you the exact date, the exact time or what she had been wearing that day. But she could tell you one thing, it hadn't been a good day.
Straight home from coming back from her brother's, who had flipped her mood and turned her sour from the hell he had put on both her and him, on that day, she had been glad their parents were dead. They would have been utterly devastated upon learning how their son was throwing his life away—correction: threw his life away and was drowning in debts, and on the verge of losing his home.
They said crying was a blessing, a relief, something she had begged for after finding out that her brother was still gambling–had gambled all his money away, crying suddenly had become the least of her worries if only she could open her mouth and scream at her brother. But, she remembered that day, remembered looking at him and wondering why Grant could not be the one to support her; after all, he was her big brother. It was his job to clean up her mess, not for her to clean his. It was his job to shield her from trouble, not for him to invite her into it.
She still trembled at the memory of coming back home to an unlocked door, and the first thing that came to her mind was to call the police. That had been the last thing on her mind. She hadn't been bothered enough to get the attention of her neighbors–actually, confusion was more like what she had been feeling. She struggled with remembering if she had gone out without locking her house, which would have eased her mind, because it had simply been her fault, but she also could not be sure if she had locked it.
Braveness did not run in her family, but at that time, she was more worried about the items that would be stolen. Important stuff that was irreplaceable, and some things she had thought she could sell and give the money to Grant pay off his debts.
She had walked into the house, dark, so dark. She remembered the silence, however, as she had walked with quiet steps, a gnawing sensation that she refused to acknowledge started to burry in-between her bones. The silence, she had thought, was what really got to her.
The first time Nova saw him, she had screamed and clamped her mouth shut. Seeing a man she hadn't known, splayed on her couch with his dark, wet hair covering his face. Panic had slipped underneath her ribcage when she had spotted blood, a lot of it, all over his white shirt, but mostly on his right side of the stomach. Most of the blood had dripped on the ground, which she had then noticed trailed over to him. It was mostly her couch she had pitied, the brown curtain that had been ruined by blood.
It had taken her a minute to process it before she had gasped and the panic inside her had increased. Nova remembered moving forward by an inch, surveying the stranger from head to toe before fixing her gaze on his chest, seeing the rise and fall of his chest, indicating that he was alive, but not for some time, because his breathing had been slow.
She had given him a long look; his clothing was dark, except for the white button-up shirt he had been wearing, but other than that, his jeans and the jacket that had been abandoned on the ground were dark. The sleeves of his shirt had been short, and tattoos had covered up his arms, to his neck. Even his knuckles were tattooed. He looked exactly like the type of guy whose face could be plastered in the police station, Nova was sure about that. That little piece of information had done nothing to calm her nerves if anything, her legs had felt wobbly and she had felt dizzy, on the verge of throwing up from so much blood.
Had she called the police at that time, Nova would have returned back to her quiet life. Instead, she had moved closer to the stranger, carefully and with shaking hands, she had touched him a little. He had a temperature. Of course, that had only made her drawn his shirt up, then exhaled loudly when she gazed upon a gunshot wound. Again, she had wanted to call the police straight away, but a part of her had been against that idea. Calling the police would have meant she could be part of it–whatever it was, but she would have been the first suspect. No one would have believed she had no idea who he was. Anyone would have thought she was bullshitting them because, how else would Nova explained how the man got into her house, a fact that was still a mystery to her.
Other than that, her life would have been investigated, the police would have tried to find a link between the two strangers, and if they weren't still satisfied, they would dig out her family and friends. And if they had done that, it meant her brother would have been in trouble. She knew, deep down, that Grant had other life she didn't know about, something that could easily land him in prison, possibly. She couldn't believe her brother was just a gambler.
Ruling the police out, Nova had reached into his pockets and got his phone out. Luckily, there was no password. She was going to call someone from his contact, someone who would see to it that he would be breathing in the morning because she was sure he wouldn't be in thirty minutes.
But going through his dialed calls, his contacts only intensified the fear in Nova. Neither of those names sounded like they were good people. There was no Kevin or Ben, a name that sounded nice and would have easily calmed her down, but names like The Owl, Razor, Bullet, Shadow, and Skullcrusher didn't seem like the type of men Nova would invite into her home, even if the man in front of her was dying, she absolutely would not call either of those people.
She had come to the conclusion that the stranger in her home was not a good man. He was a criminal, probably a gangster or part of the mafia; why else would he have a gunshot wound? He was probably on the run and he might have thought her home was the safest place. It definitely wasn't safe to go to a hospital.
Nova was an emotional person. Anything and everything made her cry or hurt, which was why she hadn't been able to stand there and watch him die, good guy or bad guy. He wasn't going to die in her living room.
Six months of medical school came into handy. Even though she had dropped out from the pressure, she was again able to remove the bullet on the left side of his stomach and had stitched it closed. Being close to him gave her a view of his face. It was narrow and rigged. The bridge of his nose was as sharp and drastic as a knife. He was so attractive it was blinding, and she had been caught off guard from the shortness of her breath and she hadn't known where such nervousness had come from. His features were hard, and his lips were full and red, his jaw shadowed with dark stubble.
Instantly, she had wished he would open his eyes just to see the color of it if they were as beautiful as the rest of him were. Realizing that she was crossing to creepy lane, Nova had retreated away from him after making sure he was going to continue breathing. With that thought, she had left to her room with her first aid kit, heading to the bathroom to shower and to get rid of the blood that had stained her.
She remembered walking out of the bathroom and sitting on the bed, but she hadn't remembered dozing off to sleep, and she had been shocked, when she had awakened, to find the stranger on her couch gone.
If there still hadn't been his blood on the couch, Nova would have mistaken the encounter as nothing but a dream. But he had been there and then, he wasn't. He had simply left without talking to her, without explaining to her how he got into her house, without thanking her for saving his life.
Nova should have wished harder not to see him again. But not three weeks later, he had shown up again, passed out, from another gunshot wound.
And suddenly, it became a thing.