Jordan keeps his arm around me from the moment I come out of the bathroom all the way to final bell and when we get to my truck. He doesn’t speak, but his hand forms never ending circles on my back. The fabric rubbing my skin in such a constant way makes the skin go numb, but it’s calming. Slowly I let the rest of myself go numb.
He takes my keys from my hand, “Are you ok to drive? I can take you to work.”
I shrug. He kisses the top of my head before pulling me away from my truck and towards his car. I feel my lip still quivering. I close my eyes and bury my face in his side as we walk.
He lowers me into the car, fastening my seatbelt before squatting next to me to brush my face with his hand.
“Rhea, baby, what did he do?” He whispers.
I shake my head. I don’t want to talk about last night, or today. I want to pretend they never happened, I want to forget he exists.
He lets his head drop in surrender before getting up and getting in the driver seat, “How was your test?”
I shrug my shoulders, “Alright I guess, my teacher is proud of my improvement.”
“She should be, you’re doing great!” He tries to give a reassuring smile.
I don’t say anything. I just stare at the dashboard. The few blocks to work are silent, as is our arrival. I can hear Mr. Marsh and Jordan talking as I put on my apron and start restocking the aisles.
“She had a rough day. Dominic was giving her some trouble, she hasn’t said much since he got to her,” Jordan thinks I can’t hear him.
“What did he do?” Mr. Marsh crosses his arms as he leans in, giving me a small glance across the store.
“She won’t say, she’s barely said a word. But she texted me in the middle of class and I found her crying in the bathroom. I swear I’m gonna beat that jackass to a pulp!”
“What good will that do kid? Lets just give her some time, keep an eye on her, and keep him away. She’s probably just shaken, not ready to talk.”
I make my way to the counter where they stand. They stop talking as I get closer.
“Do you want me to start on the pick up orders?” I ask.
“Sure darlin’,” He smiles, “Thank you.”
I nod before darting into the back room. I go to turn on the light, searching for the light switch when I look in the far corner.
I jump and let out a scream thinking I see Dominic. I see his perfect white teeth twisted into that awful grin, while his eyes hang low as he watches me.
I scream until the boys run into the room. Mr. Marsh flips on the light switch and Dominic is gone. Jordan takes my arms, I push myself against him, burying my face in his chest. He’s stunned but quickly responds by holding me and petting my hair.
“It’s alright, Rhea,” Mr. Marsh places his hand on my shoulder, “You’re ok.”
“What happened?” Jordan asks, pulling me away to look at me.
“I thought... I could have sworn... I saw...” My words struggle to come out.
Jordan is quick to pull me back into a hug, “Shh, it’s alright. Nothing is here. We have you. You’re safe.”
They bring me back out to the counter, sitting me down on the stool in front of the register. I hear them talking as they walk over the front door but they keep me in their line of sight.
“What was that?” Mr. Marsh asks Jordan, clearly upset.
“I have no idea,” Jordan throws his hands up, “Do you think she thought she saw Dominic?”
Mr. Marsh looks at me, but I can’t maintain eye contact. I’m embarrassed, I’m scared, and I’m worried I’ve made him mad.
“It’s possible. I don’t think she should be left alone today. Keep her close at school too, this all smells very fishy to me,” Mr. Marsh makes his way back over to me, leaving Jordan to stare at me, “How are you doing kid? Do you need anything?”
I shake my head furiously, turning to the register, “No... No, I’m ok. I’m sorry I created a hassle. I didn’t mean to.”
“Kid you didn’t do anything wrong, you were scared. It’s alright. Look, I have to go do something, but Jordan will stay here with you. Alright? You take some time and calm down, and I’ll be back soon.”
I nod as he heads out the back door. Jordan slowly makes his way to the counter.
“Rhea, what’s going on? What happened? You sounded, you looked absolutely terrified.”
I feel my lip quiver, “He grabbed me,” I mutter.
“Dominic, last night after I put his sister to bed. He wanted me to sit with him, he put his arm around me and he kept looking at me like...” I stare at the floor, “And today in class...”
Jordan rounds the counter, pulling me close, “Hey, it’s alright. It’s ok. You’re ok now. I won’t let him treat you like that again. It’ll all be alright.”
I grip his arm, taking in his words and his smell. I shut my eyes tightly as he pets my hair. When I’ve stopped shaking, I pull away.
One customer comes in while Mr. Marsh is out. I plaster on a smile and help them find what they’re looking for. Jordan stays close by, hanging out with a magazine as he leans on the end of the counter.
The customer quickly finds what they’re looking for and I ring them up. I’m polite and quick. More than ok to see them leave so I can bury my head in my arms. Mr. Marsh returns as I hand the customer their receipt.
“Have a nice day!” I call out as they leave with a wave.
“I’ll be in the back,” Mr. Marsh points to the back room, “I’ll do the pick ups today.”
“But they’re kind of heavy, won’t you need help?”
He chuckles, “Just because I’m getting old doesn’t mean I’m helpless. If I need help I’ll let you know. You just take it easy out here,” He nudges Jordan, nodding to the back room.
Jordan flashes me a smile before meeting Mr. Marsh in the doorway. They talk but I can’t hear them. Jordan comes back to counter while Mr. Marsh disappears into the room.
“Do you want to hang at the library after work? Maybe get dinner?” Jordan props his arm on the counter.
“I’m not really hungry.”
“Babe, you barely touched your food at lunch, you need to eat,” He reaches for my hand but I pull away.
“I said I’m not hungry. I just want to do my homework and go to bed.”
He sighs and nods, “Alright. Then we can go to the library, get our homework done and then get your truck.”
I nod as I turn back to the register. I can’t look at the back room, I’m afraid I’ll see Dominic in a dark corner.
A few customers come and go, at one point Jordan goes in the back to help Mr. Marsh carry a big box out, but otherwise it’s quiet. Jordan reads his magazine while I organize receipts. The only noise we hear is Mr. Marsh taping up the boxes.
At five thirty, Jordan takes my apron to hang up while I clock out.
“See you tomorrow kid, take it easy,” Mr. Marsh waves as we leave.
I wave back as Jordan opens the door for me, I keep my distance and keep my head down. I’m so tired and on edge it almost hurts.
Climbing in the car, Jordan turns on the radio. He starts tapping the steering wheel to the beat of the music. His eyes often dart over to me, looking concerned.
“So no math tonight, must be nice not having to worry about it for a night,” His voice is stiff and awkward.
“I guess, it’ll just be new and confusing tomorrow,” I shrug my shoulders as we wait at a red light.
“Did you get your history essay in? I’m pretty sure mine will get at best a C+. I really slacked on that one.”
“I got an extension, I need to print it tonight and turn it in tomorrow. My dad’s office is where the printer is and I don’t have a computer.”
“Oh, if you need to you can always borrow my laptop. I’d be happy to print stuff out for you whenever you need.”
I don’t respond. I watch us make our way into the library parking lot. He sends me inside to find us a spot while he goes and gets my truck for me.
The library is pretty empty today. A couple moms and their young kids, a few senior citizens playing chess, a single teenager staring at a textbook. I find a table in the study area and toss out backpacks down. With a yawn I lay my head on my backpack while I wait for Jordan.
A library aid pokes me in the shoulder gently, “Is everything ok here?” He asks.
“Yeah, sorry, I’m, uh, waiting for someone,” I fake a smile as he nods and walks away. I groan realizing I probably look stupid falling asleep at the library.
I get up and go to a computer, quickly logging into my Google Docs and finding my essay, I pull out a couple dimes and hit PRINT, dropping the coins in the jar by the printer. With a quick staple in the top corner, I go to put the essay away. Jordan enters not long after.
He hands me my keys and sits down, “What do you want to start with?”
I shrug, “Not Spanish that’s for sure, I’m really sick of Spanish for whatever reason.”
“How about science? Mrs. Grant wants the worksheet tomorrow so we can review all the formulas.”
I nod and pull out the paper. I find it frustrating that Jordan and I have all the same teachers, but only one period together. I listen to him talk about the elements and formulas on the paper, alternating between my notes and the worksheet. Minutes turn into hours, and before we know it its eight.
“The library closes in thirty minutes,” The library aid tells us as he gathers books that have been left out.
“Oh god, I didn’t realize how late it was getting,” Jordan turns and looks at the clock, “Are you ready to go?”
I nod as I start putting away all the different assignments. Jordan got me to do the Spanish homework but I definitely half-assed it.
“Are you sure you don’t want dinner?” He asks as we throw our bags over our shoulders.
I nod, “I’m really not all that hungry today,” I look around to see if anyone is close enough to hear me, “Besides, depending on dad’s mood, it’s probably best I not have anything in my stomach that I can throw up.”
He looks down at me, concern written all over him. I cringe, remembering how bad he feels when he can’t stop my dad’s abuse.
“Sorry,” I sigh.
“Don’t be, I just... I wish I could do something.”
I nod as we walk out the front door and to ours cars.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?” He smiles as I nod.
“Goodnight, Jordan,” I say as I pull out my keys.
He pulls me into a quick kiss, a gentle smile showing on the corners of his mouth, “Goodnight beautiful. I love you.”
I blush, “I love you too.”
He helps me into the truck, waving as I pull out of my spot.
“Let me know if you need anything!” He calls out.
I nod with one last wave before I turn out of the parking lot and head for home.