Christian sleeps soundlessly, his chest rising and falling effortlessly. Sometimes he struggles to breathe, shuddering that turns into coughing fits. I rush over to him in a frenzy whenever this happens, my hands and my mind hesitating, not sure what to do. His coughing always turns into wheezing like he can't breathe and it scares me, but after a minute or two his body settles. My whole body feels tense with worry; I'm not sure how I'm supposed to help him any further. I sit on the coffee table and watch as he sleeps, counting the pauses between each breath. Three seconds. His hands are balled into fists, the muscles in his arms extremely taut.
I have the urge to open and massage his palm, to calm it some, but I'm afraid that I'd wake him up; he tends to stir when I touch him. But I want him to be awake. I want to know why he's hurt, and who exactly did this to him. They must have a sick mind to hurt someone so badly without mercy. I also wonder if Christian did something to irritate this person, but then the thought leaves me because he wouldn't have looked so frightened when he showed up at my door. I could have sworn I heard his heart thrumming irregularly in his chest.
I leave him, not wanting to disturb his slumber. He seems at peace being away from reality. I go to the kitchen and try my best to make the chicken with the noodles and white sauce as best I can, the way my mom does; I'm sure Christian will be hungry when he wakes up. When I finish I eat, feeling a bit hungry myself. It's not bad, just not the same as when my mother makes it. I put some on a plate for Christian and wrap it in tinfoil to contain the heat. It doesn't taste very good when it's heated from a microwave. That night, when I had slept all day and gotten up to reheat the dinner at three in the morning, the noodles turned hard and the chicken was too soft, soggy like a wet marshmallow. The bread crumbs that dominated the chicken breast wasn't very crispy like it was supposed to be.
I place a glass of water on the coffee table for Christian just in case he would need it in the middle of the night. I head to bed and lie there for twenty minutes until I think that I should be near Christian during the night — he might need me to do something and wouldn't be strong enough to do it on his own. I gather a couple pillows and an armful of blankets and take them downstairs to lay them out on the floor beside Christian. His arm hangs over the side of the couch and his face is utterly relaxed, jaw slack. I reach out to him, cupping his cheek in my hand. He doesn't move; he tries his best to stay away from here, to not deal with what he's really going through.
I have trouble peeling away the now bloody cloths from his back because they stick to his skin somewhat. I’m careful not to hurt him as I pull them away. I dab at his wounds with new cloths and lay them over his back. The bleeding has stopped, which I am utterly grateful for. I throw the other cloths in a pile with the other bloody cloths, which make a burgundy heap on the rug by the arm chair. It’s disgusting to look at, to know that he’s lost so much blood. I look at him one more time before I settle in my spot on the floor. H shifts and his arm falls off the couch, smacking me in my face. I’m stunned, but I start to laugh and I put his arm back up under his head.
♕ ♕ ♕
It’s hard to imagine what my life was like before Christian came crashing in. He’s like a scab on your face – no matter how much you pick at it and peel it off and wash it with twenty different face washes, he’s there, and he’s not going away.
I still hate him, but there’s something about him that gives excitement to my life. Before I had a routine, one that would just get me through life until I die, but ever since he interrupted that mundane lifestyle, I’ve had more fun than I ever have in my seventeen, almost eighteen, years of life. I feel awful for thinking this, but I don't even think Cole has made such and impact on my life the way Christian has. Cole is a wonderful guy and I can see a lasting relationship with him. There's so much we could do together, I can feel it. Christian is indeed someone I care about, and I can see us being great friends, if he lets me. I want to be the person that helps him when he needs a hand or someone to talk to. There's a side of him that isn't so tough has he puts himself out there to be and I can see in his eyes that he's very disturbed and he needs an outlet for all of his anger, his sadness.
I feel something coarse against the back of my neck, the touch light like a feather tickling your throat. The back of my neck is cold everywhere but where I feel the touch. I turn over, rubbing my eyes, and see Christian looking at me, his fingers dangling in front of my face. He has this smug grin on his face as if he has a secret and he’s not gonna tell me what it is. His hand recedes, sliding under the right side of his face.
“Hi,” he whispers hoarsely.
I smile at him and sit up to get a good look at him. The cloths I put on his back are barely pink which could mean that the bleeding has stopped completely. I feel my heart release the air that it’s been holding in its veins, utterly relieved. “How are you feeling?” I ask softly, as if I don’t want to disturb the house with my voice.
“Aching,” he says. “I’m used to this. I always feel this way afterwards.”
I give him a curious look. “This has happened before?”
“Perhaps,” he says, now cautious of what he’s saying. I don’t think he meant to say what he did previously. “Anyways, thanks for taking care of me, Princess. I don’t know why I ran here to you, of all places.”
“Well that’s what friends are for, right?” I say, smiling at him.
His eyebrows furrow, as if I’ve just genuinely hurt him. “Friends?”
“English partners,” I joke nervously. Maybe he won’t let me be friends with him, and that hurts me a bit. I try my best not to show that it does. Christian doesn’t need vulnerability from anyone but himself right now. He needs me to be strong for him, especially when he can’t physically do it for himself.
“Yeah,” he says distantly. He sucks on his lower lip and turns away from me, making an attempt to go back to sleep. His skin stretches as he lays on his side and his wounds seem wider now, as if blood will start pouring out again if he continues to lay like that.
“Christian I don’t think –”
But he’s already snoring.
♕ ♕ ♕
He sleeps soundlessly through the night, not having any more coughing or wheezing fits. I only know this because I’m too anxious to rest peacefully, afraid that he will start up with the fits, or that he’ll get up and leave without a word and I won’t see him again for a few days. I am only able to sleep for an hour at a time, two if I’m lucky. I’m not sure why I’m worrying so much; it seems as if he won’t be leaving for a while.
It’s seven-thirty in the morning when he finally rises, slowly stretching himself out the way a cat does. He cringes with each movement, gritting his teeth and muttering ‘Ow.’ He collapses and smacks his lips dramatically, staring at me as he does so. I take his hand in my and massage his palm just to have something to do. I spread his skin underneath my thumb, as if I’m kneading dough. Christian groans and closes his eyes.
“Where are your parents?” he asks dreamily.
“Out of town,” I reply, my voice just the same.
“Where did they go?”
“They had a thing to attend…”
“Yeah. I mean, I don’t know what it is.” I shrug. “Maybe they’ve joined a cult or something.”
He chuckles lightly and pulls his hand away. He props himself up on his elbows, looking at me with his dark eyes. I’ve never seem them so up close before; they’re like a pool of dark chocolate, rotting from the bottom up. There’s something in them that worries me and I’m desperate to know what it is, but I don’t now is the right time to ask. He’s just now warming up to me. I don’t want this sweet side of him to go away anything soon.
I suddenly remember the dream again and I feel my cheeks get hot. I struggle to get up, my feet getting tangled in the blankets I have on the floor. I stumble and save myself on the armrest of the couch.
“What’s the matter?” he asks. I hear him trying to sit up, but I don’t turn around to look, or even help.”
“Nothing, nothing,” I say a little too quickly, my voice cracking on the first ‘nothing.’ I can picture his skin under my fingers, but now there’s scars and bruises and slashes along his back the size of overlapping rivers. The thought is quite horrifying.
I run upstairs to my room and stand in the middle of the floor, trying to retain my thoughts. I hate the dream. Every day it plagues me and I can’t seem to get it out of my system. It’s Cole I’m supposed to be thinking about, not Christian. Even if it were him I was supposed to be thinking about – if it was him that I’m with – that couldn’t happen. It wouldn’t happen, never in a million years.
“Hey, I’m starving,” he calls from downstairs. “What do you have to eat?”
I cool off and do a quick once-over in the mirror. I’m hardly blushing and my hair is a mess. I primp it and curl it around my fingers, then go downstairs to show him the food I had left out for him last night. To my surprise it’s still warm. Christian scarfs it down the way he did the burritos when I picked him up from the jailhouse a few days ago, except this time he doesn’t get the hiccups.
He brings the plate to the sink and I take it from him to wash it.
“Do you mind if I take a shower?” he asks from behind his fist. His stomach rumbles and he lets out an earth-shattering burp. I wrinkle my nose.
“That’s gross.” I remember his question about showering. “Yeah, you can. The bathroom is upstairs, two doors down from my room.”
“Thanks, Sunshine.” He rubs my back and plants a kiss on the top of my head.
Startled, I watch him waddle up the stairs and wonder where in the heck that came from.