After the whole Christian versus Cole incident I’ve felt on edge and have realized that I haven’t spoken to Kelsey in a while so I invite her over. It’s not Wednesday quite yet, but I feel as if we need a Netflix night to reconnect. We pick this movie called Adore, which only interests Kelsey because both of the boys are hot. The movie is about two guys that grow up as best friends and then fall in love with each other’s moms.
“What if I fell for your dad like that?” Kelsey jokes.
I give her a disgusted look. “I’d hate you for all eternity. That’s disgusting!”
“Right? Ugh, he’s not my type anyways.”
I snort and turn my eyes to the computer screen. Kelsey and I are snuggled up together on my bed, butting heads so we can both see the screen without the glare coming in from between the blinds of the window behind us. Her hair smells like vanilla – it always has.
“How are things with Cole?” she asks halfway through the movie.
“It’s okay I guess,” I say.
“You guess?” She reaches for the laptop and pauses the movie, then turns to look at me. “What’s wrong?”
I give her a look, but I’m not sure how convincing it is. “Nothing.”
“You guys are perfect together. There shouldn’t be any problems with the two of you.”
We aren’t the problem, I think. It’s Christian.
There’s a rap at my window and I turn to look out of it. A part of my body lights up like a supernova and I wish it wouldn’t. It’s only Christian, the devil himself.
Kelsey looks about as excited as I do. “What is he doing here?” There’s a lilt to her tone and I can tell that she really is excited to see him. Why? She hardly knows him. She’s always been on my side about how awful he is.
I shake my head and pull the window up to get a better look at him. I was hoping that my eyes were deceiving me, but if Kelsey had seen him…
“What?” I call down to him.
“I need to talk to you,” he shouts, cupping his hands over his mouth. “Can I come up?”
I hesitate. I don’t want Cole getting mad at me again. I’m afraid he’ll explode and I won’t be able to stop him the next time he does. There’s a part of me that’s so afraid of his anger, as if he transforms into a demon with the snap of a finger. I know how unrealistic that sounds, but I don’t know what to do or what to think. Should I allow Christian to come here when Cole isn’t? How bad is it, going behind Cole’s back? I find myself becoming less and less faithful to him every second. I need to change that –
“Yeah, come up,” Kelsey calls down to him. He smiles at her and goes around to the front door.
I look at her, appalled. She shrugs and hops off the bed to go downstairs and let him in. She comes back with him and he sits at the edge of the bed.
“What’re you gals doing?” he asks. This is the first time I’ve ever heard his voice sound so sweet and warm, like syrup. There’s a pain in my chest and I’m trying to figure out what it is; his tone is only directed to Kelsey. He doesn’t even look at me. She smiles at him and bites her lower lip. I cross my arms over my chest and focus on the hem of my jeans.
“How was jail time?” Kelsey asks him.
Christian shrugs and then turns to me without a word to Kelsey. His momentary fixation with her is over. “I need to talk to you.”
He eyes Kelsey warily and then looks back at me. “I’d prefer that it’d be alone, Princess.”
“Oh.” I look at Kelsey, too, and she nods.
“I’m sure my parents need me at home to help around,” she lies. I can see her grinning as she walks out of the room. I try to sneer at her but she won’t look at me. Moments later I hear her car pulling out of the driveway, the sound of rubber tires grinding against gravel. The sound goes on for a few heartbeats and I look out the window. My parents are pulling up into the driveway, taking Kelsey’s spot.
I turn back to Christian. He’s sitting closer to me now on the bed, so close that his knee is pressed against my leg. His arms are loosely thrown into his lap, his fraught eyes boring into mine.
“What is it you need to talk about?” I ask. I’m not sure why, but there’s a feeling in the pit of my stomach that’s telling me he has bad news.
He rubs the back of his neck. I can see bruises lining the underside of his arm. Now that I know they’re there, they stand out, more distinct to the eye. It’s horrifying; I try my best to push down the bile back down my throat, along with the image of his scratched up back. He still hasn’t told me how it happened, or why someone would do that to him. “Here’s the thing,” he says. His words come out low, slowly, as if he’s choosing them wisely. “I really need a place to stay. I can’t go home. You’re the only one I know that –”
“Hi, honey!” My mom peers into the room and stops short when she sees Christian. She gives him a wan smile and looks back at me. She looks tired, as if she hadn’t slept all weekend. “Was that Kelsey that just pulled out of the driveway?”
I nod. “Yeah. We were watching a movie.”
Christian’s jaw tightens visibly. He’s looking down at his leg, drawn over the other, waiting for my mom to leave the room. The snake tattoo on his neck stretches as if someone wearing a head-wrap is playing the flute and the snake has the sudden urge to dance.
“Let me know if you need anything,” my mom says. “Actually, don’t. I’m going to go take a nap. I’m drained.” She gives another wan smile and walks down the hall to her room. My dad passes by and checks in, giving me a small wave, and then follows my mother to the room. He looks worse than she does.
Christian turns to the door, checking to make sure that my parents are really gone. He relaxes some when he sees no one standing in the doorway. “I really need you to help me out here, Princess. I can’t go home. I promise that I won’t even be here that long. Just until my friends and I go on that trip.”
“When is that?” I ask. Am I really considering letting him stay?
“In two weeks, when you start winter break.” When I don’t respond he adds, “I’ll be gone so I won’t ruin your vacation.”
I grin at that. “You wouldn’t be ruining anything.”
“I’d ruin your birthday.”
I give him a look. “How do you know when my birthday is?”
He shrugs. “Student files. I spent a lot of time in the office. I had to do something to occupy my time.”
“So you were stalking me?”
“No. Just… observing.” He smiles widely, even laughs a little. “Can I stay, Butterfly? I’ll be nice to you if you let me.”
“That’s such a great reward,” I say sarcastically, rolling my eyes.
“Well, I have nothing else to give you.”
I mull it over. I really don’t want Cole getting mad at me anymore, but I also don’t want to kick Christian out onto the street. I can’t go home. What kind of friend would I be if I said no? He’d hate me even more.
“Did you really just call me butterfly?”
“Indeed I did.”
I sigh. “Let’s see what my parents say.”
My parents are totally okay with it. I’m deeply surprised. I expected them to say no and tell him to go home, but after a moment’s hesitation they said yes. Maybe they’re just too tired to really even think about it.
“Thank you,” Christian says politely. “I promise, you won’t even know I’m here.”