“Hey.” I murmured.
I was standing on Blaze’s doorstep looking like a mess, my jaw was bruised and there were cuts up and down my arm. I hadn’t had much time to pack stuff, all I really had was my school uniform and school book because that was all that had been able to fit in my school bag.
“Hey.” Blaze said taking my bag as he showed me in.
“I’m sorry...” I started.
“Don’t be, for whatever it is, don’t. Let’s just get you settled in.”
His house was nice, way nicer than mine. The living room had big French glass doors which let loads of sunlight in. There were photos of Phoenix and Storm on the walls, studio-quality ones, not rigid family portrait ones, cute ones, where they were laughing in the sun or at the beach.
There were toys on the floor, a mixture of Frozen figurines and Marvel superheroes, Blaze saw them and sighed.
“Phoenix...” He called, “You said you would clean up.”
“I did!” Phoenix replied running down, he looked at the mess of the floor, “Okay, I didn’t, but it was mostly Storm.”
“Now.” Blaze said.
Phoenix huffed before starting to clean up. I glanced at Blaze, he had a pretty good handle on this whole parenting thing, Isabella would have thrown the biggest tantrum possible over tidying up.
“Won’t your Mum mind?” I asked although I was pretty sure Blaze hadn’t seen his mother in a while.
“She said she was going out for a couple weeks, with her boyfriend.”
“How long ago was that?”
“About a year ago.”
Was not expecting that. Blaze had been living alone for a year? Storm couldn’t have been much older than a year, suddenly my mother didn’t seem so bad.
“Anyways, this is the guest room, it used to be Mum’s room, but I don’t think she needs it anymore.” Blaze said opening a door upstairs.
The first thing I noticed, was how clean everything was, everything was cream or rose coloured and looked seriously elegant. I felt awkward standing there, my room was a complete mess, mostly because I shared it with a 4-year-old girl, but still.
“I get a load of clothes from work, so you can wear these.” Blaze said holding a basket of clothes out to me.
What the fuck? How did Blaze just casually have a load of expensive clothes lying around?
“Where do you work?” I asked picking up a Hugo Boss polo shirt.
Then I remembered Blaze was a model, he didn’t really talk about it, he didn’t need to, everyone in the school had seen the magazines and the billboards, and the adverts. Literally every girl in school had at some point crushed on Blaze, regardless of the fact that he was into guys.
“Just, you know, photoshoots and stuff.” He shrugged.
I was younger, Evelyn had tried to get me into that sort of thing, modelling, Ryan hadn’t approved, so we stopped. I had been kind of relieved when he had done that, because I never liked it either, I hated cameras, a lot, and I had good reason to.
Later that night, Phoenix and I were playing spies (his robot teddy bear was the hostage we were trying to rescue). Blaze was upstairs putting Storm to bed when someone knocked on the door, Phoenix ran to the window to see who it was and quickly fled into the dining room.
He came back dragging a chair and propped it against the front door as though barricading it.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Taylor’s here, I don’t want him coming in.” Phoenix whispered grabbing my hand and pulling me into the kitchen.
“Phoenix, we can’t just…”
“He hurts Daddy, in the night, all the time. Sometimes I pretend to wet the bed so Daddy will move away from him.”
Chills ran down my spine. Blaze was still upstairs, he must not have heard the knocking, I had a choice. Either tell Taylor Blaze wasn’t home, or let him in even though Phoenix seemed to think he was a monster.
“Chase? Is someone at the door?” Blaze called.
Phoenix pulled my hand frantically.
“Say no.” He whispered.
This was not an ideal situation, where was a giant black hole to swallow you up when you needed it?
“Hold on, I’ll check.” I said back to Blaze.
If Blaze and his boyfriend had problems, that was not my business, maybe Taylor was a good guy. Maybe Phoenix just got confused. Maybe Blaze was into the whole physically challenging relationship. I couldn’t judge.
“Can I help you?” I asked moving the chair away from the door as I opened it.
“I’m Taylor, you’re Chase, right? We met at the park the other day.”
“I just need to talk to Blaze, is he…” Taylor started before Blaze came down, holding a wide awake Storm in his arms, “Baby, I came to talk to you.”
“I have nothing to say to you.” Blaze snapped slamming the door shut.
Phoenix looked at me, I shrugged. Blaze huffed and glanced at me as if only realising I was there.
“Sorry, we’re just not talking to each other right now.”
Storm giggled and clapped her hands as though she was drawing the energy out of Blaze who looked like he was about to collapse.
“Why don’t I put Storm and Phoenix to bed?” I said holding my arms out to the baby girl.
“She’s not sleeping tonight Chase, it’s fine.”
“Blaze, it’s okay, I can do it, you go and sort out your love life.” I said as Storm lunged at me.
I wasn’t being stupid by the way. I knew perfectly well that things could go wrong with Blaze and Taylor. But I also knew that I could see the driveway from Storm’s nursery window.
“But I’m not tired.” Phoenix said as I pulled the covers over him.
“Not even a little bit?”
“Not even a little bit.”
“Fine, but don’t tell Daddy.” I said giving him my phone, “Just try to sleep.”
I wasn’t an expert on parenting, but I’m pretty sure no parent guides said at any point if a child is refusing to sleep, give them your unlocked phone to play games and watch YouTube. Luckily enough, I wasn’t Phoenix’s father, so I could do that, right?
“Chase? Where are you going?” Phoenix asked.
To go and see if Taylor was murdering Blaze, but I couldn’t say that to a 4-year-old.
“To do homework downstairs.” I said randomly.
“It’s Saturday tomorrow, you don’t have school.”
“Okay fine, I’m going to get an apple from the kitchen.”
Why the fuck did I say that? An apple? Why?
“We don’t have any apples.”
How was I struggling to trick a 4-year-old? And what kind of four-year-old knew the exact contents of his kitchen?
“Well, then I’m going to get some, some, juice.”
“Daddy says it’s bad to have juice before bed.”
Well, Phoenix had clearly gotten Blaze’s IQ that’s for sure.
“Instead of drinking juice, can you go and spy on Taylor?” Phoenix asked.
Immediately alarm bells went off in my head. Not because Phoenix had asked me to do what I was planning on doing, but because I had had the same idea as a 4-year-old. Not that this fact stopped me from going down and ‘spying’ on Taylor.
I sat on the middle stair, waiting for the first signs of trouble.
“You lied to me Taylor.” Blaze snapped.
“I love you.”
“If you did, you wouldn’t have lied to me.”
“Just leave, before I say something I regret.”
I waited until Taylor had left to go down, Blaze rolled his eyes and sighed, turning the TV off and going to the kitchen.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Is anyone ever okay?” He murmured.
Blaze sat up on the counter, it was weird seeing him like this. This different boy, who was sad and tired, like all the glamour had worn off.
“What happened with Ryan?” He asked.
Blaze pressed a finger gently to the side of my face, tracing the cut on my cheek. Chills ran down my spine, but these chills weren’t like before, they weren’t fearful, they were something else. Something I couldn’t describe.
“Same as usual, only this time he didn’t want to hurt me, he wanted something more. So I jumped, figured if I was going to die, I would do it at my own hands.”
“Did you want to? Die?”
“I don’t know.”
But I knew I hadn't, because, for some reason as indescribable as this chills that ran down my spine, I couldn’t. Because of Blaze.
“I don’t want you to die.” Blaze whispered.
His lips were centimetres from mine, I thought about it, moving those few centimetres. But I hadn’t, because Blaze was upset, and at that moment, I just needed to be there for him, nothing else.