We both stare at each other for a long time. I'm not sure how much longer we would have stayed like this had Aiden's phone not started ringing.
"Hey... what? Oh yeah I'm with her... we'll be out in a minute,"
"We should probably go meet the others, I better get us home... if you'd like to talk about this then I'm all ears, but I want you to know I would never hurt you Alex, ever." Aiden looked like he meant this wholeheartedly and it made me feel even worse. It's not like I'd imagined Aiden but he didn't know that.
"I know," my throat was hoarse and I cough awkwardly. "I will... I will explain, later. Let's get home." This way I have a little time to think of what to say.
We're silent on the journey home but it goes unnoticed by Carla and Nathan as they argue in the back.
When we finally return home I motion for Aiden to follow me. While he stands self consciously in the middle of my room I close the door.
"You can sit down," I start and watch as he half sits on the very edge of my bed. "First, please believe me... I don't think you'd hurt me. Back then..." I cough again.
Just get it over with already.
"So when I, when I was younger, I had this teacher... and he-he used to, hurt me I guess, he'd make me stay after class. He... well, anyway, I just wanted you to know I didn't see you. I panicked and my m-mind took me back, I didn't sleep well last night. I'm usually more well balanced and not s-such a lunatic I promise." I tack on at the end in an attempt to ease the tension in the room.
Aiden looked horrified by my explanation and floundered off the bed closer to me. "Oh my god Alex have you told others about this? He doesn't still teach does he. I can't imagine what you've been through." he spoke so fast I almost didn't catch everything he said.
"He doesn't work as a teacher anymore, and some people know, those that helped. Your mom and dad know as well, but I asked them not to say anything. I didn't want you all looking at me differently. Guess I can't do anything about you now." I look down, this is what I wanted to avoid; sure, he only knew a small part of the horrors that was my life, but he now knew enough to look at me with sympathy.
"Alex, I don't mean to look at you differently. It was just a shock... I don't think of you any different I promise, well maybe a little differently; I now think you're even stronger than I though before." At lightning speed my head raises to meet his gaze, I'm looking for his deceit, but all I see is kindness and truth.
"You don't think I'm disgusting, used?... I don't believe you." I shake my head. No way did he just hear that I was abused by my teacher and he doesn't think I’m trash.
"I would never think those things about you, christ Alex. None of this was your fault and that you're still functioning - for the most part." He lets out a little joke which shocks a laugh out of me "is commendable and it just makes you even more beautiful than you already are." His eyes grow at his own declaration and I copy his expression.
"Beautiful?" I whisper. No one has ever called me beautiful before.
A pink hue has coated Aidens cheeks "You know you're beautiful," he rolls his eyes "what I meant was... that I- that I admire you, yeah, admire you and how strong you are."
I don't say anything. I've never had this reaction before; not that I've told a butt load of people, but Aidens reaction is unlike any I've encountered before. Even his parents walked on eggshells around me for the first couple of visits at the hospital; in their defence, seeing me in a hospital after an attack is different to just being told a small portion of the truth.
The Spencer's really were understanding and kind, genuine people. I was immensely glad I had become a part of this family.
"For the record, I don't think I'm beautiful, but thank you anyway... and thank you for not judging or treating me any different. I'd be... grateful if you could keep this between me and you; what happened in class and what I just told you." I'm speaking to the carpet at first but as my words end, Aidens shoes come into focus. He's toe to toe with me by the time I look to him.
"Of course I will keep this secret, you can always come to me for anything and I'll always have your back, now... I'm going to hug you. Is that okay?"
I mumble out a shy yes before his strong arms engulf me and I'm cocooned in his embrace. I breathe in his clean aroma with a hint of aftershave. This smell could become highly additive, and I find myself nuzzling closer into his chest and wrapping my arms around him - an act I'd never done before, but was not put off in the slightest.
His chest was firm and strong and I felt... protected... like nothing was going to hurt me while he was there.
Is this what it felt like to trust someone and put your faith in them?
I could feel tears brewing behind my eyes and blinked them away before stepping out of his hold reluctantly.
"I- I'm going to get so-some sleep I th-think, will you come g-get me for-for dinner?" I stutter effected by his hug and embarrassed that I'd clutched onto him so tightly. I really needed some rest.
"Of course, I'll see you in a bit..." he'd opened the door slightly before he turned back and said quickly "let me set the record straight. You absolutely are beautiful. Believe me." Without waiting for a reply - not that I would have known what to say to that, he left, shutting the door behind him.
I could hear the ba-boom of my heart increasing and realised a small smile had crept on my face.
Shaking it off I headed to bed, I was definitely in need of some sleep.