Samantha didn’t question her on the way home. When she got home Samantha just held her so tight it almost hurt. She sobbed into her, letting all the misery pour from her.
“Whatever it is, we’ll get through it, Lia,” she promised.
She needed that, for someone who cared for her and didn’t know a damn thing about anything to promise her that everything was going to be all right. She wanted so badly to believe it.
After a few glasses of wine, her tension had started to ease slightly. She didn’t feel so numb, and she’d finally stopped crying, which seemed like progress.
Samantha and Aaliyah had settled in her living room, jazz playing quietly in the background as they curled up on her two large couches. She covered up with a blanket and held a big wine glass between her palms. A comfortable silence had settled between them.
“I’m sorry for ruining your evening.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m always here for you. Day or night. Bitches first, okay?”
“Thank you. That means a lot.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Samantha canted her head to the side.
The past couple months events flashed through her mind. First Nathan, and now this. As soon as one burden had been lifted, another replaced it. Despite her complete and utter breakdown since arriving, she’d avoided telling her anything. She assumed something had gone terribly wrong with Jason.
“Not really,” She finally said.
“Maybe you should. I’ve never seen you like this, honey.”
She was a mess, true. She looked like hell but she was grateful that she didn’t have to put on a happy face when she was with Samantha.
“Did Jason say something to you?” Her voice brought her back to the present, and when she looked up she was frowning with evident concern.
Aaliyah closed her eyes, pressing her fingers to her temples. Tears threatened and she suppressed a sob.
“Lia.” Her voice sharpened. “What did he do?”
“It’s not him, it’s me. I…I really don’t want to talk about it, Samantha. Not right now, anyway.”
“I think if people are friends, they should be honest with each other.”
She swallowed hard, trying to hide the emotions that welled as she searched for the right words. She hadn’t thought this out at all. Everything had happened so quickly. “He hurt me so bad. So bad.”
She searched her eyes, wishing that somehow she could just know—just understand without her telling her. Her face seemed pale and stoic, giving her no indication of what she might be thinking of her.
Retelling that day and describing Nathan made her mouth dry and her heart lurch around in her chest, but she kept it together. Half the time Aaliyah couldn’t look at her. She’d stare at the wall, counting cracks, and recite her abuses like she was listing the ingredients to a recipe from hell.
When she looked up at Samantha, the pity in her eyes made her even more sick to her stomach.
Samantha stared at her, her hand cupped over her mouth.
Tears stung her eyes, her throat thick with pent up emotion. “It is killing me. It is killing me that I can’t call my best friend. I know she’s worried sick and I can’t help but worry about what Nathan might do to her if he finds out that she helped me, or even Clay for that matter.”
Samantha’s phone dinged.
J: Is Aaliyah all right?
She silenced her phone, ignored Jason’s message, and turned her focus back to Aaliyah.
Aaliyah looked up, worried. “Samantha, you have to promise me you won’t say anything to Jason. Promise me.”
She nodded quickly and said, “I promise. I swear it.”
She sipped her coffee, her thoughts blanked out by the television blaring in front of her. She startled at a knock. Samantha looked up from her phone and went to the door.
“I swear, I’ve never seen a more stubborn man than you are.”
Aaliyah sat up, peering over the top of the couch. Jason stood tall in the doorway, seemingly undeterred by Samantha’s threatening posture.
“I came to see Aaliyah,” he said calmly.
“Jason, I’ve already told you—”
“C’mon. Just one minute Sam, that’s all I need.”
A tense moment passed between them before Aaliyah spoke.
“It’s okay, Samantha. Come in.”
Jason came into the living room, looking more than tired. The long night had left heavy bags under his eyes. She shut off the noise of the TV.
“Samantha, why don’t you head home to Matthew.”
“Are you sure?”
Aaliyah gave her a weak smile. “I’m sure.”
They hugged their goodbyes, and Samantha told her she would see her at work Monday and walked off, leaving her and Jason alone.
“About last night…” he started.
Aaliyah wasn’t comfortable with the violence that occurred between Jason and the greasy haired man. She didn’t like to watch fights, and she didn’t like to see anyone get hurt. She knew Jason was angry, but she also knew he wanted to protect her. And as uncomfortable as the situation made her feel, watching Jason take down her assailant with ease made her feel just a bit safer when she was with him.
“I’m sorry about that. I shouldn’t have left like that.” She took a deep breath, wishing they could erase that part of the past. “I was...scared.”
He frowned. “Of me?”
“No. Of him…I can’t explain it...not right now at least.” she murmured apologetically, twisting her hands and fingers in front of her.
He closed his eyes, as if relieved.
“Would you like some coffee?” She asked.
She sauntered into the kitchen and poured him a cup of coffee, adding copious amounts of sugar and cream, just the way he liked it. He thanked her and took a sip, feeling a little more ready to start the day.
A comfortable silence fell as they drank their coffee.
Her long brown hair was pulled up into a messy bun and she looked effortlessly cute in an oversized off the shoulder top and black leggings.
He turned and leaned against the counter. “How are you doing? I wanted to see you sooner, but Samantha insisted that you needed your space.”
“I’m upset, I won’t lie,” She said. “To be honest, I wouldn’t mind giving that man a piece of my mind right about now.”
“I can imagine.”
She traced the rim of her cup. “I feel so stupid. Like I should have seen it coming.”
He drank from his coffee and set it back down carefully. “There’s no way you could have known.”
She shook her head. “I was careless. I got drunk and I put myself at risk.”
“I’m just glad you were there. If you hadn’t showed up when you did, he...” She trailed off, lost in the memory of that night.
“I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing,” he said quietly.
“You know how grateful I am to you? What you did? There is no way that I could put that into words.”
’’It’s okay, no need to thank me or anything else...no matter how many times, I will always be there for you.”
Holy Crap. This man was charming as hell.
“And you? Are—Are you okay? He managed to get in a few good hits.”
Her gaze dropped to the floor, her cheeks turning pink. When she peeked up at Jason through her lashes, he had a hint of a smile on his lips.
“Just a few bruises. Nothing to worry about.” He reassured her.
“Good. I’m glad.” She said, then shook her head quickly. “I-I mean not about the bruising but I’m glad that you’re okay.”
Her heartbeat was accelerating, and her cheeks were heating up again. Nervously, she tucked her loosened hair behind her ear.
“Anyway, that’s all I came down to say. I just wanted to make sure you were all right.”
He pushed off the counter and placed his empty coffee cup into the sink before turning to leave.
“Jason,” She called, causing him to pause.
She hesitated. “Um, are you free for dinner tomorrow night?”
He paused. “I don’t have any plans. Why?”
She swallowed the knot in her throat. “How do you feel about Lasagna? I mean it’s the least I can do after what you did for me last night.”
He smiled. “That sounds perfect.”