Judah hits the breaks, which makes me strain forward. We’re sitting in the parkway right in front of his house. I don’t feel safe, but I can’t go anywhere else.
Judah pushes the car door all the way, nearly tearing it off, as it faintly swings back and forth. I’m suddenly scared for my life. I sit still, even though my bones are shaking.
I stare at the side of his rigid face.
“Get out of the motherfucking car, Rose!” he shouts suddenly.
I jump, frightened. I exit the car and softly push the door shut. Tears begin to brew in my eyes. My head feels hot and heavy. I try to take my time breathing out, as I approach Judah to follow him up the steps. It’s no walk in the park—it’s torture.
Maybe I should have run off, when Judah was beating up that guy. But then again, he would chase me down.
We both walk inside the house. I try to calm my nerves, and tell myself everything’s going to be okay, if I just stay in his shadow. My cold clammy hands rub together.
For a long moment, Judah is a statue—with his back to me.
Suddenly, Judah pitches a glass lamp. It flies against the wall and smashes into infinite pieces. I gasp, covering my mouth. My body freezes over. He yells and curses. Then he grabs the side-table and throws it across the room, where it then hits the wall and breaks.
I back up, pressing my back to the door. I could run out now, but I’m too shocked to move or go anywhere. I clasp both hands over my mouth, holding back panicky tears.
What’s gotten into him? He’s scaring me and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know why he’s so angry...
“What the fuck, Rose?!” he yells, punching a hole in the wall.
My body is taken over by an incessant tremor. Judah picks up one of the bar stool seats and flings it, too. When it crashes to the ground, my cry becomes audible.
Judah breathes heavily, watching me. I quickly wipe my wet face.
“Were you going to leave me? Is that it?” his brows furrow. Then he shouts ear-piercingly loud, “Answer me!”
Startled, I muffle my shriek in my hands. I slightly shake my head. He’s a fair distance away from me, but I can still feel his hard breaths blowing on my frozen skin. His voice still booms in the apartment.
“Is it... Is it because I scare you—I freak you out?”
His dark grey eyes bully me into looking at them. I shake my head, even though I’m lying.
“Is it because I’m a monster? I’m not good for you?” he continues to ask me.
He stares at me. It’s silent in the room, though I can hear blood rushing up into my head and a ringing in one ear.
“N-no... You’re not a-a m-monster,” I stammer, casting my eyes on the dark wooden floor.
He takes two large steps towards me. Then, he swiftly grips my arms, pulling my stiff body off the door. I whimper from his rough hold. But when I look into his eyes, he looks just as terrified as I do.
“What is it then?” he hisses.
“Nothing, there’s nothing.”
He slammed his hand against the wall on each side of my head, trapping me in his tension.
“—Don’t hurt me,” I blurt out.
If I hadn’t opened my eyes, I wouldn’t have seen his expression change. His hands take my head in between them, bring it closer to him. In reaction, I put my hands over his.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” his low voice shakes, as if he has difficulty saying the words. “I don’t want you to go...”
The anger in his eyes dissipates. I see something different, though I don’t know exactly what it is. He looks into my eyes anxiously, like I’m about to fade away. I try to take a calm breath. Whatever Judah thinks is eating him up. It shows through the cold droplets of sweat sitting on his lowered brows. He looks like he’s being smothered by his own thoughts.
Judah then embraces me tightly, holding on to my body, as he falters to his knees. His weight drags me down with him. He buries his face in my chest. My balance is lost, and my back slowly glides downward against the door. My arms wrap around Judah, trying their best to support him and his demons.
“Rose,” he says under his breath, “Don’t leave me.”
Tears roll down my sticky cheeks. I can’t quite recognize my emotions. Why do I feel so linked—bounded to Judah? Somehow he’s hurting inside, and I can’t take it. I feel obligated to mend the hidden pain. He’s aggressive, because he holds it in. It’s hard to watch him like this.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I reassure, although I’m not sure.
“Promise me...” he grips onto me tighter.
“I promise... I’ll stay with you,” I nod, snuffling.
“You know I need you,” he pulls.
“It’s okay. I’m right here,” I tell him.
I caressed his head stroking my fingers through his hair. Just when I believed the storm to be over, Judah’s right arm propels into the door, forming a hole of cracked up wood. He keeps rapidly punching his hand into it, over and over, as he yells in my chest. I shut my eyes, letting bigger tears to fall out.
I seize his large wrist in my hand, before he breaks his knuckles off. I hear him wheezing his breaths out. I have to use all of my pulling strength to slow his punches down.
“Judah, I want to go to bed,” I say out loud, trying to drown out the voices in his head, “Let’s go to bed. Let’s go sleep. I-in the morning—”
“Rose,” he sighs.
“In the morning, I’ll make us breakfast. Okay?”
His arm finally becomes lax.
“Rose...” he calls me.
I clear my throat, “Do you like pancakes? Maybe I’ll make French toast. I don’t know what you like. Tell me.”
He doesn’t say anything.
The thick batter sizzles until it fried in a solid circle. I reserve the fluffy ones for Judah, and give myself the pancakes that aren’t all that round. I place the plates on the kitchen table. The fragmented glass is in the way, on the floor. I just tip my toes around the mess.
Judah is asleep in his room, thankfully. It’s fairly early in the morning. My mind couldn’t quite rest, because of all my questions and worries. I also stayed up to watch Judah fall asleep, which took all night. His eyes only closed two hours ago. I guess it’s like this with him all the time.
I grab the juice jug out of the fridge to pour both of us some orange juice. Judah’s fridge might as well be empty. There are only four eggs, leftover Chinese box, a juice jug, milk, half a stick of butter, a beer bottle, and three soda cans.
I can feel my face drooping down and my eye bags forming. I yawn, as a consequence. After I toss the pan in the sink, I see Judah sluggishly walk down the stairs. His eyelids only give him a thin line of vision. I give him a smile, even though my heart is still unsettled.
I’m afraid, because he might still be in a fragile state. I don’t want him to go under again.
“I hope you like pancakes,” I beam.
But Judah’s head turns towards the living room, staring at the damage he’s made the night before. He’s stays like this for a long while.
“Judah,” I say, “Your plate is here.”
He finally walks over to me. I can feel my heart rushing to beat faster. Judah sits at the table.
“I added cinnamon.”
His voice cracks, “Looks good.”
I open my mouth to say something else, but he takes the fork and scuffs down large pieces at a time. I quickly put my butt on the chair. I cut my food into small triangles, but keep my eyes on Judah.
“If you keep staring at me, sweet cheeks,” he speaks with some food in his cheek, “I’ll do something about it.”
Even though his expression is serious, I feel relieved that he’s back to his normal self. I can’t help but grin.
“What’s so funny?” asks and takes another bite.
I shake my head, “Nothing.”
“Where’s the syrup?”
“You don’t have any... I forgot to check before making,” I sigh, looking back to the kitchen.
When I look back at Judah, more questions arise in my head. I want to know about the shootout. I want to know what happened to him. I want to know why that random person brought me home.
“Last time I saw you... You could’ve been shot. What happened?”
“Nothing,” he answers, before guzzling his juice.
“Let’s not talk about it.”
I close my mouth. He gets up and walks to the window. After a while, he’s smoking a cigarette alone. The lines on his shoulders are hard and pointed. He stoops his head down.
I fold my arms onto the table.
“When people care about each other,” I begin to explain, “They talk to each other.”
Judah’s cigarette hangs off the tip of his lip. He stares out the window. I watch his brows come down, shadowing his grey orbs.
“I don’t care.”
I rub my shoulders to rid of the chill going through my body.
“Don’t you care... about me?” I ask, despite myself.
Judah’s stare shifts to the ground beneath his feet. Smoke leaks out his mouth and spreads around him.
“Yeah,” he answers quietly.
My heart jumps, so I hold my breath. Judah frowns, which gets me thinking crazily. I think to myself that maybe he wants to take back what he said. Maybe he doesn’t really mean it. So the bridge of my nose collects heat.
But Judah opens his mouth again, speaking slowly.
“I think... I care a little too much. I can’t help it—you make me like that.”
There’s not enough oxygen in this room. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that it’s me. What did I do? I pinch my skin, trying to stay within reality. My lungs take a breath. Before I can say a word, Judah’s deep voice goes on.
“You make me selfish—you make me want you to myself. You make me...” Judah doesn’t finish his sentence.
Instead, he gazes at me. My nails dig into my shoulders now. What is he saying? I don’t understand. My brain can’t process this. So many feelings are going through me at once.
All I know is that my body desires to hold him close, despite myself—despite it all.
Judah’s lips turn into a small grin, as soon as his phone buzzes. He doesn’t answer it, perhaps because he already knows who is calling or knows what he must go do.
“You have to go?” I sigh.
He throws his cigarette through the window. His head shakes in conflict. I twist my body side to side, stretching my backbone. Then I tuck my hair behind my ears.
“I’ll wait for you,” I say.
It’s the truth. It’s what my heart tells me to do.
Judah’s hand rubs his face down and draws up into his hair. Without responding or even opening his mouth, Judah steps upstairs.
I decide to turn around and clean up the mess in the kitchen. I stand in front of the sink and start washing the dishes. In a minute, Judah comes down, dressed and ready to head out. I feel my face shaping into a solid pout. But I try my best to fix it when I feel Judah nearing. His hand takes my waist and gives it a gentle squeeze. Feeling ticklish under his touch, I lift my shoulders to my ears.
Judah presses his lip on the apple of my cheek. I feel the heat of his breath on my skin.
“I’ll see you tonight,” he says.
I nod my head. Judah then retreats back and heads towards the door. I look up at the empty room, which seems less darker.
Mara hugs me tight for the fifth time. I already explained to her that I’m fine and all. I also tried to make the whole incident sound unimportant, but she can’t control her growing concern.
“Are you sure you’re alright? You were gone for so long,” she says, letting me go.
“I was mostly with Judah,” I shrug.
I had to get out of the house, otherwise I would have gone mad. I point to the top level of the dormitory.
I mumble, “Which reminds me—I need to fetch some clothes.”
Mara hits my shoulder, following me up the stairs to my dorm.
“So you’re living with this guy now, huh?” she smiles with her eyes, hooking onto my arm.
“No,” I shake my head, “Just staying with him for a while.”
I twist the doorknob, shivering from the not-so-far-away memory.
“What did you do after I was taken away?” I ask Mara.
“You won’t believe it, but... I went straight to student council—they did nothing, not even a mention in the school newspaper. I got really worried and went to the police station, but as soon as I said the word ‘gang’, they shook their heads and said they can’t do anything—that they have too many missing cases.”
I’m not surprised. That’s the reality of the world we live in. With the amount of other girls I saw tied up in that warehouse... No one is looking for them.
“I was really lucky I had Judah,” I say.
She swoons at his name and falls dramatically on my bed.
“Oh, I wish I had a Judah,” she signs.
I give her a grimace. I wish I could explain to her that he’s not a handsome Ken doll. He’s a damaged devil with bipolar behaviour and profound problems. I know I can’t fix him. I wouldn’t want to take on that task, anyway. But if I’m what he needs to alleviate the pain... then I’m okay with that.
I open my drawer and stuff some clothes in my bag pack. My eyes spot my old books from last semester. I should go to the academic adviser’s office. I should try to find out what I could do to get back on track—if it’s possible at this point. I grow tired just thinking about school.
“Are you ever going top open this?” Mara asks.
I turn around and watch her grab the little pink gift box that I left on the shelf long ago. Well, it hasn’t really been that long. Actually, I’ve only known Judah for a couple of months. Though, I feel like I’ve known him my whole life. I’ve never gotten so close to someone so quickly.
Mara drops the satin pouch, which reads Piaget, in her hand and unties the knot. I don’t stop her—I think it’s best to get it over with. She pulls out a velvety black box and opens it excitedly. We’re met with a rose gold pendant.
“This looks expensive,” she comments.
“I don’t know why he’d get me this...” I pout and stare at the small diamond in the middle of the shiny golden petals.
I take the box in my hand and look at it closely. Mara unfolds the little note that comes with it.
“Certification of authentication,” she reads.
Instead of listening to her read on the details of the jewelry, I clip it around my neck. Something flutters in my stomach. So, I distract myself by zipping my bag and hauling it over my shoulders.
“I got to run,” I say.
“What?” Mara looks, “Already? You just got here!”
“I know, I know,” I say, hugging her again.
Still, I walk towards the door. I came to see my friend, but I couldn’t stay.
Mara calls out, “If any of Judah’s friends are looking for a girl to spend money on too, tell them I’m waiting here!”