It was Tiny who found me. He came in, asking if I could put in an order for him, and saw me, a sobbing, crumpled mass leaning against the desk. He did what he normally did when he found me in the midst of a breakdown. "I'll go get Steve," he said, and turned for the door.
"No!" I said, trying to regain composure. "I'll be fine" I struggled to my feet, shaky legs reluctant to support me. Tiny came over and helped me sit down.
"Please, Rob," I said, using his given name to drive home how serious I was, "don't tell anyone you found me like this."
"I won't," he said. "Do you need anything?"
"How about the past week to do over?" I muttered.
"What?" he asked, not having caught what I said.
"Nothing. Thanks, I'm fine." I mustered a smile and patted his arm. He nodded and left. I wiped my face and tried to clear my nose. I almost had myself presentable when Kevin came in to hand over his checks and money.
"You OK?" he asked.
"Yeah, fine. Need a ride home?"
"Yes, please." I started checking his checks, but I could tell he was still watching me.
"Ahnka, you practically beat out of me that I had cancer. Please, tell me what's wrong."
"Kevin, nothing is wrong. And even if there was something wrong, it wouldn't be nearly as serious as when you knew you were sick and didn't tell anyone. And besides, you know I can take you anytime."
"I asked you to after we saw Ed and Natalie in the cooler, but you turned me down."
In spite of myself, I had to laugh.
"Thanks, Kev. I needed that."
"I could tell. You're so upset your neck is splotching."
"My neck is splotching?" This confused me. I didn't splotch when I got upset.
"Yeah, there's a great big splotch on the side, sort of towards the front." I put my hand up to my neck. "No, down a bit, a bit more to the front..there."
I pressed down and winced.
"Ow. That's sore. I wonder what.oh...that's right.."
"What?" Kevin asked.
"I, uh.burnt myself with the curling iron." I hoped he took my pause for embarrassment, and didn't look at the fact that my hair wasn't curled.
"Oh," he said. I could tell he didn't buy it, but was willing to leave it at that. "I'll let you finish."
"OK. I shouldn't be much longer."
When I was alone again, I brought my fingers to my neck and ran them over the spot where Steve had bit me. It was starting to swell, and I'm pretty sure I could feel teeth dents. It amazed me that I didn't register how much that had to have hurt when it happened, but then I thought of what else was going on at the time, the way Steve was fucking me..
I had to steer myself back to work, before my mind took a dangerous trip down that road. It was hard to concentrate, but I managed. Natalie and Ed stopped in to say goodnight, and a few minutes later, so did Tiny. He asked if I was sure I was OK, and I assured him I was, told him to have a good night and to be careful going home. He smiled and left, and I was able to finish up.
I went out front and found Kevin playing the South Park pin ball machine. It was kind of funny. Every time the game would spout one of its lewd comments, he'd blush.
"Which ball are you on?" I asked.
"First," he said. "You want to play? You can use one of my balls, I don't mind."
I wasn't sure if he intended to sound suggestive or what. I decided to hope I was playing with sweet innocent Kevin.
"Uh, no thanks."
He played on for a few minutes, sighing as his ball went between the two flippers. He turned and walked over to where I stood, looking me deep the eyes, and then hugging me.
"I'm here if you need me," he said. I hugged him back, thinking of a time not so long ago where I said the same words to him.
"Thanks," I said. "But really, I'm fine."
"Are you sure? You've been sort of weird since you and Jeff broke up."
"It really has nothing to do with that," I said honestly.
"So there IS something wrong! Ah-ha! I knew it! So what is it?"
"Never mind." I pulled away and started towards the door. Kevin followed me. I locked up, and then headed towards my Jeep. Kevin loaded his bike in the back, then climbed into the passenger seat and buckled his seat belt.
As I drove, Kevin sighed heavily.
"What?" I asked.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," I warned.
"Do what?" he asked, looking like a choir boy.
"Let me put it to you this way: I've already got someone playing the 'turn the situation around' game. Don't you start, too. I'm liable to get angry."
"And I wouldn't like you when you're angry."
"No, you wouldn't. Please, Kevin, just leave it. If, and when, I want to talk, I know where to find you."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't badger you about it." We rode in silence until we reached his house. I got out with him while he pulled his bike from the back.
"Thanks for the ride," he said while I shut the gate.
"Not a problem." I was about to say goodnight, but I didn't really want to go home just yet. "Kevin, can I come in for a bit? I think I want to talk."
"Yeah," Kevin said. "Come on." He leaned his bike on the side of the house, then pulled his keys from his pocket and unlocked the door. I followed him his living room and sat down on the couch. He disappeared into the kitchen for a minute, coming back with two longnecks. I took a long swallow and then told Kevin what had happened, not getting too detailed. There were just some things that Kevin didn't need to know, after all. When I was done, Kevin took a sip of his beer and said "That's pretty fucked up."
"Ain't it though?"
"So what are you gonna do?"
"I know what I <should> do, but I don't know what I <will> do. The person I go to for help in these situations probably wouldn't be too keen on helping me this time."
Kevin looked at me over his beer, his blue eyes bright, and in a way, too wise for someone so young, and said "You never know."
I let that kick around my brain for a minute, the roots of an idea taking hold.
"I think I'm going to get going," I said, setting my bottle down. "It's been a long day."
"I understand," he said, rising with me and walking me to the door. "You OK to drive?"
"I live a block up," I said. "I'll be fine. Thanks." I smiled and left. I drove home, checked my mail, and let myself in. Sooty rammed into my leg, purring loudly. I filled his food and water dishes, then took a shower.
When I was done, I wiped of the mirror and looked at my neck. There was a large, purple bruise near my jugular, slightly puffy, complete with faint teeth marks. I looked at my make-up kit and knew that nothing I owned would cover it, so I rummaged through a drawer looking for a scarf or a choker or something I could use to cover my neck. I didn't find anything that was appropriate for going out at 3 in the morning, so I shoved everything back in the drawer. I combed out my hair and braided it, then went into my bedroom to get dressed. I found a sleeveless turtleneck that I hoped would cover the sucker-bite, and slipped into it, a pair of jeans, and some sandals. I spotted the pair of glasses I had found while cleaning and grabbed them from my nightstand, glancing at the clock while I did. I had taken longer it in shower than I thought I had, running through my mind what I was going to say. I still didn't have a clue, really. But I figured (hoped) it would come to me when I needed it. Sooty jumped up on the bed and demanded to be petted, so I scratched him for a while, then told him I had to go. "Mommy needs to eat some crow. Don't want to be late for dinner." The cat looked at me like I was crazy, which was possibly true. I was, after all, talking to a cat.
I headed towards the door, grabbing the pile of Steve's stuff from the corner of my couch. If things didn't work out, at least I could say I gave him his stuff back in a reasonable amount of time. I made sure I had my keys and everything and opened the door, only to find a very pissed, very drunk Steve.
"I was just..." I started, but he cut me off.
"I don't believe you!" he yelled pushing me back into the living room and kicking the door shut behind him.
"Steve, you're drunk," I said. I don't know why I felt it necessary to point it out. I certainly didn't think it would do any good.
"You're damn right I'm drunk!" He was still walking towards me, and I was still backing up. I felt the arm of my couch hit the back of my knees before I fell back. I was going to roll off, hoping to put a little distance between me and Steve, but he fell on top of me and started leaving sloppy, angry kisses on my face and neck. He was murmuring something about Kevin and Tiny, but I didn't catch it all. I was a bit scared. I had never seen Steve like this, and his kisses were getting rougher as his hands roamed my body, gripping my clothes, groping my chest.
"Steve, stop, please," I said, pushing against his chest.
"Love you. Have for years." His hand went under my shirt and up to my breast, trying to get under the cup.
"Steve, please.don't. Not like this."
At first I thought that my words had reached his reason, but I soon realized that he had passed out, his hand up my shirt, his face buried in my neck.
"Steve?" I said softly, trying to shake him. Nothing. I tried to push
him up, to no avail. I was too firmly pinned between him and the couch
to slide out. "Steve." I said it a bit louder. All he did was nuzzle further
into my neck and snore lightly. Well fuck, I thought. If having my drunken
best friend who I was really in love with but who was currently pissed
at me passed out on top of me, pinning me in a very uncomfortable position
wasn't bad enough, Sooty decided that Steve's back looked like a comfy
place to sleep, so he jumped up, turned a few circles and laid down, his
tail hanging over Steve shoulder and tickling my nose. "Traitor," I said
to the cat, then resigned myself to the fact that this is how I was going
to be for a few hours, at least. I did my best to get comfortable, closed
my eyes, and eventually drifted off to sleep.