Authors: Jennah Scott
Tags: #Young Adult
“Afraid of you? I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” I wasn’t afraid of her.
I was tired and pissed. Pissed that I’d found another person that wanted in, wanted to dig. Tired of being the poor, wounded guy that always got beat up even though I didn’t appear to be someone you could walk over. I worked out every day and had the muscles to prove it.
Well fuck them and fuck her.
I stood to leave but just like Stacey had done the day before, Chelsea shoved me back down. Damn girls. “Yes, afraid of me. You’re afraid I know too much about you.”
I looked directly into her stormy gray eyes. “And how would you know too much about me?”
“You still don’t remember me, do you?”
“That would be obvious, now wouldn’t it?” God, this girl didn’t give up. Even if we’d passed each other at the office how could she expect me to remember her?
“Okay, let me see if I can jog your memory.” She tapped the table behind us with her fingers. “Do you remember the day they brought in the Blackcap Basslet for the tank? You know the purple one with the black stripes…” I nodded; I knew exactly which fish she meant. I spent that night doing as much research as I could on it. “Anyway, you made fun of me because the only reason I liked it was because it was purple.”
Oh. Now I remembered her. That was right after I started seeing Dr. G. “You said purple was your favorite color.” It was her turn to nod. “I researched the fish that night. They still have it, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m there at least every other week with my brother.” There her brother was again.
“Why do you keep bringing up your brother?”
Chelsea reached out to touch my arm, and I let her. Her touch on my arm was light as a feather. “Because, I think I can help you.”
“Really? Well join the club, sweetheart. Besides, what does your brother have to do with helping me?”
“No one else knows what’s going on.” Chelsea still didn’t answer my question. I let it go for a now.
“And you do?” I snapped. She was here trying to help, but how did she know what I was going through if no one else did? Not even Dr. Greenberg, the one person that knew everything about me. Well almost everything. Even if she knew Dave gave me the bruises she didn’t know how or why.
Chelsea squared her shoulders and slid back from me. “Yes, I think I do.”
“That’s bullshit, and you know it.” I yanked my bag onto my shoulder and walked away without looking back. This time she didn’t stop me.
I sat in my car staring at the open baseball practice fields. Chelsea said she saw what happened and that she knew what was going on. Not even I knew what was happening. I tried to remember the details of the last three fights, find some kind of consistency. But I kept coming up empty. I slammed my hands against the steering wheel. Pain reverberated through my arms.
A rush of need to fight overwhelmed me. The small inside of my Ford Focus was too confining. It trapped me inside. Needing air, I shoved the door open and stumbled out. I turned a circle in the vacant lot before planting myself on the hood of the car with my arms crossed over my chest. A girl walked around the corner of the building and into my line of sight, but an angry film clouded my vision, blurring the details to the point that I couldn’t make out who approached.
I squinted my eyes in an attempt to figure out who was coming closer to me with their hands up in surrender. I shoved off the hood and grabbed their wrists just as recognition hit.
Chelsea squealed. “Luke it’s me, Chelsea. Let go.”
“No.” My voice was filled with rage.
“You’re hurting me. Please.” She dropped her voice to a whimper.
“You said you can help me, but no one else can. What makes you so fucking special?”
“Let me go and I will explain.” Her arms twisted beneath my grip as she struggled to break free of my hold.
I wanted to. I wanted to let her go. I had to fight it. “No.”
“Luke, please. You’re hurting me.” I felt her knees buckle as she slumped forward. To keep from letting Chelsea fall to the ground I wrapped my arms around her waist.
Slowly I released one wrist and then the other. My eyes remained focused on her. “Tell me.”
“You asked what my brother had to do with me helping you. Well, I think you guys both have the same problem.” Chelsea stepped out of my hold. She rubbed her wrists and I saw the red marks I’d left, worried they’d turn into bruises.
“Ah shit, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” I reached for her, but Chelsea pulled away. “I’m so tired of this shit. Look Chelsea, I know you think you can help me, but I don’t think you can. I don’t think anyone can.” I lowered my head and slid off the hood into a squat.
“If it’s what I think it is you can get help, Luke. I promise.”
“How do you know?”
“I told you, my brother.” Chelsea knelt in front of me placing her hands on either side of my face bringing us eye to eye. “I promise.”
I took a deep breath and let it out with slow deliberation. “I’ve gotta go.”
Chelsea didn’t try to argue, but instead let me turn away. As I moved around to the door she snapped my name like a curse. “Luke.” I turned and looked at her. “Answer one question for me.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Why are you being such an ass? I. Can.Help.You.”
“You can’t help me. You don’t even know me. Talking a couple of times in an office waiting room doesn’t count. So don’t try that rationale.”
“Maybe I don’t know you more than surface stuff, but I know my brother. And I know what I saw when you attacked Brandt.” With a glance over my shoulder I saw Chelsea standing with her hands on her hips, her chin tilted down and her eyes narrowed at me.
“I didn’t attack him.”
One hand came off her hip and she waggled a finger at me. “Huh uh. I don’t play word games. Look, I don’t want to argue with you, or accuse you of anything. It’s just that I know there’s more to this than a simple fight. And, like I keep saying, I want to help you.”
“I’ve gotta go.” I couldn’t figure out why she persisted. In my experience, no one helped someone they barely knew without an ulterior motive.
For the next hour I drove around town, unsure of where to go. I didn’t want to go home and talk to Mom. A flicker of hope crossed my thoughts. Stacey. With a quick U-turn I headed towards Dr.Greenberg’s office. Chelsea said she knew how to help me. Maybe she could talk to Dr. Greenberg and all three of them could come up with something.
Stacey sat behind the marble desk, her headset on, lips moving, filing her nails. When she looked up to see who entered she smiled at me.
I made my way across the foyer. “Hey, Stace. Is Dr. Greenberg available?”
She quit sawing at her nails. “Yes, she is. Do you need to see her?”
“Okay, let me call her. Have a seat.”
“Busy day today?” I asked.
“Not particularly. Please have a seat.” She turned her chair to face away from me.
I wasn’t sure what I’d done wrong. Stacey had never dismissed me before. Discreetly, at least I hoped, I checked my armpits for a bad smell. I’d sweat a lot during gym. It was possible I stunk even after a shower. But no, I was fine. Chelsea hadn’t acted like I had anything on my face or in my teeth.
Damn it. I was acting like a girl again. I wasn’t here to impress Stacey. It was time to get my shit straight and figure out what was wrong with me.
“Fine,” I said as she adjusted her headset and dialed a four-digit number.
I snatched a magazine off the end table as I walked to the leather sofa situated against the back wall. I didn’t pay much attention as I flipped through the pages. All the pieces were there, I just had to put them together to solve my mystery problem. I needed help from Stacey, Dr. G and Chelsea. A shift in the couch brought my awareness back to the present. Stacey sat next to me, her hands clasped in her lap.
“Research?” She asked looking down at my lap.
I followed her gaze to the page I’d stopped on. An ad for a breast-feeding pump. Apparently I managed to pick up the one and only parenting magazine then stopped on the most embarrassing page possible. “Oh, now you want to talk?” I closed the magazine and reached around her to place it on the table beside the loveseat.
Stacey let out a heavy sigh. “Luke, I told you I couldn’t.”
“Yeah I heard you say you couldn’t date. I don’t recall you saying you couldn’t talk or we couldn’t be friends.” I turned to look at her. “Or maybe that’s what I wanted to hear. But then again, if that was the case then I’m not sure why you offered to help me last night. Seems like that would be crossing the professional line you’ve drawn.”
She tilted her head to the side and scrunched up her face, little lines appeared at the corner of her eyes and on her forehead. I wanted so bad to reach up and smooth them out, but I resisted—barely. Rather than touch her, I shifted on the couch to try and relieve the pressure building in my jeans. This girl got to me whether I wanted her to or not. No doubt she’d read into it too much. “Can you do that? ‘Cuz in my experience, most guys I know can’t. They can’t stay just friends. There has to be more to it.”
“I can. I will. But can you?” This was what I wanted. I wouldn’t screw things up by not keeping my attraction to her under wraps.
Stacey stood up with her hands on her hips and chewed at her bottom lip. God, I loved the way she did that, the way her cheeks flushed with determination and nervousness. “Of course I can.”
“Good.” I leaned back and propped an ankle on my knee. My hands clasped behind my head. “Let’s try this again. Was your day busy?” There, I went for the adult version of boring small talk. She wanted friends? Well then that’s what she’d get.
Stacey sat back down next to me. “What happened to your eye?”
“Nothing.” Damn it. This wasn’t what I wanted to talk about.
“Luke, you can talk to me.”
“Fine. I ran into a doorknob. It just jumped out at me.” The sarcasm wasn’t lost on Stacey. She shook her head and let out a long controlled breath.
“Dr. Greenberg’s available. You can go back there now. Do you want me to go with you?”
“Are you going to answer my question?” I wiggled my eyebrows at her.
“Come on.” Stacey took off down the hall towards Dr. Greenberg’s office. “And to answer your question, I’ll let you know how my day’s been when you decide to tell me the truth about your eye. Until then, I guess you’ll have to figure it out yourself.”
“You didn’t have an appointment today. What brings you in?” She kept her back to me.
Stacey kept walking ahead of me. I imagined a smile on her face. “Luke, I’m serious.”
My shoulders dropped, I knew I couldn’t deflect her much longer. “I learned something, maybe, and I want to talk to Dr. Greenberg about it.”
“That’s fantastic. I hope…” The glow in her eyes, the excitement at the chance to make things better for me brought on emotions I wasn’t going to admit having. Another picture of Stacey flashed through my memory. Her wide eyes and shaky hands yesterday when I nearly lost control. Never again would I be the cause of her fear.
I pulled Stacey to a stop. “I’m sorry about yesterday. I wouldn’t have hurt you on purpose. You know that, right?” I needed to apologize to her again and make sure she knew I’d never hurt her. I wasn’t Dave and I had to prove it to her, somehow. Or maybe I needed to prove it to myself. Which one it was, I didn’t know.
“I know. Don’t worry about it.”
I did worry, and would continue to worry. Stacey wasn’t okay and I had a feeling that was as much the reason she distanced herself from me today as me asking her out yesterday.
“So what did you hear?”
“Umm, no offense, but I’d like to talk to Dr. Greenberg first.”
“Of course, I’m sorry I pried.” Stacey dropped her head to her chest.
I tucked my fingers under her chin and lifted it until our eyes met. “That’s not what I meant. I don’t want to get your—or my—hopes up. I’d rather get Dr. Greenberg’s opinion first. You weren’t prying, and I appreciate your concern.”
“Thank you.” We’d stopped in front of Dr. Greenberg’s office.
I felt my lip twitch and a smile form. I wasn’t sure she knew how relaxed she looked as we walked down the short hallway. I liked the relaxed Stacey far more than the uptight professional one. Her crystal blue eyes glittered in the sun that flickered off the windows and I fell deeper. I was screwed, totally and completely screwed. God I was such a girl sometimes. Thank goodness Dr. Greenberg opened the door and gave me a chance to save face.
“So, what brings you in today? You’re weekly appointment isn’t until tomorrow.”
I stood there staring at the empty hallway, imagining what life would be like if I weren’t worried about turning into an asshole. If no one had to be afraid that I’d hit them when they were around me. If Stacey could love me the way I loved her. No, not love. I didn’t love Stacey. We barely knew each other. Love was not an option.
“Luke. I do have other appointments today.” Dr. Greenberg tapped her foot.
I jumped at the sharpness in her voice. She was the only person that could snap at me and not bring out my worst personality traits.
“Oh…hi…um…yeah. I have some questions,” I stammered.
“Okay, come on in.” She held the door open and stepped back for me to enter. I didn’t miss the sharp look she tossed Stacey before closing the door.
I settled on the couch, whatever tension Stacey eased came back full force. If she and I were going to ever have a friendship or relationship it’d have to be without Dr. Greenberg knowing, otherwise I’d put Stacey and her job at risk. I refused to do that to her.