He could see her through the downstairs window walking across her bedroom floor, oblivious to the outside. He felt the blood sticking to his eyebrow and a bruise forming large on his cheek. He knew he should turn around and leave before she spotted him. She shouldn’t be buried with another one of his burdens, but he’d give anything to hear her voice; to take away all the bad, even just for a second of good.
He stopped to look at her. She was in pajama shorts and a hoodie, and he couldn’t help but feel another moment of hesitation. She took care of him time and time again. How long would it be before she turned him away like everyone else had?
Walking over to the glass pane, he lifted a knuckle to knock. She jumped up startled, a hand flying to her chest in relief when she saw it was him. But that quickly faded away when she recognized his demeanor. She ran over, swinging the window open so violently it almost hit him. “Dylan, what happened? Have you heard of a front door?”
“Your parents are here,” he mumbled and gestured for her to move away. “I don’t want ’em to see me.”
He hopped through the window and landed on her hardwood floor, almost losing his balance beneath him. “Who did this to you?” she demanded, grabbing his shoulders through his leather jacket. “Are you okay?”
“Emma…” he breathed, hands attaching to her wrists. He thought he could be stronger than this. Not so fucked up and weak, but one look at her and he couldn’t do it. His voice broke, “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have come here.”
“You’re crying,” she whispered, moving her hands to his cheeks. Her fingers brushed his cut lightly and he flinched on instinct rather than pain. “What’s going on? You’re scaring me.”
“I saw my mom today,” he started, trying to keep his voice at bay and quiet enough to not draw attention to her parents. “At the hospital, my brother broke his leg. And I knew I shouldn’t have gone, but I did.”
“What happened with your mom?”
“She said she wants me to come back,” Dylan answered letting his eyes fall closed. His chest weighed down with enough grief to suffocate. “And that she forgives me.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
Emma tugged him over to sit on the edge of her bed, her eyes never leaving him. He wiped at the tears roughly. He couldn’t help but feel the déjà vu from the night it all started.
“I don’t deserve it,” he said his voice heavy. “I’ve been on the outside for so long, how would I even know how to be a family again?”
“Did you really consider yourself a family before all this? Before your dad?”
He didn’t answer this time, but realized Emma was right. His dad was nothing but a bully and a bastard. In the end his dad may have shot the first dozen rounds, but Dylan happened to fire the last bullet.
“Come here,” she said suddenly now pulling him to her small, white bathroom. “You’re bleeding.” He followed her, hand in hand. “How does this fit in your story?”
“My roommate kicked me out,” he said looking away from her. She’d witnessed more than one of his altercations. Usually he had a plea of innocence, but this time it was all him. He threw the first punch if only because he knew he’d get hit back.
“What!” she exclaimed a little too loud. She scrunched up her nose in an apology and reached around him to close the door. “Where the hell are you gonna stay?”
“I’m not really concerned about that right now,” he said looking down as she started to clean his wound with whatever she had around the bathroom. It happened to be antiseptic and adhesive tape. She was prepared for anything.
“Right…” she said. She cleaned up around his eye quickly; as if she was used to the routine.
“Thank you, Emma.”
His face was only inches from hers and he could smell the mix of her shampoo and the lavender lotion she always had at hand. She pressed gently on the small bandages.
“Anytime,” she practically whispered, her fingers lingering a moment longer. “Whether you forgive yourself or not, she’ll love you all the same. You know that right?”
“And what about you?” He asked, looking down at her big, brown eyes. Her bangs were starting to grow long enough to fall over her eyelashes.
“What about me?”
“Would you love me the same?”
She didn’t say a word as he held his breath. His eyes drifted to her pink lips and they both melted forward. She kissed him, pulling his face closer, wrapping herself around him. He kissed her back, thinking how right it felt in the mix of all the wrong. He’d always wondered how her lips would taste or how her fingers would feel running through his hair, and it was all happening now.
Breathing the same air, their lips fell apart. She looked up at him with hopeful eyes as if she wasn’t quiet sure she made the right choice. He laughed, smiling at her. She laughed too and they stood there in the cluttered, cramped bathroom realizing that something finally shifted between them.
“You should stay here tonight,” she told him, her lips still hovering near his. He didn’t need to be asked twice, but yanked on her hoodie to kiss her again. If only he’d been doing this all along.