She stood in nothing but her underwear and one of Dylan’s old sweatshirts that was covered in bleach stains. The boy is such a mess, she thought while looking for some kind of snack to bring back to his room.
“See something you like?” a voice said behind her. Emma turned around ready to give a suggestive answer, when she jumped back seeing it was Jeff, not Dylan.
“Um,” she stumbled back, hitting the fridge. “No, I was – um – I was just heading back to Dylan.”
“Are you scared of me or something?” he asked, looking offended but still stepping closer. Her striped socks were slippery against the tile. She glanced over at Dylan’s door willing him to walk out and save her.
“No, of course not,” she laughed in attempt to play off her nervousness. “You just surprised me.”
“I can do more than that,” he smiled and tried to close the distance between them. She put up her hand to shove him away.
“You need to stop,” she demanded, her voice sharp. “Seriously, you’re crossing so many lines. I’m with your brother.”
“Yeah, but, really, how long is that gonna last?” he smiled down at her making her insides churn. “You and I both know you can do better.”
“Did you really just fucking say that to me?” Emma asked, her voice rising quickly. A kind of anger she didn’t recognize flashed across his face, frightening her. She was suddenly painfully aware of what little clothing she was wearing.
He grabbed her wrists faster than she could blink, pushing her up against the open fridge. The cold was numbing her legs as her heart beat wildly in her chest. Her fears were no longer irrational, but very real.
Fear seized her body as she went to scream for Dylan, but his hand clamped down on her mouth killing whatever cries she wanted to make. She quickly realized Jeff was stronger than he looked as she struggled to break free. She managed to bring her knee up and bite down on his palm simultaneously, drawing blood.
“Dylan!” she screamed loudly in the quiet room the second he ripped his hand away in pain. He released her wrists as he leapt backwards clutching his hand and Dylan’s door flew open.
“What’s wrong?” he asked emerging in just his sweats and bare feet. His eyes cut to Jeff’s and an anger she knew well took over.”What the fuck? What’d you do to her?”
Dylan yanked her by the arm and shoved her behind him. Usually, she’d yell at him for being so rough, but with the way Jeff was looking at her all her thoughts disappeared. Jeff didn’t just look angry, but menacing.
Her hands were on Dylan’s shoulder trying to hold him back. She didn’t want a fight, she just wanted to leave. Too late, she thought as Dylan swung his fist, connecting hard with Jeff’s jaw. His body slammed against the refrigerator, jostling loud enough to wake up the whole house.
Dylan’s mom came running downstair, her youngest son behind her, “What’s going on down here?!”
“Dylan,” she whispered, tugging him backwards with all the strength she had. It still didn’t do much. “Your mom.”
“Emma?” his mom shouted, her attention on her now. She tried covering herself up behind Dylan, but there was o point. “What are you doing here? You’re spending the night? In my house?”
“Mom please,” Dylan started in, but Jeff cut him off quickly.
“I tried to tell him, but he flipped out like always,” Jeff said so convincingly that Emma almost believed him. She felt a fire in her belly at his words about ready to start throwing punches of her own.
“You’re a fucking asshole!” Emma screamed at Jeff now and lunged towards him, but Dylan grabbed her around the waist to pull her away.
“He hit me for Gods sake!” Jeff yelled back dramatically for his mom’s benefit.
“Get her out of my house!” Dylan’s mom demanded , a hand on Jeff’s shoulder. Emma thought she was going to be sick the way his mom was looking at them; how she treated Dylan when there was a monster standing to her left.
His mom still shouting and his little brother cowering behind her legs, Dylan dragged Emma back to his room.
“How are you letting this happen?” she pushed him off as he frantically started throwing her clothes in his back pack. “He was gonna-” she couldn’t say it out loud. “You’re just gonna let him get away with it? And let her treat you like that?”
“Right now all I want is for you to get out of here,” he stopped what he was doing and grabbed her face in his hands. “I’m not gonna let him touch you and I sure as hell don’t want you in this house. There’s a lot you don’t know about him.”
“But-” she protested, her throat tightening. She was shaking. What hasn’t he told me?
“Hey, I asked you what you love most about me, right?” he asked her, eyes steady and shining blue in the dark room. She kept nodding, attempting to control her breathing. “What I love most about you is everything. Every little, aggravating thing. Okay? Remember that.”
“What are you going to do to him?” she whispered realizing what he was trying to tell her. No matter what happened next, it was because he loved her.