If Chris would’ve had to made a guess based on Seth’s general behavior, he would’ve said that it was him who was cheating. He worked late all the time. He was disinterested in sex. He pretty much acted as though Chris was his roommate instead of his husband.
But he knew Seth. And Seth loved him far too much to even consider cheating on him.
Which just made Chris feel that much worse.
“Daddy?” Sophia asked him, pulling Chris from his thoughts about his husband’s possible infidelity as he fastened his watch around his wrist. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Uh,” he looked at his cell phone, at the three new text messages from Ben. “If it really is only a minute. I have to leave soon.”
She looked crestfallen and God that broke his heart. She was his daughter, he little princess, and the light in her eyes just shattered with the fact that he had absolutely no time left for her. But he had already made plans and he was sure that Sophia would be there by the time he got back. They could talk then, he reasoned. Because that was the only thing stopping him from completely going insane with the thought that he hated everything about himself.
“It’s sort of important.”
“What’s it about?”
She hesitated long enough to make Chris want to tell her that he’ll just talk to her tomorrow.
“Oh, God. This isn’t the part where you tell me that you’re pregnant, right?” he gasped, blinking at her and watching her falter.
“No!” she said. “No, it’s nothing like that. It’s just-”
“Sweetie,” he interrupted, just as he read another text from Ben. “Can it wait until tomorrow? I’ve really gotta get going, okay? I promise. First thing tomorrow, you and I are going to talk.”
Her eyes adverted to the ground and solemnly, she nodded. “I guess so.”
It was that weekend that Ethan picked her up for a date once he got off of work. Her father never talked to her like he promised, but she had halfway been expecting that. He had been so off lately and it was really irritating, honestly. He had told her to tell her dads that they were planning on seeing a movie. Gave her movie times, let her pick a title, everything. She was really excited to go out for once, considering she didn’t have to babysit.
So it was that Friday that her dads wished her a good time as she went soaring out of the house and into Ethan’s car, getting soaked by the rain on the way. “Hi,” she breathed, smiling at him. He leaned over the center console and kissed her sweetly.
“You look beautiful.”
“My hair is ruined.”
He grinned at her, running his fingers through her long brown hair. Ethan turned his attention back to the car that he just put in gear, gliding it down the street. It wasn’t long before Sophia realized that they were going the wrong way.
“Ethan,” she said. “The movie theater is down-”
“Oh, babe, did you actually think we were going to a movie?” he asked her, glancing from her to the road then back again. She looked at him, confused and blinked.
“Y-yeah, I did. Where are we going for real then?”
“To my house. It’s empty. I figured we could just hang out. Have some fun.” And he smirked again. For a few whole seconds, Sophia hated him. Ever since the first time they had had sex, he had been like this. And she did not like it at all. She knew what he was insinuating and honestly, she was really hurt by the prospect of it. He had lied to her parents, tricked her into doing the same, and gotten her hopes up that he had actually wanted to take her on a real date for the first time in a long time.
“I don’t want to,” she murmured. “Not tonight.”
Suddenly, he was angry, snapping his face back to her. “What do you mean you don’t want to?”
“I just…” she swallowed hard, trying to find the words and loosen them from her constricted throat. “I just don’t want to, Ethan.”
He shook his head, silently fuming. This was the part that she hated the most. The unknowing. Was he going to just yell and be mad for a bit, or was he actually going to hit her? The latter, he hadn’t done for a couple of weeks, and for that she was grateful. It was all her fault, what he did, anyway. If she didn’t make him so mad all the time then he wouldn’t lose his temper and take it out on her.
“You never want to.”
He said it spitefully. Enough to make shame wear across her face at his observation. She ducked her head, sat on her hands and wished with every fiber of her being that he would just not hit her. Sophia sat, silent, in the passenger seat of his car as Ethan fumed.
“It makes me thing you’re up to something.”
“I’m not up to anything.”
“Did I ask you a question?”
That, she knew, was rhetorical. So she bit down on the tip of her tongue and stared down at her lap. They hadn’t gotten far from her home, but she noticed that he was still on his way to his.
“This whole thing makes me think you’re cheating on me.”
At that, she turned to look at him, her eyes wide. “I would never-”
“Shut up!” he yelled suddenly, slamming his fist on the steering wheel and making her jump. She noticed how the car had begun to move faster. Silence stretched between them as tears trekked down her cheeks.
“I love you,” she whispered, reaching to touch his hand. “I would never do that to you.”
He didn’t answer, his lips pressed hard in a tight line. She hated when he did this, gave her the silent treatment. Sophia would much rather he just talk it over with her like two rational adults. But there was really nothing rational about Ethan and his quick temper. “It’s Jace, isn’t it?” he asked her coolly.
Ethan turned the car around, began going back to Sophia’s neighborhood. But he missed the turn to her house, instead going down the road Jace lived down.
“Ethan, I’m not-”
“Answer me!” he screamed at her, pulling the black Jaguar over about a block from Jace’s house, harshly. Sophia was crying in earnest now. No matter what she said, he would just think she’s lying. When she didn’t answer, when she couldn’t, he grabbed her upper arms and squeezed tightly, pulling her to face him. Under the grip of his arms, she felt her voice hide deeper into her stomach. “You slut, answer me!”
“Please,” she choked. “Stop it.”
“Fine,” he snapped, pushing her backwards roughly. “If you won’t, then he will.”
Ethan got out of the car, slamming the door in his wake, striding to Jace’s house in the dark and pouring rain. Fear rose in Sophia’s chest. Jace had nothing to do with this, and after being on the receiving end of Ethan’s anger and his fists, she couldn’t let him fall victim to that. Regardless if they hadn’t really been talking since that night on her porch about a month and a half ago.
“Ethan!” she shouted at his back, getting out of the car herself and racing to him. He walked in long, angry strides to the basement sliding glass door of his house.
Desperate, her hand fell on his shoulder. It was in that exact moment that he turned around and struck her so hard, she landed on her left hip, deaf for a few moments. “You fucking whore!” he yelled down at her, rage caught in his blue eyes. “Don’t you ever touch me!”
He pulled her up by her hair, slinging her against the side of his car, his face just a few inches away from hers. Sophia, who hadn’t stopped crying, but who could now hear, found it hard to look him in the eyes. With his fist clutching so tightly in her hair, she had no choice but to look at him. Instead, she focused on his nose. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t go in there and kill him.”
She swallowed. “He’s my friend.” Sophia whispered. He pulled her hair, making her cry out against him.
“A friend you’re fucking.”
“No,” she cried, causing him to haul back and backhand her across the face. Sophia gasped, but he pulled her back upright again.
“Just admit it.” He snarled.
“There’s…” she breathed. “There’s nothing to admit.”
He lost it, striking her again and not stopping even when she fell against the wet asphalt. She felt his fists collide with her arms, her abdomen, her back. Ethan yanked her hair, pulled her up halfway. The whole while he shouted names at her, accused her of horrendous things. All the while, her cries were left unheard.
She couldn’t tell what hurt worst: the blow of his fist against her left eye or the things he called her.
Ethan shouted something at her, something she couldn’t make out, before getting in his car and flooring it down the road, leaving her out in the rain, bleeding. Shivering in the cold of the rain and trying to figure out what parts of her body were in more pain, Sophia moved to stand.
Where could she go now?
Her dads would badger her with questions about why she was home so early, and about the state she was in. So home wasn’t an option. Her friends didn’t have cars, so she couldn’t call someone. She wrapped her arms around herself in sort of a hug and trembled, the rain beating down on her. Tears continued to roll down her cheeks.
The light in Jace’s basement was on.
She tentatively walked over to the sliding glass door, peering inside at him for a few moments, wiping the water from her face. He lived in the basement which his parents had renovated so it wasn’t disgusting. Jace was flopped on his ratty old couch, watching a movie on TV, unaware to the hell she just suffered. His room was a mess, but she couldn’t ever remember it being cleaned.
Swallowing fear or pride or something else entirely, she knocked on the glass.
When he looked at her, she tried to smile, her fist blossoming into a halfhearted wave. Instantly, Jace was up and pulling the door open, stepping aside to let her in. “Are you okay?” he asked her quickly, pulling a towel off the rack hanging on the inside of his bathroom wall. She tried to dry off, ignoring his question and pretending to be very interested in the loose thread on the couch in front of her.
“What happened?” Jace asked her.
“I uh,” she forced a smile on her face. “I got locked out.” But as she said it, her chin quivered and tears welled in her eyes. She bit hard on her bottom lip, making her fake grin falter, before turning away so he couldn’t see her tears.
He looked doubtful, staring at her sadly. Before he could ask again, she pointed to his bathroom, backing up slowly. “I’m going to….” Jace just nodded, resuming his spot on the couch.
Once inside, she closed and locked the door, flipping on the lights. Her mascara was tracked down her face and she looked like a raccoon. Sophia’s hair was tangled and her left eye was swollen. If she stared at herself in the mirror any longer, she was sure she would dissolve into tears again. After turning the knob on Jace’s shower, making the hot water run, she slowly pulled her shirt over her head. Then came the jeans. Her hands shook as she worked the buttons free, shimming them off, pain in every movement.
Then, there she was. Standing there, in her black bra and blue underwear, scrutinizing. Her hip was swelling. Redness on her chest, stomach, in the shape of hands on her upper arms. A bruise before it happens.
Disgusted, she stepped into the stream of hot water.
She got out, using the same towel from earlier to dry off. When she was ruffling her hair with it, she looked around for clothes. Seeing that hers were too wet and dirty, she slid on her underwear and hooked her bra behind her back, opening the door a peek to get Jace. Just when she opened her mouth, she noticed the clothes that he laid out for her just outside the door. Sophia smiled, grabbing the clean pair of boxer shorts and t-shirt that hung loosely on her.
“Feel any better?” Jace asked her as she stepped quietly over his clothes to sit on the couch next to him. Silently, she nodded. He moved over, giving her room to sit. Instinctively, she curled next to him, breathing in the smell she would always associate to Jace. After a few moments, he moved his arm so it was draped around her shoulders. “I’ll kill him.” He whispered in her ear.
Sophia closed her eyes, snuggling closer to him, fist clenched. She felt his fingers brush through her damp hair and shivered.
“You deserve more than him,” he murmured, leaning close to her. She tilted her face up to him, hyperaware of everything around her. The darkness of the room, except the glow from the TV. The way Jace was breathing. The fact that she was close enough to count his eyelashes.
His fingertips brushed her jawline just before he pressed his lips against hers. With her eyes closed and Jace’s hand on her cheek, she couldn’t help but think that nothing could’ve been more right than that. When he made to pull away, she held on for longer, sitting up and letting her hands skip up his shirt to touch his bare chest. Hesitantly, he moved his hands from her face to her back.
This was different with Ethan. He was always so quick to get her undressed, even if she just wanted to lay with him or kiss him, his thoughts always skipped to sex. Jace, on the other hand, was tentative and cautious, letting Sophia take charge.
And, leading, she pulled Jace’s shirt from over her head and the one he was wearing off of him as well. Looking nervously at her, clad in his boxers and a bra, Jace blushed a bright crimson. Biting her bottom lip again, she pulled off the boxers she was wearing and watched Jace unbutton and unzip the fly of his jeans, tugging them off awkwardly.
He kissed her, reaching around to her back, fumbling with the hooks of her bra. After letting him wrestle with it for a minute, she reached back to help him. He pulled away just as it fell to the floor, eyes widened for a brief moment. His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed hard. Sophia was probably the first real girl he had seen topless.
Abashed, Jace looked away. Then glanced back.
Slowly, he bent back over her, their mouths meeting again. Jace’s fingers skimmed over Sophia’s belly before shyly working up to her bust. It didn’t take long before he was pressing against her, his eyes gazing into hers lovingly.
* * *
Sophia wished that it had been Jace she lost her virginity to, not Ethan. This was the only thought on her mind as she laid next to Jace in his bed with his arms around her. That was something that Ethan never did. Afterwards, he just got up, got dressed and drove her home. They never laid there in silence, with his arms tightly around her, whispering how much he loved her.
At the same time, she felt horrible. The boy next to her on the bed, the same boy she had slept with an hour earlier, was not her boyfriend. She had cheated on him, for real this time, and shuddered to think of what he would do to her if he found out and had proof. Her body ached from earlier, still, and that wasn’t even as bad as Ethan could get. Do one little thing wrong, and Sophia had a mighty price to pay.