- I -
You know how people usually start telling stories from the beginning? Yeah, well, I am not one of them. Not because I want to be an original or something. Neither do I like confuse the others nor I have anything against the beginnings. It's just I don't want to talk about what happened in the beginning. Because then I'll end up remembering all the crap that happened and I don't want that. I am sure I'll have to explain some things anyway and I will have inevitable flashbacks but it'll be nothing compared to remembering every single freaking detail and re-living it all over again. So just bear with me.
My name is Connor Blake, I am twenty five, single, and I guess somewhat bitter. I work part-time for one of the debt collecting agencies around here. I am one of those people who have to deal with ridiculous complaints, anger outbursts, and other stuff like that over the phone. I guess I am a perfect person for a job like that because I could care less about someone else's problems. I also don't get intimidated or pissed off easily.
I don't even have to work, to be honest. My parents died four years ago and they left me a small fortune. And since I am the only child, the amount of money that was in their accounts will probably last me until the day I die. So no, I don't have to work. But I have to do at least something so my life doesn't seem like a completely useless waste of time.
Anyway, tonight was just another Tuesday night and it was raining like no other. It was the end of November so the bad weather was to be expected. I don't like rain. It always puts me into restless mood. Tonight was no different. I paced around my apartment, chain-smoked for the last hour or so, and I was about to go and see what I have left of my liquor stash when the doorbell rang.
That was unusual. See, the only people who would actually visit me were my mailman, my neighbor, and sometimes the FedEx guy. It was nine thirty in the evening so it was too late for a mailman. My neighbor left to see his daughter in Washington. And the last time I ordered something from internet was several months ago so I knew it wasn't a FedEx guy.
I drowned my cigarette in a cup of cold coffee and went to the door. I never bother asking stuff like "Who's there?" I don't see the point. I'll find out when I open the door. Plus, if someone really wants to get in, I doubt that my asking "Who's there?" is going to stop them from doing so. I opened the door and then I just stood there. I don't think I even blinked. I just stared at him. He gave me the same old slightly crooked smile and ran his fingers through his wet hair. He was dripping water all over.
I don't know how long we stood there without saying anything but then I've heard a distant wail of a police siren. He raised his shoulders slightly and the minute I saw a flash of panic in his eyes, I knew that there was a very good chance those sirens were wailing because of him. I stepped aside and let him in. He stumbled inside and I locked the door. I knew that I didn't have to say something like "Make yourself comfortable". He'd do it anyway. So I just headed to the kitchen instead. I grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and went back to my living room, trying not to succumb to all those damn memories that decided to flood me right now.
He was sitting on the couch and he looked like he was awfully uncomfortable. He held his arm at the weird angle and he tried not to lean on the back of the couch too much.
"You hurt?" I asked indifferently and he just grimaced.
I noticed a bright red spot on the side of his shirt, right underneath his elbow and I sighed. Dammit… I sat my water on the table.
"Take your shirt off", I said calmly.
"It'll heal", he grimaced again. "No need…"
"You are going to bleed all over my couch", I said tiredly. "Take you goddamn shirt off."
He looked like he was about to start spitting poison in his usual manner that used to drive me nuts eight years ago. To my enormous surprise he didn't say anything. Instead he straightened up a little and started pulling off his shirt.
"What's with your arm?" I asked gloomily. "Broken?"
"No", he winced when he twisted his shoulder a little bit too much. "Just dislocated… I think", he added in a softer voice.
He thinks, right. He finally managed to pull his shirt off and when I saw what was underneath it, I almost whistled. His entire rib cage was black, blue, and purple as if he spilled a crapload of paint all over himself. There were two nasty looking cuts on his side which explained the blood on his shirt. And his left arm looked like it was pulled out of its socket and twisted back in the wrong way. I guess he was right - it was dislocated. I thought for a minute. I know how to fix broken ribs, it's not too hard. Dislocated arm is not such a big problem either. The cuts on the other hand…
He was panting now. I guess all that movement caused him more pain than he expected. His wet hair was falling all over his face and neck. He always favored long hair. I guess some things never change.
"Pull your hair up", I said curtly. "It'll get in my way."
I didn't wait for his response and marched to the bathroom. I fumbled in every single drawer and cabinet, and finally I've had enough bandages to wrap up a mummy. I grabbed a bottle of rubbing alcohol and some cotton swabs. Then I wondered briefly if I am a complete idiot for getting myself into this whole thing. I came to the conclusion that yes, I am a complete idiot. That knowledge made me feel better for some strange reason and I went back.
He was desperately trying to get his hair up. Of course his efforts were ridiculously futile. I mean, when you only have one functioning arm and no hair band, you don't expect your hair to just stay put the way you want it to.
"Oh for the love of God", I muttered and pushed the little coffee table closer to the couch with my knee.
I dumped all the stuff I had in my hands on it, found a rubber band in one of my pockets, and pushed his hand away unceremoniously. Once again I was surprised when he didn't say anything and just dropped his hand into his lap obediently. I peeled all the wet blond strands off his neck and shoulders and pulled them into a ponytail. I wrapped that rubber band around it and gritted my teeth when I had a vicious flashback of all that hair spilling on my face. I guess I pulled his ponytail somewhat hard because he let out a low surprised grunt and jerked his head.
"Sorry", I said without any remorse and let go of his hair.
I walked around the couch and sat next to him.
"Turn", I commanded.
He did and I stared at his left arm thoughtfully. If it's not dislocated but broken instead, and if I try to pop it back in, then he'll probably pass out from pain. That and I'll do even more damage. Finally I ran my fingers over his bizarre looking shoulder, feeling for broken bones. I didn't feel any but then again, I am no medic.
"Okay", I muttered finally. "Do you want to take chances with your arm?"
He looked at me above his shoulder.
"It's dislocated", he said.
"If it's not and I try to pop it, you'll be sorry", I shrugged.
"It is", he said curtly without looking away. "Just pop it."
"Okay", I sighed. "It'll hurt."
"I know", he snorted. "Not my first time."
I grabbed a hold of his arm and he turned away, his head lowered. I straightened his arm up as much as I could and placed my left hand onto his shoulder. I took a deep breath, hoping that the damn bone was not broken. And then I pulled it as hard as I could, aiming for his shoulder where I knew it was supposed to go. There was a loud "Ker-Plop!!" noise and his body jerked forward. He screamed out once but managed to shut himself up. He was shaking like he was electrocuted and the cuts on his side started to bleed worse.
I ran my fingers over his shoulder again. It felt fine. I let go of his arm and it fell on the couch like something lifeless. He propped himself on the pillow with his good arm and took very quick shallow breaths of air.
"Sit still", I sighed and reached for the cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol.
I moved his arm out of the way and looked at the cuts critically. Wonder if they need to be stitched up or something. I had no idea. Finally I decided to clean them first.
"Gonna sting", I said matter-of-factly and he just nodded, a couple of shorter strands escaped the rubber band and hung in front of his face by now.
I carefully touched one of the cuts with the cotton ball that I soaked in alcohol. He immediately stiffened up but didn't move or make any noise. I knew it hurt like a bitch though. As I said, those cuts looked nasty. I spent probably a good half an hour cleaning both of them thoroughly. I had to make sure they don't get infected because there was no way for me to fix that. And I knew that he will never agree to go to the hospital.
Finally they looked as okay as cuts like these could possibly look. I decided to take my chances and bandage them up instead of stitching. If he still bleeds by tomorrow morning then I suppose I'll have to do that.
"Okay", I said. "Turn around."
He muttered something that I didn't understand.
"What?" I leaned closer.
"Can't… Move…" he whispered through his clenched teeth.
He was clutching one of the pillows with the fingers of his right hand so bad that his fingernails turned completely white. His head was still lowered so I couldn't see his face but his neck had a thick blue vein that kept pulsating like crazy.
I pushed a couple of pillows together, making sure that they don't make too much clatter and don't get in my way. Then I got off the couch and grabbed his left arm that still reminded me of a dead snake. I pulled it up to my neck.
"Can you at least hold on to me?" I asked gloomily.
His hand jerked weakly and I felt his fingers clutching onto my neck. I peeled the fingers of his right hand off the pillow and he grabbed onto my wrist desperately. He had a hell of a grip. I lifted him off the couch just a little so I could sit his ass back down and get easier access to his ribs. His head promptly fell on my chest and the smell of his drying hair immediately sent another flashback into my brain. I gritted my teeth.
I sat him down carefully. No need to cause him anymore pain right now. When he heals, I'll be more than happy to kick his ass though.
"Don't lean", I said and he nodded and propped himself on his right arm again.
It took me almost an hour to bandage him up. I didn't want to make it too tight but at the same time I had to apply just enough pressure to stop the damn cuts from bleeding and to get his ribs smashed back into place. Finally I was done and I had his blood all over my hands and shirt.
"You look… Like a… Butcher…" he grinned weakly, perspiration beading all over his forehead.
"You are the one to talk", I muttered.
He managed to give me a small shrug.
"I don't look like one though", he said, his breathing not as shallow as before.
That was true. He certainly didn't look like a psycho that he was. When I saw him for the first time eight years ago, my first thought was "Oh dear God, how can someone be so beautiful?" He wasn't handsome or pretty. He was downright beautiful. His features weren't perfect like the ones on the Greek statues. His mouth was a little too wide, nose a little too thin, eyes sat a little too far apart. But all those features mixed together made him look astonishing.
It was the second day of school when I saw him for the first time. I missed the first day because some idiot ran into my Jeep on the red light and another idiot decided to call the cops. By the time I was done with the whole ordeal, it was too late to go anywhere so I went home instead. And then the next day I saw him. He sat next to me and I just stared at him. I have never had a thing for guys. I still don't. But when I saw him, the only thing I could think about was how beautiful he was. Finally he muttered without even looking at me:
"Take a picture. It'll last longer."
That was when I realized that my mouth was hanging open. Thank God I wasn't drooling. I asked him what his name was and he didn't respond to that. Finally I shrugged and left him alone. Then, after I was done getting my stuff out on the desk, he muttered still without looking at me:
…I shook my head. God, I haven't thought about that day in ages. I looked at him. He wasn't as pale anymore.
"You have a smoke?" he asked when he caught my eyes.
I threw a pack at him and he caught it somewhat easily. Good, I thought. His arm is fine. He lit a cigarette and after a few seconds there was a funny puzzled expression on his face. Then it changed into slight disgust.
"What the hell is this?" he stared at the cigarette. "It's like sucking on air!"
"I smoke like a chimney lately", I shrugged. "Figured I'll live a couple of days longer if I switch to something light."
He sighed and broke the filter off.
"Or you will smoke more instead", he said finally.
"What did you do this time?" I took my pack away from him. "Or who did you piss off so bad?"
He waved his hand in the air.
"The usual", he smiled.
"I see", I said evenly. "Why did you come here? Why didn't you go to one of your friends?"
He frowned slightly and lowered his hand with cigarette between his fingers.
"Friends?" he repeated in a low voice.
I couldn't help it. I cracked up.
"Right", I muttered. "My bad."
He never had any friends.
"I need a drink", he said thoughtfully. "Badly."
"I might have something left", I sighed. "Come on."
…Half an hour later he was sitting on the chair in the kitchen, sipping straight scotch like it was water.
"I'll get out of here in the morning", he said, his eyes half-closed.
"Right", I agreed solemnly. "Because you are in great condition now. Make it easier to waste you for whoever that is you managed to piss off."
He opened one eye and looked at me intently.
"You want me to stay or something?" he asked with interest.
"I don't care what you do", I said quickly. "If you want to leave, go ahead. I am just saying that it's a dumb idea."
He closed his eyes again.
"I'll stay then", he said indifferently. "You have any food?"
"Look in the fridge", I said tiredly.
He hemmed and sat his glass on the table. Five minutes later he was digging through my fridge. Finally he pulled out a couple of cold hot dogs and closed the fridge.
"I do have a microwave", I noted when he was taking small vicious bites out of the hot dog.
"Don't care about that", he said between the bites. "I am going to pass out as soon as I am done with these… Where do I sleep?"
"I don't care", I sighed. "Anywhere you want. I am going to go get more smokes. Don't open the door, don't answer the phone."
"Right", he nodded seriously. "Can you get something stronger than the crap you gave me?"
"Maybe", I said gloomily.
…I came back in less than half an hour and he wasn't in the kitchen anymore. I threw two cartons of Parliaments on the table and locked the front door. I expected to see him fast asleep on the couch but he wasn't there either. I frowned and went into my room. Sure enough, there he was. Fast asleep in my bed. He was laying on his back, his hair half-covering his face, mouth slightly open.
I looked at him for maybe a couple of minutes, then I sighed and went into the living room. I guess I am going to sleep on the couch tonight. Great.