I didn’t bother pulling on a shirt; the post man wasn’t likely to be into guys. ‘Hey Tone,’ I smile, swinging open the door.
My breath catches. I can’t breathe. Ria. She collapses against my door, and I catch her in my arms before she hits the ground. I lift her bridal style. My lungs starving themselves of air. I take the stairs two at a time.
She curls against my bed, sobs escaping her.
‘What did he do to you?’ I whisper.
Her face is swollen. Eyes black and bloody. Her lip is split, pouring with blood that seems to be slowing. I run to the bathroom, wetting a wash cloth and bringing it back. I cradle her to my chest as I gently mop away the blood. I bite into my own lip, drawing blood to hold back my rage and my tears.
‘I... I’m sorry.’
I let out a bitter laugh. ‘Ri, how can you apologise?’ I should have killed him...
‘I... didn’t believe you.’
‘I didn’t save you.’ I point out.
She winces as I let the water drip onto her lip. ‘I made him do it. It’s my fault.’
I curl my hands into fists again. ‘He’s sick, Ri. I should have fucking killed him.’
She shook her head. ‘Sleep...’
‘Shhh. Don’t talk. I’ll set up a camp for me on the floor. You sleep here for the night.’
I stalk from the room, barely hearing her whispering; ‘Don’t be a knight, Carly. Don’t do anything stupid.’
I fetch spare blankets from under the staircase. Luckily, nobody is home. Mum is visiting her family in Scotland for the week. I speed up the stairs again, flinging the bedding onto the floor and beginning to quietly spread it out.
My head snaps up, and I lurch to the bed. ‘What do you need?’
‘Don’t sleep on the floor... I don’t want to be on my own.’
Most lads would take advantage. Other lads would tell her in this moment about how they felt, about how they’d always felt. I was her best friend. You can’t be in love with your best friend. I tell myself.
I ease onto the mattress beside her, and she snuggles into my side. I wrap my arms around her, careful not to catch anyplace that will cause her pain so intense she can’t breathe.
‘I wish I was a knight.’ I murmur.
‘You are a knight.’ She whispers back.
‘Oh, sure.’ I scoff.
‘You’re my knight. You told me about him, I was the stupid blonde princess who’s head is inside her ass so she can’t see the truth.’
I smile faintly. ‘Your not stupid, Ri.’
‘Carly...?’ She whispers when I think she’s sleeping. I rest my head against her shoulder.
‘Am I hurting you?’
‘No.’ She mutters, ‘I need to tell you something.’