I was sitting in front of the piano with my mother, watching as her fingers slowly reached out to tap each key before stopping to stare at them for a second. After she'd spend some time staring she'd press the next few keys before stopping again. This would go on until she forgot where she was in the song and would ultimately be forced to start over again. Her left hand was hurting thanks to the vine that had started growing on the back of it just last night. It kept writhing and every time it pulsated she'd hiss in pain.
We were sitting hip to hip on the bench. Today was Sunday so Eli would be leaving soon which meant mom could play her hymns all day without him complaining. It was when she finally shook off her initial slump and her fingers started to move more adeptly that the phone rang.
Poking his head around the corner Eli dried his hair off with a big towel, dripping water all over the floor as he walked. Frowning at us from where he stood in the hall he looked to me.
"Hey, tell her to shut that shit up right quick, " he said, looking to me. I didn't get the chance to counter him though as his bare feet slapped against the linoleum.
He must have been expecting a call from that girl he was talking about last night on one of the rare occasions where we all ate dinner at the table instead of in our own rooms. I remember how he looked to mom over his plate of soupy mashed potatoes and pork chops to tell her about his new girl. He sounded oddly proud as he smiled at her. I don't think I've ever heard him talk about any of his exes like that so whoever she was she must have been one special girl.
Taking the phone off its hook with the goofiest of grins on his face Eli answered. He sat there for a second before nodding his head and turning to me with a deep frown.
"It's for you, " he growled, baring his teeth before dropping it on the table and leaving.
He must have been in a good mood today. The last time that happened he threw the phone at a wall, breaking it. To make matters worse he had to buy the new one himself so he was even more pissed off about it.
"Hey, mom I'm gonna go see who it is on the phone right quick, okay?" I said, patting her shoulder. I studied her features, waiting for her to respond.
Lips curving into a soft smile she nodded at me. Smiling back I leaned forward to kiss her cheek before pushing off of the bench.
I glanced over my shoulder to check on her as I picked up the phone. When I put it to my ear all I could hear was someone breathing deeply like they were out of breath. That was just weird.
"Hello?" I said, a little wary. The idea that there might be a creep on the other end of the line spooked me.
"Eric is that you?" The person said.
I instantly recognized it and let out a deep sigh, nodding my head. "Yeah, is this Toby? Are you okay?"
Huffing I peeked over my shoulder again at my mom. She'd stopped playing, probably waiting for me to finish up this call. I felt bad, she didn't have to stop playing for me.
"Hey mom, you can keep playing, " I said, heading towards the hall. "I'm just gonna go hang out in the bathroom for a little bit. Okay?"
She sat in front of the piano a moment before tapping her index finger against a key and holding the note. Nodding her head she started rocking back and forth. "It's fine."
"Alright." I nodded back. Locking the bathroom door I put the lid on the toilet down before taking a seat.
"Alright what? So you'll do it?" Toby said out of nowhere.
Frowning at a bar of soap that had fallen behind the toilet I shook my head. "Huh, no. What are you even talking about?"
"I was asking if you could come over right quick, " he said quietly as if he were worried someone might be listening in on him.
I forgot that today was Sunday so his dad wouldn't be at the library or the career center doing his job hunting.
"You're not calling me over for something stupid are you?" I asked, shifting.
"No this is serious, I promise."
"You got into another fight didn't you?" I snapped. When I heard the sound of Eli stomping his way down the hall I got quiet. When I heard a door slam somewhere off in the distance I finally spoke up again. "Toby I'm not going over there to play nurse again."
"Then I'll come to you," he suggested.
"No." Toby couldn't come over, there's no way in hell Eli would let him over.
"Why not? Is it cause Eli? He's leaving, isn't he?"
"He'll smell you all over the furniture. Just like last time, " I explained. "Besides I think... I think he knows about us."
"What do you mean you think he knows?" I sat there for a moment listening to him breathe before a loud crack sounded. "Shit!"
"What was that?" My brows furrowed.
"I almost broke the phone again. But never mind that, what makes you think he knows about us?"
"He looks at me weird every time mom asks me about you. Oh- and the other day when I came home late from tutoring he asked me if I was at your place and-"
"And what? That doesn't mean anything."
"Yeah but Toby, when I told him no he looked relieved. Like he wasn't happy but like... He already doesn't like you and he if he thinks there's something going on..." Sighing I bit my bottom lip, not sure if I should say anything else. Ripping off a square of tissue I role it up into a ball as I continued. "He knows Toby. I know he does. Every time I come home from your place he can smell you on me. And showering didn't work cause that only made him more suspicious cause we don't use the same body wash."
"Eric you're overthinking things," Toby said softly. "Now look I really need your help. Can I trust that you'll be here for me?"
Licking my lips I nodded my head. "Yeah sure Toby, I'll be there in ten."
"Thanks, babe, you are a lifesaver."
"Don't call me that," I groaned.
"Okay, I won't... Babe."
He hung up. Bastard. Getting up off the toilet I grabbed at the doorknob that flew from my grasp just as I almost got it. Eli stood in the doorway waiting for me to move. His face was blank, lips pressed in a boring line as he stared at me.
"You gonna move?" His head tilted back as he peered down his nose at me.
Going dumb I nodded, brushing past him out into the hall.
“Where are you going in such a rush anyway?” He asked as I ran into my room and came back with my coat
“Just to a friend’s house,” I said, quickly shoving my arms into the sleeves.
"Well you better get back to this house before I get home, " he said, peeking out of the bathroom at me. "If I get home before you just know I'll be waiting in the living room for you. The hell you going anyway? Better not be that Vincent kid."
"Um... I uh..." I stuttered. Honestly, it scared me how blank his face looked. I just couldn't read him.
"Ah shit, you are going to his place aren't you?" Sighing he bit his lip, giving me this look. He knows. "Tiff is feeling sick so I guess I'll watch after mom today until my shift starts so you're lucky."
Shaking his head he slammed the door closed. I started at the wood grain pattern for a moment. He wasn't mad at me? Maybe he didn't know anything. Whatever I promised Toby I'd be over to help him so all I needed to do was find my jacket and make sure I got home early.