I felt bad for asking Randall to hang out in the backroom of my bar while I worked, but I didn’t want to leave him alone. I just… I was afraid he’d do something. Now I could keep an eye on him and make sure everything was all right.
And I had the feeling he didn’t like to be left alone. When I’d told him I couldn’t find anyone to cover for me, I could’ve sworn I saw something in his eyes. Something that had vanished the second I had told him he could hang out in the backroom.
I’d been keeping a close eye on him ever since he came to stay with me. The first couple of days he’d seemed scared and timid and just… far from well. But now…
I peered at him through the partly open door. He was sitting on the couch, watching TV with a sleepy expression on his face. He yawed before I turned to greet another customer with a smile.
I’d seen him go through the backroom, picking up statues and magazines to study them closely. He’d done that in his room at my place, too. Curiosity over his surroundings was a good sign, right? He seemed more aware of his surroundings, and most of the time, his eyes stayed soft. Relaxed. There still was a lot of fear in him, but in just a few days, it seemed to have lessened a little.
I wished so damn hard it was because he felt safer in my place, and that the first session with Vaughn had gone well. And that he still trusted me… He hadn’t told me much about his appointment with Vaughn, and I didn’t ask, but he seemed to be open to the idea of seeing Vaughn again.
As much as I wanted to go keep him company in the back, I couldn’t. We were a little understaffed currently with the flu season and all, and the nice weather did keep us busy for the rest of the night. I still stole every second with him, making sure he was all right.
Right until he fell asleep.
I barely had time to snap my mouth shut when I stepped into the backroom, only to see him fast asleep on the couch. I held my breath, hoping I hadn’t woken him up, but when it started to look like I hadn’t disturbed him, I let the air out and carefully tiptoed my way to him. I grabbed a blanket from the shelves and tugged him in before sneaking back to the door and turned off the lights.
I smiled at the sight of him sleeping before I pulled the door almost closed, leaving a small gap so I could keep checking up on him.
When I turned around, my co-worker, Paulina, shot a questioning look at me.
“He’s asleep…” I muttered. “Let’s try not to disturb him.”
“Should I turn the music off?” she chuckled.
“You could turn it down a notch,” I said, not realizing she had been joking.
“How is he doing?” Paulina asked after turning the volume down a bit.
I let out a deep, heavy sigh. I hadn’t told my staff much about Randall, only that he was having a hard time and was staying with me for now. It wasn’t right to talk about his private matters with anyone. Therefore, I was thankful that no one had asked anything about why Randall was spending his evening in our backroom.
“He needs some rest,” I only said, and she left it at that.
I was surprised that Randall was able to sleep on the small couch in such a noisy place. Maybe he really did need the rest because I didn’t spot him awake, not even once, during the rest of the evening. He didn’t even wake up when me and my staff had to sneak past him to get to the bathroom or to our closets.
He was still sleeping once we were done for the night. We cleaned in silence and the rest of the staff left, leaving me alone with Randall. I really didn’t want to wake him up, but my back hurt just by watching him all curled up on the small couch.
“Hey…?” I mumbled as I walked to him and crouched. “I’m sorry, but you might want to continue sleeping in your bed.”
He was so fast asleep I had to shake him a few times. When he finally opened his eyes, he gave me a groggy look, not fully understanding where he was.
“Cole…” he muttered and pushed himself to sit up. “What time is it?”
“It’s three in the morning.”
“You slept for hours,” I told him and backed away to give him room to sit up. “I’m amazed you could sleep through all that noise…”
“I…” he looked around with a pretty shocked expression on his face. “I guess I was tired…” he then said, rubbing his eyes.
“Do you want to grab a beer before heading home?” I asked.
“Sure,” he mumbled, standing up. “Did I really sleep for so long?”
I watched him with a smile on my face. He seemed so… relaxed now. His eyes were soft – and sleepy – when he looked around in the empty bar. Seeing that brought a smile to my face. He looked so good when he wasn’t afraid.
And I hoped it meant I hadn’t lost his trust. It was my fault that he’d tried to hurt himself, and I would never be able to live with that fact. I honestly couldn’t. My selfishness had driven him into a horrifying corner where he thought he only had one way out.
How could I ever live with that?
“Here,” I said when I put a bottle of beer in front of him as we sat down next to the bar counter.
I tried to get back into the cheery mood, but the dark thoughts lingered. I had been wanting to ask him, but… He was doing so well. At least better. I didn’t… I didn’t want to bring up that night in case the softness in his eyes would disappear.
“You look tired,” he suddenly spoke, and I looked at him.
He was watching me, and I couldn’t detect a hint of hate or anger or disappointment or fear in his eyes when he looked at me.
“It was quite busy today,” I only said.
He nodded, and we both stayed silent for a while.
“How did I sleep through all that…?” he suddenly muttered, and I chuckled.
“You seem to be a heavy sleeper,” I said. “I hope it’s a good thing.”
“What do you mean?”
I hesitated as I looked him in the eyes.
How could I bring it up?
“Because…” I tried again, but couldn’t quite find the courage to continue.
“Just spit it out,” he said and took a sip of his beer.
“I’m just… After what happened… I’ve been afraid that… you don’t trust me,” I finally managed to say. “It’s my fault that it happened.”
“It’s not your fault,” he said. “Would I be here if I…?”
I waited for him to continue, but he didn’t. His eyes were already growing tense again.
“I’m sorry I brought it up,” I hurried to say. “I shouldn’t… I shouldn’t have…”
He shook his head. “He doesn’t want me to have these… thoughts. He doesn’t want me to be… It’s not your fault. You’ve done so much for me. And I trust you. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
“I feel horrible. I can’t… I shouldn’t have pushed you like that,” I said, my stomach twisting unpleasantly. “I hate myself. If you had… If I hadn’t stopped you…”
“It’s not your fault,” he said again. “I surprised even myself. And scared the crap out of myself… I don’t blame you one bit. You better believe me.”
I shook my head but didn’t push the topic further. We continued drinking in silence for a good while. For once, I had nothing to say. I didn’t even feel like talking.
“So you’re making me do the talk thing…” he muttered, and sighed. “I thought you believed me when I said it wasn’t your fault.”
I tried to smile, but I had no reason to smile. “How can I live with myself?” I whispered.
“You didn’t know. I didn’t know. I was…” he trailed off, looking at his bottle. “You… made me want things. You made me feel. But I’m a mess, so I....”
“But I shouldn’t have pushed you. I knew you had problems and still I–”
“Cole,” he said my name almost gently. “I already died long before I met you.”
I stopped to stare at him. He let go of his bottle and turned his gaze to my hands. Then, slowly, he reached over the table and touched my fingers so lightly I wasn’t sure if I only imagined it.
“But because of you,” he murmured, “I want to live.”
I wanted so badly to take his hand in mine. I was dying to do so, but I stayed immobile. It was so rare for him to touch me, and I feared if I pushed him again…
“That’s on you,” he said without looking at me, and traced his finger across my hand. “You pushed me out of being dead. That is all you did that night.”
He finally looked up at me. His eyes were soft again.
“You better believe me,” he added.
I let out a breath. He was still moving his finger on my skin. He looked so… calm. Relaxed.
“I’ll try to,” I promised.
“Good,” he said. “Because one of us needs to stay sane or we’re both doomed.”
I snorted in amusement at his words. “Yeah, I guess so.”
And when I looked at him again, I could’ve sworn I saw a hint of a smile in his eyes.
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