On instinct I took a step back. Beck advanced, her expression unfaltering. Her arms unfolded in slow motion. She pointed at the door, then at me. My eyes followed her gesture. She took another step towards me and I caved, slinking into the house like a kicked puppy. I felt like one, too.
She came up behind me, gripped my shoulders, and steered me to sit on the couch. No one else was around and the TV was off for once. An eerie silence settled in the home. Beck didn’t break the silence as she sat down. She turned to me, expression still stern. I shrunk back as she opened her mouth to speak.
“You are so… So…” she ran her hands through her hair, tugged it, grit her teeth, then let out a groan. “Frustrating! Just tell me what the hell’s going on with you. Stop trying to run away! I’m glad you’re visiting friends, but, shit, Faust, I need you to talk to me.”
I fidgeted with my hands, playing with the bandage. “Just guess.”
“Stop asking me to guess. This isn’t a game,” she muttered. “It’s not a damn game! Stop playing around! I need you to take this seriously.”
“No, you aren’t. You’re avoiding it.”
“Please, just guess,” I insisted. I peeled the bandage back. “Please.”
It was hard to find the words. Verbalizing it would make things real and I’d never told anyone before. Someone would know. I didn’t know if I wanted her to understand. I wanted to cower in this house frozen in time. I wanted to forget what was waiting for me if I ever left.
“Faust,” Beck said, her voice gentler. She reached out to rest her hand on my shoulder. I flinched. “Talk to me. I care about you. I’m just tired of treating you like a kid. Understand?”
“I…” I began. “He…” I continued. I swallowed and shut up.
“Come on, Faust. It’s not that hard. Just tell me what happened. Just… say it. No frills. Spit it out. I know you can do it.”
I picked at the bandage more. Her eyes drifted down to my injured hand. Her frown twitched.
“Faust. What did you do?”
She motioned to the cut, which was now revealed as I peeled the rest of the bandage off. It was worse than I thought it was. Blood welled up again. “Really? That’s something,” she said. “Why aren’t you more careful? You have to be more careful. What were you doing?”
“Really? Was that really it?”
“Yes. I was cutting stuff…”
She pressed her fingers against the bridge of her nose. “You need a babysitter, I swear. This always happens with you. You know how to use a knife properly, right?”
“Of course I do! I just got distracted.”
“You’re always getting distracted. You have to pay attention. This is basic stuff, you know. Do you really know what you’re doing?” she scolded. “I’m not going to let you go out if you’re going to keep getting hurt. Understand? And you seriously need to get home earlier.”
I chewed my lip. Blood had continued to drip from the cut. “I’m not a kid. You don’t need to lecture me.”
“Really? You aren’t? Why not tell me what’s going on instead of dodging it, playing little games?” Beck huffed. She folded her arms again and gave me a pointed glare.
I avoided her gaze and struggled to find my words. Any words would do at this point. Though, this was exactly how I expected things to go. I chewed my lip until it began to bleed and Beck let out another groan. I almost heard her roll her eyes.
“Sorry…” I mumbled.
“Really? After all that… that’s all you have to say? I’m trying to help you.”
“Fine. Be that way. Don’t talk about it!” she snapped and stood. “I just care about you. Help me help you. Nothing will get better if you keep acting like this.”
I stared at the blood on my hand. She didn’t seem to notice, since she’d already turned away and left. She didn’t storm off, but she was close to it, her steps heavier than usual. The door to her room opened and shut. I didn’t hear anything else.
“Fuck…” I mumbled. I cupped my hand, trying not to get the couch messy. How could something so small produce so much blood? “Fuck.”
Then I cried. I don’t know why, it just happened. I wiped the blood on my shirt, then on my face when I rubbed at my eyes. I wasn’t a quiet crier like my sister, but I was sure everyone was asleep, so they wouldn’t hear anyway. One less thing to worry about. Eventually I made it to the bathroom and washed my hand off and slapped a new bandage on it. I washed my face and wiped the rest of the tears from my eyes, trying to keep my shit together.
I knew my sister was just trying to help. I knew I should talk to her. But the words never came out. I didn’t want her to decide when I could and couldn’t leave the house. But it was her house… Her decision to make. Or maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know. Usually my husband decided. I slunk back to the guest room and slumped into bed. I wondered if I’d ever be able to tell her. The words were on the tip of my tongue, almost ready to spill over.
The blankets engulfed me. I hugged them around my body. Would things improve if I told her? What could she really do? She couldn’t do anything. She didn’t even know where I lived. She didn’t really know him, either. Was it worth talking about? Maybe I just needed time away from him. Give us time to cool down, to rest, to miss each other.
I don’t know why I came here when I knew how this would go. Because I had nowhere else to go?
I missed the Beck who cried when she saw how fucked up my face looked. I wondered if I’d ever see her again, or if she’d always be mad at me.
I fell asleep thinking about her crying on my shoulder. I dreamt about her yelling at me, demanding I tell her what happened, demanding I describe how my husband beat me, because everyone knew, deep down, that’s what was going on. She wanted to know every detail. Every little instance he hurt me. She wanted to know where every little scar came from, whose fault they all were. She grabbed me by the wrists, pulled my arms out, asked me about every nick in my skin, every bruise, asked me if I ever broke a bone. When I looked up at her, she looked like him, towering over me.
The ringing of my phone woke me from my nightmare. I blinked awake, breathing hard, and slowly got my bearings. The sun had long since risen, afternoon light pooling through the minute gaps in the curtains. I rummaged for my phone, finding it still in my pocket.
It was my husband.
My finger slid over the answer button. I let it ring again before pressing it, bringing it to my ear. His voice trickled in, different from how I imagined. He sounded sad.
“Faust?” he asked, voice just above a whisper. Low, soft.
“I miss you. Come home.”
I curled up in my blankets and turned the volume down. The dream was still fresh in my mind. “What do you miss?”
“What?” his voice hitched in a way, as if surprised, but didn’t raise.
“What do you miss about me?”
There was a slight pause on the line, the only noise was my husband’s gentle breath against the speaker. “Everything. Your… smile, laugh, jokes. The sex.”
I sighed and curled up tighter, pushing the dream from my memory.
“Where are you?”
“At my sister’s.”
“Oh…” he trailed off, not saying anything for a moment. Silence crackled over the line. And then he came back full force. “I’m sure you’re not really happy there, right? She’s always been a pain, you know. She doesn’t really understand you. Not like I do. She’s always treated you like a child. Bitch.”
I shifted deeper into the blankets, trying to hide from her gaze. I knew she couldn’t see me, but the hair on the back of my neck prickled. She’d be angry I answered, even if she didn’t understand what was going on.
My husband started up again. “I love you, Faust,” he said.
I couldn’t remember the last time he said it first. I shut my eyes. “I… love you, too.”
“Please come home.”
My husband hung up first, as soon as I breathed that word.
There was a knock at the door. Before I could respond, it creaked open. Harper peered at me through the crevice. “Are you… going home?” She asked. I didn’t know how long she’d been standing out there. I didn’t know when she got home. I didn't know how she heard.
“Yes, maybe, I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know. It’s fine.”
She shifted in her place, then trailed into the room and sat beside my cocoon. She didn’t say anything else for a while, staring at the posters on my wall. When she spoke, her expression never changed, remaining neutral. “You’re going to leave again.”
“You didn’t visit,” she said.
“I’m sorry. I’ll visit.”
She tugged on my cocoon. “Promise! I like hanging out with you.”
Harper didn’t say anything else. She sat beside me for a while longer, then got up to leave, a frown plastered on her face. The shut of the door rattled the room. I adjusted the blankets over me, curled up into them again. When Harper left, she looked sad. I wondered if it was possible to convince my husband to let me visit. But convincing him of anything was difficult, and he was right. I didn’t like being here.