Rose Water

Chapter 13

Italics are flashbacks from two weeks ago.


"Shit, I think I just heard someone open the front door," I say. Brad doesn't hear me. He is too busy rolling another joint. We have already had more than two and I am starting to feel like I am floating. I put down the beer in my hand and walk over to my dresser. I look at myself in the mirror and then at the reflection of Brad and Daphne on the floor. He moved her to the floor. I don't remember when, or why. "I am gonna go and check," I say.

"Whatever man," he says. I walk out the door and close it behind me.

"God, they were just stopping in to get the tickets. They left again," I say as I step through the door. I don't hear anything but the smell that is tainting the air is unmistakable. It smells like sex, alcohol and marijuana. Sex, why does it smell like sex? FUCK.

I walk toward the bed and with a racing heart I walk around the structure, slowly. Brad is on top of Daphne, snoring softly. She isn't moving. From her position under Brad's heavy form I can't even tell if she is breathing. "What the fuck did you do?" I yell out. My heart is pounding. Shit just got seriously out of control. The buzz that I had is effectively… gone.

"I don't know what happened man," Brad tells me drunkenly. I pull over in the parking lot of the old liquor store and fling my door open. "What are you doing?" I sit there with my one leg on the ground outside, pressing a perfect footprint into the dirt.

"What the fuck do you mean what am I doing?" I ask. "You raped her. You beat the shit out of her and I was there. I went to her house. I drugged her. So what, you want to call the police? I can just see it now. Oh officer, we didn't mean to hurt her. We just drugged her for no reason," I yell at him. I can feel the sweat and the heat coming off of my skin.

"We didn't do it on purpose. It was just supposed to scare her," he tells me. I know all that. He looks in the back at Daphne's lifeless form. Her arm is still bleeding from where he pulled her off the bed and banged it on the furniture. I can remember everything now. Damn her for being so fragile.

"Plus, it was all your idea. You just wanted to make Taylor pissed," he says. I narrow my eyes at him and get out of the car. I pull open the backdoor and start to pull Daphne out, along with her purse and jacket. "Aren't you going to help me?" I ask. He says nothing.

"I'm sorry," I whisper as I sit her on the side of the abandoned building, close to the dumpster. I turn around and walk back to the car. I can see Brad's form in the front seat, sitting still and chewing nervously on his fingernails. I close the back door and then get in the front. I put the car into gear and drive off. The ride back to my place is silent. We have run out of things to say to each other.


"Do you have anything that you want to say?" he asks me. I look around the hospital room before setting my eyes back on him. I don't have anything to say. He keeps asking me if I have anything to say. If I had something to say I would open my fucking mouth. "The doctor is going to discharge you today," he says. 'Leave me alone dad,' I think. I watch the door open and when I see the doctor come in I sit back a little.

"Hello Daphne, how are you feeling today?" I smile. A smile is all I can do without losing my mind. I tense up and relax as he checks me. I don't like people touching me. He writes some things down in his chart. "Everything seems to be fine and I am sure that your dad told you that we are going to let you out today," he says with a smile. He sighs heavily and looks from me to my dad. "Mr. Chanders… could you leave us alone for a minute?" He asks my dad.

"Daphne," he starts when my dad is out the door. "You have been in the hospital for two weeks and you haven't said a word. You know, sometimes, it helps for you to talk about what happened," he tells me. I look at his white doctor's jacket. Is that what that is called, a doctor's jacket? I don't know. In about ten seconds I won't care. 'Look doctor, I know you want to help but you can't.

You have no idea how I feel. Leave me alone,' I think as I turn away from him and close my eyes. "Okay," he says and I hear the door open and close. I want to crawl inside my skin and vanish.


I flex my hand gently. Sometimes the skin around the scar gets tight, but at least I can hold a pencil again. I flip to a fresh sheet in my sketchbook and the white seems to glow in the winter sun. It got cold so fast. I burrow my face a little further into my scarf and watch some of the other students on the field. Shaun and some of the other guys are playing flag football. I notice that Shaun and Brad are not talking as much as they used to. Jeffrey seems confused about everything but he has a girlfriend now so he really doesn't care. "Hey Justin," I hear and I immediately clinch my teeth together.

"Hey Vicki," I say. I really don't like her. She is always talking to people who don't want to talk to her. I think that's a little weird but Vicki doesn't seem to care. "What do you want?" Shit, why did I ask her that? Now she is going to sit down next to me. Did I mention that I don't like her?

"I heard about Daphne," she says as she sits on the wall next to me. She is on my left side. "Can you move over here?" I ask motioning to the right. She looks at me confused for a minute. 'You are sitting in Daphne's spot,' I think. "You are in my light," I give to her. She shrugs her shoulders and moves to the other side. My back is facing her. She doesn't care, she keeps right on talking.

"Everyone is saying that she is pregnant and that her parents are making her stay in the house until the baby is born," she says. I press my pencil to the fresh sheet of paper and start making random doodles. Ignore them and they go away.

I can feel the bed dip behind me and I smile. I open one eye and take in the time. Fuck, it is ten in the morning. I feel a heated hand still carrying a slight chill touch my face. "Mmm… your hand is cold," I mutter sleepily. I turn over and look at Brian. He is on his side, facing me. His eyes are wide open, staring and thinking. I take his hand in mine and kiss the back of it. I press my lips to his and lose myself in our kiss. I am almost floating. I am almost in the air… and then, I pop.

He pushes me back and I look into his eyes. I don't see sadness, remorse, guilt or enjoyment. I am thankful for that. I press my body in closer to his and what I see in him, what I feel in him is pure… hesitation. I can see his need to say something, to tell me something. 'Fucking spit it out,' runs through my mind but I wait. I will always wait. He waits for me. "What's wrong?" I ask softly. I press my forehead to his and close my eyes. His breath is warm and comforting.

'Tell me… Oh my god, SAY SOMETHING… say anything… fine, I'll say something,' I think. "Hey, what was the problem with Daphne?" He brings a hand up and runs his fingers through my hair.

"Justin," he says. Why do people say your name before telling you something bad? It doesn't make you feel better about the situation. "Daphne is in the hospital," he says and it's all I hear, it's all I need to hear.

"What?" I almost choke on the question. I don't know what to do. I move away from Brian and get off of the bed. I walk out of the bedroom and down the steps, pausing at the bottom. There is still stuff on the floor; a painful reminder of my own problems, my own demons. Shift focus.

I bend down and start to pick up the things on the floor. I can hardly see through my unshed tears. I can hardly hear through my pain. I move around slowly, placing everything in a pile. "Visiting hours start at noon. You can go see her then," Brian says as he moves to the bottom of the steps. I don't have to see him to know that he is exhausted. I don't have to look at him to know that dealing with me, is starting to press in on him. "I can drive you over," he offers. I shake my head.

"No, you're tired. Go to sleep. I can take the bus," I tell him. I finish picking up everything and when I turn around he is asleep and the clock reads 11:47 a.m. Great. Time flies.

"That is such bullshit," I say to Vicki. 'Go away bitch,' I think. She sits right where she is. I fight the urge to correct the rumors. It's an urge I have been fighting to control for two weeks. I stop drawing. Brian's face is staring up at me. I close the book before she can see and hold it flat on my lap.

"Yeah well, that's what everyone is saying," she says as she crosses her legs at the ankles and swings them back and forth. I look up at her as she looks dreamily at the guys playing football and I wallow in the momentary silence. She really is a beautiful girl. I think it only makes you hate her more, for being excessively pretty and equally annoying. I fight the urge to put her image onto paper. "Why do you wear long sleeves all the time?" Okay, that was not expected. I press the tip of my tongue between my teeth. Peer relations.

"Why do you give a fuck what I wear?" I ask as I tease the pages of my sketchbook with my fingertips. I can see her. I watch her shift. I watch her scratch at some invisible something just above her right eye. I watch her… temporarily speechless. I can't resist. I have to say something. "Oh my god, are you actually speechless? You, of all people, can't think of something to say?" I laugh, hard.

"I used to do the same thing," she says. It comes out fast. It comes out nervously. It comes out in a whisper; a heavy whisper that is filled with everything she owns. Seven words and they, for some reason, mean so much to me. I am not the only one. I am not alone. I turn my body toward her, placing my sketchbook under my leg.

I watch the sheets rage against the wind for a moment before looking into some of the deepest eyes I have ever seen. They seem to glow and penetrate into me. They are so rich and from the angle the sun is hitting her, they are a color that rivals the deepest indigo. It's a trick of the light, I know, but it is beautiful.

"I'm scared," I let go from my lips. She scoots a little closer to me and folds her arms around her torso. She cocks her head to the side and lets out a breath as she looks at me. I watch the heat from her breath mix with the cold air to form a wispy white cloud. She smiles kindly, sympathetically… painfully.

"Yeah well… we all get a little scared sometimes," she tells me softly as she drinks me in. Maybe Vicki is not so bad.

"Hey," I say as I walk into Daphne's hospital room. I am happy to be here for someone other than me. I give her a weak smile as I close the door and walk toward the bed. She watches my every movement. She is black and blue. The light of the hospital and the natural light of the sun are only serving to amplify her condition.

I tap on her covered toe gently as I walk over to sit next to her bed. She settles her eyes on me. I can tell one was swollen but seems to be better. What a difference a couple of hours make. "Are you going to tell me what happened? You know you have to, we tell each other everything," I say with a smile. She is silent.

I can see the water just inside of her eyes and I get up out of the plastic chair. I get on the bed next to her and kiss her on the cheek. She takes a deep breath and with all her effort moves over a little. I put one arm around her and pull her hair out of her face. "You… are… beautiful," I whisper into her ear and just like that… the tears let go. She turns into me, as much as her body will allow, and all I can do is hold her.


"Where in the hell have you been the past couple of weeks?" Mikey asks me as he comes through my door. I look at him briefly before saying anything.

"Mikey, so nice to see you," I say sarcastically as I look over some proofs for the art department. "I didn't know you were coming by. To what do I owe the pleasure?" I ask him. I see his arms cross and his lip stick out and I am already dreading anything that is going to come out of his mouth.

"I missed you. I keep calling and Cynthia either says you are not here or that you are in a meeting. I call the loft and you never answer, so I figured…"

"You figured you would come and find out what I have been up to," I finish for him as he sits in one of the chairs in front of my desk. He huffs at my conclusion and sits back in the chair.

"Do you want to come out to Babylon with us tonight?" He asks. Is he kidding me? Of course I want to go. Hell, after almost two weeks without fucking Justin, I need to go. I want to open my mouth to say yeah, but honestly, I am too fucking tired to do much of anything. I debate going with him. I make the final decision to tell him yes. Hell, I deserve a break.

"I don't feel like it tonight Mikey. I guess you'll have to watch over the kingdom without me," I say. What the fuck was that? I was going to go with them. Mikey isn't pleased. I don't really care.

"But Brian, we haven't spent any time together in the past couple of weeks. I want to hang out," he tells me. I am saved from answering.

"Brian, Talusa international wants to see you as soon as you are available," she tells me.

"Umm, set up a meeting with them for tomorrow. You can put them before the meeting with…"

"They are in the lobby. They mean right when you become available," she tells me. I live for this rush. Mikey seems like he is caught up in a tornado. I get up from behind the desk and walk over behind him. I tap him on the shoulder firmly.

"I would love to continue this amazing conversation but… I need to go be brilliant so you need to go," I tell him. He leaves after another five minutes of pouting. I look at myself in the mirror and move out of my office. Go in for the kill.


I step off the elevator and walk over to Daphne's room. I see her father and mother talking quietly to each other down the hall. I wave when they glance over and notice me. Mr. Chanders glares. I know that look. That's the look that says, I can't really stand you but my daughter likes you so I will pretend to be okay with you. Mrs. Chanders smiles and waves back. Her smile is genuine. I push open the door to Daphne's room and close it door behind me. "Hey," I say. She smiles at me. "Well, are you ready to go home?"

I move off of her bed and over to her window. I pull open the curtain and let the light in. "Have you been waiting to get discharged for a long time?" I ask. I know that she probably has. Hospitals take forever with that shit. They don't want you to come in but fuck if they make getting out any easier. I talk to her non-stop and when her mother comes back into the room with the doctor I let the conversation drift away.

"Okay Daphne, we are all set for you to go. Here is a prescription for the medication that you will need to take," the doctor says. I watch as she gives Daphne more and more instructions. The prescription pad seems to be filled. Mrs. Chanders is standing just behind the doctor and I can tell that she feels slightly left out. She has no say in anything and I know that it must bother her. There is the flickering light of helplessness behind her eyes. I feel bad for her.

"Could you please excuse us for a moment?" the doctor asks. Mrs. Chanders does not want to leave but she does. I move to stand up and I feel Daphne's hand clamp down on mine. I stay where I am.

"Daphne, I am going to leave you the name of a very good therapist. I think she can help and I really think that you should consider talking to her," the doctor says. Daphne just stares straight ahead. She must know every inch of that wall by now. I take the number from the doctor and wait as he lets himself out.

"Well Daphne, are you ready to go home?" Mrs. Chanders asks. I can tell that Daphne wants to be anywhere but here, but home, is not exactly the first place on her list. I hold her hand and walk with her out of the hospital.


Justin has not stopped talking since he sat down. Even when Debbie came and took our orders he talked. Now he is quiet, thinking. "Brian, do you think I need to see someone?" He asks out of the blue. The peaceful cloud of silence that was floating just above the table has just evaporated. I did not expect to be answering this question here, now, in the diner. Shit.

"See someone for what?" I ask. I know for what but I want to be clear, crystal clear. I want him to say the words. I want him to really ask. He looks at me. He knows me now and he knows what I want him to say.

"You know for what. For the…" he stops to look around and see who is watching him. He needs to know if anyone can hear him. "… problem that I have," he finishes in a whisper. He is nervous. I see the air leave him as he acknowledges that this problem may be bigger than him. I want to know where the need to know came from but I don't ask. I am about to answer him when he keeps going. I press my back into the booth. "Daphne got out of the hospital today. She still isn't talking and the doctor gave her all of this medication and a number to a therapist," he says as he takes a drink from his glass and looks up at me.

'I am listening, go on,' I think. I raise my eyebrow a little, silently urging for him to tell me the rest. Confidant.

"When the doctor was in the room talking to Daphne I looked at her mother. I mean, I am used to seeing her mother, but this time… this time it was different. It was almost like she was dead and still breathing. Like she was some shell of a person. You could tell how tired she was from dealing with everything. Well, not really dealing with everything but having to stand on the side and watch as her daughter tries to," he says. I have to really concentrate to understand what he is trying to say. I wonder if he even knows.

"Justin, what…"

"What I am trying to say," he says as he squirms. He stops talking and stares for a long moment at the fork on the table. I see his hand rise up to scratch at the back of his neck and I slowly reach out my hand and slide the fork away, along with the knife next to it. Better safe than sorry. Nervous contemplation can breed… the bitter beginnings of stupidity.

"I mean, that look that was on Daphne's mother's face was like torture. Sometimes… sometimes, I see that look on you. I see how you struggle between love and exhaustion and it makes me feel…" he tells me. "I don't want to be the cause of that look. I want to see you look at me the way you did when you first saw me," he says.

I let his eyes dance with mine as the sounds of the diner melt away. It is only us. "When I saw you for the first time, you shifted in and out of focus. You seemed to almost glow. I didn't see your imperfections," I tell him.

"And now?" He asks. I roll my lips into my mouth and release them slowly. I take a drink of my water.

"Now, well… now I still see you. You haven't changed. I just see… all of you," I say. He wipes a tear away before it even lets itself begin the decent down his face. He doesn't want to cry, not now, not here. "I'll help you find someone." He doesn't say anything. He just nods and takes another sip of his drink. He doesn't need to speak. I don't need to speak. The air is too thick and too much is filling it. Silence… silence is good. Sometimes not saying anything, says it all.

The noise of the diner fills my ears again. We keep our eyes on each other. Everything is back in our atmosphere and still it is only us. We call the shots. We make the rules.

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