Looking After You

1.

“I’m not right,” I whispered to him.

We had been here for hours. Sitting on the side of the pavement, staring at the road, at the cars, at the people, at the sky. Anything but each other.

“Shut up Eve,” He whispered, nervous and under his breath as he avoided catching my eye.

Everything seemed like it was falling apart.

A year ago, my Dad had finally gone to jail for child abuse, it was the night he broke my rib, my nose, my arm and my sister’s collar bone. He got twelve years.

It was around six months of living alone when my Mum decided to blow her brains out. Which meant my sister got shipped off the live with our Auntie and Uncle and I was left alone.

I’m twenty-two now and I’ve got three serious drug overdoses, one case of strangulation through auto erotic asphyxiation and a couple slashed wrists under my belt.

Plus the fact I think I could be asthmatic.

“It’s all so fucked,” I mumbled as the sun began to retreat behind the buildings. “I’m fucked,”

I felt tears prick at my eyes and I hastily rubbed them away. They kept coming and after doing battle with them for so long I realised I had lost. I was always losing. I let them cascade over my cheeks as I curled over my knees.

“No,” James turned to me and I felt his hand on my back, “It’s not fucked, you’re not fucked, I won’t let that happen,”

His hands were on my face, lifting me up as they tangled in my filthy blonde hair, pulling my hood down as his forehead rested against mine.

I’m so cold, but James is warm.

“It is fucked James,” I whisper quietly, so quiet I know he can’t hear it, before I stand.

I jam my hands into the pocket of my parka, I try forget about the fact I know it’s blood stained. I don’t know why I kept it, James tells me it’s because I did really love my parents, even if they were assholes and I don’t want to lose them completely. I think he’s being ironic.

With a sigh I relinquish a hand from my pocket and offer it down to James. He get’s to his feet but doesn’t take it, he’s already got his own hands rammed in his jacket.

“If it is fucked Eve,” He whispers to me and a tiny smile glances across my face when I feel his breath in my ear, “Then we’re both fucked,”

That’s when he starts walking and I follow him like a lost puppy because that’s what I am. I follow him around, telling him how much I want to die and I keep waiting for his fist to suddenly connect with my face but it never does; I’m always scared it will one day.

“Your ass looks good in those jeans,” I say and I wait for the punch.

“Stop looking at my ass,” James replies as he walks away.

We won’t go home though, no, we never go home.

We are home.

So we keep walking, we keep walking all the way down the train tracks, waiting to come to my house. My old house.

I hate to see it, it’s so painful to think of what went on in that house, excruciating even, but in some sick way I thrive on that pain, it’s all that’s keeping me alive.

That, and James.

James doesn’t care. James goes along with everything. James let’s me cope how I want.

But he won’t let me die. No. He won’t let me finish and it’s selfish and I hate him. I hate every time he finds me curled up in my apartment and every time his fingers are down my throat and I’m spewing up everything I took last night and I hate waking up in bed with bandages around my wrists and I hate seeing him there afterwards and I hate how he never says anything.

We gloss over it, we act like it never happens, but he’s always there, I swear he’s bugged my place.

James hears the train coming a long time before I do because he’s already silently taken my arm and dragged me onto the other side of him, so I’m nowhere near the tracks.

“Why’d you do that?” I ask.

He shrugs in response and holds out a packet of cigarette, he doesn’t smoke and neither do I but sometimes we do and today is one of those days. So I slide one from the packet and jam it in my mouth, James lights it for me and we continue walking. I blow smoke rings and poke holes in them so they ‘don’t die virgins’ and James shakes his head in stoic disgust.

Then I can hear the rumble of the train and I want to turn towards the tracks but James is there so I turn to look at him.

“Never,” He tells me but I don’t hear him because the train screaming past is so loud.

“I hate you,” I tell him, because he can’t hear it either and I do. I do right then.

But I don’t, I love him.

He turns away from me and I’m suddenly frozen, James grips the back of my neck and it spurs me into life, he was never good with words. I was the talkative one.

We reach the house and I feel exquisite anguish wash over me. I want to cry and hit something but I don’t because last time I cried and hit something it was James,.

I hit him and he hit me back and I cried and screamed and yelled and that was the first time we had sex. Afterwards he told me he wouldn’t let me leave him alone in this place. That was the closest to I Love You we would get.

Instead I sat down in the yellowing grass of our old lawn, it didn’t look much different except the door and windows were now boarded up and there wasn’t a car in the drive way

“I’m not moving,” I said, sighing.

James nodded in silence.

“I’m never fucking moving!” I yelled at him.

We were silent. The whole world was silent.

He sat down next to me, his hands glued into his pockets.

“I’ll carry you if you like,” James knew that we were fucked but he didn’t want to admit it.

I sighed and allowed my head to roll over onto James’s shoulder.

“That’s fucking stupid James,” I said softly to him.

We sat like that for a while, we were all we had left and neither of us could admit it.

By the time we were back at mine. I was feeling almost okay.

I even let James hold my hand.

No, James even let me hold his hand.

We stood at my doorway and James dragged his thumb over my white knuckles, he eyes glued to the small sign of affection as if he was scared if he didn’t watch it carefully, it would run away and turn into something much bigger, like an I Love You.

“Ever,” His voice was gravelly, he stood a lot taller than me and he looked sad, he looked tired, he was tired of me, “I won’t ever,”

He choked, I could feel the combination of our palms getting warmer as color flushed our cheeks.

“I won’t ever let you,” He finished, staring me in the eye. “You know…”

I saw everything I wanted then, I saw that he hated me, that he loved me, that he was the same as me, that I wasn’t fucked. No, that we were both fucked, but that was okay.

I nodded somberly.

“Now,” He dropped my hand and zipped his coat to the very top, sticking his hands back into his pockets and shuffling awkwardly backwards, “Am I gonna be back here tonight?”

I shook my head, a small smile caressing my lips as I brought my hand up to cup his face. I knew he didn’t like the gesture but I didn’t care.

“No James, you won’t need to come back here tonight,”

We both knew I was lying.

2.

This time I knew it would work, this time it had to work. I’d do it fast and I’d bleed out well before James could even say my name.

Holding the razor tight in my hand I felt it begin to slice into my palm, it pulled away sticky and covered in my dark, velvet blood. I flexed my hand lazily, watching the cut well and re-well with blood, as I readied my self again.

I knew the hand that was wrapped around my wrist was James’s.

“Evelyn, you idiot,” James peeled the razor away from my hand sadly.

He had crept in like a ghost, it wasn’t like the lock on my door actually worked, sliding upstairs and always finding me moments before.

I rubbed angry tears away from my eyes, my hands were shaking and I was still aware of James’s presence, crouching behind me.

“What are you? My boyfriend?” I shuddered, wishing it was true.

James would never go for something like that, we were just friends, we had sex sometimes. That was it. That was what drove me crazy, that after all the times he rescued me, all the times he put up with my mindless rambling and sex talk and he still couldn’t say I Love You..

“Stop it,” James growled, I could tell he was getting angry. He got angry sometimes and it thrilled me, I liked seeing him angry because it made me feel there was something inside that fucking cold fucking stupid fucking shell of his ,that meant he was capable of fucking feeling fucking emotion. The stupid, fucking, dick!

I swung at him, I’m not saying I meant it but I swung at him. If it wasn’t for the fact I had seven beers down me, I would have probably connected with his face. Instead, I fell on mine.

“Aww fuck,” I groaned while on the floor.

I felt James grab the back of my white shirt and hoist me around, I lay on the floor, staring up at James’s deep, blue eyes. Even though I knew what James was going to do it made me even angrier to see the pity in his eyes. I was not something to be ‘pitied.’

I writhed, delirious, on the ground, attempting to get another punch in.

James’s fist came down across my cheek and suddenly everything was pitch black.

“Boy Eve, you sure have a fuck ton of books” I blinked a couple hundred times as the light crept in around my eyes.

I was in bed, my shoes were on the floor and the duvet had been pulled up around my neck. There was a ringing in my head that sounded like a thousand cats whining. I looked at my cut hand, it was bandaged and there was a smear of blood on the paper

I groaned and rolled over. James was sat in a chair across from my bed, his long legs crossed as he cocked his head at the pile of musty books in front of him.

“It looks like it could almost be a fetish,” James raised his eyebrows and I made a swipe at the him.

I watched as James smirked, then he looked at me and his smile faltered slightly.

“What is it?” I muttered, running my hand over my face until I felt a sharp pain around my eye and I knew it was blackened.

“Sorry…” He mumbled, throwing the book he had been perusing onto the large pile in front of him.

“Sorry is all I get?” I barked, swinging myself out of bed. “You fucking punched me!”

James shrugged, browsing through the pile with his foot, grimacing as a page fell out of one and drifted away.

I pushed myself from the bed, wobbling slightly as I stormed up to James. I towered above him in his prone state and it made me feel powerful, I swear I even saw him cower slightly.

“You know I wouldn’t just let you hit me,” James smirked, staring down at the magazines still, “and get away with it,”

I roared in anger and frustration, gripping onto James’s shoulders and yanking him from the chair, throwing him up against the red brick wall.

“I didn’t ask for you to save me!” I yelled, slamming him into the wall. James’s mouth parted and his eyebrows drooped, slouching slightly.

I knew James didn’t like to talk about it. He wanted to pretend it didn’t exist, that I was still the happy girl he used to know but I wasn’t and now he had to be happy for the both of us. That was an incredible feat for James Tucker and admitting that I was suicidal wasn’t going to help.

“Fuck off,” James sighed, trying to push me away from him but I held on. I would always hold on. “I said, FUCK OFF!”

James jerked his arms up and I lost my grip on his shoulders.

We fought a lot. There were just times when we felt so alone, like there was no one around. James still had his family, sure, but he despised them and I was pretty sure that they despised him a lot of the time too.

However, there were times where the fights got really bad, like today. James had a short temper and I took great pleasure in being the one to ignite that fuse. I understood it was possible to have this conversation in a calm and civilised manner but that would just be another mundanely boring portion of his numb life that would seem to drag for eons.

James grabbed me and drove me to the adjacent wall, he didn’t say anything. James could shout, James could get angry but there was never any crashing conclusion of ‘I love you!’ or ‘I don’t want you to kill yourself!’ There was just these fights and unspoken conversations.

He stared into my eyes, he was angry and I knew it, I knew he was angry at me, I had provoked that reaction in him. His eyes softened at the site of me cowering beneath him.

That’s when I headbutted him.

“Fuck,” James smeared his blood across his face with the back of his hand.

“Your nose is so big, I just couldn’t resist,” I grinned impishly as he drew his lips over his teeth in a snarl.

“Shut up Eve,” He warned me.

I wondered if he would hit me again but I knew he’d only resort to that when I was drunk and hitting him or reaching for the knives or walking towards an open window.

Instead he released his grip on me and I slid down to the floor.

I knew he was crying.

3.

I could tell James was crying because he wasn’t making a sound. He got upset sometimes, when he thought he’d hurt me or when he could just couldn’t deal with me anymore.

I knew I was ruining his life, why do you think I kept trying to end mine?

James drew backwards, carefully readjusting himself so it looked like he wasn’t fighting me five minutes earlier. He put his hand on my arm and pulled me very gently towards him.

I could tell he felt bad, he thought he had upset me, gone too far or something but he didn’t know that I felt a surge of warmth every time he let go like that. Being with the person who kept you alive, but acted like they were dead took a lot of guesswork. He was beginning to show me that sometimes I pushed him too far and sometimes he wanted to hit me and although he cared he was never, ever going to let the little things slide.

I loved that.

“I’m sorry,” He mumbled and I know it was taking him a lot of effort, “For hitting you, for…doing what I just did,”

I sighed and leant against him, I couldn’t see him but that was okay, I knew he meant it.

“For stopping me…?” I inquired and I felt him freeze. For a moment, I was scared, I thought he was going to shout or something along those lines.

He shoved me away from him and got to his feet, glaring down at me, those beautiful blue eyes had turned black. Reaching down he wrapped the collar of my shirt around his fist and hoisted me to my feet. I didn’t even bother trying to fight back, I didn’t have the energy.

James was taller than me, he towered above me, staring down at the top of my head. I should have felt fearful, most people would if James had them in this position but instead I felt nothing but protected.

With a final jerk, I was pulled closer towards him; so close that the top of our chests were touching.

Never for stopping you Eve,” James’s lips crashed against mine.

My eyes widened in shock.

James did not kiss me.

James never kissed me.

His eyes were squeezed shut. Slowly, I shut mine too and sandwiched my top lip over his bottom lip. James kept one hand on my shirt, keeping me pressed to his body; the other snaked around the back of my head and tried to force my head into his even more. Both my hands slouched lazily at my side, everything seemed to be going way to quickly and before I knew it, it was over.

James pulled his lips from mine with and placed his pallid lips to my forehead, his hands resting almost gently on my temples.

“I don’t want to lose you,” He murmured into my hair, it was barely a hiss into the blonde mop but I heard it.

“Okay,” I replied.

It wasn’t the answer he was looking for, just like most of the time, James’s answers weren’t what I was looking for. It was good enough for him now though, it was good enough.

“I’ll stay here tonight,” James let go and suddenly I felt empty, a waft of cold air filled the space where James had been. James turned and jogged from the room, back to where he found me earlier.

James Tucker came back with an overnight bag.

“Hold still,” James grunted, pulling my hand closer to him as we both sat on my tiny bed. I was sitting, cross legged, in a stained night shirt with holes in it.

James wrapped a new and clean bandage around the cut on my hand, I looked at him in his loose white shirt and a pair of long, checked, pyjama trousers. He gave me back my hand and I flexed it wearily.

The day had been too long and now my eye lids began to droop. With two well placed hands on my shoulders, James shifted me so I was lying down, my head snug against the pillow. The bed lightened slightly with a creak.

“Don’t go,” I mumbled wearily and heard James sigh.

He sat on the bed again.

“I won’t,” He told me, placing a hand so dangerously close to my own that my fingers twitched.

“Will you still be here when I wake up?” I muttered, I could feel myself drifting away into slumber.

“That’s the question I want to ask you everyday Evelyn,”

“What?” I asked, because I was delirious with exhaustion, even though I heard him just fine.

“Yes Eve, I’ll be here,” He inched his fingers towards me and brushed my fingertips, gently. “I’ll always be here,”

“How will I know,” I asked, I was half asleep now and talking shit.

“What?!” The bed moved as James turned to stare at me, confused.

“How will I know you’re there?” The question didn’t make sense, there was no way I could know he was there when I was asleep.

“You just will,” He grumbled, throwing his feet down next to mine so I knew he was lying on the tiny bed next to me.

It was quiet, just the sound of James breathing and that was barely audible.

I was afraid he would leave and I wanted to stay awake to make sure he didn’t but the careful lull of the night was pulling me under its spell and I was falling deeper and deeper every second.

James didn’t leave though, I know that because I woke up at four in the morning and he was still there and he was still awake and he was very slowly, very diligently, stroking my hair.

In the morning he had dark, purplish bags under his eyes.

I had a feeling that he was stroking my head all night.

4.

“Can I use your computer?” I asked.

James nodded and I took a seat at the machine. The house was empty, James’s parents were at work and his sister Katie was at school. Taking a seat on the bed, he watched me as I started up the computer, I used to have a beaten up one but it broke down a long time ago, plus it was in the old house.

“Why didn’t you go off to college?” James withdrew a spliff from his pocket and lit up, inhaling deeply as his eyes rolled back into his head.

He shrugged at me, that was his answer for everything.

“James,” I pressed.

He handed me the spliff and I took a drag.

“We couldn’t afford it,” He plucked the paper from my hand as it burnt away, “I couldn’t be bothered, there didn’t seem much point,”

All of our old friends had left. I highly doubt me and James would have ended up in the place we were if there were other options. I suppose it was one of the reasons James wouldn’t consider me his girlfriend, one of the reasons he wouldn’t say I love you, because he didn’t love me and secretly he wished I was someone else.

I glanced at my e-mails, waving away James’s hand as he tried to pass me back the spliff.

“Shit James!” I exclaimed, beckoning him over, “Look at this!”

Making no rush, James slid off the bed and came to stare at the glowing screen.

“Three months free subscription to PornHub?” James inquired, wrinkling his nose, he wasn’t a big fan of porn, everything was so fake.

“No,” I shook my head and pointed below, “That,”

I grinned and leant back in my seat, spinning round and round in a haze.

“Karen’s coming to visit?”

I jumped up, a large grin breaking out over my face, I don’t know if it was the drugs but for the first time in a while I laughed.

My little sister was coming home.

James laughed too. Well, laugh is a slight overstatement, the left side of his mouth twitched upwards slightly.

Seeing Karen would bring back painful memories for the both of us. She was nearly fourteen now and she loved our Mum a great deal more than I did, I don’t think she would ever get over what our parents did to us but I only wished I could be there to comfort her like I did when we were younger.

But no, social services thought it would be best if they shipped her off in the opposite direction to me.

“That’s good Evie,” James smiled and took another drag, I eyed the spliff hungrily.

Four joints later and everything seemed hilarious and stupid and underwater. We lay on the floor of James’s room, staring up at the poster of Sarah Michelle Geller he put up when he was ten and counting the number of dust bunnies under his bed.

I propped myself up on my elbow and turned to face him, convinced I had something that was going to make him piss himself laughing.

“James, James, James,” I alerted him, even though he was already looking at me, “What am I? Sssssssss,”

I began to make a long continuous hissing sound by pressing my tongue between my teeth. James stared at me perplexed, like I knew he would, he shrugged,

“I don’t know, a snake?”

I shook my head enthusiastically.

“I’m a gas leak,”

The incredibly stupid punchline hung in the air and then fell flat. I snorted, laughing at the fact James didn’t laugh until I was rolling around on the floor clutching my stomach.

“Huhuhuh,” Before I knew it, James was snickering gently to himself that transformed into a full blow guffaw. We sat laughing, tears streaming down our faces for a good ten minutes until James turned to me, his laughter petering to a close.

I watched him and suddenly I was quiet too. The room was still spinning and I resisted the urge to tell James my philosophical theory on the spherical nature of breasts. Instead I inched closer to him, his roman nose almost touching mine.

He crawled his hand over to me and placed it on the zip of my hoodie. Like clockwork, I began to close my eyes just as our mouths touched, only very lightly as James pulled his hand down, pushing my jumper from my shoulders. Cold air hit my arms as I parted James’s lips with mine, suckling gently.

Running his hands over my arms he turned so he was on top of me, straddling me with his long legs. I smiled up at him and he ‘lip-twitched’ back. His mouth descended over mine again and delicately placed short lived kisses there, gripping my arms as he pulled them over my head.

James leaned over me, he licked his lips and placed them to my ear, nibbling my earlobe.

“Don’t freak out,” He whispered to me and my eyebrows furrowed.

He sat back on top of my chest and pulled my hands towards him. Diligently he unwrapped the bandage from my hand and discarded it, I saw a smear of blood on it from the night before and looked away.

James turned my hand so it was palm up, pulling it towards him and kissing the still pink wound that was there. Falling onto me, he pulled my hands above my head again. I could smell the aftershave he used as he leaned over me and I buried my face in his neck, cautiously kissing there, expecting him to get scared.

Suddenly, I realised what he was doing. I felt his mouth on my wrist, pecking each individual scar, like he was comforting me from each individual attempt.

This time when he leaned back, I leaned up. I took his angular face in both my hands and mashed my lips onto his, breaking and then coming back for more. James’s hands crept under my shirt, peeling it over my head, we paused for air and then returned to each other.

Laying me down again James moved down my body, tracing every frozen lake that ran down my body from the surgery scars to burn wounds and bruises. I watched his never changing face as he did this, he never gasped, never looked shocked, never changed. He treated each one the same, he touched it, took it in and then kissed it as gently as a mother would kiss her new born child

He kissed the place where he had punctured my skin with a bite, the scratches he had made on my back and the receding blackness of my eye. I returned the favour, running my hand over the dark spot under his eye where I had lodged a piece of gravel in a fight, the slightly light line of a lip bust too many times and kissing the ridge of his broken nose.

That was James’s big apology, not only for the things he had done but for everything I had ever been through because let’s face it, someone should say sorry for it and God wasn’t going to make an appearance any time soon. However, it unfortunately didn’t make me want to end my life any less.

Rolling away from me, James stared up at the ceiling again.

“What? No sex?” I whined, sprawling backwards so my head was on his chest.

“Not today,” He smirked.

“What would you do if I told you I wanted you to kill me?” I asked nonchalantly.

James shook his head, pushing me away from him and getting to his feet.

“No Eve!” He shouted, pointing at me with a trembling finger, “Don’t be such a prick!”

I was being a prick, I shouldn’t have asked him that but I couldn’t think of a better way to go. I lifted my head from the floor.

“James,” I said calmly, watching as he shook.

I opened my mouth to say something.

“I,” James interrupted me, his whole body relaxing, “I don’t know,”

He sighed. I knew all he wanted was for me to be happy and one of these days he would realize what would make me actually happy.

“If it’s what you really wanted,”

“Come back here,” I patted the space beside me on the filthy floor, “We can talk,”

He folded his arms across his chest, his face blank.

“Not about that,” He mumbled.

“Not about that,” I agreed and with a heavy exhalation James came back to me.

5.

When the door opened I thought I was going to cry, literally just let everything out. The second I saw Karen everything felt like it had done nine years ago, the last really vivid memory I had of Karen was about a year ago. We had been eating dinner, Mum was at her second job. Our darling father had told us he wouldn’t be coming back for the night, you have no idea how relieved we were at that.

You can imagine our fear when we heard a key in the lock. Not just a key, a mutter of explosive, angry curses as the key was jammed, drunkenly into the lock again and again.

I told Karen to get under the table, she looked at me fearfully and then crawled under, tightly forcing herself into a ball as our Father stormed through the door.

It took all of ten minutes before he hit me first. I was eighteen then, and I wasn’t able to defend myself against my Dad.

“Dad, please,” I asked, backing into the kitchen counter as he approached me with his belt wrapped around his hand, “Karen’s in bed,”

I hadn’t hoped the plea would get me out of the beating, I was just hoping it would be a beating I wouldn’t need to scream throughout.

My plan worked, as my father backhanded me across the face. I fell to the right, clutching my face. Placing his large boot on the small of my back he gave a sharp kick and I fell to the ground. He reached down, one hand yanking my head back by my hair and the other twisting my arm up my back, that was when he saw Karen.

“You fuckin’ lie to me girl?!” He roared, slamming his fist into my face with such force that it broke my nose in two places. Holding my head backwards, he watched with delight as blood streamed down and dripped thickly onto my shirt, I began to choke on it after a while, spluttering as blood entered my oesophagus, my head was too far back.

Our Dad just laughed and then threw me on the floor, I retched violently, blood spilling onto the floor. Suddenly Karen screamed, the bastard had pulled her by her feet from the table and stood the twelve year old girl up.

The slap that echoed round the room spurred me into action.

I rushed at my Dad, catching him round the stomach and, with the help of adrenaline, swept him off his feet. He cracked his head on the side of the table but didn’t black out. Delivering punch after punch with all the strength I could muster. I wore rings for that reason alone.

I looked around and pulled a lamp from the counter. I smashed it into him and watched his face turn to mulch, his nose exploding in a sneeze of scarlet and Karen screaming at me to stop in the background.

I did stop, when he fell unconscious, I relaxed against the kitchen cabinet, breathing hard.

Well, I thought he was unconscious.

My father grabbed my leg and pulled me towards him, his face was a mixture of blood and yellow and swelling and black but he still managed to drag himself to his feet while I was startled.

That should have never of happened, I should have been more alert. I thought that to myself as the first stamp came down on my rib, I felt a crack and screamed. The scream sounded like it came from some tortured animal, it was loud and high pitch and wavering, it was inhuman and it made Karen collapse to the ground.

I heaved in empty breaths as the boot came down again, this time on my arm. I yelled out at the pain but it seems that wasn’t enough, two more stomps succeeded in creating two more heinous cracking noises. I arched my back, screaming and screaming as I flailed wildly on the floor.

“Eve,” Karen yelled, “Evie get up,” I heard her voice pleading with me but I couldn’t make sense of it.

The light was fading fast from the pain, it was glowing red hot and white against my eyes, I turned my  head to my arm and the sight of the mangled bone projecting from it made me throw up, soaking my shirt as I finally passed out in a phase of nausea, pain and fear.

That wasn’t even one of the worst nights.

The thing that made it worse is that Karen never told me what happened after I blacked out.

“Karen!” I yelled, running to the door and sweeping her up.

“Eve, Eve, seriously,” She batted at me with tiny fists, “Get off!”

James and I had spent the whole morning cleaning my tiny, ugly, shitty apartment. Okay James cleaned while I smoked a joint and ordered him about.

I smushed my face against her cheek, holding her tightly. She laughed and flung her arms around my neck. It made me think about when we were kids and I would give her piggy back rides and let her give me make overs or be a guest at one of her tea parties.

“It’s been so long,” I took her bags for her and we walked through to the kitchen.

“It’s been six months,” She corrected me, taking a seat at the grimy table. I watched as she swiped it with her finger, wrinkled her nose at the discovery, rubbed it on her little green dress and then acted like nothing had happened.

She grinned at me and I was pleased to see she still had that little gap in her teeth she did when she was a little girl, she was still a little girl to me.

Sitting down at the table I heard James creep down the stairs, determined not to make a big entrance but a normal one, just how he liked it. He entered the kitchen with his head down.

”You remember James right?” I pointed a finger at James who glared at me before lifting a hand in greeting.

Karen stared at him for a while, cocking her head as she racked her brain, “No, sorry,” She said sheepishly and I laughed.

“What’s he doing here?” She asked.

“Well,” James’s eyes had widened and he shook his head frantically but subtly, I smiled warmly as I turned and straddled my chair, “He’s just my friend,”

James relaxed and Karen shrugged.

“So what are we doing tonight?” I regretted the fact I hadn’t planned anything for her, but there was nothing too plan. I had no friends, a party wasn’t going to happen and this was a small town.

“We can drink?” James suggested, sauntering to the dusty cupboards and producing a bottle of clear liquid, “Vodka’s a girly drink right?”

“James! She’s thirteen! She can’t drink!”

I was aware Karen had folded her arms and was now looking at me with raised eyebrows and a look of contempt on her face.

“I’m fourteen Eve,” She assured me, although her eyes had darkened slightly at the prospect of alcohol, she knew what it could do to someone.

My mouth formed a small O of  surprise and shame. I looked down at the table, embarrassed. God it was filthy.

“So, drinking it is,” James muttered, swinging on his jacket, “I’ll go get more beer,”

It was 1:37am and I already had my head in the toilet bowl.

James had left me there at 1:30am after I puked in the kitchen sink, tried to convince him I was okay to drink more and then passed out.

It was 2:10am and I was beginning to swing back into the real world, okay, I kept talking to myself, kept swinging back and forth and kept hitting my head on the toilet bowl but I was getting better.

James, I presumed, was in my room with Karen. Since the apartment was so shit, the walls were paper thin, which meant I could hear the Romanian couple downstairs fucking like animals but it also meant I could clearly hear what was going on in the other room.

“…So,” I heard James’s deep nasal voice, it had been silent for a while, “Having fun?”

“I am,” Karen replied and there was a clink of glass, she giggled slightly, “I think I’m quite drunk,”

“She can’t be!” I told myself, astounded, “She’s fourteen,” Then I remembered what I was like at fourteen, and I secretly forgave her but I still had to act angry since she was my little sister, not that anyone could hear my drunken whispers.

“Okay, let’s just take that away from you,” There was a clink of glass and bottle and a disappointed sigh from Karen.

“I wish Eve didn’t drink so much,” Karen admitted and I felt myself blush.

“Why’s that?” James asked, it irritated me that whatever he said, he sounded bored.

“Well…our Dad…you know…” There was a brief pause, “You do know right?!”

He did.

“I do,” He swallowed, “Vaguely anyway,”

“Yeah, well, I’m just scared you know,” Karen’s voice was growing quieter and quieter, “That she’ll end up…”

“You’re not your parents, Karen,” James assured her.

“It’s not that, I know Eve only gets angry at people who deserve it,”

“What is it then?” I was aware I had my ear pressed up to the wall at this point but I couldn’t hear Karen anymore, just a few compressed sobs between inaudible words.

“I won’t let that happen,” James took over, his voice assertive.

“…because I can help!” Now even James was getting quiet, “…no…you’re right…I can’t…well, I can…but,”

“But what?!” Karen exploded and I jerked away from the wall, quickly returning after the slight shock.

“It’s a different kind of help…” James groaned and I just knew he would have his head in his hands.

“…do you promise?” Karen asked, I didn’t know what the promise was.

“I promise,” James muttered, “…Okay…I pinky promise.”

At 2:49am every single possibility as to what that promise could be was running through my head. By 7.29am I had forgotten the conversation had even taken place.

6.

“You’ll be good right?” Karen asked me as we parted ways, releasing me from a chokehold.

“Yeah, I guess,” I smirked and she raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms. “Okay, okay, I promise I’ll be good,”

I didn’t have to tell her everything, it had been a long while since I had.

“I miss you so much Evie,” She pulled me to her again and squeezed, “Things aren’t the same without you,”

I detached her from my chest and held her at arms length. Everything seemed so easy when she wasn’t around, out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

“You know I’ll always be there for you, right?” James glanced at me, his face emotionless but I knew what he was thinking. He was thinking that I’m a bitch who wanted to kill herself but was convincing her innocent little sister that she would always be there for her. He thought I was an asshole.

“Yeah,” She delicately placed a kiss on my cheek, her train was pulling in, “Love you! I’ll see you soon right,”

“I’ll see you…later,” I gave her a pat on the head and she nuzzled into it like a cat, “Love you too,”

“Bye James,” Without warning, she skipped lightly towards him and looped her arms around his neck. Standing on her tip toes to reach his neck.

“Oh, right, bye,” James stuttered, gingerly raising his hands and giving her a tap on the back.

“Remember,” She told him, moving backwards towards the train, “you pinky promised!”

James rammed his hands into the pockets of his dark blue duffle coat, it was beginning to get cold. He nodded at Karen and she smiled, giving a quick wave before jumping onto the train, I helped her with her hefty bag and we stayed until the train pulled away, Karen waved frantically from her seat.

“Why’d you tell your sister that?!” James stormed through the door, almost knocking the piece of shit off it’s hinges.

“Tell her what?” I asked, jogging up the stairs into the bedroom.

The apartment was tiny, immediately after entering, you were in the kitchen and from the kitchen the only way to go was up. At the top of the stairs were two doors: the bedroom and the bathroom. Shitty.

I heard James taking the stairs two at the time as he followed me.

“Tell her you’d always be there for her?” James stood in the doorway as I rummaged around the room.

I stopped and straightened, looking at him confused. It was unlike James to deal with confrontations.

“Urm, because I will?” I sidled towards him, my eyes narrowed accusingly.

“What? Even if you fucking kill yourself?” James moved towards me, jabbing at my chest with an accusing finger. “I mean Jesus Evelyn, how could you do that to her?”

I felt my cheeks creep red, I always though James understood.

“She’d be better without me, my Aunt takes care of her,” Moving away, I laid my head in my hands, pinching my nose and squeezing my eyes shut. “Everyone would be better off without me,”

I felt James lay his hand on my shoulder, squeezing slightly, “Even me?”

“Yeah,” I turned to him, pushing him away from me. I intended to do it forcefully but it came out as a weak slap.

I hated living. I wasn’t depressed, It just all felt pointless. Dad in jail, Mum dead, Sister safer then she ever would be with me and James. James, who didn’t love me, who was with me because I was the only person left and was only staying in this God forsaken town to stop me from killing myself.

“Yeah, I reckon you would,” I swept past him and felt his shoulder crash into me. I trotted down the stairs again, James following me.

“The fuck?!” I heard him shout as he rounded the table to meet me, I tried to move away. How come when he didn’t want to have a conversation, we didn’t but when I didn’t want to have one, nothing would be right until we did. “You’re not making any sense Eve, all the weed’s finally fucked with your brain,”

“You’re telling me if I wasn’t here you wouldn’t be in College?” I threw my hands up, pushing myself up onto the kitchen counter and avoiding his eyes.

“I told you I couldn’t afford it,” James mumbled as he opened the fridge, sticking his head inside.

I snorted, which turned into full blown, sarcastic, laughter. I jumped from the counter top, hoisting him out of the fridge by the hood of his sweat shirt and slamming the door.

“Don’t lie you fucking prick! Of course you would!” I wished I was taller then; so I didn’t feel so intimidated by James simply looking at me. “and you wouldn’t be with me…”

I bowed my head.

“…be with you?” James questioned quietly, shifting his weight from one foot to another as he leant casually against the table. I had my shoulder against the fridge door, staring intently at the dirt caking the gaps in the linoleum as the silence filled the whole of the kitchen, the only sound either of them could hear was the lazy drips of a leaky tap.

“…if you’re not with me…why are you still here?” I managed finally, my voice hoarse with a raw pain that was burning my throat.

“I care about you Evie,” He replied monotonously, leaning down and placing his hands on my shoulders, his face at my level, trying to get me to look up. “We’re just not…like that,”

“You care about me?!” I scrambled away from him, “Well fuck me James, that’s just great! OH WAIT YOU ALREADY HAVE FUCKED ME!” I was shouting now, my voice ripping my throat to shreds as I fought back angry tears.

“Calm the fuck down,” James gently closed his eyes.

“Do you love me?” I stepped towards him.

The question was simple but it seemed to be I had asked James the meaning of life because his mouth opened and closed so fast he was like a goldfish on Ritalin. He ran a shaking hand through his black, brown air; shrugged, nodded, shook his head and generally showed the largest range of emotions since he was born.

“Eve,” He started but I held my hand up, making sure to keep my distance. If I got any closer I would hit him and I didn’t want to give him an excuse to hit me.

“No, that’s a simple question asked calmly: Do you love me?” I threaded a hand into my hair and pulled lightly in frustration. “Tell me you love me or get out my fucking house, I’m so fucking done with your complete and utter shit.”

Raising an eyebrow at him I waited and waited for the answer I was hoping for.

“Fuck this,” He growled, staring at me with a look of contempt.

Seizing his duffle coat from the table he tugged it violently over his shoulder, flipping me off in the process, and then stormed from the ancient apartment, slamming the door behind him.

The door handle fell to the floor with a hollow clatter.

I stared at it for half an hour, just looking at the reflection of my gaunt figure, alone in the vacant kitchen.

7.

It had been a couple weeks since me and James had last talked and I felt empty, like I had no purpose in the world. It wasn’t like there was anyone else to fill the gap he had left.

There were no texts on my phone and there wouldn’t be any from me on James’.

I waited for him to show up at my door, to tell me he loved me and to look after me but he didn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had already fucked off to college, the fucking dick. I bet he was already screwing someone else.

At first I thought I was angry, at first I wanted to break everything in the house, I wanted to throw my fist into the wall, I wanted to throw my fist in his stupid, big nosed, face.

Then I realized that I was wrecked, I was distraught, I was sat on the floor with my head in my hands and screaming into the confines of my hands.

I didn’t want him back, I was too strong, too fucking proud to go back to him when he couldn’t even tell me he loved me.

Slumping onto my side, staring at the blank wall with vacant eyes I realized I wasn’t strong, strong people didn’t want to kill themselves, they plowed through, they kept going. I had tried, for twenty-two fucking years I had pushed through abuse and poverty and now I was done.

It was now that I realized that James was gone and technically, I was fucking free.

Oat’s Pond was cold…but when you were stood, chest deep in the water, during winter, it was bound to be freezing. Why kill myself this way you ask? Well, it’s cold, unfeeling and makes me feel numb, just like James and I always wanted him to kill me. It’s romantic or poetic or something.

I couldn’t feel my hands as I brushed the water lightly, watching the ripples they created on the surface. I was shaking, struggling to summon the energy to grab something heavy and launched myself into the deep end. I was feeling sleepy, swaying gently as the water felt more and more at home, my lips turning a pale blue as my face drained of color. I shook violently placing a hand on the side of the lake to steady myself, my hand as blue as a corpse on the snow.

I didn’t even feel the cold of the snow, my mind swam with thoughts of James, I could see him stood by the trees, I could see him telling me he didn’t love me again.

Suddenly, I fell forward, my arms flailing sluggishly as my face hit the frigid water with a crash, it felt like a thousand tiny knives as the cold licked at my face and soaked through my clothes, my vision was blurring. As the water took hold of me, I gasped with shock for a second I was wildly alert as I sucked in water but then I was sinking and everything was blending into darkness.

Before I could sink to the bottom in the lake’s icy clutches something tugged at my sleeve and I was lifted out the water. My arms were alive with goose bumps and my teeth clattered together like the reed in a harmonica. My hair plastered darkly to my face and my clothes were soaking wet, the cold gnawed at my insides like a hungry rat.

Calmly, James dragged me onto the snow, laying me down.

“Why’d you do that Eve,” He asked monotonously but the cold still had hold of my tongue.

Abruptly, James’ face changed from neutral to concerned.

“Eve…?” He tapped my face lightly with the back of his hand, his gloves were scratchy against my sallow cheeks. He stripped them off, leaning over me he to hit my face again. “Get up,”

I wanted to, I really did, but I’d been in that water for a good half an hour. My arms felt like they were jerking involuntarily but they weren’t, my body was dead still and light blue and even though I could see James start to panic I couldn’t do anything.

James yanked off his coat, pulling me from the ground and sweeping it round my shoulders, rubbing my arms up and down as I lolled against him.

“Eve, get the fuck up,” He shook me, “I know you’re angry at me but this is fucking stupid, get up!”

James was getting more and more aware at the fact I wasn’t moving, I watched with dead eyes as my chest heaved up and down with sluggish and freezing breaths.

“Shit,” He murmured, grabbing one of my grey hands and blowing hot air on it, rubbing it between his own in an attempt to warm him up.

My heart seemed to be racing, struggling wildly to escape from my chest in a maddening frenzy.

“Eve!” James grabbed me and shook me, my rag doll head flopping around as if it was independent from my body. It seemed his heart was racing just as fast as mine, “Don’t die Evie, don’t die,”

“Fuck!” He yelled, letting my paralyzed body slip to the icy ground again, he slammed his fist into the tightly packed snow, it split his knuckles and blood dripped lazily onto the ground.

James picked up his phone, and I’m sure he was about to call an ambulance but to be honest an ambulance actually arriving in this town on time was as rare as finding a Tortoise in the Antarctic.

“Shit, I don’t know what to do,” He mumbled to himself, “Don’t fucking die on me, I love you, I don’t want you fucking dead!”

James stopped. His brow furrowed. I was laying on his lap as he attempted to warm me up..

“Yeah,” He pulled me closer into him, “I love you Evelyn, fuck, fuck, fuck, I love you, don’t fucking die.”

I woke up in James’ bed with one thousand and one multicolored blankets wrapped around my body. I glanced down to see I had on a bright yellow top and a pair of checked, blue, lounge pants that I recognised but best of all I was lying with James. My head was pressed to his chest and he had one arm around my back, pulling me towards him. His other arm was protectively cradling my head, his hand twisting in my slightly damp hair.

I moaned slightly when I tried to move, my muscles were sore.

“Hey,” James said and I realized he wasn’t asleep. “You’re not dead,”

I looked up at him not sure if things were awkward between us or not.

“Hey,” I replied, shuffling a little in the single bed.

“…I was trying to keep you warm,” He reluctantly released me from his grip and turned to his side table, “I made you hot chocolate for when you woke up…”

Handing me the mug, I switched from the mug to James and back to the mug.

“That’s so gay…” I sipped delicately from the mug…it had a middle finger on it.

He smirked, sitting up and drawing his knees to his chest.

“How’d you find me?” I asked into the mug and James took it from me, placing it onto the floor.

“I came to your apartment, you know, tell you I was sorry and shit, but you weren’t there. This place isn’t big Evelyn, so I saw you after ten minutes of looking, I kind of expected to find you where you where, you know, after the last conversation we had,”

I tried to unravel myself from the multitude of blankets I was wrapped in.

“Yeah well,” I shrugged idiotically, I couldn’t admit I was wrong.

“Evelyn I came to tell you I didn’t want you fucking dead,” James nudged my chin upwards and I placed my hand on his chest, stopping him in his tracks, turning my head away. “Because I want to be with you,” He swallowed, moving closer to me, “I love you,”

I inhaled, gripping his shirt with my hand, and pulled him towards me.

“You scared the shit out of me,” He mumbled, his lips brushing mine.

“James Tucker? Scared?” I snorted, “Fuck me that is gay,”

“Shut the fuck up Eve,” He sighed, kissing me and stopping my next words in their tracks.

8.

“Why do you never talk to me about things?” James mumbled to me as we sat watching a film.

I was laid on his lap, my arms wrapped around his left leg and my head directed at the TV. It was half an hour through a silent viewing of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World when James perked up.

I rolled over so I was looking up at him, releasing his leg. Self-consciously James put a hand over his nose so I couldn’t look up at it, I laughed softly.

“What?”

James pushed me off of him and my smile faltered, I turned around to him and watched his eyes droop, he wouldn’t look at me.

Things had gone so well in the past weeks. I’d begun to see James smile and laugh and it was because of me, if I asked he would tell me that he loved me albeit with a grimace and sometimes it would be coupled with an insult but that was okay with me. We still fought occasionally, we had those moments where one of us, or both of us just lost control. We were volatile people though, it was to be expected. So seeing him liked this was a huge step back, huddled up on the far right of the sofa, me on the right. Looking at me with a look of hurt plastered on his face.

“You don’t tell me anything,” He mumbled.

“You don’t tell me anything either!” I barked back and James widened his eyes.

It took me a moment to realize how short I had been with him when this was really all I ever wanted.

“No, but there’s nothing to tell,” He drawled, “My life is boring and you know it…just how I liked it”

I shuffled slightly, drawing my knees up to my chin.

“Then you won’t want me to complicate it,”

“Don’t be stupid,” James huffed, crawling across the sofa to sit next to me, turning me to face him.

“There’s nothing to tell, it’s been nearly a year and I’ve been with you the whole time,” I informed him, standing up, my hands shaking.

“Eve come on!” His voice got sterner, he thought if he used his ‘annoyed’ voice, he could just control me. “What about your Mum’s death? Or your Dad? Or your sister? Or all the people you’ve fucked? You’re fucked up Eve!”

I turned towards him, really wanting to punch him in the face for mentioning those things. Things he knew better then to try and talk to me about but I didn’t.

I laughed at him, grinning as I pointed a finger at his chest.

“I’m fucked up? This is coming from the guy whose family despise him, who can’t show any fucking emotion apart from when he’s practically psychotic! What about all the people you’ve fucked James?! Hey?!”

I was smiling with a strained grin that was almost psychopathic. I was aware that my finger had jabbed James in the chest about four times and that it was jittering wildly.

I span away from him, aiming to storm out but I had nowhere to go and I didn’t want to go home. So I walked through the arch doorway and stood over the sink.

I was bubbling with a confused kind of anger. I was a calm person, I am a calm person, I make jokes and I mess around and I take things lightly but there are some things that people mention and it makes me flip out.

I heard James leave the couch with a squeak, he paced the floor slowly and I watched his shadow slide across the wall I was staring at until it disappeared behind mine.

“You’re trembling,” He informed me, he didn’t touch me, he knew better then to do that right now.

I pushed my hands into my face, wiping away the angry tears that had escaped my eyes and jogged down my face.

Carefully, James placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Talk,” He gave me an encouraging squeeze and I started to shake even harder.

My head turned slightly, I couldn’t see his face but I could see his pale hands lined with blue veins and it calmed me.

“Only if you will,” I whimpered. It was strange, not having to be strong.

Every single day I would have a smile on my face. Then I let someone in and it felt strange that I didn’t need to be that anymore, it was okay to be weak, it was okay to fall because someone was there to catch me.

“You ask, I’ll tell,” I felt James nod, that was the epitome of James. You ask him fucking anything and he’ll tell you in his monotonous voice.

He slung his arm around my shoulder, he wasn’t my boyfriend, he was my friend today.

Sitting on opposite ends of the sofa James nudged me with his foot.

“Ask me something,” I racked my brain for some kind of question, some specific question but I couldn’t.

“…Tell me about your family…” I whispered, raising my eyes with my head lowered so I looked like a shy little girl.

James took in a breath.

“Mum and Dad have always hated me, Mum only worried when everything was fucked or I was too far gone. She always tried to intervene too late and then I’d just snap at her. She hated my Dad and my Dad hated me for some reason, Mum and Dad used to have huge fights with me just sat there, I wanted to fade into the furniture. They loved Katie way more then they loved me and made a point to tell me how much better she was then me even when I was five fucking years older than her. Kate did this and Kate did that and I didn’t even want to fucking be in the house so I’d stay locked in my room and just stare at the ceiling.

I started throwing people under the bus, looking for things in people that would make me think I was better then them, I was such a fucking bully. I threw Kate under the bus a billion times just to feel like my parents knew I was fucking there. We all hate each other really.”

There was barely a pause in the whole fucking speech and James rattled it off with such monotony that you would think he’d told the same thing to fifty other people.

“You were a bully?” I knew that, everyone fucking knew that. There was the ‘bad boy’ but James was the mean boy. I just wanted him to elaborate.

He nodded smiling, half shame and half amusement.

“You know that I was, you know I liked it. You know I liked making myself seem better then other people so I picked on peoples weaknesses. I beat the shit out of people for fun. You know that.”

“You were such a fucker,” I smiled and James’ eyes darkened.

“So, are you going to tell me anything about your family?” I was silent, “Or am I going to have to learn everything from Karen?”

“Why do you want to know?” I clutched my knees to my chest.

“Because kid,” James yanked himself towards me, the couch squeaking as he crawled across it and threw his arms around my neck. Squeezing me so tightly that my head was rammed into his chest, his face jammed snugly into my shoulder.

I sighed, shoving him off me.

“Don’t patronise me,” I growled, turning my face into the sofa. “I’m not your kid,”

I understood I was acting like a child, dodging his questions and being so horrendously irrational. I didn’t know what to do, it felt strange to open up to someone, to let them know the disgusting inner workings of my mind and release a can of worms big enough to swallow the earth, then let them make up their minds whether to you’re a freak or not.

“I just want you to be happy,” James looked sad, almost disappointed, “I want to help,”

I swallowed, dragging myself into a poor excuse for a sitting position and stared scornfully at James’ pallid face.

“I can’t spend my life not asking you these things and then having them tear at me when I can’t figure out the answers,”

“I had a mum; a dad; a sister; a house and all that shit,” I spat at him and he tensed up. James did not take well to sarcasm. “Now I don’t have a mum and I don’t have a dad and I barely have a sister!”

My voice had steadily increased until I was almost shouting.

“You have me,” James leaned forward and clasped my wrists, pulling me towards him and following my fallen eyes. “And until you can at least try and help me understand, I can’t let you act like this!”

I was silent. Dead silent as I felt James loosen his grip on my wrists, he moved my wrist up to his mouth and just pressed it to his lips, not kissing it, just holding my hand to the warmth of his mouth.

“He wasn’t even bad, my Dad,” I began, mumbling over the jumble of words. “When he was sober he loved us,”

“And when he was drunk he hit you?” I wondered if James knew how tame those words were.

“Yeah…he did,” I pulled slightly and James released my wrist. “I’m so fucking weak,”

“Don’t be fucking stupid, we’ve all been beaten up before,” He towered over me on the sofa, “We haven’t all been in a fight with our 6″ 3′, 200lbs, fathers,”

“My mum didn’t even care,” I whimpered and James allowed me to draw into myself again, “…well, she did… but she never stopped him,” I cried out, lashing my fist down and then burying my head in my hands.

“No one cared! No one noticed! No,” I stopped myself, smirking as I shook my head, “No, they noticed, it’s hard not to notice but no one ever fucking cared,”

James was silent now, he looked on as I shuddered violently. It was like he had released a demon, a creature so vitriolic and angry that it rivalled the devil himself.

Opening his mouth, James dived in to say something.

“No!” I yelped, moving towards him so I was on all fours, jabbing a finger into his chest. “Don’t you dare say you cared! You didn’t care! You stayed inside your own fucking bubble and you didn’t fucking care,”

I collapsed onto his chest, sobbing angrily, bitterly until it was no longer crying. It was a screaming, disturbing cry that echoed the years of torment. I dug my nails into his chest, grabbing fistfuls of his t-shirt for purchase and slowly knocking my head onto his firm sternum.

Tediously, slowly, I felt James place his hand on the back of my head, it was shaking. James was shaking. His fingers that were looped into my hair had become stuck and he pulled slightly to try and get them loose.

I felt like a child, that’s how I had been judged.

Judged by James.

I was a fucking little girl who needed the comfort of her man.

Staring up at him with tear stained cheeks and sore, red, eyes. James looked sympathetic and cold, like he always did.

All I could hear was the steady drip of a leaking faucet in the kitchen

“I’m here now,” He assured me, dropping the hand that was on my head to my shoulder, “That’s the best I’ve got,”

Unfortunately, some people just can’t be fixed once they’re broken. Lifting my head, I fixed my eyes on the still leaking faucet, it was dripping faster and faster now. It didn’t look like it was going to be fixed.

“It’s not good enough,”

9.

“I’m not right,” I breathed, the tears in my eyes blocked by something else. My throat closing up every time I opened it to say something, getting to the point where I thought I would go to speak and just nothing would come out.

The couch felt strange now, uncomfortable and fake.

The tap was groaning in the kitchen now, growing louder with ever minute.

Now, we were both breathing heavily and not from what you think.

After I had told him that he wasn’t the magic fix, James stood up. The first thing he did was grapple with the sink, jiggling it around and swearing when he couldn’t fix it.

It must have been heartbreaking. To see the one you love fall apart in front of you and to give it everything you have, and be told they were no better.

Then it hit me. Everything hit me again at once.

I didn’t want to live, that had always been clear but now I knew that even with James loving me, he just wasn’t enough to fill the void.

There was nothing, nothing that could bring me up from the place I had hit.

I stopped, I fell back onto the sofa, staring absently into nothing.

James stopped his work and looked up at me; he crept back into the living room like a mouse. An incredibly uninterested mouse. Pausing in the doorway, he leant against the frame, propping up his tall figure.

“I’m not right,”

I watched him.

As his eyes descended to stare at the ground, he exhaled hard and drew in a new lung full of air. James swabbed at his eyes and then clenched his hands into fist as they tangled in his jet black hair.

I wish I knew how he was feeling.

I guessed annoyed. Annoyed we had gone full circle.

Or upset, but then it realized it was James I was dealing with,

Maybe even happiness. A slight sense of relief that I wouldn’t be taking up any more of his time.

James pushed off from the wall and sat down beside me, staring at the same place I was gazing at.

“We’re both not right,” He agreed.

The water carried on dripping into the sink and we listened to it, letting time tick by, using the slow, metallic drips to measure it.

“I do love you,” James mumbled, his hands fixed tightly in his lap, “I fucking hate you too but I’m not happy if you aren’t,”

“I’m not,”

“I know Evie, I know,”

Abandoning James I left to find my coat. I knew how this was going to end.

The coat was bigger than normal and it felt heavier. I withdrew what I needed and returned to stare at the wall with James.

I placed a hand gun in his lap.

My eyes were fixed on the white space but from my peripheral vision I watched as James’s eyes fell down, saddened, and registered what was in his lap.

He span away, throwing the thing from him like a snake and scooting up the sofa away from the possibility of it biting him.

“I don’t want to do this alone,” I sobbed, knowing just how selfish I was being but allowing myself all the same.

Tentatively, James reached down and wrapped his hand around the steel barrel, wincing as he lifted it, playing with the weight, he drew it towards him.

“You can’t,” He pleaded and I shook my head.

“Why?” I wanted, needed, to know, “Why can’t I?”

“I promised,” He whimpered, throwing the gun back to my lap, “I promised Karen that I wouldn’t let you kill yourself,” He groaned.

You may be thinking that I was a dick for leaving Karen and I swear to God if you ever said that to my face I would gut you. I weighed her down, she would never be able to get on with her life if I was here, I needed her to move away, to be able to make something of herself instead of wondering when she’ll next see me.

“I fucking pinky promised Evie,” He pulled his hands together, knotting them through each other and shuffling in his seat.

“I don’t want to do it alone,” I whispered hoarsely as I took hold of his hand. Wrapping his fingers around the handle of the gun.

“You said we wouldn’t talk about this again,” James said monotonously, not meeting my insistent eyes.

I guided him to his feet by his shoulders, staring up at his dark, blue, grey eyes, they seemed cloudy now. Unseeing.

“We’re not talking about it anymore, we’re doing it,”

I held James’ wrist as I guided his hand to my forehead, smack bang in the middle. As soon as I felt the coolness of the nose I felt a certain warmth fill me, a freeness, relief.

I was aware of the tears rolling slowly down my face as James leaned in, dropping his arm; letting the weapon hang languidly by his side, and kissed my cheek.

“Why?” He asked me, his knuckles whitening as I watched him tense.

I wanted him to know it wasn’t his fault.

“It’s not your fault,”

That I thought if I was happy with him, I wouldn’t want to die.

“I thought if I was with you, if I was happy with you, I wouldn’t want to die,”

And that this was the greatest thing I could ever ask anyone to do, but it could never be anyone but him.

“I know what I’m asking you is huge…horrendous even… but I couldn’t have anyone other than you do it James. What you’re giving me…You’re making me happy,”

I watched as his eyes softened and he smiled very lightly.

“What about the blood? The body?”

I shook my head.

“I’ve got a letter, it’s a suicide,” He still looked queazy, “It’s okay if you close your eyes,”

“Karen?” He mumbled and I knew he didn’t want to break her promise.

Resting my hand on his shoulder I kissed his bone dry cheek.

“I have a letter for her too,”

James shifted his weight from one foot to the other. I reached out and took his hand, letting him know that it was time. “I can’t believe it’s come to this Evie,”

We both listened for the drip of the tap.

Two minutes. Three minutes. Four minutes. Then James lifted his hand and pressed the pistol to my head again.

I nodded slowly and he choked back a strange sob-like noise yet he was smiling softly.

“I love you…there wasn’t really a moment when I didn’t, kid.” He told me. “And I’m sorry,”

“Me too,”

Five minutes. Six minutes. Seven minutes. James placed his finger on the trigger.

James Tucker squeezed the trigger and it was done.

Life dissolved in a scarlet flash of spray, darkness swelled up and all the lights in the house went out. I expected angelic chorus’ and a great white light but it was just James’ pained face and the whining sense of forever.

As soon as James pulled the trigger to end it all, I realised how much I wanted it to keep on going.

The End

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4 thoughts on “Looking After You

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