I suddenly realize that I’m in my room. Awake. And Nova’s here. With me. My thoughts start racing as I try to recollect what happened. I was planning on those guys beating me to death. Why didn’t that happen? Because it was too easy? Do I deserve not to be let off so easy—do I deserve worse than death? But if that’s true then why’s Nova here?
“What are you doing here?” It’s painful to talk, but I force the words to leave my mouth. “Or am I dreaming?”
She repositions her hand on my cheek, but doesn’t pull away, the startled look in her eyes diminishing. “You’re not dreaming…you were unconscious but…are you okay?” She seems nervous and it reminds me of how innocent and good she is, and how she shouldn’t be here in the crack house that I call home.
“Why are you here?” I ask, my voice feeble as I try to sit up, but my arms aren’t working and I fall right back down on the mattress.
“I came here to see you,” she replies, absent-mindedly touching her lips, and I wonder if I really kissed her or if I was imagining it.
She stares at me with her fingers on her lips and it’s uncomfortable because she’s really looking at me. I’ve been so used to people looking through me, as if I were a ghost, seeing the drugs, the person that I am now, the worthlessness all over me, instead of who I used to be. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be really looked at and for a split second I enjoy it. Then she looks away and I feel like I’m dying, my brain registering the pain in my legs, arms, chest—everywhere. And I’m crashing. Badly. My hands start to shake, my heart rate picking up as soon as I realize this.
“Go put some ice in a plastic bag,” she says, snapping her fingers at someone.
I hear a mutter and then Tristan steps into my view. He glances down at me and the haziness in his eyes lets me know he’s high on something, but I’m glad he’s at least here and it doesn’t look like he’s been beaten up. “Dude, you look like shit,” he tells me with a dopey-ass grin.
“I feel like shit,” I mutter, managing to get my hand up to my face to rub my eyes. “You look like you got away.”
“I did, and you should have run with me, you dumbass…I thought you were for a while until I realized I was alone.” Tristan chuckles under his breath. “Wait until you see yourself in a mirror.”
His amusement seems to piss Nova off and she gets to her feet, tugging the bottoms of her shorts down, fury burning in her eyes. “Go get a fucking bag to put the ice in,” she says, not yelling, but her tone is cold, abrupt, harsh, and she sort of shoves him. This isn’t the Nova I remember at all and she kind of scares me.
She seems to scare Tristan, too, who surrenders with his hands in front of him and backs toward the doorway. “Fine. Jesus, Nova. You don’t have to get crazy about it.”
“You haven’t even begun to see me get crazy,” she snaps, pointing at the door. “Now go get a damn bag.”
After Tristan leaves, she turns to the doorway and says, “What am I going to do?”
I can’t see who she’s talking to and it makes me wonder who the hell is in here. Delilah? I doubt it, since I don’t think she’d be asking Delilah that question.
“I don’t know,” someone replies. I still can’t see who it is, but I can tell the voice belongs to a female and I hate how excited I get over the fact that Nova’s not here with a guy.
Suddenly a girl with black hair and big blue eyes steps in. “He looks…” She assesses me, then looks at Nova. “He looks like he needs to go to a hospital.”
“No hospitals,” I croak. “I don’t have the cash to pay for that.” And I don’t deserve to heal so easily. I should suffer for getting up and running away from my death.
Nova stares down at me with reluctance. “Quinton, I really think you need to go to a hospital.” She kneels back down on the mattress, sweeping her long brown hair to the side as she leans over me. Her fingers gently enfold my wrist and, moving slowly, she bends my arm so I can get a good view of my hand. It’s twice the size it normally is and my skin is purple and blue. Even where her fingers are, the skin is swollen and raw, and it seems like her touch should hurt, but all I can feel is heat—her heat. God, I’ve missed her heat. I’ve spent the last year wrapped up in coldness, feeling the numbness of drugs and sex with random women and now she’s here and I feel like I’m burning up.
“It’s just a bruise,” I say, not looking at my hand, but at her. I want to hold her, hug her, kiss her, touch her, but I also want her to go away. Stay. Leave. Right. Wrong. Lexi. Nova. Guilt.
It was all your fault.