4fe 52 – Darkness
Greg hadn’t been able to talk to Charlotte in so long, he felt like she was either trying to avoid him, or he really was cursed with the worse of luck. It surely wasn’t because he hadn’t tried; for a whole week, he had come by every single day. He would usually be told that they were busy, and sometimes the girl would be nowhere in sight. She seemed to be getting up late and going to bed abnormally early, meaning the boy had to guess which time she’d be there at all; and since his pride didn’t allow him to check on the place more than once a day, it had turned into a stupidly annoying game.
Last time he had seen her, they had witnessed Rosa getting out of town with that stupid rich brat. At first part of him had been happy; good riddance! But of course, he should have expected that to affect Charlotte, especially after he had found out that she had a crush on her. He ruffled his own hair in frustration, glaring at the building as usual, locked into a silent argument. This stupid, stupid building…
One day the woman had been quite busy and, instead of sending him away like he was used to, she had grabbed his arm and pulled him to the kitchen, forcing him to wash his arms, wear an apron, and had him help her out. He had complained a lot, obviously, complaining mainly about his reputation, but the woman had neatly stopped all of them with a single sentence; Must I remind you that you’re trying to marry my daughter, boy?
He had obviously known better than to reply to that and he was now there nearly every evening to help out, mainly with cleaning up and lifting heavy things. But no apron, he had demanded. That pink frilly thing was hardly something he wanted to see on himself. No, no, he didn’t care if it was Charlotte’s, he wasn’t going to wear such a girly thing! It had amused the woman and some of her constant worry had been lifted off her face and although he would never admit it, it was a relief. She had, however, kept him so busy that he hadn’t had any more chance at trying to catch the girl, despite being around her all day.
Every time he saw her, she seemed cold and distant, every single one of her expressions fake, learned by heart, as if she did everything by habit. He hadn’t seen her eat anything but soup, and her fingers were covered with bandages. He had even caught her refusing to bring bread to the front unless it was in some kind of plate, and even then she hadn’t placed it; as if she refused to touch any kind of food with her hands. Even someone in refusal to care for anyone like Greg couldn’t help but point out how weird she was acting. Martha was close by, making the final touches on a cake she had worked on during the day, while he was washing the dishes and he couldn’t help his worry and curiosity.
-What happened to Charlotte’s fingers? Did she cut them while making food or something?
The woman flinched and, if he hadn’t already been certain something was wrong, now he wouldn’t have had any choice but be convinced. She seemed thoughtful and frowned as if she, too, was trying to pierce this mystery.
-I’d like to know. She hasn’t told me either.
-What, seriously? Haven’t you, I don’t know, seen them?
-No. She keeps on washing them off though.
Definitely suspicious. Somehow he had a hard time believing that she wouldn’t know a thing, but he didn’t want to make it too obvious that he didn’t trust her too much. Ah, why was this stupid situation so damn complicated? He felt a headache coming up. Just great. He dropped the plate he had been washing on the counter and stopped for a moment.
-Where is she now?
-Sleeping, I’m guessing. Why?
-Don’t you think that’s weird? She’s always up late and all of a sudden she goes to bed at seven. That’s a bad sign right there, she’s planning something.
He dropped everything, grabbed a towel to get rid of the water on his hands and, spotting the stairs he had seen her go up so many times, grumbled a few angry words, threw the towel on his shoulder and started going up without any question.
-Where do you think you’re going, young man?
-I’m going to bring her down because I’m fucking sick of all this shit.
-Watch your words! This isn’t your home!
-I don’t care!
He could hear her bark some more angry words but he was already running up, a sudden fear that she might try to stop him, hiding behind the wall once he was up, on his guards. He was surprised to see that she didn’t and, for a moment, he wondered what was going on. He glanced down the stairs.
-Her room’s the first on the left. Don’t break anything or I’ll make you pay double.
Crap, was she encouraging him? He stared at where he could see her feet and sure enough, she was staying there. She suddenly moved towards him and he didn’t need to watch a second more to see if she’d change her mind to run off to the room she had informed him was Charlotte’s. He stopped in front of it, suddenly feeling awkward and unsure just what the hell he was doing. Should he knock, should he try to enter, should he go back down…? None of these answers seemed to be right and so he stood there like a complete idiot thinking and thinking about it; and thinking hurt his head and made him lose patience.
-Are you in there, stupid? Don’t you think it’s time to stop this crappy act, get out and apologize?
-…Greg? What are you doing in front of my room?
-Get the fuck out here.
-I don’t care, open the fucking door!
He crossed his arms, ear twitching, waiting. No sound. At this point he didn’t even care any more if the reason she wasn’t opening it was because she was naked; if that was the case than, shit, so be it, he’d look away and apologize! He grabbed the knob and turned it fiercely, pushing the door before it got caught it something. Not really thinking about just why it might block, he tackled it and heard wood crack. He was about to give it a new slam when her voice stopped him.
-Calm down, you’re going to break everything!
-I don’t care, let me in!
-Fine, fine, just… wait a minute.
-I’ll wait five seconds.
-Fine. You’re so impatient.
He sighed and growled as he waited, but at least he could hear her move things around. The door closed in his face and for a moment he thought she was messing with him and was about to knock when it opened again. She stood in the half opened door, in her night clothes, glaring at him, hair messy and dark rings under her eyes, blocking access to the room.
-What do you want?
-These are so not the eyes of someone who’s sleeping all day.
He pushed the door open, frowning and, seeing as she was about to close it again, grabbed her arm, pushed her in the room roughly and closed the door with his foot.
-What are you doing?
-What’s your problem?!
She struggled in his arms for a moment as the both of them glared at each other like hissing snakes in the dark room. He couldn’t see much of anything, couldn’t see if there was something on the floor, where the bed was, if there was something on it, nor what was blocking the door earlier; the only reason why he wasn’t blinded to begin with was because some light was finding its way in through the curtains, barely enough so he would be able to see her angry face. He was obviously stronger than she was and, seeing as she was about to hit him, he had grabbed her other wrist, leaving her with only her feet left as weapon; before he could see it coming, a flash of pain coursed through his leg as she had hit him hard right in the middle of it.
-That hurts, fuck!
-Let me go, jerk!
-What’s with you hitting me every time you see me? Geez…
-What’s with you hitting Rosa every time you see her?
She was obviously proud of her come back right there, a smug smirk painted on her face, but he still had the upper hand; he was still holding her. For some reason he felt like any second now she’d spit at him and, his level of annoyance growing, he finally pulled her against him, not thinking too much about it, holding her close, as she stopped fighting, tense with confusion.
-What are you doing now?
-Shut up, will you?
He pulled her closer and couldn’t help but realize his arms were shaking. Shit, what now? What was this stupid overwhelming fear that overcame him? He hadn’t felt anything like that before. He didn’t want to let her go. Something, something inside of him told him that if he did, she’d go away and he’d lose her forever. He hid his face into her neck, embarrassed. He was supposed to be the strong one, no?
After a moment he felt her relax into his tight embrace and a hand lift itself up to his head, as if it was going to rest on it, touch him, but stopped, clenched into a fist and pulled on his shirt instead, as she hid her face into his chest and started shaking too. What was up with that? He could feel his heart still beat fast, but at least he had calmed down a bit now.
-You don’t understand.
Her voice was unsteady, and just hearing them Greg could feel his throat tighten, as if he could feel the young woman’s pain as his own. He looked away.
-Then explain to me.
-You wouldn’t understand.
He glared at the emptiness he was staring at, his annoyance slowly growing back.
-Why not? I might not be the smartest, but I’m not completely stupid!
-Then you wouldn’t believe me!
-You don’t know that!
He pushed her away, still holding on to her, and pulled her chin so that her sad eyes would look straight into his. He brushed her cheek as gently as he was capable of, pushing away her tears, looking deep into her maroon eyes.
-Please tell me what’s going on, Charlotte.
-You don’t know anything about me. Why would you believe anything I have to say?
She looked so frail, so weak and vulnerable like this. He almost felt like he was holding a delicate flower. He didn’t know what that feeling was in his chest, but it was warm, too warm for him to hold it, and it almost hurt. Without thinking, he pulled her closer to him, his hand in her hair, and kissed her lips gently.