Jace muttered something, but it was lost as the door to the apartment flew open. I had to blink hard, and fight the urge to rub at my eyes, because there in the doorway stood an older version of Jace.
"Ian." Jace regarded him icily.
"What the hell are you doing?" Ian asked, pointing at the empty beer can in Jace's hand.
"Having tea with the fucking queen- "
"Jace." Ian warned.
"What, your ears too sensitive for that shit now too? Norah's really done a number on you." He snarked in return.
I couldn't believe he was talking to his brother like that.
"You have company." The older boy seemed to just notice me, it was amazing how much they looked alike.
"Damn, I wasn't sure if she was just a figment of my imagination." Jace shook his head and laughed with out humor. "Well, now that that's all cleared up- Ian, this is Ella."
"Hi." I whispered nodding at Ian.
"Hello, you're Mr. Smith's daughter right?" He asked, while glaring at Jace.
"Um-" I wanted to lie, but something told me that I should be truthful. I just nodded slowly, and chewed on my lip.
Ian walked around the counter, and into the kitchen, eyeing Jace the whole way.
"No more stealing my beers Jace."
"Sorry." He grumbled in response. "I only took one."
"Damn it, you're not even old enough to drink Jace. It's not okay, even just one." Ian threw his hands up in the air, clearly exasperated.
"Look, I said I was sorry Ian! Fuck, what do you want from me?"
"Nothing, its not you." Ian sighed in frustration. "I'm just not good at taking care of you."
I could feel Jace's whole body stiffen in the seat next to me. I wanted to disappear, this was obviously not a conversation meant for my ears.
"Nobody asked you to fucking take care of me, I can take care of myself." Jace snapped at him.
"But I want to take care of you- Jesus, it's about time somebody does."
"I should get going." I whispered to Jace, grabbing his hand and squeezing it, wanting to relieve some of the pressure.
Ian spoke up, surprising me. "Nonsense, you're the first guest Jace has had over- ever." He smiled at me sadly. "You should stay for dinner, I insist."
"Oh, um, my dad will be at the school to pick me up soon." I tugged on my sleeves anxiously.
"Give him a call, tell him you're having dinner with some friends." Jace said with indifference, but when I looked up at him his eyes were pleading with me to stay.
"Okay." I nodded, and when his face broke out into the most glorious smile, I found myself smiling too.
"Hi, dad?- its me." I talked nervously into the phone.
"El? Whats wrong?" His voice sounded truly concerned, and I felt my heart sink at how easily I worried him.
"Um, nothing- nothing's wrong. I just wanted you to know that I'm going to be doing a project with a classmate after school, so I don't need you to pick me up today." I was sitting on the couch in Jace's living room, and watching as Ian and him spoke quietly in the kitchen.
"Oh, okay. Let me know if you need me to pick you up later." He sounded relieved that there wasn't an emergency causing the unexpected phone call.
"I think I have a ride home, but thank you."
"Okay." He said, sounding a little wary about this.
"Alright, bye dad."
"Hey El?" He stopped me before I could hang up.
"I love you kiddo."
"I love you too." I choked out, feeling bad for lying to him. I hated that he was always so concerned for me, that he had to constantly worry that I would fall completely apart again.
I sighed and rose from the couch to hang up the phone.
"What did he say?" Jace asked.
"He said it was fine- to call him if I need a ride home later." I shrugged.
Jace nodded, and looked over at Ian. "Oh, can I borrow your car to take Ella home tonight?"
"Sure, sure." Ian nodded and smiled at me again.
"Wanna listen to music or something?" Jace asked from the other side of the counter.
"Um, yeah sure." I said softly, pulling at my sleeves again.
My arm was throbbing still from last night, and I was trying to focus on the pain as I followed him down the small hallway, to his bedroom. I was nervous, I knew he wouldn't do anything to me, I knew he wasn't Brad, but I was still extremely anxious.
I was also scared about him seeing the cuts that were scattered across the skin on my right arm. I had gone a little over board last night, and I was more than a little ashamed of myself. I made myself physically ill, I was so messed up.
He looked at me as he opened the door. "You sure you're comfortable with this?" He asked.
I could practically feel how tense she was behind me as I led her to my room. I wanted to be alone with her, so I could ask her if she had cut herself the night before. I was really hoping she didn't.
I fucking knew she did though.
I hadn't been able to talk to her about any of that shit yet. I knew I fucked up with her yesterday. I also knew that she had been upset after, and when she was upset she would cut.
"You sure you're comfortable with this?" I asked her as I opened the door to my bedroom.
"Yes." She whispered.
"Well, this is my room." I gestured toward the small and messy space that I called my own.
She laughed nervously and edged her way along the wall, and over to my desk. I watched her from the doorway as she pulled my shitty chair out, and sat down.
"I have a million songs on the laptop, if you want to play any music." I scratched at the back of my neck nervously and looked anywhere but at her.
She just stared at me for a moment, and then focused her attention on my laptop. I found myself extremely curious as to what kind of music she liked. I moved to sit on my bed as Nirvana's "Oh, me" filled my bedroom.
"Nice." I said appreciatively, and watched as she fucking blushed. "So-" I started but she cut me off right away.
"I know what you're going to ask, and yes I did." She spat out and turned around, so her back was to me.
"Okay, so how bad is it?" I asked feeling my heart drop, because for some fucking reason this girl could effect me like that.
"Just stop Jace." She whispered, her back still to me.
I don't know what came over me then, but I moved over to her and put my hands on her shoulders. She jumped at my touch, but as I rubbed her shoulders I could feel as she relaxed. I continued massaging her for a moment before speaking again.
"You can't keep it from me, I told you everything about me. I want to know everything about you." I said softly.
I felt as he shoulders sagged under my touch. "I know." She whispered, with her head down low.
"What's up?" I asked, nudging her softly.
She just sighed and turned her body so she was facing me.
I waited patiently as she rolled up her sleeve, and I literally had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling at her. Her right arm was covered, and I mean fucking COVERED in slices, and some of them were pretty fucking deep too. I grabbed her hand with both of my own, and studied the damage closely, getting more and more angry by the second, until I couldn't fucking hold my tongue any longer.
"Fuck Ella. You're killing me here." I shook my head as I released her hand from my grasp. I was having a hard time swallowing past the lump that was forming in my throat.
"I'm sorry." She whispered, and then looked down at her sneakers, as she chewed on her lip anxiously. She looked like a remorseful child, who had just been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
"Don't fucking do that." I said through gritted teeth, I was furious that she was trying to apologize to me, for hurting herself. I was upset that she could hate herself so much, and be so self-destructive. I didn't even have the right to be mad really, because wasn't I the same exact way? Self-loathing, and self-destructive. So, why was I so fucking upset then? Why did I care so much?
"I told you-" She started, but I cut her off.
"No, don't apologize for that shit." I said, as I flopped down on my bed forcefully. I rubbed my hands over my face roughly and let out a sigh.
I stayed like that for a bit, with my hands covering my face, when I realized how eerily quiet it was. I pulled my hands from my eyes and lifted my head slowly. She was staring at my torso, I looked down and realized that my shirt had rode up, revealing a couple inches of bare skin. I looked back up at her and she turned away quickly, her face an impossible shade of red.
What the fuck? Was she just checking me out?
"Were you just checking me out?" I asked like the fucking moron I am, apparently I had no filter when it came to her.
Her face darkened to an even more ridiculous hue, causing me to smirk.
"No." She said sternly.
"I think you were." I laughed, receiving a death glare from her in return.
"Whatever." She grumbled, and pulled at her sleeves.
So we sat like that, her at my desk, and me on my bed. We listened to music in a comfortable silence, as the smell of something cooking filled the air.
"Lasagna." She finished my sentence.
"I was going to say fucking heaven, but yeah I guess you're right." I said with a shrug.
I didn't realized that anything was wrong, until I heard the most heart wrenching sob escape her lips. I looked at her in shock, she was fucking shaking and she seemed to be a million miles away.
"Ella?" I moved closer to her.
"Don't, don't come any closer." She sobbed.
"What? Did I do something?" I was really fucking confused at this point, and more than a little worried.
"Just don't touch me." She was bordering on hysterical.
"Okay, okay!" I lifted my hands in the air, and backed away from her slowly.
After she rode out whatever breakdown she was having, her breathing returned to normal, and she finally looked at me. She was still shaking a bit, but she seemed less distraught.
"What was that?" I asked nervously.
"The night-" She started and then stopped to compose herself, only to start again. "The night that Brad- that he did that to me, there was a lasagna in the oven at his house."
"Oh." I sat down on the edge of my bed again, still keeping a good space between us. I didn't know what to say.
"The smell." She said shaking her head, as she raked her trembling fingers through her hair.
I suddenly wanted to fucking deck Ian for heating up the god damn lasagna.
"I'm sorry." I said lamely.
I heard Norah enter the apartment, and a couple minutes later Ian called us to come and eat. I stood up again and stretched slowly, watching as Ella dragged herself out of the chair. She looked drained..
"We don't have to eat, if you don't want to." I said to her.
"Aren't you hungry?" She asked.
"Yeah, but I could take you home and eat later. I don't want you to have to sit through that." I shrugged as if I weren't ridiculously concerned for her.
"Okay." She said timidly.
We walked down the hall and into the living room. The smell of the lasagna was fucking intoxicating, but I watched as Ella's eyes darted around the room, and she pulled on her sleeves nervously.
"Listen, I'm gonna take Ella home before I eat. She's not feeling well." I said to Ian, as he pulled plates out.
"Oh, I hope you're okay." Norah said from her seat across the counter, with a look of concern.
"I am, I just want to go home and lay down. Thank you though." She addressed Norah politely.
"Here." Ian pulled his set of keys from his back pocket, and tossed them to me.
"Thanks man, I'll be back soon." I said with a nod.
"Thank you for inviting me to have dinner with you, and I'm sorry I couldn't stay." Her voice sounded so weak and tired.
"Not a problem, honestly I'm intrested to see what's so special about you." Ian smiled at her and I found myself wanting to tell him to shut the fuck up.
"Jace doesn't ever bring people home." Norah piped in.
I glared at them, and after saying good bye we left the warm, and delicious smelling apartment. Once we were alone in the hallway, I really studied her, she looked so panicky still.
"Stairs?" I asked her softly.
She nodded, then she spoke. "What is so special about me?" She asked looking truly curious.
I stared at her long and hard before answering.
"Everything." I said with a shrug as we entered the stairwell. I let my answer sink in as we walked down the three flights of stairs.
Yup, I was fucking in way over my head.