In the dim light, I find my clothes on the floor, discarded along with his. As quietly as I can, I pull my skirt on, grab my clothes, and slip out the door. I look down at myself, in his t-shirt and my rumpled skirt, and smile. I totally earned this shirt.
My eyes adjust to the light as I determine the path of least resistance. At the end of the hall is a set of stairs. If I go down the stairs, I don’t know what or who I’ll run into. My heart races at the thought. At the other end of the hall is a door that looks like it leads outside. It might just be my saving grace. I’ve never done the ‘walk of shame’ before, and I don’t want to start now.
I cringe when the door loudly slams behind me. The narrow, steep steps look like those of a fire escape, and I hesitate for a second. But a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.
I take one more look behind me and breathe in a deep, calming breath of air. After making sure it’s all clear, I throw my stuff over the side, watching it land in a heap on the ground. I turn around and begin backing down the ladder one foot at a time. This is it. I’m going to fall to my death and embarrass my parents who still think I’m a virgin. They’ll never get over it. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m so stup- Oh, thank God, my feet are on the ground. I will never do this again.
I turn to grab my clothes and run straight into a brick wall. A brick wall of muscle and strength. And it smells so damn good… so familiar. I close my eyes as my heart jumpstarts itself. When I open them, I find myself face to face with a smiling Declan.
“Going somewhere, Liza?” My name sounds sexy rolling off his lips, but I hear it there… the smugness.
“What’s it look like?” I stand straight, my chin high.
“Liza, I distinctly remember telling you I’d take you home, and that’s what I plan to do.” He crosses his arms over his chest, his eyes traveling down my body to my bare feet and back up again. So damn smug.
“And I remember telling you that’s not how this works.” Let the record show that no one tells Liza Jane Nichols what to do.
“You just can’t help yourself, can you? You’re always trying to rescue somebody! Did you ever think it might be you who needs to be rescued?” Her eyes widen, almost as if she can’t believe she said that.
We stand, unmoving, as our chests heave with emotion, her words hanging thickly in the air between us.
I close my eyes and lean back against the door, taking several deep, calming breaths. I choose my words wisely because this is probably the last chance I’ll get. “You’re wrong. I’m not trying to rescue you.” My throat is tight, the words forcing their way out of my mouth. “I just want to be there while you rescue yourself.”
For a moment, I think she’s not going to respond, and when she finally speaks, it cuts me to the core.
“The pain, the emptiness, it eats at me. I feel as if I’m being destroyed from the inside out. And you want to take that away.” Her voice breaks, and she takes a deep breath, briefly closing her eyes before opening them. “Well, you can’t. You can’t because sometimes, when everything else fades away, when no one else is here with me, that pain is what reminds me that I’m alive.”
A lone tear rolls down her cheek, opening the gates as two more roll down behind it, and then three, until she is shaking and crying, and reaching for me. I open my arms, folding her naked body into my chest. Silently, I hold her as her pain flows from her, soaking my shirt.
When someone you love, someone you’d lay your life down for, gets lost in the dark, you follow them. Maybe you can’t be the light they need. Maybe you don’t even need the light. And maybe, just maybe, it’s enough to just be there in the darkness.
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