Angela sounded extremely reluctant to take the money from me. Fantastic. When I least expect an honest person, this happens.
I thought she would take the money without a complaint, and hopefully spend it it all. I am dumbstruck as I sit in this bed, all alone.
In a mostly dark surrounding, due to my lack of vision and I am guessing the curtains are covering the windows. There are a few questions going through my mind. All revolving around Angela.
Who is she?
Where is she headed?
Why did she sound so miserable during her phone call?
I sigh and lean back against the headboard of the bed frame.
Angela has only been gone twenty minutes. I'm hot and cold about her coming back. Part of me wants her to leave me be so I can accomplish my original plan.
The other part of me wants her to come back so I can learn a little about her.
A short while later, I hear the door open and the rustle of . . . paper bags? My eyes are closed, so I can't exactly see anything.
"I got some sandwiches," comes the soft voice as the door closes. "Turkey, ham and cheese, tuna . . . I wasn't sure what you might like . . . Um . . ."
I say nothing as Angela moves around, mumbling softly to herself. When I do speak up, I try not to sound like a jerk.
"Ham and cheese sounds pretty great," I say, trying to match her tone. "Thank you."
"No problem . . . How're your eyes?" "I haven't opened my eyes."
"Well . . ." Angela trails and the bed dips beside me. "You don't so swollen anymore . . . Won't be easy at first, but you should try opening them."
I grimace, but nod. She's got a point. In any case, I need my eyes if I am going to keep going to wherever I am going to finish . . . myself. I sit up slightly and start to lift my eyelids.
I can feel the swelling now that I am attempting to use my eyes. It takes some time, and several blinks, before I can finally see my surroundings. And wham. I see Angela for the first time.
Nothing else is in the room. Clad in dark colored clothing, and her brown hair hanging in her face, she looks like someone I know. Me. Hidden. Hurt. In pain and turmoil.
She watches me with caution. She doesn't smile.
"How do you feel?" she asks in her usual whisper. I wonder why she talks like that. Is her voice naturally soft? Or does she whisper because she's afraid to speak up?
"Groggy," I reply slowly, using my arms to hold my upper body forward, rolling my shoulders. "A little stiff, but that will go away once I am on my way."
"Good," Angela says, nodding as she looks down. It is now that I take notice of the paper bags she is holding. Five large bags from the local food court.
Each is marked with the contents in black marker. The bag with 'Ham and cheese' written on it calls my attention. My stomach grumbles. I actually haven't been eating much lately . . .
not since leaving home.
"Ham and cheese," Angela says, as she hands me that paper bag. "I also got extra sauces . . . if you want, that is."
I open the bag and peer inside. I then glance up and contemplate if I want extra sauce. Which I kind of do. Angela is watching me with a neutral expression.
"What do you got?" I ask after a short pause, emptying the sandwich into my lap. Angela rambles off the different sauces and I accept the dijon mustard.
A bit of spice always made me enjoy my food. We eat in silence. Angela stares at the curtains on the window, chewing her sandwich slowly.
I don't look at her directly, but even with my head low and my hair falling into my eyes, I have a fair glance of her.
Her shoulders are hunched inwards as she carefully bites her sandwich, as if this will be her last meal. A twinge of guilt tugs my gut as I think of how I didn't want to eat a short while ago.
How I don't care if I spend all of my cash. And here sits someone trying to reserve both as much as possible.
"Please, stop looking at me," Angela suddenly spoke up, though her voice is ever as quiet.
"I'm sorry," I reply, clearing my throat. "So . . . Where were you headed when you . . . stopped those thugs?"
She shrugs, "Anywhere but here. I was inside the bus station, trying to figure out where I might go . . . The late buses had already left, so I figured . . .
I would stay in a motel for the night and catch a random bus in the morning."
"What about your parents?" I ask, taking a tentative bite from my sandwich.
"I'm old enough . . . I'll be out of their hair for good. They . . . You know what? I don't want to talk about them right now."
Angela places her sandwich in her lap, rolls up the sleeve of her jacket on her left arm, revealing a bundle of multicolored rubber bands.
Her expression is distressed as she tugs a couple of the bands, letting them snap back on her wrist. Angela winces with the impact, snapping her wrists several more times.
I see her expression go from tense to slightly relaxed. Oh no . . . she's one of those kind of girls. I used to know a girl who would cut her wrists, her stomach, her legs.
I had tried to stop her, but she didn't listen. She's in rehab now.
I narrow my eyes as I bite my sandwich, trying to see how far Angela goes to hurt her wrists. I don't see any scars, but her wrists don't have the same skin color as her hands. They look . . .
yellow and purple. Bruises.
Jace keeps watching me and it's making me self-conscious. I continue to snap my wrist with my rubber bands. My best friends. I took up the habit after a failed attempt to . . . cope.
I had taken my brother's Exacto knife and was ready to cut my wrists. But I chickened out at the thought of blood draining from my veins.
Although I couldn't bring myself to do that kind of harm, I found that rubber bands have a similar effect. I'm battered and bruised from all the snapping I've done to myself.
But it's better than the rejection and neglect.
"I think I would like half of the sandwich that is left," Jace says, and he sounds surprised that he is even saying it.
"Turkey," I reply, exhaling as I reach into the bag and bring it out. "I ate the tuna . . . I don't really eat much."
I hand the sandwich to Jace and I can see that he is reluctant to take the whole thing. I pull my knees to my chest and watch him eat. Jace stares back at me with similar curiosity.
"How old are you?" I ask in attempts to fill the silence, which is so not like me. Normally, I prefer to let other rule the conversation, but they do not always allow me to be who I am.
Because the people around me always told me my flaws, my weak points.
"Twenty-three," Jace replies slowly, clearing his throat. "How old are you?"
"Also twenty-three," I whisper back, shrugging.
"Oh . . ." Jace says this as if he expected me to have a different age. "When is your birthday?"
"May thirtieth . . . When's yours?"
"January seventh . . . So, you must have just celebrated, huh?" "In a sense . . ."
"What do you mean 'in a sense'?" Jace asks, and I am totally caught off guard. "Didn't your family make it a big deal or something?"
"Well . . ." I say, only raising my voice slightly, due to surprise. I don't know how to answer you. "Let's just say . . . I'm not really the favorite . . ."
I sigh and turn away, hugging my knees tighter, willing myself not to cry. It's the truth though. My birthday wasn't a big deal. Not that I care much for such things, but . . .
it would have been nice if someone had cared enough to make it special for me. A gentle grunting makes me look back at Jace.
He's trying to get out of the bed and I can tell he physically shouldn't.
"Don't get up," I say, jumping out of my seat and placing my hands on his shoulders. "You're still recovering . . . from those guys . . . beating you up."
"Okay . . . but lean down a minute," he says, holding my shoulder as he guides me closer.
"So I can give you a birthday . . . I didn't get one for my birthday."
With that, Jace pulls me into a hug. It's a bit awkward at first, and I don't know what to do with my arms.
After a moment, I place them around Jace's waist and kneel next to the bed to be more comfortable. Jace is holding my shoulders in such a way that I am completely surrounded by him.
His chin rests on the top of my head, and he is rubbing my back. Suddenly, I'm crying.