I don't know what has come over me. But just hearing Angela say that she is not the favorite, that she didn't celebrate her birthday . . .
I knew I was seeing a mirror of myself, but I didn't know it was to this extent. Now, with my chin resting on top of Angela's head and rubbing her back, I can feel more of her pain.
She cries into my chest, holding my torso like a limp doll. How could anyone not . . . I don't know.
"Sorry," Angela says, suddenly pulling away and frantically wiping her face. "I didn't mean to . . . lose it . . . like that. I barely know you."
"Hey," I say, gently reaching for her hand. "Don't worry about it . . . I'm guessing you haven't been able to release like that, huh?"
"Well . . ." she trails off as I pull her to sit on the bed in front of me. "I do cry . . . like that . . . just not in front people . . . I'm too weak already . . . to let people see me . . .
"What do you mean?"
Angela sighs and I can see her reluctance to say anything as she tucks her knees to her chest. I realize that I am still touching her arm and gently pull it away.
She sucks in a breath, as if the wind has been knocked out of her. Angela glances briefly at the place where my hand just was, but her head snaps up quickly.
"You don't have to talk about it," I say, trying to sway the conversation away from dark areas. I got the impression that Angela has seen just as much darkness as I have. Now I'm sure of it.
"So," I say, turning so my legs hang off the side of the bed. "Thanks . . . for last night."
"I only did what anyone would have done," Angela replies, shrugging.
"Um, no . . . Not everyone would have done what you did . . . Not my family."
Angela looks straight at me. Something flashes in her eyes for the briefest second. And for that briefest second, I forget about my troubles.
Not my family, Jace had said. Okay . . . I'm not the only one. I mean, yeah sure. My family wants me to come home, but I think it is out of the obligation to family relations . . .
or are they worried how the family will look to outsiders?
"You look cold," Jace says suddenly as he goes back to a sitting against the pillows. "Where did you sleep last night, anyway?"
"The floor," I reply, hugging my knees.
"The floor . . . How much longer do we have in this room?"
"They usually charge by night . . . But I managed to . . . work out a deal. As soon as you are well enough . . . I'll pay what I owe them."
Jace turns his face away and crosses his arms over his chest. I look away when he glances at me. Something about this boy -man - makes me . . . nervous.
Not nervous, like he'll murder me in my sleep. But . . . I don't know.
"I'll pay half the bill," Jace says after a long silence. "I've more than enough and you shouldn't have to pay for it . . . I'm the temporarily impaired, not you."
"Yeah, I know," I say, nodding. "But . . . Are you sure?"
"Positive . . . So . . . Are you sticky about germs, or would you like to finish this sandwich?"
I look at the half-eaten sandwich. No, I am not sticky about germs.
But doesn't he want to finish it? I am about to refuse, but my stomach rumbles, which gives away that I am actually still a little hungry.
"Have at it," Jace says softly, pushing the sandwich towards me. "I can see that you could use a little more food. Don't tell me you don't eat much, because I won't listen. Eat, please."
"Thanks," I reply, picking up the sandwich. "I guess . . . I am more hungry than I thought."
"Yeah . . . So . . . I think I'm feeling a little better . . . Does the TV work?"
"I think so . . ." I quickly get up and go to look for the remote. I hand it to Jace and move to the chair opposite the room to finish eating. However, Jace does not turn on the TV right away.
He watches me eat in silence. I turn slightly in my chair, averting my gaze to the boring picture frame on the wall.
Dogs playing poker? Okay, if I weren't in my current state of mind, I might find it somewhat cute.
"Would you like to sit by me?" Jace asks in a suddenly soft tone that equals mine. "You can't see very well from that angle."
I slowly look at him and I see that Jace has moved to one side of the bed. The hug he gave me a short while ago enters my mind . . . and I nod.
I nod? I clean up the sandwich mess and slowly make my way around the bed to the empty spot. I set myself down in a manner that one might a glass doll. I am fragile.
I am breakable at the slightest touch. I can't let this odd turn of events sway me from my plan to evacuate this town.
I slip my hands into my jacket pockets and sit back against the pillows. The TV is on the wall directly across from the foot of the bed. Jace settles back with a sigh and turns on the TV.
For a full five minutes, he just flips through the channels, because there is nothing but commercials playing.
"How about that?" I ask when he stops on a rerun of Smallville.
"It's better than commercials, I guess," Jace replies, sighing as he sets the remote on the bed between us. "The guy who plays Clark is not the best though . . ."
"Yeah . . ." Jace is speaking in a low tone like me is making me wonder if he is doing it as a joke. "If you're making fun of my voice . . . Please stop. You don't know why I speak this way."
"I didn't mean it like that . . . I just felt like I was speaking too loudly. You've been whispering and I thought my voice was bothering you."
"Oh . . . No, that's okay . . ." "Why do you talk like that?"
I glance at Jace briefly before looking down at my legs, subconsciously bringing my hand to my throat.
My fingers touch the invisible scars on either side of my neck; the bullet wounds that have healed, but have left me . . . without my before-voice.
"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time . . ." I start to explain, not even bothering to think that I don't know Jace and that this is something I have kept to myself for so long.
I stare straight ahead. "A bullet went through my neck . . . clipped my vocal chords . . . doctors managed to save me . . . They operated . . . Therapists tried to help me rehabilitate . . .
but my voice has . . . it's never been the same. So . . . I talk softly like this."
I am so wrapped up in telling my tale of woe that I don't notice Jace squeezing my hand until after I look at him. The gesture, though it catches me off guard, again, is oddly comforting.
Like . . . Jace actually hears me.