While Angela tells her story, without thinking, I squeeze her hand. Smallville is long forgotten as Angela looks back at me with an expression I know too well. Shock mixed with pain.
A bullet through her throat? I've never heard such a story. But I guess it explains why she speaks so softly. When she asked me to not make fun of her . . .
I really was not thinking malice at all. I really did think my loud voice was bothering her. What I did not mention was that I have been assuming that Angela's family speaks like that too.
But it's only her.
"I'm sorry that happened to you," I say, pulling my hand away, with a reluctance that surprises me.
"No sense in your apology," Angela says, shrugging as she shoves her hand back into her jacket pocket. "You didn't do anything . . . Not your fault . . . You're missing the show."
Her gaze goes to the TV screen, but I can see that her mind is somewhere else. I look at the spot she touched on her neck a moment ago.
Her hair might be in a disarray, but I don't see any evidence that would indicate a bullet wound.
It must have been some time ago that it happened, and the doctors must have done a good job at their surgery.
Without thinking, again, I reach to touch Angela's loose hair. I tuck the strand of dark locks behind her ear. Then I see it. A small circular scar.
Angela doesn't go to swat my hand away; she remains frozen. Though her surprise is plastered across her face. I bring my hand down and squeeze her shoulder gently.
"Is that the only reason?" I venture to ask, feeling as though Angela could be holding back something else. "Okay . . . Yeah, your vocal chords are not what they used to be . . .
but is there another reason?"
Angela visibly shudders and brings her hands out to cover her face. And for the second time today, I find myself hugging her to my chest. She wastes no time to hug me back.
Oddly enough, I start to feel a smidgen of an emotion I thought I had long lost. I say nothing. Not that I can truly say anything that can be of comfort to Angela. But . . . I wish I could.
Not having anyone to comfort me like this, not being able to learn how to give comfort . . . That knowledge would be so helpful to me right now.
"I'm such a mess," Angela says after a while, pulling away and getting up from the bed. "I'm gonna just . . . I'll be in here."
She goes to the bathroom, and closes the door without another word. Don't go; the thought passes through my mind and I wonder where the heck it came from.
I slowly push myself up from the bed and make my way over to the closed door. Every muscle in my body is shouting at me that I am making a mistake.
I knock gently on the door, and hope I can try to help Angela. There must be some way that I can help her.
The door opens and Angela stares at me. Her hair is pulled back, which gives me a full visual of her tear-streaked face. And yet . . . it's beautiful.
"You shouldn't be walking around yet," she whispers, shaking her head as she takes my arm and gently pulls me back towards the bed.
Angela pulls me onto the bed and sits beside me. She dabs at her cheeks and then picks up the remote. I am not entirely absent-minded as I drape my arm around Angela's shoulders.
And she turns so she can lean against me without putting too much of her weight on me. I don't know what it is like to hold a girl like this. I've had, maybe, one girlfriend in my entire life.
And she was . . . she was always complaining and never wanted to hear me out. I always had to listen to her, but she never wanted to listen to me. That's not how a relationship works . . . Right?
Jace has no idea how much he is helping me right now. The fact that he is not saying much is . . . it is such a change compared to people always talking and asking me questions.
"What were you running from?" I ask, my back carefully resting against Jace's side.
I feel him tense beneath me, and I don't even know where the question is coming from. I am about to take it back when Jace speaks up.
"Life," he says, clearing his throat. "It's been hard and I just needed to get away. I grabbed all the money I have and I don't have a plan where I'm headed . . . I'm just running . . ."
"Well . . ." I say, "Don't try going anywhere until you're . . . better."
"Yeah . . . I think that is best."
Silence envelopes us as we watch, nothing in particular, the TV. Jace's arm is still around my shoulders, and I'm secretly hoping it stays there a while longer.
I close my eyes and let myself relax. Which I have not done since I was a little girl.
When I open my eyes, I find myself wrapped in a pair of arms, against someone's chest. How long have I been asleep? I lift my head slightly and find Jace's sleeping face inches from mine.
Instead pulling away, I find myself leaning closer. I curl into his side and close my eyes again.
A short while later, I open my eyes again to Jace's face right in front of me. He's looking right at me. And he looks so sad. Correction, he is sad. There are tears in his eyes.
"Why are you crying?" I whisper, absentmindedly reaching my hand up to touch his cheek with the back of my hand.
"Nothing," Jace replies, sighing as he wipes his cheek and closes his eyes.
"Don't cry," I say, leaning forward to kiss his forehead. My lips linger there a moment before I pull away. Jace's eyes are still closed, tears are still falling down his cheeks.
But his expression is softer. Jace sniffles and licks his chapped lips.
"Don't move," I tell him and reach into my pocket for my chapstick. I never go anywhere without it. I take off the cap and gently apply it to Jace's lips.
His eyes shoot open and he pulls his head back.
"Your lips are very dry," I whisper, applying the balm again.
"Thanks," Jace mumbles, staring into my eyes. "You know . . . You're very pretty."
My hand freezes as I am about to return my chapstick to my pocket. I stare back at Jace, incredulous. For a long moment, Jace and I just look at each other.
The only person to ever tell me that I am pretty was my cousin. But he moved away and I haven't heard from him since.
"Thank you," I whisper as tears start to form; my heart is pounding in my chest.
"Now who's cryin?" Jace says softly, gently touching my cheek. "Don't cry . . ."
I close my eyes, enjoying the soft touch. When I open my eyes again, Jace is still looking at me. His breathing is tranquil and his eyes are not as wet as before.
"Your eyes," I say; my face sounds breathy for some reason. "They look . . . so sad."
"Someone once told me that the eyes are the window into one's soul . . ." Jace trails off, sighing. "I have a very sad, pathetic soul."
"Um . . . I kind of believe that . . . But I don't think you're pathetic . . ."
"Sad soul, but not pathetic? What makes you say that I am not pathetic? You don't know me . . ."
"That might be true . . . but I think that . . . Have you ever just looked into someone's eyes and just know exactly how they feel? Like you are seeing . . .
Jace stares blankly; in bewilderment? His breathing increases slightly as his eyes begin to wander around the room. When his gaze falls back on me, there are tears once more. I've hit a nerve.
Without a moment to second guess my actions, I reach my arm around Jace's waist and pull myself to his chest. My ear is right over his heart, and I can hear how fast it is pounding.
I turn gently, and kiss his chest. I am merely acting the way I would want someone to act with me. When no one else will do it, do it yourself. I've learned to keep that as a motto.
I am simply trying to make Jace feel better, and I don't know why. Maybe it has to do with what I said to him about seeing a mirror of your own emotions.
Maybe it is because I wish someone would comfort me in this very manner. Either way . . . I feel like it is something I need to do. What I want to do. And I like the feeling.
Something softly presses against the top of my head, and Jace's arms tighten around me.
"Yes," Jace whispers in a broken voice, his warm breath close to my ear. "But it's the first time I've ever met anyone who knows what it's like . . ."
Jace's arms tighten even more around me as I bury myself in his chest. We stay this this for a long time. Hours seem to tick by, but we don't move. We don't speak. We don't do anything.