I feel my eyes closing in spite of myself. I don’t know why I end up sleeping so much around him. His hand stops moving and just stays there warm and solid against the back of my head. I think he’s asleep.
When I open my eyes again he’s still asleep and it’s after five. My stomach growls but I ignore it. I move slowly, partly because I don’t want to wake him and partly out of necessity. I’m still sore and it’s been a while since I took anything. I don’t think he’ll mind if I use the shower.
~~~193~~~ I wake up in an empty bed and it takes me a second to remember why that bothers me. I pull on a pair of jeans and find him sitting on the sofa, resting one of my coffee table books against his knees and concentrating on something he’s writing. “Hey.”
He looks up and smiles. “Hey.” His hair’s wet. I move behind him, and pull his shirt away from his back. I should dress those.”
He shrugs away. “They’re fine.”
I see what he’s drawing. He’s really good; the images are disturbing but then so is everything in his head.
~~~194~~~ It’s been a while since I’ve had the time and place to just focus on a sketch. I can feel him staring at it. I tilt my head back. He kisses my forehead. He’s weird. “You hungry?”
I’m about to tell him I’m not when my stomach rumbles. “I’m just going to pretend you were about to say yes.”
I nod and we go through the whole menu thing again. I make a choice because it bothers him more if I don’t.
Once we’ve settled down to eat he starts again. I do my best not to roll my eyes.
~~~195~~~ I feel like Debbie. I just can’t let the subject go. “If I found you somewhere cheaper to live…”
“Then my clientele would have to be lower rent as well.”
“You could enter the system.”
“I’ll be getting upwards of five hundred bucks a night. You want me to give it away for free?”
He’s right but there has to be someplace… “Stay here.”
He just stares at me and I really don’t blame him. It’s the worst idea I’ve had yet. Which doesn’t explain why I continue. “Live here. It’s safe and free.”
He laughs. It’s not that funny.
~~~196~~~ I hear my laughter verge on hysteria. I remember Isaac warning me… it’s like he knew Brian personally. “They’ll want to take you home and keep you. You’re like a kitten, but when they’re tired of you, or you scratch up the furniture, they’ll leave you out on the street. Watch these guys. They seem harmless. They’re the most dangerous animal you’ll meet.”
I didn’t believe him 'til the first guy offered to “save me.” Isaac and I laughed about it and I never saw him again. There were others. Didn’t matter. Now there’s Brian. He thinks he means it.
~~~197~~~ I usually like to see him laugh, but this is unnatural. Tears are streaming and he’s doubled over. When he finally pulls it together I go back to my sesame noodles. He sighs and drains his beer. “You don’t want me here. You’d kill me in a week. I’d kill you in two.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I really do. You helped me get my own place. It’s the smartest thing for both of us. Tomorrow I’ll be out of your hair for good. You can have your life back.” It makes sense, so why does it feel so wrong?
~~~198~~~ He’s gotten attached. Dammit. Isaac taught me never to spend more than 48 hours with one trick. Of course I had to try it, once. He warned me, and he was right. Just like he was right about the kitten thing. Now he’s upset that we won’t see each other again. In a week he won’t remember my name. In the meantime, he has helped me. I do kind of owe him. I wish I knew what he really wanted. He’s always so worried about making sure I get off. I consider it while I go back to my drawing.
~~~199~~~ I head to the shower and try to stop thinking about him. I can’t. Images flash of what he must have looked like at fourteen when Isaac first recruited him. Fourteen, Christ, he’s just a kid now. By the time I’m dressed and back in the living room he’s finished his sketch and moved on to a new subject. “Is that Isaac?”
I startle him. He tries to hide it but I move my head and he relents. “No.” He’s lying. “Lean forward.” I hold out the bandages. It’s the only time I don’t mind how fucking compliant he is.
~~~200~~~ He pushes my shirt up and insists on covering the one remaining mark. The rest are pretty much faded. This one, I don’t remember it but the strap must have sliced my skin. I’ll be back in business tomorrow, which is good because while I have an apartment. I don’t have anything else. I wince at the thought and he thinks I’m in pain. I let him think that. When he’s done I pull my shirt off and press my body against his. I owe him more than this but letting him fuck me is the least I can do.