“I was thinking I could stay with you.” Henry said.
So that happened.
Shaking my head, I pivoted away from Henry, pushing off from the doorframe to stagger into the bathroom. The edge of the sink was smooth, hard, and reassuringly cool. When I looked up into the mirror, I stared right past my mud and blood-smeared face to his reflection behind my left shoulder. I was still shaking my head. He looked worried.
“Look,” He rubbed his temple with one hand, rumpling his hair as he frowned at me in the mirror. “It’s not like that. You could still be in danger. You’re definitely not ok. I’m not leaving until I know you’re safe. Plus, I’m a great houseguest.”
He smiled hopefully. I heaved a sigh into the mirror, fogging his reflection away into a blurry gold and grey smear. The ghosts of tiny arachnids skittered up and down my spine. Sure, this guy was cute - and apparently did chores - but this was my space. Mine.
Some girls would be into the idea of having a cute guy move in. Not me. I treasured those hours of solitude that having my own place afforded, guarded them, anticipated them with longing through every minute of the endless work days. No one to judge or want something from me, no one chattering away and cluttering up the space in my head. No one to be careful of, no feelings to dance around, no mysterious, inexplicable web of unspoken needs and desires and intents and purposes. Just me, doing what I wanted to do, when and how I wanted to do it. Just a clean - metaphorically speaking - empty space to think and be.
I eyed Henry as the fog cleared from the mirror. He shifted nervously behind me. It should have bothered me, the way he filled up the space in the doorframe, hemming me in. Instead, I felt strangely comfortable. Safe, even.
But I knew how it goes when girls let guys in. They get caught up in the romance of it all. The promise. Someone to understand, someone to see them. Affirmation. Acceptance. Love. Stability. Safety. They ignore the reality until it’s too late. Until he’s taking up your space, expecting you to wait on him and clean up after him and accept everything about him without getting anything worthwhile in return.
No, in the equation of men and women, women always come out in the red. I wasn’t stupid. There wasn’t anything he could do for me that would make it worth letting him in.
I shuddered, remembering the sensation of being slowly crushed under that moving blanket of spiders. The sense of horrified futility, of being unable to escape, fight back, even let go. There was no surviving the nightmares when they stalked you in daylight. I’d never heard of anyone living through it. Ever. But here I was. And here he was, standing between me and that.
I turned around slowly, shifting my grip so I could still brace myself against the sink. He’d crossed his arms and was leaning against the doorframe, all graceful and easy and confident, like everything was going to work out the way he expected it to. But looking closer, I could see his fingers dimpling the skin of his arms where he held on, and his casual smile had a certain tightness at the corners. It was like he was worried and trying to hide it, like my response mattered. When I opened my mouth, I still wasn’t sure what would come out. It ought to be no. But more of me than I wanted to admit was leaning towards yes when the light went out of his eyes.
He didn’t move, but he was gone, just like that. One moment, he was waiting for my response, the next, his gaze had turned flat and empty, one-dimensional. I stepped toward him, letting go of my anchor and reaching out. I laid a hand on his arm and it was warm, the soft resistance of skin over firm muscle. I had half been expecting plastic, the chill of metal bone and wiring, some sort of cyborg superhero or something. Nothing moved in his eyes; it was like he didn’t feel my touch, didn’t see me moving toward him. And then he did. I actually saw his pupils respond, his focus shifting to my new location. As fast as he’d gone, he just came back into himself - and pulled away in the same moment.
I almost overbalanced as he pulled away, catching the doorframe just in time as he left it. He turned his back and walked away, picking up speed with each step. I made a sound, a sort of questioning, shocked squeak at his back, and he hesitated.
“I have to go,” His voice was neutral, firm but not loud. He didn’t turn back to me as he said it. Then he opened the door and left my apartment.
Well. So much for that.
End, CH3 [Continue to Chapter 4: Alone at last] (http://kaie.space/tgooh/2016/12/23/TGOoH-CH4-Alone-at-last.html)