She barely heard the soft knock at her door. Getting up from bed, she wrapped her bathrobe around her body and glanced at the clock. It was just after midnight, but she had yet to fall asleep. She couldn’t with the worry gnawing in her stomach.
Just before she got to the front of the house, she heard the knock again and almost shouted out for them to calm down, that she was on her way, but she stopped herself. She didn’t know who it was, and didn’t want to let them know she was home and by herself just in case.
After peeking through the eyehole, she let out a sigh of relief as she quickly unlatched the chain lock, then twisted the dead bolt and pulled open the door.
“Hey,” she whispered happily, pushing the screen door open. “Are you okay? Nothing’s wrong, is there?”
He didn’t answer as he slowly slipped past her and into the front hallway area.
“Wace?” she questioned gently, putting her hand on his arm. The glassiness in his eyes had her worried.
He looked down at her then, the contact seeming to snap him out of his daze. “Umm,” he started quietly, confusion flashing across his face. “‘E’s mad at me, so I...I left.”
“Who’s mad? Your father?” she asked, relieved that he was still alive, for Wace’s sake - she thought something might’ve happened at the hospital.
He didn’t bother answering her question, just continued on with his story as he stumbled lightly down the dark hallway that led to her bedroom. “I dunno know what I did, but I must’ve...if ‘e was that mad. I guess I...”
His whisper trailed off as he blindly found the edge of the bed and sat down, then started to remove his boots with little success.
Jen sat down next to him, flipping on the night lamp as she did so, and he turned away quickly at the harsh change in light. She apologized, but left it on for a moment so he could actually see what he was doing.
She looked down at his fingers as they numbly tried to undo the knots in his laces. His hands were shaking.
“Wace? Baby, what’s wrong? Tell me what happened,” she said, leaning down awkwardly and placing her palm over his hands to still them. She’d witnessed the results of his father’s tirades before and while they were always something that cut him, she hadn’t ever seen it go this deep before.
He didn’t sit up, just stared at the floor for a long moment then cast a sidelong look her way. “I didn’t think ‘e could still yell like that,” he breathed quietly, a haunted smile on his lips.
“What happened?” she asked softly, placing her hand flat on his chest and pulling him upright with her. She ran her fingers up and through his hair and he closed his eyes at her touch. “What’s goin’ on?”
He was quiet for a while, losing himself in the feel of her hands raking slowly across his scalp. It was soothing, comforting - and she knew he needed that.
“I don’t...I dunno what I did, but...” he said again, his voice shaky with emotion, and when it seemed like he wasn’t going to speak any further she let her hand fall to his shoulder and gave it a little squeeze.
“But what?” she urged gently, keeping her hands moving on him, trying to settle him down as much as she could. “What is it, Wace?”
“Sometimes I just wanna....I can’t ever -”
He silenced himself with an aggravated shake his head, breathing out a heavy sigh as he kicked one of his shoes off with a rough jab of his foot.
“Baby, just...just don’t listen to ‘im, okay?” Jen offered up in a soft voice, massaging gentle circles around the knots of tension on his back. “He doesn’t -”
“I can’t help but listen to ‘im, Jen,” he interrupted, turning on the bed to face her, leaving the one booted foot on the floor. “Don’t you see? ‘E’s always fuckin’ there! I can’t get away from ‘im no matter what I do and it’s like...if...”
He stopped, dropping his head in frustration and she watched quietly as he struggled, trying to find the words to tell her what he was feeling.
“It’s like when I think about it sometimes - about leavin’ or-or tryin’ ta get away from ‘im, it’s like he already knows and I can’t help thinkin’ that...I dunno what he’d do ta me if -”
“He won’t do anything, Wace,” she argued, suddenly overcome with the urge to let him know that he had an escape, that nothing would happen and no one would blame him. “He can’t do anything.”
“Yes, ‘e – ”
He stopped abruptly, wiping at his eyes compulsively, even though they were bone dry. He looked as if he was trying to say something, but cut himself off again, shaking his head and cupping his palm around his mouth as he propped his elbow against his knee.
Jen closed her eyes, a familiar anger boiling within her for what that man did to him. To his son. It wasn’t the first time she’d wished the man dead, but with as much as she hated him, and as hard as it was for her to understand, given the circumstances, she knew that his passing would just tear Wace up inside.
“What is it?” she prodded, gently taking his face into her own hands and letting the pads of her thumbs stroke at his temples, trying to ease away some of the tension coating his features.
He shook his head once more, his shoulders slumped over heavily. “It’s like ‘e’s a part o’ me, Jen,” he whispered shakily, keeping his eyelids screwed tightly as he spoke. “Like ‘e’s crawled up inside o’ me and ‘e just won’t let go. I’ve tried so fuckin’ ‘ard ta dig ‘im out, but...‘e’s in there for good now, I know it.”
He looked up at her then, eyes saturated with the fear of what he might find directed back at him.
Letting her hands falls slowly from his face, her fingers trailing lightly behind, holding onto him as long as they could, she took his hands in hers and gripped them tightly, hating with everything in her the sound of that weary defeat in his voice.
“I wasn’t suppose’ta be like this.”
It came out in a hushed whisper, almost an apology of sorts, and if it hadn’t been for the silence of the night, she wouldn’t have understood his words.
“Like what?” she asked, her heart absolutely aching.
“Doesn’t matter,” he mumbled after a still moment, pulling away from her, sliding his leg off the bed and planting his foot beside the other one.
When Jen saw that he was reaching for his boot - probably so he could leave - she bent down to stop him, taking a hold of his hand. He kept moving, ignoring her restraining fingers on his, until she leaned around and kissed him suddenly. She pulled back just as he opened his mouth, his eyes heavy-lidded and boring into her with a strange, heated darkness. She had his attention now.
“Wace,” she started, but he cut her off, sitting up and holding her with a hand on her jaw, and latched their mouths together in a hard kiss. She flinched back on reflex, the dull throb on her upper lip becoming aggravated as his mouth worked against hers, but he held tight, his hand sliding around to grip her hair.
She whimpered into his mouth, but not from pleasure, and somewhere in the haze of his mind, he knew to back away, to give her some space for a moment. They broke breathlessly.
“You’ve been drinking, haven’t you.”
It wasn’t a question. She could feel the burn of alcohol against her lips, could taste it on her tongue. He wasn’t himself, and she felt a fluttering of fear in the pit of her stomach. She wanted to pull away from him, to push back, to retreat to a safe distance, but...
God, his eyes. The hurt in them, in the roughness of his voice as he said her name...it just went so deep, and this was the only way she could think to take it from him.
“Wace, I -”
“Shh...” he whispered gently, cupping her head in his hand once more and bringing her face toward his.
Softly this time he moved his mouth over hers, drawing moans and tiny cries of want as he went. She could feel his pulse racing, his heartbeat pounding against her chest.
Down to the mattress he leaned, pulling her with and under him. She relaxed under his weight, the feeling so familiar she told herself that it had to be right. It wasn’t what she’d wanted to, but if it was what he needed, she could give him this.
With one hand he maneuvered the button on his jeans out and worked his fly so he could pull his pants down. He pushed off her robe to find she had on a ratty t-shirt and a pair of cotton underwear beneath.
“Wace,” she started again, surprise making her voice high and breathy, her eyes going wide as he slid his hands under her panties and began to push them down her legs with a speed that startled her. “Baby, wait...”
Heedless of her mild protest, he shoved himself inside her quickly, with one thrust; he just couldn’t wait. She whimpered audibly from the roughness, but he covered her mouth once more with his, swallowing any sounds of protests with his own grunts.
Once he was inside her, he began to move slowly, easing her pain away with his rhythm. She started to rock against him, her hands clutching at his shoulders urging him on. It had been weeks since they’d had anything close to sex and as worried as she was about the way he’d been acting before, it quickly dissolved with the warmth escalating between the two of them.
She kissed him deeply, sucking at his tongue, breaking the contact briefly to draw in a breath. She moved her hips against his, trying to guide his uncoordinated movements in a new direction. He pulled away from her and, kissing her chastely, he let his mouth wander down to her neck, his tongue licking at her collarbone and up the pulsing vein beneath her skin.
She felt her legs come up around him, holding him in place as she had so many times before. Heat was blossoming throughout her body, her muscles tightening and fluttering with each movement of his hips against hers, and she licked her lips, tasting sweat on them... and alcohol. She shuddered at the reminder that he was half-drunk, that something was happening that was bad enough to drive him to abandon the gentleness he’d always had with her...
His eyes were squeezed tightly shut, his face twisted in a grimace as sweat beaded on his forehead. She moved one hand to his jaw, brushing her fingertips over his open mouth, feeling tiny cracks in the dried skin of his lips. He grunted deeply then, and she felt the shift in his mood before she could think to analyze it.
His eyes snapped open, fixing on hers, but they were glassy, unfocused. Real fear was creased in the lines on his face where his eyebrows drew together, the way his lips were now pressed tightly closed. He shook his head once, sweat dripping from his hair into her face, and she blinked against the saltiness as it splashed near her eyes. His thrusts were coming quick and deep now, and the metal from his zipper bit harshly into her thighs as she squirmed around him.
“Wace,” she called out gently, shifting her shoulders under the powerful weight of his forearms. “Baby, please...slow down, okay?”
She didn’t seem to be reaching him - he was too far gone...and that scared her worse than anything so far. She wasn’t so much afraid of the physical pain, but she was frightened for him - frightened that he had gone somewhere he would never come back from. Despite herself, she felt tears brim in her eyes as she called his name shakily again.
When he didn’t respond, ducking his head and pumping into her relentlessly, she felt the tears overflow, trickling down the sides of her face as she threaded her hands in his hair and closed her eyes.
Where are you, my beautiful boy? she thought desperately.
She woke suddenly, with the conviction that things were very, very wrong. Her fingers clutched at the sheet below her, and she pushed herself up a little, trying to get a handle on what was out of place. Maneuvering into a sitting position, she pushed her tangled hair out of her eyes and looked around groggily. She scrubbed her hands over her face, pausing at the slight stickiness beneath her palms. Had she been crying?
A glance at the clock revealed that it was 4:14 AM and she yawned, shifting quickly to reach over and turn on the bedside lamp. The motion twisted her body in just the right way to make her suddenly aware of a raw irritation on her inner thighs and a kind of soreness she hadn’t experienced in a long time, and she suddenly remembered.
He’d been here - and now he wasn’t.
She struggled to recall past the thick haze of sleep that hung around her mind... she remembered him coming from the hospital, half-drunk... his hands on her, the raspy need in his voice...
She remembered everything, the way he’d fallen asleep almost immediately after he’d come, sliding to the bed beside her and leaving her empty and wanting - not that she thought she would have been able to climax, given her emotional state - and how she’d curled up at his side and cried into his shoulder, his shirt soaking up her helpless tears.
She looked around for any evidence as to his whereabouts - there was no light coming from the bathroom or the living room, so he wasn’t there... she swung her legs off the mattress, slowly pushing herself to a standing position and grimacing at the twinges of pain that greeted her. He’d been rougher than she’d realized.
“Wace?” she called, repeating it when she received no answer. She padded out into the hallway, peeking into the bathroom and flipping on the light just to make sure he wasn’t sitting there, in the dark. After the way he’d acted earlier, she couldn’t be certain.
Her eyes scanned the bathroom for any sign of him, but there was nothing. An icy chill shot through her and she repeated her visual survey of the room. There was nothing. The extra toothbrush she’d bought for the nights he stayed over was gone, along with his spare razor and aftershave. She stepped fully into the room, feeling everything inside of her freezing with cold devastation, as if the floor was dropping out from under her.
She reached out and brushed her fingers over the toothbrush holder, now holding only her brush, as if somehow she’d be able to tell how long his had been gone. She noticed that her hand was shaking and jerked it back, holding it against her body.
“Wace!?” she called more urgently now, although she knew he wouldn’t answer. “Wace?”
Tears brimmed in her eyes without warning, spilling over as she blinked. She dashed into the living room, but nothing was different there. Back into her bedroom, noticing that his boots were missing from beside her door. She yanked open the drawer in her dresser where he’d kept a spare shirt and an extra pair of jeans - it was empty. Running to her closet, she threw it open, her hand going out to grasp for the button-down shirt he’d worn only once and then accidentally left there... it was gone, too.
Some part of her brain registered surprise that he’d even remembered it.
Her legs were trembling now and she stumbled backwards until she bumped into the bed, sitting down on the edge of the mattress and pressing the palms of her hands against her stomach to mute the twisting, falling sensation. She closed her eyes, her mind reeling from the implications, the irrefutable evidence.
My God, she thought, stunned. He’s gone.
- Razor's Edge - 26