Light to the Darkness: Releases Friday the 21st!
Driving past the hospital, I could see news vans and a crowd of people by the doors of the hospital. I was thankful I didn’t have to make it through that crowd. I couldn’t imagine all the questions and the photos being taken. I didn’t have any answers for them and I was definitely not sitting down for interviews. I wondered how long they would wait there before they realized I had already left.
When we finally pulled into my apartment complex, my dad circled around the building a few times. He must have been trying to make sure no one suspicious was waiting around. I felt some tension release knowing I was home. I was finally in a familiar place I knew. I was looking forward to being away from prying eyes and someone fussing over me every hour. I could have some peace and quiet here.
I fought the urge to jump out of the car as soon as it stopped and run up the stairs. Instead, I let Lucas open my door for me and took his hand for support. I waited for him as he grabbed my bag of things the doctors gave me. My dad walked ahead of us, unlocking the doors. I never once thought about the fact I lost my keys with my purse. Lucas helped me up the two flight of stairs.
The climb up the stairs took three times longer than it normally would. Every step felt like another hurdle. I felt nervous with him touching me like he was. He was just holding my hand, or putting a hand on my back to keep me steady, but it still released butterflies in my stomach.
When we reached my apartment door and my dad unlocked the door, I noticed the new locks. There was also another deadbolt lock they must have installed. I stood in the doorway and looked around my apartment. It was definitely cleaner than when I left it last. Hannah must be the one to thank for that. It smelled like cleaning supplies mixed with a stale scent from being empty for the last few weeks.
My place was small but it was all mine. I had a small kitchen with a dining area to the right and a living room with a balcony to the left. My bedroom and the bathroom were straight ahead, off the living room. I walked straight for my bedroom, longing to see my own bed. Hannah had made it for me and folded a load of clothes I know I left thrown in a basket before I left. I turned around and my dad and Lucas were watching me. My dad set the new set of keys on the little table by the door, where I would usually put them.
“You going to be okay?” my dad asked me.
“Yes. I’ll be fine really. It’s good to be home,” I said.
“You sure? You can stay with me if you’d like,” he said.
I laughed at him. “Seriously, I’m fine. Really. Go home and sleep. I will call you in the morning,” I told him.
He sighed. “ Fine.Lucas, did you get your bag out of the car?” he asked.
“No, sir. I’ll run down now,” he said and left the apartment in a hurry.
“He had stuff?” I asked confused.
“Yeah. Just a bag. I’m not thrilled about another man staying with you, but the police chief only had good things to say about him. I have been assured he will keep you safe,” my dad said.
My body tensed. Officer Cutie would be staying with me? I never really thought about it, but I guess I assumed he would sit in a cop car on the street like they do in the movies. I wasn’t prepared for having him in my apartment. I thought I would have a break from his ever watching eyes and the thoughts that run through my head when I saw him. Now he will be around me at all times. I grew even more nervous when he came back in the door with a duffle bag.
My dad gave me a hug and kiss on the forehead and I hugged him tightly before he left. Lucas locked the several locks behind my dad. I went into the kitchen to give myself some space from him. Hannah had also tackled my kitchen. The dishes were washed and put away. I opened the fridge to find she brought me some groceries too. I may have left the place cleaner if I knew I wouldn’t be coming back right away. I felt bad Hannah had to clean up my mess.
I turned to find Lucas leaning in the doorway watching me. His arms were crossed and I couldn’t help noticing the muscles and a black tattooed design running up his forearm. His eyes were a deep green and I had to force myself to look away from them. I hadn’t seen him in decent lighting before now, in this kitchen. His jet black hair stood up in different directions. I wondered what it would feel like to run my fingers through it. His face was masculine, but also so serious. I quickly looked at the floor to hide the fact I was just obviously checking him out.
“Want anything?” I asked trying to sound casual.
“No, thank you though. You okay?” he asked coming closer to me.
I stepped back from him. “Yep. Just weird being home. And it’s clean, thanks to Hannah,” I joked lightly.
He nodded and I scooted past him to escape to the living room. Lucas followed behind me and checked the lock on the sliding door to the balcony.
“So, how does this work, you sleep on the couch?” I asked. I needed to break the awkward silence.
“I think so, seeing as you only have one bedroom. This is my first protection detail,” he said taking a seat on the couch.
“Okay,” I said trying to sound cheery. “I’m going to take a shower. Make yourself at home.”
I rushed to the bathroom and turned on the water. I turned to see myself in the mirror for the first time. I had scrapes scattered on my face and a scab on my chin. My left eye was black and bruised, and my cheekbone was a yellow color. My skin was paler than usual and my blue eyes glowed back at me. They started to fill with tears.
No wonder Hannah never gave me a mirror to check her handy work. She knew I was a sorry sight and it would break me. I stood looking at myself, letting tears slid down my battered face. I finally took a deep breath and started to undress. My ribs ached when I removed my shirt and I needed to sit after to regain strength. I considered taking a shower clothed, but eventually forced off the rest of my clothes and pulled myself in the shower.
The water stung the cuts that Aaron left undressed today. My legs and arms ached and my head started to throb. I stood letting the hot water run over me until the water started to go cold. I shut off the water and grabbed my towel. I sat on the edge of the tub and realized I didn’t bring anything to change in to.
It never mattered before until I had a policeman on my couch. The couch faces the doors to my bedroom and bathroom so there was no way I could sneak by him. I could only hope he wasn’t in the living room, and that was very unlikely.
The tears came full force now. I looked and felt like a punching bag, and now I would need to expose to him even more of my damage. I was only fooling myself when I thought I could appear strong and dignified in front of him. I was a fool to lust after a man when I couldn’t even stand the sight of my own face. I wrapped my arms around my pathetic body in shame and sadness.
“Natalie, are you okay in there?” Lucas said on the other side of the door.
“Yes. I’m fine,” my voice cracked from the lie.
“Please come out. You’ve been in there for a while,” he said. He was probably worried he would lose his job if something happened to me his first night in charge of my safety.
I wiped my eyes and stood up slowly. I would just have to go directly to my bedroom and hope for the best. I put my hand on the knob prepared to make a run for it. I opened the door, with my towel wrapped around me and ran right into his chest. He grabbed my arms to steady me. He looked me up and down before stepping away quickly.
I turned and darted in my room as quickly as possible. I leaned up against the door as soon as I slammed it shut. I shook my head at myself and moaned in embarrassment. I rummaged through the basket of clothes Hannah folded for me. Finally finally something, I started to dress slowly.
The cut across my stomach was burning. I went to my dresser and gathered the gauze and antibiotic cream they sent home with me to fix myself up. I sat on the edge of the bed and examined the cut stitched up across my body. I dabbed some cream on my fingers and started to apply it. After struggling to keep from fainting from the pain and the grossness of the wound, I gave up and flopped back on the bed to stare at the ceiling. At least this was my ceiling, and that was comforting.
“Natalie, you okay? Can I come in?” asked Lucas.
“Come in,” I called back with a sigh. He walked in and took a look around the room. He went to my windows and unlocked then locked him again.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I held up the tube of antibiotic cream and shrugged in response. He sighed and came over to me, taking it from my hands. He lifted up my shirt just enough, brushing my stomach slightly. My body was hot where he touched while he applied the cream for me. He covered with a gauze pad and taped it down for me. He worked quickly and gently with me. His strong hands danced across me, careful to not hurt me anymore.
I could feel his eyes watching my face and looking over my wrecked body. I let my eyes tear up, not able to hold them back anymore. I was done trying to portray someone I wasn’t to this man. I was weak and broken, and I knew he could see that. I could see the pity in his eyes when he saw my tears. I couldn’t pretend to be normal anymore for him.
“Thank you,” I said. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight Natalie,” he said. He stood and left my room, closing the door behind him.