"I'll go get the bill," Liss said as she got up and started to head toward the counter.
I gave her a wide smile as she left. She was just such an amazing person! I sighed as she asked the lady at the cash register for the bill. I think I loved her.
"Oh shut up, you know you don't deserve her." I muttered to myself, knowing full well that it was true...I had failed her. "Yeah well, I still do love her," I argued half heartedly, "I should tell her and let her decide if I am worth it.” No! What if she decided I was worth it? You would just end up failing her again; and then where would you be?" "You're right, no, I can't tell her. I mustn't. She doesn't feel the same way."
"Who doesn't?" Liss's voice came from behind me. I mentally cringed, she had heard me! What if she knew? But she didn't otherwise she wouldn't have asked.
"Did you pay the bill?" I asked, trying to change the subject, I can't tell her.
"Who doesn't?" she reiterated, not willing to change the subject.
"What?" I asked; trying for the innocent act this time.
"I heard what you said, don't play the fool," she warned starting to get annoyed now. "Do you have a girlfriend?"
I almost laughed; I had just gotten out of hell! She really thought that I had a girlfriend? Even I had no idea how I could have accomplished that one...unless you could consider Liss my girl friend...and she wasn't. "No! Where did that come from?"
"Who doesn't feel the same way?" she asked, still unwilling to just let it drop.
My mind raced for something to tell her to allay her suspicions. "I was singing a song!” I exclaimed emphatically as the idea came to me.
"What's the song called?" she asked curiously and slightly suspiciously.
"It hasn't got a name, I made it up.”
"You write songs?" Liss asked as her lips twitched upward and she held back a laugh.
"I do occasionally," I lied.
"Sing it to me," she pushed.
"It's not ready yet."
"When it is?"
"Then you shall hear it," I promised her. Liss smiled and handed me the bill.
"I have no money,” she informed me.
Uh-oh, that was really bad. "Me either," I whispered quietly.
"Great!" Liss yelled exasperatedly and I grimaced…I wasn’t used to this whole money system yet and I had forgotten you needed money. Another score for my stupidity…
"I guess I'll work here until I get the wages to repay them. That's what you have to do if you don't have $3.50."
"We don't even have $3.50!" Liss exclaimed unhappily, “We're penniless!”
"Here," offered a man sitting next to us as he offered a $5 bill. I took it without asking any questions…never look a gift-horse in the mouth right? I quickly paid the bill then moved back to Liss. She was staring at me strangely, but I chose to ignore it. “Thank you so much sir…I’m not sure what we would have done…” I trailed off as the man waved at us good-naturedly.
“Aw it was only five bucks, no problem. Now go do whatever it is you kids do these days.”
I grinned. “Thanks again sir,” I exclaimed happily as I took Liss’s arm and led her out of the café. She walked quietly by my side for a while as I led us back to the building we had stayed the night in last night. When we were about half-way there she suddenly stopped and stood in front of me.
“Who is it?” she demanded.
I stood there, confused, for a second. “Who is who?”
“The girl you’re in love with! And why didn’t you tell me there was someone else?”
Uh-oh, she was in one of those moods…I was probably going to have to tell her. But I couldn’t! I was so un-worthy of her! I would end up hurting her again, and I wouldn’t be able to take that. “Some one else?! Liss think about that for a second! How could I be in love with someone else! Do you think that I snuck out last night and went to some club or something and just picked up a girl? Or maybe I found some girl at the orphanage to fall in love with! I’ve been with you the whole time Liss! Can’t you se— ” I cut myself short there. I had already said too much.
A light turned on behind Liss’s eyes and I watched her facial expression change from hurt, to confusion, to acceptance. She smiled softly at me and came in for a hug. I let her hug me but just stood there. Confused, Liss looked up at me then did something I wouldn’t have expected at all. She got on her tip-toes and leaned in for a kiss.
At the last second I turned my face away. No, we can’t do this; I would end up failing her again. Liss slowly settled back down and stared at me with hurt in her eyes. I looked down again guiltily. I wished that I could be everything she needed. Oh how I wished I could be that for her. But I wasn’t good enough, not by far, and now…this… I really felt like just curling up in some corner somewhere and crying. Yeah I could kiss her now and pretend everything would be all right, but that would just cause problems later. I wasn’t good enough. I had already failed Liss. Better for us to experience this now than to go through something worse later. At least this way Liss had a chance at finding someone who could take care of her better than me. I couldn’t even pay the bill at the café! I didn’t have the forethought to make sure I had the money to pay $3.50!
“Why?” a simple question. Yet so hard to answer, I had been berating myself enough as it was…but actually telling Liss I wasn’t good enough…
I took a deep breath and sighed heavily, “I’m not good enough,” my voice wavered and broke, so I swallowed quickly before continuing on, “I-I’ve already failed you twice…you need someone who—who can actually take care of you…not me.”
“Kian!” Liss exclaimed surprisedly. “How could you think that!?”
Great, I hurt her again…I should have lied or something. “You are more than good enough! Y-you’ve always been there for me!”
“Yeah, like I was at that house when those idiots came by.”
“You were there too!” Liss cried indignantly, “Who did you think came in and stopped them before they did any real damage? Superman?” she demanded. “That’s not the only time either! Ever since my first day at the lab, you’ve always been there. You were the one person I could count on to be there!” She continued to talk but her voice faded into the background as she brought up memories of the past.
As she woke up the girl started to cry. “It’s ok,” I tried to assure her. “It goes away…eventually.” That only made her cry harder, it had been her first day at the lab and she had had a bad time of it. I sat myself quietly down beside her as she cried, desperately searching my young mind for some way to make her feel better. Eventually I decided that maybe the best thing would be to just be there. I carefully put my hand on hers, but she flinched away, as if she were expecting me to hurt her. “I don’t want to hurt you.” I told her, putting as much emotion into my voice as I could.
She buried her face in my chest, as tears poured down her cheeks. I held her close wishing I could somehow block out the world and stop her pain. We were both ten years old, and Liss had just gotten her first injections…it hadn’t been a good day for her.
I sat by her still form on the floor of the sleeping room. She had tried to resist her injections this afternoon and had been beaten down by the whips because of it. I held her head on my lap as I carefully dabbed at her cuts with disinfectant I had pilfered from the whips’ room. I watched sadly as she opened pain-filled eyes and a tear rolled down her cheek.
More and more memories flashed though my mind as Liss listed just a portion of different memories. Her voice faltered and she threw herself against me. This time I did put my arms around her. Maybe, just maybe, I could be there for her. Maybe I would be able to take care of her.
By the time we got back to the abandoned apartment it was very late and we were both tired. I shut and locked the door behind us then accompanied Liss to the bedroom. As she lay down on her bed of cardboard, I took my customary spot by the door; I was still going to keep her safe, no matter what I would never leave her alone again. I watched her quickly drift off to sleep before finally closing my eyes.
I woke up in the middle of the night to Liss’s scream. I jerked awake and looked around, but no one was there except Liss and me. Then I realized that Liss was still asleep; she was having another nightmare. This time I didn’t hesitate to scoop her up in my arms, “It’s ok Liss,” I whispered soothingly, “I’m here; I’m going to keep you safe.” She buried her face in my chest and soon was sleeping peacefully once again. I sighed heavily, and rested my cheek against hers; things were finally starting to look up for us. With that thought, I easily fell asleep and managed to sleep well for the rest of the night.