When I woke up, it was with the sensation that my skull was pressing down on my brain like it wanted me to suffer for last night. It hurt and I felt like shit, but I didn’t want to go downstairs and face Line after last night. So I suffered my hangover in silence, emerging only to use the toilet when I really needed to.
On one of my trips to the bathroom, Line ran into me. He didn’t look at me.
"I assume you're going out again tonight?" I shook my head a little, regretting it. He didn’t say anything to that.
“M’sorry,” I mumbled.
“You should be,” he told me and I looked at the floor, the silence that settled over us making me feel sick. I really didn’t want him to be mad at me.
“Won’t happen again,” I muttered, starting to head back to the bedroom.
"I don't know why I bother.” His words stopped me in my tracks.
"I don't know either."
"I ask you to stop and it doesn't work. I tell you to stop and it doesn't work. Is there any point in me trying?"
"I'm trying,” I said, knowing he probably wouldn’t believe that.
"Really?" he sounded amused, like the idea of me trying to stop drinking was funny.
"I am,” I insisted, the corners of my mouth pointing firmly downwards.
"Then how come it took you one day to go out drinking again?"
"I don't want to talk about it," I said.
I looked at him, silently begging with him not to make me go there. "Please, Line." He gave up and I shut myself in the bedroom, wrapping myself up in the duvet like a cocoon. He avoided me for the rest of the day, and frankly, I didn’t blame him. I didn’t go down for dinner, I didn’t leave the bed to get a drink even though I was thirsty, I didn’t move for anything.
Line wandered in at some point in the evening to take a pillow and get some blankets. For some reason that really got to me. I could feel tears welling up and threatening to make a break for it as he glanced at me, making a move to leave.
“Please stay,” I sniffled, feeling as pathetic as I sounded. He stopped, but didn’t say a word as I sat up. “Please.”
"Why? I'm angry with you," he told me.
"I know, but I'm sorry. I don't know what you want me to do to make it up to you."
"Yes you do."
"It's easier said than done,” I was beginning to feel a little frustrated. No one in all these years had anyone tried to tell me my drinking was a problem, let alone make me stop. It wasn’t going to stop overnight, even with the pressure he was putting on me. We were silent. I didn’t know how to make him believe me that I didn’t mean last night to happen. It wasn’t like I had any control over what I dreamt about, or how that made me feel.
After a moment or two, Line informed me that he would be sleeping on the sofa until I had stopped drinking.
"Last night was an accident. I wasn't thinking."
"It doesn't matter."
“How can I convince you that I didn’t mean to? I didn’t even really want to. I just wanted to stop thinking.” I flashed him a sort of pleading face, really hoping he wasn’t going to somehow make me talk about it.
"I want to believe you, Lazarus."
"I just want to forget about it," I muttered, not entirely talking about last night. Line let out a sigh and I curled back up in my nest of bedding. "Fuck it. I've apologised. Do what you like."
"What do you want me to do, Lazarus? I've tried being understanding, I've tried being sympathetic, I've tried fucking leaving you to it.”
"I don't know. I warned you I was damaged goods," I reminded him.
"And I warned you I could be a cold-hearted bitch," he countered smoothly. I fell quiet. I didn’t know what else to say to him; I just wanted him to forgive me. “I’ll be downstairs.” And with that he was gone.
I was on my way home from the brothel. I didn’t usually have much trouble; the occasional jeer about me being a queer or a poof would follow me down the street, but other than that, my journey to my tiny room above an inn was quiet and uneventful. I followed my feet down side-alleys and backstreets fearlessly. Nothing more sinister than stray animals and street urchins lurked in them, despite the tales parents told their children to keep them away. Probably because they knew people like me wandered them.
I was wiping at the hem of my shirt. It was dirty anyway, but there was a... certain stain on it that I would rather hide. My hair was straying from the string I’d tied it back with, flopping into my face. I tucked it behind my ear, licking my thumb to try and get this stain out. I was so absorbed in this task that I didn’t even notice that I was being followed. Not until my pursuer grabbed my hair and pulled me back with it.
Letting out a yelp, I almost fell to the ground in surprise as the person yanked on my hair. A hand snaked around my throat, pinning me to the wall.
“Get the fuck off me,” I yelled, kicking and struggling against my assailant. He was too clean for the working class clothes that covered him. I knew that type a mile off. Desperate for something that was taboo, desperate enough to dress down for a trip into the seedier parts of town.
He slapped me hard, pressing me harder into the bricks. “Shut up.”
“Fuck off!” I shouted louder, earning another slap. The slapping didn’t bother me. The knife poking into my side, however, did bother me.
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your mouth shut.”
“I don’t do free previews,” I sneered, though I was totally still. “You want it, you got to pay for it.”
“You’ll do a free one for me,” he grinned, slipping a hand into my loose pants. I kicked out at him, swiftly reminded of the knife threatening to make a hole in my belly as it sliced through my shirt.
“This is my good shirt,” I spat indignantly, doing my best to keep up a front of fearlessness. I was new to whoring. This was the first time I’d ever had anything like this happen to me, and I honestly didn’t know how to react. I mean, some of the girls I worked with had warned me that men can get nasty when they don’t get what they want, but I never really thought it would happen to me.
“You should stop spending all your money on drink, then,” he laughed coldly at the look of surprise on my face. “Oh yes, I’ve been watching you for a while, Mr. Thorn.”
“Then you’ll know I don’t take no shit from scumbags like you,” I growled, trying to get loose. He pushed the knife into my side, but I didn’t care.
“You’ll be better off if you just keep still, Thorn,” he said angrily, driving the knife in a little further. Blood started to drip down my hip and I did as he said. He smiled as coldly as he had laughed, “good boy. Now behave for me and this won’t hurt,” he told me, turning me so my face was squashed into the brick, pulling my pants down, “you’ll beg me for more by the time I’m done with you.”
I woke up in a sweat again, tears halfway down my face. I wanted Line. Even if he wouldn’t forgive me, I could at least be near him. Getting up, I crept downstairs and sat down next to the sofa, burying my face in the cushion. I did my best not to wake Line up, but apparently I did anyway.
“What’re you doing?” he asked.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I half lied.
“Bad dream. I need a drink,” I mumbled, tense from the effort it was taking me to stay where I was. I wanted to be numb, but I didn’t want to let Line down. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“It’s fine,” he told me. I got up and got myself a drink of water, hoping it might help me calm myself down if I pretended it was alcohol. Sitting at the table, I could feel the back of my throat aching as I tried to pack all those bad memories back into the box in the back of my mind that Fate had smashed open. Line sat next to me, putting his arm around me, which was more that I was expecting of him given my behaviour the night before. I rested my head on his shoulder, sniffling as he kissed the top of it. I muttered a few more apologies for drinking when I said I wouldn’t before. He told me it was fine. It didn’t feel very fine.
“I know you deserve some kind of explanation for it,” I mumbled into his shoulder, “so I’ll give you one, but tomorrow. I don’t want to talk about it right now.”