Beth was sat in the night, pushing herself back and forth on the porch swing with her blanket wrapped around her. She was waiting for Alex to come. She’d told him to come over as soon as he could – which, of course, was right away.
His car stopped outside of her house and he got out quickly, jumping up the few steps and enveloping her in his arms. Beth gave no reaction whatsoever.
He stepped back when he realised she wasn’t going to respond. “What’s wrong? What’s so urgent?” he asked.
“I...” Everything Beth had planned to say vanished from her mind.
“You’re breaking up with me, aren’t you?” he asked quietly. Beth didn’t reply, just pulling her blanket tighter around her and looking at the floor. “I see. Is this about Robert? Are you going to answer?”
“Yes,” she whispered, before continuing at a slightly louder volume, “Yes, this is about Robert.”
“Have you fallen for him, like every other girl?” Alex asked venomously.
Beth turned her glare on him. “What does it matter? I’m not those other girls, if I was, he would have killed me by now.”
“Can I ask why? Why him?” Alex was trying to control his voice.
“Because he’s never lied to me, Alex, he’s never dodged questions. He listens to me, for God’s sake! That’s why.”
Beth turned to go back inside but Alex grabbed her wrist, making her flinch in pain. Alex uncurled his fingers and looked at the bruise on her wrist. He saw the one on her other wrist too.
“When did he first kiss you, properly?” Alex asked, his voice dangerously low.
“I kissed him two weeks ago, the night he left.”
“How long has he been back?”
“He came to see me yesterday evening.”
Beth replayed their reunion kiss over again in her mind. As she found bliss in the memory, Alex only got angrier.
“Okay. Okay, thank you. Goodbye Beth.”
Alex turned around, got into his car and drove away without another look at her. Beth went back inside and closed the door. She walked up the stairs slowly and silently. She paused at Jack’s door. She wanted—needed—to have her brother hold her, but it was very unlikely he would even look at her, let alone hug her.
When she entered her own room, Catalin was sat at the window seat.
“Well done,” Catalin said, without a single drop of malice or sarcasm.
“Could have gone better,” Beth murmured, shutting the door.
“Every moment with Alex is a precarious one.”
“What do you want, Catalin? I’m tired and I just want to go to sleep.”
“I just came to tell you that you made the right choice.”
“Well, you’re the first one to say that.”
“Robert’s love for you is pure, with no thought for himself. He loves you for who you are, not what you can give him.”
“What can I give him?”
“What most men want: sex. And because I was brought up in a brothel full of paying customers, it’s wonderful to know someone like him.”