Catalin’s comments were genuine. She really thought that Robert was better for Beth than Alex was. Beth was glad; she didn’t want to lose Catalin’s friendship.
Beth nodded. “Thank you, Cat.”
Catalin smiled and jumped out of the window. Beth crawled into bed, still fully clothed in the same clothes she’d worn for the past two days.
Beth was in the shower, trying to move as quickly as possible to compensate for sleeping in. She jumped out, wrapping a towel around herself and hurried into the bedroom. She yelped in surprise when she saw Robert sat on the bed.
“Sorry,” he said, smiling.
Beth grinned, but her smile faltered when she saw the small, already-fading bruise on his cheek.
“Did Alex do that?” she asked as she shut the curtains.
“Actually, no. That was me walking into a cupboard in the kitchen. Collette had left it open and I didn’t realise.”
“You’re so clever,” Beth laughed teasingly.
“I know,” Robert said. Beth rolled her eyes.
“I’m going to be late for school at this rate.”
“I’ll drive you,” he said.
“Oh thank you!” Beth exclaimed, standing on tiptoes to kiss him.
“I’ll be back in ten minutes,” Robert said.
“Try not to break too many laws.”
“Oh, you spoil all my fun.”
He kissed her again and vanished out of the window. Beth dried herself and got dressed in record time. She heard Robert’s car pull up just as she was checking she had everything.
Beth ran down the stairs and out the door. She jumped into the car and as soon as the harness clicked into place, Robert started to drive.
“So, how did it go with Alex?” Beth asked.
“He’s not dead, if that’s what you mean. Though he should be, with the lies he was spouting.” Robert’s grip on the steering wheel tightened, his knuckles turning white.
“What do you mean?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“He said that I... I made you do all sorts of things, and I’m just playing with your mind, toying with you. He...”
“Robert, calm down. You didn’t, and you’re not. So it doesn’t matter what Alex says.”
“It’s not that, Beth; it’s that he believes I would do that. He believes that I take advantage of women, of you. He actually believes it, that’s what hurts the most.”
“Pull over,” she said gently.
He did as she said. Beth undid her harness and turned sideways in the seat. Robert didn’t turn to look at her.
“It doesn’t matter what he says,” Beth said again, more firmly.
“It doesn’t, you’re right, but can you imagine someone who was once your friend, accusing you of that?”
“A few years ago, I had a friend called Abigail. She, um, she called me a whore and a slut, along with many expletives. And it turned out that she was sleeping with my boyfriend, who promptly became an ex.”
“Come on, let’s get going.”
Beth sat straight in her seat again, redoing her harness. Robert drove on in silence. When they pulled into the school car park, Beth was pleased to see she wasn’t late.
“I’ll see you later,” she said, kissing him.
Beth got absorbed in the moment, melting and falling into a trap. She pulled away before she convinced herself to skip school and stay with Robert.
“I love you,” Beth murmured.
“I love you too,” he whispered back.