I opened my eyes to see her face glowing. Her face was flawless in the sunlight that created the glow, her hair only brightening it. And her eyes, those bright green eyes, shone like polished emeralds. She blinked; did she know I was watching her?
But the memory didn't continue like I remembered it. I laid there staring, waiting for her to blink again.
She didn't. Even after forever it seemed like her eyes remained open.
I sat up and gave her frame a slight nudge. There was no response.
Then I saw it. Blood. There was blood everywhere around me, around her. And it was so red, like flames, like his hair.
And it wasn't mine, "No no no no no," I began murmuring to myself.
There was a hand on my shoulder, "Coop, Cooper, hey!"
"Coop! Man wake up!" I shot up from my bed only to collide with something, "Oh fuck man."
I saw stars in my vision and as the world spun I saw two Zack's slowly combine to make one. This one Zack was bleeding, something that made me sick from whatever nightmare I had.
"I swear you will be the death of me man. First you keep me up all night with your yelling and crying out, next you break my fucking nose."
That's where the blood was coming from, his nose. The throbbing began hitting me as the lump from colliding with Zack's head formed, "Oh God what the heck did I do last night?"
I watched as Zack grabbed a tissue to try and stop the bleeding, "All night you were punching air and screaming and yelling Sophie's name. I couldn't stand it."
"I did?" But then I remembered the nightmare I had just wakened up from.
"Just get to your fucking classes. Meanwhile I better go to the college's nurse. Jesus Christ."
I knew that I would run into Sophie on the way to my first class, so I headed out early sit and wait. I had to do something. That horrible afternoon where I watched what Broderick was truly like had haunted me for the past week and I knew she had to get out of there, or else my nightmares would come true.
There she was, wearing a long-sleeve shirt with a high collar to cover the still healing welt that my belt left on her; I threw it out since the ordeal. And since that same ordeal, I finally noticed what Zack told me he noticed a long time ago about her.
The fear in her eyes. The fear of Broderick showing up at any time. Her eyes darted all around, only to brighten for a split second when she saw me, "Coop! What are you doing here?" she asked as she hurried over to where I leaned against the wall. I took hold of both of her hands, something that I wouldn't have dared done two weeks ago in public, but I found it necessary, "Sophie, you...you need to leave him now."
"Please let go of my hands. What if he shows up?" her eyes darted around again.
"Sophie, look at you," I pulled up the sleeves of her thin sweater. It had been a week, but the bruises Broderick made were still there in their sickly green infamy, "he'll kill you."
She whipped her arms away from me, covering her wounds the best she could, "He won't kill me. He loves me too much."
I scoffed, "A rather sick way of showing it."
She looked down, studying the tile on the floor, "I'm more worried about you. We can't be seen."
The bell ran, "I have to go," and all in a rush she shot into her classroom.
I walked away to mine, worrying about everything. Things were so nice, I thought, why did I have to end it so soon?
As I sat down in Calc class there was a group of frats whispering, though loud enough that I could hear, "So what's he gonna do?"
"Simple Ed, he'll convince her, one way or another, to marry him."
"But what's all this about a belt?"
"Broderick said she stole it from him. He took care of it," the greasy looking frat elbowed Ed, winking in a manner that made me want to punch him, "He's taking her on an amazing date, that'll lead to one thing: the kind sized bed."
At this point I wanted to stop eavesdropping, but there was one more thing I had to hear.
"Where's this event?" Ed asked like I knew he would.
"The gazebo. There's going to be a dinner for two set up, all very corny."
"Well, he does have to show her his sweet side."
They both found that extremely amusing and hooted and hollered. I had no preference to know what their deal was. All I knew was that it was Friday and I needed Zack's help.
"Zack c'mon it's just a little-"
"There's no way I'm giving any of those douchebags free pot. Mine's gold compared to theirs and all I need is them to come back for more."
"Do it for Sophie?"
He rubbed his forehead with irritation, "Don't pull that on me. Can't you just shoot the bastard in the skull? He hit her with a fucking belt man!"
"Just the waiter," I was moments away from getting on my knees, "Just the waiter."
He sighed, the telltale sign he'll say yes, causing me to grin, "Just the waiter. He gets three joints, and you better be done by then."
I just continued grinning. All that remained was to acquire a baseball cap and a frat t-shirt.
The gazebo was a fairly large one, especially since it could hold a table and two chairs with plenty of room to spare.
"Well," Zack took his joint out of his mouth and blew the smoke into the air, which was strangely warm for late winter, "This is fruity."
He started chuckling only to stop when he saw how grim my face was, "She once described something like this to me, ’Coop, I want to be proposed to in a gazebo.'
'Yes, with Christmas lights and orchids. Lots of orchids.'"
"And this douche knew that how?"
I just shrugged, "They have been dating for a year? He proposed to her?" There was movement on the gazebo, "Alright it's your time to shine pal," and after shoving Zack towards the willing victim, I got focused on my task at hand.
With a slip of paper and two menus in tow I nervously walked to the gazebo.
Broderick and Sophie were there but another pair of chairs were waiting to be filled, by whom I had no idea, "Hello," I spoke with a darker inflection, "Here are your menus and-"
'"Wait wait wait," Broderick put his hand up, "You do know there's only once choice correct?"
I faltered for but a second, "Well, I just thought it'd make sense to give menus to set the mood a bit more," I have a nervous laugh and smile, noticing Sophie’s confused stare from the corner of my eye.
Broderick bought it thankfully, "Whatever, go on."
Once I passed the menus out I backed up so I was beside Sophie and facing Broderick. When she opened her menus, a slip of paper fell into her lap. I saw her look up at me, yet I made no gesture of acknowledgement except for a tiny smirk, "Have you made you decision yet?"
"I don't want you drinking at all tonight Broderick," It was the first time I heard her speak all night and it came as a tiny surprise to me. Broderick gave her a genuine smile and stated, "Very well. We'll both have root beer then. Sophie?"
Her face shot up from the menu where she was frantically scribbling, "Yes?"
"Is that okay?"
"Oh yes it's fine it's fine," she closed her menu and handed it to me without looking in my direction.
"Thank you Jeff, I'm hoping the food will be delicious," Broderick also gave me the menu without looking; only because he was too busy studying Sophie.
I wish I could've stayed to study her too. She was in a knee-length light green dress that was light enough to blow in the slight breeze. Oddly enough the neck line was shaped like a V, revealing her the welt as well as my necklace, two things I wouldn't believed she'd dare show in front of him. Although it was rather warm she did still have on a 3/4 sleeved white shawl to hide her tiny arms, with her hair now settling at her shoulder.
All in all, she looked amazing. But I had to focus.
When I knew I was out of eyeshot I opened the one menu, smiling when I saw the same piece of paper. I reread what I wrote:
Don't go home with him.
And underneath my handwriting was her equally sloppy scribble:
I have to Cooper. For us.
I responded in the only way I could:
For us?! What do you mean? He'll hurt you again.
The food was taking too long. I knew if I waited any longer Zack was going to get testy. Trying to think of something I grabbed their bottles of root beer and walked back to the gazebo, "Here are your drinks," I spoke in the same husky voice while dropping the note along with their drinks and straws.
More scribbling and the note was given me to me along with their straw papers.
Nonsense, it read, I promise he is behaving. No alcohol. I won't let him hurt me again. Go home.
Did she know he just wanted her for her flesh? That's what this whole night was for, wooing her to say yes.
I crumpled the paper to keep my tears of frustration from falling, "Why did I even try," I gritted to myself before walking away to find Zack, throwing the note in a bush along the way.
Zack himself was in a bush as well when I found him, apparently in an attempt to use it as a back support, "Romeo! You have returned! Did Juliet listen to your sense of words?"
Normally, the things he said in his stupors I found humorous and witty, but I was too angered to laugh, "No, Romeo lost her for a god damn Paris."
Zack pulled himself out of the bush and got back on his two feet, "Personally, I always thought Paris was the gayest name a male could have."
We began walking through the empty cool night, "You're not helping Zack," I said with a grim smile, "You realize he'll be a woman beater and beat the life out of Soph. She won't listen."
He smiled and put a friendly arm around my shoulders, "Mr. Plasse, you must relax. Morning will give you the answers you so desire. For all you know Sophie could be right. After quitting alcohol maybe he will change. Now let's go to bed. I have classes early tomorrow."
And as we walked further to our dorm, I knew Zack was right once again about what he said. But that still didn't give my mind enough solace to allow me to sleep. All I could think about was that horrid dream...
I didn't get a wink of sleep, but that didn't stop me from shooting up out of my bed the next morning. I threw on some clothes from our floor, not caring if it was mine or Zack's, and sprinted to the library. Our normal table was empty so I took a seat and waited.
I was for one hour, for two hours. Then I began worrying. Was she dead? Or maybe...maybe she moved on from me. Maybe Broderick just needs to lie to bottle down.
And then there she was, appearing rather hurried with her hair all in a messy little bun, face looking down at the ground.
Sophie didn't see me and hurried herself deep into the stacks of the library, where I followed, "Soph I-"
She jumped at the sound of my voice, enough to drop the book in her hand, "Oh! Coop! You scared me. I-I didn't see you."
She had on another long sleeve shirt, a fact that made me nervous, "Soph...What happened last night?"
"It was...nice," she wouldn't look me in the eye and instead played with the binding of the book in her hand, "There was good food."
"Sophie, if that's the truth then look at me."
"It is the truth! The food was-"
"I'm not talking about the food," I said this angrier than I meant, angry enough to make her twitch, like she thought I would hit her. Instead, I pushed her sleeves up and judging from the expression she made that was the last thing she wanted me to do.
Naturally, they were bruised. All over, some being so dark they looked almost black while others were a pale yellow.
I was in disbelief, "S...Sophie. What the hell happened last night!?"
"I-I don't know! I don't understand," she exploded into tears and covered her face with her hands, "I just don't understand. H-He was sober. He was sober."
I quick glanced around to see that the library was empty except for a couple of the librarians. Safe. I quickly collected her into my arms, allowing the sobs onto my shirt, "I don't understand," she said, albeit it was muffled.
"Shhh Soph. Here," I sat down, leaning against one of the few bare walls in the library, crossed my legs and offered her my lap. She hopped on immediately and leaned her body on my chest, having calmed down enough that she was just sniffling and silently crying. I kissed her temple in a simple attempt to get her to feel a little better, "Now. Tell me what happened."