"Josh," I said as I opened the door, just far enough to seem friendly but not enough that he could see Ben in my living room.
"Hey, Jenn," he mumbled and looked at his feet. Only then, standing in the sunlight, did I notice his face.
I gasped. "Oh my gosh, did I do that?" I asked, gesturing at the black and blue bruise spanning from the bridge of his nose to the outer tip of his right eye. He looked up and gingerly touched the skin, as if just realizing it was there.
"Oh. Yeah. But it's not a big deal. It doesn't really hurt, and it's fading," he said, obviously faking it. I swallowed, fighting down the guilt that was drowning me inside.
"You mean, it was worse before?"
I bit my lip, ashamed. I hadn't really meant to hurt him, just to get him off of me. No wonder the rumor mill had been so busy lately.
"Can I come in?" he asked. I was about to say yes when I remembered Ben. I turned around and flicked my head at him, signaling him to go into another room, but his eyes were hard. I mouthed "go", but he just shook his head. Silently I cursed at him for doing this on purpose.
"Yeah, sure," I said to Josh, but he hesitated in the doorway.
"Are you contagious?"
I narrowed my eyes in confusion, and then remembered: I was supposed to be ill.
"No! I mean, not anymore. I got, um, medicine. Yeah, I'm fine, come in."
I pulled back the door and he walked in, seeming too big for my little house like he always did when he came over. He turned to go to the living room and stopped midstep.
"Hey," Ben greeted Josh with an easy smile and a friendly wave. Josh's eyes were wide, and he glanced back to me with an angry expression. I smiled encouragingly.
"Josh, this is Ben. Ben, Josh. And I'm Jenn! And now that we've all met each other, why doesn't Ben go into another room so Josh and I can talk privately?" I suggested, raising my eyebrows at Ben so he would get the message.
"Nah, I'm good," Ben said, and shifted his weight on the couch so his arms spanned all 3 cushions. Josh's eyes narrowed.
"Ok, then we'll go somewhere else," I grumbled, and pushed Josh to the kitchen.
"Who's that?" he snapped at me when I closed the door.
I rolled my eyes. "Just an old friend who stopped by."
"A friend who's a guy?"
I laughed then because he was being so ridiculous and I wasn't really up for his jealously or overprotectiveness today. "Yes he is a guy. I'm allowed to see guys who aren't you, Josh. And besides, we aren't even going out anymore, so I'm available. Right?" I asked, and his eyes froze. I grinned smugly. "At least, I'm assuming that's why you came here. To break up with me?"
I could tell just by his expression that I was right. It should've hurt, knowing that my brush with fame was over, and that I was once again undesirable, but somehow I was okay. Not exactly happy, but not falling apart inside, like before.
Josh seemed to snap back into his arrogant self, and took a step towards me. "Just because I'm breaking up with you doesn't mean you can go behind my back and date other guys."
I scoffed. "Actually, it's my understand that that's exactly what it means."
He took another step closer, and I mirrored backwards. "You brought this on yourself, you know," he continued, the rage evident in his voice. "Punching me in the face didn't exactly cement my feelings for you, you know."
Now I was mad. "You deserved it, you jerk!" And I knew Ben could hear us now because I was yelling. "You just expected me to let you come onto me like that, even when I said no? That's just- just- insane! You needed to learn that you can't have everything you want, Josh Mitchell!"
Josh laughed and gave me the once-over. "That's what you think," he replied, his voice menacingly low. And then he lunged at me.
I didn't have time to react before his arms were wrapped around mine and his mouth was cutting off my oxygen supply. I tried to push him off but he just grabbed my wrists in one of his big, football player hands and pinned them behind me. My fire was beginning to burn in my stomach, reminding me it was there for my use, but before I could do anything, Josh was off of me and flying across the room. His back landed in the crease between the fridge and the tile floor and he sat up, his arms shaking.
Ben stood between us in a casual standing position, but from the way his muscles were locked I could tell he was livid. I went to Ben's side and saw that his eyes were literally swirling like the eye of a hurricane and I grabbed his elbow.
"Calm down," I warned him softly, and the muscles in that arm relaxed at once.
Josh sat up and looked at us and I saw a trail of blood trickling down his chin from his nose.
He glanced at Ben, then at me. "You little b-"
"I think you need to leave. Now," Ben interrupted in a stony voice. Josh's face went suddenly blank and he stood up without hesitation. He walked himself to the door and left without even a look back.
"Well," I muttered. "That was easy."