Just Listen

Author: P Hana

Page 59

   

I bit down on the skin of his arm, hard. He yelped, then yanked his arm off my mouth, pushing me forward. As I felt my feet under me, I reached for the wall, trying to get my bearings, my fingers only barely raking some solid surface before he grabbed the waistband of my jeans and turned me around to face him. Instinctively I put my hands out in front of me, shielding myself, but he pushed them aside, roughly, and then I was down.

In a second—it seemed impossible he could move so fast—he was on top of me, his fingers fumbling open the snap of my jeans. I could feel carpet beneath me, scratchy on my back, as I tried to push him away, the smell of wet suede filling my nostrils as he put one hand on my chest, his palm flat against my skin to hold me down, and began pulling down my jeans with the other. I was digging into the floor with my elbows, putting all I had into rising up, but I couldn't move.

I heard him unzip, and then he was back on top of me. I tried to push against his shoulders, throwing every bit of my weight against him, but he was so heavy, pressing into me, pushing one of my legs up—this was really happening—and then, just as I felt him on my leg and twisted myself one last, desperate time, I saw something: a tiny sliver of light, falling across us.

It was like a thread through the dark, and in it, I saw a bit of his back, freckled; the fine blond hair on the arm that was thrown across me; the tiniest bit of dark pink suede; and then, just before he pushed off me, his eyes, blue, the pupils widening, then narrowing, then widening again, as the light stretched wider. And then he was scrambling to his feet.

I sat up, my heart pounding, and pulled up my pants. Somehow, I was able to focus on zipping them, as if this, now, was the most important thing in the world. I had just gotten it when the light overhead clicked on, and there, standing in front of me, was Sophie.

She saw me first. Then she turned her head and looked at Will Cash, who was now sitting on the bed behind me. "Will?" she asked. Her voice was high, tight. "What's going on?"

Will, I thought. I had a flash of his arm covering my mouth, his hands over my eyes, then another of him earlier, standing so close to me in the alcove. It's Will.

"I don't know." He shrugged, then ran a hand through his hair. "She just…"

Sophie stared at him for a long moment. From the hallway behind her, I could hear laughter, and I had a flash of Emily and Michael still playing their game. Still waiting for me.

Sophie turned to me. "Annabel?" she said, then stepped forward, into the room, her hand still on the doorjamb. "What are you doing?"

I felt like I'd been shattered, everything that had just happened a fragment, no part of a real whole. I got to my feet, smoothing down my top over my stomach. "Nothing," I said, the word coming out in a gasp. I tried to swallow. "I was—"

Sophie cut her eyes back at Will, and even though she hadn't interrupted me, I stopped talking. He stared right back at her. Not a flinch. Not one. "Somebody," she said, "had better start explaining this. Right now."

But nobody said anything. Later, this would strike me as so surprising, that at that moment I was actually waiting for someone else to define this, as if I hadn't been there, had no words for it at all.

"Will?" Sophie said. "Say something."

"Look," he said, "I was waiting for you, and then she came up here…" He trailed off, shaking his head, but kept his eyes on her. "I don't know."

Sophie turned her attention back to me, and for a moment we just looked at each other. She had to see something was wrong, I thought. I shouldn't have to tell her. I wasn't some other girl, like the ones we'd driven around looking for all those nights. We were best friends. I honestly believed that. Then.

Her mouth pursed. I watched the lips come together. "You slut," she said.

It seemed so stupid, later. But I actually, honestly thought I'd heard her wrong. "What?" I said.

"You're a goddamn whore." Her voice was rising now, still shaky but gaining strength. "I can't believe you."

"Sophie," I said. "Wait. I didn't—"

"You didn't what?" she said. Behind her, I could see shadows, stretching forward across the opposite wall of the hallway. People were coming, I thought. People were hearing this. People would know. "You think you can just fuck my boyfriend at a party and I won't find out?"

I felt my mouth open, but no words came. I just stood there, staring at her, and then Emily appeared behind her in the doorway, her eyes wide. "Annabel?" she asked. "What's going on?"

"Your friend's a slut is what's going on," Sophie told her.

"No," I said. "It's not like that."

"I know what I saw!" she screamed. Emily, behind her, stepped backwards. Sophie leveled a finger at me. "You have always wanted what I have!" she said. "You've always been jealous of me!"

I felt myself flinch. Her voice was so loud it was like it was shaking my bones. I was so confused, and scared, and even though through everything else, I had not cried—how had I not cried?—now I felt a lump begin and then swell in my throat.

Sophie pushed through the door, taking two big strides until she was right in front of me, and the room seemed to shrink—Will, Emily, everyone else disappearing from my peripheral vision—until it was just her narrowed eyes, her finger still jabbing, so much anger and fury.

"You're so done," she said. Her voice was shaking. "It's over for you."

"Sophie." I shook my head. "Please. Just—"

"Get out of my face!" she said. "Get out!"

And then, as quickly as it had fallen away, my view came back and I saw everything. The crowd of faces that had some-how gathered in the hallway. Will Cash, in my side vision, still sitting on the bed. The sea-foam green of the carpet beneath my feet, the yellow glare of the light overhead. It was hard to believe that only moments earlier, all of these things had been cloaked in such a thick darkness, so hidden I wouldn't have been able to recognize a single one. But now, like me, they were exposed.

Sophie was still standing in front of me. It was quiet all around us. I knew I could have broken the silence, could have spoken up. It was only my word against his, and now hers. But I didn't.

Instead, I walked out of that room and everyone watched me. I could feel their eyes as I stepped around Sophie, then pushed out into the hallway and started for the stairs. Once in the foyer, I went to the door, pushing it open, then stepped out into the night, crossing the damp grass to my car. I did all of this very carefully and with purpose, as if having control over these actions would somehow balance out what had just happened.

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