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A/N: I’m SO sorry I haven’t updated in a long long long loooong time. But I’ve been frequently updating this story on the Wattpad platform, so I’m on chapter 43. I’ll update a chapter on here everyday until it’s caught up. Love ya’ll!
– Anna’s POV –
The only sound filling the room lying before me is the sound of rushing water coming from the bathroom to my right. I sit on Aiden’s bed, absolutely silent, curled up into a tiny ball with my clothes slightly damp.
Another shiver comes over me, and I sniff. All I can do is stare off at the wall in front of me as I listen to Aiden tinker around inside of his bathroom, messing with the faucet and preparing towels and other materialized things.
It had started raining again about a quarter mile away from his apartment, and he tried to give me his jacket, but I wouldn’t take it. He was already carrying me to help me leg. I didn’t need his pity gift just because of the bad weather.
Other than that moment and from the time which he called out my name, we hadn’t spoken. And for that, I am grateful. I appreciate him being quiet for me, to allow me to sit inside my own brain with my own thoughts as I try to process everything. Because dealing with his and mine would be horrendous.
Aiden reveals himself once he steps out of the bathroom, running a hand through his hair tiredly. I take note of the dark circles under his eyes and the way one strand of his hair is a shade darker than the rest of them. Curse me and my photographic memory.
I’ll never forget any detail of his face now that I’m actually looking at him. I never lose detail of anyone’s face, actually. I won’t crawl into the depth of how it’s an actual burden now, but I’m sure it’ll haunt me later.
“Hey. I got it all set up in here,” he says with a sigh.
I shiver once and then nod grimly. I wince when I try to move off of the bed, leg throbbing and screaming.
“Don’t move,” he says, voice full of authority when he notices me moving hurtfully. I do as he says even though I want to protest, the pain taking over my pride.
He walks over to me and once again manages to cautiously lift me up without harming my bone or muscle or ligament or whatever it is that was rolled and injured. He sets me down on the toilet seat in the bathroom as I take in the setting. It was cozy, just like the rest of his place.
I was expecting his home to either be run down or extremely modern and expensive like it is in those movies I was talking about. But it wasn’t either of those things. It was just…Aiden’s house. Cozy, enough for about two or three people, and kept clean and pine-scented. I liked that, which is rare coming from me.
“I’m fine now,” I say, voice coming out raspier and more strained than anticipated. I’m still quiet though.
“I’m right out here if you need anything,” He replies after a little moment of observing me, eyes seeming to take every piece of my face to memorize it. Like it would be different when I go back into the room.
I nod and he leaves, shutting the door behind him. He didn’t ask me what happened. He didn’t ask why I was crying or why I was sitting outside of a liquor store (which happened to be coincidental). But I know he will be. He’s going to want to know. And we need to talk anyway.
Maybe this is how it was supposed to go. Maybe I was just supposed to be harassed and then run into Aiden just when my weak side was exposed. Maybe he was supposed to see me at a low point I usually don’t let anyone I remotely know see.
It takes a minute for me to undress my bottoms, but when I do, it’s even more difficult to get into the bath tub. Eventually I succeed, releasing a long breath as the water engulfs me. I let myself sink down, leg propped up so my knee won’t bend, the liquid reaching just below my chin.
I close my eyes.
I scream as more of the scalding substance is poured out of the kettle and onto my stomach. Tears sting my eyes and fall, but not because of sadness. The pain is literally jerking tears from my retinas.
“Dad, STOP! Please!” I screech.
He stares down at me with a deep frown, eyes blank. He doesn’t reply as he sits there on his chair, just watching my face twist in all sorts of discomfort as his men do whatever he asked them to. His hands are clasped together, elbows propped onto his knees as he hunches over a bit, two pointer fingers pressed to his thinly pursed lips.
My father nods his head at the men once more, and the tallest one grabs a different pot. Actually, it’s a metal pitcher, with a something so hot it’s steaming.
My naked body that is strapped to the black chair trembles and squirms as the man with thick black rubber gloves carefully carries the pitcher over.
At first, I think it’s another round of hot water, which is bad enough. But when he pours it onto my shoulder and slowly drizzles it down to my pinky toe, I know it can’t be water. It’s oil. It’s that or grease. And it is creating a fiery burn that must be close to actual fire.
A deafening scream rips through the air, coming from my throat. My body arches in pain, and the whole time, my father sits there and watches me with a neutral expression. He doesn’t flinch. Doesn’t move. Never once tells them to stop hurting his baby girl. His irises don’t even look filled with any emotion, which is something I’ve come to be able to recognize in others. There is nothing there.
“Why?!” I cry, shoulders heaving up and down quickly once the pouring halts. “Why do you want to hurt me?!”
“Anna, I don’t! Anna! Hey! Wake up!”
I jerk awake, eyes snapping open in a flash. I shiver, body not ending its continuous shake even once I realize it was a nightmare…a memory, I mean. My hair is dripping wet, and I am back in Aiden’s room. In Aiden’s bed. In Aiden’s towel.
On Aiden’s lap.
I am trembling. He holds me close to him, holding my drenched head onto his chest. My ear intakes the sound of his increased heart rate. My own increases when I notice that I would be naked if not for this towel between us. It only loosely hangs around my body.
“Shh, you’re fine,” he says hoarsely, probably from screaming to wake me up. “I’m here, alright?”
“I’m sorry,” I whisper breathlessly.
“You don’t have to be.”
That’s a first.
I don’t saying anything else, and neither does he. I try to ignore the fact that he must’ve barged into the bathroom and got me out of that tub while I was naked but it lingers in the back of my mind. How can it not?
Silently, he gives me a large t-shirt and a pair of shorts, turns around, and allows me to drop the towel before changing into them. I then pick up the white fabric on one foot, keeping the pressure off of my knee.
“You can turn around,” I advise him quietly.
He does so and looks at me, eyes going up and down my body once. He nods, not giving away anything he was thinking, and then takes the towel from me. He throws it into a hamper in the other corner of his room without a problem with accuracy.
I sit down on the bed slowly and with a little bit of struggling, and he follows suit right next to me.
“You were in there for an hour. I thought you were taking longer because of your leg. I didn’t think you fell asleep and…”
I don’t say anything and just focus on my lap, dangling my non-wrecked leg a little. I’m not an awkward person. I’m not weirded out. I’m just angry at myself for letting him see me. Which, is so hypocritical of me to my other self, because I wrote a song about wanting people to see the actual me. But not the bad side. I want someone to bring out the old side of the real me from years ago, before I was locked in the basement and tortured. The one that smiled.
Aiden sighs. “Are you okay?”
“Liar,” he scoffs.
I finally look at him. I don’t change my expression, but I can say that I am shocked on the inside. Once again, Aiden Foster has shocked me. He doesn’t just let things go like everyone else just because I want them to. He doesn’t act like I’m fragile.
“You were just screaming in there, crying your eyes out. And two hours ago you were on the street, lying next to a liquor store, forehead bleeding and eyes red from more crying. Not to mention that leg of yours that most likely has a torn ligament on the MCL due to the way the form is bent.” He pauses, deadpan. “You’re not fine.”
I glare at him, brushing off the part where he seemed to know enough about ligaments in the knee just by how it’s bent. He could’ve hurt it too once. I mean, he is a disaster creator after all.
“Why’d you ask if you already knew?” I roll my eyes.
“Because I wanted to see if I at least earned enough respect from you to tell me the truth.”
I’m quiet for a moment, his words hitting me. I look away from him again. “I don’t even know you.”
“You’re going to have to get to know me, and you know it,” He retorts. I clench my jaw. “I saw your tattoo…it’s actually different than mine, but the same somehow.”
I move my hair onto my left shoulder, not saying anything once more. Nonetheless, curiosity pined at my insides. Different but the same? What does his look like then?
“Do you want to see it?” He asks after a moment.
I face him once more, but don’t open my mouth. He sighs in annoyance but turns around, taking my silence for an answer. His shirt is lifted off of his back with ease, leaving me to stare at his back.
My eyes widen in surprise by both the toned definition and flawless tan skin color he has achieved, even in this gloomy year they’ve had. But what really catches my eye is his mark up on his right shoulder blade.
It’s a gorgeous wing, much different than my dark and livid one. Mine is red and almost dangerous-looking. His is grey and white. Not like an angel’s wing, but definitely more beautiful than mine. Although, the shape is distinctly the same between us. And it’s in the exact same spot.
Different but the same.
I slowly reach my hand out and touch the tattoo, tracing my fingers very lightly along the outline of it. He tenses up underneath my touch, visible goosebumps appearing on his arms. But I’m too intrigued by his wing to say anything regarding his reaction. It’s pretty. It’s nothing like me.
“It’s so detailed,” I whisper.
“So is yours.” His voice has been coated with a layer of rasp, like he hadn’t spoken in ten years. I remove my hand and he turns around, both of us staring at one another again.
A clash of thunder makes me jump, my leg pinching itself. I’d moved a little too close to Aiden, my heartbeat hammering wildly against my chest as I direct my eyesight out to the window. Bright lights startle me: lightning.
Aiden wraps his arms around me. “Are you…afraid of storms?”
I don’t respond, and he instead just lays us down together, helping situate my body next to his. He pulls up the covers over our bodies, keeping me close to him.
And the closeness doesn’t feel awkward or unnatural like I thought it would. It feels the exact opposite. I feel safe for once. I feel cared for.
I flinch again, accidentally cuddling up even further into him. Aiden doesn’t seem to mind, arms tightening around me protectively. Is this how the match made is supposed to work? Are these emotions and attraction normal?
“I need to get home,” I whisper.
Rain splatters loudly onto the window of Aiden’s apartment. “No. You’re not going back with a hurt leg and in the rain. You’re staying here until tomorrow.” Once again, command takes over his tone.
“Hayley and Lyma are going to-” I start, voice stronger and ready to protest.
“I called them. They said it was fine after I told them who I was,” Aiden interrupts, irritated at my argumentative approach.
“No. I told them I’m your soulmate though, and that seemed to be enough for you to stay.”
I feel my face heat up as I choose not to reply for the hundredth time, making sure to stay close to him as the thunderstorm continues outside.
He told them, and Ms. Morgan just let me stay here just like that? She doesn’t even know him. I don’t even know him. How can she trust him to take care of me?
You trust him yourself already.
I erase that thought, closing my eyes in hopes of nightmares not occurring this time. I can’t trust anyone. I can’t trust Aiden, even if he made me feel protected.
Because I would only end up getting my back stabbed.
Rain is the best kind of weather.