Benefit of the Doubt.


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1. Caught.

                                                  My boyfriend's brother is a player.

                                                           Does that mean he might be too?

 

Their relationship had withstood the three month benchmark; into the fourth month they now roamed.

Catherine had long since realised their accomplishment, albeit an insubstantial indication  of their affection. Regardless, being the girl she was, she found herself incapable of resisting the surprise celebration of commemoration she had arranged.

Lain against her thighs, the spongy picture frame, complete with three memorial pictures captured on their first date she was going to deliver as a present, “oh, I hope he’ll like it,” absentmindedly, she ran a finger across the length of one short side of the frame.

Victoria, in all her cynical housemate splendour, had warned against Catherine’s plans, advising she make a call prior to visiting. Plenty were the times advice had been given by Victoria, scarce were the sum of advice Catherine had heeded.

“She’s such a party pooper,” the sigh that fell from her slightly parted lips was a light one.

From her back row seat she angled her head to the right as to catch a glimpse of the road-reader screen. She smiled.  Ghorma Road, the mechanised female voice of the bus spoke twice as it juddered to a temporary halt. Both doors opened, allowing three passengers off, and welcoming an elderly couple aboard. The bus was fairly empty, currently holding only seven people in the lower deck alone. She would get off at the next stop.

Catherine made a move to shuffle away from the window, trying to twist into the next seat across in attempts to ready herself for a swift debark. As Luck would have it—and Luck would not have had it any other way—as soon as she twisted her hips, the bus jerked to life and began moving once more. Unbalanced, she fell sideways, the firm grip she had previously held the sponge frame with loosened, and the gift slipped off her thighs and fell to the floor. It greeted the floor with a polite craschkle as the frame shattered. Catherine marginally cringed.

“Y’ alrigh’ there?” The older male seated a row ahead of her questioned, more out of courtesy than any kind of genuine concern.  

The false smile she’d forced against her lips was thin and taught, and it pinched her cheeks in a way which caused a dimple to appear on each cheek. She nodded her response, having to secure a sense of stability before sliding from her seat and squatting so she could collect her now ruined pride.

 

 

Having been occupied with collecting the shards of broken glass, Catherine had missed her stop, having to get off at the next bus stop. She was grateful the two had been of close distance apart.

Still, “what’ll I tell Steven…” her head hung, the curls she had so fervently laboured to achieve with her naturally flat bangs did well to hide her face.

In an ironic contrast to her dwindling bulb of cheerfulness, the Sun smirked down at the Earth, illuminating her fine features with its flirtatious light. The heat were the Sun’s words of love to the Earth, the Earth responded with bird cried and tree whispers of her own. After fifteen minutes on foot, Catherine finally pulled up at the black door; the only black door amongst a road length of white. The waist high, small rusted gate was opened, notifying her of the residents being at home. She walked through, mentally tuting at the unkempt front lawn.

Taking her first step up the flight of seven, she cast a final disheartened glance down at the plastic bag held in hand, scowling at a rebellious fragment which was sticking out, “well, this sucks. I guess, I’ll have to make it up with our date,” and that was enough to send her into a hysterical fit of giggles.

Subconsciously, she extended an arm and pressed the door bell, giggling all the while.

 

“Uhm…you okay?”

She choked on a giggle.

The voice that had answered had not been the one she had been expecting. With furrowed brows, the male enquired with his eyes. Still with a shaky had to her lips, she answered the unasked question, “I’m Catherine,” she coughed, “is Steven home?”

He nodded, frayed brunette strands bobbing in sync with the movement of his head, “yeah, and who are you?”

“His girlfr…” her words trailed into silence. It felt odd, disclosing information as such to a person she didn’t know.

Her reconsiderations came too late. The boy was no idiot, “you’re his girlfriend?”

Catherine didn’t blush the way she did when Steven referred to her as such, instead her complexion came closer and closer to camouflaging with the white walls of the house, “w-well, ah-I ju—.”

“You don’t look half bad. Didn’t figure my brother for the type who’d go for girls like you, but hey, ‘cute’ can work,” his smile was wolfish, and tone suggestive.

“Excuse me?” The innocence in her enlarged hazel orbs did little to contradict his innuendo.

The crescent shaped smile slicing his face in half was wild, and it scared her, “c’min, a friend ‘o’ his is a friend ‘o’ mine!” A muscular arm stretched out and looped around her torso, hooking Catherine and reeling her in.

 

The inside was noticeably cooler than out, courtesy of the air-conditioning. Catherine stood uneasily, still in the arms of Steven’s supposed brother. “You’re pretty too,” he vocalised the thought, his hold getting noticeably tighter around her waist.

Instinctively, she placed both her hands against his forearm and applied force, pushing his arm and relaxing his grip as she twirled away from him, “is Steven in?” It was best to ignore what she had hoped she’d wrongly recognised as a come-on.

He gave no reply, scanning her over continuously with confusion scripted against his features.

Catherine tried once more, “is Steven home?”

“I heard you when you asked me the first time,” having nothing to hold, his arms returned to his sides and his hands slithered  into his sweatpants back pockets, “and why’re you look so tense?”

The lids of her eyes involuntarily drooped half way over her eyes and her lips set in a line as she brandished an ‘are you serious’ expression.

This made him smirk, “don’t give me that expression. It’s just that you aint asked the right questions yet,” he was smug in the wake of her growing agitation.

“What question?” She asked.

“Not that one.”

Her lips parted, yet resealed. What was it she was doing? Why was she here playing ‘guess the question’ with a stranger who could possibly not even have any relation to Steven at all? Her lips set in a displeased line, the sides of her lips tilting downwards slightly, and she sighed. This day had not been what she had intended, as Victoria had predicted, the day hadn’t gone as she had planned. “Hey, uhm,” just then she realised she didn’t even know his name, “dude, if Steven does live here, could you tell him that I came round?” She turned to leave.

“Leaving already?”

To the question Catherine turned back around and answered with another, more intense version, of her ‘are you serious’ expression.

The boy released a heavy breath, “my name.”

“Huh?”

“You referred to me as ‘dude’, I’d have thought at least then you would have figured out that you hadn’t asked my name,” was his explanation.

Her lips formed an ‘O’, “oh, sorry. What’s your name?”

This time round his smirk was victorious, “Stephan. My name is Stephan Doirret, it’s nice to meet you, Catherine.”

Catherine rolled her eyes, also smiling up at Stephan, “so is Steven home?”

Stephan gave a single nod, “go up the stairs, his is the red door—don’t open the green, it’s mine,” he indicated her attention towards the stairs with a nudge of his chin.

“Thank you,” her smile was large, reaching ear to ear, almost as large as Stephan’s could reach.

She started towards the staircase and Stephan moved to block her path, “you’re forgetting something.”

For a moment, she was stumped, then she caught herself and with another roll of the eyes, she said, “thank you, Stephan.”

Delighted with his second victory, Stephan grinned, revealing his teeth, “you’re welcome, Catherine.”

And he allowed her to pass.

Catherine cringed marginally at the sound of her name passing his lips; the slant he placed on it was vile.

 

Finally.

Finally! There was hope yet for her commemorative planning to be put to use. Something sparked in her

innards, the swell of elation in her abdominal region surged through her veins and adrenaline flowed freely with the blood in her body. She took the finale step, coming now to stand on even ground. She looked to her left. To her left were to doors, one blue, and the other brown. To her right there were two more doors, the red and green door she was looking for. Turning right, she took long strides, impatient and not wanting to wait any longer to have to see him. She passed the green door without even looking at it; it had escaped her vision, considering her sights were solely set on the red door. She stood in front of the door. Hesitating slightly, but pushing the lingering negativity of Victoria’s wise words aside, she inhaled a large gulp of air and knocked.

“Stephan, doors ope—hey! Fiona, give back the bottle!” It was his voice, for sure.

 

Catherine’s thoughts having been so preoccupied with thoughts of him. Her brain, under the influence of hormonal adrenaline, unable to accurately process what had been said or what she had heard. Her body so eager to move that it did so of its own will. Her heart and hopes so high nothing could…

 

…it took a while for the setting to configure within her mind, and a while longer for the two people to be noticed. Though, in all truthfulness, I doubt on any day she would have wanted to notice the two. They lay sprawled on the floor, one atop the other, assuming the position. An unknown girl, spread-eagled with her back to the floor. Steven, riding said girl, pouring an open bottle of pink liquid over her and groping her upper region. Catherine stood, drinking in the scene, attempting to calculate the goings on prior to her arrival.

Catherine?” Steven’s voice held the same indent of dismay as was displayed against his face.

“Steven, get off me—ah! The perfume stings. Steven!” Fiona whined, writhing beneath Steven’s weight.

The bulging mass of joy that had taken root within her stomach withered, it died, plummeting into the deepest depths of a bubbling black cesspool. Her eyes seemed to shrink as she squinted and zoned in on the two. A spurt of anger jolted through her; her eyebrows caved inwards, her jaws tightened and her teeth ground rigidly together, her hands balled into fists (she held the plastic bag in such a grip that a shard of glass had managed to embed itself near her wrist), strands of hair lifted with the friction being created through her sudden rage.

Then it all vanished. As quickly as it had come, her anger subsided and she smiled. A sad smile.

Catherine exhaled deeply as if she were sighing out her soul, which she very much did feel like she had just done. Her brows returned to their usual concaved arches, her lips remained parted in a sigh and her cheeks were weighed with woe, the sparks that once held place in her eyes dimmed, and her body relaxed. The plastic bag slipped from her grasp as she gave a final sigh.

“And here I thought we’d actually managed to make it,” despite whispering, the seething serpent of loathing could be heard clearly, hissing after every syllable uttered.

“W-wait, Catherine, I promise it’s not what it looks like—.” Steven stood, pushing off from the girl.

“Ouwch! Steven, you just broke my boob! What’s the matter with you?” Obviously incapable of reading the atmosphere, Fiona cupped her right boob and wailed, rolling around in over exaggerated pain.

“Shut up, Fiona,” he warned.

“You shut up. You just sexually assaulted m—hey, where you goin’ I aint finished sp—.” Fiona started.

Catherine had swerved on her heel and left at them mention of ‘sexual assault’. No longer was her interest held where Steven was concerned.

 

“Aw, c’mon, Catherine, listen to meI can explain. Catherine,” he’d followed her from his room, struggling to keep with her hasty pace.

She wanted out of there.

He was successful in coiling his fingers around her left wrist, forcing her to stop, “let go of my arm.”

“Catherine, listen, Fiona’s just a friend. We di—.”

“Let go of my arm,” he could hear the cracking in her voice.

“We—I didn’t—there’s nothing between us, I promise.”

“You’re right, there isn’t anything between us, is there,” with a tug fuelled by the anguish of betray, Catherine reclaimed her arm and made a break for it, jumping down the stairs two at a time and charging through the front door. 

 

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