"We are such beautiful creatures; blinded by love,
seduced by dreams and
eluded by hope,"
I can faintly feel James lowering me onto the rough covers of the bed. He does it gently and carefully, trying not to cause me more pain. His hands are warm and they are so strong. As much as I don't want to admit this; I feel safe. But only for a fraction of a second. His touch promises that nothing will happen to me and that he will protect me. I shake those thoughts away, because that is impossible. This is a mistake that he made and he probably blames me now.
I peel open my eyes and look around. We are in the girls' dormitory and I am eagle spread on my bed with my face in the pillow. My back still stings with pain and I feel like a rabid dog has been gnawing at it for the whole day.
"I hate you," I croak to my surprise, while James rummages through my cupboard. He stops for a second and the corners of his mouth quirk up.
His raven black hair drips with sweat and falls in between his eyes in curls. The belt outline is imprinted on each side of his face and the bruises bloom under his eye. Blood dries under his cut lip.
"So does everyone else," he replies and goes back to shuffling through the contents. I scowl at him when he begins to throw out my clothes, books and other belongings, "Do you have any bandages or antiseptic in here?" he growls impatiently. I shake my head sideways and he looks about him.
He eyes up my neighbours cupboard, "No! James you can't. I will get into more trouble,"
"What've you got to loose? It can't get any worse," he says bitterly and I feel so angry at him.
"You really can't see what you've done, can you?" I hiss and his eyes widen. He sits on he edge of my bed.
"No. Enlighten me," his voice drops.
"You have made us outcasts!" I yell, "They'll be watching even more intently now. You've condemned us! You didn't just break the rules, you defied the whole school system! You should have just left me," I turn my head into the pillow so I won't have to meet his gaze.
"I saved your life and all I get is 'I hate you'?" he asks.
"Did I ask you to? Did anyone ask you to save me?!" I shout, even though it hurts my back.
"Don't flatter yourself," he starts to raise his voice too, "I didn't do it for you! It was for the kid,"
I gasp, "Poppy....she asked...?" I can't believe that my little mouse would do that. She must have been really frightened if it was that desperate.
"Not directly," he looks away distractedly, "She looked at me in way that said it all and I understood. It was either me or Poppy who was going to help you and I couldn't let a child sacrifice herself like that. You saw what she did to me. Imagine the kid in my place,"
He sits silently for a while and then turns to me, opening his mouth to say something. I cut him off, not wanting him to linger anymore, "James, just leave please. I'm begging you. Leave me alone, I need to clean myself," my voice breaks.
Surprisingly he gets up and leaves briskly, shutting the door. I didn't expect him to do it so fast, but then again it's better that way. When he is gone, I turn my face again into the pillow and let out a few choked sobs. The pain is too much and I can't hold it in. I shout into the fabric and whimper. My throat is on fire and my back feels raw.
I calm myself down and take a few breaths, wiping away the tears. I can't move, because every time I do the pain magnifies by a thousand times. My lips are cracked and my hair is dried with blood. The loose strands wildly curl and fall into my eyes.
Suddenly, the door cracks open again and James enters the dormitory. I frown. He carries some white bandages and a small, brown, glass bottle. He walks gracefully and kneels at my side.
"James," I breathe. He looks up at me, his eyes sad.
"Please. Just trust me, I want to help you," he begs and I sigh.
"Why not?" he sounds offended.
"Because....I already owe you for standing up for me back in the Hall and now...I don't want you doing me any favours,"
"I promised Poppy to help you," he says sternly and reaches out to my vest. I flinch and slap his hand away unwillingly, "Katherine, I am not him. I would never hurt you. Why can't you give me a chance to prove myself to you?"
"Why? Why are you so eager to show me that I can trust you? What's in this for you?" I don't know why but tears begin to slip from my eyes and drag across my cheeks. His thumb presses to my face and wipes them away swiftly.
"Because I have strong feelings for you, Katherine Baywell. I just haven't worked out if they're positive or negative yet," he smiles crookedly.
"Well, you can take into account that my feelings for you are definitely negative," I say through my teeth.
"Good. Keep it that way,"
"I don't understand you. You want me to trust you and hate you?"
"I want you to trust me and not love me," he points out as if it's an obvious thing and I roll my eyes.
"Not quite," he wanders off, "Okay, I am going to gently cut the back of your vest so I can clean the wounds,"
I shake my head vigorously, but he looks at me sternly. I sigh and close my eyes, giving up. He grabs the scissors from my cupboard and snips what is left of my vest, to expose my bare back completely. I press my body tighter, believing that it would stop him from seeing the rest of me. However, he doesn't seem to be paying attention.
"How bad is it?" I rasp and he sucks in a breath.
"It looks like you were massaged with a cheese grater," I can't but smile a little bit. So does he, but then his face shifts like a cloud.
"Hold on. This will hurt," he opens the brown bottle and I brace myself. The moment the antiseptic drips onto my cuts, I yell and clutch at the first thing I can find. It's soft and warm. I realise that I am crushing James' wrist, but he doesn't complain. I bite the pillow and yell into it, my tears spilling. He hushes me soothingly and strokes my hair.
"It's okay," his voice comes velvety, "Be strong. I won't do it again, I promise," he says and it takes a few moments before I can free my grip from his wrist. He takes the bandages and disappears into the bathroom.
Suddenly, the main door creaks open and a few girls walk in. They see me and stop in their tracks. I look away, embarrassed and defeated.
"Get out of here!" I hear James yell, as he materialises from the bathroom, "Leave! Tell the others to stay out!" I see for the first time what anger he was withholding. His blue eyes are on fire and he bellows with powerful force.
The girls quickly shuffle out and James locks the door, "You shouldn't have done that," I mumble. He ignores me and gently presses the wet cloth to my back. I let out a gasp of relief and clench my eyes shut.
The water beads glide down my back and I feel the coolness of the cloth absorb the fire from my body. I relax and let James take care of me. I guess I can trust him for now. It just feels so good to have someone look after you.
He lets my hair out of my plait and it cascades down my bare shoulders. The damp cloth is still on my back and I feel so sleepy. It's like magic, dragging away all the pain.
James brushes my curls out and braids it again, "I didn't know you could do a plait," I say smiling. He leaves the brush on my table and turns back with a smaller cloth. He tilts my head upwards and I shudder at the touch of his fingertips. I am surprised by the softness and gentleness of them, because they looked so rough and violent to me all the time.
He cleans the blood off my face and wipes away the dirt. I realise how selfish I am. I was so focused on myself, I forgot that he had been punished too. Stop his hand, "Look at yourself," I whisper.
"That's not my priority right now," he says in a deep voice, "It can wait,"
"But your face-" I start, only to be cut off again.
"Katherine," he growls my name and raises his eyebrows, making goose-bumps erupt all over my body, "Are you concerned about me?" the sound of surprise catches me off guard.
"What?" I reply too quickly, "No! I mean yes. I mean...I feel bad that you suffered because of me. You should clean yourself up too,"
He smirks, "You do care about me. So does that mean you won't ignore me?" his face lifts.
"No," I say harshly, "It means that I respect you and maybe, just maybe, we might be friends," I says gingerly, "But not close friends,"
He remains silent and drops the cloth to the floor, "Get some rest. We have a few minutes left,"
I relax and let my head drop to the pillow. We stare at each other for a long time and I finally I feel sleep coming on. I blink slowly and everything is in a daze.
"You were so brave out there today," he whispers, "You didn't scream until the end and I am fascinated by that fire in you. Just....be careful that the flames won't set your whole life on fire," he looks to the floor.
"Sometimes you need to set your life on fire, just to see who will fan away the flames," I say sluggishly and close my eyes. I feel his fingers stroking my hair and smile to myself. Gently I feel myself fading away.
I am half-asleep when I mumble, "Who are you?"
"An angel," James' voice flows like honey, lulling me to sleep.
"What's your name?"
"Satan," he whispers into my ear.
"Then stay with me angel. Let the others wait for a while," and everything slowly gets sucked away into a dark abyss of dreams and illusion.