I’m lying in bed staring at the ceiling for what seems like hours. As I study the small streaks of light that filter through the dark room, I know I’m in for another sleepless night. I turn to grab my phone on the night table and it reads 1:15am.
I throw it back on the table and sit up on the edge of the bed in frustration. I hate when this happens. I throw on a t-shirt and decide I should go finish the movie I started watching the other day. I can usually fall asleep that way.
I make my way down the hallway to go the TV room downstairs that no one ever occupies, and I find myself inexplicably stopping in front of Sofia’s room. I press my ear against the door, but I’m only greeted with silence.
She’s sleeping you freaking idiot, what did you expect?
Realizing I must look like a weird creeper if someone were to catch me like this, I step away from the door. I’m about to continue on my way when I hear a muffled noise.
I lean against the door again, and it sounds like she’s crying. The sound tugs at something inside of my chest. Shit. I really hope she’s not crying because of me or any of the stupid stuff I’ve said to her.
“No, please,” I hear her say. “Please, don’t.”
What the hell?
Suddenly she lets out a toe curling scream and I just about knock down her door. I turn on the light and she’s thrashing in between her covers on the bed.
I immediately go towards her and she’s covered in sweat, her hair matted against her forehead. She must be having a really bad dream.
“Sofia, wake up,” I tell her, shaking her shoulders lightly. I’m not exactly sure how to wake someone from a nightmare without scaring them even further.
She whimpers and tries to push my hands away from her. I shake her more forcefully. “Princess, it’s me. Wake up.”
She opens her eyes and all I see is pure, unadulterated fear in them. I reach towards her, but she flinches and makes a move away from me. Like she’s scared of me.
“Shh, Sofia. It was a dream. You’re safe,” I gently tell her.
She looks at me confused for a second, as if she’s finally realizing I’m sitting on the bed next to her, and then looks around the room.
“I heard you screaming and I came in. Are you okay?” I reach for her again, but stop at her guarded expression. She looks absolutely terrified.
She shakes her head, but I think more than just answering my question, she’s trying to get the dream out of her mind. Suddenly she gags and covers her mouth, and next thing I know she’s jumping off the bed and running towards the bathroom in full speed.
Not knowing what else to do, I follow her and she’s on her knees throwing up in the toilet. Her hair falls around her face, so I go to hold it back in place for her. I crouch down behind her and soothe her back while she lets out all the contents of her stomach. I’ve never done this for someone before, so I hope I’m helping.
She reaches up to flush the toilet, and sits back against her heels. She rests her forehead against her hands and I notice her body is slightly trembling. She pushes my hands off of her and quickly ties her hair up in a messy ponytail with a tie on her wrist. “Please leave,” she tells me in a hoarse voice.
I hesitate, not wanting to leave her alone in the least. I’m not in a position to argue with her, so I make my way out of the bathroom and close the door behind me. If it were me, I wouldn’t want anyone to see that either.
I’m really worried about her though. What the hell was that?
I leave her room and head towards the kitchen to get some water for her. I end up grabbing a water bottle for myself too and go back to her room. She’s still in the bathroom so I sit on her bed and wait. I have to make sure she’s okay.
She finally comes out of the bathroom and the first thing I notice is that she’s changed into different pajamas. Her tank top is a different color and she’s wearing sweat pants instead of shorts. Her hair is also pulled back in a neat bun and I can tell she’s rinsed her face.
“I thought I told you to leave,” she says in a quiet voice.
“Sofia, what happened? Are you sick?”
“No,” she answers quickly. “I mean, I don’t know. It’s probably something I ate,” she says.
“We had the same thing for dinner. Plus you only ate like a sixteenth of what I did,” I inform her.
“Are you keeping a log of my food intake?” she asks sarcastically.
Yes. “It’s not hard to notice,” I respond.
She sighs and I hand her a water bottle. She looks at me somewhat thankful and I watch her while she slowly drinks it. My mind is still going over the possibilities of what is wrong with her. I’m not sure if she really doesn’t know or if she’s hiding something from me.
“You’re not … pregnant, are you?” I blurt out.
“What? No,” she immediately responds.
“Sofia, it’s okay. I’ll take you to get checked if you want,” I tell her even though the thought of her pregnant kind of kills me. She’s far too young to be knocked up and I’m trying really hard not to imagine her having sex with someone else. At least with someone else that isn’t me.
Yes, I’ll admit I’ve thought about it way too many times that can be deemed healthy. An indescribable pang of jealousy hits me out of nowhere and suddenly I’m furious at the prospect.
“I’m not pregnant! Why would you even think that?” she asks deeply offended.
“You fainted the first day you got here, you lost a ton of weight and barely eat, and now you’re throwing up in the middle of the night. It’s not far-fetched to think that.”
“Hello genius, if I were pregnant I would be gaining weight not losing it,” she retorts.
“I’ve heard some women actually lose weight when they’re pregnant.”
“Oh, so now you’re the expert? I’m not freaking pregnant so drop it.”
“So you’re 100% sure?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes. It’s not even a possibility,” she says a bit embarrassed.
I take a deep breath and feel marginally better. However, something is still clearly going on with her and it freaks me out.
She looks like she’s about to head back to bed, but shivers and stops dead in her tracks.
“What is it, princess?” I ask her.
She turns around and frowns at me. She really doesn’t like it when I call her that, but it’s hard to break the habit. Maybe I should try to find a new nickname for her.
“I don’t think I can go back to sleep now,” she tells me.
“Follow me, then. I know a place.”
“I’m not going to your room, Adrian,” she protests.
“Not my room,” I mumble, exiting her own.
I almost think she’s not going to follow me, but I hear her flick off the lights and close the door behind me. I lead her towards the TV room downstairs and flop down on the couch.
“You come down here?” she asks surprised.
I realize the last time we were here together was that day before we went to the movies and she had agreed to go out with me. That seems like an eternity ago, and it almost feels like it never really happened. Things couldn’t be more different now.
“You’re not the only one who can’t sleep around here,” I reply.
“Oh,” she says and sits down on the opposite side of the couch from me. She looks like she wants to ask me about it, but doesn’t say anything.
I grab the remote and go to turn on the movie from the other day. I realize it’s a horror film and she won’t be able to watch it. Probably the last thing she needs right now. I throw her the control instead. “Here, you pick.”
“Okay,” she says and starts flipping through the channels.
“Do you need a waste basket or something, in case you hurl again?”
“No. I’ve had enough of that for one night,” she responds.
“Has that … happened before then?” I know I’m being nosy as shit, but I still can’t explain it.
She’s quiet for a long time, concentrating on the movie titles on the screen in front of us, so I don’t think she’s going to answer.
“Not in a while,” she finally answers. “Are you going to tell Nico?” she asks worriedly.
I actually hadn’t thought that far yet. “Are you?” I counter.
She shakes her head. “He’s just going to worry and I don’t want to bother him with more stuff.”
I sigh at this whole situation. Nico would definitely blow a gasket over this. “I won’t for now, but if it happens again, I want you to tell me,” I say trying to sound strict.
“Okay, I promise,” she answers in relief. “Life of Pi?” she asks before I can say anything else.
“Sure.” Honestly, she could have picked the most boring documentary to ever exist and I would have agreed.
“Sofia, I wanted to apologize for how I acted the other day. Well, since you’ve been back.”
“It’s fine. I guess I overreacted too, so I’m sorry.”
“It wasn’t my intention to make you feel like you didn’t belong here. Because you do. This is your home and your parents were nice enough to let me stay here, but if it makes you uncomfortable I’ll go. I can find a place somewhere else.”
I’m completely serious telling her this. It’s not a bluff or an attempt to make her feel sorry for me. I don’t like anyone feeling sorry for me and the last thing I want is someone’s sympathy just because I’m on my own now. This is what has kept me awake the last few nights and as much as I don’t want to leave here, I also don’t want to cause any more problems for her.
She looks at me in shock. “No, I don’t want you to go.” Her words instantly soothe me and suddenly I feel better than I have all week.
“Okay. If you change your mind, just let me know.” I don’t want to drill the point any further, but she needs to know I’m willing to leave if that is what she wants.
“I don’t want you to feel that way either, Adrian. You’ve always been a part of the family and this is your home too now, okay? I’m sure it’s already hard with your parents gone, so please don’t think you have to go somewhere else because of me.”
I nod and look away from her. I swallow the knot forming in my throat as I think about what she just said. It couldn’t be truer. My parents are gone and it’s fucking hard being on my own without them.
“Should I play the movie?” she asks me softly.
Pi is relating how the Bengali tiger came to be named Richard Parker when I feel myself drift off to sleep.