Stairs to Nowhere

Not your average Cinderella story. The locked tower holds in a girl with broken things where her heart should be. And, this tower holds out a girl with a heart as hard as black ice. Smoke creeps up the stairs, and the rising flames between these two are threatening to burn everything that stands in their way. The cause of these flames? Insecurities and one boy. Good luck girls. A Fairy Godmother's wand can't fix this.

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6. Concealing Things That I'm Longing to Say

Good friends are willing to risk anything, but strangers are willing to risk more.

   Yesterday was the second day that Luke hadn't shown up for Anatomy, and today would've made three if he hadn't barged in five minutes before class ended. Mr. Thann had to go check on a kid who'd had a seizure during a history presentation, so he wasn't here to witness Luke, obviously drunk, stumbling into the room while giggling like a five-year-old girl.

   A few scattered people noticed the entrance, but the room came nothing close to silent. Luke staggered over and threw himself towards the stool next to me, almost missing and falling to the floor. But, he caught himself last minute, banging his elbow on the table behind ours. The impact set off another round of giggles. He looked up at me with carefree, laughter filled eyes; the eyes of a mischievous child.

   "Hiya." More giggles. He sat down on the stool, wobbling a little.

   I took in a big breath in. The air filling my cheeks before I let it out.

   "Luke, what are you doing?

   A frown fell on his face.

   "I'm trying to get this thing to spin," He put his hands on either side of his stool and threw his shoulder back. I watched him with a look of slight disbelief.

   Five tries later, I grabbed for his shoulder, saying, "Hey, i-it doesn't spin." He pouted.

   "Why not?" I closed my eyes, shaking my head.

   "Because they're not supposed to. Look, give me your keys." Luke looked at my extended hand warily.

   "Why?"

   "I'm going to drive you home." The blue outline of his boxers were visible when he hesitantly dug his keys out of his front pocket. The metal was slightly warm in my hands.

   I dragged him out of class before the bell rang.

~~~~~

   Needless to say, people were surprised that I dragged a drunk Luke Hemmings out of class before the bell rang. And needless to say, the hushed whispers that held my name made me cringe. Attention had decreased in the past few days while Luke was gone. And in that time, I had begun to comprehend the massive ball and chain I had placed on myself lately. And in that time, I had decided that I really didn't like the extra weight.

   Over the past two days, I had loosened the chain that connected the weight to me. I had moved an inch away from it; slowly but surely making an escape from the watching eye of every one else. I was no longer the center of attention in school.

   Two minutes. Two minutes of drunken giggling and I had walked back to the weight and sat down on it. I was furious with myself for giving up so easily; for walking back to the starting point as if on command. Like a dog with nothing better to do than go where the whistle tells him to.

   "You're a really bad driver," Luke mumbled as I took a corner too sharp and ran over the edge of a curb. I snapped out of my thoughts, braking rather harshly as the line of cars in front of me slowed for an intersection.

   We were creeping along, almost at the front when Luke added, "You look ma..." His response was cut off when I pushed the gas pedal to the floor, causing the car to shake as it tried to comply to my wants. I merged lanes quickly, narrowly avoiding the car in front of me, and we sped off; much too fast for the far right lane.

~~~~~

   It took seven minutes of terror to get to Luke's house. And another split second for him to exit the car. He was still drunk, but he knew, even in his intoxicated state, that it was far more dangerous to stay in the car with me behind the wheel than it was to fall flat on his face into Mrs. Johanna's flowerbeds. Which is exactly what he did.

   I groaned, unbuckling my seat belt and pushing the driver's door open.

   "Come on, get up." With my hands tucked under his arms, we got him into a somewhat standing position; just enough to where he could walk with most of his weight leaning against me. The side of his face was smudged with mud. The cobblestone path tripped us both up, almost causing me to use Luke as a landing cushion. But, I caught us both before we could go tumbling. I blew a quick breath of relief out, stirring a few strands of hair that had fallen into my eyes.

   The stairs were worse than the path.

   Luke leaned up against the side of the house while I fumbled to unlock the door. And then we were inside the house, and Luke pushed himself in front of me, and using the couch for balance, he stumbled around the to front of it, flopping down onto the yellow cushions.

   "Luke," I huffed, taking off my shoes. I reached over the back of the couch to remove his also. "You can't stay down here. We need to get you upstairs." He pouts like child. "I'm serious, let's go."

   It's his turn to huff before slowly sitting up with my help. And by God's grace, we make it safely up the stairs and into the kids' bathroom. A blue toothbrush lied halfway in the sink, a silk bathrobe hung on the back of the door, and another, fluffier one, was draped over the glass shower door. I knew that the Johanna's had a daughter of their own, but it was confirmed when I realized that the crack running halfway across the little mirror above the sink was in fact not a crack but a line of dried mascara.

   "My bedroom's down the hall," Luke mumbled.

   "I know. You're going to take a shower first. Take off your shirt." He looked at me in shock, but complied when I motioned for him to take his shirt off again. While he was taking off his pants, I turned the shower onto the coldest setting, spinning back around with my hand over my eyes in case he was already done undressing. He walked towards me, brushing my arm as he opened the glass door, pulling on the bathrobe and letting it fall to the floor in a heap, hitting the back of my ankles. Knowing he was behind me, I took my hand off my eyes. "I'll be in your room when you're done. Yell if you need anything." I shut the door, hearing a slight gasp from the other side when he stepped into the cold water.

   I had to wade through a pile of clothes that had fallen in the doorway of his room, but otherwise, it was relatively clean. Once on the other side of the pile, I turned back around, searching for clothes that he could wear instead of his alcohol soaked ones that were lying on the bathroom floor. I grabbed the first comfortable clothes that I could find, folding them on his bed seconds before he made his way through the clothes too.

   "What are you doing? You're supposed to be taking a shower."

   "It was too cold," he pouted. He wore the fluffy bathrobe; he threw his old clothes in the general direction of his laundry basket. I rolled my eyes.

   "That was the point, but whatever. Here, change into these." I turned so he could change, and a minute later he said "done", so I looked over my shoulder to see the masterpiece that I'd picked out for him. A laugh escaped my mouth. Out of everything, I'd grabbed the only pair of sweats that had a bright pink stain across the upper thigh, awful grandpa socks, and the same sweater that I'd used the last time I was here; it actually fit the person who was wearing it this time.

   He looked down. "You did a great job with this." I nodded, still laughing while I bent down to push random items off of his bed.

   "Under the covers," I commanded. "I'll be right back." I heard shuffling as I waded back through the clothes and wandered down the stairs, trying to find the kitchen. Once found, I felt love for the Johanna family when I realized that I didn't have to search through endless cabinets to find a cup. The cabinet doors were made of colored glass.

   I walked back up to the bathroom, filling the glass and sifting through the medicine cabinet for something that Luke could use for the headache that he's likely to wake up with. I grabbed the wastebasket as an afterthought and headed back into his room, stepping over the pile with a garbage can in one hand and water and medicine in another. Luke watched me from where he was laying under the covers that he'd decided to pull up to the area just under his eyes. The wastebasket was placed just in front of his nightstand while the contents of the other hand were placed on top of it.

   "Take these when you wake up," I told him, not looking over to meet his gaze.

   "I know what to do for a hangover," he mumbled. I looked over then.

   Rather coldly I said, "Of course you do." Then he looked away, and I rolled my eyes, straightening up. I walked over to the doorway, pushing the clothes out of the way with my foot. "I'll see you tomorrow at school." I was called back before I could leave the room.

   "Emily?" A sigh escaped my mouth.

   "Yes?" I threw over my shoulder. My gaze followed my voice, and I could see him lowering the covers to his chin.

   "Come here." I did as told, thankful that I'd moved the clothes.

   "What?"

   "Thank you." I nodded in response, giving him a forced grin. The bed moved slightly as he shuffled the covers over to reach his hand out. He rested it on my arm, giving me goosebumps from the coldness of the water that still rested on it from the shower. I tried turning my body to release myself from his cold grip, but he just tightened his hold. He looked like a little child, pleading for something that his mother probably wasn't going to give him.

   "Thank you," was said again, and then I was pulled towards him. His arms wrapped around my back. Considering he was a soccer player, his arms were smaller than most guys, but they were still strong enough to hold me from pulling back after a second. I was trapped there for a good eternity before he finally put both hands on my arms and pushed me back just far enough for our faces to be an inch apart. More hair had fallen into my face, and he removed one of his hands to tuck it back behind my ear.

   "Why were you mad earlier?" I had to ask him to repeat it I was so surprised by the question. And when he did, I wasn't any less shocked.

   He didn't give me enough time to respond before he was breathing out the words, "You're so beautiful." I laughed. He sniffed as if my breath that smelled like my chicken pasta lunch was the sweetest thing he'd ever smelled. His eyes fluttered closed and then open.

   "Go to sleep Luke. You'll feel better in the morning." I said in amusement, trying to pull away again, but he pulled me closer than before, our lips centimeters apart.

   "I'm serious. You're beautiful." His blue eyes looked light against the darkness of the room. He raised his head just a tiny bit more. "Beautiful." He started to tilt his head slightly, but suddenly his body went slack, and his head fell back onto the bed, missing the pillow. As soon as the unconscious boy's grip loosed, I was standing straight again, trying to regain my breath. I reached down, my labored breathing loud in silent air as I gently moved his head back onto the pillow. And then I tore out of that house as if hell hounds were nipping at my heels.

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