It's another Saturday, so it's time to welcome back Taylor!
She's really embracing the idea of micro-fictions, isn't she?
Today we have a story from her "Safe Now" universe, but I don't know when it takes place. It's powerful, though, so hang on!
"Avan, open the door!"
My phone binged. I pulled it from my pocket and saw one new message.
Avan: Please leave
Angry, I shoved the phone into my pocket and banged on the door again.
"Avan, let me in!"
Another bing with Avan's name.
Avan: This isn't your problem
Avan: Please go away
Part of me wanted to listen to him, give him the space he asked for.
But another part of me, a bigger part, remembered what he'd done for me when I was struggling.
I'd been curled up on the couch, bawling my eyes out, when Avan came in from the kitchen. Taking notice of my tears, he rushed over and knelt in front of me.
"Please go, Avan." I told him, almost immediately. "This isn't your problem."
He didn't say anything, just took my hand in both of his. He kissed my fingers, closing his eyes. Even in silence, he said everything I needed to hear: "I'm not going anywhere."
And he stayed with me.
Now, it was Avan who was hurting. I wasn't just going to leave him to face his pain alone. My fingers searched for the spare key, finding it under the mat. I unlocked the door.
Avan sat on the hard tile floor, his back against the wall, knees drawn to his chest. His phone was beside him. In the dim light, I could see the soft shine of tear tracks on his cheeks and the tender puffiness around his eyes. He stared blankly at me, as if he couldn't see me at all. The room was trashed, paperwork and dirty clothes strewn all about the floor. The entire house smelled of old food and body odor.
"Avan…" I stepped cautiously over the mess, as if he was an injured deer that might bolt at any sudden movement or noise.
“Av." I knelt in front of him. "What's going on?"
I waited, not pushing him to answer. He blinked, sniffed, looked away and said nothing. He was thinner now, tired and pale. His long hair was tied back, matted, and unwashed. I placed my hand to his knee, my thumb gently stroking the fabric of his flannel pajamas.
"Avan, talk to me."
Finally, he looked at me. Tears had collected in the corners of his eyes.
"I don't know," he whispered.
I didn't say anything. He looked away again, tears streaming down his face.
"I don’t-don’t know." He said again, his voice breaking with his composure.
My hand that held his knee slid upward until I reached his face. Settling beside him, I pulled his face towards mine and kissed his cheek, tasting salt, sweat, pain. He didn't react. I kissed him again, resting my head against him.
"I'm not leaving you here alone."
His hand clutched mine so tight it almost hurt. He broke down. Soft, choked-back sobs rolled from his chest and tightened his throat. I held him, my embrace fierce yet gentle. He sank deeper into my arms. He sobbed harder, his breaths broken.
I listened quietly. I kissed him and held him tighter. When my eye caught the glint of a knife on the counter closest to us, I broke down as well, my brain connecting the dots.
"You're not alone in this, Avan." I said between sobs. "We'll get you some help."