Unstitched(2)

By: Jacquie Underdown



‘Oh, that muscle,’ said Roslyn, grinning with half her mouth. ‘I thought you were going to show us the muscle us girls really care about.’ She winked and dropped her eyes to his fly.

Rachel linked elbows with Brendt and leant her head against him. ‘Eyes and hands off my boyfriend. And no talking about his impressive muscle…I mean…muscles.’

We all laughed loudly and swayed out onto the sidewalk. I raised my face to the darkened star-speckled sky and let the cool breeze chill my hot cheeks. The air was scented with rain, which obviously fell while we were inside, drenching the road and sidewalk.

Despite the alcohol tickling my senses, I couldn’t shake the eddying anxiety — a reminder, whispering in my ear about the events of today that prompted this bender. Leith had sex with you to win a thousand dollars. That’s all you’re worth to him.

***

Brendt

We were all trying to distract Anthea from what that prick did to her, yet there I was unable to think of anything else. I clenched my fist, the knuckles popping. Pain sliced from my hand all the way up my arm and I winced.

My hand was bruised and swollen, a nice little cut across a couple of fingers, but I shook out the pain. I was vibrating and tensing, knowing that Leith, in a roundabout way, had caused this.

Mother fucker.

Anthea swayed in front of me and I caught her by the hips, so she didn’t fall to the ground. She was drunk. Understandably. I’d be drunk too if I’d been through what she’d just been through. That same anger and adrenalin, which I felt just before I smashed my fist into Leith’s face, burned afresh in my veins. I found it hard to stop myself, to not lay in to him with all that I had.

I pulled Anthea under my arm, let her use me for balance while I used her for calm. She didn’t deserve any of this. I should’ve done more than break Leith’s nose. I should have…

Anthea lifted my hand into hers and gently traced over the swollen knuckles. My eyelids were heavy, wanting to close, so I would feel her touch more deeply. But I controlled my reactions and pushed those feelings deep down. She looked up at me with her cute face, those honey-brown eyes and long, long eyelashes, smiled and lowered her eyes quickly.

‘I’m sorry,’ her tongue was thickening her s’s so they sounded like sh’s, ‘for getting you caught up in all this mess.’

I shook my head and stopped walking. Rachel and Roslyn didn’t notice, kept chattering with each other and edged further ahead. I squeezed my arm around her tighter and waited for her to look up at me. And she did — glossy fawn eyes wide and eyebrows high.

‘Anthea, you’re my best friend. It’s my job to get involved.’

Anthea shrugged and pressed her lips together. She ran gentle fingers across my grazed knuckle again and focused on my hand. ‘I hate that you’re hurt.’ A tear fell down her cheek. I watched it roll over her lips and chin, envying that tear and hating the man who caused it.

I wiped at her cheek with my palm and couldn’t stop my thumb finding her full bottom lip and dragging over the pink, salty flesh. My breaths grew heavier, heart raced, as much as I tried to steady them both. And then my cock twitched under my jeans as I was flooded with thoughts of taking that lush lip between my own and invading her warm mouth with my tongue.

I pulled away and stepped back one pace.

Back the fuck up, Brendt.

Heart thudding, I glanced up the pathway; Rachel and Roslyn had stopped, but were chatting madly with each other, arms flailing, their heads tilting back with laughter, oblivious of me. Breaths came a little easier.

‘I hate that you’re hurt, too,’ I said quickly and strode away to catch up with the girls. She followed, keeping a pace or two behind.

***

Anthea

I hurried along the fluoro-lit streets behind Brendt as music gushed from passing bars and restaurants. I didn’t want to bring it up. Not tonight. Not when I was doing so well to bury it down in the pit of my belly and smother it with stomach acid and booze. But it frothed and burned a passage up my throat until it lingered foul of my tongue — sour. Then when I saw the bruising across Brendt’s knuckles, it all came tumbling back like a steel-capped boot to my head.

Brendt’s a good friend, truly, to have done what he did to help me out. Especially when I’d been so gullible, so…stupid!

I trusted Leith. I thought I really liked him. Hell, I thought he liked me too. A laugh almost escaped from my scowling lips, for ever expecting anything different. Me and love, we just didn’t mix.

I know, I know — twenty-three years old. There’s time enough for love and heartbreak and having it all come good in the end. But I wasn’t like other girls my age. I wasn’t like anyone else I knew. I was damaged goods, as though some magical being had come along and pulled on the threads of my heart, slowly unstitching me and never bothering to repair the tethers. The ironic part of it was: I didn’t even know how I came to be this way.

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