DON'T OUCH ME

2

“Is this all you want?” Sam asked bitterly. “A good time?”
       “You’re one to talk!”
       “I like a good time. But not all the time.” He held her gaze.
       Evie blushed. “If you came here just to get a rise out of me, mission accomplished. You can scram.”
       “Your friends are counting on you.”
       “Their mistake,” Evie whispered. “You want me to go back to that museum? To talk about ghosts? You weren’t there in that house with that… that thing. You don’t know how it was!” Her eyes brimmed with tears as she spat out the words. “Ask Jericho. He knows. He understands what it was like.”
       She wanted to wound now, and Sam’s flinch registered as one more sin she’d hate herself for come morning, but now that her tongue was loose, she couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out.
       “I can see those… hideous beasts coming out of the burning walls. I hear Naughty John telling me—warning me—about my own brother! He knew about James, Sam. When I stand still, I see all of it. So I don’t stand still, and I certainly don’t go looking for more. And every night before bed, I pray for those pictures to go out of my head. When the prayers don’t work, I ask the gin to do it.”
       Evie could feel a headache threatening. She’d let Sam lead her to this. That was her mistake.
       “I’m sorry I’m not Jericho,” Sam said coolly.
       “I’m sorry for everything,” Evie mumbled.
       “That include last night?”
       Evie didn’t answer.
       With her smudged eyes and her dainty red Cupid’s bow lips, Evie reminded Sam of a sparkling party favor on the cusp of New Year’s, just this side of discarded. The comment about Jericho had hurt. Badly. He tried to swallow it down. “Evie,” he said, taking gentle hold of her hand. “The party can’t go on forever.”
       Evie looked up at Sam, defiant but slightly pleading, too. Her voice was nearly a whisper. “Why not?”

I didn’t want to believe it. I thought I could handle it this time, dabble along the edges without falling headfirst into the deep end. I thought that if we stayed simple, if our fingers just barely touched, that maybe I could be strong enough. I thought that I was perfectly in control. But he did to me what all the rest of them have done. He carved out the same dust-covered crystals that I’ve worked so hard to shove down. He told me that they’re beautiful and worth polishing up, made me believe that he wouldn’t let me go. Now I’m sinking through the cracks between his teeth because I was too tough to swallow, and I can’t believe I expected anything different.
—  🖤
4

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