“You told Miles?!” Her eyes widened and mouth fell, resting open as if she was attempting to catch a few flies.
“He’s my best friend, Charlie. I had to.”
The twenty-two year old could not believe her ears. She stared at the man standing in the doorway. From the dark blond curls, unruly and overdue for a trim and the bluest crystal eyes Charlie had ever seen that seemed to be squinting in pain even when their owner was overjoyed past the brown button up and army green cargo pants, the half-empty bottle of whiskey hanging from his right hand to the tightly laced boots that covered his keenly reflexed feet. It was impossible to ignore that his right eye was swelling and beginning to look somewhat purple and that there was a laceration on his jaw from which a bit of blood had escaped, mixing with sweat to dry as a rusty brown crust on his neck. “He could have killed you!”
“He tried.” He stumbled into the kitchen and fell into one of the cheap mismatched chairs. Resting his arms on the table, he stared down at his tan skin, watching as bruises began to form. Charlie pulled a chair over to him and sat.
“I don’t understand. Why would you tell him?” He looked up at her.
“I really wish that you had a different family. I wish I could talk about my girlfriend to my best friend and not worry about getting freakin’ castrated. I wish you could take me home to meet your mom for the first time. I wish that we didn’t have to worry about everyone you love hating us, but I love you, Charlie. And I know Miles isn’t going to accept that probably ever, but I need to tell people. I’m tired of having to hide.”
“Bass…” Charlie carefully grabbed his hands. “I’m sorry. I want to tell people too. I was scared, but you’re right.” His lips curled up in appreciation as he stared at her with those cyan orbs. She held his head, placing a hand on each side softly, her fingers getting lost in the curls. “I love you.” He leaned forward, wrapping his sore arms around her back, his lips on hers.
Charlie pushed on the always sticking front door until it gave before stepping into the apartment and instantly being enveloped in its natural warmth. The windows of the living room were covered with long strips of fabric that served as makeshift curtains and gave the room a comfortable, dusky aura. The room contained two ripped sofas from which yellow stuffing escaped to the not vacuumed floor, an end table with a lamp that didn’t work on top and a hunting knife in the drawer, a decent size television, and a coat rack. It had looked the same as long as Charlie could remember.
She had slept on one of those old couches when she ran away from home at fourteen, lost her first tooth in the elevator down the hall at five, drank her first beer at seventeen sitting at the not exactly sturdy round table in the kitchen. Charlie loved this place—but not today. “Hello?” she called out, walking down the apartment’s single unlit hallway. A sliver of light came from under the door to the spare room. She pushed lightly on it and found him sitting with his eyes closed on a couple of the many boxes of random crap that had accumulated over the years and been thrown in there. “Miles-” her voice cracked, and she stood awkwardly a few feet away, waiting for him to say something.
“How long?” His voice was rough as always, that five in the morning, just rolled out of bed sound no matter the time of day.
“A year?” His tone was a mix of surprise and disappointment. “Did he…?” he asked, eyes still closed.
“Of course not! No, it was me…It was Mom’s birthday. You took her home because she was drunk, and Bass gave me a ride, and…I don’t know why, but I kissed him.”
“Charlie-” He looked at her with wide eyes.
“I know what I’m doing, Miles. I know, and I’m not proud of it, but we’re together. Bass feels like shit about it every day. For months he avoided me, all of us really. Even after I broke him down, he still feels guilty as hell. Every day I was afraid he would end it, until he told you. Thanks for not killing him by the way.”
“I’ll try again.”
“Charlie, do you know how idiotic you’re being?”
“You remember what you told me when my mom and dad got back together when I was ten? You said that love is stupid. You were right.”