Andrea lay awake in bed, listening as Jesse slept beside her, slowly sucking a breath in and then letting it out. She hoped he was having a nice dream. Jesse seemed so nervous much of the time, not that she could blame him. She could figure out what he did for a living and knew the average lifespan was not exactly high.
Why get involved, then? A voice in her head asked her. It was a valid question, admittedly. There was a big chance that one day Jesse would leave and she would never hear from him again, simply know in her heart that he was gone for good.
She loved him, however. She felt it in her bones when she curled up to him and felt him breathing against her. When she could hear his heart beat against her ear. When she saw him with Brock, playing video games and smiling so wide it seemed like there had never been anything bad in his life.
She only wished that he would find a way to talk to her. Then again… maybe she didn’t want to know, maybe she was afraid of where that conversation would lead, that she would suddenly know too much. Not that she would see Jesse in a different light – though maybe that was a possibility too, seeing the man she loved with blood on his hands… But that might put her in danger too, from rivals (in whatever he did – she knew, of course she knew, but she had to keep acting like she didn’t, like she had no idea she was dating a drug dealer even though he’d tried to sell her meth the first time they were together), or the cops, or some other craziness…
But Jesse seemed so alone. His blue eyes were so lost. They always had been, but it seemed as if recently he wasn’t really there at all. It was so hard to make him smile; she alone couldn’t even bring that out of him, yet somehow Brock could. When the little boy came running up to Jesse for a hug or to excitedly talk about his new DS game, or just about anything Brock did, actually, Jesse’s eyes would light up ever so briefly, as if he’d forgotten all his worries only to be reminded of them all another second later.
Andrea gently put an arm around him, and as she did she realized that he was, almost imperceptibly, shaking.
“Jesse,” she whispered. If only she could quell that, if only she knew how. If only she could tell him that whatever secrets he held, they didn’t matter, that she loved him no matter what.
She had loved far worse, after all – no, not loved. Maybe needed, in the basest sense of the word. The men who had come and gone, who had left in mornings or after 2AM fist-fights or who made it obvious they had never cared at all. The men she had gotten used to before Jesse came along and brought that little bit of light, even though it was faded, darkened, with little bits of dust floating around in it like it was full of living and dying creatures.
Jesse seemed to hear her words, and he rolled in her direction, draping an arm around her.
“I love you,” she whispered, words that she hadn’t said in the day time, maybe because she worried it would scare him away. It would be too close, and Jesse was a person who couldn’t bear to ever be too close. He kept everyone at arm’s length.
Jesse’s eyes opened ever so slowly. There was a kind of sleepy fear in them. He opened his mouth and moved his lips wordlessly, then rolled back over like he needed to be asleep for this.
Andrea could remember the days when she’d slept beside men in fear, or so drugged out that she couldn’t remember their names or even their faces, where she woke up the next day and just wanted them out, didn’t want them to touch her. She hadn’t even wanted to be herself anymore. She had been ashamed.
These days, she wasn’t – but she felt lost. Like she was floating. Brock was the only one who brought her back. He had always been the one to bring her back.
She remembered the days when she’d been so young, only fifteen, and filled with the terror that she was going to be bringing a new life into the world. It had seemed way too big for her, insurmountable. Especially with how Tomas was already going wrong – six years old and already spending most nights not coming home. Her mother didn’t care, and her grandmother was trying but failing. Trying desperately to keep some hold on the both of them.
After that she had been lost. It had felt as if every night, Brock was falling through her fingers. Her nights were filled with terrible images of Brock running the streets, of being cut down, of walking outside to see him lying dead. She didn’t want to sleep after that; she snorted coke, stuffed her face in meth, did whatever she needed to do to stop herself from feeling it. She didn’t want to have to feel it.
Now, she breathed in. Cuddled against Jesse’s scent. There had to be a way of saving him. She had saved Brock. Now she was sure of it.
“Jesse,” she whispered, gently shaking him awake. His eyes fluttered, as if he was caught in the middle of a nightmare. “Wake up.”
“Andrea,” he murmured, and she moved the pillow that was under his head so that it supported him a little better. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong… You were moving in your sleep like you were having a nightmare.”
“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to keep you up, I just…”
Andrea licked her lips with nervousness and moved a little closer to him, set her head on his chest.
“You want to tell me what it was about?”
She knew that maybe, this night would be the day he’d talk to her. And if it wasn’t, at least it was another night with the man she loved.