“Alright,” Leo said after the doctor had exited the waiting room. “Visitation ended hours ago, and there’s nothing more we can do for Hero tonight. Why don’t you get Ben to take you home so you both can get some rest.”
Bea scoffed. “I don’t think that’s up to you to decide, Leo. You lost that right when you decided to side against your sister.”
“Beatrice, now is not a good time to get into this.”
“No, now is a perfect time. This is happening. What, now that Hero’s going to be okay, you’re just gonna go back to defending your precious footballers? Oh, you know, it’s fine, she’s not gonna die now, I can call her a slut without making myself feel like a fucking prick.”
She let out a sardonic laugh. “I always knew you were a misogynistic asshole, but I never knew it was to this extent. That you would take the word of three teenage boys over the word of your own sister? I can’t believe you!” Bea let out a scream. “I'm sorry, but after the way you’ve treated Hero, there’s no way in hell I’m leaving her here with you.” She paused a moment, bringing her hands up to her head and taking a deep breath.
“How could you not believe her, Leo?” she said, her arms flailing. “You are her older brother. For the past few months you’ve been her legal guardian, and you can’t bother to stand up and take care of her when she needs you the most? I mean, this is Hero we’re talking about. Do you even know her at all?”
“No— Not a chance! Whether you choose to stay or not is up to you, but you don’t get to decide where I go. I’m staying for Hero.”
Just as he was about to respond, Ben's voice came from behind them. “What’s going on in here?” he asked, walking back into the waiting room, arms full of hospital sheets and pillows. He didn’t wait for a response, but went on. “I thought I’d ask at the front desk for some blankets and pillows. We could all use a little shut-eye, yeah?”
Leo did not reply, but just nodded, took a sheet and a pillow, and sat back down in his chair in the corner of the otherwise empty waiting room.
Bea turned around, pacing and lost in her rage against her so-called friends and her apparently not-so-mature cousin. She didn’t know what was going on or where this all started. But one thing she knew was certain: they needed to suffer. All of them. They needed to feel as low as Hero had felt when Claudio publically called her a slut and accused her of sleeping with the biggest dick at Messina High. They needed to feel the pain that she had felt when they turned against her, and she fell to the floor gasping for breath. They needed to feel as deserted as she had felt when they all walked out on her without a second glance. And once they had taken all the pain they could bear, Bea would make sure that they knew the truth. Not anyone else’s twisted version of the truth. The actual fucking truth.
Beatrice was fuming, wild, and so disoriented she didn’t half understand the jumbled thoughts coming out of her mouth. “How could the piece of shit think that— He had the audacity to call her a— No respect— No trust— Where would he even get the idea— Robbie?— The fucking slime ball— I could strangle Claudio— I could strangle them all—Rip them all apart—“
“Breathe, Beatrice,” Ben uttered softly, reaching a tentative hand out towards her. But before he reached her shoulder, Beatrice turned to him and began punching at the pillow in his arms with all her might. “You – son – of – a – bitch – Claudio – I’ll – fucking – kill – you – fucking – bastard –“ With each word the pillow received a blow, each break filled with her sobs.
“Bea, it’s okay, just breathe,” Ben said, attempting to console her. He brought out his hand to her shoulder again, and with the first touch, she stopped. Her shoulders slumped, and she dropped her clenched fists to her side. The knot that had been so tightly wound in her chest began to relax, and her sobs turned into rugged gasps. As Ben had suggested, she took a few staggering breaths and tried to clear her head. In. Out. In. Out. Surprisingly, it was beginning to work. Suddenly everything felt clearer, and at Ben’s touch, she felt a rush of warmth traverse her entire body. Effectively silenced, Beatrice slowly looked up at him, for the first time letting him see the tears in her eyes.
Ben dropped his arm back down to his side, and they stood in silence for a moment, neither knowing what to say. Feeling her defenses rising under his gaze, Bea heatedly crossed her arms. “Ben, what are you doing here?” she said with a scowl. “Shouldn’t you be off slut-shaming Hero with Claud and Pedro?”
“No, I most definitely should not,” he assured her, setting down the pillow and taking a step closer. “Even if I had believed all that nonsense. Which I don’t by the way. I may not know Hero as well as you do, but I still don’t believe she could’ve done what she’s been accused of. The way Claud and Pedro handled this was all wrong, and I’m sorry.”
Sensing the sincerity in his tone, Bea let her arms return to her sides and looked anywhere but at his face. “You don’t need to apologize for this. It’s not your problem.”
“Yes, it is. You’re my problem. Wait— No— I didn’t mean that. You’re not a problem. What I’m trying to say is I’m involved now. I believe Hero. I believe you, and I’m here for you, Bea. Whatever you need.” He paused, trying to get her to meet his eye. When he finally succeeded, he continued. “Are you all right? Is there anything I can get you? A cup of tea, a tissue, a puppy—“
She didn’t let him finish, but found herself rushing straight into his arms. It took Ben by surprise only for a moment, and he wrapped his arms tightly around her.
“Bea,” he said sympathetically, rubbing smooth circles over her back. And she couldn’t help it. With everything that had happened — the horror of Hero’s party, the disappointment of not having Leo’s support, the surprise of having Ben’s, and her complete lack of sleep — she broke – again. “I’m sorry, but I’m not done crying.”
“It’s okay,” he replied. “You have a right to be upset. Cry all you need to.” Her body racked with sobs, and she found herself clutching at whatever portion of Ben’s jacket she could grasp. She buried her face in his shoulder and felt her own breath heating her face. They stood there a few minutes, Bea trying to control herself and Ben running a hand through her matted hair. “Thank you,” she said quietly, and Ben felt her release a shaky breath.
It suddenly occurred to Ben how lonely she might be feeling. The person she loved most in the world was in the hospital, her parents and aunts were halfway across the world, and some of her closest friends had betrayed her. If he was being honest, he felt lonely too. His so-called friends made it very clear that he would have to choose sides, and if that’s the way it was going to be, he was glad he stuck with Bea and Hero. Maybe it was good that they were here together. Maybe they needed each other’s company now, and he realized, not for the first time, that he rather enjoyed having her around.
After a moment, Ben felt her back begin to straighten under his arms. There were still a few sniffles, but she had stopped shaking and she pulled back out of his embrace. “Sorry,” she mumbled, avoiding his gaze.
“Don’t apologize. You have nothing to be sorry for. I just hate seeing you so sad,” he said, turning to the table to retrieve a tissue. “Here.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll be sad for a little bit longer. I can’t help it.” She took the tissue and attempted to wipe her face clean of tears and running mascara.
“You missed a spot. Just there.”
“Here,” he said, bringing his thumb up to her cheek and wiping it clean. “Just an eyelash. All better now.” He paused for a moment, trying to figure out what came next. “Is there anything I can do to try and make it better?”
She sighed. “Honestly, right now I’m just so exhausted. I want to sleep.”
“Okay, we can do that. That’s easy.”
She hesitated a moment, unsure of what she was about to say. But in her sleep-deprived state it came out anyway. “Will you stay?” Rested, stable, logical Bea would cringe.
“Of course, Bea. Whatever you want, I’m here. We’ll get well rested tonight, and tomorrow we can start to work things out. Hash out the details, discover the truth.”
“And plot our revenge.”
“Sure. Whatever we’ve got to do. Come on, are you ready to lie down?” He motioned to the couch where he had laid out pillows and blankets for them. She silently agreed. It took them a moment to get comfortable and organize their limbs, but by the time they were situated, Bea was tucked into the space between Ben and the back of the couch. His arm encircled her, her head rested on his shoulder, and for a moment she wondered how they got here. It was new and strange and Ben. But it felt natural. It felt right.
If you had told Bea a week ago that she would actually want to sleep (in the most innocent connotation) with Ben, share blankets with him, and snuggle with him on a small couch in a hospital waiting room, she would have laughed in your face. But now, she hesitantly admitted to herself, she didn’t mind this one bit. It actually felt quite nice. She liked the way her head fit so nicely in the crook of his neck, and the steady rise and fall of his chest was soothing.
They both lay there for a moment, Ben organizing the blankets so that their feet were covered. Beatrice looked up at him in silent awe. When had he become such a decent person? When had he become so rational? When had the fourteen-year-old dick grown into the eighteen-year-old sweetheart?
When he noticed she was staring, he gave a little half-smile and asked, “What?”
“Nothing,” she said shaking her head, “just, thanks. For being there, for being so helpful. For everything.” He didn't say anything more, just wrapped his arm tighter around her and let her close her eyes.
After several minutes, Beatrice was breathing softly and evenly. Ben felt confident that she was sound asleep. He tucked the hospital blanket over her shoulder and began playing with the ends of her hair. With a soft whisper, Ben released the words he had kept pent up all night. “I love you, Bea.” Kissing the top of her head, Ben drifted off to sleep.