“This might hurt,” Max’s voice rumbles and I nod. I don’t trust my voice. “It’s because you have taken so much blood. When it bit you the poison worked its way into your system.”
I place my head against the cold tiles of the shower as I feel the slice of the blade. Immediately I feel as if something has been released. It’s almost a high and I feel my legs start to quiver. Max seems to understand because he pushes my body into the corner, using his closeness to keep my upright.
“It’s just got to drain.”
I don’t want to know what it looks like, but I can feel a sluggish liquid tracking down my arm.
“I’m turning on the shower.”
The next minute the water hits us. It is like a balm; the water is warm and I briefly wonder why they have power, but the simple delicious sensation is enough.
Max squeezes my arm and holds it in the stream of water. There is an instant sting but it soon settles to a throb. My head feels light, but when he places his lips to the back of my neck and nibbles I stiffen.
“I think I can handle it from here,” I say, my body tense.
I hear a rumble and can feel his chest vibrate. At first I think he is growling but I feel his smile on the back of my neck. He is laughing, at me. Now I growl.
“Leave,” I say.
Slowly he steps back and I turn. He looks at me, I mean truly looks. I know that the water will leave little to his imagination, but I don’t try to cover up. I’m too angry.
I sneer. He holds his hands out as if saying he won’t hurt me.
I don’t change position until he is gone and the bathroom door is closed. Then I look at my arm. The wound is clean and the cut looks as if it is already healing. Turning I push my face into the steady stream of warm water. I stand for a moment and then start to hunt for soap. I feel like I haven’t had a shower for a month and the prospect of getting the dried blood and sweat off me is too good to resist. Sitting in the far corner is a small basket filled with samples of shampoo and conditioner. Choosing one that is meant to smell of lavender I strip and start to wash. I’m surprised at the slight chemical smell that comes from the shampoo. I guess it smells a little like the plant, but it is very faint. Still, there is little choice and I really need to be clean again. Maybe if we pass an organics place I’ll stop.
The thought makes me smile and then I’m laughing, except I feel tears falling from my eyes. I want my ordinary life back, but there is no way it’s going to happen.
Get a grip, I tell myself and slowly my emotions come under control until I’m only hiccupping. I quickly shower and scrape away the dirt of the last few days. Clean, I turn the shower off and turn. There on the toilet are a couple of towels and what looks remarkably like a bundle of clothes.
I walk over, my bare feet making no noise at all. I can smell Max as I near and I scowl. He must have come in whilst I was in my melt down. Part of me is annoyed that he didn’t comfort me and the other part of me is pleased that he just left. Still, I feel embarrassed that he saw me.
I dry myself quickly and put the clothes on. A pair of jeans, a man’s shirt and a pair of deck shoes. It isn’t fashion central but I feel more human. I smile at my thought. The jeans fit but the shirt is baggy and I look back, wondering if I ought to wash my bra. Looking at the soggy bloody mess I decide against it. Instead I go over and push the lot into a plastic bag that had been left under the clothes.
Tying the top closed I start to leave.
Embarrassment hits me. Max saw me having a little breakdown. What if he sees me as less? I pause with my hand on the door.
“Bitsy?” Max’s voice floats through the wood. “You okay?”
I don’t say anything. He must have been listening.
“Bitsy, I’m coming in.”
“No,” I say, sharply.
“Then tell me what’s wrong?” his voice sounds as if he is right next to the wood.
I lean in and whisper against the door. “You saw.” I can’t explain it. I think it is because I’ve had to be strong. After Ricky died, or disappeared, there was no one else. Just me. I had friends but they saw this positive woman who was strong. They didn’t see the vulnerable wreck I was. I had to be strong, so I was.
But Max allowed me to be vulnerable, and now he’s seen me as a weak thing, not capable.
“Let me in,” he whispers against the wood. “Please.”
I think it’s the please that makes me open the door.