Eyes Like Winona Ch. 04byCruel2BKind©
I didn't know what to say, but he was still talking.
"I'm twenty, now. I've been doing this ever since I was sixteen. I was on my own for three years before I got the job from Ferdinand. I know what it's like without him, and no matter how tempting it is, I want you to promise me something."
"Yeah?" I whispered.
He sighed, and looked up at me, smiling. The smile didn't reach his eyes. "Promise me that you'll never work alone. I would love it if you never worked again. But sometimes, times get hard. I went through more than anyone should ever have to take when I worked alone, and I just want you to stay safe, okay?"
I wanted to reach out and touch his hand. His hand was resting on the table, and I wanted to comfort him. I lifted my hand, but I ended up just resting it on the booth table. I didn't have the courage.
"I hate this." I whispered, looking down at the small distance between our hands. Mine was curled into a sweaty half-fist; his was elongated, the long white fingers splayed. "I never want to work this job again, and if it wasn't for my brother breaking his arm, I never would have."
I did it. I moved my hand so it was resting on top of his. His skin was cool and dry; l could feel the talcum powder. "I promise I wont do this again. Not alone, not here, not anywhere."
I expected him to toss off my hand. But he just flipped his hand and grasped mine. His cool dry fingers were such a contrast to my trembling sweaty hand. "Thanks." He said quietly. "That means a lot, and it makes me feel a lot better."
I couldn't hold it in any longer, if I did, I would explode.
He glanced up and we made eye contact. My chest ached with love and indecision.
"I... I really like you."
I was looking right into his eyes, so I saw when they went cold. I saw his mouth jerk down at the corners, as if in pain. I felt my fragile admission wither and die in the air between us.
He started to get up and gather our trash. "You shouldn't."
"Drake?" I hated how soft my voice was, how scared. "Drake, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything."
He took a deep breath and smiled at me. It wasn't a happy smile. I had to bite my tongue hard to stop myself from making a sound.
"I can't, and you shouldn't really try. I'm glad your brother is getting out, and I hope that everything gets better for you."
He walked away to throw out our trash. I got up in a hurry, feeling hollow. I felt like a strong gust of wind would send me flying into the sky, like a dandelion puff.
We didn't say another word to each other as we walked back to the corner. Kirk and Jose and Ferdinand were all in their places. I felt like a robot. I just moved slowly of my own accord, saying as little as possible and feeling nothing but nothing.
It wasn't until one of my regulars came that I broke down.
I was in the hotel room, rinsing out my mouth in the sink when I remembered the night that Drake had watched me. I remembered his gentle hands going through my hair as the water washed away the come.
I started to cry. I couldn't contain it. I sat heavily on the side of the bed and sobbed until snot and tears flowed down my face.
The client just left, looking at me as if I were some dangerous animal. He tossed two twenties onto the bed and I just sobbed. Each groan felt like sandpaper, scraping the inside of my throat. I had been so afraid of rejection, but it hurt even more than I ever imagined it could.
I didn't leave the hotel room for a while. My crying wound down, and I wiped my face, but I just didn't have the energy to leave.
I jumped when someone knocked on the door.
"The walls are very thin, and I can hear you in the hallway." Drake's voice was very soft. "Can I come in Ryan?"
I didn't answer at first. Part of me just wanted to stay quiet and not say anything. Part of me wanted to snap at him to go away. Most of me was confused, and all of me was hurt.
"Okay." He whispered from the doorway. He was right, the walls were thin. He was whispering and I could hear him very clearly.
I got up from the bed, wiping my eyes with the back of my forearm. I opened the door, and I saw him walking away. He stopped walking and turned back to look at me.
"God, are you okay?" I whispered, stunned.
His eyes were very swollen and red. So discolored, that they looked bruised. I thought that he had been hit by a customer before I realized that he had been crying, too. The idea was just so strange to comprehend. Drake had always been the strong one. The one that soothed me. Now I found myself in the opposite position.
He took a few small steps towards me. "I'm sorry." He whispered. His voice came out soft and guttural, because he was crying again.
I opened the door for him and he walked into room three. He sat on the bed and buried his face in his hands.
I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I sat down next to him. I had a matching pair of swollen red eyes.
"Drake?" I whispered.
His voice was muffled and miserable, coming between his fingers. "You said you liked me. But we can't do this."
I felt the bitter hurt and numbness coming back up, but also a spark of defiance. "Why? Tell me why! If you don't like me at all then wh-why do y-you hang out with me? Wh-Why do you take care of me?" I wiped my eyes fiercely, wincing at the pain of my hot sensitive skin. "Tell me if you don't like me. Because i-if you do..." I choked on the hot tears. "If you do... Then m-maybe it wont hurt as much."
His voice was very soft. I could barely hear it, muffled through his fingers as he hung his head even lower in the cradle of his hands. "Yes. I like you Ryan."
I couldn't stand it for one more second. "Neil."
He looked up, his dark eyes framed by red patches. "What?"
Some of the stress, the weight on my shoulders was gone. Floated away. "My name... It was never Ryan. My name is Neil."
"Oh." He whispered, softly.
He was quiet again. I broke the silence.
"If I like you and you like me... Then why can't we at least try?" I reached out very tentatively and rested my hand on his knee. "You... You always take care of me. Nobody has ever looked out for me before. You're kind and smart and talented and b... and beautiful."
He was shaking his head back and forth. "No... You can't be with me. I'll ruin you."
I tried to say something but he interrupted, his words were intense with what sounded like anger, but his anger was turned inwards, poisonously, towards himself.
"Don't you see yourself? How Good you are? You take care of your family, you're doing more for them than most parents, you even do This for them." He was shaking his head. "You're above all of this. One day, you'll be happy and this will just be a painful memory. This is just going to pass you by."
He took a deep breath. "I'm never going to be able to stop doing this. I'm a whore. A worthless WHORE." The hatred. The pure hatred in his voice. "My mom was a whore, and now I'm a whore. I've been one since I was a kid, and I have money saved up but I'm still doing this because I don't know what else to do."
"You can't be with me. I'll just tear you down. I like you, I like you a lot. But please, after these last three weeks, you shouldn't see me again."
He got up before I could say anything. He was walking fast to the doorway. He shut the door behind him.
After a moment I heard his soft voice through the thin walls.
It didn't matter how I felt. There was nothing to do but wash my face and go back outside. I was still on the clock, after all.