Home > Wait for It(5)

Wait for It(5)
Author: Mariana Zapata


His eyelids hung low over his eyes for a moment before my neighbor nodded, flicking his gaze in my direction. Another rattling breath came out of his chest, all reluctant and stupid.

I held out my hand to help him up, but he ignored it. Instead, it took him a moment to get back to his feet, while my hand waited in midair in case he changed his mind. He didn’t. Slowly and on his own, he climbed up the stairs, and I followed behind him, there to break his fall. With his back to me, I realized he wasn’t just heavy, he was a pretty big guy overall. Even without him standing straight up, it was easy to tell he was around six feet tall and definitely a lot heavier than me. He grunted under his breath as he took one step after another up to the deck, and I had to tell myself that, if he didn’t want me to call the cops, I needed to respect his wishes.

Even if I thought he was being a giant idiot and there was a chance he could die from his injuries.

I couldn’t keep my mouth from opening one last time, anxiety riding me hard. “You really should go get checked out.”

“I don’t need to get checked out,” he insisted in what was the rudest tone I’d ever heard.

You tried, Di. You tried.

There was a metal security door blocking a regular wooden one, and my neighbor reached out to open the first and then the second, going inside with me following after. All of the lights were off as he stumbled in, him grunting in the process. I couldn’t see a single thing as the drunk and beaten-up man stumbled forward. My bare feet were on carpet, and I prayed he didn’t have needles lying around or anything. A few seconds later, there was the sound of a thud and then a double click before a side lamp flickered on.

It was one of my worst nightmares.

His house was a mess.

There were piles of clothes that may or may not be clean on the couch and two recliners in the living room. A giant television was mounted to the wall, lines of cables dangling out from the bottom, linking it to two gaming systems I recognized. Cans of soda and beer were all over the side tables; balled-up napkins, receipts, socks, wrappers for fast food, and who knows what the hell else covered the floor.

He was huffing in pain as I kept looking around, catching sight of a baseball in a dusty glass case and an equally dirty trophy on the console table to my left. This whole place reminded me of the first apartment I’d had with Rodrigo. We’d been pigs after we had moved out of our parents’ place, but that was because our mom was a clean freak, and for once in our lives we didn’t have to pick up after ourselves religiously. Nowadays, with two boys and a job that was over full-time hours, I was pretty lenient with what I could live with.

But this place had me side-eyeing everything, scrunching up my toes.

The guy—man—let out a long groan as he slowly lowered himself onto a recliner, one hand gripping the side arm.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to call an ambulance?”

He let out another “Uh-huh” as he laid back, his head dropping against the headrest, his colorful throat bobbing with a swallow.

“Sure?”

He didn’t even bother replying.

I hesitated as I took in the red stains on his clothing and the swelling spots on his face, and thought about him getting kicked again. “I can take you to the hospital. I’ll just need a few minutes.” The idea of waking up Josh and Louie was an awful one, but if I had to do it, I would.

“No hospital,” he murmured, swallowing hard again. His eyes were shut.

I stared at him for a minute, taking in the sharp lines of his profile. I hated feeling useless, I really did. “Is there anyone I can call for you?”

My neighbor might have shaken his head, but the movement was so restrained it was hard to be sure. “No. I’m fine.”

He didn’t look fine to me.

“You can leave now,” he muttered, those hands of his gripping his thighs so hard the knuckles turned white.

I didn’t want to be in his house with him, but I knew I couldn’t just skip on out either. The idea of being in a strange man’s house at night alone sent about a thousand alarm bells ringing in my head. This was the kind of stupid shit women in movies did that got them dumped into a deep hole in some psycho’s basement. But bailing wasn’t the right thing to do, and if it made a difference, people didn’t usually have basements in the Texas Hill Country. I looked around and kept my question about whether he had a first aid kit or not to myself. “Do you have anything I can use to clean your cuts?”

The man’s eyes were closed, and from his lap, a couple of his fingers on his left hand wiggled in a dismissive gesture that had me narrowing my eyes.

“Do you know how many germs people carry around on their hands?” I asked him slowly.

I wasn’t a fan of the look he slid my way with only one opened eye.

And he wasn’t a fan of my persistence. “I’m not joking. Do you have any idea?”

He stared at me for all of maybe a second before closing his eyes and making another dismissive gesture that insisted he was going to be an idiot about this. “I already said I’m fucking—”

“What the hell is going on?” an unfamiliar voice spoke up out of nowhere, just about scaring the shit out of me.

Standing in the space where the living room transitioned into what was either a hallway or the kitchen was a half-naked man. A half-naked man rubbing at his eyes and frowning.

“Nothing. Go back to sleep.” The grumpy idiot on the chair couldn’t even talk without groaning.

The sleepy man kept frowning and blinking, still obviously out of it. He reached an arm out toward the wall behind him, flicking the overhead fan light on.

And God help me.

God help me.

The new guy, the not-beat-up dumbass, was only in black boxers. It was obvious even from the ten plus feet between us that he was tall, maybe even taller than Beat-up Dumbass. His hair was cut nearly to the scalp, his face was stubbled but not really bearded, and he was built like those long-limbed male models with brawny chests, six-packs, thighs for days, and a giant brown and black tattoo that seemed to cover everything from his upper arms, across his pectorals to the notch at his throat and continuing to arch up above his trapezius muscles, disappearing somewhere on his back.

He was built like a porn star. The really attractive, muscular porn stars.

Or I guess a male calendar model.

I’d obviously been watching too much guy-on-guy porn lately for that to be the first kind of body I associated him with.

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