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Author's note: Since very young, my obsession with the sea has been unwavering, as has my obsession with fantasy. Of course what comes from this is the mysterious tale of the Mer.
The girl they found on the rocks a few days ago, she was all I could think of all day at school. My brother had helped transport her to the hospital, they used his jeep. Both her legs were broken, she wouldn't speak to anyone, just hiss. She had hissed like an angry cat, apparently. Hadn't spoken a single word. Jakob had said she had thrashed and struggled, despite her injuries, against her saviors. The entire school was buzzing with the news of her, Newton Ferrers didn't see much action. And a strange, wild girl washed up on the rocks of the harbor was headline worthy.
"How do ya reckon she got there?" my best mate, Luke, had pondered as we wandered home from school.
"Dun know" I grunted, my mind elsewhere,
"Do ya think she'll end up at school when she's recovered?" He asked,
"We've never seen her around here. And no ones missing in the village. She'll go home."
"Unless she's an orphan." he commented, almost gleefully, I shot him a look, "Come on, Matt. She was pretty nice looking from what I hear. And washed up naked."
"That doesn't mean she'll come to school naked, you prat!" I was never quite sure why I was friends with Luke.
"I know, I know." He sighed, and shook his head, even the thought of a naked girl, injured or not, would have Luke obsessing until he got her into bed. After that she'd be dumped quickly as possible, and he'd tell the entire school what a slag she was. The poor girl would be heartbroken, and her reputation would be dragged to the lowest of the low. Three of his ex's had changed to private school, the rest of them couldn't afford it, and they had grouped together. A pack of helpless zebras, fending off an entire school full of lions. I felt sorry for them, Luke was a great liar, always managed to convince the girls he wanted that he loved them. That no matter what, they meant the most to him.
Perhaps they did, perhaps he convinced himself that he was in love with every pretty face and gorgeous body that he got his grubby hands on. I'd never slept with anyone, but I'd had my fair share of girlfriends. At least, for a seventeen year old in a tiny village, seven girlfriends seemed like plenty. Luke has had fifteen, and had sex with seven of them. At least I'd have someone to ask for tips once I did decide to go all the way. Luke found it weird that I haven't yet, he was fourteen when he first did. But then, I don't think I'm as good looking as he is. Girls go mad for him, it's insane, all he does is give them a huge grin, run his hands through his carefully scruffied blond hair, and they're all over him.
I'm just normal, brown eyes, brown hair, I don't even have a tan, despite spending forever on the boat.
Luke rambled on, telling me all the nasty things he'd love to do to the strange girl, I sent a thank you skyward when we reached his gate.
"See ya mate." I sighed, and he waved a had at me distractedly, obviously still thinking about her. He hadn't even seen her before, then again, neither had I. Apparently she was crazy, or at the very least traumatized. Who wouldn't be? Alone and washed up on those jagged rocks. She might have been shipwrecked, her entire family could have drowned. I felt a stab of sympathy, when mum had died three years ago I had gone pretty mental myself. So had Jakob, he hadn't been his steady, empathetic self, he'd shut himself up. No one could break through those barriers, he hadn't left his room for days, he'd cut class, not done any homework, gone down to the cove every day. Dad had been the same, hiding away from the world, drinking about ten times more as well. Not that he didn't drink too much before.
I hadn't known what to do with myself, I had been angry, stupid and alone. No one had been there for me, and I had acted rashly. Coming to my senses was one of the worst experiences in my life, I had taken the boat out alone. Just wanted to go fishing and forget about it all. I was pretty far out, just drifting, when the anchor had slipped off the deck and gotten caught on something. I had tried to pull it up, I thought it must have been caught on a reef or something, so I did one of the most rash, moronic things of my life. I dove in. The water was choppy, and damn cold. I was a strong swimmer, but not strong enough, no one was strong enough for the rip-current. It hit me so hard any remaining air in my lungs was forced out. My vision was tinged with red, I couldn't find the surface. I was sure, at that moment, I'd be seeing mum again soon. I had given up. Then I saw... it. Deep red that wasn't part of my lack of oxygen.
My mind was scrambled, but I thought it was seaweed at first, it drifted from side to side, seemingly unaffected by the current. Yet the strands had been too fine for seaweed, and there had been so much of it. I wasn't sure what happened next, I passed out quickly, the last thing I remembered was the feel of the soft red cloud of whatever brushing past my arm. Waking up had been my moment of realization, it was weird, I found myself in fetal position on the aft of the boat, drenched in sea water. I expelled the water from my lungs, all the coughing made me sick, the stains are still there, another reminder of my idiocy.
Checking the anchor, I found it pulled free easily, I could have hit myself. What would mum have thought of what I did? Taking the boat out without permission, then diving in just out of frustration. No one went out that far alone, not with the barometers looking the way they did that morning. It was twilight by the time I got back, Dad and Jakob went mental. Shouted at me for hours, they were right to of course, I understood that. After that I stopped moping around, tried to convince Jakob to calm down, but instead a girl saved him. Her name is Amber, she's one of the sweetest girls I know. Her and Jakob met down at the cove, she was beach combing, and he had headed down there to sulk some more.
He had come home later than usual that night, beaming. For the first time in forever he invited me into his room, and we talk. He gushed about her like a girl about her first crush.
"She's beautiful. Half African, it's like she glows. Her eyes are the colour of amber, her names a perfect fit. She knows some great jokes! Like this one about a blow fish, but I'll tell you about that another time. Look," he had held out his hand to me, nestled in his palm was a shark tooth, about the size of a 50 pence piece, "she gave me this. She thinks I should make it into a necklace." I had wanted to laugh at him, but she brought out the old Jakob, the brother I used to have. After that there wasn't a day they spent apart, it only took two weeks for them to get together. I'd have to knock on his bedroom door if they were in there together, they were both sixteen at the time, still do have to knock. Two and a half years later, they're engaged. Jakob still gushes, and Amber still glows around him. And yes, he made that necklace.
Dad always said it reminded him of what him and mum had, they met as teenagers as well, a love that just sort of warmed everyone exposed to it. Warms me more than I'd like to admit. I don't understand how Jakob found the one female that actually seems human. Girls are weird creatures, always so bloody moody. Like the time Kyra, my ex, was on her period and I accidentally spilled chocolate milk on her. She went ballistic. We broke up, and I don't think my balls want to meet her knee again.
I had reached my front door, the ancient lock was stiff as always, but I finally got my key to turn. Looked like dad was out fishing again, and Jakob would be checking the lobster pots. I dumped my bag in the hallway, and moved to flop down on the sofa, but noticed a clip board lying there. Picking it up I realized it was the medical status of the girl from the rocks, Jakob works up at the hospital. I flipped through the pages, the charts were odd. Accelerated heart rate, still signs of insanity, and unbelievably fast healing, all noted on the pages. There was a photo, taken of her huddled in the back of the jeep, a blanket and straps covered her body, and her face was mostly hidden by dark, damp hair. I couldn't tell if it were brown or auburn, but her eyes could be seen. Wide, almond shaped, full of wild fear, and a stormy sea-green. She was ghostly pale, yet it suited her feral appearance. The door creaked open loudly, and I dropped the board in shock.
Jakob strolled into the room, smiling as usual,
"Alright?" he asked, and smacked me on the back, picking up the clip board from the sofa where I'd dropped it, flicking through to the photo as well, "Pretty, isn't she?" he said, scanning it with his eyes. I shrugged,
"Did you read the doctor's comments?" he asked, reading one out , "'Patient scratches and hisses at nurses, is incredibly strong for her size, and attempts to climb out of the window during the night.' Weird, isn't she? Apparently she calmed down this morning. Like she gave up trying to get away. I was going to go visit this evening." He looked at me with a smirk,
"What? Why are you visiting?" I asked, frowning,
"She's only, like, fifteen. And I did carry her back from the rocks, I wanted to check on her. And thank her for the nasty scratches."
"You don't work in her ward?"
"No. She's being kept in the psychiatric ward."
"Oh... she scratched you?" he nodded, and rolled up his sleeves, half healed claw marks covered his irksomely bulging muscles. I'm toned enough, but Jakob always manages to beat me when it comes to a competition of strength.
"Her nails cut right through my shirt. Wild thing, gave Connor a good kicking when he tried to get her into the jeep. Want to come with me to visit?" I nodded,
"But what if, I don't know, a new face sets her off again?" He winked,
"Afraid your rugged good looks will be too much for her to handle." I groaned,
"You tell worse jokes than dad. And I thought that was bloody impossible. I'll come, Luke wants to know what she looks like any way."
"Oh god, that boy. He's not coming, I'm not having him trying to get off with her whilst she's strapped down." I smirked, Jakob didn't like Luke much, probably because Amber had a problem with how he treated girls. And Jakob had a problem with whatever Amber didn't like. Not that I blamed him, Luke was an acquired taste that I still found sour at times. I was still curious about the girl though, so soon enough I found myself walking up the front steps of the hospital with Jakob.
I hated hospitals, they smelt unnaturally clean, it made me queasy, having grown up with the scent of the sea air. Florescent lights and all that white stung my eyes, but Jakob was right at home. Every staff member we passed waved at him, until reaching the Psychiatric ward. The nurses there seemed tired, all eyes surrounded by purple rings. We made our way to room 11, and Jakob made a sign at me to be quiet as he opened the door. The room was like all the others, but the girl on the bed lay still, unlike the other patients along the corridor.
"Hello" Jakob said, gently, standing beside the bed. Those haunting green eyes darted to his face, and she muttered something I couldn't quite catch, Jakob seemed to though.
"Yes, yes we've met. Here, I brought someone to meet you." He grabbed my arm, and pulled me to the side of the bed. For some reason, I was blushing, shy at the thought of speaking to her. Jakob prodded me in the back, forcing me to croak out,
"H-Hi, I'm Matt." She nodded, blinking slowly,
"I know you, too." she whispered, I shook my head,
"No... we've never met."
"You wouldn't think so, would you?" her voice was soft, a smirk rested on her lips as she closed her eyes. "Tell me, Matt, why won't they let me go?"
"I-I don't know." I frowned, begging Jakob for help with my eyes,
"They want you to get better." He told her, carefully, "are your legs feeling any better? I heard the breaks have healed up."
"They hurt." she opened her eyes, tears welling in the corners, "Why so harsh? Sound and light and pain. Why won't they let me leave?"
"Are you ready to tell us your name yet? Then we can get you home." He said, sitting on the side of her bed, and smiling at her, she looked at him wearily.
"Gwen. I am Gwen here." she sounded like she was lying, or unsure of her own answer.
"Do you have family, Gwen?" I asked, staring at her,
"No. Not anymore." her voice caught, "I'm alone. Let me go." Thrashing, her voice became a wail, "LET ME GO! FREE ME!" Her auburn hair fanned out over the pillow, and I took notice of her appearance. She became still, exhausted quickly. Her nose was small, slightly turned up, and her pouted red lips were well defined, little and dainty, yet full. Through the typical hospital outfit, I could tell how slender she was. Yet her body was curvy, and her breasts were rather large despite her skinny body, causing noticeable shapes beneath the hospital gown. Long, lithe legs were wrapped in only light bandages. I supposed the accelerated healing had helped with the breaks as well. She'd be tall standing up, her charts had said she was 178 cm. Luke had been right to obsess, she was beautiful. Traumatized, hurt, and afraid, but beautiful.
I really hadn't thought about it recently. My mum dying I mean, yet over the next few weeks I had found myself remembering it more and more. It hadn't been violent, or unexpected, we had watched her waste away for months in a hospital bed. That's when Jakob took an interest in working there, it turned out to be a tumor, in the end, the headaches had been going on for ages. After they found it, she's just gotten worse, it was almost a relief when she went. I'm not heartless, I didn't want her to, I loved my mum. None of us could stand seeing her in so much pain.
She'd smiled at me, the day she died, smiled and said “I love you, my good boy”. Jakob hadn't cried, he had seemed almost cheerful, I knew mum appreciated it. I wish I could have been that strong, but I couldn't help but cry. I didn't blub! Just, quietly, when she said goodbye. She'd told us she knew that was the day she was going to go. Told all her doctors too, they'd said they wold do there best to save her, yet she'd assured them it was okay, she was fine with it. Dad certainly wasn't, keeping his brave face on around mum he had yelled at the doctors in the hallway. Insisting that they save her, in the end there was nothing to be done.
But now, for some reason, I've been dreaming of it. Sitting beside that bed, the tears streaming down my cheeks. My mother weary, reassuring smile, red hair tumbling over the pillow as her eyes closed for the last time. I shook my head, clearing it, mum hadn't had red hair. It had been chestnut brown, I suppose the thoughts of the hospital had brought back the last couple of weeks visiting Gwen.
Jakob had started taking me to work with him on the weekends, and I'd spend hours at a time with her. She'd changed a lot, no longer strapped down, she'd wander around the room, her hands moving animatedly when she spoke. She even ate better, although still immensely slender, her hollow cheeks had filled out slightly, leaving her heart shaped face still more attractive to me. Not that that was why I saw her, she was interesting, weird but in a very good way. Her smile was common, and seemed to bring the sun out with it. I had to admit, I did fancy her, a lot actually. That would be me, the guy who falls for the traumatized stranger locked away in a hospital. Gwen never spoke about home, her family, or anything that had happened to her before the rocks. She was always very interested in my life though, school most of all, and people. She wanted to meet Luke, claiming that,
“I find it curious, you speak about him as if you dislike him, yet he's your friend?”
“Yeah well,” I had replied, “he's a prick, but my mate.” Her expression had only become more curious, and in the end, 6 weeks after I had first met her, I brought Luke along with me. The poor bloke had been pissing himself about it, asking a million questions all the way there, what kind of guy did she like? Should he tell one of his dirty jokes, or a clean one? Was she a virgin? That one had annoyed me,
“How the hell am I supposed to know?” I had snapped, in his car on the ride over,
“Well why haven't you asked?” He acted as if you could just ask girls that, then again, Luke usually could. I didn't think it would be that way with Gwen, although I had not claim over her, I felt as if she liked me too, and Luke didn't seem her type. I hadn't asked her much about romances, though she had told me about one guy, and smirked when she spoke about him. Worried, I had asked if they were still in contact, she'd raised an eyebrow,
“No. I won't be hearing from him again, don't want to be.” Her sour tone had raised my spirits, she had been very insistent about knowing about my love life. Made me describe each girl, although the slight twinge of jealousy that shadowed her features when I told her made me stop. She'd look up at me, give me a smile, and ask me to continue. She was most interested in what I had been up to sexually, making me explain any kisses I mentioned, how it felt to be close to someone like that. Embarrassment didn't seem to be in her vocabulary, and she drank up every word.
When Luke and I arrived, she was strangely enough sitting on her bed and cupping her breasts through her hospital gown. I yelped, clapping a hand over my eyes, I could hear Luke's breathing deepen as he leered at her through the doorway. She seemed undisturbed, and let go with her left hand, waving us in.
“What on earth are you doing?” I had asked, attempting to keep my eyes on her face.
“I was wondering what it felt like.” She had smiled cheerfully, finally letting go. Luke couldn't tear his eyes away from her chest, the bumps under the gown alerting him of her hardened nipples. Gwen smiled at him, seeming not to mind,
“Hello,” she twisted round on her bed to face him completely, “I'm Gwen, you're Luke, Matt's friend.” the hand she held out to shake he took gleefully, as if touching that hand meant he had touched her chest also. The awkward silence that followed was terrible, and left me with too much in my head to process properly. It felt almost wrong to share my time with Gwen with anyone, let alone Luke. Yet there they sat, they began to talk, and I watched them. He asked all the same questions I had, avoiding questions about family, as I had warned him to. I felt like an outsider, looking in on a conversation, I was like a kid, sulking over my friend speaking to someone else. God, it felt pathetic, but I knew Luke's track record. My stomach dropped as the conversation, as typical when between teenagers, turned to sex.
Luke's grin became wicked, that glimmer entered his eyes, and the dance began. Now when I say dance, what I mean is Luke's game with girls. If they're a good enough partner, their “dancing” (flirting) almost manages to match his. His first question was another I had warned him against, yet he blurted it out before I could stop him,
“So, you ever gone all the way?” she blinking, registering what he had said for a second, then shaking her head.
“No,” she smiled, “my parents were always really protective, but now I think I may find a special guy.” I snapped my head up, and caught her beaming to herself, staring at the ceiling as if she could see a whole world of possibility through it. It was the first time she'd mentioned her parents, it was odd to see that she seemed glad to be rid of them. Cautiously, I asked,
“When you're out of the hospital... where do you think you'll live?” Her answer surprised me, actually almost made me fall right out of my chair.
“Jakob says he wants me to come live with you guys. And enroll in the school.”
“J-Jakob says..?” I stuttered, and she nodded exuberantly, Luke shot me a “YES!” look over her shoulder.
“Your dad say's that would be okay...” she said, her excitement waning at my expression,
“No! No! It sounds fine! Just a shock. I mean, it's good that we can help you out.” I forced a smile onto my face, which kind of felt like it had been tasered. All sorts of fantasies ran through my mind for the rest of the hour. She'd sleep in the attic room, I could put up fairy-lights for her, little sparkling ones that spread across the ceiling. What if I walked in on her showering? I could see her, the steam rising through the air, the warm water running down her fair skin. She'd open the shower's clear door, smile at me, and beckon with one finger. I wouldn't be able to resist, closing the bathroom door behind me, I'd pull my clothes off, discard them on the ground. Her eyes would run over my body as I move to join her in the shower, soon they would be replaced by her soft hands. Soft hands that would start on my chest, explore my torso, I'd lean down and wrap my arms around her. Pick her up and push her against the wall of the shower, pressing out soaking bodies together. I wouldn't be able to help but press my lips against hers, she'd be cautious at first, gentle. Soon they'd move with more ferocity, desperation almost. Both of us would know, we needed it, needed one another.
Oh god, thinking about her naked, touching me like that, with her in touching distance. I felt my length stiffen, and I gritted my teeth, I couldn't get hard now. We would have to leave any minute, I'd have to stand up and I just knew they'd notice, and if Luke noticed I was fucked. He'd yell it out to the entire hospital. The entire village. I'd have to think about something else, think about gross things!
Gwen and I's shower time was suddenly interrupted, mostly by her turning into Luke's grandmother. Yeah, that fixed the problem, actually after that visual I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to get a boner again. Through the babble of Luke's and Gwen's voices, I heard the door open, Jakob popped his head in,
“Matt? You here- Oh.” He caught sight of Luke, who had driven me up today, “Hey Luke.” Jakob's voice became oppressing, and he glared at him with disapproval. Luke scooted his chair a little further from Gwen's bed, he may act like he can take on the world, but he's damn scared of Jakob.
“Hey mate.” Luke grinned, playing the friendly bloke, “Matt just decided to introduce me to Gwen, she says she'll be moving in with you guys.”
Jakob smiled kindly at Gwen, and she looked at him with a smitten grin. She obviously liked Jakob, in a school-girl-crush kind of way, but I knew there was no possibility of that happening. It was Luke that worried me.
We gathered our things, as Jakob waited outside, Luke had the audacity to lean in and give Gwen a quick kiss on the cheek goodbye. Her resulting blush was just the reaction he wanted, I felt awkward saying goodbye today, but I wasn't going to be outdone by Luke. I hugged her as usual, but this time made it warmer, loving how cool her body was compared to my heat. She seemed surprised at the bear-hug, but returned it with enthusiasm. I could feel my heart in my throat, it wasn't the first time we'd touched, but it was the first time I'd dared to put anything into it. I pulled away before my stiffy could come back.
“I'll see you next week, that's when I'll be moving in.” she had said, waving goodbye to all three of us through the doorway. The look on her face was delight, as if the attention was her own kind of drug. I didn't blame her, washed up on the rocks and no one comes looking? It was about time she got that attention. Didn't girls kind of need it anyway? The idea that someones looking.
Jakob drove me home, and Luke went to some girls place. In the car Jakob was silent, in “I'm mad and acting like your father” mode. After a while I grew tired of it,
“Just tell me whats pissing you off and get it over with.” I sighed.
“I told you not to bring Luke.” He said, I could hear his teeth grinding from the passenger seat.
“He's alright Jakob!” I argued for my friend,
“Do you have any idea how vulnerable that girl is?! I get it, that mate of yours is a ladies man, but he cannot play with Gwen like that. She's incredibly unstable! I need you to respect her, and protect her whilst she's living with us.”
He wouldn't have to worry about that, it had been such a short time with Gwen, a few hours over a handful of weeks, but I already felt protective of her. Was it normal? Guys get protective over injured girls all the time right? It's like animal instinct, I bet they were like that in cave-people days as well. Other than the fact that they may have clubbed their women on the heads when they wanted some. Not that I'm thinking about clubbing Gwen on the head! Oh god, now I'm trying to defend myself to my own brain. This is ridiculous, and I have a feeling I'm going to get a million times more ridiculous when she moves in.
The moment we were home I locked myself in my cozy little room, stripped, and lay on my bed. Running the shower scene (minus Luke's grandmother) over in my mind again. I couldn't help it, I'd have to have a tug. I usually never did with Jakob or dad home, and even then, only in the middle of the night. Thinking about her and doing this, it was heaven. Of course, it would be so much better to be holding her, touching her, hear her voice moan my name. Shit, how would I handle seeing her every day, and with Summer break on it's way, not even school would be a distraction. I finished pretty averagely, cleaned up, and pulled some boxers on. I was asleep in minutes, thinking mostly of Gwen, and showers.
She didn't bring anything. Stupid of me to have assumed, I had cleared out the attic, including its massive old wardrobe, but I hadn't thought she wouldn't have any belongings. Jakob had collected her from the hospital, and she was all smiles, wearing the clothes from the hospital lost and found. A scruffy t-shirt and over-sized jeans held up by a thick belt. Bouncing up the front step and into the hallway as if she'd been there forever. She hugged me as if she'd been in my arms forever. “Matt!” she trilled as I breathed in a gulp of her delicious scent, “You never said weeks take so long!” Jakob and I laughed, yet she seemed utterly serious, her eyes drinking in each and every detail of the house she could see from where she stood. Jakob was carrying one small bag of hers though, and as she bounded up the stairs we glanced at one another. “What's in her bag?” I asked, and he opened it for me, revealing its contents of about seven books. “They hospital staff gave them to her to read, and I think she stole them.” He looked very amused, and I couldn't help but smile too. The thought of eccentric, sweet Gwen as a master, well mistress, criminal was beyond funny. Then again, who was I to be a judge of character? She could be the biggest bullshitter in history for all I knew. I'd have to go on instinct, and not just on how nice it felt to have her body pressed against mine as she threw her arms around me. She was clattering around upstairs, and we realized we should really go supervise her, or at least have the chivalry to show her to her room...And stay in her room... and introduce her to her bed... Damn it, I have to stop this. I galloped up the stairs, and found her in my room, with her head in my wardrobe. “Uh... Gwen?” I wondered, moving to look over her shoulder. She straightened up, grasping something. I realized too late it was my pile of dirty magazines. Settling herself on my bed she began flicking through the first one, her eyes wide. “Matt.” She looked up at me, “What on earth are these?” “Don't you-” I mumbled, closing the door and sliding the bolt into place as quick as I could, “Don't you know?” She shook her head, I knew she'd lived a sheltered childhood (from what she had told me) but... how can she not know about porn? Yet she seemed unaffected by the naughty images, and the lewd poses of the women seemed diminished by her simple recline on my pillows. I felt awkward, terribly uncomfortable with her eyes darting across the pages I had used for my release. “It's porn.” I sighed, giving in and sitting myself beside her. “But what's it for?” She insisted of me, pulling her eyes from the page and meeting mine. “It's for... you know... jacking off. Masturbation.” “...What's that?” She was clueless. “Self pleasure. You know what sex is, right?” The idea occurring to me quite suddenly, she rolled her eyes slightly, and nodded. “Well its giving yourself that pleasure, by touching yourself.” Furrowing her brow, she gave her own input, “Like in the hospital. When I held my breasts? That felt nice. Pleasurable.” I felt myself blush, God! Did she have no filter between mind and mouth?! I nodded anyway, and she smiled. “But you mean the things people have between their legs, don't you? That's what you touch.” I just cleared my throat, and she had one of her random moments of intuition, understanding. “I won't ask anymore, I'm making you uncomfortable. I'm sorry, Matt.” She smiled a little sadly, “I just wish I understood all this.” I shook my head, she was insane, why did I like it? “It's alright Gwen. I'm just, not the best person to explain. I haven't done... much.” The curiosity began creeping across her features again, but she seemed to shake it off as she shook her head. “Come on, show me my room.” Voice overflowing with excitement, she jumped off the bed and raced me to the door, laughing. The baggie jeans flapped around her ankles as she rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet, waiting for me to unlock the door. I fumbled with the bolt, and the moment it was open she twirled out onto the landing, giggling as she ran into Jakob. “Hey, hey, what were you two doing with the door locked?” he teased. Oh s***! What if she told him?! But no, she wasn't that disconnected, she just smiled at him and purred, “I'll never tell. Now-” she clapped her hands together, “My room!” I pulled the ladder to the attic down, she seemed ecstatic about climbing the splinter-causing thing. I couldn't wait for her to see what I'd done to the dusty space. So I'm no home decorator, but it looked bloody brilliant in my opinion. I had hung a netting of fairy-lights across the sloped ceiling, which I had painted powder blue, like the walls. Lanterns with flickering, fake candles hung from the low beams. And her double bed was pressed against the only full length wall, the bedding white and fluffy, I had remembered how cold she seemed to get. A little hollow was behind the wardrobe, as it stood against the slopped wall. We caught up with her, as she stood in the center of the room, her hand over her mouth, the lanterns reflected in her eyes which were glimmering with tears. I felt a twinge of disappointment, what had I messed up? “Gwen? What's wrong?... Don't you... like it?” I stuttered, coming closer to her. She nodded, absently, then blushed. Turning her head to me quite suddenly, “Oh Matt, it's lovely.” I smiled, thank God. I thought I had f*ed up. “It's just... I've never had my own room before. I've always had to share. And it's just so pretty.” Jakob had stood quietly, giving us the moment I was thankful for, but now he came forwards, “Gwen, love, we need to get you new clothes.” It was a topic I was iffy about bringing up myself, yet Gwen didn't seem to mind having nothing. She just smiled at Jakob sweetly and said, “That'd be lovely, I don't have any money though, I'll be fine in this stuff.” Gesturing to her ramshackle outfit and seeming strangely content, for a girl. But he just grinned, “No way, half the hospital has clubbed together, we've raised 260 pounds to get you situated.” Gwen's smile was electric, and she hugged him exuberantly. Oh s***, I was going to be forced to go shopping. *** Gwen's eyes were as big as dinner plates, drinking in the colourful display in the window of a big department store. We'd driven all the way into town for this, and it wasn't a waste. Gwen flitted around everywhere, finding every eye-catching piece she could. And when I say eye-catching, I mean it. The things she chose were tiny, mini-skirts, little jackets and those tops that don't cover the girl's stomachs. Makeup as well, and jewelery. But now, in this big shop, she found not only bikinis (which I found myself imagining her in) but dresses. Sexy dresses for clubbing. And she loved them, her eager fingers ran over each rack, eyes glowing. Grabbing one so quickly I didn't get a good look, she darted into the changing rooms, calling at us to, “Wait outside!” Jakob winked at me, “Crazy girl. She's very sweet though Matt. I expect you to be a good friend to her as long as she's with us.” His voice had assumed the “parenty” tone that it so often did. You'd think my older brother of all people would be disinterested in my relationship with any particular girl. More than just any girl of course, she'd obviously been through a lot. It was easy to forget, watching her shop and try on lip-gloss and all sort of regular female things, at least I imagined they were regular. The clattering and bumping around in the changing room stopped suddenly, and she burst out, passed the surprised looking shop assistant, and struck a pose in front of us. “Blimey.” Jakob blinked, and I had to agree. Gwen's chosen dress was heather-grey, and skin tight. A plunging neckline and skirt that barely covered her arse would have given her the appearance of a slag, if she were anyone else. I couldn't bring myself to think of her like that, I just liked her too much. Such impressive cleavage, in my opinion, should be shown off. I didn't understand how she could be so damn slim, yet have such a drastic difference between waist and hips. I could feel myself practically drooling, and if I wasn't careful I'd get hard. I shook myself mentally. This wasn't another teenage girl to drool over, this was Gwen. Abandoned, injured, clueless Gwen. But when she hopped over to the mirror, and stared down her reflection, she didn't look clueless. Her mouth curved into a sexy smirk, her eyelids lowered, and her hips jutted to one side. It was as if she understood exactly how good she looked, and it was impossible to deny as a guy. I couldn't wait to see Luke's reaction, we'd have to take her out with us, one of the clubs in town maybe. Or a local gig. She'd like the excitement, and the dancing. My mind was already rambling, imagining situations of which I had no guarantee. We'd slow dance, swaying gently she'd lift her head up and stare into my eyes, smiling a secretive smile. The moment would captivate us both, and we'd just know. Soon enough, our lips would meet, melt together in a haze of released tension and longing. I was getting distracted again, yet the many fantasies plagued me all the drive home, and all the way up the stairs, then the ladder to the attic. I carried her new things for her, it took three trips from car to attic. Gwen never offered her help though, merely stood beside her wardrobe waiting. When she did put her things away, it was messily, and without much sequence. Clothes with hangers were hung, shoes still in their boxes piled at the bottom, and underwear (wispy little things she yet again seemed to have no sense of embarrassment about, and lacy bras she seemed spectacularly proud of) stuffed in the two top of her set of draws. Each item she admired with twice as much joy as she had in the shops, showing me with glee. “They're all really...” I couldn't find the word. Sexy? Small? I-can't-wait-to-see-you-in-those? Finger lickin' good?! I settled on the dumbest word to pop to mind “...nice.” Nice? F***. I was mulling over my own stupidity when I realized she was undressing, tugging the old, used clothes off. I stared for a minute or two, mesmerized, until she had stripped right down to her knickers and a straining sports-bra. Presumably given by the hospital also, as the undies were a million times larger than what she had picked out herself. Her hands went to the waistband that hugged her hips, and I jumped, “Wait! No! I'll go before you...” she frowned at me, “What's wrong? You've seen those girls in the magazines. So it wouldn't be a surprise would it?” “It's a matter of morals. I would love to watch you undress,” I decided cold hard truth was the best way to deal with her, “but you're my friend, and it would be taking advantage.” Her face fell as I moved to the ladder, “Sorry. I didn't realize.” she muttered, as I closed the trapdoor above me. Who was she? That she didn't even know that was, not inappropriate behavior as such, more unusual than anything. Gwen. We didn't even know her last name. Did she have one? Was it that she didn't remember what had happened prior to the rocks, rather than she refused to tell? It felt wrong, that I should feel this strongly for a girl I know nothing about. Luke would certainly find it hilarious, if he knew just how much. I was deluding myself, fixated on a pretty face. If I'm going to be a man I need to stop this, take care of her, sure, be her friend? Yes. But I'm not letting her pull me in. She's not normal, do I need that kind of stress? And anyway... no guarantee that she would ever feel like I feel, or would feel. Could feel is the most accurate. If she didn't even know what porn was, not that they were comparable, but still... could she fall for me? Not that I thought I loved her, but still, I could love her. If I gave myself a chance, if she gave me a chance. The question remained was she capable? My debate took place as I cleared the magazines from my bed, but stopped short just before putting them away. I flipped through the pages of the first one on the pile. Pretty girls, beautiful girls, sexy girls. What was I doing fixating on one girl? Why couldn't I be like Luke? Even looking at these women, I stupidly started picking out things that reminded me of Gwen. This one had her eyes, that one her hair, one even had the same pearly glow from her pale skin. God dammit, I'd known her seven weeks and she's already burrowed her way into my mind. It was like this with Amber, wasn't it? For Jakob I mean. They met, and she was suddenly his everything. Gwen wasn't anything like Amber, and I wasn't Jakob. I just had to stop, think before I did anything insane. “Yeah. Good luck with that.” A voice inside me mocked me, “You'll be fine. Just don't think with your d***. If that's even possible.”