Chapter 5 (Maddie)
She was afraid to touch me. I’d noticed that physical touch was important to her, but now it was as if she was scared to come too close to me. It broke my heart.
“You know I heal really quickly, right?” I asked Arlo while she was making dinner one day. I was sitting on the counter.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So why don’t you touch me?” She froze momentarily before taking a spoonful of the soup she was making and walking over to me.
“Taste this.” She blew on the soup, cooling it before holding it out to my lips.
“It’s good.” I said after tasting it, and she moved closer to me, until her hips were in between my knees.
She was so close.
“I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“I know,” I said, and she put her hands on the counter on either side of my hips. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t. I was just… It was weird. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Not that you’re weird! I just, you know. The blood thing. That’s weird. But not really. I just got spooked. Honest. I don’t think you’re weird.”
I smiled. “You’re weird.”
“Ooh. That one hurt.” She smiled back, bringing a hand up to brush the hair out of my face. I tugged on a piece of her hair, and she leaned in closer to me, resting her forehead against my shoulder. I could feel her breath on my skin.
“You always smell like coffee.” She mumbled against my neck, and I made some noise of agreement.
Then I felt her body stiffen, and she stepped back with a gentle, “The soup’s gonna get cold.”
The loss of contact was almost painful, and I found myself confused. Every time we got close like this, Arlo pulled away. We’d be on the couch reading or watching TV, her head in my lap, and she’d suddenly remember something she had to do, or come up with some excuse to create distance. I was tired of it.
“Maddie.” She was serving the soup into bowls. She didn’t even look up at me.
But I lost the sudden burst of courage. “It looks really good.”
“Thanks. It’s chicken and rice. Cuz I know you like rice with your soup.”
“Arlo, when’s your birthday?”
“In November, why?”
We sat down to eat. “We should get a pet.”
“That’s- that’s like having a child, Maddie.”
“Exactly! We’re a family. We need a pet. Besides, I’ve seen this cat roaming around this street lately.”
“What if that’s someone’s cat?”
“Couldn’t be. It looks mangey.”
“Maddox! You want to bring some diseased stray cat into our home?” Our home. She called it our home. I love her.
“Yes. We can bring it to the vet! Please?”
“You have to show me the cat first, okay?”
“Of course! Let’s go now!”
“After dinner Maddie, please.”