Spirit of Steel 8


When her eyes opened in the morning the bright light of the morning sun was coming through the horizontal window shades, causing the bedspread to look like it was two different colors instead of the dark blue that it had looked like earlier.  She watched for a moment as a small breeze moved the lines around on the comforter before she realized that this wasn’t her room, wasn’t her comforter and that her clothes weren’t on.

“OH GOD,” she swore under her breath and pulled the blanket up to her chest.  She focused on her surroundings and realized that she was in Justin’s bed naked.

Luckily when she turned over she realized that she was alone.  Her body ached as she rolled onto her stomach and moved across the bed to find her clothes.  When she reached the far side luckily her shorts and underwear and shirt were all just off the side of the bed.  Even her leg brace was there, although she hadn’t noticed that it had been taken off in the night.

“Hey.”

“Jesus!” She yelped when he came back in the room.  “You scared me.”  It wasn’t like he could be sneaking into the room considering that he was still on his crutches, but she hadn’t expected the door to fly open the way it did and she surely didn’t expect the natural way he came through the door as if he expected her to be there and wasn’t at all distracted about the fact that she was naked.

"Sorry about that.  My brothers came over again and are playing out back.  My parents left for the day and yours are gone too.”

“Really?”  She swallowed back tears.  This was not happening.  He was acting too normal and there she was sitting half naked in his bed wondering what the hell had possessed her to spend the night.  How embarrassing would it have been for her family to see her in this condition?  “You talked to them?”

Justin’s face was serious as he nodded, “Your dad said that they’d be home tonight and to let you sleep.  I told him that you fell asleep watching a movie last night.”

“At least you have some sense to you,” she said moving to put her clothes back on.  Her arm got caught in her shirt and when she looked up Justin had moved a little closer as if he was about to help her.  She glared at him and he backed away.  After that, her eyes stayed on her hands as she put on her leg brace, “Something that clearly I haven’t got a clue about.”

Justin’s confusion showed on his face.  He stood and watched her for a moment then turn and left the room.  “I’ll be down with the boys in the back.”

Her head whipped up when she realized what her comment had sounded like.  She hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings with her comment, but an unexpected night with him was leaving her a little off balance.  “Justin—“  She started to call to him, but he was already out the door and she could hear him on the stairs.  “Damn it!”

Pushing up off the bed she thought for a moment about making the bed, but didn’t stick around long enough to do it when she heard a crashing noise from down on the first floor.  She half ran to the stairs and when she looked down into the living room as she was rounding the stairs she saw Justin sitting on the bottom step with his crutches thrown onto the ground.  Green glass was shattered all over the floor in front of him.

“Are you ok?” she asked coming down the stairs behind him.  She stepped over him to get to the floor and turned and looked at him.  She felt like checking him over head to foot, but decided that with the mood they were both in it was better not to.  He was definitely angry, but now she wasn’t sure if it was about the broken vase on the floor or because of her.

“I’m fine,” he said with a sigh, “I knocked into the stupid vase when I turned the corner.”

She took a few deep breaths and wondered why she was so afraid that something had happened to him.  She wasn't sure why she felt anything for him, especially after what he'd done a few minutes before.  He'd blown her off, not said anything about the night before and basically abandoned her when she'd been freaking out about what her parents might say if she was caught there.  “I thought you’d crashed into it or something.”

“Nope,” he said softly looking at his foot.  If she'd walked up to him and hadn't met him before she might suspect that he was crying, but what she knew of him didn't lend her to think that he was the crying type.  Swearing and kicking type definitely, but not  the crying type, at least not in public.  From his reaction to her earlier, she was the public.  “Just broke the fucker.”

Her body went slack.  “Great language.”

“What do you care about it?” he asked and started to push himself up. 

It took him a little extra time so she leaned and put her hand under her hand under his arm to steady him while he got up.  “You really think I’m a bitch don’t you?” she asked.

“If the shoe or the brace fits,” he said tapping his brace against hers.  He lifted his hand and pointed up the stairs.  “What do you call that shit up stairs?”

“Maturity?” she asked.

“Maturity?”  He bit on his lip nervously.  “Hmmm…I don’t think that’s what it was.”

She put a hand on her hip and glared at him.  “I’m not going to go falling head over heels for you like your little groupies.  I have too much respect to act that way.”

“No but you’ll--"  His voice lowered, "--Sleep with me after knowing me for a week.”

“Takes one to know one,” she said and started to walk away.  “I wonder if all pop stars are assholes or if I’m just lucky getting stuck with you.”

“OOOHHHH you said asshole!”  A little voice came out of the kitchen and startled her before she finally caught sight of Justin’s little brother standing there in the kitchen with a popsicle in his mouth watching her with wide eyes.

“Steven!  Didn’t I tell you about eavesdropping?”

“But Justin she said a bad word!”  He called out then looked at Carolina with a glare, “Momma says you go to hell if you say too many four letter words.”

"Your momma’s probably right,” Carolina said trying to check the attitude that was coming out with her words.

Justin came hobbling into the kitchen on his crutches.  “Go grab me the dust pan from the pantry kiddo.”  He looked around.  “Where is your brother?”

“Outside!” Steven disappeared for a moment and started to hand over the dustpan and tiny broom.

“You aren’t gonna make him clean that up are you?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “I’ll do it.”

Her mind raced with a picture of Justin in her mind leaned over and cleaning.  She could tell from his attitude this morning that he was going to cut himself and she wasn't about to spend a day in the hospital with him while he got stitches in his knee or hand.  “No I’ll do it,” she said, “The two of you probably would both end up in the hospital with stitches if you tried this yourself.”  She moved out of the kitchen and back to the small hallway where the stairs met the first floor and started to clean up the glass.

“Justin?”

“Hmm?” Justin said in response to his younger brother.

Steven came to his side“Your girlfriend needs a nap.  She’s crabby.”

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Justin said quickly.

Carolina turned around and looked at him and when she saw the cold look in his eyes found that it was going to be harder to get out of this without getting her feelings hurt.

“She’s just my friend,” Justin explained to his brother then started to shoo him out of the house.  “She’s just mad because the Grizzlies lost last night.  Why don’t you get outside and get that popsicle over the grass so we don’t get anything on Momma’s rugs?”

“Ok.”  Steven turned and left the house through the back door and Carolina went back to cleaning.

“You don’t have to do that,” she heard and knew that he’d walked over to stand nearer to her.

“If I don’t you’ll both end up with glass in your feet and since you only have one to spare I’m not sure it would do you any good to get some in your good foot.”

“I’m sorry about—“

“You don’t have to say you’re sorry Justin,” she said, “It doesn’t mean anything to me anyway.”  She stood up, stretched a little.  “You better go keep an eye on your brothers.  They’re too little to be out there by themselves.

“Trayce is still out there,” he said sounding tired all of a sudden.

When the glass was deposited into the trashcan she put the pan and the tiny broom under the sink and turned to look at him. “Well thanks for the game and movie—“  Her eyes lowered so she wouldn’t make eye contact with him.  “I’ll be next door—like always.”

She stayed there.  She stood and watched him to see what his reaction would be.  When silence filled the room she sighed and turned to go home.  It was only then, when she was almost half way out the door already that he finally got up enough guts to actually say something to her.

“Carolina—don’t go."

She didn't turn back to him.  If she had she would have wanted to kiss him and to make love to him again.  Last night had been amazing and it hurt that he'd treated it like such a casual act.  She wasn't

"I need to go home Justin."  And with that she was out of the door and making her way across to her house before he could do anything more.  She tried to sound as cold as possible when she said it.  She wasn't sure if it was harder on him or harder on her when she said it.

When she got next door she was sure that Justin was as confused as she was now.  She didn't mean to make things more complicated really, but after her shocking morning and the night before she knew that nothing would be the same between them and she wasn't sure that she wanted it to be that way either.


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