What the hell am I doing here? I look so stupid right now, Naomi thought, as her second knock went unanswered. Unwilling to knock again, she wiped errant tears from her eyes and turned away from the door.
What would her life had been like if it weren’t for that night? Maybe instead of being in someone else’s hallway after midnight, she would be in her own bed, cuddled close to a husband, with two kids tucked between them. Maybe she could have a normal life, free of looking over her shoulder, free of fear. Maybe one of her “baby ballerinas” would really be her baby ballerina.
Naomi cupped a hand over her mouth, choking back a fresh round of sobs. She suddenly felt tired. Exhausted, from having to constantly be in control, constantly be strong, constantly put up this front that she was the toughest girl in the world, when she really… wasn’t. Shaking her head, Naomi sat down against the wall, draping her arms over her knees for a place to rest her head.
Her breath hitched in her throat, and before she looked up, she frantically wiped the tears from her face with her hands. Swallowing hard, she stood to face Marcus, who was standing in the hall just outside his door, looking confused.
“Naomi,” Marcus said again, taking a step forward. “It’s almost two in the morning… what are you doing here?”
Naomi’s eyes drifted over his shirtless chest, then back up to his face, but she couldn’t get her mouth to open and speak. When she didn’t respond to his question, Marcus narrowed his eyes for a moment, then smiled.
“Ohhh,” he said, pushing his hands into the pockets of his sweats as he sauntered closer, biting his lip. “Two weeks is as long as you could hold out, huh? I knew it wouldn’t be long.”
Naomi rolled her eyes, shaking her head as she took a step away from him. “You know what? Never mind.”
“Wait a minute…” Marcus grabbed her arm, stopping her as she headed down the hall. Brushing her thick curls away from her face, he studied her for a moment. “Have you… have you been crying?”
“I said never mind. It’s not your concern,” Naomi snapped, trying unsuccessfully to pull away.
Marcus shook his head. “It is my concern. You brought it to my place, at… booty call hours. Come inside.”
“I’m not here for a booty call.”
“Then why are you here?”
Naomi squeezed her eyes tight, trying to stem a fresh round of tears from falling. She shook her head. “I don’t know. I have… no idea,” she said, her voice choked with the effort of trying not to cry.
Lifting an eyebrow, Marcus stared at her for a moment before he nodded. “O-kay. Come on.”
Wiping her face with the back of hand, Naomi didn’t resist as Marcus pulled her into his apartment, closing and locking the door behind them. She really didn’t know why she was there. Sex wasn’t on her mind, especially not the high-energy, combustive kind she expected from Marcus, but… the thought of being alone made a situation she was barely enduring seem outright unbearable. Even having her nerves run into the ground by Marcus was a better alternative.
“You thirsty? Hungry?”
Naomi declined. Her throat and stomach were on fire, but the thought of eating or drinking made them contract in pain. Marcus nodded, and kept pulling her along, leading her to what she quickly realized was his bedroom. Sophie had told her after class a few days ago that she and her mother would be out of town, so privacy wasn’t a concern, but still. This wasn’t what she came for.
“Marcus, I –“
“You said that already. Relax.”
Fists clenched, Naomi stood still while Marcus unzipped and removed her jacket then draped it over a chair. Her eyes narrowed in confusion when he directed her to sit down, knelt in front of her to take off her shoes, then pulled her up again to lead her to the bed. He pulled her in, then turned off the lamp, drawing her close as the room dropped into darkness.
Naomi felt strangely… comfortable, with her face tucked into Marcus’s neck. In what seemed like moments, he was asleep, leaving her to puzzle over what exactly was happening. Why was he being so…. not an asshole?
Soon, Naomi’s eyelids grew heavy again. She moved closer to Marcus, pressing herself against his chest, and he unconsciously draped an arm over her. The weight of his arm wrapped her in an oddly gratifying sense of security and calm. Cautiously, she closed her eyes.
This time, she only saw darkness as she drifted into untroubled slumber.