'Oh thank god. Clay. I had no idea where you were. I've been trying to reach you all afternoon.'
At that moment I felt so relieved I could cry like a baby. Clay was safe, and in my arms. I wanted to slap myself for being so neglectful of him today. He needed me. Well, I wasn't even sure he needed me. He probably didn't. I needed him. I needed him so badly. I hugged him a little tighter before letting go, eyeing him. He looked like a drenched puppy.
'Clay, you're soaked. Get in the car before you get sick.'
I pushed him to the passengers side of my Mustang and then quickly shrugged out of my jacket before settling in behind the steering wheel.
I gave him my jacket. Clay nodded gratefully and didn't even protest like he usually did when I offered it to him. For a moment I thought I saw him smiling as he burrowed himself in my jacket, but it was gone as soon as I blinked.
'Are you okay? Clay? I was so worried.'
'I'm okay. I eh...'
'You don't have to say anything if you don't want to tell.'
I wanted him to tell though, desperately so. I wanted to know why he was so upset, drenched and so far away from the city. I wanted to know why he hadn't texted or called me. Why he was walking alone in the rain and thunder. Why he had left school so soon. If he had been to classes at all today. Had he been alone, or was he with someone. Was he seeing someone? My mind raced and I clenched the steering wheel tightly while trying to push away the sudden burning jealousy I felt at the thought of him being with someone else. I needed to calm down. Clay was here, back safely. And he would be okay, I would make sure of that.
'Sheri wanted to talk. So we went to see Hannah.'
Sheri, that bitch. For months she hadn't even looked Clay in the eye and now she suddenly wanted to talk? I knew I was overreacting but I couldn't help it. I knew about her and Clay, he had told me a few weeks ago. I had been angry then but I thought it was over. And now here she was trying again. Being a bad influence and generally an annoying person.
'What'd she want?'
I tried my best not to sound angry or upset, instead opting to turn the key and driving back to the city, needing something else to focus on. I watched Clay from the corner of my mind, and turned up the heat of the car. I did it for Clay, not for me. No. My blood was boiling and my forehead damp.
'She wanted to say sorry for everything.'
'A bit late don't you think?'
Clay was silent. I had bitten out the words way more harshly than I intended to. I immediately regretted it but I couldn't help it. I had spent the entire afternoon worrying and chasing and now I found out that Clay had been getting chummy with Sheri instead. I wanted to punch something -her specifically-. I sped up and raced through the outskirts of the city. Clay's eyebrows were furrowed and his mouth in a firm line. Shit. I had hurt him. He was only trying his best. He was only being sweet and kind Clay.
'I know Tony, I know she's terribly late with a genuine apology and I don't know what to think of it either.'
'I'm sorry for being so harsh.'
'No harm done, Tony. Trust me.'
I was relieved only Clay's eyebrows remained furrowed and his body tense. I could see that despite the heat in the car he was shivering and his hair still dripping. I was still raging inside but I forced it away, not wanting Clay to become the victim of my unjustified jealousy.
'My house is closer, you can shower and sleep there. I'll call your parents and let them know.'
'No buts, you need to get out of these wet clothes and have a warm shower or you'll get sick.'
Clay nodded reluctantly and I took a sharp left to circle back to my house just outside the city. Clay didn't stop by often. While my parents liked him well enough -my mom adored him- I always felt a tiny bit ashamed at the modest, tiny house I lived in while Clay practically lived in a mansion. I liked my house, and I loved my family but I always felt like I had to defend where I came from, even when I knew Clay didn't care one bit. I pulled into the driveway and quickly got out to open the garage door. Clay stayed in the car. I drove us into the warmth of my home.
I got out of the car and Clay followed suit. The house was deserted. Everyone off to god knows where. I didn't mind it though. Maybe Clay would feel less awkward about staying here that way. Even despite all the shit that had been today I was glad I was with Clay another night. That he could sleep soundly once more, and that I could spend more time with him. I led him through the kitchen and upstairs. Pointing out the bathroom and my room.
'Go take a shower. I'll find you some dry clothes.'
As I watched him disappear around the corner and finally let out the rage that had been burning inside me the entire ride home. Seconds later I punched the wall next to me with and incredible force.
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