My worries were settled a little when her mom pulled her into a tight hug, making Beth let out a strangled squeak.
“What are you talking about Mom?” She eventually got out, pulling away, her hands on her mom’s shoulders.
“It was on the news, you were on the news. You and that girl you…” She saw me and stopped. A look flashed across her face, fear maybe? “You had better come in.” She sounded calmer and stepped aside to let us into the house.
We sat in the kitchen and she offered to make us sandwiches for dinner. I was getting spoiled, I still felt full from the hotdog earlier.
“I just can’t believe this has happened, see this is why I make sure you don’t go anywhere alone. You could have died!” Her voice was getting a bit erratic.
“What would you have done if you were there mom? Honestly, these things happen there isn’t anything you can do to stop it. Anyway, I wasn’t alone. Alexis was with me.”
“I… Yes. I suppose I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. But I would have been there at least.” Then she looked at me. It made me curious about what was being reported about what had happened.
She carried on talking along a similar vein while she was preparing the food. To be honest, I think she just needed to have a rant and let it all out.
Eventually Beth grabbed my hand and led me out of the kitchen with a quiet “Come on” and a roll of her eyes. “I want to see what the news is saying.”
She led me through a door at the back of the kitchen to a small room with sofas on two of the walls and a large flat screen TV in the opposite corner. We sat and she switched the TV on, picking the local news channel. We watched a report on how an increase in military recruitment could mean a lot for the local economy with a major military base so close. After interviewing some local residents, in nice neighbourhoods I noticed, it switched to the weather –there might be an early snowfall this year.
I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to come up. It had been just a small hold-up gone wrong, they happen all over the city surely? Why would this one be on the news?
Well, it didn’t take long to find out. Someone who in my opinion looked far too neat, with very precisely styled hair that looked like it could cut paper, gave the camera a huge grin and started the next report:
“Back to today’s local news, we have an exclusive new interview with someone who ‘helped’ take down the Highgate Mall thief.
“As I’m sure you’ve all seen this evening, but for those of you who haven’t this is an extraordinary account of a little girl taking on a knife wielding criminal, I have to warn you, the following footage contains some violence.”
It showed security footage of the coffee shop, starting where the man had stood up to confront the thief. It was strange watching the guy grab me as I shoved Beth behind me and pull got pulled forwards. Then, the footage silent, that idiot ran forwards and I almost calmly flung the cup in that guys face, grabbed his arm, broke it and held him at knife point. They let the footage run for a few uncomfortable seconds of him whimpering and shuffling.
“Yep, that’s right.” The newsreader started up again cheerfully as it cut to the newsroom. I noticed it was before the police arrived. “We still don’t know the identity of the girl, the police are stating that she is indeed a minor and cannot release her name.
“However, in an interesting new development we have an interview with the other ‘have a go hero’ who didn’t fare quite so well.”
It cut to someone in a hospital bed with a microphone shoved in their face. He had a happy, if somewhat dazed look on his face.
A voice from off camera said “So what does it feel like being saved by such young girl?”
His face fell.
“Well, I wouldn’t say it went like that…”
The interviewer seemed to be trying to make him more worked up. I thought it was a bit unfair, he was clearly dosed on some pretty hefty painkillers. It seemed like they were taking advantage of him to make the story more interesting.
After he started shouting at the interviewer they cut back to the studio and the newsreader said they had some new footage.
It showed me and Beth leaving the shop. The quality was pretty bad, it looked like it was from someone’s mobile phone. You could see Beth leading my by the hand, the blood on my jumper – I looked a bit dazed. The shot ended with Beth telling the reporter to “Fuck off”.
Beth changed the channel. “I think we’ve seen enough. Don’t worry Alexis, It’ll blow over in a few hours. Everyone will have forgotten about it tomorrow.”
I hoped she was right.
“I’m gonna go see if Mom needs some help, I’ll ask if you can stay over.” She said, getting up.
She went into the kitchen and I could hear the sound of voices through the door but I couldn’t really decipher the meaning of the words. The tone made it sound like an argument.
Curiosity got the better of me and I got up to get closer to the door. The voices raised in volume so I could actually work out the words.
“I’m just not sure you should be seeing her, why have you got this sudden interest in her?” That was her mom.
“Look, mom I like her. She’s my friend. I am allowed to have friends you know!”
“You never had friends come sleep over before, not since Haley, and that was years ago.” I wonder if Haley is the same Haley from school?
“Well, she turned out to be a bitch.” Probably. My stomach sunk. Beth was friends with Haley? Maybe I’d misjudged this whole thing. No, I forced myself to calm down. It was an old friendship. She clearly felt a similar way as me about her.
“It’s just… A few days ago you didn’t even know this girl. And now? Did you see what she did to that man? Recognising you in that video, it scared the life out of me. But when I worked out that girl was her?”
“Mom, you should be thanking her. She did what she had to. I’ve had enough of this. She is staying over because if she doesn’t I don’t doubt she is going to find somewhere to sleep in the street. Got that?”
I heard a chair scrape backwards and Beth opened the door looking angry. She was carrying a plate with the sandwiches.
“Come on, let’s go upstairs. We can eat up there.” I followed her to her room through the other door into the hall bypassing the kitchen. “I’m sorry about that. I don’t know how much you heard. Mum just gets stressed and overreacts when she thinks I’m not safe. She doesn’t mean what she says you know.”
“Don’t worry.” I didn’t want her to get upset. I cared what her mom thought about me, but the important thing was what Beth thought about me. Everyone else could go to hell.
I remembered the last time I was in Beth’s room. I felt more at-ease with her now. We sat on the bed and shared the sandwiches between us, though I couldn’t really eat more than a few mouthfuls.
“I’ve got a sleeping bag in the bottom of the wardrobe. Um, you can use that tonight.” She said opening the wardrobe and pulling stuff out.
“Thanks. Um, could I borrow some clothes or something? I kind of left the house in a hurry.” I hoped she wouldn’t mind. They might be a bit big on me, but then most clothes were.
“Sure, no problem, I’ve got a few things I’ve grown out of and not got round to throwing away yet. Here.” She pulled out a shopping bag packed with clothes. “I think there is my old coat in there.”
I took a few bags t-shirts out, they weren’t really my style – I tended to stick to greys and browns. Beth liked her colour. Some of them were much nicer than I had though, they weren’t very old.
“These are nice. Can I really have them?” I asked.
“I had a growth spurt recently; however nice they are I don’t fit them. It’s not like I have a younger sister to pass them to. You might as well take them. Besides, it’s all I can do for my hero.” She pouted and looked at me, fluttering her eyelashes like some bad movie damsel. Her voice high and mocking. “It’s the least I can do for the person who saved my life.”
I punched her in the arm, she was laughing too much to defend herself so I pushed her over. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit myself.
She brushed the tears from her eyes and sat back up. “Take what you want of that, I’m going to get a shower.”
I sat and folder the clothes I’d looked at, setting apart the plainest t-shirt I could find. Should I just wear my old jeans? I didn’t wash jeans much, they were good like that. It wasn’t like my legs got really dirty.
I picked some out anyway, just in case normal people changed them more often than me. Better safe than sorry.
I couldn’t exactly wear jeans to bed though. Usually I didn’t wear any pants but I was not going to be doing that here. I wonder if there were any shorts in here? Shorts would be better than nothing.
By the time Beth came back I was just sitting and waiting, I’d failed to find any shorts and I didn’t know what else to do. I could have turned the TV on I guess, but I didn’t want to overstep the boundaries. I wouldn’t want someone rummaging around in my room, I suppose I wouldn’t mind if it was Beth – but then again I had lied to her about where I live altogether…
She walked in wearing some loose pants that had a flowery print on. I raised one eyebrow. They were… awful, I had to say. I wouldn’t be seen dead in them, and I wasn’t exactly fashion conscious. Beth? She liked to dress fancy.
“What on earth are those?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“These? Pyjamas! For sleeping.” She blushed furiously. “They are supposed to be like this!”
Special clothes for sleeping in, I suppose I had been looking for some the same thing earlier. I burst out laughing.
“Shut up! This is what everyone wears when they go to bed.” She said. “What the hell do you wear then?”
I shut up then; it was my turn to blush.
* * *
I sat in the bottom of the shower tray with my knees tucked under my chin just letting the water flow down my body. This shower felt like nothing I’d ever had before. The shower at home was pretty pathetic, never mind hot. Most of the time I just washed with a cloth, did that make me disgusting? But if I had a shower like this! Seriously, I’d never get out of it…
When I started to think I’d maybe turn amphibious if I stayed in any longer I reluctantly got out to re-join the cold harsh world. I felt so relaxed, but it had made my muscles ache. I stood in front of the mirror and poked tentatively at my bruised ribs. Ouch. Yep, still sore. I wondered if I’d put on weight with all this eating I’d been doing lately then remembered it had only really been two days. It felt like a lot longer since meeting her.
I peeled the wet bandages off my fingers, maybe I should have done that before a shower. I didn’t even remember they were there. My skin had already begun to knit together. I figured I could keep the bandage off; it would help it get some air.
I pulled on the cotton pyjamas she’d lent me and left the bathroom. As I opened the door to her room she quickly fumbled with something and shoved it under her pillow looking sheepish.
After a questioning look she said “It’s just a stupid diary I keep.”
“Don’t stop on my account, I don’t mind you writing in it while I’m here. I’m pretty tired, do you mind if I go to sleep?”
“Of course not. Why would I?” She smiled at me.
I climbed in the sleeping bag she’d laid out for me. It felt so light compared to my nest of blankets – they had satisfying weight to them. The room was warm though, I didn’t even think I really needed anything I could probably just sleep on top of it. I lay there with my eyes open, Beth turned off the light leaving just her bedside reading lamp. After a minute she got out her diary and began writing, occasionally watching me.
I could almost feel myself drifting off.