“What’s troubling you? Has my dear Silas been behaving himself?”
I blushed at her question. I wondered what she thought I was doing here. Did she know who I was and that Silas took me from Paul to forgive a long-standing debt?
She took a small sip from her mug as another smile formed on her lips. I sat there in silence unsure of what to say or do. Silas was intimidating. But I knew his scars had a story to tell, one that was perhaps so awful that it scared away not only those around him, but also scared Silas himself. I didn’t know what was happening between me and Silas, but I knew I wanted to talk to someone about it.
“I don’t understand him but I want to.” I said. My head was down, my eyes focused on the caramel-colored tea in my mug. I felt scared to look at her because I thought she saw more than I wanted her to. I took a sip of hot tea instead.
“He cares very much for you, dear. I’ve never seen him so upset in as long as I’ve known him. He’s much gentler when you’re around; it warms my heart.”
I wanted to believe her so badly, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how he’d left me in the dark, alone and confused. At this point I wasn’t sure if he liked me or couldn’t stand the site of me.
“I wish that were true.”
“He lets you touch him, Olivia. You have no idea how rare that is. Silas has had a very rough life, those who should have loved him did nothing but cause him damage. When he came to live with us he was distant, violent, and often out of control. The only person he’d even talk to was Kyle. Those two have always been thick as thieves. But even then, Silas didn’t ever let us touch him.”
Damage? Had Silas been abused by his own parents? I couldn’t picture anyone hurting Silas but then again, I knew him as a man, not a little boy. A child is much more vulnerable than an adult, if anyone knew that, it was me. He certainly didn’t have those hulking muscles or the intimidating personality when he was a tiny kid. I didn’t know what had turned Silas into the man he’d become. I didn’t really know Silas at all, but I was still certain I wanted to.
“I think he’s scared of himself around me.” As I said the words, I realized how true they were. Silas was used to being in control, he used his appearance as a shield and his high risk job like a cloak to hide his vulnerability. The only recourse he had to shelter himself was fear and violence, two natural defenses that he tried so hard not to expose me to. He allowed me to see his softer side and that must have been difficult for a man with a history like his. It was probably more confusing to him than it was to me.
“Don’t give up on him, Olivia. You might be exactly what Silas needs. That poor boy has been told he was a monster since he was seven years old. His world has been overwrought with trauma and betrayal since he was just a little kid.”
“What happened to him, Aunt Annie? I saw those scars and they looked horrific.”
“What you see with your eyes isn’t even the worst of it. The real damage to Silas is on the inside. We don’t wear our scars on the outside, but I have a feeling you already know that.” I nodded slowly.
“The irony is that Silas is so attractive. He’s confident and assertive when he’s chasing criminals, I wouldn’t even notice that he had scars unless I looked close. The doubt seems to creep up on him when he’s out of his element, and by that I mean alone with me.”
“In all the years I’ve known him, Olivia, Silas hasn’t taken interest in intimate relationships.” Annie raised one eyebrow at me and her fingers drummed restlessly on the side of her teacup.
“Really?” I was surprised, but the news also gave me a sudden charge of happiness. It made our connection feel all the more special.
“But with you, dear, he can’t seem to keep his hands off of you. Offering that bite of his sandwich nearly put me into cardiac arrest.”
“Those arms—when I’m in them, I feel like I’m home,” I told her. I’m sure I had stars in my eyes and Annie thought I was foolish.
Silas had given me a sense of belonging, something I’d been missing for a long time. Since my mother died, I’d become a shell, a prisoner, a frightened bird trapped in a cage with no way of freeing herself. Then Silas walked into my life, and for the first time, I felt like I had hope. Maybe there was more to life than sweeping and mopping, looking after Paul and inventorying vodka bottles.