“Get the fuck out of here. And if you want to live, I suggest you get a new fucking zip code. Tonight.” I kicked once more for good measure as he tried to stagger away.
I turned to Olivia and helped her to her feet. I searched her eyes as I flipped out my pocket knife and made short work of her bindings.
“Thank you, Silas. I’m sorry,” Olivia mumbled. She wiped off her lipstick and dabbed at her tear-stained face with her sleeve.
“I’ll stay here until Ralph gets back from vacation.” We stepped out from behind the bar and I guided her toward the apartment holding onto her elbow.
“You don’t have to do that, you know,” Olivia said. Her pride was her weakness. She grabbed me by the forearms and pushed her weight into me. I held her forearms and my fingers caressed the spot where the ties dug into her skin as she struggled. Her perfect rosebud lips were just inches from mine and her sweet breath reminded me of honeysuckle. In another life, without this face, I would have crushed her to me in a kiss.
“It’s done. I’m here until you tell me you don’t want me to be.”
Two hours later and my body had yet to stop shivering. I was warm in my bed, safe, thanks to Silas. I knew he was right outside my bedroom door, perched on the hard wooden stool in the hallway that didn’t get any heat from the radiators, which were currently hissing and spitting by my head. My skin was on fire, my senses felt more acute than they’ve ever felt before. Maybe I just had a near-death experience. What I wanted more than anything was to say thank you to Silas. I hadn’t felt this safe and contented since my mother was alive. The deep sense of protection was priceless to me—something I’d believed was snuffed out with my childhood. I’d thought I’d have to forge my own way and uncover my own resources to finding this feeling again. But there it was and Silas provided it as if he wanted to give it to me. Tears sprang to my eyes as I was overcome by emotion. I wondered who hurt him, who did the devastating damage to his face so that now he hides himself like a burden. I’d seen with my own eyes that Silas could be a deadly weapon, yet with me he was always a provider and protector, without ever asking for anything in return.
Rising from my bed, clad in pajamas, I slipped to the door and pressed the palms of my hands into the wood.
“Lock it after you, Olivia,” he’d told me. Probably thinking I would feel safer that way—that I didn’t trust him completely with my life. As I held my hands on the door that separated us, I realized I trusted Silas more than anyone in my life—more than Paul, more than my few close friends, even more than my mom’s family who’d let me fall to the wayside after her death. It dawned on me that the man stationed outside my door on the stool, the one covered in scars who kept to the shadows, had perhaps become the most important person in my life. I yearned with everything in my heart to unlock the door and give him a hug.
But I’d seen first-hand his aversion to touch, the distance he kept to protect himself from those around him. Silas lived in a protective shroud of secrecy, and maybe he didn’t want anyone to break through the defenses he’d built up.
“Thank you, Silas,” I whispered, my lips inches from the cheap wood of the door. “Thanks for caring enough to show up for me.”
I knew he couldn’t hear me, but it did my heart good to say the words. I put my hand on my thudding heart which still held onto traces of adrenaline from my horrible encounter. I kissed my fingertips and silently pressed them against my side of the door, hoping one day I could return the favor. Give him a safe place to be himself, to let down his guard.
Silas was my sanctuary. My heart couldn’t even see the scars.
He grabbed my hair, tilting my head back. The pain ricocheted through my nerves. I hadn’t seen him in at least a year, but my father picked right up where he left off the minute he was released from jail. I knew that Silas’s vigilance was what had kept me safe in the past.
When he stepped into the bar that day, I knew he meant business. Silas came around a lot to check in and make sure I was getting by all right. That day, however, the fire blazing behind his eyes told me he was there to collect—he hadn’t forgotten his promise and Silas was a man of his word—unlike my father.