No comments for this one. But I hope it's okay for being written in two hours! I am adding this sentence because the word count was 666 words, and I'd prefer if people didn't think there was some secret meaning behind it.

Written 2012.01.15.


She'd been settling down with a book and a blanket when she heard the knock on her door.

She was startled. It was past midnight, wasn't it? A visitor at this hour… she wasn't expecting anyone, was she?

Placing her book on the table, she wrapped her blanket around her pajama-clad body, and went to the front door. She slowly opened the door with the slightest apprehension.

A small teenager stood on her doormat. Even in the dark, she recognized him immediately.

"Jayden? Goodness, what are you doing here?"

"I'm sorry, Ms. Davis," he said quietly, staring at the ground while anxiously biting his lip. "But I didn't know where else to go."

Her mind was blank for a few seconds, before she shook off her shock. She turned around to turn on the hallway light.

"Come in, then, it's freezing outside. But why on Earth are you out-"

With the aid of the light, there was no mistaking the dark bruises on his face and the blood dripping from his split lip.

"Jayden!" she gasped."What happened? Did you get in a fight?" Without waiting for an answer, she rushed to the kitchen to grab her first-aid kit.

Jayden determinedly remained silent, not moving from his position in the entry way.

She hurried back and ushered him into the kitchen, sitting him down in a chair. She set the first-aid kit on the table and opened it.

"But why did you come here?" she asked, dabbing the cut on his lip with a tissue. "You should have gone straight home the moment you were hurt!"

She saw his eyes tighten with pained discomfort, and he bit his lip again, aggravating the cut that was already there. His wounded expression spoke more than words ever could.

I was at home.

"Jayden…" she said. "If your situation at home isn't safe, you need to tell someone."

"No," he protested. "I can't tell anyone. If I do, then…"

She frowned. "Then what?"

His hurt expression was wiped from his face like a tissue across a whiteboard, leaving no hints of what he was thinking. "Nothing. I just… I won't leave her there."

Oh.

"If you were to contact the authorities, I know that they would help her too," she assured him.

Jayden's eyes narrowed, and he clenched his hands into fists. "I don't want to talk about this now," he said.

A sigh escaped her lips. "Alright, then," she reluctantly agreed, "but I'm not going to let the matter sit forever."

He nodded. "Can I…" he said, fiddling with the end of his shirt. "Can I just… stay here? For tonight?"

Her eyes softened. "Of course, dear. I'll make up the couch for you."

Thoughts raced through her head as she pulled the blankets out of the closet. She'd never seen an abuse case before, and she didn't what she could do to help. It was the right thing to tell someone. Right?

Her heart was suddenly gripped by cold realization. Jayden had said he had nowhere else to go. Did he really have no one else to go to? No other family, not even a friend? The fact that he had resorted to asking a teacher he barely knew for help gave her an ill feeling of grief.

The boy was only seeking solace from the cruel confines of his home. And, at least for this night, she would give it to him.