And now, the fourth and final part of The Faces They Wore.
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Today, I conclude The Faces They Wore, part of Nothing Too Familiar by the Busan Writing Group. In the last part, Angelina came home with a bruise on her face. Daniel urged her to quit her night job, refusing to talk to her. After their fight, Angelina came to his bed, where they stayed together in a platonic embrace.
The Faces They Wore by TCC Edwards
Part 4 of 4
Angelina stood in the steam issuing from the open door. She had her clothes on, apparently having undressed and dressed again in the tiny space between the toilet and shower. She held a hand over her left eye. Slowly, she lowered the hand, revealing her swollen eye, stark black against her tan skin.
“Who did this?” Daniel whispered.
“The guy I stayed with before. He called me. We met.”
“It’s fine Daniel. It’s just something he likes – he is usually careful.”
“You let him do this?”
“He pays very well.”
“Who is he?”
“Just some guy. Does it matter?”
“Yeah, I want to know where he lives.”
“And what will you do? Punch him?”
“I’ll call the fucking cops on him.”
“Then the cops will get me, too.”
“What then? What do you want me to do?”
“It’s okay Daniel. Stay away from this.”
“It is not okay. What, are you just going to keep letting this happen?”
“What if I do?”
“You can’t stay here. Not if you do this.”
Daniel stormed to his room, throwing the door open.
“You want to stay? You stop.”
He slammed the door, shutting out any further protest.
The door creaked, admitting a soft light. Daniel stirred from uneasy sleep as Angelina stood silhouetted in the doorway. He made no move as she closed the door behind her and carefully sat on the bed beside him. After a moment of careful silence, he offered her more space and she slowly joined him in the bed. They embraced, their fully clothed bodies cooled by the autumn breeze through the window.
“It wasn’t the first time. She’s been hit before – and worse, I’m sure.”
“I know. But she can’t just use me – I’m trying to help her.”
“She doesn’t want to be helped. You’re not Prince Charming, mate.”
“She’ll do it again. Dammit, I know she will.”
“It pays the bills and keeps her fed.”
They looked out together, letting silence replace the conversation.
“Look,” Felix began after a long pause, “Been meaning to tell you – I’m going back to Brisbane.”
“Dad’s in the hospital – he had a stroke.”
“Hey, now – I don’t want you all worried. He’s holding up, for now. My contract is up soon – I need to help my family prepare, just in case.”
“I’m sorry to hear …”
“Please. It’s all right, Daniel.”
A long moment passed before Daniel spoke again.
“You think I can get in?”
“The boss already approves – your interview will be just a formality.”
“I don’t know what to say. Thanks.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but it means that I have to move. So what about you?”
“Ah. I wanted to tell you – I might also move.”
“I don’t know yet. I called a lot of friends after … our night together. I will try to find different work.”
“Daniel, I cannot promise anything. If a client pays well…”
“Seriously, you’d do it again?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“You must have saved up some money by now. Why sell yourself?”
“It’s just a job for me. There is somebody …”
She looked away, but Daniel gently clasped her face in his fingers, turning her eyes back to his.
“My grandmother. She’s very old – she has no one else.”
“Really? What about the rest of your family?”
Angelina shook her head, “My mother died when I was small. I’ve never met my father.”
“That’s awful. How is your grandma? She’s sick?”
Angelina nodded. “She has to stay in the hospital. She has no insurance.”
Unable to think of any sufficient reply, Daniel hugged her, their tension at last giving way in the long embrace.
Hours later, they were both awake, again lying clothed on Daniel’s bed.
“I love you,” Daniel whispered into the darkness, “You know that, right?”
“What about you?”
Angelina leaned to Daniel’s ear. She whispered three syllables, careful to enunciate each sound. Her name – her real name.
Daniel gently pulled her face to his. He kissed her deeply as her body pressed tightly against his.
“It was just for me. She thought I needed it.”
“Huh. I was sure you two wouldn’t do it again.”
“We shouldn’t have. We never talk – we try to pretend it didn’t happen.”
“Heh, like that ever works.”
“Yeah. She’s getting ready to leave now. She’s got a friend in Seoul who can get her a job.”
“Hate to say this, but … you should let her go.”
“Dammit. I know. I don’t want to, and yet …”
“I know, mate. But you’ve got a good shot with English First. Good job, good people – do me a favor and take it, please. Don’t make them get someone else.”
“I … dammit. You think … she ever felt anything?”
“She told you her name. She felt something – that’s why she’s going away.”
“But we could see each other? I could visit?”
“Daniel …” Angelina bit her lip, “I want you to go to this new school. Meet a good girl – someone who feels happy with you.”
“What about us? Don’t you feel anything?”
Angelina hesitated as she reached for the doorknob. She turned back to Daniel, meeting him with an even gaze. A thin, sad smile stretched across her lips
“Yes,” she whispered, “But I can’t stay.”
Daniel opened his mouth, but he stopped himself. Tears filled his eyes as he understood the truth of her words.
“Thank you, Daniel,” Angelina said, “For everything.”
“Yeah, I hear you loud and clear. I’m sitting on the bench, looking at the temple right now. How’s your dad doing?”
“He’s hanging in there. We’ll just have to see, you know?”
“Must be tough.”
“I’ll manage, mate. Anyway, how’s English First?”
“Great. The director loves me – he lets me do pretty much anything I want. The students love me, especially when I get them drawing.”
“I thought you were enjoying it. How are you and that new girl?”
“Okay, I suppose. She is my coworker now, you know. We’re going out on Valentine’s Day, but we’re taking things super slowly.”
“Good idea. You still think about Angelina?”
“Yeah. Sometimes I like to pretend it could’ve worked.”
“Some people can wear that mask, I suppose. But hey, you’re keeping yourself busy, right?”
“Yeah – I met more artists after I moved. I get together with a few every week.”
“Good to hear.”
“How about you – you won’t be back again, huh?”
“Chill man. And hey, you’ll be over her soon.”
Daniel stretched his mouth into a smile as he strained to sound nonchalant.
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