10: Tyler

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10. Tyler

I wait until Franny goes to the other room to order pizza before I let the pain wash over me.

I breathe in and out slowly, but I can still feel the swelling around my eye push up my cheek. The bastard made the black eye worse when he dug his damn fingers into my face. I won't be surprised if I look in the mirror and see his fingerprints embedded in my skin.

I hear Franny's voice as she talks into the phone in the other room. She's weird, I decide. Most people would call an ambulance or tell me to get lost if I showed up on their doorstep. But she just stood there and did everything I asked.

Maybe she was too scared to realize that an ambulance is the usual route to go when someone's beaten up. I'm glad she didn't though. I would have had to come up with some kind of lie to avoid having to go to the hospital. Hospitals mean my parents would be called and then I'd have to explain everything to them.

I'm going to have to tell them anyway though.

How am I supposed to hide a huge cut along my side and a swollen face? It's not something a hood over the head can hide.

Franny comes back a few minutes later and places the phone back in the holder. She walks past me and swipes a hand down the wall, catching a light switch as she goes. I look at the sitting room where there's a television, a couch and an armchair. Franny walks over to the television and puts it on before arranging some pillows on the couch until they are plumped to one side.

"Do you want to lie down?" she asks. "Or is sitting easier?"

"Lying down's good. Thanks," I say and push off from the table, grabbing my bag and dropping it down with me.

My legs are shaky as I force them to walk over to the sitting room. The house is simple, not too much furniture and not too cluttered but it does feel like it's missing something. It's just a house. Nothing really seems personal.

"What happens when the food comes?" Franny asks. "I don't really want to see you choke to death."

I smile in amusement. "I'll sit up."

I drop my bag on the floor beside the couch and slowly lie down on the seat, my upper body elevated by the pillows. It isn't enough to bend my body and hurt the cut but it's enough so I can eat without worrying about choking it back up.

Franny curls up in the armchair, with her legs tucked under her. She has the remote in her hand.

"Do you want anything on?" she asks.

I shake my head and smile to myself.

She's a people-pleaser.

I close my eyes and lift my arm on the side that isn't hurt and rest it on my forehead gently. My eye throbs but the painkillers are slowly doing their job even though I didn't think ibuprofen would be strong enough for this excruciating pain. Just frowning makes the eye pain worse.

A penetrating pain enters through the side of my head and everything throbs and becomes a mass of distress and hurt. I close my eyes tighter, willing the pain to move out of the way, but it doesn't. It just grows and pulses through my head until I feel like it's going to explode. I let out a short breath, trying to release the pain.

But it stays and presses down on me until my eyes are completely closed and my mind slows down.

***

I jolt awake and the movement makes my side ache along with my face. My head hurts still, but the pain is a little subdued as I'm still trying to wake up. I open my eyes and notice that the vision out of my right eye is limited from the swelling. I curse inwardly and push myself upright.

I look over at Franny who offers a small smile.

"How long have I been out?" I ask.

"Only twenty minutes," she says. "The pizza should be here any second now."

"Um . . . do you have any ice?" I ask and point to my face, which I'm sure looks like shit.

She springs up, making the remote crash to the floor. "Yeah, sorry," she says and walks past me quickly into the kitchen. I hear shuffling and doors being opened and shut. I reach down beside me and grab my bag, opening the zip and shuffling inside until I find my wallet. I take it out and dump the bag back on the floor. I pull out a twenty-dollar bill and then drop my wallet on top of my bag.

Franny comes back into the room and gently places a bag of ice wrapped in a towel on my chest as the doorbell rings. "Hold that over your eye," she says and turns around to go to the front door, but I quickly grab her wrist.

I place the twenty-dollar bill in her hand. "Use this."

She stares back at the money and then sighs. "I can pay for the pizza myself."

"Use this," I repeat. "As a repayment for helping me."

Franny looks indecisive but slowly nods, gripping the money and walking off as I let go of her wrist. I hear her talking and another voice speaking alongside her until the door shuts and the smell of pizza wafts into the room with Franny.

I glance at the television and squint a bit when the harsh light from the screen makes my eyes sting. Some kids channel is on, with a cartoon playing. "You watch cartoons?"

Franny places the pizza on the coffee table and looks behind her, catching sight of the TV show that's on. She turns back to me with a slight blush. "Um, yeah. You can put on whatever you want. Sorry."

I shake my head. "It's fine. I don't mind."

Franny smiles. "Okay. I'll go get some plates. Thanks for the money, by the way."

She rushes past me and the quick movement makes a breeze blow onto my sweaty forehead which I'm momentarily relieved by. I lift the towel off my chest and unwrap it to see a clear bag filled with ice inside. I remove the towel, placing it by my feet and press the ice to my eye, hissing from the cold.

Franny walks back in and places two plates on the table. She looks over at me and frowns. "Isn't it too cold without the towel?"

I shake my head. "I need it."

She just nods and lifts up the lid of the cardboard box. After she passes me two slices and serves herself, we settle into a comfortable silence with the television playing in the background. I feel my body wanting to fall asleep again as I finish my pizza. My stomach aches for more food but the rest of me just wants to sleep.

"You can go to sleep," Franny says eventually, and I look at her. "I'll wake you up if my dad comes."

I nod gratefully and just before I close my eyes I see Franny smile. Her entire face falls into a welcoming warmth and I can't help but smile back. She's pretty when she smiles.

- Ellie x

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