Chapter 2: Secrets Revealed
Two weeks later, Sophia made the normal trek from school to Dunkin Donuts. It had been another wild weekend, lots of partying and lots of Scott. Probably too much of Scott. She walked in the back and put her stuff away.
"Hey, Wild Woman." It was Warren.
"Hi, Prep Boy," she waved-but instead of their normal teasing session, Sophia quickly rushed out front.
Warren was perplexed. They'd worked together for two weeks, and he was still trying to figure this girl out.
She made a point to take her cig breaks when he was out in the lot. They had walked home from work every day. She obviously enjoyed their teasing repartee, as he did. And now she was rushing past him like he had the plague.
He went about his work, and found his way to the lot. Sure enough, Sophia followed him out and lit a cig.
Warren noticed, however, that she was carefully avoiding looking at him.
"Yo, Sophia, so how was the weekend? One of your traditional chemically-infused bacchanalias, I take it?" He had gotten a good idea of Sophia's lifestyle on their walks home.
"Yo, Prep Boy, could you speak English, please?"
"That was English."
"Coulda fooled me. My weekend was fine. I think I drank two six-packs Saturday night. Great sex with Scott, too." Warren blushed. Sophia thought that was cute. "Just my typical Wild Woman weekend."
"Uh huh. Soph, why are you hiding the left side of your face?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You avoided me in the back room earlier. You came outside, but you've been giving me your right profile the whole time. I walked towards you to change this barrel, and you tucked the left side of your face into the building."
"You don't know what you're talking about."
"Don't I. Then let me see your face, Sophia."
Sophia turned towards him. The makeup was skillfully applied, but the black eye and the bruise on the cheek was plainly apparent.
Warren gaped at her bruises. He looked down and noticed another one, on her arm. He looked at her for a minute and thought. Her mother? He knew she didn't have a father. He had met Sophia's mother a couple of times after walking her home. Was her mother doing this to her? Somehow, he just doubted that. So, he took a stab in the dark.
He looked in her eyes, and said, "Great sex, huh?" and saw the moment of startled recognition in her eyes, and knew that he had hit paydirt.
Sophia attempted to cover it: "Oh, look, it's my mother again! For your information, Prep Boy, I got hit in the head by a door."
"Happened at school. One of those swinging doors, you know? Wasn't watching where I was going."
"I'm clumsy that way."
Sophia glared at him. "Look, that's what really happened!"
"I'm agreeing with you."
"But you don't believe me!"
"Not for a second."
"This is none of your business, Warren!"
"This is my problem!"
"Yeah, walking into doors can be a problem," Warren said with a snort.
"I'm fully capable of taking care of myself!"
"Oh, yes, you're doing such a damn fine job of it, Sophia. You've even got the bruises to show for it. If taking care of yourself includes getting beat up by your boyfriend, you've certainly got it covered."
Sophia stopped, and blinked. Damn he was perceptive. Shit, what was she going to do now? She gathered up her fury and shame, and blasted him with it, desperately hoping to just end the conversation. "Dammit, Warren, it's none of your business! Who the fuck are you to make judgements about me?"
Warren gathered up his cleaning supplies, walked towards the door, and looked at this bruised, furious, ashamed girl glaring at him. "I'm your friend, Soph. That's who I am." And walked into the shop.
Sophia stood outside the shop for five minutes, desperately trying to blink back the tears.
Warren gathered his stuff together, getting ready to go home. Sophia hadn't said one word to him for the rest of their shift. It was probably just as well, Warren thought. He was in way over his head. He turned to head out the door when Sophia grabbed him by the arm.
"Walk me home?"
"I wasn't sure you'd want me to."
Sophia smiled. It was a genuine smile-she hadn't had many of those, lately. "What are friends for, right?"
Warren smiled back.
"You want to talk about it, now that you've calmed down?"
"I don't know. I don't think so. What's there to talk about?"
"Was I right?"
Sophia paused. And practically whispered, "Yes."
"What are you going to do about it?"
"What can I do?"
"Dump him. Now. Vamoose, scram, do svidanya. Get lost, asshole."
"I can't do that."
"Because he loves me. He's all I have."
Warren stopped, grabbed Sophia's arm, and spun her around so that he was looking into her eyes.
"Sophia, someone who loves you does not give you a black eye! This isn't love!"
Sophia forced a grin. "Oh, yes, I forgot. You're the great expert on love, aren't you, Prep Boy? Come back and talk to me once you find yourself a girlfriend, OK?"
Warren knew she was teasing him to lighten the mood, but he wasn't buying it this time. He touched her face with his finger and said, "You can rest assured that if I did get myself a girlfriend I would never do this to her."
"No. No you wouldn't." She started walking again. "Then again, any girlfriend you got wouldn't be anyone like me, either."
"What's that mean?"
"It means I'm not much of a person. You'd do better than me."
"I beg to differ. I like to think I choose my friends pretty carefully, you know."
She laughed at that. "You don't know me. You look at me and see... well, I don't know what you see.
But you don't see me. Warren, I'm a burnout. I'm stupid. I'll never be anything. The only things I'm good for are parties and sex. And getting beat up, I suppose. You don't see that."
"You're right. I don't. I know it's there, but that's not what I see."
"Well, then you're not looking close enough."
"No, you're wrong. I'm looking very closely. In fact, I'm looking past the burnout, past the party girl, past the appalling lack of self-esteem, past the bruises. And you know what I see?"
Sophia was almost afraid to ask. "What?"
"I see a beautiful person. Inside and out. I see one of the most breathtakingly beautiful girls I've ever had the good fortune to look at. I see a beautiful spirit. I see a very bright girl, funny, quick-witted-hell, you can keep up in a battle of wits with me, and I'm a genius." They both laughed-it was true, he was.
"I see all of those things. That is the Sophia Daniels I see. And she's wonderful. The problem is... that she's locked up. She's locked in a cage. And she can't get out."
They were in front of Sophia's house. Sophia leaned against the chain-link face and stared off into space.
What had he said? Beautiful person, inside and out? Her? Why did he think this? What did he see? She couldn't see it. She just couldn't. He was nuts. Crazy. Deluded.
But, even if he was nuts, Sophia made a decision. She reached into her bookbag, grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, and scribbled her phone number on it. "Would you call me tonight, please?"
"Scott's not gonna be around?"
"No. And I don't care. I just think I need to talk to... to talk to a friend tonight. Would you do that for me?"
"Of course. Couple of hours OK? I need to study."
Sophia laughed-it felt good. "Of course you need to study, Prep Boy. A couple of hours is fine."