I can’t look at her.
My elbow is on fire. I reach over and gingerly take it in my left hand. The sleeve of her sweater clings to it, wet and cold. It pulls at the wound as I move. The pain makes me wince.
The intensity of it makes me want to giggle, too. But I don’t.
She’s beside me. “Tiergan . . . ” she says. Her voice is soft, caring.
But her hands are shaking.
“I’ve, ruined . . . your, sweater,” I say, in two ragged breaths. I look down to avoid her eyes. There’s a smear of blood on the left sleeve, too, where my hand rests.
“Don’t worry about it,” she says. She touches my arm but I jerk away. I don’t want her to touch it. I don’t want her to see what I’ve done to it.
“Your hands are shaking,” I say. But I’m not telling her anything she doesn’t know.
She is undeterred. “Come on, let me see it.” Her voice is a little more steady—a little more confident—than it had been.
I’m afraid to ask. But I need to.
“I’m sorry, Tara. I’m so sorry.
“Can you forgive me?”
“For what?” she says. She doesn’t hesitate. But she knows exactly what I’m talking about.
She reaches in and grabs the bottom of the sweater. “Come on. I need to take this off.” She doesn’t wait for my approval.
The air is frigid against my back, but I’m already shaking. She slowly peels the fabric off the wound. I clench my teeth to keep from crying out.
“You’ve taken off a lot of skin,” she announces. The tremble is gone from her voice. “But it doesn’t look too bad.
“I’m going to see if you’ve broken anything, okay?”
I flinch from the thought of it, but then stop. I nod my approval. She carefully bends and turns the arm. The pain is loud and deep. But not sharp.
“I don’t think you’ve broken it.”
And her fingers are in the wound. The fire leaps up my arm and screams into my skull. Everything goes dark and heavy. I grind my teeth, but that only makes the pain worse. And now, the romance is gone. It’s sharp, angry, hateful pain.
But I take it. I deserve anything she does to me.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I can’t stop saying it. She has to believe me. She has to.
I force my eyes up to meet hers.
She looks at me, but says nothing. In her eyes, there’s concern. And pity. But behind it, I see fear.
She looks away. “It’ll be okay, Tiergan.”
Her cell rings. I startle at the sound of it.
She releases my arm to answer it.