I watch him, from behind—I can’t see his face, but it’s Faolan. He stands over her, his feet apart, his hand raised . . . ready to strike. Again.
She cowers before him—afraid, but there’s defiance in her eyes.
It’s the wrong play.
I try to stop him, to jump forward, to grab his hand before it descends again. But I’m not really here.
“No!” she growls, but he’s not in the mood to listen. He leans forward and grabs her by the hair, then drags her to her feet. She scrabbles at his hand, and he throws her against the wall.
“Bitch!” he yells, glancing at a red line on his hand where she scraped him.
“Please stop!” she cries. The defiance has softened. She cradles her shoulder protectively with her left hand. There’s blood on her right temple where she hit the wall. Tears form in her eyes. From the pain. Or from the hurt. But she holds his gaze.
It’s not a play, but it is a mistake.
“No!!!” I yell, and dive forward to stop him, but I’m not really here. He flies across the room—through me—and viciously kicks at her. She pulls away, and his foot smashes into the wall. He clenches his fist and swings it back, toward her as she moves away. He catches her across the mouth, and she spins away, collapsing to the floor under me.
There’s more blood on his hand now.
I climb to my feet and try to push him back. Away from her. I can feel her breath on my leg, his sweaty, hairy chest against my palms, my cheek.
“Faolan, please stop,” I beg him. “Please.” He steps through me and I grab at his back, but I can’t hold him, because I’m not here.
“Please, no,” she sobs. “I love you, you’ve got to know that.”
“You stupid bitch!” he yells, and kicks at her again. She jerks out of the way, and his foot smashes into her shoulder. She hits the floor and her head bounces. He turns.
“Oh, no,” I breathe, as my hand jerks to my mouth. For he’s not Faolan. He’s me. Older. Bigger. And there’s a savage anger in his eyes, an all-consuming rage that rakes over me as he turns. I shy away from it. He roars as he drives his fist into the dining room table. Plates and cutlery rattle and bounce loudly against the dark walnut surface.
“What happened to you, Tiergan?” she whispers to the floor. Tears leak from her eyes and spill off her cheeks, splashing to a growing puddle beneath.
A snarl forms on his lips at her words. His muscles are tense, down his neck, down his arms. His fists are clenched, his breathing’s heavy. He’s fighting with himself.
But he’s losing.
I grab his thigh and try to hold him, try to pull him back. “Please, Tiergan, please . . . . This isn’t you. Please . . . don’t let this be you.”
And for some tiny instant, we connect. His rage pierces into me, not through me, and I can feel the recognition in him.
“Please, Tiergan,” I beg again, struggling to hold his monstrous gaze, “this isn’t you . . . . Please.”
His body shakes as he presses his fist harder and harder into the table where it hit. And then the moment is over. His face contorts with a yell, and I lose my grip on his leg as he spins back to her, his shoulders rolled in, his fists clenched, his muscles shaking from the tension.
“Keaira,” I whisper as I slump to the ground. But she can’t hear me.
Because I’m not here.