Amanda was slowly getting used to being in her new surroundings and reacquainted with Oceanview. She started to notice Nick never had lunch and often made excuses, his clothes hung loose from his thin frame. Even his face seemed pale and bony.
She and Nick talked in the mornings, but he never went too close to her, as if he was afraid of her. This didn’t make Amanda feel very close, and Brian didn’t seem worried much.
Nick seemed happy but once again, there was something that seemed fake about it.
“Nick…can I talk to you?” Amanda asked as they walked to lunch. It was then she looked at his face and saw that his skin color didn’t seem to match up around his eye. She completely forgot about what she was going to say and looked harder.
“Sure.” he said cautiously, backing away.
“Are you wearing makeup?” she asked. She moved closer and he bumped against the lockers behind him.
Nick felt panicked, how had she found out? He was usually good about covering the bruises. Well, not the ones on his face….and usually there weren’t any above his neck. He had just been very unlucky this time.
“No.” he lied, and she saw right through it. She moved in closer and he backed away, hitting the row of lockers behind him. His heart was beating so fast inside his chest as he began to worry she would start questioning.
“It is. Why are you wearing makeup around your eye?” she wondered.
“I’m just clumsy. I fell down at home.” he told her. Yes, this answer seemed legit to him. Amanda stepped away, disappointed.
“You don’t trust me,” she whispered. Nick frowned at her. He was working so hard on keeping everything secret, wearing lots of clothes so nobody knew just how bad off he was, covering the bruises and acting happy. He felt like he was being so fake, but he did it so nobody would worry.
Unfortunately, Amanda was protective of him so it backfired. He sighed….there was no harm in letting her see his eye.
“Come here.” he said, pulling her into a empty classroom.
“Nick, I have to get to class.” Amanda protested quickly. She didn’t feel like dealing with him right now, part of her was hurt because he didn’t trust her and she couldn’t explain why. For someone who looked so frail, Nick’s grip was strong as he led her to the room and closed the door.
“Can you fix this so nobody else asks me where I got it?” he asked slowly.
“You don’t trust me….I don’t know if I can help you. What did you do to your eye….really?” Amanda repeated. Again Nick hesitated but he knew if he was going to retain his friendship with her, he needed to be somewhat honest.
Nick walked over to the sink and wiped off the makeup, revealing a fresh looking black eye, along with several scrapes on his cheek.
“Who did this to you?” Amanda asked, her mouth falling open in surprise.
“Look. I can’t tell you right now but I promise I will one day. It will be soon, I just don’t know how to explain anything. Can you please just help me?” he whispered. Amanda looked at him and she could sense a bit of fear. Whatever was going on, she knew he had a good reason not to tell anyone, especially if Brian didn’t know.
Amanda took her own foundation and helped cover the eye and scratches, he winced a little but when she was finished, he looked fine. The two of them went to lunch and Nick was still refusing to eat anything.
“I’m really worried about him.” Brian said the next day when Nick hadn’t shown up to school.
“Me too, it’s not like him to miss school.” Amanda agreed.
Brian didn’t say anything, he just sighed as he picked at his lunch, not in the mood to eat.
Nick sat on the basement floor, his arms folded around his knees as he watched a spider building a web in the corner.
Up, down, across. Zigzag.
He followed it with his eyes, sighing. He’d been told to stay here until his mother came back from wherever she was….he hoped it wouldn’t be too long. It was bad enough he was missing school, but he knew tomorrow he would be back.
Up, down…up, down…
He tore away from watching the spider as his stomach growled…but he knew there was no food down here. He had been in the basement since yesterday and didn’t think he could wait until dark this time, which was one of his longer punishments.
Nick got up and went to the basement door….surprisingly it was not closed all the way so he pushed it and it opened. He fell on the floor, but got up and ran outside into the sunlight. Walking quickly, he decided to go to Amanda’s and talk to her, thinking about what she’d said about trust.
Sarah was surprised to see him, she smiled sweetly and allowed him into the house. Nick felt safe here, the house was small but warm.
“She’s upstairs in her room.”
“Would you like anything? I can make the two of you a snack if you like.” Sarah offered. Nick politely declined and headed up the stairs.
She opened the door and looked surprised to see him.
“I came to talk to you about some things.” he said finally. She offered him a seat and he sat down next to her on the bed.
“You said I didn’t trust you…..but there’s a reason for why I haven’t been eating at school…..why I got the black eye the other day. I didn’t fall down like I said I did.” Nick started. Amanda looked at him with concern. His eye still looked puffy but there was a new mark on his neck, just above his shirt collar. In fact, Amanda noticed he wore multiple shirts. The heat in Florida was too much to have so many shirts on, so that clued her into thinking something was really wrong.
“Nick, you look so flushed. Let me get you something to drink.” she said, interrupting him. Amanda left the room and return with a bottle of water.
“Feeling better?” she asked after he’d drank half of it and sighed with content. He nodded with a smile.
“Now I came here to show you why I’ve been hiding….but first I must make you promise not to tell anyone. Not even your aunt.”
Amanda sat there, thinking and wondering if she was really ready to hear this.
She wanted him to trust her, but wasn’t sure if this was the right way.