Life After Dark
Chapter 43

"Damn!" Tommy muttered as he slammed into the Hardy home.

"Watch the language! Can't you see I'm creating here?" Lizzie asked as she frowned at him over her sketch pad.

Tommy muttered, "Sorry." He then left her and stormed into the kitchen. He had to do something to take his mind off of what happened with Gina. He went to the cookie jar which rested on the counter. He pulled the jar toward him and opened it. The container was filled to the brim with his favorite home-made, chewy oatmeal raisin cookies. His hand tentatively reached for one, but then he changed his mind. After closing the lid and pushing the jar away from him, he set his sights on the refrigerator. He went to the Frigidaire and held the door opened as he stared sightlessly at the various food selections which he suddenly found unappetizing. He stared a few seconds more until he the refrigerator released a huge sigh. "Sorry," Tommy mumbled as he closed the door.

Running a hand through his short brown, wavy hair, he stormed back into the living room. He plopped down on the sofa next to Lizzie and his hand reached for the remote. His finger found the power button and the television came to life. He set a new record for channel surfing as his finger kept switching channels.

Liz glanced at Tommy out of the corner of her eye. What's wrong with him, she wondered. She wanted to ask him, but decided against it. She turned her attention back to her sketch pad and the photo of the two lovebirds. Her hands were poised to fill in Brenda's eyes when the loud blast of noise from the boob tube startled her. Without a second thought, she took the remote from Tommy's hand and hit the power button. "Out with it," she said, as she put the remote out of Tommy's reach.

"What?" he grumbled.

"Whatever's got you so upset. You did 'I'm a mad guy' thing, so I know something's wrong," Lizzie said as she closed her sketch pad and placed it on the floor beside her. She placed the pencil on the end table and she then positioned herself so that she could see his face.

"What 'I'm a mad guy' thing?" he asked, not bothering to mask his irritation.

"Hmm...attitude. But since you're my cuz, I'll answer you anyway. You stormed in, mumbled something, ran to the kitchen and then you plopped in front of the tv. Typical things guys do when they're upset about something."

"I'm not what you'd call a typical guy," he mumbled, his eyes revealing how much saying the words hurt.

"I know you're not," she said softly. She playfully punched his arm, trying to get a reaction. When none came, she spoke again. "T-bird, tell me what's wrong."

"I told you not to call me T-bird. Besides, what's a T-bird anyway?" he asked, his forehead wrinkling into a frown.

"T-bird is a... Never mind what it is! Tell me what's wrong with you. Did you and Gina get into another fight?"

"What makes you say that?" he asked, suddenly self-conscious. There was no way Liz could know what had happened, he thought. He hoped.

"You guys are always going at it."

"No, we're not."

"Yeah, and I've got this bridge in Brooklyn..."

"Huh?" he asked, confused.

"It's a saying. Never mind. I'll explain it later. Now, will you please tell me what happened between you two this time? I'm dying to know. I've never seen you this pissed off."

"I'm not pissed off," he muttered, determined to be as disagreeable as possible.

Lizzie released a long sigh as she considered her cousin and what his body language told her. The set jaw, the clouded eyes and the mumbling voice told her one thing. He was angry. The constant attitude told her that he wanted her to drag it out of him. He'd better brace himself because she was about to start dragging.

"I messed up again today, Lizabeth," he said softly, unknowningly saving himself from her 'dragging.'

"What happened?" she asked, her voice quiet and caring. Her hand reached for his and she gave him a gentle squeeze to convince him to continue.

"Gina..." he began. He paused before he continued. The truth was he didn't know exactly what happened that made it wrong. He only knew that whatever it was, it upset Gina. He had upset Gina and he was angry at himself for it.

"What about Gina?"

"I keep hurting her, Liz. I don't mean to, but I keep doing it anyway. Why am I so stupid?" he asked, biting his lip.

"First of all, you're not stupid! You're one of the smartest people I know. Never forget that. Second, you gotta tell me what you did. I won't tell anyone. I promise."

Tommy closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the sofa. Maybe he could tell her if he couldn't see, he decided. But with his eyes closed, his mind automatically went back to the moment in Gina's office where he felt himself tingle all over just from holding her. He felt something else, too, but he wasn't quite sure what it meant or if it was right. He felt like he wanted to kiss her. He'd never felt that before, not even when he had that crush on Dawn. Not able to take the images any longer, he opened his eyes.

Lizzie was surprised by the sadness and confusion she saw in his eyes. She squeezed his hand and said, "Please, tell me. What happened?"

"The thing is, Lizabeth, I'm not sure. The other morning, when I stayed at her place, she had a nightmare. I woke her up and then I held her when she started crying. Something happened, but I can't explain it. Anyway, today, we had a fight. She stumbled and when I helped her, I felt it again. It felt... I felt it all over. I think she felt it too because she got goosebumps. Soon after, she pushed me away. I could see she was upset so I left," he finished sadly.

"So, you didn't talk about it?" she asked.

"Nah. She was hurting, Liz. I think it's because of what happened when we were held captive. She and Mama don't know that I know this, but the guards used to do stuff to them. Maybe she thinks I want to do the same thing." His voice broke as he ended the sentence and tears clouded his vision.

Lizzie gently brushed the tears from his face and said softly, "I know she doesn't think that. You would never hurt a woman like that."

"How do you know that? Gina thinks I cou-"

"No, she doesn't. I don't. You're not like that. It takes a nasty, filthy animal to use a woman and hurt her like she didn't matter. You're not an animal. Trust me, I know," she said, keeping her voice steady as the remembrance of a cold night in February came to her mind.

"How do you know?"

"Because I was raped, too. I know what Gina is going through. She's scared and confused now, but it's not your fault. She has to work through it. It may take some time, but believe me, she knows that you would never harm her. Never."

Tommy listened to her reassuring words with half of his attention. His mind kept hearing her quiet admission. He had no idea. "I'm so sorry. I wish you had told me. I can't believe-"

"I'm okay, now. I have good days and bad days, but for the most part, I'm fine."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"I don't know. I didn't want you to worry, I guess."

"Did it happen a long time ago?"

"Last winter."

"I'm sorry."

"Me too, but the important thing is, I didn't let it control me. I didn't let him control me. With the help of Sarah, Gram, Lucky, and Dr. Baldwin, I got better and stronger. Gina will, too. Be patient with her, okay? And remember, none of this is your fault. And your feelings for her aren't wrong. I just don't think she's ready for them. Give her some more time," Liz said with a gentle, reassuring smile.

"Okay. I will," Tommy said, rubbing the tears from his eyes. "Lizabeth?"


"Would it be okay if I gave you a hug?" he asked, unsure of what to do, just knowing that she could probably use the small offering of comfort as much as he could.

"It would be great," Lizzie said, opening her arms to him. As her arms wrapped around him and her eyes closed, she felt the sting of tears burn the back of her eyes and she was glad that she had the one of the sweetest guys in the world as her cousin.

Chapter 44