Fighting Redemption
Author:Kate McCarthy

Morning light swirled inside Fin’s bedroom, highlighting the floating dust from another week of not getting housework done. She yawned and stretched noisily, trying to shove the image of Ryan from her mind.

 

Six years of nothing and the hurt was still a dull ache. What if something happened to him and she never saw him again? The ache throbbed a little harder at the thought. Fin never expected him to keep in regular contact, but the fact that he didn’t, hurt. Did he never think of her?

 

Ryan had been the first new friend she’d made after moving from Sydney when her dad was relocated for work. The image of him standing there holding out his hand when she’d stumbled on the steps at school was something she would never forget. The early morning sun swirling behind him had made his brown hair gleam. Thick, dark eyelashes surrounded eyes so deep in colour they appeared almost black. Her eyes fell to his hand. It looked warm and inviting—his skin a colour that always looked tanned no matter what the season.

 

Jake and Ryan had become fast friends, and Ryan was always staying over more often than not. So much that Mum and Dad even set up two beds in Jake’s room—one on either side. Between both sat two desks against the wall so they could study together. But Jake and Fin had never been to Ryan’s house. The invitation was never extended, and it wasn’t until she was fourteen that she realised why.

 

Late one night she’d left her room in just a singlet and panties, intent on getting a glass of water because she couldn’t sleep.

 

The bathroom door opened and Ryan stepped out, hair dripping wet, a towel slung casually around his lean hips.

 

Fin froze, her breath catching in her throat. He was already getting tall—his lean muscular frame slowly filling out after years of sport. Water dripped down his chest and over prominent bruises lining his shoulder.

 

“Fin,” he muttered.

 

She looked up, flushing when his eyes wandered down her legs, slowly trailing up her body and landing on her chest, and then she saw his face.

 

“Ryan.” A hand came to her mouth. “Your eye.”

 

It was bruised and swollen. A split in his brow was bleeding and looked like it needed stitches.

 

Turning, he averted his face.

 

“Go back to bed, Fin,” he mumbled and gave her his back.

 

Fin’s eyes fell to the fading yellow and purple marks over his shoulder blade, and her breath hitched in horror. His lean muscles bunched and flexed as he began walking down the hallway.

 

“Wait!” Fin called softly. Reaching out, she took hold of his arm before he could disappear into Jake’s room.

 

Ryan paused, half turning towards her. “What?”

 

His face was shadowed, but she could still see the pain in his eyes and his chest rising and falling a little more rapidly.

 

“Who did this?”

 

Ryan turned to face her, meeting her eyes. His jaw was tight, his face impassive. “It’s nothing.”

 

“It’s not nothing,” she replied. “Who hurt you?”

 

He chuckled, but it didn’t sound happy. “You should see the other guy.”

 

Fin frowned. “What other guy?”

 

Ryan shrugged his arm free. “It’s not a big deal, Fin, okay? Don’t make more of it than it is.”

 

“If it’s not a big deal then why won’t you tell me what happened?”

 

He sighed deeply and took hold of her hand, dragging her into her own room and shutting the door behind them.

 

Fin whirled around, suddenly breathless. Ryan was alone with her in her room and wearing nothing but a towel. She hoped it didn’t fall off. She wasn’t really prepared to see what was underneath. Fin and her friends had seen pictures, and she couldn’t lie, it was more than a little scary.

 

“This is not a good idea,” he mumbled under his breath.

 

Fin pointed towards her bed. “Sit down.”

 

“Fin—”

 

“Sit,” she commanded.

 

Shrugging as though it was no big deal, Ryan shuffled tiredly towards her bed. Turning around, he sat.

 

“Don’t move,” she added. Disappearing out the door, she returned with the first aid kit.

 

Ryan arched his brow. “Doctor Tanner, I presume?”

 

She giggled as she set the kit on the bed and flipped the lid. “Shush.”

 

Taking out a packet of butterfly tape, she peeled one open. Standing over him, she leaned down and stuck one edge down. Her stomach rolled a little as she held the small cut together and stuck down the other side.

 

Her face close to his, she whispered, “You should go to the doctor, Ryan.”

 

“Fin …” He breathed as she patted gently at the tape. He reached out, his hand circling her wrist, making her pause.

 

Her gaze dropped from his brow to his eyes. “What?”

 

Ryan caressed her skin, sliding his hand up her forearm until he cupped her face. The look in his eyes had her pulse racing. “Thank you.”

 

“For what?”

 

He leaned in a little and she held her breath. “For caring.”

 

It wasn’t until he let go and left the room that she realised he never told her what happened.

 

The following afternoon Fin stole into Jake’s room where he sat studying at his desk.

 

She crawled her way onto his bed and after bunching his pillow comfortably beneath her, she came straight out and asked, “What happened to Ryan yesterday?”