“I’ll keep you safe.”
“You don’t understand,” Graciela choked out. She tried so hard not to cry in front of Leon, but watching her world crash down around her, she couldn’t reign in her emotions.
Leon rubbed her back soothingly. “I think I do. You’re afraid. You see things you don’t like. You want them to stop. You don’t know what to believe, and you’re confused.”
She looked up at him with tear stained cheeks. “How did you know?”
He smiled down at her, but she could tell that he was having just as hard a time keeping it together as her. “Gracie, we’ve been friends since we were kids. Do you remember when we were 13 and you called me at 2 in the morning to come over? You said you couldn’t sleep.”
Graciela nodded, a smile forming on her lips. “Both of our moms were so pissed. But you still came anyway. You were grounded for a week and I could only see you at school.”
He pushed some of her hair out of he face. “Yeah, and we ended up laying together in the same bed. Your brother teased us for weeks.”
Graciela was absentmindedly tracing the design on Leon’s jacket with her index finger. “Yeah and you totally weren’t embarrassed.”
“Why would I be?” Graciela looked up at him and the two locked eyes. “I’ll tell you what I told you that night. I’ll keep you safe. Always, that’s my promise. Even if I’m not here with you physically.”
“Do you have to leave again?” She whispered. “These last few years have been almost unbearable without you.”
“Almost?” He teased, trying to lighten the mood.
“I made some new friends,” She replied. “Otherwise I’d still be locked in my room right now.”
Leon felt a pang of jealousy hit him. He was her protector, and he was feeling slightly protective right now. “Me too. Her name is Angelica.” He didn’t know why he had to bring her up. Maybe he wanted to see Graciela’s face drop to remind him that she still cared about him. He hadn’t become an irrelevant face in her mind.
But she didn’t flinch. “Maybe we can all hang out one day.”
Leon’s grip around Graciela’s torso loosened as he uttered his half hearted agreement. Who was it that occupied her mind? “I’m really happy for you.” And he smiled, hoping she wouldn’t see through it. It had been a while since the two spent time like this together. Maybe he was returning to a world that had no room for him in it anymore.