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Clean

                “Ash, slow down!” Erica grabbed my shoulder and I just stopped. She stepped around so she’d be in front of me. I tried to look away, but she just cupped my cheek and pulled me back to her. I was trying so hard not to cry, so hard. I didn’t even know why I felt like crying, I just did. And Erica just sitting there, looking at me, I couldn’t hold it back any longer.

                I felt the first tear slip out and I whispered, “He was going to hurt you.” And then they just started falling faster and faster.

                She wrapped her arms around me and she slowly rubbed my back and I buried my face in her shoulder and just cried. “It’s okay.” She whispered, “It’s all over.”

                “I couldn’t let him hurt you.”

                “I know.” She whispered.

                “I…Erica, I…” I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t tell her I loved her…

                We just stood there for a while and she finally said, “Where are you going to go?”

                “I don’t know...probably Link’s place until I can find somewhere else.”

                She pulled away, but held my hand in hers. I was happy that I finally got to hold her hand somewhere other than my house. I was just happy I got to hold her hand. I felt anchored to the world. Everything just changed so fast, I felt like if Erica wasn’t there I would just fly off the earth.

                I picked up my garbage bag full of clothes and let her pull me to Link’s house. I watched her open the gate and walk up to the little guest house Link lived in. She knocked on the door and it took a few minutes for Link to open the door, he must have been sleeping or something. He walked up to the door in a pair of gym shorts and no shirt.

                “Hey ladies, I’m sorry I’m not decent. Unless you’re finding yourself attracted to me of course.” He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and seemed to really see us for the first time. “You okay? And what’s with the bag?”

                “I was at Ash’s place and her dad came home.” Link was gesturing for us to come inside, and Erica pulled me to the couch. She had an arm wrapped around me and kept looking at me with worried glances, like she was afraid I’d fly away too.

                “Shit, what happened?” Link knew that he must’ve walked in on something or we wouldn’t be here.

                “He tried to hurt Erica.” I looked down at my hands which were wringing themselves into knots. “I hit him.”

                “She left home. I don’t think she has to worry about him, but…she needs somewhere to stay.”

                “Just for a week or so, until I can find somewhere.” I mumbled.

                “No, you’re staying here until college. You have nowhere else to go. You’re not going back.” His voice was firm, and I truly believed he’d do anything in his power to keep me here.

                “I can’t.” I protested.

                “You will. We’re going to talk to my parents now about it. I’ll get dressed, leave your bag here, and Erica, you should probably stay here too. We’ll be back in a bit, alright?”

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