Arrick glanced down at his phone lighting up in the center console of his car and sighed as Sophie's name flashed on screen. That air of irritation and anxiety mingling together and pushing solidly to the surface. He was running late as it was, which he hated like crazy, but he knew for a fact that whatever she wanted he would give in to. Sophie just had a way of getting under his skin, even when she was being as infuriating as in the past months, and try as he might, he had no willpower when it came to her. Hitting his dash, that connected to his phone, her voice rang around the interior of the car as soon as he pressed it.
“Arrick … Arry? Are you there?” She was slurring badly, most likely way too drunk again, and he couldn’t do anything but sigh and reel in the urge to be mad at her, picturing her in his mind’s eye and getting stressed. He hated knowing she was out there in that state; calling him meant she was probably alone and those sad act, so-called friends of hers, had yet again ditched her. His temper rose internally, heart rate rising, and muscles started to tense.
“Yes, Sophs, I’m here. Where are you this time?” He knew why she was calling, she needed picking up again and as he checked his dash for the time, he cursed quietly.
Natasha would be waiting for him, it was another ten minutes to her apartment, and he could guarantee Sophie would be in the opposite direction, back in the city. Once again, he would have to choose between his girlfriend and Sophie, and they all knew he would always go where she needed him, without hesitation.
Lately, Natasha and he had argued way more about how much time he spent running after Sophie, but he couldn’t help it. He felt responsible for her, after years of being the one person she turned to, he cared about her so damned much that the thought of her being drunk and vulnerable out there somewhere, was making him sweat. Sophie was a weakness, one that he had never truly understood. Putting it down to years of seeing her vulnerable and in need of being taken care of, and him being a protective person who cared a little too much about what happened to her. She was the closest thing he had to a sister, and he always figured that’s what this was.
“I’m at Randy’s club alone, Arry … I lost everyone and I can’t find my bag.” She sounded so young and vulnerable, sucker punching him in the gut, winding him around her little finger effortlessly. All it took was a tearful tone and he could picture those Bambi eyes, all huge and soft blue like a wounded kitten, and that perfectly pouted mouth trembling, ready to cry. He gritted his teeth as the stab of anxiety hit him hard. Sophie was young and beautiful, a little too beautiful if he was being honest, and a prime target for assholes and creeps who tended to seek her out. She just attracted trouble without even trying.
Randy’s club was a twenty-minute drive back, if he picked Natasha up first there would be a catfight in here for sure. Despite the numerous times he had them together, neither seemed to warm to the other. He also didn’t like the thought of leaving Sophie in that god-awful place longer than he had to and picking Tash up first would do just that. He had no energy for another ‘Tasha-Sophs’ scene and was already U-turning his car in the street, back to her without hesitation. His hands already making the choice even when he’d still been mulling it over.
Natasha would understand, she would moan at first and get upset, but ultimately, she had to accept that Sophie would always be a part of his life, and he would never stop taking care of her. She was his best friend; someone he had spent six years being a rock for when she had faced reliving the trauma of her own childhood at the hands of an abusive parent.
Sophie was a part of him, a bond formed over years of helping her find her feet in her new life in her new adoptive family’s home, and in a safe environment. They had clicked, somewhere between looking at him like she didn’t trust him and wanting him to fall into a crater, and the first time she allowed him to buy her a milkshake without acting like she wanted to punch him in the balls.
“I’m on my way, Sophs, go back in the club and stay there until I come get you.” He sounded pissed, hell, he was pissed, even if he was trying not to show it. She was getting too damned frequent with these situations she put herself in, and she no longer even listened to him, or to reason anymore. It just made him sick to his stomach to think how many close calls or dumb situations she’d gotten herself into that she didn’t call him for.
Turning nineteen last year had somehow seemed to flick a switch in her head that she should live wild and party like Leila, her sister, used to do. It was simpler when she was just a kid, hanging out and easy to guide, being happy to just chill and watch a movie, rather than go out getting drunk and laid. And that part was something he just didn’t allow himself to think about at all; Sophie and sex were two topics he never wanted to link in any way, shape or form, and he sure as hell didn’t want to meet any of the assholes she dated.
It was a hell of a lot easier when she was a big-eyed fifteen-year-old who followed him around obediently and looked up to him for advice, hanging on his every word. He missed that girl like crazy; he often thought about her and longed for the days when the two of them used to be able to just chill, sofa surf and share junk food, with that easy effortless quality time together.
Natasha wasn’t one for any of that; she hated most of the stuff that Sophie and he loved, and the fact she didn’t see what he did in her made things more strained. There was no common ground between the two women.
He knew he wasn’t around as much for Sophie as he had been in the past because of it, and lately, all he did was pick her up from bars and clubs and take her home to recover when she was a mess. They barely talked about anything at all when he saw her.
He was too old for this shit now. He was turning twenty-six in a few months, and the last thing he needed anymore was all this drama, every week of his life with her. He missed the Sophie who used to be happy to go out with him, go away together or just hang out doing normal stuff, like jet skiing, playing Xbox, snowboarding, watching foreign cartoons and vegetating, or any of the other pastimes they had shared in the past few years. He missed the small things, before she started dating assholes, and living on the edge of wild. He just missed her, endlessly.
What he wouldn’t give for a sober call, and that sweet voice on the other end just asking him how his day was, instead of crying for another rescue. He had no clue how they had even got here.
“Are you mad at me?” Her crestfallen tone and the start of tears made him instantly guilty, that ache in his stomach and pang in his chest. Sophie wasn’t much of a crier unless she thought Arrick was pissed at her and he never understood why she fell to pieces when he was mad. She sure as hell didn’t give a shit if any of her adoptive family got pissed at her, especially not her sister or Mom, whom she had been closest to. To his recollection, she didn’t really get upset when her own friends did, but then Sophie had found keeping friends outside of the family hard, especially with her past and all the demons it held. She didn’t really trust people enough to form real bonds, so he knew how important it was that he stayed in her life, even when she was behaving like a train wreck on a path to destruction. Not that he had a choice; life had a way of feeling empty when he didn’t hear from her for weeks, and thankfully he had only endured that a couple of times.
“No, Mimmo, I’m not mad, Sophie. Go inside, stay warm and wait for me.” He tried to soften his tone, soothing her drunken ruffled feathers gently, in a bid to coerce her to do as he wanted. When she was like this, she was an overgrown child he needed to manage carefully; that internal spitfire of hers ready to overreact and bite, even if it only hurt herself.
Sophie was someone who was easily pushed into the defensive, closing up and lashing out at those who mattered, when trying to protect herself, and being drunk escalated it tenfold. She had always been that way and very few had his skill at knowing how to handle her. Too stubborn to think logically or realize she was cutting off her nose to spite her face sometimes.
He upped his speed, putting his new car through its paces to get to her a little quicker as the tension in his body escalated. It was late, almost ten p.m. and the city was aglow with the usual never-ending illumination of New York, as his sleek steel gray Mercedes slid through the night effortlessly. He was biting his lip as his eyes roamed the traffic impatiently, checking his mirrors as he shifted in his seat.
She always made him feel anxious when she was like this, so many scenarios running through his head of what could happen to her, and his inner body twisting the tango of uptight anxiety. Sophie was naive at the best of times, but drunk, she was completely oblivious to danger, considering her past, and seemed to have a knack for attracting it.
“I’m sorry … Arry?” She started to sob, and he just felt worse. He hadn’t even yelled at her this time, so he had no idea why she was crying. He had stopped yelling at her months ago when he realized it no longer had any effect on her behavior, and he hated Sophie crying; it made him feel like a shitty human being when those hurt doe eyes hit him, right in the stomach.
He had seen enough of her tears over the years in connection to what her sick perverted father had done to her and that’s all he saw now. That vulnerable broken face, racked with scars and pain from a childhood that could have destroyed her. Arrick stiffened as that stab of rage spiked inside like a fiery hot spear.
Whenever he thought of that asshole he wanted to kill him; the fact he could take someone as innocent and sweet as her and ruthlessly abuse her for years made him want to rip the guy’s spine out and ram it down his throat. He was fiercely protective of her, knowing everything he knew, being there for every therapy appointment and tearful outpouring when she needed to talk.