“Yeah, okay, you can come in,” I relented, “just give me a minute first.” I wasn't sure what it was exactly that she expected from me. I erred on the side of caution, wrapping a towel around my bottom half. If she felt like talking, it'd probably be easier if I wasn't flaunting my privates. I sat down on the bath stool and called her in.
“Right...” she slid open the door sheepishly, looking around like she was in an alien world. True to her word, she was wrapped tightly in a towel, no trace of her clothes in sight. She was more slender than I thought. Her legs were skinny and her shoulders narrow and delicate. “Could you please not stare?” she asked modestly.
“Sorry,” I looked away, facing the wall. “Can't be helped,” I cracked wise, “it's not every day that a girl is in the bathroom the same time as me.”
Ignoring the joke, Marisa moved closer to me taking slow, tepid steps. She squatted behind me. “I can't believe how long it's been since I've been in the bath with you.”
“Oh,” I gathered her meaning, “I take it as kids we bathed together.”
“Just one time,” she said, “I don't remember much, to be honest. Just that it was one time I stayed over while my parents were gone for a bit.”
“I'm not going to lie,” I said, “I don't remember that at all.”
“It's fine,“ she said, “I only remember because it was the first time I was apart from my folks.”
I felt soft touch of a wet sponge on my back. Marisa wasted no time in lathering me up. I still felt awkward with the whole situation. I couldn't see her face and so I couldn't even begin to guess what she was feeling. She didn't really say anything else either, making the silent scrubbing all the harder to endure.
“So, you do this kind of thing a lot?” I couldn't resist asking. What was I thinking? My brain was merciless in reminding me of my stupidity. It wasn't my fault, the silence was killing me.
“You're not my first, no,” she said quietly.
“Hm, I'm a bit jealous then,” I once again put my proverbial foot in my mouth.
“You shouldn't be. It would be unfair of you to compare yourself to my father.”
“Guess that's one of the perks of fatherhood,” I said, “having your daughter wash your back. Though it's the kind of thing that I'd rather have my wife do.” Things could escalate quickly in such a scenario. My lewd fantasies weren't really worth getting into detail at that moment. Not with only a single towel between my excitable bits and the world.
“You're doing a good job,” I told her, trying to make conversation. “But you shouldn't spoil me like this, you know. Otherwise I'll start expecting you to show up more frequently.”
“I wouldn't mind,” she said. “So long as it doesn't seem like I'm forcing my way into your life.”
“You're not,” I said. “And even if you were, I wouldn't mind it. It's ok for friends to be a little selfish at times. So if you ever want to just hang out, talk or even wash my back again, you're welcome to show up. Any and all hours, both night and day.”
Cool water dripped down my back as she rinsed off the lather. It seemed like she didn't have much else to say. I felt uncomfortable again.
We both spoke at the same time.
“Go ahead,” I encouraged her to speak.
“Well, I just wanted to say how sorry I am for worrying you. I didn't really come on over to fish for sympathy.”
“Not this again,” I sighed.”Friends look out for each other. If our roles were reversed, you'd do the same for me, right?”
“I guess,” she agreed reluctantly. I turned my head around to show her my smile. “Don't look!” she blurted out, leaning towards the other side of my back.
“I didn't expect you to be this embarrassed,” I joked, “I mean, you were the one who insisted on coming in. I'm sure you show off my skin at the beach.”
“Um... not it's, well... okay,” she didn't seem to be able to decide on what to say. “I just don't want you looking at me too closely right now, that's all. My face is probably still puffed up. Girls are sensitive about their looks, you know.”
“I really don't care about any of that,” I laughed. I turned around suddenly, hoping to catch her by surprise. I did. She scrambled back in a panic, ultimately pressing against the far wall with her back, her arms behind her.
“...” she stared down at the ground, as if that would somehow make her invisible to me. Though normally I would have been perfectly happy to stare at how the towel was snugly matching her natural contours, something else the focus of my attention. “You saw, right?” she asked.
“I can still see it,” I told her. It caused her to flinch. She tried to move her arms further behind her back. It'd be impossible for anyone to do that without dislocating them.
“I didn't want you to see, because I knew you'd worry,” she explained, standing still like a deer caught in the glare of headlights.
“Anyone would,” I said, “arms don't just bruise themselves.”
“I-it's complicated,” she defended herself weakly, “I don't expect you to understand.”
“Explain then, I'll try to understand.” I said.
“It's just... work and me being careless, that's all.” she said evasively, “it's not a big deal.”
“Somehow I don't see you hurting yourself waiting tables,” I said.
“I have another part time job...” she claimed. “It's where I have to go now, actually. I can't afford to be late. Or I'll get laid off. I should really get dressed now.”
I stood up and blocked the door. “Don't lie to me please, Marisa. I'm your friend. And I'm worried about you.” With inappropriate timing, my towel began to slip down my thighs. I held it up with one hand but couldn't help but feel that my appearance was undermining my perceived sincerity.
“I... can't tell you right now,” she said, a streak of stubbornness in her voice. She no longer attempted to hide her arms. I could see that it was mainly her forearm that had painful-looking discolorations but there were a few smaller bruises all the way up to her armpit. “I really have to go now,” she said again, looking skittish.
“I don't think you should. I think we need to sit down and have a proper talk.”
“I know how this might seem to you, but I'll hate you forever if you don't let me go right now!” she yelled out, desperation saturating her words. “When it's over,” she said, “next week... next Sunday I can tell you about it all. I promise I will. Just, not now. Please, I don't want to mess things up any further by being late.”
 Let her go. Marisa will tell the truth when she's ready.
 Even if she ends up hating me, I can't let her go.