She wanted to block his number. She really, really did. She stared at her phone, a little past 11, waiting for it to ring again. Every time he stopped calling her heart seized. She wasn't sure if she was afraid of his calls, or if she was afraid that he'd give up. Which was worse? The knot in her stomach couldn't tell her.

She stood up, pacing the small bedroom. Karen had gotten home around seven, and she'd been gracious, warm, and welcoming. Maddie had disappeared to the bedroom around eight to give them some privacy, and she'd been in here for three hours now, doing homework and watching as Doug called...again and again.

She had given in and muted her ringer for a while, but now that her homework was over, she was just sitting there, staring at her phone every time it rang. Sometimes it was five calls back to back. Then there would be a ten minute break before another call, and then maybe even half an hour. She wondered what this pattern meant. She was pretty sure he'd had work, but she wasn't sure if he'd take off work because she'd left. He'd given up on texting-for now, but she was sure that that would restart soon.

He'd mainly just texted her variations of where are you, no pictures, no pleading for her to come back.

Just anger.

That was the main reason why she hadn't given in to his calls yet. She was waiting for him to repent, to say he was sorry.

She slipped from her bedroom, and grabbed a water bottle from the fridge before quickly going back to the bedroom. Her phone was ringing, but to her surprise, it was from her friend Kailey. She had a moment of unease, wondering why Kailey was calling-FaceTiming actually, but she hit the green button.

And there was Kailey, blonde and pretty, looking tipsy. "Mads, you have to cut Doug a break," she slurred. "The man's been calling you all night." She panned the camera, showing a full table at some sort of sports bar. All of her and Doug's mutual friends were there; talking, laughing. Then Kailey panned back to herself, and Doug was there. He was taking the phone.

"Let me talk to my girl," he slurred, and Maddie's heart seized. "I'll be right back."

She watched as he obviously stood up, wanting to hang up, but feeling frozen. Doug had left the table behind, and it was a little quieter; a little easier to hear. "Where the fuck are you, Maddie?" He snapped, as soon as he was away from the group. "I called everyone to make sure that nobody was hiding you away behind my back and no one could tell me. You've humiliated me."

She hung up before he could finish speaking. She didn't know what to say, but she went through the faces she'd seen with him: Kailey, Marie, Ben, Jacob…

She blocked the four numbers. If Doug wanted to call her, that was one thing, but she wasn't going to indulge this crap of him using other people to get to her. She was suddenly grateful that she'd never mentioned Hen to him.

She was lying on the futon, about an hour later, and the light from the streetlights flooded her room since there were no curtains. She was contemplating silencing her phone again, and just sleeping (or trying to) when her phone rang again.

But it was Howie.

She picked up, curious. "Hi," she said softly, definitely not wanting to wake anyone up.

"I'm sorry it's so late," he said. "I had a really long meeting with Nash and I've basically been grading papers since his night class let out. I meant to text, but I didn't want to push things."

"I'm sorry," she immediately apologized. "I never wanted to get you in trouble."

"You didn't," he said. "I just wanted to check in, and see how you are."

"I'm fine," she said, automatically.

He laughed into the phone, and she felt a stirring in her stomach, something that felt dangerously close to butterflies. "Want to try that again?" He asked. "This can't be a good night for you, and you don't need to front with me."

"I don't know," Maddie said slowly. "Doug's been calling. Hen wanted me to block him but I just...couldn't. I picked up when a friend FaceTimed but then I realized Doug was with her, so that was a short call."

"I'm sorry," he said. "I...Is the friend group going to side with Doug?"

She didn't like that question, she didn't like what it implied at all. "There are no sides," she said. "Doug and I aren't...fighting."

"So then what do you think he told them?" Howie asked. "Do you really think he didn't spread lies about this whole situation to them to make sure they believe him and not you?"

She didn't know how to answer that, but she didn't like the feeling she had now. Unease. Would Doug really lie about her? Obviously he wouldn't tell one hundred percent of the truth when it made him look like…

She swallowed. Not when it made him look like an abuser.

"Maddie? You still there?"

"Have a good night, Howie," she said, and hung up the phone, a numb feeling in her stomach. She felt her phone buzz, and looked down. Howie had texted her.

I didn't mean to put you on the spot like that, I'm sorry.

She didn't reply. She didn't have the words.

She lay down, put her phone on Do Not Disturb, and covered her face with a pillow...and then she cried herself to sleep.

"Getting through the first night without going back has to be huge, right?" Howie asked Hen very early the next day, having texted as soon as he woke up, and called her as soon as she replied to his text.

"It's pretty big, but there are a lot of other nights ahead of her," Hen yawned. "Howie, you can't be doing this because you have feelings for her."

"I'm not," he insisted. "You know that I'm not."

"That's not what I meant, I know you'd do this for anyone," Hen began. "But you cannot let yourself fall in love with her right now."

"I can't make any promises like that," Howie said. "But I can and do promise that I'm not approaching her about anything. Me putting any sort of pressure on her is the last thing she needs."

"You're damn right about that," Hen said. "Why don't you go out with Tatiana again? She said you two hit it off."

Howie felt like a button had been pushed on in his brain. He had almost literally forgotten about Tatiana's existence until Hen had mentioned her name. "I don't know, I might have fucked it up," he began.

"She literally texted last night, saying that she'd say yes if you asked her out again," Hen said. "That's not exactly what her text said, but you get the picture."

"Yeah," Howie said, but he wanted to bring back the conversation to Maddie without being obvious. "Um."

"I know you just want to ask about Maddie again," Hen said. "So just spit it out."

"She originally said that because of Doug she couldn't attend class today," Howie said. "I don't know if that changed."

"Let me ask her, actually," Hen said, and there was more than a few moments of silence. Finally, her voice came over the line again. "She's going to sit it out since she already emailed that she'd be absent and she doesn't want to make anyone suspicious."

He sighed. She had so much anxiety. Nash literally wouldn't notice if she showed up after emailing about a probable absence, and none of the students knew.

"Okay," he said. "I guess I'll call back later or something."

"I meant what I said," Hen warned. "I know you're just being your helpful, lovable self, but do not do this, Howie Han."

"Have a good day to you too, Hen," he said, and hung up.

He knew that she was right. Maddie was in a fragile place right now, and the last thing he'd ever do in this situation was try to hit on her. But he also knew that his crush-that-was-more-than-just-a-crush to begin with was already deepening into something more.

He was screwed.

A/N: This chapter doesn't hit my word count but it's where the chapter just ... stopped so yea ~Meowser