"Make it stop."
Three small words. But they ceased to be just words when the person who uttered them did so with such raw anguish that the recipient physically felt as though they had been stabbed in the heart. They were more than just a cry for help, they were a desperate plea that could have crumbled the hardest of stone walls.
"Please make it stop."
Rose fell to her knees beside Arthur and held him while he wept; while he begged for salvation from the devil in his head. But for Arthur Shelby there was no salvation because he was the devil inside his own head, and he knew it. So he did what he did best; drowned himself in whisky and snow, revelling in the high that made him feel above the stars in the sky, but then came the inevitable low and with it a wave of guilt and hurt that would kill a lesser man. A wave of guilt and hurt that Arthur prayed with all his being would kill him one of these days. But it never did.
"Rosie Posie," Arthur slurred, standing to his feet with a wobble. "My little Rosie Posie. What would I do without you, eh? You're the only one that makes it stop."
"If that were true, we wouldn't do this all the time would we?" Rose said sadly, leading Arthur to the sofa and sitting him down. The truth of the matter was that she had come to expect this at least a few nights a week. She often sat up, seeing no point in going to bed waiting for the squeak of the front garden gate and the haphazard footsteps up the path, followed by urgent rapping on the door.
"But it is true, Rosie," Arthur answered vehemently, his face full of concentration as his double vision struggled to focus on the face that he adored. It was the face of an angel or like a princess in one of those story books his mum used to read to Ada. The ones that had been a secret escape for an almost grown boy who had endured beating after beating, both physical and mental, from his old man and waited for the day he would meet his princess and take her away on his white steed. Only he was never destined to be Prince Charming and no matter how much he loved her, Rose was never meant to be his. "You don't understand. When you're with me, all the noise in my head stops. You make me better, Rosie, but I have to force myself to stay away from you otherwise I'll ruin you like I ruin everything."
"Arthur," Rose brushed his hair back from his face and kissed away the tear that trickled pathetically down his bleeding cheek. "You couldn't ruin me if you tried, Arthur Shelby. There's a good man inside of you and I'll help you always if you'll just let me."
"Can't," he squeezed his eyes shut and rasped. "I can't taint you, Rosie. I just can't no matter how much I want to. And you have no idea how much I want to throw aside the only shred of decency left in me and ruin you for good just to give myself a fighting chance at being normal again. Sometimes the temptation to come to you eats me up inside until I close my eyes and imagine your soft voice and your face that never judges, and just for a few moments I have peace. But as soon as it comes it goes again because there is no peace for me without you."
Rose swallowed the thick lump in her throat. Couldn't Arthur see that he had already tainted her? That he had left his mark on her heart from the first moment she had met him. She loved each side of him; both angel and devil. It might seem strange for someone to admit that they were in love with the horrible side of Arthur Shelby, but the truth was that there had to be dark if there was to be light. After all, only a weed could grow in the shade but a flower needed the sunlight as well to bloom. And that was how Rose viewed Arthur Shelby. He was like one of the flowers in her garden that needed nurturing; that needed the right habitat to grow and thrive in. She wanted to help Arthur thrive; to help him be the person that he deserved, to be the person that he so desperately wanted to be while helping him retain all of those things that were him.
"I'm here, Arthur," she took his hand and kissed it reverently. "I'll always be here and I promise that I will help you if you'll just let me."
He nodded but his eyes revealed the lie he was so desperately trying to hide.
"I mean it, Arthur," she murmured, putting her forehead against his. "I don't want to wake in the morning to find you gone, and then tomorrow night or the next night you'll be back here. I want to help you but you have to let me. You have to let me inside of you, Arthur; inside your head and your heart."
"I'm scared," he whispered and almost cried at the sight of the lost little boy in that weathered face.
"I know you are. But you don't have to be scared anymore because you've got me always."
Arthur took a shaky breath and nodded. This time when he felt into that drunken slumber, Rose felt a glimmer of something inside of her. Perhaps not hope but almost something close to it. She would fix Arthur Shelby or die trying.