"Omigod! Omigod!" I yelled as I rushed to her. I was afraid to move her, so I touched her very lightly.

She continued to cry and her hands still covered her face. "I'm sorry," she sobbed. "This was all my fault."

I know that I babbled then, but I am not sure what I said. I can't remember if I asked her what happened or if she was all right or if I told her that it was my fault, not hers.

"I'll call an ambulance," I insisted, but she grabbed my wrist with a vice-like grip.

I gasped and stared in horror at what her hand had hidden. His punches had shattered her cheekbones and the rims around her eye sockets. If not for the clothes and her hair, I would not have recognized her as someone I knew.

"No. It will heal," she said through bubbles of blood. "It will heal before they could even get here."

I rushed by her and grabbed the damp washcloth from where I had left it on the night stand. I returned to her side and started to wipe away the blood.

She was crying too hard to talk, and when she could she just apologized.

I didn't know what to say. I couldn't tell her how much I hated Jack right then.

She apologized for Jack also, and the hurt fueled my anger. How could she defend him? There was no excusing what he had done.

Within a few minutes, her face had healed. She sat up and her tears slowed as I washed her with the blood-red cloth. I had to rinse it out twice and I had not even tried to soak up the puddle. She smiled softly at me and I could see that even the teeth she had swallowed had grown back.

"Jack is right," she said. "You and I could never be… I was a fool. I wanted it to be so much that I didn't even think about it."

She stood and walked past me. I tried to stop her. "No! He's wrong! There has to be a way!"

I followed her down the stairs, begging. I said everything I could think of, everything other than the one thing I wanted to say most of all: "I love you."

When she got to the street, she started to run. I ran after her, but suddenly she was on all fours and she sped out of sight.

I stood there for a while, cursing myself and trying to catch my breath.

I hurried back toward the apartment to get my car keys. A hand grabbed my shoulder as I tried to mount the stairs, stopping me in my tracks. "Hold it right there, mister."

"No. He live upstair," Mrs. Chin told the policeman. "Boy and girl fight."

She must have been very upset. The only time I ever heard her speak with broken English was when she was frustrated with her kids.

I led the police reluctantly upstairs. I told them that Carla was a homeless girl who had given me a sob story and I had allowed to sleep on my couch. They stared at the blood on my hands, the splatter on the walls, the puddle in the doorway.

I could feel them wondering if she had been a prostitute or if I had 'taken advantage' of her. I could see the trouble brewing, but it was a simple task to dangle a few thoughts for their minds to grasp. I didn't try to take away their suspicions. I just convinced them that it had been a humanitarian thing to do.

I wiped up the puddle of blood with the washcloth. I said that her brother had visited and that I had given them some space so they could talk. I said that he must have punched her because her nose was bleeding when I got back.

They started to imagine Jack as her pimp and wondered why there had been so much blood.

I didn't have time for any of this crap. If I was ever going to get her back, I had to go after her now. The police were only making this harder than it had to be.

I could feel reality start to tear inside of me, but I didn't care. I gave them whatever thoughts I hoped would make them happy.

They didn't rob me.

I didn't know where Carla or Jack had gone.

I didn't expect I'd ever see them again.

It didn't get as ugly as they imagined.

I hadn't done anything wrong.

I couldn't help them any more.

I couldn't give them a good description of either.

I promised to call them if I ever saw Carla or Jack again, and I told them that I would try to talk her into pressing charges if I ever got the chance. When they eventually left, I didn't feel any suspicion left in their mind.

Their questioning had taken a lot out of me, but I knew where I had to go. I got in my car and drove.

They did not follow.