“That’s one word for it,” I mutter. Glancing at her, I say, “I’m sorry. I feel a little nuts. I thought I was going to—”
She cuts me off. “I know. This job can be an emotional rollercoaster. Don’t worry though. It gets easier.”
I doubt it, although I say nothing. We arrive back at Miss Black’s. I step out of the limo. Before I can walk away, Miss Black says, “I’ll find you another client by next weekend. This won’t be for nothing. I promise. Come up and let’s get this squared away.”
I nod, and silently follow her upstairs. I’m paid an insane amount of money, in cash. It isn’t anywhere near what I thought I’d be getting, but it is enough to get me through a few weeks, as long as nothing else goes wrong. I take my money and shove it in my purse and head to my car.
After I spray the engine, it starts right up. I drive back to the dorm shivering, with wintry wind blasting my face. I considered sealing the window with duct tape, but that’ll look even more ghetto.
When I get inside the dorm, I bypass my room for the moment and go to find Mel. Her door is cracked. It’s a little after midnight. I wrap my knuckles on the wooden door and push it open. “Mel? You here?”
Her roommate, Asia, is sitting on her bed talking on the phone. She shakes her head at me, shaking that short shiny black hair. “One sec,” she says to the person on the phone. Raising her voice, Asia says to me, “Mel is working late tonight. She said she wouldn’t be in until after 2:00am.”
I nod. “Thanks.”
Flustered, I walk back to my room. If Amber barricaded the door, I’m going to kill her. I slip the key into the lock and twist. Surprisingly, the door opens. My shabby little room is empty. Thank God! As soon as I know that I’m alone, the tears come and they don’t stop until I pass out on my bed.
The next morning sucks. Amber and Dennis are arguing. I cover my head with a pillow, but it still doesn’t block them out. To top it off, she has the heat cranked up so high that I’m sweating. I get up and turn down the heater. Hiding under the blankets doesn’t work when the room is 150 degrees.
“Don’t touch that!” Amber snaps at me. “It’s freezing in here.”
“I’m melting, Amber. Leave it off for a while.” I sound reasonable, but she makes a face at me. As soon as I walk away, Amber turns the thing back on.
She turns her anger on me. “You’re such a bitch, Avery. You can’t do whatever you want, whenever you want. I live here too!” Amber is seething, like she’s justified. Dennis watches her, but his eyes flick to me when I explode.
I round on her, growling, with my hands balled into fists at my sides. “Are you f**king insane? I never get to do what I want! You’re here all the time, you lock the door, you block me out of my own goddamn room, you have sex on my bed when I’m not here, your boyfriends use my blankets to clean up after they stick their dick in your nasty self! If anyone’s a bitch, it’s you!” Amber is staring at me, her eyes becoming glossy like she’s going to cry. I don’t care. I so don’t care.
“You’re so mean, Avery,” Amber sobs and turns to Dennis, who holds her in his arms loosely.
Dennis listened to my little rant. It’s quiet for a second before he asks her, “What did she mean, boyfriends?” He emphasizes the plural part of the word. “I thought we were exclusive, Amber? Have you been f**king other guys?” He pulls her away and shouts in her face.
I’m so angry. I grab my clothes and run out the door. As it slams behind me, I hear Amber sobbing, saying nasty stuff about me, denying that she was with anyone else. I don’t know why he would care. Dennis screws any girl that lifts her skirt. Enraged, I walk down to Mel’s and knock. It’s still early.
The door creaks open and she looks at me with bleary eyes, “Awh, hell. You want me to go punch Tramperella in the face? Cuz I’ll be all over that piece of trash. You just say the word. I could hear you guys screaming from here.” Mel yawns the last part and glances down the hall. When I don’t answer, she blinks hard and pushes past me. “I’m gonna go all ninja on her white ass. You come on and watch.”
I grab Mel’s arm and stop her. “Maybe later.” Mel looks at me and then back down the hall. I coax her. “Let me use your shower and I’ll take you out for breakfast.”
Mel gives me a look that’s distinctly Mel. It’s all attitude. “I want chocolate chip pancakes, and not that shit the diner serves. Are we talking IHOP?”
I laugh. “Yeah, if that’s what it takes.”
Bribery is underrated. I think I could get Amber whacked if I bribed Mel with a stack of chocolate chip pancakes. She eats them, doused in strawberry syrup. The pancakes look like they’ve been shot.
“How can you eat that?” I ask. It’s so sweet. I have eggs and bacon. Well, I had bacon. Mel took that already.
“It’s freakin fantabulous. Everyone should eat this for breakfast. Every day. It’s the breakfast of champions.” She shovels another bunch of fluffy pancakes into her mouth. A bead of syrup runs from the corner of her mouth.
“That’s Wheaties. And you’re looking a little vampy, there.” I touch to corner of my mouth and tilt my head toward her and say, “You’ve got syrup. Or is that drool?”
Mel’s back stiffens as she wipes away the blot of red. She points a fork full of pancakes at me and says, “I do not drool. Not unless it’s a particularly hot guy. Then I might drool, a little.” She chews and takes a swig of milk, then asks, “So, how’d last night go? Are we still on Team V?”
I laugh. “You’re so stupid. Team V. Yeah, I’m still on Team V. Things got out of hand last night. Black showed up and pulled me away.”
Mel’s jaw drops and the fork freezes half way to her mouth. “No shit!” She leans in closer and lowers her voice, “What the hell happened?”
I tell her. As I retell the horrible events of last night, I push around the food on my plate. I don’t feel very hungry today. When I finish my story, I look up at her. Mel hasn’t taken a bite. I tell her, “Black said she’d match me to someone else. I got paid a little bit, enough to treat you and pay some bills, but not enough to be home-free the way I thought I’d be. I don’t know what to do.”
“You’re back to square one.”
I nod. “Yeah, I suppose so.”
“Why did Sean do that? It almost seems like he wanted to blow the whole arrangement.”
“He didn’t. He didn’t react well when I showed up. He left. I chased him. It’s not like he lured me outside to irritate Black. He seemed as surprised as I was when she showed up.”
“That boy is messed up.” She points her pancake at me before popping it into her mouth.
“We already knew that.” I sigh and lean my head on my hand. I poke my eggs and paint the yellow yolk across the white plate.
Mel watches me. “You seem out of it. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were falling for the guy. You’re all doe-eyed, making hearts in your food.”
“I am not,” I say, straightening up.
“Whatever,” Mel says, “I just call it like I see it. You’ve got that Bambi look on your face, like you’re swooning for Mr. Freakshow.”
I snort-laugh. “You’re so mental. That’s not it. I just don’t know if can do it again.”
“It’s just one guy, one time,” she reminds me.
I nod. “That’s what it was supposed to be this time.”
After breakfast, I head to the library to get caught up on school work. The building is huge and smells like dust and old paper. Once I get into the stacks, the lighting sucks. I navigate my way through the massive building until I find my little chair in the corner. It’s a good spot because no one ever comes back here. There’s a desk and chair against the wall at the end of one of the rows. I toss my book bag on it and pull out my work.
After a few hours pass, I’m leaning with my hand in my hair, staring at the cinderblock wall in front of me. I can’t concentrate. I have no idea what to do. I thought my financial problems were solved and that I could go back to studying. Sean was ideal bait, but then Black sent him packing. I don’t know if I can do it with someone else.
Memories flit through my mind and I can feel Sean’s hands on my skin. I wish Black hadn’t shown up. I wish things progressed further. I wonder what it would feel like to have my sweat-covered body slip over his, what he would feel like inside of me. My body warms at the thought.
I’m so out of it that I don’t hear Marty until he’s next to me. “Well, looky what we have here.”
I jump out of my skin when he speaks and twist in my chair. I had no idea he was there. Marty laughs at me. He’s wearing a pair of dark jeans with frayed patches on the thighs, coupled with a tee shirt and denim jacket. His blonde hair is spiked. He looks like an 80’s remnant.
I swat at Marty, meaning to slap his leg, but he dodges my hand. “You scared me to death!” I whisper yell at him.
He laughs and drops his backpack on the floor next to my desk, and then takes his extra tall body and leans against the wall. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he says, “Only people with something to hide get all skittish like that. What’d you do? Kiss a girl?” He winks at me and grins.
I cover my heart with my hand, willing it to resume a normal pace, but it ignores me. I don’t look at Marty when he speaks and he catches on. “So, you do have something to hide. Is it juicy?” I glance at him, thinking that direct eye contact will help, but the guy sees right through me. In a hushed voice, he squeals, “Oh my God! You have to tell me!” As Marty talks, he falls to his knees and scoots toward me, clutching his hands under his chin, like he’s begging.
I laugh it off. “There’s nothing to tell.” I squirm in my chair and go back to reading my textbook.
“You’re a bad liar.”
Sighing, I say, “I know,” and slump forward, planting my face in the book. “I can’t lie, but I can’t tell you.”
He grabs my shoulder and pulls me up. I look him in the face as he asks, excitedly, “Is this about the questions you asked the other day?” My face must answer for me, because Marty gets more excited. “Oh my God, you did something morally deplorable, didn’t you? What was it?”
When I don’t answer, he starts reasoning it out, which scares me to death. He ticks off his fingers, “Well, we both know it’s nothing to do with lying. So that leaves cheating,” he ticks off a second finger and pauses, looking at my slumped shoulders, and says, “Yeah, I can’t see that one either. You’re hardwired to not cheat. That leaves stealing, adultery—”
“Are you just going to list the seven deadly sins and hope I confess when you hit mine?”
He waves a finger in my face. “Ah ha! That means it was one of the big seven.”
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