Fever Season

By Kaley Jarstad

Young adult, New adult fiction

Paperback, eBook

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16 mins


Chapter 1
A Fall and an Opener

The story I’m about you tell you is mostly a lie.

It’s a little past eleven and people are still trickling in. It’s hot and everyone looks at each new guest like maybe they could be willed back around.
The air conditioning unit busted half an hour ago. The fans were brought out quick and did little; a whip of bladed teeth making small kicks in the air.
The room is crammed with people; bodies I can only place in the most accessory way.
A girl from homeroom. The twins from gym. Someone’s twenty-four-year-old brother who’s still a staple in the high school scene.
The girl next to me is throwing up into flower pots. There are two pots and she’s alternating between them.
If I were someone better, I would offer to hold her hair back or help her find a bathroom.
As it stands, I am not better and her vomit trajectory is random.
Jelly-eyed, she meets my gaze. “Want me to get a friend?” I finally ask.
“No.” She wipes her mouth on the back of her sleeve. “I’m going outside.” She says and starts puking again.
I nod and study my coke politely. I look at my hands. I throw unaimed glances around the room, hoping to catch something.

Gag. Gag. Gag. Behind me, the assonance of alcohol poisoning fills the room like a trap beat. I’m ready to leave. Social grandeur is a slow burn and I’m a sympathy puker.
I’m grabbing my coat when a figure catches in my line of sight.
“Aspen! Hey. You came!” Connor calls out, bounding over. “You said you weren’t going to make it?”
“Changed my mind.”
He smiles. “Well, I’m glad you did.”
His mouth folds to one of his cheeks like a salute, “‘Course.”
“I am too.”
He smiles wider and crookeder, waiting. There’s a pause in tempo where the beats hang thick and caught.
I look pleasantly around the room. I re-part my hair with a finger. I hear the buzz of the refrigerator spooned under happy, laughing sounds.
I scan, scan, scan. There is nothing in the room that is going to help me.
I smile harder and try to think up something to say.
I am nervous and boring. The only colloquials coming to mind involve the weather or foreign policy.
I don’t say either. But he’s about to say something polite and walk away.
“Having fun?” He asks over the hard, thumping music.
“I knew you would.” He grins, slurring his words and looking at me with a glimmer of antagonism.
“You called it.” I say, half-suspicious.
“I always call it.” He says, sweat running off his eyebrows.
“Yeah. I have that-what’s it called?”
“Yeah. Foresight. That might be the word.” He nods, “To tell you the truth I wasn’t having much fun until I saw you.” He grins at me in that dodgy way he can mostly pull off. Sleaziness offset by slices of cheekbone and rose-blush skin; Botticelli meets drunk co-ed.
I smile back just as wide. “Love me. Love me.” It reads like a shrine to everything that can’t.
I adjust a bra strap.
“Where’s Kylie?” He asks.
“She has a cold.”
“Wow.” An eyebrow lifts in surprise, “I guess you might have to talk to other people tonight.”
“Is that what that means?”
“Well I said might.”
“I talk to lots of people.”
“I know. I know. Have you seen Olivia?”
“No.” There’s an irony here in retrospect, but it’s banal and I won’t acknowledge it.
“Never mind. It was a stupid question.”
I pause. “I haven’t seen her. I’m sure she’s around.”
“Yeah, I’m sure she is.” He yawns. Two long fingers graze my arm and I shiver. Goosebumps sprout up and down like a smattering of freckles; dotted frequencies barring perhaps the most bankable skin in all of history.
He steps in, standing so close I have look up to see him. Beer hangs in his eyes, and this strikes me as fairly romantic.
Lust and alcohol hang the same way but I don’t recognize this yet.
I smile and nod to no posed question so that I have a movement to make. I infuse as much sex as I can into this movement. The movement is dripping by the time I’m done with it.
He pulls his hand back. “I’ll see you later, yeah?” He says and heads for the keg.
“Yeah, ok.” I say, wondering if Romeo ever ditched Juliet for lukewarm beer.
I’m guessing not. But Romeo probably doesn’t wear basketball shorts or go to keggers, either.

Which is the tedious way of saying I’m always Rosaline. Except I won’t survive the play. Not as I am anyway.

I return to the ice chests unslaked and sour. The music's too loud, bass hunched and trembling over the beats like an animal pinned.
The room is too hot. My coke shimmers in my hands; lines and lines of sweat pearling around the bottom rim like moat. I put my soda down. I palm the water from one hand to the other; settle on the right. Ring it out with a clench of fists; pretend to text someone. Think about leaving. Get another coke.
Leaving comes up again, but I am sitting on a box of free beer; drawn-on jawline and shining, half-applied desperation about me. Tortilla chips and one friend, I can meet the occasion.

In the reruns, this is where I walk away. Go home, eat too much. Do something like google the calories in liquid Benadryl.
A blonde girl is sitting on the couch adjacent to me, staring intently at something on her phone. I spend about eight minutes trying to make eye contact, but she never looks up. At the ten-minute mark, I abandon our theoretical friendship.
I leave my post and walk towards the main congregation of people, honing in on a girl in denim cutoffs and Cal-State sweatshirt. “Hey. I really like your hair.”
“Thanks.” She says, padding the mass of bobby pins and barrettes. “I like your shoes! Dance with me?” She asks, now that we’ve established our provisional friendship.
She grabs my hand and pulls me towards a makeshift dance floor. She smells like salt and mango liquor and I wonder why I’ve never tried to talk to her before.
There are more than two dozen sweaty bodies, wriggling around with various degrees of vigorousity to an EDM hit. I put my hands up, kind of swaying.
“There you go!” Barrette girl giggles and shakes her head. The light winks hard off her hair. I try to decide whether or not she’s mocking me.
I smile because in the end I can’t tell.
“Aren’t you friends with Connor Perkins?” She asks.
I tell her I’m not.
“Really? ‘Cause I could have sworn…”
“Nope. Wrong person.” I smile to smooth over the moment and then get a little more aggressive with my swaying.
“I’m getting another beer. You want one?” She asks.
I nod then stop to take in my surroundings. The house is a huge, modern composite of angles and glass, jutting bizarrely through the treeline. Olivia’s dad is a pretty successful architect; this house is his foray into the avant-garde.
It’s nice, maybe the nicest home I’ve ever been in, but it lacks the decrepit charm of the rest of the neighborhood. Cedar Hill is poor. Poor enough to house a large population of drug addicts, here for the mountain air and cheap rent. So, McMansions could be seen as an inroad to the ostentatious.
At least that’s what my mother says after a bottle of Smirnoff. I tried to tell her that a two-bedroom condo could look pretty fancy next to the crack-shack, but the conversation quickly deteriorated into one of her stories about my dad’s new wife and her passing resemblance to Steve Buscemi.
Tonight, however, the house feels different. There’s a pause to it, like all sorts of things could happen if you just let them. Not necessarily good things, but you’d still like to see.

Barrette girl comes back with my beer. I thank her and gulp it down in a couple nervous swigs.
She laughs. “Want to do shots?”
I nod gamely and pretty soon Absolut is burning the back of my throat like some kind of high school communion.
About five shots in everything is grainy soft and a pop song is coming on that I know the words to. Or maybe I don’t.
Either way, I’m shouting the chorus and letting some guy run his hands along my waist. “You’re pretty.” He beams at his compliment delivery and pulls me closer.
I smile quick and drink from his bottle. Barrette girl has disappeared.
“I think there’s more liquor in the kitchen.” The guy says.
I nod my encouragement, but I don’t follow.
I dance hard instead, go swerving around the room. I am having fun. Someone next to me has another bottle and they let me have a lot of it.
I feel hazy and attractive. I am lapping myself around the room.
Everything is soft. I am thinking soft and edgeless thoughts.
I am thinking about the field by my house in which there are a ridiculous number of rabbits.
I am thinking about how I’d be a really good sister if I had any siblings.
I am thinking that I like these people a lot.
The guy comes back with fireball. I don’t like fireball much but I manage a few shots. “You drink like my uncle.” He says and I can’t tell how he means it. I don’t know what his uncle drinks like.
“Want to get some air?” He pants when I don’t respond. Something hangs behind his eyes like expectation. I think it is expectation.
“Sure.” I say, enjoying being the object of somebody’s expectation.
I follow him through the glass doors and out past the pool, pulling my coat tight around me.
The night is balmy but for some reason I’m shivering. “Should we go back in?” I ask after a minute.
There’s a hot, chlorine smell coming off the pool and it’s drowning out all the other smells. “I think we should go back in.”
He smiles. And then so fast I almost think I imagined them as separation motions, his hand is curled around my shoulders and his tongue is forcing its way into my mouth.
His hands clam at my neck as his tongue slinks predatory to the back of my throat. I stand for a long time. Attraction and repulsion are gently cleaved.
He smiles into my mouth. He swallows hard. In climbing crescendo, his hands move from my shoulders, to my back, to my butt.
“No.” I push back stuttering. “Sorry. I just can’t…”
“What’s wrong?” He asks.
“I’m not feeling it. I’m sorry.”
“What the fuck was all that then?”
“Sorry. I’m a little drunk.” I shrug and laugh.
“Your loss.” He mutters, “Plenty of other girls here.”
He rights himself and staggers back inside. I can’t help but feel a little pang of sympathy for his next target. But not enough to take one for the team.
I turn for the deck, debating a capitulation to reality TV and red vines. The air is thick with water. I look off a little way to gauge the sky, thinking it might rain. Thinking it absolutely will.
The porch lamp lights up more than you’d think it would, bleeding sepia all over trees. There are red ants in the dirt about to be flooded. There is movement at the corner of my eye.
I squint. Someone’s crouching by the tree line; body turned in on itself in a way that tugs at my curiosity.
I adjust my coat and walk quietly towards the figure, moving with surprising dexterity across the afghan of dirt and pine needles.
Maybe it’s residual stealth from years spent eavesdropping on my parents.
More likely I am drunk and not quiet.

The sky opens wide and skips the sprinkling; starts pouring down with the overcompensation of a summer storm.
I scuttle closer, shielding twenty-five minutes of makeup with my hands. I don’t know why it’s important for me to see this person. I don’t know why I don’t go back inside.

I guess I want them to be looked for.
This is stupid; I don’t know them. My looking is impersonal straight out the gate.

The figure is a girl. Abseil of blanched moonlight and the dark unswallows her.
She’s got almost black hair and a red skirt. Her back is to me and I can hear the contrails of a conversation. “Just stop. I mean it-” The girl says to her phone. “Don’t!”
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t come here.” She pauses and then says something too quiet to make out.
I inch a step closer and my shoe squelches. The girl turns, thumbing her phone screen to end the
She’s got mascara all over her face and it looks like she’s at the tail end of a cry. “Olivia?” I ask, surprised.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” She mumbles, wiping her nose with the sleeve of her dress.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” She says and pretends to smile at me.
I nod. Even sneering, her prettiness is of the obvious variety.
Wide dark eyes, a heart face; as easily accessible as a maiden in a children’s book.
“Look. I know we’re not really friends but if you need to talk…”
“What would we talk about?” She asks, narrowing her eyes into tiny forward slashes.
Even now; a strung-out kind of beautiful, swept with that dusty, golden quality that carves the pretty girls from the special ones.
“I don’t know. Anything I guess.”
The weather.
Why Connor will never love me as much as he loves you.
Just some vernaculars to consider.
She makes a coughing sound in the back of her throat, turns her eyes on me like headlights. “Look. I know your intentions are probably so pure, but could you just go away?”
“What?” I ask, startled. I’ve got a hot, fuzzy mind and a soft lens for everything. Any deviation is hard to file.
“Fuck. Off. Please.” She says softly.
I nod. I am trying to realize things can be soft but also mean.
I haven’t quite realized this, but I am trying.
“Go away.’ She says and I try to know that rejection doesn’t always mean try harder. Rejection is not a call to action. “I want you to break through my walls and comfort me,” she’s not really saying.
She’s saying “Go away.”
“Bye.” She adds, which feels a little unnecessary at this point.
“Okay.” I nod. I’m going to walk away.
I think about it hard, the actions it would take to move. They feel like a lot. Like I was coasting and now I got to turn around and go back up the hill.
“Okay?” She repeats, lilting the word up like she’s asking something; glaring under the question with a hard, black squint.
I nod, nod, nod, deer eyes, mid-balk; probably about to start crying, (but still standing here due to the hill).
Nothing between us has ever been openly hostile. It’s this subtextual thing, always. A base work violence that’s almost completely gestural by this point.
Or at least that’s what I thought. Clearly the hatchet has been resurrected.
“So-” She says, briskly, like it’s the last ten minutes of the show and she’s asked me to pick which door the money is behind. That doesn’t make sense, really, but that’s how she says it.
“Yeah, I’m gone.” I say, equally animated.
“Good.” She says.
She’s killing my buzz. If she recognized that I am a great person and friend, maybe that would restore it.
“Is this ‘leaving’ happening anytime soon?”
“Connor’s looking for you.” I spit out, turning for the deck. I’m disappointed. This was supposed to be my chance to be the bigger person. I’d apologize and then she would, and we’d bond.
Yes, my mom dated her dad. Slightly incestuous, sure, but also three years ago. And yeah, she was awful to me after they broke up, but that was mostly three years ago too.
“Oh, well I better hop to it then. God forbid he doesn’t see me for five minutes.” She hisses, voice so caustic that I fall back a little.
“I don’t think he was super worried…” I say, taking another step. I want to run for the deck, but I’m a little afraid she’ll chase me.
“Excuse me?”
“I said I’m sure he’s fine.”
“Great.” Her eyes are black, all pupil. There’s something carnivorous there, dead-quiet on its haunches.
Waiting for me to start limping.
“Not that you aren’t an absolute pleasure-” (Bravo to disguise the limping).
“Why are you still talking?”
“Well,” I say, “Well, well, well.” I want to have this conversation correctly but I can’t think of how to do it. “Well.” I say, to buy more time.
No more time is bought. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” She asks.
“Swear to god say ‘well’ one more time…”
“Ok.” I say, looking around. I have words; obviously I have other words, but my insides are having a hard time being insides right now.
Instead they’re choosing to be to be other things: water, jello, a variety of soft-serve products.
It’s like I can see the tops of what I’m meant to say only; I know it would sound really good if I could just scroll down a little. But I can’t scroll down.
There’s a whole lot of trying going on and none of its yielding anything good.
“Hello?” Her hands are waving near my face, “How wasted are you?”
“Bitch.” I mutter because name-calling has always been a good de-escalation tactic.
“Excuse me?” This is a snarled.
Head cocked, teeth bared; she’s not really so pretty. This gets me my buzz back a little.
“Excuse me?” She says again, a lot louder.
I am feeling good. I am feeling dangerous. I tell her it was nice catching up, but I’d rather not do it again.
I don’t deliver this well. My breath comes beaten and choppy.
She still interprets this with all its intended sarcasm, and for a second I am grateful.
“You’re such a fucking loser.” She hops from one foot to another and then back again. “Frigid little bitch, trying to dole out relationship advice.”
"Get out of my face." I either shout this or I hiss it. I can’t judge volume right now.
The laughing that follows is manic, manic, manic. Staccato of nothing. For about twenty-five seconds, all she does is shake back and forth and giggle. “Or what?” She asks finally.
“Or what, what?”
“What would you do if I don’t get out of your face?” She explains, annoyed at the diminished theatrics of her statement.
Explaining your threats does sort of mitigate the overall menacing affect. Kinda in the same vein of explaining your jokes.
“Because I’m not going to.” She steps closer, grinning derisory.
There’s a dare there, but it’s permafrosted, amberized, whatever. It’s always been there. The same challenge against a million different backdrops.
"Just stop, okay?" I say, preparing for my valiant speech on the crucially of forgiving and forgetting. I can’t remember it.
It’s a belly-up retreat instead. Walking backwards.
Not walking at all, because the pieces for that have yet to come together.
Crawling is an option here but I don’t want to crawl in this dress.
Instead I start talking fast and thick, like I got called on in class to read the paragraph out loud and I’m trying to get through it as quickly as possible.
"Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything to my mom. But it just felt like the right thing to do at the time, it really did…”
“You think that’s what this is about? You think I care that you’re a backstabber? Move the fuck on already.”
“Then what is it about?” I ask.
“You’re such a hypocrite. You know that right? So virginal, so sweet...but drunk off your ass at every party.”
“I’m not drunk.”
“Oh, honey.” She says. “Like mother like daughter, huh?"
“Stop.” She mimics.
“Please.” She says.
“Shut up. Shut up! Please, just stop!” It’s a stray animal kind of begging at this point; legs trying to crawl through something. Away from something, but there’s a lack of agency here.
Her eyes flicker across me. “I’m just curious. Has your mom passed out at any PTA meetings lately? I’d hate for her to me dragged out again.” She laughs and I can taste it.
The stretch of vowels, each dip like a verb, like a kind of begging.
I need this to stop.
She. Really. Needs. To. Stop.
“I don’t know how she thought that was going to work out for her.,” Olivia chuckles. She does this and things dip fast into confusion.
I start trembling hard. Shaking and shaking and shaking, like an etch-a-sketch with memory issues. Everything is whirly. I bite down on my lip and find it bleeding; not so much lip anymore but this rubbery, copper situation.
And an ugliness. That more than anything.
An ugliness that once recognized starts pouring out of me on an open tap; a cruddy house special on gutted veins and ruptured fire hydrants and some rushing river imagery thrown in for good measure.
It’s gnawing at me, gnawing at my stomach; making fists wherever it can. It’s this angry, hungry, ubiquitous thing and I don’t know how not to give it the floor.
“Catharsis. You want that, don’t you?” It asks, letting up a little on my throat.
I think so.
“Then get it.”
I nod.
The gnawing gets stronger, louder too. So I do the only thing I can do.
I sputter forward and wrap my hot, itchy hands around her shoulders, tight enough to leave marks.
For once I want to be the thing that does the breaking. Shit. Vague, so vague.
What I meant to say is I want to break someone else.

She smiles at the action, raises an eyebrow. Her eyes are inky and dark; rot and grandstand.
“You won’t.” They say, playing the crowd.
My hands get tighter.
“You’ll carry me everywhere. This won’t change anything.” She says, laughing.
“Shut up. Just shut up.”
“This changes nothing.” She cackles, spitting out mouthfuls of blood and teeth. “You want to be twelve forever? Go ahead, Looney tunes.”
No, not teeth. That’s not possible. But something small and white.
“Stop,” I beg. There are too many teeth in my mouth and now there are none in hers.
These can’t be the actual details here, but I can’t think of what the real ones would be.
There’s nothing to stop.” She says and laughs again.
“Please!” She mimics. “I’m Aspen and I’m a total fucking pansy.”

I am cold. I am sufficiently goaded. A lot of things are jumping into play now. Connor’s fingers on my arm. Connor’s fingers never staying on my arm.
How when she’s halfway through ‘total fucking’ I stumble on some wet roots and get even madder.
I am done standing now. I am done thinking. I spring forward and push as hard as I can.
Olivia flails backwards, kicking and grabbing at the air.
There’s a scream; high and quivery. There’s no sound at all after this.

* * *

I don’t stay to watch Olivia crawl back. Instead, I walk as steadily as possible into the house and out the front door. I fetch my bike from the tree I’ve locked it around and start pushing it along side me.
It’s too cold to ride it and also it’s possible I’d fall off.
The temperature has dropped at least fifteen degrees in the last hour. The street lamps are on, sloshing the sidewalk in yellow light; missing a lot of spaces. I wrap my arms tight around myself and wish I had brought a jacket. That’s it.
I don’t think about Olivia, or our fight, or how unpleasant it must be to climb back up that slope in the dark. I just think of the cold.
And then some branches crack ominously behind me, and I think of bears and wolves, and all the other vaguely possible predators.
Never mind that there haven’t been bears or wolves here for the last fifty years. It doesn’t matter. Because in this light, the woods had taken on a murky, grotesque quality; pine tops shoving through the middle of this big, thick dark. This is a dark that’s swallowed a bit of the street already and looks perfectly capable of housing some bears.
And the fog. I could have sworn it was there; and a lot of it. Sheer and stringy-wet; wrapping round mailboxes and chain-link like gloomiest tassel; going straight into shadow when I look at it too hard.
I don’t know. In the daylight, this seems improbable. Daytime serves limits. Daytime reiterates them.
Someone has their high beams on and they’re lighting the whole sidewalk, shaking up and down as the driver goes over speed bumps.
I position my hair so it covers my face and I walk a little faster. The window rolls down on a minivan. Not serial killers. Olivia’s neighbors.
Not all together unfrightening on their own merits.
“Hi.” I smile. Smiling is key. I’m not entirely sure why, but a flash of teeth coupled with eye contact tends to assuage adults in matters of one’s sobriety.
“Need a ride?” Mr. Harrison asks, squinting out at me under his glasses. His eyes are magnified to big, sedating proportions under the lens. I stare and stare. This is the same Mr. Harrison that jumped out of his car at a stoplight last week and told Connor to respect his elders.
“No, it’s okay. I’m rightaround thecorner.” My words mush together. To compensate, my smile gets even bigger.
“What was that Hun?” He asks and I picture him thumping on the Connor’s windshield saying, “You really cut me off at that corner, didn’t you, son? Town’s really too small to be driving like that.”
“No, s’fine. I live nearby.”
I grin some more, but the grin is incomplete. The grin is blurred. Drunkenness failing to dawn until you’re talking to someone who is sober, adult, and demanding some degree of deference because they own a new car.
“You sure? We could probably throw your bike in the back.” He turns off his engine. The car statics and tingles.
“No’tanksoh.” I try again “NoThank you.”
“Well, alright, alright. Just being neighborly.” He pouts, a cheek hollowing out like he’s sucking on something.
“Whatcha doing out here anyway, this time a night? Not as safe as you’d think, you know?” His hand hovers over the car key.
“Yes.” I nod quick.
“Well.” He drops his hand, “You heard about the Barlow’s son?”
“Honey-” Mrs. Harrison says.
“I’m trying to educate her.” He says, but he starts the car.
“I’m sure she doesn’t want to hear about this.”
“She does. Don’t you?”
I shrug. “I should begettin home.”
“I hear that. We’ve been trying to get home for hours. Our flight was delayed twice. Twice! Can you believe it? The long and the short of it? Airport protocol is fucking ridiculous.”
"Honey! Language." A chiding comes from the passenger’s seat.
"Sorry." Then, "You sure we can’t drop you somewhere?”
“I’m really just a few blocks down. Thanks, though.”
“Well alright. You have a nice night now.” He says, giving me a funny two-finger wave before leaving me with a long close-up of Jesus’ open hands on a dead-center bumper sticker.
The car is moving unbearably slow away from me. Five mph, if that.
It’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible. I keep looking at Jesus and thinking sacrilegious things, like when I was ten and learned the only sin unforgivable was thinking you were God or like him.
“I’m God.” I would think on accident. Crap.
Crap. I’m doing it now too.
“There is no god. It’s a closed system.” I say as I push my down a hill. This makes me feel marginally better.
Why am I pushing a bike down a hill? I get on my bike.
Everything’s cold and waily. I hate biking but I’m trying not to learn this. I have no jacket. I can’t feel my knuckles in their entirety.
The streets shine and echo like something dormant I’m skating across the tip of. Wheels slip over a mouth that doesn’t notice. Teeth of curbs and harmonica-gaped cuts for the drain.
Roofs cut the sky up sharp.
So sharp I can feel it hurt.
My belt’s too tight and I’ve got marked hips. I can feel all of it hurt.
It hurts probably because I am cold and want to be in bed. I’ve never wanted to be in bed this badly in my life. There’s a sensationalist gleam everywhere; stretched hands and tunneled mouths, and even the pavement’s a sleeper agent. I bite down and I swear I can taste the sidewalk in my mouth.
It’s stopped raining, but water shines off everything, sides of houses even. The textures here are horrible. Ugly, flat chunks of cement and stucco and rain water and fuzz.
It’s all hitting me weird; the trees especially. I want neat parts. I don’t want this twisting.
Or the clumped air. The curls of cement. The Christian Science building on the side of the road saying mortals and immortals welcome. The stranger in Starbucks telling me about strangled girls.
I’m thinking about him now. I’m wondering if he meant it as a warning or if he told me for some other reason.
I’m cold. I’m really cold but there’s no lake to get into to make this worth feeling. I mean there’s a lake but it’s not close and it’s more of a placeholder lake for bigger and better lakes in bigger and better places that I will eventually go to. The disparity of this. There being no disparity in anything because none of it makes sense and all of it matches.

I should have gotten a ride. I don’t want to be here for any of this.
I’m fine. I am completely fine but I would feel better if a car drove by.
I am an idiot. Facts on the ground being that I am okay and nothing bad is happening.

The feeling passes as I finally turn down my street; dropping my bike near the shed because I’ve reached the promised land.
Promised Land. Crap.
Biblical references don’t sit well right now.
I push open the front door, pausing as the hinges cry out in the dark. Disturbing my mother at this hour might be enough for her to rethink her "hands off" parenting style.
I crouch, anticipating signs of life, but it’s clear she’s fast asleep. I shut the door quietly and tiptoe run to my room, pulling the comforter tight around me.

The last thing I see is Olivia’s face, snarling.



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