Bad Wolf(8)

By: Jo Raven


To know if it is really him.

Instead, I turn back to Sydney. “Talk. What’s going on?”

She lifts her hands, eyes wide. “Look, I shouldn’t have disappeared like that. I got stressed, you know? Later I went looking for you but couldn’t find you. Where were you?”

Her lie leaves a sharp bitterness behind. I can taste it on my tongue, like a crushed pill. “You sure that was why you abandoned me there?”

“I didn’t abandon—”

“Yes, you did.” I hate that we have to shout to be heard over the music. “Syd, I saw you in that back alley.”

She pales. Even in the bluish flashing lights, I can tell. “No.”

“Those were drugs, Syd. Were you buying? Are you using?”

“No, you don’t understand. It’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like?”

She shakes her head. “I can’t tell you right now.”

“Why not?” But maybe she doesn’t want to shout it all out, even though nobody’s paying us any attention. “Listen, we can go home and talk. You can stay over. I’ll make us hot chocolate—”

“I can’t tell you, Gigi.” She won’t look at me. “It’s not my secret to tell.”

“What does that even mean? You were getting drugs for who, one of your boys?”

She doesn’t say anything.

“Come on, Syd…”

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll take you home.” Her voice cracks, and I don’t know what to do with that.

I can’t stop thinking about the guy that may or may not be Jarett, and about seeing Syd in the alley with the drug dealer, and when did this evening turn into something out of Black Mirror? It’s like an alternate reality.

“Yeah, let’s go,” I hear myself reply, my voice distant in my ears. “I’m done with partying tonight anyway.”



Predictably, two hours later I’m lying in bed, covers up to my chest, unable to sleep, staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to my ceiling. I have my headphones on, plugged to my cell phone. “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf is playing.

I can’t stop rewinding the events of tonight in my mind, over and over, in dizzying loops. Faces, voices, words spoken. Sensations.

Sebastian’s bruising hold on my wrist.

Jarett’s deep voice in my ear, his spicy smell.

Syd buying drugs in the darkness.

Jesus. I’m in shock, okay? Syd and me, we’ve never kept secrets from each other before. Right? Ever. At least I never have. Well, except for that one thing only Merc knows, but that doesn’t count. That’s old news.

And this… this is big. This is awful. I’m scared for her.

Maybe it’s these boys she’s circling around. Maybe they aren’t good for her. This isn’t good for her. Are they pushing her to try drugs? If the drugs are for one of them, why is she the one in the back alley, buying?

How long has this been going on?

My attempts to get her to talk to me during the ride home were met with silence. And she didn’t even ask me anything else about Rett. Like, why I was talking to this random guy. Who he is. Why I was upset she dragged me away.

Nada.

This isn’t good, not at all.

I twist and punch my pillow before lying back down. I’ve always felt safe at home, my brother Merc sleeping on the other side of the wall, and Mom two doors down. My sister’s kids—well, my brother-in-law’s kids really, from his late wife—are not staying with us tonight. My older sis, Octavia, is still pregnant. Hugely pregnant. I can’t wait to meet the new baby.

Yeah, I’ve always felt good here, like the world could never invade this bubble of warmth and love.

Tonight the bubble is too thin, though, its glass walls showing cracks. Sydney has been my family, too, since we moved here to St. Louis from Destiny. And if she’s in trouble, then this isn’t safe, this little world I’ve constructed. The spell is broken, the illusion gone, and it all reverts into the house of cards it’s been all along.

I fight a bone-deep shiver. Wiggle my bare toes under the covers. Nod my head to the music.

No, everything will be okay. This is just a passing tremor, a tiny earthquake. My little world is strong, it will wither this small shake. Here it is safe, and what was in the past, is in the past. No more bullies.

No more being afraid to walk in the street.

And Sydney will talk to me. We’ll figure this out. I’ll get her counseling, if needed. Will make sure she doesn’t go looking for chemical relief again, for herself or her friends. It’s dangerous. Jarett made it clear by the way he hauled me away.

Rett. That’s what I used to call him.

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