Devoured - By Emily Snow

"Your baby brother called. Three times."

My gaze snaps up from the mail I'm holding in my hands to meet Tori's dark eyes. She's ten feet away me, sitting behind the Formica countertops in the kitchen. My cool, confident roommate - who I met four years ago when she rescued me from a wasted frat boy - fidgets anxiously with the rim of a supersized shot glass that boasts some raunchy slogan. She knows my brother well enough to realize something is going on. It must be important because Seth wouldn't stop avoiding me for anything else. He's owed me two grand since July, six months ago, and the last time I actually spoke to him was Labor Day.

Even when Seth had backed out of visiting me for Christmas break, he'd done so via email.

God . . . this can't be good.

"Did he say what he wants?" I croak. I press my body up against the steel door behind me, the long row of deadbolts poking into my back. Crisp envelopes crumble between my fingertips, but I'm powerless to stop myself from obliterating the stack of bills and postcards from Tori's parents. I'm too worried about why Seth has called me.

Three times.

Tori shrugs her bare, shimmery shoulders, squints down at the splash of clear liquid in her glass, and then downs the shot in one swift flick of her wrist. There's no bottle in sight, but I know she's drinking peppermint schnapps. Her telltale bottle of a chaser (chocolate syrup) sits next to her phone. Plus, schnapps is her usual Friday night pre-gamer. Sometimes - when my boss has an off week that inevitably rubs off on me - I let Tori talk me into drinking a little. I'm in no mood to even consider touching the stuff right now, though.

There's already a migraine building in that frustrating spot between my eyes.

"He just said call him . . ." she says. But as her voice trails off, I know she's thinking the same thing I am.

What the hell has my mom done this time?

Because last time I received a frantic call from Seth, a year and a half ago, Mom had made a suicide attempt which she later told me she fabricated for attention. I ball my hands into fist, vividly recalling how she laughed at me for being naive and stupid enough to come running.

"Always so quick to please," she'd said in her thick accent. Then she took a long drag of a cigarette that she probably had to do unmentionable things for.

Forcing thoughts of my mother out of my mind for the time being, I give Tori a fake smile. "You going out tonight?"

The answer is obvious. It is Friday night, and even though only her upper body is visible, I can tell she's dressed to kill. Immaculate hair and make-up, check. Strapless red dress that's probably no longer than my top, check. Her mile high, "screw-me" shoes, double check.

"Vanguard with Ben, Stacy, and Micah." Her jet black, perfectly arched eyebrows knit together as she parts her lips to say something else. I shake my head stubbornly, and she snaps her mouth shut. We both know that her inviting me is pointless. Tonight, no amount of sweet-talking will convince me to leave the apartment. There's a good chance that whatever Seth is about to tell me will ruin my night and the rest of my year, too.

I swallow hard, over and over again, in my best attempt to get rid of the burn in the back of my mouth.

"That's it," Tori snaps. She reaches across the counter to grab her phone. "I'm calling to cance - " But I lunge forward and pluck the cellphone out of her hand. I drop the balled-up - and now practically fused together - pile of mail beside her empty glass.

"Please, just . . . don't. You look way too hot to spend your night with me. I-I swear I'll be fine." She doesn't seem convinced because she purses her full lips into a thin, scarlet line. I slide her phone into her hands and curl her fingers around it. I move my face into an even brighter smile and tell her in the most chipper voice I can muster to have a good time.

She's talking, protesting me, but I can barely hear her exact words. I'm already walking down the narrow hallway to my bedroom, my own phone clutched in a death grip.

Seth picks up on the second ring, Copyright 2016 - 2024