God, I am so tired.
I adjust the shoulder strap of my canvass knapsack across my body. Everything I still own is in this bag and while it’s not much, it still gets pretty heavy after hours of lugging it around. But I’ve finally reached my destination so hopefully I’ll have some relief soon.
Relief from all sort of troubles, my aching shoulder the least of them if I’m being honest.
Sunrise is still hours away and February in Chicago is not exactly balmy. I know she’ll be asleep but I’m hoping she is still a creature of habit. If not, I’m going to have a long, cold, miserable wait.
I’m kind of surprised how easy it was to get her address, considering she’s borderline famous now. The thought of Logan as famous still makes me swell with pride. That girl always refused to be ignored. I’m glad she’s found a place her “disrespect for authority” was appreciated.
I hope she doesn’t hate me. For what I did.
For what I’m doing.
I hesitate on the sidewalk, carefully glancing up and down the street. Not much happening at 4:30 in the morning. Thankfully.
Reassured no one is around, watching, witnessing, I hitch my bag high again and slip around to the back.
I shiver against the cold, praying I’ll find what I’m looking for. As expected there is a collection of pots scattered around the back door. I can almost picture the various plants and brilliant explosion of colored petals they house in the spring and summer. At least that hasn’t changed. Carefully, I start lifting them, searching for a spare key. I’ve gone through two thirds of the containers when I start to get nervous. What if it’s not here? Tears spring to my eyes as I experience a moment of weakness.
I’m so tired.
It has to be here.
There. My numb fingers close around the silver key in relief. There it is. It’s here.
Staggering to my feet I inhale deeply, welcoming the jolt I get from the freezing air as it hits my system. Almost there. And then
I can sleep.
Quickly I unlock the back door and slip inside, the warm air stinging my cheeks. Silently, I close and lock it behind me. I hear a high beep and see the low green glow of an alarm system on the wall.
Shit. I wasn’t expecting an alarm system.
I drop my bag and rush to the control panel.
Pushing down the rising panic, I force myself to think. Once, I knew this girl better than anyone. I knew all her secrets. I knew what she hated and what she loved. I knew what she wanted. I knew her better than she knew herself, just as she knew me. If there is anyone in the world whose alarm code I am capable of guessing, it should be hers. We were closer than sisters. We were sisters. Sisters by choice.
The beeps are getting louder and closer together. Taking a deep breath I punch it in 595272*
With a final beep the system accepts my offer and silence descends. I sag in relief, no longer capable of fighting the exhaustion.
Stripping off my coat I stagger to the couch and collapse.
Sleep. I just need a little sleep.
Something hard nudges me in the stomach, pulling me back from oblivion. Blinking rapidly, I try to focus and gather my thoughts but I’m slow and sluggish. I must not have been asleep very long. I glance around, realizing it is still dark outside, confirming my suspicion I haven’t been here for any length of time. I’m poked again, this time along my thigh, and finally shake off the fog.
I’m at Logan’s. Uninvited. I came home. Assuming I still have one.
Assuming she can forgive me.
But the figure standing over me is not Logan. I have no idea who this guy is.
I scramble to a sitting position, scooting back into the corner of the couch, eying him warily. He’s shirtless, wearing only a pair of boxer briefs, his dark hair an unruly mess of curls. And he’s holding a baseball bat between us, what he’d undoubtedly used to wake me up, his face inscrutable.
I watch his gaze track over me and my meager belongings.
“Not a very good thief….” His mutter seems more for him than me but I rush to reassure him.
“Sorry. I must be in the wrong place. I thought this was my friends house. Honest.”
He doesn’t react to my comment, just continues to stare me down.
“I – I – My bus got in really early so I just came here. There’s always a key in the back. You must not have changed the locks when you moved in. I’ll just grab my stuff and get out -.”
“Sit down,” he orders as I start to reach for my bag. Suddenly I’m nervous for a whole new reason. Not only am I technically breaking and entering, I am now alone with a strange man. One who likely realizes no one else knows I’m here. This is not good.
I am all too aware how easy it is for people to disappear. For all manner of reasons.
And me? I’m barely there to begin with. I’ve been disappearing myself for years.
He continues studying me carefully, but makes no moves toward me. Although he’s still holding that bat, ready for me to disobey?
Suddenly I’m pissed. The heat of anger flashes through me, burning off the last of my exhaustion. Who the fuck does he think he is? It’s an honest mistake. I didn’t hurt anything. How dare he stand there trying to intimidate me?
I jump to my feet. ”You want to back off, dude? It’s just a mistake! I’ll go.”
My outburst doesn’t faze him. “Who are you looking for?”
His question triggers my tears again and I blink them back furiously. “Doesn’t matter. She’s not here.” I turn my back so he doesn’t see my reaction and stuff my arms into my coat sleeves.
“Just wait a second.”
A light over the stairwell flicks on and I hear the creaking of floor boards. The dark haired bully shifts to his left, placing himself between me and the stairs.
“Con?” a sleepy voice floats down to us.
“Stay back for a second, babe,” he tosses over his shoulder.
The sound of footsteps on wood pauses as ‘babe’ hesitates. I see a pair of slim bare legs at the top of the landing.
Could it be?
“Logan?” I call.
The bully stiffens and brandishes the bat between us again. “Who are you?”
The bare legs fly down the stairs. And suddenly she’s there. Wearing a rumpled t-shirt that reaches mid-thigh, her hair a tumbled mess, she is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
“Logan.” The tears are back. I can’t help it. I’m so relieved. I’m so tired.
She stares at me for a moment, disbelief on her face. “Wren?” she whispers, taking me in.
The bully glances quickly at Logan before then returning his eyes to me. “Wren? Your Wren?” He sounds skeptical but lowers the bat.
He knows about me? Not just some bar hookup then. I decide immediately he’s not good enough for her.
“Hi,” I offer lamely.
Before I can say another word, she rushes forward, arms wrapping me up. The tears I’ve been struggling with unleash as the first sob wracks my body. I hear myself apologizing over and over again.
She squeezes me tight, too tight, but I don’t complain. I need this.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Shut up, you stupid bitch. I have a room all ready for you.”
I cry harder. The words might sound harsh, but she whispers them with love and I know what she’s saying.
I can finally sleep.
Click here to meet Logan and Connor.