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Wanton by Malone, M., Malone, Nana (1)

1

6 Weeks Ago…

I turned on the lights in my apartment and threw my keys in the small bowl on the entryway table. I sighed. It had been a long day, and I still had about three hours of studying left to do. But at least I could do it at home with Courtney. I was tired of being in the library, surrounded by all the other students who looked as manic about exams as I felt.

“Court? Are you here?”

It was dark in the back, so she must not have gotten home yet. That was strange. Courtney worked part-time at the bookstore, but she never worked this late, not even on nights when they were restocking. I checked my phone, making sure I hadn’t missed a text from her. While scrolling absently through my messages, I walked into the kitchen, and pulled open the refrigerator for a bottle of water.

When I closed it, my eyes remained glued to the door. There was a note attached with a magnet.

My throat went dry as I recognized Courtney’s distinctive loopy handwriting. She always curled her r’s in a dramatic way and looped her j’s, g’s, and y’s. My mind was stuck on those inconsequential things as I started to read.

Dear Trevor,

I know it’s a cowardly thing to leave a note behind instead of facing you. Maybe I am a coward, but this was the only way I could tell you without chickening out. So here it is.

I’m not happy. God, I feel like such a bitch, but I’ve tried for two years to make it work and I just can’t. I love you so much, but every day we grow farther apart. I don’t want to drag this out until we hate each other. We want different things and that’s okay.

I wish you nothing but the best.

Love,

Courtney

I held the note carefully as I read it again and again. My mind was trying to find something in her words to explain how I could feel so blindsided. When I looked up, the room was slightly blurry, and I couldn’t figure out why until a tear fell onto the paper.

I swiped my damp cheeks and crumpled the paper in my fist. Suddenly, I saw myself going on about the rest of my evening, heating up some dinner, studying until the wee hours, only to wake in the morning and do it all over again. Maybe I hadn’t been the best boyfriend. Working long hours at the bar, coupled with a grueling school schedule, didn’t leave a lot of time for being a romantic. But I’d thought that Courtney got it and supported me. Instead, based on that letter, she’d just been tolerating me for the past two years.

Anger replaced grief, and I pulled out my phone. What was I going to do, call her and scream? Yell? So we could have another fight just like all the others we’d had over the past few months? She’d always leave in a rage and stay out late deliberately to provoke me. Lately, she had been so different. Distant. I’d even started to think she was cheating on me.

My phone vibrated with a text. My heart lifted, until I saw that it wasn’t Courtney. It was my sister, Talia.

Arrived on campus. TTYL

Thinking of my little sister always could make me smile, even when everything else in my life was shit. I couldn’t call her right now. She’d be able to tell something was wrong. But thinking of her made me remember another phone call I needed to make.

As if I’d conjured it, my phone rang. When I saw my best friend Cage’s name on the screen, I shook my head. Exactly who I wanted to talk to. Before I could even say hello, Cage was talking.

“Dude, you were right about Jenna. She just had another fucking tantrum about the L.A. thing. This time, she hit me in the ear with a shoe, and accused me of cheating just because I didn’t do what she wanted and move with her.”

Under other circumstances, I would have found the situation hilarious. I forced a laugh, since my friend would be expecting it. I’d tried to warn Cage about screwing around with those crazy chicks. I’d always told him to look for the more sensible types, like Courtney. Look at how that had turned out. Oddly, my friend’s situation did make me feel a little better. I wasn’t the only one going through shit, at least.

“I won’t say I told you so. But only because I’m so happy you finally ditched her. She was hot, but no sex is worth dealing with that bullshit.”

“I agree. So I’m going home to my apartment. The one I still have, thanks to you. I totally owe you for talking me out of moving in with her.”

“You do owe me one. And I’m going to collect soon.” I took a deep breath. “Remember my sister, Talia? It’s been years since you’ve seen her.”

“Of course.”

“Well, she’s transferring to NYU this year because they have the program she wants. I need you to keep an eye on her.”

Cage was quiet. I hung my head. I knew this was going to be a hard sell. My friend liked to party, and babysitting someone as studious as Talia wouldn’t exactly be a fun time for him.

“I thought Talia was a straight-A student in high school? Why would you be worried about her flunking out of college?”

“It’s obvious you don’t have sisters. I’m not worried about her flunking, genius. She’s not like us. Talia will ace all of her classes without even trying.”

“Okay, well then, what do you need me to do? I’m sure she doesn’t need my help studying.”

I made a face, glad my friend couldn’t see me. Maybe it was just because I was in a bad mood already, but damn if it didn’t seem like Cage was deliberately misunderstanding me.

“I need you to make sure no one bothers her. Help her get to her classes and shit. She’s shy and has never made friends easily. If I was there, I could look out for her and make sure she doesn’t spend the entire year in her room with her textbooks. But since I’m not, I’m counting on you to make sure she has some fun, but stays away from the wrong crowd.”

Perhaps Cage finally heard the frustration in my voice, because when he spoke next, his voice had lost the attitude and sounded resigned.

“You got it, man. I’ll show her around and make sure she knows where everything is. Hell, I know some goody-two-shoes girl types. Maybe I can introduce her to some friends.”

I smiled. “Thank you. I’ve been really worried about this. I just want her to have a good time. She’s always been so serious. I don’t want her to study non-stop and never have any fun.”

“You know I’ve got this. She’ll have fun with me. Trust me.”

I hung up, changing my mind about confiding in Cage. Surely, this was just some kind of temporary insanity from studying too hard for finals. Courtney was pre-med, and she’d been struggling with a few of her classes this semester. My friend had never liked Courtney, and if we ended up getting back together, I didn’t want Cage reminding me of this.

In the meantime, though, I needed to be practical about how to pay the rent. On a whim, I pulled up the university Facebook page and posted a message about seeking a roommate. To my shock, I got a private message almost immediately from my advisor.

My niece just transferred in and she's looking for a place to stay.