“I’ve been so bored. Abby is still asleep.”

“Still?” I asked, kicking off my boots.


America nodded and made a face. “The girl likes her sleep. Unless she gets insanely drunk the night before, she sleeps forever. I’ve stopped trying to turn her into a morning person.”

The door creaked as I slowly pushed it open. Abby was on her stomach, in almost the same position she was in when I left, just on the other side of the bed. Part of her hair was matted against her face, the other in soft, caramel waves across my pillow.

Abby’s T-shirt was bunched around her waist, exposing her light blue panties. They were just cotton, not particularly sexy, and she looked comatose, but even so, seeing her crashed haphazardly on my white sheets with the afternoon sun pouring in through the windows, her beauty was indescribable.

“Pidge? You gonna get up today?”

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She mumbled and then turned her head. I took a few more steps, deeper into the room.


“Hep . . . merf . . . furfon . . . shaw.”

America was right. She wasn’t waking up anytime soon. I closed the door softly behind me, and then joined Shepley and America in the living room. They were picking at a plate of nachos America had made, watching something girly on TV.

“She up?” America asked.

I shook my head, sitting in the recliner. “Nope. She was talking about something, though.”

America smiled, her lips sealed to keep food from falling out. “She does that,” she said, her mouth full. “I heard you leave your bedroom last night. What was that about?”

“I was being an ass.”

America’s brows shot up. “How so?”

“I was frustrated. I pretty much told her how I felt and it was like it went in one ear and out the other.”

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“Tired at the moment.”

A chip flew at my face but fell short, landing on my shirt. I picked it up and popped it in my mouth, crunching the beans, cheese, and sour cream. It wasn’t half bad.

“I’m serious. What did you say?”

I shrugged. “I don’t remember. Something about being who she deserved.”

“Aw,” America said, sighing. She leaned away from me, in Shepley’s direction, with a wry smile. “That was pretty good. Even you have to admit.”

Shepley’s mouth pulled to one side; that was the only reaction she would get from him for that comment.

“You are such a grouch,” America said with a frown.

Shepley stood. “No, baby. I’m just not feeling all that great.” He grabbed a copy of Car and Driver from the end table, and headed for the toilet.

With a sympathetic expression America watched Shepley leave, and then turned to me, her face metamorphosing into disgust. “Guess I’ll be using your bathroom for the next few hours.”

“Unless you want to lose your sense of smell for the rest of your life.”

“I might want to after that,” she said, shivering.

America took her movie off pause, and we watched the rest of it. I didn’t really know what was going on. A woman was talking something about old cows and how her roommate was a man-whore. By the end of the movie, Shepley had rejoined us, and the main character had figured out she had feelings for her roommate, she wasn’t an old cow after all, and the man-whore, now reformed, was angry about some stupid misunderstanding. She just had to chase him down the street, kiss him, and it was all good. Not the worst movie I’d ever seen, but it was still a chick flick . . . and still lame.

In the middle of the day, the apartment was well lit, and the TV was on, albeit on mute. Everything seemed normal, but also empty. The stolen signs were still on the walls, hung next to our favorite beer posters with half-naked hot chicks sprawled in various positions. America had cleaned up the apartment, and Shepley was lying on the couch, flipping through channels. It was a normal Saturday. But something was off. Something was missing.


Even with her in the next room, passed out, the apartment felt different without her voice, her playful jabs, or even the sound of her picking at her nails. I’d grown accustomed to it all in our short time together.

Just as the credits of the second movie began to roll, I heard the bedroom door open, and Abby’s feet dragging along the floor. The bathroom door opened and closed. She was going to start getting ready for her date with Parker.

Instantly, my temper began to boil.

“Trav,” Shepley warned.

Shepley’s words from earlier in the day replayed in my head. Parker was playing the game, and I had to play it better. My adrenaline died down, and I relaxed against the couch cushion. It was time to put my game face on.

The whining sound of the bathroom pipes signaled Abby’s intent to take a shower. America stood, and then nearly danced into my bathroom. I could hear their voices banter back and forth but couldn’t quite make out what they were saying.

I walked softly into the hall, and held my ear close to the door.

“I’m not thrilled about you listening to my girl urinate,” Shepley said in a loud whisper.

I held my middle finger up to my lips, and then turned my attention back to their voices.

“I explained it to him,” Abby said.

The toilet flushed, and the faucet turned on, and then suddenly Abby cried out. Without thinking, I grabbed the doorknob and shoved it open.


America laughed. “I just flushed the toilet, Trav, calm down.”

“Oh. You all right, Pigeon?”

“I’m great. Get out.” I shut the door again and sighed. That was stupid. After a few tense seconds, I realized neither of the girls knew I was just on the other side of the door, so I touched my ear to the wood again.

“Is it too much to ask for locks on the doors?” Abby asked. “Mare?”

“It’s really too bad you two couldn’t get on the same page. You’re the only girl that could have . . .” She sighed. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter, now.”

The water turned of. “You’re as bad as he is,” Abby said, her voice thick with frustration. “It’s a sickness . . . no one here makes sense. You’re pissed at him, remember?”

“I know,” America replied.

That was my cue to get back to the living room, but my heart was beating a million miles an hour. For whatever reason, if America thought it was okay, I felt like I had the green light, that I wasn’t a total dick for trying to be in Abby’s life.

As soon as I sat on the couch, America came out of the bathroom.

“What?” she asked, sensing something was amiss.

“Nothing, baby. Come sit,” Shepley said, patting the empty space next to him.

America happily complied, sprawling out next to him, her torso leaning against his chest.

The hairdryer turned on in the bathroom, and I looked at the clock. The only thing worse than having to be okay with Abby leaving on a date with Parker, was Parker having to wait on Abby in my apartment. Keeping my cool for a few minutes while she got her purse and left was one thing. Looking at his ugly mug while he sat on my couch, knowing he was planning how to get into her pants at the end of the night, was another.

A small bit of my anxiety was relieved when Abby walked out of the bathroom. She wore a red dress, and her lips matched perfectly. Her hair in curls, she reminded me of one of those 1950s pinup girls. But, better. Way . . . way better.

I smiled, and it wasn’t even forced. “You . . . are beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she said, clearly taken off guard.

The doorbell rang, and instantly adrenaline surged through my veins. I took a deep breath, determined to keep my cool.

Abby opened the door, and it took Parker several seconds to speak.

“You are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,” he cooed.

Yep, I was definitely going to vomit before I ended up throwing a punch. What a loser.

America’s grin spread from one ear to the other. Shepley seemed really happy, too. Refusing to turn around, I kept my eyes on the TV. If I saw the smug look on Parker’s face, I would climb over the couch and knock him to the first floor without him hitting a step.

The door closed, and I came forward, my elbows on my knees, my head in my hands.

“You did good, Trav,” Shepley said.

“I need a drink.”



LESS THAN A WEEK LATER, I HAD EMPTIED MY SECOND bottle of whiskey. Between trying to cope with Abby spending more and more time with Parker, and her asking me to release her from the bet so she could leave, my lips were touching the mouth of the bottle more than they were my cigarettes.

Parker had ruined the surprise of Abby’s surprise birthday party Thursday at lunch, so I had to scramble to move it to Friday night instead of Sunday. I was thankful for the distraction, but it wasn’t enough.

Thursday night, Abby and America were chattering in the bathroom. Abby’s demeanor toward America was a stark contrast to the way she regarded me: she’d barely spoken to me that evening since I refused to let her out of the bet earlier that day.

Hoping to smooth things over, I popped into the bathroom. “Wanna grab dinner?”

“Shep wants to check out that new Mexican place downtown if you guys wanna go,” America said, absently combing through her hair.

“I thought me and Pidge could go alone tonight.”

Abby perfected her lipstick. “I’m going out with Parker.”

“Again?” I said, feeling my face compress into a frown.

“Again,” she lilted.

The doorbell rang, and Abby burst out of the bathroom and rushed across the living room floor to open the front door.

I followed and stood behind her, making a point to give Parker my best death glare.

“Do you ever look less than gorgeous?” Parker asked.

“Based on the first time she came over here, I’m going to say yes,” I deadpanned.

Abby held up a finger to Parker, and turned around. I expected her to snap back something shitty, but she was smiling. She threw her arms around my neck and squeezed.

At first I braced myself, thinking she was trying to hit me, but once I recognized she was hugging me, I relaxed, and then pulled her into me.

She pulled away and smiled. “Thanks for organizing my birthday party,” she said, genuine appreciation in her voice. “Can I take a rain check on dinner?”

She had the warmth in her eyes I’d missed, but mostly I was surprised that after not speaking to me all afternoon and evening, she was in my arms.


She hugged me again. “Absolutely.” She waved to me as she took Parker’s hand and closed the door behind her.

I turned around and rubbed the back of my neck. “I . . . I need a . . .”

“A drink?” Shepley asked, an edge of worry in his voice. He looked to the kitchen. “We’re out of everything but beer.”

“Then I guess I’m making a trip to the liquor store.”

“I’ll go with you,” America said, jumping up to grab her coat.

“Why don’t you drive him in the Charger?” Shepley said, tossing her the keys.

America looked down at the collection of metal in her hand. “You sure?”

Shepley sighed. “I don’t think Travis should drive. Anywhere . . . if you get my meaning.”

America nodded enthusiastically. “Gotcha.” She grabbed my hand. “C’mon, Trav. Let’s get you liquored up.” I began to follow her out the door, but she stopped abruptly, turning on her heels. “But! You have to promise me something. No fighting tonight. Drowning your sorrows, yes,” she said, grabbing my chin and forcing me to nod my head. “Mean drunk, no.” She pushed my chin back and forth.

I pulled back, waving her hand away.

“Promise?” She raised one eyebrow.


She smiled. “Then off we go.”

My fingers against my lips, my elbow leaning against the door, I watched the world pass my window. The cold front brought with it wild wind, whipping through the trees and bushes, and causing the hanging streetlights to swing back and forth. The skirt of Abby’s dress was pretty short. Parker’s eyes had better stay in his head if it happened to fly up. The way Abby’s bare knees look when she sat next to me in the backseat of the Charger came to mind, and I imagined Parker noticing her soft, shiny skin as I had, but with less appreciation and more salaciousness.

Just as the anger welled up within me, America pulled on the emergency brake. “We’re here.”

The soft glow of Ugly Fixer Liquor’s sign lit the entrance. America was my shadow down aisle three. It only took me a moment to find what I was looking for. The only bottle that would do for a night like tonight: Jim Beam.

“You sure you wanna go there?” America asked, her voice tinged with warning. “You do have a surprise birthday party to set up tomorrow.”

“I’m sure,” I said, taking the bottle to the counter.

The second my ass hit the passenger seat of the Charger, I twisted the cap and took a swig, leaning my head back against the headrest.

America watched me for a moment, and then shoved the gear into reverse. “This is going to be fun, I can tell.”

By the time we reached the apartment, I’d drunk the whiskey in the neck of the bottle, and made headway at the top.

“You didn’t,” Shepley said, spotting the bottle.

“I did,” I said, taking another swig. “You want some?” I asked, pointing the glass mouth in his direction.

Shepley made a face. “God no. I need to stay sober so I can react fast enough when you go all Travis-on-Jim-Beam on Parker later.”

“No, he won’t,” America said. “He promised.”

“I did,” I said with a smile, already feeling better. “I promised.”

The next hour Shepley and America did their best to keep my mind off things. Mr. Beam did his best to keep me numb. Halfway into hour two, Shepley’s words seemed slower. America giggled at the stupid grin on my face.

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