I tap his shoulder. “Eat these.”
He nods in acknowledgment—or from delirium tremens and/or withdrawal. His skin is so pale and clammy, it reminds me of clay. I don’t actually think eating crackers will help him, but the possibility is there.
“Thanks,” he finally groans, and I leave him alone again to vomit all over my bathroom.
This bedroom—my bedroom—isn’t the same without her. The bed is never made correctly when I climb into it at night. I’ve tried time and time again to tuck the corners of the sheet under the mattress the way Tessa does, but it’s just not possible. My clothes, clean and dirty, are scattered across the floor, empty water bottles and soda cans clutter the end tables, and it’s cold. The heat is on, but the room is just . . . cold.
I send her one last text message to wish her good night and close my eyes, praying for a dreamless sleep . . . for once.
“Tessa?” I call from the hallway, announcing that I’m home. The apartment is quiet; only soft sounds fill the air. Is Tessa on the phone with someone?
“Tessa!” I call again and turn the bedroom doorknob. The sight that greets my eyes stops me dead in my tracks. Tessa is sprawled out on the white duvet, her blond hair matted to her forehead with sweat, the fingers of one hand gripping the headboard and a fistful of raven hair in the other. As she rocks her hips, I can feel ice replacing the hot blood pumping through my veins.
Zed’s head is buried between her creamy thighs. His hands roam her body.
I try to move toward them to grab him by his throat and throw him against the wall, but my feet are frozen to the ground. I try to scream at them, but my mouth refuses to open.
“Oh, Zed,” Tessa moans. I cover my ears with my hands, but it doesn’t help—her voice travels straight to my brain; there’s no escaping it.
“You’re so beautiful,” he coos, and she moans again. One of his hands travels up to her chest, and he runs his fingertips over her while his mouth is pressed against her.
They don’t see me; they haven’t even noticed that I’m in the room. Tessa calls out his name once more, and when his head lifts from between her thighs, he finally sees me. He keeps eye contact with me while his lips run up her body, to her jaw, nipping along the way. My eyes won’t leave their naked bodies, and my insides have been ripped from my body and tossed onto the cold floor. I can’t bear to watch this, but I’m forced to do so anyway.
“I love you,” he says to her while smirking at me.
“I love you, too,” Tessa whimpers. She rakes her nails down his tattooed back as he thrusts into her. Finally, my voice comes as I scream, silencing their moans.
“Fuck!” I scream out, and grab the glass from the nightstand. With a crash, it shatters against the wall.
I’m pacing back and forth across the floor, furious fingers tugging at my sweat-soaked hair, all the clothes and books I’m stepping on registering vividly on the soles of my bare feet.
“Hardin? Are you okay?” Tessa’s voice is thick with sleep. I’m so glad she answered. I need her to be here with me, even through a telephone line.
“I . . . I don’t know,” I croak into the phone.
“Are you in bed?” I ask her.
“Yes, it’s three in the morning. Where else would I be? What’s wrong, Hardin?”
“I just can’t sleep, that’s all,” I admit, staring into the darkness of our—my—room.
“Oh . . .” She lets out a long breath of relief. “I was worried for a second.”
“Did you talk to Zed again?” I ask her.
“What? No, I haven’t talked to him since I told you about him wanting to visit.”
“Call him and tell him that he can’t.” I sound like a lunatic, but I don’t give a shit.
“I’m not calling him this late, what’s gotten into you?”
She’s being so defensive . . . though I suppose I can’t blame her. “Nothing, Tessa. Never mind.” I sigh.
“Hardin, what’s going on?” she asks, clearly worried.
“Nothing, just . . . nothing.” I hang up the phone and press down on the power button until the screen turns black.
You’re not staying in your pajamas the entire day again, are you?” Kimberly asks the next morning when she sees me sitting at the kitchen counter.
I spoon a mouthful of granola into my mouth, so I’m unable to answer her. Because that’s exactly what I plan to do today. I didn’t sleep well after Hardin’s phone call. He has since sent a few text messages, none of them mentioning his odd behavior last night. I want to call him, but the way he hung up so quickly makes me think better of it. Besides, I haven’t paid much attention to Kimberly since I arrived. Most of my free time has been spent talking on the phone with Hardin or doing my first round of assignments for my new classes. The least I can do is chat with her over breakfast.
“You never wear clothes,” Smith chimes in, and I nearly spit the granola out onto the table.
“Yes, I do,” I reply, my mouth still full.
“You’re right, Smith, she doesn’t.” Kimberly cackles, and I roll my eyes at her.
At that moment Christian enters the room and places a kiss against her temple. Smith smiles at his father and soon-to-be stepmother before looking back to me.
“Pajamas are more comfortable,” I tell him, and he nods in agreement. His green eyes look down at himself, taking in his Spider-Man print pajamas. “Do you like Spider-Man?” I ask, wanting to start a conversation that isn’t about me.