My tight fist knocks twice on the familiar weathered red door. I could just go in through the back, but it didn’t feel right—not tonight—not anytime I come here looking for Tristan.
I’m hoping I’m wrong, and he’s just with Brody like he used to always to be.
The latch clicks, and the door opens. Brody is standing there shirtless, his purple hair in messy disarray. He looks at me with sad eyes. “He’s not here Ruby.” Brody folds his arms, “I’m sorry.”
“This isn’t on you Brody,” I say, then push some anxious air from my lungs before it could cause my chest to explode.
“I’m just drinking and watching a Kung Foo marathon. Wanna come in?” His eyes transform into a warmer, more attractive version of themselves.
It’s better than sitting in the boat and waiting for Tristan to show up. The moment Tolkin showed up by Madison’s side, I feel like I’ve been living in a nightmare. Tolkin carries so much darkness with him it’s impossible for it not to bleed into others things, to other people.
Drugs, I’m finding brings the worst out in people. Just like anything that preys on our greed and on our selfishness
Tristan sacrifices a piece himself each time he gets high, somehow to him it’s worth the cost. But, I was feeling more alone that I did when I was sleeping on roofs and stealing cash from people’s back pockets.
I felt a part of something, as the real me, for the first time in my life.
Not having it is so much worse, now that I know what it’s like to have a place I belong.
“What I can’t figure out, is why he was able to leave me behind so quickly,” I said to Brody.
His eyes flickered to me then back on the beer bottle that stood on the coffee table. He scooped it up and chugged the remaining few swigs. “I’m gonna grab another, want one?”
“Do you have whiskey left?” I asked sitting down in his smoke-filled living room on his stained-green couch. I was relieved not to be by myself.
“I might,” Brody mumbled to himself as he stalked down the narrow hallway into the back of the house.
Brody came back with two beers, two mugs, and a half a bottle of whiskey.
“Where’s Julian?” I asked just realizing his oversized greasy self, wasn’t here poking fun and getting on my nerves.
“With Tristan, Tolkin, and Madison,” Brody said inside a layer of disgust.
“I don’t get it,” I said mostly to myself.
“What don’t you get?” Brody pours whiskey into each mug.
“What makes them feel so different from us?”
“We have more good in us than they do,” Brody said plainly.
“What changed in Tristan?” I chase his name back with the contents of the green mug. “More please.”
“The escape he finally found happens to consume him.”
“Why did he need to escape so badly?”
“For the same reason you started to drinking whiskey likes it’s your job.”
“Why is that?” I ask knowing the answer.
“We all need a way to deal with what we are doing, how we live.” Brody took a quick swig of his whiskey. “Back when we first met, you thought I was picking on you when I told you not to do the job. I saw in you what I saw in myself. I had reservations, and I ignored them. It’s something I regret. Maybe I wouldn’t be here talking to you if I hadn’t pushed the warnings aside. Who knows? But, being the bad guy certainly takes a piece you away just like shooting crap in your veins does. Our world isn’t kind. Everything we do has a high cost.” Brody poured more whiskey in each of our mugs. His lips form a tight line of frustration. “I think people age quicker when they live the way we do. I feel beat down, and I’m not even seventeen.”
“It’s the card we’ve been dealt,” I said curtly, feeling angry all of the sudden.
“Is it, though?” Brody looks at me in the eyes.
“I suppose that’s up to me,” I say in response, I say to myself.
“It’s not easy, though, is it?” One of his brown eyebrows raises higher his navy-blue glasses reach.
“I wish I knew how to stop losing Tristan,” I said, this time, my voice was a little quieter. I was almost ashamed to speak the words out loud. I felt vulnerable and pathetic and small.
“So do I,” Brody’s tone of voice matched mine exactly. He was losing his friend, and I was losing my boyfriend to this drug that Madison’s toy, Tolkin, brought with him.—but, actually we were losing our family. Because when the traditional sense of the word isn’t available, eventually we have to build our own, hoping it’s permeant.
Brody reached and grabbed my hand. The warmth of skin made me feel put together for the first time in months.
Hungry for more comfort, any shred of comfort that distracted me from the cold world I was living in, I rested my head on his shoulder.
The weight of his head pressed gently on the side of mine, muffling my ear. For a moment, right then, I felt totally okay and completely safe.