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THE CHEAP ALCOHOL burned as it splashed down my throat.
Fumes roiled up the back of my esophagus, making me choke. It felt like getting punched in the tonsils with a fistful of kerosene.
I sucked in a breath, swallowing hard.
Dammit, Daniel …
I really like you.
Holding the dented, plastic bottle of vodka, I smeared my arm across my face, wiping away hot tears.
The first guy I … and he knew. He knew.
I fumbled keys out of my pocket and held them up, jangling them in front of my face. They woozed and blended in a fuzz of eyestrain, tears, and alcohol.
Now you know there’s nobody in this crappy world you can trust.
My rage had cooled on the walk home, devolving into a ball of hurt and anger and drunken fog. The stairs to the townhouse I shared were treacherous, threatening to throw me back down them with each step, but I wasn’t going to let them get the best of me.
I’m stubborn that way.
Besides, it was cold outside.
The key in my hand stabbed at the keyhole, brass clicking on brass. I had to lean my forehead against the door frame to get the key to slide into the lock. It turned in a smooth motion, barely a click to tell me it had unlocked. I stumbled across the threshold, slamming the door closed behind me, harder than I meant to.
At least the night is over. Just go to bed and try again in the morning. You’ve got jujitsu at ten. You can take it out on the mat.
My keys hit the table by the door with a metallic clatter, clashing against my roommates’ keys.
Keep it down, or you’ll have the whole house up. Shasta’ll want to know what’s wrong, and you do NOT want to get into that. Not tonight.
I looked up the stairs to my room.
Just get to bed.
I’d taken only a few wobbly steps when the first skinless dog stepped from the shadows.
Copyright © 2016 by James R. Tuck