ENEMIES

“Really. Wow. That’s super impressive.”

She was still snickering. “Listen, I know Mia and Lisa are kinda being bitches about you being here, but you’re here. It is what it is. Char was a bitch for what she did, and most of it was a middle finger to Mia and Lisa for things they were saying last semester. You seem nice. You’re quiet. I already know that. If you want to stay, you can stay. Rent’s due the first of the month. My uncle rigged a rent box in the back of the house, just put your check in there and it’ll be fine.” She paused a beat. “Sav told me what Char did. I’d like to say it’s cool, but no one can cover you. The only redeeming thing I can say is that Char’ll be back, and we’ll get the money then.”

“What about utilities?”

“We only pay cable and Internet. You just need to chip in for those.”

“Who do I pay for that?”

“Mia’s in charge of paying those bills, so you gotta give your money to her. It’s usually only fifty dollars.”

“When’s that due?”

“You’re good for this month, so not till end of next month.”

More money, but I had a fund set aside just for bills. I had planned for this. “Okay.”

“Um.” She stood up, and we heard more footsteps going over my ceiling above. “That’s probably the group. We’re heading out for dinner. You want to come?”

I couldn’t move. I wasn’t sure if this was the beginning of a set-up or not. I’d been observing them by now, and they were social creatures. So were killer whales. I was not a killer whale. I was more a spotfin lionfish, but you know, without the venom and the beautiful dorsal fins. But I was antisocial. That was my point, and I was that way for a reason.

“Mia’s at Wyatt’s and Lisa’s at the library. It’s just me, Sav, Noel, and a few others.”

A few others. I already knew that probably meant close to ten people.

I was torn. This was an olive branch, I was thinking. Or assuming. Or just hoping. She said the two girls who hated me wouldn’t be there, but I did have a crap ton of studying to do already.

Shit.

What should I do?

She took pity on me again. “Listen, come. If it’s not the scene for you, we can Uber back? I’ll order the Uber, on me. I’ll make sure we go somewhere small. I think they mentioned the bar on campus.”

With an offer like that, I knew I had to go. She was making so many concessions just to get me to hang out with them.

This was so a set-up. I was the outcast seal swimming to my slaughter. They just wanted to play with me a bit before eating me.

I nodded and grabbed my purse. “I’m game.” What else could I do?

“Great.”





My roommate was a liar.

I knew there was a bar on campus. It was a small pub. Quaint. I saw it once walking past it, but I didn’t know there were two bars on campus, and the one their group went to was the opposite of small. It was huge. Sixteen large screens were mounted around the place. It was an on-campus version of Wild Wings. It was a total sports hangout, and when we walked in, they were heralded as long-lost family members. A collective greeting came up from everywhere, but I’d been prepared for that. A D1 school, and Noel was the starting quarterback, he was a big deal. A really big deal. Savannah was next to him. And Nicole had introduced me to Nacho and Dent. Dent was the guy who had been going to help me the first night until Mia stopped him.

He had dark eyes and he’d been watching me the whole time. He sat next to me when we all piled into a huge booth in the corner. It was one that seated up to twelve people. Nicole was on my left and Dent was on my right. Reaching for the menu, his arm grazed mine.

I pulled my arm away, not to be rude, but because I had a thing with personal space and people invading it.

“Sorry.”

“It’s me. I have a personal bubble issue.”

He chuckled. “Not for that, for the first night. We should’ve helped you bring in your boxes. It would have been the right thing to do.”

Oh. That.

I shrugged. “It’s fine. It’s cool.”

“No, really. We should’ve helped. Not all of us are like Liss and Mia. Some of us are cool. Friendly, even.”

Yeah. He was being friendly now, but the jaded part of me, the side of me that knew I was living in a kill or be killed kinda world wondered if he’d keep it up when and if Mia was around. I was thinking not.

“They’re—” I didn’t know what to say. And I only had enough money for a small order of wings, so I didn’t need to peruse the menu anymore. I settled for picking at my napkin. “They’re fine.”

“They’re being bitches.”

The guy next to Dent heard and choked back a laugh. “You’re just pissy because Lisa shot you down hard last night.”

And that put him in a whole new light.

I shifted back just as his gaze whipped back to mine. His eyebrows rose. “It’s not like that.”

No. I was getting what it was like exactly.

“It’s cool.”

But fuck. For real.

Nicole and Savannah, I could get them. I was the new roommate. They hadn’t kicked me out, so I was figuring the two had taken pity on me. I mean, I was looking around. There were people galore around them, and others still on the periphery. Girls who would’ve been my replacement. Why Char did what she did…yeah, that was a bitch move. To them and myself, but it was done. I couldn’t afford my own place yet. No way. They were only making me pay three hundred a month, and I knew that was a steal where the house was located, that it actually was a house. I’d resigned myself to the fact that I’d put up with the loud and the football, if only for a semester.

But this guy, he didn’t have to pretend to be nice to me.

I saw him start to offer to help, then he was stopped. I thought for just the briefest of seconds that maybe I’d found another ally. A person needed to try to get along with their roommates, right? Their friends?

I was an idiot, and another realization hit me.

I shouldn’t have been there, especially when every channel was turned to a sports channel and half of the screens were raving about Stone.

And just then, because it seemed the universe was against me, my phone chimed a text.

Gail: Here’s Stone’s phone number. I made your father ask Charles.

A contact alert came through and fuuuck. My thumb moved to delete it, but I waited. I mean, I hated him. With every bone in my body, but he literally was the only person from back home that I knew in the city. Then again, he probably had a filter for callers. He wouldn’t know my number. He wouldn’t take it, and even if he did know it or have mine programmed into his phone, he really wouldn’t take it.

The hatred was mutual and that was the only thing we could both bond over.

Why was Gail doing this to me? Was my dad really letting her go down this path of delusions? He knew I hated Stone as much as I knew he hated Charles and Barb. There was literally no love lost between our foursome.

But still, I didn’t delete it.

I could come back to it, in case something happened. An emergency of some sort, like if I had to get ahold of him.

“It’s not like that.”

I jerked my head up just as he started to look at my phone.

I clicked the button, turning my screen off, and I waited, my breath held, frozen, hoping he hadn’t read Stone’s name when Gail shared the contact with me. That was absolutely the last thing I wanted to happen here.

“That your mom?”

He was so sweet, assuming the only person who’d text me would be by my mom. “My mom’s dead.”

He jerked back in his seat, his eyes widening.

I kept it to myself that it had been my stepmom as I put my phone away. It was then that I knew it was time to cut and run before I got in deeper. Consider the outcasted seal wising up and learning killer whales were not the herd to swim with.

“Mind if I head to the bathroom?”

“Hey. I’m sorry about—”

I waved that off. “She died a long time ago. It’s no big. Can you let me out? I gotta piss.”

He wavered, but the guy beside him was already shifting out. So did Dent, and then I was free. They didn’t wait for me to take off. Both got back in the booth, and I moved a few steps, watching. No one noticed I’d left. They weren’t paying attention, and even after going to the bathroom, then coming back, I lingered before deciding if I truly should ditch or try to get ahold of Nicole and let her know I was going.

She was leaning into Dent, who had his arm around the back of her seat. They were all laughing, and observing the tables around them, I wasn’t the only one watching. This was their group. This was what happened when they went out. I was starting to get that. They were watched by everyone, and a bunch of people came and went from talking to them, returning to their own tables after they’d been seen interacting with them. Others replaced them.

With the ease they all portrayed, this was an everyday thing for them.

Yeah.

I eased backwards.

They wouldn’t even remember that I’d gone with them, so with that decided, I headed for the exit.

I used my money for the cab instead.





Chapter Five





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