Loading... Chapter Fifty
Most debauchery-filled nights made for blurred mornings, but today was too bright, too clear. It provided no distractions to the fact that Andreah wasn't here. Owen sat up in bed, tempted to call her name to be sure. But it was too quiet. He fell back in bed, feeling foolish that he'd ever thought she would be here. Declarations of love and passion do not make a commitment.
He needed to talk to someone. Anyone who wouldn't judge whatever this on again off again thing was. Unfortunately, only one place came to mind.
"I don't even know if I belong in these meetings anymore. I'm not anonymous. You can practically watch my lives unfold on TV in front of you. You can witness my past life, and watch as I try to not feel too much in this one." Owen tapped his fingers on the meeting hall's podium. "Maybe I shouldn't be here, and I guess my point is, I miss being anonymous. There is a certain freedom in being unknown."
The room was silent as Owen stepped down. He walked over to the snack table and thought about walking right past, but stopped. A shorter girl with her hood up came to the table, and he took a step over to give her room. Instead of focusing on the cookies, her attention was undivided on him. Or rather, nervously not on him in a way that made the void's meaning clear. "I um," she said with a false start. "I wanted to tell you that Daniel helped me. I know you miss what you had, but thank you. Daniel's refusal to give up helped me do the same."
Owen opened his mouth, but found his tongue tied. What could he even say to that? What sounded sincere enough?
"You don't have to say anything," she said, with a quick jitter of her hands. "I just wanted you to know. I should sit back down."
He wordlessly watched as she did just that. The support held for a time. Until he got home, looked around, and felt alone again. How many half fixes and momentary reprieves would it take to feel okay again?
It was just another day indistinguishable from the rest. With a sigh, Owen grabbed his laundry basket and started the long trek to the laundry room downstairs. He mindlessly tossed shirts and socks in, only pausing to check the pockets before throwing it all in.
Usually nothing was there, and at most a few coins were found. But this time, he pulled out Andreah's stash. It had been a while since he'd accidentally lifted the bag of ecstasy off her. Owen stared in disbelief before hiding it in his jeans and glancing around. It wasn't like he could just toss it in the trash down here. Who knows who could find it?
As soon as the washer was loaded, he booked it upstairs. He paced through his apartment stopping in his bedroom and pulling the drugs back out. What should he do with them?
He stared down and decided to take a seat at the foot of a chair. The unmade bed across from him was now an echo of the night before. Owen pulled out a pill and placed it between his lips. It rested there for a thoughtful second before he grabbed a water bottle off the side table. If he could only catch that content feeling again, the whole day would go by so much easier.
But like the best-laid plans of mice and men, his, too, went awry. Fifteen minutes later, Owen pulled a hand to his chest. He thought he could push past the tightness until it settled into nausea that signaled only two things: dehydration or too high of a dose.
He could try to help one of those. Owen's fingers felt cold as he reached for the water bottle. The plan was to ride it out on the bed, but the floor seemed just as good right now. He felt tired, but knew he wouldn't be able to sleep and decided to hum the only song he could think of to help him get through it.
Minutes passed, maybe hours, Owen couldn't tell, before he heard his front door open.
"Owen?" Andreah called. "I found your spare keys before I left, I hope that's..." Owen's attention drifted in and out while she rambled. "...some tasty pho from that place..." His eyes fluttered open to look around for her before closing them again.
"—ere are you?" He heard his bedroom door creak, signaling that she was close now.
Andreah's hand on his shoulder was the clearest feeling that followed. He moved his jaw uncomfortably before speaking. "Where did you go?"
"I had to help Abby with a story, I thought I told you."
The short answer gave her pause. "I'm sorry. I swore I did." Owen nodded slightly, and went back to whispering something. It was clearly words, but they were so foreign and woven together she couldn't tell which. "Owen, baby," Andreah said, "What are you saying?"
He raised his voice so she could hear. "La petite poule grise."
"Lance's song?" Owen let out a small sound in agreement. She must have moved away for a moment because he felt her come back. "How much did you take? Do you need anything?"
"No...I know what's wrong. Just let me pretend to try to sleep."
Andreah pulled him up by his arm, and he leaned in making it easy to support him enough to get him onto the bed. "Okay, then you're not a complete idiot." She gave him a small kiss on his forehead, her breath smelling of chocolate and coffee. "I'll be right here 'til you're over the hill."
Owen was disappointed the kiss wasn't on the lips. That is, until he felt fingers brush his hair and made being awake bearable.
The diner's brew the next morning didn't smell as sweet. Andreah's eyes were as black as her coffee as she rubbed away the fatigue. Owen felt the need to apologize, but Andreah waved him away each time. The next topic led to her taking many frequent sips from her mug and messed with the silverware. "You had a bad roll last night, and this morning you want to get back together?"
Owen sighed. "I did it because I knew I didn't have...this in real life. And I desperately wanted that loved up feeling. And I know that sounds like I'm putting it on you, and I'm not. It's on me, and if you say no, I will responsibly take care of myself. But I don't know why we need to fight this. If you love me too, why aren't we together?"
Andreah stared down at waffles, already topped with syrup but otherwise untouched.
"Come on," Owen smiled. "Don't you want to date a bisexual with an addictive personality? We share one story, why can't we share this one too?"
"God, you're so—" Andreah shook her head and grinned. "I love you."
"So, that's a yes?"
Owen leaned over the small table and Andreah mirrored him. "Can I kiss you?" he asked, already feeling her breath unevenly on his lips. It was a closeness where centimeters meant as much as miles.
"Yeah," she breathed, and sweetly kissed him. "I forget how scary and weird it is from the other side. We both really need to watch the drugs."
"Can't really disagree with that."
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Bone Diggers (Paperback out now!)Science Fiction
When everyone IRL lies, the only person you can trust is an NPC. Dirty little secrets can't be hidden behind player avatars, because Bone Diggers like Owen expose the lives behind the code. When his two worlds blur, he must decide which is more impo...