30. Like Romeo

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Buck's house was exactly what I expected it to be

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Buck's house was exactly what I expected it to be. Located in a secluded backwoods area on the far edge of town, the two story clapboard structure was just one step above condemnation.

It might've been painted a shade of blue at one point, but the sun had bleached it out to a bone-gray, with patches of brown where the original wood showed through. The roof was missing most its shingles and part of the porch was half sunken into the earth. Rather whimsically, a tire swing swayed from the giant oak that shaded the house.

A near pristine, heavy duty chain link fence circled around the property. I placed my hand on the gate, then hesitated, scanning for dogs. Places like these always had dogs.

"His Pits were stolen a few months back," said Jake from behind me.

I didn't turn around. "Why do you even know that?"

"I heard him talking at Boomer's," he said, referring to one of the dive bars in town that my mom frequented. "Look, Layla-"

But I couldn't bear to see the naked pity in his eyes. "Thanks for the ride, Jake, I really appreciate it. And I'm really sorry for being such a jerk to you. I'll see you tomorrow."

Without waiting for a response, I walked away, picking my way through the scrap metal littered across on the front lawn.

Amber opened the door half awake and half dressed, wearing a giant tee shirt and her underpants. She either didn't notice or didn't care that I'd been crying, so there was that silver lining.

Mom wasn't home - no surprise there, and neither was Buck. Too bad. At this point, I would've been ecstatic to spend the night watching infomercials with him while he drank himself into a stupor and told stupid jokes. Anything over a night of being alone with my thoughts.

I followed Amber up the stairs. "Do you know where my mom is? Did she say anything about when she might be back?"

She turned and stared at me, her eyes dull, her tongue protruding slightly out of her mouth. I licked my lips and spoke a little louder, a little slower. "Do you understand what I'm asking you?"

She rolled her eyes. "Fuck you, Layla. And no, I don't know where Brandy is, and I don't know when she's coming back."

Feeling like an absolute dick, I nodded. "I'm so sorry... I didn't mean to-"

"Whatever."

She led me down a dark and narrow hallway until we reached the room at the end and pushed the flimsy door open by the worn brass handle. "Your room."

It was very... brown. Brown wooden floors, wood paneled walls, brown twin bed, brown dresser. Everything was old but clean. Two Hefty bags filled with my stuff sat beside the bed.

Amber turned to walk away. "Towels and sheets are in the closet."

"Hey Amber?"

"What!" She looked exhausted, dark circles heavy beneath her blue eyes.

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