Chapter Fourteen

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            “Corey?”

            I winced at the sound of my mother’s voice ringing out across the hall. Undoubtedly, it’d been the last step that had given me away, due to its irritating tendency to creak at the slightest movement. It really wasn’t designed for slipping out unnoticed.

            As much as I wanted to grab my shoes and make a dash for it, this would only lead to trouble later, so I forced myself to call back. “Yeah?”

            Moments later she appeared in the doorway, one hand resting on the frame, eyes sweeping over her daughter. I’d chosen to dress down; my jeans were more than suitable, I decided, and it wasn’t like I owned any sort of tight dresses anyway. Still, the fact that I was intending to go out stood pretty plainly. I’d blow dried my hair so it lay flat on my shoulders, removing its usual kinks, and the purse slung over my shoulder definitely didn’t hold any of my usual sportswear.

            “You’re going out?”

            I nodded, hovering awkwardly on the final step. “Uh… yeah.”

            I braced myself for an interrogation, but the look on my mother’s face betrayed no hint about what was to follow. Her face was a statue, as perfectly sculpted as marble, the frozen nature of her features holding the same effect. The ponytail secured at the back of her head was tight, not a strand out of place, and I realized then I’d never seen her wear it any other way. Perhaps this was the only way she could function: safe in the knowledge that every aspect of her life that could be controlled was perfectly so, hoping the others would merely fall into place.

            “Where are you going?”

            I swallowed. It had suddenly become difficult to gather together the words, though it wasn’t like the truth was complicated by any means. “Just to a party,” I managed eventually. “Nothing big. Just with a few friends from school.”

            The look on her face was skeptical at best, but I couldn’t bring myself to be offended. We hadn’t exactly been getting on like a house on fire over the last month; in fact, we were more easily likened to a match that wouldn’t light. The clash of our personalities was just too extreme, like forcing together two mismatching jigsaw pieces, or dousing flames with a bucket of cold water. I was too much of a freelancer to slot into her rigid lifestyle, where nothing existed outside the penciled blocks of her schedule.

            “Oh.” Then, after some thought, she added, “What time are you planning to get home?”

            “I don’t know. I probably won’t stay too long. Maybe somewhere around midnight?”

            “I see.” The words passed her lips, but the narrowed eyes remained contradictory. “Well, make sure you don’t stay out too late. It’s not safe for you to be wandering around the streets at night. You can always call me for a ride.”

           

            “No,” I said, much too quickly. It wasn’t like I’d meant to be rude, but the thought of spending any more time than necessary in a confined space with my mother was almost unbearable. Leave it any longer, and I was sure the ice between us would start lowering the temperature. It surely wasn’t logical; with all the time we were spending together, weren’t we supposed to be getting closer? And yet with each word exchanged between us, the gaping abyss only seemed to be widening. “I mean, I’ll be fine.”

            I only wished my answer would satisfy her, but said feat seemed impossible as long as it was me who stood there.

            “And make sure you’re sensible,” she told me. “I know how things can get at house parties. They can spiral out of control. I know you won’t do anything stupid, Corey, but just in case.”

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