twenty four - midnight

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It's quiet when I arrive back to the apartment, Kylie deep asleep on the couch with the TV muted. The glow literally lights up the entire apartment so I use it to make it to my room without tripping or making any obnoxious noises.

"I hear you," a quiet voice says from behind what sounds like a muffled doorway or wall.

"I can explain," I frantically say like a teenager getting caught by their parents.

"Explain what?" the voice says, even more muffled than before.

My eyes widen like I've just snorted a line of coke or something when I realize who is actually talking.

"Nigel, what the fuck!" I exclaim as I race across the hallway to his room, peeking my head in with the cheesiest smile ever, "I've been gone for a day and you're suddenly back!"

I see Nigel try to hide a smile as he looks up at me from his bed, burying his head halfway into his pillow again where it previously was.

"What's up?" I ask, standing in front of his door.

"I didn't do it. I turned around right away to come back home," Nigel tells me with his face still half buried.

"That sucks. I'm sorry," I say with as much sympathy as I can.

"No, I don't wanna talk about it. I'm staying here," Nigel tells me. His voice sounds like he's running out of power the longer the sentence is.

"Why don't you sleep or something and we'll catch up on the morning, yeah?" I suggest as I start to push his door back open to leave.

"Where were you? Kylie was really upset," Nigel mumbles to his pillow.

I feel my stomach twist as I puff my cheeks out for a second before answering him.

"Just walking, I guess," I tell Nigel while using my imagination to slap myself across the face for saying something so lame.

"You're probably tired too. Goodnight," Nigel abruptly says as he pulls the covers over his shoulders.

I silently leave and let a deep breath out in the hallway as I relax. The only thing stopping me from running to Ivan's house is the encounter I'm bound to have with Jackie.

I quietly walk back into the living room and slip my shoes on. The soles are still warm as I twist the front door open to leave, taking my time so I can be as quiet as possible. I make it back outside.

It's probably close to midnight judging by the lack of cars and people in the streets on a work night. I smoke a cigarette on the way to Ivan's house with as much guilt as the ocean, but I can't help it.

When I reach his house, I climb the steps to the porch and peek inside the window. The television is on but I don't know who is watching it. Ivan? Jackie? His dad? It's a gamble, but I have a good feeling so I knock on the window softly.

Nothing.

I knock again, a little harder, and finally see a shadow casting over the television's light.

"I knew you'd come back, like fucking head lice," Ivan mumbles as he opens the front door for me, giving me barely any room to pass him.

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