Chapter 3.

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Dion wanted to get drunk after the dramatic ending of the football match, so we broke into the neighbors' house. The Kosters, Steve and Jacqueline, have been gone for a few days now, though I don't think they've disappeared: they're probably in the US. That's what they were talking about before my parents disappeared, when they felt obligated to visit my sick mother. (That's how they described it to me: sick. As if she had a touch of the flu that would sort itself out.) They drank coffee and talked about their plans to visit Florida without even once asking how my mother was doing. So I'm not exactly wracked with guilt for letting myself inside their house with the key they gave us to water their plants. There is a heavy, sweetish lavender smell in their living room from dozens of herb pouches spread out across cupboards and hanging from ornamental ribbons tied to the ceiling. There are four bottles of beer in the fridge, and no matter how thoroughly we search, we can't find any more.

When we get back, Dion downs one of the bottles of beer all at once and then sits down at the kitchen table, folding his hands around a second bottle. He looks at me, and I take a sip. I've never had beer before. I know nineteen seems a cowardly age to drink for the first time, but my parents never stocked alcohol and I don't get out much these days. Besides, booze doesn't mix well with my Zoloft: it heightens the risk of drowsiness, according to the information leaflet. But the end of the world seems an excellent opportunity to try it out. After all, I'm not driving anywhere.

The beer is so tart my mouth puckers in protest, and Dion grins at me scornfully.

"Fuck this," he says. He takes a swig of his beer. Then he leans across the table and closes his fist around the sleeve of my sweater – and a piece of my skin. His face contorts in a fierce frown. "Fuck this, Jonas. Say it."

I don't know what he's talking about, but I quickly repeat, "Fuck this." He lets go of my sleeve and I rub my sore arm.

Dion scrapes his chair back and gets up. When he plants his knuckles on the table, I involuntarily recoil a little.

"We're making a pact, okay?" he says.

"A pact."

He lets out an impatient breath. "You're staying, and I'm staying." He prods his finger in my direction. "And if you have the nerve to fade, I'll kick the shit out of you."

I raise my eyebrows at that, and for a moment I worry he might get angry. But then his own words register, and he chuckles and extends his fist to me. "A pact. You and me. Okay?"

I tap my knuckles against his. "Okay."

The relief on his face is obvious, but I wonder how he expects me to keep such a promise.

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