Chapter 17 - It's Excruciating

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Pressing her ear against the cold door, Mia took in a deep breath and held it in for as long as she could. Something was beating her chest like a drum, and her feet felt glued to the carpet. She could hear the television set on, and it was so intensely loud that the muffled dialogue vibrated through the wood. As she exhaled forcefully, she balled her fist and knocked three times.

There was no answer.

Mia knew that Brett couldn't stand the sound of the doorbell — it was a horrid buzz that sounded like it belonged in an industrial mill — but she didn't have much of a choice. Her thumb reached the button before she thought twice.

There still wasn't an answer.

Mia didn't have her things. No wallet and no bag, which also meant no keys. The clothes she had worn earlier that day were at Richard's hotel room where she had changed, and the battery of the object that could have done her justice was already dead.

She knocked again, more than a dozen times it felt like, and rang the bell hastily. She grew impatient, stomping her foot childishly in aggravation. After an absurd number of attempts, she could finally hear the floorboards shift.


The door unlocked and swung open. Brett stood against the doorframe in blue pajama pants and a white t-shirt. He yawned as he rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself up.

"Sorry, I fell asleep. Hi." He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her forehead. A hand surveyed the material of her dress until it reached the end, his fingertips grazing her skin. "Is this new? It's nice."

She shivered. "Hi. It is," she said, inching away cautiously. As he released his grip, she slipped out of his arms and stomped into the unit.

Mia made a beeline for the living room. She ignored the irritating sounds from the TV as it blared at high volumes, and she was quick to find her floral tote bag that sat where she had left it earlier: at the foot of the couch.

Grabbing every item she owned, that she could find, she packed away to the brim. She placed everything inside, including the novels she had forgotten months prior and the box of hair ties stored in the drawer of the coffee table.

"Where the hell did you go? I called you a million times," Brett complained. He didn't notice her rush as he struggled to find the remote to turn the TV off. "You didn't tell me you were going out."

"Last minute thing with the girls," Mia lied. She panted as she entered the bedroom, reclaiming more of her possessions. A hair brush, a tube of lipgloss, a black knitted sweater.

She marched back into the living room and pushed them into her overflowing tote, not giving a single damn if anything would break from the weight thereafter. Brett was standing in the kitchen confused by her actions. It came to his attention now, and he couldn't believe his eyes.

"Mia, what's going on?"

Mia carried her things toward the door and placed them below the knob. She eyed the small bowl on the table to her left and fished out the key to her apartment, a duplicate she had given Brett a year before. She replaced it with the duplicate to his unit, one that she had been entrusted with, but no longer needed now.

She turned to face him. Sorrow was replaced by anger. Fear was replaced by courage. Choosing not to near him, she kept her distance. He stood still in the middle of the kitchen as she leaned against the wall that paralleled. It looked like a much-awaited duel, and there was no referee to save them.

Mia threw the first punch. "Is there something you're not telling me, Brett?" She crossed her ankle over the other, balancing herself as the straps of her heels dug into her feet uncomfortably. "Are you hiding anything?"

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