5. demons

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October, 2017

New York seemed to open up and swallow her whole. Her throat burned with unshed tears. Ingrid could suddenly not handle the dizzying stream of people on the street anymore and wanted to scream her rage at the top of her lungs. Her mouth gaped for it but no sound came out.

Ingrid hurried away from the diner, stumbling left and right until she found a quiet corner where she could compose herself and figure out what to do next. An unbearable urge to collapse and cry made her knees tremble but she forced herself upright and shut out the world around her.

Caitlin.

Her eyes flew open. Caitlin's dorm was in the vicinity of Columbia University, which meant Harlem. Ingrid pulled out her phone and frantically searched for the address, then input it into the GPS and looked up directions starting from her current location. Twenty-minute walk. Doable.

Ingrid fished out her earphones from her purse and plugged them in. She emptied her mind, let the music flow in and fill it up. The streets became easier to navigate. The air became more breathable. By the time she made it to her destination, Ingrid had mustered a semblance of calm which kept her from falling apart.

"Hey, Carol," she greeted Caitlin's housemate who answered the door. "Is Cait in?"

Carol stepped aside and let Ingrid in. "Hey. No, she ain't. She's got classes."

Ingrid wrestled the nausea building up inside her. "She's staying out late, do you reckon?"

Carol shrugged.

"I mean, I was just thinking to wait for her here, if that's okay with you."

Carol strolled back to her bedroom. "Yeah, fine. I'll be going out soon, though. You okay by yourself?"

Ingrid nodded, smiling. "Yeah, don't worry about me."

"Alright."

Ingrid made herself at home on the living room sofa, after she tried the door of Cait's bedroom and found it locked. She should have called ahead. Although, if Cait was in class, it was better that she hadn't. Maybe she ought to text her a heads-up instead.

Except her phone was on the coffee table and she'd have to get up from the sofa to reach it.

Later.

Her eyes fluttered closed.

She'd text her later.

Later, Ingrid shot up in a daze from the sofa. She vaguely remembered hearing Carol call out bye, but the silence around her was so oppressive now, that it must have happened quite some time ago.

"Shit."

She grabbed her phone. It was late. And she hadn't texted Cait. Ingrid typed a quick message and went to the toilet. When she got back and began scouring the kitchen cupboards for something to eat, noises floated down from the front door. Ingrid walked out into the hall. Voices tumbled into the apartment – Caitlin and an Asian-looking boy.

"Ingrid!" Cait smiled when she spotted her guest. "Hey."

"Carol let me in," Ingrid explained.

"I figured she might have." The boy went to deposit his armful of groceries in the kitchen. "This is Shaun, by the way. Our next-door neighbour."

Ingrid held out her hand and Shaun shook it. Cait had a few more things in her tote bag, which she put straight into the fridge.

"How are you? Dad told me you were home sick."

Ingrid fidgeted in a corner of the kitchen. "Yeah, about that..."

Caitlin sensed her friend's disquiet and thanked Shaun for helping her with the shopping, before suggesting that they ought to postpone movie night. He didn't seem to mind and hugged his neighbour goodbye. Although alone in the apartment, the ladies holed up in Cait's bedroom, sprawled across the queen-sized mattress.

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