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A Lovely Obsession Duet
Author: CoraLee June

HUNTER

Eighteen Years Ago...

 

 

Everything hurts. My stomach is empty and sloshing around from the water Mom gave me three hours ago. I can feel how hungry I am.

The stained mattress on my floor has coiled wires poking at my back. It’s dark. I’m not sure Mom paid the electricity bill this month. She has other debts that take priority.

But I’m not scared.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been forgotten. Years, maybe? Maybe since I was born. I guess it’s hard to remember your son when you have needles and meth to fill your time.

Mom has friends over. Loud friends that like to groan and moan. Forest doesn’t know. He’s too high. The cracks in our walls tell their secrets.

One of them is angry. Really, really angry.

I look out the window in my room and pray. Mom once told me God wasn’t real. She said he was for people with money. So I pray in secret.

I beg for a way out.

Forest knows—I can hear him now.

The room is loud. So, so loud.

I fall asleep to the familiar lullaby of screams.

 

 

ROE

Current Day

 

 

My heels wobbled on the slippery tile in Nicole Knight’s kitchen. Bodies were herded together, crashing into one another with flirty looks and lingering stares. I had a buzz in my bones, a tingling forgetfulness that tempted my good sense.

To some, it was a house party. To me, it was a rare escape.

“Have another drink, Roe,” Nicole said while jabbing a dirty shot glass in my face. I’d seen at least a dozen of my classmates wrap their chapsticked tobacco lips around that very rim. I wasn’t in the spirit to catch mono, but the clear liquid inside of it tantalized me.

I wasn’t much of a partier. Wasn’t much of an extrovert, either. But tonight—just for tonight—I needed to pretend to be someone else for a bit. Someone that didn’t strategically know every danger in the room.

“I should stop,” I replied. I had already devoured enough tequila to make my body chatter, and my cotton mouth pout was begging me to drink some water.

Nicole frowned. She was my friend of the month. Tragically beautiful, she had bright blond hair and sparkling jade eyes that seemed to spill with sad mischief. She moved here two months ago, which meant she hadn’t been around long enough to know what I was about.

“Come on, you wanted to forget that asshole, drink up!” she encouraged, pressing the cool glass to my lips. I took it from her and swallowed, letting the scorching hot liquid land on my tongue before shooting it down my throat.

Some onlookers cheered. Bad decisions were more palatable when you had good company.

“How are you doing, girl?” Nicole asked while draping her slender arm around my shoulder. She smelled unmistakably of cheap beer and cotton candy body spray, but she was noticeably sober. I realized a couple of weeks ago that she liked to host the parties, not become them.

“I’m fine,” I lied, the words like ash on my tongue. That expression was getting on my nerves. It was one of those lies everyone could see through, like a sheer blanket you wrapped around yourself before bracing for a blizzard. But it wasn’t my recent breakup that had me out of sorts.

“Are you sure?” she asked. “You seem so sad tonight. It’s a fucking party! Liven up!” Nicole fist-pumped the air just as a guy bumped into her, rocking us both as he staggered to the living room. She rolled her eyes at him when he didn’t apologize, before turning her attention to me. “I didn’t even think you liked Joel that much. I mean, you broke up with him, right?”

Joel was my ex. He was nice but vacant, and he worked perfectly for what I needed. He smoked pot on the weekends and liked to play video games. We lasted longer than most of my relationships, mostly because he seemed more concerned with getting high than asking questions. But of course, it didn’t last.

Joel started to get too close. He started to want to know about my likes, dislikes, past, present, and if I could imagine a future with him.

So naturally, I ran.

“I know. I just wasn’t expecting him to move on so quickly,” I replied, the lie easily rolling off my lips. If I were being honest, I wasn’t drinking myself into oblivion because of Joel, but Nicole didn’t need to know that. I’d rather she think I was heartbroken than know what was really bothering me. The truth wasn’t as easy to swallow.

Joel spent all week fucking through anything with a pussy, and any normal girl who could actually fall in love would feel devastated about that, but not me.

I wasn’t healthy. I devoured affections and spun them into sophisticated insecurities, ending them without a care. I was a serial dater. A clingy friend that kept things surface level, then fled. There was a certain high I felt when getting to know someone. I was obsessed with hoarding personalities and hyper-focusing on the intricate tics of others to avoid my own. I liked making friends. I liked kissing random boys. It was sticking around that I struggled with. I was running out of people to fall for.

“You know what they say,” Nicole began. “The best way to get over an ex is to get under someone else.” She knocked my hip with hers and giggled. I doubted she had ever gotten under anyone. Nicole might’ve liked to host parties to piss off her parents, but she wasn’t actually as rebellious as she claimed to be. It was another one of those quirks I’d picked up on.

“I’m tired of the dating pool at Mountain Prep,” I argued. “It’s a bunch of fumbling boys that use your vagina like a fleshlight before asking, ‘Did you come?’” My chuckles filled the room as Nicole gaped at me. Our school was nestled in suburban utopia just outside of Denver, where the middle class thrived and every day at school felt like a reality TV show. People liked to create drama so their small town boredom was more palatable.

Nicole laughed as she peered around the room, assessing the growing crowd in her house. “I don’t know, I heard Chris is good in bed,” she offered, nodding at the preppy quarterback currently hitting a Juul and blowing smoke in some poor girl’s face. Oh yes, I knew Chris very well.

I shrugged, thinking back to our fumbling romp in the janitor’s closet at school. In Chris’s defense, it was standing room only, but our brief, messy moment was not worth remembering. “His dick is nice, but he’s got no rhythm. It was like fucking someone possessed.”

Nicole snorted, her eyes wide in shock. “You’ve slept with him?” she wheezed while looking at me. I saw the curiosity in her eyes. Our friendship was still fairly new. She didn’t know just how reckless I was, but she’d soon realize that the rumors were true.

I’d developed quite a reputation over the years. Many called me a slut, and I guess they were right. I didn’t think it was anything to be ashamed of. Those who were crueler liked to pick apart my alienation, blaming every indiscretion on my daddy issues. They just simplified deeper problems they knew nothing about. My body was a vessel for control. My heart was a rabid beast out to prove something. I cracked my soul wide open and watched as the world slipped on the oil that fell out.

“Yep,” I replied, searching the counters for more booze. I’d need more liquid forgetfulness if this conversation dug deeper into my impulsive proclivities.

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