“Toby,” I hear someone hiss. “Toby! Wake up, shithead!”
“Leave me alone, Jude,” I mumble, then fall back asleep.
I sit up suddenly. Jude? Wait. No, there’s no way. Right? Jude is gone. But I clearly heard his voice last night. Have I finally lost it? Or maybe I was just drunk. Yeah, that must be it.
“Ugh…” I groan, running a hand down my face. My head is killing me. Why do I do this to myself? I glance around the room. Hazel’s place? Ah. Right. My parents kicked me out. Also, I think I remember throwing up in Tom’s car? Heh. Good. He deserves it for taking Hazel from me.
Hazel and Tom must have gone to work already because the apartment is empty. Should I get a job? … Nah. My parents will take me back in a few days.
I get up and dig through the bathroom cabinet to find aspirin, then make myself a bowl of cereal. I’m mid-bite when I see a faint aura. Very faint. But I recognize it.
“Jude?” I whisper, dropping the spoon back in the bowl. And then it’s gone, so quickly that I’m not even sure that I actually saw it. “I really have lost it,” I say to myself, just as the door opens and Hazel walks in. Tom is right behind her. Gross.
“Talking to yourself now?” Hazel jokes. I laugh, but it’s really not funny because I totally was.
“You’re not at work,” I say stupidly. Duh. Of course she’s not at work. She’s right here.
“It’s Saturday. I always have Saturdays off,” she says, setting down a bag of groceries on the counter.
“Oh. I don’t pay attention to what day it is I guess.”
“Maybe if you got a job you would know what day it was,” she says. She says it gently, but also in a scolding way. I just shrug and ignore her. “You get to clean up your mess in Tom’s car by the way.” I shrug again, focusing on my cereal as though it’s the most important thing in the world.
I glance over at Tom, who is putting groceries away. His aura is obnoxiously calm. I swear he’s like the perfect guy. Perfect blonde hair, perfect brilliant white teeth, perfectly sculpted body, perfect caring personality… He’s got to be hiding something, right? No one is that perfect. Hazel is better off without him.
Tom notices me staring and gives a small, closed mouth smile. A perfect smile. Disgusting. I glare and go back to my cereal again. It’s soggy now.
“Tom?” Hazel says. “Can you give me and Toby a minute?” Tom nods and heads out the front door.
Oh great. Here we go. She’s going to lecture me. I set down my spoon and lean back in my chair slightly, trying to look defiant.
“I want you out of here before the end of the day. And I’m not doing this again. If you call me again in the middle of the night, drunk off your ass, I’m rejecting it, and blocking your number. Got it?”
I gape at her. Oh. Shit. I wasn’t expecting that. “So, what, am I just supposed to go live on the streets until my parents let me back?”
“Oh, I already spoke with your parents. They have no intentions of letting you come back. You can get off your lazy ass and stop feeling sorry for yourself and go get a damn job.”
I shove back my chair, and stand up, furious. “You’re the one that got me into this mess in the first place!”
“How is your failure of a life my fault?!” Hazel, as small as she is, gets up close to me, exuding dominance. It’s kinda hot…
“You convinced me to lie about everything! I can’t even tell my own parents the truth! I don’t even sleep most nights! You expect me to be able to hold down a job?!”
“You think I don’t struggle with the lies? But I do it, because it’s better than the alternative!”
I know she’s right, but I don’t want to admit it. I don’t want to keep lying to everyone I care about. I’m too tired to fight about it. I sit back down, exhausted mentally and physically.
“You need to get your shit together,” Hazel says softly. “I know you can’t tell a counselor everything, but maybe going to one would help.”
I snort. “How would it help if I can’t tell them the truth either? I’d just be lying to yet another person.”
Hazel leans on the counter and looks at the floor. “It’s been two years, Toby. We have to learn how to live with the reality. What would Jude say if he saw you acting like this?”
I snort again. “He’d tell me to quick being a little bitch about it.”
Hazel laughs, but it’s a choked-up laugh. “Not exactly what I was thinking, but yeah, that’s probably what he would say.”
“And Maria would probably compare my life to some character from her novels and tell me how they overcame something in the most ridiculous way possible. And found romance on the way.” We both crack up laughing.
We both stop laughing and look at each other with sad smiles. “I’m serious, though. I have a life, Toby. I can’t keep doing this. You need to do something.”
I look away and swallow the lump in my throat. She’s right. My parents are right. I can’t spend the rest of my life like this. It’s clearly making things worse.
“Do you ever think you feel Jude or Maria’s presence?” I ask, not looking at her.
Hazel is quiet for a moment. “No. I… I also haven’t used my ability since…”
I look at her sharply. “At all?” She shakes her head. “Why not?”
“I guess I just… don’t want to involve myself in that kind of life anymore,” she says with a shrug.
“But it’s a part of you,” I object.
“I never asked for it,” she snaps.
I hold up my hands in defense. “Okay. Don’t bite my head off, jeez.” I dump my soggy cereal in the sink, then say without looking at her, “I think I saw Jude’s aura. And also heard him…”
“When?” I can’t see the expression on her face, but she sounds tense.
“Well I heard him in the middle of the night when I was sleeping…”
“And drunk. Toby, you’re just imagining things. I want him here just as much as you do, but he’s gone. Forever.”
I turn around and smile. “I know. I just needed to hear someone else say it. I guess I really am going crazy.”
Hazel puts a hand on my arm. “You’re not crazy. Just… hurting. You need to let them both go. And that’s not going to happen by frequenting all of the same clubs that Jude used to go to.”
I nod. I don’t tell her that I go there in the hopes that I’ll see Jude. Or, not Jude anymore, I guess. I hope that some part of Jude is still in there and that Inus has the sudden urge to go party. And then we will have some idea where he is. Stupid, I know.
Tom opens the front door, and Hazel pulls her hand away quickly. If he saw her hand on my arm, he either doesn’t care or is extremely good at hiding his emotions. His aura is still calm! Does this man feel no emotions?!
“Am I good to come back in now? I have to use the bathroom,” he says sheepishly.
“Yeah, we’re done talking. Sorry,” Hazel says.
Tom just smiles and heads to the bathroom, kissing Hazel on the head on his way. Is that his way of showing dominance? Damn him.
I grab what few things I have in the apartment and head to the door.
“Where are you going?” Hazel asks.
“To go get a job and hopefully beg my parents to let me at least have my car back. Wish me luck!” I give her a wink and salute her goodbye. Why am I so awkward and weird?
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