Persephone

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

I can’t believe I’m standing here. Why did I come back? Fuck.

I tried to get him out of my system.

I woke up in a motel room with a roofie hangover and stared at the ceiling for a few hours. I contemplated a lot of things. I don’t really know what I’d been thinking about. Just feeling used.

I used that guy too. But he wasn’t useful enough. I don’t know what I’d been hoping to achieve. I never know what I want to achieve.

I just keep waiting for the magic answer. I have a good time, do what I want. I don’t really give a shit about how it affects people, most of the time. And I keep thinking that maybe at some point I will just have the answer.

The answer to why I’m just… empty.

Is that why I’m here? Is that why I’m standing in the courtyard of my building? Staring up at it like a dumb fucking doll?

It’s pretty at night. Whoever landscaped this place did a great job. Solar lanterns along the hedges throw a dim glow.

“Seph.”

I close my eyes. Maybe if I don’t acknowledge his presence, he’ll disappear. Maybe I can just disappear.

“Seph.” Dexter’s voice is gentle, tentative. As if he’s afraid that I’ll bolt.

I can’t say that thought doesn’t cross my mind.

“I’m sorry,” I say, hoarse and thick. “I shouldn’t have come back here.”

“It’s your home,” he replies. “You should have been able to come back here.”

I swallow hard. “I didn’t want you to have to leave.”

“I would have rather done that, if that’s what you wanted,” he says, and his voice is barely above a whisper.

“I love you,” he’d said. He’d sounded just like he does now. That raspy husk.

I open my eyes.

Big mistake.

God, he’s beautiful. He stares down at me, having stopped a few feet away. He doesn’t look sad. He doesn’t look angry. He doesn’t look like he’s afraid. He’s just… talking to me. His eyes are almost… understanding.

Understanding me? Can anyone really do that?

“It isn’t what I want,” I breathe. “I think… I don’t ever really know what I want.”

He nods. “I know.”

“How the fuck do you know?!” I snap, anger bubbling up inside of me. I’m so glad that I feel something, anything, that I grab onto it and ride it like a fucking bull. “You don’t know me at all! You don’t know fucking anything! You just waltz into my fucking life and act all goddamned perfect and then you think you… you think you… you…” My fists clench so hard that I’m sure my nails are splitting the skin of my palm. “You have no right.”

He lets out a deep whoosh of air, like he’s sighing from his very toes. “No right to love you?”

I moan in frustration. I can’t look at him again. I fix on a wayward dandelion, half crushed under my borrowed sandal.

I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t have any answers. But I do know that I’m not a good person. I’m not good for you. All I’m good for is skeezy date rapists. Homewrecking. Pumping my body full of substances and not giving a fuck. That’s all I’m ever going to be. The last fucking crushed weed in what used to be somebody else’s field of flowers.

“Seph,” he says, but he’s cut off from whatever diatribe he’s about to launch into by the sound of screeching tires. A car screams up onto the sidewalk and I whirl around to face it as the windows roll down.

There’s a scream, a familiar voice. But all I can focus on is the sight of a gun barrel pointing out of the window, the metal gleaming in the golden glow of the courtyard lighting. The screaming becomes intelligible when I realize they’ve yelled Dexter’s name.

No.

The gunshot is like a thunderclap, and I throw myself at him, hurling and tumbling through space and time, the only thing I need is him in my hands, him breathing, living, blood pumping beneath his skin, and the tires squeal again, punching me in the back as if a sledgehammer sprung up in their wake to smash into me, and it’s hard to breathe, is he breathing?

I try to speak. I need to know he’s okay. But my world is spinning. His name becomes a gasp on my tongue. And then pain.

“Shit, Seph,” he hisses. He sounds almost amused. What the fuck?

My back is on fire, and my ass it warm and wet. I register his arms around me.

Oh my god I took the bullet, I took the fucking bullet in my back. My back is bleeding and he’s holding me. Dexter’s holding me while I bleed.

“Don’t…” I rasp, my teeth chattering. “Don’t touch my blood.”

My body spasms.

Then nothing.

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