I had no intention of losing my freedom.
I swallowed the last of my beer and paced across the dorm room, shaking my head. “No way.” I pointed my finger inches from her face. “Take care of it, Dev. I’m serious.”
Her mouth rounded as a crease deepened above her reddening eyes. “What do you mean, Jeremy? Why can’t we?”
“You were supposed to be on the pill.” I rubbed my brow, teeth clenched. “You swore this wouldn’t happen.”
Her bottom lip trembled and arched downward as tears began to paint her cheeks. “I ran out. I was going to get more from the school nurse. I didn’t think —.”
I grabbed her, my fingers digging into the soft shoulders I’d so often caressed. “That’s right, you didn’t.” I pushed her onto my bed and turned away.
She grunted as she fell. “I’m sorry.” Her words were becoming lost behind a grating cry. “I thought maybe we could —.”
I spun around. It was a trick, a trap; she wanted me tied up in her box. The veins about my eyes began to throb and my throat tightened. “You think I’m an idiot? That I don’t know your angle?” I glared at her. “M-R-S degree. Never expected you to play games.”
She reached toward me. “Why are you talking like that? I love you.”
The walls of the room began to close in. The skeletal visage of the pirate flag that hung above my chair seemed to laugh and mock. I kicked the dirty shirts heaped near the trashcan. They sailed through the air, draping over my speakers and stereo. “This wasn’t a problem last time.”
“You said you loved me, too.”
I opened the bottom drawer of my desk, pushed aside my porn, and yanked out the leather Bible my Grandmother had given me before she died. I tossed it onto the blankets. “You’ll find what you need in there.”
A flicker of brightness, like a fanned ember, lifted the corners of her mouth. She hesitated then softly grasped the book. Her stare moved between the cover and me, twisting as if trying to resolve a complex incongruence from algebra class.
The pages fell open in her hands to a place marked by a worn envelope, tattered from years of use. “Jeremiah?”
“That’s a few hundred bucks. I‘m smart enough to keep it around for an emergency like this.” I nodded, willing her to pick it up, to end this game. “Take it.”
The color drained from her face. “I-I can’t do that again.”
I cursed. She was being stubborn. “You can’t … or won’t?”
“I can hear a baby crying when I sleep, my baby, hungry and cold.” She blinked and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “I’m haunted by a yearning that I can‘t fill or satisfy.” Her face became empty and distant as if she were looking beyond the walls and into another world. “It never goes away. Never.” She swallowed. “Don’t ask me —.”
“You’re whacked.” I wanted to push her through the door and out of my life, but I was frozen by the hollowness of her voice and the tears that dripped onto the envelope like murderer’s blood.
“It hurt so bad. They held me down. I could feel them tearing inside of me — I screamed.” Her mouth opened and closed, spittle stretched between her lips. “But they wouldn’t stop —.” Her voice faltered and died. The Bible in her hands tilted, spilling the envelope and money onto the floor.
I clawed my fingers through my hair, ripping at the knots. “But it’s over, it only lasted a minute. Better than a lifetime of keeping the thing.”
She studied the pages before her, ignoring me, and muttering. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart …” She stood, fire consuming the blue of her eyes. “I’m not doing that again.”
“Come on, Dev. Don’t be like that.” I smiled and tipped my head. “We have fun in bed, right? Why throw that away?”
She picked up her purse, stumbled to the door, and wrestled with the knob.
I went after her. “You’re always looking out for yourself first. What about me? You never put anyone else’s needs ahead of your own.”
The line of her jaw stiffened. “Then it’s finally time I start.”
The door slammed shut behind her as she walked away.
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