Better When He's Bold(4)

By: Jay Crownover



“Brysen!”

I jerked my head up as Adria came barreling into me. She almost took both of us to the ground.

“Oh my God, I was freaking out! Where did you go?”

I hugged her back, mostly to see if it would stop the shaking. It didn’t.

“Race took me out the back, for some reason.”

Her eyes were huge in her face.

“Why would he do that? No one knew where the gunman was.”

I just shook my head. “I don’t know, I just followed him. He didn’t really give me a choice.”

“Some guy caught his girlfriend with another guy. Can you believe that? All that for something so stupid.”

I didn’t get to ask her how she knew what the ruckus was all about because the police were finally on the scene and they were giving those of us left lingering about the third degree.

The university and the house where the party was at were both located on the Hill. Things like random gunfire, jealous boyfriends, and cheating girlfriends belonged in the Point; at least that’s what most people from the Hill tried to fool themselves into believing. By the time it was all said and done, I was exhausted, and could still taste Race on my lips. My night out in order to forget had turned into one that I would remember forever, even if I knew how bad an idea it was to hold on to any memory of him. Maybe gray wasn’t such a bad shade to be surrounded in after all. It was boring and bland, but it was safe.

I drove Adria back to her apartment, fielding questions about Race the entire way. She was fascinated by him, could feel that magnetic pull he just naturally had. I tried to tell her that he was bad news, that the world he operated in was as far away from her almost M.B.A. as she could imagine, but of course that only added to his mystique and appeal. What nice girl from the Hill didn’t lust after a naughty boy from the Point? It couldn’t have been any more clichéd if it tried. By the time I was headed home, I had a headache and my stomach was in knots.

When I parked in front of the cookie-cutter trilevel my parents had built before everything fell apart, I had to really think about whether or not I wanted to keep the engine running and just continue driving until I was somewhere else, until I hit a different life. Two years ago, everything in my world had been cheery and full of color and light. I was living in an apartment with girlfriends, attending college, fending off boys with only one thing on their mind. I was silly. I was carefree, and I never thought about any of it going away.

Now I was living back at home, taking care of one parent suffering from a crippling bout of depression and with a tendency to self-medicate, and another who was a workaholic and obviously burying himself in his job to avoid the troubling things going on at home. Mostly I came back to keep my little sister, Karsen, from being affected by the sadness and the darkness of it all. She was sixteen, a straight-A student, and bound for college in just a couple more years. I could tough it out until then. After all, my parents had always worked hard to keep our family on the fine line between the Hill and the Point, and I felt like it was the least I could do to repay them. We had never been obnoxiously wealthy, but we had never been forced to try and survive on the battleground that was life on the streets of the Point either. I really felt like I owed them for that at the very least.

Sighing, I made my way inside. There were no lights on because Karsen wasn’t home and my mom was undoubtedly passed out in bed. I swung by the kitchen to grab a beer that was actually cold and puttered by my dad’s office on the way up to the floor where my room was. He was seated behind the computer, like always. His balding head bent down and his eyes locked on whatever was on the screen. I frowned a little and twisted the cap off the neck of the bottle.

“Hey.”

I saw him start and his gaze jerked away from the monitor. “Brysen Carter, you scared the piss out of me.”

“How was she?”

He cleared his throat and returned his attention to the computer. “Fine. Everything was fine.”

That was highly unlikely.

“Did you even check on her tonight, Dad?”

“Brysen, this is very important. Can it wait?”

Not really, but everything came second to his job. I didn’t say anything, just pulled off my shoes and wandered around the corner to where the master bedroom was located. The door was cracked and the TV was on. I pushed the door open with the flat of my hand and hissed out a swearword.

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