Authors: Rachel Ellis
©2014 by Rachel Ellis
Hot Tree Editing
I curled under the blankets, hiding myself from the rest of the world.
“Come on, Scarlet,” Kristie said, trying to tear the sheets off. “You’ve got to snap out of this.”
I snatched a tissue from the bedside. “My life has come to ruin. Leave me alone to die.”
“I’m not taking any more of this.” She pulled on the blanket with all her strength. I let my guard down, allowing her to remove it from my hands. It slipped down my bed. Stubborn and refusing to face reality, I shoved my head under my pillow and covered myself with its safe warmth.
She shook my shoulder. “You’ve been having nothing but smoothies for the last week. Your whole house is a giant elephant of a mess, and you stink. Come on! Get the hell up.”
I sat up, like she asked me to, and groaned. “Why can’t you just leave me be?”
“Because I’m me and you’re Scarlet. Go take a shower, darn it. You smell and look like crap. When was the last time you combed your hair?”
Absentmindedly, I brought my fingers to my hair. It had bundled into a frizzy mess of oiliness. “Three days ago. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“Three days? Seriously? Stop being disgusting. Keep yourself together, sweetheart, and forget about those assholes.”
Her mentioning Ryan and Riley made me want to hide under the blanket again. I hadn’t heard a sound from them since last week. The last time I heard from them was when I was at their place, shortly after they found the pictures. They were kicking me out at that time. At the office, they had found some strange pictures of me making out with their business partners on their desk—nothing of that sort had happened. How that came about continued to be a mystery.
The twins put it subtly when they asked me to leave, saying they needed time to breathe. Without much of an explanation, they got their helpers to pack my things. They said I could keep Tyrone’s services for as long as I wanted, and deposited some money into my bank account after abruptly laying me off. I haven’t checked how much yet, but probably some exorbitant amount. They offered to get me a new apartment to get away from the paparazzi, but I declined. I didn’t want to be thrown into somewhere so unfamiliar.
What scared me the most was that I could possibly never see them again.
What if that was it? Asking me to leave was their way to tell me they were breaking up with me. The more I thought about it, the more real it felt.
I blew my nose into the Kleenex. “Fuck those assholes.”
“Yeah, screw them,” Kristie agreed, placing both her hands on her hips.
I nodded. “Yeah. We should forget about them.”
I held back a cry, but not for very long. Within a few seconds, I was bawling into the tissue. Breakups totally sucked. And what did we break up for? Some fabricated lie backed up by false, yet convincing, evidence? It wasn’t worth it. Not one bit.
“I’m going to call them,” I said, taking out my phone.
She snatched the device away and threw it to the side of my bed. “Nuh uh.” She clicked her tongue against her teeth and gave me a disappointed look. “Did you forget what you said one minute ago? Forget about them. Get active. Do something to get yourself to stop thinking about those jerks.”
I glanced at the phone and sighed. “Like what?”
“I’ll take you out for lunch. We can go watch a movie, or visit the casino. Whatever works.”
“The casino? Now you’re talking.” I wiggled my eyebrows. I hardly gambled, but that sounded like a fun idea. I hadn’t been there for a few years. “Give me thirty minutes to get ready.” I shouldn’t let my life revolve around them.
“Oh, shut up, gorgeous. You don’t need any time.”
“Are you serious? I look like Soviet Russia nuked both my eyelids.”
The stakes were high.
I pushed all my chips to the center of the table. It always looked cool in the movies, and felt even cooler when I did it for real. “
Kristie made a soft gasp next to me. “Seriously? That’s five freaking thousand dollars.”
“Don’t worry, I got this.” The Luck God apparently favored me, because I drew a straight flush. What were the chances?
I had been on a lucky streak all night. When I went to the ATM to draw some money, I found out the twins had deposited thirty thousand dollars into my account. I drew out a thousand to spend, deciding to act against reason. After that, it was winnings after winnings. That thirty thousand was stingy, for billionaires, but enough, at least until the child came.
I still wasn’t going to abort it, not after having grown attached to my baby after an entire month. I might have to fight for child support, since finances were tight. Thirty thousand wasn’t nearly enough for a kid.
The rest of the table folded, and it was just the dealer and me. A confident middle-aged fellow who didn’t change his facial expression. “
Adrenaline pumped through my veins. I stood a chance. Haughtily, I revealed my cards, thinking I had already won.
I saw the dealer smirk for the first time that night, and it made my blood churn. It sent nausea to my head.
He’s calling a bluff.
But then, what reason did he have to do so? The time ticked by twice as slow when he laid his cards onto the table. My stomach sank. Tonight’s winnings and my initial one thousand dollars—gone.
Bastard got a royal flush.
That was nearly four months’ worth of rent.
It was only in my mind, but I could almost feel the condescending stares of everyone in the casino on my back.
Kristie threw a hand onto my shoulder. “Oh, no. How in the world did that happen?” She left her mouth gaping open in disbelief.
Still in mid-shock, I responded, “I don’t know.”
The smug woman sitting next to me let out a soft chortle. I eyeballed her, ready to punch her till her nose bled. I was in the worst mood I’d ever been in in my life. Strangling her till she choked nearly sounded like a valid option.
“Let’s get out of here,” Kristie said, pulling me away by my arm. “I think we’ve had enough gambling for the night.”
I had alloted one thousand dollars to spend, and with that gone, I had to go. “I thought I’d won.”
Kristie had burned her fingers at the slot machines, losing fifty dollars—a reasonable amount compared to my losses. “I know, sweetheart, but these things, you can’t control them. Try to play it safer next time.”
We walked to the parking lot with me practically dragging my feet against the ground. I was wrong about the Luck God after all. He, or she, hated me, and couldn’t wait to crush me like an insect. “Maybe this is all karma. Why the hell did I decide to steal my neighbor’s mangoes when I was younger?”
Kristie laughed. “Are you getting superstitious? I thought you weren’t into that crap.”
“First, the twins dump me for some stupid reason, and now I lose five thousand? What’s next? My apartment catches on fire? I’ve been down on my luck all this time.”
She patted my back. “Don’t think too much about it, sweetheart. Think about the five thousand as extra. It was really only one thousand, and that was money you were willing to spend.”
I scoffed, “Yeah, like that makes it any better.”
“The casino was a bad idea, wasn’t it?”
She frowned. “Not tonight, young lady. That’s enough destructive behavior for one day. Think about your baby. You’ve got to start taking care of yourself.”
“Probably. I can’t stop thinking about Ryan and Riley, you know? They’ve been stuck in my head all this time. I’m on a downward spiral, Kristie. I try to tell myself that if I get into enough shit they’ll start to care, and maybe if they love me enough, they’ll put those stupid pictures behind them.”
“That doesn’t sound…”
“It sounds stupid, that’s what. Irrational bullshit. But I can’t help it, you know? I’m an emotional train wreck now. It makes me want to keep making bad decisions over and over again.”
She sat me down on the sidewalk and wrapped a caring arm around my shoulder. “Let it out, girl.”
“I’m lost, damn it, so damn fucking lost. And I shouldn’t be. Aren’t the twins and I supposed to have a baby together? Shouldn’t they care more, instead of kicking me out without even talking it through? I trusted them more than that. They repeated ‘I love you’ so many times. I thought they actually meant it. Turns out it’s all a scam.” I clenched my fists. Rather than just getting sad again—I’d been drowning myself in that emotion way too much—I got angry
sad at the same time.
“It’s normal. You’ll get over it.”
I gritted my teeth. “I’m afraid I won’t. It’s like I’m cheated. Betrayed.”
“It’s a typical breakup, deary. Breakups suck and hurt like hell, especially if the relationship ended like the way yours did. You will forget them.” She stood up and offered a hand. “Let’s go. I’ll drive you home. I’ll even make you a smoothie.”
“Feeling better?” Kristie asked, walking me down the corridor. I’d die without a friend like her. Without her by my side, acting as a godsent angel and sticking it out with me every step of the way, getting through my thousand-and-one breakups would be ten times more painful.
I wiped my face with my tissue. “Much. Thanks for letting me bawl to you in the car. It really helped.” I told her most of what had happened. How perfect things seemed, and our little quarrels. I skipped through the racy bits, filling them up with some white lies, replacing the stories of physical abuse with emotional ones and leaving things vague. She didn’t press much. Instead, she acted as a listener. She knew she didn’t have to keep talking. She only had to let me get my frustrations out.
“You ought to be thankful,” she joked. “Half the tissues in my box are gone.”
I rolled my eyes and grinned. “Sorry about that.” As I took out my keys, Kristie got a call.
She picked it up within the third ring. “Hey, what’s up? Oh… okay. I don’t know.”
“Who is it?” I mouthed.
Covering the phone’s mouthpiece, she whispered, “Keith.”
Keith was Kristie’s new boyfriend. They got hooked up back when I had just met the twins, and from what I’d heard, their relationship was hitting off better than a home run.
She continued talking to him as I awkwardly stood at the doorway with my keys, wondering whether I should open the door or not. As she hung up the call, she flashed me a guilty look. “So…”
“You need to go.” And there was the evil Luck God again, raining down on my parade.
“Yeah, Keith forgot his house keys and he needs me there to open the door for him.”
My jaw dropped slightly. “The both of you have already moved in together? Since when?”
Cringing, she backed away and fiddled with her fingers. “Kind of. I stay at his place sometimes. I’ve got his spare keys.”
“Oh.” I tried to shrug Kristie’s departure off. Her presence helped to calm my nerves, but I couldn’t get too dependent. “I guess that can’t be helped. I’ll see you around?”
“Work has been busy lately. Being Deputy Director isn’t as awesome as it sounds.” The twins managed to get Kristie promoted a few weeks back, right before I found out I was pregnant. She chewed her lower lip. “I might not be free til this weekend.”