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Point of retreat, p.5

  Point of Retreat, p.5

   part  #2 of  Slammed Series

Point of Retreat
 


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  I butterflying hate cheeseburgers.

  Chapter 3

  Hell. Pure hell is the best way I can describe the last twenty-four hours. By the time Gavin and Eddie made it home with the boys, it was apparent that Kel didn’t have a stomach bug after all. Gavin didn’t knock when he ran through the front door and headed straight for the bathroom. Caulder was next, then Lake and Eddie. I was the last to feel the effects of the food poisoning. Caulder and I have done nothing but lay on the couch, taking turns in the bathroom since midnight last night.

  I can’t help but envy Kiersten. I should have just had bread, too. About the time that thought crosses my mind, there’s a knock at the front door. I don’t get up. I don’t even speak. No one I know extends me the courtesy of knocking, so I don’t know who could be at the door. I guess I won’t find out, either…because I’m not moving.

  I’m lying on the couch facing away from the door, but I hear it slowly open and can feel the cold air circulate as a female voice I don’t recognize calls my name.

  “Will?”

  I still don’t care who it is. At this point, I’m wishing it was someone here to finish me off…put me out of my misery. It takes all the energy I have to just raise my hand in the air to let whoever it is know that I’m here.

  “Oh, you poor thing,” she says. She shuts the door behind her and walks around to the front of the couch and stares down at me. I glance up at her and realize I have absolutely no idea who this woman is. She’s probably in her forties...her short black hair is traced with grey. She’s petite, shorter than Lake. I try to smile, but I don’t think I do. She frowns and glances over to Caulder, who is passed out on the other couch. I notice a bottle between her hands when she passes through the living room and walks into the kitchen. I hear her opening drawers, and she comes back with a spoon.

  “This will help. Layken said you guys were sick, too.” She pours some of the liquid into a spoon and bends down, handing the spoon to me.

  I take it. I’ll take anything at this point. I swallow the medicine and cough when it burns the inside of my throat. I reach for a glass of water and take a sip. I don’t want to drink too much, it’s just been coming right back up. “What the hell is that?” I ask.

  She looks disappointed at my reaction. “I made it. I make my own medicine. It’ll help, I promise.” She walks over to Caulder and shakes him awake. He accepts the medicine as I did without question, then closes his eyes again.

  “I’m Sherry, by the way. Kiersten’s mother.”

  That explains it.

  “She said you guys ate some rancid meat.” She makes a face when she says the word ‘meat.’

  I don’t want to think about it, so I close my eyes and try to put the thought out of my mind. I guess she sees the nausea building behind my expression, because she apologizes.

  “Sorry. This is why we’re vegetarian.”

  “Thanks, Sherry,” I say, hoping she’s finished. She’s not.

  “I started a load of laundry over at Layken’s house. If you want, I’ll wash some of yours too.” She doesn’t wait for me to respond. She walks down the hallway and starts gathering clothes, then takes them into the laundry room. I hear the washer start, followed by noise in the kitchen. She’s cleaning. This woman I don’t know is cleaning my house. I’m too tired to object. I’m even too tired to be pleased about it.

  “Will?” She walks back through the living room. I open my eyes, but barely. “I’ll be back in an hour to put the clothes in the dryer. I’ll bring some minestrone, too.”

  I just nod. Or, at least I think I nod.

  ***

  It hasn’t been an hour yet, but whatever Sherry gave me already has me feeling a little better. Caulder manages to make it to his room and passes out on his bed. I walk to the kitchen and make myself a glass of sprite when the front door opens. It’s Lake. She looks as rough as I do, but still beautiful.

  “Hey, Babe.” She shuffles into the kitchen and wraps her arms around me. She’s in her pajamas and house shoes. It’s not the darth vader ones, but still just as sexy.

  “How’s Caulder feeling?” she says.

  “Better, I guess. Whatever Sherry gave us worked.”

  “Yeah, it did.” She rests her head against my chest and takes a deep breath. “I wish we had enough couches in one house, so we could all be sick together.”

  We’ve brought up the subject of living together before. It makes economic sense; our bills would be cut in half. She’s only nineteen, though…and she seems to like having her alone time. The thought of taking such a huge leap makes us both a little apprehensive, so we agreed to wait on that step until we’re certain about it.

  “I wish we did too,” I say. I naturally lean in to kiss her, but she shakes her head and backs her face away from mine.

  “Nuh-uh,” she says. “We’re not kissing for at least twenty-four more hours.”

  I laugh and kiss her on top of her head instead.

  “I guess I’ll go back now. I just wanted to check on you.” She avoids my face and kisses me on the arm instead.

  “You two are so cute!” Sherry says. She walks through the dining room and places a container of soup in the fridge, then turns and heads into the laundry room. I never even heard her open the front door…much less knock.

  “Thanks for the medicine, Sherry. It really helped,” Lake says.

  “No problem,” Sherry says. “That concoction can knock the shit out of anything. You two let me know if you need more.”

  Lake looks at me and rolls her eyes. “See you, Babe. Love you.”

  “Love you, too. Let me know when Kel feels better, we’ll come over tonight.”

  Lake leaves and I take a seat at the table and slowly sip my drink. I still don’t trust ingesting anything at this point.

  Sherry pulls out the chair across the table from me and takes a seat. “So, what’s your story?” she asks.

  I’m not sure what story she’s referring to, so I raise my eyebrows at her as I take another sip and wait for her to elaborate.

  “With the two of you. And Kel and Caulder. It’s a little strange from a mother’s point of view. I’ve got an eleven year old daughter who seems to enjoy spending time with all you guys, I feel it’s my duty as a mom to know your story. You and Lake are both practically children, raising children.”

  She’s very blunt. However, the way she says it comes off as appropriate, somehow. She’s easy to like. I see now why Kiersten is the way she is.

  I set my sprite down on the table in front of me and wipe the condensation off the glass with my thumbs. “My parents died three years ago.” I continue to stare at the glass in front of me, avoiding her gaze. I don’t want to see the pity in her eyes. “Lake’s father died over a year ago…her mother passed away in September. So…here we are, raising our brothers.”

  Sherry leans back into her chair and folds her arms across her chest. “I’ll be damned.”

  I just nod and give her a half smile. At least she didn’t say how sorry she was for us. I hate pity more than anything.

  “How long have the two of you been dating?”

  “Officially? Since December eighteenth, a little over a year ago.”

  “What about unofficially?” she says.

  I shift in my seat. Why did I even specify officially?

  “December eighteenth, a little over a year ago,” I say again and smile. I’m not getting any more detailed than that. “What’s your story, Sherry?”

  She laughs and stands up. “Will, has anyone ever told you it’s rude to be nosey?” She makes her way to the front door. “Let me know if you need anything. You know where we live.”

  ***

  We spend the entire day Sunday watching movies and being sore. We're all still a little queasy, so we skip the junk food. Monday it's back to reality. I drop Kel and Caulder off at their school and head to the College. Three of my four classes are in the same building; one of the benefits of being in grad school. Once your cours
e of study is set, all the classes are similar and are usually taught in the same area. The first of my four classes, however, is halfway across campus. It’s a graduate level elective called Death and Dying. I thought it would be interesting, being as though I’m more than experienced in the subject. I also didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t another graduate elective during the eight o’clock block that I could take, so I’m stuck with this one if I want all my credits to count. When I walk in, students are sporadically seated around the room. It’s one of the auditorium style rooms set up with tables that hold two seats each. I walk up the stairs and take a seat in the back of the room. It’s different, being the student now rather than the teacher. I got so used to being at the head of the classroom. The role reversal has taken some getting used to.

  The class fills up fairly quickly. It’s the first day of the semester, so it will probably be the only day people actually show up early. That’s usually how it is…the newness wears off by day two. It’s rare for a professor to have everyone on their entire roll show up the same day after day two.

  I throw my stuff on the table and take a seat. My phone vibrates inside my pocket so I take it out and slide my finger across the screen. It’s a text from Lake.

  Finally found my phone. Hope you like your classes. I love you and I’ll see you tonight.

  I begin to text her back when the professor starts calling roll. I finish the text and press the send button and put my phone back in my pocket.

  “Will Cooper?” the professor says. I raise my hand and he looks up at me and nods, then marks his form.

  He continues to call roll as I glance around the room to see if I recognize anyone. There were a couple of people I graduated High School with in my last semester elective. There usually aren’t many people I know in my classes since I’m a little ahead. Most of my high school classmates graduated college last May, and not many of them decided on Grad school. As my eyes make their way around the room, I notice a girl with blond hair in the front row turned completely around in her seat. When I meet her gaze, my heart sinks. She smiles and waves when she sees I’ve recognized her. She turns back around and gathers her things, then stands up and makes her way up the stairs.

  No. She’s coming toward me. She’s about to sit with me. Oh, god.

  “Will! Oh my god, what are the chances? It’s been so long,” she says.

  I do my best to smile at her. I don’t understand my reaction right now. I can’t tell if it’s anger, guilt, or what. “Hey, Vaughn.” I try to sound pleased to see her.

  She takes the seat next to me and leans in and hugs me. “How are you?” she whispers. “How’s Caulder?”

  “He’s good,” I say. “Growing up. He’ll be eleven in two months.”

  “Eleven? Wow,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief.

  We haven’t seen each other in almost three years. She knows we parted on bad terms, to put it mildly; yet, she’s acting like she’s genuinely excited to see me. I wish I could say the same.

  “How’s Ethan?” I ask her. Ethan is her older brother. We were pretty good friends while Vaughn and I dated, but we haven’t spoken since the break-up.

  “He’s good. He’s really good. He’s married now, they’ve got a baby on the way.”

  “Good for him. Tell him I said so.”

  “I will,” she says.

 
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