Pretending(2)By: Shanna Clayton
Now I feel stupid.
My roommate. Of course. Most people would’ve come to that conclusion long before now, but Wesley and I aren’t your average roommates. I haven’t seen him since the beginning of summer. That’s one of the stipulations in Harland’s will. We’re allowed to leave town for the summer—and Wesley always does—but we have to stay here during the fall and spring semesters. That part wasn’t added for me. Harland knew I was content living here in Kent House, and I promised him long before he died I’d go to college.
Harland added that stipulation for Wesley. They weren’t speaking at the time of his death, but he knew his son well, and he knew Wesley would never stay if he weren’t given some time off. Exploring is in the Kents’ blood. If it weren’t for the inheritance, I doubt he’d be here at all. Harland knew he was dying. I think he created the will to push Wesley and me together, possibly to create a friendship between us. That’s far from what happened though. I see Wesley during the school year just as much as I see him during the summer. This house is big enough to get lost in, and it’s definitely big enough to keep us out of one another’s way. Whatever his reasons, Wesley doesn’t want anything to do with me or with his dad’s plans.
“Take his arm, Chase, before he passes out here on the damn floor.”
Wesley’s friends hold him up, one on either side of him. They’re both tall, and they look like they’re in good shape, but they’re struggling to keep Wesley upright.
“Jesus, Tyson,” Chase hisses. “Did you have to get him so drunk?”
“Whiskey masks the pain,” Tyson says, looking offended. “I’ve kept him this way since we landed. It’s called friendship.”
“More like alcohol poisoning.”
I recognize them from campus. They’re both anthropology majors, and by the sound of it, they also went to Egypt over the summer. Just thinking about the Egyptian dig makes me stiffen. It killed me to let it go. Opportunities like that don’t come along often, especially for students. I wanted to sign up but knew better once I saw Wesley’s name on the info packet. He’d been chosen to lead the team. It was crushing but working alongside a guy who can barely stand to live with me stole the trip’s appeal.
“I don’t understand you, bro.” Chase, the bigger of the two guys, hefts Wesley to the staircase. “You knew when you took that beating they’d make it worse for you than for Hayes.”
Beating? Did he just say that Wesley was beaten up?
And Hayes? It had to be our neighbor Hayes. This town isn’t tiny, but it’s hard to imagine that many people with the same name.
Wesley doesn’t say anything, and Chase continues to yell at him. “Why did you do it? And right after you got the cut to your stomach. Did you know you almost died?”
I bite my lip.
He’s exaggerating. He’s got to be exaggerating.
“I don’t think that’s helping, Chase.”
Wesley stumbles forward, swaying so much he loses his balance. My chest tightens right before Chase catches him mid-fall. He slides to the floor, collapsing on the first step. “S’kay. I think I’ll stay right here…” he mumbles, closing his eyes. “Just leave me the bottle of whiskey.”
“Like hell,” Chase yells. “You’ve had too fucking much to drink already.”
Tyson’s voice is less impatient. “We can help you to your room, Wes. Doesn’t a warm bed sound nicer than the hard floor?”
“Yes, but the bedroom is so…far.”
That isn’t the alcohol talking. This place is a maze of hallways and rooms. It’s the reason Wesley and I have only been in each other’s presence a few awkward times. We both stick to our ends of the house.
“Just point us in the right direction,” Chase snaps.
Wesley tries to focus his vision. He starts to lift his arm, but it falls slack, and so does the rest of his body. Looks like his bed is made for the night.
“Oh that’s just wonderful,” Chase says. “Now we’ll have to wake up the staff.”
That’s my cue to leave. None of this has to do with me, and the last thing I want is to get involved. I should get out of here before Wesley’s friends come trudging up the stairs and find me.
Using the banister as support, I pull myself up when a loud creak gives way. The noise grinds against my eardrums, freezing my body into place. Oh God. As far as creaks go, that had to be the loudest one ever made in the existence of time. They had to have heard it. I can’t look back though. I don’t want to bring more attention to myself. Maybe if I stay perfectly still, I’ll blend into the shadows. My only other option is to break out into a run.