ROYAL(15)

By: Winter Renshaw



“Can’t,” she says. “This one used to be yours.”

My stomach flips. She still has my old t-shirt. That’s got to mean something.

Demi shoves the shirts off her lap and scoots back until she finds something to lean against. Her head falls back, hitting a cream-painted wall with a painful thud, and her eyes flutter shut. Two seconds later, a light snore leaves her sticky lips.

“Demi.” I take her hand and give it a gentle shake.

She’s out cold.

Covered in puke.

It doesn’t feel right to dress her in her unconscious state, but I’m not putting her to bed covered in orange slop.

Peeling the robe from her shoulders, I tug her t-shirt over her head. She doesn’t wake. I ready the gray, RFHS shirt—the very one I gave to her my senior year, after outgrowing it my last season of football—pop it over her messy hair, and guide her arms through the sleeves. Her cotton shorts appear to have miraculously avoided any splash back.

Slipping one arm under hers and my other beneath her thighs, I scoop her up and carry her to bed. I’m not sure which side is hers, so I place her in the middle. Don’t want her rolling off. I’ve never seen Demi drunk until tonight, and I’ve never spent the night with her to know if she’s a wild sleeper.

There’s a lot I don’t know about her. And maybe she’s right. We’re just a couple of strangers now.

Strangers who once loved each other more than two people probably should.

When she’s tucked in and covered up, I peel my vomit-covered jeans and socks off and toss them in the trash in her bathroom. A quick check in a top dresser drawer, and I find Brooks’s stash of pajamas.

They’re folded nice and neat. Coordinating tops and bottoms. Red. Black. Baby blue. All satin with white piping. Monogrammed. Pretentious as fuck. I opt for a pair of black pants and head downstairs. I’ll take the couch, though it’s not like I’ll be sleeping tonight.

Insomnia’s a bitch, and I need to be able to hear in case Demi wakes up tonight and decides to do something moronic. After seven years, it seems like her stubborn streak is still alive and well.

I settle in downstairs, ears tuned in in case she gets up in the middle of the night and needs rescuing once again.

And that’s kind of why I’m here.

To rescue her.





Chapter Five




Royal



Creaking wooden steps at seven the next morning tell me she’s up. Demi tiptoes to the doorway of the living room, and I sit up, resting my elbows on my knees.

“Morning,” I break the silence after a thirty-second staring contest.

She massages her temples. “You stayed.”

“Yeah. You were in bad shape last night.”

Her eyes linger on mine from across the room until she clears her throat and glances out the window. She squints at the sunrise.

“You should eat something.” I rise and make my way toward the kitchen.

“Are those Brooks’s pants?” She follows, keeping a careful distance.

“Yeah. You kind of ruined mine.” I pull the door of her refrigerator open, like I own the damn thing, and retrieve a half-empty carton of orange juice. I step on the pedal of a nearby stainless steel trashcan. The mechanized lid lifts automatically, and I drop it in. “Guessing you’re not going to want OJ for a while.”

She sinks onto a fabric-covered bar stool. White linen to match her white counters and white cabinets. I’m not entirely convinced that anyone even cooks in here. It looks like one of those show kitchens in some designer showroom.

I spent the bulk of last night studying her immaculate living room and stared a bit too long at all the photographs in coordinating, polished silver frames. Most portrayed a picture-perfect smiling couple. A few portraits of the Rosewoods over the years were intermixed. Those brought back memories of better days. I even got choked up when I saw how different they all looked now. Bliss has gray hair. Robert’s hair has thinned a bit. The twins are grown women. Derek looks . . . like an attorney.

I was supposed to go to law school with him. We were going to practice at Robert’s firm together. A family of prosecuting attorneys.

What a fucking joke of a plan that turned out to be.

There’s a painting above the fireplace mantle, which I’m assuming was done by Daphne. She always did have a knack for seeing the world through an artistic lens. It looks like an impressionistic landscape portrait of the centuries-old Carver lighthouse on Miller’s Island at sunset, where I used to take Demi to fish. Or rather, I’d fish and she’d read a book on a blanket beside me.

I grab a carton of eggs from Demi’s Viking refrigerator, check the date, and search for a pan beneath the oven.

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