Thirty-OneMature

The morning traffic outside the window must have woken me. It takes me a few moments to remember where I am – I’m still getting used to this room, this apartment, this life.

I look over at the alarm clock; eight am, that means it’s Sunday and that means I have a long day of peace and quiet ahead of me. I slip out of bed and find my slippers, a house warming gift from Karl, with my searching toes. Such an extravagance, slippers. I would never have thought I’d own a pair, much less receive them as a present on the occasion of moving into my own apartment.

“Rise and shine sleepyhead!”

Sorry, our apartment.

“I don’t even want to know what time you got up,” I say in the general direction of the kitchen where, from the smell of things, TJ has been hard at work. I stretch my arms over my head and let loose an appropriately large yawn before shuffling out to join her.

“Do you always sleep in this much?” I think she’s actually serious. I open my mouth to protest but she carries on. “Anyway, I made scrambled eggs and toast, help yourself. I think there’s a bit of juice left in the fridge.”

I shake my head and wisely keep my mouth firmly shut as I grab the plate with the second fewest chips and cracks in it; TJ already has the best one, the one with reindeers and Christmas trees on it. I throw the remaining breakfast on my plate and join her at our wobbly kitchen table.

“I like your hair like that,” I say around a mouthful of eggs. She has it tied up in a short ponytail with a few curly strands hanging down the right side of her face. “You should wear it like that more often.”

“Living together three days and already he’s telling me what to do with my hair,” she mutters but I can tell she’s pleased. “You sleep okay? You were tossing and turning quite a bit last night.”

“Just the usual bad dream,” I reply. There’s no need for further explanation – I’ve been having the same dream every night for the last two weeks. If I close my eyes right now Tommy and Ashes would be there waiting for me; Tommy with his gun, Ashes writhing on the ground like a wounded animal.

“It will stop sooner or later,” TJ says tenderly. “It just takes time. You still haven’t heard anything from Tommy?”

I shake my head and take a sip of orange juice. The man had disappeared into the night like a ghost; the police still haven’t found the gun. I don’t think we’ll ever hear from him again, but then again Tommy is full of surprises so I guess I can’t count him out just yet.

“Maybe it will be better after the sentencing,” I say with a shrug. “Knowing Ashes is out of my life for a set amount of time, hopefully years, can’t hurt.”

After a few minutes of silence TJ gets around to asking the question she’s wanted to voice for at least a week. I’m glad to be done waiting for it.

“Do you think Tommy did it on purpose, letting her live?”

I close my eyes and go back two weeks in a heartbeat. Ashes’ screams echo off the walls as she presses her hand into the gunshot wound in her right shoulder. Tommy walks over to her slowly, keeping his gun on her while I remain rooted to the ground.

“What do you think J?” Tommy asks me casually. “She seems like she’s in a lot of pain – should I put the bitch down?”

I open my eyes to find TJ’s concerned eyes on my face.

“The first shot I’m not sure about, but I think he just missed,” I say slowly, not wanting to remember. “The second shot I have no doubt about – he just wanted her to suffer. At five feet he could have put that bullet anywhere.”

TJ nods and returns to eating her breakfast in silence. A few more minutes pass before she changes the subject.

“So DJ is hooking you up with another part time job?”

“Yeah, if things work out I’ll do three days a week at the music store and three days a week at his buddy’s book store,” I say. Right now I’m working at DJ’s six days a week but he can’t afford to keep paying me for this much work, so he’s trying to split the load without me losing out. I owe my new life to him.

And to the woman sitting across from me.

“That will be so great,” TJ says with a captivating smile. “It’s a brand new world out there J.”

It really is. Change has finally arrived and it’s not nearly as terrifying as I expected.

It feels… good.

The End

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