• He laughs too, and I’m relieved to find it sounds nothing like Jarrod’s laugh. Now that I dwell on it, I realize there isn’t much similar about them at all, save a mutual love of leather.
  • His vibe is completely different, as well. More relaxed, less homicidal.
  • “Betty didn’t tell you?” When I fail to comprehend, she sighs. “She really didn’t tell you. I swear, that girl cannot eat without someone reminding her to open her mouth.”
  • “Um, excuse me,” Tabby snaps, “but who invited you?” … “Our mutual friend Betty.” “God, Betty!” Tabby rolls her eyes and heaves an exasperated sigh. “That girl will be the death of me, I swear!”
  • “Betty didn’t invite you, did she?” “Nah. I just know she and Tabitha have a rocky relationship. I thought I’d see how far I can push it.”
  • I notice, with a hint of satisfaction, how Betty avoids Tabby’s gaze.
  • “You know what we should do?” Taking my silence as a resounding “no,” he concludes, “We should have a therapy marathon.” 
  • Asher chews the inside of his cheeks and scratches the back of his head – the Asher equivalent of, “I don’t know what to say to that.” Then he drops his arm into his lap, heaves a sigh, and settles on, “That’s some serious suckage.”
  • This episode requires more time before he successfully locates his tongue. “Wow. Um. That blows.” He nods in vehement agreement with himself. “That really, really blows.”
  • “Come on, Andy,” he offers, “you know I’m shit at discussing feelings.”
  • He smacks the seat beside him. “Make yourself comfortable and tell me which stations you’re into.”
  • “Wanna move up here with me?” He claps a hand against the passenger’s seat.
  • Asher pats the futon beside him, motioning for me to scoot in.
  • “So you’re Katie’s friend,” purrs the specter in my ear. “You’re shaking.”
  • Katie knows exactly what she’s doing. I can trust her. “Jay, this is the girl I was telling you about.” Her voice is distant, as though she’s miles away from me, instead of inches. To me, she says, “Andy, this is Jarrod Hale. He’ll be taking care of you.”
  • Jarrod Hale has to be six feet tall, at least. He’s pale as death, from the exposed flesh of his chest, to the silver of his eyes. Tattoos lace his arms, but - inebriated, as I am - I can make no sense of the images. He has the Elvis do, and what appears to be a feather dangling from his left ear.
  • “Hello there, Andy.” His voice is deep, with the mangled rasp of a chain smoker. He leans his forehead against mine, sending a shiver – not of pleasure – down my spine. Apparently he’s cold as death, too.
  • My companion and I bend to retrieve it at the same time. He snags it first. I freeze with my fingertips and inch from the back of his hand. Tucking a curl behind my ear, I glance up to meet a pair of pale blue eyes.
  • The whole look, from the sideburns and Elvis Presley-style haircut, - just swap the brown for jet black -, to the tattoos crisscrossing his arms, the over-six-foot height, and the ungodly lankiness, resembles a page torn from the book of Andy.
  • “Did he at least have a name? What did he want?” “Leo,” I mutter absentmindedly… “He asked me if I had a date to Prom. Apparently we have, like, five classes together.”
  • His tone is gentle, riddled with underlying requests. Look at me, blink, remember to breathe. Assure me that I’m not hurting you.
  • In the farthest, quietest recess of my mind, I wait for Darius to say something and distract me, but the foremost part of my mind is too preoccupied crying to notice when he doesn’t. He simply sits there on his couch, probably with elbows propped on his knees, and listens to me cry. Written in those sobs are all the feelings I can’t express with words, because there are none. Darius knows that, so he sits, he waits, and he listens.
  • He’s watching me warily, from the corners of his eyes. Don’t go there, he says. Don’t go to the dark place where proportions are skewed and hopelessness reigns. We’re going to get through this. You and me, together.
  • Comfortable silence falls over Office 215. In that silence, Darius reassures me that I’ll be okay, no matter what the world throws at me after today, and I agree with him.
  • “I’m gonna go make some lunch. You guys want anything?” “What do you have?” I perk up. “Hot pockets,” he says simply. “Lots and lots of hot pockets.”
  • “You picked a good night to stay late. I’ll be making my famous lasagna, as prepared by the renowned Mousier Stouffers.”