Escape in You

By: Rachel Schurig

Chapter One


Zoe


Summer has snuck up on me. I was sure we had weeks left of spring, weeks to prepare for the appearance of the new season and everything that came with it. I went to sleep the night before with an extra quilt on my bed but by afternoon people were walking around my community college in shorts. Even now, long after the sun has gone down, a measure of warmth still hangs in the night air.

There’s a clang from inside the house and I tense, fearing the worst. After a moment’s silence, I allow myself to relax, stretching my jean-clad legs down across the porch steps and tilting my head back, trying to catch a glimpse of the stars above.

Ellie is late.

The silence, much welcome only moments ago, now weighs on me. I always find it strange, the way silence sometimes seems to have an echo of its own. When the yelling is bad—a fairly common occurrence—I crave silence. Other times, like tonight, it overwhelms me.

I hear the tell-tale rattle of Ellie’s car and sigh in relief before jumping up from the porch, purse in hand. Her ancient Honda makes the turn onto my street, her lights cutting out as she approaches the house, the way they’ve done dozens of times before. It’s not that I’m sneaking out—no one in that house has the inclination, or ability, to keep tabs on me—but I would rather avoid the possibility of having to talk to anyone. It’s best that the couple inside remains asleep. And best for me to get the hell away as soon as possible.

When Ellie pulls into the drive, I bound across the lawn and pull open the passenger door. As I slip into the seat, I think I see the kitchen light flicker on from behind my mother’s faded paisley curtains. I freeze for a second, but then pull the door shut. Ellie reverses down the drive. It no longer matters what’s happening in the house or who’s moving through the kitchen. I’m free.

“You’re late,” I say.

She flips me off, never taking her eyes off the road. “I had business to attend to.” She turns the headlights back on as she makes the turn off my street. I take note of her mussed hair and bare lips—a telling sign for a girl who rarely goes out without her trademark fire-engine-red lipstick.

I snort. “Business. Is that what you kids are calling it these days?”

She flashes me a wicked grin. “A little ‘business’ would help you out tremendously, you know. Release some of that tension. You’re coiled up like a spring, girl.” She reaches over and digs a nail into my shoulder.

I shake her off. “My tension-relief is vodka-flavored, thank you very much. That is, it will be if you ever get us to this party.”

I figure she’ll laugh at my alcohol reference, but she shoots me a knowing glance instead. “Rough day?”

I shrug, wishing she would look away. I so don’t need her eyes on my face right now. “Not much different than usual,” I finally mutter.

Her gaze flicks back to the road before she glances at me again. She sighs. “Well, let’s get you a drink then.”

I relax back into the seat, and raise my legs up to rest my feet on the dashboard, knowing it will piss her off. “So who’s going to be at this shindig anyways? Same old crowd?”

She shrugs. “I know Everett and Hunter will be there, and Mary and her crowd. Other than that, I’m not sure. Probably some kids home from college.”

Frowning, I look out my window at the dark street. Kids home from college. Great.

That’s the thing about summer; it brings with it people I don’t necessarily want to see.

“If Rick is there, I’ll kick his ass,” she assures me.

“I’m not worried about Rick.” I haven’t given my ex-boyfriend—if I could even call someone I hooked up with a few times over Christmas break a boyfriend—a second thought in months. “I just don’t like the vibe when the university kids come home.”

“Ignore them. We’ll hang out with our people, and they can hang out with theirs.”

I nod, not really listening. It’s easy for Ellie to say that—she’s one of the most confident people I’ve ever known. Besides which, she couldn’t give a shit about some stuck-up kids and their precious degrees. Higher education has never been on her radar.