Sheets tangled around Chord’s legs. A little damp, a little sticky, and pleasantly sore, he stretched out in Shauna’s bed, spine popping, and groaned. Shauna was in the shower across the hall. The steady thrum of water against the tub was lulling Chord to sleep.
Three nights ago, he’d landed in Vancouver, caught a cab straight to Shauna’s and never left, except for a well-deserved shopping spree to shower his girlfriend with gifts. It felt great to be out of the confines of the bus. He loved the guys, but sometimes he needed a break. Though, he had bailed on his sister, who had flown across the country to help him.
Ayla had seemed a little put out when he announced his impromptu trip, but he needed to make it up to Shauna. For weeks he’d had no answers for her. He hadn’t been able to support her as he should have.
Shauna’s phone on the bedside table vibrated against the wood. Still a little dopey, Chord rolled over and reached for the device. He knew from experience, if the text went unopened, the phone would continue to vibrate every two minutes as a reminder. The screen was locked, but the first few lines of the message flashed in the status bar.
Kurt: heeeeeeey sexy. still busy with that kid, cuz i thought we could take a tumble-
The message cut off, but Chord didn’t need Tan’s level of intellect to make an educated guess on the rest of the text.
The bedroom door opened, and Shauna walked in wearing nothing but a towel. Chord, so absorbed in the contents of the message and the betrayal that he hadn’t heard the shower shut off.
Shauna stopped in the doorway, attention focused on the phone in Chord’s hand. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? Are you going through my phone?”
Chord glanced down at the phone, then back at Shauna. “What? No! It’s not what you think!” he defended, holding the cellphone out in front of him.
Shauna didn’t seem to care as she stalked across the room and ripped the phone out of Chord’s hand. She hurled it at the wall. The screen shattered, and the broken phone cracked against the floor.
“Look what you made me do!” Shauna picked up the beaded deodorizer bottle on the corner of the dresser and hurled it at Chord. “Now you owe me a new one.”
Unprepared, the plastic bottle caught Chord across the chin. His head snapped back, and he scampered across the mattress and landed on the floor with a heavy thud to get out of the line of fire as an enraged Shauna continued to hurl anything she could get her hands on. He wasn’t successful.
A hardcover book cracked him on the top of the head. His vision swam. He tried to stand up, but Shauna picked up the digital clock from the bedside and threw it. It crunched against the drywall, leaving an indent in the apartment wall.
“Shauna, stop!” Chord said. He held his arms over his head to defend himself from any further projectiles. “Please, I didn’t do anything!”
Shauna stomped around the end of the bed and grabbed Chord by his hair, dragging him to his feet. They were almost the same size, but Chord was terrified. Sure, Shauna lost her temper with him, a lot. He was a bit of an idiot. She wanted him to be better, and he was trying. But this. This scared him.
“Shut the fuck up, you worthless piece of shit!” Shauna screamed.
Chord tried to run, but Shauna held him firm and slammed his head into the wall. The drywall buckled under the impact. Chord whimpered. He was shaking. This was his fault. He knew better than to make Shauna angry.
“So, what? You don’t trust me? Is that it? You’re the one that can’t be trusted, you cheating whore!” Shauna slammed Chord into the wall again.
For a second, Chord’s vision whited out when his head cracked against a stud in the wall. He started to cry, incoherently begging Shauna for mercy.
“You’re off fucking who knows who on the other side of the country, and I’m here,” Shauna said. Her deceptively delicate hands closed around Chord’s throat and squeezed. “No money. No job. And you don’t trust me when you’re fucking around behind my back. Say it!”
Chord’s fingers clawed at Shauna’s arms, leaving angry red lines down the pale skin. He tried to protest, to defend himself, but he couldn’t speak. He couldn’t even breathe with Shauna’s hand around his throat, crushing his windpipe, freshly manicured nails digging into his skin.
“Say it, whore!”
Shauna continued to yell, calling Chord every derogatory slur she could think of, and a few Chord didn’t recognize. Chord’s vision was fading from the lack of oxygen. His attempts to free himself grew weak and eventually fell slack. Shauna dropped him. He landed in a boneless heap on the floor at his girlfriend’s feet and sucked down precious air.
Chord heard Shauna digging through a drawer, but he wasn’t sticking around. He grabbed his backpack, leaving everything else behind to flee. Out of his peripherals, he saw a flash of light glinting off the blade of a knife, and he ran.
Wandering around downtown Vancouver barefoot, eyes puffy and red from crying, and darkening bruises around his neck attracted far more attention than Chord would have liked. For once, he wished that Vancouverites were just a little less friendly and helpful. People kept stopping him. Asking him if he was okay.
No, of course, he wasn’t okay. He’d just hastily dressed in an elevator after his girlfriend – ex-girlfriend – had tried to kill him, and he had no idea what to do. All he wanted was his sister, but she was across the country where he had left her, and his phone was back in Shauna’s apartment along with his shoes and wallet.
A kind older woman insisted that he needed to call his parents and let him borrow her phone, except he didn’t have parents. Not anymore. Now he sat on a bench in Helmcken Park, staring at her background photo of two Bichon Frise in matching knit sweaters, wondering what the hell he was supposed to do.
“Sweetie, you need to call your parents,” the woman urged.
After a moment, Chord finally said, “They’re dead.” It was easier than trying to explain that while yes, his mother was dead, his father was a grade-A asshole who stole millions from him and was currently who knows where because he was no longer his legal guardian.
“Oh my. I’m sorry.” She appeared sincere. “But, you must have someone.”
Chord nodded glumly. His eyes stung, and his vision blurred with unshed tears. “My sister, but she’s in Montreal.”
“That is completely irresponsible.”
Chord jumped at the sudden shift in the woman’s tone. “It’s not her fault. I flew home for a few days to visit my girlfriend, but…” But what? He was a fool? Slut. Metteux. He handed the phone back to her. “Thank you. Really.”
“I really think-”
“I’ll be fine. I have a place to stay,” he assured, though he wasn’t entirely sure. He should call Tan. He knew that. But he didn’t want to hear his best friend gloat about being right about Shauna. “It’s not too far.”
His sister’s roommate would probably let him in. He could crash in Ayla’s empty room. He only hoped he could bribe her roommate Ben to keep quiet.
It took far more convincing for the woman to let him walk away. She wanted to pay for a cab, walk him herself, or give him bus fare. He would be fine. He was always fine.