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21 Questions: Chapter Seventy-Two

        A thick veil of white engulfs me, obscuring my view almost completely. I lean into the bench, my body sinking through a sea of steam without resistance.   After bailing from the washroom like a bat out of hell, I popped into its adjacent chamber on impulse, figuring—hoping—a few minutes submerged in essential oil-infused vapor would help me relax…and clear away unwanted, unutterable thoughts.   I allow my veiled gaze to drift closed, acutely sensing moisture clinging to my skin, much like the sweat that preceded… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Seventy-One

        The instructor calls it as the final seconds of the timer run out, her arms and thighs enviably trim and toned, even in their resting position, her exposed mid-rift the definition of cut. I have to wonder if she actually feels anything when she works out at this point. If there even is a point, figuring she could easily spin circles around the bikes themselves.   “That’s it for today,” the lean, energetic blonde announces, a light sheen covering her angular face. “I’ll see everyone next week.”… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Seventy

        My fingers still around smooth, lengthy stalk, my gaze trailing between it and the group of its kin. Slowly, almost apprehensively, I slide the lone office rose in the vacant flute.   A perfect fit.   Twenty-three roses.   One for every year I’ve never received one…   Something instantly floods my belly, my brain hissing with as many questions as there are petals in front of me. I blink against a stab of paranoia, my head orbiting itself a million miles a second. Until it… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Sixty-Nine

      I toss my phone with an exhale that’s simultaneously charged and deflated, exiling it to the plush embrace of the comforter. The impromptu three-way with my cousin and best friend served to only drain me further instead of calm my nerves like it usually would. At least, with the latter of the two.   My heart twists in upheaval at the very thought of Peyton finding out about last night, a wave of nausea staining my throat as the disturbing visual of her discovery plays out in… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Sixty-Eight

      I lie awake, eyes cast to the ceiling, sleep-deprived brain cells imbued with the past twenty-four hours on repeat, my body still humming from last night. The grueling lapse since my charity date with Zane hasn’t tempered the erratic state I’ve been stuck in since I was picked up, the passing of time offering no inkling of recourse.   I didn’t even dose off once, wound as tight as a corkscrew from head to toe despite being splayed out in the most comfortable bed I’ve ever been… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Sixty-Seven

        The door is soundless when I swing it open, the silence of the restroom giving way for soft, diffused jazz in the distance, now an ominous soundtrack to a night I wish would just end.   My first step outside the makeshift sanctuary feels surreal, as if I’ve never taken one before, overtly aware of the action. And the next is even harder. I force my limbs through phantom quicksand, the hinges of my knees on the verge of locking, like rust on metal.   I… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Sixty-Six

        In the fullness of fractured time, the biting resonance in my head begins to wane, the pounding in my chest gradually subsiding until I can finally manage to suck in some semblance of a breath.   I grapple to get a hold of myself, lifting my languid body off the ground, enlisting the help of a handle to hoist myself. I sway slightly, halting inertia against the metal bar behind me. My fingers continue to rattle around it. Hell, every inch of me does. But at least I can… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Sixty-Five

      Strained eyes swell through immobility, bulging in their locked position.   I go static. Every last part of me collapsing. My body unable to bear its own weight. Even the most basic, anatomical movements become obsolete.   One moment rolls into another. And then another. And another.   Ringing floods my ears, muffling the world around me, like I have plugs in.   Pure, unadulterated shock unilaterally tunes everything out.   Everything except what caused it.   Rapid blinking ensues as I try—and fail—to process what just… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Sixty-Four

        I exhale.   Mostly by default.   But the sense of relief that takes shape doesn’t feel remotely as satisfying as it should with the sheer ignominy twisting alongside it.   Readily averting my gaze, I reach for the 21 Questions game, the urge to stick it through the steady flame next to me unbearable. I literally shake with the compulsion, already picturing flakes of ash and smoke in its wake, but Zane takes custody of the satanic script before I can act.   There’s this… Read More

21 Questions: Chapter Sixty-Three

        Tight.   Everything feels tight.   My chest.   My limbs.   Even the air around me.   A woman with any semblance of worth or moral standing must be adequately covered up. Decent at all times. All my existence, through childhood, adolescence and insipid teenage years, the lesson of overt modesty was well enforced, not merely a suggestion or option. A non-negotiable in my father’s house, strictly upheld under his roof. Both he and my mother made sure of it. I’ve never, ever gone without… Read More