ANS: Episode Twenty-Six

Let Me Explain 

“Chinese or Tex-Mex?” Quinn stood in front of the TV holding up the menus.

Alyssa rested her chin on her hand squinting at the menus, “Um…”

“Pick one!” Quinn waved the tri-fold colored pieces of paper: one green and the other resembling the Mexican flag. “I’m dying here.” He whined. They’d been studying since noon and now it was five in the evening.

Alyssa snapped pointing at the menu in his right hand. “Toro Fuego. ‘Cause Forbidden Jade is nowhere near Chinese food.”

Quinn dug his cell out the back pocket of his faded blue jeans, “Just cause your mom’s Chinese doesn’t mean you know everything about Chinese food.” He flung the menu to her as he dialed the number, which probably should’ve been programmed in his phone by now. “Circle what you want.” He put the phone to his ear letting the other line ring in his eardrum.

Alyssa grabbed a pen off the black Ikea coffee table cluttered with books. She unfolded the Toro Fuego menu that still smelled of red chilies and slow cooked beef knowing exactly what her taste buds craved. She quickly drew a blue circle around the Green Goblin Enchiladas and tortilla soup before Quinn snapped for the menu back.

As Quinn pondered over what salsa he wanted with the Toro Fuego delivery rep. on the phone, Alyssa wondered what was wrong with her. She punched Quinn in the nose and had been sleeping on his cardboard-like couch just because Lela was dating Trevor. Trevor, the ex-boyfriend she regretted dating. Well, she used the term “date” loosely since they never actually went on one. Except for the party at the Gamma house, which was also the same night they broke up. Friends with benefits described them best; less friends more benefits. Study breaks were when she used him most, summoning him for sex by text to give her overworked brain a break by treating her body with a little pleasure. The moments during their hookups were mind numbing, body-tingling poetic alliteration she couldn’t get her fill of. Sex with Trevor was an energy shot better than Red bull, coffee, and B12 shots combined. Twelve minutes with him and she was ready to submerge herself back in her mound of color-coded index cards.

It was after the climax that proved problematic for their torrid affair. His need to talk; wrap his arm around her waist and clung her body to his dewy chest. The cuddle was what she detested. Even now remembering that moment of time brought a frown to her face. That one sentimental gesture implied something more than what she wanted to give. Love. She didn’t want love, not as a freshman. Back then all she had to give was an unlimited amount of lust. Her yearning for something deeper didn’t appear until sophomore year when lust had ran its course. She didn’t morph into one of those buy me roses, text me every thirty minutes, planning a wedding in my head kind of girls but she wanted more than a romp in a dorm room and that’s why she dated Jacob Richards.

“What’s wrong?” Quinn asked ending the call. He strode to the couch lowering his sinewy body, molded from years of soccer onto the couch.

Alyssa shook the haze from her eyes, “Nothing.” She grabbed her Microbiology textbook from the coffee table. “We should go over gram stains before the food gets here.”

“Are you sure?” Quinn leaned over, grabbed her book, and pulled it off her lap before she could tighten her grip around it. “Because…” He slammed the book closed, cracking through the silence of the apartment even though the TV was on reruns of Ridiculousness. “I think we need to talk.”

Alyssa reached for her book, “Talk about what?” Quinn pushed her hands away causing her to groan. “Stop playing.” She slapped him across the head with a pillow but he just laughed.

Quinn wagged his finger at her, “Don’t answer a question with a question.” He put the book behind his back. “And what do you mean ‘Talk about what’? Look at my nose.” He pointed to the reddish, purple blotch of flesh on his face.

Alyssa tsked rolling her eyes. She immediately apologized afterward and even paid for his coffee. “That was an accident. Nothing’s wrong with me. You’re the one with the problem.” She ignored his chuckle. “ But you definitely have a problem.” She covered the hood of Quinn’s TU hoodie over her messy bun. “It feels like the Artic in here.” A shiver rolled through her body before she could pull the black fleece blanket to her chest.

“Cold.” Quinn rubbed his hand over his veiny bare arm. “It feels good in here.”

“You’re a freak.” She sniffled.

A moment passes before Alyssa spoke again. “I’m having nightmares.”

Quinn stopped laughing at the stream of teens falling off skateboards. “About the mugging?” He faced her.

She nodded focusing on sleeve-covered hands.

“About the mugging…” He scratched his bushy eyebrow. “There were no reports of a mugging.”

Her head shot up. “How do you know that?”

“The nurses.” He turned his body towards her. “The ones I have lunch with.”

“What else did these nurses say?”

“They said a lot but…” He took a deep breath absorbing the hurt pooling in her eyes. “Is it true? That’s why you have the nightmares.”

“Yes.” She drug out the response wiping the fallen tear off her chin.

Quinn leaped off the couch as if it was made of lava, “Who is he?”

“I-I don’t know who he is.” She dried the remaining tears from her face. “I didn’t see his face.”

Quinn rubbed his hands down his face emitting a loud sigh. “You talk in your sleep.”

“Huh?” Alyssa confusingly uttered.

“You talk in your sleep,” Quinn repeated clenching his neck. “I guess you’ve never known because you sleep alone but since you’re camping out on my couch I can hear you.”

“What did I say?”

“His name. You said his name?”

Alyssa didn’t believe him. “What is it?”

Quinn’s hands dropped from his neck and his mouth opened. “It is true!”

“You lied!”

“No. You lied. Who is this guy your so afraid of.”

“I’m not afraid.”

“People that aren’t afraid don’t have nightmares. So, who is he and why isn’t he locked up?”

“I’m not afraid of him….” She pulled her knees into her chest. “I’m afraid of his father.”

“Who’s his father?”

“I can’t tell you.” She wrapped her arms around her legs propping her chin atop her knees. “You’ll hate me.” Tears blurred her vision.

Quinn kneeled in front of her, “I could never hate you.” He held her gently held her face. “You know that.”

“I do.” She placed her hand over his.

“So, tell me his name.”

“Ja…Ja….” She swallowed the nausea that hijacked her throat. “Um….” She pulled his hand off her face. “I can’t!” She pulled her hood over her black silk hair.

“Okay then don’t say it.” Quinn reached from something behind him. He handed her a notebook and pen. “Write it.”

Alyssa reluctantly took the notebook and pen, sitting it on her lap. Quinn watched her quivering hand make tentative strokes on the blank sheet of paper. Her hand stopped moving. She placed the pen on the notebook and handed it back to him. Quinn’s eyes widened as he read the first name. The notebook’s papers crumpled under the strain of his tightening hands as he read the last name.

Quinn flung the notebook to the floor, “I’m going to kill him!” He dashed toward the door.

“You don’t mean that!” Alyssa chased after him. “He’s your best friend.”

Quinn yanked open the front and before he slammed it behind him he sneered, “Fuck that!

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