I waited downstairs in her parent’s empty living room while she went to the bathroom. The fabric on the couch had been worn down in places and was covered with white cat hair. Felix, the cat, rubbed against my legs leaving a swathe of hair as he purred. I slapped my hands against my legs trying to relive the tempo of the song that had been playing in the car. The notes played over and over in my head, but the only words I could hear were:
Responsibility, too young and baby.
I’d dated lots of girls, but none of them were like Shelby. She had a way of looking at me that I could feel all the way down to my toes. I’d do stupid things just to make her smile and sometimes laugh at me. She wasn’t laughing now.
“Babe, you alright up there?” I called up the stairs. No response.
I stood up and paced the living room, my hand reaching for my cigs without thinking. I used to keep them right in my back, left pocket, but since I started seeing Shelby, I’ve stopped. She didn’t like the smell. Instead of finding a smoke, there was a pack of gum. I pulled out a stick of juicy fruit, inhaling the scent and started chewing. Chewing and pacing.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I climbed the stairs, each one creaking under my weight. The bathroom door was closed.
“Babe?” I called, wishing she’d open the door. Nothing.
I looked down the hall toward her parent’s room. The house smelled musty. The carpet was brown and ragged and I wondered how it must have looked when Shelby was little. I couldn’t picture her in this house, this ragged shell of emptiness.
I tried the door, the handle moving easily beneath my grip. Shelby stood there with her coat and hat on, her eyes far away and vacant. Around her, an explosion of her mother’s favorite color, orange. In her hand, a white stick. I took it from her as she stood there. There were two pink lines inside that were going to change our futures forever.