Drift(4)

By: Amy Murray


He studied me with an intensity that made me shift in my shoes. “You know who I am?” His eyes were guarded—wary.

“No,” I said. “My friend—the girl I came here with, Gracie—she’s friends with Xander. She told me.” I clamped my mouth shut to prevent further rambling and rolled my eyes. “Sorry, I’m not making much sense…”

My words faded when he gave me a half smile. Well, it wasn’t so much a smile as a quirk of the corner of his mouth, but it was enough to soften the harsh planes of his face. For a quarter of a second, something about that look rang familiar, as if I’d seen it before. I dropped my head, unable to hold his gaze, and swayed in my heels.

As I stared at the pavement, a memory surged forward. The images were blurred, and the voice, rough with emotion, was distant. Tension vibrated under my skin, and when the frantically whispered words became clear, my gaze jerked up.

Promise me.

Over and over, the phrase rattled inside my mind. I covered my eyes, and James’s image—the same but somehow different—appeared before me, his dark eyes pleading, his voice resolute. I shook myself to force the image away, but the words repeated.

Promise me.

I dropped my hands and focused on James. “Did you say something?”

“I asked if you’re okay.” He took a step toward me, and my pulse quickened. He held his hands on either side of my waist, hovering an inch from my body, ready to steady me if I were to fall.

My stomach fluttered, and I stared at his wide chest instead of his face, which was, for reasons I didn’t understand, feeling more familiar by the second.

The vision came again, and his words—promise me—echoed over and over until I heard nothing else.

Promise me. Promise me. Promise me.

Each word tumbled over the other, starting again before the last had ended. I grabbed my ears in an attempt to make it stop and turned my back to James. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. I’d made it twenty-two years without a hint of a delusion, and while there was a possibility I’d inherit my mother’s condition, I thought I was safe. No, there had to be another explanation. It had to be the alcohol.

I stepped toward the patio door and left without another word to James. Running through the crowd, I pushed against the bodies until I found Gracie. Her cheeks were flushed pink, and her arms were draped over Xander’s shoulders. When she saw me, she disentangled herself and flashed me a sloppy smile.

“Where’ve you been? You’ve got drinks waiting.” To prove her point, she held out a glass and stumbled two steps in my direction.

I ignored her offer and grabbed my jacket from our place at the bar. Shoving my arms into the sleeves, I yanked my keys from my purse. “Do you mind getting a ride home with Xander?” There was a frantic quality to my voice I couldn’t disguise.

She put the drink on the bar and the contents sloshed over the side. “Why? What’s going on?” She widened her eyes and blinked, visibly reaching for sobriety.

“It’s nothing. I just—I’m leaving.” She was ready to protest; I could see it in her eyes. Forcing a smile, I squeezed her arm and nodded in Xander’s direction. “It’s okay…you stay. Looks like things were about to get interesting between you two,” I said to change the subject. “I’ll see you at the apartment, okay?”

Before she could respond, I walked out the door at a pace just short of a run and stopped only when I’d left the bar far enough behind to feel alone. In the quiet of the night, I listened for the words that moments ago wouldn’t stop repeating, but they were gone. Relief settled inside my chest, and I sucked in a breath of cold air.

A blast of music burst from the bar when the door opened behind me. I didn’t turn to see who’d followed me out, and continued to walk to my car as fast as my heels would allow.

“You’re driving?”

James’s voice was incredulous and a little bit angry, and the nerves that had only begun to settle sprang to life as he jogged toward me.

“Hey,” he said, catching up and falling into step beside me. “Will you slow down?”

I stopped short and turned toward him. He wasn’t anticipating it and had to walk back a couple of steps to face me.