Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

So let them talk. Let the rumors fly.


Around four, I reached our street and jogged toward the condo. I felt good—hopeful, warmed by the April sun—and I knew I shouldn’t feel so good. Not an hour ago, I was sick with worry. Dangerous … these changeable moods.


As I bounded up the complex steps and let myself into our condo, I remembered Mom and Dad again, and I remembered Nate inspecting my hand, and the day felt full of consequence and significance. I dropped my duffel in the doorway. I scanned the kitchen and living room. Silence. No sign of Hannah.


Unease prickled through my blood.


Without checking the other rooms, I suddenly knew she was gone. I saw signs of a hasty departure: The cupboard hanging open, Laurence’s hay dish newly filled, an uncapped pen on the counter. And a note.


I walked into the kitchen and read the note.


I reached the last line—P.S. I slept with Seth—and nodded slowly, my hand rising to my mouth. Of course. Seth and Hannah. Of course.


She wanted me to know that we were really over.


She told me the truth to help me let go.


It was a kindness, really.


And tomorrow, and the next day, there would be time for me to be strong. Time for me to handle this like an adult.


But for now—I sat on the kitchen floor and cried like a child.






Chapter 37






“Yeah, the three cheese.” My sister squinted, chewing her gum with a loud snapping sound. “And pepperoni, sausage, um … onions?” She gave me a thumbs-up. I gave her a thumbs-down. “Nix that, no onions.”


Chrissy went on talking into her cell, and I turned my attention to the TV.


My head felt stuffed with cotton. Too many gin and tonics.


On the screen, a couple kissed and music swelled. Roaming hands. Grasping and grinding. I changed the channel.


“Misery food successfully ordered,” Chrissy announced. “What are we watching?”


“Nothing.” I shut off the TV. “But you know—” My voice slurred. “Thank God for hotels. Even cheap hotels.” I waved the remote like a wand. “Just the necessities, right? You’ve got your … scoliosis-inducing bed.” I slapped the mattress. “TV. Crappy coffeemaker. And let’s not forget…” I groped at the bedside table drawer. “The good old Book of Mormon.”


Chrissy scooted closer to me on the bed.


She smiled uneasily and glanced around my room—Econo Lodge, downtown Denver, eighty dollars per night—where I’d been staying for the past three weeks. I refused to run home and hide. I refused to repeat last summer. This time, I had money saved and didn’t need to lean on my parents. I also didn’t want Matt to find me, if he was even looking.


P.S. I slept with Seth.


I winced and shook my head.


No, he probably wasn’t looking.


“Have you been back to work?” Chrissy said.


“Nope.” I sipped my drink and eyed Chrissy over the glass. She’d been keeping me company some nights—or checking up on me. No one else knew that I’d broken up with Matt, but everyone else knew Matt was alive.


The day I moved out of our condo, the Internet exploded with M. Pierce news: Unstable author back from the dead.


Did anyone believe he was gone?


More publicity stunts from M. Pierce.


I didn’t read those stories or watch the news.


I kept expecting a phone call from Nate, but it never came.


I took a week of vacation from work, called in sick the following week, and was rapidly running out of excuses to avoid the agency. But Pam didn’t call or e-mail. Dead air.


“I’m going to,” I said. “Probably, um, on Monday.” If I still have a job.


“Great. You need a wake-up call?”


I rolled my eyes. “What I need is for our pizza to get here.”


“Your pizza, Han. I’ve got a date.” Chrissy hopped off the bed and stretched like a cat. A tight black skirt inched up her thighs. Her lashes were spiky with mascara and a stud glinted on her nostril. Huh. She did look more dressed up than usual, which I’d failed to notice in my gin and tonic haze.


I glanced down at my sweatpants.


A surge of self-pity went straight to my eyes and I blinked quickly, looking away.


“A date. Cool.”


“Yup. Working, dating, showering … things people do in the land of the living.”


I glared at my sister and she arched a brow. Maybe this was why I reached out to Chrissy and no one else. Because I knew Chrissy wouldn’t let me wallow.


“I guess I should … grab a shower,” I murmured.


“Probably, yeah.” My sister preened in front of the bureau mirror. She fluffed her thick short hair and checked out her ass. Looking at her, I felt grimier by the moment. When had I last shaved, washed my face, moisturized? “Then you can get dressed and come with me.”


“Excuse me? I’m not feeling that ambitious, Chrissy.”


“It’s not a date date, okay? You won’t be third-wheeling it. I’m—” My sister paused and sniffed, still studying her reflection. All the vanity I lacked, Chrissy possessed. “I’m just going to hang out with Wiley and the band guys,” she said hurriedly.


“Wiley and the…” My mouth fell open. The band guys?