Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

Wiley’s voice.

 

“Baby,” he said, “there you are.” Chrissy’s hand slipped out of mine, but not before she dragged me into the room. Warmer air. The smell of alcohol and sweet smoke. An unfamiliar song—hypnotic and grinding, electronic.

 

I opened my eyes to a dim room.

 

My pupils adjusted, taking in the suite. The only light came from the cityscape, filtering in through wraparound windows. A film of smoke clouded the air.

 

Two guys I didn’t recognize and three overdressed girls sat around a coffee table with drinks and playing cards. One of the girls eyed me. Her stare was steely, her mouth a blot of lipstick. I wanted to run.

 

“Oh, there’s Seth,” said Chrissy. She bumped my hip and I stumbled forward.

 

In the corner, in the shadow of a thick curtain, Seth slouched in an armchair.

 

He wore the same deadened expression I had seen on his face at the condo the night he realized Matt was alive.

 

I padded across the room.

 

Seth’s eyes met mine and registered no surprise.

 

When I reached him, he leaned forward and licked a white dusting from his finger.

 

“Hannah,” he said.

 

His hair was tied back, one loose piece lying against his cheek. He was barefoot and looked vaguely bohemian in torn jeans and a halfway-unbuttoned shirt.

 

I processed the scene slowly. Seth licking his finger. A porcelain plate on the table. A pile of snowy powder and two thick lines beside it.

 

“Oh,” I said, plopping onto a chair. Something greater than gravity pressed me into my seat. I wanted to be there, talking to Seth. I wanted the past nine months to make sense.

 

“No big deal,” Seth murmured. He shrugged and smiled miserably at me. “I’m not like Matt. Just a party.”

 

“Yeah, sure.” I tried not to stare at the cocaine. I’d only seen this stuff in movies.

 

“Help yourself.”

 

“Are you guys allowed to smoke in here? I mean—”

 

Seth touched my bare knee.

 

“No big deal,” he repeated calmly. “The hotel staff won’t bother us.”

 

I met his dark, devastatingly careless stare, and I nodded.

 

“Hi,” I mumbled.

 

“Hi.”

 

The rest of the room diminished. Seth and I sat in our corner of the universe, unhappy, silent, studying one another.

 

After a while, he took a key card from his pocket and began thinning the ridges of coke. He bent over the table and sniffed away a line, then slid the plate toward me.

 

“I’ve been drinking a little,” I said, as if that would excuse me, and I pressed one nostril shut and inhaled a thread-thin line.

 

Maybe I didn’t need an excuse.

 

Or maybe Seth and I had the same excuse.

 

Matt.

 

“First time doing that?” Seth said.

 

“Yeah.” I sniffed and looked around. No one was watching. Almost immediately, excess energy fizzled up my spine, effervescing in my brain. I smiled. “Weird…”

 

“But good, yeah?”

 

“Uh-huh. I think so.” A muscle jumped in my leg. I bounced my foot to the music.

 

“Great, then no worries.” Seth stood, rubbed his face, sat. He ran his fingers up and down his thighs. Whenever we looked at one another, our eyes locked a little longer than necessary.

 

We spoke simultaneously, our voices colliding.

 

“Congrats on your record deal,” I said, and Seth said, “Come to my room.”

 

We laughed.

 

I studied my feet.

 

“Come to my room, Hannah.”

 

“Sure,” I said. “We can’t talk in here anyway.”

 

Seth took my hand and led me through the suite. We passed the girls playing cards and I smiled at them. Now, somehow, I belonged in this smoke-filled room.

 

We turned into a bedroom off the suite and Seth shut and locked the door. The clack of the bolt resounded in my brain.

 

“Better,” he said.

 

The room smelled like clean linen. I saw fake flowers on a glass table, a neatly made king-size bed, and the city beyond a vast window.

 

I said, “You’re really living the rock star dream, huh?”

 

“What do you mean?” Seth held on to my hand. A frisson of fear passed through me—I was alone again with this unpredictable man—and I watched him guardedly. From the next room, Lana Del Rey’s new song started to play. Boy blue, she sang in her sultry voice.

 

“I mean nice hotels, drugs, girls.”

 

Seth flashed a smile, feral in the dark.

 

“Whatever,” he said. “Everyone gives in eventually.”

 

He stepped closer and I instinctively stepped back, bumping into the wall.

 

“Have you been okay, Hannah?”

 

“Yeah, I’m okay.” Another lie. “Just figuring myself out. I left Matt.” I said it offhandedly, but the words hung between us. I left Matt, and here I am.

 

“You all right for money?” Seth said.

 

I blinked, then glared at his half-lit face. The city lights played along his features, his jaw rough with stubble, his liquid dark eyes.

 

“I am fine for money,” I said. “I am not some victim here, Seth. You should know that. Or is that how you still see me—as a pawn in Matt’s game?”

 

My heart punched against my ribs.