“Come on.” Erika nudges me, reminding me of our timetable.

“Right.” I head down the hallway and stop at the first room. Instantly, I recognize it as Levi’s with the athletic gear in the corner. I stand there, taking it in, but Erika nudges me again to remind me that I need to move. I head to the closet but find nothing. Erika looks under the bed and comes up with nothing. We head back into the hallway and into Zeke’s room. Computer screens line one wall. They are on sleep mode, but the combined screensavers form one giant picture of me. Even Erika stops to look at it.

“No wonder you didn’t give a second thought to them being over at Hope’s.”

I nod in agreement. God, I love them so much. My eyes start to sting.

“Nothing here either,” Erika sighs. “Maybe they stored them in the other room.” She grabs my elbow this time, leading me out of Zeke’s room towards the door at the end of the hallway.

I’d seen both Levi’s and Zeke’s rooms before, but I’ve never seen this room and I have no idea what’s in it. I push open the door and freeze, knowing instantly whose room it is.

“It’s our room,” I gasp. I stand there, unable to move when I see the oversized bed. This room was meant for the three of us to share. The beauty and simplicity of the space takes my breath away. I can feel the love in this room.

“BROWNIES!” Erika screams, jerking my attention away from the massive bed and the possibilities it holds.

“What is that?” I yell back at her. She scared the crap out of me. Why the fuck is she screaming about food again? She picks the strangest times to get hungry.

“It’s our code word! What else would it be?!” She looks at me like I’m the crazy one when she was the one who yelled “Brownies!” at the top of her lungs. She obviously doesn’t realize that we actually have to agree to a code word before using it.

“You can’t just call out some random not-agreed-upon word as a code word,” I say admonishingly. “Why are you screaming it to begin with?” I turn my head to see what she’s looking at.

I see movement out of the corner of my eye and I glance down the hallway to see Levi and Zeke blocking our exit.

“Ohhhh,” I whisper.

“Yeah.” She lets out a snort. “Put that doorman on the list.”

I nod my head in agreement. It looks like I’m in trouble if I’m reading Levi’s and Zeke’s faces right. I lick my lips, not sure how I’m going to get out of this one.

So I say the only thing I can think of.

“I heard you were at Hope’s place.” I put my hands on my hips, trying to pretend to be mad. “Were you there for her brownies?” I add that little jab to give an extra reminder that I never got these brownies.

“We’re going to need a new code word. ‘Brownies’ will never work,” Erika mutters beside me. I don’t know what she’s talking about. Brownies always work.

15

Levi

“Some kids are finding Brentwood too challenging. We were helping the new dropouts move.” I smirk.

After a day and half of not seeing Livvie, I thought I’d attack her on sight, but I got to release some of my pent-up energy taking care of the pencil dick and the snot-nosed girl. Then I had to go to practice. The scout squad we played against was going to be sore for days. I’ll have to order a pizza for them or something to make up for the hits I laid out.

“What’s this about brownies?” Zeke asks, throwing an arm around Livvie’s waist as she creeps toward the door. “I hope they’re from the Sanchez’s bakery. Heard those are killer.”

“We ordered some for Olivia’s birthday and they’re ready to be picked up,” the roommate improvises. I wonder if she knows that she rubs her ear when she lies.

“Yup, and if we don’t go now, they’ll be ruined.” Livvie tries to wriggle away, but my brother is not having it. He picks her up and carries her into the living room.

I sweep the special room for any disturbances before shutting the door. Livvie hadn’t made it to the closet. If she had, she would’ve seen her things tucked away in the walk-in closet in the custom shelving we commissioned over the summer. The drawers are lined with velvet. The hangers are all soft and squishy. We even bought some nice-smelling little pillows that some sales lady said Livvie would love. It’s ready for her. We’re ready for her.

The door latch clicks into place like a punctuation. I can only hope that she’s ready for us.

Out in the living room, Livvie is sitting in a chair with a calculating expression on her face. The roommate is gone.

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