Maybe it’s because when a person is secure, they don’t have to be looking over their shoulder all the time and therefore, life’s a hell of a lot easier. I know that from my own experience. Before I met my foster mom, Patty, and she introduced me to Morry, I tried to keep real quiet. It didn’t do any good to have people notice me—not my deadbeat dad, not my drug-addled mom, not the cops who kept dragging me back home where I’d get beat or have drugs shoved up my nose or worse.
It wasn’t until I learned how to box that I felt comfortable standing up straight, saying stuff that I meant, and generally not giving a shit about what people thought.
So maybe that’s what Erika is feeling jealous about. If that’s the case, if she’s got people in her life making her feel low, then we’ve got more than rocks on the ground to be concerned about. I’ve been following her around for a week, and while I know her class schedule, her workout routine, and ordinary shit like that, I don’t know the important stuff. I don’t know what makes her happy, what makes her sad, what puts that little wistful note in her voice. I want to so I ask.
“What kind of dance do you do?”
“I’m classically trained in ballet, but I broke my leg when I was fifteen and that was the end of that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I healed, but it was never the same. I didn’t have the same strength and couldn’t do the moves as precisely and perfectly as I could before.”
I’ve seen this girl dance through the windows of the campus gym she worked out at and she moves like a dream. If that isn’t perfect and precise, I don’t know what is. I can’t say that, though, because that would be revealing information that I shouldn’t have. Stalking someone’s not a good thing. If Patty or Morry knew I was doing it, they’d slice my balls off. They wouldn’t even listen to my explanation that I was doing it for Erika’s own good before the knife would come out.
I have this feeling that Erika wouldn’t take too kindly to my following her around either. She always gets real irritated when I show up, asking if Audley was behind it.
No. It’s me. It’s always going to be me because I’m a sick fuck that is totally attached to this girl and I can’t stop thinking about her, and when I don’t have her in my sight, I lose it.
“You don’t sound super broken up about the fact that you can’t do it professionally.”
“It was never my dream. It was my mother’s. She had been a dancer when she was younger, but never quite succeeded at the level she wanted to. I think she had hopes that I would be able to have the success that she didn’t.”
Stuff was starting to click into place. I’ve seen those types at the gym. Morry didn’t much like them, but she accepted them anyway because she said that she knew that the parents wouldn’t stop pushing the kids if she said no. The only thing she could do was be a buffer.
“Some parents are like that.”
I shove the door to the hallway open and then walk until we reach my door. She looks at me expectantly, thinking I’m going to put her down. I don’t, though. I just hug her tight against me with one arm and grab my keycard with my free hand. I’m dexterous like that.
I pop open the door. My cat greets me with a hungry glare.
“Oh, there’s your cat,” Erika says.
“Yeah. Tuesday is her name.”
“For real? That’s so cute. Did you find her on a Tuesday?” Erika pushes at my arms and so I lower her to the ground. Now that I’m in my own home, the need to clutch her close isn’t so strong. It’s still there, but I can manage myself better.
“Nah. It’s kind of a joke. My trainer’s name is Morry and I found the cat at the gym so it’s Tuesdays with Morry. Like the movie.”
“Oh, that’s adorable.” Erika bends down and pets Tuesday. The cat, who doesn’t like anyone but me, arches her back and rawrs with contentment. Erika looks up at me with a brilliant smile. “I think she likes me.”
“Who doesn’t?” I blurt out.
My face warms at his words. I swear his does, too, but I jerk my head back toward Tuesday to hide my own blush. I’m shocked he said that. Maybe this isn’t all one-sided. My heart flutters with hope that he’s not coming around because he was asked to but because he wants to. I should just ask him outright. Be bold. Stick with this coming-out-of-my-shell thing that has been happening lately.
I open my mouth to do that when I see Tank bending down to pet Tuesday, too. My eyes land on his hands, and I get a close look at them now.