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What We May Be

What We May Be

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What We May Be

Comprimento:
321 página
5 horas
Lançado em:
Dec 20, 2016
ISBN:
9781386894438
Formato:
Livro

Descrição

Weekends don’t always go as planned. When you kill someone you despise, what kind of emotions do you expect to feel? How do you process your actions and their consequences? Alyssa Ngo allows her guilt to consume her. Aaron Huang stretches himself too thin. Natasha Coleman repeatedly rids herself of any evidence. As these friends plunge deeper into their psyches, they uncover just who, and what, they might be.

Lançado em:
Dec 20, 2016
ISBN:
9781386894438
Formato:
Livro

Sobre o autor

Max Jackson is a queer black woman and a child of Liberian immigrants. She has degrees in both psychology and German, one of which helps her in her writing more than the other. She enjoys writing books that all kinds of people can relate to and books that make all types of people feel human.  A former dancer and martial artist, Max now spends her free time playing video games or reading, is an avid member of the Fighting Game Community, and really loves her dog.


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Author

1. What We May Be

Alyssa thought she had pretty decent intuition. After all, she was usually right when she got a bad vibe from someone, and she could usually feel a bad day coming as soon as she woke up. This day, however, felt like any other day. A normal day. One that she wouldn’t remember otherwise, except that it was the day her parents were leaving for the entire weekend. She was so excited about having the whole weekend to herself that she couldn’t stop talking about it, much to the annoyance of her best friends. After last period, she met up with Natasha at the end of the science wing.

A huge grin was on her face. You have no idea how amped I am, Tasha.

Natasha gave her an amused look. I think I’ve heard you say it enough by now to get it.

Alyssa swung an arm around her shoulders and tugged her in the direction of the math wing. Can you blame me? My parents are really and truly leaving and the house will be quiet for an entire weekend! They’re going somewhere else to argue! Isn’t that great?

She didn’t have to look at Natasha’s face to know what expression was there. Whenever Alyssa mentioned how much her parents fought these days, it always brought on that look of pity that Alyssa would hate if it wasn’t so damn cute. It was the eyes, she decided, since Natasha had the biggest, brownest eyes she’d ever seen. At least you’ll get some peace and quiet, Natasha eventually said. Is there anything you want me to bring over? You know, like food?

Oh, don’t worry about that. Mama would never leave the fridge empty, especially since she figured you guys were going to be over. I thought Dad would fight Aaron coming over, but I think he just really wants me to not be a lesbian, so he’ll take the black guy. Alyssa shrugged.

Natasha snorted at the bluntness. But you’re not a lesbian.

"Do you think that matters to him? I’ve also told him that I would sooner cut off my own left boob than kiss Aaron, but he still is only just now okay with him staying over for extended periods of time."

A blush appeared on Natasha’s cheeks, visible through her dark skin probably only to Alyssa. ...I don’t think kissing Aaron would be that bad.

For you. And he very much wants to kiss you, too, and I don’t understand why it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe I’ll lock you guys in the room together over the weekend or something.

Natasha flailed and tried to shove her away. No, you won’t! Stop that!

Alyssa cackled and geared up to tease her some more, but someone bumping into her from behind interrupted her. She turned, expecting it to be a random impatient person, but instead, she was staring at a chest. She sighed when she realized who the chest belonged to.

What’s this about being alone over the weekend? The owner of the chest, Jude, grinned down at her. He had a very nice smile, which was the most annoying thing about him, Alyssa had decided. It almost made him look like a nice person. Having a party?

Alyssa rolled her eyes as hard as she could. Yes, but you’re not invited.

Aw, don’t be like that, baby. Are you upset that I haven’t asked you out yet?

Next to her, Natasha made a tiny sound of disgust. Alyssa kept her arm around her for good measure. I’m taken. Haven’t you met my adorable girlfriend Natasha? She’s all I need.

The lesbian card? Nice try. I heard about your exciting Friday night with Derek last week. Alyssa wasn’t sure how it was possible, but his grin got even wider. You obviously don’t discriminate. I like that.

Wow, Natasha said aloud.

Wow, Alyssa echoed. Okay, protip for the future, Jude. If you really want a girl to like you, maybe don’t call her a whore to her face. I’m going to take my girlfriend here, and we’re going to walk away from you now. You’re still not invited. Alyssa whirled and pulled Natasha with her, but Jude apparently had more to say.

I’ve never been with a Chinese girl before, he called after her. I look forward to it.

Wow, Natasha said for a second time. Alyssa, just—

But angry now, Alyssa turned back and put her hands on her hips. "For your information, I’m Vietnamese. I know you don’t know where that is because you’re a fucking idiot, but it’s different from China. You’re right, Natasha isn’t my girlfriend, but I still don’t like you. Now fuck off." Before he had a chance to say anything else, she grabbed Natasha’s hand and walked away, faster this time. She didn’t hear Jude behind her, so he might have actually been offended enough to shut up. Miracles never cease.

How did he know about Derek? Natasha asked. And what does he know? I thought you said you didn’t sleep with him?

"I didn’t, Alyssa insisted, slightly annoyed that she had to say it again. But I don’t know. Maybe one of the other cheerleaders told him. Or maybe Derek told him since they’re both on the football team. Or maybe he’s a creep who follows me around." That last one did have some truth to it. Maybe he didn’t exactly stalk her, but ever since she had joined the cheerleading squad her junior year, Jude had made it his mission to make her uncomfortable every chance he got. She always ignored his apparent attempts to woo her, but sometimes, he was just a creep. Like just then.

I really think you should tell someone. All of that was just... Natasha shuddered. I dunno. He freaks me out.

It’s not a big deal. Plus, it’s not like he’ll actually get in trouble. His dad will just buy the school or some shit. He already bought my apartment complex. Alyssa shrugged. It’s okay. I can take care of myself. So long as he doesn’t say anything to you and I don’t actually have to fight him, I don’t care.

Hey! they heard further down the hallway. Aaron’s voice. You guys coming?

Let’s not keep your boyfriend waiting, Alyssa teased with a nudge.

Predictably, Natasha blushed again. Shhh, stop it! He might hear you!

"Good! Then maybe you guys will do something already—"

"Alyssa, stop!"

With the anger mostly passed, Alyssa laughed and continued to instigate. Hell if she was going to let one asshole ruin what was supposed to be an epic weekend.

BUT AARON HAD TO BE home for a few hours to watch his younger brother, and Natasha had piano lessons, because her mom really still made her spend Friday afternoons of her senior year of high school in some stuffy room listening to some old guy teach her piano. It was usually not a problem since Alyssa herself had dance class on Fridays, but she’d skipped out this time around. Alyssa’s actual fun wasn’t going to start until later that evening when they were finally able to come over.

She still flopped on her bed and kicked her legs in excitement. The whole weekend. The entire damn thing. Her parents were off to visit her aunt and uncle, but since their kids were at college, Alyssa argued that there would be nothing for her to do while there and it was better if she stayed home. Her dad wasn’t keen on the idea, but somehow, both she and her mother had convinced him that she was eighteen years old and able to survive for an entire weekend without them. It was practice, she had insisted, for when she went to college in the fall.

(Not that she was going far. Neither Aaron nor Natasha could afford to leave Connecticut for school, and Alyssa was not about to leave without them. They had all decided to apply to Quinnipiac University and call it a day. When they could, they would get a place together to make it feel more like they were on their own.)

She decided to pass the time by setting up a bit. They could sleep in the living room since they didn’t have to worry about anyone getting up at the asscrack of dawn and waking them up, so she grabbed all the blankets she owned and threw them onto the couch. She grabbed some big bowls for the snacks she’d told Aaron to pick up and put them on the coffee table. Already running out of things to set up, Alyssa sorted through her movie collection. She was entertained for an entire twenty minutes, then she sighed. Maybe she should have gone to dance class after all.

There was no point in eating before the other two got there. She didn’t feel like watching anything. No one else that she wanted over. Nowhere she needed to go, not that she had a car to get there anyway. Maybe music would make the time go faster. She found a random playlist on her phone and sat on the living room floor, trying to lose herself in the music and not be anxious. She had gotten through an entire alt-J album when there was a knock at the door.

Alyssa turned the music down and frowned. Aaron and Natasha weren’t due until after seven, and they would call first about the snacks, anyway. Anybody else would have a key. A random Jehovah’s Witness? Probably. Alyssa decided to wait for them to go away.

...but the knocking continued. Now both annoyed and curious, she checked the peephole.

"Oh, you have got to be fucking— Before she could think any of it through, Alyssa threw open the door and was met with the sight of a grinning Jude. How do you know where I live?" she demanded.

He put his hands in his pockets and shrugged. I have my secrets.

If Alyssa had been thinking clearly, she would have realized quite a few things, like the fact that she was alone with a guy that had been inappropriate with her in the past and had said something earlier that day that could be taken as a threat. She would also have remembered that his father owned the building that they were currently in, so he could easily explain being here to anyone else. But she was just so angry that he had the nerve to show up to her house that she disregarded all of the glaring warning signs.

I mean, was I not clear earlier or something? I don’t like you, Jude, and you need to leave—

He pushed his way past her into the apartment. Her first thought was that he hadn’t taken his shoes off and was tracking dirt into the house. (Her parents were going to kill her.) Her second thought was mild panic. Jude casually strolled into the living room, continuing to track dirt all the way to the carpet. Hm, he said, treating the room like a museum exhibit. I always thought this place would look shittier on the inside.

Alyssa swallowed and willed herself to keep her composure. She would not give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was at all scared. She could get him to leave. She refused to budge from the door, leaving it wide open just for him. You need to leave. Right. Now. I will call the police.

And tell them what? The guy that owns the building is here? What are they gonna do? Arrest me? Jude laughed and touched the blankets on the couch. (Alyssa was going to wash those before they used them later.) As Alyssa was deciding how to respond to that, he laughed and shrugged. Have you lived here a long time? From before we owned this dump?

Her fists clenched. Jude crossed the entire carpet, leaving his big, dusty footprints in a neat line all the way down the middle. He stopped at the only bookshelf in the house that had everything from old family pictures in Vietnam to selfies Alyssa had taken both alone and with her friends. She cringed when he touched the biggest one, an 8x10 of her, her brother, and her parents taken right before Brandon left for college in Miami. I don’t think that’s any of your fucking business, she snapped. Stop touching shit.

He ignored her, of course. Oh, that’s the little one you’re always with. What’s her name? Naquanda or something? I always thought she was cute. You aren’t really doing her, are you? The thought is hot, I’ll give you that—

Alyssa pushed the door even further, letting the handle hit the wall to interrupt him. If only he wasn’t so much bigger than her. Alyssa was fairly toned due to her dancing and cheerleading, but Jude still had a good six inches and at least seventy pounds on her. If they were anywhere public, where there were witnesses that would prevent him from killing her, she would definitely have scratched his face off for talking about Natasha like that. You have exactly one minute to get out.

Jude released the picture of Natasha and Alyssa and put his hands up in supposed surrender. Alright, alright. At least offer me a drink first. It’s rude otherwise. My mom used to say so.

Alyssa swallowed again. Her hand was beginning to hurt from gripping the door so hard. If I give you something to drink, will you leave?

Cross my heart.  

Not seeing what other choice she had, Alyssa left the door cracked and glared at him as she passed him into the kitchen. He would get water, and then he would leave. She wasn’t sure if believing him was smart at all, but at least there were sharp things in the kitchen. Just in case. She also had her phone on her, but she wasn’t sure how practical that was. Whatever. She would just give him the fucking water and then he would leave and she wouldn’t think about this ever again.

He didn’t follow her immediately, instead choosing to meander his way around the couch, casually touching things like the telephone and the old stereo that Brandon had left behind since it wouldn’t fit in his carry-on bag or suitcase. The more things he touched, the more things she felt like she would have to sanitize as soon as he was gone. She grabbed the first glass she saw and filled it with tap water. He wasn’t worthy of the filtered water in the fridge. Come and get your damn drink, she barked.

He finally appeared in the kitchen, strolling like he came here every day. Instead of handing it to him, Alyssa plopped the glass on the counter in front of him. Unfazed, he sipped the water and didn’t comment on the taste. He probably thought poor people didn’t have water filters or something. Alyssa, he began. I wanted to come here to tell you that I really do like you a lot. I mess around all the time, but I think you’re—

I don’t care, she interrupted. I don’t like you. Drink your water and go.

This made him laugh. Geez. I can’t catch a break with you, huh? Alright, tell you what. I’ll leave. But one more thing.

This was a terrible idea, Alyssa realized. She should have called the police immediately. This wasn’t going to end well. Aaron and Natasha weren’t coming for another fifty minutes. That was too long. They wouldn’t get here soon enough to help her. The door was open, but it was too far away. Jude would catch her if she tried to run. If she screamed, he’d cover her mouth, plus she was pretty sure that her neighbors weren’t home yet. She shouldn’t have let him into the kitchen. She shouldn’t have let him into the kitchen. No, she said, and cursed her voice for shaking. I wasn’t kidding. I’ll call the police, Jude.

Gimme a kiss, and I’ll leave. Jude put the glass down on the counter and leaned against it, smiling the whole time. It was a shame how nice of a face he had. Dark hair, blue eyes, and that smile of his would probably make Alyssa melt if it didn’t make her want to stab him in the neck. If you still don’t like me afterwards, I’ll never bother you again. But if you do, I have an offer.

Fuck you, Alyssa managed to croak out.  Get out.

He pushed off the counter and began to advance on her. She didn’t think to stand her ground until after she had already taken a step back. He had already seen the fear, and he knew that he was at an advantage. She needed to do something. What could she do? He was getting closer. She was running out of space behind her. What would he do when he had her cornered? Had he done this before? Had he planned this ever since he eavesdropped that she’d be alone today? The kitchen was so small, and the only way out was around him. He could just stick an arm out and stop her if he wanted. He seemed to take up so much space and she swore she could feel the heat of him as she scrambled backwards. She had to do something. There were knives behind her, next to the sink. She had to get to them. Alyssa turned and practically dove for the knife rack, grabbing the biggest one in the middle. When she whirled back around, the point was right in the middle of Jude’s neck.

Alyssa was shaking. Leave. I need you to leave.

Or what? You’ll kill me?

Yes.

Then why haven’t you done it yet? Alyssa wasn’t sure how he managed to look so calm with a knife to his throat. Her grip nearly slipped. Come on. This is dramatic. Put the knife down, Alyssa, and we can talk. His hand touched her hip, his fingers daring to stroke the sliver of exposed skin between her sweatpants and shirt. Let’s talk.

Maybe it was the sheer audacity that made her do it. Maybe it was her intense desire to not be violated by Jude DiMartino in her kitchen forty-five minutes before what was supposed to be the best weekend ever with her best friends. Maybe she was just angry. Maybe she just wanted to.

But Alyssa let out a sound that she had never heard before, and then the knife was sinking. Jude’s face went through a series of expressions, and then those pretty blue eyes began to bulge, and his veins began to stand out, and he made a horrible choking noise that made Alyssa pull the knife out, resulting in a horrible squelching noise. He fell immediately. The blood was flying out of him like a geyser, spraying the cabinets, the fridge, and Alyssa herself. It began pooling on the floor. It looked like someone had spilled oil from the frying pan, she thought absently.

Jude stopped moving after what seemed like hours. Alyssa had stood there and watched it happen. The blood stopped much later than Jude, continuing to spray, and then flow, and then trickle. Alyssa was now standing in a pool that spread all the way to the end of the kitchen.

She dropped the knife and covered her mouth before the scream came out.

AARON, ON THE OTHER hand, was fully expecting shenanigans. It might have just been his anxiety talking, but it was unlikely that they were going to spend a full weekend without supervision and Alyssa wouldn’t have some wacky idea that would end with them having to hide from the cops. Again. (That was the last time Aaron was going to explore abandoned buildings past dark. She didn’t like for him to keep bringing it up, insisting, "How was I supposed to know that the police would show up at the exact moment we hopped the fence??" To be fair, she felt so bad about the subsequent panic attack that she bought him lunch every day for a week, which Aaron was completely okay with.)

After the usual (joking) warning from his father not to get either of the girls pregnant, Aaron bid him and his younger brother adieu for the weekend and headed out to pick up Natasha. Since he was the only one who had gotten a car, Aaron had become the official chauffeur, but he didn’t mind it. Only if it had to be used as a getaway vehicle, he supposed. His truck, a secondhand gift from his grandfather, wasn’t really made for high speed chases. His family took extremely good care of it, but Aaron didn’t have much hope of it lasting another couple of years.

When Aaron arrived at Natasha’s apartment complex, she was already sitting outside on the curb, backpack perched next to her. She looked a little upset from what he could tell, and almost subconsciously, he straightened his back, cleared his throat, and prepared himself to comfort her the best he could. Lately, he had the strange feeling that all of their interactions had turned into tests. He gave her his best smile when she got into the passenger seat.

Did piano lessons suck today? he asked, and immediately wondered if that sounded stupid.

Natasha sighed and shook her head. No, they were fine. My mom was just...being difficult about me leaving all weekend since she thinks I could be ‘doing more productive things.’

There’s nothing wrong with taking a break. Besides, it’s not like you’re off partying. You’re with us.

That doesn’t make my mom feel better. Especially considering she still doesn’t believe me when I tell her that your mom is black, but the problem would be solved if she would just meet her. I can’t believe we’ve known each other this long and my mom is still like this. Natasha let out a little angry huff. It made Aaron melt into his seat a little.

He chuckled and pulled away from the curb. The drive to Alyssa’s was only a few minutes, so he had to make this count somehow. Personally, I think it’s hilarious that Alyssa’s parents think of me as the black guy and your mom thinks of me as the Chinese guy.

I know, right? I’m sorry that everybody is racist.

So long as you aren’t, I guess.

She turned her face to the window. At first, Aaron thought she was done with the conversation, but he realized that it must have been because she was blushing. (Aaron didn’t know a single person that blushed more than Natasha did. Her cheeks would always get this pinkish undertone that he probably only saw because he knew her so well.) He thought about reaching out to touch her...just her shoulder or something, to let her know that she didn’t ever have to be nervous around him, but he chickened out in the end. He could hardly tell her not to be nervous when he was a walking pile of nerves every second of every day.

But she suddenly turned back to him before he could continue to feel sorry for himself, her blush now faded. Oh, crap, Aaron! We forgot the snacks!

He was already pulling into the apartment parking lot. Shit, he cursed. Oh well. Now Alyssa can go with us instead of giving us a long list over the phone.

Natasha agreed with a shrug, which led Aaron to park in the first space he saw. He made sure to grab her bag as well as his, and her little smile on the way up the stairs convinced him that he had made the right choice. When they reached the second floor, Aaron opened his mouth to speak again but frowned instead.

Hey, why’s Alyssa’s door open?

I just noticed that, too. Natasha also frowned. She’s in there, right?

Should be. Aaron shrugged. She didn’t text you or anything, right?

No. I kind of thought that was weird. Alyssa doesn’t go this long without sending me something, even if it’s stupid.

When they arrived at the door, Aaron started to feel something in the pit of his stomach. He wanted to dismiss it since he tended to feel anxious about things like answering the phone or checking the mail, but he had the strange, uncomfortable feeling that it might be more than that. He pushed the door further ajar and stuck his head in. Nothing in the living room was disturbed, but he didn’t see anybody. He thought he saw some movement in the kitchen, but he wasn’t sure what he was looking at or why it made him feel like this.

Alyssa? he called. Is everything okay?

He thought he heard a gasp. A-Aaron? W-wait, what time is—oh, fuck...

Since Aaron had no idea what was going on or why Alyssa sounded like she had spent the last three hours either smoking cigars or crying, he was going to ask another question or two before he barreled inside to help her. Natasha, on the other hand, immediately flew past him into the apartment to see what the matter was, forcing him to follow.

Alyssa, what’s wrong? What’s going— Natasha went stock still at the kitchen entrance. Her hand slowly rose to her mouth, her eyes widening almost comically large. When she began to shake, Aaron realized that he had no choice but to look into the kitchen.

He first saw Alyssa kneeling on the floor, drenched in blood from her chest all the way down to her ankles, and immediately thought she was somehow hurt. Then his eyes drifted from her to the floor, which was quite literally covered in what had to be drying blood. And then he saw a person crumpled just a foot or two from where Alyssa was crouching, and since they weren’t moving, Aaron figured they had to be dead. Oh. Okay.

Aaron was still processing all of this when Natasha let out something between a squeak and a scream. Alyssa, she whispered through her fingers. What am I looking at?

Aaron took

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