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Right Now

She's Leaving Home (Bye-Bye)

I bite my lip as I pull my phone from my backpack. After it finally boots up, I quickly snap a picture and attach it to a new Kik message to Brianna, already regretting the massive roaming fees that will be on my bill. I hesitate, debate whether or not to actually send it. It's just before four a.m. in London, so I'm not even sure if she's awake yet. Finally, I just press the send button and hope I won't regret it. I close out of the application and sit down in the nearest chair.
I zone out as I sit there watching people pass by. A child squalls somewhere nearby, but I fight the urge to look around. If a parent is having trouble with their kid, I'm certainly not going to make them uncomfortable by staring like a loon at them. Time seems to go slower the more I check the clock, but I can't stop myself from continuously glancing down at the numbers on my screen. After what feels like forever, but is really only an hour, a loud voice breaks through the din of conversations taking place, and I rise to my feet, adjusting my backpack.

"Oh. My. God. DJ! What are you doing here? Why didn't you tell me you were coming? I could've been here before your flight landed so you weren't stuck in the airport for so long. What's going on? Tell me everything!"

I huff out a laugh at Brianna's exuberance, slapping at her hand when she reaches for the bag on my back; she sticks her tongue out at me but grabs my suitcase instead. I numbly follow her out of the enormous building to an SUV idling by the curb. She doesn't hesitate to open the back and toss my suitcase behind the seats. I climb into the second row of seating and buckle up as she closes the door behind her. The man sitting in the driver's seat glances at us in the mirror.

"Ready?"

"Onward, my dear Paul."

I pick at the skin around my thumb as he drives through the dark and empty streets. Bri stifles yawns repeatedly, but I can see just how exhausted she is. I wonder when she went to bed, but I don't ask. The words feel frozen in my throat. Her lack of questions during the trip, though, is the biggest sign of how tired she is. The vehicle comes to a stop after twenty minutes of awkward, uncomfortable silence, and I peer through the tinted windows at the large house. It's quite a bit larger than the one in which I grew up, and I bite back a manic giggle at the errant thought of getting lost inside. Paul holds the car door open for us and gets my luggage from the back. I start to protest when he heads up the sidewalk, but Brianna nudges me and shakes her head. So I follow Bri and Paul inside, and my best friend pushes open a door to what I presume is a guest bedroom.

"Sorry it isn't much," Bri says as I stand in the doorway, staring at the room beyond. "We didn't know if you were actually going to come, so we left it pretty basic, just in case."

"It's fine, it's great. Thanks. I, uh, I really appreciate it."

"Get some sleep, Deej. We'll talk in the morning."

She closes the door behind her as she walks away, and I sit on the edge of the bed. The walls are pale green and bare of anything more than a painting of a sunny meadow. A dresser stands against the wall next to another door; the bookshelf to my left is already filled with books, the familiar spines of some of my favourite sagas mixed in with the lot. I toe off my beat-up sneakers, turn off the light, and, without bothering to get under the soft white comforter, I fall asleep.

Unfortunately, sleep doesn't last long before the bad dreams get the best of me. Weak sunlight falls across my face through the blinds, and I bury my face into the pillow. It becomes evident that I won't be falling asleep again, especially when my bladder decides to make its condition known, so I push myself into a sitting position. The angle of the light in the window tells me it's well into morning; the clock on my phone confirms it, alerting me in big white numbers that it's almost nine. I dig through my suitcase until I find a pair of faded blue jeans, a black scoop-neck shirt, and a white tank-top with lacy edging. Once dressed, I quickly run a brush through my hair and pull it back into a braid. Voices pass my door, but they are hushed almost instantly.

A loud buzzing echoes in the quiet, and I grab my phone before it can make it known that I'm awake. Mama. My heart aches something fierce when I imagine how my family reacted to finding me gone. As much as I want to answer it, to hear my mother's voice, I can't. My cowardice only births guilt, so I put my phone on silent and slide it into my back pocket just as a knock sounds at the door. Brianna pokes her head into the room, smiling when she sees me standing there.

"Oh, you're awake! Breakfast?"

"Yeah, be there in a minute."

"Take your time, Deej."

My breath catches in my throat at the sound of the nickname. I force a smile at my best friend, keeping the strained grin on my face until she closes the door behind her; I cover my face with my hands, draw in steadying breaths until my world rights itself again. Since I know I can't hide in the room forever, especially not now that Bri's seen me awake and dressed, I let out a weighted sigh and exit the room, follow the aroma of food down the hall to the kitchen. Two guys sit at the table, one engrossed in his phone and the other listening as Bri talks; another boy, this one with shockingly white-blond hair, rummages through the cupboards. A fourth is perched on the countertop, watching my best friend closely before stealing a slice of bacon from the dish beside him. Brianna flips a pancake onto the platter next to the stove and catches sight of me standing in the doorway.

"Morning, sleepy-buns."

I give an awkward wave. "Hi."

"Deej, these lovely boys are - oh, for fuck's sake, Niall, sit down, your food is done! - Louis, Zayn, and Harry. That's Niall. Guys, this is DJ."

"Uh, call me Koty," I announce quietly.

Brianna raises an eyebrow but doesn't argue. Instead, she passes the plates to Louis who carries them to the table. "Go ahead, sit. If you don't hurry, the human garbage disposal will eat everything."

Harry pulls out a chair next to him, smiling cheerily, and I take a seat after a moment of hesitation. Everyone launches into chatter as they grab food, forks clinking as they fight over who gets which pancake; someone yelps when their hand gets smacked away from the bacon. As much as I absolutely adore Ian's accent in What a Girl Wants, it's different actually hearing the accents in person, harder to understand when there are a multitude of different accents blending together in a cacophony of noise. Anna would have loved to be here, and she definitely would not have hesitated to join in on the conversation.

A pang rips through my chest as I think of my little sister. I push my plate away though most of my breakfast is untouched. I'm no longer hungry. Harry notices, leans closer to speak without the others overhearing.

"Something the matter?"

"Nah. Just... just lost my appetite."

Louis steals the bacon off my plate with a wink. It takes more effort than I thought possible to manipulate my lips into a smile; I rise to my feet, thank Brianna for breakfast, and hurry back to the room I've been given. A chair scrapes against the floor and footsteps follow me, but I ignore it, press on up the stairs. I don't bother closing the door behind me as I fall face-first onto the bed. Someone's hand begins rubbing my back seconds later.

"I'm here if you wanna talk, hun."

"Bri, I just left them," I mutter into the pillow. "I didn't even bother telling them I was leaving. I just checked visa requirements, borrow money from Daddy, packed, booked a flight, and left."

"Did you at least leave a note?" she asks quietly a few minutes later.

My suitcase sat by my feet as I stood at the counter in the kitchen. The clock on the wall ticks away the seconds, the hand inching closer to the hour. My hands trembled, but I knew I had to do this. I had to go. The pen hits the countertop with a clatter that sounds extraordinarily loud in the deafening silence, and I re-read what I'd written.

"Mama and Banana -
I'm so sorry for this. I know there weren't any warnings, no heads-up that this was happening. And I'm sorry. But this is something I have to do. I know it doesn't make sense, I can't even explain it to myself - I just know I have to get away. I promise I don't want to hurt you. God, I sound like you, Mama...
Mama, could you take Anna to get my car from the airport? Row 15, spot 31. Banana, the spare key is in your jewelry box. The car's yours. Keys are under the backseat.

I love you both so much. Tell Daddy I love him, and that I love him, too.

Love, DJ."

I grabbed my keys and carried my luggage through the house, opening the door as silently as I can. The thud of the trunk closing echoed in the quiet of the night, and I took one last look at the house I'd grown up in. The outside was faded, aged from years of withstanding weather, and the trees that surrounded our yard loomed, dark shadows against an even darker expanse of sky. I used to be so terrified of the woods that fenced in our plot of land, but... it was home. The only one I'd ever known. I sighed, slid into the driver's seat, and started the car. It was time to make a difference in my life, one that I alone chose.


"They'll understand."

"How? I can't even explain it to myself."

"Because you don't want to think about it." She sighs, scratching at my scalp gently. "Look, stop worrying so much. Skype with them later or something. Talk to them."

I exhale heavily and turn my head to look at her. "Yeah, I probably should."

Brianna grabs my laptop from my bookbag and inputs the PIN with ease. I huff out a laugh; of course she still remembers the number I always use. The sound of the keys clacking as she types is all I hear for a long minute, then she passes the computer over. Patting my shoulder gently, she stands and leaves the room. A giggle escapes when I see the Sticky Note app up on the screen bearing the words WiFi name and password: Louisisasexybitch. I log into the WiFi and bring up Skype. As I hover over my sister's name, trying to mentally calculate the time difference, a bubble pops up on the screen. I click the button to answer with video.

"What the Hell were you thinking?"

"I'm sorry, Anna. I really am."

She sighs, turning her face away from the camera. "Where are you?"

"I, uh, I came to visit Bri."

"Then why couldn't you have told us in the note you left? Y'know, the one you apparently thought would be sufficient enough for us to be happy with you having suddenly upped and ran? And I don't care how much you say you didn't want to hurt us, you could have given us the chance to say goodbye. But no, you were too damn selfish to give us that."

"Anna -"

"Look, I've gotta go to bed. I haven't slept in two days. Try to call Mama or something, I'm tired of hearing her cry constantly."

Before I can respond, she ends the call. I hurriedly wipe my cheeks to destroy the evidence that I've been crying. I watch as the dot next to Anna's name goes grey; my breath comes out in a shuddering gust, and I decide that being alone is an awful idea. The sound of the television alerts me to where everyone else is. Brianna looks up at me when I walk into the living room, and her expression says clearly that she isn't convinced by the fake smile I wear. I swallow thickly and find a seat next to Zayn on the loveseat. Niall grins up at me from his spot on the floor, and I can't help myself - I give him an honest smile. The weight of Bri's scrutinising stare is palpable even as I force myself to focus on the show. Though I have no idea what it's called, it isn't long before I start to enjoy it. It's almost impossible to find something wrong with the premise of two brothers travelling the US to hunt supernatural creatures; it's actually rather entertaining. Once the episode ends, Bri pushes herself to her feet and snaps to get my attention.

"Hey, come help get lunch started." She turns to face me as soon as we're out of earshot of the others. "What's going on? Like, why did you leave? I didn't wanna ask earlier because you were so upset, but..."

I sigh, twist the end of my braid around my fingers. "Mama and Daddy are getting divorced."

"What?" she whispers, eyes wide and jaw dropped.

"Yeah. Found out a few days ago."

"Oh, wow." Bri reaches for a pan from the rack above the counter, a sure sign that she has no idea of what to say - when she's at a loss of words, she occupies herself with something unrelated. "Well, you're more than welcome to stay as long as you'd like."

"Thanks, bitch. Uh, can I help with anything?"

"Nope, I got this," she responds quickly.

"I can cook now, ya know."

"Oh, so you haven't burnt down half a kitchen recently?"

I let out a loud groan, flinging my hands into the air. "That was one time, and I was drunk!"

Her laugh follows me down the hallway as I make my way back to the living room. She loves to remind me of the fire I accidentally started in an abandoned cabin years ago; we'd run away from her house one night when we were sixteen, after her parents had been screaming at each other for hours, and stumbled across the rundown home in the middle of the woods. She'd managed to steal a few jars of moonshine from her neighbour a couple of weeks prior, and we barely managed to get through half a pint before we were tipsy. When she said she was hungry, I'd done what I thought was the smartest thing and went to pick dandelions and grab broken sticks off the ground. I'd unfortunately forgotten to close the door to the old wood stove after the fire was finally lit and had picked up intensity, and a flame had leapt from the stove's belly and onto the dried dandelions on the floor. Somehow, we got the small blaze put out, but we were much more sober for the next hour or two - until Brianna had begun crying about the evening's events at her house. Then we finished the remainder of the homemade liquor and sang to the moon the drunker we got.

"What's got you so happy?" asks Zayn once I sit beside him again.

"Just rememberin' the good times with Bri."

Louis turns his head toward me, eyes half-closed and a quirk to his lips. "How long are you planning on staying?"

"I... don't really know."

"No worries. Just let us know if you want to leave, yeah?"

Brianna calls us all into the kitchen twenty minutes later, and I bite back a smile at the sight of pasta in alfredo sauce and deli-meat sandwiches. We all take our seats at the table, and I end up beside Harry for the second time in a row. He grins cheekily at me but doesn't say anything; I wait until everyone else has gotten their portions before reaching for the serving spoon. The silence between us is interrupted only by the sounds of silverware against the bowls. Then, Louis decides that quiet is unnecessary.

"So, Koty, tell us about yourself."

I nearly choke on my mouthful of food, and my cheeks heat up as everyone looks at me. Swallowing, I cough quietly. "Uh, what do you want to know?"

"I don't know, anything."

Brianna looks like she wants to say something. I catch her eye, hope my psychic powers have gotten better by magic and that she'll hear my mental pleas to save me. Unfortunately for me, I'm not a psychic, and she doesn't speak. I sigh. Louis's eyes are bright in the sunlight streaming through the window, the smile on his face friendly and open. I draw in a steadying breath.

"Um, well. My name is Dakota - or Koty. I'm twenty-one. I was going to school to be a nurse, but I'm on leave for a bit. I'm from a really small town that I'm not even sure is labelled on a map, same place as Bri, since we've known each other for most of our lives. I like reading. I'm... not very open most of the time, and I prefer to stay to myself. And right now, I feel awkward as Hell saying all this, so someone stop me, please. I tend to ramble when I'm nervous, and I find it very difficult to stop myself. I hate -"

Harry's hand over my mouth prevents me from babbling any longer. I slump in relief when the stream of words abruptly ceases; once he pulls his hand away, I flash him a grateful smile and mouth thank you. Zayn has one eyebrow raised as he stares at me. Niall bites his lip in an effort to stifle the laugh I can see him struggling against. Only Brianna appears unsurprised by my long-winded monologue. Harry laughs first, and the other three join in shortly after. I duck my head in embarrassment, but I don't mind that they're laughing at me - it isn't malicious, it's actually very understandable. The amiable atmosphere is ruined by Louis's next request:

"Tell us about your family."
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title credit she's leaving home the beatles