Adam wasn’t fit to care for himself. I sighed and pressed my hand to my forehead. In the kitchen, my brother couldn’t see me from his standard spot on the couch. If he stayed there any longer, he was going to grow roots.
The backs of my eyes stung, but tears wouldn’t fall. They never did. Crying was a luxury. I had too much to do.
Sighing, I pulled the plug in the sink. I had a day off for once, but I wasn’t going to lay idle.
Popping out of the kitchen, I veered to the window and opened the blinds. Light streamed in, chasing away the shadows, but not the ones that lingered in my brother’s eyes.
One more time for good measure, I cursed the man who had done this to him, then plastered on a pleasant smile. “I’m going out for a bit.”
Adam didn’t spare me a glance as he focused on his multiplayer game. “’K.”
He’d woken up before ten in the morning and I’d even gotten him to eat breakfast. It was a good day for him.
“Need anything?” He needed food and a job, one from the many applications he’d submitted—if he’d actually uploaded his resume and hit submit. I had my suspicions. We needed so much, but with only one of us working, it was all I could do to keep the internet on. Without it, I feared what the extra empty time would drive Adam to do.
Stepping back into the kitchen, I grabbed one of my to-go bags of cat food. Outside, I locked the door and peered down each side of our apartment.
The setup was like a one-story row house. Each apartment shared its walls with its neighbors and had an outside entrance. No garage, which sucked in the winter, but I took the light-rail as much as possible.
Adam and I had grown up here and it had felt like a home when our parents were alive. I couldn’t name many of our neighbors. The guy to our left was my age, and from the number of random guys doing the walk of no-shame in the early morning hours, he was single and loving it.
The couple to our right fought all the time and I certainly knew his name. It was Mike You Motherf*cker. Their fights were only verbal so far and they were in the off portion of their on-again, off-again relationship.
The other person in our fourplex was an elderly lady who had seemed ancient when I was five. She didn’t want to talk to us any more now than she had twenty years ago.
I stopped before hitting the sidewalk. At the end of the building, a line of shrubs had started losing their leaves for the winter even though it was late August.
“Here, Kitty.” If the other tenants knew about Kitty, they didn’t care. I’d found her last year as a kitten, but since Adam was allergic, I couldn’t take her in. She wouldn’t have let me anyway. It’d only been recently, and with a lot of feedings, that she’d let me get this close.
“Hey,” I cooed. Squatting, I stretched my arm through a break in the branches to pour the food into the little plastic dish I’d set out—and froze. “Oh, Kitty.”
The cat was there, curled up in a pile of leaves. At her belly was a mass of squirming fur. Kittens.
I poured the food into her dish and counted her kittens. One, two, three, four—holy sh*t—five kittens. She gave me a lazy blink.
“Mama’s tired? I would be too.” I wanted to pet her, but I hadn’t fully earned her trust. The food in the dish looked like a pittance. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to feed her more, but I had me and Adam to buy food for too.
The feeling swarmed over me. The one full of desperation, where I wondered how in the hell I was going to keep going until eternity claimed me. There was a time I’d wanted more in life. Today, I’d settle for more cat food.
Straightening, I shoved the empty baggie in my pocket. All baggies got reused. Ramming my hands in the pockets of my jeans, I followed the same path I did every day, but instead of heading toward my catering gig or the place I bartended, I was going to the heart of Denver.
I was looking for a man. Why today of all days, I didn’t know, only that I was sick of stalking him online. It was time to see him in person. I needed to see him to fuel my anger, to motivate me to work harder to help Adam through his deep depression, to hang around long enough to see my brother prove this motherf*cker wrong.
I was looking for the man who’d ruined my brother’s life.