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black roses

By:samantha christy

chapter one

piper

I squeeze my eyes tightly shut. I turn up the already blaring music in my ears, hoping it will drown out the sound of the plane engines catapulting me closer to the one place I don’t want to go.

Home.

Can I even call it that anymore after all this time? What is home anyway? According to Google, it’s ‘the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.’

So by definition, I’m homeless. A wanderer. A gypsy.

And that’s exactly how I like it.

Why did I make that stupid promise to Skylar last year? To come back for her wedding; plan it even. What the hell was I thinking?

I re-read the conversation Charlie and I had during my London layover.

Charlie: You okay?

I smile, thinking how it hadn’t even been three hours since I left her at the airport in Barcelona. She flew there with me from Istanbul. She was going to shack up with a guy we met there earlier this year. I begged her to come with me, even though I knew she wouldn’t.

She hates home even more than I do.

Me: Yeah. Wish you were with me.

Charlie: You know I can’t go back.

Me: I know. I still wish you were with me.

Charlie: I am in spirit. We’ll talk every day—every hour if that’s what you need.

Me: Gotta go. They’re calling my flight. Love you.

Charlie: I love you, too. You can do this, Piper. I know you can. Six weeks will fly by.

Six weeks. The words bounce around in my head like a pinball. I know I’ve gone back before. But it was a day here and a day there—manageable mostly by large quantities of alcohol, something I tend to stay away from normally. Baylor’s wedding was the last time I dared to cross the Atlantic. But six whole weeks back home? Away from Charlie. Away from my comfortable life. Away from the possibility of—

I startle when someone touches my shoulder. I look up to see the flight attendant handing me my drink. I turn the music down so I can hear her.

“Would you like some pretzels with this?” The statuesque brunette with a pasted-on smile hands me a tiny bottle of Jack and a plastic glass filled with ice and Coke.

Ignoring her question, I stare at the glass as she places it on the tray table in front of me. I reach for it clumsily, toppling it over the side of the tray knowing it will probably stain my new white shoes. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I lean over and pick up the glass as she pulls a towel from her apron, looking slightly irritated, but still managing to keep the fake smile on her face.

“No problem.” She wipes up my tray. “This happens all the time. I’ll just run and get you another.”

“Maybe you should just bring me the can this time.” I shrug and smile sheepishly. “Less likely to spill.”

“Of course.” She hands a couple bottles of water to the people sitting next to me.

A few minutes later, she returns with a can of Coke and glass of ice, placing them carefully on my tray. She raises a brow as if to say ‘you’ll be more careful this time, right?’

“Thanks.” A sigh of relief exits my lungs when I hear the sweet ‘phsst’ sound of the can opening. I then break the seal on the tiny bottle and proceed to pour them both over the ice. I catch the flight attendant before she’s out of earshot. “When you have a chance, I’d like another,” I say, waving the empty bottle of Jack in the air.

She nods as she walks away. I turn the music up again and wait for the liquor to calm my nerves.

~ ~ ~

Four hours and three drinks later, the plane makes its descent into JFK. The whiskey has dulled my anxiety, making me brave enough to collect my things and be herded into the airport along with the hundreds of other travelers; people who are happy to be returning home or going on vacation; people who are complete strangers to me. People whose faces are unfamiliar, yet I wonder if I know any of them. Or if maybe they know me.

My eyes catch those of a man. He appraises me seductively from head to toe, causing bile to rise in my throat. I quicken my steps, rudely bypassing many of the other people heading to customs. I look back over my shoulder to see that his attention has turned to another pretty face and I take a breath. Maybe I didn’t have enough liquor after all.

As I stand and wait for the carousel to start delivering suitcases, I peruse the crowd gathering beyond customs. I see women jumping into the arms of men. Children being scooped up and plastered with kisses. Businessmen and women scurrying to car-rental booths, and sign-carrying limo drivers waiting on their assigned fares.

I don’t, however, see my big sister.

I quickly send Baylor a text telling her I’m waiting on my luggage. No doubt, she’s running late as usual.

Once I have my bag, I rest against a pole, stretching my legs while I await my ride. A few other people have done the same thing, most of them pulling out their phones, oblivious to the world. Not me. I’m a people-watcher. I like to know what’s going on around me.

It makes my stomach turn when I watch some of the men come through customs. They stare at beautiful women, undressing them with their eyes. Ogling their breasts and asses. Even following them to try and arrange a hookup or a date. Whenever one of them looks in my direction, I give them my look. My look that says ‘fuck off.’ The look I’ve perfected over the years.

I check the time and text Baylor again, contemplating getting a cab to take me to Mom and Dad’s on Long Island. Baylor invited me to stay at her house in Maple Creek, which also happens to be the house we grew up in. My other big sister, Skylar, offered me a room at her and Griffin’s townhouse in the city. But both of my sisters have new babies. Not exactly my idea of a fun vacation. Not that any of this will be fun. More like six weeks of torture.

God, I wish Charlie were here. She gets me. I think she’s the only one who does.

I look across the arrivals terminal and see a guy who’s peopl

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