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Bet in the Dark

By´╝ÜRachel Higginson

Chapter One



I blamed this on Kelly Clarkson.

On Kelly-Freaking-Clarkson.

The angry man standing across the kitchen island looked like he was about to throttle me. I had visions of large hands gripped firmly around my neck shaking me like a rubber chicken. His eyes flashed with frustration and I cursed Kelly Clarkson straight to the grave.

Things started out so good this morning, so unbelievably, unnaturally good. I should have known better. But at the time, I woke up in my bed to the powerful chords Kelly Clarkson belting through my radio alarm, and laid there for the length of the song just to let her words sink in.

Stronger.

In fact I started to think Kelly Clarkson was a genius. And like maybe we were soul sisters that survived something awful but came out on the other side of it stronger. I started to think maybe she got me….

Because the bed did feel warmer, and I dreamt in color again. I never felt lonely when I was alone anymore and really I was standing taller. Kelly Clarkson had it all figured out.

Well “was” as in the seriously past tense because with monster-man looming over me, pissed off and yelling about money he wanted and I definitely did not have, I wasn’t standing taller anymore. I was shrinking slowly into what I assumed would soon be the fetal position.

But this morning, even as the warm sun sifted through my bedroom window and heated my exposed skin, everything seemed possible. I felt strong enough to get out of bed today and conquer the world- or at least the closest Starbucks and my Econ class.

Which come on, that’s close enough right?

And even though last week I missed a seriously important pop quiz in my post-break-up-cowering phase and now my grade was in some trouble…. and then it started raining and I happened to be wearing a white t-shirt and red bra. Who does that by the way? Me apparently, in my Kelly-Clarkson-gave-me-the-strength-to-be-a-skank-mood. And then even after I came home to my roommate on her way out, for what at the time she promised was just a bite to eat even though she was two months behind on her share of the rent, I believed today was the start of better things to come.

All thanks to Kelly Clarkson.

After setting my purse down on the kitchen counter because the entry hall table that I usually placed it on had been moved, I started to wonder if maybe Kelly Clarkson lied to me.

Well, Ok, that’s not exactly true. First I wondered if I was hallucinating. And then I ran through the possibility of being robbed, but my roommate’s casual departure quickly negated that idea.

I blinked. And blinked again. And then blinked so hard tears formed in the corners of my eyes and I felt like I was trying to be the sEcond coming of I Dream of Jeannie. If I willed all of my furniture and belongings to reappear, they would.

But they didn’t.

And that was just the start of my disappointment.

Then there was the letter…. The one calmly explaining my roommate had a clinically diagnosed gambling addiction, and was thousands of dollars in debt. She explained that she had to sell the furniture, my furniture, to pay for rehab. Her family insisted on it. She had a real problem. A real problem. And I needed to understand that anything she had done to hurt me was her addiction and not the real her.

Well her addiction wasn’t going to replace all of my furniture.

Her addiction wasn’t going to come up with the other half of my rent!

And her addiction really wasn’t going to explain to the man across the kitchen yelling at me that no matter who he thought I was, I did not owe him seven thousand dollars!!

I picked up the handwritten letter of crazy with a shaky hand and held it out to him.

“What’s this?” He paused in his tirade to take the half sheet of torn notebook paper. I noticed my Biology notes on the back of the paper for the first time. Seriously, she couldn’t even use her own paper???

“Um, see? I’m not the one that owes you money,” I sounded confident, but inside I was a trembling, terrified puddle. And on sEcond thought, maybe I didn’t sound quite so confident….

“Who’s Tara?” he grunted after skimming the note quickly.

“My roommate,” I said simply and then thought better of it. “My ex-roommate. She’s moved on to group therapy and the twelve steps apparently.”

“And who are you?” he asked carefully. His eyes swept over me in a way that made me feel like he had x-ray vision and suddenly I felt very vulnerable and very naked.

Ok, more vulnerable.

And not really naked.

But feeling more vulnerable was a hard emotion to feel since he elbowed his way in here not even ten minutes ago and started shouting at me and threatening all kinds of legal action and at times bodily harm.

“I’m uh, wait a sEcond! Who are you? You’re in my apartment!” I dug deep for some courage. I slammed my fists to my hips and tilted my chin in my best I-mean-business pose.

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