Home > Asylum (Asylum #1)(9)

Asylum (Asylum #1)(9)
Madeleine Roux

“Felix snores. Like he swallowed a frog. Or a lion.”

“That bad?”

“Yeah, and then he was up at the crack of dawn to go work out, of all things. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep this summer.”

“You sure you’re not just worn out from our little ordeal last night?” She didn’t beat around the bush. He liked that.

“I guess it was pretty intense,” he said. She had certainly seemed enamored of that one photo. They’d almost had a fight over it. Dan frowned; he couldn’t even remember now why he’d been so adamant about her leaving it there.

A stab of pain in his head made his eye twitch. “Damn it. I did not want to feel like this on the first full day.”

Abby pushed a cup of coffee across the table. “Try that. It’s strong enough to fuel a jet.”

He turned the cup, careful to avoid the little smudge of pink she’d left on the rim. He took a sip and tasted something between lighter fluid and maple syrup and rushed to swallow before the sweet sludge could make its way back out. “Wow! How do you drink that?”

“I actually hate the taste of coffee, but the sugar helps cover it up,” she admitted. “And you can’t be an artist and not drink coffee. It’s just . . . not done. Every installation I’ve ever gone to has either coffee or wine, so you’ve got to suck it up and deal.”

Dan laughed. Abby didn’t seem like she cared if she fit in or not, but maybe everyone made a few concessions here and there. Just last year he’d broken down and bought a tan corduroy blazer to wear to a community college lecture on Jung’s last years. He’d sat in a sea of tan and navy sports jackets, wondering what his favorite psychoanalyst would say about so many people trying so desperately not to stand out.

“Hey,” Dan said, forcing a smile as he sat up straighter. He remembered something Abby had said yesterday. “So you took a bus here?” Dan had flown from Pittsburgh, and then taken a taxi from the tiny airport that looked like it had just one runway.

“A couple buses, actually. Pops couldn’t take the time off, but it’s no trouble. Bus, train, subway . . . It’s all second nature when you’re from New York.”

“And that’s where Jordan’s from, too?”

“No, Jordan was coming from Virginia. We shared the last leg of the trip.”

“That’s an awfully long ride. Why didn’t he fly?”

“Oh, his parents got him plane tickets all right,” Abby said, “but they were to California, not New Hampshire.”

Dan raised his eyebrows.

“Apparently, they think he’s at some pray-the-gay-away camp or something right now. His uncle is paying for this program, and he used the cash from his part-time job to buy the bus ticket.” Abby drained the remaining coffee and finished the last of her oatmeal.

“But what if his parents find out? What happens then?”

Abby frowned. “Beats me. World War Three?”

No wonder Jordan was so afraid of getting kicked out.

Dan felt grateful for his open-minded and easygoing parents, strict as they could be sometimes. He always felt like he’d lucked out with Paul and Sandy, even before they’d officially adopted him. Lots of kids weren’t so fortunate. “It’s nice he has you here to talk to about it,” he said. Abby was so easy to be with. It was no surprise that Jordan confided in her.

“We just get each other. We’re connected.” Abby gathered her things. The buzz of voices in the cafeteria died down as the students ambled outside, all of them headed to registration. “It was a long bus ride, not much to do but play hangman and chat. I’m sure he would’ve opened up to you, too.”

“Maybe,” Dan said, although he highly doubted it. “Anyway, he better not miss registration or he’ll be forced to open up to Felix in Advanced Bioethics.”

“Be nice,” said Abby, but she was smiling.

They filed out behind the other students, grabbing their backpacks from cubbies placed just outside the cafeteria entrance. Apparently you weren’t allowed to bring your bags inside because college kids had a habit of making off with a whole week’s worth of croissants and fruit cups.

“Seriously, though,” said Dan. “This morning Felix asked if I wanted to swap schedules, for a buddy system or something. Then when I finally gave in and showed him the classes I wanted, I could tell he was embarrassed for me. Not enough hard science, I guess.”

Abby laughed.

“Yeah, thanks. Laugh at my misery.”

Dan sneezed when they stepped outside.

“Bless you.”

“Thanks. Hey, I was actually thinking, though, what if we took a class together or something? You, me, and Jordan, I mean. I know you’re here for art, but maybe I could convince you to take a history class?” he asked. The dormitories spread out on either side of them, forming an almost perfect ring around the grassy quad. Chairs littered the shade under the biggest tree in the quad, and while the benches lining the path were empty now, he imagined they would all be filled later. He’d overheard a few kids in the cafeteria talking about having a lawn bowling tournament after registration.

“Sure, why not. Meanwhile, I’ve gotta make sure I grab a spot in life drawing. Do you want me to sign you up?”

“Me? Oh, that’s right. You’ve never seen me draw. It’s worse than stick figures. Is there something worse? Whatever it is, that’s my skill level.” Dan shook his head, imagining the look on the instructor’s face when he turned in his scribbles.

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