Home > In Time (The Darkest Minds #1.5)(10)

In Time (The Darkest Minds #1.5)(10)
Alexandra Bracken

I push the girl forward, toward the bathroom.

“Clean yourself up,” I tell her just as there’s a knock on the door.

I feel about ten times more panicked than the girl looks as she walks to the bathroom and shuts the door. I stand there, just to make sure she doesn’t have ideas about causing trouble, but the knocking turns into pounding.

I look through the door’s peephole and one of Phyllis’s boys glares back at me. He’s got a good twenty years on me but also is carrying about a hundred extra pounds tucked into his bright yellow polo shirt. I keep the chain on as I crack the door open, more to make a point than to stop him.

“Yeah?” My brain is scrambling to remember the guy’s name. He’s the one who’s actively balding. The other one just looks like he lets his mother cut his gray hair. I know this one is trying to figure out how I managed to get back in.

“You need to be outta here tonight if you aren’t going to pay,” he says. “I thought we made that perfectly clear.”

“I’ll have the money for you—” I start, but then I remember the lump of bills in my back pocket. I didn’t get a chance to count it before I stole it, so I start to thumb through them, making a show. That’s when the bathroom’s crappy faucet sputters to life. What’s-his-name looks up sharply, trying to wedge himself farther between the door and the frame.

“You know it’s extra if you have another person sleeping here,” he snaps.

“Oh, she’s not spending the night,” I said, wagging my brows. “You know how it is.” Except, clearly, this guy does not know how it is. And also, given the age of my “guest,” that was one of creepiest things that’s ever come out of my mouth.

“Here—here’s the hundred,” I said. And two hundred slides back into my pocket. Nice. “Tomorrow I’ll be out of your hair.”

The guy stares at the twenties in my hand like it’s Monopoly money.

“Where’d you get this?” he demands, snatching it up and recounting the five bills himself. “You doing something sketchy in here? Something we need to know about?”

“Just finished some freelance mechanic work,” I say, holding up three fingers. “Scout’s honor.”

“You wouldn’t know honor if it was spitting in your face,” the man mutters, still staring at the bathroom door at the other side of the room, the shadow of her feet moving beneath it. He’s looking at it like he’s thinking, like he’s finally realized what I meant earlier, and suddenly, he’s interested.

“She done with you?”

Well, at least I’m not the biggest scumbag here.

“Already booked.” The words taste like vomit in my mouth. So all of a sudden it doesn’t matter to him that hookers definitely fall under the category of something sketchy? “Sorry, dude.”

His meaty hand swallows the money. “Out by noon tomorrow. Not a second later.”

“Sure,” I say, worrying that he’s waiting to get an eyeful of my “guest,” waiting to follow her out to the parking lot. Jesus. “That it? Okay, great.”

I slam the door in his face before he can get another word out, and flip the dead bolt over. I watch the guy stand out there for a few more minutes, and don’t turn away until he finally sucks it up and leaves.

Leaning back against the door, I survey what’s left of the groceries I bought two weeks ago. I have a bag of chips, a cup of ramen, a loaf of bread and peanut butter. I don’t realize how hungry I am until I see how little I have to eat. I could try to order something in, but that’s the kind of luxury I know would draw unwanted attention from the other residents of Phyllis’s motel. I can’t go pick something up without leaving the girl alone to potentially escape. She can live with a sandwich. All kids like peanut butter sandwiches.

Unless they’re allergic to peanut butter.

Okay. She gets the ramen. I just have to remember to sit far away while she eats it so she can’t throw the hot broth in my face.

I bend down, pouring the last of the water from the gallon jug into a chipped mug to zap in the microwave. I pour the hot water straight into the Styrofoam container, my stomach gargling at the first whiff of the roast chicken flavoring.

What if she’s a vegetarian?

Shit—no, stop it. She doesn’t get to be a vegetarian.

It is a living thing with needs, but it is not human.

It is a living thing with needs, but it is not human.

It is a living thing with needs, but it is a freak.

It has also been in the bathroom with the water running for the past fifteen minutes. I let my brain get as far as wondering if it’s possible to drown yourself in a sink full of water before I cross the room in two long strides. The door’s lock has been broken since I got here and she has nothing to block the door with.

The first thing I see is the trail of bloodied puffs of toilet paper on the counter. She’s left the water running at full blast, and the drain, which functions at half capacity on a good day, can’t handle this load. The water has breached the shallow basin and is spilling out onto my feet. The vanity lights cast everything in a sour glow.

The kid is sitting on the ground in that little bit of space between the toilet and the shower, her face stubbornly turned away from the door. Her shoulders are still shaking, but the only noise that escapes her is pathetic sniffling. As she scrubs at her face, I realize I never cut the zip tie around her wrists, and I start to get a fluttering panic low in my stomach.

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