Chapter Twenty Five

D.K. came by a few minutes later to round up the pack.  Tyler was with him, and I searched his expression as discreetly as I could but could find no clue as to whether he'd ratted me out or not.  Judging by the fact that D.K. didn't slap me, I assumed he didn't.  Kaylie was still hanging off his arm, yammering about the bodacious new clothes she'd just bought loudly enough for everyone around us to hear.  Her other arm was loaded with plastic sacks so full they looked like they were about to explode.
 
“Yeah, that's great," D.K. said, nodding tolerantly as she described the oh, so cuuuuute top she'd found for only $30.  “Just remember what you promised, got it?"
 
“Oh, yeah, baby!" she said, giving him a peck on the cheek.  “I'd never forget about you!"
 
I felt like I was going to be sick listening to those two, but at least they were ignoring me and Kimberly for the time being.  D.K. was smoking a new pack of cigarettes before we even reached the door, and I could see at least five more sticking out of the pockets of his cargo shorts.  More noticeable than that, though, was his new hairstyle.  I don't know who told him that braiding his hair into dozens of tiny spikes with rainbow colored rubber bands looked attractive, but that person needed to be shot.  I had never cared much about fashion, but even I wouldn't have left my house looking like a porcupine after it had taken a bath in melted Skittles.
 
We loaded ourselves back into the car, and D.K. took off again, only narrowly missing a man in a wheelchair.  The rap music began to shake the pavement outside again.  This time, though, I was able to tune most of it out as I thought about what I was planning to do.
 
I didn't know what time the Swag Pag went to bed, but if last night had been any indication, it wasn't early.  I would have to wait for them, and sneak out when I wouldn't be noticed.  The thought made me shiver with trepidation, but also excitement.  D.K. wouldn't approve, which was just fine with me.
 
I looked down at the girl sitting on my right, covering her eyes with her hands.  I couldn't very well take her with me, could I?  I had no idea if Hendricks knew where I was, or if I would run into one of his goons when I was out.  It wouldn't be right to drag her into that kind of danger with me.  Leaving her alone at the Swag Pag's house wasn't an enticing option either, but it was definitely the lesser of two evils… or, so I tried to convince myself.  I would sneak out, run across town to my old house, and then go back.  What I was hoping to find, I wasn't sure.  Maybe I just needed to see it to prove to myself that all this was really happening.  Even after all that I had been through, everything still felt kinda surreal.
 
D.K. swung the car onto his driveway and into the garage.  “Don't forget, you got a mess to clean up," he snapped at me as he got out.
 
I nodded silently.  Even if I could think rebellious thoughts, I wasn't anywhere near ready to openly defy him.  Inside, the pancake batter had hardened on the floor and the greasy bacon was stuck to the already filthy tiles.  I found a roll of paper tales and immediately got to work cleaning.  The rest of the Swag Pag walked went out into the living room, where they cranked up the music again.  Kimberly stayed in the kitchen with me, sitting with her back to one of the cabinets, so the other wolves wouldn't be able to see her if they looked in from the living room.
 
“How long do we have to stay here?" she asked quietly.
 
“I don't know, honey," I answered, still scrubbing the floor with all my might.  In truth, I was pretty sure I did know, but I couldn't bring myself to tell her we'd be here for the rest of our lives.
 
It took me almost an hour, but I finally threw away the last paper towel and sat back against the counter beside her.
 
“Maybe we can go out and do something fun by ourselves sometime," I suggested, halfheartedly.  I really had no idea if D.K. would be willing to let two of his pack members run around town by themselves.  He didn't seem to care what we did one way or the other, so long as we still did what he told us.  Then again, all it would take was one wrong word in explaining it to him, and he'd lay us both out on the floor.  He hadn't hit Kimberly yet, but I didn't fool myself into thinking that he wouldn't, if provoked.
 
Suddenly, it dawned on me.  I couldn't bring Kimberly with me tonight, but I could bring something back for her.  It would take me a little while longer to get to the pack house, but I could stop by one of the late night stores and get her… I stopped to think.  What would make her feel better?  It couldn't be obvious either, or D.K. would notice and know that I had sneaked out.  I put it from my mind.  I could think about it later tonight.
 
The rest of the day passed uneventfully, which was just fine with me.  After cleaning the kitchen, I took Kimberly back into our room where she promptly fell asleep against a mountain of garbage.  I was tempted to fall asleep as well, but forced myself to stand guard by the door instead.  When evening came, I went back into the kitchen and found a box of stale crackers.  D.K. gave me a dirty look when I took them, but didn't say anything, to my relief.  It might have had something to do with Kaylie sitting on top of him in his La-Z-Boy chair, sticking her tongue so far down his throat I wondered if she was licking his stomach.  I woke Kimberly up to eat, and she accepted the crackers eagerly.  I stroked her hair as we ate, but neither of us said anything.  Eventually, she fell asleep again, her head in my lap.  Poor thing must have been exhausted.
 
I set her down gently on the carpet, and took my position by the door again.  This time, I wasn't just standing guard.  I was listening into the hallway, waiting for things to quiet down.  I crouched there until my legs started to cramp, and then I stretched them out in front of me and sat with my back against the wall.  There was no way to tell time in the windowless room, but surely the sun had to be down by now.  The rap music kept blasting from the living room, though, and D.K.'s voice would occasionally shout an order to Tyler or Kaylie, letting me know that none of them had gone to bed yet.  As the minutes dragged by, my eyelids started to get heavier and heavier.  But I couldn't go to sleep.  Had to stay… awake…
 
When I opened my eyes again, the house was silent.  I sucked in an angry breath and pounded my fist into the floor.  I'd fallen asleep again!  Stupid, stupid, stupid!  Kimberly, at least, didn't seem to have woken up.  She was snoring lightly, clutching a wad of old newspaper comics to her chest.
 
I got up, my muscles aching from sleeping in such an uncomfortable position, and put my ear to the door.  The rap music was gone, making the house quieter than I'd ever heard it before, but I stayed there for a few seconds longer just to be sure.  My sensitive ears could pick up the sound of a footstep even on carpet, but right now I couldn't hear a thing.  I eased the door open, trying not to make the hinges squeak, stepped into the hallway, and shut it behind me.
 
The overpowering scent of garbage and other nastiness prevented me from sniffing to make sure nobody else was nearby, but nobody called out when I stealthily made my way across the house.  I stepped as softly as I could, knowing that if I could hear somebody else walking around, they would be able to hear me.  As I came to the entryway, I stopped, a sudden noise making my blood freeze solid.  It was on the other side of the house, muffled by the hallway and a door, and it took me a few seconds to recognize it as Kaylie's voice.  Judging by the sound of it, she was keeping D.K. very distracted.  My stomach turned at the mere thought of it.
 
As nasty as it was, at least it provided me the cover I needed to sneak out.  I stepped up to the front door, more confidently this time, and slid the lock back.  Just as my hand touched the doorknob, though, another much larger hand wrapped around it, stopping it.  I almost screamed, but another hand wrapped around my mouth.
 
“What are you doing?" Tyler's low voice said into my ear, sounding like nothing so much as a roll of thunder.
 
I managed to turn my head enough to see him, and to my surprise he didn't look angry.  My chest heaved as I tried to catch my breath after the shock, but all I could do was shake my head.
 
“I'm going to let go of you," he said.  “Don't scream."
 
I nodded weakly, and he released my face and my hand.
 
“I have to go see my old house," I told him, my heart still hammering inside my chest.  How in the world had he sneaked up on me like that?  He was a caveman in baggy pants!
 
“Why?" he asked, his thick eyebrows knitting themselves together.
 
“We- I got attacked by a demon," I answered, deciding on the fly not to mention my mother.  I still didn't know how much I could trust this guy.  Was it even safe to tell him this much?  Still, I found myself answering his question.  “He collapsed my old house.  I just want to go look at it."
 
Tyler stared at me, and I wished I could have known what he was thinking behind his impassive expression.  He wouldn't let me go, of course.  At this point, all I could hope was that he wouldn't run and tell D.K. on me.
 
To my surprise, he reached out and opened the door.
 
“All right," he said, holding it open for me.  “Let's get going."
 
 
 
NEXT TIME: Holy fish paste!  Someone in the Swag Pag is actually nice?  Haha, yeah right.  I wonder what he's really up to...
 

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