I had made it home.
My white sheets and yellow pillowcase were covered in tar black smudges and my day old dress that bandaged my sweaty body still smelled vaguely of bitter cranberries. I crawled out of my bed like a stop motion centipede; squirming to the floor in avoidance of my jilted ligaments. My mouth was dry, more dry than it had ever been before. My brother was eating cereal in the linoleum kitchen. I could tell, even from my stale sleeping chambers, because I heard his signature clank and slurp routine. Time was a terrifying concept at that point. I turned my head away from every clock as I walked out of my bedroom and down our miniature hallway: the wooden cookoo, the electronic alarm, the microwave. I didn't require a millisecond of reflection to remember the disaster that had occurred last night, had been occurring for months.
My brother wasn't at all alarmed by my red, white, and greasy face as I sat down across from him, sending his way my best attempt at a melancholy grin.
"You look like shit, you know," he said with a mouth full of freeze dried marshmallow and puffed rice.
"Yeah, I would have guessed. You don't look that hot either. Get me a bowl, I'm starving."
I poured my milk into the bowl first. Never before had I committed such an atrocity against nature.
"Well, any news?" I asked, trying to appear indifferent. It couldn't have worked because before my brother had even opened his mouth, my eyes were turning red and I could feel my face flushing hot.
"He called me to tell me had gotten home alright about an hour ago."
"How did he sound? Should you go check on him?"
"He sounded, I don't know. It was weird. Like normal I guess. But almost robotic. All he said was 'I'm home, man. Tell Violet not to worry' and then he hung up. I was fucking pissed. I wanted to tell him how unfair what he did was, for everyone, including you. I'm not going over there cause all I'm gonna do is yell at him and tell him to fucking quit this Caulfield bullshit he's trying to pull."
"I am to blame for all of this though, you know. I knew exactly what I was getting into."
"Bullshit Violet. Stop turning this into your one woman masochism parade. Caleb is fucked. Unfortunately, you and I both love him and we have to make sure he'll at least stay alive for another week."
"I'm going to see him," I said with false determination. I knew better.
"He's gonna take that the wrong way, like he always does."
"I don't care."
Listlessly I undressed and redressed, pulling on a white linen dress and stuffing my hair into a nest at the base of my head. I scraped the underside of my eyes with a musty washcloth, trying to make myself look somewhat clean. I pulled on thousands of bracelets, rings, and necklaces. Unwittingly, I was preparing for battle and my baubles were my ornaments of war. Avoiding mirrors now instead of clocks and ruffling my brothers head in an anxious rather than affectionate way, I made my way out of the apartment and into the stairwell.