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”Bette, I’m really starting to get annoyed at you and your phone.”
Pulling her own phone out of her pocket, Bette realized that it was discharged. ”Shit. I forgot to charge my phone.”
”You always forget to charge your phone. Your phone is always dead or you just don’t answer it. How long is it going to last?”
”I know, I know. I’m bad,” Bette said, catching a sight of Ayola rolling her eyes. ”I promise to give more heed to my phone.”
Tina sighed. ”Are you staying over at Ayola’s tonight?”
”No, I’ll be home soon.”
”It’s late, baby. Maybe you should sleep over at Ayola’s place. I don’t want you wandering around at night.”
Bette watched Ayola whispering things into Zoey’s ear and Zoey giggling and caressing Ayola’s back. ”I said I’m coming home,” the brunette stated with determination.
”Alright. I’m waiting then.”
”See you in a bit, Tee,” Bette hung up and rose to her feet.
”I hope an earful from Tina would finally make you use your phone properly,” Ayola teased, also getting to her feet.
”Ugh, leave me alone already,” Bette groaned.
”Do you need a ride?”
”No, I’ll catch a cab.”
”Let me drive you, c’mon.”
”No,” Bette said in stubborn refusal. ”I don’t want to take you away from Zoey for so long,” she grinned and winked at the pretty redhead standing behind Ayola, who giggled and blushed.
”Hey,” Ayola called. She stepped closer and hugged Bette. ”Everything is going to be fine.”
Wrapping her arms around her friend in return, Bette smiled. ”I know. Thank you.”
Inching back, Ayola regarded her. ”I’m going back to Jackson next week to spend Christmas with my family. I hope to see you before I leave.”
”Of course. I’m unemployed now, so I’ll be available every day,” Bette grinned.
”Uh-huh,” Ayola smirked and waved at her. ”Bye. Take care.”
Bette waved at Zoey and Ayola. ”Bye.”
Stepping onto the sidewalk, Bette closed the gate behind her and ambled down the street, humming a tune. She thought it was nice, being this free. She felt free and a bit lightheaded, pleasantly so. Ayola had helped a great deal to take the edge off, with an insight so deep that had been able to calm Bette’s troubled mind. Ayola was this certain someone who was such an understanding and supportive friend and who actually had a chance to take Marcus’s place in Bette’s heart. And maybe Shane’s, too.
But all with time. Time worked wonders.
In the dim streetlight of the dark street Bette noticed, with an odd intensity of interest, that her shoelace had come undone. She stooped and began to do them up.
The sound of an approaching car filled the night and Bette hoped it was a cab. She cast a glance, but through the gleam of the headlights she couldn’t yet make out whether it was a cab or not. Proceeding to tie her shoelace, Bette listened as the sound of the engine came closer. She looked up again and at that moment almost went blind by the higher intensity upper beam of the headlights.
”What the fuck,” the brunette muttered with annoyance and quickly lowered her gaze back to her shoes to protect her eyes from the brightness.
When the car stopped in front of her, Bette froze. She raised her gaze, but was unable to see anything. Squinting her eyes hard, she slowly straightened up. She heard doors open and approaching footsteps. She heard the engine. She knew the sound of that engine, the sound she had been hearing in her nightmares for a while already.
Her breathing came in sharp and rapid.
She managed to make a half-turn before the blow to her head rendered her unconscious.