Cabin fever, p.1
Cabin Fever, p.1Elle Casey
Table of Contents
Other Books by Elle Casey
About the Author
Other Books by Elle Casey
© 2015 Elle Casey, all rights reserved, worldwide. No part of this ebook may be reproduced, uploaded to the Internet, or copied without author permission.
For Tove Lo,
the artist whose song “Habits (Stay High)” inspired this story.
Want to get an email when my next book is released?
Sign up here: http://bit.ly/ellecaseynews
OTHER BOOKS BY ELLE CASEY
NEW ADULT ROMANCE
Rebel (3-book series)
Shine Not Burn (2-book series)
Don’t Make Me Beautiful
Full Measure (written as Kat Lee)
Just One Night (romantic serial)
Just One Week (romantic serial)
Love in New York (3-book series)
Mismatched (with Amanda McKeon)
Duality (2-book series)
Pocket Full of Sunshine (short story & screenplay)
YA URBAN FANTASY
War of the Fae (7-book series)
My Vampire Summer
Aces High (with Jason Brant)
Apocalypsis (4-book series)
YA ACTION ADVENTURE
Wrecked (2-book series)
MY FINGER HESITATES OVER THE buttons of my phone as Leah Carmichael’s contact information floats on my screen. I haven’t talked to her in over a year. Or has it been two already? I’m ashamed that I let so many of my friends slip away.
Everything I own is in the process of being packed up in boxes around me. Most of them have a big red X on them, signifying that they’ll be going to a storage unit I’ve rented. The remaining few will get stuffed into my car to start my adventure with me — the trip I’m taking to get back to basics, to find myself and figure out where I went wrong with my life… basically how I got to be thirty years old and completely clueless about what I want to be when I grow up. Turns out, being an art teacher isn’t it.
Not renewing my lease and giving notice a couple months ago seemed like a great way to kick-start this necessary process, but right now as my last days in this apartment loom large, and I realize I have exactly nowhere to go, I’m wondering if I didn’t just give myself a kick in the ass that I’m seriously going to regret.
I look up and catch my reflection in the mirror. My red hair could stand an intervention. The ends are split and way past my shoulders where I used to wear it all the time. Bangs, a bad idea at any age for me, are finally growing out to the point that I can see again and don’t have to flick my head to the side all the time to move them out of the way. Maybe when I finally land somewhere I’ll get a decent haircut and end my ponytail days forever. Some golden highlights could help perk my amber eyes. Right now this flat, dark copper color I was born with makes everything look muddy. My pale complexion isn’t helping any, that’s for sure. I need some sun. Some time outdoors, maybe. I should get back to nature or something.
I turn away from the mirror, sick of looking at myself and trying to find ways to look more interesting than I feel. The only thing I should be concentrating on now is my living situation, since I kind of boxed myself into a corner and haven’t found a way out yet.
It’s probably a good idea to avoid making any more big decisions concerning the rest of my life when under the influence of anything alcoholic. But in my own defense, that tequila I was drinking fifty-seven days ago went down really smooth. I hardly knew I was tipsy and then all of a sudden I was drunk and dropping sixty-day notice, lease-quitting letters in the post office’s mailbox and imagining my grand adventure, living the life of a newly single girl: painting, creating, being free of responsibilities and the pressure of a nine-to-five job… eat, pray, love and all that jazz.
I check my laptop again to see if anyone’s answered my emails asking for a place to stay, temporary gigs that might offer some privacy so I can work in peace. Unfortunately, my inbox is empty, save for the new message I’ve just received from a Russian girl named Tatiana looking for a good time. She has pictures, should I feel like opening the attachment. How did I get on that spam list, anyway? I don’t even know how to say hello in Russian.
Leah is my last real hope, the one remaining person who I can reasonably hope will say yes to my plea. We were close once, back in high school, both of us more the creative type than the hard-driving, business types that we were surrounded by. I just pray she doesn’t hate me because we lost touch so long ago and I did nothing to fix that until I needed a place to stay. I hate that I feel like a user right now. A user loser.
Hopefully her circumstances have changed a little since the last time I talked to her. If I remember the rumors correctly, she was living in a crappy little studio in a not-so-great part of New York City and she was barely scraping by. I have enough savings to pay rent for a while, but if she’s in the same bad shape as before, what I have won’t be enough to make living with her comfortable, and I need a relaxed atmosphere to create.
I press the call button on my phone, forcing my misgivings to calm down so I can focus on being contrite. Please don’t hate me, please don’t hate me…
Her voicemail picks up on the first ring, her message just as perky as ever. “Hi, this is Leah! Please leave me a message and I’ll call you back. Unless you’re that jerk who mugged me, and in that case, I will not be calling you back and no you are not forgiven, so stop calling me. Bye!” The phone beeps and I’m supposed to leave a message, but I’m temporarily stunned by her greeting. She was mugged? I guess she’s still living in Manhattan … and probably not in a good area. Should I just hang up? Ack! I don’t know what to do! But I really need a place to stay…
“Uhhh … hey … Leah? It’s Sarah! Remember me? Sarah Booker? I’m that jerk of a friend who hasn’t called you in ages. It’s been like a year already. Maybe more than that. Ugh, I hate myself. Anyway, I have some news, so I hope you’ll call me back soon so we can talk about it.” I hesitate, wondering how much more I should say in the message. I figure I’d better say something or she might not call me back for a long time, an
Putting the phone down on my kitchen counter, I move into the living room to grab another empty moving box. I have more packing to do and a truck to fill up for the storage unit before I can take a break and eat dinner, so standing around looking at my email inbox and staring at my cell isn’t going to get my anywhere I need to be.
Listening to the radio, I pack the last few boxes, marking them with a red X as I sneak glances at my phone. Ring, you bastard, ring! It doesn’t listen to me; it just sits there, silently mocking me and my desperation. I grab another empty box, and another after that, and another…
A half hour later, after I’ve packed every last thing I have left to my name, my phone finally rings. I practically trip over my own feet to grab it. Leah’s name is on the screen, thank God. I take a couple deep breaths, trying to calm myself down so I can sound natural and not desperate. I can do this. I can find a place to live two days before I need it.
“Hello?” I hope like hell that the response on the other end isn’t going to be cold.
“Sarah? Is it really you?”
“Yep, it’s me all right. How are you?”
“Oh my god!! I’m so excited!! You called me at the perfect time!!”
A smile takes over my face. I never imagined such a warm welcome. “Really? Well, that’s awesome. Why, what’s going on?”
“Oh, my god, you have no idea. My life is totally crazy right now. But you said you needed a favor? What’s up? Are you okay? Is everything all right?”
Her obvious concern and warm tone has me nearly in tears. I’d been so strong until now. “I’m fine, I’m great. Well, okay, not great, but I’m good. Really good.” My voice starts going up higher and higher, and I can’t seem to stop it. “I just called because it’s been such a long time, and I’m moving out of my apartment, and I’m just … kind of being a free spirit right now and I was wondering if you have the space for a visitor maybe?” I cringe as I wait for her reaction. She’s going to hang up the phone, I know she is.
“Oh my god, that would be awesome!! You can come visit me? Oh, that’s the best news I’ve heard all day. When? When can you come? Are you leaving today? Where are you right now, anyway, are you still in Massachusetts?”
“Yes, outside of Boston, actually. I can be there in a couple days.”
“Fabulous. Perfect. Can’t wait. I have so much to tell you.”
I don’t want to get too excited over this call. It could still fall apart. “Are you sure you have room? I thought you had a little studio.”
“Oh, I have room, don’t you worry about that.”
Her laugh makes me wary. “So how have you been? What’s new in your life?”
“So many things. But how about we save all that for when you get here? It’ll be fun to catch up as you settle in.”
I shrug. It’s not like I have any other options. “Okay, if you say you have room, I guess I’ll come.”
The sound of her clapping comes over the line. “Yay! I’m so happy! Can’t wait to see you.”
“I guess I’ll need your address,” I say, grabbing a pen.
“Okay, are you ready? Do you have a pen?”
“Yep,” I say, resting the phone between my cheek and shoulder. “Go for it.”
“I’m at seven-twenty-five Fifth Avenue.”
The pen stops moving after I get the number down, and it refuses to continue writing.
“Fifth Avenue? As in the Fifth Avenue? Manhattan?”
She giggles. “That’s the one. I’m on the thirty-fifth floor. Just tell the doorman when you get here, and he’ll buzz me to let me know you’re in the lobby.”
I’m too stunned to really absorb this information. “You live on Fifth Avenue. I can’t believe it. You must have a lot of news to share.” The image of my silly, hippy friend Leah Carmichael living anywhere near Fifth Avenue won’t compute. Maybe she’s giving me her work address and she just doesn’t want to tell me the details over the phone.
“Oh, trust me, I do. Karma has been good to me. But enough about me, what about you?”
“I think I’ll save my news for when I get there too. Not that it’s anything near as exciting as being on Fifth Avenue.” Actually, it’s about the opposite of that, but I’m not going to wallow in my sad situation right now. I’m going to let my mind wander through Leah’s possible life and try to guess what she’s been up to instead. It’ll keep my brain occupied as I drive the four and a half hours.
“Okay, sounds like a plan. So you think you’ll be here by Friday?”
“Yep. Friday maybe by dinner time? Late afternoon, maybe?”
“Perfect. I’ll be waiting to hear from you. And I have your number now, so I can call you if anything comes up.”
“Great. So, I guess I’ll see you soon!” I’m not faking my happiness; now I really feel it. This is turning out much better than I thought it would.
“Yes! It’s going to be so awesome. Can’t wait. Bye!”
I hang up and slide my phone into my pocket. Finally, my adventure is feeling like a good decision and not a complete disaster.
WHEN I PULL UP IN front of Trump Towers at six o’clock on Friday night, I don’t know what to expect. When Leah comes striding over to my window wearing a thick, tailored wool coat with a baby in a snowsuit on her hip, I’m too stunned to speak. She looks great. And a baby? Whoa.
I’ve never seen her dressed like she is now, and her hair is amazing. And if she had that baby herself and not through adoption or a surrogate, she’s managed to already lose all the pregnancy weight. She can’t be more than a size eight.
I cannot wait to hear what’s happened in her life; clearly her news is going to be much better than mine, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer girl. Just realizing that makes me the slightest bit cheerful. I roll down my window, letting in a blast of freezing cold air.
“Hey! You made it!” she exclaims, her breath throwing out puffs of cold-smoke. “Do you want to park in the garage? They have some guest spaces. We can get someone to help you bring your things in.” She looks in the back window of my car. “Wow, you have a lot of boxes.” Grinning at me, she leans in and we exchange a quick kiss of greeting. Her lips are freezing cold on my heater-warmed cheek.
“You have a baby,” I say, finally finding my voice.
“Oh, this isn’t my baby. I’m just borrowing her.” She laughs. “Just pull around the block there, and you’ll see the entrance to the garage. I’d ride with you but you don’t have a carseat.”
“Okay.” I shift the car back into Drive, acting like borrowing a baby is a totally natural thing that people do. “Just over there?” I point to the next block.
“Yep. Grab a guest spot. Tell them you’re with James Oliver.”
“Okee dokee.” I roll up the window, turn up my heater to full blast, and pull forward off the curb, wary of all the cabs driving like maniacs around me. Everything in Manhattan goes faster than anywhere else. It’s making me nervous already. The potential ice on the roads is not helping. Winter coming early did not figure into my plans.
The garage is huge, and much quieter than the main street where everyone has decided that horns are how cars speak to one another and that they should be carrying on conversations all the time. I crack my window open a couple inches when an older man in a uniform approaches me.
“I’m with James Oliver. I’m supposed to park in a guest spot.”
He points with a white-gloved hand. “Just over there, Miss.”
I smile politely and roll my window up as I follow his instructions. I’m just pulling into the generous space when Leah shows up at my door again. I can hear her through my closed window, her voice slightly muffled.
“Yaaaay! Look, Cassie, my best friend Sarah is here for a visit!”
I look up at her and grin as I push the door open. “Yay! I’m so happy to be here!”
Leah moves back so I can get out, but as soon as I’m free of my car, she leaps forward, enveloping me in a big hug. The baby gets squished right in with me.
“Ooooo, you look great,” she says. “Have you aged backwards? That’s not fair.”
I pat her on the back. “No, believe me, I’ve aged. It’s just my high school ponytail look throwing you off.”
She pulls back and grins. “It looks good on you.” She looks at my passenger seat. “Better grab that coat. It’s colder than a witch’s boob out here.”
I laugh, reaching in to grab my jacket, a five-year-old staple from my wardrobe that’s not nearly as fancy as hers appears to be. “Same old Leah.”
“My address has changed but that’s about it.”
I shut the door and lock it, grabbing my purse and an overnight bag out of the backseat. “Your clothes have changed too.” We start walking towards a door, Leah in the lead. “What happened to my flower child buddy?”
“Oh, she’s still here, believe me.” She taps in a number on a keypad and opens the door for me to walk through. “But she’s hidden under layers of warm wool because I do not like this early winter crap one bit.” She shudders for effect as I walk past her.
She lets the door shut and leads me down a hallway and into another door that brings us to a bank of elevators. I can see the giant lobby of Trump Towers beyond.
“So, you really live in Trump Towers, eh?”
Cabin Fever by Elle Casey / Romance & Love / History & Fiction have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes