Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

"Uhm... hey guys, what are we doing over here?"

Matthias blinked awake. The room was still dim and it took him a minute to realize where he was, longer still to recognize who had spoken. He was on his couch, nestled in the absurd, orange cushions with Trav sprawled out across from him with his feet nearly in Matthias' lap. Trav shifted, waking up, struggling to raise himself from the couch's warm embrace.

"Ruby?" Trav asked, his voice mushy with sleep.

"Yeah, babe." Ruby's head poked through Matthias' front door, one eyebrow raised. "Are you guys alright?"

Matthias couldn't remember if he was alright. He had no idea why he and Trav were crashed out on his couch and the memory didn't seem to be forthcoming. The night before was a messy blur like smeared paint. He had come home from work and... what? Played video games with his neighbor and fallen asleep? Had they been drinking? He glanced around. There was no evidence of bad work-night choices. Not even so much as a empty can of Monster in evidence. He'd been hung over a few times in his college career and this didn't feel like it; no headache, no nausea. He'd lost time during finals week too, he recalled. Whole swaths of endless study sessions missing without so much as twinge of worry from Matthias. Could he just have been that tired last night? He pushed his palms into his eyes then ran his hands back through his scraggly hair. His name badge jingled. He was still wearing his work uniform, coat included.

Travis eased himself upright and swung his leg awkwardly so he was in a sitting position. He winced, "Shit."

"You okay, honey?" Ruby crossed to him, setting a grocery bag on the floor as she went. Matthias stared at the bag. He'd gone shopping after work last night. Was it his? Had he left it on the landing when when and Trav...? His focus dodged past this and honed in on Ruby like a record needle skipping. Ruby was once again adorned in her powder blue coat and a work uniform, but this one was white and brown, and she smelled of coffee and cinnamon.

"My leg hurts like hell." Trav groaned, rocking back against the couch, blinking hard at the ceiling.


Matthias looked down. Cheese was standing at the end of the couch, peering up at him with big, green eyes, his whiskers flared forward as thought he too expected Matthias to come up with some answers.

"I stuck my head in at your place and couldn't find you." Ruby said, plopping down beside Trav, her fingers fluttering over his cast as though she could do something to the plaster. "I figured you must be over here hanging with Matt, and I knocked, but you two slept through it so I used by key." She paused her fussing to jangle a laden key chain at Matthias before tucking it into her pocket again.

Right. Matthias thought, still fighting with his missing memory. I still haven't changed the lock.

"Merwow!" said Cheese, striding back and forth across Matthias' feet, butting his head against Matthias' shins.

"Stay out of my place!" Trav grabbed Ruby's wrists, his eyes wide as silver dollars. His voice was panicked, not angry. Ruby still yelped and squirmed to get free.

"Trav, honey, what?!" Ruby gasped.

"He's right." Matthias' impulse was to leap to Ruby's aid, but he remained rooted, surprising himself with his words. "I... I don't know why but you shouldn't – we shouldn't – go over there, but just... don't."

Ruby frowned worriedly and slipped her wrists from Trav's grip. "You two do not seem okay. Should I call someone?" She pulled her phone from her coat pocket and tapped the screen, her brow creased. "No bars? What?"

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