Slow Agony

By: V. J. Chambers

Chapter One

“Oh my God, that exam was killer,” said my best friend Naomi Floyd, flopping down in a chair at the Wolves Den, the sandwich place on campus. “How’d you get done so fast?”

I grinned. “I’ve been reading the assigned books all semester, unlike some people.”

“Hey, I read for class. Sometimes.”

I laughed. “I ordered you turkey.” I handed over a basket containing a sandwich and fries.

“Thanks.” Naomi rummaged in her purse. “How much was it?”

“Don’t worry about it. You don’t need to pay me back.”

Naomi raised an eyebrow. “You never let me pay for stuff.”

“Because I have money.”

“From your dad, right?” She ate a French fry. “Is he coming for graduation?”

I looked down into my own half-eaten sandwich. “No. He doesn’t... He’s not into things like that.” There were things I shared with Naomi, but the fact that last year I’d injected my father full of a substance that gave him total amnesia and then stolen all his money wasn’t one of them.

“Your dad is like this rich guy who never shows up anywhere,” said Naomi. “I mean, I thought for sure you’d call him in February, when—”


She flinched. “Right. We don’t talk about that.”

I took a bite of my sandwich. “I’d rather not dig all that back up again is all.”

“So, let me change the subject, then.” Naomi grinned. “Can you believe we’re graduating?”

I laughed. “It is surreal, isn’t it? I’ve spent two years in Thomas. And so much has happened here.” I’d nearly been killed, kicked cocaine, met the man of my dreams.

Lost the man of my dreams. My smile faded.

“I just somehow brought it back up again, didn’t I?” Naomi made a sympathetic face. “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”

I tried a smile. “I did it to myself. Don’t worry about it.” I sighed. “You know, I keep thinking that one of these days, soon, I’m going to wake up, and the first thing I think of is not going to be how screwed up everything is. I’m going to feel happy for a little bit.”

She took my hand. “You will.”

“It’s been three and a half months,” I said. “How long does it take?”

She shrugged. “Oh, you know I’m the last person to ask about that. I mean, Derrick was sleeping with that girl for months before I found out. Months. And I still sometimes wish I could get him back.”

I picked up a French fry and ruefully began breaking it into pieces. “So what you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter how much of a dick he was, you’re still not over him?”

“No, I’m not saying that at all,” said Naomi. “I’m over him. It’s been six months. I even date now.”

I tossed what was left of the fry onto a napkin. “You call that dating?”

“Yes. It is dating.”

“But you meet those guys on those e-dating websites. And they’re always losers.”

“Not always.”

“You haven’t gone on a second date with any of them, have you?”

Naomi sighed. “Look, at least I’m trying.”

“You’re saying I’m not?”

“You aren’t.”

I leaned back in her chair. “It’s too soon.”

“It’s been three and a half months.”

“But we were together for ten months, and they say that it takes at least half of the time you were together to be ready for a new relationship.”

Naomi snorted. “Tell that to Derrick. He and that girl are engaged.”

I looked up at the ceiling. “It’s only that what I had with Griffin was really special. It wasn’t just another relationship.” I turned back to my sandwich. “I thought he was the one, you know?”

“He wouldn’t have run off on you if he had been.”

“Well, he had... issues. And they were really complicated. He ran away from me before, but it was only because he was afraid that he wasn’t enough for me, and—”

“Stop it,” said Naomi. “You can’t keep making excuses for him.”