Read chapter one first, here.
“Like, like, like, and quadruple like,” Dom said. She made exaggerated motions while tapping her phone. Dom was lying on the couch in front of our television. That thing needed to be changed, since it likely hadn’t been cleaned for months, and the television was so old it had a long antennae sitting out from its back. It was so old it might as well be a piece of decoration. When we wanted to watch shows, Dom and I simply used our laptops.
I stirred my cup of coffee. A café latte with an extra dose of sugar. I used last month’s paycheck to splurge on a coffee machine. Best decision ever. “What are you liking so hard about?”
Dom, full name Dominique, waggled her eyebrows. She was my roommate in our dingy little apartment. A caramel-skinned goddess with a big poof of hair she rocked and christened Angela.
Her skin would be glowing if the lights were on. The landlord should have come down to fix the lights in the living room three months ago, but it still wasn’t working. Dom and I didn’t have it in us to fork out the money for a new light-bulb. It was the landlord’s job, after all.
My roommate sat up and flipped her phone so it faced me. I had to squint to get a better view of her screen. “Um… it’s a dude.”
“Not just any.”
I slugged back a big gulp of my coffee. The caffeine and sugar zinged through me. Ah, nothing better than a fresh dose of addictive substances to knock back the cravings. “The picture’s probably Photoshopped till kingdom come,” I said. I sat across from Dom and kicked my legs up onto the coffee table, knocking aside some magazines. We really needed to clean this place. Sure, I could use Pop’s money to hire some cleaners, but I hated taking much from him. The only reason why I was stuck by his side was because he had this ‘family needs to be close’ policy—if I tried to run, he’d hunt me down and drag me back.
Dom moved on to the next picture. She flashed it to me again. “I don’t care if it’s shopped. Look at that.” She shoved her finger at a perfectly carved stomach of six-pack abs. “Just look at it.”
“I’m looking,” I said, licking some foam off the top of my lip. It wasn’t the abs that made me attracted, but the man’s face. Sure, he was perfection—sculpted jaw, intense eyes, a soft smile that could make women squeal. But there was also something behind his expression… sadness?
I wasn’t sure if you could Photoshop that in. Maybe the re-toucher was just that good.
“Chance Meadows.” She mimicked my lip-licking motion. “I’d love to get him into my bed. But moving on… There’s this other guy.”
I set my finished cup of coffee down. That really hit the spot.
“Hey, you going to clean that?” Dom asked.
I raised a noncommittal hand. “In a bit.”
“Don’t leave it.”
“Yeah, I just need to check up on Bunny. Thanks for letting him stay, by the way. He’s been acting weird since this afternoon.
“You don’t have to keep telling me that. Besides, he’s a lizard. He can’t make that much of a mess. You didn’t even have to ask permission.”
“I’m just worried.”
I walked to my room where I kept him and picked him up. Maybe he just needed another snuggle.
And then I screamed.
“What is it!” Dom shouted, her voice rippling down our small hallway and toward me.
“Bunny…” The shock numbed me. “Bunny’s dead!”
I shook my head into my hands. We were back in the living room, sitting on our couches.
“He was so young. He had so much potential.”
Dom rested a hand on my elbow. “Okay, Ezri, you need to calm the fuck down.”
“I am calm!”
“Uh huh,” she said, lifting a brow. “Yeah, you sound like the Dalai Lama himself.”
“Bunny means more to me than a thousand llamas.”
“Wait, what? That’s not what I meant.”
I cried into my wad of tissues.
“I’m going to get us Animal Funeral Services,” Dom said. She sighed and picked up her phone from the coffee table before dialing in the numbers. “And you… you cry your heart out, baby girl, just like—” I blew a huge sound into my tissues before breaking down into more sobs. She paused, as if judging me. “—Yep. Just like that. Oh wait a sec, your Pops is calling.”
I groaned and pressed my hands onto my forehead. “I really don’t want to hear from Pops now.”
“He gets bitchy if his calls get ignored.”
I blew out a heavy breath and waved, signaling Dom to pick up the call.
She made kissy lips at me and answered the phone. “Yes, boss?” She tapped her index finger on the speaker symbol, placing Pops into loudspeaker.
“Is Ezri there?” the man asked with his gravelly voice.
“Um…” Dom shared a glance with me. “She is?”
I shook my head.
That bitch better not tell Pops I was here.
“Yep,” Dom said. “She’s definitely here.” She gave me an air kiss and placed the phone in my hands.
I gave her my most chilling glare and answered Pops.
“What?” I asked. I was proud to notice that there weren’t any sobs in my voice. My face, however, was still streaming with sticky tears.
Dom leaned in and whispered, “Be nice.”
Why in the fucking name of fish sticks did I have to be nice? Dom knew Pops. She worked for him on occasion, and she knew exactly what a Satan he could be. And she definitely knew about the relationship I had with my father, or the lack of it more like.
Pops growled through the phone. That was the way he greeted people. No “hello”, or “how ya doin’?” Just a threatening growl. I stuck my tongue out and Dom giggled. She smacked her hand over her laughter so Pops didn’t hear her. She feared him less than I did even though she knew not to make Pops angry.
“What’s the ruckus?” Pops asked. “Nevermind. I don’t care. Package is in the warehouse. You’ll find it at the usual. Labeled Highmore. Pick it up. The men will be coming in two days and I’ll give you more details later. Don’t. You. Forget.” I couldn’t reply before the phone line died.
Dom and I shared an awkward glance. It lasted briefly, then she picked up the phone again. “I’ll call Animal Funeral Services.”
At the mention of that, I began bawling once more. She handed me more tissues for me to blow my nose. I could feel my mascara running down my face. My eyes were puffy, and there was so much snot in my nose that I couldn’t breathe properly. I kept sobbing.
He was great.
A nice pet lizard who knew tricks. He was smarter than any other lizard.
“AFS?” Dom said into the phone.
That was when I broke and my bawl turned into a wail.
She got up and moved toward the kitchen. “I’m calling on behalf of a friend. Her pet bearded dragon died today, and we need to get him cremated. Uh… No. That’s a bit… do you have a slot for a tomorrow?” She kept silent for a moment. “I’ll ask.”
She walked back to the living room. “Do you want to cremate Bunny tomorrow?”
I nodded. Better to get this over with quickly. I couldn’t wallow in my grief. Pops would hate it if I cried in his shop. Plus, I had extra time tomorrow. Dom drew the phone back to her ear. “That’s fine. What time?” She turned around to get a pen and some paper from the small dining table. She wrote something down and hung up.
“Okay Ezri. The service is tomorrow at nine a.m., and they’re going to explain everything to us then. We can pick an urn for him and everything.” She sat down next to me and pulled me close.
Unsuspectingly, she drew her phone up. “Now let’s not think about Bunny. Look at that.” She flashed me another picture of a six-pack god that was different from the first. He had sun-kissed skin, tattoos covering his chest, black hair that looked like he just got out of bed, and the most gorgeous forest green eyes I’d ever seen. My heart skipped a beat and my lower lips heated up faster than a microwave.
I need to get laid.
Dom smacked her lips together. “Oh my baby lord. Imagine him in your bed.” She made him sound like an accessory.
I rubbed my eye because it felt like it needed a cleansing. “I can only imagine. And no. He looks like bad news.” I got up to bring my cup back to the kitchen. Dead lizard or no, Dom would scream at me if I kept leaving dishes all over.
As I walked into the kitchen, I saw the shoebox with Bunny in it.
I began crying again.
I totally blamed Dom and her Instagram photos.
How did that make sense? It didn’t. But that didn’t matter, because lizards and life and death didn’t make sense.
Watch out for chapter three.