Chapter Three: Nothing In Life Is Free

When we reached the truck, Lucas stuck his tag in the glove compartment. Then came the complicated process of squishing ourselves into the cab like sardines, and fastening our seatbelts to tether our bodies and impair movement like we were animals.

"Hey, calm down," Kayla soothed, patting the hand on my knee, and then giving it a sharp slap when I refused to lessen my grip. "Stop cutting off circulation to your leg."

I shot her a death glare, but she just raised her eyebrows at me. I reluctantly did as she asked and stared out the window at freedom, trying my very best not the think of how I couldn't straighten my legs without coming into contact with a barrier, or even stretch my arms above my head. I couldn't fucking move.

This was why I needed my brother for rides.

He turned the key, but the car gave a weak sputtering before it died. He tried again, but the car only sputtered once more. "That's so gay," he muttered, slamming the dashboard with his fist and then trying the key again. Yeah, like that would make it work.

I pointed at the swivel on the end of his turn signaler. "You left your lights on."

"Lucas!" Kayla whined. "Why didn't you turn the lights off?"

He leaned forward to pin me with a scathing look. "Because somebody didn't remind me."

I didn't bother arguing: my brother never blamed himself for anything. I expected no sympathy from Kayla, either—though I was her best friend, Lucas was the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, and she always took his side.

Instead of pouting, I tried to make my voice seem reasonable, otherwise we would be here for the rest of the night. And there was no way in hell that was happening. I would start scratching out eyes if I had to be in this cage for that long.

"Call Dad, he can bring us the cables."

He frowned. "I think Mom took them with her."

"She got us a spare before she left."

He nodded, a smile coming to his face. Our mother had obsessed for days over everything that might go wrong while she was away, leaving countless backup plans.

"I didn't bring my phone with me," he said. "You call him."

I reached into my pocket, and frowned. "Huh. I thought for sure. I guess I must have left mine at home, too." I frowned again, trying to remember. We'd left abruptly, but I usually had it in my back pocket.

"I've got mine," Kayla said.

"I don't know the number. Steven?"

I grimaced. In my defense, it's not like I had occasion to call my dad very often.

I looked to where the mall was closing, and the parking lot, devoid of people. "There's a gas station up the street. Maybe we can find someone to jump us."

We started toward the gas station on the other side of the street from the mall. We walked for about five minutes in silence, long enough to get off the mall exit and onto the main road. We were just about to cross the busy four-lane street when a white city bus started around the curve, just passing the traffic light.

Lucas started waving like an idiot.

"Hey, what are you doing?" Oh hell no.

The bus pulled up next to us, opening its doors with a whoosh.

Lucas grinned at me, fully expecting me to be happy for some insane reason. "Let's just ride this home."

"No, Lucas."

"It's not even as bad as a truck. There's more room," he argued. He gestured toward the sky. "Besides, do you really want to sit around and wait for Dad? The gas station won't let us loiter, and my truck is going to get really small if we wait in there."

I looked up to see what he was talking about, and just now noticed the dark clouds pressing heavily on the world.

Damn. I hated rain; and as an added bonus, it was cold out, probably about forty-five degrees, and I was already wishing I had worn a heavier coat, and maybe even my nice fluffy hat with the ear flaps.

"Fine," I grumbled. Ignoring my brother's superior I-told-you-so expression, I followed Kayla onto the bus.

"How much for three?" I asked the driver.

He smiled in that way that salesmen and certain receptionists had, where it still looked professional but didn't reach the eyes. He pointed at a makeshift sign taped to the fare box. No Charge.

I sighed in relief—not spending my money always made me happy—and sat down next to Kayla in the second seat back on the side across from the driver, since a businessman already occupied the seat directly behind him. I heard Lucas snort when he got on and saw the driver. He sat in the second seat behind the driver, across the aisle from us.

When he opened his mouth to say something, I glared at him, whispering harshly, "Don't." My brother thought black jokes were hilarious, and every time he saw a black guy he was unfailingly struck with inspiration; though, just like my father, he insisted that he wasn't racist. It got tiring to listen to, just like when he said "that's so gay" and assigned the name faggot to everyone he didn't like.

I loved my brother, but even though we were twins, we had nothing in common. Kayla was the only non-fraternal link between us, but since we enjoyed her company for entirely different reasons, that didn't really count.

The driver shot us a brief glance in the mirror, but I didn't think it was because he had heard me. Lucas didn't seem to care one way or the other—he shrugged and sat back in his seat, crossing his arms across his chest.

I snorted in disgust and directed my attention elsewhere to avoid hitting him—in the interest of self-preservation, because it never hurt him, and he just hit me back…harder. Maybe I would ask Kayla to do it later, since I knew she'd get away with it.

As far as public transportation went, the bus wasn't much. The inside was basically the same as the outside—white metal. It rattled as we pulled away from the curb and began to move. It was like a mobile cage with uncomfortable green seats. A wire wrapped around the walls and connected to a red light at the front; I surmised that we pulled this when we wanted the driver to stop.

There was only one other passenger other than us and the businessman. I could see the dark hood of a jacket peeking over the seat in the very back of the bus, but the drawn shades and bad weather made it too dark to see the person, and their face was so shadowed that I couldn't even tell if they were male or female.

Lucas swore suddenly. "I forgot my deer tag."

"Get it when we come back later," Kayla said, but Lucas had already tugged on the wire. The red light didn't come on.

"Nothing in this damn city works right," he mumbled, then raised his voice so that the driver could hear. "Excuse me, sir? We'd like to get off here."

"You can't get off yet. Four miles to go." It was not the driver who spoke, but the austere man in the seat in front of Lucas. He turned to look at us, a smug smile lighting his face.

I exchanged a confused look with my brother. "Four miles?" I asked politely, not sure I'd heard correctly.

He nodded. "Until we get to where we're going. After that, it will be another half hour wait."

"'Til we go home?" Kayla was obviously just as confused as we were. She rested her elbow on the back of the seat in front of her, cradling her head in her hand and staring at the man with a bewildered expression.

When he turned his dark eyes to her, when the smug smile turned up into a wicked smile…only then did I begin to think something was wrong.

"Nope." The man shook his head, not taking his eyes off Kayla. The chuckle was so low, so deep in his throat, that I barely heard it. "Until you die." He turned around in his seat then, to face the front. After a moment of thought, he glanced back at her with an amused glint in his eye and a smirk on his lips. "So I suppose you could say you're going home."