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After what I supposed could be called a failure of a date, Abigail ended up dropping me off at home. This was after we stopped to get some coffee and I had sobered up quite a bit. As I was about to leave the car, she reached out and grabbed my arm.

“I just… wanted to show you that I will give you a good time,” Abigail said reluctantly, the expression on her face a mixture of pouting and unhappiness.

I reached over and touched the back of her hand still holding her arm. “If you had just asked me for a date in the first place, rather than trying to bully and blackmail me, then things would have turned out differently.”

“I’m not… good with men.” She responded, her cheeks tensing as she didn’t meet my eyes. “I never know what you’re thinking. I don’t know what you want. I did everything I could to get close to you, but you’re surrounded by all of those sisters of yours and they’ll kick my ass if I even look at their brother. Then, I saw you hanging out with that dork Samantha, and I just lost it. I know I can be controlling sometimes, but you just make me go crazy. You understand?”

Her eyes finally met mine, and I had a feeling that what I said next might be the difference between whether she let go of my arm, or I had to fight her to escape the car. Even then, it was more of a thought that a fear. I still wasn’t intimidated by Abigail, despite everything. That trafficker from earlier was far more terrifying.

“Let’s try this again some other time,” I responded.

I guess that was the right thing to say, as she let go of my arm and I let out a breath as I opened the door and left. She said that she didn’t couldn’t understand what I was thinking? That was the understatement of the year. I was about as easy as it got, but, somehow, she had wrapped herself up in knots thinking I was some enigma that had to be cracked through extreme measures. I didn’t even know how to take it. I knew, taking her how I’d take a guy, it was pure insecurity that drove her actions.

I somehow manage to sneak into the house again without getting caught. Thankfully, all the girls were heavy sleepers. Once back in my room, I quickly removed the ridiculous outfit she had put me in and cleaned up the best I could to get rid of the smell of smoke and alcohol. Then, I dropped in my bed and let out a sigh, thinking about things. I texted dad a few times and waited up far too late before I was awoken by the alarm the next morning.

Of course, I had a splitting headache. That seemed fair enough. I had drunk far too much, after all. I got up late that morning, and mom was in a hurry. With bloodshot eyes and a pounding headache, I didn’t need to do much to convince mom to let me stay home. Thankfully, she never suspected her son was out drinking last night. If she knew I had been out with a girl, or that I had a run-in with a sex trafficker, she would ground me for life. That wasn’t even specific to this world. Any world I looked at, it would have ended up this way.

Some of my sisters gave more suspicious looks than others. Mackenzie was naturally the most worried, but I didn’t let her get close enough to figure out what was wrong. I told her she might get sick and then gave her a look suggesting our midnight rendezvous might have to cease too. That was enough to put a blush on her cheeks and get her to flee the house.

“If you’re sick, it might not be a good idea to go on the trip this weekend.”

That was still a few days away, so I immediately protested. “This is probably just a day flu. It’ll probably be gone by tomorrow. I’ll be fine by Friday.”

This was about the only repercussions of my lie. Mom did give a suspicious look again, but it wasn’t uncommon for a sick kid to not want to lose the chance to do the things they wanted while dropping the things they didn’t, and she needed to leave early, so it didn’t take long before I got to spend another full day in my house alone. After how many days I’ve already taken off from school, I knew my grades were going to suffer soon. There was one class where my grades would be just fine. I chuckled about that.

As everyone left and I settled down with some caffeine, a cold compress, and some pain killers, I checked my phone to see that my father had eventually responded to my message. He apologized profusely. I exchanged some texts and was surprised he responded right away. Just how early had he woken up? I told him about the friend. Dad said he found out about it, and that his sweetie, that was what he called the girl named Nanny, kicked Parker to the curb. I really had my doubts, but dad seemed apologetic and even asked me if I wanted to hang out this weekend.

For a moment, I considered riding this illness so I could spend some time with my dad. I would disappoint London, but I had plenty of time to make it up to her, while my time with dad felt scarce. I couldn’t exactly explain in words why it was scarce. He was here to visit me, and I just didn’t want to see him take off again, I guess. Ultimately, I decided to decline. I didn’t want to milk an illness I didn’t have for several more days, nor did I want to inevitably have to sneak out to see dad.

I explained in the text what I was doing. It took dad an hour to respond, but when he did, rather than understanding, he demanded to know why I was hanging out with a woman who wasn’t even my family. I reminded him that even though London had no relation to him, she was my half-sister. He didn’t seem at all impressed by that explanation, and his responses shrank into one-word responses, taking longer and longer to reply even when I saw he read them, and eventually, I just stopped sending a text.

I was a little surprised that he was so bothered by my actions. I had thought that he would understand. Instead, he sounded a bit jealous and came off almost as belligerent. I sent him an apology but affirmed that I was going this weekend, and then put my phone away. By that point in time, I was still a bit nauseous, but the headache was down to the point where I felt functional.

Feeling a bit tired, I decided to go back to my room and lie down. I shut my door, got back under my covers, and closed my eyes with the lights down low. Some time passed, but my mind was still far too busy to sleep, and the remaining vestiges of a headache didn’t do me any favors either.

It was at that moment that I heard a sudden crash. I jerked up in my bed, looking around the darkroom in surprise. It wasn’t like we had a pet or something, so there was no one out there to knock anything over. At that point, I started to hear someone. Did one of my sisters get home early? That was my first thought, but a quick look at my clock said it wasn’t even quite noon yet. There would be no reason mom would come home from lunch either. She worked too far away for that to be worth her time.

That was when my danger sense started to kick in. It was only last night that someone had tried to force me into a car and run off with me. Now, was someone breaking into my house? I looked around my room for something to grab. Ultimately, this wasn’t a room that would have a baseball bat. Why couldn’t my other self have been into sports? Wait… I wouldn’t have had a baseball bat either! Why wasn’t I into sports like Kelsey?

Oh, that’s right! Kelsey was into sports and I recalled seeing a baseball bat in her room. However, it was on the other side of the hallway. I went to the door and listened carefully. I could hear someone moving around. There was the creaking of feet, and it sounded like someone was rummaging around. I was the man of the house. I couldn’t just do nothing. I knew that in this world, it might be weird for a guy to take the offensive, but that would be my advantage. They wouldn’t know that happened! Besides, we were nowhere near rich enough to be able to afford to get robbed. It would cripple us.

After carefully listening for a minute, I reasoned that they were in the living room, and wouldn’t be able to see me in the hallway. Ever so carefully, I opened the door to my room. I slipped out in the hallway, which had a lot more light than my bedroom, as there was a nearby window. Keeping low, and feeling like my heart was in my throat, I carefully moved across the hallway, and entered Kelsey and Kristy’s room.

I moved slowly and made sure to move the latch extremely slow so it didn’t make a noise. When I was done and hadn’t done anything to be heard by the trespasser, I immediately started looking for Kelsey’s bat. I couldn’t remember where I had seen it. And after looking for another minute, I noticed the handle poking out from under the bed. Feeling much better upon seeing a weapon I could use to defend myself, I reached down and pulled it from under the bed.

The sheet from the unmade bed had fallen on the floor and part of it was wrapped around the bat. As I removed the binding, there was a light sound as something fell to the carpet at my feet. My eyes fell, and there I saw a baggy that appeared to have white, chalky pills in it. I picked up the bag and stared at it, my mind drawing a blank. Were these… Kelsey’s?

I didn’t know what they were. They could just be acetaminophen, but I had a distinct feeling they were something else. A sound, now in the hallway, immediately broke me from my introspection. I shoved the bag in my pocket without another thought, and then moved to the door and listened again. I could hear footsteps coming down the hallway, one step at a time.

The person opened the door to my room, and I gulped at how close I could have been to being caught without a weapon. They closed the door a second later, seemingly not bothering to do more than a glance. I repositioned my hands on the bat, waiting for them to get close to the door to Kelsey and Kristy’s room. Just a few steps more, and I’d burst out and swing the bat, taking them out. I was confident at this point that they weren’t family. The family would have shouted, and they definitely wouldn’t have been rummaging around.

The invader took two more steps, and then, with a deep breath, I slammed the door open with my shoulder. Without hesitating, I locked on to the form approaching the door, lifted my bat, and swung down. The bat hit the ceiling, something I hadn’t counted for when I had envisioned this. Not only did it kill the force in the bat, but it also messed with the trajectory. I slammed the bat down, but it was a very weak hit.

The person in front of me raised their hands and blocked the bat, falling back onto their butt. They also let out a feminine scream. That wasn’t to say they were a woman, but that their scream was high-pitched and weak. I raised the bat to hit them harder this time, making sure I had the room to do a full swing.

“Wait! Wait! Noah!” I froze with the bat lifted over my head.

It was then that I noticed the person I was swinging at. It was the same person I seemed to keep running into when I least expected it.

“Dad?”

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