“Yeah, h--um, hi.” Lana coughs, face burning, stumbles out of bed clumsily, grabbing Warren’s button down from the floor. She can feel him watching and smirking as she clutches her phone to her face. “Shut up,” Lana hisses when he giggles.
“‘Na, are you okay?”
“Stop calling me that. Yeah, yeah.” Her room is a mess; she trips over a boot and slams the door shut, halfway naked, embarrassed. She can’t be upset with her sister for calling, but she was in a really good place, and who knew when Warren would disappear again--
Shani sniffs once, twice, before releasing a wail, a barrage of noisy tears. Lana listens to her histrionics, exhaustion and frustration and worry at war within her. She thinks of her sister’s compulsion to play dead when they were younger, after being hit a little bit too hard; the way she would clutch her throat, eyes bulging, when she choked a little bit on a bite of food. Their parents always panicked while Lana yawned, ready to move on. She always only ever wanted to move on.
“What’s going on, Shani.” Jordan left already - GLAD UR FINALLY GETTIN SOME!! - she crumples the blue post-it he stuck to the refrigerator, tosses it into the trash can along with the silvery pop-tart packaging he’d left behind in his rush to work. Shani is still hiccuping and gulping, breathing too loudly. “Shani?”
“When are you coming home?”
“I’m still at school. What’s wrong? Are you, umm--” Lana drums impatient fingertips on the kitchen counter, squinting into the late morning sun as it is filtered through dust and fraying, translucent curtain. She wonders who will take them next month, when they move out. “Are you sober?”
“Yes, Lana, God. I’m sober.” Well, that shut her up. No more tears. Lana has no idea how to do this, what she is supposed to say. It’s been six years. “I left rehab a week ago.”
“Okay, well, good. You sounded pretty hysterical a second ago. I thought it was a logical question.”
“I’m just really lonely here.” Shani sighs, long and loud. Lana tries to imagine her: petite, wide-eyed, a swaying reed of nervous energy. The truth is she has no idea how she looks now. Every picture her sister her sister has posted on social media in the last few years, before their father dumped her into Auriole County Clinic, appeared somehow too grainy for Lana to actually see, or maybe she just didn’t want to see. Isn’t that why she moved across the goddamn country for college?
“I’m sorry.” Nothing she says feels right, her voice doesn’t even sound like her own - off-key somehow. “What about your friends? What about your group?”
“I don’t know why I called you,” Shani slings, snarling and vicious, and now, here, this is what Lana remembers. “You sound just like the rest of them. My own baby sister.” Her laugh crackles and dies in Lana’s ear, making her shudder. Warren slouches out of her bedroom, padding down the hall to the kitchen, boxers slung low. Lana shrugs and grimaces at the question in his eyes, and he nods slowly, raising his eyebrows. Leans against the wall.
“Okay, Shani. Love you too.” She’s stopped feeling guilty for not caring, not rising when Shani needs to spar, needs to stir up tiny battles in the ashes of the war she’d long lost. “Are you still coming to my graduation?” It’s a stupid question, but Lana honestly doesn’t know the answer. She isn’t particularly surprised when the line goes silent, then dead, but she is relieved. Warren is watching her too closely, and she hates speaking on the phone in front of other people. Especially Warren, who strikes Lana as the kind of person who has never lost his composure or broken a sweat in his life. Maybe that’s why she is equal parts in love with him and terrified of him.
“Everything cool?” God, his skin is perfect, gleaming like burnished copper, all smooth angles and lines. Lana remembers she is dressed only in his shirt, and her legs feel more naked than they had twenty seconds ago.
“Yeah, it’s fine. Sorry about that.” She’s always held Warren at arm’s length about everything but her body, and she would like to keep it that way. She lets the shirt fall open, grins when his gaze turns feral. “So should we…” She barks out a laugh as he charges at her, swooping her into his arms.