Havoc:Mayhem Series #4

By: Jamie Shaw

Now, I set my headphones and controller down on the bench beside me and watch as Mike steps onto the bus, his hair disheveled and his eyes cast down. The door closes behind him, and I realize Danica’s not with him.

“Where’s Danica?” I ask, and Mike’s tired eyes slowly lift when he realizes he’s not alone.

“Sleeping.” His voice sounds as exhausted as he looks, the air whooshing from the gray leather bench as he sinks into a seat across from me. His elbows come to rest heavy on his knees, and he rubs his fingers roughly over his eyes. “She fell asleep after . . .” He trails off, shaking his head to himself. I don’t need him to finish the end of that sentence, and I’m glad when he doesn’t. “It might be a while.”

I should ask if she drank too much, or if she’s safe sleeping alone on the other bus. But as I stare across the aisle at this man I don’t know, at the way his broad shoulders slump like they’re carrying an impossible weight, I find myself asking instead, “Are you okay?”

It’s a silly question. He’s a rock star. He obviously just got laid. Of course he’s okay.

But when he lifts his chin, the look in his eyes makes me think that he’s not.

“I need a beer” is the only answer he gives me as he rises to his feet. “Do you want anything?”

He walks toward the back of the bus without waiting for me to ask any more stupid questions about things that aren’t my business, but before he crosses through the divider, I tell him I’ll take whatever he’s got.

I resume playing the game on the screen, and when Mike returns with two beers in hand, I set mine beside me and give him my thanks, all without taking my right hand off the controller or my eyes off the screen. I’m probably going to be waiting for Danica for a long, long time. I might as well make the most of it.

“This is Deadzone Five,” Mike observes as he watches me play, and I glance at him out of the corner of my eye.

“Shit,” I say as I continue playing. “Are you the one beta testing this? I thought it was Rowan.”

“You managed to get air support?” he asks, ignoring my question.

“Yeah. And I found a bug. I can keep—”

I trail off after glancing at him again. His eyebrows are tightly knit, and he’s staring at me like I’ve sprouted tentacles out of my ears.

“Sorry,” I say as I set the controller down. “I didn’t mean to—”

“I’ve been trying to get air support for weeks!” he interrupts with nothing but awe in his voice. I hide my smile behind a simple explanation.

“I’m pretty good.”

“You’d have to be! Holy shit.”

That forlorn expression is gone from his face, and this time, I let myself grin. “And there’s a glitch that lets me keep using it. Do you want to see it in action?”

I hand Mike the headset, and when the alarms in the game start sounding and the screen flashes red, his face brightens with excitement. I can hear the frantic screams of ten-year-olds from his headphones, and when Mike starts laughing, I do too.

“Do me a favor?” I ask, and when he waits for me to continue, I say, “Tell PussySlayer69 that my mom says hello.”

Mike laughs so hard, he sends himself into a coughing fit. “Oh my God, that little shit has been working on my nerves for weeks.” He pulls the mouthpiece to his lips and says, “Hey Kyle, you realize you’re getting your ass handed to you by a girl over here, right? Her mom says hi.”

I can’t make out what Kyle is saying, but I can hear his signature high-pitched screaming, and judging by the way Mike doubles over with laughter, it must be good. I’m beaming with pride when Mike finally sits back up and lets out a satisfied sigh. “That was amazing. I needed that.”

“Rough night?” I joke, but Mike’s smile falls away, and I curse my stupid mouth.

Not my business, not my business, not my business. Danica’s business is so not my business, it’s not even on the same map. She is Antarctica, and I am the moon.

“Your name is Hailey, right?” Mike asks.

I nod, still trying to think of a way to erase the last thirty seconds of our conversation.

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