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The Dorm Guard 68 Chapter Sixty-Eight: Water Bottle Tic

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Tic: an idiosyncratic and habitual feature of a person's behaviour.

*

Alexis suddenly sat up that morning, holding the blanket to her chest. "c.r.a.p! What time is it?" she asked, feeling around the floor for her clothes.

Still partially asleep, my hand found my phone and I checked the time. "Babe go back to bed. It's 5:30," I informed. Despite my words, she still scrambled around, in the end rus.h.i.+ng out of my room in her pants but my s.h.i.+rt.

I sat up, rubbing my eyes as I turned on a light, grimacing as I heard her come back, holding the wine bottle. "Thank goodness," she announced, closing the door behind her and returning to my bed, "I had left this down there last night."

I smirked, "When you said alcoholism likes company, I wasn't expecting this to be an actual issue, Alexis," I joked, taking the bottle from her and placing it on the floor, "Do we need to have a talk?"

Alexis returned my smile, shuffling forwards to straddle me over the blanket. "I just didn't want any of the girls to find it. Like I said, I'm sure they can keep secrets, but that's not one I'm trusting any of them with."

"What about me?" I asked, resting my hands on her legs.

"Who would believe you?" she teased, leaning forwards and resting her head on my shoulder, "Mmm, no talking now. I gotta get to school early for a project, and I want cuddles." The way she nuzzled against me sent a warm feeling through my chest as I reached out for the lamp, trying not to disturb her snuggle, as I sent the room back into darkness.

*

"For the last time, no!" Bonnie's voice travelled through the dorm, her words a fierce snap at whomever she was speaking with. I gave a quizzical look to Ava, who was in the middle of another magazine quiz with Estelle, they both offered a shrug.

Moments later, Bonnie came into the living room, fl.u.s.tered and clearly annoyed.

"All good, Bon?" Ava asked, pa.s.sing the magazine to Estelle, who seemed equally disinterested in finis.h.i.+ng.

Bonnie puffed out her cheeks, opening the fridge for some juice. "Mia's just being needy," she informed, closing the fridge with a loud thump, "I caught her following me the other day when I was hanging out with my friends, and we had to let her stay because they felt weird about just sending her to walk home alone. And now, she's bugging me to let her come with us today because the girls seemed to like her."

"Well did they?" Estelle asked, sitting on her legs.

Bonnie rolled to the lounge. "They didn't mind her. But in the same way that you can't tell someone else's sibling to go away. It was so frustrating."

"Don't be too hard on her, Bonnie," Ava said, "I mean, you two have gone from being inseparable, we'll protect each other cause the world sucks sisters, to I'm too busy with my schedule and you're too busy with these new friends. She probably just misses you."


Bonnie grunted, "She can't just ditch for her cheer squad and then expect me to be all hunky-dory about her cras.h.i.+ng my get together with my friends." She took a long gulp of her juice, "She's just becoming so annoying. I wish she's just leave me alone sometimes now."

My eye caught something small moving, able to see Mia just in time to disappear down the hallway.

I got to my feet and rushed after her, the girls surprised by my movement, but each quickly understanding why. "d.a.m.nit…" Bonnie's word sailed behind me as I looked down the hall, watching Mia disappear into the piano room.

By the time I reached the room, Mia was sitting on the piano, swaying back and forth while she continued to slurp heavily through the straw in her water bottle. Her cheeks were flushed red and her eyes became gla.s.sy.

"Hey, come on, none of that," I said kneeling beside her and taking the water bottle. She coughed when I s.n.a.t.c.hed it from her and placed it on the ground, "Just deep breaths. Don't work yourself up about what she said."

Mia's breathing was shaky, quickly blinking away her gla.s.sy expression as she faced the keys on her piano and started playing. While a small and sombre tune, it was lovely. I tried to place what song it was, since I had heard it somewhere before. When I couldn't guess, I asked, "What song?"

Mia continued playing with one hand, slipping off her chair and opening the compartment while she played. Her hands blindly searched for amongst the sheet music she was sitting on and eventually pulled out one sheet.

'Clair de Lune.'

I smiled, "Lovely."

Mia offered me no expression as she continued playing. Even though her face was expressionless, there was still a strange pa.s.sion in her play, the flow was still flawless, and the haste was pristine and precise. Her fingertips glided across the keys in a different way to when she first got the piano. There was a strange free-flow, instead of her guessing the keys she knew the keys now, and it was mesmerising to watch. I ignored the cramping in my calves so I wouldn't disturb her.

Towards the end of the song, her fingertips. .h.i.t two notes at once, causing an incorrect chime. This startled her and made her hands hover over the keys, occasionally twitching. From her expression, I never would've a.s.sumed how angry this made her, but her sudden whacking of the keys, the punches she a.s.saulted the piano with, caused multiple yelps of sound. When I went to stop her, the tantrum was finished, and she slammed the cover over the white keys.

As the final ring echoed throughout the room, I sighed. "Mia, are you okay?" I asked.

She pressed her fingers together, continuing this to brush against her knuckles. After a moment to calm down, she nodded, opened the piano cover again and started playing some notes again.

I scooped up her water bottle, noticing it was almost empty, and left the room to refill it.

"She okay?" Ava asked when I entered the kitchen.

I nodded, "Yeah. Just a bit offended I would say." I emptied out the rest of the water and started filling it up again. "You should probably go apologise to her, Bonnie."

Bonnie sighed, "Yeah, yeah."

As I screwed the lid back on, I caught a whiff of something. I furrowed my brows in thought, overhearing Estelle and Ava behind me consult one another for answers on their quiz, as I leant over the sink. "What'cha doing, Lawson?" Ava asked, noticing my lean.

The smell stung the closer to the sink I got and made me quickly smell the rim of Mia's water bottle. I bit the inside of my cheek as I answered, "Nothing."

*

We were all sitting in the lounge room, watching Robyn's pick for movie night. Unlike everyone else, Robyn's favourite films were never in English, not that she noticed at times since the captions were on. Tonight's choice was a French movie about brothers stealing art pieces while they boated up and down some river in France.

Despite the French, it was quite engaging.

The focus was broken when Alexis came into the room, and announced very clearly, "Alright, girls. We gotta talk."

Ava tapped Robyn on the shoulder as she paused the movie, prompting everyone to turn in their seats to face Alexis. Before she had even voiced it, I could guess what she was going to say.

"I wasn't planning on telling any of you about this because I figured it was none of your business to know, but," she pulled her wine bottle from behind her back, showing off the label and how full it was, "Someone diluted my white wine."

When she showed off the wine, I watched the reaction of the girls, for the most part they were surprised.

"And not a little bit but based on the taste I would say quite a lot," Alexis added, she placed the bottle on the table and sighed, resting her hands on her hips. "Girls, honestly, if you found out about it and wanted some, you could've just asked. I would've happily given you a gla.s.s. But just straight up taking it and then trying to hide the fact is just s.h.i.+tty guys. You've ruined the whole bottle by doing that."

Ava signed, the whole time with a confused expression, for Robyn, who very quickly mimicked the puzzled look. "I didn't even know we had alcohol in the dorm," Ava said.

"We don't," Alexis a.s.sured, "I got it a yesterday as a belated birthday present from my Grandpa. I wasn't planning on telling any of you about it because I didn't want another Mia incident to happen again."

Bonnie tilted her head, "Why are you accusing us of diluting it then?"

Alexis crossed her arms, adopting an irritated tone, "Because aside from Landon, no on else knew about it and just now when I went to have some, I saw the lid was already cracked and its taste different." She sighed again. "Guys, I really couldn't care less that someone took some, but that's really c.r.a.ppy to do to someone else's wine."

"We didn't do anything to it," Estelle informed, "h.e.l.l, I didn't even know you had any."

A small bicker formed between the girls, arguing that it wasn't them and how they didn't know it was here and so on. My attention was immediately drawn to Mia, sitting at the coffee table tracing the outlines of the swirly patterns in the wood.

"Mia?" My voice somehow broke through the arguing and silenced it seconds later.

As the attention came to her, Mia showed more physical signs of distress. Her chest started to heave, we could hear how heavily she was breathing through her nose and the finger that traced the swirls started to shake.

"Mia, did you take it?" Bonnie accused.

She gulped, lifting her other to hand to quickly sign, "I didn't know it was yours."

The silence thickened as the girls shared troubled looks. Alexis managing to voice as she pressed a hand to her face, "Dear G.o.d Mia."

"I'm sorry okay!" Mia frantically signed.

"Mia, why did you take it? Don't you remember how sick you were last time?" Amia asked.

Mia looked close to crying as she tried breathing through her mouth, but that too was a shaky experience. "I just wanted it to stop," she signed, "Like before. I wanted it to stop. But it didn't stop this time."

We had all heard that explanation before, but none of us really understood what 'it' was. "Mia, this again-"

Tears dripped down Mia's face. "I just wanted to see if it would stop again."

The girls made a collected sigh, each showing different amounts of annoyance over this. Eventually, Ava broke the silence, "Alright. That's me." She stood up and marched for the doorway.

"Where're you going?" Estelle asked.

I had accepted at the start of the year that Ava had, what I could only describe as, the strongest mother-like instinct with everyone. She consistently would worry, advocated that we try to be safe, offered comfort, tried her best to protect us and more. But I had never seen her go from chill-Ava to level-one-hundred-mother-instinct-engaged Ava so quickly or so strictly.

"I no longer care if this was just another one-time thing or some stupid rebellion or a dumb choice, I'm calling your parents because this is gonna get out of control," Ava informed.

Mia tried to object, but Ava shushed her with a gesture. "No. You are eleven, the first time gets to be a mistake, but the second time? I don't care if you say you'll never do it again, you promised us that last time." She turned her attention to Bonnie, who was staring blankly at the floor. "I'm suggesting they try to help her, Bonnie. Because Alexis is right, she needs more then whatever c.r.a.p we're trying."

For once, Bonnie didn't object, just played with her thumbs and offered nothing more then a sigh through her nose. As Ava left to make the phone call, Mia started crying, not loudly, but she was distressed by having been caught.

Alexis approached her, "Mia, are you okay?" she asked, reaching a hand out and finding her hair.

Mia voiced a whimper as she hugged Alexis, burying her crying eyes into her shoulder. Whether she was signing something or tapping a message to her during the hug I wasn't sure, but Alexis suddenly said, "No, no. I don't care about the wine, I just want to make sure you're okay."

Amia had been sitting next to me and nudged my arm, "How did you know it was her?"

I made a slow effort in sighing as I stared at Mia's once again trembling little body, taken back to when she cried the night of the dance, how vulnerable she seemed, how fragile. In the span of a few seconds, my mind hopped from pitying to judging to feeling nothing for whatever mental struggle Mia was so obviously going through. I couldn't pinpoint what was wrong with her, or if anything was wrong with her. A part of me hated how unempathetic my thoughts became as I properly considered whether this was all a hoax to just try and get more attention.

But just as quickly as those thoughts appeared, they vanished, and I was left to consider what was directly in front of me: Mia.

"I thought I could smell it in her water bottle earlier," I replied, "If it was all wine then she had drunk a fair bit of it."

Amia blinked at my answer, uncoiling her legs from her chest as she replied, "I don't think I would've noticed."

I leaned forwards on my knees, watching Mia pull away from the hug glare at a section on the coffee table, and added, "I think that's what she was counting on."

A few minutes later, I watched Alexis pour her wine down the sink, promptly filling it with hot water and dishwas.h.i.+ng detergent to get rid of the smell. "Good thing we finished the whiskey, huh?" she absently joked as she rinsed out the wine bottle as well.

I took the bottle off her and placed it in the correct bin. "It wasn't your fault, Alexis," I a.s.sured.

She sighed as she stretched her arms out on the countertop, leaning so far over the sink her red hair almost touched the bubbles. "I know," she stated, "But a part me will always remind me that it was my wine bottle that I left it unsupervised in a kitchen of our shared living s.p.a.ce from ten o'clock, all the way until the early morning, with a bunch of girls who are significantly underaged."

I reached an arm out to hug her. She turned to face me and wrapped her arms around my shoulders, swearing under her breath.

*

I flicked through my phone, having a back and forth conversation with Ava, who I had left in charge of the dormitory. When I wasn't texting, I looked at Bonnie, specifically her mannerism. Despite her just sitting, waiting like me, she was fidgety. She arched her head to the ceiling to consult the occasionally flickering light, her fingers twitched and bent into strange contortions on her hands, and I counted five attempted chair s.h.i.+fts in the span of forty seconds.

She bit the inside of her cheek and caught my eyes, "What?"

I shrugged, "You seem nervous."

She scoffed at my statement. "Why wouldn't I be nervous?" she countered, "How much longer is there to go?"

I consulted my phone. "Her session's almost over," I informed, "You didn't have to come. I was happy to wait for her."

Bonnie shook her head, "She'd want me here."

The councillor's door opened, and Mia stepped out, accompanied by Miss Moore. Aside from a discussion with Mia's parents that didn't go down too well over the phone, the meeting was largely to discuss what the school could do to help. From what Miss Moore told Bonnie, there would be private sessions in the councillor's office until the doctor their parents wanted Mia to see could find a more permanent residency in the area.

"This could take a few weeks, however," Miss Moore informed in her calming tone, "But until then," she leaned on her knees to speak with Mia, "I expect you in my office after school for our little discussions, okay?"

With Bonnie's encouragement, Mia nodded, her head still hanging low.

When we all started for home, the silence was nauseating. Mia dragged her feet, Bonnie was too eager to get home and I was caught between the two of them as the gap grew wider and wider between the sisters. Eventually, Mia was walking too slow for my liking.

"Bonnie, wait up!" I called, to which she listened and stopped on the dirt road. I squatted down as Mia approached and told her to climb on my back, that I would carry her the rest of the way. When she tried to walk past me, I spoke with a bit more bite then intended, "Mia, either lift your feet or get on my back because this is getting ridiculous."

I wish Mia had sighed, or rolled her eyes, did something in response to my outburst, but instead she obeyed without question. She was dead weight on my shoulders again.

Gradually, I felt her s.h.i.+ft on my shoulders, so her hands were visible before my eyes. "Does Bonnie still hate me?" she asked.

I frowned, turning my head to see her in the corner of my eye. "Bonnie doesn't hate you, Mia. You need to stop thinking that," I a.s.sured, "She loves you, more then anyone in the world."

"She loves Fritz more," Mia explained.

"I'm sure that's not true," I countered, "No one can love that oversized rat thing. It's Satan incarnate." I didn't even get a smile.

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