The drunk man’s slurred, sticky voice roared behind them as the scarred fighter pummeled his opponent against the ropes. “Sit the fuck down—”

Riley tried to grab Shane’s arm, but there was no time—no time between when it started and when it was over—before the man’s nose crunched like plastic against Shane’s knuckles, and the skinny fighter got knocked to the ground. The brown blood on the floor felt too familiar to Riley. Shane’s violence stained everything—hockey jerseys, bruises, lined ice, under his fingernails, construction paper, the white boxes with the red string. Shane stained everything. Gracie screamed and cursed while most of the people around them cheered, and the bouncer was silent as he helped Riley pull Shane off the drunk guy and push him towards to the door. Then they were in the cold again—Riley, Gracie, Shane—and they were walking in an uneven line. It was silent except for their steps on the concrete. It was still snowing. Gracie moved the fastest, apart, with her arms crossed. Shane walked closest to the street.

“I’m not sorry,” he said eventually. His hands were shoved in his pockets. His eyes were red. “I’m not sorry about that.”

Riley didn’t say anything. He just kept walking, and watched Gracie move further and further ahead of them. Her hair looked red under the streetlights, and the color reminded him of everything he didn’t want to be.

···

Shane slammed the door to his bedroom. Riley still had no idea where he was going to go. He could go to Peeler’s, but his place really wasn’t far enough. Shane would go there first. When Gracie moved toward the bedroom, toward Shane, Riley felt a ripping sensation along his ribcage.

“Why do you have to tell him?” Riley asked her, lowering his voice. “You know what he’s like. It was stupid.”

She opened her mouth to say something, but Riley didn’t let her. “Just because it happened doesn’t mean you don’t love him,” he added as she moved closer to the bedroom door. “He’s just going to lose it.”

Gracie shook her head. “I’m going to tell him in the morning.” she said. “You need to be somewhere else.”

Her words pressed against Riley’s chest. He nodded and kept his eyes on her feet until they disappeared and the bedroom door clicked shut. Riley began shoving things into his bag—he started with the remnants of paper still scattered around the living room. He’d started multiple projects but hadn’t finished any. Riley moved to the kitchen and searched for a pen. Fucking spoons, fucking tea, twenty rubber spatulas, a fucking million white boxes everywhere, but no fucking pens. When he finally found one, he sat down to write—“Dear Shane, I fucked up,” but he crossed it all out. He wrote, “Kublewitcz, I need you to forgive me. If you won’t, you can kill me. I’m sorry. – Williams.” Riley held the gray piece of paper in his hands and began to fold.

Riley didn’t know how much time passed when he placed the Santoshi Dragon on the corner of the coffee-table. Shane and Gracie were still in the bedroom, and the apartment was still silent. The ash-colored dragon looked malevolently over its shoulder, fangs bared, until Riley picked up his bags and shut the door behind him.

The sun was just barely rising as he walked. Riley tried to imagine everything that could happen, all the possibilities—the first thing he saw was Gracie’s face, except it didn’t look like her face. This face was red from screaming and smeared with tears as Shane destroyed the apartment. He’d destroy the futon, the coffee-table, the glass door to the balcony. Then he’d move into the kitchen and destroy those perfect white boxes with the sharp corners, whatever was on the counter—truffles, bars, coffeecake—he’d slam them against the gray walls and crush them under his feet. Then he’d look for Riley.

Riley sped up. He tried to imagine the possibility of Shane not seeing the dragon, or just shredding it, or swallowing it. There were other possible outcomes, Riley told himself. Shane could forgive him. He kept his head down to stop the early morning cold from burning his skin. Riley wondered what it would mean if Shane didn’t unfurl the monster he’d made—starting with its long spiked tail, moving carefully up the spine, before pulling at the hidden seam that runs along its heart, to study the lines.

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