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time out of mind

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This time, Tina was the bait.

Quinn wasn't interested in pretending to be prey, or waiting for a rescue that might never come. Tina didn't argue.

She played her part to the hilt, a bar-hopping party girl who would never imagine that evil existed or that it could touch her charmed life. Wouldn't it be nice to be that oblivious, or to have faith, or to feel safe?

The party girl's Pepto-pink lips formed a perfectly shocked o as Quinn came out of nowhere to take down her would-be assailant (and surely some other girl's actual assailant, past or future), tackling him and then taking advantage of his surprise to pummel him again and again.

At least this one deserved it.

This time, Quinn was present, vicious and beautiful. Efficient.

Tina couldn't shake the thought: Coop would've been proud.

But Coop wasn't the one to blame for this. Tina herself had unleashed a monster, and she'd done it on purpose.

I could run. This hadn't been her idea, five days out of jail, and dread settled deep in her stomach as she considered the certainty of taking the fall again. Sure, she'd pretend she had a choice, but she'd do it every time. I could leave. Right now, Quinn wouldn't even notice. She'd be on her own, and she'd never find me.

Instead she helped Quinn up, and they stumbled out of the alleyway, the scene of their latest crime. Just two drunk bimbos out on the town.

This time, they would be more careful about witnesses.

Quinn seemed giddy now, like she wasn't just pretending to be intoxicated, though Tina knew she wasn't drunk. She was even off the Xanax.

Or so she'd said.

Tina had believed it at the time, when it still seemed like Quinn was on the straight and narrow.

She helped Quinn get home, helped her strip down for a shower, helped her bandage her scraped-open knuckles afterward. Quinn retired to her own bed for the first time in four nights, and Tina thought again about packing her bag.

It would be so easy to leave. The thought of going back to jail -- as a repeat offender -- summoned a dull, abiding terror that Tina hadn't felt in years. Not since she took things into her own hands.

She'd almost decided to start packing up her stuff when Quinn knocked on the door.

So much for that plan.

Quinn's hair was still wet. She held out a tray of fresh-baked brownies.

"You're crazy," Tina said, and she meant it. "I like it."

She set the brownies between them on Tina's borrowed bed, then left the room without a word and returned minutes later with a bottle of Wild Turkey. "I actually missed this while you were gone," she said.

"Fighting strange men after midnight?"

Quinn shook her head like she was trying to banish a thought. "No, this."

"You can just say you missed me," Tina said around a mouthful of brownie. "I won't take it the wrong way."

Quinn took a long drink from the bottle, then offered it to her. She shook her head. New leaf and all.

They sat in silence for a moment as Quinn continued to drink and Tina continued to chew.

Finally, Quinn said, "Maybe I meant it the wrong way."

Tina surveyed her. The first few times Quinn had visited her in jail, it had seemed like she'd really gotten her life together after Pine Cottage 2: The Return. She and Jeff had split up, which Tina considered a positive development. She'd told Tina that she stopped taking pills to numb herself all the time and had made peace with her mom.

Tina wasn't even expecting her to show up when she got out, but there she'd been, dressed like a yoga-loving suburban housewife and holding a little box of immaculately decorated cupcakes.

She supposed that should have been the first warning sign.

She hadn't seen Quinn in weeks; their last conversation was stilted and awkward, the final gasp of a connection built on lies. Tina had assumed that she'd never see her again. After all, Quinn was a Final Girl. Tina was just a survivor and a good liar, and all that really meant was that she was completely alone.

On the drive back to Quinn's place (just for a couple of nights, Tina had insisted, though the words rang hollow even to her own ears), she'd noticed the little tattoo on Quinn's wrist, identical to her own.

Over the next couple of days, she noticed a few other things, too. Like how Quinn seemed to be baking when she should be sleeping, and how she'd crawl into Tina's bed at night to talk for hours, but she couldn't stay still.

Tina understood. If she ever started thinking too much about her life before Sam Boyd, she'd end up staying awake all night. Quinn probably thought about Coop 24 hours a day.

Hell, she'd probably seen his face instead of the asshole she almost killed a couple of hours ago.

She carefully took Quinn's bandaged hand and said, "Why don't you just stay here tonight and get some sleep? Seems like you could use it."

Quinn withdrew her hand. There was a wild look in her eyes that Tina recognized from earlier that evening, when Quinn had cajoled her into another "rescue mission." "I don't want to sleep. I've spent more than half my life asleep."

"Sure, I get it. Never mind." She shrugged. "Wanna make out?"

Tina had expected her to laugh, maybe leave, but instead Quinn kissed her. Hard, with teeth.

She pulled back as suddenly as she'd started it. "Were you kidding?"

"Yeah, but who cares," Tina said, and kissed her back.

She'd always figured that Quinn might be the kind of girl who'd call herself "heteroflexible" or "bicurious" without ever acting on it, at least not without the mediating presence of a sentient piece of wheat toast like Jeff, but she was starting to think she didn't know Quinn half as well as she thought. She wasn't tentative; she was rough, handsy, single-minded.

Almost like a frat boy.

Tina was kind of into it.

Scratch that.

Tina was totally into it.

In the morning, Quinn was up and around long before Tina rolled out of bed. She wasn't offended; it wasn't like she wanted to talk about her feelings or cuddle. Still, Quinn was taking it to the extreme as usual, snapping back into her everything's fine, everything's great Best Baking Blogger in America persona.

Tina was too tired to hide her disappointment.

But as Quinn placed a platter of artfully arranged cookies in the center of the table, she said, "I've been thinking about running away from home."

"I'd be thinking about it, too, if I had to live in this Martha Stewart nightmare 24-7," Tina said lightly.

So you're saying that you'd want to come with me?"

Tina reached for a cookie. Still warm.

"I thought we could take our show on the road," she said. "If you want."

"You don't have to sell me," she said. "I'm in."

Quinn wanted to drive. Tina didn't argue.

When they hit the road, Tina wondered why she had agreed, why she hadn't just gone her own way. She'd spent a lot of time in jail planning her next move; this definitely was not on the list. She figured she'd say goodbye to Sam Boyd, get on with her own life.

Maybe she felt guilty for pushing Quinn over the edge, or maybe she wanted to protect her, or maybe she was just morbidly curious about how her cross-country crime spree would turn out.

Quinn reached over and placed a hand on her knee.

Maybe there was another reason Tina hadn't considered.

The explanation didn't matter, anyway. She was a willing accomplice. The time to run had passed.

Quinn kept her eyes on the road, but she was smiling, and Tina thought there was a word for how she looked, it was right on the tip of her tongue--

Radiant.