Disclaimer: These characters are mine, mine I say. No, I'm not possessive, I'm just… dammit, fine. I'm possessive and have issues with sharin', but I'm getting' help- honest. If the two gals in this lil story remind you of a certain bard and warrior who belong to a certain MCA/Renaissance Pictures, well than you must be smokin' something. Do not operate heavy machinery.
Disclaimer #2: This story has content regardin' a relationship between two happenin' ladies. This bothers you, you say? I'm not old enough to read this you say? Then kin'ly go no further, friend.
Disclaimer #3: OK- I really, really, really don't want to give anything away, but something tragic happens. If you don't want to be a part of that, then read no further. Otherwise, you've been warned.
Without further ado, kin'ly feed the bard. She likes Pez, white toast, and any words about her work. Thanks 'n I hope you enjoy, folks.
I hate it when I get like this- palms sweating, mouth dry, jumpy as hell...
I hate bein' nervous.
It's been two years since I've seen her, two years since I almost risked everything and just told her how I felt, how I needed her. It's been two years since I pushed her away from myself. I know, I know- you're supposed to seize the day and all that, live life to the fullest, but… well, I panicked. Not somethin' I'm particularly proud of, but it happened. I… I was just so scared that I'd mess everything up.
It's so easy, looking back- I mean, all your mistakes just sort of raise up from everything else, just sort of float there clear as day, and you wonder why the hell you didn't see them when you could've done something to change 'em.
I was a mistake when I met her. At 22 I had managed to go to and get thrown out of 3 major universities. I drank, I fought, never studied or even showed up to classes. Every time going in I told myself I could do it- every time I told myself I'd change. And then I'd fall back into how I used to be when I was in high school- picking fights, bitin' people's heads off- trying to prove who knows what to who knows who- that I was a hard ass? that I could hold my own? I have no idea now, and I don't think I knew then. I always needed some kind of fight, though- just to feel like I was doing something, being something, something respected- even if that respect was based on nothing but fear.
I was 22 and 17. Until I met her.
I was used to going to places where no one asked anything, just gave you your drink when you wanted it and only spoke to you to tell you how much you owed 'em. Those cold places I felt at home in and was alone in, either because I intimidated people (it's hard to blend in when you're 6 feet tall- not that I ever wanted to blend in) or because everyone there wanted to avoid anything real- especially contact.
I never figured out why she started working at Murray's, or why I started going there more often once she did. All I knew is that for some reason she made me hate being alone.
She'd talk to me, and I'd listen- total role reversal. I mean, it's the has-beens like me that are supposed to go on to the bartenders, not the other way around. I think she figured out from the first day that no one there was going to talk.
So she did the talking for us.
Her name's Amanda. I should probably mention that. Hell, that was the first thing she ever said to me. 'My name's Amanda'. The first thing I ever said to her was 'gin 'n coke', and I mumbled it. Talk about the beginnin' of a beautiful friendship, neh?
Like I said, she talked- man, did she talk. She'd talk to anyone there, givin' an a little joke or a short little story about what happened to her at the supermarket that mornin'- stuff like that. Some guys appreciated the contact, and she'd smile at them. Some folks just wanted to be left alone, would ignore her, take their drink and go to a table, and she'd smile at them too. I didn't really fit into either category. I wasn't desperate for company, but I never shrugged her off, either. I'd just listen- look her in the eye and listen to her. She'd tell me about her neighbors at her apartment, about an uncle that for some reason had gotten it into his head that her August 24th birthday was in May- stuff like that. Always with some kind of a smile on her face and this sparkle in the back of her eyes. I mean, she has this voice that just seeps into you, and I liked the feel of it so I never stopped her… not that anyone could stop her, probably. I just didn't mind it, 's all.
It had been a few months, and I came in at midnight as usual. Sat down on a stool that looked like it had the least amount of duct tape on it, as usual. But then two things happened that I never thought would or could have.
She gave me my drink without a word.
And I talked to her.
Turns out I just had to get the ball rollin' for her, but I could tell I surprised her by actually sayin' anythin'- it surprised me too. I guess she just figgered that no one even noticed that she wasn't talking. Truth is, everyone noticed. But I was the only one who said anything. Hell, I asked her if she was alright. Not only had she ever heard my voice past a mumbled order, but I'd gone and asked her a question she had absolutely no reason to answer truthfully to some sunken-eyed drunk.
But she did.
She went on to tell me about how her sister had been in a bad car wreck and was in the hospital doin' none too well. I told her I hoped she'd be okay, and she said thanks. The rest of the night was silent for her unless she was tellin' someone how much something cost.
That was my first conversation with Amanda. She still didn't know my name.
Three days later, her sister died. She was gone for a week, and when she came back to work, the sparkle in the back of her eyes was gone and she was still silent.
She'd walk back 'n forth behind the bar, fillin' orders and handin' out change. When no one asked her for anything to drink, she'd retreat to a stool behind the middle of the bar, lean back against a shelf, and just look… well, empty.
At the end of the second wordless night, she grabbed her coat to leave. I was halfway out the door when she got to it, and I told her I was sorry for what'd happened, that I'd heard from the guy that'd filled in for her what happened to her sister. She looked at me for a second, and our eyes locked- hers wide and mine bloodshot. Time seemed to freeze. I felt like she could see everything I'd ever done in my eyes, but for some reason that didn't bother me. I mean, it should have- to her I was nothin' more than some dead beat. She had every reason to look away. But she didn't. And that look in her eyes- it wasn't judging me.
It was accepting me.
I got the weirdest feeling in my gut- somewhere mixed up between curiousity and fear, with this warmth spreading through me to my fingertips. I've never felt anything like it.
She looked down quickly after that long moment, like she'd realized she was staring, and whispered a 'thanks' that I had to strain to hear. I turned to leave when I saw her shoulders moving up and down as she tried to cover up the fact that she was crying. I just stood there, looking at her, not knowing what to do. I put my hand on her shoulder. She turned and rushed against my body, her arms shooting around my waist.
I tensed at first- I hadn't let anyone touch me in any way that didn't resemble a punch in years. I tried to relax, and when I started thinking again, I realized I was holdin' her close and strokin' her hair. She slowly stopped cryin', and our arms sort of loosened on their own. She looked up at me, a tiny smile on her face. "I didn't realize how out of it I was. I'm usually more in control than that."
"Lettin' it out usually helps." Did I just say that?
That got me another tiny smile. She turned away and started walkin' down the street. I turned and started towards my car. I looked over my shoulder and realized she wasn't headin' for any car… I argued with myself for a second before I said something.
"Need a lift?" I shouted. She stopped and bowed her head, thinking. "I mean… this well… isn't the best neighborhood to be walkin' through." Get a grip- what do you care? In the end she surprised me and turned around.
We walked in silence towards my beat-up Fury.
"You kind of have to go in the driver's side door… the handle fell off the other side," I said, trying to not sound embarrassed and failing miserably. I didn't know what the hell was wrong with me- I mean, here I was, tough as nails and turning to mush for what? Some cute little blonde? No- it was for her. I guess it makes sense after all… but I didn't know why then. Hell, I just found out recently, so...
I watched her get in and scoot over before I climbed in myself and started the car. The ride was silent unless she was quietly giving me directions. I tried to not let on that I was surprised when I parked the car in front of her building. I climbed out, and she followed. I walked around to the curb. She followed.
"You going to be alright?" I asked.
"No," she answered. "But I'm getting there. Thanks."
She started walking towards the steps of her building. I started walking toward mine.
"Where you going?" she asked.
"You mean you live…"
"Next door. Yeah- crazy, huh?"
"Yeah…" Her voice trailed off. She looked like she was in thought for a second. When she lifted her head again, our eyes locked for the second time that night. I didn't think what I'd felt earlier could ever be outmatched- but it was somehow stronger this time.
"Have you ever lost someone you cared about?" she asked.
"I've never cared about anyone."
It was the truth, but I felt angry with myself for admitting it. I don't know- my family was never exactly nurturing, unless you consider abandonment nurturing. But she didn't need to know that- she didn't need to hear about that. Not now, not when she was hurting like I could tell she was.
"You've never cared about anyone, but you go up to a complete stranger and try to comfort them? I don't think I believe you."
"Well, I guess everyone has to start somewhere."
Our eyes stayed locked this whole time. Least, until I turned away, suddenly aware of what I'd been saying. "I'll see you later, neighbor."
To be continued in Part 2…
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