For disclaimers see part one.
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On with the show .
Something I Said
"Sonofabitchin hell! Ill be goddamned if Im going ANYWHERE with Connor!" Ellison roared and leapt to her feet.
Elmer followed suit, his resolve never wavering. "I mean it, Mary. Your foul mouth wont make me change my mind. None of us is getting any younger, so you two better get started. Id like a peaceful Christmas this year." He gave both of us a caustic look, then marched straight for the bathroom and slammed the door.
I closed my eyes and rested my forehead on my palms. I could not believe what a nightmare the evening had turned into; I was sure that this was worse than dealing with the prostitutes in jail. At least I could scream at them and make them go away. Ellison, however, would not be that easy to deal with, not by a long shot. And if she ever found out the real reason for why I acted the way I did, it would be a night at the apartment complex no one would ever forget.
I got up and went to the door, never turning back to see if she would follow. I was tempted to not go home, to never deal with this situation at all. But Elmer was my best friend and I couldnt let the old man down. I hooked a right and went into my apartment, unsure of what the next few minutes would bring.
After letting myself in, I made a beeline for the couch. I was so nervous I felt like that little cartoon kid that threw up on the girl he liked every time she came near him. Between that and the ringing in my ears, I was sure I was a gonner.
A short time later my ears mellowed out and I could hear Elmer and Ellison arguing through the walls. As usual, I couldnt make out what they were saying. But the pleading in Ellisons voice told me all I needed to know. It sounded like she would rather die than work things out with me.
I let out a deep breath, willing the muscles in my neck to relax. They finally did my bidding but there was nothing I could do about the jackhammers pounding in my stomach. I plopped down on the couch, rubbing the bridge of my nose with my fingertips. I could smell a headache coming from hell to breakfast, and judging by the stench in the air, there was a migraine coming.
I rested my head on the back of the couch, suddenly aware of the silence in Elmers apartment. Maybe they had paused to come up for air. Or maybe Ellison had made an exit, risking her grandfathers wrath rather than dealing with me. And I didnt blame her one bit.
"Giant pygmies at a goat barbeque!" I yelped as I leapt up from the couch clutching a hand to my chest. I hadnt heard Ellison come in, much less expected to see her standing in my doorway. When I finally got control of my heart attack, I noticed that she hadnt moved and that she looked horribly uncomfortable. It pained me to see her that way, her sea green eyes darkened with black circles that I hadnt noticed during her tirade at Elmers. I figured that her being in my apartment under duress had caused them, and that hurt me more than seeing her discomfort. I wondered when I had started to care so much for her.
"Uh, have a seat," I mumbled, indicating the couch. She said nothing, but complied nonetheless.
I watched as Ellison settled herself, wondering if it would be the last time I ever saw her. I studied her face, her hair, her hands, trying to memorize the way she looked at that moment. I knew my life would be long and hopeless without her in it and I wanted something to hang on to, even if it was only a memory.
When she caught me staring, I turned away. "Would you like a drink of water?" I croaked, my mouth suddenly as dry as the Sahara.
"No thanks." Her voice was flat, as if all the life had been sucked out of her.
I grabbed a plastic cup and sucked down the water as fast as I could. I had no idea what to say to her and I was stalling to come up with something, anything to break the deafening silence.
Then I had it. I sat my cup down in the sink and turned to face her, swallowing before I said the hardest words I thought I would ever say in my life.
Her eyes nervously made their way to mine before I spoke again.
"Masturbating midgets screaming at shaved dogs!"
I slapped my hand over my mouth, feeling the heat of my embarrassment making its way up my neck to my forehead. Of all the times for my potty mouth to have to work, I had certainly hoped that this would not be the time. My hands slowly released their death grip on my mouth and I tried it again.
"Dirty pimps mouth on a hookers ass!"
Ellison gasped and I nearly fainted. This was not going well at all- my nerves had bested me and I was pretty sure I was fighting a losing battle. I decided my best option was to keep my mouth shut and since I couldnt run away, hiding my face behind my hands was the next best thing I could do. I just wanted to get this nightmare over with.
I was almost in tears from my inability to tell Ellison what was on my mind when I felt the softest touch I had ever felt on my left elbow. It filled me with a sense of warmth and peace that spread up my arm and throughout my body. It rendered me completely speechless, especially when I thought that it would probably be the last time I ever felt it.
"Sit down with me, Connor."
I felt a gentle tug and allowed myself to be led to the couch where I dropped like a ton of bricks. I wiped at my eyes, trying to keep the tears welling up there from spilling over.
Ellison sat on the other side of the couch, and when I snuck a look at her I found that I was the object of gentle scrutiny. I managed a weak smile before looking away. I didnt know why she was suddenly being so nice and frankly, I was quite bewildered.
"Are you all right now?" she asked after several moments.
"I- I think so."
I ran my hands through my hair and turned to look at her. What I saw there surprised me- gone was the look of trepidation. In its place was an openness mixed with something that couldnt read. I knew in my heart that the person looking at me was as close to the inner Ellison as I would ever get. I could feel my heart breaking with the knowledge that she would never feel anything but pity for my pathetic life and me.
Instead of showing her that, I decided it was now or never to speak my piece. There was no way I would embarrass her or myself any further by telling her my true feelings.
"Look, Ellison, I just want to tell you that its okay that you dont like me." She opened her mouth to speak but I cut her off with a wave of my hand. "Just let me say this and then you can say whatever you like."
When she nodded, I continued. "I know that its been hell for you every time were around each other. And trust me, it hasnt been easy for me either. You and I obviously dont agree on much of anything, and the only thing its really done is hurt Elmer. That old man is the closest thing to family Ive had in more years than I care to count, and the last thing I want is to see him hurt."
I blew out a deep breath and got to my feet, positioning myself so she couldnt see my face. My throat was tight and I was sure Id lose a tear or two before it was over. I didnt want Ellison to see that and feel sorry for me any more than she already had.
"I guess what Im trying to say is- is that I want you to go back over there and tell Elmer everything is all right. Ill make up some excuse so that I dont have to go over there for Christmas- that way you two can have a nice day together. Ill make it a point from now on to stay away while youre in town. We wont fight anymore because-" I paused to swallow the lump in my throat before I could speak again. "Because we wont be seeing each other anymore."
I rubbed at the tears that were running down my cheeks, willing them to go away until I was alone and could shed them in peace. "Its just better this way, Ellison."
I stood still as a statue and waited for her reaction. I figured she would do back flips at the thought of not having to see me again. When all that greeted me was silence, I got worried. I was unable to make myself turn around and face her, and not knowing what she was doing back there was about to kill me.
Unable to stand it any longer, I turned around. Ellison was still on the couch, her head down and away from me. I couldnt tell by her body language what was going on with her and I was a little unnerved by her unusual lack of reaction. Scratching my head, I began to fidget uncomfortably while I waited for her to say or do something. I was afraid that my mouth would start acting up if she didnt do something soon.
After a few more moments of silence, Ellison sniffed and slowly turned in my direction.
"Thats really how you feel, huh?"
Her face looked sallow and pale, and her eyes there were something wrong with them that I couldnt put my finger on.
My heart started screaming at me to tell her that she had been right all along, that I really was the biggest chicken ever and that I was running from my feelings. I wanted to tell her I was trying to keep people out because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to let anyone in. I wanted to shout from the highest building that I thought she was the most incredible woman on Earth, that she had given me the eyes to see that maybe there was hope for me after all if Id just let someone in. But to do so meant Id have to share with her that I thought Id fallen in love with her, and that was a risk I just couldnt take.
Instead, I nodded to her. I didnt even have the courage to look her in the eye. I hated myself more than I ever had in my entire life. She did not deserve to be in the presence of someone so despicable and I could hardly stand to be stuck inside myself.
"Its better this way," I whispered and went to the window. I couldnt look at her another minute I was so afraid that shed see right through my eyes what I was really feeling. In fact, I was afraid that if I had to see her any time soon I would throw up right then and there.
I didnt have to worry about it long after that. A moment later, I heard my front door softly close and when I turned around she was gone.
I felt exhausted and drained. After shutting off all the lights, I turned the television on, determined to drown my treacherous thoughts in the latest reality TV show. It made me feel slightly better to know that at least I wasnt dumb enough to show the entire nation what a loser I was when it came to Ellison.
I awoke the next day, Christmas Eve to be precise, from a nightmare that social workers had come and locked me away after deeming me too insecure to live in the real world. When I opened my eyes I discovered that the pounding noise was not from me trying to get out of a rubber room, it was someone banging on my door.
I staggered to my feet and made it three steps before falling flat on my face. My foot had tangled up in the pair of sweats I had tossed across the room during the night. Unfortunately, I got a lesson in human anatomy- that the nose was not designed to catch the weight of a person falling. Immediately blood came spurting out of my nose.
"Just a goddamned, rat-gnawing minute!" I bellowed as the pounding began again, marveling at the nasal quality my voice had suddenly acquired.
I squinted through my tearing eyes and found a sock lying on the floor next to the sweats. Pressing it against my nose, I finally made it to the door. When I flung it open and saw who was standing there, the loss of blood and shock were too much- I went out cold.
I opened my eyes an undetermined amount of time later. Elmer was standing over me waving a makeshift fan in my face.
"Its about time!" he complained even though relief was washing over his wrinkled features. "I thought we were gonna have to call 911 there fer a minute."
I tried to sit up but he pressed his gnarled hand against my shoulder. "Easy girl, just you rest up a minute."
I heard a noise behind him and it dawned on me that he had said we when talking about calling 911. That meant that Ellison really had been standing at the door when Id opened it. My stomach roiled and felt bile rising into the back of my throat.
"Oh gods!" I blurted as I rolled off the side of the couch and dashed for the bathroom.
I barely got the door closed behind me and over the toilet when I threw up and my legs went out from under me. I sat down hard, momentarily winded by the jolt to my spine. My head was pounding and my nose hurt so bad that I couldnt keep my eyes open.
"Are you all right in there?" Elmer hollered through the door at me.
"Am I all right he asks," I muttered. This had already to turned into a hideous day and I wished I was back on the roof with psycho reindeer man. At least he didnt have the most beautiful granddaughter in the whole world. I groaned and shook my aching head.
"Im fine, Elmer," I yelled back through the door. "Just getting a grip."
"Well git a grip out here on the couch. Dont make me come in there and get you!"
"Oh brother," I moaned. I couldnt believe he wanted me to go out there where Ellison was. Granted he didnt know what was going on, but still. How in an infected elephants scrotum was I supposed to act as if everything was okay when my heart was still a bloody, gaping wound?
I pictured Ellison looking at me in pity and my stomach rebelled once again. I barely made it to the toilet before what little was left in there made its way out my nose. Howling in pain, I made my way to feet and grabbed a towel to stop the fresh deluge of blood gushing out my nose. I wondered if my bad luck would ever end.
"Connor, are you alright?"
Ellisons voice at the door answered my question. My luck had no intention of ever changing.
Rather than risk betraying any emotion or foul language, I opted not to answer. I opened the door instead, keeping my eyes on the floor. I stood there and waited for her to move out of the way. When she didnt, I risked looking up and immediately regretted it.
The bags under her eyes were worse than they had been the night before; shed added red and puffy to their repertoire. Other than a fight with Elmer, I couldnt figure out what she could have been so upset about. Unable to look at her anymore, I made my to the couch and sat down.
"Youre up early," I finally commented to Elmer to break the uncomfortable silence.
"Mary told me you wouldnt be able to come over fer Christmas dinner cause you had to work. I wanted to catch you before you left to tell you Merry Christmas. And I wanted you to have yer present fore you left."
I looked up to see Elmer sheepishly holding out a nicely wrapped gift. "Guess you wont be going to work with yer nose all busted up like that, so if ya want, you can still come over for dinner."
He jiggled the present at me and grinned. "Well? Whaddaya say?"
I gulped, wondering what Id done to keep having Ellison thrown in my path like some kamikaze bird in front of a speeding car. Nothing good ever came from either circumstance. And if the rumbling in my stomach was any indication of what was to come, this time would be no different than any other.
I took the proffered gift and smiled weakly at the man whod become the closest thing to family that I had. There was only one logical answer under the circumstances and I was sure I would live to regret it.
"Sure, why not?"
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